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08 November, 2019

28 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I Bru (Reang) tribe of Tripura Indian Society
GS-II India Justice Report (IJR) 2019
Maharashtra Assembly Election
Feni River Dispute International Relations
GS-III Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009
Ethanol Production
Sovereign Credit Ratings Economic Issues
GS-I : Indian Society
Bru (Reang) tribe of Tripura

Syllabus subtopic: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

 

News: Nearly 32,000 Brus living in Tripura camps since 1997 have been affected after the government decided to stop food supplies and cash dole.

Prelims focus: About Brus and issues associated.

Mains focus: Agreement in this regard and the recent demands for relaxation of the norms in the agreement.

Issue:

  • The Tripura government recently announced that it would restore food supplies, leading to the Brus withdrawing a road blockade they had set up for eight days. The restoration of supplies, however, is only until a deadline of November 30, within which the Brus have to decide whether they will accept a package for repatriation to Mizoram.

 

  • A bout of ethnic violence forced thousands of people from the Bru tribe to leave their homes in Mizoram. As many as 32,876 people are living in the refugee camps in the Jampui Hills of Tripura.

 

 

  • The displaced Bru people from Mizoram have been living in various camps in Tripura since 1997. In 1997, the murder of a Mizo forest guard at the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram’s Mamit district allegedly by Bru militants led to a violent backlash against the community, forcing several thousand people to flee to neighbouring Tripura.

 

 About  Brus

The Brus, also referred to as the Reangs, are spread across the northeastern states of Tripura, Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram.

  • In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) .
  • In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state.

 

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GS-II :
India Justice Report (IJR) 2019

Syllabus subtopic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

News:  India Justice Report (IJR) 2019 has been released.

Prelims focus: Key findings of the report

Mains focus: Concerns expressed by the report and ways to address them.

 

  • It has been prepared by Tata Trusts in collaboration with Centre for social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Daksh, TISS-Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

 

  • It is India’s first-ever ranking of states on justice delivery.

 

Performance of various states:

  1. The list is topped by Maharashtra.
  2. Maharashtra is followed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

 

Key Issues highlighted:

  1. Vacancy was an issue across the pillars of the police, prisons, and the judiciary, with only about half the states having made the effort to reduce these over a five-year period.
  2. The country as a whole has about 18,200 judges with about 23 per cent sanctioned posts vacant.
  3. By 2017, women are also poorly represented in these pillars.
  4. The prisons in the country were over occupied at 114 per cent, where 68 per cent are undertrials awaiting investigation, inquiry or trial.
  5. Nationally, high vacancies in the justice system.
  6. Only two states have met the 80 per cent of SC/ST/OBC reservation required to be followed and that there are high vacancies in prison staff.

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GS-II :
Maharashtra Assembly Election

Syllabus subtopic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

 

 News: Term of current government in Maharashtra ends tomorrow.

 

Prelims focus: Role if governor in case of a hung assembly.

Mains focus: Implications and challenges involved.

 

  • It has been two weeks since the results of the Assembly election were announced, but no party has staked claim yet to form a government. While the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has a clear majority, they have been wrangling over power-sharing and the Chief Minister’s post.

 

What next?

While the existing Legislative Assembly will cease to exist post November 9, legal experts noted that there is no binding that the government should be in place by that day.

 

Governor’s role in such circumstances

The Governor would be expected to go as per an order of preference set out in the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which have also been ratified by the Supreme Court. By the order of preference, the Governor can invite:

  1. A pre-poll alliance of parties.
  2. Invite the single largest party which stakes a claim to form government.
  3. Invite a post-poll alliance of parties, with all the partner in the coalition joining the government.
  4. Invite a post-poll alliances of parties, with some becoming part of the government and some supporting from outside.
  5. The Governor can only summon the new House for the first sitting only after a new government is sworn in and the Cabinet has suggested a suitable date. The process of swearing-in of the newly elected members and appointment of the new Speaker can be held thereafter.

 

What after swearing in?

  1. Once any formation is sworn in, it will need to pass the floor test, which will reveal whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature as mandated by the Constitution.
  2. In the floor test, the person sworn in as the CM has to prove that s/he enjoys the confidence of the House. If the confidence motion fails, the Chief Minister has to resign.
  3. If more than one person stake claim to form the government and the majority is not clear, the Governor has the powers to call a special session to assess who has the majority.
  4. The date for the floor test is decided by the Governor in consultation with the new government.

 

If no government can be formed, is President’s rule likely?

Article 356 of the Constitution provides for the imposition of President’s Rule in a state in “case of failure of the constitutional machinery in the state”.

As per the constitutional stipulation, it can be imposed in cases where the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the state or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

In Maharashtra‘s case, if the Governor is satisfied that no party or alliance can form a stable government would he recommend imposition of President’s rule.

 

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GS-II : International Relations
Feni River Dispute

Syllabus subtopic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

News: The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on the withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the Feni river by India for a drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town in Tripura.

Prelims focus: Feni river, origin and tributaries.

