Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 21 February 2019

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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 21 February 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

 

Operation Digital Board

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features of ODB.
  • For Mains: Significance and potential of the project.

 

Context: Union Human Resource Development Ministry has launched Operation Digital Board to leverage technology in order to boost quality education in the country.

 

About Operation Digital Board:

ODB aims at converting a class room into a digital class room and provide e-resources at any time and at any place to students.

The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.

The Operation Digital Board (ODB) will be implemented in the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

 

Significance and benefits:

  1. Operation Digital Board is a revolutionary step which will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and popularize flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.
  2. It will also help in provisioning of personalised adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence & Data Analytics.

 

Need for such initiatives:

The biggest challenge facing education sector in the country is maintaining acceptable quality standards across the country. Although we have good number of premier institutions, which compete with the best in the world, a large number of higher education institutions and schools needs improvements in quality teaching-learning, as the students coming out of these institutions find themselves unsuitable for the requirements of the society and market. The spread of educational technology and connectivity has given an opportunity to resolve this issue and aim at equity in educational standards.


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

 

Sikaria Mega Food Park

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Mega food park scheme and mega food parks in the country.
  • For Mains: Need for Mega food parks and other related agricultural issues.

 

Context: Sikaria Mega Food Park is the1st Mega Food Park of Tripura. It was inaugurated recently.

 

About Mega Food Parks scheme:

Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme in the country.

The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastages, increasing farmers’ income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.

These food parks give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables.

Funding: A maximum grant of Rs 50 crore is given for setting up a MFP, in minimum 50 acres of contiguous land with only 50% contribution to the total project cost.

 

Mode of operation:

  1. The Scheme has a cluster based approach based on a hub and spokes model. It includes creation of infrastructure for primary processing and storage near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) and Collection Centres (CCs) and common facilities and enabling infrastructure at Central Processing Centre (CPC).
  2. The PPCs are meant for functioning as a link between the producers and processors for supply of raw material to the Central Processing Centres.
  3. CPC has need based core processing facilities and basic enabling infrastructure to be used by the food processing units setup at the CPC. The minimum area required for a CPC is 50 acres.
  4. The scheme is demand-driven and would facilitate food processing units to meet environmental, safety and social standards.


Paper 2:

Topic:

  1. Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

States’ ranking on Startup initiatives

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: About States’ Start- up Ranking 2018- key facts.
  • For Mains: Significance of the rankings and challenges ahead, significance of the startups, the need for a supportive ecosystem.

 

Context: Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has released second edition of Startup Ranking for 2019.

 

Startup Ranking framework:

  • The Startup Ranking framework aims to rank the States/UTs for establishing a robust ecosystem for supporting Startups.
  • The framework also encourages States and UTs to identify, learn and replicate good practices from each other.

 

The 2019 edition:

  • The Ranking Framework 2019 comprises of 7 pillars and 30 action points. The pillars will assess States’/UTs efforts across institutional support, simplifying regulations, easing public procurement, incubation support, seed funding support, venture funding support and awareness and outreach related activities.
  • The ranking exercise aims to evaluate measures taken by States/UTs during the assessment period from May 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

 

Significance of Startups:

  • India is home to about 20,000 startups, with about 1,400 beginning operations every year. They are not only driving economic growth but also leading to technological innovations and employment generation in every state. Entrepreneurs are introducing new solutions everyday and also improving existing processes.
  • To encourage and help statrups the Govt of India has taken the lead in creating policies and a framework. Many States and UTs have a startup focussed environment with ease of doing business for startups.

 

Way ahead:

The Govt has to align its strategies to tap into the infinite potential of young entrepreneurial minds. Startups need help in the journey from idea to business and business to success. States will also have to take proactive steps to enable startup ecosystems at the local level.

 

Mains Question: Critically evaluate performance of the Start Up India initiative.


 

Relevant Articles from various News Papers:

 

Paper 2 and 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  3. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

Govt approves capital infusion in 12 PSBs

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: What is bank recapitalization? About PCA- meaning, exemptions and norms.
  • For Mains: Recapitalisation- concerns associated, need and the need for comprehensive solution.

