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FOCUS

FOCUS
Dear Students,
FOCUS is a Raus IAS Study Circles monthly publication of current affairs analysis. The publication, as the
name suggests, focuses solely on such current affair items and newspaper editorials which are relevant to
the dynamic segments of the General Studies syllabus and are important themes for the Essay paper of the
Civil Services Examination.
FOCUS is not just a collection of current affairs and general knowledge items, it is in fact a collective effort
of experienced trainers and educators in varied themes of General Studies to analyse these news items,
research and provide background and related information, lend a generalist viewpoint to these news pieces
and thus prepare critical notes for the study of General Studies papers.
Features:
1.
All news items are categorized and clubbed theme-wise (International, India & the World, National,
Polity & Governance, Science & Technology, Defence and so on)
2.
Maps and figures, wherever relevant, have been provided with news
3.
Background information has been added to make news understandable in totality
4.
Related and additional information
5.
News Analysis
6.
Must read editorials of the month
7.
Essay
8.
Assignment (Questions)
9.
All in a very simple and lucid format
How to use?
1.
This issue is broadly divided into twenty seven parts:
a)
Parts One to Twenty One are different themes under which all news items have been categorized.
b)
Part Twenty Two contains all the important editorials from different sources which we consider are a
must read for all aspirants.
c)
Part Twenty Three contains important articles which we consider are a must read for all aspirants.
d)
Part Twenty Four on Essay.
e)
Part Twenty Five contains a bunch of multiple choice questions on current affairs incorporated with
emphasis on Preliminary General Studies - Paper I and 15 descriptive type questions for various core
sections of the Main exam.
f)
Part Twenty Six contains solutions to multiple choice questions incorporated in FOCUS-December,
2015 issue.
g)
Part Twenty Seven: Focus Special
2.
3.
4.
5.

Study maps and figures carefully. It will add depth to your knowledge.
Never miss the Background of any news. UPSC asks questions from the background of the news.
Use Related Information and Additional Information to create extra dimensions to your answer.
News Analysis and Editorial will help you develop views about an issue. UPSC asks questions based
upon your views regarding an issue.

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FOCUS

6.

Make a collection of all these issues/publications and keep revising them as these notes will not only
help you answer many questions in the General Studies papers but will also be very helpful for the
Essay paper.

Further Assistance:
1.
For further understanding of any current affair items or editorials, please consult the respective
thematic faculty member/professor.
2.
For clarity on practice multiple choice questions (MCQs) given in this issue, please consult the
FOCUS- November issue.
3.
For clarity on questions on GS Main Exam, please consult respective thematic faculty.
The sources for all the news items and other related information are:
1.
The Hindu
2.
The Times of India
3.
The Indian Express
4.
Asian Age
5.
The Tribune
6.
The Economic Times
7.
Hindu Business Line
8.
Frontline
9.
Economic and Political Weekly
10. World Focus
11. BBC

Good Luck!
RAUS IAS STUDY CIRCLE

ESSAY WRITING
The Study Circle invites and encourages students to write essay on any or both of the below mentioned topics and
submit to the office for inclusion in the February, 2016 issue. Essays can be submitted on any of the following issues:1. Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil.
2. Dreams which should not let India sleep.

Word limit: Desired word limit is 1500 words.


Clarity of thought, lucidity in expression, coherence and analytical thinking is expected from the students.
Timelines: All essays must be submitted either as hard copies at the Office or emailed as scanned copies to
focus@rauias.com latest by February 29, 2016. No extension in the date of submission will be considered.
Students can submit essay on either of the topics. Do remember to mention your Name and Batch number along
with the essay.

Note: The best essay(s) on the basis of merit and relevance to the topic will be published in the forthcoming issue.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART ONE | INTERNATIONAL 7
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Tsai Ing-wen elected Taiwan's first female president ................................................................................... 7


North Korea test draws threat of sanctions despite H-bomb doubts.......................................................... 9
China restructures military as Xi eyes strong army .................................................................................. 10
Shi'ite cleric executed in Saudi Arabia, stirring anger in region ................................................................ 11
Bangladesh court upholds death sentence for Nizami................................................................................ 12
Nuclear sanctions lifted as Iran, U.S. agree on prisoner swap ................................................................... 12

PART TWO | INDIA AND THE WORLD 13


1.

India ranks 76th in global corruption index ................................................................................................. 13

PART THREE | NATIONAL NEWS 15


1.
2.
3.

India launches its urban makeover plan with smart cities ......................................................................... 15
Telangana becomes first State to make gender education compulsory .................................................... 16
Lalbagh flower show goes national ............................................................................................................... 16

PART FOUR | ECONOMY 17


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Startup India Standup India............................................................................................................................ 17


China devalues yuan again, triggers currency war fears............................................................................ 18
India to counter non-issues at WTO talks ................................................................................................... 19
Fall in exports projected to be worst since 1952-53 ...................................................................................... 20
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana ................................................................................................................ 20
Government lowers GDP growth rate to 7.2% ............................................................................................. 21
IMF cuts global growth forecast as China slows .......................................................................................... 22
India gets more voting rights as IMF implements quota reforms ............................................................. 23
Opening of AIIB part of global financial revamp ........................................................................................ 24
Govt. mobilises 900 kg of gold under monetisation scheme ...................................................................... 25

PART FIVE | POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 26


1.
2.

After Centre allowed Jallikattu, Supreme Court stops it ............................................................................ 26


President Mukerjee clears five legislations, gives more teeth to SC/ST Act ........................................... 27

PART SIX | SOCIAL ISSUES 28


1.

Maharashtra saw more than 3000 farmer suicides in 2015 ......................................................................... 28

PART SEVEN| SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 29


1.
2.
3.
4.

IRNSS-1E satellite launch: One step closer to our very own GPS ............................................................. 29
New way to measure gravity can find Earth-like planets .......................................................................... 30
The most energetic light ever in space........................................................................................................... 30
First flower in space ......................................................................................................................................... 30

PART EIGHT| ENERGY 32


1.

Cabinet nod for power tariff policy ............................................................................................................... 32

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART NINE| DEFENCE 33


1.
2.

New defence procurement procedure changes dynamics .......................................................................... 33


Sahyog-Kaijin .................................................................................................................................................... 34

PART TEN| ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY 35


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

India to go directly to BS-VI emission norms by 2020................................................................................. 35


Snowflake coral ................................................................................................................................................. 35
Gigantopithecus ................................................................................................................................................ 36
IMD declares an end to droughts in India .................................................................................................... 37
New class of frogs found in the north-east ................................................................................................... 38
Giant bird eaten to extinction by humans ..................................................................................................... 38
Solitary bee ...................................................................................................................................................... 39

PART ELEVEN| HEALTH 40


1.
2.
3.

Zika Virus ...................................................................................................................................................... 40


The Lancet turns spotlight on ending preventable stillbirths .................................................................... 41
Rural India too battles hypertension.............................................................................................................. 42

PART TWELVE| COMMITTEES AND REPORTS 43


1.
2.

Lodha committee proposes sweeping reforms for BCCI ............................................................................ 43


Shyam Benegal to head committee to revamp film censor board ............................................................. 44

PART THIRTEEN| CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS 45


1.

WEF concludes in Davos with concern over economic slowdown ........................................................... 45

PART FOURTEEN| SPORTS 47


1.
2.
3.

Chennai Open ................................................................................................................................................... 47


Australian Open 2016....................................................................................................................................... 47
Hat-trick for Santina ......................................................................................................................................... 47

PART FIFTEEN| ORGANISATION IN NEWS 48


1.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)............................................................................................................... 48

PART SIXTEEN| PERSONALITIES 50


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Abe Vigoda ...................................................................................................................................................... 50


David Bowie ...................................................................................................................................................... 50
Devender Kumar Sikri ..................................................................................................................................... 50
Marvin Minsky.................................................................................................................................................. 50
Mrinalini Sarabhai ............................................................................................................................................ 51
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ............................................................................................................................... 51
Natalie Cole ..................................................................................................................................................... 51
Ravindra Kalia................................................................................................................................................... 52
R.K. Mathur ...................................................................................................................................................... 52
Sailesh
...................................................................................................................................................... 52

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART SEVENTEEN| AWARDS 53


1.
2.
3.
4.

Messi bags fifth Ballon d'Or award ................................................................................................................ 53


Golden Globes 2016 .......................................................................................................................................... 53
Anuradha Roy wins DSC Prize for South Asian Literature ....................................................................... 54
The Hindu Prize for 2015 goes to Easterine Kire ......................................................................................... 54

PART EIGHTEEN| PLACES 55


1.

Field fossil museum to come up at Varanavasi ............................................................................................ 55

PART NINETEEN| HISTORY AND CULTURE 56


1.
2.
3.

World Music Festival to be held in Udaipur in February ........................................................................... 56


Chandragiri fort ................................................................................................................................................ 56
PM releases 100 secret files on Netaji............................................................................................................. 57

PART TWENTY| BOOKS AND AUTHORS 58


1.
2.

The Turbulent Years ......................................................................................................................................... 58


The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots ............................................................................................................................... 58

PART TWENTY ONE| MISCELLANEOUS 59


1.

World Braille Day ............................................................................................................................................. 59

PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS 60


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.

You are here ...................................................................................................................................................... 60


Revive NATGRID with safeguards................................................................................................................ 60
Towards organic lifestyle ................................................................................................................................ 61
Islamic nations also on ISIS radar ................................................................................................................. 61
Its the lynchpin: 92% of Indian adults have Aadhaar, but wheres its legislative framework? ........... 62
Holistic inclusion .............................................................................................................................................. 63
Will Rafael deal fly?.......................................................................................................................................... 63
Scientific temper essential to Indias development in 21st century........................................................... 64
The unmet health challenge ............................................................................................................................ 64
Dealing with the slowdown ............................................................................................................................ 65
Start and go ...................................................................................................................................................... 65
Mixed legacy of the Obama years .................................................................................................................. 66
No longer shy .................................................................................................................................................... 67
Happy birthday, Wikipedia ............................................................................................................................ 67
Optimising diaspora asset ............................................................................................................................... 68
A new beginning with Iran ............................................................................................................................. 68
Stagflation risk ahead ....................................................................................................................................... 69
Protect home buyers: Real estate bill has been hanging fire for years, even as the sector cries for
reforms
...................................................................................................................................................... 69
Return of terror in Indonesia........................................................................................................................... 70
A bright, dazzling rainbow ............................................................................................................................. 71
Incremental steps not enough ......................................................................................................................... 71
Bangladeshs Islamist challenge ..................................................................................................................... 72
Road to Mandalay ............................................................................................................................................ 72

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

24.
25.
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31.
32.
33.
34.
35.
36.
37.
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39.
40.
41.
42.
43.
44.

Field lessons ...................................................................................................................................................... 73


A dangerous escalation .................................................................................................................................... 74
Flowing out ...................................................................................................................................................... 74
All for the game ................................................................................................................................................ 75
Winds of change: Taiwans shifting politics opens the door to greater Indo-Taiwanese cooperation. 75
China bear need not menace India ................................................................................................................. 76
A political misadventure ................................................................................................................................. 76
Right track ...................................................................................................................................................... 77
A just exemption ............................................................................................................................................... 77
CPI a poor monetary policy variable; only constant must be the stability objective .............................. 78
Indias strategy for the near west ................................................................................................................... 78
Wrong blend ...................................................................................................................................................... 79
The sunrise sector ............................................................................................................................................. 80
Big quake warning: Manipur is another wakeup call for vulnerable India, dont ignore this one too 80
Caution on Free Basics ..................................................................................................................................... 81
Grow this food: How to woo more states aboard field trials for GM crops ............................................. 81
Challenge for lawmakers ................................................................................................................................. 82
Giving cities the smart edge ............................................................................................................................ 82
Dancer and dance ............................................................................................................................................. 83
Act Near-East .................................................................................................................................................... 83
Death with dignity: Government must empower terminally ill patients to take decisions about their
own care
...................................................................................................................................................... 84

PART TWENTY THREE| ARTICLES 85


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Non-alignment to multi-alignment ................................................................................................................ 85


The many must resist the some ...................................................................................................................... 87
Saudi Arabias deadly gamble ........................................................................................................................ 88
A case for expanding DBT ............................................................................................................................... 90
What Free Basics did not intend to do ........................................................................................................... 91
Reform, only left to the judiciary? .................................................................................................................. 93
The hidden wealth of nations ......................................................................................................................... 95

PART TWENTY FOUR| ESSAY 98


PART TWENTY FIVE | ASSIGNMENT QUESTIONS 100
PART TWENTY SIX| SOLUTIONS 104
PART TWENTY SEVEN| FOCUS SPECIAL 104

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

PART ONE | INTERNATIONAL


1.

Tsai Ing-wen elected Taiwan's first female president


Tsai Ing-wen has been elected Taiwan's first female president. Ms Tsai leads the Democratic Progressive Party
(DPP) that wants independence from China.

The victory by Tsai Ingwen marks a defeat for


not
only
the
prounification ruling party
KMT (Kuomintang) but
also China. The KMT has
been in power for most of
the past 70 years and has
overseen
improved
relations with Beijing.
Despite the past eight
years of reduced tensions
and
much
improved
relations built by the KMT
and China, Taiwanese
voters have voted for Ms
Tsai
from
the
proindependence
party
instead. Basically, they've
voted to keep Beijing at a
distance.
This reflects not only widespread dissatisfaction with President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT over insufficient
measures to improve the lacklustre economy, low wages and widening wealth gap - it also reflects growing
worries by Taiwanese people that the island may become too economically dependent on China and that this
will make it hard for Taiwan to fend off pressures by Beijing to reunify with it one day.
The message voters have sent Beijing is that, while they want reduced tensions and good relations, they cherish
Taiwan's sovereignty, democracy and self-rule even more.
The election came just months after a historic meeting between the leaders of Taiwan and China.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE CHINA-TAIWAN DIVIDE?
The first known settlers in Taiwan are thought to have come from modern day southern China. The island first
appears in Chinese records in AD239, when China sent an expeditionary force to explore - a fact Beijing uses to
back its territorial claim.
After a brief spell as a Dutch colony (1642-1661) Taiwan was unquestionably administered by China's Qing
dynasty from 1683 to 1895.
Starting at the beginning of the 17th Century, significant numbers of migrants started arriving from China, often
fleeing turmoil or hardship. Most were Hoklo Chinese from Fujian (Fukien) province or were Hakka Chinese,
largely from Guangdong. The descendants of these two migrations now make up by far the largest population
group.
In 1895, following Japan's victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing government had no choice but to cede
Taiwan to Japan. But Japan's defeat in World War Two led to the US and Britain agreeing that Taiwan should be
handed over to their ally, Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China government, which was then in control of most
of China.

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

But in the next few years, Chiang's troops were beaten back by the Communist armies under Mao Zedong.
Chiang and the remnants of his Kuomintang (KMT) government fled to Taiwan in 1949. This group, referred to
as Mainland Chinese, dominated Taiwan's politics for many years, even though they only account for 14% of the
population.
Having inherited an effective dictatorship, Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, began a process of democratisation,
which eventually led to the 2000 election of the island's first non-KMT president, Chen Shui-bian.
WHERE ARE THINGS AT NOW?
After decades of hostile intentions and angry rhetoric, relations between China and Taiwan started improving in
the 1980s. China put forward a formula, known as "one country, two systems", under which Taiwan would be
given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification.
The offer was rejected, but Taiwan did relax rules on visits to and investment in China. It also, in 1991,
proclaimed the war with the People's Republic of China over.
There were also limited talks between the two sides' unofficial representatives, though China's insistence that
the Republic of China (ROC) government is illegitimate prevented government-to-government contact.
Beijing became alarmed in 2000, when Taiwan elected as president Chen Shui-bian, who had openly backed
independence.
Mr Chen was re-elected in 2004, prompting China to pass a so-called anti-secession law in 2005, stating China's
right to use "non peaceful means" against Taiwan if it tried to secede from China.
In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was elected president and has sought to improve relations with China, mainly through
economic agreements.
SO WHAT IS TAIWAN?
There is disagreement and confusion about what Taiwan is, and even what it should be called.
Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China (ROC) government, which fled the mainland to Taiwan in 1949, at first
claimed to represent the whole of China, which it intended to re-occupy. It held China's seat on the United
Nations Security Council and was recognised by many Western nations as the only Chinese government.
But in 1971, the UN switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing and the ROC government was forced out. Since
then the number of countries that recognise the ROC government diplomatically has fallen to about 20.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake, by force if necessary. But Taiwan's
leaders say it is clearly much more than a province, arguing that it is a sovereign state. It has its own constitution
and democratically-elected leaders.
Given the huge divide between these two positions, most other countries seem happy to accept the current
ambiguity, whereby Taiwan has most of the characteristics of an independent state, even if its legal status
remains unclear.
HOW MUCH OF AN ISSUE IS INDEPENDENCE IN TAIWAN?
While political progress has been slow, links between the two peoples and economies have grown sharply.
Some Taiwanese worry their economy is now dependent on China. Others point out that closer business ties
makes Chinese military action less likely, because of the cost to China's own economy.
A controversial trade agreement sparked the "Sunflower Movement" in 2014 where students and activists
occupied Taiwan's parliament protesting against what they call China's growing influence over Taiwan.
Officially, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) still favours eventual independence for Taiwan, while the
KMT favours eventual re-unification. Opinion polls show only a small minority of Taiwanese support one or the
other, with most preferring to stick with the current middle ground.
Yet more and more people say they feel Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and there is growing support for the
DPP, partly because of dissatisfaction with the ruling party KMT's handling of economic matters, from the
wealth gap to high housing prices, and partly because of worries that the current administration is making
Taiwan too dependent on Beijing.

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

2.

WHAT ROLE DOES THE US PLAY?


The US is by far Taiwan's most important friend, and its only ally. The relationship, forged during World War
Two and the Cold War, underwent its sternest test in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter ended US diplomatic
recognition of Taiwan in order to concentrate on burgeoning ties with China.
The US Congress, responding to the move, passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which promises to supply Taiwan
with defensive weapons, and stressed that any attack by China would be considered of "grave concern" to the
US.
Since then, US policy has been described as one of "strategic ambiguity", seeking to balance China's emergence
as a regional power with US admiration for Taiwan's economic success and democratisation.
The pivotal role of the US was most clearly shown in 1996, when China conducted provocative missile tests to
try and influence Taiwan's first direct presidential election. In response, US President Bill Clinton ordered the
biggest display of US military power in Asia since the Vietnam War, sending ships to the Taiwan Strait, and a
clear message to Beijing.

North Korea test draws threat of sanctions despite H-bomb doubts


North Korea said it successfully tested a powerful nuclear bomb, drawing threats of further sanctions even
though the United States and weapons experts voiced doubts the device was as advanced as the isolated nation
claimed.

The underground explosion shook the earth so hard that it registered as a seismic event with U.S. earthquake
monitors.
It
put pressure
on China to
rein
in
neighbouring
North Korea.
The
U.N.
(United
Nations)
Security
Council said it
would
begin
working
immediately
on significant
new measures
in response to
North Korea, a
threat
diplomats said could mean an expansion of sanctions.
North Korea has been under Security Council sanctions since it first tested an atomic device in 2006. After a
nuclear test in 2013, the Security Council agreed on a resolution that tightened financial restrictions and cracked
down on Pyongyang's attempts to ship and receive banned cargo.
The explosion drew criticism, including from China and Russia. Beijing, the North's main economic and
diplomatic backer, said it will lodge a protest with Pyongyang.
H-BOMB OF JUSTICE
While North Korea has a long history of voicing bellicose rhetoric against the United States (U.S.) and its Asian
allies without acting on it, the assertion by Pyongyang that it had tested a hydrogen device, much more
powerful than an atomic bomb, came as a surprise. North Korea called the device the "H-bomb of justice."

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

3.

Hydrogen bombs pack an explosion that can be more powerful than an atomic bomb as it uses a two-step
process of fission and fusion that releases substantially more energy.
North Korea also said it was capable of miniaturizing the H-bomb, in theory allowing it to be placed on a missile
and potentially posing a new threat to the U.S. West Coast, South Korea and Japan.
While the Kim government boasts of its military might to project strength globally, it also plays up the need to
defend itself from external threats as a way to maintain control domestically.
North Korea has long coveted diplomatic recognition from Washington, but sees its nuclear deterrent as crucial
to ensuring the survival of its third-generation dictatorship.

China restructures military as Xi eyes strong


army
China unveiled three new units to its military: a force to
oversee strategic missiles, an army general command and
strategic support force. President Xi Jinping described
the modernization reform as a major policy decision to
realize the Chinese dream of a strong army.

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

4.

ROCKET FORCE
The reforms include a new People's Liberation Army (PLA) unit established to oversee China's arsenal of
strategic missiles.
In addition to the so-called "Rocket Force," the PLA also unveiled an army general command to serve as the
headquarters for land forces and a support unit to assist combat troops.
In an effort to create a more efficient fighting force, President Xi announced recently to cut the number of
Chinese troops by about 300,000 to approximately 2 million soldiers.
Beijing is also expanding its naval capacity, building a second aircraft carrier to join the one that was
commissioned in 2012.
SEA DISPUTES
The modernization comes as China flexes its military muscles with Japan in the East China Sea and with its
Southeast Asian neighbours in the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion in trade passes annually. But the
Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claim.

Shi'ite cleric executed in Saudi Arabia, stirring anger in region


Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, and dozens of al Qaeda members,
signalling that it would not tolerate attacks, whether by Sunni jihadists or minority Shi'ites, and stirring
sectarian anger across the region.

Nimr, the most vocal critic of the dynasty among the Shi'ite
minority, had come to be seen as a leader of the sect's younger
activists, who rejected the quiet approach of older community
leaders for failing to achieve equality with Sunnis.
Most of those killed recently in the kingdom's biggest mass execution
for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi
Arabia a decade ago. Some, including Nimr, were Shi'ites accused of
involvement in shooting policemen.
The move further soured relations between Sunni-ruled Saudi
Arabia and its Shi'ite regional rival, Iran, which had hailed Nimr as
the champion of a marginalised Shi'ite minority.
MESSAGE TO SAUDIS
However, the executions seemed mostly aimed at discouraging Saudis from jihadism after bombings and
shootings by Sunni militants in Saudi Arabia over the past year killed dozens and Islamic State called on
followers there to stage attacks.
Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family has grown increasingly worried in recent years as Middle East turmoil,
especially in Syria and Iraq, has empowered Sunni militants seeking to bring it down and given room to Iran to
spread its influence. A nuclear deal with Iran backed by Saudi Arabia's biggest ally, the United States, has done
little to calm nerves in Riyadh.
RADICAL ISLAM
Most jihadist groups follow a radical interpretation of the Salafi branch of Islam, the strict Sunni Muslim school
that was developed in Saudi Arabia and is still followed by its clergy; but they have long regarded the U.S.allied Saudi establishment as an enemy.
Government-appointed clerics have for years denounced al Qaeda and Islamic State as religious "deviants",
while the government has cracked down on jihadists at home, squeezed their funding streams abroad and
stopped them travelling to fight.

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PART ONE|INTERNATIONAL

5.

Bangladesh court upholds death sentence for Nizami


Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld a death sentence against a top Islamist political leader for crimes committed
during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Motiur Rahman Nizami - leader of the country's biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami - was convicted by a
special war crimes tribunal last year of a raft of offences that included genocide, murder, torture and rape.
Nizami is accused of setting up the Al-Badr militia, a paramilitary unit accused of collaborating with the
Pakistani army in large-scale killings and targeting Bangladesh's Hindu minority and intelligentsia.

RISING VIOLENCE
Many opposition politicians, including leaders of Jamaat-eIslami, have been convicted by the tribunal and executed since
late 2013.
Islamists have denounced the tribunal as part of a politically
motivated campaign aimed at weakening the leadership of
Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of the country's main opposition
party.
The executions since 2013 have come amid a rise in violence in
Muslim-majority Bangladesh, with armed groups claiming the
murder of foreigners and secular writers.
The government has blamed the increase in violence on Jamaat-e-Islami but the party denies any link.

6.

Nuclear sanctions lifted as Iran, U.S. agree on prisoner swap

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation when world powers lifted crippling sanctions against the Islamic
Republic in return for Tehran complying
with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.

In a dramatic move scheduled to coincide


with the scrapping of the sanctions, Tehran
also announced the release of some
Americans including Washington Post
reporter Jason Rezaian as part of a prisoner
swap with the United States.
The Vienna-based International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) ruled recently that
Iran had abided by an agreement last year
with six world powers to curtail its nuclear program, triggering the end of sanctions.
SIGNIFICANCE
Together, the lifting of sanctions and the prisoner deal considerably reduce the hostility between Tehran and
Washington that has shaped the Middle East since Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Tens of billions of dollars worth of Iranian assets will now be unfrozen and global companies that have been
barred from doing business in Iran will be able to exploit a market hungry for everything from automobiles to
airplane parts.
The end of sanctions means more money and prestige for Shi'ite Muslim Iran as it becomes deeply embroiled in
the sectarian conflicts of the Middle East, notably in the Syrian civil war where its allies are facing Sunni Muslim
rebels.
America's thaw with Iran is viewed with deep suspicion by U.S. Republicans as well as American allies in the
Middle East, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. U.S.-Iranian suspicion too still remains deeply entrenched.

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PART TWO | INDIA AND THE WORLD

PART TWO | INDIA AND THE WORLD


1.

India ranks 76th in global corruption index


Public-sector corruption is still a major problem around the world but more countries are improving than
worsening and the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) have reached their best rankings ever, the
anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, said.

Denmark remained at the top of Transparency Internationals Corruption Perceptions Index, a closely watched
global barometer, for the second consecutive year as the country perceived as least corrupt. It scored 91 points
out of a possible 100 while North Korea
and Somalia remained at the bottom
with unchanged scores of 8.
The US rose one spot this year to 16th
place, tying with Austria. The UK rose
three spots to place 10th, that tied it with
Germany and Luxembourg. The other
top spots, from second to ninth, were
occupied by Finland, Sweden, New
Zealand,
Netherlands,
Norway,
Switzerland, Singapore and Canada.
OTHER FINDINGS
Despite so many countries in the top 10,
Transparency said there was still a lot of
room for improvement in Europe and
Central Asia, which it grouped as one
region, saying in low-scorers Hungary,
Poland and Turkey, politicians and their
cronies are increasingly hijacking state
institutions to shore up power.
Its even grimmer further down the
index, the organization continued. In
Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan,
Russia,
Uzbekistan and others, governments are
restricting, if not totally stifling, civil
society and free media.
Russia sat in 119th place, tied with
Azerbaijan, Guyana and Sierra Leone,
although its score improved from 2014,
bringing its ranking on the list up from
136th place.
Brazil, in the midst of a massive
corruption scandal at the state-owned
oil company Petrobras, posted the
biggest decline, dropping to 76th place.
Transparency noted that in places like
Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana,
citizen activists have worked hard to
drive out the corrupt.

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PART TWO | INDIA AND THE WORLD

Overall, two-thirds of the 168 countries studied scored below 50 and the global average was 43. Still,
Transparency said it was a good sign that 64 countries improved their score while only 53 declined. The rest
were unchanged.
THE INDEX
The corruption index is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption, looking at a range of factors like
whether governmental leaders are held to account or go unpunished for corruption, the perceived prevalence of
bribery, and whether public institutions respond to citizens needs.
RELATED INFORMATION: TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL (TI)
Transparency International (TI) is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and
political corruption in international development. Originally founded in Germany in 1993 as a not-for-profit
organization, Transparency International is now an international non-governmental organization.
It publishes an annual Global Corruption Barometer, Corruption Perceptions Index, and Government Defence
Anti-Corruption Index (a global listing of corruption in the world's defence sectors). Its headquarters are located
in Berlin, Germany.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART THREE | NATIONAL NEWS

PART THREE | NATIONAL NEWS


1.

India launches its urban makeover plan with smart cities


The government picked 20 cities, including five state capitals, to launch its larger urban makeover plan.

The government proposes to provide


financial help to these cities, selected
through a challenge, and it is the
first phase of the governments plan
to set up 100 smart cities.
The cities in the first list have made it
to the top of the competition based
on
implementation
framework,
including feasibility and costeffectiveness which has a weightage
of
30%,
followed
by
result
orientation
(20%),
citizen
participation (16%), smartness of
proposals (10%), strategic plans
(10%), vision and goals (5%),
evidence-based city profiling and
key performance indicators (5%) and
processes followed (4%).
The cities in order of ranking are:
Bhubaneswar, Pune, Jaipur, Surat,
Kochi,
Ahmedabad,
Jabalpur
(Madhya Pradesh), Visakhapatnam,
Solapur (Maharashtra), Davanagere
(Karnataka), Indore, New Delhi
Municipal
Council
(Delhi),
Coimbatore,
Kakinada
(Andhra
Pradesh),
Belagavi
(Karnataka),
Udaipur,
Guwahati,
Chennai,
Ludhiana and Bhopal.
HUGE INVESTMENT
From the central government, the
selected cities will each be given
Rs.200 crore in the first year and
Rs.100 crore every subsequent year.
Plans will be implemented by a
special purpose vehicle set up for
each city.
The next round of the competition to
select 40 cities will begin from 1
April this year.

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PART THREE | NATIONAL NEWS

2.

WORLD-CLASS INFRASTRUCTURE
At a time when the government is pushing for urban renewal in India, the smart cities project aims to provide
world-class infrastructure in Indian cities. Developing the project in the shortlisted cities would ensure quality
infrastructure, technology-enabled services, sustainable public transport. Moreover, affordable housing, which is
already a priority for the government, would receive a further boost through the project.
The Smart Cities mission, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was launched in June 2015 with the
government releasing the guidelines and mission statement for the 100 Smart Cities project. The mission has
been allotted a budget of Rs.48,000 crore for five years.

Telangana becomes first State to make gender education compulsory


Telangana has become the first State to introduce compulsory gender
education at the graduate level; without repeating gender stereotypes in its
bilingual textbook titled, Towards a World of Equals.

3.

The book introduced on a pilot basis in engineering colleges affiliated to the


Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU-Hyderabad) discusses
gender in its composite form without limiting itself to crime against
women. From information on unacknowledged women writers of
Telangana to problems of sex selection and womens work in politics and
economics, the book attempts to cover it all.
Structured in simple language and form to suit under-graduates, the book
discusses different strands of womens movements across the world,
introducing students to political movements of Afro-American, Caribbean,
African, Dalit and minority women.
What makes the textbook interesting is the gamut of reactions and
classroom discussions which it attempts to generate. And coupled with the
book is a collection of visual teaching tools which include documentary
films.

Lalbagh flower show goes national


For the first time in its 102-year-old history of hosting flower shows, Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (Bangalore)
held a national flower show in January as a dozen States participated in the Republic Day flower show this time.

This edition of the flower show had a pan-India presence,


with each State showcasing its native specialities to add to
the heterogeneous disposition of flower display.
The edition, in a first, used only potted plants and flowers
grown on ground from saplings. This is new ground for
Lalbagh, which has held flower shows for more than a
century by using lakhs of cut flowers.
The show generates many truckloads of biowaste
comprising dry flowers, twigs and foliage gathered from
around the garden. The biodegradable waste is generally
handled by Lalbagh authorities for systematic composting,
a portion of which is also sent to Hulimavu Bio Centre at Bannerghatta Road for converting into vermi-compost.

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

PART FOUR | ECONOMY


1.

Startup India Standup India


Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the government's 'Startup India Standup India' plan. The programme
aims to make a conducive atmosphere for new-age entrepreneurship and provide equal opportunities to all.

Setting up of a corpus fund of Rs. 10,000 crore to fund startups, attractive tax incentives and minimum
government interference constitute the major plans of the government to spur entrpreneurship in the country.
HIGHLIGHTS

1.

SELF CERTIFICATION
The start-ups will adopt self-certification to reduce the regulatory liabilities. The self-certification will apply to
laws including payment of gratuity, labour contract, provident fund management, water and air pollution acts.

2.

START-UP INDIA HUB


An all-India hub will be created as a single contact point for start-up foundations in India, which will help the
entrepreneurs to exchange knowledge and access financial aid.

3.

REGISTER THROUGH APP


An online portal, in the shape of a mobile application, will be launched to help start-up founders to easily
register.

4.

PATENT PROTECTION
A fast-track system for patent examination at lower costs is being conceptualized by the central government. The
system will promote awareness and adoption of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) by the start-up
foundations.

5.

RS 10,000 CRORE FUND


The government will develop a fund with an initial corpus of Rs 2,500 crore and a total corpus of Rs 10,000 crore
over four years, to support upcoming start-up enterprises.
The Life Insurance Corporation of India will play a major role in developing this corpus. A committee of private
professionals selected from the start-up industry will manage the fund.

