9th May, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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Rise in Oil Prices
(GS-2 international relations)
What is the issue?
1. Crude oil prices have risen to their highest level since late-2014.
2. In this backdrop, changes to the domestic fuel pricing regime have raised some concerns.
1. Brent crude oil is the international benchmark price for oil.
2. It was priced around $27 a barrel as late as January 2015.
3. It has recently breached $75 per barrel.
4. The price rise is driven by a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela.
5. It is also a result of the fear of US’s consideration on reimposing sanctions against Iran.
Why is it a concern for India?
1. The price of the Indian basket of imported crude oil, too, has risen sharply.
2. Worryingly, India primarily meets its energy needs through imports.
3. Oil imports rose by over 25% in 2017-18 to $109 billion from a year ago.
4. Elevated oil prices could affect India’s trade deficit.
5. Consequently, the current account deficit could also increase.
Domestic fuel pricing regime
1. The Centre introduced the dynamic fuel pricing mechanism in June last year (2017).
2. This allowed oil marketing companies (OMCs) to revise fuel prices daily.
3. State-owned fuel retailers were revising the prices in tune with changes in international prices.
4. Notably, the price of Brent crude oil has increased by more than 50% since June last year.
5. It has risen to the highest level since late-2014.
6. Responding to this, the government has recently asked public sector oil companies to pause their daily retail price revision.
7. The oil companies have thus kept petrol and diesel prices unchanged for nearly two weeks.
8. This is despite the rise in average price of the Indian basket of crude oil.
1. Oil companies – It has exerted pressure on the marketing margins of public sector oil companies.
2. The average marketing margin has considerably gone down by about 45%.
3. This would impact the oil companies as they may face a capital crunch.
4. India’s oil exploration and refinery upgradation efforts could slow down.
5. The performance of OMC stocks in the last few weeks also suggests that the markets are not convinced.
6. Policy – The government has discretionarily stopped a market-linked pricing regime.
7. Regardless of the reason, such an intervention undermines the credibility of its own policy decision.
8. Worryingly, the decisions are largely influenced by political considerations such as elections.
9. The policy of transferring the burden to the OMCs by offloading the burden on consumers is unsustainable in the long run.
10. The government should opt to ease the burden of fuel taxes.
11. A possible option is to bring domestic fuels under the purview of the goods and services tax.
12. For now, the government could bring down prices by reducing excise duties on oil.
The problem of lack of rural electricity demand
1. The government has announced the electrification of all inhabited census villages
2. However, nearly one-fifth of India’s rural households (around 31 million) still remain in acute darkness
1. The government is committed to reaching these households through the Saubhagya scheme by 31 December 2018—a deadline that has been moved up from 31 March 2019
2. The project’s ambition is praiseworthy
Power For All: Electricity Access Challenge In India
A World Bank study
1. According to the study, “even where electricity service has been locally available, many village households choose not to adopt a connection”
2. For instance, states like Tripura and Sikkim, despite almost universal access, have among the lowest consumption rates
3. Examining this gap between electricity access and household-level adoption allows for a better understanding of supply-demand problems
4. Only six states had, on average, 24-hour power supply in rural areas as of December 2017
5. This lack of reliability often discourages households from adopting electricity, which disincentivises discoms, thus undermining investment in rural electrification
Challenges faced by Discoms
1. Discoms face multiple challenges, ranging from revenue losses due to high costs of power procurement to power theft
and irregularity and delay in disbursement of state subsidies assured to domestic and agriculture consumers
2. The lack of political will across governments to rationalize tariffs and slash these subsidies is a long-running problem
3. The current government attempt to address discoms’ financial stress via the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (Uday) is the latest in a long line of government bailouts. It hasn’t been any more successful than previous attempts
4. The scheme was rolled out in 2015
New norms for labeling food planned
1.All packaged food with at least 5% content from genetically engineered sources need to be labeled so.
2.Moreover, foods that exceed norms of sugar and fat will need to carry ‘red’ and ‘green’ labels specifying the extent to which they do so, according to draft regulations from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
3.Current laws prohibit any GM food – unless cleared by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a Union Environment Ministry body – from being sold in India.
4.Through a 2007 notification, the Environment Ministry had exempted processed foods from this requirement. This has been stayed by the courts.
5.The draft also defines safe levels of fat, sugar and salt in processed food.
1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was established under food safety and standards act, 2006 under the ministry of health and family welfare.
2. FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
3. The FSSAI is headed by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government, either holding or has held the position of not below the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
4. The FSSAI has its headquarters at New Delhi. The authority also has 6 regional offices located in Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, and Chennai.
