In brief: Internet travel

In brief: Internet travel

Client-Server Architecture

  • Internet is often defined as a network of networks of computers.
  • Computer connected to the Internet communicate with each other for data exchange under the Client-Server Architecture.
  • IllustrationWhen you are accessing a mail on Gmail, your computer is a client that wants to access data, information, and other services present on a variety of servers.

 

Data travel: Internet backbone

  • The data exchange often occurs across countries and across continents in the globalised world.
  • The physical infrastructure facilitating data transmission is also referred to as the Internet backbone.
    • In simple words, if internet is thought to work like a transportation system, the internet backbone is the highway which carries maximum amount of traffic on the Internet across continents.
  • This is made possible through:
    • Wired mediums – made up of twisted-pair cables, coaxial cables and fiber-optic cables.
    • Wireless mediums – like radio transmission through satellite communication.

 

 

In focus: Undersea fiber-optic cables

  • Undersea fiber-optic cables make up the bulk of internet backbone propelling around 95-99% of data traffic on the internet around the world.
  • There are about 300 fiber-optic cable systems covering around 12 lakh km of undersea fiber-optic cables making up the world’s internet.
  • In the early days, most of the undersea cable projects were undertaken by telecom companies.
  • Today, increasingly the undersea cable projects are being undertaken by content providers like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
  • In India, there are 18 under-sea cable systems situated in Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Tuticorin and Trivandrum.

 

Fiber-optic technology (see figure below)

  • The core of a fiber-optic cable consists of hundreds of thin strands of glass called optical fiber.
  • Optical fiber basically uses light to transmit data.
  • The principle used in transmitting light-propelled data is total internal reflection.
  • Each strand of optical fiber is as thin as a human hair.
  • Each optical fiber strand has a protective coating (to protect it from water) and an insulating glass cladding.

 

 

Undersea optical fiber

  • The undersea optical fiber is laid deep below the surface of water.
  • They transmit data at the rate of 80 Tbps (terabytes per second)

 

Advantages of undersea fiber-optics

  • Optical fibers are the fastest medium of data transmission.
  • As they are undersea, they are less susceptible to noise during transmission
  • They are far cheaper than satellite data transmission.

 

Conclusion

  • With new inter-driven technologies like AI, IoT, 5G etc. coming up, undersea cables will remain the mainstay of internet due to faster transmission rates.

 

Note: Detailed coverage is made keeping in view the importance of fiber-optics technology in prelims (concept-based questions) and mains.

Section : Science & Tech

About: LIC, GIC Re and New India

  • Life Insurance Corporation of Indiais an Indian state-owned insurance group and investment corporation owned by the Government of India.
  • LIC is the largest life insurance company in India.
  • GIC Re is the largest reinsurance company or insurer’s insurer.
  • New India which is the largest general insurance company in the country.
  • Government has plans to list the shares of LIC (India’s largest financial entity with assets of Rs 32 lakh crore) on the stock exchanges through an initial public offering (IPO) next year.
  • GIC Re and New India are already listed on the exchanges.

In Focus: Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs)

Parameters for indentifying D-SIIs:

  • IRDAI constituted a committee last year to identify the domestic systemically important insurers.
  • The constitution of the committee came in the backdrop of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) asking all member countries to have a regulatory framework to deal with Domestic-SIIs.
  • IRDAI developed a methodology for identification and supervision of D-SIIs based on the parameters-
    • The size of operations in terms of total revenue, including premium underwritten and the value of assets under management
    • Global activities across more than one jurisdiction
    • Lack of substitutability of their products and/or operations
    • Interconnectedness through counterparty exposure and macro-economic exposure

  • The Authority would identify D-SIIs on an annual basis and disclose the names of these insurers for public information.

Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs):

  • It refers to insurers of such size, market importance and domestic and global inter connectedness whose distress or failure would cause a significant dislocation in the domestic financial system.
  • The failure of D-SIIs has the potential to cause significant disruption to the essential services they provide to the policyholders and, in turn, to the overall economic activity of the country.
  • Therefore, the continued functioning of D-SIIs is critical for the uninterrupted availability of insurance services to the national economy.
  • D-SIIs are perceived as insurers that are ‘too big or too important to fail.
  • This perception and the perceived expectation of government support may amplify risk taking, reduce market discipline, create competitive distortions, and increase the possibility of distress in future.
  • These considerations require that D-SIIs should be subjected to additional regulatory measures to deal with the systemic risks and moral hazard issues.

Enhanced Monitoring Mechanism by IRDAI:

  • As per IRDAI, Domestic Systemically Important Insurers will require enhanced regulatory supervision and a higher level of corporate governance.
  • The three public sector insurers have been asked to raise the level of corporate governance as well as identify all relevant risk and promote a sound risk management culture.

About: IRDAI

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India(IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India. 
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 (an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India).
  • Its major objectives include-
    • To protect the interest of and secure fair treatment to policyholders;
    • To bring about speedy and orderly growth of the insurance industry for benefit of users and to provide long term funds for accelerating growth of economy.

Domestic Systemically Important Banks

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had last year named State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs), which in other words mean banks that are too big to fail.
  • As per the RBI norms, these banks will have to set aside more capital for their continued operation.

About V.S. Naipaul

About V.S. Naipaul

  • Sir VidiadharSurajprasad Naipaul, also known as Sir Vidia Naipaul or Sir V. S. Naipaulwas, was born Trinidad, where his paternal grandfather had emigrated from India in the 1880s as an indentured servant to work on the sugar plantations.
  • He went to Oxford University on a scholarship and lived the rest of his life in England, where he forged one of the most illustrious literary careers of the last half century.
  • His notable works include A House for Mr Biswas, In a Free State, A Bend in the River and The Enigma of Arrival.
  • Notable awards include Booker Prize in 1971 and Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
  • He documented the migrations of peoples, the unravelling of the British Empire, the ironies of exile and the clash between belief and unbelief in more than a dozen novels and as many works of non-fiction.

 

Mr. Naipaul and India

  • His triology of works on India include An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilisation and India: A Million Mutinies Now.
  • Naipaul’s novel, A Bend in the River (1979), centres on an Indian from East Africa in an unnamed, newly independent African nation.
  • Half a Life (2001) is a novel about an Indian immigrant to England and then Africa. He becomes “half a person,” as Naipaul has said, “living a borrowed life.”

 

Nobel prize

  • He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001. The committee said Sir Vidia had “united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.

 

His philosophy

  • Naipaul was a staunch defender of Western civilisation.
  • His guiding philosophy was universalism.
  • Naipaul was confident that what he called “Our Universal Civilisation” would prevail.
Section : Miscellaneous

Farm bills are seen by farmers to deliver freedom to private capital Editorial 27th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Farm bills passed by the Parliament:

  • Three bills with huge impact on Indian agriculture, including two farm bills and one concerning the stocking of agriculture produce, were passed by the Parliament.
  • These are:
    • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 (FPTC)
    • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 (FAPAFS)
    • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (ECA)

One of the primary aims of the Bills is to free farmers from APMCs:

  • Most farmers would agree that the functioning of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis is inefficient, opaque, politicised and often controlled by cartels.
  • The government says that the Bills will usher in historic reforms, and will free the farmers from the exploitative APMC mandis and from the middlemen who charge commission from trade in these mandis.

Government says the new reforms were necessary as all efforts to reform APMCs failed:

  • The union governments have been trying for many years to reform APMCs.
  • Three different model APMC acts have been proposed by previous governments (in 2003, 2007, and 2013) and in 2017 by the current government.
  • The proposals were acted upon in different forms by state governments.
  • Some states have enacted reforms allowing for establishment of private markets, while some have enabled direct purchase of agricultural produce from agriculturists by processor/bulk buyer/bulk retailer/exporter.
  • However, none of them resulted in any meaningful reforms of APMCs.

Protests happening against the Bills:

  • While there is praise from some circles to these bills, farmer protests were witnessed in the agrarian states like Punjab and Haryana which supply bulk of the government’s MSP procurement. 

