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06 January, 2020

31 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I ‘Non-tribal communities can never claim to be indigenous’: AAKS
GS-II India faces a year of tough trade talks International Relations
UPSC to conduct separate exam for Railway Service
Global Drosophila conference
GS-III The govt is likely to find it hard to trim fiscal deficit Economic Issues
Uptick in GST collections doesn’t suggest the economy is firing up Economic Issues
NAL wants govt. push for Saras takeoff
GS-I :
‘Non-tribal communities can never claim to be indigenous’: AAKS

Syllabus subtopic:  Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: About the ethnic tribes in Assam; Assam Accord and its significance

 

News: Non­-tribal communities living in Assam can never claim to be ‘khilonjia’ or indigenous, said the All­ Assam Kochari Samaj (AAKS) that represents the earliest ethnic communities inhabiting the State.

 

Significane of the statements.

The samaj’s statement assumes significance ahead of a report to be submitted by a 15­member panel enlisting the communities that qualify to be called ‘khilonjia’ for implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985.

 

What is Assam Accord?

  • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
  • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
  • As per the Accord, those Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 will be barred from voting for ten years. The Accord also mentions that the international borders will be sealed and all persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 are to be deported.
  • Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented, which has kept some of the issues festering.

 

What does Clause 6 state?

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord “envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

 

1881 census

  • The 1881 census recorded 19 groups within the Kochari classification but some got isolated from the parental stock. Today, it comprises communities such as Bodo, the largest plains tribe in the northeast, Deuri, Dimasa, Rabha, Sonowal Kachari, Thengal Kachari and Tiwa.
  • Large swathes of Assam are under autonomous or development councils specifically for these communities.

 

Kochari kingdom

  • Kochari kings began ruling areas under present­day Assam and beyond 1,500 years before the Mahabharata era. But the non­tribal have pushed the tribal history aside despite the United Nations specifying that only the aborigines can be called indigenous.
  • The samaj claimed many traits representative of mainstream Assamese culture today were appropriated from the tribes. These include the floral ‘gamosa’, or cloth­towel, that has become a symbol of the anti-CAA protest.
  • The Kochari group also pointed out that the Ahoms, who came from Thailand some 800 years ago, were non­indigenous. The Ahoms are one of six communities demanding Scheduled Tribe status, which the Kocharis enjoying ST status are opposed to.

 

 

Ethnic groups in Assam

  • Assam is acknowledged as the settling land for a lot of cultures. A number of tribal grouping have landed in the soils of Assam in the course of diverse directions as the territory was linked to a number of states and many different countries.
  • Austro-Asiatic, Mongoloids, and Indo-Aryans had been the most important traditional groups that arrived at the site and lived in the very old Assam. They were well thought-out as the ‘aborigines’ of Assam and yet at the moment they are essential elements of the “Assamese Diaspora”.

 

  • The greater Bodo-kachari group encompasses the 18 major tribes of Assam, both plain and hills, viz., Boro, Dimasa, Chutia, Sonowal, Mech, Tiwa, Garo, Rabha, Sarania, Hajong, Tripuri, Deori, Thengal, Hojai, Koch, and others.

 

  • The ancient land of 'Kirat' is also referred to the land of the Kachari. Bodo Kacharis were historically the dominant group of Assam, who were later dominated in the 1500s by the Tai Ahoms, the ethnic group who along with the Upper Assam Bodo-Kachari groups like Chutias, Morans and Borahis were associated with the term "Assamese".

 

  • Along with Tai Ahoms, they were other prominent groups that ruled Assam valley during the medieval period, those belonging to the Chutiya, Koch, and Dimasa communities. The first group ruled from 1187 to 1673 in the eastern part of the state, the second group ruled Lower Assam from 1515 to 1949, while the third group ruled southern part of Assam from the 13th century to 1854.

 

  • Bodos are the dominant group in BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Council). They speak the Bodo language among themselves along with using Assamese to communicate with other indigenous Assamese communities as the lingua-franca.

 

  • Most of the indigenous Assamese communities today have actually been historically tribal and even the now considered non-tribal population of Assam were actually tribes which have slowly been converted into castes through Sanskritisation.