6.

NATIONAL CREDIT GUARANTEE TRUST COMPANY


A National Credit Guarantee Trust Company (NCGTC) is being conceptualized with a budget of Rs 500 crore
per year for the next four years to support the flow of funds to start-ups.

7.

NO CAPITAL GAINS TAX


At present, investments by venture capital funds are exempt from the Capital Gains Tax. The same policy is
being implemented on primary-level investments in start-ups.

8.

NO INCOME TAX FOR THREE YEARS


Start-ups would not pay Income Tax for three years. This policy would revolutionize the pace with which startups would grow in the future.

9.

TAX EXEMPTION FOR INVESTMENTS OF HIGHER VALUE


In case of an investment of higher value than the market price, it will be exempt from paying tax

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

10.

BUILDING ENTREPRENEURS
Innovation-related study plans for students in over 5 lakh schools. Besides, there will also be an annual
incubator grand challenge to develop world class incubators.

11.

ATAL INNOVATION MISSION


The Atal Innovation Mission will be launched to boost innovation and encourage talented youths.

12.

SETTING UP INCUBATORS
A private-public partnership model is being considered for 35 new incubators and 31 innovation centres at
national institutes.

13.

RESEARCH PARKS
The government plans to set up seven new research parks, including six in the Indian Institute of Technology
campuses and one in the Indian Institute of Science campus, with an investment of Rs 100 crore each.

14.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN BIOTECHNOLOGY
The government will further establish new biotech clusters, new bio incubators, technology transfer offices and
bio-connect offices in the country.

15.

LEGAL SUPPORT
A panel of facilitators will provide legal support and assistance in submitting patent applications and other
official documents.

16.

REBATE
A rebate amount of 80 percent of the total value will be provided to the entrepreneurs on filing patent
applications.

17.

EASY RULES
Norms of public procurement and rules of trading have been simplified for the start-ups.

18.

FASTER EXIT
If a start-up fails, the government will also assist the entrepreneurs to find suitable solutions for their problems.
If they fail again, the government will provide an easy way out.

2.

China devalues yuan again, triggers currency war fears

China devalued its currency once again prompting


fears of a currency war in the Asian region. The
country's neighbours, including India and Japan, may
respond through market intervention in case if a
weaker Chinese yuan threaten their exports.
The devaluation move came at a time when the
country's stock markets plunged sharply. Both the
developments in the currency and stock markets have
triggered bearing sentiments in financial markets of
other countries.
China's recent efforts at progressive devaluation of the yuan have already resulted in Vietnam and South Korea
joining in competitive devaluation. Japan had preceded China in reducing the value of the Yen to encourage its
exports.

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

3.

India to counter non-issues at WTO talks


The government is firming up a strategy to prevent attempts by rich nations to introduce new pro-corporate
issues such as global value chains, digital economy, labour and climate-related trade into the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) deliberations and negotiations on mega free trade agreements.

When the Doha Round negotiations (for a global agreement to lower trade barriers) resume at the WTO
headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland), India will make it clear that discussions on any new issue can take place
only after resolving all the outstanding matters related to the Doha Round talks, government told.
The development came after India had opposed the declaration brought out after the WTOs ministerial
conference (its highest decision making body) in Nairobi recently as it did not include measures primarily meant
for improving trade prospects of developing and poor nations.
The outstanding issues include a permanent solution for the issue of public stockholding for food security
purposes.
TWO CRITERIA
India will state at the WTO that any country pitching for the introduction the new issues will first have to
ensure that they meet two criteria.
One is to establish the relevance of these issues in the context of trade and the other to ensure that there is a
consensus among all WTO member countries in taking up such an agenda.
Simultaneously, India will strengthen the alliance of developing and poor countries to put an end to the
attempts to introduce 'new issues' into the WTO talks at this stage.
NEW ISSUES
These new issues that the developed world is keen to introduce into the WTOs Doha Round talks include
global value chains, e-commerce, labour, climate-related trade (such as environmental services and goods),
competition policies, investment pacts, government procurement and state-owned enterprises, on all of which
the rich nations have superior standards or rules than the developing and poor countries.
The developing
nations feel these
standards
or
rules
might
therefore become
non-tariff
barriers, hurting
their exports to
rich
nations
while the latter
will be able to
indirectly open
up
the
developing
markets through
an agenda that
includes
'new
issues'.
In the Regional
Comprehensive
Economic
Partnership
(RCEP) talks too,

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

4.

India will state that the focus should be on expeditiously concluding discussions on the goods, services and
investment chapters of the pact.
Pointing out to the presence of some rich countries in the RCEP grouping which are also a part of the U.S.-led
Trans Pacific Partnership (another similar mega free trade pact) that has higher standards than the RCEP, the
government said India will oppose their attempts to bring in any non-trade and WTO-plus issues such as
labour and environment into the RCEP.
RELATED INFORMATION: RCEP
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the
ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma Myanmar,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with
which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
RCEP negotiations were formally launched in 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. RCEP is viewed as an
alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.

Fall in exports projected to be worst since 1952-53


Merchandise exports this fiscal are projected to fall around (-) 16 per cent over the previous financial year. This
will be the second worst export performance since independence, according to official data. Only in 1952-53,
exports had fared worse.

5.

CONCERNS
Analysts said the fall in exports is of concern as several employment-intensive sectors are export-oriented. Since
the demand for exports is down, going forward there will be increasing reliance on the domestic demand, they
added.
They said in addition to factors including the weak demand overseas, the fall in commodity prices and the
currency volatility, the exports sector was hurt by the delay on the part of the government to release the interest
subvention amount as well as the high transaction costs.
EFFORTS
The government, meanwhile, is working on a slew of measures to prop up export-oriented firms including
Special Economic Zones. Separately, the Centre has called a meeting of all the State governments for the first
time to expedite the notification of a separate foreign trade policy for each state and to push through
infrastructure creation measures that can support exports.
The government also wants the Reserve Bank of India to look into the currency volatility-related issues and take
measures to help Indias exports as several countries some of them Indias competitors and others its markets
had chosen to devalue their currency in the last one year, in turn impacting Indias exports.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana


The Union Cabinet approved the launch of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana/ PMFBY (Prime Minister Crop
Insurance Scheme) in which the premium rates to be paid by the farmers have been brought down substantially
so as to enable more farmers avail insurance cover against crop loss on account of natural calamities. The scheme
will come into effect from the upcoming kharif season.

Under the new scheme, farmers will have to pay a uniform premium of two per cent for all kharif crops and 1.5
per cent for all rabi crops. For annual commercial and horticultural crops, farmers will have to pay a premium of
5 per cent. The remaining share of the premium, as in previous schemes, will continue to be borne equally by the
Centre and the respective state governments.
With farmers having been required to pay a premium share of as high as 15 per cent in several areas in the
country, there has been a long-standing discussion on the need to bring down these rates. The Centres move to

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

bring down and cap these interest rates is being viewed as a major government policy outreach towards the
farmers.

6.

FINANCIAL LIABILITY
The financial liability is expected to be huge once the
target of bringing 50 per cent crop under insurance is
achieved in three years. As the Centres financial liability
goes up, the bill of the states where the scheme gets
implemented will also go up correspondingly.
NO UPPER LIMIT ON GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY
Under PMFBY, there will no upper limit on government
subsidy and even if balance premium is 90 per cent, it will
be borne by the government. Earlier, there was a
provision of capping the premium rate which resulted in
low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done
to limit government outgo on the premium subsidy. This
capping has now been removed and farmers will get
claim against full sum insured without any reduction, the
government said.
USE OF TECHNOLOGY
The use of technology will be encouraged to a great
extent. Smart phones will be used to capture and upload
data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment
to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the
number of crop cutting experiments, the government said.
The new Crop Insurance Scheme will also seek to address
a long standing demand of farmers and provide farm
level assessment for localised calamities including
hailstorms, unseasonal rains, landslides and inundation.

Government lowers
growth rate to 7.2%

GDP

Indias economy grew a tad slower


than earlier estimated in the last
fiscal year, the government said,
revising down the pace of expansion
to 7.2% from 7.3%.

While this could marginally boost


the growth rate for the current fiscal
by lowering the base, a declining
nominal gross domestic product
(GDP) may make it difficult to
achieve fiscal deficit targets.
Though the downward revision in
growth rate in 2014-15 is marginal,
revisions of the previous two years
were substantial. For 2012-13, GDP

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

7.

was revised up to 5.6% from 5.1% while for 2013-14, it was lowered to 6.6% from the 6.9% estimated earlier.
The downward revision for 2014-15 comes due to lower than expected growth in agriculture and industry while
the services sector performed better than earlier estimated.
Separately, data released by the Controller General of Accounts showed Indias fiscal deficit in the first three
quarters (April-December) of the fiscal year 2015-16 remained at 88% of the full-year target, signalling better
fiscal management. During the same period last year, the government had exhausted its full-year target.
FASTEST GROWING MAJOR ECONOMY
In the first half of the current financial year 2015-16, GDP grew by 7.2%. Although 2015-16 GDP growth may win
a marginal boost from a lower base, it is likely the statistics department will revise down the growth rate, given
the trend in the last two years, said analysts.
Even so, India is expected to remain the fastest growing major economy in the world and is seen as a bright spot
amid a tepid global recovery and at a time when China is slowing.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) kept its growth forecast for India unchanged at 7.5% in 2016-17 while it
lowered its global growth projection in an update to the World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in October.
CRITICISM OF GDP SERIES
The new GDP series released last year has faced flak from both policymakers and private economists who
complain that it portrays an overtly robust picture of the Indian economy while other macro indicators such as
bank credit growth, rural demand and factory output do not support such a depiction.

IMF cuts global growth forecast as China slows


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its global growth forecasts for the third time in less than a year, as
new figures from Beijing showed that the Chinese economy grew at its slowest rate in a quarter of a century in
2015.

To back its forecasts, the IMF cited a sharp slowdown in China trade and weak commodity prices that are
hammering Brazil and other emerging markets.
The Fund forecast that the world economy would grow at 3.4 per cent in 2016 and 3.6 per cent in 2017, both
years down 0.2 percentage points from the previous estimates made last October.
The updated World Economic Outlook
forecasts came as global financial markets
have been roiled by worries over Chinas
slowdown confirmed by recent official
Chinese data and plummeting oil prices.
The IMF maintained its previous China
growth forecasts of 6.3 per cent in 2016 and
6.0 per cent in 2017, which represent sharp
slowdowns from 2015.
UNCHANGED ESTIMATES
The IMF projected 7.3 per cent GDP growth
for India in 2015-16 and 7.5 per cent in 201617, levels unchanged from its outlook released
in October. In 2014-15, it estimates, GDP grew
7.3 per cent.
The Union Finance Ministry recently revised
downwards its projection for the current
financial year to 7.5 per cent after estimates
from the Central Statistics Office showed that

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

in the first six months, real GDP grew 7.2 per cent, slower than the 7.5 per cent in the corresponding period last
year. In February 2015, it projected that growth would accelerate to 8.1-8.5 per cent.

8.

India gets more voting rights as IMF implements quota reforms


Voting rights of emerging-market economies such as India and China have increased at the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), which has finally notified governance quota reforms adopted in 2010.

The reforms were held up as the US Congress was reluctant to ratify the proposal, fearing a decline in its hold
over the institution. It approved the move recently with a set of conditions.
The ratification of the 2010 reforms also clears the way for the institution to begin the next round of review of its
quotas to discuss the size and composition of IMF resources and the distribution of quota shares among the
Funds membership.
FRUSTRATION OF THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
The iron grip of the US and the EU (European Union) over the
IMF and the World Bank, and their unwillingness to make
these institutions more representative by giving more say to
developing countries, in sync with their growing economic
clout, has frustrated the latter over the years.
This has led to the creation of new financial institutions such as
the New Development Bank by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa) countries and the Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank spearheaded by China.
SIGNIFICANCE
The reforms significantly increase the IMFs quota resources and its ability to respond to crises more effectively.
The combined quotas (or the capital that the countries contribute) of the IMFs members will increase to a
combined SDR 477 billion (about $659 billion) from about SDR 238.5 billion (about $329 billion).
SDRs, or special drawing rights, are the international reserve of assets under the IMF, from which it lends to
countries in times of financial crisis.
Its value is currently based on a basket of four major currencies, and the basket will be expanded to include the
Chinese renminbi (RMB) as the fifth currency, effective 1 October 2016.
QUOTA SHARES
Indias share at IMF has now increased to 2.75% from 2.44%, making it the eighth-largest shareholder in the
multilateral agency, climbing three notches.
With the implementation of the reforms, more than 6% of the quota shares have shifted to emerging-market and
developing countries and also from over-represented to under-represented IMF members.
As a result, Brazil, China, India and Russia are now among the 10 largest members of the IMF. The other top 10
members are the US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
FURTHER REFORMS
According to experts, now that the recent quota reforms have been finally implemented, India should seek to
restart the stalled next round of review in which the country raised more fundamental questions about the
formula used in calculating the quotas.
The 2010 review has only tinkered around with the 50-year old formula. Under the next round of review, India
has proposed many changes, including giving greater weightage to GDP (gross domestic product) in purchasing
power parity terms while deciding the quota of a country.

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

9.

Opening of AIIB part of global financial revamp


The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was formally opened for business, signalling the
steady revamp of the global financial architecture, which will also soon incorporate the New Development Bank
of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping.

The AIIB is expected to open a new channel of funding for the Global South, which was so far dependent on the
western backed International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),
in which Japan plays a pre-eminent role.

Observers say the new lender will focus on infrastructure development in Asiaa move that is likely to support
the Eurasian connectivity initiative under the China-led Belt and Road framework.
Analysts point out that launch of the AIIB is another example of the reinforcement of economic bonds between
Europe and Asia. In fact, the run up to the formation of the bank opened cracks within the Atlantic Alliance.
Despite U.S. objections, European countries including Britain, France and Germany joined the AIIB. Australia
and South Korea top U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific also decided to participate in the development bank as
its founding members.

CHINA JOINS EBRD


Notwithstanding the focus on the AIIB in which India and Russia are also major partners China, recently,
also became the member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
With China on board, the EBRD is rapidly re-defining its role. In 1991 it was formed to reinforce the unipolar
world that had emerged following the Soviet Unions collapse. Its focal area of interest was Eastern Europe,
which was no longer under Moscows shadow, and had to be rapidly integrated in the western institutional
web.

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PART FOUR | ECONOMY

10.

Govt. mobilises 900 kg of gold under monetisation scheme


The government said it had netted a hefty 900 kg of idle household and temple gold under the monetisation
scheme and is hopeful that the number would rise further in future.

The Gold Monetisation Scheme,


which had not picked up
initially, was fine-tuned to
make it more attractive and
convenient
to
encourage
entities holding idle gold to
participate in the scheme.
THE SCHEME
Under the monetisation scheme,
banks were authorised to collect
gold for up to 15 years to
auction them off or lend to
jewellers from time to time.
Depositors will earn up to 2.50
per cent interest per annum, a
rate lower than savings bank
deposits.
There are many Assaying and
Hallmarking Centres which are
qualified to act as Collection
and Purity Testing Centres
(CPTC) for handling gold under
the gold monetisation scheme.
All gold deposits under the
scheme have to be made at CPTC. Banks could also accept deposits of gold at designated branches, especially
from larger depositors.
India imports about 1,000 tonnes of gold every year and the precious metal is the secondhighest component of
the imports bill after crude oil. An estimated 20,000 tonnes of gold are lying with households and temples.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART FIVE | POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

PART FIVE | POLITY AND GOVERNANCE


1.

After Centre allowed Jallikattu, Supreme Court stops it


Questioning the necessity of such festivals, the Supreme Court restrained the Tamil Nadu government from
conducting its traditional bull-taming sport Jallikattu, and stayed the Centres notification lifting the ban on it.

Agreeing
with
animal
rights
groups
on
the
necessity to issue
an urgent order,
the court imposed
the interim stay
until March 15
which, apart from
Jallikattu in Tamil
Nadu, will also
prohibit
bullock
cart races in states
like Maharashtra,
Karnataka, Punjab,
Haryana,
Kerala
and Gujarat during
this period.
With its recent
order, the Supreme
Court has revived
its
ban
on
Jallikattu,
first
imposed in 2014
when it held that use of bulls in such events severely harmed animals and constituted an offence under the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The interim order has been issued on a batch of petitions moved by the Animal Welfare Board of India, People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), People For Animals
and other animal rights groups. These groups argued that Jallikattu is torturous and cruel to animals and all
such sport should be completely banned.
RELATED INFORMATION: PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was enacted by parliament to prevent the infliction of
unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
As per the provisions of the law the Government of India formed the Animal Welfare Board of India.
ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD OF INDIA
The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal
welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country.
It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed; provides grants to Animal Welfare
Organisations; and considers itself "the face of the animal welfare movement in the country.

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PART FIVE | POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

2.

President Mukerjee clears five legislations, gives more teeth to SC/ST Act
A law enabling setting up of commercial benches in select high courts and another on arbitration for speedy
settlement of high value business disputes are among five legislations which got nod from President Pranab
Mukherjee. Besides, a law for stringent action against those involved in crimes against persons belonging to
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has also got the assent from Mukherjee.

Mukherjee gave nod to the Arbitration


and Conciliation (Amendment) Act; the
Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled
Tribes
(Prevention
of
Atrocities)
Amendment Act; the Commercial Courts,
Commercial Division and Commercial
Appellate Division of High Courts Act;
The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Act;
and the Payment of Bonus (Amendment)
Act, 2015.
ATOMIC ENERGY (AMENDMENT)
ACT
The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Act
will allow state-run Nuclear Power
Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to have
collaboration with other public sector
undertakings in the nuclear field. The law amends the 1962 Atomic Energy Act to change the definition of
government company in the Act with a view to expand its scope. At present, only two PSUs NPCIL and
Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), which are under the administrative control of the
Department of Atomic Energy, operate nuclear power plants in the country.
PAYMENT OF BONUS (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2015
The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Act, 2015, provides for enhancing monthly bonus calculation ceiling to Rs
7,000 per month from the existing Rs 3,500. It also enhances the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from Rs
10,000 per month to Rs 21,000 per month.
ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2015
As per the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015, an arbitrator will have to settle a case within 18
months. After the completion of 12 months, certain restrictions will be put in place to ensure that the arbitration
case does not linger.
COMMERCIAL COURTS, COMMERCIAL DIVISION AND COMMERCIAL APPELLATE DIVISION OF
HIGH COURTS ACT
The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act is aimed
at creating commercial benches in select high courts.
SCHEDULED CASTES AND THE SCHEDULED TRIBES (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) AMENDMENT
ACT, 2015
Under the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act,
2015, assaulting or sexually exploiting an SC or ST woman is an offence.
The Act states that any intentional touching of an SC or ST woman in a sexual manner without her consent,
using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature, dedicating her as a devadasi to a temple, or any similar practice
will be considered an offence.

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PART SIX | SOCIAL ISSUES

PART SIX | SOCIAL ISSUES


1.

Maharashtra saw more than 3000 farmer suicides in 2015


In Maharashtra, suicides by farmers touched a grim high in 2015. The year recorded more than 2500 suicides
until October -- the higher ever since 2001. The number of suicides by farmers on December 31, 2015 was more
than 3000, indicating that the slew of measures the government undertook through the year failed to arrest the
disturbing trend.

Maharashtra has recorded more than 20000 farmer suicides since


2001. Data obtained from the government shows Vidarbha was the
worst hit last year, with more than 1500 farmers from Amaravati and
Nagpur division committing suicides. More than 1000 farmers ended
their lives in the Aurangabad division of Marathwada.
CROP INSURANCE
In the last three to four years, Maharashtra has witnessed extreme
weather conditions that have either destroyed crops or left them
damaged.
In this situation, recent Crop Insurance Scheme has come as a big
relief. Maharashtra has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for
launching the PM Crop Insurance Scheme, which assures covering
over 50% of the farmers under the insurance scheme in the coming three years. Under this scheme, 90%
premium money will be paid by the Centre and not just the fully grown crop but even the stem will be insured.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART SEVEN | SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

PART SEVEN| SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY


1.

IRNSS-1E satellite launch: One step closer to our very own GPS
With the launch of the IRNSS-1E satellite, India moved a step closer to completing its network of satellites that
will form a space-based regional navigation system providing location services over India and neighbouring
areas. In other words, our very own kind of GPS (Global Positioning System).

The IRNSS-1E, which


was launched on Polar
Satellite Launch Vehicle,
PSLV-C31,
from
Sriharikota, is the fifth of
the seven satellites that
will
make
the
constellation.
The
remaining
two
are
scheduled to be launched
before March this year.
IRNSS stands for Indian
Regional
Navigation
Satellite System. Once the
system is complete and
comes into use, it will
provide an alternative to
the US-developed GPS,
or global positioning
system
that
is
so
commonly used in a
variety of applications.
MORE ACCURATE
The IRNSS is regional
and will cover the area over India and 1,500 km from Indias political boundaries, unlike the GPS which is
global. However, because it is specific to the Indian region, it is expected to be even more accurate than the
GPS. The GPS system uses 24 satellites at present though it can support a constellation of 30 satellites. The actual
number of satellites in use at a given time varies.
The IRNSS constellation had already started working after the launch of the fourth satellite in March last year,
the minimum number required to make the system operational. The fifth and the subsequent two satellites will
make the system stronger and more reliable.
RELATED INFORMATION: GAGAN AND BHUVAN
The development of IRNSS has happened alongside that of GAGAN (GPS-Aided Geo Augmentation
Navigation) which is meant for navigation services for civil aircraft over the Indian region.
GAGAN, which was authorised for use by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in April 2015, can also
provide services to other sectors like highways, railways, maritime transport, survey, telecom, etc.
The plan is to integrate IRNSS and GAGAN with Bhuvan, a satellite-based mapping service for the Indian
mainland developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) a few years ago.

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PART SEVEN | SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

2.

New way to measure gravity can find Earth-like planets


In a bid to determine whether distant stars with planets orbiting them can harbour life, a global team of
astronomers has discovered a new way to measure the pull of gravity at the surface of distant stars. Knowing the
surface gravity of a star is essentially knowing how much you would weigh on that star.

3.

If stars had solid surfaces on which you could stand, then your weight
would change from star to star.
The new method allows scientists to measure surface gravity with high
accuracy, for stars too distant and too faint to apply current techniques.
The technique can tell how big and bright is the star, and if a planet around it
is the right size and temperature to have water oceans, and maybe life. The
new technique called the autocorrelation function timescale technique or
timescale technique for short, uses subtle variations in the brightness of
distant stars recorded by satellites.
RELATED INFORMATION: GOLDILOCKS PLANET
A Goldilocks planet is a planet that falls within a star's habitable zone, and the name is often specifically used for
planets close to the size of Earth. Goldilocks planets are of key interest to researchers looking either for existing
(and possibly intelligent) life or for future homes for the human race.

The most energetic light ever in space


Scientists have discovered the most energetic light ever detected in the
universe from the centre of a supernova known as Crab pulsar which
is situated 6,500 light years away from Earth.

The Crab pulsar is the corpse left over when the star that created the
Crab nebula exploded as a supernova. It is surrounded by a region of
intense magnetic field 10 thousand billion times stronger than that of
the Sun.
It is located at the centre of a magnetised nebula visible in the Taurus
constellation. It is the most powerful pulsar in our galaxy and it is one
of only a few pulsars detected across all wavelengths, from radio up to gamma rays.

MAGIC
The pulsar was found by researchers working with the Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov
(Magic) observatory in the Canary Islands, Spain.
The new discovery challenges current theories about how such astronomical objects operate.

4.

First flower in space

When there is no up, which way does a flower grow? Astronauts on the
International Space Station (ISS) have answered this and other zero-gravity
gardening conundrums by growing the first flower in space.

The orange zinnia looks like a daisy and has a reputation for being one of the
easiest flowers to grow on Earth. In space, though, it was a challenge getting
it to sprout.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD SUPPLEMENT
The flower is part of a wider attempt to grow food in orbit, using Nasas
(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) plant growth system

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PART SEVEN | SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Veggie, which was delivered to the ISS in 2014. The Veggie team has already enjoyed a successful lettuce harvest
and plan to have tomatoes too by 2017. Ultimately, the hope is to make possible a sustainable food
supplement for a future manned mission to Mars.
But space gardening is plagued with problems, including high radiation levels and temperature extremes.
Fortunately, with the ISS in a low orbit, the Earths magnetic field shields plants from the worst radiation effects.
Inside the station, the atmosphere can also be tightly controlled.
RELATED INFORMATION: ISS
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first
component was launched into orbit in 1998, and the ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit.
The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct
experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and
Mars.
The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (body
responsible for the Russian space science program and general aerospace research), JAXA (Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The ownership and
use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART EIGHT | ENERGY

PART EIGHT| ENERGY


1.

Cabinet nod for power tariff policy


The Union Cabinet has
approved
several
amendments to the
national power tariff
policy with a view to
promote
renewable
energy and improve the
ease of doing business
for developers in the
sector.

In a major shift, power


companies are allowed
to pass costs on to
consumers arising out
of any changes in taxes,
cesses and levies levied
on them.
The policy also seeks to
create
a
win-win
between the generator, utilities and consumers by allowing power generators to sell their surplus power on the
power exchange and sharing the proceeds with the state government.
The amended tariff policy also imposes a renewable energy obligation on new coal or lignite-based thermal
plants, requiring them to establish or purchase renewable capacity alongside their own generation units.
NO INTERSTATE TRANSMISSION CHARGES
The new policy also mandates that no inter-state transmission charges will be levied until a time to be specified
by the government.
To encourage efficiency, the policy allows power producers to expand up to double their capacity through the
automatic route, at their existing unit locations. This automatic approval was earlier limited to 50 per cent
capacity expansions.
COMMISSION TO FIX TARIFFS
Further, the tariffs for multi-state power projects will be determined by the Central Electricity Regulatory
Commission, thereby removing a major point of uncertainty to do with such projects.
NEED FOR ACTION PLAN
The amended policy also said that the power regulator has to come up with a clear action plan to ensure 24x7
power supply to all consumers by 2021-22 or earlier. Towards the power for all initiative, the policy enables the
creation of micro-grids in remote villages as yet unconnected to the grid, and also says that these micro-grids
can sell their surplus power to the grid when it reaches those areas.
FOUR Es
The amendments are based on four Eselectricity for all, efficiency that will ensure affordable tariffs, the
environment, and ease of doing business to attract greater investment in the sector, government said.

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PART NINE | DEFENCE

PART NINE| DEFENCE


1.

New defence procurement procedure changes dynamics


Months after the Narendra Modi-led government promised a new procedure for defence equipment acquisition,
the Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved major policy changes that will give top-priority to locally produced
equipment and fund Indian private companies to do research and development.

It,
however,
deferred
addressing key twin issues:
One, having a method on
blacklisting,
or
not
blacklisting,
of
firms
indulging in wrongdoing
and
two,
on
having
guidelines
to
select
international
strategic
partners for producing
major equipment in India.
CHANGES ALLOWED BY
THE DAC
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the apex decision making body of the MoD, took the decisions at a
meeting chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Under the changes allowed by the DAC, the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) will have a new category
called the IDDM or Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured platforms. This will get top
priority and will be first to be chosen for tenders.
This will have two sub-categories one, it will be mandatory to have 40 per cent local content in case the design
is also indigenous. Two, in case the design is not Indian, 60 per cent local content will be mandatory.
The definition to be counted as an Indian company is a company that is controlled and operated by Indian
nationals.
RAISED LIMIT OF OFF-SETS
Notably, the DPP allows certain leverage to foreign companies. It raises the limit of off-sets from Rs 300 crore to
Rs 2,000 crore. Off-sets are a provision that makes foreign companies to mandatorily procure 30 per cent of the
supplies from Indian partners, in case of winning a bid of Rs 300 crore or more. This limit has been raised to Rs
2,000 crore, as not many Indian companies are available to absorb so much of technology infusion.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Another major change in the DPP is the policy to fund Indian private entities in Research and Development
(R&D) to encourage more local development. The Department of Defence Production will fund up to 90 per
cent of the R&D.
The DPP sets up an empowered committee to solve disputes or unforeseen issues. Till now disputes went to
DAC.
RELATED INFORMATION: SIPRI REPORT
Globally, India is the largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all
such international imports, said a report by Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI) in March last year.

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PART NINE | DEFENCE

2.

Sahyog-Kaijin

Ships and aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard and the Japan
Coast Guard came together to train for the 15th edition of
Sahyog-Kaijin joint exercise in the Bay of Bengal off the
Chennai coast. The exercise was aimed at fine-tuning the
coordination between the forces.
This is the second time in recent months ships from the
Japanese military forces participated in a military exercise
along with India. In October last year, Japan Maritime SelfDefence Forces ships participated in exercise Malabar with
ships and aircraft of the Indian and the United States navies.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART TEN | ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY

PART TEN| ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY


1.

India to go directly to BS-VI emission norms by 2020


India will move up to the toughest emission standards of BS (Bharat Stage)-VI from the current BS-IV by 2020,
skipping an intermediate level. The Auto Fuel Policy had earlier recommended implementation of BS-VI norms
by 2024.

2.

The decisionthe
immediate
motivation appears
to be the poor air
quality
in
New
Delhiwill
make
cars, sports utility
vehicles
(SUVs),
trucks and buses
more
expensive.
Auto
companies
and parts makers
doubted
whether
they
would
be
ready in time.
There is also a
supply issue and it
is unlikely that BSVI fuel will be
available across the country. Currently, only 50 cities in India get BS-IV fuel, while the rest still use BS-III fuel.
By switching to BS-VI, India will join the league of the US, Japan and the European Union, which follow Euro
Stage VI emission norms. BS-VI is the Indian equivalent of Euro Stage VI.
DECLINE IN THE USE OF DIESEL
For years, India subsidized the price of diesel. As the price difference between diesel and petrol widened, many
customers started opting for cars with diesel engines. Companies invested in diesel engine capacities.
The government eventually stopped subsidizing diesel. That brought down the number of customers using
diesel vehicles. That number is likely to see a further decline as concerns over vehicular pollution increase. The
Supreme Court recently said no new diesel vehicle with an engine capacity of 2000cc or above could be
registered in Delhi, where the air quality has become very bad. That has hurt auto companies that invested in
new lines for diesel engines. The change in deadline for BS-VI will hurt them even more.

Snowflake coral
Colonies of snowflake coral (Carijoa riisei), an invasive species recently documented off the coast of
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) and Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu), could pose a serious threat to the marine
ecology of the region, according to scientists.

They recorded the presence of several colonies of the fast-growing alien species amid barnacle clusters on the
rocky reef off the coast of Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram and Enayam, Kanyakumari.
The documentation was done as part of a research project harnessing the traditional knowledge of the fishermen
community to assess the marine biodiversity of the region.

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PART TEN | ENVIRNMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY

3.

INVASIVE SPECIES
The snowflake coral is known to inhabit reefs
and underwater structures such as shipwrecks
and piers, attaching itself to metal, concrete
and even plastic. It is considered an invasive
species because of its capacity to dominate
space and crowd out other marine organisms.
A native of the tropical Western Atlantic and
the Caribbean, C.riisei was first reported as an
invasive species from Hawaii in 1972. Since
then, it has spread to Australia, Thailand,
Indonesia and the Philippines.
In India, it has been reported from the Gulf of
Mannar, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
Gulf of Kutch and Goa.
With its capacity to thickly settle and occupy a
variety of surfaces, C.riisei can destabilise the marine ecosystem. Scientists fear it will crowd out other species
like corals, sponges, algae, ascidians that contribute to the rich marine biodiversity of the region.
RELATED INFORMATION: CORALS
Corals are marine invertebrates in the class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria. They typically live in compact
colonies of many identical individual polyps.
Although some corals can catch small fish and plankton, using stinging cells on their tentacles, most corals
obtain the majority of their energy and nutrients from photosynthetic unicellular dinoflagellates in the genus
Symbiodinium that live within their tissues. These are commonly known as zooxanthellae and the corals that
contain them are zooxanthellate corals.
Such corals require sunlight and grow in clear, shallow water, typically at depths shallower than 60 metres.
Corals are major contributors to the physical structure of the coral reefs that develop in tropical and subtropical
waters, such as the enormous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Gigantopithecus
The largest ape to roam Earth died out 1,00,000 years ago because it failed to tuck into savannah grass after
climate change hit its preferred diet of forest fruit, scientists suggest.

