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30 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article talks about the shortage of defense equipments with our combat forces and the of taking quick actions to secure our country.

Topics:General Studies, Paper- III

  • The Indian Air Force has only 33 fighter squadrons while it needs 45, to counter “a two-front collusive threat”.
  • The navy has only 14 submarines, half the number it wants.
  • The army doesn’t have equipment for the new strike corps being raised on the China border.These are the long standing problem of defence ministry of India which needed immediate focuswith short term and long term solutions
  • A lot of effort has been put in by the defence minister, since he took charge in November 2014,but the results on the ground have not lived up to the billing.
  • The new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was meant to be a radical departure from the earlier versions, which would promote “Make in India” in the defence sector and make India a major defence exporter in the near future.
  • This meant that India would move away from being one of the world’s biggest defence importers to an indigenous developer and producer of defence platforms.
  • While the reality is that the new DPP is still not out in its entirety. A major chapter on the strategic partnership model is still pending, as are the details on other new models that have been proposed.
  • Both foreign and domestic defence manufacturers are thus awaiting clarity on the business models they need to build for the future.
  • Defense minister has followed up on the Dhirendra Singh Committee report on defence procurement by forming two more expert committees.
  • One of them, headed by Vivek Rae, has been tasked to reform the organisation, system and process of acquisition in the ministry. Its recommendations will be an important step towards fixing the fundamental problems of defence procurement, but will cause a major upheaval in the ministry which needs to be managed smartly.
  • Another committee, headed by Lt General (retd) D.B. Shekatkar, has been tasked with improving the teeth-to-tail ratio of the defence services.
  • This is again a long-pending step which can help the defence ministry by rationalising expenditure.
  • As the finance ministry has focused on reducing the fiscal deficit, the budget for defence acquisition has also come under pressure.
  • By reducing wastage and streamlining the process, defense minister can overcome the challenge of resources and delayed acquisition. But these steps must show quick results. The defence services cannot afford to wait for long.

Question: The fundamental problems of the defense procurement need urgent attention. There is also a need to support Indian component in the defense procurement. In the light of this statement, comment on the problems of this sector and new Defense Procurement Policy of the government

Suggested Approach:

  1. Start with the problem of shortage of weapons and dependence on import of weapons.
  2. Highlight the major features of Defense Procurement Policy.
  3. Highlight the areas which need improvement.