Mains focus: Significance and the need for MoU. 

 

About Feni river:

  • The Feni river forms part of the India-Bangladesh border.
  • It originates in the South Tripura district, passes through Sabroom town on the Indian side, and meets the Bay of Bengal after it flows into Bangladesh.

 

About the dispute:

There has been no water-sharing agreement between the countries on the Feni previously.

The dispute over the sharing of the river water has been long-standing. It was taken up between India and Pakistan (before the independence of Bangladesh) in 1958 during a Secretary-level meeting in New Delhi.

 

Recent developments and significance of the MoU:

In August 2019, India and Bangladesh held a water secretary-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) in Dhaka, where it was agreed to collect data and prepare water-sharing agreements for seven rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla, Dudhkumar, and Feni.

The MoU stands to benefit Sabroom town on the southern tip of Tripura. The present supply of drinking water to Sabroom town is inadequate. The groundwater in this region has high iron content. Implementation of this scheme would benefit over 7000 population of Sabroom town.

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GS-III :
Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

News: The Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009 is being blamed for contributing to the air pollution over Delhi and surrounding areas. 

 

Prelims focus: Key features and significance of the act.

Mains focus: Role in increasing air pollution in the capital and surrounding.

 

Reason

The law led to the sowing and transplantation of the summer paddy crop to be delayed by about a fortnight, and moved the harvesting season to end-October and early November — a time when the moist air and largely inactive wind systems cause particulate matter and gases from burning paddy stubble to hang in the atmosphere. This air is carried by northwesterly winds towards Delhi, which lies to the southeast of Punjab.

 

About The Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009

The law aimed at conserving groundwater by mandatorily delaying the transplanting of paddy to beyond June 10, when the most severe phase of evapotranspiration (transfer of water from land to the atmosphere through evaporation from the soil and plant transpiration) is over. Farmers were forbidden from sowing paddy before May 10, and transplanting it before June 10.

 

Why was the law enacted?

There has been serious concern over the drastic fall in the water table in Punjab and the cultivation of paddy leads to over-exploitation of underground aquifers, as a very large number of tubewells (more than 14 lakh in 2015-16) running on free power pump out virtually endless amounts of water.

It was believed that early transplanting of rice (before mid-June) resulted in unsustainable withdrawals of groundwater with the monsoon still far, temperatures very high, and the evapotranspiration rate (ETR) at its peak. And hence this law was put in place.

 

 Law’s link with air pollution

  • Farmers’ organisations say late sowing and transplanting delays the harvesting as well (it is end-October by the time operations end), and they are left with a very small window to prepare their fields for the next (wheat) crop.
  • In this situation, setting the stubble ablaze is a quick-fix solution. By this time, temperatures have started to fall, and a combination of atmospheric and meteorological conditions ensure that the smoke cannot disperse easily.
  • A part of the smoke from the farm fires is carried by westerly winds towards the NCR and further down the Indo-Gangetic plain.

 

Does the Act really help conserve groundwater?

A study has reported a robust effect of the 2009 Act on reducing groundwater depletion. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the average annual rate of decline of groundwater in Punjab was 0.7 metres, less than the 0.9 m during the period 2000-01 to 2008-09, the study found.

 

Punjab’s underground water situation currently

According to a report in May 2019 by the Central Ground Water Board under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, 105 out of 138 blocks are in the dark zone. At current rates of depletion, good quality water in the first aquifer up to a depth of 100 m shall be exhausted in 10 years, and the entire subsurface water resource could be finished in the next 22 years.

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GS-III :
Ethanol Production

Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

News: The Ministry of Environment and Forests announced that mills would not require separate environmental clearance to produce additional ethanol from B-heavy molasses

For Prelims focus: About ethanol and its benefits.

For Mains focus: Need for blending and the demand for increased production

 

  • The proposals to undertake additional ethanol production from B-heavy molasses/sugarcane juice/sugar syrup/sugar would be considered under the provisions of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) notification, 2006, by an expert appraisal committee for granting environmental clearance.

 

About ethanol

Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a liquid that has several uses. At 95% purity, it is called rectified spirit and is used as the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages. At 99%-plus purity, ethanol is used for blending with petrol.

  • Both products are made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar manufacturing. For making sugar, mills crush sugarcane which typically has a total fermentable sugars (TFS) content of 14%.
  • The TFS component consists of sucrose along with the reducing sugars glucose and fructose. Most of this TFS component gets crystallised into sugar, and the remaining part is called molasses.

 

Molasses stages:

The molasses go through three stages — A, B, and C, the last one being where the molasses are most un-crystallised and non-recoverable.

  • The ‘C’ molasses roughly constitute 4.5% of the cane, and have a remaining TFS of 40%.
  • After C-molasses are sent to the distillery, ethanol is extracted from them. Every 100 kg of TFS yields 60 litres of ethanol.
  • Thus, from one tonne of cane, mills can produce 115 kg of sugar (at 11.5% recovery) and 45 kg of molasses (18 kg TFS) that gives 10.8 litres of ethanol.

