SRIRAM's IAS LOGO
sriramias old rajinder nagar Old Rajender Nagar
Personal attention is the key to success
sriramias gtb nagar GTB Nagar

Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

Civil Services Exam Preparation

 Q. 261. The China-Pakistan-Russia Troika
Ans.
Triangularity has lately become the flavour of the season in international relations discourse. Major powers, beyond their usual bilateral engagements, have been embracing the tripartite mode of engagement in recent times to establish a tactical thread for a twofold advantage:
  1. gain more in their foreign policy; and
  2. influence collectively the regional balance of power in their favour.
A prominent example is the China-Pakistan-Russia triangulation. Its avowed intent is to address regional security problems, primarily the security conditions in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. For India, however, the emergence of this troika forebodes disturbance in its geopolitical standing in the region. However, this trilateral arrangement is more of a geopolitical alignment that is aimed to influence regional security conditions to the three countries’ strategic advantage, at a possible cost to Indian strategic autonomy and challenging the India-US strategic bonhomie in the region. All the three powers concerned are in close proximity to India. China and Pakistan are its bordering adversaries whereas Russia is a traditional partner.

Officially, India has stated that the troika is a “third country relationship” and that India’s relations with Russia stay “very strong”. The strategic community in India however has been wondering if there is going to be permanent damage to India-Russia relations with Moscow’s strategic shift.

The troika has few significant bearingsfor India:
First, the connectivity politics involving the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would significantly influence the geopolitics of the region.
Second, isolating India’s advocacy in the fight against terrorism.
Third, addressing the alignments that are taking place regionally, in the backdrop of an expanded Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Fourth, distancing India and China multilaterally.

The troika seems to have a serious influence over CPEC and a consensus appears to have emerged between them on how to advance the Russian and Chinese regional planning. Russia’s strategic intention of establishing a link between the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) and CPEC gets fulfilled through Pakistani and Chinese backing.
Russia’s engagement with Pakistan comprises aspects that eventually endorse China’s “belt and road” initiative and supplements CPEC. The North-South gas pipeline link is one such aspect which might not be directly linked to CPEC but it endorses Putin’s vision of linking the Eurasian region with South Asia, where Pakistan is emerging as a connecting bridge. This becomes alarming for India when the strategic community in Pakistan notes that Russia might overtly support CPEC. Russia’s partaking with Pakistan bilaterally, as well as with Pakistan and China trilaterally in the region, reduces India’s standing as regards CPEC. India maintains that CPEC runs through a disputed territory that is of concern to India and China and Pakistan have unilaterally taken a decision on CPEC. China’s unilateral decision to engage with Pakistan to invest in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) under CPEC affects India’s sovereignty over POK, and brings into question India’s historical claim on POK.

Importantly, the troika poses a new set of strategic challenges for India in its fight against terrorism, a phenomenon which has primarily been sponsored by Pakistan all these years. Pakistan has been protected in this regard at the UN by its “all-weather” friend China. Russia’s joining the troika would further strengthen Pakistan’s standing against India. Also, a coordinated China-Pakistan effort has blocked the Indian effort to list Masood Azhar on a UN terror roll. India needs to search for new grounds on these issues and also needs to discuss with Afghanistan in length on how to offset the troika’s agenda.

As it appears now, it is not India but Pakistan that is emerging as the converging location between South Asia and Eurasia. This is significant when India has been making inroads into the SCO as a member along with Pakistan. The balance of power within SCO seems to stay very much China-Russia centric and the main beneficiary of this could be Pakistan. This must induce India to rethink the advisability of becoming a member of the SCO. The China-Russia strategic alignment with Pakistan would corner India within SCO, posing a new set of challenges for it regionally.

The emergence of the troika will not only distance China and India from each other but will also severely undermine the significance of the China-India-Russia (CIR) tripartite network. From the Indian point of view, the relevance of CIR and BRICS stands to be reviewed with the arrival of the troika. This severely changes India’s equation with China since one of the stabilising aspects of India-China relations is the multilateral chain of contacts like the CIR, BRICS and SCO. The arrival of the troika empowers Beijing’s regional outreach in South Asia, and that conflicts with India’s core strategic interests. Also, the Chinese leadership has not seen South Asia and Afghanistan in isolation from its vision of linking Eurasia with South Asia. Tacitly acknowledging the existing differences between China and India on several matters like listing Azhar Masood as a terrorist under the UN and on the prospects of India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), Beijing has officially stated recently that “China would like to work with India” for an important consensus in 2017.

The troika will be a game-changer in swaying the regional balance of power against India’s strategic interest. India seems to have been cornered by this tactical regional understanding where Pakistan has emerged as the pivotal point of regional politics. The change of guard in the United States has further complicated the situation for India. Much will depend upon how India approaches the entire spectrum of regional politics against the backdrop of its relations with Russia and China. The troika is surely a development that India cannot afford to ignore. New Delhi needs a serious policy rethink on how to respond to the troika and deal with the powers of this configuration, either bilaterally or collectively.
 
 Q. 260. What is the twin balance sheet problem?
Ans.
India's Twin Balance Sheet problem as referred by Economic survey are: overleveraged and distressed companies and the rising NPAs in Public Sector Bank balance sheets. The issue is important because it is holding up private investment in the country and therefore, growth in all sorts of sectors. It has identified most of the issues that prevented many measures introduced by the government - from Sarfaesi Act, to Asset Reconstruction Companies, to Strategic Debt Restructuring  and the Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets. 

But it is the prescription, a Public Sector Asset Reconstruction Agency (PARA), that is disappointing because it offers nothing new. The twin balance problem required a coordinated approach to debt management, which was lacking. NPAs are largely the result of the stressed cash flows of a few large companies, mainly in core industry and infrastructure, caused by economic downturn rather than bad governance.