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30 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog
  • India’s population with disabilities has increased by 22.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. The number of disabled, which was 2.19 crore in 2001, rose in 2011 to 2.68 crore. The growth rate of disabled population is more in urban areas and among urban females
  • Where do we stand now?
    • India seems a long way to go to ensure educational rights of children with special needs. There is no data on inclusion of children with special needs in 06 age group and in higher education. This is one of the major gaps that exists today for planning purpose.
    • At present a conservative estimate shows that around 20 lakhs persons with special needs are studying in primary, secondary and special schools.
    • It is not debatable that we have not been able to reach even 20 per cent of our children/ persons with special needs though we have legislations such as Right to Education since 2005 and compulsory and free education to all children guaranteed in the Indian constitution.
    • We have signed many international declarations and treaties concerning rights of person with disabilities and the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed and ratified by India in 2006.
    • There are multi dimensional reasons for this abysmal condition but India is very much committed to include every child to have access to education without any discrimination.
    • We further need conceptual clarity on inclusive education, which must be reflected in the vision, mission, policies, action plans, legal provisions and resource allocations.
  • NEP: Potential Game Changer:
    • A broader understanding of inclusive education is reflected in NEP2015.
    • Inclusive education in the Indian context must include the diverse needs of SC/ST/Minorities/ Children and young persons with disabilities, children living in extreme poverty and difficult/ challenging conditions.
    • NEP adopts, for the first time in India, an Indian perspective to inclusive education reflecting global concerns and commitments to which India is a participatory/signatory.
  • The key factor that may exclude children/persons with special needs from the mainstream education can be:
    1. Policies that ignore education for all cannot be achieved unless children and youth with disabilities are included in the mainstream education.
    2. The framework for monitoring progress in achieving Education for All ignores children and youth with disabilities.
    3. Failure to identify and remove systemic barriers to inclusive education at planning, administration, monitoring and implementation levels.
    4. Lack of recognition of the factors that affect inclusive education are within the social gaps among SC/ST/Minorities/Gender discrepancies within these groups.
    5. Disability being a state subject and education being a concurrent subject is leading to gaps in educational access in different areas.
    6. There is overlapping role being played by two ministries. Inclusive education is the responsibility of Human Resource Development ministry and special education is the responsibility of ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. This has resulted in contradicting policies.
    7. There is no policy on early childhood inclusion of children with special needs in India.
    8. Not recognizing the fact that inclusive education can serve as an entry point to improve the entire existing education system, which benefits all learners has resulted in inclusive education being viewed as an add on component to the education system.
    9. We need massive awareness in rights and needs of women with disabilities as they are the worst hit in the modern world which is yet to see and respect women for their inherent worth and not based on images we see in the media and fashion industry.
  • The Census and data base on on Disability:
    • The census data on disability covers more than it reveals. The identification of disabilities needs skills especially to identify special needs (intellectual, sensory disabilities of mild and moderate levels) which are not easily visible unless persons are trained in the identification.
    • In India, we need disability data for planning services leading to effective inclusion. This demands innovative approaches as survey methodology cannot provide comprehensive information about the individuals with special needs.
    • India must introduce mandatory registration of person with disabilities at community level/ school level/ ICDS level.The digitized data could also be used to provide smart ID cards replacing existing paper based disability ID cards.
  • The other issues which are seen as a major barrier for inclusion are listed below:
    1. Children with disabilities remain invisible to the education system.
    2. Families are not supportive.
    3. Teachers lack training, leadership, knowledge and support to adapt curriculum.
    4. Poor quality education.
    5. Poor access to knowledge and information forparents, teachers, administrators and policy makers.
    6. No inclusive education infrastructuregovernance, policy, planning, financing, implementation and monitoring.
    7. Lack of public support for inclusion.
    8. Lack of accountability and monitoring mechanisms.
  • On the whole, it could be argued that the political vacuum of leadership and accountability for inclusive education was not adequate. There are huge gaps in educational rights of persons with special needs.
  • NEP 2015: Bridging the Social Gaps:
  • NEP 2015 has adopted bottomup approach, which opens debates/discussions, participation of the community. This is a unique feature of NEP2015 and the participatory approach was essential for the policy makers to understand the concerns of the community and ground realities and reflect these issues adequately in the policy framework.
  • We see conceptual clarity of inclusive education stated very clearly in the framework. For example:
    • In place of seeing inclusive education as a separate strategy for children with special needs, NEP2015 views inclusive education as an integral part of the education system.
    • NEP 2015 understands the need to train the education administration along with teachers at all levels to have a positive attitude towards inclusion of persons with special needs.
  • NEP 2015 has included disability concerns in all components of the education systembe it in education admission, admission policies, teacher training, curriculum development, teaching strategies, learning materials, evaluation system, virtual learning platforms etc.
  • Let us hope and work towards a flexible education system, elearning facilities, proposed Swayam online learning, inclusive teacher training programme, National Skill Development programme, capacity building of all existing teachers and other measures would make education for ALL a reality in India.

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Source: Yojana, May 2016

28 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article talks about the Monetary Policy Framework Agreement to target inflation in India and the need of gradual transformation in monetary policy framework.