 

  • Actually, more than 70-75% or more of the now considered non-tribal population of Assam actually have Mongoloid roots and origin and thus were historically tribal. Some of the tribal groups were able to enter into the Hindu upper caste society while some of them remained in the tribal or lower caste society. Thus, Assam has always been a historically tribal state.

 

 

  • Ahoms along with Chutiya, Moran, Motok, and Koch are still regarded as semi-tribal groups who have nominally converted to Ekasarana Dharma even though keeping alive their own tribal traditions and customs. Various indigenous Assamese communities in Assam like Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Moran, Motok, Ahoms etc (all having tribal origin) have slowly been converted into a caste through Sanskritisation.

 

As per latest development Moran, Chutiya, Motok, Tea tribes, Tai Ahoms and Koch have realised the above-mentioned points and have applied for ST status. This will make Assam a predominantly tribal state having wider geo-political ramifications.

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GS-II : International Relations
India faces a year of tough trade talks

Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the challenges India will be facing in negotiating trade deals this year; about RCEP, CECA, BTIA, GSP: their significance

 

News: After walking out of negotiations on the 16­nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement, the government said it would renegotiate its existing free trade agreements (FTA) and redouble its efforts to conclude other trade negotiations. The task is likely to swamp negotiators of both the Commerce and Industries and External Affairs Ministries in 2020.

 

RCEP walkout

  • To begin with, the RCEP walkout is not cast in stone yet, as the other 15 countries, including 10 ASEAN members and their FTA partners China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, will complete legal reviews by June and are only expected to sign the deal in November 2020.

 

  • In the interim, many countries, most notably Japan, Australia and even China, have said they would be keen to work with India to convince the government to rejoin the RCEP.

 

India-Australia CECA

While the RCEP is being wrapped up, India’s long-pending negotiations with Australia for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), as well as Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal’s plans to reopen the existing FTAs with ASEAN, Japan and South Korea will have to take a back seat.

 

 

Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)

The next big trade focus for the government will be during the EU­India summit expected in March, when PM Modi is expected to travel to Brussels, to meet the new European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, and discuss restarting EU­India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) talks. However, this is easier said than done, given that the talks that began in 2007 and stalled in 2013 over tariff issues, have not been resumed despite several efforts.

 

 

Bridging gap with U.S.

Finally, the two Ministries will focus on closing talks with U.S. Trade Representatives. In 2019, President Trump rescinded India’s GSP special status for exporters, which has led to more bitterness over the issue. Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump discussed the trade issues on two occasions when they met in 2019, but negotiators have been unable to forge any kind of deal, despite visits by Mr. Goyal to the U.S.

In the New Year, both sides hope a package of smaller agreements can be announced, but a free trade agreement could be several years away, as it hasn’t even been discussed officially yet.

 

 

 

Way ahead

Given all the challenges, the government is actively considering a sharper and leaner trade negotiating team that merges the best strengths of Commerce Ministry officials and External Affairs diplomats, on the lines of countries with a consolidated Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

With the world being carved up into regional trading blocs and India’s only regional Bloc, for SAARC nations (SAFTA) stalled, the odds of concluding more bilateral trading agreements will be that much harder in 2020.

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GS-II :
UPSC to conduct separate exam for Railway Service

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

Prelims and Mains focus: about the recent reform in the railway service and its advantages; UPSC: structure and functions

News: The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) will conduct an exclusive examination for recruitment of officers to handle specialized services in the newly created Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) following unification of eight different Railway services. The exam is expected to be held in the next recruitment circle of 2021

 

What will be the recruitment procedure?

  • The UPSC will be given information about the requirement of cadre in various wings for the services, engineering etc. and the number of posts will be notified accordingly.
  • Candidates from engineering will have to take the main examination on their specialised domain course and not any other subject.

 

Reasons behind move

  • The objective behind the “historic” massive restructuring of the management of the Indian Railways is to remove the “departmentalism” culture which has seeped all the way up to the Railway Board and ensure there is “one service and officers from one batch should get promotion in on go” and not as has been happening thus far.
  • The 350­odd officers joining the Railway service annually will all have an equal opportunity of reaching the top posts of Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) and above, including General Managers, as well as to the Railway Board.

 

What was the practice till now?

Till now, only those chosen to become 34 DRMs each year based on their UPSC marks and date of birth had opportunity to reach higher posts, with the rest not even evaluated.

