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Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

Civil Services Exam Preparation

 Q. 181. Wetland Rules 2016
Ans.
India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which includes in its ambit a wide variety of habitats, such as marshes, swamps, lakes, coastal lagoons, mangroves, peat lands, coral reefs, and numerous man-made wetlands, such as ponds, salt pans, reservoirs, gravel pits, sewage farms, and canals. The Central Government is desirous of mainstreaming full range of wetland biodiversity and ecosystem service values in sectoral development planning and decision making based on integrated management approach. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 14 December 2016 notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016.These rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and seek to address the issues related to the conservation and development of wetlands in a comprehensive manner.
Highlights of Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016:
  1. The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of 'wise use' for maintaining their ecological integrity.
  2. Wise use of wetlands means preserving the ecological character of wetlands through the implementation of ecosystem approaches.
  3. However, the strategies adopted to preserve wetlands should be within the context of sustainable development.
  4. The rules prohibit any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland.
  5. Activities having or likely to have an adverse impact on the ecological character of the wetland are also prohibited.
  6. Wetland Authority will be set up by the State Governments or UTs to deal with wetland conservation, regulation and management. In a state, the authority will be headed by the respective Chief Minister.
 
 Q. 180. Space junk and ISRO
Ans. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sent 104 satellites into orbit and the wild applause was soon followed by growing mutterings about India’s space agency adding to space junk. However, it’s irrational to blame the agency.
If anything, carrying multiple payloads lowers orbital debris as each rocket used to send satellites to space also adds to the space junk.
ISRO is also ideally located for launches because its proximity to the Equator gives the rockets an extra velocity kick into space so they use less fuel to launch heavier payloads.
And unlike space tourism, satellites serve a practical purpose, providing data that support communication, navigation, scientific research, weather observation, military support, earth imaging, among others.
ISRO has developed the models and software for statistical analysis of risk due to space debris and close approach of debris to the functional satellites and to prevent in-orbit break-up by designing spacecraft to be not susceptible to on-orbit explosion.

Space junk
Since the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union in 1957, dozens of countries have launched satellites, with close to 3,000 working satellites still orbiting the Earth. These functional satellites are just a fraction of the than 500,000 pieces of dead satellites ranging from the size of a marble to much bigger machines that continue to orbit the Earth.
There are many millions of smaller pieces of dead spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris that are too tiny to be tracked.
The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris. Debris shields can withstand impacts of particles smaller than 1 cm.
Space junk travels at speeds up to 30,000 km an hour, which turns tiny pieces of orbital debris into deadly shrapnel that can damage satellites, space shuttles, space stations and spacecraft with humans aboard.
Kessler syndrome: it is a scenario in which the density of objects in space is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges unfeasible for many generations.

Tracking debris
A multi-object tracking radar (MOTR) developed by the Satish Dhawan Space Centre allows ISRO to track 10 objects simultaneously. It tracks India’s space assets and space debris, for which India was solely dependent on data provide by the US space agency NASA till early 2016.
ISRO is a part of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), an international governmental forum that coordinates global efforts to reduce man-made and natural space debris by sharing research and identifying debris mitigation options.
Global mitigation measures take many forms, including preventing the creation of new debris, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, and improving operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, and predicting and avoiding collisions.
 
 Q. 179. Guar Gum and Shale Gas
Ans. What is Guar Gum?
Guar Gum Powder is extracted from the Guar Seed after a multistage industrial process. The most important property of Guar Gum is its ability to hydrate rapidly in cold water to attain uniform and very high viscosity at relatively low concentrations. Guar Gum, either modified or unmodified is a very versatile and efficient natural polymer covering a number of applications in various industries like food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paper, textile, construction, oil & gas well drilling, mining etc, due to its cost effective emulsifying and thickening properties.

Functions: It is widely used in oil and gas well drilling due to its multi-function such as fluid and water loss control, lubrication and cooling of drill bits, shale inhibitor and solids carrier. It has excellent solution rheology, stability, solubility and compatibility with other auxiliaries used in oil well drilling.

Over the last three years, guar has slowly lost its lustre due to oversupply, reduced demand on account of oil price crash, and emergence of substitutes that further reduced its demand. Guar products enjoyed their dream run for two successive years, 2011-12 and 2012-13, becoming India’s largest agricultural export item, surpassing the famed basmati rice. India accounts for 80 per cent of the world’s production of guar. Rajasthan is the leading producer, contributing 70 per cent of India’s production. Over 80 per cent of India’s guar products are exported, mainly to the US, Germany and China. The top consuming industry is oil & gas, accounting for 60-65 per cent, followed by food (25-30 per cent) and the rest by pharma. The textile printing industry is the major consumer of guar domestically.

Guar gum started to play a key role in the extraction of shale oil and gas through the fracking process, post-2009. It helped the US to increase shale gas production to almost nine times from that in 2005. The shale revolution and speculation of drought in India, together with expectation of production shortfall, led to panic stocking by the US. As a result, the US became the top importer of guar, accounting for 73 per cent of global imports in 2012.

An unprecedented rise in prices, especially after 2009, saw Indian farmers preferring guar over competing kharif crops, such as cotton, moong, soyabean and bajra. As a result, India’s guar production has risen. New guar processing facilities were built in Rajasthan. Cultivation was extended to non-guar producing States. However, sharp rise in the prices of guar products prompted importing countries, such as China and Australia, to encourage indigenous guar cultivation and processing. Also, the food industry’s demand for guar gum was adversely impacted by extreme volatility and sharp rise in prices. Higher prices also prompted guar consuming industries to explore and shift to cheaper substitutes. All these developments substantially reduced the demand for gaur with implications for prices.