Gigantopithecus the closest Nature ever came to


producing a real King Kong weighed five times as
much as an adult man and probably stood three metres
tall, according to sketchy estimates.
In its heyday a million years ago, it inhabited semitropical forests in southern China and mainland Southeast
Asia. Until now, though, almost nothing was known
about the giants anatomical shape or habits.
FOSSIL RECORDS
The only fossil records are some partial lower jaws, and
teeth the first of which turned up in the 1930s in Hong
Kong apothecaries where they were sold as dragons
teeth.
Examining slight variations in carbon isotopes found in tooth enamel, scientists showed that the primordial
King Kong lived only in the forest, was a strict vegetarian, and probably wasnt crazy about bamboo.

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PART TEN | ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY

4.

These narrow preferences did not pose a problem for Gigantopithecus until Earth was struck by a massive ice
age during the Pleistocene Epoch, which stretched from about 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago.
Thats when Nature, evolution and perhaps a refusal to try new foods conspired to doom the giant ape.
Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food. When during the
Pleistocene, more and more forested area turned into savannah landscapes, there was simply an insufficient
food supply.
SOME APES SURVIVED
And yet, according to the study, other apes and early humans in Africa that had comparable dental gear were
able to survive similar transitions by eating the leaves, grass and roots offered by their new environments.
But for some reason, Asias giant ape which was probably too heavy to climb trees, or swing in their branches
did not make the switch.

IMD declares an end to droughts in India


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has officially expunged the word drought from its vocabulary.

According to the
department,
the
move is part of a
decision to do
away with or redefine terms that
are
not
scientifically
precise.
Beginning
this
season,
for
instance, if Indias
monsoon rainfall
were to dip below
10 per cent of the
normal and span between 20 and 40 per cent of the countrys area, it would be called a deficient year instead
of an All India Drought Year as the IMDs older manuals would say. A more severe instance, where the deficit
exceeds 40 per cent and would have been called an All India Severe Drought Year, will now be a Large
Deficient Year.
PREROGATIVE OF STATES
The IMD has never used the term drought in its forecasts and has maintained that declaring droughts was the
prerogative of States. The agency had several definitions of drought: meteorological, hydrological and
agricultural, and it was quite possible for a State to have a meteorological drought 90 per cent shortfall of the
average monsoon rainfall but not suffer an agricultural drought if the shortfall didnt affect more than 20
per cent of the States area.
But the analysts said the change in the nomenclature would not practically influence the way States viewed
droughts.
RELATED INFORMATION: IMD
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), also referred to as the Met Department, is an agency of the
Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India. It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological
observations, weather forecasting and seismology. IMD is headquartered in New Delhi and operates hundreds
of observation stations across India and Antarctica.

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PART TEN | ENVIRNMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY

IMD is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological
Organization. It has the responsibility for forecasting, naming and distribution of warnings for tropical cyclones
in the Northern Indian Ocean region, including the Malacca Straits, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the
Persian Gulf.

5.

New class of frogs found in the north-east


A class of frogs that grow in tree holes and as tadpoles feed on eggs laid by their mother have been discovered in
the north-east region.

In the last two decades, India has reported a rapid rise


in the discovery of frog species from the Western
Ghats and, more recently, the north-eastern States.
The new frog, reported in the peer-reviewed journal
PLoS One, has been christened Frankixalus Jerdonii
and was once considered a species lost to science. This
genus remained unnoticed by researchers probably
because of its secretive life in tree holes.
Researchers said they had first found these frogs in
2005 during explorations in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, among other places, but it took a decade to publish
about them because of the complexities involved in ensuring that it was indeed an entirely new genus and not
merely a known species.

TREE FROGS
Frogs of the newly described genus Frankixalus are relatively large and are found on forest canopies and
inside bamboos slits. Due to insufficient food resources in tree holes, the mother exhibits remarkable parental
care by laying unfertilised eggs to feed her tadpoles.
Tree frogs occur across sub-Saharan Africa, China, much of tropical Asia, Japan, the Philippines and Sulawesi.

6.

Giant bird eaten to extinction by humans

Researchers have found the first reliable evidence that humans played a substantial role in the extinction of a
giant bird in Australia.

Studies have shown that more than 85 percent of Australias mammals, birds and
reptiles weighing over 45 kg went extinct shortly after the arrival of the first
humans.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder in the U.S. discovered the
first direct evidence that humans were preying on the now extinct beasts in
this case a bird weighing over 200 kg.
The flightless bird, known as Genyornisnewtoni, was nearly seven feet tall and
appears to have lived in much of the continent prior to the advent of humans 50,000
years ago, the study revealed.
The evidence consists of diagnostic burn patterns on Genyornis eggshell
fragments that indicated that humans were collecting and cooking its eggs, thereby
reducing the birds reproductive success, the researchers said.
In analysing unburned Genyornis eggshells from more than 2,000 localities
across Australia, primarily from sand dunes where the ancient birds nested, several
dating methods helped researchers determine that none were younger than 45,000 years old.

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PART TEN | ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY & BIODIVERSITY

7.

Solitary bee

A solitary bee species was recently discovered in the


Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve.
The small bee, named Braunsapischandrai , is black in colour
and has punctured legs. What makes it distinct from other species
of solitary bees is the different patterns of the marks on its face and
frontal region.
The species of bees of the genus Braunsapis do not make combs
as common honeybees do. Solitary in nature, they nest in stems
and twigs independently. The new species plays a significant role
in pollination.

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PART ELEVEN | HEALTH

PART ELEVEN| HEALTH


1.

Zika Virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency,
prompted by growing concern that it could cause birth defects. The infection appears to be linked to the
development of unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns.

WHAT IS ZIKA?
Zika is actually an old virus it's only recently that
health experts have been seriously worried. It was first
discovered in 1947 when it was isolated from monkeys in
the Zika forest in Uganda. And for decades thereafter, it
barely bothered humans. Prior to 2007, there were few
documented Zika cases. But then the first big outbreak
erupted on Yap island in Micronesia. And from there, the
virus was on the move.
Soon cases popped up in other Pacific Islands, including a
large outbreak in 2013-'14 in French Polynesia. By May
2015, health officials had detected the virus in Brazil
possibly arriving with a traveler to the World Cup. Within
a year, more than a million people in Brazil had been
affected, as mosquitoes carried it from person to person as
they do diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
Zika has since spread to many countries mostly
concentrated in Central and South America and the
Caribbean and it's expected to go much further.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET ZIKA?
One of the things that makes Zika very difficult to track is the fact that in the vast majority of cases, it causes no
symptoms at all. Most people who get infected don't even realize it and therefore never seek medical
attention. They can, however, still transmit the disease if they are bitten by a mosquito that then bites someone
else.
Meanwhile, a minority of Zika patients roughly 20 percent show relatively minor symptoms: a low-grade
fever, sore body, and headache, as well as red eyes and a body rash. More rarely, this might include abdominal
pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
But that's not the whole story. In rare occasions, Zika seems to cause really serious problems. In both the Brazil
and French Polynesia outbreaks, researchers noted that some people infected with the virus were later
diagnosed with Guillain-Barr, a rare and sometimes deadly neurological condition in which people's immune
systems damage their nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis. The symptoms can last weeks,
months, or even years.
Even more worryingly, there's evidence that Zika is linked to a terrible birth defect called microcephaly, which is
characterized by a shrunken head and incomplete brain development. Since Zika arrived in Brazil in 2015,
thousands of cases of microcephaly have been reported.
Researchers are still working to confirm the link. Still, Zika wouldn't be the first virus to cause microcephaly.
(Rubella famously caused an epidemic of birth defects before the advent of the vaccine.) And even if this turns
out to be a very rare complication of Zika, the imperfect evidence alone was enough to prompt the World Health
Organization to issue a rare global public health emergency declaration.

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PART ELEVEN | HEALTH

2.

HOW EXACTLY IS ZIKA SPREAD?


Zika is mainly carried by a specific type of mosquito called Aedes aegypti, which spreads the disease through
bites. There's some experimental evidence suggesting the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can transmit
the virus, too.
What makes the Aedes aegypti a unique threat is that it is remarkably effective at carrying viruses it's also
the primary vector of the yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya viruses.
Aedes mosquitoes are incredibly well adapted to thrive alongside humans. They can breed and rest in small
pools of water and moist environments around people's homes. This is different from other types of mosquitoes,
which prefer larger bodies of water.
Mosquitoes may not be the only way to spread Zika. There have been few cases in the medical literature that
suggest Zika can be sexually transmitted too in rare cases.
IS THERE ANY VACCINE OR CURE?
No. Until recently, Zika didn't seem to pose much of a threat to human health. So research on the virus has been
extremely limited. This outbreak has spurred funding and attention on Zika science, and the WHO has called for
researchers to develop a vaccine for Zika as well as better diagnostic testing to detect the virus.
WHY DID THE OUTBREAK IN LATIN AMERICA SPIRAL OUT OF CONTROL SO QUICKLY?
There are a number of reasons that seem probable, and others that will come into focus as we learn more about
the outbreak.
First, because Zika didn't seem to pose much risk to humans, this virus wasn't exactly on the world's watch list.
In other words, health authorities weren't anticipating an outbreak of Zika, and therefore were caught
unprepared.
Second, Zika had never been recorded in the Western Hemisphere until it hit Easter Island off Chile in 2014.
That means people living in the Americas are susceptible to the virus, since nobody has built up the antibodies
from previous infections to fight it off.
Not to mention that the spread of Zika is actually part of an unnerving trend: Several mosquito-borne tropical
illnesses (dengue, chikungunya) have lately been spreading into regions of the world that have never
experienced them. Researchers don't fully understand why this is happening, but they suspect the increasing
popularity of global travel and the warming of the climate have something to do with the change.

The Lancet turns spotlight on ending preventable stillbirths


Concerned over the slow rate at which stillbirths
have reduced across the world, missing a specific
Millennium Development Goal target, the journal,
The Lancet, has launched a series of papers about
ending preventable stillbirths and kick-started a
campaign along with the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine.

An estimated 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths


occurred in 2015 across the world, or as one of The
Lancet articles in the series says, Thats roughly the
population of Rome, wiped out. Most stillbirths (98
per cent) occur in low and middle income countries, The Lancet paper shows.
SITUATION IN INDIA
India continues to be at the top of the table in the rank for number of stillbirths in 2015, followed by Nigeria,
Pakistan, China and Ethiopia. Cultural taboos and superstitions often take the blame in the case of stillbirth.

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PART ELEVEN | HEALTH

CAUSES OF STILLBIRTHS
While the estimates for the causes of stillbirths are often frustrated by various classification systems, in countries
with reliable data, congenital abnormalities account only for a small per cent of stillbirths. Many disorders
associated with stillbirths are potentially modifiable and often coexist maternal infections, non-communicable
diseases, nutrition, lifestyle factors and maternal age older than 35 years.
Prolonged pregnancies, when the baby is not born after 42 weeks of gestation, also contribute to large number of
stillbirths. Causal pathways for stillbirth frequently involve impaired placental function, either with growth
restriction, or preterm labour or both.
ONLY FEW STILLBIRTHS ARE REGISTERED
The journal points out that less than 5 per cent of neonatal deaths and even fewer stillbirths are registered. A
paper calls for maintaining meticulous records of all births and deaths (maternal and foetal) in order to increase
the availability of data, rationalising that while data alone will not help save lives, it would certainly indicate a
way to target interventions.
Notably, it was in 2011, that The Lancet began its first series on stillbirths, highlighting the rates and causes of
stillbirth globally, exploring cost-effective interventions to prevent stillbirths (as well as maternal and neonatal
deaths), and setting key actions to halve stillbirth rates by 2020. One of the papers notes that some progress has
been made in the measurement of stillbirths since the 2011 The Lancet Stillbirths Series. Stillbirths are
increasingly counted, which might be partly related to more visible estimates.
The stillbirth series sets out to show the need for increased awareness, opening up the dialogue at policy and
community levels, giving women adequate healthcare from before conception to after birth and calling for
accountability for targeted interventions. And all this would be possible only if there is political determination to
reduce the number of lives lost to zero, the paper says.
RELATED INFORMATION: THE LANCET
The Lancet is a peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's oldest and best known general
medical journals, and has been described as one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world.
The Lancet was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, an English surgeon who named it after the surgical
instrument called a lancet, as well as after the architectural term "lancet arch", a window with a sharp pointed
arch, to indicate the "light of wisdom" or "to let in light".

3.

Rural India too battles hypertension

Higher stress levels in rural India and faulty diet in cities have
thrown up two most disturbing health concerns in the National
Family Health Survey (NFHS), the data for which was released
recently.
While obesity levels have shot up in the country since the last
NFHS survey in 2005-06, the number of people suffering from
hypertension in rural India is, in many cases, higher than in
urban parts.
The NFHS released the data for 15 States and each State, with
the exception of Puducherry, showed a sharp rise in obesity
levels among both men and women.
As for blood sugar levels, most States have maintained the
traditional difference between urban and rural areas, with
urban centres recording more cases of high blood sugar.
Health experts said the overall obesity in urban India and rising
hypertension in rural India was indicative of the faulty diet of
people and also of the stress levels of women in rural India.

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PART TWELVE | COMMITTEES AND REPORTS

PART TWELVE| COMMITTEES AND REPORTS


1.

Lodha committee proposes sweeping reforms for BCCI


The Supreme Court-appointed Lodha panel recommended barring ministers and government officials from
holding office in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and legalising betting in sweeping measures to
clean up the scandal-ridden sports body.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.

The panel headed


by justice (retd)
RM Lodha was
appointed by the
apex court last
year in the wake
of a sport-fixing
scandal in Indian
Premier League
(IPL), the biggest
crisis to hit the
cash-rich sports
body
in
the
country.

HERE ARE THE KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE LODHA COMMITTEE:


Separate governing bodies for the IPL and BCCI.
Constitution and establishment of a players association.
Limited autonomy for IPL Governing Council.
Relegation of Railways, Services and Universities as associate members. In that way, they will also lose their
voting rights.
One association of each state will be full-member and have the right to vote.
A steering committee headed by former home secretary GK Pillai.
Players are not employees of BCCI and thus the interests of the players should not lie with the BCCI and is
meant to be protected.
Ethics officer will be a former HC (High Court) judge and there will be elected officer who will overlook the
elections, when held.
A BCCI office-bearer cannot be a Minister or government servant.
Any BCCI office-bearer cannot have more than two consecutive terms.
BCCI office-bearer cannot hold office for more than 3 terms with the rider that there will be a cooling off after
each term.
Lodha Committee recommends only one person per post. Proxy voting of individuals will not be allowed.
Lodha Committee recommends the legislature must seriously consider bringing BCCI within the purview of the
RTI (Right to Information) Act.
BCCI office-bearer cannot hold two posts at the same time.
Legalisation of betting.
If an office bearer of a state association is elected to BCCI, he has to vacate state association post recommends
Lodha panel.

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PART TWELVE | COMMITTEES AND REPORTS

2.

RELATED INFORMATION: BCCI


The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the national governing body for cricket in India. The board
was formed in 1928 as a society, registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.
It is a consortium of state cricket associations and the state associations select their representatives who in turn
elect the BCCI officials.

Shyam Benegal to head committee to revamp film censor board


In the wake of recent controversies, the Centre has decided to form a panel which will be responsible for the
overhaul of the Censor Board. The committee will be headed by noted film director Shyam Benegal under holistic
interpretation of provisions of Cinematograph Act and Rules.

During their deliberations, the committee would


be expected to take note of the best practices in
various parts of the world, especially where the
film industry is given sufficient and adequate
space for creative and aesthetic expression. The
committee would recommend broad guidelines
or procedures under the provisions of the
Cinematograph Act and Rules for the benefit of
the chairperson and other members of the
screening committee. The staffing pattern of
CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification)
would also be looked into in an effort to recommend a framework which would provide efficient, transparent
user friendly services.
Filmmakers have complained of arbitrary objections and cuts sought by the Board in the recent past including
the criticism for the cuts the latest James Bond movie 'Spectre' had to go through for its screening in India.
RELATED INFORMATION: CBFC
The Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and
classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
It is tasked with regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
It assigns certifications to films, television shows, television ads, and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in
India. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown
on television.

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Space for notes

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PART THIRTEEN | CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS

PART THIRTEEN| CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS


1.

WEF concludes in Davos with concern over economic slowdown


The annual summit of World Economic Forum (WEF) came to a close in Davos, Switzerland. World leaders
expressed concerns about economic headwinds from China, geo-political risks arising from the refugee crisis in
Europe and terror attacks in various parts of the world.

With regard to India, the leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF)
exuded confidence that its growth story would continue and the country
would consolidate its position as the bright spot of the world. They
hoped that doing business in India will become easier.
FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The relentless rise of automation and ever more intelligent machines was
a key issue at the WEF. The official theme of the 2016 meeting was
mastering the fourth industrial revolution. That, in WEF-speak, means the fusion of technologies that is
blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
But Davos summit also looked at the threat to white collar jobs, asking if the changes are failing the middle
classes. Another question that was discussed was whether we are heading towards a world without work a
serious issue given that some experts reckon one in two jobs could eventually be taken by intelligent
automation.
More than 7 million jobs are at risk in the worlds largest economies over the next five years, according to a WEF
report published recently, with women losing out more than men as they are less likely to be working in areas
where the adoption of new technology will create jobs.
THE MIGRATION CRISIS
World leaders and the heads of humanitarian agencies debated how to address the growing migration crisis and
better integrate refugees into the communities who shelter them.
MARKET TURMOIL
The stock market rout of 2016 has already made a small dent in the fortunes of countries. So there was
discussion about whether we are heading into a new crash and whether it can be fended off. In the discussions,
the big worry, of course, was China, with its slowing economy and swelling credit levels.
CLIMATE CHANGE
The WEF hoped to build on the Paris climate deal, agreed in December, by examining how governments and
businesses can work together to cut carbon emissions.
Its annual risk survey found that failing to deal with and prepare for climate change is the biggest single threat
facing the world economy. This is the first time in more than a decade that environmental issues have topped
the list of worries.
INEQUALITY
This annual gathering also discussed wealth inequality. Oxfam already got the ball rolling with a new report
warning that wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small group of billionaires.
RELATED INFORMATION: WEF
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva.

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PART THIRTEEN | CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS

Recognized by the Swiss authorities as the international institution for public-private cooperation, its mission is
cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other
leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
The Forum is best known for its annual winter meeting in Davos, in Switzerland. The meeting brings together
top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals, and journalists to discuss the most
pressing issues facing the world.

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Space for notes

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PART FOURTEEN | SPORTS

PART FOURTEEN| SPORTS


1.

Chennai Open

Stan Wawrinka won his fourth title at the Chennai Open


with win over Borna Coric of Croatia.
The Chennai Open is a professional tennis tournament
played on outdoor hard courts. It is currently part of the
ATP World Tour series of the Association of Tennis
Professionals (ATP) World Tour.

RELATED INFORMATION: ATP


The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was formed in 1972 by Donald Dell, Bob Briner, Jack Kramer, and
Cliff Drysdale to protect the interests of male professional tennis players. Drysdale became the first President.
Since 1990, the association has organized the worldwide tennis tour for men and linked the title of the tour with
the organization's name. The ATP's global headquarters are in London, United Kingdom.
The counterpart organization in the women's professional game is the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

2.

Australian Open 2016

The 2016 Australian Open was played at Melbourne Park in


January 2016. It was the first Grand Slam tournament of the
year.
Novak Djokovic successfully defended the men's singles title
and thus won a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title.
Serena Williams was the defending champion in the
women's singles but failed to defend her title, losing to
Angelique Kerber in the final; by winning, Kerber became the first German player of any gender to win a Grand
Slam title since Steffi Graf won her last such title at the 1999 French Open.

RELATED INFORMATION: AUSTRALIAN OPEN


The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually over the last fortnight of January in Melbourne,
Australia.
First held in 1905, the tournament is chronologically the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events of the year
the other three being the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Prior to 1988 the tournament was played on grass. Since 1988, hardcourt surfaces have been used at Melbourne
Park.

3.

Hat-trick for Santina

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis were crowned the Australian Open
womens doubles champions after they tamed the Czech duo of
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
It was the third consecutive Grand Slam title for Sania and Hingis,
having won the Wimbledon and US Open in the 2015 season.
It was Sanias second title at the Australian Open, having won the
mixed doubles in 2009 with Mahesh Bhupathi.

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PART FIFTEEN | ORGANISATION IN NEWS

PART FIFTEEN| ORGANISATION IN NEWS


1.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)


Voting rights of emerging-market economies such as India and China have increased at the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), which has finally notified governance quota reforms adopted in 2010.

ABOUT IMF
The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a
UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire,
United States, in 1944. The countries at that conference
sought to build a framework for economic cooperation
to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations
that had contributed to the Great Depression of the
1930s. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its head
is Christine Lagarde.
THE IMF'S RESPONSIBILITIES
The IMF's primary purpose is to ensure the stability of
the international monetary systemthe system of
exchange rates and international payments that enables
countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund's mandate was updated in 2012 to include all
macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
WORK
The IMFs fundamental mission is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system. It does so in three
ways: keeping track of the global economy and the economies of member countries; lending to countries with
balance of payments difficulties; and giving practical help to members.
SURVEILLANCE
The IMF oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its
member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the global level and in individual countries,
the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.
LENDING
A core responsibility of the IMF is to provide loans to member countries experiencing actual or potential balance
of payments problems. This financial assistance enables countries to rebuild their international reserves, stabilize
their currencies, continue paying for imports, and restore conditions for strong economic growth, while
undertaking policies to correct underlying problems. Unlike development banks, the IMF does not lend for
specific projects.
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
The IMF helps its member countries design economic policies and manage their financial affairs more effectively
by strengthening their human and institutional capacity through technical assistance and training. The IMF aims
to exploit synergies between technical assistance and trainingwhich it calls capacity developmentto
maximize their effectiveness.
IMF RESOURCES
Most resources for IMF loans are provided by member countries, primarily through their payment of quotas.

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PART FIFTEEN | ORGANISATION IN NEWS

QUOTAS
Quota subscriptions are a central component of the IMFs financial resources. Each member country of the IMF
is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative position in the world economy.

SPECIAL DRAWING RIGHTS (SDR)


The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries
official reserves.

GOLD
Gold remains an important asset in the reserve holdings of several countries, and the IMF is still one of the
worlds largest official holders of gold.

BORROWING ARRANGEMENTS
While quota subscriptions of member countries are the IMF's main source of financing, the Fund can
supplement its quota resources through borrowing if it believes that they might fall short of members' needs.

COUNTRY REPRESENTATION
Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the
IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF
continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes
taking place in the world economy.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART SIXTEEN | PERSONALITIES

PART SIXTEEN| PERSONALITIES


1.

Abe Vigoda

The actor Abe Vigoda, who played a doomed Mafia soldier in The
Godfather, passed away.
The role made him recognisable to millions and led to many more
roles, including as detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series Barney
Miller.

2.

David Bowie

Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of


his era, passed away.
Bowies 25 albums produced a string of hits including
Changes, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He was known
for experimenting across diverse musical genres. He also
had a notable acting career.

3.

Devender Kumar Sikri

Devender Kumar Sikri was appointed as Chairman of fair-trade regulator Competition Commission of India
(CCI).

RELATED INFORMATION: CCI


The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of
modern competition laws. The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by
enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control etc.), which causes or likely to cause an
appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which
has been established by the Central Government in 2003. CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members
appointed by the Central Government.
It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and
sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory
authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and
impart training on competition issues.

4.

Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence (AI), passed away. The mathematician and
computer scientist was one of the world's foremost AI experts.
As a student, he built one of the first neural-network learning machines, using vacuum tubes. He went on to
cofound the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Lab, in 1959, with John McCarthy.
Prof Minsky's ideas and influence were wide-ranging - from computational linguistics, mathematics and
robotics - but underpinning it all was a desire, in his own words, "to impart to machines the human capacity for
commonsense reasoning". He viewed the brain as a machine whose functions could be replicated in a computer.

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PART SIXTEEN | PERSONALITIES

His book, The Society of Mind, is considered a seminal


work in exploring the diversity of mechanisms that
interact in intelligence and thought. His last book, The
Emotion Machine, continued the theme, offering a new
model for how minds worked.
He was also a talented pianist and wrote an influential
paper on the connections between music, psychology
and the mind. He also invented the earliest confocal
scanning microscope.
He received many awards over the years, including the
Turing Award - the highest honour in computer science.

5.

Mrinalini Sarabhai

Noted danseuse and Padma Bhushan recipient Mrinalini


Sarabhai passed away.
Trained in Bharatnatyam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattom, she was
educated at Shantiniketan under Rabindranath Tagore. She was
married to the architect of India's space programme, Dr Vikram
Sarabhai. Her daughter Mallika is also a celebrated classical
Indian dancer.
Besides being a classical dancer, she was a poet, writer and
environmentalist and played a leading role in the social and art
scene in Ahmedabad. She was one of the first classical dancer to
turn to choreography.
Mrinalini Sarabhai founded the Darpana Academy of
Performing Arts in Ahmedabad and trained thousands in
Indian classical dance forms.

6.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who redrew the contours of politics in Jammu and Kashmir by deftly bringing into
its mainstream voices and ideas that were considered separatist, passed away.
Sayeed took charge as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the second time last March after entering into
an unlikely alliance with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).
A Congressman until 1987, Sayeed left the party and joined the ranks of V P Singh to become Home Minister of
the National Front government in 1989. He was Chief Minister from 2002 to 2005 with the Congress as his
coalition partner.

7.

Natalie Cole

The singer Natalie Cole passed away.


She won nine Grammy awards in a career spanning 40 years, after
following her father Nat ''King'' Cole into the music business.

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PART SIXTEEN | PERSONALITIES

8.

Ravindra Kalia

Noted Hindi writer and journalist Ravindra Kalia passed away. Known for his works like 'Nau Saal Chotti Patni'
and 'Ghalib Chutti Sharab', the former Bharatiya Jnanpith director was also the editor of several literary
magazines, including Naya Gyanodaya.

9.

R.K. Mathur

R.K. Mathur was sworn in as the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) by President Pranab Mukherjee. As the
CIC, Mr. Mathur will have tenure of about three years, till he attains the age of 65 years.
The CIC is appointed for five years or up to the age of 65, whichever is earlier.

10.

Sailesh

Senior IAS officer Sailesh was appointed as Registrar General and Census Commissioner. He was appointed in
place of C Chandramouli.

RELATED INFORMATION: REGISTRAR GENERAL AND CENSUS COMMISSIONER


The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census
Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs. It may be of historical interest that though the population
census of India is a major administrative function; the Census Organization was set up on an ad-hoc basis for
each Census till the 1951 Census.
The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide for the scheme of conducting population census with duties and
responsibilities of census officers. The Government of India decided in 1949 to initiate steps for developing
systematic collection of statistics on the size of population, its growth, etc., and established an organization in
the Ministry of Home Affairs under Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India.
This organization was made responsible for generating data on population statistics including Vital Statistics
and Census. Later, this office was also entrusted with the responsibility of implementation of Registration of
Births and Deaths Act, 1969 in the country.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART SEVENTEEN | AWARDS

PART SEVENTEEN| AWARDS


1.

Messi bags fifth Ballon d'Or award

Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi was named world player of
the year 2015 and claimed the Ballon d'Or trophy for the fifth time overall.
Messi reclaimed the award after watching his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo
walk off with the prize for the previous two years.
The Argentine, who finished ahead of Ronaldo and Brazil forward Neymar,
had previously won it four years in a row from 2009 to 2012.
Messi helped Barcelona to win a Spanish league title, cup and Champions
League treble plus the Club World Cup and also led Argentina to the Copa
America final, where they lost to Chile on penalties.

OTHER AWARDS
Barcelona's Luis Enrique was voted coach of the year. US World Cup winner Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick
in the final against Japan, was named women's player of the year.
RELATED INFORMATION: BALLON D'OR
The FIFA Ballon d'Or is an annual association football award given to the world's best male player by the sport's
governing body, FIFA (International Federation of Association Football), and the French publication France
Football since 2010.
It is awarded based on votes from international media representatives and national team coaches and captains,
who select the player they deem to have performed the best in the previous calendar year. A fusion between the
former Ballon d'Or and the men's FIFA World Player of the Year award, the FIFA Ballon d'Or is considered the
most prestigious individual award in world football.

2.

Golden Globes 2016

The Revenant and Mozart in the Jungle emerged as the top winners at
the 73rd edition of the Golden Globe awards.
The Revenant bagged three awards best drama film, best actor in a
drama for Leonardo DiCaprio and best director for Alejandro G.
Inarritu.
In the TV realm, Amazon Studios Mozart in the Jungle won under the
category of best comedy series and best actor in a comedy series for
Gael Garcia Bernal. The series is inspired by the Mozart in the Jungle:
Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music oboist Blair Tindalls 2005 memoir. (*an oboist is a musician who plays the
oboe or any oboe family instrument)
The award for the best actress in a motion picture drama was won by Brie Larson for Room.

RELATED INFORMATION: GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD


The Golden Globe Award is an American accolade bestowed by the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press
Association (HFPA) recognizing excellence in film and television, both domestic and foreign.
The annual formal ceremony at which the awards are presented is a major part of the film industry's awards
season, which culminates each year with the Academy Awards.

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PART SEVENTEEN | AWARDS

3.

Anuradha Roy wins DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Indias Anuradha Roy has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
2016 for her novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, which deals with the subject of
violence against women.
Other authors and novels in contention for this years prize were: Akhil
Sharma (Family Life); K.R. Meera (Hangwoman); Mirza Waheed (The Book
of Gold Leaves), Neel Mukherjee (The Lives of Others) and Raj Kamal Jha
(She Will Build Him A City).

RELATED INFORMATION: DSC PRIZE FOR SOUTH ASIAN LITERATURE


The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is a literary prize awarded annually to writers of any ethnicity or
nationality writing about South Asia themes such as culture, politics, history, or people.
It is for an original full-length novel written in English, or translated into English.
The prize was instituted by DSC Limited, an Indian infrastructure and construction company.

4.

The Hindu Prize for 2015 goes to Easterine Kire

Easterine Kire, poet, novelist and childrens writer from Nagaland, won
The Hindu Prize, 2015, for her novel When the River Sleeps, a book
about a lone hunter seeking a faraway river, to take from it a stone that will
give him untold powers.
Ms. Kire was one of the six authors shortlisted. The shortlisted books
included Amit Chaudhuris Odysseus Abroad; Amitav Ghoshs Flood of
Fire; Anuradha Roys Sleeping on Jupiter; Janice Pariats Seahorse and
Siddharth Chowdhurys The Patna Manual of Style .

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PART EIGHTEEN | PLACES

PART EIGHTEEN| PLACES


1.

Field fossil museum to come up at Varanavasi


Work on the construction of a field fossil museum has commenced at Varanavasi near Pazhur in the Ariyalur
district, Tamil Nadu.

The district administration


identified the area in
Varanavasi as Ariyalur
region has been a hub for
geologists for its rich
deposits
of
fossils.
Cretaceous marine fossils
in this region constitute
critical
paleontological
data.
Evidence
of
Quaternary formation has
been found in the vicinity.
PURPOSE
The field fossil museum aims at preservation and conservation of evidence of paleontology of the region. It will
provide additional information on the geological context of fossils, ensure additional perspective of the tertiary
and quaternary formations and pre-historical archaeology of the region, encourage local cement industries to
realise the importance of museum through donation of fossils got during their mining operation or
infrastructure development.
It has also been planned to establish a research laboratory to promote study and research.
RELATED INFORMATION: PALEONTOLOGY
Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth as reflected in the fossil record.
Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms (plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and other single-celled living
things) that lived in the geological past and are preserved in the crust of the Earth.

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PART NINETEEN | HISTORY AND CULTURE

PART NINETEEN| HISTORY AND CULTURE


1.

World Music Festival to be held in Udaipur in February


Udaipur (Rajasthan) will come alive with the first edition of Indias first World Music Festival. The festival, in
February, will bring together over 100 global artistes and ensembles from over 12 countries, including Spain,
Ghana, Venezuela, Italy, France as well as India.

2.

The aim of the festival is to establish an annual signature event


in Rajasthan and at the same time establish Udaipur as a major
destination for world music in South Asia.
ATTRACTION
One of the most popular Fado singers from Portugal, Carminho
will be performing for the first time in India at the event. French
composer Mathias Duplessy will also perform at the event,
where he will collaborate with Rajasthani vocalist Mukhtiyar Ali
from the semi-nomadic community called Mirasi from the Thar
Desert.
The event will come alive with instrumental Spanish Flamenco
guitar and dance performance and the unique African beat
music by Dobet Gnahore, a Grammy award winner from the
Ivory Coast.