Topics:General Studies, Paper III

  • In the Budget Session of parliament, the RBI Act, 1934, was amended as part of the finance bill. Inflation targeting has now become law.
  • Successful inflation targeting requires reforms that have not been implemented so far. Such as:
    • A well-functioning bond market,
    • End of financial repression,
    • A competitive banking sector,
    • An independent government debt manager and
    • Full understanding and commitment on part of government to low and stable inflation.
  • Monetary Policy Framework Agreement (MPFA):
    • The Monetary Policy Framework Agreement (MPFA) signed in February 2015, for the first time, put in place an inflation target agreed upon by the RBI and government.
    • As a first step towards making a commitment to low and stable inflation, this was a significant step.
    • Many an expert committee had recommended that India should do what most other countries, including emerging economies, had done, and adopt inflation targeting as the objective of monetary policy.
    • The MPFA made CPI the mutually agreed target. Last week through the amendment to the RBI Act, Parliament made CPI the target.
  • Balancing low and stable inflation with economic growth:
  • The inflation target in the MPFA chosen by government and the RBI was 6 per cent by January 2016 and then 4 per cent for 2016-17 and thereafter (with a band of 2 per cent).
    • This sudden jump down in the inflation rate will be unrealistic and difficult to maintain. There should be a slower and smoother path to achieve long term stability as was seen in case of Chile and other such countries.
  • One of the biggest monetary policy problem in the past one year has been lack of transmission.
    • It appears that given the lack of other reforms in the financial markets such as the creation of a well-functioning bond market, a competitive and market-oriented banking system, and a bond-currency-derivative nexus, monetary policy transmission does not happen easily.
    • In this set-up, it is unlikely that the three-year path to a low and stable inflation envisaged in the MPFA can be achieved in a hurry. We need a gradual transformation through proper targeting of inflation.
  • The independent monetary policy requires government to give clear signals to RBI not to peg the exchange rate.
    • One reason for the high interest rate regime has been the reluctance to ease liquidity after the shock to the rupee following the taper talk in May 2013.
    • The unstated mandate of the RBI seems to be that it has to manage the exchange rate and prevent it from depreciation.
  • Inflation in WPI is determined by global commodity prices and not by domestic monetary policy. So, RBI should not try to target what is beyond its control.
  • From the point of view of the domestic mandate, inflation measures based on CPI i.e ‘core inflation’ are the most common target for inflation-targeting countries.
  • CPI is the measure consumers relate to. WPI does not represent anyone’s basket, and at best, represents the price of inputs and outputs for producers.
  • The choice of CPI is superior to the WPI because it measures the cost of living for consumers. Even though food is volatile, but because it matters to households, it is the rise in cost of living they care about.

Question: High inflation rate has been one of the major obstacle for Indian economy to achieve high growth in past few years. In the light of this statement, analyse the creation of Monetary policy framework agreement. Can this agreement act as the sole panacea for all monetary policy evils.

Suggested Approach:

  1. Start with the need to target inflation and the mandate of RBI.
  2. Highlight positives and negatives of MPFA.
  3. Suggest further measures needed to tackle inflation along with MPFA.

Link: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/raghuram-rajan-rbi-subramanian-swamy-policy-inflation-2822458/

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Source: The Indian Express

28 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article discusses about the need of strong regulator for Railways in order to control its mounting losses in passenger segment.

Topics:General Studies, Paper- III

  • Railway’s losses in the passenger segment have gone up fivefold over the last decade which has distorted the national carrier’s functioning.
  • Very low fares for suburban passengers has led to over- charging in the high end passenger segment and in the freight segment.
  • Railways has lost considerable market share due to this mismatch in fares. For example:
    • From a small fraction of the Railways upper class passenger business in early 2000, the number of domestic air travelers today is more than 50 times the number travelling in AC-1 and six times the number travelling on AC-2.
    • In the case of freight, the Railways share has fallen to 31% today.
  • This shows the need for regulator at the earliest to control mounting losses.
  • Once a regulator comes in, the belief is, much of this will get fixed.
  • The power to implement the decision will be with political class which might not implement due to political considerations.
  • But, the decision taken by the government will be appealable in court.
  • Apart from setting tariffs, an independent regulator is critical if the Railways are to invite private sector participation—without an independent arbiter, there is always the likelihood that the Railways will stifle the competition.
  • The problem, however, is that with the Railways looking at bringing in a regulator through an executive order within a few months, the regulator will be quite toothless, more so since it will have to report to the Railways.
  • Under the law, the power of tariff-setting only lies with the government so even if the regulator is chosen by a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, it cannot set any tariffs.
  • The ministry is right when it says that, in any case, till the Railways adopts commercial accounting which could take two years, no regulator can do much since there will be no data to work on.
  • It is also true that it will take the regulator some time to be able to finalise principles for tariff determination.
  • Given this, the ministry feels that it is important to start right now, and when Parliament amends the Railways Act to allow a regulator to set tariffs, the regulator can be fully empowered.
  • Given the regulator will have limited powers anyway, and that there will be no appellate authority, it is probably best to drop the half-way house and to move a Bill that gives birth to a fully empowered regulator.
  • While a part of the regulator’s job is setting tariff principles or common-carrier rules for sharing infrastructure, for the process to have any legitimacy, an appeals process is critical—both users of railway services and the Railways itself have to be able to appeal an order for it to have any credibility
  • The executive order process, however, does not even allow for an appeals process.