Crude oil price holds the key to demand for guar products. Crude oil prices seem to have bottomed out now. However, Iran seeking to capture its old market share may cause a further fall in crude prices. If that happens, it may pressurise guar.

Guar price shocks in the past have prompted international buyers to look for cheaper alternatives, such as tara gum, locust bean gum and xanthan gum, which are being used in the food industry. Synthetic polymers are used in the shale oil and gas industry. But nothing has come out as effective as guar. Nevertheless, guar substitutes will keep guar prices from shooting up unreasonably.
 
 Q. 178. Union Budget: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in India
Ans. The Union Budget has made a broad-brushed allocation of ₹2,675.42 crores to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), an apparent increase by 18.88% from last year. Even as the issues of forest management, resource conservation, pollution control and wildlife protection are manifest to be increasingly interconnected, they are treated in isolation with attention paid only at the macro-level. Often proactive measures for environment are disproportionately counter-balanced by lax regulation in other sectors such as energy and large industries.

Areas of concern
•     In light of the increasing challenges faced by environment in India, budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Environment under various heads is palpably inadequate.
•     There has been superficial renaming of ‘Clean Energy Cess’ levied on coal, lignite and peat as ‘Clean Environment Cess’ with an increase in the rate of levy to ₹400 per tonne.
•     Even as climate change and increasing pollution have been matters of great concern, a measly sum of ₹40 crores and ₹74.30 crore have been allocated to the Climate Change Action Plan and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), respectively. While the national capital reeled under the heavy effects of air pollution, triggering heated debates on spiralling pollution levels in prominent urban pockets, the funding received by the CPCB is visibly unremarkable.
•     Similarly, for environment and ecology, coastal management, environmental monitoring and governance, National Afforestation Management have received funds sketchily with no accompanying rationale for such allocations or a clear framework for their utilisation.
•     The treatment of wildlife conservation has been no different, with ambitious projects like Project Tiger having the budget slashed by ₹30 crore and Project Elephant receiving a marginal boost of ₹2.5 crore.
•     Budgetary flow for the schemes under the Ministry of Environment has been fluctuating in the past and can be best described as insubstantial.
•     In 2015, the total budget for the Ministry was reduced by 25% to ₹1,681.60 crore, only to be increased to ₹2,327 crores the following year.
•     Centrally sponsored schemes have also experienced similar ups and downs with Project Tiger witnessing a slash of 15% in 2015. This time as well, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been allotted an arbitrary sum of ₹8.15 crore.
•     But the persistent problem has also been of under-utilisation of existing funds, which would otherwise have been used for an effective overhaul of several environmental issues. A closer breakdown of the actual expenditure shows that out of the ₹850.02 crore dedicated to implementing the Centrally sponsored core schemes, the total outlay was only ₹566.38 crore. These Centrally sponsored schemes include Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats and Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems.

In the Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement, the envisaged outlook for the financial plan states that: the government will aggressively focus on the objectives of pushing economic growth… (and) has the prime responsibility of providing a safe and stable environment for the private sector to create wealth. A small step in this regard would be to acknowledge the role of the environment in budgetary allocations and ensure rational dedication of funds.
 
 Q. 177. Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016
Ans.
It  replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The legislation  was drafted on the basis of the recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. The law will make a larger number of people eligible for rights and entitlements by reason of their disability since it recognises more disablities as compared to the 1995 Act. Apart from this, the  new law also complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Salient features:
  1.  covers 19 conditions, instead of seven disabilities specified in the  1995 Act  — blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness, the 2014 Bill was expanded to cover 19 conditions– including cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism and thalassaemia among others. The amended version also recognises two other disabilities — resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease. Apart from listing these disabilities, the Act  has also laid down provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.
  2.  The Act also mentions that individuals with at least 40 per cent of a disability are entitled to benefits like reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes and others. While the 1995 law had 3 per cent reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government, the new law  raised the ceiling to 5 per cent, adding 1 per cent each for mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.
  3. Many  rights and entitlements — including disabled friendly access to all public buildings — are conferred on the disabled individuals. The amendments include private firms in the definition of ‘establishments’, which previously referred to only government bodies. All such establishments have to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and are not discriminated against in matters of employment.
  4. It  laid down provisions in matters of guardianship of mentally ill persons.: District courts may award two types of guardianship. While a limited guardian is to take joint decisions with the mentally ill person, the plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting them.
 
 Q. 176. The UK and 3 Parent babies
Ans.
Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. But genetic defects in the mitochondria mean the body has insufficient energy to keep the heart beating or the brain functioning. Cells can have hundreds of mitochondria which are passed on solely from mother to child. About one in 10,000 newborns are affected by mitochondrial disease. Many of these children die young, as the mutations cause the brain, heart, muscles and other energy-demanding tissues to fail.

The technique, developed in Newcastle (UK) combines the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman with DNA of the two parents.

