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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 31 May 2017

 


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 31 May 2017


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


General Studies – 1;


Topic:  Poverty and developmental issues

1) Discuss the significance of and measures needed to attain the Target 3 for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- SDG 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” The third target under this goal calls for cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030.

Significance :-

  • One in three persons worldwide is not getting enough of the right food to eat and approximately 800 million of seven billion sleep hungry every night.
  • Not surprisingly, this makes poor diet the No. 1 risk factor by far, for the global burden of disease. Poor diets globally are more responsible for ill health as compared with the combined effect of drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Women and children continue to be the most vulnerable, with 156 million stunted children in the world and 40% women anaemic.
  • Add to this the fact that the world adds 200,000 new people to its population every day, of which India adds 58,000.
  • This translates to the need to feed two billion more people by 2050 and to support a higher demand for major crops, estimated to increase by 50%, from 2.5 to 3.5 billion tonnes.
  • In developed countries “food waste” happens more at the consumer household level, where more is purchased than consumed; and in emerging economies, it is the supply chain that leads to “food loss” during harvest, storage or in transit, largely due to poor infrastructure and inadequately aligned processes. As an example, India’s cold storage requirement is 66 million tonnes, and the national storage capacity currently available is approximately 30 million tonnes.

Measures required to achieve this goal are:

Cold Storage: 

  • India is way short of its required cold storage capacity of 66 Million tonnes.
  • This leads to the food wastage of precious foods such as fruits which require cold storages for preservation.
  • Also, farmers are forced to sell their produce at throw away prices because of lack of storage infrastructure.
  • Central governments project of 101 cold storages is a good move in this direction.

Transport:

  • Delayed transportation due to bad roads also is a reason for food wastage.
  • More all weather roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana are required. Union Transport minister’s emphasis on increasing the number of kilometres of road laid per day is promising.

National Cold storage grid:

  • By integrating the cold storages and transport development, all the food producing hubs should be provided access with Cold Storages.
  • Emphasis should be on perishable goods like fruits, milk and vegetables.

Machinesation : There is great loss of the food grains during harvesting by traditional method of harvesting. mechanisation would help to reduce the harvesting loss.

Utilising the food unserved (left after serving all) in big functions like parties, marriages to serve it in the old age homes etc will help to reduce the food loss, which is already practiced in some states by asking the people to call some particular number if food is left out in function.

Create the awareness about the importance to reduce the food wastage which will change peoples behaviour and ultimately leads to optimal use of the food  

There is clearly a structural and behavioural component to this, and the door is open for investment in food system infrastructure: storage, transportation, processing, etc; investment in information systems that help identify loss by crop and region so solutions can be specifically tailored to the problem; use of technology to better connect supply and demand; public-private partnerships with companies to reduce spoilage and loss; creation of food banking networks that work with civil society and development agencies on getting food already available to those that need it. Among the several priorities we have, minimising food loss has the potential to be transformative in multiple ways.

 


Topic: Urbanization – problems and remedies

2) The Niti Aayog, in its Draft Three Year Action Agenda, has drawn attention to the need for a sustainable plan for solid waste management in Indian cities. Discuss critically features of this Agenda. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction :- The Niti Aayog, in its Draft Three Year Action Agenda, has drawn attention to the need for a sustainable plan for solid waste management in Indian cities.

