23rd May, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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India to attend SCO meet on counter-terror in Pakistan (GS-2 IR)
Legal experts to discuss counter-terror strategy among Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) members
1.India is sending senior representatives to discuss legal modalities of counter-terrorism for a meeting that Pakistan will host along with the members of the SCO
2.India, China and other member countries will participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) that will be meeting in Islamabad from May 23 to 25
Why is this meeting important?
The event will be the first such time Pakistan will host India and other members of SCO to discuss a response to terrorism
SCO focus on counter terrorism
1.As members of the SCO, countries are expected to be active in the SCO Secretariat and also participate in the RATS, headquartered at Tashkent
2.Counter-terrorism has been on the agenda of the SCO since its inception in 2001 but has been boosted since membership was granted to India and Pakistan in 2017
1.The RATS held its meeting in the first week of April to finalise a draft for counter-terror cooperation for 2019-’21
2.The organisation also held a discussion in Delhi during January 31 to February 2
Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS)
1.The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is a permanent organ of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism
2.The Head of RATS is elected to a three-year term
3.Each member state also sends a permanent representative to RATS
How agri credit is missing those who really need it (GS-2 Economy)
Small farmers are getting only 30-40% of loans meant for the sector, says RBI report
1.As per information provided by the Reserve Bank of India showed that the small and marginal farmers are receiving only 30-40% of loans meant for the sector
2.As per a report submitted by the RBI to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in response to its queries, only 42.2% of agricultural credit disbursed in 2016-17 went to small and marginal farmers
Only 35.5% of total agri credit to Rural Farmers
1.The RBI data backs up this assertion, showing that only 34.5% of agricultural credit outstanding as of 2017 has gone to rural farmers
2.The remaining has gone to semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan farmers
3.The data also shows that the onus of providing agricultural credit is falling on the public sector banks, with 12 out of 23 of the private sector banks for which data is available having failed to meet the 18% lending target for the agricultural sector in 2017
There are two ways of seeing this
1.One is that it is not equitable, where some farmers, the larger ones and the ones closer to urban areas, are over-represented in terms of access to credit
2.Secondly, so far as the priority sector lending mandates are concerned, the mandate is not to reach a particular type of farmer. So, the programme itself is not targeted
Lending costs- Is it the real cause of discrepancies in such lending?
1.The RBI’s rules are that 18% of a bank’s Adjusted Net Bank Credit must go to the agricultural sector and within this, 8% must go to small and marginal farmers
2.While the banking sector has overall met this limit, there is still an inherent targeting problem arising out of the costs of lending to the sector
3.The priority sector lendingmandate is in place because it is felt that banks would not otherwise lend as much to this sector
4.What then happens is that banks choose to lend to those areas where the cost of lending is lower, such as those close to urban areas, or to those farmers who are more credit-worthy. That is, the medium and large farmers
What are the issues associated with such lendings?
1.The point is that these farmers would get credit even without the priority sector lending mandate
2.It tells us that this calls for a deeper examination of the priority sector lending mandates
3.Maybe the limit can be reduced, but the rules can be made stricter about to whom the loans are given to
4.The data also shows a great disparity of performance between states, with some states such as Meghalaya giving 93.6% of its agricultural credit to small and marginal farmers, while other states like Sikkim have this proportion as low as 1.67%
5.While some of this could be explained by the distribution of farmer types in these states, a large part of the discrepancy could be due to a targeting problem
Miles to go for the new bankruptcy code (GS)-3 Economy
The new bankruptcy code yields its first success
1.Tata Steel acquired 73% stake in the bankrupt firm Bhushan Steel for about Rs. 35,000 crore last week, making it the first major resolution of a bankruptcy case under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)
2.Bhushan Steel was one among the 12 major accounts referred to the National Company Law Tribunal at the behest of the Reserve Bank of India last year to ease the burden of bad loans on banks
Expectations of the Finance Ministry from Banks
1.The Finance Ministry now expects banks to recover more than Rs. 1 lakh crore from the resolution of the other cases referred by the RBI to the NCLT
2.If the banks do indeed recover funds of this scale, it would considerably reduce the burden on taxpayers
3.Even more important, speedy resolution would free valuable assets to be used for wealth-creation
Many challenges are still there
1.The resolution of one high-profile case, however, should not deflect attention from the many challenges still plaguing the bankruptcy resolution process
2.The IBC, as the government itself has admitted, remains a work in progress
Some issues with the present IBC
1.The issues such as the proposed eligibility criteria for bidders have left it bogged down and suppressed its capacity to help out creditors efficiently
2.Also, the strict time limit for the resolution process as mandated by the IBC is an area that has drawn much attention,
and it merits further review in order to balance the twin objectives of speedy resolution and maximising recovery for the lenders
The way forward
1.Going forward, amendments to the bankruptcy code should primarily be driven by the goal of maximising the sale price of stressed assets
2.This requires a robust market for stressed assets that is free from all kinds of entry barriers.