Doctors in Newcastle are ready to offer the experimental treatment, called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), to women whose faulty DNA puts them at risk of passing on devastating genetic diseases to their children. MRT was developed to help women with mutations in the DNA of their mitochondria to have healthy babies. MRT aims to prevent mitochondrial diseases from being passed on by replacing the defective mitochondria in a mother’s egg with healthy mitochondria from a donor. The resulting baby would inherit the full set of 46 chromosomes from its mother and father – it is this DNA that defines their appearance and other characteristics – but have the healthy donor’s mitochondria. The donor has no legal rights over the child. UK's historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically-related child. The first British baby made with the DNA of three people could be born in 2017  after the UK’s fertility regulator gave the green light for clinics to seek licences for the procedure.
 
 Q. 175. What are the issues plaguing our Defence Sector?
Ans. Apart from the deterioration in relations with Pakistan, growing pomposity of China, a perceptible shift in Russia’s stance vis-a-vis India, and other developments in the region and beyond, there are at least three broad areas in which the pot only kept brewing during the past year.
The first of these is in the area of higher defence management in which the primary focus remained on issues like appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and integration of the Services Headquarters (SHQs) with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Appointment of the CDS is perceived by many as the panacea for all sorts of problems besetting the defence establishment in India. Contrary to the expectation of CDS becoming a reality in 2016, the sluggish pace at which this issue moved during the year only ended up reinforcing the perception that the government is either unable or unwilling, or at best lacks a sense of urgency, to take the step.
These perceptions prevented a dispassionate public discourse on how this step, if and when taken, will actually pan out. It is important to think it through because the experience of setting up of Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff shows that mere creation of an institution is no guarantee that the objectives for which it is set up will be achieved.
The second important area in which there was no turnaround is the area of civil-military relations (CMR). If anything, recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission have queered the pitch further. Implementation of the recommendations posed a major challenge which continues to dog the establishment as the year drew to a close.
The government’s decision on implementation of one-rank-one-pension might have quelled growing unrest in the ranks of the retired but it would be naive to believe that it has made a dent on the negative perceptions about the civilian bureaucracy.
Two recent developments have exacerbated the problem. The action taken against the former Chief of Air Staff (COAS) has drawn sharp reactions. The unprecedented arrest of a former chief is largely being seen as inexplicable, if not unwarranted.
The latest issue to stir the embers is the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff where the government deviated from the generally followed principle of seniority in appointment to the highest posts in the military establishment. This was met with much opprobrium, more so because it was evidently not taken into account while announcing the surprise move that any supersession in promotion, especially at the highest levels, is demeaning to those who get superseded.
The third area in which there were mixed developments is the area of force modernisation. The year started on a somewhat disappointing note because, contrary to expectations, there was not much of a hike in defence allocation in the Union budget.
Based on the recommendations of a committee of experts, set up belatedly by the government in 2015, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) came out with a revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), albeit in two instalments. The latest iteration does contain some interesting new provisions but it will take a couple of years, if not more, before the impact of the new provisions manifests itself.
Many issues related to the defence acquisitions and promotion of the domestic defence industry remained ‘under consideration’ of the ministry or various committees set up by it. These include restructuring of the defence procurement organisation and, more importantly, adoption of the strategic partnership model.
Lastly, the old bugbear of inordinate delays in concluding acquisition contracts continued to hold sway throughout the year, notwithstanding signing of a few big ticket contracts, mostly with US companies. Decision-making has been the bane of all defence acquisitions in the past. The developments in 2016 did little to dispel this impression.
Having crossed the half way mark of its five-year tenure, all this should be a matter of some concern to the government. With each passing year, the possibility of reforms in the management of defence keeps becoming more distant. Or, so it appears. It is now over to 2017.
 
 Q. 174. Micro-finance (MF)
Ans.
Micro-finance (MF) is a small-scale financial intermediation, inclusive of savings, credit, insurance, business services and technical support provided to the needy borrower.
Evolution of Micro-Finance
The formal existence of MF was found in 1972. A charity based model (interest free loans where repayment was based on peer pressure) of MF was evolved in Ireland. Bangladesh Grameen model is based on the principle of trust and creditworthiness of poor with both, obligatory and voluntary saving schemes.
MF has become a movement in India. Simultaneously it has become a unique tool of empowerment and capability enhancement in the following ways:
  • It has added millions of people to the banking system by developing the habit of thrift and saving.
  • It helps in poverty alleviation.
  • It encourages group and individual activities which provide livelihood on a regular basis.
  • Through MF, financial inclusion is possible with the common effort of Bank, NGO’s, Micro-Finance Institutions and other institutions.
  • It empowers women by making women not only economically, but socially and politically as well.
As of now micro finance institutions are regulated like a Non-Banking Financial Institution by RBI. Further, new institutions like payments bank, small finance bank, local area bank etc. have been launched. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) established in 1993 as a national level autonomous organization under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development extends micro-finance to the poorest and asset-less women entrepreneurs.

In the Union Budget 2015-16, government sponsored micro insurance and pension were launched for the disadvantaged sections of the society.
 
 Q. 173. Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) "Netra"
Ans.
The first indigenously built Airborne Surveillance System is a game changer in air warfare. The AEW&C System is a system of systems populated with state-of-the art Active Electronically Scanned Radar, Secondary Surveillance Radar, Electronic and Communication Counter Measures, LOS (Line of Sight) and beyond LOS data link, voice communication system and self-protection suite, built on an Emb-145 platform, having an air to air refuelling capability to enhance surveillance time. These airborne warning systems, capable of long range surveillance, are huge force multipliers. Netra is based on Embraer aircraft. A Complex tactical software has been developed for fusion of information from the sensors, to provide the air situation picture along with intelligence to handle identification/classification threat assessment. Battle management functions are built in house to work as a network centric system of Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS) node. 

