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02 July, 2019

78 Min Read

GS-I : Miscellaneous
Coastal Erosion

Coastal Erosion

Coastal Erosion is the process of wearing away of the land by the sea due to corrosion, abrasion, hydraulic action, attrition and corrosion/solution.

India has a long coastline of 7,516.6 km giving it a large coastal area. Due to high polulation growth, increasing maritime trade and enormous pace of developmental activities, the settlements and associated infrastructure is moving closer to the seas. Such usage of coastal land is often done without properly understanding the coastal dynamics, leading to long-term damage, majorly to the local communities.

Various reasons responsible for Coastal Erosion are:

  • Wave Energy
  • Climate Change
  • Strong littoral driftt
  • Construction dams in catchment areas
  • Sand and coral mining and dredging

Measures to deal with Coastal Erosion:

  • Construction of saline stone-packaging and breakwater structures
  • By constructing low walls called groyne
  • By installing Geo-Synthetic Tubes
  • By growing more vegetation along the coastline
  • Encouraging Social Forestry
  • Encouraging conservation activities, educational and recreational opportunities (Eco-development)

The coastal regions where land and water meet are ecologically dynamic and sensitive regions, as marine and coastal ecosystems continuously impact on each other. These regions has rich ecosystem such as mangroves, water bodies, seaweeds coral reefs, fisheries and other marine life, and other coastal and marine vegetation. These ecosystems protect the region from saline winds, cyclones, tsunami waves etc., promote carbon sequestration and promote biodiversity as well as provide raw materials for a number of manufacturing activities. Hence, this is an alarming situation for us to overcome from the coastal erosion.

 

India’s Efforts towards Coastal Management

India’s efforts towards coastal development were initiated in 1997, when Government of India implemented the Environment Management Capacity Building (EMCB) programme for 5 years, funded by the International Development Association through the World Bank. Since then, India has made continued efforts in this direction.

Currently, Ministry of Earth Sciences is responsible for monitoring the shoreline changes along the Indian coast on an annual basis. According to MoES,

1. 89% of the shoreline of Andaman and Nicobar islands is eroded by the Bay of Bengal.

2. The shoreline of Tamil Nadu facing the process of accretion (a gradual deposition by water of mud, sand to form dry land), that causes 62% of its coast gaining land.

A National Centre for Coastal Research under Ministry of Earth Sciences is an attached office in MoES dedicated to coastal research. NCCR is mandated to promote research and  addressing issues related to coastal processes, ecosystems, shoreline erosion, pollution, hazards and coastal vulnerability.

The major activities of the centre are as follows:

1. Coastal Processes & Hazards

2. Coastal Water Quality

3. Coastal Habitats & Ecosystems

4. Capacity Building & Training

Another research institute, National Institute for Sustainable Coastal Management works under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Its mission and role: To support integrated management of coastal and marine environment for livelihood security, sustainable development and hazard risk management by enhancing knowledge, research and advisory support, partnerships and network and coastal community interface

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II : International Relations Others
Latin America seeks more missions

1. Latin America seeks more missions

Theme: India relations with Latin America

Details

  • India had made a promise in 2010 that it will open three new embassies in Latin American nations
  • Shashi Tharoor Minister of State for External Affairs in the UPA Ministry, announced in the Dominican Republic that India would open missions in that country, Ecuador and Uruguay.
  • These three countries have opened diplomatic missions in India, but India has not reciprocated the gesture
  • India does not have missions in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and El Salvador, though they have missions in India.

Embassy is not important:

  • Instead of spending millions to keep ambassadors, security teams, and other support staff resident in a foreign country, presidents and prime ministers can now conveniently communicate directly on matters of urgency and importance.
  • Cellular phones, e-mails and video-conferencing technology enables world leaders, government officials and bureaucrats to communicate and coordinate directly with one another.
  • If person-to-person contact is a must, air travel allows an official to be anywhere in the world in less than a day. Some countries designate special envoys to take advantage
  • The use of special envoys to cover specific countries and/or issues is certainly more cost-effective than maintaining a fully staffed embassy.
  • A network of local contacts can likewise be established to serve as sources on the ground to help gather and evaluate data, information and news, which can then be made available electronically.

Embassy is important

  1. Why is LA important for India?:
  • In 2016-17, India exported more to Mexico ($3.5 billion) than to neighbours such as Thailand ($3.1 billion), Myanmar ($1.7 billion) and Iran ($2.4 billion) or traditional trade partners Russia ($1.9 billion) and Canada ($2 billion).
  • India’s trade with the Dominican Republic ($900 million) was more than the trade with Portugal, Greece and some other European countries.
  • India beat China in export of pharmaceuticals to Latin America. India’s exports were $651 million in comparison to China’s $404 million in 2016. In fact, in the last five years, India has been exporting more pharma to Latin America than China.
  1. Pacific Alliance:
  • The Pacific Alliance (Spanish: Alianza del Pacífico) is a Latin American trade bloc, formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, which all border the Pacific Ocean.
  • These countries have come together to form an area of integration with the purpose of ensure a complete freedom in the movement of goods, services, capital, and people.
  • India’s Role:
  • India enjoys an observer status at the annual summit of Pacific Alliance
  • A key area for collaboration for PA and India could be understanding the impacts of El-Nino and its common approach against this weather pattern. Countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected by El-Nino. All PA states have coasts along the Pacific.
  • Pacific Alliance is turning out to be an integrated market and it opens up opportunities for India in SMEs sector, trade facilitation, science & technology innovation and export of Indian pharmaceutical products.

The Indian elephant has already engaged the tigers of Asia. It is now the turn of the pumas of the Pacific

  1. Differences between Chinese and Indian outward FDI:
  • Indian FDI is largely fuelled by supply and demand and private companies, whereas the Chinese one is mostly led by government
  • India’s FDI goes mostly to the developed world and to manufacturing and services, whereas Chinese FDI is mainly geared to developing countries and mining,
  • India’s comparative advantages lie in its corporate governance and management, whereas China’s are in government strategy and economic diplomacy.

Conclusion

  • A combination of government initiatives and private ventures and diplomatic engagements have to be increased if we have to realise the full potential of India-Latin America Countries ties.
  • Specifically, establishing or maintaining an embassy is a clear sign to the host government of a commitment to deepening bilateral relations.

Source: TH

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GS-II : International Relations India and its neighborhood
India and Pakistan should encourage bilateral trade

India and Pakistan should encourage bilateral trade

Theme: India-Pakistan Bilateral relations

Introduction:

  • There is rising concern about declining trade between India and Pakistan due to escalation in tensions along the borders. So there is need for concerted efforts on both sides to ease tensions through people-centric measures.
  • Over the last five years, the bilateral trade trajectory has been volatile.
  • From a high of $2.70 billion in 2013-14, it fell to $2.40 billion in 2017-18. During this time, while Pakistan’s exports to India were (and have been) fairly consistent, India’s exports decreased.
  • Overall, India still manages to have a significant trade surplus with Pakistan (about $1.4 billion in 2017-18

 

Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) Study on informal trade:    

  • Informal trade between India and Pakistan is almost twice the value of formal trade between the two countries.
  • Informal trade is broadly defined as all trade between two countries that should be included in the national income statistics, according to conventional national income accounting, but is not.

What drives informal trade?

  • Factors such as high tariffs, political tension, infrastructure impediments, and ease of trading goods via third countries have generated a thriving industry for informal trade between the two South Asian giants.
  • Pakistan’s negative list of 1,209 items as the most important factor pushing informal exports from India.
  • Items on the negative list are those that are not allowed to be imported from India.
  • More than one in every two items exported informally to Pakistan were on Pakistan’s negative list.

Which commodities are traded?

  • Real jewellery, including gold, diamond and precious stones, accounted for the largest share of 23% of informal exports from India to Pakistan. It also included chemicals, tyres, alcohol and tobacco products, among several others.
  • While India’s imports from Pakistan included items such as dry fruits and spices
  • Informal exports from India to Pakistan in 2012-13 stood at $3.9 billion, much higher than the just over $2 billion worth of formal exports.
  • Informal imports, on the other hand, from Pakistan valued $0.7 billion, slightly more than formal imports of $0.5 billion.

How does informal trade take place?

  • Most of informal trade between the two countries were also found to be via a third country, in particular Dubai. About 68% of India’s informal export to Pakistan was found to be routed via Dubai.

Land or water route?

  • The efficiency of transport of goods via two routes o the Delhi-Lahore route o the Delhi-Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi-Lahore route
  • Found that the latter route was 2.75 times more efficient in terms of transport per transaction cost incurred per container-kilometre. 
  • Higher transaction cost per-tonne-per-kilometre on the direct route is because of factors such as limited number of items that can be exported via road route, cumbersome customs checks at Attari/Wagah customs station, transaction costs in the form of bribes incurred in getting customs clearances, physical examination of goods and poor infrastructure, among others.
  • While the total cost of shipping would still be lower in the formal channel, given the fact that the distance is one-tenth of the route via Dubai, predictability and comfort encourages traders to incur these high costs.

