13 October, 2020

  • Prelims Quiz
  • Congress System (Polity and Governance)
  • Towards cleaner air in Delhi Page 07 (Environment)
  • Govt. moves to spur demand Page 01 - (Economy)
  • American duo win Economics Nobel Page 13 (Economy)
  • COVID-19 hospitals unaffected amid power outage in Mumbai Page 05 (Economy)
  • Reference - Gene editing, the good first and then the worries Page 06
  • Solution
  • QOD

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Federalism, now a partisan internal dialogue | Page - 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains : GS Paper II - Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Federalism | Cooperative federalism | UPSC      

    This article talks about various steps taken by the central government which have distorted the federalism.

    Author also mentions about Congress system in the article.

    In the year 1970, Rajni Kothari published a major book with the straightforward title Politics in India. The bulk of the book was devoted to the then dominant Congress party. Kothari argued that before and after Independence, the Congress was successful in presenting itself as the “authoritative spokesman of the nation as well as its affirmed agent of criticism and change”.

    The reasons for Congress hegemony were several. The party was a broad church, containing many shades of opinion within it. It had a strong presence in all states of the Union.

    It had been led by towering personalities — Gandhi, Nehru, Bose, Patel — men of charisma and character who decisively shaped the country’s political discourse. The Congress imprint was so substantial that even its rivals had to work within the ideological parameters set by the party and its leaders. Thus, most parties who opposed the Congress still upheld welfarism, religious pluralism, and non-alignment in foreign policy.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Towards cleaner air in Delhi | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Ecology |Mains: GS Paper-II - Polity & Governance + Mains: GS Paper-III - Environment & Ecology

    Sub Theme: Air Pollution | Winter Pollution | Stubble burning | UPSC  

    Delhi Air Pollution

    Delhi, along with the capital city of India, is also attributed as the pollution capital of India. According to a WHO survey of 1600 world cities in 2015, the air quality in Delhi, is the worst of any major city in the world.

    Gravity of the problem of Air pollution in Delhi –

    1. Air pollution in Delhi is responsible for approximately 10,000 to 30,000 annual deaths in the city. This means the capital city loses 80 lives every day to pollution from PM2.5.
    2. Air pollution has increased by three times in nearly 20 years.
    3. The safe standard for PM2.5 in India is 40 micrograms per cubic metre (annual average standard), four times higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline (10 microgram/cubic metre).
    4. 2 million children in Delhi have irreversible lung damage due to the poor quality of the air whereas in adults reduced lung capacity, headaches, sore throats, coughs, fatigue, lung cancer, and early death are the common impact.

    Sources of air pollution

    The air pollution in Delhi is a trans-boundary and climate induced phenomenon. Major sources -

    • Natural sources: Natural sources of air pollution include volcanic activity, dust, sea-salt, forest fires, lightening, soil outgassing etc.
    • Anthropogenic sources: These sources include stationary point sources (e.g. emission from industries), mobile sources (e.g. vehicular emission, marine vessels, airplanes etc.), waste disposal landfills, open burning etc.
    • In case of Delhi, the current analysis sources are hinting towards colder weather, stagnant winds trapping the various sources of smoke. The primary sources of smoke are stubble burning, lit garbage, road dust, power plants, factories, and vehicles. These factors, combined with the above factors, further aggravates the problem.

    Policy approach to handle the problem of Air Pollution in Delhi

    Monitoring and Assessment

    The monitoring is undertaken by various organizations viz. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), and System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.

    • National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) - The number of operating monitoring stations under NAMP has increased steadily to 614 by 2016 covering 254 cities across the nation (29 states and 5 UTs). Under this Programme, there are 10 monitoring stations functioning in Delhi.
    • Source apportionment study is based on tracking down the sources through receptor modeling and it helps in identifying the sources and extent of their contribution.
    • National ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) by Central Pollution Control Board.

    Control and Mitigation

    • Graded Response Action Plan - The Supreme Court’s order in December 2016 in the matter of M. C. Mehta vs. Union of India regarding air quality in National Capital Region of Delhi, a Graded Response Action Plan has been prepared for implementation under different Air Quality Index (AQI) categories - Moderate & Poor, Very Poor, and Severe as per National Air Quality Index.
    • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) – A nationwide pollution control initiative launched by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to cut the concentration of particles (PM10 & PM2.5) by 20-30% by 2022.