This system has been developed and evaluated through collaborative efforts between DRDO and the IAF. The AEW&C system has undergone all weather and environmental trials and has been accepted by the IAF for induction. 
 
 Q. 172. What is Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana?
Ans. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by the Prime Minister Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. The initiative, in line with the dream of the Prime Minister of creating smoke-less villages across the country, has come as a moment of pride for the women in BPL- households for getting LPG connection as an identity of their own and to lead a smoke-free, less polluted, convenient and healthy life.
To carry the scheme forward and implement it on mass level, special Ujjwala Melas for distributing LPG connections to identified beneficiaries under PMUY have been organised at all the LPG distribution outlets.
  • The main mantra of this scheme is Swacch Indhan, Behtar Jeevan – Mahilaon ko mila samman.
  • On the national level, 5 crore LPG connections will be provided in the next 3 years to eligible BPL households.
  • The scheme provides a financial support of Rs. 1600 for each LPG connection to the eligible BPL households.
  • The connections under the scheme will be given in the name of women-head of the households.
  • The OMCs will provide EMI facility for meeting the cost of stove and the first refill.
  • The scheme is aimed at replacing the unclean cooking fuels used in the most underprivileged households with clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas).
  • Ensuring women’s empowerment, especially in rural India, the connections will be issued in the name of women of the BPL households.
  • The identification of eligible BPL families will be made on Social-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data that is being provided by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
  • The scheme is implemented using the money saved in LPG subsidy through the ‘Give-it-Up’ campaign.
  • This is for the first time that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has launched such an enormous scheme.
  • PMUY aims at empowering the women and protect their health by reducing the serious health hazards associated with the cooking based on fossil fuel. The other aims of this scheme are to reduce the number of deaths resulted by the use of unclean cooking fuel and preventing toddlers from acute respiratory illness caused due to indoor air pollution caused by the unclean cooking fuel.
Indian is home to more than 24 crore households out of which about 10 crores are still deprived of LPG as cooking fuel and have to rely on firewood, coal, dung – cakes etc. as primary source of cooking. 
 
 Q. 171. What can be the implications of Trump's Presidency for India?
Ans. India, like other major powers, will have to carefully monitor how the Obama legacy morphs into the Trump inheritance and the degree of continuity in past policies.
The assumption of office by US president-elect Donald Trump and his penchant for pursuing a disruptive agenda has aroused both interest and concern globally. Earlier there was a revisionist reference to the sanctity of the ‘one China’ policy much to Beijing’s ire. The Trump phase of US politics promises to be turbulent globally and bilaterally.
In the absence of a cogent policy document, one can outline broad and likely Trump policy indicators and their relevance for India. The levels at which the impact of the Trump presidency can be analysed are:
  • Geostrategic affairs
  • Trade relations
  • Immigration policy
  • Bilateral relationship
  • Indian Economy
  • Terrorism
  • The personal equation between leaders
Geostrategic affairs: Early reactions indicate that Pakistan and China are nervous about resetting their relationship with the US. That would imply good news for India because America under the Democrats had been very convenient for both. While Pakistan has successfully exploited its geostrategic positioning to blackmail the US into providing a perpetual line of credit, China has sucked dry US manufacturing jobs and runs a huge trade surplus.
Not surprisingly, both nations have issued nervous statements, warning Washington that any change in the terms of engagements will end up harming US interests. While China is concerned about increased American isolationism, Pakistan's nervousness stems from Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and his open admiration for India.
At the bilateral level, India will continue to be seen as a significant strategic partner of the US. The introduction of an India-specific law during the last lap of the Obama administration that enables greater defence cooperation will be nurtured.

Trade relations: Trump faces an incongruity of policies because the angry, forgotten men and women who propelled him to Oval Office demand a greater share of the economic spoils that globalisation promised but failed to deliver. A tiny few seemed to have gotten richer in a globalised world at the expense of a vast number of the discontented, and the inequality of wealth has caused an angry populace to install a protectionist leader at the helm. Trump vowed, just like Nigel Farage (the father of Brexit) did, that he would slap duties, taxes and tariffs but in a world which runs on interconnectivity, that would mean raising costs of the nuts and bolts of the engine that drives America.
The American economy depends on access to a global supply chain that produces parts used by innumerable industries, along with a great range of consumer goods. Mexico and China are central actors. Disruption threatens to increase costs for American households. Tariffs on China might provoke a trade war that could slow economic growth, while most likely just shifting factory work to Vietnam and India. If America raises the cost of trade with China, India stands to benefit in more ways than one.

Immigration policy: This has been the biggest area of concern for Indians. Given the fact that we are witnessing a global backlash against softer borders and easier immigration policies, one may be inclined to think that Trump's term might be bad for India's IT industry. But the reality isn't so simple. Trump has been contradictory, at certain times he has been praising the contribution made by skilled Indian workers and at other times needling US companies for hiring them in large numbers.
Trump is in favour of bringing skilled foreign workers into the US, as long as they come legally. He has also canvassed for increasing the H1B visa fees to pressurise US companies into hiring domestic workers.