Therefore, the solution lies in trimming debt to sustainable levels, including through write-offs or conversion to equity. While the RBI introduced several schemes on exactly the same lines, they did not work because banks were apprehensive about writing off loans or taking strategic stakes.

First, the vast bulk of the NPA problem was caused by unexpected changes in the economic environment, which is at odds with its statement that growth will not solve the problems of the stressed firms. The sectoral distribution of NPAs of PSU banks reveals a widespread issue, not confined to a few sectors, which makes it hard to accept that economic distress was the main cause.

Second, if most of the distressed loans are concentrated only in a few large companies and in a few sectors such as infrastructure, the debt restructuring that banks undertook should have borne some results, but that was not the case.

Which leads us to the real problems with financing this sector. It needs long-term financing (10 years and above) with long start-up periods (three-five years) — a remit that is clearly unviable for banks that have an average liability profile of less than two years, and limited project financing capabilities.

It is not the debt levels that are unviable, but the terms of the debt — the cost, the repayment. It is no coincidence that banks’ exposure and NPA levels in the infrastructure sector shot up after the demise of specialised term lending institutions such as the IDBI and ICICI.

Finally, the operational model of PARA is unclear. Although several assumptions are offered, most are variants of old themes — funding through transfer of government securities and not cash, or government support, capital market issues etc. The report says that private asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) failed because they probably did not see value in the debts, reflected in the low prices offered. But, this can hardly be the rationale for setting up a public ARC, unless it implies that PARA will pay higher prices irrespective of loan quality. Another stated objective of PARA appears to be to do what banks hesitated to do — write off unviable debts and take over companies.
When the reluctance of PSU banks came from their very public character — fear of retribution from investigating agencies and political fallout — one wonders how a new public sector agency will confront these issues.

Credit delivery and appraisal are two clear areas crying for reforms. Either fit-for-purpose specialised agencies need to be revived or serious attempts have to be made to develop debt markets to meet the needs of large corporates, failing which the root causes of the NPA problem will remain unaddressed.
 
 Q. 259. Five govt. cyber security tools
Ans. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has launched five cyber-security tools, as part of its Cyber Swachhta Kendra (CSK), to prevent users from facing threats on the web.

These tools are:
  • Bot Removal Tool
  • USB Pratirodh
  • AppSamvid
  • M-Kavach
  • Browser JSGuard
Even though all these tools will be provided free of cost, four of these tools, which are meant to guard computers, would only run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, a move which experts have pegged to be against the government’s open source policy. The open source policy calls for adoption of open standards for government procurement.
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which has developed the CSK, would collect data of infected systems that are connected with the internet service providers and banks that have come on-board and send inform them of any threats.
 
Bot Removal Tool
  • Developed by Pune-headquartered Quick Heal Technologies.
  • It would detect and remove botnet infection (A botnet, or a robot network, is a number of devices connected to the internet, which are used by a botnet owner to perform various tasks such as performing Distributed Denial of Service Attack, steal data, send spam, allow the attacker access to the device and its connection. A device is compromised when it is penetrated by software from a malicious software, also known as malware) from computers.
  • However, it does not provide any protection against other malware, or prevent data theft, making it necessary for a user to have an anti-virus software.
Apart from this, the four other tools that have been launched were developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

USB Pratirodh
  • A software solution, which controls unauthorised usage of portable USB mass storage devices.
  • Through this software, user can add or remove devices to the database, and also bind one or more USB devices to be accessed using a username and password.
  • Any unauthorised new USB device cannot be accessed, unless it is registered. Whenever a USB device gets plugged in, the user would need to authenticate it. The software also detects and deletes malware from the mass storage device plugged into a computer.
AppSamvidtool
  • A software to white-list executable files (Executable files are those which end with an extension .exe, .class, .war, .jar, are often loaded with Trojans and viruses. Upon execution of these files, they infect the computers) that would run on a computer, as opposed to the method adopted by anti-virus software to black-list files that may contain viruses.
  • One advantage that the white-listing method presents is that it does not require frequent updates.
  • Through this software, users can choose to add trusted executable files to the white-list, and only those files will be allowed to run.
M-Kavach
  • A mobile device security application for Android devices.
  • Addresses threats related to misuse of resources such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera and mobile data by preventing unauthorised access to these resources.
  • It also offers options such ‘anti-theft’, by which a user can remotely wipe the phone of its data in case the device is stolen or is lost.
  • It also helps in tracking SIM card changes on the device.
  • M-Kavach app also allows users to restrict access to critical applications like mobile wallets, social media apps, etc.
Browser JSGuard
  • It detects and defends malicious HTML and JavaScript attacks made through the web browser based on Heuristics (a technique designed for solving a problem more quickly when classic methods are too slow, or for finding an approximate solution when classic methods fail to find any exact solution).
The software learns from previous threats to understand potential future threats, and alerts the user when a malicious web page is visited by providing a detailed analysis, and threat report of the web page.
 
 Q. 258. Oceans are fast losing oxygen
Ans. The oxygen content in global oceans has reduced by more than two per cent since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths. The current study has predicted a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100.

Effects
  • Just a little loss of oxygen in coastal waters can lead to a complete change in ecosystems.
  • In fact, such a decline in oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat.
  • It can have detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies.
  • It must be noted that the only organism in the ocean that thrives with little or no oxygen is bacteria.
World Distribution
  • While the largest volume of oxygen was lost in the Pacific Ocean, the largest percentage of oxygen loss was witnessed in the Arctic Ocean. Hence, oxygen in the world's oceans is not evenly distributed.
  • Southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins have already started noticing climate-linked deoxygenation.
  • Western tropical Indian Ocean has been warming for more than a century and at a rate faster than any other region of the tropical oceans. It is the largest contributor to the overall trend in the global mean sea surface temperature.
Cause of depleting oxygen content in oceans:
  • This oxygen depletion is mostly a result of climate change.
  • More warming on the surface of water makes the surface water less dense. Such stratification prevents the surface water from mixing with the sub-surface water. This, in turn, prevents the sub-surface water from absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere.
  • At times, more rain and runoffs from rivers bring in more freshwater into the sea. Due to the lack of salinity, the freshwater floats on the surface, leading to stratification.
While ocean warming is a widely identified reason for depletion of oceanic oxygen, changes in salinity can also contribute to oxygen loss.
 