  • However, the Aayog has taken the stand that incineration or “Waste to Energy” is the best option as a sustainable disposal solution for the solid waste of larger cities. The contention is that biogas and composting for waste management generate by-products or residues in large volumes that larger cities will find difficult to dispose of efficiently.
  • This reasoning is flawed. The Niti Aayog fails to point out that when incineration plants in cities use unsegregated waste to generate electricity, they emit toxic gases as by-products and irresponsibly dispose of these “dangerous by-products” in the air.
  • Niti Aayog’s Draft Action Agenda neither incorporates lessons from experience of incineration plants in Delhi, nor takes note of the many success stories of biomethanation.
  • Incineration technologies require a continuous supply of waste with a sufficiently high calorific value and a low moisture content. Indian waste is not suitable for incineration because it has too high a moisture content, leading to low calorific value.
  • A 2016 study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) finds that the calorific value of Indian waste is 800-1000 kcal per kg; it needs to be at least 2000 kcal per kg to be suitable for incineration.
  • Generating energy from waste is only one aspect of waste management — it is by no means the most efficient or the most economical means of generating energy. The policy focus must not sway from examining the financial and environmental costs and benefits of the different alternatives for waste management. In Waste to Energy, technology is moving fast, regulatory challenges are enormous and the challenges of enforcing emission standards are even greater.
  • The Niti Aayog has recommended setting up a Waste to Energy Corporation of India under the Ministry of Urban Development, “which may set up world-class waste to energy plants through public-private partnerships (PPP) across the country”. They have invoked the example of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) which organises PPP efforts in roads. But the parallel is inappropriate.
  • Niti Aayog is silent on the segregation of wet waste from dry waste at the source of generating waste. Incentives for segregation and a penalty for non-segregation must be the first action point of any agenda on municipal solid waste management.
  • Solid Waste Management Rules (2016) are a significant improvement over the Municipal Solid Waste Rules (2000) in emphasising the need for the enforcement of segregation and recommending change in municipal by-laws which allow for cost recovery in the collection of waste segregated at source and imposing a penalty for non-segregation. The Niti Aayog has missed an opportunity to build on this opening. Even though it is often claimed that incineration can take unsegregated waste, segregating biodegradable waste and inert waste also helps improve the calorific value of dry waste.

Nevertheless we must compliment the Niti Aayog for including action points on these important but complex issues in their Draft Action Agenda. They must follow up with extensive consultation with subject experts, stakeholders and practitioners in state governments and urban local governments.

 


General Studies – 2


Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

3) In the light of recent Zika episode in Gujarat, critically evaluate India’s disease surveillance systems and suggest reforms. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction :- Precaution is better than cure. On the same principle “disease surveillance systems” were set up in India so that, active monitoring of health condition can be monitored and swift action can be taken to avoid any future escalation.

But the recent episode of zika virus , where the general public were made aware of situation almost after three months shows the inefficient and poor co-ordination of different health agencies in the counties below are few major difficulties which is being face.

The root of this malaise is the inability of successive governments to demonstrate strong public health governance and leadership. The health system is fragmented into the public and private sectors, further fragmented by practitioners of modern and traditional medicine. Medical associations and pharmaceutical companies override public voices trying to make sense of exorbitant medical bills.

Government stewardship of this whole system is essential, to listen, regulate and bring about a cohesive health service that can provide care to the people. India has enough technical resources and expertise. But the critical role of the government in demonstrating leadership and guiding disharmonious participants is essential.

Reforms needed:-

  • A review of disease surveillance systems is required, not only to make this entire system relevant, but also to appreciate the hard work of data collection which is done by lower-level functionaries.
  • Government stewardship should correct poor compliance from private sector healthcare providers. Instead of the lacklustre initiatives that have been implemented, a strong and decisive health ministry can convince the private sector on the need to join the national effort.
  • It is not easy to track a virus in a billion-plus population — but not acting after obtaining information is a criminal waste of resources. It reflects the health ministry’s failure to execute a key public health function — protecting the population from health threats.
  • The Zika surveillance sadly takes us back to the same old situation. Despite having all the competencies and capabilities, we find ourselves ready to be lectured by international agencies on the fact that the sole purpose of surveillance and disease data collection is for action. The goal is not to haphazardly collect data, but to use this data for protecting the health of the population.

 


General Studies – 3


Topic:    Resource mobilization; Agriculture issues

4) Do you think implementing an agricultural tax in India would be an easy task for the government? Critically examine the challenges that government would face in taxing agricultural income. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :-

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Background:

Given the importance of access to finance, the policy in India has been to compel banks to lend to the underserved.

  • However, access to formal finance remains a challenge even after decades of implementation of such policies. This demonstrates that such coercive policies have borne little fruit.
  • Also, the burgeoning problem of farmer distress in India despite the existence of the priority sector lending programme for more than three decades is a case in point.

Why tax agriculture income?

A large portion of Indian farmers are illiterate or semi-literate and they do not maintain systematic books of accounts regarding their production and income. Hence, assessing their true income or income-earning potential becomes an onerous task for the bank loan officers.

  • So, often bank loan officers in India rely on informal networks created by social affiliations in order to elicit information about the borrowers.
  • This provides opportunity to only those borrowers who are connected to the loan officers. Only these people obtain optimal credit.
  • Besides, loan officers are rotated every three years. This makes matters worse from a borrower’s point of view. Various studies have shown that a new loan officer entering a branch after job rotation restricts credit to borrowers who borrowed from the previous loan officer.

How tax on agriculture helps?