Some farmers are in favour of mandis:

  • Those farmers who are protesting against the bills want the primacy of the mandis in agricultural trade restored primarily because they see APMC mandis as essential part of the agricultural trading ecosystem.
  • While they have some issues with the functioning and administration of mandis, they also share a symbiotic relationship with the middlemen and the mandis extending beyond matters of transaction in agricultural produce.
  • For instance, the middlemen are also a source of information, inputs, and sometimes credit without collateral.

Some are angered at how the bills have been pushed by the centre on states and farmers:

  • There is also anger against the bills over the manner in which the bills were thrust upon the farming community.
  • Protesters say that neither the farmers’ organisations, nor the state governments have been consulted. 
  • Critics say the current reforms completely bypass the state governments and weaken their ability to regulate agricultural markets even though it is a state subject.

Some critics say bypassing APMCs will create unregulated trade:

  • Unlike earlier measures where the focus was on reforming the APMC mandis while allowing for greater private market access and participation, the current FTPC bill bypasses the APMC altogether.
  • This creates a separate structure of trading. Critics say that the absence of regulation and exemption from mandi fees creates a dual market structure.
  • They say this is not only inefficient but will also encourage unregulated trade which could be detrimental to providing market access to farmers for better price discovery and assured prices.

Some fear the takeover of farming by private sector:

  • Some critics say that the FTPC Bill is not about delivering on the promise of freedom to farmers but freedom to private capital to purchase agricultural produce at cheaper prices and without any regulation or oversight by the government.
  • There are fears that this could eventually lead to shifting of trade from regulated APMC mandis to private markets without any commitment to investment in infrastructure and regulation from government.
  • With unequal and differentiated terms of engagement, the APMCs could first decline and soon disappear.
  • These fears are compounded by the contract farming bill and amendments in the essential commodities act.

There are fears in some states that MSP regime could end:

  • With declining public investment in agriculture (in real terms) and rising input costs and declining subsidy, farmers in some states with high government procurement fear the loss of state support in the form of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime.
    • Note: MSP based procurement did not benefit the majority of farmers and only a few states like Punjab and Haryana contributed to the procurement operations of the FCI. Even in those states, its effectiveness was only in two crops, wheat and paddy.
  • These states are calling for a commitment from the government on maintaining state support to the agricultural sector, especially regarding MSP.

Meanwhile, government policies towards international agri trade remain haphazard:

  • Even while enacting these reforms and promising greater freedom to farmers, the government has banned the export of onions and reduced, increased and again reduced import duty on masur in a matter of three months.
  • This shows that while the government promises to free agriculture trade in India, there is still a long way to go in having a predictable regime for international agriculture trade.

Conclusion:

  • The last three years have seen a collapse in prices of major agricultural products.
  • Amidst the economic slowdown, it remains to be seen whether the government’s promise of a bumper increase in agricultural prices through the free market regime being brought in through these bills succeeds.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

Agri reforms: Where did the APMCs go wrong? Editorial 26th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) were brought in to ensure fair prices for farmers:

  • Pre-APMC days in Indai were dominated by price misinformation and arbitrage (quick purchase and sell with middlemen making profits).
  • APMCs were created in the early 1960s to ensure price discovery and fair transactions.
  • They were designed to create infrastructure for auctions and storage out of the cess paid by the buyers and not by the taxpayers.
  • Many APMCs (mandis) used the funds to create rural marketing infrastructure.
  • It was designed as a democratic, decentralised system with physical auctions as the basis of price discovery and licencing of traders as a way to ensure payment.

But later vested interests too over the APMC Mandis:

  • Over time, the system, designed with good intentions, deteriorated and vested interests took over.
  • For example, even an organisation like NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation) found it almost impossible to obtain trader’s licence in Azadpur Mandi.
  • Another example is of how apples from Himachal, which already paid cess on goods in Himachal, are being subjected to a high and unreasonable cess in the Delhi mandi.
  • Similar examples can be cited from across India.