 Q. 257. Discuss the evolving trends of Digital Transactions in India. What are the risks involved and what measures can be taken to make digital space more secure for its users?
Ans.
Digital lending consists of lending through Web platforms or mobile apps, by leveraging technology for authentication and credit assessment.
Digital lending promises to be a respite for the “ordinary Indian” who is starved of institutional credit.
Three out of five Indians continue to remain primarily dependent on informal credit. There is a huge unmet credit need (approximately $400 billion plus per year), particularly in the microenterprise and low-income consumer segment. Indians continue to borrow from family and friends, and moneylenders, sometimes at usurious rates, primarily because these loans are more flexible and convenient. Institutional lenders are unable to lend without appropriate collateral, and the high costs of lending limit the flexibility of lending products.
This is where digitization can be instrumental in enabling inclusive lending. India is the only country in the world with a billion unique digital IDs and more than 600 million mobile-phone users.
The emergence of digital data trails—the histories of an individual’s past digital activity, such as phone call and SMS records, remittance data, social media footprint—that can be tracked, archived and used for credit assessments, opens up the potential of inclusive digital lending. Emerging business models are already leveraging these digital data trails—digital data credit-scored lending, peer-to-peer platforms and invoice discounting—to lend to lower-income Indians.
“India Stack”—a set of digital application programming interfaces (APIs), which can transition consumer lending to cashless, presence-less and paperless transactions by leveraging their digital data trails.
It builds on the Aadhaar platform and has the potential to unleash digital lending by reducing the cost of lending, and channelizing access of data trails for credit assessments. Digital lending has the potential to be a remarkably positive force for inclusion.
However, there are three major risks in the digital lending space that the Indian borrowers may face.
  • Over lending: Because there is no centralized tracking of lenders and borrowers in the digital lending space, it is possible that people will end up borrowing “too much” from multiple lenders that they cannot pay back.
  • Unsuitable lending: Indians—especially the marginalized, less literate consumers—may choose the wrong loan because of unclear disclosure of terms around, for example, interest, repayment time, and qualifying terms and conditions.
  • Misuse of personal data: Sensitive data can be shared or sold without proper consent, as data is controlled by under-regulated non-state actors. These risks loom large on the digital lending space—and if they continue unaddressed, may very well lead to another lending bubble, with unintended consequences, like the one that India witnessed with the microfinance institutions crisis in 2010.
Four measures that regulators should consider to address the risks involved in digital lending.
  • Institute strong data-sharing protocols. Because several players will have access to sensitive consumer data, there must be clear guidelines around, for example, the type of data that can be held, the length of time data can be held for, and restrictions on the use of data.
  • Put in place a code of conduct for lenders. Like the Microfinance Institutions Network code of conduct, digital lenders should proactively develop and commit to a code of conduct that outlines the principles of integrity, transparency and consumer protection, with clear standards of disclosure and grievance redress.
  • Explore the possibility of creating a “super credit bureau” that tracks all digital loans and consumer/lender credit history.
  • Strengthen and scale the Digi Locker initiative, which has the potential to be a safe repository of individual data, with access rights controlled by the individual.
In addition, it is incumbent upon providers to invest in more user-friendly products: developing intuitive products that will help consumers better understand loans and consent protocols so they can make truly informed choices.
India stands on the cusp of a digital lending revolution. Ensuring that this lending is done responsibly can ensure the fruits of this revolution are realized.
 
 Q. 256. The building blocks of economic policy
Ans.
Economic policy choices are not easy in a country like India. At present, the complication has increased because of the currency swap and deceleration in economic growth.
Here are five themes that should guide economic policy.

First, the policy should focus on market failures. Free markets work in enhancing prosperity but there are areas where state intervention is needed. However, in India, the state is dominant in sectors where it is not required and lacks capacity in areas where the intervention is actually desired. It often intervenes with no evidence of market failure, which affects resource allocation. This needs to change.

Second, policy intervention should be seen from the perspective of general equilibrium. Often, policy changes are made with narrow objectives, focusing on one sector or area. For example, in the context of the budget, India has a history of random tinkering with tax rates to promote one sector or the other, which has resulted in distortions. The most recent example is the suggestions made by the committee of chief ministers on digital payments—a host of fiscal measures that will further distort the tax system. The government should avoid such ideas.

Third, the government should spend more efficiently. There are demands for increasing spending in various sectors of the economy and they are often legitimate as India needs improvement in a number of areas. However, public spending has a cost. The marginal cost of one rupee of public spending to society is around Rs3. Therefore, the government should spend carefully as the cost to society is much higher than what gets recorded in the books.

Fourth, individuals, including politicians, are driven by incentives. Policy changes should factor in the possibility that people can change their behaviour. Insights from public choice theory show that politicians and bureaucrats also work in self-interest. One of the reasons why India has had a high fiscal deficit bias is because higher government spending can lead to higher growth in the short run and could electorally benefit the ruling party. Therefore, it’s important to build checks in the system. As India has moved to a rule-based monetary policy framework, it also needs a better fiscal architecture. Even though India has the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in place, experience shows that it is not sacrosanct. What is needed is an agency like the US Congressional Budget Office which independently reviews government finances so that the public in general is better informed. This will help reduce fiscal profligacy.