    Vehicular pollution alone contributes about 72% of the total air pollution load in Delhi as estimated using emission factor and activity-based approach recommended by IPCC. However, present study finds that it is not only the vehicular pollution, rather, domestic pollution, industrial emission, road dust, and garbage burning also have a large share in Delhi’s total pollution load. Furthermore, construction of infrastructure including large residential complexes potentially contributes to the Delhi’s air pollution load.

    Recommendations/suggestions to improve the air quality of Delhi

    Even after taking several initiatives, the pollution in Delhi is rising uncontrollably. To tackle the problems and to reduce health risks generated due to air pollution, immediate steps need to be taken. Some suggestions in this regard -

    • Effective control measures of pollution, and proper installation of air pollution control devices and their smooth functioning must be ensured before the establishment of any industry. After the establishment of industry, proper functioning of the installed controlling units must also be ensured.
    • Emission from construction industries / activities can be minimized by adopting best practices such as; use of water sprays for dust suppressioncreating ridges to prevent dustcompaction of disturbed soil, prevention of dumping of earth materials along roadside
    • Restrictions may be imposed over the number of vehicles owned by an/a individual/family.
    • High parking charges on lines of Singapore/ East Asian countries to promote use of public transport.
    • Environmental and social impact assessment prior to establishing any new industry/projects
    • There should be strict restrictions on old polluting vehicles (> 10 yrs. age) and subsidies may be given on the vehicles running on cleaner fuels (CNG, EV’s).
    • There should be strict checking of PUC certificates and a uniformity in the fuel quality standards to be maintained across the country.
    • Up-gradation of public transport by improving service quality, enhancing the number of modes, ensuring last mile connectivity, and better road management.
    • Improvement in traffic signal co-ordination for continuous traffic flow to reduce traffic jam and idling time can also help to minimize the vehicular pollution.
    • Corporate firms/ government offices may draw up an action plan to have bus/cab service for their employees with reasonable rates.
    • Idea of working in different shifts for corporate firms / government offices to minimize traffic at peak hours can be introduced.
    • Strict rules should be imposed for proper dumping and disposal of solid waste, since unregulated burning results in pile-up of smoke and particulate matter in concentrated form at one place. Regular functioning of all the installed solid waste treatment facilities must also be ensured.
    • Vegetation cover should be increased along the highways, road dividers, and busy traffic intersection points.
    • Mass awareness should be increased through electronic and print media for all age groups towards sustaining the environment and to reduce pollution. Public should also be motivated for the use of public transport.

    Research and development for the battery-run Vehicles (EV’s) to make the economically and ergonomically viable.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Govt. moves to spur demand | Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Economic Stimulus | Consumer Spending | Capital Expenditure | UPSC  

    Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman here today announced measures of Rs 73,000 crore to stimulate consumer spending in the economy in an effort to fight the slowdown due to COVID-19 pandemic following lockdown. 

    While announcing the demand stimulus package, Smt. Sitharaman said, “Indications are that savings of government and organised sector employees have increased and we want to incentivise such people to boost demand for the benefit of the less fortunate.” The Finance Minister further said that if demand goes up based on the stimulus measures announced today, it will have an impact on those people who have been affected by COVID-19 and are desperately looking for demand to keep their business going.

    The Finance Minister stressed on the idea that today’s solution should not cause tomorrow’s problem. Smt. Sitharaman said that the Government does not want to burden the common citizen with future inflation and also not put the Government debt on an unsustainable path.

    The proposals presented today by the Finance Minister are designed to stimulate spending in a fiscally prudent manner as some of the proposals are for advancing or front-loading of expenditure with offsetting changes later while others are directly linked to increase in GDP. The present announcement by Smt. Sitharaman highlights the active intervention by the Government of India to combat economic slowdown created by COVID-19. The details are as follows: -

    1. CONSUMER SPENDING
    2. Leave Travel Concession (LTC) Cash Voucher Scheme

    While announcing the scheme, the Finance Minister said, “The biggest incentive for employees to avail the LTC Cash Voucher Scheme is that in a four-year block ending in 2021, the LTC not availed will lapse, instead, this will encourage employees to avail of this facility to buy goods which can help their families.”