Bilateral relationship: When it comes to government to government relationship, A Trump regime might be just what the doctor ordered for India, which is boxed in by an irritant in Pakistan and a formidable power in China. Indo-US areas of interest converge on a number of issues and Trump, for one, has not been hesitant in calling India America's "natural ally".
Indian wonks and political leaders should find it easier to deal with a businessman rather than a career politician like Clinton who carried a greater understanding of bilateral relations but also a huge baggage of past mutual suspicion. Trump, who still has large business interests in India, should be a refreshing change.
The sub-text of the US relationship with India since the nuclear rapprochement of late 2008 has been the strategic underpinning to the bilateral relationship and this is where the manner in which the Trump team defines its Asian policy will be critical for India.

Indian Economy: During the election process, Trump promised to lower taxes and increase military expenditure. It is assumed that to fulfil these promises, Trump will use government money that may lead to a debt burden and a falling dollar. And a recession in US, would obviously adversely affect investment and growth across the world, including India.

Terrorism: Then there’s the fact that Trump has openly expressed dislike for Pakistan. He’s really suspicious of the country. This distrust for Pakistan can work in India’s and the world’s favour. Whereas, the Obama policy was one of muted acceptance of a fait-acompli that Rawalpindi is both the problem (US troops being killed by US taxpayers’ money given as aid to the Pakistani military) and the solution–to ensure the safety of US troops stationed in Afghanistan and its periphery. While Trump has been antithetical to this view.

The personal equation between leaders: Trump has never hidden his admiration for Narendra Modi and has been effusive in his praise for Hindus and Indians. He has praised Modi's leadership, his effort to simplify the tax system through GST and on his part, Modi has carefully veered away from reacting to any of the controversies that dogged Trump during the election campaign. With a better personal equation between the two leaders, Indo-US relationship should remain on the path of a greater synergy.
The US, Russia, China and India are now grappling with the contradictory compulsions of 21st century globalization and the Trump advocacy of ‘make America great’ will be carefully studied. Is the US likely to retreat and adopt an isolationist economic and trade policy and is this a viable option? Will the US-Russia bilateral relationship become more accommodative of Moscow’s strategic anxiety? And what of climate change? Will this also be jettisoned?
The answers to these questions will point to the contours of opportunities and challenges of what the Trump presidency will mean for India. Uncertainty is in the air.
 
 Q. 170. Single vaccine for dual protection against measles and rubella as part of Universal Immunization Programme
Ans.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the country. The campaign against these two diseases will start from five States/UTs (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep).
  • It will be taken up in a mission mode approach and rolled out in partnership with States, NGOs and development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, Gates Foundation, Lions Club, IPA, IMA, etc.
  • All children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years will be given a single shot of Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination irrespective of their previous measles/rubella vaccination status or measles/rubella disease status.
  • MR vaccine will be provided free- of- cost across the states from session sites at schools as well as health facilities and outreach session sites.
  • Measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). However, rubella vaccine will be a new addition.
Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection. In India, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 49,200 children. 
Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern. CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and new-borns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general. 
In 2010, an estimated 1,03,000 children were born with CRS (congenital rubella syndrome) globally, of which around 47,000 children, i.e. 46% were in South-East Asia Region.
 
Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and with combination of rubella vaccine, will control rubella and prevent CRS in country population. Given the wide target group of the vaccination campaign, schools and educational institutions will play a critical role, and will require partnership from multiple stakeholders at all levels. 
 
 Q. 169. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)
Ans. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) is a fund created by the Government of India for enhancing infrastructure financing in the country. NIIF is registered with SEBI as Alternative Investment Fund (AIF).

Objective
The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects.

Functions of NIIF
The functions of NIIF are as follows:
  • Fund raising through suitable instruments including off-shore credit enhanced bonds, and attracting anchor investors to participate as partners in NIIF;
  • Servicing of the investors of NIIF.
  • Considering and approving candidate companies/institutions/ projects (including state entities) for investments and periodic monitoring of investments.
  • Investing in the corpus created by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) for investing in private equity.
  • Preparing a shelf of infrastructure projects and providing advisory services.

NIIF:
  • provides equity / quasi-equity support to those Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Financial Institutions (FIs) that are engaged mainly in infrastructure financing.
  • invests in funds engaged mainly in infrastructure sectors and managed by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) for equity / quasi-equity funding of listed / unlisted companies.
  • provides Equity/ quasi-equity support / debt to projects, to commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects.

Operational Aspects
  • NIIF is not a single entity. There can be more than one fund.
  • NIIF is eligible for a pass through status under the Income Tax Act. A 'pass-through' status means that the income generated by the fund would be taxed in the hands of the ultimate investor, and the fund itself would not have to pay tax on the same.
  • The initial authorized corpus of NIIF was Rs. 20,000 crores.

Governance
  • There is a Governing Council of the NIIF which has Government representatives and experts in international finance, eminent economists and infrastructure professionals. It includes representatives from other non-Government shareholders. The Governing Council oversees the activities of the Trust and is constituted as a separate legal entity.
  • NIIF has full autonomy for project selection.
 
