28 September, 2020

  • Prelims Quiz
  • Solutions
  • Shaheed Bhagat Singh (History)
  • The benefits of a carbon tax - (Environment)
  • Growth compulsions, fiscal arithmetic - (Economy)
  • India still far from herd immunity, says Vardhan - (Science and Tech)
  • Where is the sentinel guarding our rights?- (Polity and Governance)
  • Invisible killer threatens country sandalwood forests- (Environment)
  • Major Jaswant Singh - (Polity and Governance)
  • QOD

Prelims Quiz

    Solution.

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    1. UPSC Current Affairs:Bhagat Singh’s Birth Anniversary | Pg 02

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Freedom Struggle |Mains: GS Paper I – Indian History

    Sub Theme: Bhagat Singh | UPSC      

    Bhagat Singh, (born September 27, 1907, Lyallpur, western Punjab, India [now in Pakistan]—died March 23, 1931, Lahore [now in Pakistan]), revolutionary hero of the Indian independence movement.

    Bhagat Singh attended Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, which was operated by Arya Samaj (a reform sect of modern Hinduism), and then National College, both located in Lahore. He began to protest British rule in India while still a youth and soon fought for national independence. He also worked as a writer and editor in Amritsar for Punjabi- and Urdu-language newspapers espousing Marxist theories. He is credited with popularizing the catchphrase “Inquilab zindabad” (“Long live the revolution”).

    In 1928 Bhagat Singh plotted with others to kill the police chief responsible for the death of Indian writer and politician Lala Lajpat Rai, one of the founders of National College, during a silent march opposing the Simon Commission. Instead, in a case of mistaken identity, junior officer J.P. Saunders was killed, and Bhagat Singh had to flee Lahore to escape the death penalty. In 1929 he and an associate lobbed a bomb at the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi to protest the implementation of the Defence of India Act and then surrendered. He was hanged at the age of 23 for the murder of Saunders.

      

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: The benefits of a carbon tax page |Pg 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Ecology | Mains: GS Paper-III – Environment &Ecology

    Sub Theme: Carbon Tax | UPSC   

     So let us first see top carbon emitters globally:

    • With China, the largest carbon dioxide emitter, announcing that it would balance out its carbon emissions with measures to offset them before 2060, the spotlight is now on the U.S. and India, countries that rank second and third in emissions.

    One way to cut effluents while earning revenues is to price the carbon content of domestic production and imports, be it energy or transport. With the International Monetary Fund endorsing the European Union’s plan to impose carbon levies on imports, India can be among the first movers in the developing world in taxing and switching from carbon-intensive fuels (like coal), the main sources of climate change.

    Record heat waves in Delhi, floods in southwest China, and catastrophic forest fires in California this year are indicative of the existential danger from global warming. India ranks fifth in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Between 1998 and 2017, disaster-hit countries reported $2.9 trillion in direct economic losses, with 77% resulting from climate change, according to a United Nations report. The U.S. faced the highest losses, followed by China, Japan, and India. 

    Air pollution has fallen worldwide after the COVID-19 outbreak, including in India. But with resumption of polluting activities, emissions in India are set to rise sharply unless strong action is taken. Carbon dioxide, the chief culprit in global warming, was 414 parts per million in August 2020 because of past accumulation. As one half comes from the three top carbon emitters, they need to drive de-carbonisation.

    Stronger action

    • India has committed to 40% of electricity capacity being from non-fossil fuels by 2030, and lowering the ratio of emissions to GDP by one-third from 2005 levels. It is in the country’s interest to take stronger action before 2030, leading to no net carbon increase by 2050. A smart approach is pricing carbon, building on the small steps taken thus far, such as plans by some 40 large companies to price carbon, government incentives for electric vehicles, and an environmental tax in the 2020-21 budget.

    Emissions trading

    • One way to price carbon is through emission trading, i.e., setting a maximum amount of allowable effluents from industries, and permitting those with low emissions to sell their extra space.
    • Pilot projects on carbon trading in China have shown success. There is valuable experience in the EU, and some American states — for example, the regional greenhouse gas initiative in the U.S. northeast.

    Carbon Tax

    • Another way is to put a carbon tax on economic activities — for example, on the use of fossil fuels like coal, as done in Canada and Sweden. Canada imposed a carbon tax at $20 per tonne of CO2 emissions in 2019, eventually rising to $50 per tonne. This is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by between 80 and 90 million tonnes by 2022. The fiscal gains from pricing carbon can be sizeable. A carbon tax at $35 per tonne of CO2 emissions in India is estimated to be capable of generating some 2% of GDP through 2030. An internally recommended carbon price of $40 per metric tonne in China could generate 14% additional revenues.