    Central Government employees get LTC in a block of 4 years in which air or rail fare, as per pay scale/entitlement, is reimbursed and in addition, Leave encashment of 10 days (pay + DA) is paid. But due to COVID-19, employees are not in a position to avail of LTC in the current block of 2018-21.

    Therefore, the Government has decided to give cash payment in lieu of one LTC during 2018-21, in which:

    • Full payment on Leave encashment and
    • Payment of fare in 3 flat-rate slabs depending on class of entitlement
    • Fare payment will be tax free

    An employee, opting for this scheme, will be required to buy goods / services worth 3 times the fare and 1 time the leave encashment before 31st March 2021.

    The scheme also requires that money must be spent on goods attracting GST of 12% or more from a GST registered vendor through digital mode. The employee is required to produce GST invoice to avail the benefit.

    If Central Government employees opt for it, cost will be around Rs. 5,675 crore. Employees of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) will also be allowed this facility and the estimated cost for them will be Rs. 1,900 crore. The tax concession will be allowed for State Government/Private Sector too, for employees who currently are entitled to LTC, subject to following the guidelines of the Central Government scheme. The demand infusion in the economy by Central Government and Central PSE/PSB employees is estimated to be Rs. 19,000 crore approx. The demand infusion by State Government employees will be Rs. 9,000 crore. It is expected that it will generate additional consumer demand of Rs. 28,000 crore.

    1. Special Festival Advance Scheme

    A Special Festival Advance Scheme for non-gazetted employees, as well as for gazetted employees too, is being revived as a one-time measure to stimulate demand. All Central Government employees can now get an interest-free advance of Rs. 10,000, to be spent by 31st March, 2021 on the choice of festival of the employee. The interest-free advance is recoverable from the employee in maximum 10 instalments.

    The employees will get pre-loaded RuPay Card of the advance value. The Government will bear Bank charges of the card. Disbursal of advance through RuPay card ensures digital mode of payment, resulting in tax revenue and encouraging honest businesses.

    The one-time disbursement of Special Festival Advance Scheme (SFAS) is expected to amount to Rs. 4,000 crore; and if the SFAS given by all State Governments, another tranche of Rs. 8,000 crore is expected to be disbursed.

    1. CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
    2. Special Assistance to the States:

    While announcing measures related to Capital Expenditure, Smt. Sitharaman said that money spent on infrastructure and asset creation has a multiplier effect on the economy. It not only improves current GDP but also future GDP. The Government wants to give a new thrust to Capital Expenditure of both States and Centre.

    Giving a new thrust on Capital Expenditure, Smt. Sitharaman said that money spent on infrastructure and asset creation has a multiplier effect on the economy. It not only improves current GDP but also future GDP. The Government wants to give a new thrust to Capital Expenditure of both States and Centre. Smt. Sitharaman said that the Central Government is issuing a special interest-free 50-year loan to States of Rs. 12,000 crore Capital Expenditure. The Scheme consists of 3 Parts.

    Part - 1 of the scheme provides for:

    • 200 crore each for 8 North East states (Rs. 1,600 crore)
    • 450 crore each Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh (Rs. 900 crore)

    Part - 2 of the scheme provides for:

    • 7,500 crore for remaining states, as per 15thFinance Commission devolution.

    The Finance Minister said that both Part 1 and Part 2 of interest-free loans given to States are to be spent by 31st March, 2021 and 50% will be given initially, the remaining 50% will be given upon utilization of first 50%. Unutilised funds will be reallocated by the Central Government.

    Under Part - 3 of Rs. 12,000 crore interest-free loans to states, Rs. 2,000 crore will be given to those states which fulfill at least 3 out of 4 reforms spelled out in Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package (ANBP) vide Department of Expenditure’s Letter F.No. 40(06)/PF-S/17-18 Vol. V dated 17th May 2020. Rs 2,000 crore is over and above other borrowing ceilings.

