16th March, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s trade deficit narrowed to $12 billion in February, it’s lowest in five months, amid concerns that a global trade war could hit its exports because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to hike import taxes on steel and aluminum. India’s merchandise exports are expected to touch $300 billion in the current fiscal year ending this month compared with $275.8 billion, mainly driven by a rise in commodity prices and strong demand in the U.S. and Europe.
What is trade deficit?
A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceeds its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets. It is also referred to as a negative balance of trade (BOT).
‘India and WTO’
(GS2: Important international institutions)
Issue: The United States has challenged India’s export subsidy programmes at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Unlike the many trade disputes between India and America that are sector specific or product specific the new move— is broad and sweeping, in targeting the whole range of Indian export subsidy programmes.
A statement from the USTR listed the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme; Export Oriented Units Scheme and sector specific schemes, including Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme; Special Economic Zones; Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme, and a duty free imports for exporters programme as distorting trade in a way that allows Indian exporters “to sell their goods more cheaply to the detriment of American workers and manufacturers.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. The WTO’s current Director-General is Roberto Azevêdo, who leads a staff of over 600 people in Geneva, Switzerland
The WTO has many roles: it operates a global system of trade rules, it acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements, it settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries. A number of simple, fundamental principles form the foundation of the multilateral trading system. The decision in WTO is taken by consensus rather than voting pattern
The primary purpose of the WTO is to open trade for the benefit of all.
The WTO’s top decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference. Below this are the General Council and various other councils and committees. Ministerial conferences usually take place every two years. The General Council is the top day-to-day decision-making body. It meets a number of times a year in Geneva.
WTO dispute settlement process:
There are two main ways to settle a dispute once a complaint has been filed in the WTO: (i) the parties find a mutually agreed solution, particularly during the phase of bilateral consultations; and (ii) through adjudication, including the subsequent implementation of the panel and Appellate Body reports, which are binding upon the parties once adopted by the DSB (Dispute Settlement Body). There are three main stages to the WTO dispute settlement process: (i) consultations between the parties; (ii) adjudication by panels and, if applicable, by the Appellate Body; and (iii) the implementation of the ruling, which includes the possibility of countermeasures in the event of failure by the losing party to implement the ruling.
Rules and agreements of WTO
The WTO’s rules — the agreements — are the result of negotiations between the members. The current set were the outcome of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round negotiations which included a major revision of the original General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
GATT is now the WTO’s principal rule-book for trade in goods. The Uruguay Round also created new rules for dealing with trade in services, relevant aspects of intellectual property, dispute settlement, and trade policy reviews. The complete set runs to some 30,000 pages consisting of about 30 agreements and separate commitments (called schedules) made by individual members in specific areas such as lower customs duty rates and services market-opening.
Through these agreements, WTO members operate a non-discriminatory trading system that spells out their rights and their obligations. Each country receives guarantees that its exports will be treated fairly and consistently in other countries’ markets. Each promises to do the same for imports into its own market. The system also gives developing countries some flexibility in implementing their commitments.
It all began with trade in goods. From 1947 to 1994, GATT was the forum for negotiating lower customs duty rates and other trade barriers; the text of the General Agreement spelt out important rules, particularly non-discrimination.
Since 1995, the updated GATT has become the WTO’s umbrella agreement for trade in goods. It has annexes dealing with specific sectors such as agriculture and textiles, and with specific issues such as state trading, product standards, subsidies and actions taken against dumping.
Banks, insurance firms, telecommunications companies, tour operators, hotel chains and transport companies looking to do business abroad can now enjoy the same principles of freer and fairer trade that originally only applied to trade in goods.
These principles appear in the new General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). WTO members have also made individual commitments under GATS stating which of their services sectors they are willing to open to foreign competition, and how open those markets are.
The WTO’s intellectual property agreement amounts to rules for trade and investment in ideas and creativity. The rules state how copyrights, patents, trademarks, geographical names used to identify products, industrial designs, integrated circuit layout-designs and undisclosed information such as trade secrets — “intellectual property” — should be protected when trade is involved.
