12th May, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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In a state of energy poverty
Issue: It is uncertain if the goal of electrifying all ‘willing households’ will mean universal access.
1. There is now 100% village electrification in India, an important milestone in the country’s development trajectory
2. Another important turnaround came last year when India claimed to be a net surplus and exporter of electricity (a scenario projected to continue for at least a decade)
But do these developments mark an end to India’s energy poverty?
1. 31 million rural households and about five million urban households are still to be connected to the grid( the highest in any single country)
2. At the same time, a significant portion of connected rural households is yet to get adequate quantity and quality of supply
Future plans of the government
1. The Central government has set itself an ambitious target of connecting all remaining households by the end of March 2019 and made budgetary allocations to cover the cost of electrification
2. As part of a Centre-State joint initiative on 24×7 ‘Power for All’, State governments have already committed to ensuring round-the-clock supply to all households from April 2019
Regional imbalances in electricity access: Barriers and fallibility
1. Seven States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) account for 90% of un-electrified households
2. Coincidentally, these States are ranked poorly in social development indices and house about two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line
3. This concurrence between economic poverty and energy poverty will be a barrier to the goal of universal access
The main issue in these seven states
1. Electricity distribution companies (discoms) in these seven States are already highly indebted, accounting for 42% of accumulated debts of all discoms as on March 2016
2. Their debts account for 17% of accumulated liabilities of the States
3. Despite continued State subvention (except by Odisha), all these discoms have been consistently running at a loss, accounting for about 47% of the loss in electricity distribution business
Given the context, it is uncertain whether the goal of electrifying all ‘willing households’ by March 2019 would translate into universal access to electricity
Challenge is from Distribution network capacity: Another major challenge
1. The distribution infrastructure in India is overburdened causing a high level of technical losses and frequent breakdowns
2. The distribution network capacity in several States is inadequate to carry available electricity
3. Subsequently, discoms have been resorting to load shedding while their contracted generation capacities are underutilised
4. Adding new load to the existing fragile distribution network will only compromise the quality and reliability of supply
5. It could result in continued blackouts for the rural poor during peak hours
Efforts done by the government: Inadequate funding
1. The available funding support has been short of the growing requirement
2. Current allocations under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), to augment rural and urban distribution networks, respectively, are only a fraction of the requirement
3. Moreover, disbursement of these grants has been much slower, 17% under DDUGJY and 31% under IPDS, reflecting sluggish implementation
The way forward
1. Low achievement of earlier electrification schemes has often been blamed on incompatibility and a lack of cooperation between the Centre and States
2. Given that six of the seven low access States as well as the Centre are run by a single political party (and allies), there seems to be a strong political consensus on the goal of universal access
Sop to China or signal to Australia
Issue: India’s refusal to let Australia participate in the upcoming Malabar naval exercise will hurt the Quad
Why this refusal?
1. India, it seems, remains skeptical of Australia’s commitment as a strategic partner
2. It was, after all, Australia that backed out of the Quad’s first incarnation in 2007
But it’s now high time that India updated its thinking about Australia
1. A lot has changed since 2007
2. In the years since, China began a much more aggressive campaign of coercion to assert dominance in its near seas, including with island-building in the South China Sea
3. In response, Australia recalibrated its defense policies
4. In successive policy statements, Australian governments from both major parties named China as the primary strategic challenge, drawing China’s ire each time
5. They spoke out against Chinese provocations when few others did, including against China’s 2013 declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone, and in support of the 2016 arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines
6. The Australian military continues to conduct air and sea patrols of the South China Sea, which is frequently met with robust Chinese responses
7. And it has deepened its US alliance, with the basing of Marines in Darwin
Was the denial of Australian participation in Malabar another Indian accommodation of China?
1. The timing of the rejection suggests that Modi may have been signaling a pre-emptive sweetener for his China “reset”
2. China’s strategic policy is to prevent regional states coordinating against it — so India slow-rolling such an alignment suits China’s interests perfectly
3. And while the Indian military routinely exercises bilaterally with the US, Japan, and Australia, it stopped short of joining them all in a high-profile grouping which would upset China
4. Even if India did not intend this as a concession to China, that may be the perception that gains traction around the region
5. And, of course, perceptions have real effects
Possible effect on QUAD
1. The denial of Australian participation in Malabar will harm the Quad
2. At a minimum, the denial is a missed opportunity to build momentum for the Quad
3. Worse, it may undermine the Quad’s credibility and reinforce widespread scepticism that it will ever amount to anything
4. India’s opposition to Australia even observing this naval exercise in effect amounts to opposition to the Quad conducting any military activities, at least for now
The way forward
Until India updates its views on Australia, it will further delay the efforts of like-minded powers to build a bulwark against Chinese coercion across the region
India and Nepal are scaling up their ties
Issue: 1. The Indian PM is visiting Nepal from 11-12 May
2. The back-and-forth visits(of both PMs) indicate that India and Nepal are working towards scaling up their bilateral relationship
What explains the frequent meetings between the premiers of the two countries?