Area of Co-operation:

  • In textiles, while there is an existing bilateral engagement, there is potential for raw materials (raw cotton, fabric dye), grey fabric (polyester, chiffon, nylon), blended fabric (cotton-polyester-viscose blend for denim) and stitched clothes (track suits and sports wear) from Indian hubs such as Surat (Gujarat) and Tiruppur (Tamil Nadu) to Pakistan’s major production centre at Faisalabad and its Lahore and Karachi markets.
  • Similarly, from Pakistan, there is a huge demand for salwar-kameez-dupatta made of lawn fabric and wedding attire (shararas).
  • Given Pakistan’s expertise here, the demand in India for Pakistani fabric and designs as well as the cost benefits attached with trading between India and Pakistan, there is significant scope for collaboration.
  • Pakistan’s sports goods manufacturing sector is emerging as an original equipment manufacturer for major global brands. Sialkot is a global manufacturing hub for professional-level goods such as footballs, hockey sticks, quality leather goods, and weightlifting and cycling gloves, some of which is imported by India. Also, footballs manufactured here were used in the FIFA World Cup.
  • However, manufacturers in Sialkot require quality raw materials or semi-finished products to produce these goods.
  • India can play a key role here in exporting raw material and semi-finished goods such as latex, rubber, and football bladders, which would work out to be more economical for Sialkot than sourcing them from other countries such as Thailand.
  • In terms of finished goods, sportswear made of lycra is in demand in Pakistan.
  • Pakistan’s surgical instruments manufacturing industry, again based in Sialkot, is noted for its expertise. Pakistan is a major supplier of these instruments to the U.S., Germany, France and Belgium.
  • India, on the other hand, is a large medical market which imports these instruments from these developed countries at high rates. Direct imports from Pakistan to India in this area would ensure considerable cost benefits in terms of economics and logistics.
  • To strengthen value chain linkages, India can potentially increase the supply of stainless steel to Pakistan, a major raw material used in instrument manufacturing, or even import semi-finished products.

How to improve relationship?

  • First, it is important to alleviate fears, misconceptions and the trust deficit in the trading community.
  • Second, business-to-business linkages need to be formed and strengthened between actual traders.
  • Third, SAARC business traveller visas must be implemented in practice.
  • There also needs to be focus on other issues such as key items in the textiles and clothing sector, border infrastructure and security, improved connectivity by sea and air
  • Sporting events could play a pivotal role in boosting people-to-people relations on both sides of the Punjab border
  • More people-level contacts and educational exchanges between the two nations could help pave the way for long-term peace and stability in the region.

Conclusion:

  • Tariff and non-tariff barriers should be addressed and steps should be taken towards increasing awareness and building confidence among the trading communities.
  • So, if appropriate measures are taken, a significant share of informal trade can be diverted to formal channels. The benefits of direct trade is much more than informal.

Source:

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GS-II : International Relations India and its neighborhood
Beyond words, India – Pak Relations

Beyond words, India – Pak Relations

Theme: India-Pakistan Relations

Context:

Since the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in Pakistan, there have been many

substantive exchanges between New Delhi and Islamabad.

 Details:

  • In his first statement after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf emerged as the single largest party, Mr. Khan singled out India as a foreign policy relationship he hoped to work on, offering to walk “two steps for every one step” that India took.
  • Indian Prime Minister responded with a phone call, and they spoke of a shared vision of “peace and development”.
  • The Indian High Commissioner presented the Pakistan PM a cricket bat with the signatures of the Indian team members.
  • The new appointee on the Pakistan Cricket Board has said that resuming bilateral cricket is high on the leader’s agenda for improving people-to-people ties.
  • A delegation led by a Minister in Pakistan’s caretaker government came to Delhi to attend Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s funeral.
  • The Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said Mr. Khan had received a congratulatory letter from Mr. Modi calling for the two countries to pursue “constructive engagement”.
  • Khan tweeted that trade and resolution of differences through dialogue are the “best way” to “uplift the people in the subcontinent”.
  • All these gestures confirm that both the Prime Ministers are at least sticking by diplomatic courtesy against the backdrop of an otherwise bitter relationship.

Existing Situation:

  • There appears to be very little trust in any quarter of both capitals. Both leaders face political realities that could inhibit them from taking any major risks.
  • Modi, who dealt with the Pathankot airbase attack just days after his visit to Lahore in December 2015, may well prefer to avoid such overtures, especially with Lok Sabha elections due in less than a year.
  • Khan, who commands a thin majority in Parliament, and has frequently criticised his predecessors for close ties with India, may choose to remain conservative.

Way forward:

  • Well-chosen words, however, will not be enough. The steps needed are clear.
  • To kick start, the situation at the Line of Control urgently needs attention, and a restoration of the ceasefire would be a major move forward for both countries.
  • Khan could earn Pakistan an economic breather if he adheres to the international Financial Action Task Force’s demands on ending terror financing. He would earn more goodwill by directly addressing India’s concerns on the support to terrorists in Pakistan, and those being pushed over the LoC.
  • These actions could set up an even bolder move, no matter how unlikely it currently seems: for Mr.Modi to agree to restore the SAARC process by attending the long-delayed summit due in Islamabad this year.
  • Much work, preferably behind the scenes, is needed if both the Prime Ministers hope to realise any of the objectives they have spoken of over the past month. India and Pakistan must build on diplomatic courtesy to restore equilibrium to ties.

Source:

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GS-III : Economic Issues Infrastructure
TRAI calls for zero telecom equipment imports by 2022

1) TRAI calls for zero telecom equipment imports by 2022

Theme: Indigenous telecommunication equipment manufacturing

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has called for imposition of import duties on telecom products outside the ambit of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA-1) and incentivising their local design and manufacturing with an aim to eliminate India’s dependence on imported telecom gear by 2022.

  • Suggesting that India aim at net zero imports of telecommunications equipment by 2022, the TRAI recommended the setting up of a ?1,000 crore fund for promoting research and innovation in the sector.
  • The regulator has suggested that the progress of indigenous telecommunication equipment manufacturing be monitored by Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It is planned to have a dedicated unit in DoT to be made responsible for the facilitation and monitoring of telecommunication equipment design, development, and manufacturing in the country.
  • It was proposed to create a Telecom Research and Development Fund (TRDF), with initial corpus of ?1,000 crore for promoting research, innovation, standardization, design, testing, certification and manufacturing indigenous telecom equipment.
  • Subsequently, Telecom Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund(TEPF) and Telecom Manufacturing Promotion Fund(TMPF) need to be set up.
  • To address security concerns, TRAI had suggested that the telecom service providers be incentivised for deploying indigenous telecom products beyond the quantities to be mandated under the preferential market access policy.
  • India as a signatory to the World Trade Organisation’s ITA-1 has a zero-duty commitment on 217-odd electronic items in the list. But it is under no obligation to allow duty-free imports of ICT items outside the ITA-1.

Benefits:

  • Local manufacturing of network equipment will reduce imports and create self-reliance and job opportunities.
  • Currently, India imports 90% of its requirements. If the recommendations are to be implemented, it would enable Indian telecom equipment manufacturing sector to transition from an import-dependent sector to a global hub of indigenous manufacturing.

Source: TH

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GS-III :
Biodiversity Conservation: Role of Local Participation (UPSC GS Paper 3)

Topic: Biodiversity Conservation: Role of Local Participation

GS Paper 3

Source: The Hindu

 

The CRUX of The Hindu Article:

 

  •  Across India, there are many indigenous communities that manage to lead a meaningful life without destruction of natural ecosystems.
  • These tribes, along with marginalized communities who live on the fringes of forests and millions of smallholder farmers, are the best hope that India has to preserve biodiversity and ensure food security.
  • Nature is facing the threat of another mass extinction of species now. Thus, it increases the importance of such communities. 
  • Although biodiversity loss is a global problem, it can be countered only with local solutions.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
  • A solution that has succeeded in a temperate, wealthy nation may not be suitable for a country like India.
  • Our tropical homeland is rich in biodiversity, but the imperatives of relentless economic growth, urbanisation, deforestation, and overpopulation place it at risk more than many other places.
  • Thus, nothing can be achieved without the active participation of communities that live close to nature — farmers and forest dwellers.
  • UN agencies are also unanimous that the best way to correct the present course is to heed the accumulated wisdom of indigenous peoples, fishers and farmers.
  • Thus, there is a need to realise that there is hope for the natural ecosystem only if we act on the advice of the local communities. Fortunately, India’s farmers and tribes are nothing if not innovative and they do have local solutions.