 

Context: The Central Govt has approved the capital infusion of Rs. 48,239 Crore into 12 public sector banks (PSBs).

 

Background:

  • The latest round of capital infusion is aimed at equipping better-performing PSBs under prompt corrective action (PCA) framework of RBI to be above regulatory PCA triggers such as CET-1 ratio of 7.375%, Tier I ratio of 8.875%, CRAR of 10.875% and NNPA below 6%.
  • With the latest funding, the total amount of capital infusion would increase to Rs 100958 crore of the planned recapitalization of Rs 1.06 lakh crore for PSBs in FY2019.

 

Concerns associated with frequent capital infusions:

  • The government as the major owner is free to recapitalise but the issue is, at what cost, for how long, and whether recapitalisation alone is enough.
  • The government is finding it increasingly difficult to recapitalize public sector banks due to the compulsion to adhere to the stringent budgetary deficit benchmarks.
  • Bankers become lackadaisical toward debt recovery and tend to escalate provisions and contingencies to be adjusted against the fresh capital.
  • In different-banks-same-pay situations, employees in the loss-making, but recapitalized, banks become unenthusiastic while those in profit-making, but not recapitalized are demotivated.
  • It also implies cross-subsidization: dividend-paying PSU banks subsidizing the non-dividend paying. Ultimately, systemic efficiency suffers.

 

Way ahead:

PSBs are in very real danger of losing not only their market share but also their identity unless the government intervenes with surgical precision and alacrity. Hence, policymakers and bankers need to put their heads together and come up with a smart option to resolve an issue that can no longer be put on the backburner.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: In the light of NPA problems being faced by the Indian banking sector, suggest ways to strengthen the banking sector.


 

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Military Space Force

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Space force- composition and functions.
  • For Mains: Space force- the idea, concerns, challenges and the need for free outer- space.

 

Context: President Trump has signed a directive- Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4)- to create a Military Space Force.

  • Accordingly, the Pentagon will establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military, to go along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
  • However, the challenge ahead is that the Congress must approve the creation of any new military branch.

 

About US Military Space Force:

The main goal of the Space Force is to secure and extend American dominance of the space domain.

  • The Space Force would initially reside within the Department of the Air Force, much as the Marine Corps is part of the U.S. Navy.
  • S. Space Force will organize, train, and equip military space forces. Eventually, the aim is to push the Space Force out from under the Air Force’s wings and make it a stand-alone organization.

 

Why it is not a “good idea”?

  • Another military arm would only compound the organisational challenges facing the U.S. armed services.
  • It could undercut ongoing missions.
  • It could very well increase budgetary allocations in the future.
  • A space corps could undermine American efforts in the domain of joint warfare.

 

Why it may not feasible to have a space force?

  • The fundamental difficulty of a space corps is that the physical environment of space is not conducive to the conduct of military operations without incurring serious losses in the form of spacecraft and debris. And despite efforts to make spacecraft more fuel efficient, the energy requirements are enormous.
  • The technical demands of defending assets in space make the possibility of dominance and space as a domain for war-fighting a sort of chimera.

 

Challenges ahead:

A new space force is not merely a brand new service; it potentially increases greater organisational uncertainty within the U.S. military. Notwithstanding these concerns, Washington’s headlong rush is the by-product of a strong commitment to preserving American advantages in space.

 

Why space has become so important?

  • Space is a “war-fighting domain” and global powers like Russia and China are already treating it as such.
  • Besides, the stakes are high. Much of our 21st-century economy and lifestyle — from bank transactions to weather forecasting to television service to the GPS directions — depends on satellites functioning round the clock and without interruption. The military depends on them too.
  • In 2007, China shot down one of its own satellites — mission accomplished in its own right, it also littered orbit with potentially destructive space debris. Many saw the operation as a veiled display of military power.

 

Facts for Prelims:

As its name suggests, SPD-4 is President Trump’s fourth space policy directive. The first SPD directed NASA to get humans back to the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars. The second streamlined regulations for the commercial space sector, and the third dealt with management of space traffic.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Critically analyze the implications of space weaponization programme of US, especially in the context of India.