Chandragiri fort
Chandragiri Fort near Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) is all set to host the birth anniversary of famous Vijayanagara
emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya in February.

Chandragiri was under


the rule of Yadava
Naidus for about three
centuries and came into
control of Vijayanagar
rulers in 1367. It came
into prominence during
Saluva
Narasimha
Rayalu. Later, the most
famous
Vijayanagara
emperor
Srikrishna
Devaraya, was kept
restricted in this fort as a
prince,
till
his
coronation. It is also said
that he met his future
queen Chinna Devi at
this fort.
Chandragiri was the 4th
capital of Vijayanagar
Empire, Rayas shifted
their capital to here when Golconda sultans attacked Penukonda (Andhra Pradesh). In 1646 the fort was

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PART NINETEEN | HISTORY AND CULTURE

annexed to the Golkonda territory and subsequently came under Kingdom of Mysore rule. It went into oblivion
from late 18th century.

3.

RELATED INFORMATION: VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE


The Vijayanagara Empire was based in the Deccan Plateau region in South India. It was established in 1336 by
Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty.
The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a
World Heritage Site in Karnataka.
The writings of medieval European travellers such as Domingo Paes, Ferno Nunes, and Niccol Da Conti, and
the literature in local languages provide crucial information about its history. Archaeological excavations at
Vijayanagara have revealed the empire's power and wealth.
The empire's legacy includes many monuments spread over South India, the best known of which is the group
at Hampi. The previous temple building traditions in South India came together in the Vijayanagara
Architecture style.
Efficient administration and vigorous overseas trade brought new technologies such as water management
systems for irrigation. The empire's patronage enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada,
Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form.

PM releases 100 secret files on Netaji


Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the first set of 100 declassified files
pertaining to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The government plans to release
in the public domain 25 declassified files each month.

The files do not seem to throw up any new evidence suggesting the
freedom fighter survived the plane crash in Taihoku, now in Taiwan, on
August 18, 1945.
The theory that he died in the crash was the version of his Indian National
Army associates and was also accepted by the Nehru government.
However, this may not yet put to rest speculation that the freedom fighter
outlived the crash.
A section of the Bose family, and many in Bengal, have for decades held that the whole truth of Boses
disappearance isnt out yet.

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PART TWENTY | BOOKS AND AUTHORS

PART TWENTY| BOOKS AND AUTHORS


1.

The Turbulent Years

The second volume of President Pranab Mukherjees


memoir The Turbulent Years: 1980-96 was released.
In the book, he has chronicled some momentous
developments of the 1980s and 1990s, including Indira
Gandhi's assassination, Babri demolition, operation Blue
Star and his ouster from Rajiv Gandhi's Cabinet.
He has also shed new light on every major political
occurrence of the time - from Rajiv Gandhi's ascendance
as Prime Minister to the emergence of P V Narsimha Rao
as leader of the nation.

2.

The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots

A newly discovered story written more than a century ago by the cherished
British children's author Beatrix Potter will be published in September.
The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots, a story about a black cat that leads a double life, was
found some years ago by Penguin Random House publisher.
Potter is best known for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which has sold 45 million copies
and been translated into 36 languages.
The publication of the newly-uncovered tale forms part of this year's celebrations
marking the 150th anniversary of her birth.

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PART TWENTY ONE | MISCELLANEOUS

PART TWENTY ONE| MISCELLANEOUS


1.

World Braille Day


The World Braille Day was observed on January 4 across the world to recognize contributions of Louis Braille in
helping the visually impaired people to read and write.

The World Braille Day celebrates the life and achievements of Louis Braille who invented the Braille code for the
visually impaired. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) around the world celebrates this day to create
awareness about the challenges faced by visually impaired individuals and encourage businesses along with the
governments to create economic and social opportunities for the blind.
RELATED INFORMATION: BRAILLE CODE
Braille is a code that uses bumps and indentation on a surface to represent alphabets and letters that can be
recognized by touch. Louis Braille, who was a French, lost his sight in an accident at a very young age and
invented the code.
Before Braille invented this form of communication, visually impaired people read and wrote using a system
that embossed Latin letters on thick paper or leather. This was a complicated system that required much training
and only allowed people to read not write.
Discouraged by this, Braille at the age of 15 invented the Braille code. Since Braille is a code, all languages and
even certain subjects like mathematics, music and computer programming can be read and written in Braille.

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PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

1.

You are here


The Indian Express | Category: Science and Technology

With the launch of the fifth payload of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), the Indian Space
Research Organisation (ISRO) is almost set to deploy a secure and nationally owned alternative to GPS (Global
Positioning System), which will cover all of India and a zone about 1,500 km beyond the national borders. After two
more launches, India will join the small group of nations with their own satellite navigation systems. The US GPS was
the trailblazing system with a global footprint, followed by the Russian GLONASS (Globalnaya navigatsionnaya
sputnikovaya sistema) and French DORIS (Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite). By
2020, the European Unions Galileo and Chinas BeiDou satellite arrays are expected to be globally deployed.
BeiDou is still a regional system, and the IRNSS marks Indias first, confident and very necessary step into this field. It
will have two services, a public access system and an encrypted variant for the military. Indeed, while satellite
navigation systems are generally celebrated for improving accuracy in conjunction with other services like GPS
DORIS can drill down to millimetric levels, which is valuable in the earth sciences security will be the initial
deliverable of the IRNSS. The need for secure communications is understood in our hacker-infested world and, by
extension, so is the need to own communication satellites. However, the need to own secure positioning services
should be equally obvious. A major geopolitical incident could render foreign GPS systems hard to access, or
impossible to trust.
The extra accuracy which the IRNSS promises will assume significance for future developments like the Internet of
Things, to revolutionise logistics and inventory management, for instance, and perhaps enhance telemetry services.
The ISRO is taking a significant step with the IRNSS, helping to future-proof the nation from the perspective of the
security and accuracy of data. In an information-hungry world, its serving the national priority of generating and
owning reliable data on the neighbourhood.

2.

Revive NATGRID with safeguards


The Hindu | Category: Polity and Governance

The Central governments decision to revive NATGRID (National Intelligence Grid) is a welcome move in the fight
against terrorism, but it calls for caution and nuanced planning in the way it would be structured. According to the
existing plan, NATGRID will become a secure centralised database to stream sensitive information from 21 sets of data
sources such as banks, credit cards, visa, immigration and train and air travel details, as well as from various
intelligence agencies. The database would be accessible to authorised persons from 11 agencies on a case-to-case basis,
and only for professional investigations into suspected cases of terrorism. NATGRID was among the ambitious slew of
intelligence reforms undertaken in the wake of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Like NATGRID, most of these
proposed reforms in the security establishment have not fully materialised, yet again serving as a reminder that Indias
memory is embarrassingly short.
In a data-driven, digitised world, it would be foolhardy to ignore the power of big data and its potential to provide real
time tip-offs and predictive intelligence to deal with the terrorist threat. Over the last two decades or so, during which
the post-Cold War chaos resulted in many violent non-state actors setting up shop, the very digital tools that terrorists
use have also become great weapons to fight the ideologies of violence. Social media and other platforms have become
recruitment sites and propaganda machines for terrorist groups, and formal banking channels are used as much as
informal ones to transact terror funding. In those same oceans of information are trends and information that could
avert terrorist strikes. However, appreciation of the power of digital databases to tackle terror must be accompanied by
deep concern about their possible misuse. The Snowden files are just one pointer to the widespread misuse in recent
years of surveillance capabilities to compromise individual privacy and even violate national sovereignty.
Increasingly, there is also academic evidence to show that states are applying excessive force and surveillance to tackle

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PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

terrorism. The NATGRIDs efforts must be placed against these realities before the government rushes into reviving it.
When so much sensitive information about individuals is available on a single source, the potential for its misuse
would dramatically go up. The poor track record of the Indian security and intelligence agencies on individual privacy
and liberty must be kept in mind as the National Democratic Alliance government tries to nurture NATGRID, which
has failed to take off despite the aggressive push by the previous United Progressive Alliance government. The
overdue initiative to revive NATGRID must therefore be accompanied by action on the even longer-pending need to
have effective oversight of intelligence agencies by Parliament or an eminent group.

3.

Towards organic lifestyle


Pioneer | Category: Economy

The often bitter debate on organic farming notwithstanding, Sikkim deserves to be whole-heartedly congratulated for
going green and chemical-free. Recently, the tiny Northeastern State was officially declared as the country's first fully
organic State. What this means is that no farmer in Sikkim uses any amount of chemical fertiliser, insecticide or
pesticide. Instead, only natural manure from cow dung is used in the fields. Sikkim's success story is an inspiration for
the rest of the country, and other States, especially the dozen others that are focusing on organic farming, will have
valuable lessons to learn, even if they are not able to fully replicate the Sikkim model. Sikkim had certain inherent
advantages when it began its organic programme more than a decade ago. The soil of the State is rich in organic
matter, farmers were mostly following organic practices by choice, and only a small percentage of the land under
cultivation had been exposed to chemicals. Consequently, it was relatively easy for Sikkim to turn back and go green.
Still, the process took 13 years since the 2003 declaration in the Legislative Assembly by then Chief Minister Pawan
Chamling's on the phasing out of harmful chemicals. After that, pilot projects were implemented, which included the
adoption of bio-villages'. The State also subsidised the construction of vermicomposting pits and encouraged the use
of bio-fertilisers and organic manure. In 2010, the Sikkim Organic Mission was launched with the aim of becoming
chemical-free by December 2015.
Now, the focus is on scaling up the industry. Sikkim, for instance, does not produce enough to sustain itself and its
produce is fairly expensive. This is beneficial for the farmers, of course, and a welcome alternative for those willing to
pay more for healthier food options. But even if one factors in the additional revenues from eco-tourism etc, organic
farming overall is still unsustainable in a densely-populated, developing country like ours. It is on this issue that new
research and development in the farm sector must focus. Meanwhile, the Centre should offer full support to other
States like Meghalaya and Kerala, which are close to becoming fully organic. Globally, organic farming has become the
holy grail of sustainable living, and the international organic foods market is worth several billion dollars today.
Resource-rich India, however, does not even have a one per cent share in this lucrative market. This can and should
change not because organic farming is fashionable these days, but because it is imperative for the Indian farm sector
to remain competitive, as with every passing day more and more developed nations are cutting down on non-organic
food exports. One effective way to marshal resources, for the Seven Sister States, for example, is to dovetail their
organic missions with the Make in North-East programme that focuses on horticulture and food processing.

4.

Islamic nations also on ISIS radar


The Asian Age | Category: International

Major terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Jakarta recently, following the Paris strike of last November, have once again
raised fears of the global expansion of the Islamic State (IS), or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the worlds most
brutal and most effective Islamist terrorist organisation which puts to shame even Al Qaeda, whose franchisee it was
meant to be in Iraq and Syria until just a couple of years ago.
ISIS, or Daesh, has claimed authorship of the outrage in Jakarta and Paris, and the presumption is that it was also
responsible for killing foreign tourists in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, one of the most visited places in the
world. But firm proof eludes us in tracing particular vile acts to Daesh. This is especially the case with the recent
Istanbul and Jakarta attacks.

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PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

Turkey has been seen by many as an indirect backer of Daesh because Daesh hits regimes in West Asia with which
Ankara is at odds. Of course, Turkey strongly refutes the suggestion. In the wake of the Istanbul attack, it even
unleashed a wave of airstrikes against Daesh positions in Syria.
What seems true, however, is that the current Turkish government is seen to be Islamic which in various ways seeks to
oppose the sturdy secular social and political tradition built up in the country in the last hundred years. Should Daesh
be hitting targets in Istanbul then?
Anything we say will be conjectural, but it is also true that there have been a number of terrorist incidents in Turkey
since last June. Are the attacks linked in their authorship, or are different groups espousing different causes, fighting it
out? There are no firm clues.
If those with ultra-Islamist values, or even Islamic ones, are uneasy with modern Turkeys strong secular foundational
structures, it is understandable. The case of Indonesia, however, is quite different. The government there is openly
democratic and moderately Muslim. Its political character is not the same as Turkeys.
But the recent past has seen robust Islamic and Islamist movements in Indonesia which have used terrorism as an
instrument. The Jemah Islamiyah, a dreaded terrorist outfit which took credit for the infamous Bali bombing some
years ago, has its organisational bases in Malaysia and the Philippines also. But in the past decade, the Indonesian
government had overpowered the Islamist tendencies and these could well be hitting back with the help of Daesh.
Daesh is indeed a serious threat internationally, as US President Barack Obama reminded us in his last State of the
Union address recently. In India too we need to be alert to its activities as a clutch of Indians have travelled to fight for
ISIS and the outfit is trying to spread its wings in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where India is engaged.

5.

Its the lynchpin: 92% of Indian adults have Aadhaar, but wheres its legislative
framework?
Times of India | Category: Polity and Governance

A month after Chennai was battered by a flood, victims were in for a pleasant surprise. About 1.4 million people
received Rs 700 crore as flood relief through banks in what may have been the quickest and most transparent transfer
in India after a calamity. This example, when juxtaposed with the spread of Aadhaar coverage to 92% of Indias adult
population, should push NDA (National Democratic Alliance) to get its act together quickly. Aadhaars rich potential
needs to be supported by an appropriate legislative framework, which should be on the governments priority list for
the budget session of Parliament.
About Rs 6.3 trillion, or 4.2% of GDP (gross domestic product), is spent every year on subsidies by all layers of
government. But the extent of subsidies which actually reach intended beneficiaries is anybodys guess because a lot of
vulnerable people in India find it difficult to get the paperwork mandated to prove their identity. Aadhaar, a digital
identification system, overcomes most of these problems. Its provision of a verifiable identity from any location opens
up access to a number of public and private services for people. Opportunities multiply for individuals. For
government, it gives a chance to enhance the welfare system by eliminating wastage and reaching the right person.
Aadhaar is part of a package of measures to enhance governance which is undergirded by communications
technology. It comes with challenges which need to be tackled through appropriate legislation among other things. Yet
NDA has shown extreme casualness about such legislation. It is over five years since the previous government
introduced a bill, deemed unsatisfactory by BJP, to provide a legislative framework. This bill subsequently made no
progress. Given Aadhaars potential, Modi governments support for it and questions raised by the Supreme Court, the
absence of a sense of urgency to fill this legislative gap is mystifying.
Aadhaar is a bipartisan idea. Both BJP and Congress have seen merit in it and many state governments endorse it. So a
lot of ground to garner political support for a bill has already been covered. Its time for an ironclad legislation which
addresses legitimate concerns, including privacy. BJP has to take the initiative to get this legislation in place and
Congress should support it as a lot of the groundwork to get Aadhaar up and running happened during UPA tenure.
This is a bill which has the potential to directly improve opportunities for many people and, therefore, needs broadbased political support.

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PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

6.

Holistic inclusion
Hindu Business Line | Category: Economy

It would be wrong to dismiss the deliberations of the Deepak Mohanty committee on The Medium Term Path on
Financial Inclusion as just the latest in a series of high-profile committee reports on the issue. What the Mohanty
committee has done is to examine why previous initiatives on financial inclusion, such as priority sector lending by
banks, interest rate subvention for agriculture, the banking correspondent model and the Jan Dhan Yojana have not
managed to fulfil their objectives also, what can be done at the ground level to address this. The report suggests that
to attain the lofty goal of universal financial inclusion, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) will have to stitch together a
holistic strategy that involves not only its own constituents such as banks and NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial
Companies), but also ropes in telecom operators, Central and State agencies, land registrars and small and payment
banks, to deliver last-mile inclusion.
On the primary problem of inclusion, the report finds that the attempts to improve banking access through rural
branches, ATMs (automated teller machines), banking correspondents (BCs) and no-frills accounts have delivered a
six-fold expansion in bank accounts in the last five years. But some pockets remain excluded, such as towns in East and
North-East India, women in general and the minorities. To address this, it offers specific solutions such as
piggybacking on mobile networks in remote areas, opening government-funded bank accounts for school-going girls
and enabling interest-free banking windows for those with ethical banking needs. On agricultural credit, the
committee tempers welfare objectives with a strong dose of pragmatism. It points out that the present bank largesse in
the form of subsidised loans and loan waivers mainly reaches the affluent landed farmer and creates a moral hazard. It
suggests dismantling these modes of credit delivery and asks the Centre to offer small and marginal farmers income
support through direct transfers. It argues for the seeding of all bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers, the digitisation
of land records and issue of tenancy certificates to landless tillers so that cash benefits and crop insurance policies can
be delivered directly into the latters hands. To remove the primary entry barrier to inclusion the lack of
transactional history the report suggests mapping the digital footprint of all financial customers, whether it is the
small farmer swiping his Kisan Credit Card or the owner of a micro-enterprise taking a personal loan. This can create a
verifiable national database for lenders to make a 360 degree assessment of a new borrowers credit-worthiness.
Overall, the report has over 70 different recommendations cutting a wide swathe across subjects ranging from crop
loans to cashless payments. While most of them appear worthy of implementation, the difficulty will lie in the fact that
their success is dependent on transparent information-sharing and coordination among many agencies. Nevertheless,
this comprehensive approach to financial inclusion needs to be taken seriously. A multi-disciplinary agency at the
Central level should be set up to put these ideas into action.

7.

Will Rafael deal fly?


The Tribune | Category: Defence

French President Francois Hollands visit helped create an air of finality to the deal for purchasing Rafael fighter jets.
All that remains, we are told is six more months of hard bargaining over prices. By then the Narendra Modi
government would have completed two years in office and come no nearer to its predecessor in resolving the question
of steady drawdown of India's fighter aircraft fleet. For years, the joint development and production plan with Russia
for the next generation of fighter aircraft too has been the subject of intense negotiations. The light combat aircraft,
after decades of being under development, went on its first outing to the Bahrain air show. But it cannot undertake the
requirements of the heavier fighter aircraft.
If the negotiations over Rafael drag on, Modi will have himself to blame for failing to reverse the attrition in India's
fighter fleet. Almost as if on impulse, he placed an order for 36 Rafael jets on the eve of his first visit to Paris last April.
Rafael had emerged as the best of the six fighters that had competed for the Indian Air Forces tender for 126 fighters.
For the past three years Defence Ministry officials had been conducting intense haggling-cum-negotiations with the
company. The entire exercise went topsy-turvy when Modi announced the order for 36 fighters. Exasperated officials
had to begin negotiations all over again. This time they are trying to get the old price for a smaller order.

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PART TWENTY TWO| EDITORIALS

It is not just about Rafael. The Make-in-India policy for defence equipment was announced with fanfare without one
crucial component the criteria for the foreign strategic partner. The industry is not happy with the proposal to
restrict one strategic partner to one project. Once this is overcome, the next hurdle will be the defence public sector
workers opposing the entry of the private sector. Several other major projects such as plans to jointly build warships,
nuclear submarines and helicopters are also facing challenges. The bigger challenge is there are no export markets or
civilian derivatives for these products. The government will have to become realistic and prioritise products that can
be realistically built in India at a comparable cost.

8.

Scientific temper essential to Indias development in 21st century


Economic Times | Category: Science and Technology

It does not matter if Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan was right in describing the Indian Science Congress as
a circus where very little science is discussed. What matters is that over the years, the annual meet passes by without
a blip on our radar, except for the prime ministers inaugural address and possible controversy.
The Indian Science Congress, first held in 1914, was the initiative by two British chemists, J L Simonsen and P S
MacMahon, who thought that an annual gathering similar to the British Association for the Advancement of Science
(BAAS) would stimulate science research. Since then, interaction among scientists has increased exponentially, making
the science congress yet another meet. While the importance of science has only grown, the public appreciation of
science and scientific temper has been on the decline. Scientists probably should take a cue from the BAAS, recast as
British Science Association, reinvent the Indian Science Congress, to improve the perception of science and scientists in
the country. It can do so by making the primary goal of the annual meet engaging a broader audience: the political and
administrative class, industry, think tanks, the media, science educators, communicators and students. A two-way
communication is needed: scientists must appreciate societys needs and expectations and the wider community must
know what scientists are doing.
Science has a crucial role to play but it must be embedded in a larger societal framework. A scientific temper is
essential to Indias development in the 21st century. Scientists must seize the day, instead of walling themselves off,
they must actively engage with politics, controversy and the world at large, and the Indian Science Congress can be the
gateway.

9.

The unmet health challenge


The Hindu | Category: Health

The first set of data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) -4 for 13 States and two Union Territories should
be seen as a report card on how effectively India has used its newly created wealth to alter a dismal record of
nutritional deprivation, ill-health and lost potential among its citizens, particularly women and children. Given the
steady growth in real per capita GDP (gross domestic product) since the 1980s, and the progress made since
Independence in overcoming severe undernourishment, enlightened policy approaches could have brought about a
giant leap from 1992-93, when the first NFHS was conducted, ensuring that no child or woman was left behind in the
quest for health for all. Evidently, the Indian state has not viewed the situation even at the height of a prosperous
phase of economic growth a decade ago of 39 per cent of children under the age of five remaining underweight as
constituting a national crisis. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that this failure to assume responsibility for child
nutrition has left 34 per cent of children in that age group underweight today. There is also a lot of evidence to show
that the deprived sections of Indias children have low weight even at birth due to the general neglect of womens
nutrition and well-being.
It is imperative that the data coming out of NFHS-4 lead to the charting of a new policy course that makes access to
nutrition and health a right for all. Asserting this right would require the strengthening of the Integrated Child
Development Services (ICDS) scheme in all States, particularly those with a higher proportion of underweight and
stunted children. In the first set of data, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh bring up the rear on these crucial metrics of child
development. It deserves mention that even within the ICDS, there is a clear deficit in caring for the needs of children
under three. Nutrition in the first two or three years of a childs life has a lasting impact on her development; care

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given in later years, including freshly cooked meals at school, cannot undo the setback caused by neglect during this
foundational phase. Other key areas requiring intervention are access to antenatal care, reduction of high levels of
anaemia among women, and immunisation; it is a cause for concern that a State such as Tamil Nadu with an active
public health system recorded a reduced rate of full child immunisation compared with NFHS-3 data. Overall, there is
a need to assess the health of citizens more frequently than the current NFHS cycle of seven to 10 years allows. Data
gathered every two or three years would help make timely policy corrections. A fuller picture of the health of urban
and rural Indians will emerge later in the year when data for all States become available. They should send out the
message that sustained economic growth is not possible without state support to achieve the well-being of the
population, especially women and children.

10.

Dealing with the slowdown


The Hindu | Category: Economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has added to the prevailing economic gloom by cutting the global growth
forecast. It now expects the world economy to expand by 3.4 per cent in 2016. This is 0.2 percentage points below its
forecast of October last year. The revision has come just as Beijing released numbers that showed China posting the
slowest growth yet in 25 years. Though it reported a growth of 6.9 per cent in 2015, the year saw turbulence in the
Chinese economy, with heavy capital outflows and stock market volatility. The IMF has kept its growth forecast for
China unchanged at 6.3 per cent in 2016, and the fear is that Chinas economic slowdown could have a trigger effect on
others. Reading the China factor in tandem with weak commodity prices, the Fund has chosen to pare its global
growth forecast. The latest IMF growth numbers no doubt reflect the unfavourable ground conditions around the
globe. Yet, they also underscore a sense of urgency in putting in place an action plan that would catalyse and hasten
the economic recovery process. Not surprisingly, the IMF has emphasised the need for supportive measures in the near
term to assist a recovery.
While ringing the slowdown alarm, the IMF, however, finds India better-placed vis--vis other large economies. It has
kept its growth forecast for India in 2016-17 unchanged at 7.5 per cent. The IMFs prediction could be seen to be a shot
in the arm for Indian leaders to hard sell the country at the World Economic Forum. At best, it could give India a
psychological edge over others. But that alone may not be sufficient to pull India to a higher growth orbit. In an interconnected environment, global headwinds cannot be wished away. Oftentimes, there have been comparisons between
India and China in the global investing community. Managing the China factor is very crucial for India to stay its
course on the growth path. Containing the spillover effects of volatility in Beijing could, however, prove a big
challenge for monetary and fiscal planners in India in the coming days. Given that Indian exports have been
contracting month after month, the developments on the Chinese currency front are bound to pose fresh worries for
the economy. Though India is relatively better-placed, the economic slowdown is as much a concern for the country as
it is for others. Even as the IMF forecast provides India a comparative edge in wooing the global investor community,
it is essential for the government to coherently address the growing anxiety among domestic consumers and stem, if
not fully reverse, the demand slump. The budget will provide the NDA government an opportunity to announce a
plan to mitigate economic distress, especially in the farm sector, and show the political will to push job-creation as a
central objective. Its a task the government must not dodge.

11.

Start and go
The Indian Express | Category: Economy

The governments new initiative for start-ups promises swift approvals for starting enterprises, easier exits, tax and
fiscal incentives, faster registration of patents and protection of intellectual property rights. It signals a possible end to
the inspector raj that has sapped the energy and spirit of many young entrepreneurs in the country. Unlike Indias
large business groups, small entrepreneurs find it difficult to navigate the complex bureaucratic and regulatory maze.
From that perspective, these supply-side reforms are welcome. What makes this initiative especially welcome is the
fact that start-ups hold the potential of creating more jobs at a time when the manufacturing sector is facing a slump
that may last longer given global economic prospects and the slowdown in China, which has been one of the engines

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of global growth. And with growing automation, the manufacturing sector may no longer be in a position to create
jobs. The fact is that there is a fundamental problem of demand and the real challenge for the Indian economy now is
to fund several large projects be it roads, highways or railways. Thats why it is heartening to see the government
attempting to provide an enabling policy environment for start-ups, which are job creators much like the large number
of self-employed who form a significant part of the countrys labour force.
But should the government, which says it wants to be more of a facilitator, get into the funding of start-ups? There has
been enough capital chasing start-ups in India, including e-commerce firms, with a predominant share coming from
overseas investors, unlike in the US or China, which are ahead of this country in terms of the number of new-age firms.
Tax breaks do help, but global experience shows that what is more critical is an enabling regulatory and business
environment that will foster innovation and have a cascading impact on entrepreneurship. Indian policymakers appear
to be grasping this imperative but the funding now on offer could perhaps be directed more towards entrepreneurs
who find it tough to raise capital in segments such as food processing, rather than mobile-based applications or ecommerce firms, for whom raising money isnt a major problem.
The governments approach of targeting start-ups to power growth over the next decade is well judged. But the easing
of rules and creation of a conducive policy environment should not be restricted just to start-ups. It should be extended
to all businesses. That will be the real test, along with getting more Indian firms domiciled overseas because of rules
here to move back. Otherwise, the losers will be the government and local investors.

12.

Mixed legacy of the Obama years


The Hindu | Category: International

In a speech long on past achievements and short on policy promises for his final year in office, U.S. President Barack
Obama recently delivered his seventh and last State of the Union address to a House of Representatives chamber.
Equally dedicating his time at the pulpit to defending his two-term record in office and to laying out a vision
consistent with the liberal paradigm of the Democratic Party, Mr. Obama posed four definitive questions, the answers
to which he said would determine how much progress the U.S. would make in the years ahead. First, on how the U.S.
middle class finds sufficient opportunities in the new economy to secure its prosperity; second, on how the U.S.
harnesses the power of technology to tackle climate change; third, what are the means to secure the safety of
Americans at home and abroad without getting trapped in any military quagmires; and fourth, how could America's
leadership foster a less hateful, less anti-minority brand of national politics? In the face of the Republican Partys
attitude of rancour and suspicion, Mr. Obama has deftly navigated a path forward on domestic priorities including
healthcare reform, economic revival, and sustainable technologies in the energy sector. Yet his record on foreign policy
is more patchy and complex. The partial realisation of the dream of America leading a multilateral world sits rather
uncomfortably with notable cases of stasis and deepening conflict.
An unequivocal feather in Mr. Obamas cap is the dtente with Iran, which, on his watch, has rolled back its nuclear
programme, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and helped the world step back from the brink of war. So too is the
revival of formal diplomatic ties with Cuba last summer which, after more than 50 years of isolation and economic
embargo, witnessed the relaxation of travel restrictions but awaits a nod from the Republican-controlled Congress
before trade can be fully opened up. At the macro level, seven years since the end of Bush-era unilateralism, the
adoption of multilateral, regionally focussed and hemispheric political models have certainly come into vogue under
the able guidance of the Obama machine. Yet, even as multilateralism has thrived, bilateral crisis-resolution has taken
a back seat. With Russia, the legitimate concerns of an important strategic player are reduced to sound bites and
talking heads on U.S. news channels. Consequently in Ukraine and Syria there is often a hair-trigger situation.
Washingtons China engagement was more reactive than proactive, and led to more aggressive positions in the region.
The unravelling security prospects of Afghanistan and the festering Palestine-Israel conflict were inconsistently
addressed over the two presidential terms. India, though, turned out to be the classic partner for Obamas America
there was enough bilateral economic depth to keep ties strong, and the shared idiom of pluralistic democracy held the
two nations together in a close but light strategic embrace.

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13.

No longer shy
The Indian Express | Category: India and World

It is in the fitness of things that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swarajs first trip to West Asia is taking her to Israel
and Palestine. If the bane of Indian foreign policy has been the neglect of the strategically important Middle East
even the Gulf states much energy has been expended in keeping the bilateral relationship with Israel discreet and
emphasising Indias equidistance from Israel and Palestine. Swarajs visit is only the third Indian foreign ministerial
trip since the establishment of full diplomatic ties in January 1992. Yet, coming close on the heels of President Pranab
Mukherjees October 2015 visit the first by an Indian head of state and Home Minister Rajnath Singhs November
2014 trip, Swarajs visit assumes additional significance, also given the likelihood of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu coming to India this year and Prime Minister Narendra Modis return trip.
The bilateral relationship had almost come out in the open in 2003, during then Israeli PM Ariel Sharons trip to India,
only to be put firmly back in the closet by the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) that didnt dare to talk about it in
public. However, that the momentum picked up over the years was undeniable, and its effect could be felt beyond the
primary, albeit unpublicised, defence and security cooperation. The Modi governments intent, evident since Indias
historic abstention from the anti-Israel UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) resolution in July last year,
appears to be to stop being shy about Delhis partnership with Tel Aviv Modi and Netanyahu had an important
meeting in September 2014, on the sidelines of the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) even as the NDA has
found it just as necessary to tread carefully on Palestine. Modi met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New
York in September 2015 and, like Mukherjee, Swaraj too will begin her visit with Palestine, where Indias continued
political support and developmental assistance will be re-emphasised.
This year is expected to be the breakout year for the India-Israel partnership, coming out of the closet formally. An
indicator is the growing tendency to talk more openly about defence collaboration. Israel is a top technology and
innovation hub, whose prowess in agriculture and water treatment is already making a difference in Indian states in
terms of meeting the challenge of food and water security. Swarajs visit should give another push to the pending
bilateral FTA (free trade agreement), with its potential to treble the bilateral trade of approximately $5 billion, and also
bring the industrial ecosystems of both countries closer. Israel, the Start-up Nation, is an ideal partner for Make in
India.

14.

Happy birthday, Wikipedia


The Indian Express | Category: Miscellaneous

Wikipedia has reached the respectable age of a decade and a half, but it has always been old enough to know better.
Its so old that the names of its founders, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, no longer inspire instant recall. So old that its
fundraisers, originally pushed to acts of desperation to stave off collapse, now collect millions of dollars. Having lived
through strange perils like an obsession with the scolding citation required tag, and the question of whether the
Bengali Wikipedia should use the Indian or Bangladeshi flavour of the language, the site is the worlds only non-profit
that is an industry leader. But most importantly, this astonishing experiment in public trust and faith in humanity, free
to take from, free to contribute to, has concentrated and ordered the sum of human knowledge in a generally reliable
manner. Dont trust the biographies too much, though.
The structure of Wikipedia owes much to the thought of free software pioneer Richard Stallman, who had improved
upon earlier proposals for online encyclopedias by suggesting that editing should be distributed, with no individual or
entity in charge. Like the internet itself, founding documents and agreed upon protocols should be the arbiters of
processes. In a world accustomed to trusting only top-down structures that vest ownership and accountability at the
apex, public acceptance of Wikipedia was a remarkable act of trust.
Wikipedia has particularly benefited the people of less fortunate nations, providing them with free access to quality
peer-reviewed knowledge. In the backwaters of the knowledge economy, it has literally opened the doors of
perception. No wonder, then, that its birthday is being celebrated in 13 Indian centres, including small towns like Puri
and Sangrur. They are far from the mainstream, but services like Wikipedia have put them in the fast lane of the
information superhighway.