 

Changed procedure

  • For the IRMS, there would be benchmark performance and personal integrity for all those joining service based on their 15­year tenure by a group of three senior officers.
  • The CRB has already clarified that existing officers would not be discriminated against in terms of promotions or posts as a Group of Ministers would be looking into the issue to make necessary adjustments even in creating new posts to accommodate performers.

 

About UPSC

Article 315 provides there will be one UPSC and State public service commission for every state, however two or more states may agree to have joint PSC and in that case the President shall be law provides for appointment of joint PSC.

 

Appointments

  • Chairman and members of union public service commission are appointed by the President.
  • Chairman and members of joint public service commission are appointed by the President.
  • Chairman and members of state public service commission are appointed by the Governor.

As far as possible one half of the members of every public service commission should be those members which have held office for at least 10 years under the government of India or under the government of a state.

 

Functions

Under Article 320 of the Constitution of India, the Commission is, inter-alia, required to be consulted on all matters relating to recruitment to civil services and posts. The functions of the Commission under Article 320 of the Constitution are:

  1. Conduct examinations for appointment to the services of the Union.
  2. Direct recruitment by selection through interviews.
  3. Appointment of officers on promotion / deputation / absorption.
  4. Framing and amendment of Recruitment Rules for various services and posts under the Government.
  5. Disciplinary cases relating to different Civil Services.
  6. Advising the Government on any matter referred to the Commission by the President of India.

 

Tenure: All chairman and members are appointed for 6 years of until in case of UPSC they attain the age of 65 years and in case of joint and state commission is 62 years whichever is earlier.

 

Re-Appointment: No member of chairman of any public service commission will be eligible for reappointment to the same office. A member of a state commission may become chairman of that state commission or member of chairman of any commission including union public service commission. Members of UPSC may become chairman of state public service commission or of union public service commission. However, after the cease to hold the office they will not hold any office under the government of state or union government.

 

Removal:

Grounds:

  1. Members and chairman can be removed on the ground of misbehaviour after the supreme court on reference being made to it by president after holding enquiry it is reported that any member or chairman should be removed.
  2. When he is adjudged as insolvent.
  3. When he accepts any paid employment outside the duty of his office.
  4. When he is infirmity of mind of body.

All members of chairman of any commission (UPSC or State PSC) can be removed only by the President.

Article 317(1) - President in case of UPSC and Joint PSC and governor in case of State PSC may suspend chairman or any other member until the president has passed the order for removal on reference being made to the Supreme Court.

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GS-II :
Global Drosophila conference

Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

 

Prelims and Mains focus: About the Conference and its significance; about the Drosophila fly

 

News: Pune is set to host the fifth edition of the Asia Pacific Drosophila Research Conference (APDRC5), which is being organised in the country for the first time by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).

 

About the Conference

  • This biennial conference, which is to be held between January 6 and 10, aims to promote the interaction of Drosophila researchers in the Asia­Pacific region with their peers in the rest of the world.

 

  • It will bring together scientists from all over the world who use the fruit fly, Drosophila, as a model organism to address basic and applied questions.

 

  • The event will feature 430 delegates: 330 Indian and 100 foreign. It will see the participation of two Nobel laureates, professors Eric Wieschaus and Michael Rosbash, known for their seminal contribution to the fields of development biology and chronobiology respectively.

 

  • This event is one of the largest meetings of Drosophila researchers in the whole world and attracts scientists working in diverse disciplines ranging from cell and molecular biology to ecology and evolution.

 

 

  • A total 57 talks and 240 posters on topics ranging from gametogenesis and stem cells, morphogenesis and mechanobiology, hormones and physiology, cellular and behavioural neurobiology, infection and immunity and ecology and evolution are scheduled for the conference.

 

  • One of the highlights of this conference is that we are explicitly encouraging undergraduates from various institutes of the world to participate in it. There is a pre­conference symposium called ‘signals from the gut’ in collaboration with the National Centre for Cell Science, as well as a pre­conference microscopy workshop on super­resolution microscopy. This will feature microscopes from fluorescence imaging to super resolution imaging (50 nm resolution) which are vital for certain kinds of fly work.

 

 

  • The last four editions of this conference took place in Taipei, Seoul, Beijing and Osaka.

 

What is Drosophila?