 Q. 168. 'Smallholder farmers are on the front lines of climate change'
Ans. A large part of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers. But why they have remained economically disadvantaged? 
It is a tragic irony that smallholders grow much of the developing world’s food but often go hungry themselves. They have long been left out of the mainstream of economic growth, development, and government policies because governments did not give priority to agriculture as the engine of economic growth.
  • Smallholders need access to water and land, rural finance, markets and credit and information about prices.
  • They also need an enabling policy environment, a supportive infrastructure and incentives to make business competitive.
Lack of these are the main reasons for their marginalisation.
What methods/policies are best for uplifting smallholder farmers?
  • Improve smallholders´ access to improved seeds and other inputs, ownership of the land they farm, build their capacity to link with markets
  • Strengthen infrastructure of agriculture.
  • Provide them with the means and incentives to manage their land sustainably in the face of climate change, and create an enabling policy environment for all of these changes.
How many people worldwide have benefitted from these methods?
  • The number of beneficiaries from improvements in agriculture is in the millions worldwide. It includes not only smallholders and their communities, but also the urban populations that depend on them for their food.
  • Globally, the number of chronically undernourished people has declined to just under 800 million.
How important is the role of cooperatives in improving the economic status and scientific knowledge of smallholder farmers?
Producer organisations play an absolutely vital role in enabling rural people to seize new economic opportunities.
  • They allow numerous small producers to aggregate their product so that they can supply modern value chains, and give them power to advocate for themselves in dealing with other players in the food system.
  • They can be a conduit for access to knowledge through training, cultivation of leadership, and access to finance and inputs.
Climate change continues to threaten agriculture, with small famers being more vulnerable to it. What can be done in the future to climate-proof crop production at small scale?
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was a watershed moment in the fight against this threat.
  • Channelling climate finance to smallholders: so that they can access the information and technologies they need to build resilience.
Capacity building of farmer associations, women’s groups, and extension services to adopt and promote climate-smart technologies, such as biogas and drought- and flood-resistant crop varieties. Smallholder farmers are on the front lines of climate change but often lack the resources and resilience to cope, so building their capacity is absolutely important.
 
 Q. 167. What is the significance of Inter-State Council for Internal Security?
Ans.
Significance of Inter-State Council for Internal Security
The nation can only progress if the State and the Centre work shoulder to shoulder. With reference to internal security it is not possible to strengthen it if intelligence exchange is not improved. Chairing the 11th meeting of the Inter-State Council (ISC) on July 13, 2016 Prime Minister emphasized the significance of Inter-State Council for Internal Security.
Over the last few decades, the dividing line between internal and external security has blurred considerably, with the respective facets of the two aspects of security often enmeshed. ‘Law and Order’, which is a subject in the State list, can no longer be exclusively left to the States. Evolving and deepening nexus between crime and terrorism/insurgency bears testimony to the fact that ‘law and order’ issues have wider pan-Indian ramifications with obvious connections to external security, given India’s inimical neighbourhood. Also, insurgents often do not recognise state boundaries and have exploited to their advantage the lack of synergy amongst the States and between the States and the Centre. A case in point is the current version of Left Wing Extremism, which thrives in the central eastern tribal belt by exploiting the gaps along inter-state boundaries.
In this regard, the ISC is the best constitutional forum at the disposal of the Union Government. The ISC, a forum that facilitates cooperative federalism, is an ideal setting to deliberate on the interests of the people, address their problems and take collective and concrete decisions.
Considering the all-pervasive and grave threats to national security, it is important that the Centre takes the most urgent steps for finalising the National Security Policy (NSP) and the machinery for its administration, in consultation with the States, in a non-partisan way.
Terrorism and other federal offences cannot be dealt with by the existing security management apparatus. It is necessary that the Prime Minister undertakes urgent discussions with the Chief Ministers to resolve all doubts and issues raised by the States. The ISC, with the Prime Minister at its helm, could prove to be a game changer in this regard. In the same stead, it would be useful for the Central Government to consider inducting representatives of the States in the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and in the National Security Council (NSC). Similarly, a NCTC should also be established by going beyond party lines.
In the current circumstances, a seemingly ‘law and order’ issue has the potential to cascade into a serious national security threat. As a general practice, instead of progressively improving the capability of their police and security maintenance apparatus for effectively dealing with disturbances, the States have been perennially seeking assistance from the Centre. The Centre too has been adopting a mathematical ‘battalion approach’ by pumping in troops without associating itself with the root cause of the challenge. Countering such threats by the governments at all levels cannot be done in silos. Ownership shall have to be taken up by the Centre and States and regular ISC meetings could provide the necessary impetus for the executive to act, as warranted.
 
 Q. 166. Indo-UK made new Hawk combat aircraft looks to take on China
Ans.
India and the United Kingdom have jointly developed a combat ready aircraft that will be on offer to neighbouring countries, countering growing Chinese penetration of the defence market in the region.  The Advanced Hawk has been in the works for two years under a unique model with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and BAE pooling resources to develop a faster, more agile Hawk that can also carry smart weapons. 
About the Advanced hawk
  • The aircraft is currently being assembled in Bengaluru, has several new features including a new wing design by HAL that gives the plane more agility, extra power and the ability to carry a range of conventional and precision weapons for an operational role.
  • BAE, which manufactures the plane and has exported it across the world, believes that the Advanced Hawk will be in demand with several air forces that are acquiring advanced fighter jets. The company estimates that there is a requirement of over such 300 trainers worldwide that will be targeted with the new product. 
  • The aircraft is also being projected as a force multiplier for any air force due to its ability to carry a range of weapons and a laser designation pod.
  • The Advanced Hawk can carry a payload of 3,000 kg mounted across seven stations.
The Hawk has been a success story in India with 123 aircraft flying with the air force and Navy. HAL, which builds the aircraft under license has rolled out its 100th Hawk in February 2017.
 