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15.

Optimising diaspora asset


Pioneer | Category: India and World

A recent UN (United Nations) survey has found that this country has the world's largest diaspora with 16 million
Indians living abroad. The study only includes those who were born in India but now live outside the country and,
therefore, leaves out the sizeable number of Indian-origin foreign citizens who are also part of the diaspora. When
these individuals are counted, the size of the Indian diaspora grows to 5.69 crore as on January 2015, according to the
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (now merged with the Ministry of External Affairs). The question here is: How can
the Indian Government leverage this foreign demographic dividend to promote its interests abroad? To answer this
question, it is important to underline some of the salient features of the Indian diaspora: First, Indians working abroad
send back large amounts in remittances every year. In 2014-2015, they sent $72 billion, which is at least twice, if not
thrice, the foreign direct investment in the country, making India the largest remittance-receiving nation. Second,
Indians abroad are mostly highly-skilled. While there are also thousands of semi-skilled workers, especially in the
Gulf, the Indian diaspora overall is disproportionately well-educated and wealthy and eventually powerful. For
example, in the US, which has a relatively young Indian diaspora, the Indian community is already sending
representatives to the Congress, has a presence in the White House and holds senior positions in the bureaucracy.
Across the Atlantic, in several African countries, though the Indian community is smaller, it is still significantly
powerful with Indian-origin heads of state even. Third, Indians abroad maintain a special connection with their
motherland, irrespective of whether they are recent immigrants (such as in the US) or have lived abroad for
generations (think of Indian-origin people in Mauritius, Fiji or Trinidad and Tobago).
The cumulative impact of all these factors can be enormous. However, it is yet to be mobilised. Previous Governments
have taken some steps, such as setting a separate Ministry for the diaspora and organising the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas,
but these have only had a limited impact. The incumbent Government has made the diaspora an important aspect of
its foreign policy but it is too early to gauge its impact on the ground. Looking ahead, a comprehensive, multi-pronged
strategy is necessary to make the most of India's diaspora advantage. This must include administrative, financial,
political and socio-cultural elements. The Government should make it easier for those of Indian-origin to travel to and
invest in India. It should also look into diaspora bonds of the sort that were issued in the late 1990s. At that time, it was
expecting about a billion dollars in financing but raised five times the amount. Politically, there's a lot that Indian
parties can do to cultivate the diaspora. The BJP is a step ahead of most other parties in this regard but there's still a
long way to go.

16.

A new beginning with Iran


The Hindu | Category: India and World

It was a remarkable moment in international diplomacy. Until last year, it was unimaginable that there would be a
peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. Even when a deal was reached in July, critics continued to attack the
efforts, questioning the operating challenges of the accord and Irans dubious nuclear record. But proving its critics
wrong again, Iran quickly acted to rein in its nuclear programme. It decommissioned its enrichment centrifuges,
removed the core of its heavy-water reactor and shipped out most of its low-enriched uranium stockpile all in
months. Recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had complied with its commitments.
Within hours, nuclear sanctions were removed, signalling Irans reintegration with the global economy. The
implementation of the deal demonstrates the willingness of both the U.S. and Iran to move past their history of
hostilities and begin a new future of cooperation. U.S. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan
Rouhani deserve credit for their visionary determination. It was not easy to effect structural changes in the thinking of
their respective foreign policy establishments and chart a new course of constructive engagement. Both faced criticism
at home. There were regional challenges as well, such as the steadfast opposition from Israel. Still they stuck to the
path of diplomacy which brought new hopes to a region that is otherwise tormented by conflicts.
Over the past few months, U.S.-Iran ties have substantially improved. Though both sides maintain that cooperation is
limited to the nuclear deal, in actuality it is much broader. Tehran and Washington are engaged in Syria and Iraq. They
share common interests in Afghanistan. The quick release of American sailors whose patrol boats drifted into Iranian

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waters signalled the shift in ties. The prisoner swap deal, announced just hours before the sanctions were lifted and
under which Iran released four Americans and the U.S. seven Iranians, is another indicator. But the question is
whether these changes are sustainable and, if so, what effects they can have on the troubled West Asian geopolitics. In
Iran there appears to be a consensus on enhanced engagement with the West. Despite the anti-American public
posturing, often from the hard-line quarters of the establishment, Irans political elite remains largely supportive of
President Rouhanis moves. But its not the case in the U.S., where the Republican front runners for the presidential
election are highly critical of the deal. It is not clear what could happen to the Iran-U.S. dtente if a Republican is
elected to the White House. But if both nations overcome these challenges and sustain the momentum, it can transform
the region for the better in the long run. India should take the cue from the deal. A peaceful, stable Iran is vital for its
interests, particularly for energy security and connectivity. New Delhi should get Tehran on board, again.

17.

Stagflation risk ahead


The Hindu | Category: Economy

The latest Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data, showing a contraction in factory output in November, should set
alarm bells ringing in North Block, especially when read along with the acceleration in retail inflation. While the
reasons for the slump in industrial production, including the festival holidays, were broadly known, the magnitude of
overall decline as well as the drops in specific industries are cause for concern. Both basic goods and capital goods
proxies for manufacturing and investment demand contracted 0.7 per cent and 24.4 per cent, respectively. The
governments IIP figures also come close after the Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index, where the
survey revealed a drop in output in December when companies scaled back production on a decline in new orders.
The gathering consensus among economists is that, save a few bright spots like automobiles and consumer durables,
demand is precariously placed. Two key drivers, the overseas export markets and the rural economy, are both facing
independent challenges. Global trade growth has been becalmed by Chinas slowdown and is now being roiled by the
yuans depreciation, while back-to-back deficient monsoons have sapped rural consumption capacity. The economys
momentum, thus, is threatened by the prospect of a sustained slowdown that may need to be countered urgently by
corrective fiscal interventions. With the Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based reading rising for a fifth straight month in
December to 5.6 per cent, the accelerating retail inflation could end up posing a significant risk, of combining with the
faltering growth to produce stagflation.
Some economists, including the Chief Economic Adviser Dr. Arvind Subramanian, have mooted the idea of the
government temporarily straying from its fiscal consolidation path in order to enable it to step up spending on
infrastructure to pump prime the economy, especially given the low levels of private investment. Any additional
public expenditure, when coupled with the increased payouts for salaries and pensions as part of the implementation
of the Seventh Pay Commissions recommendations and the One Rank, One Pension scheme, will in turn fuel price
pressures at the retail level and could complicate the Reserve Bank of Indias inflation targeting agenda and monetary
policy calculus. While oil prices remain in free fall, offering succour, food prices continue to climb pushing food
inflation to 6.4 per cent in December. And the outlook on that front is hardly reassuring, with reports that unseasonal
weather conditions including an El Nino-induced milder winter could lead to the rabi crop yield ending up well below
expectations in several regions. With the RBIs bi-monthly monetary policy and the annual Central budget set to
bookend February, all eyes will be on the next set of monthly IIP and inflation data to see if the price gains will plateau,
as the central bank had predicted in December, or continue to trend up, and whether output growth recovers or not.

18.

Protect home buyers: Real estate bill has been hanging fire for years, even as the sector
cries for reforms
Times of India | Category: Economy

Buying a house is the single largest financial investment an individual makes. Yet, in India this act is fraught with risk
and individuals depend on weak laws for justice. Occasionally, deviant promoters are called to account as was the case
in the detention of Unitechs promoters. This incident shows up the fallout of an absence of proper regulation to cover

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contracts between buyers and real estate promoters. A real estate bill, which is presently pending in Rajya Sabha, seeks
to fill this gap. It has been debated for over two years and should be passed by Parliament in the budget session.
India is in the midst of rapid urbanisation and urban population is expected to more than double to about 900 million
over the next three decades. Unfortunately, even the current population does not have adequate housing. A
government estimate in 2012 put the shortage at nearly 19 million units. If this shortage is to be alleviated quickly,
Indias messy real estate sector needs reforms.
The real estate bill seeks to set standards for contracts between buyers and sellers. Transparency, a rare commodity in
real estate, is enforced as promoters have to upload project details on the regulators website. Importantly, standard
definitions of terms mean that buyers will not feel cheated after taking possession of a house. In order to protect buyers
who pay upfront, a part of the money collected for a real estate project is ring-fenced in a separate bank account. Also,
given the uncertainty which exists in India on land titles, the real estate bill provides title insurance. This bill has been
scrutinised by two parliamentary committees and its passage now brooks no delay.
This bill is an important step in cleaning up the real estate market, but the journey should not end with it. State
governments play a significant role in real estate and they are often the source of problems. Some estimates suggest
that real estate developers have to seek approvals of as many as 40 central and state departments, which lead to delays
and an escalation in the cost of houses. Sensibly, NDA governments project to provide universal urban housing forces
states to institute reforms to access central funding. Without real estate reforms at the level of states, it will not be
possible to meet the ambition of making housing accessible for all urban dwellers.

19.

Return of terror in Indonesia


The Hindu | Category: International

The multiple terror attacks in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, which left many dead, mark the return of organised
Islamist violence to the country after a brief period. The Southeast Asian country witnessed several terror attacks
during the last decade, including the 2002 Bali bombing that killed over 200 people. Most of such attacks were carried
out by the home-grown terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which has links with al-Qaeda. An effective military
campaign against the JI by the government, along with U.S.-model counter-terror strategies, helped Indonesia break
up the extremist network and arrest the tide of terror strikes. But recent attack, the first major terror assault in the
country in six years, has rekindled fears that extremists are regrouping themselves at a time when it is going through a
tough economic phase. Indonesia has blamed Islamic State for the attack. The apparent target of the attackers was a
downtown mall with outlets of Starbucks and Burger King, as well as a diplomatic quarter in Jakarta. Its evident that
the attackers wanted to inflict maximum damage, much the same way the Bali tourist hotspot was attacked. But the
plan didnt succeed, according to initial reports, as the gunmen were stopped at the mall and sent back to a police post,
where they opened fire.
Though major attacks were halted after the Malaysian leader of the JI was killed in a shootout in rural Indonesia in
2009, Jakarta has stepped up security measures in recent times in the wake of growing Islamist challenges. If militants
radicalised at home and trained in Afghanistan posed security challenges in 2000-09, now radicalised youth get
military training in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of Indonesians are estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join
Islamic State. The government has expressed concern that their return would reinforce the broken extremist networks,
bringing back another phase of organised violence. There was a massive crackdown on suspected Islamists on New
Year's eve. For the Islamists, Indonesia has always been a high-stakes game. Though their influence among Indonesian
society is negligible and their networks were broken up by the state, the latest attacks show they still possess the
capability to hit life. It is bad news for the government of President Joko Widodo, which faces the challenge of
rejuvenating an economy hit by a slowdown and falling commodity prices. Mr. Widodo, who came to power in 2014,
has been trying to portray Indonesia as a peaceful, stable place to attract investments to fund growth. Terror attacks
would certainly make his job harder. A bigger challenge is to prevent the return of attacks along the model of the last
decade. To stop Islamists making inroads into the worlds largest Muslim society, the government has to take on both
the extremist organisations and the extremists ideas. President Widodo should not let Islamists have their way.

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20.

A bright, dazzling rainbow


Pioneer | Category: International

The Maithripala Sirisena Government's decision to kick-start the process to adopt a new Constitution for Sri Lanka will
gladden the hearts of those who had placed trust in the regime's promise of sweeping changes in governance and
reconciliation with the Tamil community. Despite coming from different parties, President Sirisena and Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe have joined hands in the ambitious task, and it is good to know that both these leaders draw
widespread support from their respective constituents in going ahead. They have no option but to succeed because
they received public mandate for precisely that. They cannot be seen going the way the former regime led by Mahinda
Rajapaksa had, promising the moon on the integration of the Sri Lankan Tamil community devastated by the war
between the state and the terror group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in the larger national mainstream, but not
really emerging with credibility in the end. One reason for the failure perhaps was the complete lack of trust between
him and the Tamil groups. Mr Sirisena came to power with a clean slate, although he had been part of the Rajapaksa
Government before revolting and breaking away in the run-up to the presidential election last year. But the President
and his Prime Minister may not necessarily have an easy passage on the new Constitution, despite the overwhelming
support the effort has among the people. Besides having to balance the interests of different sections of society and
ensuring political stability to push the new document through, the two leaders can have to contend with the more
serious spoiler extremist elements across the socio-political spectrum who can even resort to unrest and violence to
derail the process. Of course, the extremists will be drawing oxygen from political leaders and parties too, and the
President and his team will have to tackle them diplomatically but firmly. Finally, the entire effort could run into deep
trouble if certain provisions of the proposed Constitution are deemed unacceptable to significant sections of the
stakeholders. Colombo will have to develop a consensus, which is easier said than done.
Yet, this was the best time for beginning work on a new Constitution and taking the process forward speedily. Both Mr
Sirisena and Mr Wickremesinghe enjoy the advantage of considerable political capital, but this is not an ever-lasting
commodity. Once, for whatever reason/s, it begins to deplete, the two will find it increasingly difficult to effect
systemic changes in governance. The decision to have a Constituent Assembly which will seek inputs not just
internally but from outside as well, to draft a broadly acceptable Constitution is welcome. The general contours are
known reforming the electoral system and abolishing the executive presidency, besides others. But the devil lies in
the details, and it's here that the President and his team will have to walk the talk.

21.

Incremental steps not enough


The Hindu | Category: Defence

The Defence Acquisition Council has approved a revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), aimed at boosting
indigenous defence procurement and encouraging better participation from the Indian private sector. The Council is
headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and includes key stakeholders of the defence establishment. Among its
key decisions is a proposal to introduce a new category of acquisition termed Buy Indian (or IDDM, indigenous design
development and manufacturing), which would become the most preferred acquisition category. Under Buy Indian,
domestically designed equipment with 40 per cent indigenous components or foreign-designed equipment with 60 per
cent local components will be considered. The new DPP has significantly increased the offset threshold for foreign
contracts from Rs. 300 crore to Rs. 2,000 crore (with 30 per cent of the contract value to be procured from within India),
while it has certain provisions for encouraging Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. At first glance, the DPP is an
incremental improvement over recent efforts to reduce Indias import dependence, which stands at 65 per cent of total
defence procurement, to help create a robust military industrial complex within the country.
It is imperative that India succeeds at the earliest in creating a cutting-edge domestic military industrial base: no major
nation state has transitioned to becoming a developed economy without one. Such a complex would create not only
latest war machines but also hothouse innovations and technologies to improve overall scientific capabilities, and
make India self-reliant at least in critical areas. If the ambition is to truly make Make in India a reality in the defence
sector, then the DPP falls significantly short of expectations. Many private sector participants have been flagging a host
of issues, and inbuilt biases against indigenisation. There are two key impediments to Indias private sector becoming

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active participants in defence R&D and production: the monopoly enjoyed by defence public sector units (DPSUs), and
the favours that foreign suppliers enjoy. DPSUs are the workhorses of the sector as well as the biggest drag on
indigenous military research. A significant number of them are merely assembling foreign kits. Given Indias overdependence on foreign military vendors, several biases have crept in favouring them in procurements. A foreign
vendor gets most of his payment on self-certification of project progress, while Indian vendors have to wait for a
government inspectors certification, which can delay payments by several months. A foreign vendor enjoys upfront
customs duty exemption, while the excise duty exemption for a local supplier is a reimbursement months after he has
supplied an item. The new DPP may work towards expanding the number of participants in military tenders, but it
may not help dramatically improve the present environment for all participants. Going by the present trend, the $100
billion and more that India will spend over the next decade will mostly end up in foreign markets. Political boldness
and radical reform are needed in defence procurement. Neither is visible in the new DPP.

22.

Bangladeshs Islamist challenge


The Hindu | Category: International

The death sentence handed out to two students recently for the murder of a secular blogger in Bangladesh marks the
first major verdict in a string of cases related to the killings of writers in the South Asian nation. Ahmed Rajib Haider
was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in February 2013. The judge at a fast-track court found that the two
students and another man were guilty of murder and convicted another five people on lesser charges. Haiders murder
had opened a new phase of violence in Bangladeshs contemporary history. A number of secular writers have been
targeted by Islamists ever since. In 2015 alone, five writers were killed in the country. Bloggers are victims of an
ongoing conflict between the countrys secular establishment and Islamist factions. The Awami League governments
decision to open a trial of the war crimes committed during the countrys 1971 liberation war did not go down well
with Islamists. The conviction of some of the leaders of the opposition parties such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
and the Jamaat-e-Islami made matters more complicated. Extremist sections are steadfastly opposed to the trial, but
they lack the political capital to build a popular resistance against it. Therefore, they turned towards violent protests
against the war crimes trial, which created serious law and order problems in the country.
It was against this background that right-wing fringe groups such as the Ansarullah Bangla Team started targeting
writers. The bloggers, who consistently campaigned against the war criminals and demanded their executions, invited
the wrath of Islamists. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had initially faced criticism for not doing
enough to stop violence against writers. Now, with a relatively fast conclusion of the trial of Haiders murder case and
the passing of the highest possible punishment to the convicts, the government appears to be upping the ante against
the Islamists. The governments resolve to bring the attackers to book is timely. But at the same time there are
questions over the worsening security situation which allows the extremists to carry out attacks and, more important,
the governments increased reliance on the death penalty to address the Islamist threat. Dhakas primary challenge is
to prevent any such incidents taking place again. Islamists have apparently issued a hit list of bloggers, threatening
to kill them all. Given the recent cycle of violence, the latest verdict could trigger more attacks by extremist groups. The
government should not lower its guard. As regards the death penalty, it is worth noting that the hanging of war
criminals has done little in weakening Islamist politics in the country. Even in the case of bloggers murders, long
prison terms would be ideal which would not only strengthen the governments moral position in this conflict with
Islamist radicals, but will also weaken the latters narrative that the state is waging a war against them. Bangladesh
needs a comprehensive strategy to fight Islamists, because the latters target is not merely writers, but the countrys
secular polity itself.

23.

Road to Mandalay
The Indian Express | Category: India and World

The Look East policy brings fresh cheer for the new year, as the road to Mandalay seems to lie open and a quick drive
across to Chiang Mai is no longer the stuff of wistful imagination. By March, the government is expected to ink an
agreement for road transport via a highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand. Along with the obvious benefits

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to the mobility of goods and labour in the eastern region, there is diplomatic capital to be made. The Chinese had
endeared themselves in the lands to our east by improving local highways and connecting them with their own
highway system, opening up traditionally inaccessible parts of the hinterland to international traffic. Thai and Japanese
interests have moved into Myanmar now, but India always has the opportunity to forge stronger links on the strength
of proximity and specific needs, such as medical tourism.
The Imphal-Mandalay bus service, proposed in 2012, can finally see the green light somewhere in the middle distance.
The proposal to connect with the leading city of north Myanmar, whose very name is laden with historical associations
for many Indians, has been cleared by the Indian ministry of external affairs. Now, corresponding clearance is awaited
from its Myanmarese counterpart, after which the Border Roads Organisation will set to work improving road quality
on the other side of the border.
South Asia needs to recapture the spirit of old, when a highway ran across its breadth from Peshawar to Dhaka. Today,
the domain in our region across which goods, services, labour and tourists could flow ranges from Afghanistan to
Vietnam, and includes swathes in which Chinese interests have been active for years. For too long, India has lived with
the anxiety of being encircled by Chinese assets. The Imphal-Mandalay road can serve as the seed of an open-handed,
open-hearted outreach programme which can clear the air and improve the basis on which the two major powers of
the region relate to each other.

24.

Field lessons
The Indian Express | Category: Economy

A Reserve Bank of India (RBI)-constituted committee has called for phasing out interest subsidy on short-term
agricultural loans and for ploughing back the sums saved into an affordable universal crop insurance scheme for
farmers. The recommendation makes sense for at least two reasons. First, for most farmers, it isnt the cost but the
availability of credit that is the real problem.
National Sample Survey data shows banks and cooperative societies account for only 57.7 per cent of outstanding
loans of farming households, with the rest mainly representing borrowings from private moneylenders and traders,
often at annual interest of 24 per cent or more. The dependence on informal credit sources is, moreover, progressively
higher with a reduction in landholding size. Second, farming is increasingly being done by tenant cultivators/
sharecroppers. Since these are largely based on informal lease arrangements, the tillers in this case, too, are cut off from
the formal credit system, which means it matters little whether crop loans from banks are being extended at 9 per cent
or 4 per cent.
There is a strong case, then, to focus more on augmenting credit availability from the banking system, more so to cover
small and marginal farmers as well as landless cultivators against tenancy/ lease certificates. Farmers, unlike salaried
employees or most businessmen, receive no regular monthly income. They typically have lumpy revenue streams from
the sale of one or two crops a year. Borrowings that includes crop loans are what sustains their consumption
round the year. In such a scenario, access to timely credit at reasonable cost is what counts. When the formal banking
system is unable to deliver that, the farmer is forced to go to the moneylender, leading to the familiar story of
indebtedness.
There is no evidence that the Centres interest subvention scheme, in place since 2006-07, has reduced farmer
indebtedness. The latter, if anything, has only gone up, especially in the last two years, with back-to-back monsoon
failures and crash in crop prices impacting farm incomes. The starkest manifestation of it is in Maharashtras
Marathwada region, which alone saw over 1,100 farmer suicides in 2015, capping what has been horrible year for
Indian agriculture.
That links up with the committees second recommendation to institute a universal crop insurance scheme starting
with small and marginal farmers with a monetary ceiling of around Rs 2 lakh. The Rs 13,000 crore that the Centre is
spending annually on interest subvention for crop loans can be redirected towards subsidy on insurance premium. If
farmers have insurance protection against crop loss and price slumps with prompt claims settlement enabled by
satellite imagery, handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, drones and other technology-based solutions for
assessing damage and access to formal credit channels, they are less likely to be driven to despair and suicide.

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25.

A dangerous escalation
The Hindu | Category: International

The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an influential Shia cleric, by Saudi Arabia has expectedly led to a flare-up of
sectarian passions in West Asia. Sheikh Nimr was the most prominent religious leader of the Kingdoms Shia minority,
which has long been subjected to institutionalised segregation by the Sunni monarchy of the al-Saud family. He was
the driving force behind the 2011 protests in the countrys east, inspired by Arab Spring protests elsewhere. Moreover,
Sheikh Nimr was a respected cleric among the Shia community in general. He had spent years in Irans Shia
seminaries. Tehran had repeatedly asked Riyadh to pardon him. By executing him, ignoring all those pleas, Saudi
Arabia has dangerously escalated its rivalry with Iran. Within days, the stand-off has snowballed into a full-blown
diplomatic crisis with sectarian overtones. Saudi missions in Tehran and Mashhad were ransacked by protesters. In
return, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan have cut diplomatic relations with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates has
downgraded ties.
West Asia is already witnessing sectarian conflicts. Iraq, which is torn apart on sectarian lines, is taking baby steps
under the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to rebuild national unity. The country witnessed a bloody phase of
sectarian strife in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. Parts of the country, including the second largest city, Mosul, are
still under the control of Islamic State, which is carrying out a systematic campaign against non-Sunni religious
groups. In Yemen, the Shia Houthi rebels are fighting forces loyal to a Saudi-protected government led by Sunnis. In
Bahrain, the wounds of a Shia rebellion which was crushed by a Sunni monarch with the help of the Saudis are still not
healed. By executing Sheikh Nimr, Riyadh has poured oil into this sectarian fire, for which the region will have to pay
a huge price. For decades, one of the main sources of instability in West Asia has been the cold war between Saudi
Arabia and Iran. Though the ultimate goal of both nations has been regional supremacy, they use sectarianism as a
vehicle to maximise their interests. While Riyadh has the support of Sunni monarchs and dictators in the Arab world,
Iran is aligned with Iraq and Syria, besides its proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. This
sets the stage for a dangerous Shia-Sunni conflict across the region. Unless tensions are dialled down between these
two heavyweights, there will not be peace in West Asia. Both the U.S. and Russia, allies of Saudi Arabia and Iran
respectively, have called for calm. Moscow has reportedly offered to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran. The U.S.
and Russia should use their influence to rein in further escalation of tensions. Unchecked, the Saudi-Iran rivalry could
plunge the region, already torn apart by invasions, civil wars and terrorism, into further chaos.

26.

Flowing out
The Indian Express | Category: Economy

Since May, foreign portfolio investors (FPI) have been net sellers in Indian stock markets practically every month
barring two, July and October. During the year just ended, their net investment in equities here was just under $3.2
billion, compared to $16.1 billion for 2014. But the outflows seen over the last eight months or so arent comparable to
the huge FPI sell-off that happened during June-August 2013, which also saw the rupee slide below Rs 68 to the dollar.
The latter had to do with reasons that were India-specific, related to the countrys seemingly intractable current
account and fiscal deficit problems, coupled with concerns over the then UPA regimes policy paralysis and the
Vodafone retrospective tax mess. The current FPI selling, by contrast, is not as much about India. True, there are no
tangible signs of a growth and investment pick-up yet; nor has the present government delivered on big-ticket reforms.
Yet, Indias macroeconomic indicators are better than most emerging market economies (EMEs) today and the twin
deficits no longer pose the worry they did two years ago.
The FPI sell-off happening now is mainly on account of largescale redemptions by sovereign wealth funds (SWF),
especially from some of the oil-rich economies. The slump in global oil prices has resulted in diminishing surpluses
that these nations were funnelling into EMEs through SWFs. But with their own finances now under pressure, the
SWFs are compelled to redeem their investments. That, along with the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates and
concerns over a deepening Chinese slowdown, has led to risk aversion among global investors, triggering outflows
from all EMEs. India is not being singled out in this case, unlike in 2013, when it was particularly vulnerable to capital

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outflows following the Feds first indications of ending its extraordinary monetary stimulus or quantitative easing
programme.
Significantly, the Indian markets havent fallen all that much this time, despite all the FPI selling. One reason is the
control on inflation, which has driven even local investors to move away from deploying money in gold or real estate
to financial savings instruments. This is reflected not just in bank deposits going up, but also a 20 per cent annual
increase in assets under the management of domestic mutual funds. That is, of course, a healthy trend providing
insulation for the markets against the sell-off by FPIs. But this should not be reason for complacency or blaming the
hostile world economic environment for continuing weak growth and investment activity at home. According to
global fund managers, India today holds the potential to attract dedicated flows, rather than being lumped together
with other EMEs, if only the Modi government is able to push through more decisive reforms. They are not wrong.

27.

All for the game


The Indian Express | Category: Sports

In his report, Justice R.M. Lodha broke his mandate down to two fundamental questions: Whether this will benefit the
game of cricket? And, What does the Indian cricket fan want? The Lodha Committee has suggested sweeping
changes that promise to cleanse Indian cricket. More player power, lessening of the influence of politicians, tightening
of the voting system within the board, addressing the grievances of cricket fans, possible inclusion under the ambit of
the RTI and legalising betting are some of these radical steps.
Its not the end of politicians control over cricket, of course, as only those who are ministers have been barred from
holding a post in the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and state associations. Nevertheless, this is an
important step, especially when combined with the recommendation that an official can only hold a post cumulatively
for nine years as that would weed out many veteran politicians who have been involved in cricket administration. The
balance of power has tilted towards the players and its apt here to record the observations of Justice Mukul Mudgal,
who had tabled a report of his own on spot-fixing and corruption in cricket: Just because he is a player, he isnt an
angel. Nevertheless, as drivers of the sport where they are treated as subordinates to administrators, the rise of
players can only be welcomed. The suggestion that even the players cant hold two consecutive terms, and will be
monitored and assisted by an ombudsman, who will address the disputes in administration, an ethics officer, who will
take care of conflict of interest issues, and an electoral officer, who will oversee elections, should address the concern
about power corrupting the players. The inclusion of women in the inner circle can help womens cricket. But
hopefully, their role wont be restricted to womens cricket its the old boys club that has led to the present crisis.
Often, in the election of the BCCI president, a candidate would use the zonal rotation policy to influence small
associations in his zone with favours and come to power even if the majority of the BCCI was opposed to him. That
skulduggery will end now. Likewise, the requirement that selectors be former Indian cricketers and untethered to any
zonal restriction will allow them to be unbiased in theory. The power of the president to veto any selection has also
been taken away. Also, the formation of a players association India being the only large country that doesnt have a
players body can only benefit the game at large. The Lodha Committee has also looked beyond the BCCI in an
effort to clean up it has requested Parliament to legalise betting and re-initiated debate on the RTI (Right to
Information). Under its current head, Shashank Manohar, it has shown keenness to clean cricket. This commitment will
be tested by its reaction to the comprehensive clean-up proposed by the Lodha Committee.

28. Winds of change: Taiwans shifting politics opens the door to greater Indo-Taiwanese
cooperation
Times of India | Category: India and World
In a historic election in Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen has become the first woman president in the Chinese-speaking world.
The result, which marks a significant political shift for the East Asian island state, also holds out important geopolitical
implications. For the last eight years Taiwans ruling Kuomintang party has followed a policy of engagement with
China thats seen relations across the Taiwan Strait improve. But Taiwans own economic slowdown coupled with a
growing income gap led to resentment against Kuomintangs pro-China policies.

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Against this backdrop, Tsais Democratic Progressive Party campaigned on the platform of rejuvenating the Taiwanese
identity and unfettering Taiwan from China. This, according to the Tsai camp, involves boosting Taiwans
engagements with other Asian nations. And if Tsai does revive Taiwans Go South policy it will complement Indias
Act East push. In fact, over the last few months many Taiwanese companies such as Foxconn and Wistron Corp have
committed to increase their investments in India. Given Taiwans expertise in manufacturing and managing global
supply chains, this is the perfect boost to the Make in India initiative.
Plus, with Chinas economy also slowing and Chinese labour becoming expensive, it makes business sense for
Taiwanese companies to shift their production bases to India. In that sense, India and China are competing economies
while Taiwans high-tech industries are the perfect input for Indias low and medium manufacturing base. Even
though New Delhi is used to looking back over its shoulder at Beijing for everything concerning Taiwan, theres no
reason why New Delhi and Taipei cant enhance institutional cooperation. China has intense trade and investment
relations with Taiwan, so it cant possibly object if India adopts the same course. With the new Taiwanese leadership
promising a more robust approach to the outside world, New Delhi should not fail to leverage this.

29.

China bear need not menace India


Economic Times | Category: Economy

Chinas economy grew 6.9 per cent in 2015, the slowest in 20 years. Its markets are in turmoil, equities are down nearly
19 per cent, and the yuan, which is tightly controlled, has nevertheless been allowed to fall 5 per cent in the last six
months. The bear in Chinas shop has sent shockwaves around the world and fears of slipping into another prolonged
recession are no longer dismissed out of hand. The principal reason for Chinas slowdown is the Communist Partys
decision to diversify its economy from infrastructure and heavy manufacturing to consumption, and from exports to
its large domestic market. This is a good idea, but Chinas rulers have overlaid a campaign against graft on top of this.
Prosecution of some high level officials, and many more at lower levels, has spread fear and stifled investment and
conspicuous consumption. One outcome has been capital flight. Yet, this is not the most important cause of Chinas
slowdown.
The main reason is massive over-investment in sectors like steel, cement, shipbuilding, petrochemicals and real estate.
The property bubble burst in 2014 unravelled all other sectors. A global recession with consequent loss of export
markets did not help. Yet, all is not lost. If it persists with its new economic agenda and the CPC (Communist Party of
China) decentralises some power, paving the way for institutional reform, China can turn into a much more modern
economy. And, with a $10-trillion economy, even 6.9 per cent growth added $690 billion in new value in 2015.
To see how large that number is, remember, Indias $2-trillion economy would need to grow 34.5 per cent in a single
year to add $690 billion in value addition. Of course, such numbers are impossible to achieve, but Indias economy as
well as our troubles are very different from Chinas. Our exposure to global markets is much lower, overcapacity is not
a menace, and our slowdown is largely due to domestic factors. Lower energy prices will help both nations. But New
Delhi and state governments must use every policy tool in their kit to pull the economy up by its bootstrap. That calls
for political courage, not luck.

30.