1. There seems to be a growing recognition in India as well as in Nepal that deterioration in relations between the two countries, with close socio-economic-cultural relations, is not desirable
2. There is a strong opinion that India is reaching out to Kathmandu because of China’s growing presence in Nepal
Complexities of the relationship
1. Given Nepal’s power asymmetry with India and China, it should be no surprise that it seeks to swing between the two nations to maintain autonomy
2. However, from an Indian perspective, it appears that New Delhi has been at the receiving end of considerable animosity
3. On the other hand, there is a strong opinion in some segments in Nepal on cultivating a robust relationship with China in response to alleged Indian interference in domestic politics
Railway line project
1. A railway line to Kathmandu from India was recently announced
2. Once operationalized, it will significantly enhance the already rich people-to-people interactions
3. Now, if the Chinese build a railway line to Kathmandu and Indians deliver on their own promise, then it would become a de facto trilateral project
4. Given the growing trade deficit, the prospect of granting direct and greater market access to China without any reciprocal gestures will raise concerns in India
China and Nepal relationship: The issues
1. While China does not have people-to-people interactions on a par with India, it has a long history of deploying overseas assistance to Nepal
2. The Chinese connectivity projects need to overcome two significant limitations
3. First, their economic viability is contingent on their ability to access the Indian market
4. Second, they will have to traverse the Terai region, which enjoys a close socio-cultural relationship with India
Will India and China also collaborate to build connectivity projects in Nepal?
1. It is doubtful at the moment
2. In addition to traversing the Himalayas, such collaboration would also have to overcome a mountain of distrust
5,000 Atal Tinkering labs to be set up by March 2019
(GS-3 Science & technology)
Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs)
1. The NITI Aayog will set up 5,000 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) by March 2019 covering all districts in the country
2. Aim: To promote innovation among students
3. The goal of the student innovator programme is to test the innovations in the community
4. Students will be trained on business and entrepreneurship skills, including intellectual property, effective communication, making an elevator pitch and so on
Part of the Atal Innovation Mission
NITI Aayog had in December selected an additional 1,500 schools for setting up ATLs under the government’s flagship programme Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) taking the total number of such labs to 2,441
The innovation marathon
The NITI Aayog had recently organised the innovation marathon to identify India’s best student innovators across six different thematic areas including clean energy, water resources, waste management, healthcare, smart mobility and agri-tech
More about the ATL labs
1. Atal Tinkering Labs are innovation play workspaces for students between grade 8 to 12, stimulating innovations combining science and technology
2. Their aim is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in schools, universities and industry
Atal Innovation Mission
NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission is among one of the flagship programs of the Government of India to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country to set up the Atal Tinkering Labs across the country
Tiny fossil shells unveil details about ancient Earth’s climate
(GS-1 geography, prelims)
News-Scientists have discovered tiny fossil shells that unveil details about the Earth’s climate over half a billion years ago.
1. The research, suggests that early animals diversified within a climate similar to that in which the dinosaurs lived.
2. An international collaboration of scientists, led by the University of Leicester in the UK, has investigated by combining climate models and chemical analyses of fossil shells about 1mm long.
3. This interval in time is known for the ‘Cambrian explosion’, the time during which representatives of most of the major animal groups first appear in the fossil record.
4. These include the first animals to produce shells, and it is these shelly fossils that the scientists used.
5. Data from the tiny fossil shells, and data from new climate model runs, show that high latitude (about 65 degree South) sea temperatures were in excess of 20 degrees C.
6. Careful examination of these tiny fossils revealed that some of them have exceptionally well-preserved shell chemistry which has not changed since they grew on the Cambrian sea floor.
7. Analyses of the oxygen isotopes of these fossils suggested very warm temperatures for high latitude seas, probably between 20-25 degree Celsius.
8. To see if these were feasible sea temperatures, the scientists then ran climate model simulations for the early Cambrian. The climate model simulations also suggest that Earth’s climate was in a ‘typical’ greenhouse state, with temperatures similar to more recent, and better understood, greenhouse intervals in Earth’s climate history, like the late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic eras.
1. Ultimately, these findings help to expand our knowledge of the early animals of the period and the environment in which they lived.
2. They hope that this approach can be used by other researchers to build up a clearer picture of ancient climates where conventional climate proxy data are not available.
Pawan Kalyan unfurls ‘largest’ Indian flag
News-The largest Indian flag was unfurled at NTR Stadium here coinciding with the anniversary of India’s First War of Independence of 1857.
The flag, measuring 183 feet in length and 122 feet in breadth, was unfurled by Pawan Kalyan, at an event organised by Vibrants of Kalam, an organisation spreading the ideals and vision of former President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Power generation accounts for highest emissions in State
( GS-3 Environment)
News-The energy sectors account for the highest amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Andhra Pradesh State with emissions touching 82.79 million tons of CO2 equivalent (eq) in 2013-14.
1. Of this, 37.026 million tons of CO2 eq were emitted from electricity generation. In fact, the GHG emissions were mere 43.31 million tons of CO2 in 2005-06.
2. The per capita GHG emissions were a mere 1.16 MT CO2 in 2005. In less than a decade, they touched 2.06 MT. Also, the CO2 eq emissions surpassed the national per capita of 2.28 MT in 2014.
