21 October, 2020
- The many bright spots on India innovation horizon (Science & technology)
- WII scientists anxious about potential funding cut - (Polity & Governance)
- Quad group should eventually become formalised: Biegun - (International relations)
- Amendment needs referendum - (International relations)
- Govt. increases poll spend ceiling by 10% (Polity & Governance)
- Question for the day (Polity & Governance)
UPSC Current Affairs: The many bright spots on India’s innovation horizon – Article – Pg 6
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III –Indian Economy
Sub Theme: Significance of Innovation | Global Innovation Index | UPSC
What is Innovation?
- A new idea or method, or the use of new ideas and methods to do things in a better way. It does not necessarily mean invention. Henry Ford, for instance, did not invent the car, but innovated its production process through the assembly line, which allowed Ford to make more cars than all other automakers combined and at a much lower cost.
- FELUDA CRISPR-Cas 9 technology based detection kit for COVID-19 infection. It usesCRISPR technology, not for gene editing (as generally it is envisaged) but for diagnosis. This is perfect example of innovating using an existing technology.
- A start can be made from anywhere. India’s openness to new ideas is manifested in the RigVeda:
- आनोभद्राः क्रतवो यन्तुविश्वतः Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides.
- Over the last few years, India has been performing well on the Global Innovation Index
Global Innovation Index
- India is now ranked 52nd on the Global Innovation Index 2019, a jump of 5 places over last year, and 29 places in the last five years – up from 81 in 2015 (biggest jump by any major economy).
- India ranks 1st in the world in ICT services exports
- 4th in labor productivity growth.
- Graduates in science and engineering (7th) remains a relative strength for the country
- This year India reaches the 15th spot in global companies’ R&D expenditures.
- India also features in the GII ranking on the world’s top science and technology clusters, with Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi included in the global top 100 clusters.
- India’s share in world R&D expenditures has increased since the mid-1990s, but less sharply than other middle-income countries, such as China, or other Asian powerhouses, such as the Republic of Korea.
Significance of innovation
Social inclusion – Lower strata of society also gets basic services enjoyed by the rich.Eg:
Cheap LED light.
Greater opportunity for small entrepreneurs are created
- Even small start-ups are global. And they are growing faster.
- The firms selling on eBay in Chile, Jordan, Peru, and South Africa are younger than the firms in offline markets.
- In China, start-ups are dominant on the Alibaba platform
- com, China’s second-largest e-commerce company has more than 170,000 online merchants on its platform, many in rural areas.
- Uber; Ola
- Improving Job creation in traditional areas through innovation
- Rural tourism, agricultural tourism, connecting textile with tourism (as is being done in Tirupati and Odisha)
- Convergence of MNREGA with other schemes for asset creation (Tamil Nadu model).
- Food processing will generate more on-farm job.
- Defence procurement form MSME will support job creation.
Comparative advantage – New markets can be captured like our pharmaceutical companies has done in Asia and Africa.
Strategic autonomy – Cheaper solutions remove or reduce dependence. IRNSS will give relative autonomy with respect to GSP.
Growth and development - Production of goods increases resulting in increase in GDP, tax collection and overall wellbeing.
Steps taken by India
- Atal Innovation Mission focusses on scaling startup incubation centres and promoting innovation cultures through school children.
- Department of Science & Technology has launched a NIDHI program (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations) under which programmes for setting up of incubators, seed fund, accelerators and 'Proof of concept' grant for innovators and entrepreneurs have been launched.
- Under NIDHI, PRAYAS (Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring innovators &Startups) programme has been initiated in which established Technology Business Incubators (TBI) are supported with PRAYAS grant to support innovators and entrepreneurs with grants for ‘Proof of Concept’ and developing prototypes.
- Niti Aayog has launched National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is expected to more than double the rate of innovation and employee productivity in India by 2021.
- Department of Science and Technology recently launched a mission in Cyber-physical systems that would create human resources in the country.
- India is strongly committed to the 2030 agenda including SDGs. India is trying to achieve it with research and innovation in various areas.
- Renewable Energy Infrastructure
- Innovative measures have also helped India’s Space Programme make huge strides.
- Launch of a student satellite Kalamsat in 2019.
- Banking Sector
- Mobile technology and M-banking
- Explosion of open-source software
- Public transport
- Electric vehicles
- Metro Rail
- There are around 15000 startups out of which 5000 are deep technology-based.
- India’s scientific publications are growing at 14% every year (global average~ 4%).