 Q. 165. What is Gender Champion Scheme?
Ans.
The aim of the scheme is to make young boys and girls gender sensitive and create positive social norms that value the girls and their rights. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued Guidelines for engagement of Gender Champions by schools and colleges across the country. The broad mandate of Gender Champions is to provide an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the social and cultural constructs of gender that shape the experiences of women and men in society. Gender Champions are envisaged as responsible leaders who will facilitate an enabling environment within their schools/colleges/academic institutions where girls are treated with dignity and respect.
  • Gender Champions can be both boys and girls above 16 years of age enrolled in educational institutions.
  • They will strengthen the potential of young girls and boys to advocate for gender equality and monitor progress towards gender justice.
 The scheme also envisages Gender Champion Clubs in educational institutions. These clubs can organize focused group discussions, debates, poster competitions, thematic plays, workshops etc., identifying gaps in school/college’s activities vis-à-vis gender, and make recommendations on how to address these gaps. The Gender Champions Club can organize school’s annual function or college fest on the theme of gender equality and women's empowerment and encourage students to sign up and express their support for gender justice and equality. They can organize exposure visits to various public service institutions at the village, block, district and city level (public health centres, hospitals, post offices, banks, police stations, block office, SDM/DM office to facilitate knowledge about gender issues as they affect diverse populations.
On the basis of the quarterly progress reports, Gender Champions will be assessed according to his/her level of proficiency and accomplishment. These quarterly reports will be assessed at the end of his/her tenure to measure his/her performance. The Gender Champions will be awarded with a certificate of appreciation from the Head of the Institution for his/her committed efforts towards promoting gender equality. A competition has been announced for the design of badges for Gender Champions through Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao page on MyGov portal.
 
 Q. 164. Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin
Ans.
Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided for construction of pucca house to all houseless and households living in dilapidated houses.
Under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana — Gramin
  • The expenditure involved in implementing the project in a span of 3 years from 2016-17 to 2018-19 is Rs.81975 crores.
  • It is proposed that one crore households would be provided assistance for construction of pucca house under the project during the period from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
  • The scheme would be implemented in rural areas throughout India except Delhi and Chandigarh. The cost of houses would be shared between Centre and States.
  • Enhancing the unit assistance to Rs. 1,20,000 in plain areas and to Rs. 1,30,000 in hilly states/difficult areas /IAP districts.
  • Meeting the additional financial requirement of Rs 21,975 crore by borrowing through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to be amortised through budgetary allocations after 2022.
  • Using SECC-2011 data for identification of beneficiaries.
  • Setting up of National Technical Support Agency at national level to provide technical support in achieving the target set under the project.
 
Implementation strategy and targets: -
  • Identification of beneficiaries eligible for assistance and their prioritisation to be done using information from Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) ensuring total transparency and objectivity.
  • The list will be presented to Gram Sabha to identify beneficiaries who have been assisted before or who have become ineligible due to other reasons. The finalised list will be published.
  • The cost of unit assistance is to be shared between Central and State Governments in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and hilly states.
  • Funds will be transferred electronically directly to the account of the beneficiary.
  • Inspection and uploading of geo referenced photographs will be done though a mobile app. Beneficiary will also be able to track the progress of his payments through the app.
  • The beneficiary is entitled to 90 days of unskilled labour from MGNREGA. 
  • To meet the additional requirement of building materials, manufacture of bricks using cement stabilised earth or fly ash will be taken up under MGNREGA.
  • The beneficiary would be facilitated to avail loan of up to Rs. 70,000/- for construction of the house which is optional.
  • The unit size is to be enhanced from the existing 20 sq.m to up to 25 sq.m including a dedicated area for hygienic cooking.
A house is an economic asset and contributes to upward social mobility with salutary impact on health and educational achievement. The tangible and intangible benefits flowing from a permanent house are numerous and invaluable to both the family and the local economy. 

The impacts occur in two phases: during construction and during occupancy. The positive spinoffs include social integration including enhanced social capital and sustainable communities. Security and comfort of a home provides the launch pad for feeling of enhanced social security, positive self-perception and a powerful fillip to overcoming the difficulties of poverty. 

The intangible benefits from improvement in housing condition are gains in labour productivity and positive health benefits. It positively influences human development parameters of nutrition, sanitation, maternal and child health. Overall improvement in quality of life occurs along with improvements in the physical environment.
 
 Q. 163. Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute
Ans. Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.

What is the row about?
  • At the heart of the dispute are eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea.
  • They have a total area of about 7 sq. km and lie north-east of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and south-west of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa.
  • The islands are controlled by Japan.
They matter because:
  • They are close to important shipping lanes.
  • They offer rich fishing grounds.
  • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
  • They are also in a strategically significant position, amid rising competition between the US and China for military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
What is Japan's claim?
Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years in the 19th Century and determined that they were uninhabited. In 1895 Japan erected a sovereignty marker and formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory.
After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. These islands, however, came under US trusteeship and were returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal.
Japan says China raised no objections to the San Francisco deal. And it says that it is only since the 1970s, when the issue of oil resources in the area emerged, that Chinese and Taiwanese authorities began pressing their claims.
 
What is China's claim?
China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan.
Separately, Taiwan also claims the islands.