  • Taxing agricultural income can improve access to finance to a large section of farmers because verified income tax returns can provide a credible signal of the earnings potential of a farmer.
  • Such verifiable information can help to separate conscientious and productive farmers from the unscrupulous or unproductive farmers. Such separation can be very useful in not only enabling access to finance but also entered using the cost of credit borne by farmers.
  • Taxing also helps banks to carefully eliminate strategic defaulter intending to exploit the lax enforcement standards prevalent in the country.
  • Well-directed agricultural loans would not only enhance agricultural productivity, but also hasten the movement of unproductive agricultural workers to the manufacturing sector.

However, government has to face following difficulties in doing so:-

  • There was no good expenditure in revenue collection for the last 7 decades as there was no revenue collection. So, the revenue offices and infra are very backward in India.
  • All farmers can’t be taxed. A specified size of land holding would be used to identify taxable farmers. This is a hard task because not all lands are the same. An acre in Rajasthan is not equal to an acre in Uttar Pradesh. This variation will lead to complexity in determining land limits.
  • Land records are also not efficiently maintained in India. This would lead to complexity in assessing farmers. Computerisation of land records should be completed.
  • A one size fits all approach will not work in this sector since a lot of factors needs to be taken into account before arriving at taxable income. (Floods, crop failure)
  • A specific model of taxation whether on crop based, or value of goods produced or income or sale of the farmers. The first model will fail in cases of mixed cropping, second one can be harsh on farmers since it might not take into account the loss of individual farmers and the last one will encourage farmers not to sell their produce in formal market to stay away from taxation.
  • Also there is intra region variability where produce or output of crops vary in different regions of the same state.
  • A complex and sophisticated system needs to be evolved to tax agricultural income, the question is what will be the cost of running such a system? Who will be the people involved?

Conclusion :- Agricultural taxation has historically been considered the third rail of Indian politics. While we harken about improving economies of scale in agriculture, such efforts send discouraging signals to large and medium farmers who seek to increase their produce through utilisation of better techniques, differing crop patterns and more judicious use of agricultural inputs. A nation-state where a farmer can be moderately rich one year and marginally poor the other cannot in good conscience tax their income.

 


Topic:  Resource mobilization

5) What are the criticisms made against rolling out of GST? Examine. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is being flaunted as the single-biggest economic reform since the economic liberalisation of 1991. Even critics of the tax, who complain about its complex four-slab rate structure, agree that it is a step in the right direction.

Argument against GST :-

  • One, a nationwide tax such as the GST will lead to a higher tax burden as it reduces tax competition. Earlier, States which were keen to attract investment and labour from each other had a reason to cut taxes. Now, the Centre, which will face no tax competition except from the rest of the world, can determine rates at whim. This will encourage tax rate increases that are detrimental to growth.
  • Two, the number of taxes does not necessarily reflect the actual burden imposed on businesses by any tax system. For example, a single, high tax rate might impose a greater burden on businesses than multiple taxes that add up to a lower rate.
  • A single, low tax rate might also turn out to be more burdensome if the cost of bureaucratic compliance is higher than under multiple, higher tax rates. So what matters eventually is the overall burden under a tax regime, which is likely to be lower when States compete than otherwise.
  • Ithelps the big more than the small. Since the proposal is that companies with a turnover of Rs 10 lakh (currently Rs 1.5 crore) will have to pay GST, it means many small companies will end up having to pay excise (or value-added) taxes. The big companies will benefit, as they will now get deductions on the taxes paid by their small suppliers. Since the initial GST rate could be anywhere from 15-25 percent (depending on what is left out of its ambit), that’s a huge tax bite for the small.
  • If the unorganised sector is going to lose some of its competitive edge initially, it means there will bepressures for layoffs in companies that can’t compete as a result of GST implementation. In the short run, GST may end up costing jobs till the smaller companies learn to compete. And small companies are the biggest job creators anywhere in the world.
  • If we assume that those evading excise (legally or otherwise) currently will henceforth start paying the tax, it means they have to raise prices to stay profitable.Taxes up, prices up. In the short-term, GST may boost the prices of some segments of the economy.
  • GST more or less equalises taxation across products, and hencemay be iniquitous. For example, currently centre and states can levy higher taxes on luxury goods and services (five-star dinners, cars above a certain size) and this is fair. Once GST kicks in, all goods and services may end up paying the same tax. This means the rich who buy luxury goods may pay less tax and the poor more than they should. This goes against the basic tenets of taxing the rich more and the poor less.
  • GST isfundamentally anti-federal. This is why states have been resisting it so hard for years. Of course, they can be compensated for any loss of revenue, as Arun Jaitley has promised, but it still means they will not be able to raise or lower taxes as they see fit politically. Also, once in, states will not be able to opt out of GST.