UPSC Current Affairs: WII scientists anxious about potential funding cut |Pg 1
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment | Mains: GS Paper III – Environment, Ecology & Biodiversity
Sub Theme: Wildlife Institute of India | Issues with Autonomous Bodies | UPSC
- The Finance Ministry, following a review by its Expenditure Department of 194 autonomous bodies across 18 Ministries, recommended that 109 bodies be merged into 26, and government must “disengage” from 23, including WII, Indian Institute of Forest Management, and the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute.
- Other Environment Ministry organisations, such as the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History will be subsumed within the activities of the Environment Ministry. Some organisations, such as the Society of Integrated Coastal Management and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, will be merged.
- The recommendation has triggered anxiety among scientists at WII. A letter by the institutions Director to the Environment Ministry says that the directive was “unviable” and would affect the institution’s ability to be seen as an “unbiased opinion generator” that both government and public sector units consulted for assessing the impact of development projects on wildlife.This role can only be performed and remains relevant as long as the institute remains a part of the MoEFCC.
- The institute has an annual expenditure of 34 crore that was sourced from the Environment Ministry. It generated only Rs. 3.5 crore from consultancy and advisory services.
- As per the recommendation, the government must cut funding to the institute by 25% every year, and it could become a ‘Deemed University’ engaged in teaching and research. The Central government could continue to access WII advisory and training services as a “client”.
- However, there were too few students and courses offered by the institute for it to qualify as a Deemed University, and it had twice been rebuffed by the University Grants Commission on these grounds.
Wildlife Institute of India
- WII is an autonomous institution (so far) under the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
- It is based in Chandrabani, Dehradun.
- It conducts specialised research in areas of study like Endangered Species, Biodiversity, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Forensics, Habitat Ecology, Spatial Modelling, Eco-development, and Climate Change.
- The national tiger census or the All India Tiger Estimation, is done by WII along with NTCA and state forest departments.
What are Autonomous Bodies (ABs)?
- Autonomous Bodies are set up whenever it is felt that certain functions need to be discharged outside the governmental set up with some amount of independence and flexibility without day-to-day interference of the Governmental machinery.
- Autonomous bodies are a major stakeholder in the government’s functioning as they are engaged in diverse activities, ranging from formulating frameworks for policies, conducting research, and preserving the cultural heritage, etc.
- These are set up by the Ministries/Departments and are funded through grants-in-aid, either fully or partially.
- These grants are regulated by the Ministry of Finance.
- They are mostly registered as societies under the Societies Registration Act and in certain cases they have been set up as statutory institutions under the provisions contained in various Acts.
- The oldest is ‘The Asiatic Society’, established in 1784 by William Jones.
- These Autonomous Bodies are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the annual report is presented in the Parliament every year.
- There is a Committee for Review of Autonomous Bodies (AB-s), chaired by Ratan Watal.
Issues with Autonomous Bodies
- These bodies are funded by taxpayer’s money. Howeverare not accountable the way the government departments are.
- Autonomous Bodies employ a considerable number of people. For example, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, an Autonomous Body under the ministry of agriculture, has almost 17,000 employees.
- However, unlike the government and the public sector undertakings, in which the recruitment rules are uniform and the recruitment is done by a centralised body such as the Staff Selection Committee (SSC), the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) there is no such body for such recruitments.
- Some ABs are audited by CAG whereas many are done by chartered accountants.
- CAG had done an exhaustive performance audit of autonomous scientific bodies in 2016, highlighting the gaps in their performance.
- Such a theme-based audit should be done for other Autonomous Bodies as well.
UPSC Current Affairs: Quad group should eventually become formalised: Biegun | Pg 10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current event of International Importance | Mains: GS Paper-II – International Relations
Sub Theme: QUAD PLUS| India’s Problems | UPSC
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said that eventually the Quad group of countries — India, the U.S., Japan and Australia — should become more formalised once the parameters of cooperation were understood. His statement comes days after the Defence Ministry announced that Australia will join the other three Quad countries in the Malabar naval exercises, three years after it had requested to participate in the exercise.
Mr. Biegun, who is the second highest U.S. State Department official, was discussing his trip to India and South Asia last week and responding to a question on whether South Korea had been asked to join a “QUAD PLUS” [expanded Quad] grouping. Mr Biegun said there is no policy to expand the Quad.
Formation of the Quad
- The Quadrilateral Security Group, called the Quad for short, was originally born out of the crisis that followed the Tsunami in December 2004. India’s rescue mission in the Indian Ocean was coordinated with the three other naval powers engaged in similar efforts — U.S., Australia and Japan. The idea of the Indo-Pacific as a larger maritime strategic community had been developed then.
- In 2007, Japan, Australia and Singapore joined the military exercise with India and U.S.