3. In comparison, the per capita GHG emissions at all India were 1.07 tons in 2005 and 1.73 tons in 2014. Also, the emissions’ intensity has increased to 10% in the State, while it has been decreasing at the national level.
4. These facts came to light in an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for Andhra Pradesh prepared by the Vision Management Unit, the AP State Development Planning Society (APSDPS) of the Planning Department in association with the The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
5. The highest contribution to the emissions was from electricity generation 31.25%, while the cement production accounted for 11.45%. The manufacturing industries’ share was 10.35%. Replacing coal-based generation with natural gas, promoting renewable energy up to maximum potential were some of the strategies being planned to bring down the emissions.
6. In fact, the State witnessed a significant reduction in dependence/supply on thermal power supply. It has come down to 72% of the supply in 2017 compared to 84% in 2016. Likewise, the renewable and hydel power supply increased.
Hot-money risks seen rising as India courts ‘bond tourists’
News –A series of measures from the central bank to lure foreign buyers into the country’s short-term debt market could easily backfire, investors fear, exposing the economy to volatile “hot money” flows.
1. The Reserve Bank of India lifted (RBI) a restriction limiting foreign investors to buying bonds with three years or more to maturity and also gave them access to short-term sovereign treasury bills.
2. The RBI’s lifting of the maturity restriction came after government bonds tanked when sovereign bond auctions failed to attract many buyers, followed by a spike in yields when surprisingly hawkish minutes of a monetary policy meeting raised fears of the RBI hiking interest rates.
3. The new rules have stoked fears of an influx of “bond tourists” and the associated rapid-fire switching in and out of short-term debt by foreign traders.
4. Such volatile flows could make India’s financial markets more vulnerable at a time when the rupee has been the worst performer in the region, high oil prices are driving up the current account deficit, and interest rates could soon rise on heightened inflation risks, investors said.
5. The immediate reaction to the lifting of maturity curbs on overseas buyers was less than inspirational, with foreigners selling a net $240.92 million of bonds on May 2 – a day after the RBI’s announcement
Getting down to business
(GS- 2 polity)
Issue: 1. With rapid economic development, there has been a considerable increase in commercial activities and a consequent steep rise in the number of commercial disputes at the domestic and international levels.
2. Increase in foreign direct investment and overseas commercial transactions have further contributed to a significant rise in commercial disputes.
A bill for easier Commercial Disputes Resolution
1. The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill of 2018 is pending in Parliament.
2. The Bill intends to jump-start India as a sought-out business destination in the world. Its objective is to set India at the top of the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index of the World Bank.
3. It aims to create a conductive regulatory environment for investors to set up and operate businesses.
Particulars of the Bill
1. The Bill proposes to lower the specifiedvalue of a commercial dispute to 3 lakh from the present 1 crore so that commercial disputes of a reasonable value can be decided by commercial courts.
2. This would bring down the time taken (at present, 1,445 days) in resolving commercial disputes of less value, and further improve India’s ranking in the index.
3. The Bill provides for the establishment of commercial courts at the district judge level for the territories over which the respective High Courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction, as in Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh.
4. The State governments in such territories may by notification specify such pecuniary value of commercial disputes to be adjudicated at the district level.
5. In the jurisdiction of High Courts other than those exercising ordinary original jurisdiction, a forum of appeal in commercial disputes decided by commercial courts below the level of district judge is being provided, in the form of Commercial Appellate Courts to be at the district judge level.
Introducing the Pre-Institution Mediation (PIM)
1. The introduction of the Pre-Institution Mediation (PIM) process in cases where no urgent or interim relief is contemplated would provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve commercial disputes outside the ambit of the courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
2. The Bill proposes a new Section, 21A, which enables the Centre to make rules and procedures for PIM.
About Ease of Doing Business Index
1. Ease of Doing Business is an index of World Bankwhich inter alia refers to the dispute resolution environment in a country which facilitates the investors in deciding for setting up of and operation of a business.
2. This index has been created by the World Bank Group and since 2002; it has been evaluating almost all the countries of the world.
3. A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of the business.
4. India has emerged out as one among top ten improvers and for the first time ever, India has jumped 30 positions.
5. India reached 100th rankedcountry in terms of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ amongst 190 countries.
6. This manifests that India is fast adopting the best practices in regulatory framework for Ease of Doing Business at all fronts.
National Maha Bal Panchayat
1. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi conducted the 4th National Maha Bal Panchayat elections at his Bal Ashram, Viratnagar in Jaipur.
2. The idea is to ensure children’s role in local governance.
3. The Maha Bal Panchayat will work for
* basic infrastructure in schools
* school teacher appointment
* monitoring for regular attendance
* preventing cases of early child marriage
* facilitating links to several social welfare schemes
About Bal ashram
1. Bal Ashram is a rehabilitation and educational support Centre for children rescued from various states.
2. The event was jointly organized by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation and Global March Against Child Labour
3. The election was held under the Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) program.
4. A total of 66 Bal Panchayat members from the six states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh formed the Maha Bal Panchayat of 2018.