    Imposing a carbon tariff

    • Big economies like India should also use their global monopsony, or the power of a large buyer in international trade, to impose a carbon tariff as envisaged by the EU.
    • Focusing on trade is vital because reducing the domestic carbon content of production alone would not avert the harm if imports remain carbon-intensive. Therefore, leading emitters should use their monopsony, diplomacy and financial capabilities to forge a climate coalition with partners.

    India is among the nations that are hardest hit by climate impacts. There is growing public support for climate action, but we need solutions that are seen to be in India’s interest. A market-oriented approach to tax and trade carbon domestically and to induce similar action by others through international trade and diplomacy offers a way forward.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Growth compulsions, fiscal arithmetic |Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS III – Indian Economy

    Sub theme: Economic contraction | Fiscal Stimulus | UPSC     

    Context:

    This article has been written by former RBI Governor, Mr. Rangarajan. This article has appeared in the newspaper in the context of the economic contraction in the first quarter of 2020-21 and accordingly discusses as to what the Government should do in order to kick start Economy and put it on high growth trajectory.

    Slowdown in Economy

    According to a recent report published by National Statistical Office (NSO), the GDP has contracted by 24% in the first quarter (April-June) of 2020-21 as compared to 5% growth registered in Q1 2019-20. It is for the first time that India has recorded contraction in the quarterly GDP data since it started publishing GDP data on a quarterly basis since 1996. Further, India has seen contraction in GDP for the first time in the last 41 years since 1979. Further, the article highlights that there could be possible contraction in the Nominal GDP as well.

    For example, OECD's projections in real GDP for 2020 is -10% and GDP deflator Inflation is 5%. Hence, implicitly, Nominal GDP growth could be around -5%.

    Implications of Slowdown 

    The Fiscal Deficit has increased post the Economic slowdown in the 2020-21. However, this increase in the Fiscal Deficit is not on account of increase in Government's expenditure, but on account of decline in tax revenue. On one hand, tax and non-tax revenues has reduced by more than Rs 5 lakh crores, while on the other hand, there has been contraction in Government's expenditure. Hence, this clearly highlights that the higher Fiscal Deficit has constrained the ability of Government to announce Fiscal Stimulus measures to revive Economy.

    What's the Way out?

    Mr. Rangarajan estimates that in order to maintain the level of budgeted expenditure and also provide for additional stimulus, the Combined Fiscal Deficit of the Centre and States should be around 14%. Right now, the Government is withholding expenditure and desisting from announcing fiscal stimulus measures in order to contain Fiscal Deficit. However, it is not the right approach. Unprecedented times need unprecedented measures.

    Thus, there is need for the RBI to undertake both Direct and Indirect Monetisation of Government's deficit. Obviously, this would lead to increase in the Fiscal Deficit. However, once the Economy revives, the Government then undertake Fiscal Consolidation measures and bring down the Fiscal Deficit.

    Understanding the Basics

    The Gross domestic Product (GDP) is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. Depending upon the market price chosen for the calculation of GDP, there are two variants:

    Real GDP: The GDP which is calculated by using the Base year prices is referred to as Real GDP.  Since, it takes into account base year prices, it is also referred to as GDP at constant prices.

    Nominal GDP: The GDP which is calculated by using the current market prices is referred to as Nominal GDP. It is also referred to as GDP at current market prices.

    In order to understand the differences, let us consider an example of an economy which produces only Apples. The Quantity and prices of Apples are shown in the table below:

     

    2011-12 ( Base Year)

    2017-18

    2018-19

    GDP growth rates

    Quantity

    Prices

    Quantity

    Prices

    Quantity

    Prices

     

    10

    5

    20

    10

    30

    15

     

     

    Real GDP= 20 * 5= 100

    Real GDP= 30* 5 = 150

    Real GDP growth rate= 50%

     

     

    Nominal GDP= 20* 10=200

    Nominal GDP= 30* 15= 450

    Nominal GDP growth rate = 125%

     

    The Nominal GDP can increase even without increase in the production of Goods and Services. It can increase when only the prices of Goods and services increase. However, the Real GDP takes into account only the increase in Quantity ( as compared to Base year) and hence provides a better picture of the economy in the long run. 

    Note:  

    If the Nominal GDP is higher than Real GDP, then it denotes Inflation in an economy.

    If the Real GDP is higher than Nominal GDP, it denotes deflation in the economy.

    GDP Deflator

    It is calculated as  (Nominal GDP / Real GDP).

    The GDP deflator measures the increases in prices of the goods and services in the current year as compared to Base year. Hence, it can be considered as indicator to measure Inflation. Unlike CPI and WPI which measure Inflation in selected basket of Goods and Services, the GDP deflator is more comprehensive and measures Inflation in all Goods and services.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: PSU to PSU stake sale just moves funds to govt., says CAG - Pg 11

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy |Mains: GS III – Economy

    Sub theme: Strategic Disinvestment | UPSC  

    Context:

    • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday cautioned that the Indian Council of Medical Research’s first COVID-19 sero-survey should not create a sense of complacency among the people with regard to the virus.