The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly. Countries bring disputes to the WTO if they think their rights under the agreements are being infringed. Judgments by specially-appointed independent experts are based on interpretations of the agreements and individual countries’ commitments.
The system encourages countries to settle their differences through consultation. Failing that, they can follow a carefully mapped out, stage-by-stage procedure that includes the possibility of a ruling by a panel of experts, and the chance to appeal the ruling on legal grounds. Confidence in the system is borne out by the number of cases brought to the WTO — around 300 cases in eight years compared to the 300 disputes dealt with during the entire life of GATT (1947–94).
The Trade Policy Review Mechanism’s purpose is to improve transparency, to create a greater understanding of the policies that countries are adopting, and to assess their impact. Many members also see the reviews as constructive feedback on their policies.
All WTO members must undergo periodic scrutiny, each review containing reports by the country concerned and the WTO Secretariat.
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Escherichia coli, a pathogen seen in over 90% of Egyptian vultures that migrate to northwest India to spend the winter, tend to show significant difference in resistance to antibiotics within a single season, a study has found.
The vultures that use human-dominated landscapes as part of their life cycle were likely to act as “reservoirs and melting pots of bacterial resistance
Significance of this study
The findings of the study, published in the journal Infection Ecology and Epidemiology, are significant because migrating wild birds can spread drug-resistant pathogens and cause disease.
About Egyptian vultures
The Egyptian vulture is a small Old World vulture and the only member of the genus Neophron. It is widely distributed; the Egyptian vulture is found from southwestern Europe and northern Africa to India. The contrasting underwing pattern and wedge-shaped tail make it distinctive in flight as it soars in thermals during the warmer parts of the day. Egyptian vultures feed mainly on carrion but are opportunistic and will prey on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They also feed on the eggs of other birds, breaking larger ones by tossing a large pebble onto them. The use of tools is rare in birds and apart from the use of a pebble as a hammer, Egyptian vultures also use twigs to roll up wool for use in their nest. Egyptian vultures that breed in the temperate regions migrate south in winter while tropical populations are relatively sedentary. Populations of this species have declined in the 20th century and some island populations are endangered by hunting, accidental poisoning, and collision with power lines.
(GS2: Issues related to health)
Issue: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently announced the launch of program ‘LaQshya’, aimed at improving quality of care in labour room and maternity Operation Theatre (OT)
About the programme:
The Program will improve quality of care for pregnant women in labour room, maternity Operation Theatre and Obstetrics Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and High Dependency Units (HDUs). The LaQshya program is being implemented at all Medical College Hospitals, District Hospitals and First Referral Unit (FRU), and Community Health Center (CHCs) and will benefit every pregnant woman and new-born delivering in public health institutions.
‘LaQshya’ will reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality, improve quality of care during delivery and immediate post-partum period and enhance satisfaction of beneficiaries and provide Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to all pregnant women attending public health facilities.
The Program aims at implementing ‘fast-track’ interventions for achieving tangible results within 18 months. Under the initiative, a multi-pronged strategy has been adopted such as improving infrastructure up-gradation, ensuring availability of essential equipment, providing adequate human resources, capacity building of health care workers and improving quality processes in the labour room.
To strengthen critical care in Obstetrics, dedicated Obstetric ICUs at Medical College Hospital level and Obstetric HDUs at District Hospital are operationalized under LaQshya program.
The Quality Improvement in labour room and maternity OT will be assessed through NQAS (National Quality Assurance Standards). Every facility achieving 70% score on NQAS will be certified as LaQshya certified facility. Furthermore, branding of LaQshya certified facilities will be done as per the NQAS score. Facilities scoring more than 90%, 80% and 70% will be given Platinum, Gold and Silver badge accordingly. Facilities achieving NQAS certification, defined quality indicators and 80% satisfied beneficiaries will be provided incentive of Rs 6 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for Medical College Hospital, District Hospital and FRUs respectively.