Question: Indian Railways is often called as the lifeline of the nation. But, railways is bleeding due to inefficient freight fixing. In the light of this statement, discuss about the idea of setting up of a railway regulatory board. Suggested Approach:

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction, highlight about the mounting losses of railways.
  2. Discuss major features of Railway regulatory board.
  3. Point out the shortcomings, if any.
  4. Suggest further practical measures.

Link: http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fe-columnist/editorial-regulating-railways/266970/

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Source:The Financial Express

28 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction:The article discusses about India’s efforts to enter into Nuclear Suppliers Group and the China’s reservation to it.

Topics:General Studies, Paper III

  • India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), whose members can trade in and export nuclear technology, has emerged as the latest battleground in the growing Sino-Indian contestation.
  • With India’s push for admission into the NSG gaining momentum ahead of the annual plenary session of the group next month, Beijing is making it clear that it intends to make life difficult for India
  • China role and argument:
    • China has relied on an obstructionist argument and called for further discussion on whether “India and other countries” that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) can join the NSG.
    • China is claiming that a “compulsory” requirement for NSG membership is that “the NSG members must be signatories to the NPT”.
    • China has also encouraged Pakistan to apply for NSG membership so as to link New Delhi’s entry with that of Islamabad’s, knowing well that there will be few takers for Pakistan’s case.
    • China is taking such a strong stand on this issue despite the fact that its own non-proliferation track record remains abysmal.
    • China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one.
    • Despite being a member of the NPT, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and expertise and provided critical assistance in the construction of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
    • The Sino-Pakistani nuclear relationship is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has actually passed on weapons-grade fissile material and bomb design to a non-nuclear weapon state.
    • After the 2008 US-India civilian nuclear pact, China made it a point to further enhance nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, despite criticism from other nuclear powers.
    • When the NSG was approached for a waiver for the passage of the US-India pact, China was the last state standing in opposing it.
    • When it failed to scuttle the deal, China quickly moved to sign an agreement with Pakistan for two new nuclear reactors at the Chashma site, in addition to the two that it was already working on in Pakistan.
    • This action was in clear violation of NSG guidelines that forbid nuclear transfers to countries not signatories to the NPT or adhere to comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear programme.
  • The role played by U.S.:
    • The US and other supporting members have called for India’s inclusion based on New Delhi’s non-proliferation track record and the US-India civilian nuclear accord.
    • The US state department is of the view that “India meets missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for NSG membership.” The US has been declaring its support for India’s full membership since 2010.
  • Indian government’s efforts:
    • The Modi government is investing a lot of diplomatic capital in seeking NSG membership.
    • It has reached out to the New Agenda Coalition, a group of states in the NSG that includes Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, which remain committed to disarmament, and has been able to secure their support.
    • The NSG chairperson, too, visited India last year to take this process forward. Membership of the NSG will be the final step in India’s inclusion in the global nuclear order.
  • The current scenario:
    • Today, India wants to be part of the decision-making at the highest levels of global nuclear architecture.
    • As a rising and responsible nuclear power, it should be a part of this structure and it will also be good for the NSG if India is part of the decision-making process.
    • China has taken a hard line on this issue and it seems unlikely that it will change its opposition to India’s entry.
    • To many in India, this will further reinforce the perception that China is willing to sacrifice a long-term strategic partnership with a rising power for the short-term objective of trying to scuttle its rise.
    • This won’t be helpful for Sino-Indian ties, but Beijing wants to go down fighting. New Delhi should brace itself for a bumpy ride ahead.

Question: Membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group will be the final step in India’s inclusion into global nuclear order. In the light of this statement, comment on the obstacles in joining this group and the benefits of joining. Suggested Approach:

Suggested Approach:

  1. Give a brief introduction about the NSG.
  2. The obstacles in the form of role played by China and signing of NPT.
  3. Benefits of joining this group.

Link: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/YscXkydO5bKjQGuzmwMq1K/Indias-NSG-bid-China-in-the-way.html

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Source:Livemint

25 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana : An Attempt to Stamp out Social Disparity

The much awaited Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana which intends to provide housing for all by the year 2022 has been eventually launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Earlier the Government had launched housing for all which has now been reformed as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi has launched this scheme on 25th June 2015.

The number of slum households has skyrocketed to 18 million. The scheme intends to cover 2 million non-slum urban poor households. Hence total housing shortage envisaged to be addressed through the new mission is 20 million.