 

How more ethanol can be produced?

Mills can also produce only ethanol from sugarcane, without producing sugar at all. In this case, the entire 14% TFS in the cane is fermented. Here, a mill can make 84 litres of ethanol and zero kg of sugar.

  • In between the two extreme cases, there are intermediate options as well, where the cane juice does not have to be crystallised right till the final ‘C’ molasses stage. The molasses can, instead, be diverted after the earlier ‘A’ and ‘B’ stages of sugar crystal formation. Mills, then, would produce some sugar, as opposed to fermenting the whole sugarcane juice into ethanol.
  • If ethanol is manufactured using ‘B’ heavy molasses (7.25% of cane and with TFS of 50%), around 21.75 litres will get produced along with 95 kg of sugar from every 1 tonne of cane.

 

Focusing on more ethanol

Mills currently have all-time-high stocks of sugar, and they have been at loggerheads with farmers over non-payment of dues.

Mill owners insist that the reason behind their woes is excess production of sugar and fall in its price.

Under the circumstances, ethanol is the only real saviour — both for mills and cane growers.

  1. In September this year, the government approved an increase in the price of ethanol to be procured by public sector oil marketing companies from sugar mills for blending with petrol for the 2019-20 supply year from December 1.
  2. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also allowed conversion of old sugar into ethanol, which again is expected to help mills deal with the current overproduction in the sweetener and make timely payments to farmers for the cane delivered by them.
  3. Ethanol production has been additionally facilitated with the government mandating 10% blending of petrol with ethanol.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Sovereign Credit Ratings

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

 

News:  Global ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service has cut its outlook on the Government of India’s ratings to negative from stable, but affirmed the Baa2 foreign-currency and local-currency long-term issuer ratings.

 

Prelims focus: About sovereign ratings

Mains focus: What does the downgrade mean for India? Implications and what needs to be done?

 

  • Moody’s also affirmed India’s Baa2 local-currency senior unsecured rating and its P-2 other short-term local-currency rating.

 

Implications for India

  1. The decision to change the outlook to negative reflects increasing risks that economic growth will remain materially lower than in the past, partly reflecting lower government and policy effectiveness at addressing long-standing economic and institutional weaknesses than Moody’s had previously estimated, leading to a gradual rise in the debt burden from already high levels.
  2. Reduction in outlook is the first step towards an investment downgrade, as India is now just a notch above the investment grade country rating. An actual downgrade in country ratings can lead to massive foreign fund outflows.

 

Why did Moody’s cut India’s rating?

  1. Moody’s projected fiscal deficit of 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the year through March 2020, a breach of the government’s target of 3.3 per cent, as slower growth and a surprise corporate-tax cut curbs revenue.
  2. India’s growth outlook has deteriorated sharply this year, with a crunch that started out in the non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs) spreading to retail businesses, car makers, home sales and heavy industries.
  3. Moody’s said the outlook partly reflects government and policy ineffectiveness in addressing economic weakness, which led to an increase in debt burden which is already at high levels.
  4. India’s economy grew by 5 per cent between April and June, its weakest pace since 2013, as consumer demand and government spending slowed amid global trade frictions.

 

Indian government arguements:

Noting Moody’s concerns, the Finance Ministry said that India continues to be among the fastest growing major economies in the world, and India’s relative standing remains unaffected.

The Government said it has undertaken series of financial sector and other reforms to strengthen the economy as a whole.

It has also proactively taken policy decisions in response to the global slowdown. These measures would lead to a positive outlook on India and would attract capital flows and stimulate investments.

The fundamentals of the economy remain quite robust with inflation under check and bond yields low. India continues to offer strong prospects of growth in near and medium term.

 

About  different general credit ratings?

AAA: Highest credit quality that denotes the lowest expectations of default risk.

AA+/AA/AA-: Very high credit quality. ‘AA’ ratings denote expectations of very low default risk. They indicate very strong capacity for payment of financial commitments. 

A+/A/A-: High credit quality that denotes expectations of low default risk. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered strong, however, vulnerability to adverse business or economic conditions exists. 

BBB+/BBB/BBB-: Good credit quality that indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate, but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity. 

BB+/BB/BB-: This rating indicates an elevated vulnerability to default risk, particularly in the event of adverse changes in business or economic conditions over time; however, business or financial flexibility exists that supports the servicing of financial commitments. 

B+/B/B-: This rating indicates that material default risk is present, but a limited margin of safety remains. Financial commitments are currently being met; however, capacity for continued payment is vulnerable to deterioration in the business and economic environment. 

CCC+/CCC/CCC-: Substantial credit risk exists in this rating, where the default is a real possibility.

CC: This rating shows a very high level of credit risk with a possibility of defaults.

C: This rating shows that a default or default-like process has begun, or the issuer is in a standstill. 

DDD/RD/SD/DD/D: This indicates that the issuer has entered into bankruptcy filings, administration, receivership, liquidation or other formal winding-up procedure or has ceased business.

 

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