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

 

Norms relaxed for Start- ups

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: What is Angel tax, recently relaxed norms- overview.
  • For Mains: Significance of start- ups and the need for policies to support them.

 

Context: The government has relaxed the norms under the definition of Start-Ups. The relaxations are in line with the government’s vision to promote the culture of entrepreneurship and ease of doing business in India.

The new norms aim to catalyse entrepreneurship by enabling angel investments by innovators across all sections of society and all sectors of economy.

 

The changes brought in are:

  • The investment limit of angel investors to seek exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961 has been increased to Rs 25 crore from 10 Crore.
  • An entity shall be considered a start-up up to 10 years from its date of incorporation/registration instead of the previous period of 7 years.
  • An entity would be considered as a startup up to a turnover of Rs 100 crore as against the earlier limit of Rs 25 crore.

 

Exemptions Proposed:

  1. A start-up cannot invest in a building or land unless it is for its business or used by it for purposes of renting or held by it as stock-in-trade.
  2. A start-up cannot offer loans or advances, other than those where lending money is part of its business.
  3. A start-up cannot make any capital contribution to any other entity or invest in shares, car, any vehicle or mode of transport that costs more than Rs 10 lakh.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

 

US National Emergency

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Overview of US National Emergency, key facts related and comparison with National Emergency in India.

 

Context: US President Trump has officially declared the US-Mexico border a “national emergency,” which will allow him to circumvent Congress’s constitutional powers to control spending and divert federal funds toward his much-ballyhooed border wall.

  • The president has argued that the emergency declaration is warranted because the migrants “invading” the United States across the Mexico border have caused epidemics of crime and drug use.

 

What is a national emergency?

In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which permits the president to pronounce a national emergency when he considers it appropriate. The act offers no specific definition of “emergency” and allows a president to declare one entirely at his or her discretion.

By declaring a national emergency, the president avails himself or herself of dozens of specialized laws. Some of these powers have funds the president otherwise could not access.

Under current law, emergency powers lapse within a year unless the president renews them. A national emergency can be re-declared indefinitely, and, in practice, that is done frequently. There have been 58 pronounced under the National Emergencies Act, of which 31 are still in effect.

 

What happens once a national emergency is declared?

Even though there aren’t many limits on a president’s ability to declare an emergency, it does not create complete freedom to act. Anyone directly affected by the order can challenge it in court.

Congress can also draft a concurrent resolution to terminate the state of emergency, leading to a somewhat novel act. Ordinarily, congressional resolutions support a president’s declaration of a national emergency.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

LOFAR telescope

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: LOFAR telescope- objectives, features and significance of the latest discovery.

 

Context: A new map of the night sky published recently charts hundreds of thousands of previously unknown galaxies discovered using LOFAR telescope that can detect light sources optical instruments cannot see.

  • The discovery literally shed new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets, including the physics of black holes and how clusters of galaxies evolve.

 

About LOFAR Telescope:

The Low-Frequency Array or LOFAR, is a large radio telescope network located mainly in the Netherlands, completed in 2012 by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and its international partners.

How it works? LOFAR consists of a vast array of omnidirectional antennas using a new concept in which the signals from the separate antennas are not combined in real time as they are in most array antennas. The electronic signals from the antennas are digitized, transported to a central digital processor, and combined in software to emulate a conventional antenna.

The project is based on an interferometric array of radio telescopes using about 20,000 small antennas concentrated in at least 48 stations.

The mission of LOFAR is to map the Universe at radio frequencies from ~10–240 MHz with greater resolution and greater sensitivity than previous surveys, such as the 7C and 8C surveys, and surveys by the Very Large Array (VLA) and Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT).

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

VIVID- 2019:

Context: VIVID-Vision Insight and Voices as India goes Digital”- the District Informatics Officer (DIO) meet, is being organised by National Informatics Centre (NIC).

What is it? The meet is held as an initiative to interact with the DIO’s and to share their experiences as well as contribution, as digital change-makers at the grass-root level in the States.