 

Biodiversity Conservation

Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity has been an integral part of Indian ethos. The varied eco-climatic conditions coupled with unique geological and cultural features have contributed to an astounding diversity of habitats, which harbor and sustain immense biological diversity at all levels. With only 2.4% of the world's land area, India accounts for 7-8% of recorded species of the world. In terms of species richness, India ranks seventh in mammals, ninth in birds and fifth in reptiles. In terms of endemism of vertebrate groups, India's position is tenth in birds with 69 species, fifth in reptiles with 156 species and seventh in amphibians with 110 species. India's share of crops is 44% as compared to the world average of 11%. India also has 23.39% of its geographical area under forest and tree cover. Of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots, India harbor 3 hotspots, i.e., Himalaya, Indo Burma, Western Ghats, and Sri Lanka. The Western Ghats are also included in the World Heritage list. It is very rich in flora and fauna and serves as the cradle of biodiversity. One of the most pressing environmental issues today is the conservation of biodiversity. Many factors threaten the world's biological heritage.

A report that highlighted the role of Indigenous People

According to a recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES), Biodiversity is declining everywhere at an unprecedented rate, but this rate is lower in areas where indigenous people own land

This finding is highly important for our country because of the domination of indigenous people in our forests. One of the classic examples of this is the Dongria Kondh tribal people of the Niyamgiri Hills who are known for their spirited defense of their forested habitat against short­sighted industrialisation. They are among the best conservationist communities of the world. 

According to the IPBES report, 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction and thousands of these would become extinct within decades. The report also highlighted that though the rate of biodiversity decline is less in the land inhabited by the indigenous people, it has also been facing high pressure. The areas managed (under various types of tenure and access regimes) by indigenous people and local communities are facing growing resource extraction, commodity production, mining and transport, and energy infrastructure, with various consequences for local livelihoods and health. Some climate change mitigation programmes have had negative impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities. But the Indigenous people and local communities have been proactively confronting such challenges in partnership with each other and with an array of other stakeholders, through co-management systems and local and regional monitoring networks and by revitalizing and adapting local management systems. 

The report further points out that "Recognizing the knowledge, innovations and practices, institutions and values of indigenous peoples and local communities and their inclusion and participation in environmental governance often enhances their quality of life, as well as nature conservation, restoration and sustainable use, which is relevant to broader society."

An older reference to the same issue was made in 2014 when a report by World Resources Institute found that legal forest rights for communities and government protection of their rights tend to lower carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation.

 

India's Current Scenario

The report holds importance in the current scenario as a few months back, the proceedings against the forest rights act of India was in news. In a writ petition 109 of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the eviction of illegal claimants must be carried on in the forestland. It also directed the Forest Survey of India to make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible. This is an important judgment considering that 17 States have rejected a total of 11.91 lakh claims after going through due processes prescribed under the FRA, with two levels of appeal to ensure justice, it is important to note that Gram Sabhas themselves have rejected 14.77 lakh claims as ineligible. 

 

Conclusion

Active participation by the indigenous people, especially who reside in the forests of India is a quintessential requirement for the conservation of the biodiversity.  Being the original home for these communities, people from these communities have a fair idea of the local conditions and know how to preserve the area. India is a land where nature has been worshipped since time immemorial and still some of the indeginous communities consider it to be their duty to conserve nature. Thus, the need of the hour is that instead of evicting forest dwellers from their homes, we should be encouraging them to conserve and nurture their habitats. The claims of the forest dwellers thus must be re-considered in this backdrop.

 

Source: The Hindu, PIB

Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Conservation
Drones to monitor tiger reserve

Drones to monitor tiger reserve

Theme: E-bird Project:

The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) in Uttar Pradesh will soon be under complete drone camera surveillance

E-bird project:

  • The surveillance programme is called e-bird project.
  • A pilot was conducted on International Tiger Day, July 29 2018 where drone cameras were used to monitor rhinos in the rehabilitation area.
  • The e-bird project is a joint initiative of the reserve and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
  • They will further help in habitat management, countering man-animal conflicts and checking criminal activities.
  • The e-bird project will help better monitor the area during the monsoon season, when patrolling is severely restricted.
  • The project helps in addressing the major challenge for field staffers over the years. Such as:
  • The rough terrain is interspersed by Mohana, Sharda Rivers
  • Numerous small canals and water bodies
  • Waterlogged routes
  • It is the beginning of significant technological intervention in wildlife conservation.
  • The presence of carnivorous animals

Source: TH

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GS-III : Indian Economy Energy
Rajasthan First State to Implement Biofuel Policy

 

  1. Rajasthan First State to Implement Biofuel Policy: (GS-II(Policies) & GS-III(Environment))

Theme: Biofuel Policy

  • Rajasthan has become the first State in the country to implement the national policy on biofuels unveiled by the Centre in May 2018.  
  • The desert State will lay emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds and establish a Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to promote research in the fields of alternative fuels and energy resources. A Biodiesel Plant of the capacity of 8 tonnes a day had already been installed in the state with thenwith the financial assistance of the Indian Railways.
  • The State Rural Livelihood development council will also encourage women’s Self Help Groups to explore the scope for additional income through the supply of Bio-diesel.

National Policy on Biofuels:

  • The Policy categorises biofuels as "Basic Biofuels" viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and "Advanced Biofuels" - Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  • With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
  • Roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels has been captured in the Policy document to synergise efforts

Expected Benefits:

  • Reduce Import dependency
  • Cleaner Environment
  • Health Benefits : Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
  • Municipal solid waste management: It is estimated that, annually 62 MMT of Municipal Solid Waste gets generated in India. There are technologies available which can convert waste/plastic, MSW to drop in fuels. One ton of such waste has the potential to provide around 20% of drop in fuels.
  • Infrastructural investment in Rural Areas
  • Employment Generation
  • Additional Income to Generation: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same. Also, farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Thus conversion of surplus grains and agricultural biomass can help in price stabilization.

 

Source: Various

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GS-II : Important Bills Important Bills
Cabinet Clears Bill to restore the provisions of SC/ST Act:

National and Political Issues

1) Cabinet Clears Bill to restore the provisions of SC/ST Act:

Theme: SC/ST Act (GS-II)

 The Supreme court had introduced the provision of anticipatory bail by reading down the Section 18 of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 in march 20, 2018 to protect people against arbitrary arrests. SC also issued other guidelines to protect people against arbitrary arrests under the Act. They are:

  • public servants could be arrested only with the written permission of their appointing authority, while in the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it.
  • A preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR was registered to check if the case fell within the ambit of the Act, and whether it was frivolous or motivated.

The ruling was greeted by a storm of protest from Dalit groups, which said the order diluted the law. Facing pressure from Dalit leaders within the ruling alliance as well as from the Opposition, the Centre has decided to introduce a Bill to restore the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which the Supreme Court had struck down in a March ruling.

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The Amendment Bill seeks to insert three new clauses after Section 18 of the original Act:

  • The first stipulates that for the purposes of the Act, “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.”
  •  The second stipulates that the arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval.
  • The third says that the provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — which deals with anticipatory bail — shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.

2) Misadventures in Education:

Theme: Educational Reforms (GS-II)

Features of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill:

  • The fundamental aim of the draft bill is to abolish the existing University Grants Commission (UGC), the country’s apex body that distributes funds to public universities based on certain criteria.
  • This job of distributing funds to universities will be directly taken over by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development.
  • The draft bill, instead creates a new body, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
  • This new commission will have unbridled powers over all colleges and universities across the country, including the authority to shut them down and at worst, jail the college or university authorities for up to three years if the commission finds that they disobeyed its orders and refuse to pay the penalty.
  • The only exceptions will be the Institutions of National Importance, which are mostly institutes like the IITs.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has attracted much attention in recent weeks for two reasons.

  • First, it put out for public consultation the draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill, which seeks to replace the University Grants Commission. In response, it received 10,200 suggestions/comments from various stakeholders. Thousands of concerns have been aired by academics, policy makers, and civil society on the HECI Bill, particularly because it is silent on concrete reasons to replace the UGC.
  • Unlike UGC, HECI will not have grant functions and would focus only on academic matters.
  • HECI will also be backed with penal powers to order  closure of institutes that violate set norms, imposition of fines where necessary and provisions for imprisonment up to three years where necessary

Concerns about the HECI Bill:

  • The draft HECI Bill makes the problem worse through over-centralisation and enhanced political interference.
  • The move to entrust all grant-giving powers to the Ministry can lead to politicisation of grant allocation and more interference by the bureaucracy.
  • Further, instead of preserving autonomy, the Bill allows the Chairperson of the new Commission to be a member of the Central government, something expressly prohibited in the UGC Act.
  • The bill also transgresses the autonomy of higher educational institutions by allowing micromanagement, for instance, on syllabi.
  • The new over-arching body does not involve the States sufficiently and or accommodate the diverse needs of the country.
  • Therefore, it would have been better off if the government addressed the loopholes in the UGC.