A political misadventure
The Hindu | Category: Polity and Governance

Political opportunism in an election year often takes the form of dubious actions by the executive, and inevitably runs
into a judicial barrier. By staying the Union governments recent notification aimed at permitting jallikattu, the popular
bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu, along with bullock cart races in some other States, the Supreme Court has stopped
the Centres needless misadventure in its tracks. The festivities associated with the harvest festival of Pongal in Tamil
Nadu went off without jallikattu in 2015 after the Supreme Courts May 2014 judgment prohibiting the sport on the
ground that it perpetrates cruelty on animals and endangers the lives of the participants. The State government
ensured peace and prevented any unrest last year, despite considerable unease and anger among the rural population.
There is no reason why it could not have continued to practise the same restraint and wisdom in accepting the court
verdict. On the contrary, the issue became politicised in the run-up to the Assembly election that is due in a few

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months from now. Political parties stoked popular sentiment in favour of reviving jallikattu by demanding measures
to circumvent the judicial bar. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, looking to find a foothold in the political
fray in Tamil Nadu, made a calculated move by amending a 2011 notification that prevented bulls from being
exhibited or trained as performing animals, by exempting bulls deployed in jallikattu and cart-racing from its purview.
The party will now have to live with the criticism that it knew that the notification would be stayed, and all it was
looking for was some political capital.
The Centre will have to explain why it tried to get around a court verdict through a mere executive notification, when
it is common knowledge that it can be done only through legislation that removes the basis for the judgment and not
merely by tweaking some regulations. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has now urged the Centre to
promulgate an ordinance to save the traditional sport, but even that may be no solution. The law laid down by the
Supreme Court is fortified by several legal formulations. In a harmonious reading of animal rights in the context of the
Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare (UDAW), the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the
Constitution, the court has ruled that animals have a right against human beings inflicting unnecessary pain and
suffering on them. In effect, the entire sport has been declared violative of the law against cruelty. Treating animals in a
humane, non-exploitative way is now a constitutional requirement for any executive action related to them. The States
earlier regulatory Act on jallikattu was dismissed as an anthropocentric law that was repugnant to the eco-centric law
against cruelty to animals. Instead of continuing this artificial confrontation between tradition and modern law, Tamil
Nadu would do well to stop spearheading the cause of jallikattu, which is but a relic of a feudal past.

31.

Right track
The Indian Express | Category: Nation

Agartala was the second northeastern city to get on Indias metre-gauge railway map in the 1990s, but only now can it
look forward to joining the mainstream. The first broad-gauge locomotive has rolled into the capital of Tripura on a
trial run, gaily decorated, like a New Years present. Following further safety inspections, passenger services will
commence in March, and travellers will be able to ride directly to Kolkata and points west and south. A bus service
already connects the two cities, which are joined in spirit by a long history of communist rule, but the route cuts
through Bangladesh. This excludes travellers without passports, which means most Indians on the move. For nonpassport holders who cannot afford airfares, the new rail link will be crucially important.
It marks the first step in a long overdue project, deadlined for 2020, to connect the capitals of all the northeastern states
to the rest of India which, politically incorrectly, is spoken of as the mainland. Even before that, by 2017, a line will
be laid to Akhaura in Bangladesh, which will offer through connectivity all the way to Chittagong. In about the same
time, another line to the Bangladesh border through the South district of Tripura will be laid. These lines will assume
significance in the coming decades, when international rail links through Asia are expected to play large roles in trade
and tourism, leaching traffic away from air and road networks.
The political impact could be even more valuable than the efficiencies offered by rail transport. The railway system has
served India as a great unifier, binding together diverse cultures in a web of steel. Now, the fact that travellers to and
from Agartala will not have to change lines at Lumding (Assam), the old metre gauge terminus, will reduce the
psychological distances which seem to sequester the Northeast.

32.

A just exemption
The Indian Express | Category: Economy

The government is reportedly considering exempting fund withdrawals under the National Pension System (NPS)
from taxation. If this proposal from the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) does come
through in the ensuing Union budget, it would be a welcome step. Currently, subscribers contributions to the NPS as
well as interest earned during the accumulation phase are tax-exempt. But withdrawals from the scheme attract tax,
which is not the case with the Employees Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund (PPF), or even equity-linked savings
scheme investments that enjoy exemption at all three stages. Such differential tax treatment makes no sense, especially
when the NPS is a social security scheme unlike the PPF, which is a pure interest-earning, tax-saving instrument.

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Correcting this anomaly would go some way in making the NPS more attractive: Currently, out of its assets under
management of Rs 1.08 lakh crore, almost 90 per cent are accounted for by Central and state government employees
who have to compulsorily subscribe to the scheme.
But that is not the only reason. Unlike the West and in many other countries, India has no real social security scheme,
more so for the unorganised and informal sector that makes up about 88 per cent of its total workforce. These workers,
and also government employees entering service after 2004, have to build their own retirement nest eggs. The NPS is
one such avenue for citizens to park hard-earned savings generated during their working life. The least the
government can do to help this vast majority is not tax these accumulations at the time of withdrawal. It is only fair
that those wanting to provide for themselves without relying on government largesse should be granted complete tax
exemption at contribution, earnings and the final corpus stage.
The removal of uncertainty over tax treatment on what can be a genuine long-term social security scheme is, moreover,
important for a country that desperately needs to build roads, railway lines, power plants, water supply, sanitation
and other infrastructure. These projects typically have long gestations, while offering no immediate returns. For that
reason, they can only be funded by long-term savings. While foreign direct investment, including overseas pension
funds, could be one source, the bulk of it, though, has to be generated internally from within the country. India is
today in a demographic sweet spot, where it has a large population that is of working age and can provide these longterm financial savings. The NPS should be tax-enabled to facilitate that.

33.

CPI a poor monetary policy variable; only constant must be the stability objective
Economic Times | Category: Economy

Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya wants Indias monetary policy to move away from targeting the
consumer price index (CPI). This echoes an earlier remark by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian. RBI
governor Raghuram Rajan remains firmly focused on reining in inflation as measured by the CPI. He has cut the policy
rate by 1.25 percentage points in 2015, but says further cuts depend on fiscal consolidation and inflation trends.
Economy wide inflation, as measured by the GDP deflator, has been flat for some time, and the wholesale price index,
negative. The growth rate of the economy has slipped below the nominal yield on government debt.
If the additional output generated is lower than the cost of producing that output, a company would simply wind up.
The nation does not have that option. Its option is to increase additional output, that is, the rate of growth. Of course,
growth is not a function of the interest rate alone. But there is every reason, at a time when investment in the economy
is some eight percentage points of GDP below its historic peak, to make sure that the cost of capital does not constrain
investment. Inflation, of course, must be reined in. But consumer prices, with a huge weightage for food and fuels, are
not a good proxy for demand. A drought, a flood or a blight can wither crops and send food prices shooting up, in our
economy with its poor storage and food processing facilities. To dampen overall economic activity just because supplyside factors have raised food prices makes no sense. The RBI must rethink the CPI as its monetary policy variable.
In the globalised world, macroeconomic stability is a function of many things, including sudden surges in capital
flows, asset price swings and financial instability. Central bank policy must address all these, and not just inflation via
an unrepresentative index. Abandoning a declared target policy variable, adopted only recently, might seem
inconsistent. But then, consistency is a virtue for trains, not policy, which must be dynamic, to suit the demands of a
world in flux.

34.

Indias strategy for the near west


The Hindu | Category: India and World

With a series of high-profile visitors and visits planned, New Delhi is indicating its focus on West Asia in the coming
year, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine and possibly Iran.
Leaders from those countries and more are expected to come to Delhi as well. The renewed interest from India is
welcome, and indicates the importance this region holds for it. In addition, it is important that the government begins
to explore options beyond bilateral relations with countries of this region, as India bids for a place as a permanent
member of the UN Security Council. This is not a region India can afford to take its eyes off. The explosive discord

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between Iran and Saudi Arabia despite Irans landmark agreement with the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United
Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) countries does not augur well for the future of the region as a whole,
given that each country has specific areas of influence in it. The devastation of Yemen caused by Saudi Arabian strikes
and fighting on the ground hint where that conflict could lead. The spread of Islamic State may have been stopped due
to bombing raids by the U.S. coalition in Iraq and the Russian support to Syrian troops in Syria, but this is by no means
a solution. The Israel-Palestine conflict has the potential to spark more tensions in this region at any given time, and
the burgeoning numbers of refugees fleeing the violence from Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and neighbouring areas pose
another potential threat to stability in the region and in countries where these hapless communities are forced to take
shelter.
Given the powder keg that the region now stands on, can India have a hands-off approach, and focus only on its
bilateral interests in the region? To begin with, the WANA (West Asia, North Africa) region is home to more than
seven million Indians who account for more than half of all remittances to India, adding up to $70 billion. Indias
energy dependence on the region is another reason for deeper engagement. The turmoil of the past few years in Iraq,
Libya, Syria and Yemen has unleashed untold sufferings on Indians working there. India cannot afford to ignore this
peril, or simply issue advisories for citizens not to go there. It will have to take a deeper interest in resolving the
regional conflicts. Sending troops to these areas is not an option. Given the goodwill it enjoys, and Indias reputation of
neutrality, it would be desirable for Prime Minister Modi to use his outreach in West Asia as an interlocutor for
dialogue instead. When signing the landmark joint strategic vision document with the U.S. to monitor the South China
Sea region, officials had pointed to Indias mandate for a role in upholding international rule of law. Much the same
logic would apply for Indias role in West Asia, one that is commensurate with its own ambitions on the world stage.

35. Wrong blend


Hindu Business Line | Category: Energy
Indias sugar industry is reeling under a glut, cane dues to farmers are at a high and the country has just committed to
reducing its reliance on fossil fuels at the Paris climate talks. All this is ideal for the countrys ethanol-blended fuel
programme (EBP) to take off. The processing of excess cane into ethanol can reduce the sugar industrys surpluses,
generate higher incomes for both mills and farmers, and reduce reliance on imported crude to save foreign exchange.
But despite a strong case in favour of the EBP, it has been mired in problems from the day it was flagged off a decade
ago.
The roadblocks faced by Tamil Nadus sugar mills in increasing their supplies to the EBP are symptomatic of what ails
this initiative. Faced with surplus cane for the fourth consecutive year, the States sugar mills expect to be saddled with
nearly 27 crore litres of alcohol, as a by-product of cane crushing, this season. Participating in the tenders floated by the
oil firms will allow them to liquidate these stocks and bolster their realisations. But what stands in the way of their
ramping up ethanol output is the 50-lakh-litre production cap imposed by the State government for supplies to the
EBP. This production cap is clearly driven by the States commercial interest in ensuring that its liquor industry never
runs dry on potable alcohol supplies; after all, liquor chips in with a third of its tax revenue. Given that Tamil Nadus
sugar mills churn out alcohol well in excess of the liquor industrys needs, the State can relax this cap without
materially hurting liquor manufacturers. The tug-of-war between the liquor lobby, the State government and other
vested interests in the sugar economy is not unique to Tamil Nadu. Other large sugar-producing States in India
Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have equally draconian laws in place, from restrictions on inter-State movement of
molasses, to high entry taxes, to the reservation of molasses output for first-use by the liquor barons. The Centre
should realise that without the States untangling these convoluted rules, it cannot hope to make a success of the EBP.
To be fair, the NDA government has taken many more steps than its predecessors to make a go of this programme.
Last year, it resolved the bickering between oil companies and sugar millers on ethanol pricing. It streamlined the
tendering process, hiked the mandatory blending quota from 5 to 10 per cent, and linked its sugar subsidy package to
ethanol supplies. However, for ethanol blending to really take off, both the sugar industry and oil companies will have
to stop treating this as an opportunistic business that they will either take up or ignore, depending on the commodity
cycle. The Centre, on its part, needs to seriously examine if the Brazilian model of allowing sugar millers to switch
freely between sugar and ethanol based on their relative economics can be adopted in India.

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36.

The sunrise sector


Hindu Business Line | Category: Energy

As a new year gift to the solar power sector, the Centre decided to ramp up its capital subsidy for rooftop solar plants
from 600 crore to 5,000 crore by 2019-20. This is to increase rooftop solar installations to a peak generation level of 4200
MW in five years, against 500 MW presently. While the move is well intentioned, it is worth asking whether a capital
subsidy of 30 per cent for this sector is required at all, when costs of solar photovoltaic panels have fallen sharply over
the last seven or eight years. If there has been a sudden flush of interest in this sector, it is not only because of tax
breaks and an obligation on the part of the utilities to purchase renewable energy. It is also because it is possible for
even a rooftop installation of 50-100 kwH generation capacity to produce at 6 per kwH. Hence, there are at least 200
financially rated firms in the rooftop business (many of which have come up without subsidies), which now accounts
for 500 MW out of the current solar capacity of 4800 MW. There has also been an explosion of interest in large-scale
solar, with the lowest bid, by SunEdison, to set up a 500 MW generation capacity in Andhra Pradesh. That these bids
are being matched with action on the ground suggests that business (including the availability of finance) and
environmental interests have converged in this sunrise sector. Policies should be in step with these new realities.
The Solar Mission envisages rooftop generation capacity of 40 GW, with another 40 GW expected to come from largescale solar by 2022. Since investments do not seem like an issue anymore (it is just as well that commercial
establishments have been excluded from the latest subsidy bonanza), it is important to focus on other policy
instruments that can keep both rooftop installations and solar parks going. While rooftop set-ups have some obvious
advantages broader social participation, savings in T&D (transmission and distribution) losses and no land
requirement the latter offers economies of scale. Most States have rightly shifted to net metering as against feed-in
tariffs for rooftop projects since the latter gives rise to monitoring issues. However, the rate at which surplus power, if
any, will be purchased after a year needs to be worked out.
As in wind power, the biggest challenge in solar power lies in improving grid quality to prepare for stability
challenges posed by the sudden spikes and falls. This would require grid operators to improve infrastructure and
skills, as in Germany, where weather forecasting has become a key aspect of grid management. The Smart Grid
Mission launched last year sets aside nearly 1000 crore for the purpose. This seems inadequate in view of the
transformation that lies ahead. The solar subsidy is better spent on stringing together a failsafe grid.

37.

Big quake warning: Manipur is another wakeup call for vulnerable India, dont ignore this
one too
Times of India | Category: Nation

The recent earthquake in Manipur measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale is a serious wakeup call for Indias disaster
management preparedness. Its true the Northeast falls in the very high risk seismic Zone V. But the statistic that
should be worrying policymakers is that 59% of Indias landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high
intensity. And while Manipur may have escaped with few casualties in the latest temblor thanks to the states
relatively low population density urban centres like Guwahati, Patna, Delhi and Amritsar may not have the same
luck should a big one strike.
That, as it turns out, is a distinct possibility in the not so distant future. Seismologists across the world have been
expecting a great earthquake along the 400km faultline under the Himalayas last years Nepal earthquake of 7.8
magnitude fell just short of the mark. In fact, in a post-Nepal disaster assessment, the home ministrys National
Institute of Disaster Management has warned of enhanced risk around the ring of fire encompassing almost the
whole of north India. This region is seeing a lot of tectonic stress and an increasing number of earthquakes, so experts
fear that events of magnitude 8.0 or more may be around the corner.
While earthquakes cant be predicted, their impact can be mitigated through advanced planning and adequate disaster
management preparedness. Its welcome that Northeast states are contemplating measures such as adoption of a
common building code different from the rest of India. But the biggest challenge lies in implementation. After all most
Indian cities suffer from poor urban planning which was also highlighted by the recent Chennai floods. Lax

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enforcement of building bylaws and neglect of weak structures have become the norm. This must change if we are to
guard ourselves from big earthquakes.
The National Disaster Management Authority was set up after the Bhuj earthquake in 2001. However, activation of
state nodal agencies and local disaster management units has seen lacklustre progress. Unless all states have a clear
blueprint of how to secure key roads and communication infrastructure, swiftly deploy rescue units across districts
and quickly provide relief to victims, casualties from big quakes cant be kept down. But most of all, theres a need to
fight the mindset that earthquake-related catastrophes happen to others. For Manipur could easily be followed by
Srinagar or Delhi.

38.

Caution on Free Basics


The Hindu | Category: Science and Technology

Free and altruism are words that generally have a positive ring to them. But its clear that social media behemoth
Facebooks Free Basics programme, which it pitches as an altruistic endeavour to provide the have-nots a bridge to the
Internet for free, fails to evoke such a feel. Not without reason, though. For starters, as critics have repeatedly pointed
out, there is a huge difference between being a gateway to the Internet and being a gatekeeper to the Internet, and Free
Basics worryingly has all the makings of the latter. So, it does have the potential to trap subscribers in the metaphorical
walled garden, what with the immensely popular Facebook thrown into the free mix of offerings. That the whole
package is offered free hardly surprises anyone with even a little knowledge of how business models in the digital
world work. Free, by the way, is a business model that delivers returns in an unconventional way. There might be
many variations of it but basically it is about accumulating millions and millions of new users by offering products
free, in the hope that the build-up could be milked for revenue in the years to come. Thats the same tactic many startups use to show traction while pitching to big moneyed venture capitalists.
And where do you find an unrestricted Internet economy with millions yet untapped? Yes, India. There can be very
little doubt that the haves-have-nots digital divide in India is stark, and needs to be bridged as soon as possible. Credit
is due to Facebook for identifying this need and bringing a sense of urgency to addressing it. Credit is also due for the
way its young founder Mark Zuckerberg has fought doggedly for the ideas acceptance. It is close to a year now since
he launched Internet.org, the earlier avatar of Free Basics, in India. And during this period, there has never been a dull
moment in the exchanges between the critics of Free Basics and Facebook. As it stands, the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India, the regulator, has asked Facebooks Free Basics partner in India, Reliance Communications, to put
the service on hold. The social media giant, showing little sign of backing off, has done all that it can (tweaked its
dimensions, launched a comprehensive advertising campaign, and got its charismatic founder to pen articles) to get
political and social acceptance to the idea. Its both impressive and unsettling at the same time when one thinks about
how a corporate, valued at over $300 billion, can spend so much money and effort on a controversial project that is not
even avowedly a pure business venture. The problem has reached the doorsteps of policymakers. They have to not
only decide the fate of services such as Free Basics but also find ways to deliver digital equality fast. For, Free Basics
cant be an excuse for the failures of the state in delivering universal access.

39.

Grow this food: How to woo more states aboard field trials for GM crops
Times of India | Category: Economy

Eminent agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan has suggested that India should accelerate field trials of GM
(Genetically modified) crops with the combined services of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and
state agriculture universities. Its a sensible idea and must be pursued diligently. The stalemate thats gripped Indias
efforts to accelerate the development of GM crops, after its success with BT cotton, must be broken. Though the
national Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has approved field trials for new GM strains of important crops
like rice, wheat, maize, potatoes, brinjal, mustard, sugarcane and chicken peas, its efforts have been stymied by many
state governments refusing permission for field trials.
A joint intervention by central and state research institutions, coordinating all-India field trials, will help secure greater
acceptance from the states. After all they have an important stake in improving agricultures prospects. As the

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experience with cotton shows, GM crops help reduce the costs of cultivation, raise crop productivity, boost farmers
income, critically raising agriculture output to meet the needs of a growing population.
One reason various states remain inhibited about GM trials is that over the years some of governments own expert
committees have taken a very negative approach, stressing the need for innovation much less than the need for greater
caution in adopting new technologies instead of seeking a balance. Actually, Indias safety mechanisms for GM field
trials are already in line with those advocated by multilateral organisations like OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the International Plant Protection Commission. Some states like Maharashtra and
Gujarat have already proceeded ahead with field trials. But a coordinated approach between ICAR and state
universities can help bring more states on board, giving a big boost to Indias pursuit of greater food security.

40.

Challenge for lawmakers


Pioneer | Category: Polity and Governance

Both the Supreme Court and the Government of India are on firm ground in their opinions over tackling incidents of
rape of children. While the apex court has advised the Government to introduce new provisions in the Indian Penal
Code to deal with the rape of a girl child, the Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi pointed out that Parliament
was the appropriate body to deliberate and come to a conclusion on the matter. The court was deeply moved by an
incident of rape of a 28-month girl child and, while hearing a public interest petition the Supreme Court Women
Lawyers Association had filed, suggested that the Government should carve out a separate offence under Section
376(1) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with the rape of minors. The two-judge Bench was right in pointing out
that, while the definition of minors included all children below the age of 16, sexual crimes against those far less in age,
with the victims often being toddlers, were heinous enough to be dealt with separately.
The Government and Parliament need to take a call on the suggestion. There is certainly a case for meting out
exemplary punishment for rape, but that punishment should be even more stringent when the victims are innocent
children. In other words, the Supreme Court has said that a child should be treated as a special case among minors.
While the Government will surely agree with the concerns of the apex judiciary and would want to combat more
effectively crimes against the girl child, it is entirely up to Parliament to bring about the necessary changes. These
changes cannot be a knee-jerk reaction to the court's observations, but must evolve through a wide range of
consultations with all stakeholders. To begin with, the Government has to take a position on the issue. It has to then
seek comments from experts working in the field of child welfare and use the inputs to formulate the changes it desires
in the IPC. Thereafter the proposal will come up before Parliament to discuss, debate, and reject or approve. The
collective wisdom of representatives of the people will decide the issue. It's not as if Parliament is immune to popular
opinion. The alacrity with which it recently endorsed changes in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)
Act, is a case in point. It did so out of respect for popular sentiment and the pressing need to target the rising grave
crimes committed by juveniles.
Incidentally, by citing this particular instance, Mr Rohatgi appeared to indicate that the Government was prepared to
consider the court's suggestion with the respect it deserved; however, the necessary amendment to the IPC which the
court spoke of (and this will include all children regardless of gender), will happen only if a majority of the members in
Parliament support it. At this stage, however, the Government has to take the initiative. The other parties are unlikely
to frame their opinion unless they have a concrete proposal.

41.

Giving cities the smart edge


The Hindu | Category: Nation

The Central governments framework for 20 cities to become smart over a five-year period can cover new ground if it
makes intelligent use of information technology to deliver better civic services. Rapid and poorly regulated
urbanisation has overwhelmed urban governments, rendering them incapable of providing even basic services such as
clean water, sewerage, pedestrian-friendly roads, public transport, uninterrupted power, street lighting, parks and
recreational spaces. So weak and uncoordinated is governance that commercial entities have wilfully violated building
regulations and put up unauthorised structures with severe impact on congestion, air quality and flood

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management and governments have gladly regularised the violations later. The smart city plan now proposes to
intervene and bring some order by upgrading the physical infrastructure in select enclaves, and incentivising the use
of information and communication technologies. Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has come up with a
generalised definition of a smart Indian city as one that enables a decent life to the citizens, and green and sustainable
environment, besides enabling adoption of smart solutions, but the exercise should lead to measurable outcomes.
The first batch of smart cities would create virtually new business districts in several cities, marking a departure from
the disaggregated urban development witnessed over the past few decades. This area-based development approach
makes it imperative that the resulting demand for mobility to and from the smart area be made an integral part of the
plan, with an emphasis on walkability, use of non-motorised transport and access to public transport. Ahmedabad and
Bhubaneswar have shown high ambition by opting for a common travel card. Others such as Indore, Davangere and
Belagavi plan Intelligent Transport Solutions, something that has been unattainable for even a big metro such as
Chennai. Although it enjoys high visibility, the smart city programme is merely a framework for urban development
aided by the Centre with a small initial seed fund of Rs.500 crore, while additional finances have to come from publicprivate partnerships and local revenue. State governments, including those left out of the first list, could unlock the
potential of all cities with development policies that aim at structural change. Improved public transport, for instance,
has an immediate positive impact on the local economy. Technologies such as GPS (Global Positioning System) to
inform passengers in real time on their mobile phones, and common ticketing, increase the efficiency of transport use.
Universal design in public buildings and streets would help all people, including those with disabilities. The challenge
for Smart Cities 1.0 is to provide proof of concept quickly and make outcomes sustainable. Care also needs to be taken
that the effect is not to create gated communities of best practices and civic upgrade in a wider landscape of urban
distress. It is crucial that these urban enclaves cater to the housing, health, education and recreation needs of a wide
cross section of society, and that the convergence of the Smart Cities programme with existing urban renewal projects
countrywide be smooth.

42.

Dancer and dance


The Indian Express | Category: Personalities

Bharatanatyam was her chosen dance form. But Mrinalini Sarabhai, who passed away recently, was more than a great
Bharatanatyam dancer and guru. Her persona encompassed multiple identities and gave her the aura of a public
intellectual and an institution builder. In a sense, she represented the idea of the artist as a nation builder, a role she
assumed naturally after having grown up in a family that was immersed in the national movement.
Mrinalini was born into wealth and was educated in Switzerland and Shantiniketan. She realised early in her life that
she was a dancer and trained under eminent gurus like Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Mylapore Gowri Ammal and the
Kathakali maestro, Guru Kunchu Kurup. She was exposed to Western art traditions, but Rabindranath Tagore came to
be the preeminent influence in her life and art. Her idea of the nation and art, unsurprisingly, was expansive and bereft
of narrow nationalistic or parochial influences. She was a dancer, choreographer, writer and teacher, and Darpana
Academy of Performing Arts, the institution she built in Ahmedabad, trained students in dance, drama, music and
puppetry. Mrinalinis mothers family had its roots in Kerala but her mother, Ammu Swaminathan, had come into her
own as a political activist in Madras. A Gandhian, she nurtured a free and independent spirit in her children.
Mrinalinis sister, Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, chose to become a doctor and led the Indian National Armys women
contingent. Mrinalinis partner-in-life was an equally celebrated figure, Vikram Sarabhai, who founded the Indian
space programme. The Sarabhais were a major industrial house in Gujarat, known for philanthropy and support to the
national movement.
Dance was a metaphor for civilisational values in Mrinalinis life, and the dancer and the dance were indistinguishable.

43.

Act Near-East
The Indian Express | Category: Economy

A report by Smera Ratings suggests that West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam and the other
northeastern states could contribute a quarter of Indias GDP within the next 20 years, as against their current

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combined share of 16.5 per cent. Home to 27 per cent of the countrys population, this region also houses a
disproportionate section of its poor. This, despite the rich mineral resources with some of these states: At the time of
Independence, West Bengal and Bihar (which included Jharkhand) had actually a reasonable industrial base. A big
part of the decline of eastern India can be attributed to the post-Independence policy of freight equalisation. This,
through a perverse subsidisation of transport to make iron ore or coal available at more or less the same price across
the country, killed the natural comparative advantage these states had in the setting up of industries. Although the
policy was scrapped in the early 1990s, the damage from it was long-lasting.
So, what can be done to revive the growth potential of eastern India? Two broad strategies one external and one
internal may work. One, as the Smera Ratings report points out, is to look at the region as the gateway to eastern
Asia. The Indo-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) trade is already valued at over $80 billion. Developing
eastern states as a conduit to Southeast Asia, by investments in the supply chain infrastructure with these states, will
further enhance the regions growth potential through backward and forward linkages. Two, the Centre should put
equal emphasis on developing an industrial corridor connecting the eastern states, similar to those for Mumbai-Delhi
and Chennai-Bangalore. The Kolkata Metropolitan Region, too, can act as a magnet for attracting investments to the
region. But that requires equal initiative and enterprise from the concerned state governments.

44.

Death with dignity: Government must empower terminally ill patients to take decisions
about their own care
Times of India | Category: Polity and Governance

Advanced medical technology can have perverse consequences, such as when it interrupts death and keeps patients
half-alive under conditions that are close to torture. It may seem a simple statement of truth to say human beings are
mortal, but our legal and medical establishments often dont recognise this. Now the Supreme Court has challenged
the government to clarify its position on whether a terminally ill person can be kept alive on artificial life support
systems if he doesnt wish to. The government should respond by giving legal sanctity to the concept of a living will,
as well as power of attorney in the realm of healthcare whereby individuals can authorise loved ones to take health
care decisions on their behalf if they are incapacitated in future.
If we recognise that being mortal is a necessary adjunct to being human, then the right to live with dignity also
includes the right to die with dignity. Many Indian-origin religions also recognise this, hence the concepts of santhara,
samadhi or icchamrityu. Advocate Prashant Bhushan has rightly argued before the Supreme Court that many
terminally ill patients do not want to be forcibly kept alive on a ventilator. And additional solicitor general PS Patwalia
has noted how hospitals exploit vulnerable moments of patients and their relatives by turning ventilators into a
lucrative business.
Living wills where patients state in advance what kinds of medical treatment they can refuse when they are dying
are recognised in most democracies such as the US, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.
India, too, must pass legislation recognising living wills and medical powers of attorney. Alongside, theres a crying
need to facilitate the setting up of hospices and palliative care institutions which ensure that the terminally ill spend
their last days in as much comfort as possible and company of their loved ones.

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1.

Non-alignment to multi-alignment
The Hindu| Category: India and the World

Indias foreign policy has finally rid itself of Cold War trappings in favour of a wider engagement with world powers.
But one Cold War-era reality remains: when it comes to Pakistan, one couldnt be careful enough.......
December has been a significant month for India and Indian diplomacy. This was not limited merely to defence
acquisitions, but also included new initiatives on the foreign policy front. If anything remained of the concept of nonalignment, Indias outreach to both Cold War antagonists, in December, appeared to signal its final demise. Nonalignment served India well during the difficult years from the mid to the late 20th century, but had apparently
outlived its utility. The time had possibly come to sound its requiem, and India did just that in December.
Several reasons can be adduced for Indias shift from non-alignment to multi-alignment. Undeniably, policies adopted
by India since the beginning of this century had helped generate a climate of trust across the spectrum of warring
nations and long-time antagonists. A spirit of accommodation and constructive solutions to major regional and
international challenges had also made India more acceptable to most nations. The India-U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement
in the first decade of this century was in this respect truly the game changer. India came to be seen as a positive,
stabilising influence as far as the global and the regional environment was concerned. Non-alignment clearly had no
place in this milieu.
Deepening India-U.S. ties
It was, hence, not difficult for Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, within the course of a few hours of discussion with
his counterpart during his visit to the United States in December, to enhance the quality of their defence dialogue and
strengthen the defence engagement between the two countries. Outcomes from this visit of the Defence Minister are
certain to further enlarge the scope of the already booming defence relationship. Among the more significant
takeaways are: the progress made regarding the joint working groups on both aircraft carrier technology and jet engine
technology; the approvals given for additional numbers of Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, C-17 Globemaster-III
strategic airlift aircraft, and M777 ultra-light howitzers; the progress achieved regarding long-deferred foundational
agreements such as CISMOA (Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement) and the
Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), and a further strengthening of the partnership on high technology under the
Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
Reaffirming ties with Russia and Japan
During this same month of December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took off for Russia to reaffirm the strong links
that exist between the two nations. Statements made on the occasion reveal the determination on both sides to
reinforce the strategic ties that date back to the Cold War years. Few, however, expected that the visit would also result
in Russia regaining its position as Indias principal defence supplier.
The list of agreements drawn up in Moscow covers nuclear, space, energy and defence. Russia has committed [earlier]
to building additional nuclear reactors at Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu) and in Andhra Pradesh. In terms of conventional
energy, India has secured a bouquet of deals, including a 10 per cent stake in Russian oil company Rosneft, and
commitments regarding a possible stake in another field in East Siberia. In the area of defence manufacturing, both
sides have pulled out all the stops. Agreement was reached with regard to co-production of Kamov-226T utility
helicopters (the bulk of which would be built in India), and the possibility of securing 48 MI-17 V5 medium-lift
helicopters, S-400 Triumf/Triumph missile systems and stealth frigates.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abes visit to India, also during the same month, meantime, proved to be more than a
strategic interlude, with defence, foreign policy, and economic aspects all receiving attention. Japans willingness to

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cooperate on peaceful nuclear energy will have the same kind of positive impact as that which followed the iconic
India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement of 2008. Japans willingness to acknowledge India as a reliable and trustworthy
nuclear power (despite not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is again certain to have a
positive impact on nuclear establishments across the world.
Japans willingness to share defence equipment and technology, facilitate the exchange of classified military
information, and arrive at an understanding of emerging threats in the Indo-Pacific implicit in the India-Japan
Agreement with regard to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has opened a new chapter in relations. This
was further buttressed by the provision of financial and technical aid for a high-speed rail link between Mumbai and
Ahmedabad, in addition to overseas developmental assistance for various projects across India. Mr. Abes affirmation,
that no other bilateral relationship in the world has the kind of potential which ties relations between India and Japan,
was clearly no hyperbole.
The Pakistan puzzle
On the return trip from Russia, Prime Minister Modi paid a visit to Afghanistan where he inaugurated the new Afghan
Parliament building (built with Indian aid). Making a stirring speech on the occasion, he complimented Afghanistans
determination to stand up to terror from across the border, and criticised attempts made to unsettle Afghanistan
through the use of terror tactics. En route to Delhi from Kabul, the Prime Minister made an impromptu stopover in
Lahore to wish Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. This evoked euphoric headlines in the Indian
media. Not everyone, however, saw this as heralding a new chapter in India-Pakistan relations, with long-time
Pakistan watchers well aware that the path to Pakistans perfidy is usually paved with good intentions on Indias
part.
The real motive underlying the Prime Ministers visit to Pakistan remains unclear. Mr. Modi is well aware that
Pakistan has given no indication whatsoever of having changed its spots. Only a few hours prior to the Lahore visit,
he had implicitly warned Afghanistan of the threat posed by Pakistan. Less than a fortnight ago while addressing the
Combined Commanders Conference on board INS Vikramaditya, the Prime Minister had struck a sombre note,
warning that we see terrorism and ceasefire violations; reckless nuclear build-up and threats; border transgressions;
and continuing military modernisation in our neighbourhood. All this leaves little room for anyone to think that the
Prime Minister nurtures any illusion of a change of heart on Pakistans part. It would, hence, be unrealistic to think
that he was hoping to remove the obstacles that stood in the way of a reconciliation between the two countries with
this grand gesture. Mr. Modi is also well aware that there can be no substitute for hard negotiations, or the need for a
great deal of effort, to narrow the gap between the two countries.
The real danger is that it could lull the nation into a false sense of complacency and security on account of the
circumstances surrounding this sudden move. Any mistaken step as far as Pakistan is concerned needs to be avoided.
Pakistan is presently going through a very promising phase in its turbulent history, and is being wooed by both
China and the U.S. It does not, however, show any signs that it has reduced its animosity towards India.
The potential benefits from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are expected to substantially improve Pakistans
economic fortunes. The U.S., in the meantime, appears to have reversed some of the policies it had adopted after 2013,
and is demonstrating a higher degree of sensitivity to Pakistans concerns. It is at present actively courting Pakistan in
view of its strategic location vis--vis Afghanistan and Central Asia. The sale of additional F-16 fighter aircraft, and
continuation of the Coalition Support Fund beyond 2016 reflect this. Reported U.S. support to facilitating projects in
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, U.S. support for a sustained dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all
outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, and a reference to working together to address
mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism in the joint statement issued following the visit of Mr.
Sharif to Washington in October, well reflect some current realities. This cannot be viewed as mere straws in the wind.

