The HINDU Notes – 06th June 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, June 06, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 06th June 2019

📰 PM Modi to head Cabinet committees on growth, employment

The two Cabinet committees have been constituted to address the twin problems of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment

•To address the twin problems of sluggish economic growth and rising unemployment, the government has constituted two Cabinet committees to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

•The five-member Committee on Investment and Growth consists of Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister for Road Transport and Highways and MSME Nitin Gadkari and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.

•This committee will be a focussed group to take measures to bring investments and spur growth in the critical sectors including infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture, as the economy is passing through a highly volatile period.

•The government also set up a 10-member Cabinet committee for Employment and Skill Development.

•Employment data for 2017-18, released on May 31 after the Lok Sabha elections, said India’s unemployment rate rose to 6.1% in the period, the highest in 45 years.

•In addition to the Prime Minister, the committee includes Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Railway Miinister Piyush Goyal, Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister Skill and Entrepreneurship Mahendra Nath Pandey and Ministers of State Santosh Kumar Gangwar (Labour) and Hardeep Singh Puri (Housing and Urban Affairs).

•The panel on employment is one of two Cabinet committees set up to spur economic growth and rackle unemployment.

•With the GDP falling to 5.8% in the last quarter of 2018-19, lowest in last five years, the committee on economic growth will prepare a road map to bring the economy back on the growth trajectory.

•The GDP growth for 2018-19 was 6.8 %, against the target of 7.2 %.

•The fall in growth is result of dip in the performance of the core sectors of the economy, as the eight core sectors — coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity — recorded a growth of just 2.6 % in April, compared with 4.6% in the same month last year.

•As per figures released by the government, the country’s economic growth saw the third straight fall in quarterly growth, raising concerns about the slowdown even as the BJP-led NDA government is beginning its second term following a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

•Similarly, employment data for 2017-18, released on May 31, brought out that India’s unemployment rate rose to 6.1% in the said period, which is the highest in 45 years.

📰 Imperative to test all pregnant women for gestational diabetes

Imperative to test all pregnant women for gestational diabetes
Prevention in the earliest stage of foetal development of the foetus is essential to prevent children from becoming predisposed to diabetes or other non-communicable diseases

•It has become imperative that every pregnant woman be screened for high blood glucose even if no symptoms are exhibited, a recent paper published in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India has posited.

•Arguing that primordial prevention or, in this case, at the earliest stage of development of the foetus, is essential to prevent children from becoming predisposed to diabetes or other non-communicable diseases (NCD), the paper by V. Seshiah and his team from the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group India (DIPSI) makes a case for testing all pregnant women.

•“The aim should be to target keeping the new born's birth weight appropriate for the gestational age (2.5-3.5 kg) to prevent the offspring developing NCD in the future,” the authors have stated. “It is essential to make an early diagnosis and ensure the mother maintains ideal blood sugar levels (fasting glucose under or 90 mg/dl, and post prandial under or 120 mg/dl),” explains Dr. Seshiah, lead author and patron, DIPSI.

Intra-uterine period

•The paper states that while several reasons have been ascribed for the rising trend of NCD, the concept of intrauterine programming has not received adequate attention. Quoting David Barker’s ‘Fetal Origin of Adult Diseases’ theory, it says the body’s susceptibility to lifestyle diseases was programmed in the intra-uterine period.

•Higher glucose transfer to the foetus, when the mother has high blood sugar, stimulates the foetal pancreatic cells to start secreting insulin earlier and in higher quantities. Once initiated, it becomes self perpetuating. In addition, when the maternal glucose reading is over 110 mg/dl, the amniotic fluid becomes glucose enriched, and after 20 weeks, when the foetus begins to swallow the amniotic fluid, which further stimulates production of insulin.

National guidelines

•The Ministry of Health has developed national guidelines for testing, diagnosis and management of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy, and they recommend early testing at the time of contact (during the first trimester) and if the test is negative, yet another test should be done between 24-28 weeks. “Uttar Pradesh has implemented this programme extremely well. They are even using advanced testing equipment not seen in other parts of the country,” Dr. Seshiah says.

•“Testing all pregnant women has become the norm across the world,” explains V. Balaji, secretary, DIPSI. “The common test is the single dose oral glucose, because it is simple and economical.” A single reading of blood sugar two hours after the ingestion of 75 gm oral glucose solution is taken. A value of 140 mg/dl or more indicates GDM.