However, there are some problems with the UGC. Both the National Knowledge Commission Report (2006) and the Yashpal Committee on Higher Education (2009) made a solid case for bringing in a new regulator.

  • Second, the Right to education (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 18 and is now before the Rajya Sabha. It seeks to:
  • To do away with the no-detention policy
  • Reintroduce testing for Classes V and VIII
  • Students who fail this exam would be given a chance to re-appear after two months from the date of declaration of results. In case they still cannot pass, the states will have the option of detaining them.

The Right To Education (RTE) Act:

  • The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.
  • It means that every child has a right to full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
  • It came into effect on 1 April 2010.
  • The RTE Act provides for:
  • Every child in the age group of 6-14 has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, till the completion of elementary education.
  • Private schools will have to take 25% of their class strength from the weaker section and the disadvantaged group of the society through a random selection process. The government will fund the education of these children.
  • No donation and capitation fee is allowed.
  • No admission test or interview either for child or parents.
  • No child can be held back, expelled and required to pass the board examination till the completion of elementary education.
  • There is provision for the establishment of commissions to supervise the implementation of the act.
  • A fixed student and teacher ratio is to be maintained.
  • All schools have to adhere to rules and regulations laid down in this act, failing which the school will not be allowed to function. Three years moratorium period has been provided to school to implement all that is required of them.
  • Norms for teachers training and qualifications are also clearly mentioned in the act.
  • All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees with 75% of parents and guardians as members.

Detention policy:

  • The Right to Education (RTE) Bill 2018 does away with the policy that children cannot be detained till they complete elementary education in Class VIII.
  • The amendment gives States the option of holding regular examinations either at the end of Class V or Class VIII, or both.
  • Students who fail this exam would be given a chance to re-appear after two months from the date of declaration of results.
  • In case they still cannot pass, the States will have the option of detaining them.

Consequences of Detention:

  • This would potentially push out many children who are unable to meet standards because they have been deprived of quality education.
  • The no-detention policy was to be implemented together with continuous assessment, which would help identify learning deficiencies and correct them.
  • However, the education system has failed to provide continuous assessment and so the government is falling back on examinations and detention, which can lead to students becoming discouraged and higher dropout rates.

What is ‘No-Detention’ policy?

  • As per the No-Detention Policy under the Right to Education Act, no student can be failed or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education covering classes 1 to 8. All the students up till Class 8 will automatically be promoted to next class.
  • The essence of the policy is that children should not be ‘failed’ and detained up to Class 8. There are no “examinations” in the narrow traditional sense of the word up to Class 8. Instead, the Act mandates a process of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) to assess and evaluate the student’s learning.

Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE):

  • It is an alternative to regular examination, in which pupil will be comprehensively evaluated on the basis of curricular, extra-curricular activities and behavior But none of the students will be detained.
  • This evaluation is based on grading system rather than Marks or percentage. This provision is not being implemented

Reasons why ‘no-detention policy’ is criticized

  1. Negative impact on the standard of education: Most of the schools in interior places are running without any teachers. Hence, if the ‘no-detention policy’ continues, it will leave a negative impact on the standard of education in India and force the children to face more harsh future.
  2. No reward for hard work: This policy has led to students developing a lackadaisical attitude, with there being no risk of failing. It also makes no distinction between good and bad students, and between those who work hard and those who don’t. Thus it makes no effective way to implement a good level of teaching and learning.
  3. Apathy from teachers: With the policy in place, the Education Department does not take steps to revamp itself and the teachers do not take the pain to ensure a good education for the children.
  4. Dark future of students: Students coming from poor economic background face problem in their coming life because of no good education in the schools.
  5. Will affect the women empowerment programs: The girls especially will face a major problem if not getting a proper education in the schools.
  6. Zero academic outcomes: If no merit is checked while giving promotion to another class, the children will never learn the importance of studying and acquiring knowledge. It will lead to a poor academic outcome in classes.

                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question is whether the no-detention policy will improve the learning outcomes of children if it is brought back.

Why No-detention policy seems a practical failure?

It is the no-detention policy because of which we have achieved near universalization of enrolment at elementary education level. It is a successful policy in this sense. But for improved learning outcomes, this policy needs to be supplemented by other provisions of RTE Act, 2009, such as;

  • Pupil teacher ratio (PTR)
  • Infrastructure
  • Separate Toilets for Girls and Boys

Funding in Education:

  • It is another reason why RTE is not being implemented in true letter in spirit. Allocation of funds for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan always remained below the actual estimated requirements. Quality related intervention accounted only for 9% of the total approved budgets in FY 2016-17.
  • States like Kerala spent nearly all their allocated budget for education on quality in 2016-17.

Way forward:

The phenomenon of poor learning outcomes is the product of many factors which influence learning, and should not be conveniently pinned to the door of the no-detention policy. The steps that can be taken to improve learning outcomes can be:

  • Measuring learning level outcomes of all children on a regular basis,
  • Catalysing a “performance-driven culture” and rewarding high performers at every level,
  • Changing stakeholders’ mindset and preparing them for new provisions, in which parents were made responsible or accountable for full attendance of their children.
  • There is a need to find long term solution to the issues plaguing the education system in India.
  • Keeping in view the targets under SDG4: Quality Education, there is need to increase budgetary allocation for Education.
  • A greater level of seriousness on all sides is the need of the hour. It is high time steps are taken to remove the other flaws that exist.
  • RTE Act 2009, needs to be implemented in its true letter and spirit. New Education Policy is need of the hour.

3) Scaled up solutions for future of water scarcity

Theme: Water scarcity

Precious evolutionary living resources, natural infrastructure, are going extinct. While we thoughtlessly build artificial infrastructure, we forget that this kills natural infrastructure which took evolution aeons to create and cannot be engineered. We are missing the essential point that this is our lifeline on the planet. Forests, rivers, mountains, aquifers and soil are being lost at an alarming rate. Today, India is in the midst of a suicidal water crisis as urban and rural landscapes go thirsty.

Over the years,  activists, scientists and experts from across India working on bottom-up schemes to revive and rejuvenate lakes, wetlands, streams and other small water bodies. While these movements have brought about a significant change at the local level, the scale of our water problems is much larger

The scale of loss of water:

There are two intractable issues:

  • First, cities today are vast agglomerations that continue to spread, with bursting populations of tens of millions. They are huge parasites on water, food, energy and all other resources. High densities of our cities do not allow for water harvesting to fill the gap.
  • Second, in our global market economies, the products and services that are derived from natural infrastructure have often led to the terminal loss of the source itself. The global free market, and with it the scale of human intervention, now exceeds the scale of the planet. These resources (forests, mountains, floodplains and rivers) are often lost to the greed of governments, institutions, corporations and individuals. This is long-term loss for short-term gain.

River floodplains

  • Our research shows that floodplains of rivers are exceptional aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity flow from a large surrounding area and can be used as a source of providing water to cities.
  • Floodplains are formed over millions of years by the flooding of rivers with deposition of sand on riverbanks.
  • Some floodplains, such as those of Himalayan rivers, contain up to 20 times more water than the virgin flow in rivers in a year.
  • Since recharge is by rainfall and during late floods, the water quality is good.
  • If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before.
  • The Delhi Palla floodplain project on the Yamuna is an example of this. By utilising 20 sq.km of the river length and running at half its capacity, it provides water to almost a million people daily.
  • Piezometers and a control system have been installed to monitor water levels and other parameters through the year, to ensure sustainable withdrawal.
  • Besides, it provides huge revenue to the Delhi Jal Board.
  • Preserving the floodplain in a pristine condition is essential for this scheme to work.
  • Land on the floodplains can be leased from farmers in return for a fixed income from the water sold to cities.
  • The farmers can be encouraged to grow orchards/food forests to secure and restore the ecological balance of the river ecosystem.

