17 th July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Wholesale Inflation’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Inflation at the wholesale level quickened to 5.77% in June, the highest since December 2013
Factors responsible for this trend
- Rising fuel prices
- The real upward push in wholesale inflation came from the crude petroleum and natural gas segment, which saw inflation surging to 48.7% in June from 26.9% in the previous month.
About Wholesale Price inflation
Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the average change in the prices of commodities for bulk sale at the level of early stage of transactions. The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products. (The index basket of the present 2011-12 series has a total of 697 items including 117 items for Primary Articles, 16 items for Fuel & Power and 564 items for Manufactured Products.) The prices tracked are ex- factory price for manufactured products, mandi price for agricultural commodities and ex-mines prices for minerals. Weights given to each commodity covered in the WPI basket is based on the value of production adjusted for net imports. WPI basket does not cover services.
In India WPI is also known as the headline inflation rate.
In India, Office of Economic Advisor (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry calculates the WPI.
The main uses of WPI are the following:
- To provide estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy as a whole. This helps in timely intervention by the Government to check inflation in particular, in essential commodities, before the price increase spill over to retail prices.
- WPI is used as deflator for many sectors of the economy including for estimating GDP by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
- WPI is also used for indexation by users in business contracts.
- Global investors also track WPI as one of the key macro indicators for their investment decisions.
‘Assam Legislature’ (GS2: State Legislature)
Issue: President Ram Nath Kovind’s gave assent to the Bill against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago
Why the need of this bill?
The legislation is crucial in the present context in which communication technology is being used to magnify superstitious beliefs, black magic and social prejudices with fatal consequences, primarily affecting the life of marginal groups
Ms. Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.
Note: You can use the example of this mission in mains paper at relevant places.
Ex: In Ethics (GS4) related topics such as dedication, reforms of leaders etc
‘Brahmos missile’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully test-fired on Monday, under extreme weather conditions, as part of the service life extension programme for the Army.
BrahMos has again proved its all-weather capability, flying in sea state 7, with waves as high as nine metres (Sea state is the degree of turbulence at sea, generally measured on a scale of 0 to 9 according to average wave height).
The BrahMos is a short range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between the Russia and India who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited.
It is the world’s fastest cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0 and has a maximum range of 290 km.
BrahMos missiles come in three variants: surface-launched, air-launched and submarine as well as ship launched. BrahMos II, currently under development, will be a Hypersonic cruise missile capable of flying at a speed greater than 5 Mach.
‘VIKAS engine’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The space agency (ISRO) has improved the thrust of the Vikas engine that powers all of ISRO’s launch vehicles
About this development
The main beneficiary of the high-thrust Vikas engine is said to be the heavy-lifting GSLV-Mark III launcher, which ISRO expects will now put 4,000-kg satellites to space. This would be the third Mk-III and the first working one to be designated MkIII Mission-1 or M1.
The Vikas engine is used in the second stage of the light lifting PSLV; the second stage and the four add-on stages of the medium-lift GSLV; and the twin-engine core liquid stage of Mk-III.
‘Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth of India’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday projected a growth rate of 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019 for India as against 6.7% in 2017, making it the fastest growing country among major economies.
However, the latest growth rate projection for India is slightly less — 0.1 percentage point in 2018 and 0.3 percentage points in 2019 — than its April projections.
Factors affecting India’s growth
- India’s growth rate is expected to rise from 6.7% in 2017 to 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019, as drags from the currency exchange initiative and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax fade
- The projection is 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points lower for 2018 and 2019, respectively, than in the April WEO, reflecting negative effects of higher oil prices on domestic demand and faster than-anticipated monetary policy tightening due to higher expected inflation
‘Ownership of digital data’ (GS3: Social media)
Issue: Telecom regulator TRAI on Monday said each user owned his or her data collected by or stored with the entities in the digital ecosystem that includes devices and applications.
Observations made by TRAI
- The entities, it stressed, are mere custodians of the data, while pointing out that the existing framework for protecting the personal data of telecom users is not sufficient.
- In its recommendations on ‘privacy, security and ownership of the data in the telecom sector’, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said the right to choice, consent, data portability, and the right to be forgotten ought to be given to consumers.
- Additionally, the regulator has suggested that all entities in the digital ecosystem that control or process users’ personal data such as devices, operating systems, browsers as well as applications, be brought under a data protection framework.
- Along with running consumer awareness programmes, the regulator has suggested that multilingual, easy to understand, short templates of agreements or terms and conditions be made mandatory. It has also recommended prohibiting use of “preticked boxes” to gain users’ consent.
- TRAI suggested that device manufacturers incorporate provisions so that users can delete pre-installed applications if they so decide.
- It also suggested that the Department of Telecommunication should re-examine the encryption standards, stipulated in the license conditions for the TSPs, to align them with the requirements of other sector regulators.
- The regulator has recommended that the personal data of telecom consumers should be encrypted during the motion as well as during the storage in the digital ecosystem.
- Further, to ensure the privacy of users, the regulator said that the National Policy for encryption of personal data, generated and collected in the digital ecosystem, should be notified by the government at the earliest.
The government has formed a committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna, under the Ministry and Electronics and IT, which is working on the country’s first data protection framework.
‘Expanding Universe’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 124th birthday of Georges Lemaître, the astronomer and physicist who first proposed the idea of an expanding universe which began with the event we now call the Big Bang.