‘Achievements of SARVA SHIKSHA ABHIYAAN and SAAKSHAR BHARAT’
(GS2: Issues related to human health)
Issue: In order to improve literacy rate, Saakshar Bharat, a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Adult Education and Skill Development is being implemented in rural areas of 410 districts in 26 States and one UT that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent and below as per Census 2001, and including left wing extremism affected districts, irrespective of their literacy rates, with special focus on women and other disadvantaged groups.
About SARVA SHIKSHA ABHIYAAN
SSA has been operational since 2000-2001 to provide for a variety of interventions for universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in elementary education and improving the quality of learning. SSA interventions include inter alia, opening of new schools and alternate schooling facilities, construction of schools and additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, provisioning for teachers, regular teacher in service training and academic resource support, free textbooks& uniforms and support for improving learning achievement levels / outcome. With the passage of the RTE Act, changes have been incorporated into the SSA approach, strategies and norms. The changes encompass the vision and approach to elementary education, guided by the following principles :
- Holistic view of education, as interpreted in the National Curriculum Framework 2005, with implications for a systemic revamp of the entire content and process of education with significant implications for curriculum, teacher education, educational planning and management.
- Equity, to mean not only equal opportunity, but also creation of conditions in which the disadvantaged sections of the society – children of SC, ST, Muslim minority, landless agricultural workers and children with special needs, etc. – can avail of the opportunity.
- Access, not to be confined to ensuring that a school becomes accessible to all children within specified distance but implies an understanding of the educational needs and predicament of the traditionally excluded categories – the SC, ST and others sections of the most disadvantaged groups, the Muslim minority, girls in general, and children with special needs.
- Gender concern, implying not only an effort to enable girls to keep pace with boys but to view education in the perspective spelt out in the National Policy on Education 1986 /92; i.e. a decisive intervention to bring about a basic change in the status of women.
- Centrality of teacher, to motivate them to innovate and create a culture in the classroom, and beyond the classroom, that might produce an inclusive environment for children, especially for girls from oppressed and marginalised backgrounds.
- Moral compulsion is imposed through the RTE Act on parents, teachers, educational administrators and other stakeholders, rather than shifting emphasis on punitive processes.
- Convergent and integrated system of educational management is pre-requisite for implementation of the RTE law. All states must move in that direction as speedily as feasible.
About SAKSHAR BHARAT
Saakshar Bharat Programme goes beyond ‘3’ R’s (i.e. Reading, Writing & Arithmetic) ; for it also seeks to create awareness of social disparities and a person’s deprivation on the means for its amelioration and general well being. This programme was formulated in 2009 with the objective of achieving 80% literacy level at national level, by focusing on adult women literacy seeking – to reduce the gap between male and female literacy to not more than 10 percentage points .it has four broader objectives, namely imparting functional literacy and numeracy to non-literates; acquiring equivalency to formal educational system; imparting relevant skill development programme; and promote a leaning society by providing opportunities for continuing education. The principal target of the programme is to impart functional literacy to 70 million non-literate adults in the age group of 15 years and beyond. This Includes coverage of 14 million Scheduled Castes(SCs), 8 million Scheduled Tribes(STs), 12 million minorities & 36 million others. The overall coverage of women is aimed at 60 million. 410 districts belonging to 27 States/UTs of the country were identified to be covered under Saakshar Bharat.