Fifth, policy should promote competition. A high level of competition is desirable in a market economy as it leads to efficient allocation of capital. The government has done well by getting the bankruptcy code passed as it will facilitate the closing of firms and the shifting of capital to more productive sectors of the economy.

Following these broad principles in policymaking will help build credibility and lead to better economic outcomes in the medium to long run.
 
 Q. 255. Invasive Alien Species
Ans.
An alien species is a species introduced by humans – either intentionally or accidentally - outside of its natural past or present distribution, however not all alien species have negative impacts, and it is estimated that between 5% and 20% of all alien species become problematic. It is these species that are termed ‘invasive alien species’ (IAS).
"An invasive alien species (IAS) is a species that is established outside of its natural past or present distribution, whose introduction and/or spread threaten biological diversity” Convention on Biological Diversity.

Impacts
Invasive alien species are a major driver of biodiversity loss. In fact, an analysis of the IUCN Red List shows that they are the second most common threat associated with species that have gone completely extinct, and are the most common threat associated with extinctions of amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
Invasive alien species can also lead to changes in the structure and composition of ecosystems leading to significant detrimental impacts to ecosystem services, affecting economies and human wellbeing. For example, the water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes, a native to South America is spreading across Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America. It is a fast growing floating aquatic plant forming dense mats on the water surface, limiting oxygen and preventing sunlight reaching the water column. Infestations have led to reduced fisheries, blocked navigation routes, increased cases of vector bourne diseases, reduced hydropower capacity and affecting access to water.

Common pathways
Due to the increase in the movement of people and goods around the world, the opportunity for the introduction of species outside of their natural range is on the increase. The different ways in which species are transported from one place to another, are called ‘pathways’. Common pathways include the release of fish for fisheries into the wild, escape from farms and horticulture, within ship ballast water and the spread through man-made corridors such as canals.

What is being done?
In 2010 almost all of the world’s governments adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which included 20 headline ‘targets’ referred to as the Aichi Targets. One of these targets (#9) is specifically related to IAS.
This international commitment to addressing IAS was re-affirmed in 2015 through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes 17 goals (SDGs) each with specific targets.

What is IUCN doing to address IAS?
IUCN’s work on IAS is focused primarily on achieving Aichi T9. To do this IUCN has been working in three major areas, providing scientific knowledge, engaging in and supporting national and regional policy development, and action on the ground.

Policy engagement
The overarching aim of all IUCN policy engagement work related to IAS is to provide technical and scientific advice to work towards achieving Aichi Target 9. IUCN aims to encourage and mainstream invasive species issues across different fora, including national governments, international policy instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the private sector and civil society.
 
 Q. 254. What is Government e-Marketplace (GeM)?
Ans. Aiming to ensure greater transparency and revolutionise government procurement, government has launched the Government e-Marketplace (GeM). 

What is GeM?
GeM is a completely end to end procurement system for purchase of goods and services of common use by the government buyers.
  • The pilot phase of the GeM has been developed jointly for selective goods and services.
  • The entire process flow designing has been done in house in order to bring greater transparency, speed and efficiency in public procurement.
  • It is completely an end to end online procurement system including payment to suppliers.
  • GeM relieves public offices from tedious and time consuming tendering process and thus cuts down on administrative and transaction costs.
  • It will help in online registration of suppliers and government buyers using self-certification and authentication through Aadhar, PAN, MCA21 and Biometric Attendance System.
  • It will also facilitate seamless process flow and standardised specifications with complete audit trail.
  • All transactions in GeM are completely secure.
A call centre for GeM has also been set up to help both buyers and sellers in conducting their transactions on GeM.
 
 Q. 253. Spice Routes
Ans.
The Spice Routes, also known as Maritime Silk Roads, is the name given to the network of sea routes that link the East with the West.
  • They stretch from the west coast of Japan, through the islands of Indonesia, around India to the lands of the Middle East - and from there, across the Mediterranean to Europe.
  • It has a distance of over 15,000 kilometres and, even today, is not an easy journey.
From our very earliest history, people have travelled the Spice Routes. These journeys were not undertaken purely in the spirit of adventure - the driving force behind them was trade. Since ancient times, trade has had an important role in human life.
In the case of the Spice Routes the links were formed by traders buying and selling goods from port to port.
  • The principal and most profitable goods they traded in were spices - giving the routes their name. As early as 2000 BC, spices such as cinnamon from Sri Lanka and cassia from China found their way along the Spice Routes to the Middle East.
  • Other goods were exchanged too - cargoes of ivory, silk, porcelain, metals and dazzling gemstones brought great profits to the traders who were prepared to risk the dangerous sea journeys.
  • But precious goods were not the only points of exchange between the traders. Perhaps more important was the exchange of knowledge: knowledge of new peoples and their religions, languages, expertise, artistic and scientific skills. The ports along the Maritime Silk Roads (Spice Routes) acted as melting pots for ideas and information. With every ship that swept out with a cargo of valuables on board, fresh knowledge was carried over the seas to the ship's next port of call.
Perhaps it was their strangeness and rarity that led great medicinal and spiritual values to be attributed to them.
  • From ancient times, spices were burned as incense in religious ceremonies, purifying the air and carrying the prayers of the people heavenward to their gods.
  • They were also added to healing ointments and to potions drunk as antidotes to poisons. To hide the many household smells, people burned spices daily in their homes.
  • They were used as cooking ingredients very early on - not only to add flavour but also to make the food, which was often far from fresh, palatable, particularly in hot climates.
The profits to be made from spices were considerable. They were small and dried, and consequently could be transported easily. The wealth of the spice trade brought great power and influence and, over the centuries, bloody battles were fought to win control of it and the routes along which it took place.
 