Natural mineral water:

  • Currently, mineral water is brought from faraway mountain springs, putting huge pressure on the mountains.
  • It is packaged and consumed in plastic bottles that end up in landfills. Forested hills are a result of evolution over millions of years.
  • They are not polluted and sit on a treasure of underground aquifers that contain natural mineral water comparable to that found in a mountain spring.
  • This is because the rain falls on the forest and seeps through the various layers of humus and cracked rock pathways, picking up nutrients and minerals and flows into underground mineral water aquifers.
  • Our research shows that the water in these aquifers is comparable to several international natural spring mineral waters.
  • It also shows that if a scheme of ‘conserve and use’ is applied correctly, it would allow a forest (like Asola Bhatti in Delhi) to be sustained as a mineral water sanctuary.
  • About 30 sq.km of the forest could then provide enough natural mineral water to 5 million people in the city.
  • The Aravalli forested hills can provide mineral water to all major towns of Rajasthan. This water can substantially improve the health of citizens and preserve forests at the same time.
  • The marvel is that we can provide quality natural mineral water for all from a local forest tract for 20 times less than the market price and yet reap great economic returns.
  • Such non-invasive, local, large-scale ‘conserve and use’ projects till now have not been part of our living scheme.
  • They change the relationship between nature, water and cities.
  • They differ in scale from the small, community-driven projects of check dams, water harvesting and lakes and can service large populations.
  • Unlike large-scale dams, these projects work with nature rather than against it. They can be used around the globe.
  • Finally, these evolutionary resources once lost, will be lost forever.

Solutions for Water Scarcity:

  • Education: There are plenty of opportunities out there that people can use in order to learn more about the world around them. By educating those who are not dealing with water scarcity, they can be in a position to help. Those who are dealing with it can get educated on how they can prevent the problem from becoming even worse in the future.
  • Recycle Water: There are plenty of technologies out there that allow you to recycle rainwater and other water that you may be using in your home. Consider learning about how you can recycle water. Not only does it help to prevent scarcity, but it can save you some money as well.
  • Advance Technology Related to Water Conservation: There has been a lot of work in the world of water conservation, but there is also a lot that needs to be done in order to ensure that the rest of the world is able to conserve water. Putting money and effort into conservation could be life-saving.
  • Improve Practices Related to Farming: Farming and irrigation are often a huge culprit when it comes to water scarcity. Because of that, we need to improve practices so that we don’t use as much water and those who are using water are using it to its fullest potential. Technology also needs to advance in this manner.
  • Improve Sewage Systems: Clean drinking water starts with a good sewage system. Without proper sanitation, the water in an area becomes ridden with disease and any number of other problems. By improving the sewage systems in these areas, we can prevent water scarcity from becoming any worse.
  • Support Clean Water Initiatives: There are organizations located all over the world that are looking to bring clean water to areas that don’t have it.

Source: TH

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GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government policies and interventions
Data Localisation is no solution

Data Localisation is no solution

Theme: Data Protection: Right to Privacy and National Security [GS-II(Governance) & GS-II(Cyber security)]

Introduction:

  • Calls for data are not new. It has been a mainstream of Indian policymakers demands from foreign technology companies.
  • The Justice Srikrishna committee in its report accompanying the draft personal Data protection bill released on July 27 notes that eight of the top 10 most accessed websites in India are owned by U.S. entities. This reality has often hindered Indian law enforcements when investigating routine crimes or crimes with a cyber element.
  • Police officials are forced to rely on a long and arduous bilateral process with the U.S. communication providers.

The draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

  • It has provisions to protect personal data as an essential facet of information privacy.
  • The objective of the Bill is to balance the growth of the digital economy and use of data as a means of communication.
  • The Bill applies to the personal data which have been processed within India, by persons or agencies governed by Indian Law.
  • The Bill also brings within its ambit the processing of personal data by data fiduciaries or data processors located abroad in connection with business or profiling of data principals within the territory of India.
  • The proposed law defines personal data as information relating to a natural person.
  • Breach of personal data involves unauthorised or accidental processing of personal data that compromises the confidentiality, integrity or availability of personal data to a data principal.
  • Data fiduciaries should retain personal data “only as long as may be reasonably necessary to satisfy the purpose for which it is processed”.
  • The Bill allows processing of personal data for “prompt action” only if it is necessary for any function of Parliament; or any State Legislature to render service or benefit to citizens; or in response to any medical emergency to the data principal; or in cases of epidemic, outbreak of disease, disaster or breakdown of public order.
  • The Bill includes the ‘right to be forgotten’, which is the right of a data principal to restrict or prevent continuing disclosure of personal data by a data fiduciary.
  • The Bill calls for a copy of user data to be mandatorily localised in India, it will “boost” law enforcement efforts to access data necessary for investigation and prosecution of crimes.

Criticism on Data localization:

  • The Indian law enforcement relies on an out-dated Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process to obtain data stored by U.S. This scenario will not change even after technology companies relocate Indian data to India.
  • Localisation can provide data only for crimes that have been committed in India, where both the perpetrator and victim are situated in India.
  • Transnational terrorism, cybercrimes and money laundering that the committee rightly highlights will often involve individuals and accounts that are not Indian, and therefore will not be stored in India.
  • The data protection bill is an opportunity for India to be a partner under the CLOUD Act.

CLOUD(Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) Act?

  • Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress seeks to de-monopolise control over data from U.S. authorities.
  • The law will for the first time allow tech companies to share data directly with certain foreign governments having an executive agreement with the U.S.

This, however, requires an executive agreement between the U.S. and the foreign country  certifying that the state has robust privacy protections, and respect for due process and the rule of law.

Why India need to partner with US?

  • The Justice Srikrishna Committee in its report accompanying the draft Personal Data Protection Bill released on July 27 notes that eight of the top 10 most accessed websites in India are owned by U.S. entities.
  • The CLOUD Act creates a potential mechanism through with countries such as India can request data not just for crimes committed within their borders but also for transnational crimes involving their state interests.

Conclusion:

  • The Bill, while recognising principles of legality, necessity and proportionality for data processing in the interest of national security and investigation of crimes, fails to draw procedural rules necessary for actualising these principles. By improving on short comings of our Data Protection policy we can partner with US under CLOUD Act to have access to data stored with and processed by US fiduciaries and other global partners.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues Trade War
U.S.-China trade war can make Indian products competitive, says CII report

1) U.S.-China trade war can make Indian products competitive, says CII report

Theme: Trade War

In News:

  • With the U.S. imposing an additional 25% duty on imports worth $34 billion from China, certain Indian products may become more competitive. India can focus on several goods for expanding its exports to the U.S. and China after the increase in duties by both countries on imports from each other.
  • An analysis by the industry chamber revealed that India should focus on the U.S. market for items in the categories of machinery, electrical equipment, vehicles and transport parts, chemicals, plastics and rubber products.
  • Top exports from India to the U.S. which are covered in the list of items for which the tariffs have been raised include pumps, parts of military aircraft, parts for electro-diagnostic apparatus, passenger vehicles of 1500-3000 cc, valve bodies and parts of taps.
  • It was noted by the Confederation of Indian Industries that countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have increased their exports of these products to the U.S. in recent years and that India could also increase the exports with concerted efforts.

Way forward:

  • The US has raised tariffs for 818 product lines for imports from China. Considering this and India’s current exports, the products such as intermediate parts for the defence and aerospace sector, vehicles, and auto parts and engineering goods have a higher export potential.
  • Sectors like apparel and textiles, footwear, toys and games and cell phone manufacturing are becoming competitive industries in India and need to be encouraged.
  • Trade talks with the U.S. needs to be strategised taking into account India’s competitive advantage in these products.
  • Foreign Direct Investments from the US should be encouraged by boosting confidence of US firms in India’s business climate which might necessitate addressing their concerns regarding non-tariff barriers in India for better long term outcomes.
  • In the domestic industry, it is important for India to enhance productivity while adding technology to its domestic production in the identified products.

2) Solar duty may do more harm than good

Theme: Safeguard Duty

In news:

  • The government has accepted the Directorate General of Trade Remedies’ (DGTR) recommendation of imposing 25% duty on solar cells imported from China and Malaysia for the period between July 30, 2018 and July 29, 2019.

What is Safe Guard duty:

Safeguard duty is tariff barrier imposed by government to ensure that imports in excessive quantities do not harm the domestic industry. It is temporay.

Why was the safeguard duty introduced?

  • The import duty prima facie has been placed in order to encourage local solar panel manufacturers in the country in a push to the ‘Make in India’ effort.
  • The government implemented a 25% safeguard duty on solar cell imports from China and Malaysia for the period between July 30, 2018 and July 29, 2019. Thereafter, the duty is to decrease to 20% for the six months following that period, and further to 15% in the subsequent six months.

Issue:

  • Safeguard duty on solar panels from China, Malaysia offers little to domestic makers
  • More than 10,000 MW capacity of solar panels are imported annually from China and Malaysia, the safeguard duty would also hurt existing projects that have already factored in the cheaper imports into their pricing, according to industry players and analysts.
  • The increased tariffs will be ultimately passed on to the customers, hampering the adoption of clean energy.
  • It would increase cost of solar power, making it less attractive to buying utilities, and thus jeopardising the pace of growth of development of solar power.
  • Further the duty does not provide any relief to developers in SEZs. Thereby defeating the very purpose of a safeguard duty, which is to protect and promote domestic industry.
  • The imposition of safeguard duty for a short period of two years is unlikely to lead to any significant increase in the domestic solar module/cell manufacturing capacity in the near term.