  • Drosophila is one of the most widely­used and preferred model organisms in biological research across the world for the last 100 years. Several discoveries in biology have been made using this.
  • Its genome is entirely sequenced and there is enormous information available about its biochemistry, physiology and behaviour.

 

Note: To read more about the Drosophila fly, click on the link below:

https://theconversation.com/animals-in-research-drosophila-the-fruit-fly-13571

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GS-III : Economic Issues
The govt is likely to find it hard to trim fiscal deficit

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the problems faced by the govt. in GST collections and its impact on the fiscal deficit

 

News: The budgeted fiscal deficit for 2019-20 stands at Rs. 7.04 trillion. However, the fiscal deficit for the period April-November is higher than this and stands at Rs. 8.08 trillion.

 

 

Why has the fiscal deficit crossed Rs. 8 trillion?

The fiscal deficit of Rs. 8.08 trillion for April-November is nearly 15% more than the budgeted fiscal deficit for the year, with data for four months yet to be available. Fiscal deficit basically has two entries: the total expenditure of the government and its total earnings. The total expenditure during the first eight months of the fiscal is Rs. 18.20 trillion. This is a little over 65% of the expenditure that the government plans to make during the year. Hence, things are all right on the expenditure front. The problems are on the earnings front, in particular the tax revenues that the government had hoped to earn during this fiscal.

 

What’s wrong with the tax revenue growth?

The gross tax revenue collected by the government during the first eight months of the fiscal was Rs. 11.74 trillion, around 0.8% higher than during the same period last year. Hence, tax collections have been largely flat this year. The interesting thing is that the gross tax revenue needs to grow 18.3% from last year’s collections for the government to earn what it has projected in the budget. Finance ministry bureaucrats were not expecting the economy and tax collections to slow down as much as they have. The economy grew by a little over 7% in the first half of this fiscal. The growth in tax collections hasn’t matched that.

 

How do things look for the remaining part of this fiscal?

The gross tax revenue that the government had hoped to earn this fiscal is Rs. 24.61 trillion. It has barely earned around 48% of this in the first eight months of the fiscal. It is highly unlikely for the government to earn the remaining 52% between December 2019 and March 2020. This means there is a large hole in its budget for the current fiscal.

 

Can disinvestment solve this problem?

The disinvestment of public sector enterprises (PSEs) was supposed to bring in Rs. 1.05 trillion this fiscal. Until November, only Rs. 18,099 crore or 17% of the projected amount had been earned. Media reports seem to suggest major disinvestments that the government has planned won’t go through this year. That basically leaves the government with two ways of trimming the fiscal deficit: cutting down on expenditure or not showing it. Reducing expenditure when government spending is driving growth would be a bad idea.

 

What does it mean not to show expenditure?

Over the years, the government hasn’t paid the food subsidy dues of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) on time. It can try this trick this time as well. Given that the government works on cash accounting, when it decides not to pay for an expenditure it doesn’t show up in the books of the government. Of course, FCI has to borrow this money to keep functioning. Banks lend to FCI mainly because they believe they are lending to the government.

 

 

Note: to read more about the Food Corporation of India click on the following link

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/with-stocks-piling-up-fci-is-in-deep-trouble/article29268321.ece

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Uptick in GST collections doesn’t suggest the economy is firing up

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: About the decisions made in GST Council regarding Input Tax Credit (ITC); trends in GST collections and its impact on fiscal deficit and the overall Indian economy

 

News: Goods and services tax (GST) collections in December accelerated to cross the Rs. 1 trillion mark for the second consecutive month, up 8.9% year-on-year. This should normally suggest green shoots. However, changed GST Council norms for claiming input credit may have contributed to the increase in collections in December.

 

What are the changed norms of claiming input credit?