- The exercises and the strategic coordination in what Mr. Abe had called “the confluence of two seas”.
- Beijing and Moscow got rattled. They termed it an attempt to build “an Asian NATO”.
- S., which was trying to gain China’s support in the six-party talks on North Korea, cancelled quad exercise in 2008.
- Australia then pulled out of the exercises. The Quad was shelved for the next decade.
The question of Australia re-joining the Quad
- In 2017, the Quad returned as Quad 2.0. There resulted due to the reassessment of the challenge from China by U.S, New Delhi, Tokyo and Canberra.
- Just months after the Doklam stand-off between the Indian Army and the PLA, officials from all four countries met in Manila for the ‘India-Australia-Japan-U.S.’ dialogue.
The Trilemma in the Geo-political strategy
The question is how India must develop its own strategic vision, especially given the stand-off with China. India possibly has following options –
- Reverting to traditional positions of non-alignment, using Russia to manage the threat from Beijing.
- Pursuing “multi-alignment”, inviting middle powers such as the EU, the U.K., France, Russia, and partners such as Brazil, the UAE and South Africa into its Indo-Pacific strategy.
- Developing closer coalition with China’s adversaries, and being drawn into choosing its corner in the new Cold War that is developing between the U.S. and China.
- Quad bears more meaning than ever before. The path India will choose will decide its strategic future.
UPSC Current Affairs: ‘Amendment needs referendum’| Pg 13
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II
Sub Theme: Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of Bills | NCRWC Recommendations | UPSC
‘Amendment needs referendum’
- The controversial20thAmendment aimed at enhancing the Sri Lankan President’s powers cleared its first hurdle when the country’s Supreme Court cleared it for passage. However, it identified four clauses that is said would require approval by the people at a referendum.
- Exempting the President from being answerable to Parliament and providing him immunity from lawsuits, were against public sovereignty, and therefore needed approval in a public referendum.
- As per the proposed Bill, the President will have unbridled powers, while the Prime Minister’s office will be reduced to a ceremonial one. Opposition parties have expressed fear that the Bill threatens to reduce the legislature to a “rubberstamp Parliament”.
- Pre-legislative scrutiny is the detailed examination of an early draft of a Bill that is done by a parliamentary select committee before the final version is drawn up by the Government.
- Pre-legislative scrutiny produces laws that better reflect the will of the people. Goods and Services Tax, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Consumer Protection and Motor Vehicles Amendment were strengthened by deliberations of the parliamentary committees in the 16th Lok Sabha.
- The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, which was constituted in 2000, had observed in its reports that ‘our legislative enactments betray clear marks of hasty drafting and absence of Parliament scrutiny from the point of view of both the implementers and the affected persons and groups’.
UPSC Current Affairs: Govt. increases poll spend ceiling by 10%| Pg 1
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Increase in Election Expense | Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 | UPSC
Context: The expenditure limit is specified under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and any change requires Law Ministry’s approval. So, the Law Ministry has increased the expenditure limit for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by 10%.
Why did Election Commission suggest to increase Election Expense?
- Election Commission had recommended a 10% increase in expenditure for all elections to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping in mind the problems that candidates may face while campaigning under the various COVID protocol laid down by Election Commission.
- Law Ministry as per the recommendations of Election Commission has increased the expense limit for Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies.
- The notification however has not mentioned specifically that the limit has been increased in the wake of the pandemic or if it is only for the COVID-19 period. So, these changes are permanent unless amended again by the government.
- Conduct of Elections (Amendment) Rules, 2014 amended Rule 90 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to increase the limit of expense for elections to Lok Sabha and State Assembly.
- For Lok Sabha, the minimum expense allowed was Rs. 70 lakhs with an exception of constituencies of Sikkim, Arunachal and some Union Territories where minimum expense allowed was Rs. 54 lakhs.
- Whereas minimum expense by candidates for state assembly election was Rs. 28 lakhs and 20 lakhs respectively.
Increase in Election Expenditure
- After amendment in Conduct of Election Rules, all states where the expenditure limit was Rs. 20 lakhs for assembly elections will see an upward revision to Rs 22 lakh whereas states where the cap was at Rs 28 lakh- like in Bihar- it will go up to Rs 30.8 lakh.
- For parliamentary elections, the cap has been raised from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 77 lakh and from Rs 54 lakh to Rs 59 lakh in smaller states.
- Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and a few Union Territories, based on the size of their constituencies and population, have a lower ceiling on poll expenditure.
- Here while the enhanced ceiling for a Lok Sabha candidate is now Rs. 59.4 lakhs, those contesting an Assembly seat can spend up to Rs. 22 lakhs.