Way forward:

  • The government could procure solar power generated from units only using domestically manufactured panels at competitive rates.
  • It is logical to exempt SEZs from such safeguard duties, considering that it is being implemented to protect the domestic industries from cheap imports.
  • For projects already bid out, the amendment to bidding norms approved in April 2018 allowing pass-through of changes in taxation, duties and cess would allow the developers to pass through the tariff increase to off-takers.
  • The move could create doubt in the mind of developers, dampen investors interests, and question the viability of ongoing projects. The government must provide clarity on the pass through of such additional duties to keep the general sentiment optimistic.

3) The problem at the WTO

Theme: WTO Crisis

WTO and it’s evolution: 

  • World Trade Organization, as an institution was established in 1995.
  •  It replaced General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which was in place since 1946.
  •  In pursuance of World War II, western countries came out with their version of development, which is moored in promotion of free trade and homogenization of world economy on western lines. 
  • This version claims that development will take place only if there is seamless trade among all the countries and there are minimal tariff and non- tariff barriers. 
  • That time along with two Bretton wood institutions – IMF and World Bank, an International Trade Organization (ITO) was conceived. 
  • ITO was successfully negotiated and agreed upon by almost all countries. It was supposed to work as a specialized arm of United Nation, towards promotion of free trade. However, United States along with many other major countries failed to get this treaty ratified in their respective legislatures and hence it became a dead letter. 
  • Consequently, GATT became de-facto platform for issues related to international trade. It has to  its credit some major successes in reduction of tariffs (custom duty) among the member countries. Measures against dumping of goods like imposition of Anti-Dumping Duty in victim countries, had also been agreed upon. It was signed in Geneva by only 23 countries and by 1986, when Uruguay round started (which was concluded in 1995 and led to creation of WTO in Marrakesh, Morocco), 123 countries were already its member. 
  • The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 124 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948.  It is the largest international economic organization in the world.
  • India has been member of GATT since 1948; hence it was party to Uruguay Round and a founding member of WTO. China joined WTO only in 2001 and Russia had to wait till 2012.

Principles of the Trading system:

  1. Non-Discrimination:
  • Most Favoured Nation: Treating other nations equally- Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. If they grant some country a special favor (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products), then they’ll have to do the same for all other WTO members.

Some exceptions are allowed. For example:

  • Countries can set up a free trade agreement that applies only to goods traded within the group — discriminating against goods from outside.
  • Or they can give developing countries special access to their markets.
  • Or a country can raise barriers against products that are considered to be traded unfairly from specific countries. And in services, countries are allowed, in limited circumstances, to discriminate.
  • National Treatment: Treating foreigners and locals equally.

This principle of “national treatment” (giving others the same treatment as one’s own nationals) is also found in all the three main WTO agreements (Article 3 of GATT, Article 17 of GATS and Article 3 of TRIPS).

National treatment only applies once a product, service or item of intellectual property has entered the market. Therefore, charging customs duty on an import is not a violation of national treatment even if locally-produced products are not charged an equivalent tax.

  1. Free Trade: Lowering trade barriers is one of the most obvious means of encouraging trade. The barriers concerned include customs duties (or tariffs) and measures such as import bans or quotas that restrict quantities selectively. From time to time other issues such as red tape and exchange rate policies have also been discussed.
  2. Predictability: Through binding and Transparency. With stability and predictability, investment is encouraged, jobs are created and consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of competition — choice and lower prices. The multilateral trading system is an attempt by governments to make the business environment stable and predictable.
  3. Promoting Fair Competetion
  4. Encouraging development and economic reforms

Major agreements of WTO:

  1. Agreement on Agriculture: WTO’s agreement on agriculture was concluded in 1994, and was aimed to remove trade barriers and to promote transparent market access and integration of global markets. Agreement is highly complicated and controversial; it is often criticized as a tool in hands of developed countries to exploit weak countries. Negotiations are still going on for some of its aspects.

Agreement on agriculture stands on 3 pillars viz. Domestic Support, Market Access, and Export Subsidies.

  • Domestic Support: It refers to subsidies such guaranteed Minimum Price or Input subsidies which are direct and product specific. Under this, Subsidies are categorized into 3 boxes:
  1. Green Box: Subsidies which are no or least market distorting includes measures decoupled from output such as income-support payments (decoupled income support), safety – net programs, payments under environmental programs, and agricultural research and-development subsidies.
  2. Blue Box: Only ‘Production limiting Subsidies’ under this are allowed. They cover payments based on acreage, yield, or number of livestock in a base year. ‘Targets price’ are allowed to be fixed by government and if ‘market prices’ are lower, then farmer will be compensated with difference between target prices and market prices in cash. This cash shall not be invested by farmer in expansion of production.
  3. Amber Box: Those subsidies which are trade distorting and need to be curbed.

    The Amber Box contains category of domestic support that is scheduled for reduction based on a formula called the “Aggregate Measure of Support” (AMS).

The AMS is the amount of money spent by governments on agricultural production, except for those contained in the Blue Box, Green Box and ‘de minimis’.

It required member countries to report their total AMS for the period between 1986 and 1988, bind it, and reduce it according to an agreed upon schedule. Developed countries agreed to reduce these figures by 20% over six years starting in 1995. Developing countries agreed to make 13% cuts over 10 years. Least – developed countries do not need to make any cuts.

As we can note that Subsidies were bind to levels of 1986-1988, there was inequality at very beginning of the agreement. At that time subsidies which latter came under ‘Amber Box’ were historically high in western countries. In developing countries, including India these subsidies were very limited. It is only now under pressure of Inflation in prices of agricultural Inputs, and wide differences between market prices and Minimum support Price, subsidies have grown to this level. In effect developed countries are allowed to maintain substantially higher amount of trade distorting subsidies.

De-Minimis provision:

  • Under this provision developed countries are allowed to maintain trade distorting subsidies orü ‘Amber box’ subsidies to level of 5% of total value of agricultural output. For developing countries this figure was 10%.
  • So far India’s subsidies are below this limit, but it is growing consistently. This is because MSP are always revised upward whereas Market Prices have fluctuating trends. In recent times when crash in international market prices of many crops is seen, government doesn’t have much option to reduce MSP drastically. By this analogy India’s amber box subsidies are likely to cross 10% level allowed by de Minimis provision.
  • Market Access: The market access requires that tariffs fixed (like custom duties) by individual countries be cut progressively to allow free trade. It also required countries to remove nontariff barriers and convert them to Tariff duties.
  • Export Subsidies: These can be in form of subsidy on inputs of agriculture, making export cheaper or can be other incentives for exports such as import duty remission etc. These can result in dumping of highly subsidized (and cheap) products in other country. This can damage domestic agriculture sector of other country.
  • These subsidies are also aligned to 1986-1990 levels, when export subsidies by developed countries was substantially higher and Developing countries almost had no export subsidies that time.
  • But USA is dodging this provision by its Export credit guarantee program. In this, USA gov. gives subsidized credit to purchaser of US agricultural products, which are to be paid back in long periods. This is generally done for Food Aid programs, such as (Public Law-480) under which food aid is send massively to under developed countries. India also received this Aid in 1960’s. But this is only at concessional rates and credit options. But this results in perpetual dependence on foreign grain in recipient countries and destroys their domestic agriculture. So this is equally trade distorting subsidy, which is not currently under ambit of WTO’s AOA.
  • There is little doubt that subsidies and support to agriculture should be controlled and better targeted. WTO negotiations also claim to work towards this direction, but inherent conflicting and vested interest of few countries are too influential in WTO. Every country has different requirements and different product mix, so enough flexibility is must in any agreement. Further, right to food is a global movement and is guaranteed by numerous UN conventions. So, ensuring food security is a domestic concern of a nation, international community can just advice but can’t coerce other sovereign country. Thus, India has to made its expenditure much more effective, with dynamic policy and resist any outside pressure which is misdirected towards negative results for Indian people.

Special safeguard mechanism:

  • A Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) would allow developing countries to impose additional (temporary) safeguard duties in the event of an abnormal surge in imports or the entry of unusually cheap imports.
  • Debates have arisen around this question, some negotiating parties claiming that SSM could be repeatedly and excessively invoked, distorting trade. In turn, the G33 bloc of developing countries, a major SSM proponent, has argued that breaches of bound tariffs should not be ruled out if the SSM is to be an effective remedy. SSM is quite important in a scenario in which west has significant powers to subsidize their production and in turn, exports.