About the astronomer
Lemaître was born on July 17, 1894. During World War I, he served in the Belgian Army as an artillery officer, and like many veterans, he pursued further education after the war. He obtained a doctorate in physics in 1920, and three years later, he began working toward a second doctorate, in astronomy, the same year he was ordained as a Catholic priest.
In 1927, Lemaître (by then an ordained priest who held two doctorates and a Belgian War Cross with palms) was working as a lecturer at the Catholic University of Leuven when he published a paper entitled “A homogenous Universe of constant mass and growing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extragalactic nebulae.” Based on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, the paper proposed an expanding universe, rather than a stable one
It was the first time anyone had outlined the idea that light from objects in deep space is shifted toward the red end of the spectrum because the Doppler Effect stretches the wavelength of light from sources moving away from us. In other words, far-away objects in space are getting farther away; the universe is expanding. Today, we know this as Hubble’s Law, but it was Lemaître who published the basic idea first.
‘Financial Inclusion’ (GS2: Government policies and issues arising out of such policies)
Issue: A shortage of bank branches and ATMs across India’s hinterland is holding back Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s financial inclusion efforts
Current scenario of financial inclusion
- Many of India’s villages still lack bank branches or ATMs to help service these new customers, while the pace of building new financial infrastructure has actually slowed.
- While India gained about 25,000 bank branches and 45,000 ATMs in the four years to March 2018, growth has not kept up with a surge in new customers.
- The experience of villagers in Jogaliya in Rajasthan, India’s largest state by area, is typical. The village of about 5,500 people has no bank branch or ATM, and the closest one is 15 kilometers away.
- A pilot program that looked at the direct transfer of funds to villagers’ bank accounts in the eastern state of Jharkhand showed some people had to spend as much as 96 hours withdrawing money and purchasing rice from government ration shops.
‘India-Iran ties’ (GS2: Bilateral Relations)
Issue: India and Iran reviewed their bilateral ties and plans to strengthen connectivity through Indian investment in Iran’s Chabahar port besides import of Iranian crude oil in the wake of the US imposing sanctions on Tehran.
Topics discussed include:
- Both sides agreed to “maintain the momentum of mutually beneficial multifaceted bilateral cooperation and exchanges between the two sides”
- The talks come as New Delhi is looking at ways to balance its ties with Iran that it considers a key partner in energy and connectivity with those with the US, who New Delhi views as a vital source of cutting edge technology and investments.
- India is one of the major importers of Iranian fuel and is facing pressure from the US to cut its imports. New Delhi is looking to develop Iran’s Chabahar port in a bid to access landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia given its hostile relations with Pakistan.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, formerly known to outsiders as Persia, is one of the centers of ancient human civilization. The name Iran comes from the word Aryanam, meaning “Land of the Aryans.”
Sited on the hinge between the Mediterranean world, Central Asia, and the Middle East, Iran has taken several turns as a superpower empire, and been overrun in turn by any number of invaders.
Since the Revolution of 1979, Iran has been ruled by a complex governmental structure. At the top is the Supreme Leader, selected by the Assembly of Experts, who is Commander-in-Chief of the military and oversees the civilian government.
Next is the elected President of Iran, who serves for a maximum of two 4-year terms. Candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council.
Iran has a unicameral legislature called the Majlis, which has 290 members
The official language is Persian (Farsi), which is part of the Indo-European language family
Iran borders on the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Caspian Sea. It shares land borders with Iraq and Turkey to the west; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to the north; and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east.
Iran experiences four seasons each year. Spring and fall are mild, while winters bring heavy snowfall to the mountains. In the summer, temperatures routinely top 38°C (100°F).
Precipitation is scarce across Iran, with the national yearly average at about 25 centimeters (10 inches). However, the high mountain peaks and valleys get at least twice that amount and offer opportunities for downhill skiing in the winter.
Iran’s majority centrally-planned economy depends upon oil and gas exports for between 50 and 70% of its revenue. The per capita GDP is a robust $12,800 US, but 18% of Iranians live below the poverty line and 20% are unemployed.
‘E-Commerce and World Trade Organization’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: As e-commerce behemoths Amazon, Alibaba, and Walmart battle it out for the Indian market, India and South Africa have asked whether it is proper to continue with the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Need for a re-think on e-commerce policy
Given the manifold increase in the volume of electronic transmissions, which initially covered only “digitized products” such as e-books, music and a variety of services, it is important to re-examine all the issues because of diffusion of additive manufacturing technology through 3-D printing as well as manufacturing physical products.
‘Safeguard Duty’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India has recommended imposing a 25% safeguard duty on solar cells from China and Malaysia, saying the overseas supplies have caused or threatened “serious injury” to domestic manufacturers.
Under the proposed plan, the safeguard duty would be applicable for two years, India’s Directorate General of Trade Remedies, a unit of the commerce ministry, said in the conclusion of its findings
What is Safeguard duty?
When imports of a particular product, as a result of tariff concessions or other WTO obligations undertaken by the importing country, increase unexpectedly to a point that they cause or threaten to cause serious injury to domestic producers of like or directly competitive products, a safeguard which is a form of temporary relief is used. Safeguards give domestic producers a period of grace to become more competitive vis-à-vis imports.
If this happens, the government of the importing country may suspend the concession or obligation, but will be expected to provide compensation by offering some other concession. Otherwise, the affected WTO member(s) can retaliate by withdrawing equivalent concessions. Industries or companies often request safeguard action by their governments.
Safeguards usually take the form of increased duties to higher than bound rate or standard rates or quantitative restrictions on import