Beneficiary:

The beneficiary of this scheme will embrace husband, wife and unmarried children. The beneficiary family should not own a pucca house either in his/her name or in the name of any member of his/her family in any part of India.

The mission will meet the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:

  • Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction.
  • Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.

People who belong to EWS and LIG segments of the urban societies of India will be covered under this scheme.

What are the primary features of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana ?

Preference will be given to female members while allotting houses under this scheme. Simply put as compared to male beneficiaries,application of female beneficiaries will be accepted more easily. This makes the scheme a pro-woman scheme.

As per the instructions of government, housing enclaves developed under the scheme will follow eco-friendly construction technology.

Differently abled or aged people will be given first preference while allotting ground floor houses.

People from LIG or EWS segments of urban population will be eligible for receiving subsidy from the government. The subsidy will enable the people from target segment to afford a house under the scheme and will range anywhere between INR 1 lakh and INR 2.30 lakh.

Government will also extend subsidy for interest rates on loans availed for the Yojana.

Some more interesting features of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

Here are three more important features of the scheme.

Eligible poor from the urban sectors of the nation will receive INR 150,000 central funding if they want to build their own house or want to make some kind of renovations.

Each beneficiary will be granted an average of INR 100,000 by the central government under this scheme.

In addition to that, a central government funded financial aid of INR 150,000 will be granted to beneficiaries for promotion of housing stock, however, one needs to keep in mind that 35% of the housing units are reserved for people belonging to EWS category.

Drastic reduction of EMI under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

Subsidized interest rate of 6.5% against housing loans under the scheme will greatly benefit the people. Currently the market rate for interest on housing loan is 10.5%. This means people covered under the scheme will enjoy a rate of interest which is 4% below the market rate. This evidently implies that there will be a drastic cut down in the amount of EMI one needs to repay every month.

Such schemes will water down the differences between rich and poor in the society and is an attempt to root out social disparity. Needless to say, it will surely uplift the living standards of the people as well and pave the way for prosperous India. Such kind of initiatives by the Government is always a welcome step.

25 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article is about CAMPA bill which is pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some features and implementation issues have been discussed below.

Topics:General Studies, Paper III

    • The government is looking to set up a new institution called CAMPA - Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority.
    • What is Compensatory Afforestation
      • The simple principle at work here is that since forests are an important natural resource and render a variety of ecological services, they must not be destroyed.
      • However, because of developmental or industrial requirements, forests are routinely cut, or diverted for non-forest purposes, in such cases, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 requires that non-forest land, equal to the size of the forest being “diverted”, is afforested.
    • Afforested land is expected to take no less than 50 years to start delivering comparable goods and services such as timber, bamboo, fuelwood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal.
    • To compensate for the loss in the interim, the law requires that the Net Present Value (NPV) of the diverted forest is calculated for a period of 50 years, and recovered from the “user agency” that is “diverting” the forests.
    • “User agencies”, which are often private parties, are not expected to undertake afforestation work themselves. This work has to be done by the state government with entire expenditure to be borne by the user.
    • CAMPA -
    • It is to manage the money paid by the user, and to use it for the designated purposes, that CAMPA is proposed to be set up.
    • The compensatory afforestation money and NPV are supposed to be collected from the user agency by the government of the state in which the project is located, and deposited with the central government.
    • The money will eventually flow back to the state to be used for afforestation or related works.
    • It seeks to create a national CAMPA at the central government level, and a state CAMPA in each state and UT. Similarly, a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF), and one in each state and UT too are sought to be created.
    • The states would deposit money collected from user agencies with the national CAF, to be eventually credited into state CAFs as per their entitlement.
    • The states would, however, receive only 90% of their share; the other 10% would be held back to cover administrative expenses.
    • The Present mechanism:
    • The Supreme Court directed in 2006 that an “ad hoc CAMPA” be set up till the final one is created.
    • Initially, this ad hoc body was to be used only for receiving funds coming in from user agencies. It was not supposed to start disbursing money to the states.
    • However, because of continuing delay in instituting the final CAMPA, the Supreme Court, in 2009, allowed the ad hoc body to release Rs 1,000 crore per year to states for the next five years.
    • Later, in 2014, the court ordered that every state could draw 10% of the amount due to them per year.
    • In the absence of the real CAMPA, which requires a new law, most of the Rs 40,000 crore is locked — and cannot be disbursed to states.
CAMPA: The manager of afforestation funds(The Indian Express 25-05-2016)
  • Difficulties in implementation:
  • The main difficulty has been the availability of non-forest land for afforestation.
    • The law says the land selected should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted, so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it.
    • But in case that is not possible, land in any other part of the state can be used for the purpose.
    • If no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation, but in that case, twice the area of diverted forest has to be afforested.
    • Still, there is difficulty in finding land, especially in smaller states, and in heavily forested ones like Chhattisgarh.
  • The other point of contention has been the purposes for which the money can be used
    • The fund was envisaged to be used only for “compensatory” afforestation, but the Bill before Parliament has expanded the list of works that this money can be utilised for, and includes the general afforestation programme run through the Green India Mission.
    • Forest protection, forest management, forest and wildlife related infrastructure development, wildlife conservation, even facilitating the relocation of people from protected wildlife areas, are proposed to be made valid expenditure from this account.
  • Critics say this will take the focus away from the prime objective of compensating for the forest cover lost to industrial or infrastructure development.