📰 Nirmala Sitharaman to attend G-20 Finance Ministers’ meeting in Japan

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das also to attend the deliberations on June 8 and 9

•Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will attend the two-day meeting of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank governors in Japan on June 8 and 9, according to a government official.

•This will be the first overseas visit of Ms. Sitharaman as Finance Minister.

•Besides Ms. Sitharaman, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das is also likely to attend the meeting at Fukuoka in Japan.

•Among other things, the meeting over the weekend is likely to focus on risks and challenges being faced by the global economy, investment in infrastructure and international taxation.

Leaders Summit

•The deliberations at the meeting would be followed by the G-20 Leaders’ Summit scheduled on June 28-29 at Osaka.

•The meeting would also deliberate on issues such as increasing protectionism and its implication on global growth and trade.

•The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for global growth from 3.6% last year to 3.3% in 2019.

•In this context, the deliberations would focus on surveillance of global economic risks, global imbalances, ageing population and its policy implications, addressing financial market fragmentation and opportunities and challenges in financial innovation.

•The other issues which would figure are international taxation in the context of digitised economy, issues concerning shifting of tax liability to low tax jurisdiction and real time exchange of tax-related information, are likely to come up during the discussion.

•G-20, which is a group of developing and developed nations, include India, the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, France and Australia.

•The G20 meetings, convened annually since 1999, provides a forum for key countries in the international financial system to discuss major international economic issues and to coordinate to achieve the stable and sustainable growth of the global economy.

📰 EC to review penalty for ‘false plaint’

Internal discussion on modifying or softening it likely, says CEC Arora

•The Election Commission may “revisit” the rule for prosecution of a voter for making a false complaint of malfunction of an electronic voting machine or a voter verifiable paper audit trail machine, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said.

•“Now that the current elections are over, we will probably be discussing it internally whether it should be modified, softened etc. ... we may revisit it,” he said when asked about the penal provision which many feel is unwarranted.

Rule 49MA

•A voter who claims that the EVM or the VVPAT machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote under Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules. However, if the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for giving a ‘false submission’.

•The Section says the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

•In April, the Supreme Court had sought a response from the poll panel on a plea seeking to revoke the rule. The plea alleged that putting the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines used in election process infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.

•The petition also pointed out that presently the burden of proof rests on the elector for reporting any deviant behaviour of EVMs and VVPAT machines.

•A Bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the plea, which alleged that Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Elections Rules was unconstitutional as it criminalises reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines.

•The poll body has maintained that if there is no penal provision, people may make false claims. The penal provision is used as “an exception, very, very, very rarely”, Mr. Arora said, adding that the intention of the provision must have been to discourage those who want to disrupt the electoral process by making such complaints.

•According to EC officials, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to go through and settle complaints about VVPAT machines malfunctioning.

📰 Centre wants all States to join Ayushman Bharat

Health minister seeks to convince Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Delhi

•Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has urged the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Odisha, Telangana and West Bengal, urging them to join the Centre’s flagship health protection scheme, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).

•“I have spoken to Chief Ministers Arvind Kejriwal [Delhi], Naveen Patnaik [Odisha] and Mamata Banerjee [West Bengal] already and will be speaking with K. Chandrashekar Rao [Telangana] on the issue. It is important that the benefits of a scheme like Ayushman Bharat should reach all deprived and vulnerable people in the country. I will make all efforts to convince these States and ensure that no eligible person is deprived of its benefits,” said Dr. Harsh Vardhan on June 5.

•“Financial resources will be made available to the States with adequate flexibility in the spirit of cooperative federalism. The ultimate beneficiary of this collaboration will be poor and vulnerable people. Due to the portability of services, the States will gain from the nationwide network of hospitals and will also help provide services in their own State to those from outside their States,” added the Minister.

•He also assured full support and cooperation to States in aligning their own schemes with Ayushman Bharat.

•In his letter, the Minister said that it was due to the clear and transparent processes and ease of access and benefits that 32 States had accepted the scheme.

•“They will also benefit from a well-proven fraud monitoring and control system and exchange of key learning and best practices of other States towards equitable healthcare,’’ added the Minister.

📰 India’s services sector activity growth slips to 12-month low

Dip in May comes amid election disruptions: Nikkei India

•The country’s services sector activity increased at the slowest pace in a year in May, as disruptions arising from the elections in the earlier part of the month hampered growth of new work intake, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday.