    Following are the features of this Scheme:

    • It can be used for new or ongoing capital projectsneeding funds and / or settling contractors’/ suppliers’ bills on such projects
    • CAPEX to be spent by 31stMarch 2021
    • This funding will be over and above all other additional borrowing ceilingsgiven to states
    • Bullet repaymentafter 50 years, no servicing required for 50 years
    1. Enhanced Budget Provisions:

    The Finance Minister said that additional budget of Rs. 25,000 crore, in addition to Rs. 4.13 lakh crore given in Union Budget 2020, is being provided for Capital Expenditure on roads, defence, water supply, urban development and domestically produced capital equipment.

    To allow smooth conducting of Government business, allocations will be made in forthcoming Revised Estimate discussions of Ministry of Finance with concerned ministries.

    It may be recalled that a package of Rs 1.70 lakh crore under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP) was announced on 26th March, 2020 and the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package (ANBP), a Special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 20 lakh crore - equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP – was announced on 12th May, 2020 by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He gave a clarion call for Aatma Nirbhar Abhijan -Reliant India Movement and also outlined five pillars of Aatmanirbhar Bharat – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography and Demand.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: American duo win Economics Nobel | Page 13

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-III – Indian Economics

    Sub Theme: | Noble Prize in Economics | Auction Theory | UPSC  

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences jointly to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats. These Nobel Laureates have studied how auctions work and accordingly designed new auction formats for goods and services such as allocation of Telecom Spectrum, mining licenses etc. Their discoveries have benefitted sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.

    Auction Theory

    The Nobel Laureates have designed the Auction theory through which they have sought to study various aspects of auctions such as how auctions are designed, what rules govern them, how bidders behave and what outcomes are achieved.

    Usually, the simplest form of auction which is normally used across the world is highest open bidder wherein the highest bidder is awarded the property. However, over a period of time, with the advent of privatisation, a large number of goods and services need to be auctioned by the Government to the private sector. Take for instance, Telecom Spectrum, mining leases, carbon emission credits etc. The auctioning of these new age goods and services need to be different as compared to traditional open-bidder system due to competing interests of the private sector and Government. While the Government needs to take care of large public goals, the Private sector takes into account profit motive.

    Complexities involved in Auctioning System

    Let’s take example of dilemma before the Government for the auctioning of Telecom spectrum. The Government could design auctions in two different ways with different objectives:

    Option 1: Carry out auction to maximise revenue. However, here the Telecom operator would have to pay higher fees to the Government. The telecom operator would then pass on the higher fees to the customers, thus making the Telecom services unaffordable to poor sections of society.

    Option 2: Carry out auction to make Telecom services affordable. However, this would lead to loss of revenue to the Government.

    Contributions of Nobel Laureates

    Both the Nobel Laureates have designed new auction formats in order to streamline the process of auction and make it easier for the Government to conduct auctions of different goods and services. These new auction formats have immensely benefitted the Government, private sector as well as taxpayers.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: COVID-19 hospitals unaffected amid power outage in Mumbai | Page 05

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: | Central Electricity Authority | Solar Power Production | UPSC  

    Context - Despite the unprecedented power outage in Mumbai and its surrounding areas on Monday, COVID-19 hospitals continued to work uninterrupted, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

    With reference to solar power production in India, consider the following statements: (2018)

    1. India is the third largest in the world in the manufacture of silicon wafers used in photovoltaic units.
    2. The solar power tariffs are determined by the Solar Energy Corporation of India.

    Which of the statements given above is/ are correct?

    1. 1 only
    2. 2 only
    3. Both 1 and 2  
    4. Neither 1 nor 2

    Policy Initiatives / Decision Taken

    Electricity Act 2003 has been enacted and came into force from 15.06.2003. The objective is to introduce competition, protect consumer’s interests and provide power for all. The Act provides for National Electricity Policy, Rural Electrification, Open access in transmission, phased open access in distribution, mandatory SERCs, license free generation and distribution, power trading, mandatory metering and stringent penalties for theft of electricity. It is a comprehensive legislation replacing Electricity Act 1910, Electricity Supply Act 1948 and Electricity Regulatory Commission Act 1998.The Electricity Act, 2003 has been amended on two occasions by the Electricity (Amendment) Act, 2003 and the Electricity (Amendment) Act, 2007. The aim is to push the sector onto a trajectory of sound commercial growth and to enable the States and the Centre to move in harmony and coordination.

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