Growing industrialisation and developmental work is leading to cutting of forest and diversion of forest land towards non-forest work. In the light of this statement, discuss about the CAMPA bill and its operational difficulties.

Suggested Approach:

  1. Start with the need to focus on forests and in brief write about the present mechanism.
  2. Highlight main features of the CAMPA bill.
  3. Discuss the operational difficulties.
  4. Suggest measures, in brief, to overcome those difficulties.

Link: http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/campa-afforestation-bill-rajya-sabha-green-india-mission-narendra-modi-2817475/

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Source: The Indian Express

24 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article focuses upon the severe water scarcity problems in India and urgent need to price this precious natural resource.

Topics:Agriculture, Paper-III

  • India is a water scarce country with 18% of world’s population and only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources.
  • In the last two years we have witnessed the two consecutive droughts.
  • An approach towards sustainable water regime:
  • Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. But moving towards an elaborate water pricing regime is easier said than done.
  • There are three basic challenges associated with this:
    1. The first challenge will be to make a case for water pricing at a time when the most vulnerable to water shortage are already reeling under severe economic hardship.
      • But without a price on water usage, it is they who will suffer the worst consequences of a drought.
      • A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that water subsidies provided through public utilities amounted to 0.6% of global gross domestic product in 2012 and are “also inequitable, disproportionately benefiting upper-income groups”.
      • Inefficient agricultural usage of water and exports of water-intensive crops make India a large virtual exporter of water—not a proud performance for a water-stressed country. Especially not when the domestic scarcity of water has not been priced into the exports.
      • A counter-argument will be that water pricing may erode India’s export advantage. But this argument ignores how the status quo continues to erode the competitiveness of farmers living in water-deficient parts of India—also some of the same regions where the incidence of farmer suicides is high.
    2. The second challenge to introducing water pricing is the entrenched political economy in different parts of India.
      • The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra. Then the public procurement policies also promote cultivation of water-intensive crops, sometimes in those very states where the usage is most inefficient.
    3. The third challenge is the inherent design problems associated with water pricing. This is because the government does exercise control over the sources of water as it does over other natural resources
      • It is important to target irrigation water for pricing purposes because it alone comprises—according to ministry of water resources data—more than 78% of the total water usage in India.
      • Also, irrigation consumption is an area where the scope for increase in efficiency is very high.
    Moving Towards a Water Pricing Regime
  • The pricing Methodology:
    • Sixty-one per cent of the irrigation uses surface water which will require metering and appropriate pricing. Groundwater has to be priced through proxies—electricity or diesel—used by farmers to pump the water.
    • The strategy for pricing should be such that the cost of migration from one method of irrigation to another—or from electricity to diesel—offsets the difference in cost between the two.
    • An important part of this effort will also involve the separation of electric feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes—already a focus of the government under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
  • Several countries including rich ones such as Singapore and poor ones such as Burkina Faso have, within their own constraints, benefited from tying paani to paisa. India needs to do the same.

Question: India is a water scarce country. Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. Discuss. Suggested Approach:

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction, highlight the level of scarcity and the need of water.
  2. Then discuss about the need for pricing water, its benefits and challenges.
  3. Give other solutions such as bringing awareness among general public etc.