 Q. 252. Steps taken for Development of Sericulture
Ans. Government through Central Silk Board (CSB) had implemented a Centrally Sponsored Scheme viz. ‘Catalytic Development Programme’ (CDP) to synergize and disseminate technologies & innovations developed by R&D units of CSB.

The objective under the scheme was to incentivize investment among stakeholders to enhance production, productivity and quality of silk.

The components under the CDP envisaged:
  • Strengthening and creation of silkworm seed infrastructure,
  • Development of farm and post-cocoon infrastructure and
  • Creation of better marketing facilities to ensure remunerative price to primary producers.  
Consequent upon closure of CDP with effect from 2015-16, Government through Central Silk Board has been implementing a restructured Central Sector Scheme, viz. ‘Integrated Scheme for the Development of Silk Industry’ for development of Sericulture industry in various. The scheme has the following components: 
  • Research & Development, Training, Transfer of Technology & IT Initiatives
  • Seed Organization
  • Coordination and Market Development
Quality Certification systems and Brand promotion & Technology up-gradation 
 
 Q. 251. Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS)
Ans.
Background
  • The Cabinet had, in 2012 approved the M-SIPS to provide a special incentive package to promote large scale manufacturing in the Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector.
  • The scheme provides subsidy for capital expenditure - 20% for investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and 25% in non-SEZs. 
  • The   Scheme was amended in 2015 for scope enhancement and simplification of procedure.
  • The Scheme has attracted investments in the ESDM. The M-SIPS has been able to create positive impact on investment in electronics sector.
The main features of M-SIPS are as follows:
  • The scheme provides subsidy for investments in capital expenditure - 20% for investments in SEZs and 25% in non-SEZs. It also provides for reimbursement of CVD/excise for capital equipment for the non-SEZ units. For high technology and high capital investment units, like fabs, reimbursement of central taxes and duties is also provided.
  • The incentives are available for investments made in a project within a period of 10 years from the date of approval.
  • The incentives are available for 29 categories of ESDM products including telecom, IT hardware, consumer electronics, medical electronics, automotive electronics, solar photovoltaic, LEDs, LCDs, strategic electronics, avionics, industrial electronics, nano-electronics, semiconductor chips and chip components, other electronic components and EMS. Units across the value chain starting from raw materials including assembly, testing, packaging and accessories of these category of products are included. The scheme also provides incentives for relocation of units from abroad.
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for amendment in the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) to further incentivize investments in Electronic Sector and moving towards the goal of ‘Net Zero imports’ in electronics by 2020.

Benefits: Besides expediting investments into the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector in India, the amendments in M-SIPS are expected to create employment opportunities and reduce dependence on imports.

The salient features of the amendment are:
  • The applications will be received under the scheme upto 31st December 2018 or till such time that an incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, whichever is earlier. In case the incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, a review will be held to decide further financial commitments.
  • The incentives will be available for investments made within 5 years from the date of approval of the project.
  • A unit receiving incentives under the scheme, will provide an undertaking to remain in commercial production for a period of at least 3 years.
  • A separate Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary and comprising of CEO, NITI Aayog, Secretary Expenditure and Secretary, MeitY will be set up in respect of mega projects, envisaging more than Rs. 6850 crores (approx. USD 1 Billion) investments.
  • The Policy covers all States and Districts and provides them an opportunity to attract investments in electronics manufacturing.
 
 Q. 250. Electronics Development Fund (EDF)
Ans.
Formation of EDF was conceived in the National Policy on Electronics -2012. Later on in 2015, EDF was set up along with the “Digital India” agenda. As part of the "Digital India" agenda of the Government, and to develop the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector so as to achieve “Net Zero Imports” by 2020 and to look at India as their next destination to cater to the domestic Indian demand as well as act as an exports hub in the ESDM sector.
  • It is with this objective that an Electronic Development Fund (EDF) is set up as a "Fund of Funds" to participate in professionally managed "Daughter Funds" which in turn will provide risk capital to companies developing new technologies in the area of electronics, nano-electronics and Information Technology (IT).
What are Fund of Funds and Daughter Funds?
Fund of Fund (FoF) is defined by the securities market regulator, SEBI, as a mutual fund scheme that invests primarily in other schemes of the same mutual fund or other mutual funds. An FoF scheme enables the participating investors to achieve greater diversification and spreads risks across a greater universe. The funds they invest in are commonly known as “daughter funds”.
  • The EDF will also help attract venture funds, angel funds and seed funds towards R&D and innovation in the specified areas.
  • It will help create a battery of Daughter funds and Fund Managers who will be seeking good start-ups (potential winners) and selecting them based on professional considerations.
Benefits: Electronics permeate in all sectors of economy and have a great economic and strategic importance. A major characteristic of the electronics sector is the importance of R&D and innovation due to high velocity of technology change. Intellectual Property is the most critical differentiator and a determinant of success for an electronics company.
The Department of Electronics and Information Technology, (Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India) is coordinating strategic activities, promoting skill development programmes, enhancing infrastructure capabilities and supporting R&D for India’s leadership position in IT and IT-Enabled services. In furtherance to this objective, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, (Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India) has agreed to act as the Anchor Investor of the Fund.
 
 Q. 249. SANKALP and STRIVE Schemes
Ans. SANKALP and STRIVE Schemes
  • SANKALP (Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion Programme) will be launched in 2017-18.
  • It will be at a cost of INR 4,000 crore.
  • SANKALP will provide market relevant training to 3.5 crores youth.
  • Next phase will be Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE).
  • It will be launched in 2017-18 at a cost of INR 2,200 crore.
  • STRIVE will focus to improve on the quality and the market relevance of vocational training provided in ITIs.
It will strengthen the apprenticeship programme through industry-cluster approach.
 
