28 November, 2019

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GS-I : Miscellaneous
Global warming alters rainfall pattern

Syllabus subtopic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

News: Global warming has altered a key weather system and that may be whetting cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, decreasing winter rain in north India and altering global rainfall patterns, a study by a team of Indian and U.S. researchers has found.


Prelims and Mains focus: key findings of the study, Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) and its effects on the climate


Key findings of the study

  • To compute the reduction in the number of MJO days over the Indian Ocean, the researchers — they included scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Washington and the University of Tokyo — compared ocean temperatures from 1981­2018 to compute the changes.


  • Global warming has been expanding the size of the warm pool on average by 2,300 sq. km. annually from 1900­2018 and at an accelerated average rate of 4,000 sq. km. per year during 1981–2018.


  • The changes in MJO behaviour have increased the rainfall over northern Australia, west Pacific, Amazon basin, southwest Africa and southeast Asia (Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea).


  • At the same time these changes have brought a decline in rainfall over central Pacific, along the west and east coast of U.S. (e.g., California), north India, east Africa and the Yangtze basin in China. The frequent California fires, droughts in Africa and East Asian floods and cyclones in the Bay of Bengal may be linked to these changes in global weather, the study noted.



About Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)

  • It is a moving band of rain clouds that travels around the globe spanning 12,000–20,000 km across the tropical oceans.


  • In its journey, it interacts with surface waters of the Indo-Pacific ocean, the largest pool of warm water in the globe, and due to this — the authors say — the lifecycle of the MJO gets affected.


  • The MJO clouds on average are spending only 15 days, instead of 19, over the Indian Ocean. Over the west Pacific, it increased by five days (from an average 16 days to 23 days).


  • It is this change in the residence time of MJO clouds that has altered the weather patterns across the globe, according to the research paper that appears in the latest edition of the journal Nature.


MJO’s impact on India’s climate

  • When the MJO appears in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon months of June-September, it can increase rains over India.


  • This year, India was poised to receive below normal monsoon rainfall in April but ended up with excessive rain partly due to the MJO.


  • The change in the MJO could drift warmer surface water towards the Bay of Bengal and increase cyclones.


  • “The MJOs haven’t been as extensively studied as say the El Nino. This study shows that we need better observation of the Indian Ocean and improve forecasts that can warn us about a cyclone.”


Way forward

The MJOs haven’t been as extensively studied as say the El Nino. This study shows that we need better observation of the Indian Ocean and improve forecasts that can warn us about a cyclone.

Source: The Hindu

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Lok Sabha passes bill to ban e-Cigarettes

Syllabus subtopic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.

News: Lok Sabha passed a Bill that seeks prohibition of e-Cigarettes in India with Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, calling the ban as a “pre-emptive strike" on the “hazardous" addiction.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the Bill, menace of E-cigarettes and the debate around it.


About the Bill:

  • With The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, the government wants to save the large youth population of the country that would have been targeted by e-cigarette companies.


  • According to the Bill that seeks to replace an ordinance issued on September 18, any person who contravenes these provisions will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both. For any subsequent offence, imprisonment of up to three years along with a fine of up to five lakh rupees. The proposed legislation prohibits to use any place for the storage of any stock of e-cigarettes and a person storing stock of e-cigarettes, will be punishable with an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to ?50,000, or both.



Government’s stand

  • The government felt the need to stop the growing use of e-cigarettes and similar products among youth. It is difficult to ban a product such as tobacco and alcohol once it gains a large consumer base and social acceptance. Currently, e-cigarettes do not have a large consumer base in the country. Therefore, the ban will be highly effective.


  • Vaping is harmful for the health of the people and “less harmful does not mean it is not harmful" as people claim it is less harmful than cigarettes.


  • Lack of ban on tobacco cannot be the justification for not banning a new addiction which India cannot afford. Chemicals in nicotine used for e-cigarette can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases and effects adolescent brains.


About E-cigarettes:

  • E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine.


  • These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heat Not Burn Products, e-hookah and the likes.


The debate on E-cigarettes in LS

  • Lok Sabha members argued over regulation instead of complete ban on e-cigarettes. Explaining the challenge, Harsh Vardhan said that unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and therefore are not regulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. The COTPA Act, regulates the sale, production, and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India, and prohibits advertisement of cigarettes.


  • Members also questioned not punishing the users of ENDS. In reply to the discussion, health minister said that the government did not want to punish the users, who are anyway the victims of e-cigarettes. “We didn’t want to criminalize the usage of e-cigarettes because it was way more difficult to regulate the users. The idea is to eventually make e-cigarettes unavailable in the market so that people cannot use them," Harsh Vardhan said.