The impact of rising oil prices on Indian economy (GS-3 Economy)
India was a key beneficiary of falling crude oil prices between 2013 and 2015
1.Some research had indicated that almost the entire reduction of about 0.6% of the GDP in India’s fiscal deficit between FY14 and FY16 could be attributed to the sharp fall in crude prices
2.Lower crude prices also contributed to the narrower current account deficit
3.But the pass-through of the fall in crude prices to retail consumers was limited
(the government retained a large part of the benefits by hiking excise duty on retail fuel products)
Risk of rising crude prices
With the US’ decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and to re-impose sanctions on Iran, upside risks to crude prices cannot be ruled out
Possible impact of higher crude prices on the Indian economy
1.We can conclude that higher crude prices will adversely affect the twin deficits of the economy(fiscal and current account deficit)
2.It will also have impact on the monetary policy, and consumption and investment behaviour in the economy
Possible reasons behind this increase
1.According to the recent World Economic Outlook (WEO) by the IMF, roughly 80% of the recent oil price increase was caused by deterioration in supply conditions
2.This, however, is not the only study on the factors leading to higher crude prices
3.The “Oil Price Dynamics” report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that less than two-fifth of the rise in oil prices since the beginning of 2018 was on account of supply-side factors
These contrasting studies lead to uncertainty regarding the sustainability of higher crude prices
Data on fiscal conditions
1.An increase of $10 per barrel in crude prices will lead to an increase of about Rs17,000 crore (or $2.5 billion at an exchange rate of 67/$) in fuel subsidies, equivalent to 0.09% of GDP
2.In the Union Budget 2018-19, the government had budgeted for petroleum subsidy of Rs25,000 crore, similar to that in FY18
Impact on Current Account of deficit
1.An increase of $10 per barrel in crude oil prices will lead to an adverse impact of $10-11 billion (or 0.4% of GDP) on current account deficit
2.There are two opposite forces at work in current account deficit. Higher oil prices will push the import bill higher;
however, it will be partly offset by higher oil exports and better remittances
Possible impact on inflation
1.With a weightage of only 2.4% in headline CPI, the adverse impact will entirely depend on the extent to which higher crude oil prices are passed on to the consumers
2.Considering the general election next year and thus, the direct impact on CPI inflation is likely to remain muted
The Invisible Majority: Women form 80 percent of urban migrants (GS-1 Social issues)
UN report on urban migration in India
1.The report says India is on the “brink of an urban revolution”, as its population in towns and cities are expected to reach 600 million by 2031
2.Fuelled by migration, megacities of India (Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata) will be among the largest urban concentrations in the world
Women as urban migrants
1.The 2011 Census reveals that women form almost 80 per cent of internal migration
2.An Indiaspend analysis of Census shows that women migrating for work grew by 101 per cent — more than double the growth rate for men (48.7 per cent)
3.However, both the Census and National Sample Survey Office have failed to capture this trend
4.These continue to cite marriage as the primary reason for women migration
The main issue
Consequently, such surveys treat women as secondary earners and ignore her other motivations for migration and her labour participation post migration
The problems faced by women migrants
1.They remain mostly discriminated in the workforce and invariably suffer economic exclusion
2.Denied maternity benefits or special care and more vulnerable to sexual harassment, these women migrants are more likely to be paid less than male migrants and non-migrant women
3.In addition to low pay and inhuman working conditions
Low-skilled women migrants often get work that is saddled with health hazards
1.According to a study by Cividep, garment workers in Bengaluru, comprising 90 per cent women migrants
2.They often suffer from respiratory illness, tuberculosis, ergonomic problems like back pain, mental health problems such as depression and reproductive health issues such as white discharge, irregular periods and excessive bleeding
What should be done?
1.The first step should be better data collection
2.Capturing the complex dynamics of gender-specific migration would improve the visibility of women as economic actors and help the state respond better to their needs
3.Aadhaar card to women migrants can ensure her access to basic needs, opening of Jan Dhan accounts and availing benefits of the National Health Protection Mission
We can learn from other countries
1.India can learn from countries such as Austria, Belgium, Norway, Romania, UK, etc which provide vocational training to improve employability of women migrants and access to support services
2.The “We the Women” programme of Vietnam that helped create job opportunities for women migrants is also worth studying
3.States should emulate Kerala which provide insurance and free medical treatment for its 30 million migrant workers
The way forward
1.Women migrants have a right to equal access to employment, adequate income and social protection
2.An inclusive National Urban Policy should integrate migration and the needs of migrants(in particular women migrants)
Camera traps record rare black panther in Odisha (GS-2 Environment)
Recording the presence of Black Panther
1.The wildlife wing of Odisha’s Forest and Environment Department has recorded the presence of a black panther in a forest in Sundargarh district
2.The photographs make Odisha the ninth State in India where the elusive and rare big cat has been seen
Why is it important?