 Q. 248. Write a short note on River Information System
Ans.
RIS is a combination of tracking and meteorological equipment with specialized software designed to optimize traffic and transport processes in inland navigation. The system enables swift electronic data transfer between mobile vessels and shore (base stations) through advance and real-time exchange of information so as to ensure navigation safety in inland waterways. It also provides virtual navigational aids to guide the vessel during navigation. 

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has taken up installation of RIS initially in National Waterway-1 (NW-1) on river Ganga, in three phases, viz. Haldia-Farakka, Farakka-Patna, and Patna-Varanasi.

All the vessels plying on National Waterways (NWs) need to be made compatible for using RIS. As RIS ensures safety of vessels in navigation, as per the Inland Vessel Act, it will be the responsibility of the states to direct all the vessels to be equipped with RIS compatible equipment.
 
Out of the existing five National Waterways, NW-1, 2 and 3 have been developed with targeted depth, navigational aids and terminal facilities with storage and mechanized handling facilities. These NWs have been made operational and vessels are plying on them. “Jal Marg Vikas” project for capacity augmentation of NW-1 between Haldia and Allahabad (1620 km), has been initiated with assistance from the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs. 4200 crores. The project, inter-alia envisages three multi-modal terminals with rail and road connectivity at Varanasi, Sahebganj and Haldia. 

NW- 4 and 5 are yet to be made operational for which various studies/ developmental works are underway. Dredging of fairway and construction of temporary terminals has recently started in NW-5. In view of the importance of the inland water transport and its potential to be a supplementary mode of transport to rail and road networks, the Government has launched an ambitious plan of developing 106 more inland waterways identified in 24 States, for which a National Waterways Act, 2016 has been passed by the Parliament. 
 
 Q. 247. Discuss Indias emerging role for Cooperative Security and Military Intervention in the South China Sea.
Ans.
China’s growing power and influence and its mounting military assertiveness are causing concern not only to India, but also to most other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Strategic Partnerships to meet the Challenge
China’s brazen violation of international norms in recent years, particularly its construction of military facilities on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, and its growing military power, including maritime power, pose a growing strategic challenge to India and its strategic partners.
China senses the emergence of a security vacuum in the Indo-Pacific region and is rushing to fill it. It has also dropped the phrase “peaceful rise” while referring to its military and economic growth. It should be obvious to perceptive observers that China’s rise is unlikely to be entirely peaceful.
China’s rapid economic growth has been fairly uneven and non-inclusive. There is a deep sense of resentment against the leadership of the Communist Party for the denial of basic freedoms and rampant corruption. The discontentment simmering below the surface could boil over and lead to an uncontrollable spontaneous implosion. The crash of Chinese stock markets over a year ago may have provided the first glimpse of impending implosion.
Also, given its recent belligerence, China could behave irresponsibly somewhere in the Indo-Pacific region. It could decide to intervene militarily in the South China Sea, or to occupy one or more of the disputed Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands that are at present controlled by Japan. Or, it may opt to resolve territorial and boundary disputes with its neighbours through the use of military force.
Both the contingencies have a low probability of occurrence, but will be high impact events with widespread ramifications if either of them comes to pass. The US, which is the leading provider of security in the Indo-Pacific, and India, will need strong partners to deal with the fallout and to manage the consequences. Hence, the India-US strategic partnership makes eminent sense as a hedging strategy for both countries.
India has a long-standing territorial dispute with China. It has noted China’s growing military assertiveness in the region with consternation, especially China’s periodic deployment of PLA Navy submarines in the northern Indian Ocean. China has signed an agreement with Pakistan to invest US$ 46 billion to develop the CPEC from Xinjiang to Gwadar on the Makran Coast. Despite the fact that part of the CPEC will pass through POK, China has not consulted India.

Cooperative Security Framework
Though it will be a gradual and long-drawn process, a cooperative security framework may eventually emerge for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and for the security of the global commons – air space, space, cyber space and the sea-lanes of communication to enable the freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. Together with the US and its other strategic partners, India must take the lead in establishing such a framework. If China is willing to join this security architecture, it should be welcomed.
The defence cooperation element of the Indo-US strategic partnership must be taken to the next higher trajectory to enable:
  • joint threat assessment;
  • contingency planning for joint operations;
  • sharing of intelligence;
  • simulations and table-top exercises – besides training exercises with troops;
  • coordination of command, control and communications; and,
  • planning for deployment and logistics support.
All of these activities will need to be undertaken in concert with other strategic partners such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
US normally point to India:
  • joining international counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation efforts;
  • sharing intelligence;
  • upholding the rules and norms governing maritime trade;
  • providing help to the littoral states to meet their security needs;
  • helping to counter piracy and narcotics trafficking; and,
  • continuing to taking the lead in humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) operations in the region.
These expectations are unexceptionable and India has already been contributing extensively to achieving these common goals.

Force Structure Necessary
India is gradually emerging as a dominant power in the Indo-Pacific and is preparing to discharge its regional responsibilities. In keeping with its rapidly growing strategic interests and regional responsibilities, India is likely to be increasingly willing to join its strategic partners to intervene militarily in its regional neighbourhood when the situation so demands. While India would prefer to do so with a clear mandate from the United Nations Security Council and under the UN flag, it may not be averse to joining ‘coalitions of the willing’ when its vital national interests are threatened and consensus in the Security Council proves hard to achieve.
Stemming from the need for contingency planning, particularly in support of its forces deployed for United Nations (UN) peace-keeping and peace-support duties and for limited power projection, India will need to raise and maintain in a permanent state of quick-reaction readiness adequate forces to participate in international coalitions in India’s area of strategic interest.