Link: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/3TO6p9MTaxiPtioFxWe4eJ/Moving-towards-a-water-pricing-regime.html

Hindi Version:Read In Hindi

Source: Livemint Editorial

24 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article discusses the social sector related policies of the new government and its impact in the last two years.

Topics: Indian Society, Governance, inclusive growth, Paper- I, II, and III

  • In broad terms, two features distinguish social sector strategy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    1. It endeavours to make the existing programs more efficient by cutting leakages.
    2. It gives priority to empowerment over entitlement.
  • Major Programmes by the government:
    1. Jan Dhan Programme for financial inclusion.
    2. Expanding the Aadhaar project to eliminate the ghost beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer.
    3. To empower rural households, the government has greatly accelerated the process of rural electrification and rural-road construction.
    4. In order to bring LPG cylinders to the households using solid biomass as cooking fuel, the government has launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjawal Yojana under which 5 crore BPL [below poverty line] households will be provided subsidized LPG cylinders over the next three years.
    5. In the Budget 2015-16, the government launched Atal Pension Scheme to provide a minimal insurance cover to workers in unorganized sector.
    6. The central government has introduced Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (insurance against accidental death) and Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (insurance against death).
    7. The Budget 2016-17 announced three major initiatives related to health:
      • Insurance: Under the health insurance scheme, coverage for Rs. 1 lakh is provided against hospitalization expenditure. For senior citizens, there is additional coverage of Rs. 30,000.
      • Jan Aushadhi scheme: Under Jan Aushadhi programme, the government will open 3,000 stores nationwide to provide low-cost generic drugs.
      • Dialysis programme: With 2.2 lakh end stage renal disease patients added each year, the government has also announced a programme to provide dialysis services in all district hospitals.
    8. The government has introduced several measures towards improved implementation of MGNREGA:
      • It has given priority to low-hanging fruits such as water ponds and de-silting of water ponds in asset creation.
      • It has also taken a more liberal approach towards building of private assets such as houses, wells and toilets for the poor.
      • The government has improved the convergence between MGNREGA works and schemes such as skill development, Prime Minister’s Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Housing for All and Swachh Bharat Mission.
    9. In the area of higher education, regulations have been liberalized to give greater flexibility to women to complete their M. Phil and Ph.D. degrees.
    10. Furthermore, the government has committed to turning 10 private and 10 public institutions into world-class teaching and research institutions.
    11. The government has also launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The mission is not only critical for a healthy India but is also essential to creating a modern India. Among other things, it proposes to make India open defecation free by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    Taking stock, two years on
  • Impact of some of the programmes:
    1. By May 2016, under Jan Dhan Yojana 21.74 crore accounts with Rs. 37,445 crore in deposits have been opened
    2. Benefits of Aadhaar linked subsidy distribution
      • An estimated 3.5 crore multiple or ghost beneficiaries have been eliminated from the LPG rolls. During 2014-15 alone, this resulted in savings of Rs. 14,672 crore.
      • In MGNREGA, similar weeding out of multiple or ghost beneficiaries resulted in a savings of Rs. 3,000 crore in 2015-16. This amount is a little below 10% of the total MGNREGA allocation.
      • In PDS, an estimated Rs. 10,000 crore has been saved by elimination of 1.6 crore fake ration cards using the Aadhaar instrumentality.
    3. During its two years in office, the government has brought electricity to 7,654 villages compared with 5,189 villages in the preceding three years. Likewise, total rural road length constructed has been 36,340 and 36,450 kilometres during 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively.
    4. By 9 May 2016, 9.4 Crore beneficiaries had enrolled under the Suraksha Bima Yojana and 3 crore under the Jeevan Jyoti scheme. Enrolment in Atal pension Yojana at 20 lakh was significantly lower.
    5. The government has made the reform of medical education in India a higher priority, assigning the task to a high-level committee.
      • There is much else being done via housing for all, Prime Minister’s Krishi Sinchai Yojana, livelihood mission and much else that touches people’s lives.
      • The distinguishing feature of the policies under the present government is that they promise to sustain high growth in the GDP, revenues and social spending and deliver social services more efficiently and effectively.

Question: Government’s social sector strategy has aimed to make existing programmes more efficient, and give priority to empowerment over entitlement. In the light of this statement critically analyse any two social sector programmes of government.

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction highlight the need of social sector programmes and bring efficiency in them.
  2. Take any two programmes and write their positive and shortcomings.
  3. In conclusion, give some suggestion to improve these programmes.