Why is the row so prominent now?
The dispute has rumbled relatively quietly for decades. But in 2012, a fresh row ensued after outspoken right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he would use public money to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner. The Japanese government then reached a deal to buy three of the islands from the owner.
This angered China, triggering public and diplomatic protests. Since then, Chinese government ships have regularly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands.
In November 2013, China also announced the creation of a new air-defence identification zone, which would require any aircraft in the zone - which covers the islands - to comply with rules laid down by Beijing.
Japan labelled the move a "unilateral escalation" and said it would ignore it, as did the US.

What is the role of the US?
The US and Japan forged a security alliance in the wake of World War II and formalised it in 1960. Under the deal, the US is given military bases in Japan in return for its promise to defend Japan in the event of an attack.
This means if conflict were to erupt between China and Japan, Japan would expect US military back-up. US President Barack Obama has confirmed that the security pact applies to the islands - but has also warned that escalation of the current row would harm all sides.

What next?
The Senkaku/Diaoyu issue highlights the more robust attitude China has been taking to its territorial claims in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It poses worrying questions about regional security as China's military modernises amid the US "pivot" to Asia. In both China and Japan, meanwhile, the dispute ignites nationalist passions on both sides, putting pressure on politicians to appear tough and ultimately making any possible resolution even harder to find.
 
 Q. 162. Discuss the significance of Draft National Policy for Women. What are its priority areas? Also discuss the operational strategies involved in implementing the goals of the policy.
Ans.
Policy is being revised after 15 years and is expected to guide Government action on Women’s issues over the next 15-20 years. Several things have changed since the last Policy of 2001 especially women's attitude towards themselves and their expectations from life. The new draft Policy shifts the focus from entitlements to rights and from empowerment to creating an enabling environment.
Priority Areas
  • Health including food security and nutrition: Focus on recognizing women’s reproductive rights, shift of family planning focus also to males, addressing health issues in a life cycle continuum such as psychological and general well-being, health care challenges related to nutrition/ hygiene of adolescents, geriatric health care, expansion of health insurance schemes and addressing the intergenerational cycle of under-nutrition
  • Education: Improve access to pre-primary education, enrolment and retention of adolescent girls, implement innovative transportation models for better schooling outcomes, advocate gender champions and address disparities with regard to ICTs.
  • Economy: Raising visibility, engendering macro-economic policies and trade agreements, generate gender-disaggregated land ownership database, skill development and training for women, entrepreneurial development, review of labour laws and policies, equal employment opportunities with appropriate benefits related to maternity and child care services, address technological needs of women.
  • Governance and Decision Making: Increasing women’s participation in the political arena, administration, civil services and corporate boardrooms,
  • Violence Against Women:  Address all forms of violence against women through a life cycle approach, Legislations affecting /relating to women will be reviewed/harmonized to enhance effectiveness, Improve Child Sex Ratio (CSR), strict implementation of advisories, guidelines, Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) and protocols, prevention of trafficking at source, transit and destination areas for effective monitoring of the networks.
  • Enabling Environment: Gender perspective in housing and infrastructure, ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation, gender parity in the mass media & sports, concerted efforts towards strengthening social security and support services for all women especially the vulnerable, marginalized, migrant and single women.
  • Environment and Climate Change:  addressing gender concerns during distress migration and displacement in times of natural calamities due to climate change and environmental degradation. Promotion of environmental friendly, renewable, non–conventional energy, green energy sources for women in rural households.
 The policy also describes emerging issues such as making cyber spaces safe place for women, redistribution of gender roles, for reducing unpaid care work, review of   personal and customary laws in accordance with the Constitutional provisions, Review of criminalization of marital rape within the framework women’s human rights etc. relevant in the developmental paradigms.
Operational strategies laid down in the policy provide a framework for implementation of legislations and strengthening of existing institutional mechanisms through action plan, effective gender institutional architecture. Advocacy and Stakeholder Partnerships, Inter-Sectoral Convergence, Gender Budgeting and generation of gender disaggregated data have also been given due focus. 
Operational strategies
  • Enabling safety and security of women – with initiatives such as One Stop Centres, Women Helpline, Mahila Police Volunteers, Reservation of women in police force, creating immediate response mechanism through panic buttons in mobiles, public and private transport, surveillance mechanisms in public places.
  • Creating eco-systems to encourage entrepreneurship amongst women – through platforms like Mahila E-Haat, dedicated theme based exhibitions, focussed skill training, mentoring through Women Entrepreneurship Council, availability of easy & affordable credit and financial inclusion.
  • Training and capacity building of all stakeholders including youth through Gender Champion initiative, frontline workers, women sarpanches and all officials dealing with policy and delivery systems impacting women.
  • Facilitating women in workplace – through gender friendly work place, flexi timings, increased maternity leave, provision of child care / crèches at workplace, life cycle health care facilities.
Nearly a decade and half has passed since the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, 2001 was formulated. Since then significant strides in global technology and information systems have placed the Indian economy on a trajectory of higher growth impacting the general populace and women in particular in unique and different ways. The discourse on women’s empowerment has been gradually evolving over the last few decades, wherein paradigm shifts have occurred –from seeing women as mere recipients of welfare benefits to mainstreaming gender concerns and engaging them in the development process of the country. These changes have brought forth fresh opportunities and possibilities for women’s empowerment while at the same time presenting new and emerging challenges which along with persisting socio-economic problems continue to hinder gender equality and holistic empowerment of women. The policy aims to create sustainable socio-economic, political empowerment of women to claim their rights and entitlements, control over resources and formulation of strategic choices in realization of the principles of gender equality and justice.
 






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