•The seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index fell to 50.2 in May, from 51.0 in April, pointing to the slowest growth rate in the current 12-month stretch of expansion.

•Despite the moderation, the services PMI was in the expansion territory for the 12th straight month. In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction. “India’s dominant service economy again suffered the impact of election disruptions, with growth of both new work and business activity softening for the third straight month,” said Pollyanna De Lima, principal economist at IHS Markit, and author of the report.

•The survey however noted that there were signs that the slowdown may prove temporary as companies stepped up hiring and became more confident about future prospects.

•“Signs that we may see a revival in the service sector in the near-term were, however, evidenced by a pick-up in hiring activity and improved sentiment.

•“Also supportive of greater client spending and investment among businesses is the evident lack of inflationary pressures,” Ms. De Lima added.

•Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index, that maps both the manufacturing and services industry, was at 51.7 in May, unchanged from April.

📰 Studying Olive Ridleys in Odisha

New research centre to come up in State

•A proposal has been made to establish a permanent research centre near the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast to study the mass nesting of Olive Ridleys and the environmental factors related to it.

•Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Ashis Behera said a detailed project report had been sent to the State government.

Rushikulya rookery

•The research centre is expected to be established at a cost of more than ₹9 crore. The Forest Department is planning to have it in the Khallikote forest range, which is near the Rushikulya rookery.

•The centre would be involved in a detailed study of the habits and the habitat of the turtles and the coastal flora and fauna.

•As per the plans, it would have a museum for the general public where skeletons and eggs of different marine turtles would be displayed. It would also include models and interactive displays.

•A scientist of Wildlife Institute of India Bivash Pandav — considered to be the first wildlife researcher and documenter of the mass nesting at the rookery — said the centre should start functioning as early as possible. He said it would make the Odias realise that since generations the local fishermen had been protecting the now endangered marine turtles.

Busting myths

•The centre would also allay myths and unscientific theories related to the mass nesting, said the DFO. Recently, it became viral on social media that the turtles had sensed Cyclone Fani and gave the rookery the skip. But past data proved the assumption wrong. Mass nesting occurred at the rookery in 1999 and 2013, when major cyclones hit the Odisha coast. In both cases, the Rushikulya rookery was affected. Mass nesting had not occurred in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2016 though no major cyclone hit the coast.

📰 India needs a solar manufacturing strategy

Despite making significant progress in solar power generation, India still relies on China for equipment

•India has made significant progress in creating capacity for solar energy generation in the last few years. The Prime Minister’s emphasis since 2014 has given a new fillip to solar power installation. The unit costs of solar power have fallen, and solar energy has become increasingly competitive with alternative sources of energy. India expanded its solar generation capacity eight times from 2,650 MW on May 26, 2014 to over 20 GW on January 31, 2018, and 28.18 GW on March 31, 2019. The government had an initial target of 20 GW of solar capacity by 2022, which was achieved four years ahead of schedule. In 2015, the target was raised to 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

Relying on imports

•This rapid progress should have been made earlier, however. India is energy deficient, yet blessed with plenty of sunlight for most of the year. It should have taken a lead in solar panel manufacture to generate solar energy long ago. Despite the new policy focus on solar plant installation, India is still not a solar panel manufacturer. Just as India has had no overall industrial policy since economic reforms began, there is no real plan in place to ensure solar panel manufacture. The share of all manufacturing in GDP was 16% in 1991; it remained the same in 2017. The solar power potential offers a manufacturing opportunity. The government is a near monopsonistic buyer. India is regarded by the global solar industry as one of the most promising markets, but low-cost Chinese imports have undercut its ambitions to develop its own solar technology suppliers. Imports, mostly from China, accounted for 90% of 2017 sales, up from 86% in 2014.

•Substituting for imports requires human capabilities, technological capabilities and capital in the form of finance. On the first two capabilities, the supply chain of solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing is as follows: silicon production from silicates (sand); production of solar grade silicon ingots; solar wafer manufacturing; and PV module assembly. The capital expenditure and technical know-how needed for these processes decreases from the first item to the last, i.e. silicon production is more capital-intensive than module assembly. Most Indian companies are engaged in only module assembly or wafer manufacturing and module assembly. No Indian company is involved in silicon production, although a few are making strides towards it. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (2018), India has an annual solar cell manufacturing capacity of about 3 GW while the average annual demand is 20 GW. The shortfall is met by imports of solar panels.