 

                                                                                   

    TRIPS( Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights):

  • The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO Members. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994.
  • It remains an issue between Developed and developing countries. TRIPS was fine tuned in favor of developing countries in 2003, as part of Doha development agenda, when all members agreed to compulsory licensing in certain cases. However, now U.S. and Europe remain unhappy about current strict terms of patent allowed by TRIPS.
  1. TRIMS(Trade Related Investment Measures):
  • The Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) recognizes that certain investment measures can restrict and distort trade. It states that WTO members may not apply any measure that discriminates against foreign products or that leads to quantitative restrictions, both of which violate basic WTO principles. 
  • A list of prohibited TRIMS, such as local content requirements, is part of the Agreement.
  • Recently India was dragged to WTO by U.S. over former’s specification of Domestic Content Requirement in relation to procurement of Solar Energy cells and equipments.
  1. General Agreement on Trade In Services:
  • The GATS was inspired by essentially the same objectives as its counterpart in merchandise trade, GATT: creating a credible and reliable system of international trade rules; ensuring fair and equitable treatment of all participants (principle of nondiscrimination); stimulating economic activity through guaranteed policy bindings; and promoting trade and development through progressive liberalization.
  • While services currently account for over 60 percent of global production and employment, they represent no more than 20 per cent of total trade (BOP basis). This — seemingly modest — share should not be underestimated, however. Many services, which have long been considered genuine domestic activities, have increasingly become internationally mobile. This trend is likely to continue, owing to the introduction of new transmission technologies (e.g. electronic banking, tele-health or tele-education services), the opening up in many countries of long-entrenched monopolies (e.g. voice telephony and postal services), and regulatory reforms in hitherto tightly regulated sectors such as transport. Combined with changing consumer preferences, such technical and regulatory innovations have enhanced the “tradability” of services and, thus, created a need for multilateral disciplines.
  • Services negotiations in the WTO follow the so-called positive list approach, whereby members’ schedules of specific commitments list all of the services sectors and subsectors where they undertake to bind the market opening and the granting of national treatment to foreign service suppliers, apart the listed barriers that remain. Sectors and sub-sectors not included in the schedule are exempt from any obligations as regards market access and national treatment.
  • West is pushing hard to move from positive list approach to negative list approach. In negative list approach, services where GATS is not applicable will have to be negotiated, agreed upon and specified. India is against this concept as it will throw open almost whole Indian services sector to western multinational giants.

Negotiations is services under GATS are classified in 4 modes, interests of different countries depend upon this classification:

  1. Mode 1 – It includes cross border supply of services without movement of natural persons.      For eg. Business Process Outsourcing, KPO or LPO services. Here, it’s in India’s interest to push for liberalization given its large human resource pool and competitive IT industry.
  2. Mode 2 – This mode covers supply of a service of one country to the service consumer of any other country. E.g. telecommunication.
  3. Mode 3 – Commercial presence – which covers services provided by a service supplier of one country in the territory of any other country. This opens door of relevant sector in one country to investments from another country. Accordingly, it is in west’s interest to push for liberalization here. There has been sustained pressure to open up higher education sector, insurance sector, Medical sector etc through this mode.
  4. Mode 4 – Presence of natural persons – which covers services provided by a service supplier of one country through the presence of natural persons in the territory of any other country. E.g. Infosys or TCS sending its engineers for onsite work in US/Europe or Australia. Here again it’s in India’s interest to push for liberalization. In 2012, India dragged the US to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) dispute settlement body (DSB) over an increase in the professional visa fee (H1B/L1).

Present Issue:

  • WTO is facing existential crisis during a time when developed economies have adopted protectionist attitude. 
  • The U.S. has systematically blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (“judges”) and de facto impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism. 
  • With only four working members out of seven normally serving office in July 2018, the institution is under great stress 
  • If no appointment is made, it will simply be destroyed by December 2019, with only one remaining member to tackle a massive number of disputes that are also increasingly hyper technical.

U.S.’s ire:

  • U.S. rejected the idea of ITO, and four decades later herself drove the agenda to establish World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  • U.S. has been proven isolationist and protectionist. It doesn’t embrace those ideas which challenge her leadership. 
  • At the Doha round of trade negotiations the U.S. destroyed the negotiation process in formulating excessive demands that no country was prepared to meet. 
  • Most recent examples of U.S. ire against its very creations NAFTA and TPP, also against NATO and UNESCO are proof of her hard-headed wish for uncontested leadership against multilateralism.

Dispute Settlement Crisis at WTO:

  • The U.S. has systematically blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (“judges”) and de facto impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism.
  •  With only four working members out of seven normally serving office in July 2018, the institution is under great stress.
  •  If no appointment is made, it will simply be destroyed by December 2019, since the Appellate Body requires a core of three members to decide a dispute.
  •  The U.S. is not willing to be judged by an independent multilateral quasi-judicial institution.

Other Concerns Related to Dispute Settlement at WTO:

  • Over the politicisation of the Appellate Body appointment and reappointment process.
  •  The quasi-attribution of permanent Appellate Body seats to the U.S. and the European Union (EU). 
  • There is concern that China may be on its way to having a permanent seat. 
  • The “Overreaching” or judicial activism of United States.
  • The WTO dispute settlement mechanism is not a world trade court. The process remains political and diplomatic. In trade wars, the objective is not to settle a dispute; it is to win the battle. 
  • The very existence of an appeal mechanism is now paradoxically questioned at a time the global community criticises the absence of the same mechanism in Investor-State Dispute Settlement.

Who could be WTO’s saviour?

  • China is trying to establish herself by its assertiveness in rule based WTO system. 
  • China, EU, and to some extent India, and a few others, is now the main supporter of multilateralism.
  •  The recent EU-China proposal to promote the reform of the WTO is said to combat “unilateralism and protectionism” but might well fail to address unfair trade issues raised against China itself.

Conclusion:

  • The world has changed and multilateral institutions now have to embed these changes. This WTO crisis might well be the final battle to retain control over a Western-centric organisation. 
  • The time has come for the emerging economies and the developing world to have a greater say in how to shape multilateralism and its institutions.

Way Ahead: 

  • WTO needs to strengthen the dispute settlement mechanism as there are issues in appointment of judges in new appellate body. 
  • WTO needs to enhance discussion mechanism by introducing wider consultations. It has been a long-standing complaint by the smaller participants that the consultations or decision making is limited to the green room of DG of WTO. 
  • There is a need of free trade is required more by developing countries like India than developed countries.

Source: TH

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GS-II : Indian Polity Functions and responsibilities of Union and States
J&K tense ahead of SC hearing on Article 35A
  1. J&K tense ahead of SC hearing on Article 35A

Theme: Article 35A

In news: Last week, the State government, currently under Governor’s Rule, moved a plea in the Supreme Court to defer the hearing on a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A of the Constitution, citing the upcoming panchayat and urban local body elections.

Article 35A:

  • Article 35A lets the J&K Legislature decide the “permanent residents” of the State, prohibits a non-J&K resident from buying property in the State and ensures job reservation for its residents.
  • Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare. The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.

How did it come about?

  • Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by the order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.
  • The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. This provision allows the President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the Constitution for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, Article 35A was added to the Constitution as a testimony of the special consideration the Indian government accorded to the ‘permanent residents’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The parliamentary route of law making was bypassed when the President incorporated Article 35A into the Constitution.
  • Article 368 (i) of the Constitution empowers only the Parliament to amend the Constitution.
  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in its March 1961 judgment in Puranlal Lakhanpal vs. The President of India discusses the President’s powers under Article 370 to ‘modify’ the Constitution. Though the court observes that the President may modify an existing provision in the Constitution under Article 370, the judgment is silent as to whether the President can, without the Parliament’s knowledge, introduce a new Article. This question remains open.

ISSUE:

  • A writ petition filed challenges the validity of both Article 35A and Article 370. It argues that four representatives from Kashmir were part of the Constituent Assembly involved in the drafting of the Constitution and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was never accorded any special status in the Constitution.
  • Article 370 was only a ‘temporary provision’ to help bring normality in Jammu and Kashmir and strengthen democracy in that State, it contends. The Constitution-makers did not intend Article 370 to be a tool to bring permanent amendments, like Article 35A, in the Constitution.
  • The petition said Article 35 A is against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”. Restricting citizens from other States from getting employment or buying property within Jammu and Kashmir is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Another petition has challenged Article 35A for protecting certain provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which restrict the basic right to property if a native woman marries a man not holding a permanent resident certificate. “Her children are denied a permanent resident certificate, thereby considering them illegitimate,” the petition said.
  • The National Conference argues that if the law goes, with it all other presidential orders passed since the 1950s will also become redundant and reopen the debate around the issue of accession.
  1. Amendments will dilute RTI

Theme: Right to Information Act

RTI:

  • Right to Information is an act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of the right to information for citizens and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “Public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of state”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
  • The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
  • RTI was passed by parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 october 2005.