    WHAT IS HERD IMMUNITY?

    Herd immunity (or community immunity) occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and the immunocompromised) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.

    Vaccines prevent many dangerous and deadly diseases. In the United States, smallpox and polio have both been stamped out because of vaccination. However, there are certain groups of people who cannot get vaccinated and are vulnerable to disease: babies, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people, such as those receiving chemotherapy or organ transplants. For example, the earliest a baby can receive their first pertussis or whooping cough vaccine is at two months, and the earliest a child can receive their first measles vaccine is at one year, making them vulnerable to these diseases.

    Herd immunity depends on the contagiousness of the disease. Diseases that spread easily, such as measles, require a higher number of immune individuals in a community to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity protects the most vulnerable members of our population. If enough people are vaccinated against dangerous diseases, those who are susceptible and cannot get vaccinated are protected because the germ will not be able to “find” those susceptible individuals.

      

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Where is the sentinel guarding our rights? | Pg 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS II–Polity & Governance

    Sub theme: Role of Supreme Court in our democracy| UPSC  

    This article discusses various Issues and concern surrounding the working of the SC

    1. Exercise of power

    Power must be exercised by the court in manner that in the public gaze it appears as the protector of the Constitution .

    With the Court upholding the Chief Justice as ‘Master of the Roster’, in a debatable judgment in 2018, Chief Justices have used their powers to constitute Benches and allocate cases to such Benches in a highly selective manner.

    Senior judges are not assigned PIL matters and almost all matters raising important issues in respect of acts of commissions and omissions by the executive have been allocated to Benches constituted by the Chief Justice.

    SC has been repeatedly adjourning the matter on the role of the media in publishing/ broadcasting false and vicious reports on the Nizamuddin Markaz vilifying a section of Indians.

    1. Fundamental principle of the rule of law.

    There is no doubt that the Chief Justice must be the administrative head. But he must exercise his powers in a fair and just manner. He must not constitute Benches and allocate cases to those Benches in a manner which tilts the balance in favour of the executive.

    As per the author, decisions in some of the most important matters affecting the nation, the Constitution, democracy, and the people and their fundamental rights have been taken in favour of the executive, such as in the Ayodhya case, the Rafale case, the Birla-Sahara case, and the order for a National Investigation Agency probe into the Hadiya case. On the other hand, the Court refuses to decide on the challenge to electoral bonds, the removal of Article 370, and habeas corpus cases, among others.

    Diverse Benches, all presided by Justice Arun Mishra (now retired), were assigned as many as eight cases of the Adani Group.

    1. Role of Chief Justices under question

    Chief Justice J.S. Khehar  - Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s wife requested an enquiry based on his suicide note. Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and his colleagues stopped.

    • In stark contrast Supreme Court ordered an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, where no suicide note was found.
    • SC declined to order any inquiry into the demise of judge B.S. Loya.

    Chief Justice Dipak Misra - He presided over the Constitution Bench hearing matters related to the medical college scam, despite the FIR naming unknown persons including constitutional functionaries of misconduct. Subsequently, many including retired judges have been chargesheeted in that case.

    Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi – Soon after sexual harassment charge against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, he, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna presided over a Bench to condemn the complainant at the instance of the Solicitor General in a matter that they stated was “of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”.

    The entire judiciary and executive demonstrated their high-handedness in the case. The complainant later withdrew her complaint and the police filed a report saying no offence was disclosed.

    Chief Justice Bobde’s acceptance of the Presidential Proclamation from P.K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, raised serious concerns about the times to come.

    1. Functioning of the court

    Since the lockdown, the Supreme Court has been functioning in a truncated manner. Despite repeated requests from the Bar, virtual hearings have not improved. While the High Courts have been using better systems, the Supreme Court persists on using a system which does not allow all the judges to sit every day. As a result, generally seven-eight Benches sit every day as against 13-15 which can be constituted by the master of the roster.

    Author quotes Supreme Court itself to remind all us of the essential task of the Court. Supreme Court held in the P.K. Ghosh v. J.G. Rajput case, “Credibility in the functioning of the justice delivery system and the reasonable perception of the affected parties are relevant considerations to ensure the continuance of public confidence in the credibility and impartiality of the judiciary”. 

    This is necessary not only for doing justice but also for ensuring that justice is seen to be done. In its own words, the Supreme Court has been assigned the role of a “sentinel on the qui vive” [sentinel means a soldier or guard whose job is to stand and keep watch; qui vive  means on the alert or lookout] as regards fundamental rights. The right to get redress from the Court is itself a fundamental right, and the Court cannot abandon its own duty in this regard.