  • The changed norms mandate companies to match their purchase invoices with those uploaded by their vendors.
  • Input credit claims have been limited to 20%, which is now further reduced to 10%, where details are not uploaded by suppliers.
  • As a result, a larger number of companies have to upload GST returns with corresponding invoices into the system.
  • This led to an increase in GST returns filed in December for sales in November, from 7.2 million a year ago to 8.1 million now. This means about 1 million filers have been added in 2019.
  •  The overall input tax credit may have decreased in the system, because of which taxpayers would have paid more GST. So, cash collections seem to have gone up

 

Overall tax collections and performance of various sectors

  • In contrast, overall tax collections have been anaemic. The government’s gross tax revenue declined 1% year-on-year until November.
  • Also, the output of core industries contracted, slipping 1.5% year-on-year in November, the fourth consecutive month of decline.
  • Auto volumes remain weak and the slight pickup in passenger vehicle sales could be explained by the increase in year-end discounts.
  • Demand has been slowing down across the board because of weak income generation. This is more pronounced in the rural economy, the small and medium enterprises and the unorganized sector.
  • All this hampers a broad-based pickup in consumption.
  • Structural income generation in the economy at the middle and bottom of the pyramid has been affected.
  • Rural income growth has been really low. This has led to a change in consumption patterns.
  • Anaemic credit pickup among companies worsens the slowdown. Companies are barely raising more cash to fund operations and growth. The sluggish corporate bond and commercial paper market is an indicator of this. Fundraising from commercial papers and bonds, including corporate bank credit, has barely risen. Banks have hardly been lending.
  • Besides, there is a lack of good borrowers. So, credit expansion is just not happening.

 

 

What about the fiscal deficit?

  • GST collection trends may need to sustain in a big way in the next few months to bridge an increasing fiscal gap. The fiscal deficit has inched up to 115% of the budget estimates until November.
  • This is higher than the typical 85-100% deficit seen till November in the past. This hampers the government’s ability to heavy-lift the economy. The room for propping up infrastructure and construction spends is limited.
  • The growth numbers are easily getting a bump-up because of a lower offtake last year.
  • The government’s heavy-lifting in the economy also has to sustain. However, the delicate fiscal situation is not making it any easy. So, unless GST picks up substantially, real income in the rural economy will hardly grow.

 

Conclusion

Though the economy seems to have bottomed out, in the light of weak GST and fiscal collections, the outlook is clouded. GST collections need to fire up and fire up in a big way

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GS-III :
NAL wants govt. push for Saras takeoff

Syllabus subtopic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about SARAS aircraft and its significance; about UDAN scheme

 

News: The government needs to be the “launch customer” to make Saras Mk2 commercially viable, the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL), which has developed the first indigenous light transport aircraft, told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology.

 

About Saras aircraft

  • The 19­seater aircraft, developed with a target cost of Rs. 50 crore, is at least 20­25% lower in cost than other aircraft in the similar category.
  • The aircraft has been in the making for long. The first prototype flew in 2004. But without the initial push from the government, the manufacturing capacity required for commercial production could not be set up, the NAL said.
  • Presently, the NAL has only one order from the Indian Air Force for 15 aircraft.

 

Connecting SARAS to UDAN

  • The NAL has been pitching Saras Mk­2 for the government’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), since it has the capacity to operate in “ill-equipped”, “semi­prepared” and “unpaved airstrips”.

 

About UDAN scheme

  • UDAN is an acronym for “Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik”.
  • It is a Regional Air Connectivity Scheme (RCS) which attempts to connect smaller towns with bigger cities to develop the regional aviation market.
  • The scheme UDAN envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports.
  • It will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns. 
  • It was officially launched in 2016.
  • Under the first two phases of UDAN, airlines are already operating on 120 routes to 37 un-served and underserved airports.

 

UDAN Round 3:

Under the latest round of the scheme, 73 proposals were awarded to 11 airlines that will connect a total of 39 airports. These include 16 unserved airports, 17 underserved airports and six water aerodromes.

 

Key Features of UDAN 3 included –

  • Inclusion of Seaplanes for connecting Water Aerodromes,
  • Inclusion of Tourism Routes suggested by the Ministry of Tourism and
  • Bringing in a number of routes in the North-East Region under the ambit of UDAN.

 

Way ahead

  • The NAL has said in its report that the government should be the “launch customer”, and place an order for at least 50­60 aircraft, which can be used for VIP services or tackling emergencies in times of natural calamities.
  • With the firm commitment for procurement from the government, industries will come forward to set up manufacturing infrastructure. This will also push the growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises and allied service sector.

 

About NAL

  • National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), is India’s second largest aerospace firm after Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) established it in 1959 in Delhi and its headquarters was later moved to Bangalore in 1960.
  • The firm closely operates with HAL, DRDO and ISRO and has prime responsibility of developing civilian aircraft in India.
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