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It would thus be premature to offer congratulations on an end-year breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations.


Instead, there is need for greater vigil and more careful thought on what needs to be done so as to prevent a Kargiltype situation, exploiting the current euphoria, from taking place.

2.

The many must resist the some


The Hindu| Category: Economy

As the developed countries chip away at the egalitarian moorings of the WTO, India must work with like-minded
countries to translate its agenda into actual results........
The World Trade Organisations (WTO) press release after the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in mid-December said,
WTO members secured a historic Nairobi Package for Africa and the world. Those seemingly optimistic words,
however, belie several fundamental challenges that the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration presents for the future of the
WTO. Buried in the last few paragraphs of the declaration is a recording of differences between WTO members over
how the future negotiations will be conducted. It notes that while many WTO members reaffirm the Doha
Development Agenda (DDA), not all members share this view.
A cardinal principle for WTO negotiations is consensus. The WTO works on the principle of one vote for each member
country, irrespective of size or economic power. This principle worked well in theory in a world where a few
economically strong powers could continue to hold the reins of decision-making, but has been running into increasing
complexities in a multipolar WTO with a membership of over 160 countries, and a U.S. and European Union whose
economic clout have been diminishing.
The Doha precedent
To add to the complexities of the increasingly complex WTO was the fairly egalitarian mandate that the DDA
presented. The Doha Development Round, launched in 2001, set for itself the challenge of a single undertaking
comprising several elements including agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services, intellectual property, trade
facilitation, trade and environment, and trade and development. Virtually every item was envisaged as a whole and
indivisible package which could not be agreed upon separately. The underlying principle for this was the need for a
balanced outcome in all streams of negotiations.
The slow progress at the WTO has been accompanied by the growth of mega-regional trade agreements the recently
concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) formed among 12 countries, and two under negotiation: the Regional
Cooperation for Economic Partnership (RCEP) formed among the 10 ASEAN countries and India, China, Japan, South
Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S.
and the E.U. These mega-regionals need to also be seen in the context of increasing bilateral free-trade agreements
(which have increased from around 124 such agreements in 1994 to over 600 agreements in 2015). A significant amount
of Indias own negotiating capital and focus has been on the mega-regional RCEP agreement, and on bilateral freetrade agreements; but neither approach is a substitute for the WTO and its strong edifice of a multilateral system of
rules, backed by an effective dispute-settlement mechanism.
Agreeing to disagree
It is in this context that the Nairobi Ministerial Declarations admission of dissonance in the WTO membership on the
Doha mandate assumes greater significance. This dissonance is presented in the text of the declaration which records
what many Members versus some Members want. While many reaffirm the Doha mandate, the others do not.
While many Members want to carry out the work on the basis of the Doha structure, some want to explore new
architectures. And finally, while some wish to identify and discuss other issues for negotiation (a reference to issues
other than those under the Doha mandate), others do not.
For the first time in a Ministerial Declaration adopted by consensus, there is reference to a consensual
acknowledgement of divergence of views, which underlies the slow progress of the Doha round. While there is no

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identification in the declaration, the developing countries, including India, clearly belong to the many category,
while some includes the U.S., the E.U., and other developed countries. The use of the word many could perhaps
be seen as an implicit recording of a majority view in favour of the Doha mandate. A glimmer of hope, however,
remains that the views of the majority could potentially be tapped for driving at a logical and hopeful conclusion of
the Doha mandate.
However disappointing the Nairobi outcome may be, it is in essence a recording of a factual reality of the differences
between countries, and the strong pressure of the developed world to manoeuvre the WTO in a direction that best
suits its interests. The only option for India is to forge ahead with a high degree of preparedness and focus on areas of
its interests, coalition-building with like-minded countries, and translating what many want into actual results. The
Doha round had resulted in several decisions and declarations which continue to remain legally valid decisions of
WTO members and need to be honoured in taking forward the negotiations. The Nairobi Declaration in fact refers to
the recently concluded United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the SDGs is that of
promoting an equitable multilateral trading system under the WTO through the conclusion of negotiations under its
Doha Development Agenda. This can again be seen as an implicit referencing of the DDA and its importance.
Furthermore, the Nairobi Decisions on special safeguard mechanism for developing country members and on public
stockholding for food security purposes clearly make reference to post-Doha decisions (the Hong Kong Ministerial
Decision and the Bali Decision) as the basis for further negotiations. It is important to build on each of these to reach
clear, successful and speedy outcomes.
On other Doha issues, it is important to clearly map what India wants, and how that may be achieved for example,
in services negotiations. Of equal importance is the need to prepare for the new issues, approaches and architecture
that some WTO members have expressed their desire for in the Nairobi Declaration. The recently concluded TPP
agreement perhaps provides a clear glimpse of what these new issues are likely to be environment, labour,
investment, competition, government procurement, and so on. How to engage on these issues, and identify the red and
green lights for negotiations, is the next challenge that India needs to be prepared for.
The WTO remains an institution that is worth preserving. India needs to approach it from a position of strength, with
clearly defined agendas, and with preparedness for the new challenges it presents.

3.

Saudi Arabias deadly gamble


The Hindu | Category: International

It would be in Tehrans interest to stop playing into Riyadhs plans to ratchet up tensions in the region.....
Saudi Arabias execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, perhaps the most influential leader among the Kingdoms Shia
minority, was clearly a provocative move. Riyadh knew that its action would deteriorate relations with Iran and
inflame sectarian tensions in West Asia at a time when the Islamic State is systematically persecuting Shias and other
minorities within Islam. Iran, a Shia-majority country and a regional rival of Saudi Arabia, had repeatedly requested
the Sunni monarchy to pardon Nimr, who was the driving force behind the Arab Spring model protests in the
kingdoms east in 2011. By executing him, along with 46 others on Saturday, Riyadh has plunged the region, already
reeling under terrorism, insurgency and sectarianism, into more chaos.
Stifling dissent
Why did Riyadh do this if they knew the consequences would be deadly? A logical explanation is that its part of a
well-thought-out strategy to whip up tensions so that the Al-Saud ruling family could tighten its grip on power at
home and embolden its position in the region by amassing the support of the Sunni regimes. Whether the royals agree
or not, Saudi Arabia is facing a major crisis. Oil prices are plummeting, endangering the kingdoms economy. In 2015,
it ran a deficit of $97.9 billion, and has announced plans to shrink its budget for the current year by $86 billion. This is
likely to impact the governments public spending, and could trigger resentment. The rentier kingdom relies heavily

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on the governments welfare policies, besides its religious appeal, to drum up public support. The late King Abdullahs
response to Arab Spring protests is an example of this. When people elsewhere rose up against dictatorships, he
announced a special economic package of $70 billion (much of this money was allocated to build 5,00,000 houses to
address housing shortage) to quell discontent at home. Additionally, the state injected $4 billion into healthcare. King
Salman does not enjoy the luxury of using oil revenues to save his crown due to the economic crisis. Another option
the royals have to buttress their position is to resort to extreme majoritarianism.
At least four, including Sheikh Nimr, among the 47 executed on January 2 were political prisoners. By putting them to
death, the royal family has sent a clear message to political dissidents at home. At the same time, the execution of the
countrys most prominent Shia cleric would bolster the regimes Wahhabi credentials among the hardliners. This is a
tactic dictators have often used in history. They go back to extremism or sectarianism to bolster their hard-line
constituency to tide over the economic and social difficulties. The real aim of the monarchy is to close down every
window of dissidence; if that cant be done through economic development and welfarism, do it by other means.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia go back decades. Even when pre-revolutionary Iran and Saudi Arabia were
the two pillars of the U.S.s West Asia policy, Riyadh and Tehran were regional rivals. The latest phase of this cold war
begins with the U.S.-led Iraq invasion. When Saddam Hussein was toppled and a Shia-dominated government
emerged in Baghdad, Iran was the happiest regional power. Hussein had been a staunch enemy of Tehran. Saudi
Arabia was alarmed by the changing political equations in Iraq, and had supported Sunni militancy to prevent the
Shias consolidating power in the post-Saddam set-up. This was one reason that Iraq broke apart later. But the
Americans had assured full support to the Gulf monarchies and kept pressure on Iran over the nuclear sanctions.
When the Barack Obama administration changed its approach towards Iran, engaging with the Islamic Republic
through serious negotiations, the Saudis were upset. Though Riyadh publicly accepted the nuclear deal, it was
expectedly concerned about Irans reintegration with the global economy. That would not only flood the market with
cheap oil from Iran, sending oil prices down further, but also help Tehran rise as a legitimate regional power.
This Saudi frustration was evident in its Yemen war. Riyadh started bombing Yemen in March, when the nuclear talks
were in the final stages. But after nine months, the Saudis are far from meeting their goals defeating the Shia Houthi
rebels Riyadh calls lackeys of Tehran. On the other side, despite rhetoric from both sides, the U.S. and Iran have
expanded cooperation from the nuclear deal to Iraq and Iran. In Iraq, American warplanes provided air cover when
the Iraq army and Iran-trained Shia militias fought Islamic State fighters. As regards Syria, the U.S. agreed to let Iran
join the peace talks, ending years of opposition. Against this background, the Saudis wanted to escalate tensions with
Iran, and further complicate Irans re-accommodation in West Asian geopolitical and economic mainstream. The royals
know that the best way is to whip up sectarian tensions.
Iran should have exercised restraint in the wake of Sheikh Nimrs execution. It could have used the global anger
against mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia to its benefit, particularly at a time its rebuilding its position in the region.
But lack of a cohesive vision, and maybe the high-handedness of the hardliners, led Iran to overreact to the executions.
The attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad shifted the worlds attention from the
executions to Irans hooliganism, providing Riyadh an opportunity to extend the bilateral tensions into a diplomatic
crisis. This is exactly what the Saudis wanted. After Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, a Shia-majority nation ruled by a Sunni
monarchy, and Sudan, a Sunni-majority country ruled by an alleged war criminal whos moving increasingly closer to
the Gulf monarchs, have cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates, another Saudi ally, has withdrawn
its envoy from Tehran.
Iran has gained nothing but international condemnation from attacking foreign missions in its land. Its yet to recover
completely from the siege of the U.S. embassy in 1979 by hard-line students. In 2011, students attacked the British
embassy in Tehran, forcing London to withdraw its mission. Full diplomatic ties between the two nations were
restored only recently, after the nuclear agreement. The latest attack may have far-reaching consequences. Its also
possible that hard-line sections within the Iranian establishment, who are already upset with the moderates over the

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nuclear deal, might have used the opportunity to embarrass President Hassan Rouhani. Its also worth noting that the
President has condemned the attack, but not the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who warned the Saudis of divine
revenge. Whatever led to the attack has compromised Irans position in the region.
What next
One natural victim of these rising tensions will be the Syria peace plan. President Bashar al-Assads regime and a
coalition of rebels are supposed to begin peace talks this month, according to a road map agreed in the UN Security
Council a few weeks ago. Iranian and Saudi cooperation is a must for peace in Syria, where the ongoing civil war has
killed more than 2,50,000 people. The Saudis back anti-regime rebels and extremists in Syria, while the Iranians
support the Assad government.
Worse, its not just Syria. Unless Saudi-Iran tensions are contained, there wont be an effective strategy to fight the
Islamic State, which is a Sunni-Wahhabi extremist group; the war in Yemen will go on, endangering many more lives;
and Iraqs efforts to stabilise itself could be challenged. The Saudis look determined to play a long-term game of
sectarian geopolitics to maximise its interests. If the Iranians continue to respond in the same token, West Asia would
remain turbulent for many more years.

4.

A case for expanding DBT


The Hindu| Category: Polity and Governance

The two major issues with subsidies in India targeting and leakages can both be tackled by the governments
ongoing Direct Benefits Transfer push. The time is now ripe to have it for all subsidy programmes.....
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, by design and thanks to some legacy benefits from the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments term, is increasingly finding itself in a sweet spot where social security aid
and subsidies can finally be rid of the long-standing issues plaguing such systems in India. The two major issues with
subsidies in India targeting and leakages can both be tackled by the governments ongoing Direct Benefits
Transfer (DBT) push. The time is now ripe to have DBT for all subsidy programmes.
Leakages occur when the subsidy does not reach the recipient due to corruption, pilferage or other causes. Mistargeting benefits higher income groups that dont really deserve the subsidies, thereby needlessly increasing the
governments expenditure. The governments DBT plan, which simply involves transferring the subsidy amount
directly to the beneficiaries bank accounts instead of having to fiddle around with differential pricing for the
underprivileged, can effectively address the issue of leakages and go a long way in solving the mis-targeting problem.
Efficient targeting, using Aadhaar-linked data, ensures that the intended beneficiary receives the money in his account,
thus helping him as well as reducing the governments subsidy burden. This has resulted in effectively solving the
leakage and mis-targeting problems in some schemes, but other schemes have shown that they need more work to be
efficient.
The case of MGNREGA wages is an example where DBT effectively addressed both issues at once. In the beginning,
there were reports across the country of MGNREGA wages at the time given in cash being misappropriated by
middlemen in such large-scale systems. In 2013, the government initiated the DBT scheme in MGNREGA after several
successful pilot projects and eliminated these middlemen to a large extent. So far, in this financial year, under this
scheme, Rs.20,500 crore has been credited to the accounts of almost 5 crore people. All the beneficiaries only the
beneficiaries stood to reap benefits from MGNREGA wages.

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More fine-tuning
However, other schemes, though successful, need more fine-tuning. While the original DBT scheme for liquefied
petroleum gas (LPG) subsidies, named PAHAL [Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh], was launched in June 2013, the NDA
government modified and re-launched the scheme in 54 districts on in November 2014; for the rest of the country it
was January 2015. The idea was that consumers link their Aadhaar number to a bank account and receive the subsidy
amount for 12 cylinders in a year. Those without an Aadhaar number could furnish any other bank account to receive
the subsidy.
Now, while this ensured that all LPG consumers could, in theory, avail of the subsidy, it also meant that a large
proportion of the subsidies were going to people who could afford LPG cylinders at the un-subsidised rate. Towards
this, and to the credit of the government, it was recently decided that people earning more than Rs.10 lakh a year
would not be eligible for the LPG subsidy. So, DBT addresses the leakages issue while the income cap addresses the
mis-targeting problem. Back-of-the-envelope calculations (since there are no accurate figures of how many LPG users
earn more than Rs.10 lakh) peg the governments savings from such a move at around Rs.5,000 crore a year.
There are also subsidy schemes where DBT, in its efficient implementation, could actually result in adverse outcomes.
Take the example of DBT in the kerosene scheme the Centre is incentivising States to adopt. The benefits here are
immense. Experts estimate that around half the kerosene sold in the country is being misused. Instead of being used as
lighting fuel its most common use kerosene is being used to adulterate diesel among other things. This means
that the benefit of kerosene being sold at subsidised rates is also unintentionally going to those involved in such
activities.
Under the DBT in kerosene scheme, the consumer buys kerosene at full price and then receives the subsidy amount in
his bank account if eligible. Here, too, mis-targeting and leakages are addressed. But, as economist Pronab Sen has
pointed out, this could lead to unintended outcomes unless the scheme is managed carefully.
If the subsidy amount each household is due is calculated on the basis of the total amount of kerosene sold divided by
the number of eligible households, then this will result in each household receiving about double the subsidy amount
it should be getting because total usage also takes into account pilferage. In other words, the total sales figures
overestimate actual household-level usage because they also take into account usage by theft.
Over-subsidising kerosene to such an extent will mean that it will remain the lighting fuel of choice for poor
households, with no chance of a switch being made to cleaner energy sources like solar power. So, in improving the
targeting of kerosene subsidies, the government could be cementing the use of the dirty fuel in future. The possibility
that the government will subsequently reduce the subsidy amount, viewed as a political no-no, seems remote.
Currently, the government has introduced DBT in food subsidies in only a few Union Territories and is looking to
introduce it in fertilizer subsidies as well a fervent demand made by farmers associations when they met the
Finance Minister for a pre-Budget meeting recently.
The sweet spot created by universalising banking via the Jan-Dhan Yojana, efficient targeting via Aadhaar, and the
increasing ubiquity of smartphones is so attractive that the government should make full use of it to extend DBT to all
subsidy schemes. Its a win-win.

5.

What Free Basics did not intend to do


The Hindu | Category: Science and Technology

The public now sees the Internet not just in market terms, but as a social phenomenon that requires public interest
regulation.........

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In its aggressive campaign for Free Basics, couched in simplistic developmental language, Facebook underestimated
the political sophistication of the Indian public. It must be regretting it now. The social networking services reportedly
Rs. 100-crore campaign, through double full-page newspaper advertisements, billboards and television, appears
simply to have congealed public opinion against Free Basics. Everyone seems to be eager to discuss and write about
what is wrong with Free Basics. When the regulator had last called for Net neutrality-related inputs, in May 2015, the
opinions were relatively more divided. If they are so much more polarised today against Free Basics and Net neutrality
violations, the manner in which Facebook pushed this campaign does bear some responsibility for it.
Facebooks campaign may actually have ended up doing a lot of good to India, which, after all, was its professed goal.
We must thank Facebook for that. These benefits have been on two explicit fronts, and one more which will become
apparent in some time.
The Internet as a right
First, the campaign forced everyone to respond to the question, can those in poverty be denied connectivity? The
obvious answer being no, everyone had to come up with concrete alternatives. As a result, something interesting
happened. Even with the current middle-class sentiment largely being pro-free markets and anti-government
subsidies, a strong opinion has emerged that those who cannot afford connectivity must be provided some basic free
connectivity as an entitlement to be ensured by the government. It can be in the form of a limited data package. Many
commentators as well as responses to the regulators consultation have sought such an entitlement.
This should make the regulator and the government think seriously about some such data entitlement for every
citizen. It could also have an impact on how connectivity through the governments National Optical Fibre Network
will be provided to the people. This network, connecting almost the whole of rural India, is expected to be in place
within the next two-four years. Such emerging public opinion in favour of free basic connectivity, if concretised into
public policy, will be the first true expression of the Internet as a right, a concept which has begun to be discussed
globally.
The second unintended consequence of the Free Basics campaign has been a groundswell of public consciousness that
now sees the Internet not just in pure market terms, but as a unique social phenomenon which requires special public
interest regulation. The last round of Net neutrality consultation was the first heave in this direction, but it was still a
bit tentative and immature. It is also much easier for people to see the logic for an Internet that treats all content
equally, than develop a case against a free service. (Remember, free service is already the dominant Internet service
model in application and content layers, a point which we will come to later.) That the Indian public could form a
considered opinion on this rather complex social and policy issue is heartening to note. It is likely to usher a new era of
Internet rights activism, with people claiming digital technologies as a right and not just something that the market
provides on its own terms.
At the many public interest discussions on this subject, people came up with ingenious analogies. One person said, I
am ready to pay the auto driver according to the distance travelled, not based on the destination that I go to. Another
said, Free Basics is like someone giving you cooking gas for free, but being able to decide what you will cook with it.
There is an emergence of a very sophisticated orientation as to how people see the Internet in terms of its very crucial
and strong role in society today, and its hidden manipulative possibilities.
The cooking analogy is not a far-fetched one if one projects ahead into the emerging world of Internet of Things. The
Internet can be seen as a new neutral system of society, one that organises our lives, which can become very dangerous
if its manipulative potential is not closely watched and kept in check. There will always be corporatist tendencies to
place control points on this neutral network, with various kinds of free services as the incentive, but which would
lead to far greater economic and other forms of exploitation.

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Neutrality in all layers


This brings us to the third unintended consequence of the Facebook campaign. This is only being informally talked
about as of now, but will break into prominence soon when other similar platform abuses come to the fore. This is
about how Facebook used its monopoly social networking platform for a huge political campaign in its own favour,
making and sharing lakhs (11 million, according to Facebook) of template responses to the regulators consultation.
The same platform functionality was not available to other users, who could be holding other views on the subject.
The implications of such platform abuse are not difficult to see. Imagine a close election contest in the future when
Facebook, say, has 70 per cent of adult Indians as its users. There are two main parties and, say, FDI or higher
corporate taxes has become the key election issue. What if Facebook does a similar campaign two weeks before the
elections, taking a strong position favouring one side, reaching and engaging its users in a manner that others cannot
do using the same platform?
The question then is, if a telco cannot be allowed to provide different functionalities on its platform to different content
and application-providers, how can a monopoly social networking platform be allowed to discriminate among its
users in such a blatant way and with such far-reaching social consequences? It is much easier to switch between telcos
today than to even find a good alternative to the Facebook platform.
Net neutrality and zero-rating are therefore just the first key Internet regulation issues that we are facing. As the
Internet quickly transforms our social systems and becomes an essential element, there will soon be other kinds of
platform neutrality issues. The EU is already conducting a public consultation on platform governance. The French
Digital Council has brought out a comprehensive report on platform neutrality. A draft bill on Internet rights in the
Italian legislature lays out public interest guidelines for platforms.
The keen public engagement with the issue of Net neutrality and zero-rating indicates that we will soon hear about
other kinds of platform abuses as well, along with calls for corresponding Internet regulation.

6.

Reform, only left to the judiciary?


The Hindu| Polity and Governance

More significant than the issue of whether women should be allowed entry into the Sabarimala temple is the question of whether
secular judges ought to be the ones making that call. The more the state takes over the task of social reform, the less likely is the
desired change to emerge from within the society......
Last week, the Supreme Court declared that it would hear a public interest litigation (PIL) on whether women of
menstrual age can be denied the right to enter the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Kerala. The bench, in its observation
to the Kerala government and the temple authorities, remarked that unless you have a constitutional right, you
cannot prohibit entry [to women].
In 1993, the Kerala High Court had held that the Travancore Devaswom Board, the authority that manages the
Sabarimala temple, could restrict access to women who were in the 10-50 age group. It had concluded that the
restriction imposed on women aged above 10 and below 50 from trekking the holy hills of Sabarimala and offering
worship at Sabarimala Shrine is in accordance with the usage prevalent from time immemorial, and that such
restriction imposed by the Devaswom Board is not violative of Articles 15, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. This
is the position that the Supreme Court will revisit early next month in the context of arguments of gender equality and
fundamental rights. In doing so, it will yet again wade into the paradoxical waters of a secular state making religious
policies.
No strict religion-state separation
Unlike any other secular state, the Republic of India was conceived with a mandate for social revolution. This makes
our situation unprecedented and unique. We do not have a wall of separation between religion and state that, for

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instance, exists in the United States. Furthermore, the founders of the Indian republic have enjoined the state to
intervene in social customs and redress grievances arising out of them so that all citizens can equitably enjoy their
constitutional rights and privileges. This is evident in the way Article 25, which deals with freedom of religion, is
constructed. Unlike other articles dealing with the fundamental rights, it begins with caveats (subject to public order,
morality and health and to the other provisions) before stating the right (all persons are equally entitled to freedom
of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.) It goes on to empower the state to
regulate and restrict non-religious activities associated with religion. It allows the state to make laws providing for
social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and
sections of Hindus. Interestingly, the term Hindus here includes persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist
religion. The rights of religious minorities are protected under subsequent articles. The asymmetries that arise from
these articles are causes of grievances, disgruntlements and contestations that vitiate our politics to this day.
Why did the wise people who drafted a remarkably liberal, secular and modern Constitution decide to give the state so
much power over religion? The words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, give us some
insight. Arguing for a minimalist definition of what constitutes religion and hence needs to be kept outside the
domain of the state he held that the religious conceptions in this country are so vast that they cover every aspect of
life, from birth to death. There is nothing which is not religion and if personal law is to be saved, I am sure about it that
in social matters we will come to a standstill. In other words, a strict separation between religion and state would
have prevented the Constitution from carrying out social revolution.
In the early decades of our republic, the Supreme Court evolved an essential religious practices doctrine that spelt
out the outer limits of what could be called the sole domain of religion. Unfortunately, over the years, this doctrine was
interpreted in an elastic, and sometimes arbitrary manner. Judges gave themselves the power to determine what
constitutes essential religious practice not just for one religion, but for all of them.
India might be the only republic where the judiciary can pronounce on matters not only relating to law, but also those
concerning theology. Thus, courts have ruled on topics like the Jain practice of Santhara (voluntary fasting to death);
and on who can and cannot become an archaka (priest). They have even pronounced on rather vexed questions like
what should be the shape of the markings on the temple elephants head.
The higher judiciarys decisions are seen as legitimate among the public because of the relative credibility it enjoys.
Judicial activism and encroachment into legislative and executive domains add to its popularity. Thus, we should not
be surprised if the Supreme Court declares that the Sabarimala temple must be thrown open to women of all ages.
Gender equality vs. judicial overreach
If it does, it will be seen as another victory for the cause of gender equality, even if only a miniscule proportion of
women are likely to ever exercise that right. Even women who are in a position to visit the temple might choose not to
do so out of a certain regard for norms and practices. And some may choose to visit and society, traditions and norms
must change to accommodate them.
Yet, we should be wary of a judiciary that encroaches on more domains, even for causes we consider as desirable and
good. Caesaropapism is a term used to describe a state of complete subordination of religion to the secular state.
India runs the risk of being in thrall of a variant of this, a condition that can be termed judiciopapism, where judges
can completely overrule religious authority. With each judgment that shrinks the scope of what is considered an
essential religious practice, the risk grows.
Why should we care? To suggest that this is not a bad thing because it delivers progressive results is similar to
contending that dictatorships are good because they can produce results that democracies struggle to achieve. The
revolutionary makers of our republic certainly did not envisage a judiciopapist order. Even the strongest argument
in favour of secularism cannot condone such a state of affairs.

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PART TWENTY THREE| ARTICLES

Worse, the more the state takes over the task of social reform, the less likely it is to emerge from within the society.
Religious traditions often respond to external interventions by growing more conservative and resisting reform. A
democracy is unlikely to muster the will to see through state-imposed reform, undermining its success. Politics in a
society like ours, with its many religions and sects, is likely to create logjams to even the most basic social reforms.
Note how the case for a Uniform Civil Code has become a ground for communal politics.
Further, attempts by the state at a social revolution only weaken efforts of social reformers who belonged to various
communities. From Buddha to Kabir, from Guru Nanak to Narayana Guru, India has historically seen social reformers
emerge as a response to orthodoxy and rigidity. Independent India has seen fewer of them, perhaps because the Indian
republic has arrogated that responsibility to itself.
Ronojoy Sen rightly notes that court rulings have furthered the reformist agenda of the Indian state at the expense of
religious freedom and neutrality. The caveats are eating into the right. More significant than the issue of whether
women should be allowed entry into the Sabarimala temple is the question of whether secular judges ought to be the
ones making that call.

7.