    The Court needs to re-address its role assigned under the Constitution. The Supreme Court must reassert emphatically that it is truly the sentinel on the qui vive as regards the fundamental rights of all citizens.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Invisible killer threatens country’s sandalwood forests | Pg 08

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Ecology

    Sub theme: Sandalwood Spike Disease | UPSC   

    Context:

    • Dreaded Sandalwood Spike Disease has resurfaced, seriously infecting natural habitats in Karnataka, Kerala Experts warn that the disease has the potential to wipe out the entire population of the tree.

    Sandalwood

    • Sandalwood is a class of woods from trees in the genus Santalum.
    • The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and, unlike many other aromatic woods, they retain their fragrance for decades.
    • Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods for use.
    • It is often cited as one of the most expensive woods in the world. Both the wood and the oil produce a distinctive fragrance that has been highly valued for centuries.

    Threats

    • Today the sandalwood tree still faces many threats from not only humans, in the form of exploitation and poaching, but also natural forces. Sandalwood is especially sensitive to fire and grazing by cattle, deer, and other animals. According to forestry consultant Dr. Anantha Padmanabha, the tree’s growth “under natural forest conditions is very slow due to reasons like fire, grazing, and human intervention.” (source, 2010).
    • Additionally, the sandalwood tree is susceptible to many different kinds of diseases. S. austrocaledonicum and S. yasi, for example, are susceptible to brown rot root (Phellinus noxious). This disease can be serious, as it has the potential to spread to surrounding trees through root grafting.

    Sandalwood Spike Disease (SSD)

    • India’s sandalwood trees, the country’s pride — particularly of Karnataka — are facing a serious threat with the return of the destructive Sandalwood Spike Disease (SSD).
    • The infection has resurfaced in the aromatic tree’s natural habitats in Karnataka and Kerala.
    • the natural population of sandalwood in Marayoor of Kerala and various reserve forests in Karnataka, including MM Hills, are heavily infected with SSD for which there is no cure as of now.
    • Presently, there is no option but to cut down and remove the infected tree to prevent the spread of the disease, caused by phytoplasma — bacterial parasites of plant tissues — which are transmitted by insect vectors.
    • With between 1 and 5% of sandalwood trees lost every year due to the disease, scientists warn that it could wipe out the entire natural population if measures are not taken to prevent its spread. Also, they fear that any delay in arresting the trend may result in the disease spreading to cultivated sandalwood trees.
    • SSD has been one of the major causes for the decline in sandalwood production in the country for over a century. The disease was first reported in Kodagu in 1899. More than a million sandalwood trees were removed in the Kodagu and Mysuru region between 1903 and 1916, prompting the Maharaja of Mysuru to announce a reward in 1907 of ₹10,000 for anyone finding a remedy. Later 98,734 trees were extracted during 1917-1925 in Salem also due to SSD. 

    Such was the impact of this disease in Karnataka that the growing stock had been reduced to 25% of its initial level between 1980 and 2000. The devastating impact in natural habitats resulted in sandalwood being classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998. 

    The present rapid spread of the infection is largely due to restrictions on green felling in forests, which has allowed vectors to spread the disease to healthy trees, says the IWST study. 

    Dr. Sundararaj observes that presently it is very difficult to identify the symptoms of SSD. “It can be noticed only when the tree gets completely affected,” he says.

    In an effort to combat the killer disease, the IWST will join hands with the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences for a three-year study, initiated by the Union Ministry of Ayush with a financial allocation of ₹50 lakh.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: A soldier-turned-politician bids adieu + Diplomacy was Jaswant Singh’s ‘Call to Honour’| Pg 01 + 09

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS II – Polity & Governance | GS II – International Relation 

    Sub theme: Sandalwood Spike Disease | UPSC  

    Context:

    • Former Union Minister Jaswant Singh passed away on Sunday morning after a long illness at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi. He was 82.

    Life of Mr Jaswant Singh

    • Major Jaswant Singh Jasol was an officer of the Indian Army and an Indian Cabinet Minister.
    • He was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and was one of India's longest serving parliamentarians, having been a member of one or the other house almost continuously between 1980 and 2014.
    • A veteran leader who held the positions of Finance, Defence and External Affairs Minister in the Union governments headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr. Singh’s career was storied and eventful, reflecting much of India’s strategic turns in the 1990s and early 2000s.
    • Within the first three months of his tenure, Mr. Singh’s most important task was cut out at Pokhran, after India’s nuclear tests in May 1998 — that of restoring India’s ties with the world, particularly the U.S. and Japan, who reacted very strongly to the Vajpayee government’s decision.
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