  • VIVID started in 2017, as an annual event, with the objective to empower NIC officials in the field of technology.
  • The National meet will cover a wide range of relevant topics in various technical sessions including Emerging Technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Big Data Analytics), Cyber Threats & Counter Measures (Changing Digitisation Paradigm & its impact on Security), Enterprise Level Applications, and many other relevant topics.

 

Agricultural Science Congress:

Context: 14th Agricultural Science Congress is being held at New Delhi.

Organized by: The NAAS in collaboration with the ICAR and Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Theme: “Innovations for Agricultural Transformation”.

 

Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS):

Context: The Union Cabinet approved construction of Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor of Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) covering a distance of 82.15 kms.

  • The RRTS is a first-of-its-kind, rail-based, high-speed regional transit system to be implemented in India.
  • Once operational, it will be the fastest, most comfortable and safest mode of commuter transport in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • The RRTS aims to streamline the urban transportation system, which is stressed due to intensive developments, and increase in the number of private vehicles.
  • The project is meant to ensure ‘Universal Access’ by being sensitive to the needs of women, children and vulnerable sections of the society.

 

About the Island Development Agency (IDA):

What is it? The IDA was set up on June 1 this year following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting for the development of islands. The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister.

Composition: Members of the IDA include cabinet secretary, home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).

 


Summaries of important Editorials:

 

RBI’s payouts to the govt — why, and how much:

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-rbis-payouts-to-the-govt-why-and-how-much-5593471/.

 

Summary: The section discusses about dividends paid by RBI to govt, rationale and provisions associated, concerns associated and significance of such payouts.

 

Context: This is the second year running that the RBI has paid an interim dividend to the government; it had approved an interim payout of Rs 10,000 crore last year.

 

How does a central bank like the RBI generate profits (or surplus)?

RBI earns largely from the returns on its foreign currency assets, which could be in the form of bonds and treasury bills of other central banks or top-rated securities, deposits with other central banks, the interest it earns on its holdings of local rupee-denominated government bonds or securities; when lending to banks for very short tenures (such as overnight); and management commission on handling the borrowings of state governments and the central government. The RBI buys these financial assets against its fixed liabilities such as currency held by the public, and deposits issued to commercial banks on which it does not pay interest.

RBI’s expenditure is mainly on the printing of currency notes and on staff; on commissions to banks for undertaking transactions on behalf of the government across the country, and to primary dealers, including banks, for underwriting some of these borrowings.

The central bank’s total costs, including expenditure on printing and commissions, is only about a seventh of its total net interest income — which implies that it generates a large surplus.

 

Does the government have a claim on the RBI’s profits/surplus?

Government of India is the sole owner of the RBI. Therefore, the government can make a legitimate claim to surplus generated by RBI.

RBI transfers its “surplus” — the excess of income over expenditure — to the government under the provisions Section 47 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934: “After making provision for bad and doubtful debts, depreciation in assets, contributions to staff and superannuation funds and for all other matters for which provision is to be made by or under this Act or which are usually provided for by bankers, the balance of the profits shall be paid to the Central Government.”

 

Is there a problem in giving extra dividends?

Much of the surplus that the RBI generates comes from the interest on government assets, or from the capital gains it makes off other market participants. When this is paid to the government as dividend, the RBI is putting back into the system the money it has made from it — and there is no additional money-printing or reserve-creation involved. But when the RBI pays an additional dividend to the government, it has to create additional permanent reserves — that is, it has to print money. To accomodate the special dividend, the RBI would have to withdraw an equivalent amount of money from the public by selling government bonds in its portfolio.

 

Why are central banks reluctant to transfer large amounts to the sovereign?

Large payouts can limit their ability to create buffers that would cushion the impact of a crisis.

 

What is the global practice on payment of surplus by central banks?

  • Almost all central banks, the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, Germany’s Bundesbank, or the Reserve Bank of Australia, are owned by their respective governments, and have to transfer their surplus or profits to the Treasury, or the equivalent of India’s Finance Ministry.
  • The UK has a formal Memorandum of Understanding on the financial relationship between the Treasury and the Bank of England, which lays down a clear framework for passing on 100% of net profits to the government. The US Fed too, transfers all its net earnings to the Treasury.