The hidden wealth of nations


The Hindu| Economy

Indias biggest source of FDI is India itself, money departing on a short holiday to a tax haven and then routed back as FDI. Will
the government muster up the political will to clamp down on the tax-allergic business elite?
This could be a bumper year for the ever-lucrative tax avoidance industry. The 2015 final reports of the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-led project on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) which
refer to the erosion of a nations tax base due to the accounting tricks of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) and the legal
but abusive shifting out of profits to low-tax jurisdictions respectively lays out 15 action points to curb abusive tax
avoidance by MNEs. As a participant of this project, India is expected to implement at least some of these measures.
But can it? More pertinently, does it have the political will?
The BEPS project is no doubt a positive development for tax justice. If Indias recent economic history tells us anything,
it is that economic growth without public investment in social infrastructure such as health care and education can do
very little to better the life conditions of the majority. Which is why curbing tax evasion to boost public finance is part
of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, notwithstanding the BEPS project, MNEs and their dedicated army of highly paid accountants are not about
to roll over and comply. Again, if past history is any indication, the cat-and-mouse game between accountants and
taxmen will continue, with new loopholes being unearthed in new tax rules.
Empowering tax dodgers
The primary cause of concern here is the quality of Indias political leadership, which has consistently betrayed its own
taxmen. All it takes regardless of the party in power is for the stock market to sneeze, and the Indian state
swoons. Weve seen it happen time and again: the postponement of the enforcement of General Anti-Avoidance Rules
(GAAR) to 2017, and more spectacularly, on the issue of participatory notes, or P-notes.
Last year, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money had recommended mandatory disclosure to the
regulator, as per Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, of the identity of the final owner of P-notes. It was a sane
suggestion because the bulk of P-note investments in the Indian stock market were from tax havens such as Cayman
Islands. But the markets threw a fit, with the Sensex crashing by 500 points in a day. The National Democratic Alliance
(NDA) government, which had come to power promising to fight black money, promptly issued a statement assuring

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PART TWENTY THREE| ARTICLES

investors that it was in no hurry to implement the SIT recommendations. Given such a patchy record, what are the
realistic chances of India actually clamping down on tax dodging?
Lets take, for instance, Action No. 6 of the OECDs BEPS report: it urges nations to curb treaty abuse by amending
their Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) suitably. The obvious litmus test of Indias seriousness on BEPS
is its DTAA with Mauritius. By way of background, Mauritius accounted for 34 per cent of Indias FDI equity inflows
from 2000 to 2015. Its been Indias single-largest source of FDI for nearly 15 years. Now, is it possible that there are so
many rich businessmen in this tiny island nation with a population of just 1.2 million, all with a touching faith in India
as an investment destination? If not, how do we explain an island economy with a GDP less than one-hundredth of
Indias GDP supplying more than one-third of Indias FDI?
We all know the answer: Mauritius is a tax haven. While not in the same league as Cayman Islands or Bermuda,
Mauritius is a rising star, thanks in no small measure to Indias patriotic but tragically tax-allergic business elite. In
Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World, financial journalist Nicholas Shaxson notes how
Mauritius is a popular hub for what is known as round-tripping. He writes, A wealthy Indian, say, will send his
money to Mauritius, where it is dressed up in a secrecy structure, then disguised as foreign investment, before being
returned to India. The sender of the money can avoid Indian tax on local earnings.
In other words, it appears that Indias biggest source of FDI is India itself. Indian money departs on a short holiday to
Mauritius, before returning home as FDI. Perhaps not all the FDI streaming in from Mauritius is round-tripped capital
maybe a part of it is genuine FDI originating in Europe or the U.S. But it still denotes a massive loss of tax revenue,
part of the $1.2 trillion stolen from developing countries every year.
What makes this theft of tax revenue not just possible but also legal is Indias DTAA with Mauritius. Its a textbook
example of treaty shopping a government-sponsored loophole for MNEs to avoid tax by channelling investments
and profits through an offshore jurisdiction.
For instance, as per this DTAA, capital gains are taxable only in Mauritius, not in India. But heres the thing: Mauritius
does not tax capital gains. India, like any sensible country, does. What would any sensible businessman do? Set up a
company in Mauritius, and route all Indian investments through it.
India signed this DTAA with Mauritius in 1983, but apparently woke up only in 2000. India has spent much of 2015
trying to renegotiate this treaty. But with our Indian-made foreign investors lobbying furiously, the talks have so far
yielded nothing. Meanwhile, China, which too had the same problem with Mauritius, has already renegotiated its
DTAA, and it can force investors to pay 10 per cent capital gains tax in China.
Changing profile of tax havens
Tax havens such as Mauritius thrive parasitically, feeding on substantive economies like India. Back in 2000, the OECD
had identified 41 jurisdictions as tax havens. Today, as it humbly seeks their cooperation to combat tax avoidance, it
calls them by a different name, so as not to offend them.
The same list is now called and this is not a joke Jurisdictions Committed to Improving Transparency and
Establishing Effective Exchange of Information in Tax Matters. Distinguished members of this club include Cayman
Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, Cyprus, and of course, Mauritius.
Today the function of tax havens in the global economy has evolved way beyond that of offering a low-tax jurisdiction.
Mr. Shaxson describes three major elements that make tax havens tick. First, tax havens are not necessarily about
geography; they are simply someplace else a place where a countrys normal tax rules dont apply. So, for instance,
country A can serve as a tax haven for residents of country B, and vice versa. The U.S. is a classic example. It has
stringent tax laws, and is energetic in prosecuting tax evasion by its citizens around the world. But it is equally keen to

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attract tax-evading capital from other countries, and does so through generous sops and helpful pieces of legislation
which have effectively turned the U.S. into a tax haven for non-residents.
Second, more than the nominally low taxes, the bigger attraction of tax havens is secrecy. Secrecy is important for two
reasons: to be able to avoid tax, you need to hide your real income; and to hide your real income, you need to hide
your identity, so that the booty stashed away in a tax haven cannot be traced back to you by the taxmen at home. So,
even a country whose taxes are not too low can function as a tax haven by offering a combination of exemptions and
iron-clad secrecy which is the formula adopted by the likes of Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Third, the extreme combination of low taxes and high secrecy brought about a new mutation of tax havens in the
1960s: they turned themselves into offshore financial centres (OFCs). The economist Ronen Palan defines OFCs as
markets in which financial operators are permitted to raise funds from non-residents and invest or lend the money to
other non-residents free from most regulations and taxes. It is estimated that OFCs are recipients of 30 per cent of the
worlds FDI, and are, in turn, the source of a similar quantum of FDI.
Such being the case, all India needs to do to attract FDI is to become an OFC, or create an OFC on its territory bring
offshore onshore, so to speak. Thats precisely what the U.S. did it set up International Banking Facilities (IBFs), to
offer deposit and loan services to foreign residents and institutions free of reserve requirements. Japan set up the
Japanese Offshore Market (JOM). Singapore has the Asian Currency Market (ACU), Thailand has the Bangkok
International Banking Facility (BIBF), Malaysia has an OFC in Labuan island, and other countries have similar
facilities. OFCs, as Ronen Palan puts it, are less tax havens than regulatory havens, which means that financial capital
can do here what it cannot do onshore. So every major hedge fund operates out of an OFC. Given the volume of
unregulated financial transactions that OFCs host, it is no surprise that they were at the heart of the 2008 financial
crisis.
Apart from accumulating illicit capital (in the tax haven role), channelling this capital back onshore dressed up as FDI
(in investment hub role), and deploying it to engage in destructive financial speculation (in OFC role), these
strongholds of finance capital also serve a political function: they undermine democracy by enabling financial capture
of the political levers of democratic states.
It is well known that political parties in most democracies are amply funded by slush funds that would not have
accumulated in the first place had taxes been paid. But today, not least in the Anglophone world, global finances
capture of the state appears more like the norm.
A lone exception seems to be Iceland, which began the new year on a rousing note by sentencing 26 corrupt bankers
to a combined 74 years in jail. Meanwhile in India, we continue to parrot long discredited clichs about the need for
more financial deregulation and a weird logic that mandates a smaller and more limited role for public finance.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART TWENTY FOUR| ESSAY

PART TWENTY FOUR| ESSAY


1.

Independent thinking should be encouraged right from the childhood.


Archit Mathur (Batch: SW 1)

Independence is not merely emancipation from physical shackles but also freedom of thought, speech and expression.
Independent thinking means understanding the world through self experience, observation and wisdom. Free and
independent thinking are the prerequisites for a healthy growth of mind. A healthy mind is one which is capable of
making rational decisions and is free from any prejudices. A person with such rational mind does not take anything for
granted and questions everything especially those primordial notions which lack any cogent scientific explanation.
However, rational thinking is not something that can be learnt in spur-of-the-moment; rather it is a skill that needs to
be honed right from the childhood.
Formation of mind is not only determined by biological factors, rather its formation depends on the milieu in which
the person was brought up. Human psyche is thus an upshot of genetics and conditioning. Though human mind is
born free but over the time a persons will and volition are all corrupted by the society. The famous maxim of Arthur
Schopenhauer, Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills sums up this phenomenon. Lack of
independent thinking leads to the formation of tendentious and often belligerent outlook towards those who have a
different opinion and is often a source of conflict. Such a demeanour also acts as an impediment to integrate the
society.
The seeds for a scientific outlook need to be sown right from childhood. Neurological science suggests that brain
plasticity is maximum during childhood and hence it is of utmost importance that independent thinking should be
promoted right from this stage. With independent thinking a person will have a conviction to stand by his beliefs even
when they are not in conformity with accepted norms.
The ever increasing cases of religious and ethnic conflicts accentuate the need for rational thinking. It is true that there
is no age limit to learning but all that goes into the brain after a certain age is construed pursuant to what was fed to
the brain in its initial years, which was childhood. Although wisdom accrues with age but some long held beliefs
cannot be easily obliterated from peoples mind. One cannot assume a religious fundamentalist to abjure his long held
beliefs and embrace the idea of secularism; similarly its not possible for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative to take a
liberal stand on any issue. Independent thinking is basic and pivotal requirement to build a secular society and should
be promoted during the formative years of the human mind.
Most of the countries today talk about equality, but the truth is that equality still remains a coveted dream. Gender
inequality, social discrimination, racial persecution and economic chasm taint the legacy of almost all the nations.
Narrow minded people thrive by taking advantage of the beclouded minds of the people who fail to discern what is
propitious and what is pernicious for the society. This highlights the dire need for people with broader and pious
mindset. It is expected that people with rational minds will challenge the customs and traditions of the yore which are
not buttressed by any scientific theory.
In an attempt to modernize, the world looks at persons who have the ingenuity and skill to bring unprecedented
constructive changes. Innovation has been possible only because of independent thinking, in the absence of which,
world would still be using superannuated techniques of the early man. A confluence risk taking attitude and new
ideas is the only requirement for rapid development. One cannot be taught to take risks, but it can be fostered from
young age by promoting independent thinking by which children learn by experimenting and not by relying on word
of mouth. This develops in children the ability to trust their own judgements and act accordingly despite making
errors.

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PART TWENTY FOUR| ESSAY

Independent thinking offers a plethora of advantages, but creating an environment conducive for the children to think
independently is a gargantuan challenge. The present day education system proves to be the biggest hurdle for this
task. Today, when a childs ability is measured by the marks he scores, the spirit of learning fades away, and this is
where education loses its importance. The reason for providing education is not only to enable a person to get a job but
also to make him cognizant of his surroundings so that he can initiate steps to make the world a better place. Most of
the achievements in the science field can be accrued to those erudite scholars who dared to defy the education system
and concentrated on their works despite of attracting flak from the society. Hence, the present day education system
needs to be revised so as to promote independent thinking. The pedagogy followed must change and the children
should be encouraged to bring in creative ideas to solve a problem.
Parents also need to play a vital role in order to foster independent thinking by focusing on overall development of
their children. Not only academics, but focus should be to help their children excel in all spheres of life. They should
entrench in their children the ethos required for rational thinking. Listening skills must be developed in children so
that they understand the different view points on a particular issue before taking a stance. Also parents must
understand that their role is not to solve the problem of their children but to equip them so that they are capable of
solving them on their own and hence, spoon feeding is should be avoided as far as possible.
Sports can play a sterling role in promoting independent thinking in the children. A success in sports comes almost
every time because of some players unorthodox tactics to steal the show. There cannot be a better platform than a
sports field to promote innovative thinking. Apart from thinking independently, sports also provide an opportunity to
the players to coalesce their different viewpoints to arrive at a winning strategy. Sports thus provide a fusion of
creativeness and cooperation to a person, and this is precisely what the world requires.
Teaching of ethics in school as a part of its curriculum must be an immediate step. Though there may not be a direct
nexus between ethics and independent thinking, but it is very important to ensure that when we provide the children
with an opportunity to channelize their thoughts and energy, morality doesnt get lost in the process. Ethics ensure
that this channelization is in proper direction, otherwise this step to promote independent thinking to ameliorate the
present day conditions might turn out to be a fiasco, adding to the woes of the society. In the words of Jawaharlal
Nehru, Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.
Children of today are the future of tomorrow and if we envisage a utopian world in the future, it is very important to
bolster the foundation for this future objective, and it is only possible by promoting independent thinking right from
the childhood.

Raus IAS Study Circle


Space for notes

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PART TWENTY FIVE| ASSIGNMENT QUESTIONS

PART TWENTY FIVE | ASSIGNMENT QUESTIONS


PART I: Contains multiple choice questions (MCQs) on current affairs for practice. In this issue, we have
covered probable questions for General Studies Preliminary (Paper I) drawn from the November, 2015 issue
of FOCUS magazine.
(Q1). Which of the following is not a neighbouring
country of Myanmar?
(a)
Cambodia
(b)
Thailand
(c)
Laos
(d)
Bangladesh
(Q2).
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of


National League for Democracy (NLD)
National Democratic Front (NDF)
Liberal Democrats
United Democratic Front (UDF)

(Q3). Which of the following does not border Gulf of


Thailand?
(a)
Cambodia
(b)
Thailand
(c)
Laos
(d)
Vietnam
(Q4). Which of the following is not a member country
of ASEAN?
(a)
Cambodia
(b)
East Timor
(c)
Laos
(d)
Brunei Darussalam
(Q5).
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

Latakia Port lies in


Lebanon
Israel
Cyprus
Syria

(Q6). Which of the following pairs of countries border


Dead Sea?
(a)
Israel and Syria
(b)
Israel and Lebanon
(c)
Israel and Jordan
(d)
Jordan and Egypt
(Q7). NATOs headquarters is located in
(a)
Copenhagen
(b)
Vienna

(c)
(d)

Prague
Brussels

(Q8). Which of the following countries withdrew from


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
(a)
Israel
(b)
Pakistan
(c)
North Korea
(d)
South Sudan
(Q9). Indias easternmost strategic airfield at Teju lies
in
(a)
Assam
(b)
Arunachal Pradesh
(c)
Nagaland
(d)
Sikkim
(Q10). Sunderbans will become a separate district in
West Bengal. Sunderbans, the world's largest
mangrove is spread over two southern Bengal
districts of
(a)
Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur
(b)
Hugli and Haora
(c)
Nadia and Hugli
(d)
North and South 24 Parganas
(Q11). Tata Steel has commissioned the first phase of its
Kalinganagar steel plant in
(a)
Chhattisgarh
(b)
Jharkhand
(c)
Madhya Pradesh
(d)
Orissa
(Q12). Consider the following statements:
(1)
The collegium system has its genesis in a series
of three judgments that is now clubbed together
as the Three Judges Cases.
(2)
It is a system under which appointments and
transfers of judges are decided by a forum of the
Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most
judges of the Supreme Court.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?

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PART TWENTY FIVE| ASSIGNMENT QUESTIONS

a)
b)
c)
d)

Only 1
Only 2
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2

(Q13). Census in India has been conducted every 10


years. It began in
(a)
1861
(b)
1871
(c)
1881
(d)
1891
(Q14). India plans to launch Aditya, its first dedicated
scientific mission to study the
(a)
Uranus
(b)
Pluto
(c)
Sun
(d)
Titan
(Q15). The Indian Air Force (IAF) took the delivery of
the PC-7 Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA)
manufactured by Pilatus of
(a)
France
(b)
Switzerland
(c)
Israel
(d)
Belgium
(Q16). INS Kadmatt is an
(a)
indigenously built attack submarine
(b)
indigenously built stealth Anti-Submarine
Warfare (ASW) corvettes
(c)
indigenously built Torpedo Launch and
Recovery vessel
(d)
indigenously built guided missile destroyer
(Q17). World Toilet Day is held on
(a)
November 19
(b)
November 09
(c)
November 29
(d)
November 30
(Q18). The founder of Kuomintang (KMT) was
(a)
Chiang Kai Shek
(b)
Deng Xio Ping
(c)
Sun Yat-sen
(d)
Ziang Zemin
(Q19). Archaeological Survey of India was founded in
1861 by
(a)
James Prinsep

(b)
(c)
(d)

Richard Guyon
Norman Lash
Alexander Cunningham

(Q20). Denali is the new name of


(a)
Mt. Mckinley
(b)
Mt. Aconcagua
(c)
Mount Kosciuszko
(d)
Mt. Kilimanjaro
(Q21). The prestigious Golden Peacock award at the
46th International Film Festival of India (IFFI)
was won by
(a)
Sealed Cargo
(b)
Measure of a man
(c)
Embrace of the Serpent
(d)
Cinemawala
(Q22). The 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting (CHOGM) was held in
(a)
Malta
(b)
New Zealand
(c)
South Africa
(d)
Namibia
(Q23). The current Chief Justice of India is
(a)
H.L. Dattu
(b)
T.S. Thakur
(c)
R.M. Lodha
(d)
H.L. Kania
(Q24). Consider the following statements:
(1)
The Davis Cup is described by the organisers as
the "World Cup of Tennis", and the winners are
referred to as the World Champion team.
(2)
The competition began in 1900 as a challenge
between Great Britain and France.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
a)
Only 1
b)
Only 2
c)
Both 1 and 2
d)
Neither 1 nor 2
(Q25). Which of the following countries has won Davis
Cup-2015?
(a)
France
(b)
Germany
(c)
Switzerland
(d)
Great Britain

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(Q26). Consider the following statements:


(1)
The Group of Twenty (also known as G20) is an
international forum for the governments and
central bank governors from 20 major
economies.
(2)
The members include 19 individual countries
along with the European Union (EU). The EU is
represented by the European Commission and
by the European Central Bank.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
a)
Only 1
b)
Only 2
c)
Both 1 and 2
d)
Neither 1 nor 2
(Q27). Which of the following countries is not a
member of G-20?
(a)
Turkey
(b)
Saudi Arabia
(c)
Egypt
(d)
South Africa
(Q28). The 7th Pay Commission was headed by
(a)
Justice V. Duggal
(b)
Justice A.K. Mathur
(c)
Justice L. Subramaniam
(d)
Justice M.N. Ganguly
(Q29). Consider the following statements:
(1)
The National Green Tribunal was established in
2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010
for effective and expeditious disposal of cases
relating to environmental protection and
conservation of forests and other natural
resources.
(2)
It is a specialized body equipped with the
necessary expertise to handle environmental
disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
a)
Only 1
b)
Only 2
c)
Both 1 and 2
d)
Neither 1 nor 2
(Q30). The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
or CCMB is a biotechnology research
establishment of

(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research


(CSIR)
Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI)
Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI)
Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences

(Q31). Barak surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is


jointly developed by
(a)
India and Israel
(b)
India and Russia
(c)
India and France
(d)
India and United Kingdom
(Q32). The Schengen Area is the area comprising of
countries that have abolished passport and any
other type of border control at their common
borders. The area is in
(a)
South America
(b)
North America
(c)
Europe
(d)
South East Asia
(Q33). Consider the following statements:
(1)
The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) is a 48 nation
grouping that controls nuclear related export.
(2)
It was setup in 1974 to counter Indias nuclear
tests.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
a)
Only 1
b)
Only 2
c)
Both 1 and 2
d)
Neither 1 nor 2
(Q34). Consider the following statements:
(1)
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
is a 34 nation grouping that controls the export
of missile related technology, including drones.
(2)
It was setup in 1987.
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
a)
Only 1
b)
Only 2
c)
Both 1 and 2
d)
Neither 1 nor 2
(Q35). Consider the following statements:
(1)
Bonds are instruments of debt - typically used by
corporates to raise money from investors.

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PART TWENTY FIVE| ASSIGNMENT QUESTIONS

(2)
(3)

a)
b)

Masala bonds are rupee-denominated bonds


issued to overseas buyers.
The issuing of masala bonds is an attempt to
increase the international status of rupee and is
also a step towards current currency
convertibility
Which of the statements given above is/are
correct?
Only 1 and 2
Only 2 and 3

c)
d)

Only 1 and 3
All of the above

PART II: A bunch of 15 relevant questions on various themes of General Studies (Main) Examination have been put in
this issue for practice.

GENERAL STUDIES (MAIN) PAPERS


Answer the following:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Theme: History, Indian Heritage and Culture


The ancient civilization in Indian sub-continent differed from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece in that
its culture and traditions have been preserved without a breakdown to the present day. Comment.
Mesolithic rock cut architecture of India not only reflects the cultural life of the times but also a fine aesthetic
sense comparable to modem painting. Critically evaluate this comment.
How different would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss.
Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common
goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate.
It would have been difficult for the Constituent Assembly to complete its historic task of drafting the
Constitution for Independent India in just three years but for the experience gained with the Government of
India Act, 1935. Discuss.
Theme: Indian Society, and Social Justice
Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the main cause of
population increase in India.
How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more favourable to women
than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes?
Discuss the changes in the trends of labour migration within and outside India in the last four decades.
Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India.
Debate the issue of whether and how contemporary movements for assertion of Dalit identity work towards
annihilation of caste.
Theme: Geography and Environment
Explain the factors responsible for the origin of ocean currents. How do they influence regional climates, fishing
and navigation?
India is well endowed with fresh water resources. Critically examine why it still suffers from water scarcity.
How far do you agree that the behaviour of the Indian monsoon has been changing due to humanizing
landscapes? Discuss.
What are the economic significances of discovery of oil in Arctic Sea and its possible environmental
consequences?
The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are reaching the limits of their ecological
carrying capacity due to tourism. Critically evaluate.

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PART TWENTY SIX| SOLUTIONS

PART TWENTY SIX| SOLUTIONS


Solutions are given hereunder for the multiple choice questions on current affairs given in December, 2015 issue of
FOCUS magazine.
(Q41)- Answer (a)
(Q42)- Answer (a)
(Q1)- Answer (d)
(Q43)- Answer (b)
(Q2)- Answer (c)
(Q44)- Answer (b)
(Q3)- Answer (d)
(Q45)- Answer (d)
(Q4)- Answer (b)
(Q46)- Answer (c)
(Q5)- Answer (c)
(Q47)- Answer (a)
(Q6)- Answer (d)
(Q48)- Answer (b)
(Q7)- Answer (c)
(Q49)- Answer (c)
(Q8)- Answer (a)
(Q50)- Answer (c)
(Q9)- Answer (b)
(Q10)- Answer (a)
(Q11)- Answer (b)
(Q12)- Answer (d)
(Q13)- Answer (c)
(Q14)- Answer (b)
(Q15)- Answer (c)
(Q16)- Answer (b)
(Q17)- Answer (d)
(Q18)- Answer (c)
(Q19)- Answer (c)
(Q20)- Answer (b)
(Q21)- Answer (d)
(Q22)- Answer (a)
Exp:
NALSA is headed by the Chief Justice of India.
(Q23)- Answer (a)
(Q24)- Answer (c)
(Q25)- Answer (b)
(Q26)- Answer (a)
(Q27)- Answer (b)
(Q28)- Answer (c)
(Q29)- Answer (a)
(Q30)- Answer (c)
(Q31)- Answer (b)
(Q32)- Answer (a)
(Q33)- Answer (d)
(Q34)- Answer (c)
(Q35)- Answer (b)
(Q36)- Answer (d)
(Q37)- Answer (a)
(Q38)- Answer (b)
(Q39)- Answer (d)
(Q40)- Answer (a)
Exp:
The Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway,
while the other prizes are awarded in
Stockholm, Sweden.

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PART TWENTY EIGHT|IMPACT ANALYSIS

PART TWENTY SEVEN | FOCUS SPECIAL


ROLE OF CURRENT AFFAIRS AND IMPACT OF FOCUS MAGAZINE
(AN OVERALL ANALYSIS)
PART I- ROLE OF CURRENT AFFAIRS IN 2015 GENERAL STUDIES (MAIN) PAPERS- I, II, III
The world is increasingly becoming a close knit global village, connected by faster and emerging modes of
communication, where flow of information are transcending national boundaries and getting access to all forms of
data, information, happenings, events, decisions, treaties, and all things of importance are just a click of mouse away.
So this accessibility to wide range of information provides an opportunity to a person desirous of learning and
upgrading his/her personality.
In this context, UPSC through its Civil Service Main Examination-2015 [CSE (M)-2015] has embarked on the path of
judging candidates comprehensive awareness, knowledge and understanding of global, national and local issues
influencing and impacting socio-economic development, security and environmental issues and related policies in our
country; and that is why most of the questions asked in General Studies- Paper I, II, III are designed and drawn
mainly from current issues and happenings- either directly or contextual.
General Studies- Paper I, II & III contained 60 (20+20+20) questions in total. Out of these, the breakup of questions
having current affairs context in each of the paper is given hereunder:
Sr.
No.

Paper

01

General Studies- Paper I

20

11

55%

02

General Studies- Paper II

20

18

90%

03

General Studies- Paper III

20

18

90%

Total (Paper I, II &III)

60

47

78%

No. of questions asked

Questions having
Current affairs context

Current Affairs (%)

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PART TWENTY SEVEN|FOCUS SPECIAL

Thus, it can be confidently emphasised that current affairs play prominent role in clearing UPSC (Main) Examination.

PART II- IMPACT OF FOCUS IN ATTEMPTING CURRENT AFFAIRS QUESTIONS


FOCUS magazine completely adheres to the thought process of UPSC and tries to inculcate all exam specific matter
from best sources for the benefit of the aspirants. To evaluate this, let us now diagnose all the three papers and throw
light on the impact of FOCUS magazine in attempting those. The diagnosis is given in the table hereunder:
Impact of FOCUS in attempting current affairs based questions asked in General Studies- Paper I, II & III in Civil
Service (Main) Examination- 2015

GENERAL STUDIES- PAPER I


Question 9: Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the main
cause of population increase in India.
01

Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015


News Item: Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC)(Direct)
Question 10: How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more
favourable to women than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes?

02

Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015


News Item: Region and religion both matter for better population indicators (Direct)
Question 12: Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India.
Covered in: FOCUS MARCH 2015

03

News Item: Lack of non-family support system is hurting career prospects of women (Direct)

04

Question 14: Explain the factors responsible for the origin of ocean currents. How do they influence
regional climates, fishing and navigation?
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
News Item: INCOIS augmenting its network of wave buoys and tide gauges (Direct)

05

Question 15: Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is
much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
News Item: Pollution: particulate matter in India higher than WHO limit (Contextual)
Covered in: FOCUS APRIL 2015
News Item: National Air Quality Index (AQI)
Covered in: FOCUS APRIL 2015
Editorial:

06

Tracking air

Question 18: How far do you agree that the behaviour of the Indian monsoon has been changing due to
humanizing landscapes? Discuss.
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
News Item: INCOIS augmenting its network of wave buoys and tide gauges (Contextual)
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
News Item: Pollution: particulate matter in India higher than WHO limit (Contextual)

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PART TWENTY EIGHT|IMPACT ANALYSIS

07

Question 19: Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the
backdrop of rural urban integration.
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
Editorial: Needed, smart solutions (Direct)
Editorial: Indias urban challenges (Direct)

08

Question No. 20: What are the economic significances of discovery of oil in Arctic Sea and its possible
environmental consequences?
Covered in: FOCUS DECEMBER 2014
News Item: Denmark claims contested Arctic territory (Contextual)

GENERAL STUDIES- PAPER II


01

Question 2: The concept of cooperative federalism has been increasingly emphasized in recent years.
Highlight the drawbacks in the existing structure and the extent to which cooperative federalism would
answer the shortcomings.
Covered in: FOCUS FEBRUARY 2015
Article: Federalism in India: Political and Fiscal (Direct)

02

Question 5: Resorting to ordinances has always raised concern on violation of the spirit of separation of
powers doctrine. While noting the rationales justifying the power to promulgate ordinances, analyze
whether the decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue have further facilitated resorting to this power.
Should the power to promulgate ordinances be repealed?
Covered in: FOCUS DECEMBER 2014
Editorial: Reform by decree (Contextual)
News Item: Ordinance to amend Land Act (Contextual)

03

Question 8: Examine critically the recent changes in the rules governing foreign funding of NGOs under
the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976.
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
Editorial: NGOs in the firing line (Direct)

04

Question 9: The Self-Help Group (SHG) Bank Linkage Programme (SBLP), which is Indias own
innovation, has proved to be one of the most effective poverty alleviation and women empowerment
programmes. Elucidate.
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
News Item: Banking revolution on cards: RBI clears 11 payments banks (Contextual)
Covered in: FOCUS SEPTEMBER 2015
News Item: New small finance banks (Contextual)

05

Question 10: How can the role of NGOs be strengthened in India for development works relating to
protection of the environment? Discuss throwing light on the major constraints.
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
Editorial: NGOs in the firing line (Contextual)
Covered in: FOCUS SEPTEMBER 2015

107
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PART TWENTY SEVEN|FOCUS SPECIAL

News Item: Government launches Green Highways Policy (Contextual)

06

Question 11. The quality of higher education in India requires major improvements to make it
internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help
improve the quality of higher and technical education in the country? Discuss.
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
Article: A blueprint for higher education (Direct)

07

Question 12. Public health system has limitations in providing universal health coverage. Do you think
that the private sector could help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives would you suggest?
Covered in: FOCUS JANUARY 2015
Editorial: Finding money for health (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS FEBRUARY 2015
Editorial: The cost of negligence (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS SEPTEMBER 2015
Focus Special: Case for public health in India (Direct)

08

Question 13. Though there have been several different estimates of poverty in India, all indicate reduction
in poverty levels over time. Do you agree? Critically examine with reference to urban and rural poverty
indicators.
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial: Urban, poor (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial: Rural realities (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
News Item: Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC)(Direct)

09

Question 14:
In the light of the Satyam Scandal (2009), discuss the changes brought in corporate
governance to ensure transparency, accountability.
Covered in: FOCUS APRIL 2015
Editorial:

10

Truth prevails in Satyam case (Direct)

Question 15: If amendment bill to the Whistleblowers Act, 2011 tabled in the Parliament is passed, there
may be no one left to protect. Critically evaluate.
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
Editorial:

11

Amendments to the Whistle Blowers Act (Direct)

Question 16: For achieving the desired objectives, it is necessary to ensure that the regulatory institutions
remain independent and autonomous. Discuss in the light of the experiences in recent past.
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial:

12

Give the RBI its independence (Direct)

Question 17: Increasing interest of India in Africa has its pros and cons. Critically examine.
Covered in: FOCUS OCTOBER 2015
Editorial:

Reaching out to Africa (Direct)

108
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PART TWENTY EIGHT|IMPACT ANALYSIS

Covered in: FOCUS OCTOBER 2015


Article:

Reversing the continental drift (Direct)

Covered in: FOCUS NOVEMBER 2015


Article:
13

India-Africa summit beyond the event (Direct)

Question 18: Discuss the impediments India is facing in its pursuit of a permanent seat in UN Security
Council.
Covered in: FOCUS SEPT 2015
Time to reform the UNSC (Direct)

Editorial:

Covered in: FOCUS COMPENDIUM


News Item:
14

United Nations Security Council (Contextual)

Question 19: Project `Mausam is considered a unique foreign policy initiative of the Indian Government
to improve relationship with its neighbours. Does the project have a strategic dimension? Discuss.
Covered in: FOCUS APRIL 2015
Article:

China to integrate Mongolian, Russian initiatives with MSR (Contextual)

GENERAL STUDIES- PAPER III


01

Question 1: The nature of economic growth in India in described as jobless growth. Do you agree with
this view? Give arguments in favour of your answer.
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial:

02

Skilling up (Direct)

Question 2: Livestock rearing has a big potential for providing non-farm employment and income in
rural areas. Discuss suggesting suitable examples.
Covered in: FOCUS DECEMBER 2014
Editorial: Away from the farm (Direct)

03

Question 3: In view of the declining average size of land holdings in India which has made agriculture
non-viable for a majority of farmers, should contract farming and land leasing be promoted in agriculture?
Critically evaluate the pros and cons.
Covered in: FOCUS APRIL 2015
Article:

Agriculture in crisis (Direct)

Covered in: FOCUS COMPENDIUM


Article:
04

How not to treat agriculture (Direct)

Question 4: How can the Digital India programme help farmers to improve farm productivity and
income? What steps has the Government taken in this regards?
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial: Wired for change: Digital Indias a great idea, but requires implementation and privacy
safeguards (Contextual)

05

Question 7: Craze for gold in Indians have led to a surge in import of gold in recent years and put
pressure on balance of payments and external value of rupee. In view of this, examine the merits of Gold
Monetization Scheme.
Covered in: FOCUS SEPTEMBER 2015

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PART TWENTY SEVEN|FOCUS SPECIAL

Editorial: The thing with gold (Direct)


Covered in: FOCUS SEPTEMBER 2015
News Item: Cabinet clears GOLD schemes (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS NOVEMBER 2015
Article: The sum of three new gold schemes (Direct)

06

Question 8. Success of Make in India programme depends on the success of Skill India programme
and radical labour reforms. Discuss with logical arguments.
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Editorial: Skilling up (Direct)
Covered in: FOCUS MARCH 2015
Article:

07

Manufacturing in India: New Perspectives and Imperatives (Direct)

Question 11. What do you understand by Standard Positioning Systems and Protection Positioning
Systems in the GPS era? Discuss the advantages India perceives from its ambitious IRNSS programme
employing just seven satellites.
Covered in: FOCUS MARCH 2015
News Item: ISRO launches India's fourth navigation satellite IRNSS-1D (Direct)

08

Question 14. Indias Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) which has a database containing
formatted information on more than 2 million medicinal formulations is proving a powerful weapon in the
countrys fight against erroneous patents. Discuss the pros and cons making this database publicly
available under open-source licensing.
Covered in: FOCUS AUGUST 2015
Editorial:

09

Civilisational copyright (Direct)

Question 15: The Namami Gange and National mission for clean Ganga (NMCG) programmes and
causes of mixed results from the previous schemes. What quantum leaps can help preserve the river
Ganga better than incremental inputs?
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
Editorial:

10

The river in distress (Direct)

Question 16:
The frequency of earthquakes appears to have increased in the Indian subcontinent.
However, Indias preparedness for mitigating their impact has significant gaps. Discuss various aspects.
Covered in: FOCUS MARCH 2015
Editorial: Jammu and Kashmir will get seismic station network (Direct)

11

Question 17: Human rights activists constantly highlight the view that the Armed Forces (Special Powers)
Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is a draconian act leading to cases of human rights abuses by the security forces. What
sections of AFSPA are opposed by the activists? Critically evaluate the requirement with reference to the
view held by the Apex Court.
Covered in: FOCUS MAY 2015
Editorial:

12

Like Tripura (Direct)

Question 18: Religious indoctrination via digital media has resulted in Indian youth joining the ISIS.
What is ISIS and its mission? How can ISIS be dangerous for the internal security of our country?

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PART TWENTY EIGHT|IMPACT ANALYSIS

Covered in: FOCUS FEBRUARY 2015


News Item: IS kidnaps 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria (Direct)
13

Question 19: The persisting drives of the government for development of large industries in backward
areas have resulted in isolating the tribal population and the farmers who face multiple displacements
with Malkangiri and naxalbari foci, discuss the corrective strategies needed to win the left wing extremism
(LWE) doctrine affected citizens back into the mainstream of social and economic growth.
Covered in: FOCUS JULY 2015
Article: Tribal alienation in an unequal India (Direct)

Considering the above analysis, the contribution of FOCUS in answering the 47 current affairs based questions asked
in General Studies- Paper I, II & III (2015) is given hereunder:
Sr.
No.

Paper

01

General Studies- Paper I

11

08

72%

02

General Studies- Paper II

18

14

78%

03

General Studies- Paper III

18

13

72%

Total (Paper I, II &III)

47

35

75%

No. of current affairs


based questions

Contribution of FOCUS

Impact of FOCUS (%)

(in answering questions)

111
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