Are E-cigarettes really harmful?

  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex research body in India, use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse effect on humans, which include DNA damage, carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.


  • These also have an adverse effect on fetal development and pregnancy.


Way forward

  • With the passage of the Bill, public health experts are holding hopes for paving way for control of tobacco products as well.


  • After the successful banning e-cigarettes, India should ideally take the bold step of moving to end tobacco use. Now that the gateway is opened, endgame tobacco is the logical next step. It won't be easy but can be done is a phased manner, safe-guarding the interests of various stakeholders. Tobacco not only has major health effects but also has financial implications.


Arguements of E-cigarette supporters

  • Supporters of the e cigarettes lobby have shown discontent over the development. As the Bill was put forth for public consultation by the health ministry, thousands of suggestions received from the public, have not even received a cursory glance.


  • There are other countries, like the UAE, that had earlier banned the product category in haste but revoked the ban and implemented a regulatory regime, which is the demand of the industry in India as well.


  • Majority of e-cigarette users in the world are ex-smokers, making a health decision to switch to a less harmful alternative. Over 98 countries have e-cigarette regulations, but India is banning them while allowing the far more deadly cigarettes to be sold.


  • Over 60 amendments were rejected and the bill also does not contain consumer protections such as clauses on the exclusion of personal use and a mechanism for adult vapers to access devices.

Source: Livemint

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GS-III : Economic Issues Banking
Bad loans under Mudra Kishore jump 107% in six months

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

News: The number and value of bad loan accounts in the Kishore category of the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) for a dozen public sector banks including State Bank of India, Canara Bank and Bank of Baroda, have jumped 107 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively, as on September 30, 2019 compared with March 31, 2019.

Prelims focus: about MUDRA scheme , NPA

Mains focus: The rising NPA crisis and its impact on overall performance of various sectors of the Indian economy




NPA under different categories of MUDRA


  • Kishore loans have a ticket size of Rs 50,000-plus to Rs 5 lakh. Under PMMY, the other two categories are: Shishu, which has the smallest ticket size of up to Rs 50,000, and Tarun, which extends loans from Rs 5-lakh plus up to Rs 10 lakh.


  • The Kishore category made up just over 30 per cent of the total number of loan accounts for the 12 banks as on September 30, according to disaggregated data obtained individually from these banks under the RTI Act. But in terms of value, the category accounted for a much larger chunk of 43 per cent of the total loans sanctioned in September.
  • The cumulative data for all 12 banks also reveals that in the topmost Tarun loan category, NPAs by value has risen sharply 45 per cent to Rs 3,425 crore in September from Rs 2,353 crore in March. The number of bad loan accounts has, however, shown a modest 13 per cent increase during the six-month period.


  • In a note to the Lok Sabha Estimates Committee in September last year, ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had warned the government to “focus on sources of the next crisis”. “Credit targets are sometimes achieved by abandoning appropriate due diligence, creating the environment for future NPAs. Both Mudra loans as well as the Kisan Credit Card, while popular, have to be examined more closely for potential credit risk,” he had said in his notes to the Parliamentary Estimates Committee.


  • The data from the 12 banks shows that in a relative sense, Shishu, the category with the smallest ticket size accounting for over 60 per cent of all loan accounts but just 10 per cent of loans sanctioned, has been the best performer. The number of Shishu bad loan accounts has increased by about 18 per cent, but since the ticket size is small, the NPAs in value has increased by just about 17 per cent, between March and September this year. The share of Shishu NPAs in the total NPAs dropped during the six-month period from 12.85 per cent in March to 9.64 per cent in September.


  • The data for the dozen PSU banks also reveal that the number of Kishore bad loan accounts as a percentage of total bad loan accounts under the Mudra scheme (all three categories put together) has increased from 42 per cent in March 2019 to almost 56 per cent in September 2019. In terms of value too, Kishore NPAs as a percentage of total NPAs has jumped to 61 per cent in September this year from about 56 per cent in March.


  • The share of Tarun NPAs in total NPAs, though still high, has marginally dropped during the six-month period from 33.61 per cent in March to 29.1 per cent in September.


  • The 12 banks which provided information under RTI are SBI, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, Central Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Syndicate Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bank of Maharashtra and Allahabad Bank.



Setting ambitious credit targets also requires banks to closely monitor such loans. Mudra loans, a flagship programme of the government, has been a remarkable success in terms of lifting people out of poverty. But lack of due diligence at the appraisal stage and poor monitoring during the life cycle of loans has started hurting now.


Source: Indian Express

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New snake species found in Arunachal Prade

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


News: Researchers have discovered a new species of non-venomous burrowing snake in Arunachal Pradesh, named Trachischium apteii.