 


Topic:  Energy

6) Do you think nuclear power is best suited to gradually replace coal for India’s core energy demand? Critically examine. (200 Words)

Livemint

Introduction :-

The total installed electrical capacity of India (utilities) was just over 300 gigawatts (GW) as of May 2016. Of this, 210 GW (70 percent) constituted thermal power such as coal, gas and diesel. India is thus highly reliant on fossil fuels to meet its energy demands. Hydroelectric power too contributes a significant percentage with a total installed capacity of just over 40 GW. The total installed capacity of grid-interactive renewable power—which consists of wind, solar, biomass and small hydro—is just under 43 GW. The installed capacity of nuclear power is 5.78 GW, a mere 1.8 percent of the total capacity.  In terms of actual power generation, the total electricity generation in India in 2014-15 was 1,278 terawatt hour (TWh), of which nuclear contributed just under three percent.

Estimates for nuclear power growth: A review

 

source of electricity

India currently has 21 operating nuclear reactors at six locations across the country, their combined capacity totalling 5.8 GW. Its civil nuclear strategy has proceeded largely without fuel or technological assistance from other countries for more than 30 years. This was a result of its Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974 and its voluntary exclusion from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which led to India’s isolation from trade in nuclear power plant materials. However, the scope for civilian nuclear trade increased significantly beginning in September 2008, following the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) India-specific agreement. Civil nuclear cooperation agreements have since been signed with the US, Russia, France, Australia and Kazakhstan, among other countries.

In December 2011, the Indian parliament was informed that nuclear power targets were set at 14.6 GW by 2020 and 27.5 GW by 2032. This is a reflection of the fact that India currently has five nuclear reactors under construction all due to finish by 2017, which would add 3.8 GW, raising the total capacity to 9.6 GW.  The government’s plan for nuclear to generate 25 percent of electricity by 2050 could mean between 150 GW and 200 GW of installed nuclear capacity.

However there are many challenges for nuclear power to replace coal :-

  • Safety issues :- The biggest concern for nuclear power expansion is the growing safety issue as seen in Fukushima nuclear disaster.
  • Nuclear energy will still require a potential time period to grow its energy limits in order to match coal energy generation.
  • Other renewable energy sources are equally growing fast and catching attention than nuclear energy.
  • The cost involved in setting up nuclear plant and the technology, manufacturing needed is still evolving in India.

Additional information :-

Difference between Nuclear and Coal energy

The main difference between coal energy and nuclear energy is the type of fuel they use. Nuclear energy uses enriched radioactive elements like uranium to produce heat in a process called nuclear fission. This process needs to be carefully monitored in order to prevent the excessive production of heat and consequent plant meltdown. In contrast, coal energy uses coal, a fossil fuel that is burned to produce heat.

Because of radioactivity, nuclear power plants need to have a lot of safety precautions in order to safeguard their workers as well as the general public from radiation while it is being transported. Even the spent fuel rods need to be placed into a special disposal facility, and it may take centuries for the radiation to go down to safe levels. Any nuclear fuel also needs to be safeguarded as terrorists may use it for dirty bombs.

Another major difference between coal energy and nuclear energy is the energy density. A small uranium pellet, that’s slightly bigger than a pencil eraser, could contain as much energy as a ton of coal. Contrasting between coal and nuclear energy, a coal power plant needs to have trucks delivering coal to it on a daily basis while a nuclear power plant may have its fuel changed every two years. This results in less pollution due to the transportation of fuel.

Nuclear energy is also cleaner because it does not pollute the air as it operates. The burning of coal releases carbon gases into the atmosphere in huge volumes. In a nuclear power plant, the smoke coming out of its tower is just water vapor.

Although nuclear energy is better than coal energy, the latter is still in wide use due large to its cheap price. This is because coal is still rather abundant in the Earth’s crust. As the resource gets used up, we will see a corresponding increase in price just like what’s happening with oil right now.

Coal is a very old energy source that is very dirty. Nuclear energy is a very attractive alternative since it is viewed to be sustainable. The technology just needs to be perfected and multiple safety measures put in place in order to safeguard the public from the radiation.