Eligibility criteria for coverage under Saakshar Bharat. – A district, including a new district carved out of an erstwhile district that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent or below, as per 2001 census, were considered eligible for coverage under the Saakshar Bharat programme. In addition, all left wing extremism-affected districts, irrespective of their literacy rate, were also eligible for coverage under the programme. There were 365 districts in the country that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent or below. Home Ministry had declared 35 districts as left wing extremism affected districts. However, 30 left wing extremism affected districts also had adult female literacy of 50 per cent or below. Initially 370 having the adult female literacy of 50% or below as per 2001 census that qualified for coverage under the programme. Since 2001, several eligible districts have been bifurcated or trifurcated. This has raised the total number of eligible districts including 35 which are left wing extremism affected districts. Programme provides for coverage of only rural areas in the eligible districts
Both Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and Sakshar Bharat are implemented by Ministry of Human Resources Development
‘Solar Energy Development in India’
(GS3: Infrastructure related to Energy)
The Government of India has undertaken a number of policy measures for increasing share of renewable energy in India’s energy mix. These, inter-alia, include:
- a) Provision of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) under the National Tariff Policy;
- b) Notification of the long term growth trajectory of RPO for solar and non-solar energy for next 3 years from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19;
- c) Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects;
- d) Development of power transmission network through Green Energy Corridor project;
- e) Making roof top solar as a part of housing loan provided by banks;
- f) Waiver of Inter-State Transmission Charges and losses;
- g) Repowering of Wind Power Projects for optimal utilization of wind resources;
- h) Offshore wind energy policy for development of offshore wind energy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone;
- i) Supporting research and development on various aspects of renewable energy including with industry participation;
- j) Financial incentives for off-grid and decentralized renewable energy systems and devices for meeting energy needs for cooking, lighting and productive purposes; and
- k) Permitting 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment in sector through automatic route.
The Government of India has set up a target of installing 175 GW capacity through renewables by 2022. As on 28.02.2018, a total capacity of 65 GW had been installed in the country.
(GS3: Infrastructure related to Energy)
The Government of India is in the process of formulating a Scheme ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM)’ which, inter alia, provides for:
(i) installation of grid-connected solar power plants each of capacity up to 2 MW in the rural areas;
(ii) installation of standalone off-grid solar water pumps to fulfill irrigation needs of farmers not connected to grid;
(iii) solarization of existing grid-connected agriculture pumps to make farmers independent of grid supply and also enable them to sell surplus solar power generated to DISCOM and get extra income; and
(iv) solarization of tube-wells and lift irrigation projects of Government sector.
This new programme will be implemented by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
‘ATAL BHUJAL YOJANA’
(GS2: Government policies and interventions in various sectors)
Issue: The Government has proposed Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) aimed at sustainable ground water management with community participation in select over-exploited and ground water stressed areas in seven States (Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh). ABHY is designed as a Central Sector Scheme with a total outlay of Rs. 6,000 Crore and is proposed to be implemented with World Bank assistance.
Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating ground water development in 23 States/UTs. For enforcement of the regulatory measures in these areas, concerned Deputy Commissioners/ District Magistrates have been directed under Section 5 of ‘The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986’ to take necessary action in case of violations of directives of CGWA.
This scheme is implemented by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
‘Inter-linking of rivers’
(GS2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
Issue: Ken-Betwa (K-B) link project was declared as a National Project by Government of India in February, 2008, as per the then existing norms for consideration of any project as National Project. No other Inter-linking of Rivers (ILR) project has so far been declared as National project. MoWR, RD & GR has constituted a Group on Financial Aspects under Task Force for ILR projects to consider the financial aspects of ILR projects and to suggest the funding pattern for implementing the same. One of the terms of reference of this group is “to study the options of declaring some of the inter basin water transfer links of NPP as National Project on the pattern of K-B link”.
Based on the concurrence of the concerned States, Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of Ken-Betwa link project Phase-I & Phase-II, Damanganga-Pinjal link and Par-Tapi-Narmada link have been completed.
The ILR programme has been taken up on high priority. The Government is aware about the several issues involved in the ILR programme and therefore, pursuing the ILR program in a consultative manner.
‘SWADHAR GREH Yojana’
(GS2: Issues relating to human resources)
Issue: The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing the Swadhar Greh Scheme which targets the women victims of difficult circumstances who are in need of institutional support for rehabilitation so that they could lead their life with dignity. The Scheme envisages providing shelter, food, clothing and health as well as economic and social security for these women. The Ministry is also managing “Child Protection Services” wherein it provides financial assistance to the States/UTs for setting up and maintenance of various types of Child Care Institutions (CCIs).