Link: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/social-programs-under-2-years-rule-of-narendra-modi/article8633316.ece

Source: The Hindu

19 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

All you need to know About Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti bima Yojana

Details of the Bima Yojana

The scheme will be one year cover; however it can be renewed from year to year. It is basically an insurance scheme that offers insurance cover for death due to any reason. The scheme would be extended through LIC and other Life Insurance Companies. Insurance companies offering the scheme need to take necessary approvals and to have tie ups with banks for this purpose. Participating banks can engage any such life insurance company for implementing the scheme for their subscribers.

Scope of coverage

A person having saving bank account in participating bank and fall in the age group of 18 to 50 years will be entitled to join. If an individual holds multiple saving bank accounts in one or different banks, the person would be eligible to join the bima yojana through one savings bank account only. Aadhar would be the primary KYC for the bank account.

Enrollment period

Initially on launch for the cover period 1st June 2015 to 31st May 2016, subscribers will be required to give their auto-debit consent and enroll by 31st May 2015. Last date for enrollment for prospective cover will be 31st August 2015, which may be extended by government of India for another three months, i.e. up to 30th of November, 2015.

Enrollment Modality

The cover will be for one year period stretching from 1st June to 31st May. Subscribers will be required to join/pay by auto-debit from the designated savings bank account by 31st May of every year, with the exception as above for the initial year.In case of delayed enrollment, payment of full annual premium for prospective cover along with a self-certificate of good health needs to be submitted by a subscriber.If an individual opt to exit the scheme will have the option to rejoin the scheme in the future years by submitting a declaration of good health in the prescribed Performa.

In future years, new entrants into the eligible category or currently eligible individuals who did not join earlier or discounted their subscription will be able to join while the scheme is continuing, subject to submission of self- certificate of good health.

Benefits

In case of a member’s death due to any reason, Rs. 2 lakhs will be payable.

Premium

Premium amount is Rs. 330/- per annum per member. Through ‘auto debit’ facility the premium will be deducted from the account holder’s saving bank account in one installment, as per the option given, on or before 31st May of each annual coverage period under the scheme. Delayed enrollment for prospective cover after 31st May will be possible with submission of a self-certificate of good health and full payment of annual premium. Efforts will be made that there is no upward revision of premium in the first three years provided that no unforeseen adverse outcomes of extreme nature spring up.

Eligibility Conditions

    • A person aged between 18 years (completed) and 50 years (age nearer birthday) having saving bank account in the participating banks and have given their consent to join/ enable auto-debit , as per the above modality, will be enrolled into the scheme.
    • Individuals who join after the initial enrollment period will be required to give a self-certification of good health and that he/she does not suffer from any of the critical illness as mentioned in the critical illnesses as mentioned in the applicable Consent cum Declaration form.

Master Policy Holder

Participating banks will be the Master policy holders. LIC/other insurance company in consultation with the participating banks will finalize a simple and subscriber friendly administration & claim settlement process.

Termination of assurance

In the face of any of the following events, the assurance on the life of the member shall stay terminated and no benefit will become payable:

  • Insufficiency of balance to keep the insurance in force or closure of account with the Bank.
  • On attaining the age 55 years (age near birth day) subject to annual renewal up to that date (entry, however, will not be possible beyond the age of 50 years)
  • In case a PERSON is covered under bima yojana with LIC of India/ other company through more than one account and the premium is received by LIC/other company inadvertently, insurance cover will be restricted to Rs. 2 Lakh and the premium shall be liable to be forfeited.
  • Due to any technical reasons like due to any administrative issues or insufficient balance if the insurance cover is ceased, the same can be reinstated on receipt of full annual premium and a satisfactory statement of good health.
  • In case of regular enrolment on or before 30th of June every year, participating banks shall remit the premium to insurance companies and in other cases in the same month when received.

Administration

LIC P&GS Units/other insurance company setups will administer the scheme. The data proforma and the data flow process will be informed separately.

To recover the appropriate annul premium in one installment will be the responsibility of the participating bank

For auto-debit every year, members can also give one-time mandate, till the scheme is in force.

Such kinds of schemes restore faith in good governance and help people soar their living standards. Government should launch more such schemes in order to boost the morale of the people.Especially people belonging to lower echelon of society is availed much through these schemes.

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