Objective of the Right to Information Act:

  • T empower the citizens, Promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
  • It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed.
  • The Act is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

 

In news:

  • A Committee headed by retired Supreme court Judge  Justice BN SriKrishna submitted its report on “Data Protection Frame work” to Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology. The committee was constituted by the union government in July last year to deliberate in July Last year to deliberate on a data protection framework.

Issue:

  • The Chief Information Commissioner is warned by the Central Information Commissioner, that “The Right to Information Act will be rendered absolutely useless in securing access to public records pertaining to public servants.
  • Terming the amendments as unconstitutional, he noted that the Justice Srikrishna panel had not consulted the Central Information Commission before making its recommendatios.
  • The Justice Srikrishna panel’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 proposes to amend section 8 of the RTI Act, which allows certain types of information to be exempted from disclosure. This allows certain types of information to be exempted from disclosure. This includes “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the central public information Officer or the state Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information”.
  • The proposed amendment would instead exempt “information which relates to personal data which is likely to cause harm to a data principal, where such harm outweighs the public interest in accessing such information having due regard to the common good of promoting transparency and accountability in the functioning of the public authority.
  • If amended, the section would “expand scope of denial of information with several ambiguous and very wide expressions”, as the Bill contains no definitions for “common good”, “Promotion”, “transparency”, “harm” or even “Privacy”.
  • Since there is ambiguity with respect to the definitions, “harm” could be interpreted as “mental injury”, “loss of reputation, or humiliation” and “any subjection to blackmail or extortion”. Any of these could be used to reject information, as even embarrassment could be considered as “mental injury”, thereby diluting the very objective of the Act.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues Digital currency
World Bank has launched the world’s first public bond created and managed using only blockchain

World Bank has launched the world’s first public bond created and managed using only blockchain

Theme: Blockchain Bonds

Block Chain Technology:

The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

For more understanding:

  • Microsoft Excel Sheet file in your computer or laptop with the details of some of your transactions is known as a ledger.
  • If your Excel file is copied to hundreds of your friend's computers and connected to each other forming a network is known as distributed ledger. And if there will be a technology to update this Excel sheet whenever you or your friends update a ledger.
  • Therefore, blockchain is nothing but a digital ledger. That is a book containing accounts to which debits and credits are posted from books of original entry.
  • A blockchain is an anonymous online ledger that uses a data structure to simplify the way we transact. Without the help of third party blockchain allows users to manipulate the ledger in a secure way.
  • It protects the identities of the users. This way blockchain is a more secure way to carry out transactions. Each list of records in a blockchain is called a block. That is why it is known as blockchain because the various growing list of records i.e. blocks are linked and secured.

 

    Advantages of Blockchain technology:

  • The data that are entered in blockchain based systems are immutable which prevent against fraud through manipulating transactions and the history of data. Therefore, all the transactions can be investigated and audited easily.
  • Blockchain mechanism brings everyone to the highest degree of accountability. Therefore, solves the problem of manipulation.
  • The data that belongs to us we can own it that is online identity and reputation will be decentralized.
  • - Cryptocurrencies will take the power from the government to control the value of currencies and hand it to people.
  • - It will allow middleman-free way to exchange asset.
  • It provides durability, reliability, and longevity with decentralised network.

Challenges of Blockchain technology:

  • To verify all the transactions huge power i.e. electricity is required.
  • There should be security about the private key. Every time private key must remain secret because revealing it to third parties is equivalent to giving them control over the bitcoins secured by that key. Also, it is necessary to have a back up of the private key so that it can be protected from accidental loss. We know that if it is lost ones cannot be recovered and the funds secured by it are lost forever.
  • We know blocks in a chain must be verified by the distributed network and it can take time. So, transaction speed can be an issue.

   Is Blockchain technology safe to use:

  • It is clear that no doubt blockchain architecture can significantly bring down the costs and reduce inefficiencies in the financial sector. As, it allows two parties to execute a transaction without any intermediary. Without any human intervention blockchain allows financial institutions to execute and verify transactions discretely. And transactions are continuously maintained and verified in ‘blocks’ of records.
  • With the advancement of technology and the development of society the main goal of the government is to provide a method for a secure way of transactions. Whether methods are advanced or new technologies are emerging but the goal is same. As, blockchain allows consumers and suppliers to connect directly, removing the need for a third party.

In news:

  • The World Bank has launched the world’s first public bond created and managed using only blockchain in order to test how the technology might improve current bond sales practices.
  • BONDI: The project is called ‘BONDI’ (Blockchain Operated New Debt Instrument), which is also reference to the Bondi Beach in Sydney.
  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has been mandated by the World Bank to be the sole arranger of the bond.
  • It is a Kangaroo bond (foreign bonds issued in Australia in local currency).

Benefits of Blockchain Bonds:

  • The launch of the blockchain bond is an initial step in moving bond sales away from manual processes towards automation.
  • Blockchain technology could help in cutting down bond settlement time “from T+2 days currently to T+2 minutes”.
  • The technology has potential to deliver substantial cost savings as intermediary activities can be eventually reduced or removed.
  • It also improves the reputation of crypto-technologies which are currently viewed suspiciously.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues Human resource development
Rebooting the system for a skills upgrade

Rebooting the system for a skills upgrade

Theme: The Report of the standing Committee on Labour

Introduction: 

 

  • The Report of the standing committee on Labour(2017-18) headed by Kirti Somaiya, on the “ Industrial Training Institutes(ITIs)  and Skill Development Scheme” of the Ministry of skill Development and Entrepreneurship(MSDE). It was submitted to parliament few months ago.
  • The Report presents the weak condition of Vocational education system in India.
  • Small shops, basements, tin sheds and godowns. These are not random work places but places where private Industrial Training Institutes(ITIs) are running in the country.

Explaining the Scale up:

  • The ITIs were initiated in the 1950s. In a span of 60 years, until 2007, around 1,896 public and 2,000 private ITIs were set up.
  • In a 10 year period from 2007, more than 9,000 additional private ITIs were accredited.
  • The National skill development corporation today has more than 6,000 private training centres.
  • Private training partners have mushroomed at the rate of five a day and it is clear that the government has been unable to regulate private institutions for quality.
  • Private sector engagement in skill development has been taken up a stand alone private training partners and not employees. The later could have made the system demand-driven. Meanwhile, the lack of a regulator for skill development, with teeth, has led to poor quality affiliation,

What are the concerns and findings of the Somiya committee report:

The somiya committee report is scathing in its tone and specific in details. It outlines instances of responsibility outsourcing, no oversight, connivance and ownership tussle between central and state governments.

  • There is number of ITIs increasing rapidly about they disregard norms and standards.
  • Due to short term courses, vocational training centres open and close frequently they are more prone to a dilution of standards.
  • With the increase in number of institutes, government has been unabale to regulate private institutions for quality.
  • Placement in NSDC training has been less than 15%.
  • Private sector engagement in skill development has been taken up by private training partners and not employers. The employers could have made the system demand-driven.
  • The lack of a regulator for skill development has led to poor quality affiliation, assessment and certification.
  • There are instances of responsibility outsourcing, no supervision, illegal activities and an ownership tussle between the central and state governments.
  • The QCI did not follow accreditation norms created by the National Council for vocational training (NCVT). The NCVT is just a stump with no role in actually assessing quality.
  • The future of 13.8 lakh students in these substandard ITIs is at risk. If the same exercise were extended to other skill development schemes, the picture would be grimmer.
  • The report also reinforces disturbing findings of a national survey by the research institute (NILERD) of the Planning Commission in 2011 about private ITIs: had fewer classrooms and workshops for practice; and their teachers were very poorly paid.

Way Forward:  

  • There has been a tremendous push by the government for private sector talent in government; perhaps it is worth considering talent from the open market to fill up higher posts in skill development.
  •  Institutional reforms sush as moving the office of the Directorate general of employment from the Ministry of Labour to the MSDE would help. It would also complement the Directorate General of Training already under MSDE.
  • There should also have mandatory rating system for the ITIs, published periodically.
  • A ranking of the ITIs on several parameters such as the one done by the National Assessment and accredition council in tertiary education.
  • The ITIs have internal issues  such as the World Bank and the government can meet the financial needs for skill development.
  • As recommended by 12th  plan reimbursable industry corridor(RIC)- a 1-2% pay roll tax that will be reimbursed when employers train using public/private infrastructure and provide data.

 

Source: TH

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