Prelims and Mains focus: about the discovered snake species and its location, about Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)



  • The snakes were found under fallen logs inside a thickly forested area of the Tally Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near the town of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh during a field expedition by researchers in July 2019.


  • Researchers said that the newly discovered species belongs to a group of fossorial snakes that live mostly underground, and surface mainly during or after a heavy monsoon shower.


  • Trachischium are commonly called slender snakes. Seven species are distributed across the Himalayas, and the Indo­Burma and Indo­China regions.



Burrowing habit

  • Experts behind the discovery suggested that due to the burrowing habits of species of this genus, snakes belonging to the group are seldom seen and hence remain poorly studied. This could have been one of the reasons that the species had eluded the researchers.


About the snake species

  • Trachischium apteii was named so to honour the contribution of Deepak Apte, noted marine biologist and Director of the BNHS.


  • Morphologically, the snake is distinguished by smooth and dorsal scales arranged in 15 rows throughout the body. The dorsal colour of the holotype is dark brown to black with faint dorsal longitudinal lines. Large­sized members of the genus measure about 293 mm to 299mm (measuring a little less than a foot).


Biodiversity hotspot

  • Researchers behind the discovery, who covered large tracts of forested land in northeast India, said that they have documented more species from the forests of Arunachal Pradesh, which is likely to yield new species. Work is under way to describe them.


  • Underlining that forests across northeast India have not been well­explored for their biodiversity, especially reptiles, amphibians and most invertebrate groups, the authors said that “anthropogenic pressures like road widening, construction of dams and hydropower plants threaten the forest and biodiversity across Arunachal Pradesh”.



About BNHS

  • BNHS is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.


  • It was founded on 15 September 1883 and headquartered at Hornbill House, Mumbai.


  • It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes Journal of Bombay Natural History Society.


  • Department of Science and Technology has designated it as ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’.

Source: The Hindu

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SPG Bill passed amid Opposition walkout in Lok Sabha

Syllabus subtopic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

News: The Lok Sabha passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Opposition walked out during the voting on the Bill.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the key features of the Bill, about SPG

Changes after the amendment

  • It will now protect only the Prime Minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.
  • It will also provide security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members staying with them at the residence allotted for a period of five years from the date on which they cease to hold office.


Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Economic Issues Industry
India losing its trading edge to smaller nations

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

News:  India’s exports are contracting. In the export of garments, countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are beating India.

How have exports fared this fiscal?

During the first seven months of FY20, both export and import growth fell in contrast with fairly high double-digit growth rates during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal. Exports contracted 2.2% and imports 8.8%. Significantly, even crude oil imports declined during April to October compared with those of preceding years because of lower prices and demand. In FY19, exports grew 12.8% and imports 17.9%. Trade parameters had earlier shown weakness in FY17, the year demonetization was implemented, when exports grew marginally by 0.1% and imports shrank 10.1%.


Is the decline in line with global trends?

The report of the high-level advisory group (HLAG) chaired by Surjit S. Bhalla submitted earlier this month to the commerce minister shows that India’s exports growth has slipped significantly more relative to 60 comparable economies. During 2003-2011 when world exports and GDP were growing well, India ranked sixth in the growth of services exports. During the slow growth period of 2012-2017, India slipped to the 23rd spot. In the growth of manufacturing exports, India slipped from the 16th to the 25th position, in merchandise from the 10th to the 38th, and in agriculture from the 11th to the 30th spot.


Is the contraction in exports due to trade tensions?

In 2017, China’s garment exports fell to $158 billion from $187 billion in 2014, according to the HLAG report. India’s garment exports fell by 4% in 2017-18, while those of Bangladesh and Vietnam increased by 8% and 10%, respectively. This shows India’s exports are getting beaten by competitive exports from smaller economies.


What’s the reason for the export slowdown?

RBI’s real effective exchange rate shows a rupee depreciation of 15% from FY05 to FY17, while inflation was more than 4% higher per year on average than in the US. The overvalued exchange rate could have handicapped export competitiveness. Pharmaceutical and biotech industries suffer from excessive and complicated regulation, found the HLAG report. Restrictive labour laws prevent larger scale of operations. Poor logistics result in turnaround time in India being over four times that in China or Turkey.


What is India’s story in terms of imports?

Shares of electronic items and engineering goods in total imports have grown. Domestic production indicators show a fall in capital goods production. This means imports are substituting domestic machinery. Even though imports of oil are lower than those of last year, its share in total imports has risen from 23.8% in the first six months of FY16 to 26.3% during the corresponding period of FY20. This means other imports are falling at a faster rate.

Source: Livemint

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