•So we may not see domestic players, in the short term at least, replacing imported ones. While the safeguard duty now puts locally made panels on par with imported ones in terms of cost, the domestic sector needs to do a lot more to be effective. For instance, it will have to go down the supply chain and make the input components locally instead of importing them and putting the modules together here. Public procurement is the way forward. The government is still free to call out bids for solar power plants with the requirement that these be made fully in India. This will not violate any World Trade Organization commitment. However, no bids will be received as manufacturing facilities for these do not exist in the country. But as Ajay Shankar, former Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, argues, if the bids were large enough with supplies spread over years, which gives enough time for a green field investment to be made for manufacturing in India, then bidders will emerge and local manufacturing can begin.

Lessons from China

•China’s cost advantage derives from capabilities on three fronts. The first is core competence. The six largest Chinese manufacturers had core technical competence in semiconductors before they turned to manufacturing solar cells at the turn of the century. It takes time for companies to learn and put in action new technologies. When the solar industry in China began to grow, Chinese companies already possessed the know-how. Experts suggest that the human and technical learning curve could be five to 10 years. Indian companies had no learning background in semiconductors when the solar industry in India began to grow from 2011. State governments need to support semiconductor production as part of a determined industrial policy to develop this capacity for the future.

•The second source of cost advantage for China comes from government policy. The Chinese government has subsidised land acquisition, raw material, labour and export, among others. None of this is matched by the Indian government. Perhaps even more important is commitment by the government to procure over the long run — without that the investment in building up the design and manufacturing for each of the four stages of production of solar power equipment would come to nought.

•The third is the cost of capital. The cost of debt in India (11%) is highest in the Asia-Pacific region, while in China it is about 5%.

•Fifteen years ago, the Chinese could also have remained dependent upon imports from Korea or Germany; they did not. Remaining dependent on imports only leads to short-term benefits for India. A continuation of the current approach means India’s energy sector will be in the same condition as its defence industry, where enormous amounts of money have been spent procuring weaponry — so much so that India has been the world’s second largest importer of defence equipment for years.

•In the solar panel manufacturing sector, the Indian government allows 100% foreign investment as equity and it qualifies for automatic approval. The government is also encouraging foreign investors to set up renewable energy-based power generation projects on build-own-operate basis. But the Chinese government is clearly adopting an aggressive stance while the demand for solar power in India continues to grow, as does the government’s commitment to renewables. In 2018, China cut financial support to developers and halted approval for new solar projects. As a result, Chinese producers will cut prices to sustain their manufacturing plant capacity utilisation by sustaining exports to India. In other words, the Chinese strategy is to undercut any planned effort by India to develop the entire supply chain capacity within India so that dependence on imports from China continues. As a counter, India needs a solar manufacturing strategy, perhaps like the Automotive Mission Plan (2006-2016), which is credited with making India one of the largest manufacturers of two-wheelers, three-wheelers, four-wheelers and lorries in the world. This would also be a jobs-generating strategy for an increasingly better educated youth, both rural and urban.

📰 From Swachh to ‘Nal se Jal’

Centre to place more focus on piped water after phase 1 of sanitation mission

•With the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheduled to officially complete its mission of an open defecation free (ODF) India by October 2, there is uncertainty on what lies ahead for the Centre’s flagship sanitation scheme.

•Since its launch by the Prime Minister in 2014, the rural component of the mission alone has attracted government spending of about Rs. 1 lakh crore, split between the Centre and States in a 60:40 ratio. Discussions are now being held with the Finance Ministry to work out a potential allocation for the scheme as part of the new government’s first budget to be presented on July 5.

•While government officials and funding agencies alike stress the importance of a second phase past October, with continued behaviour change and solid and liquid waste management programmes required to maintain the scheme’s gains, it is unclear if funding and attention could be sustained at levels matching those of the high-profile first phase.

UNICEF study

•On Wednesday, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of the newly created Jal Shakti Ministry, which is expected to absorb the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, released a UNICEF study showing that groundwater is 12.7 times less likely to be contaminated in ODF villages than non-ODF villages. Noting that the sanitation mission had improved the environment as well as people’s health and dignity, Mr. Shekhawat said the mission would “continue to positively impact people’s lives for a long time to come.”