India’s area of strategic interest now extends from the South China Sea in the east to the Horn of Africa in the west. With the proposed rapid reaction capabilities in place, it will be clear to potential adversaries that India will not hesitate to intervene in conjunction with its strategic partners if its vital national interests are threatened.
 
 Q. 246. Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana
Ans. What is DAY?
  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India in 2011.
  • The Mission aims at creating efficient and effective institutional platforms of the rural poor enabling them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services.
  • NRLM has set out with an agenda to cover 7 Crore rural poor households, across 600 districts, 6000 blocks, 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats and 6 lakh villages in the country through self-managed Self Help Groups (SHGs).
  • In addition, the poor would be facilitated to achieve increased access to their rights, entitlements and public services, diversified risk and better social indicators of empowerment.
Mission
To reduce poverty by enabling the poor households to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities, resulting in appreciable improvement in their livelihoods on a sustainable basis, through building strong grassroots institutions of the poor.

Key Features
  • Universal Social Mobilisation
  1. At least one woman member from each identified rural poor household, is to be brought under the Self Help Group (SHG) network in a time bound manner.
  2. Special emphasis is particularly on vulnerable communities such as manual scavengers, victims of human trafficking, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and bonded labour.
  3. NRLM has devised special strategies to reach out to these communities and help them graduate out of poverty.
  • Participatory Identification of Poor (PIP)
  1. The inclusion of the target group under NRLM is determined by a well-defined, transparent and equitable process of participatory identification of poor, at the level of the community.
  2. All households identified as poor through the PIP process is the NRLM Target Group and is eligible for all the benefits under the programme.
  3. Target Group is identified through the Participatory Identification of Poor (PIP) method. The NRLM Target Group (NTG) derived through the PIP is de-linked from the BPL.
  • Financial Inclusion
  1. NRLM works on both demand and supply sides of financial inclusion.
  2. On the demand side, it promotes financial literacy among the poor and provides catalytic capital to the SHGs and their federations.
  3. On the supply side, the Mission coordinates with the financial sector and encourages use of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) based financial technologies, business correspondents and community facilitators like ‘Bank Mitras’.
It also works towards universal coverage of rural poor against risk of loss of life, health and assets. Further, it works on remittances, especially in areas where migration is endemic.
  • Livelihoods –NRLM focuses on stabilizing and promoting existing livelihood portfolio of the poor through its three pillars – ‘vulnerability reduction’ and ‘livelihoods enhancement’ through deepening/enhancing and expanding existing livelihoods options and tapping new opportunities in farm and non-farm sectors; ‘employment’ - building skills for the job market outside; and ‘enterprises’ - nurturing self-employed and entrepreneurs (for micro-enterprises).
Convergence and partnerships
  • Convergence: NRLM places a high emphasis on convergence with other programmes of the MoRD and other Central Ministries. Convergence is also sought with programmes of state governments for developing synergies directly or indirectly with institutions of the poor.
  • Partnerships with NGOs and other CSOs: NRLM has been proactively seeking partnerships with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), at two levels - strategic and implementation. 
  • Linkages with PRIs: In view of the eminent roles of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), it is necessary to consciously structure and facilitates a mutually beneficial working relationship between Panchayats and institutions of the poor, particularly at the level of Village Panchayats.
National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP)
NRLP has been designed as a sub-set of NRLM to create ‘proof of concept’, build capacities of the Centre and States and create an enabling environment to facilitate all States and Union Territories to transit to the NRLM. NRLP would be implemented in 13 high poverty states accounting for about 90 percent of the rural poor in the country. Intensive livelihood investments would be made by the NRLP in 107 districts and 422 blocks of 13 states (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu). Distribution of project funds among the states would be based on inter-se poverty ratios.
 
 Q. 245. Norms for NGOs seeking govt. funds
Ans.
Draft guidelines outlining stringent regulations intended to enhance accountability of lakhs of NGOs and voluntary organisations receiving nearly Rs 1,000 crore of government grants every year were submitted by the Centre to the Supreme Court.
  • Organisations wanting to get government funds must register afresh online with Niti Aayog's `NGO-Darpan' portal giving details of past work, fund utilisation, yearly audit reports and key persons managing the NGO or VO.
  • Government would have the right to initiate criminal prosecution and blacklist an NGO for not meeting the deadline for completing a project for which grant was given or if money was misused.
  • The registration system should facilitate seamless operation of applicable provisions of the Income Tax Act and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) with respect to NGOs without the need for cumbersome processes, which create mutual distrust and scope for misuse.
  • Another provision mandates NGOs and their office-bearers to execute a bond, equivalent to the money received, promising to refund the amount with 10% interest if funds are misused or not used for the sanctioned purpose. The members of the executive committee of the organisation shall execute a bond in favour of the President of India, for the sanctioned amount in the prescribed format, binding themselves jointly and severally to the terms & conditions.
  • In the event of the grantee (NGOVO) failing to comply with the conditions or committing breach of the conditions of the bond, the signatories to the bond shall be jointly and severally liable to refund to the President of India, the whole or part amount of the grant with interest at the rate of 10% per annum thereon or the sum specified in the bond.
More than 33 lakh NGOs and VOs operated in India but less than 10% (3.07 lakh) filed audited accounts before the competent authority.
 
 Q. 244. Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Ans.
In the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held in 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the 2011-2020 period.
This plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development.
Parties agreed to translate this overarching international framework into revised and updated national biodiversity strategies and action plans within two years.
Key elements

Rationale
  • The rationale for the new plan is that biological diversity underpins ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services essential for human well-being.
  • It provides for food security, human health, the provision of clean air and water; it contributes to local livelihoods, and economic development, and is essential for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including poverty reduction. 
  • The conclusions of the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (published in 2010) analyses future biodiversity scenarios and reviews possible actions that might be taken to reduce future loss.
Mission
  • The mission of the new plan is to take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet's variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication.
  • To ensure this, pressures on biodiversity are reduced, ecosystems are restored, biological resources are sustainably used and benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable manner; adequate financial resources are provided, capacities are enhanced, biodiversity issues and values mainstreamed, appropriate policies are effectively implemented, and decision-making is based on sound science and the precautionary approach."
Strategic Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
The new plan consists of five strategic goals, including twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.
Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.
Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services. 
Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

The twenty headline Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2015 or 2020 are organized under the five strategic goals. The goals and targets comprise both aspirations for achievement at the global level, and a flexible framework for the establishment of national or regional targets.