(GS-1, Art & culture, prelims)
1. It is Andhra Pradesh’s shadow theatre which has a rich and strong tradition.
2. The puppets are large in size and have jointed waist, shoulders, elbows and knees.
3. They are colored on both sides and throw colored shadows on the screen.
4. The music is dominantly influenced by the classical music of the region.
5. The theme of the puppet plays are drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.
6. The skin of wild animals including the antelope and the spotted deer was used to make puppet.
7. Now the skin of Goats is used to make the puppets, as the hunting of deer is banned.
(GS-2 International relations, prelims)
Asian Development Bank is preparing Strategy 2030.
1.Its new long-term strategy, to respond to the changes brought about by a rapidly evolving Asia and the Pacific.
2. The new strategy builds on the 2014 midterm review of its current strategy—Strategy 2020.
3. It outlines a vision and key directions for ADB’s engagement with developing member countries until 2030.
4. It aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and other global commitments.
5. It identifies institutional reforms necessary to sharpen ADB’s efficiency and effectiveness.
6. Under Strategy 2030, ADB will sustain its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, given the region’s unfinished poverty agenda, and expand its vision to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.
1. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966, which is headquartered in Metro Manila, Philippines.
2. The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and non-regional developed countries.
3. From 31 members at its establishment, ADB now has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
4. The ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions.
5. The highest policy-making body of the bank is the Board of Governors, composed of one representative from each member state. The Board of Governors also elects the bank’s president.
UN report for social inclusion
(GS-3 economy, inclusive growth)
UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Report, 2018
1. A UN report on the Asia-Pacific region has urged the regional powers to invest in inclusive and sustainable growth
2. The UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) 2018, the annual report from the UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) for Asia and the Pacific have urged countries to take advantage of high growth rate and share the benefits with the national society
3. Governments of countries in the Asia-Pacific region are advised to take advantage of the currently favorable economic conditions in order to address vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience, inclusiveness, and sustainability of their economies stated the report highlighting the urgency facing the economies of the region
4. The report was launched at the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER)
5. The report described South and Southwest Asia as the fastest growing sub-region of the Asia-Pacific region and urged the countries to increase social spending.
1. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.
2. It is established in 1947 with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.
3. Parent Organization: UN ECOSOC
4. ESCAP works to overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by providing results-oriented projects, technical assistance, and capacity building to member States in the following areas:
5. Macroeconomic Policy and Development including the publishing of Asia-Pacific Development Journal (APDJ) twice a year
6. Trade and Investment
8. Social Development
9. Environment and Sustainable Development
10. Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Statistics
Edition Of UNPCAP Inaugurated In New Delhi
(GS-2 International relations, prelims)
The third edition of the United Nations Peacekeeping Course for African Partners (UNPCAP)
1. It was recently inaugurated in New Delhi
2. The UNPCAP sessions will be held from May 7-25
Aim of the UNPCAP
1. The course is aimed to build and enhance the capacity of the African Troop Contributing Countries to the UN and to further train the trainers from these countries
2. The training incorporates topics on operational and logistical matters, humanitarian issues, thematic topics and table top exercises, and mission briefs
The course revolves around the concept of training the trainers(as stated by the UN) is one of the many steps that India has initiated towards active contribution to peace support activities
1. The course is conducted by the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in India (CUNPK) in partnership with the US, the Indian Army
2. The first and second editions of the course were held in New Delhi in 2016 and 2017, respectively
SIKKIM House expansion likely to get Home Ministry’s nod
(GS-2 polity, prelims-RPA1950)
Increase in assembly seats
1. The Ministry of Home Affairs is all set to move a proposal before the Union Cabinet to increase the number of seats in the Sikkim Assembly from 32 to 40
2. This would be the first expansion of seats since Sikkim was merged with India in 1975
Process for an increase in seats
The cabinet proposal will include amendments to the Second Schedule to the Representation of People Act, 1950
Reservation of seats
1. The proposal to expand the House is likely to benefit the Limboo and Tamang communities
2. They were notified as Scheduled Tribes in 2002
3. The existing reservations for Bhutias, Lepchas, Scheduled Castes and Sanghas will be retained
Representation of People Act (very important)
Indian teen’s satellite soars in Mexico sky (prelims)
1. Anitha-SAT, a lightweight satellite developed by a 17-year-old Plus Two pass out student of R.S.K. Higher Secondary School, Tiruchi, to measure the effects of air pollution and global warming, was launched from Aztra Labs in Mexico City.
2. Villet Oviya, a medical aspirant who appeared for NEET, had named the conical-shaped satellite, weighing just 500 g, after the late Ariyalur student who could not pursue her career in medicine after failing to clear the entrance test.
3. Fitted with a global positioning system and a camera, the satellite was pushed into the troposphere, to a height of 15 km, in a helium balloon.
4. Thereafter, the balloon exploded and the capsule began its descent towards the sea, measuring temperature, air quality and concentration of gases in the strata of atmosphere.
5. Ms. Oviya’s effort was an outcome of participation in a reality TV show ‘Ezham Arivu’ three years ago.