Although the presence of black panther was reported 26 years ago, no scientific or pictorial records could establish the claim
Some important facts regarding the panther
1.The leopards’ skins vary in colour and the jet black melanistic form is called black panther
2.It is as shy as a normal leopard and very difficult to detect
3.It is mostly found in densely forested areas of southern India
Presence of the panther is also reported from other parts of the country
Black panthers have also been reported from
(1) Kerala (Periyar Tiger Reserve)
(2) Karnataka (Bhadra Tiger Reserve
(3) Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary)
(4) Chhattisgarh (Achanakmar Tiger Reserve)
(5) Maharashtra (Satara)
(6) Goa (Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary)
(7) Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve)
(8) Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
World Bank listens to Pak’s grievances on Indus Waters Treaty (GS-2 IR)
A Pakistani delegation raised the issue of India’s alleged violation of the Indus Waters Treaty with the World Bank which discussed opportunities within the treaty to seek an amicable resolution, officials said.
1.Meeting took place days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir, amid protests from Pakistan which claims that the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
2.Pakistan’s Foreign Office had voiced concern over the inauguration of the hydroelectric project, saying inauguration without resolution of dispute between the two countries will tantamount to violation of the Indus Waters 1960 that regulates the use of waters in the shared rivers.
3.Islamabad had been raising objections over the design of the hydel project, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between the two countries.
4.The project was started in 2007, located at Bandipore in North Kashmir, envisages diversion of water of Kishan Ganga river to underground power house through a 23.25-km-long head race tunnel to generate 1713 million units per annum.
5.On May 17, 2010, Pakistan moved for international arbitration against India under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.
6.The Hague-based International Court of Arbitration allowed India in 2013 to go ahead with construction of the project in North Kashmir and upheld Indias right under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty to divert waters from the Kishanganga for power generation in Jammu and Kashmir.
7.The international court, however, decided that India shall release a minimum flow of nine cubic metres per second into the Kishanganga river (known as Neelam in Pakistan) at all times to maintain environmental flows.
8.Pakistan is building a 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project downstream.
9.The Pak Foreign Office in a statement in Islamabad last week said it was seriously concerned about the inauguration of the hydroelectric project.
Giant Chinese salamander speeding towards extinction, says study (GS-3 Ecology,prelims)
The world’s largest amphibians, giant Chinese salamanders, were once thought to be widespread but now face imminent extinction due to illegal poaching and hunting as a luxury food, researchers said.
1.The over exploitation of these incredible animals for human consumption has had a catastrophic effect on their numbers in the wild over an amazingly short time span.
2.Unless coordinated conservation measures are put in place as a matter of urgency, the future of the world’s largest amphibian is in serious jeopardy.
3.Vast surveys were conducted in 2013 and 2016 at river sites where the critically endangered salamanders the size of small alligators and weighing some 64 kg are known to live.
4.China has a programme in place to breed and release giant salamanders back into the wild. At the few sites where salamanders were seen, researchers could not confirm whether they were wild or farmed.
5.Field surveys and interviews indicate the species has experienced catastrophic range-wide decline apparently driven by overexploitation.
6.The status of wild populations may be even worse than data suggest.
7.Conservation strategies for the salamander require urgent updating.
About Chinese Salamander
1.The Chinese giant salamander(Andrias davidianus) is the largest salamander and the largest amphibian in the world, reaching a length of 1.8 m (5.9 ft).
2.It is fully aquatic and is endemicto rocky mountain streams and lakes in China. It has been introduced to Kyoto Prefecture in Japan and possibly
3.It is considered critically endangereddue to habitat loss, pollution, and over collection, as it is considered a delicacy and used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been listed as one of the top 10 “focal species” in 2008 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.
4.The Chinese giant salamander is considered to be a “living fossil” Although protected under Chinese law and CITES Appendix I, it is estimated that the wild population has declined by more than 80% since the 1950s.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear dispute over power plant in Gujarat (GS-3 Environment)
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up an appeal by Indian villagers against a power plant in Gujarat, funded by U.S.-based International Finance Corporation (IFC), which has allegedly resulted in environmental damages.
1.The villagers along with several other farmers and fishermen allege that coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant has resulted in widespread environmental damages.
2.Washington DC-based IFC, the financing wing of the World Bank, has provided $450 million in financial assistance to the project.
3.The Supreme Court said it would decide whether the IFC enjoyed immunity under the 1945 International Organisations Immunity Act.
4.Petitioners knocked the door of the Supreme Court this year after lower courts dismissed their petitions arguing that the IFC enjoyed immunity, like other foreign countries, under the 1945 International Organisations Immunity Act.
5.In their petition, the villagers argued that the Tata Mundra Power Plant has failed to comply with international environmental standards. This has resulted in devastation of local environment.
6.In 2015, the applicants Indian farmers, fishermen, a trade union of fishworkers, and a local government entity sued the IFC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They brought claims for negligence, negligent supervision, public nuisance, private nuisance, trespass, and breach of contract.
7.The petitioners lost the case before a district court in 2016 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2017. Both the courts argued that IFC enjoys immunity.