Parties are invited to set their own targets within this flexible framework, taking into account national needs and priorities, while also bearing in mind national contributions to the achievement of the global targets, and report thereon to the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties. 

Means for implementation: The Strategic Plan will be implemented primarily through activities at the national or subnational level, with supporting action at the regional and global levels.

Programmes of work: The thematic programmes of work of the Convention include: biodiversity of inland waters, marine and coastal biodiversity, agricultural biodiversity, forest biodiversity, biodiversity of dry and sub-humid lands, mountain biodiversity and island biodiversity. Together with the various cross-cutting issues, they provide detailed guidance on implementation of the Strategic Plan, and could also contribute to development and poverty reduction.
 
 Q. 243. Why has India chosen to become a member of the International Energy Agency?
Ans. About IEA
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.

India IEA relation
  • India joined the ranks of the IEA’s membership on March 30, 2017, albeit as a “Member by Associate”, it was seen inevitable, as one can’t talk about the future of the global energy markets without talking with India.
  • Long before India formally came on board the IEA, it had been engaging with the organisation. As early as 1998, India had signed the Declaration of Cooperation covering issues related to energy security and statistics.
  • The priority area for co-operation had been in oil and gas security and, to that end, the IEA and India’s Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas (Mo&PNG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2011, the first time that the IEA signed one with a key partner country in the area of emergency preparedness.
Pussyfooting around
  • Interestingly, despite the cooperative nature of the relationship, India has been wary in committing itself to the IEA’s agenda.
  • The rationale then was that while interacting and cooperating with the IEA would allow India to maximise the strategic depth of its crude oil reserves as well as benefit from the IEA’s technical assistance in the energy sector, it would preclude it from taking on the obligations entailed by membership.
  • However, over time, and with the increasing move towards greater integration with the global energy market, the government has been interacting more frequently with the Agency, holding high level policy dialogues and workshops, joint research and analyses projects on energy sectors and markets, and exchanging technical know-how and information on future projections.
IEA’s perspective
  • The IEA’s rationale for inviting non-OECD countries to join it is evident, as the agency benefits from the growing association of emerging economies by gaining access to their data and by adding to the oil stockpiles in the event of supply disruptions, which is its raison d’etre.
  • Second, given the IEA’s growing role in combating climate change, it allows the promotion of clean energy technologies in some of the world’s largest carbon emitters.
Advantages for India
  • Current government’s goal of not only providing access to electricity for the people under its “24x7 Power For All” initiative but also in meeting its climate change targets undertaken under the Paris Climate change agreement may be a giant leap.
  • Moreover, it will provide India the geopolitical platform to take the lead in climate and energy issues.
  • It would also give India an opportunity to become the voice of the developing world. International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative in particular. For India, the ISA provides it with a platform to position itself as a leader on the world energy and environment stage.
  • However, given that the success of the initiative will depend largely on the number of countries coming on board, collaboration with other multilateral bodies, including the UN, IEA, IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) as well as corporates and industry, among others, is critical as these will assist in adapting the technologies needed by developing member countries to their specific conditions and economic realities.
  • Given that over 70 per cent of the world's energy consumption comes under the IEA umbrella, the association with the IEA will substantially increase India’s relevance in global energy governance. Finally, and more importantly, the IEA can encourage financial institutions to support India’s energy, particularly, its solar energy programme.
 
 
 Q. 242. What do you know of Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank?
Ans. Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank is a refinance institution for micro-finance institutions. As on date, MUDRA is conceived not only as a refinance institution and but also as a regulator for the micro finance institutions (MFIs).

The MUDRA Bank is primarily be responsible for –
1) Laying down policy guidelines for micro/small enterprise financing business
2) Registration, Regulation, Accreditation /rating of MFI entities
3) Laying down responsible financing practices to ward off indebtedness and ensure proper client protection principles and methods of recovery
4) Development of standardized set of covenants governing last mile lending to micro/small enterprises
5) Promoting right technology solutions for the last mile
6) Formulating and running a Credit Guarantee scheme for providing guarantees to the loans which are being extended to micro enterprises
7) Creating a good architecture of Last Mile Credit Delivery to micro businesses under the scheme of Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana.
 
Salient Features
  • MUDRA has a corpus of Rs. 20,000 crores made available from the shortfalls of Priority Sector Lending. In addition, there is a credit guarantee corpus of Rs. 3,000 crores for guaranteeing loans being provided to the micro enterprises.
  • MUDRA Bank will refinance Micro-Finance Institutions through a Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana.
  • MUDRA Bank operates through regional level financing institutions who in turn connect with last mile lenders such as Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), Small Banks, Primary Credit Cooperative Societies, Self Help Groups (SHGs), NBFC (other than MFI) and such other lending institutions.
  • In lending, MUDRA gives priority to enterprises set up by the under-privileged sections of the society particularly those from the scheduled caste / tribe (SC/ST) groups, first generation entrepreneurs and existing small businesses. There are estimated to be some 5.77 crore small business units in India 62% of these are owned by SC/ST/OBC.
  • MUDRA Bank will be operationalised as a subsidiary of Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).
 






Copyright © 2017. SRIRAM'S IAS. All Rights Reserved. Technology Partner TutorArc