•Asked about funding for the second phase, Mr. Shekhawat said, “With Modi ji as PM, there is no need to ask such a question. Whatever is required will be given.”

•While a World Bank grant would continue till January 2021, representatives of UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said they were working on faecal sludge management projects for phase two, but expected that greater attention and government funding may now be focussed on a new piped water scheme.

•The Nal se Jal scheme aims to provide piped drinking water to every rural home by 2024, in response to studies showing that 84% of rural homes have no access to piped water, with more than 70% of the country’s water contaminated. A second phase of Swachh Bharat may be key to reducing contamination, as the UNICEF study suggests.

•“Having Water Resources under the same roof as Drinking Water and Sanitation (DWS) will allow greater coordination,” said DWS secretary Parameswaran Iyer. “Think of them as the supply side, while we focus on a service delivery side.”

📰 China launches its first sea-based space rocket

It was fired from a ship in Yellow Sea

•China launched a space rocket from sea for the first time on Wednesday, its space agency announced, the latest step in Beijing’s push to become a major space power.

•China now spends more than Russia and Japan on its civil and military space programmes — unveiling ambitious plans for missions to the moon and beyond in the coming decade.

•A Long March 11 rocket was launched from a ship in the Yellow Sea just after midday, the China National Space Administration said in a statement.

•“This is the first time that China has... (tested a) launch vehicle at sea,” it added. The rocket carried two experimental satellites and five commercial ones. State broadcaster CCTV, in a post on the Twitter-like Weibo platform, hailed it as “a new launching mode for China to enter space quickly”.

•The test marks another win for Beijing’s space programme.

•Earlier this year, China became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the moon.

•It also unveiled ambitious plans to build a research base on the lunar surface, send a probe to Mars and build a space station in Earth orbit.

•In 2003, China became only the third nation to have the capability of launching humans into space.

•And with sea launches, China now has the ability to deploy satellites from a mobile platform.

•Most recently, Russian-backed firm Sea Launch used a floating platform to launch dozens of rockets between 1999 and 2014.

•According to Russian company Energia, the majority shareholder in Sea Launch, launching from sea has a number of advantages, such as the ability to send off rockets from a variety of locations on Earth, as well as reduced costs and risks.

📰 Navy steams ahead with its plans to go ‘green’

Measures include use of biodiesel and solar panels

•The Navy is pressing ahead with its eco-friendly programme, the Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap (INECR) that comprises specific action plans covering the gamut of operations, maintenance, administration, infrastructure and community living, the service said in a statement on Environment Day.

•“The road map envisions ‘reduction in energy consumption’ and ‘diversification of energy supply’ as the key result areas,” the Navy said.

•Under the INECR, numerous policies aimed at reduction of energy consumption and environment sustenance have been formulated and disseminated to all ships, as well as shore establishments, it added.

•“As a progressive step, Indian Navy has pledged 1.5% of its ‘Works’ budget towards renewable energy generation,” the Navy stated. Solar photovoltaic projects has been one of the focus areas of the Navy since the inception of the INECR and 24 MW of solar photovoltaic projects consisting of both rooftop and land-based solar panels are under execution at various shore establishments of the Navy under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.

•To promote use of biodiesel, plans were afoot to replace High Speed Diesel (HSD) (annual usage of 6,300 kL) with B5 blend of HSD. This would result in a direct savings of 5% of HSD, or approximately 315 kL annual savings of HSD. The project to blend HSD is set to start at Visakhapatnam in the coming months.

•Afforestation drives at Naval stations would mitigate an estimated 365 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

📰 By 2025, India to have 88 mn 5G connections

•Global telecom industry body GSMA expects India to have 920 million unique mobile subscribers by 2025 that will include 88 million 5G connections.

•“5G connections in India are forecast to reach 88 million by 2025... This will leave India trailing regional peers such as China, which is set to see almost 30% of its total connection base on 5G by 2025,” the GSMA Intelligence report released in May said.

•It said there were close to 750 million unique subscribers at the end of 2018 and expected the number to reach almost 920 million by 2025. “India alone will generate almost a quarter of the world’s new mobile subscribers over this period,” it said. However, the emergence of the 5G ecosystem in India will depend on the telecom operators’ ability to invest in network which requires favourable support on policy and regulatory fronts.

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