Key stakeholders responsible for decline of APMCs:

The state governments:

  • The state governments started looking at APMC cess as a source of extra revenue, which can be used at their discretion since this amount was not part of the budget.
  • It remained in the bank accounts of the Mandi Board and was used for ‘discretionary’ development spending (there was no MPLADS in those days) mostly under the chief minister’s orders.  
  • Cess raised unreasonably:
    • Since this was ‘revenue’, state governments could not resist the temptation of increasing the cess to unsustainable levels.
    • Cess which was initially 0.5% or 1% cess went up effectively to 5% or more.
    • In states where FCI did most of the procurement, the burden of high cess was borne by the FCI and, by implication, the Government of India.
  • Cesses were imposed indiscriminately on goods not even produced in the state: 
    • Most APMCs devised new ways of increasing revenue by expanding the schedule of commodities, without considering whether these were produced in their state or not.
      • For example, AMPCs in Bihar were imposing cess on milk powder.
    • Most APMCs have a list of more than 100 commodities. Azadpur Mandi in Dlehi had a list of 198 items on the last count, including butter and honey.
  • Government nominees on APMC boards: 
    • As the APMC Mandis began being treated as sources of revenue, the state governments were also filling these boards with government nominees.
    • Further, there was appointment of administrators superseding the boards, and farmers lost their voice.

The traders and commission agents:

  • Licensing of traders in APMCs was to protect farmers:
    • Legal provisions for licencing of traders to operate in the market yards were meant to ensure prompt payments to farmers.
    • The insistence on correct weighment and transparency in auctions were in the best interests of price discovery.
    • The law also stipulated that prices be displayed prominently in the market yard.
  • But traders and commission agents started acting in corrupt manner to hurt farmers’ interests:
    • Over a period of time, traders and commission agents formed coteries and took ‘effective’ control of the management.
    • New licences were deliberately delayed or declined to protect the vested interests of entrenched traders.
    • Price discovery and display of prices became disfunctional.
    • The managements made arrangements with the traders and the powerful ‘commission agents’, leaving the farmers in the lurch.
    • Only in case of the Minimum Support Price (MSP), farmers got decent prices as there was no price discovery. However, the traders kept their interests intact by increasing their commissions, which burdened the FCI.

With traders and governments in collusion, no APMC reforms were allowed to take off:

  • The ‘mutual benefit’ arrangement between traders and governments ensured that all efforts to reform APMCs failed.
  • There were many committees, model acts or advisories and requests from the Union government during the last twenty years calling for APMC reforms.
  • To a large extent, they need to take the blame for the current situation, where new central farm bills were necessitated to enable better price discover for farmers.

FPTC Bill to overcome barriers created by APMCs:

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Bill 2020 seeks to give farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce.
  • It seeks to facilitate remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade and commerce of farmers’ produce outside physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various State agricultural produce market (APMC) laws.
  • FPTC Bill has been hailed as a game-changer creating new opportunities for farmers. Farmers are yet to be convinced.
  • It will bring the  virtual monopoly of APMCs to an end.

How to reinvent APMCs to keep them relevant:

  • In spite of all their failures, APMCs will continue to remain relevant not just for the infrastructure, but for price discovery and payment processes, however, imperfect.
  • However, they need to reinvent themselves to serve farmers.
  • Change the law to make them farmers’ organisations:
    • At least two-thirds of the members of the board/committee should be elected farmers/ Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), reducing the government nominees to two.
    • The board /committee should be allowed to appoint the chief executive from the open market.
    • By law, the scope for frequent government interventions must be ended and all cadre-based government-controlled employees must be removed.
    • The board should function like a well managed co-operative.
  • Allow farmers to sell in any market yard:
    • The states must amend the APMC acts to remove ‘geographical’ constraints for all farmers by allowing farmers to sell in any market yard of their choice.
  • End separate licenses for each market:
    • States must remove the condition of a separate licence for each market.
    • One licence can be made valid for the entire state, and it can be made hassle-free and online.
  • Reduce cesses:
    • The cess must be reduced to 1% or less.
    • Mandis can collect service charges, if required, for facilities provided.
  • End commission agents:
    • The coterie of ‘commission agents’ must be removed, with the buyer or the farmer paying service charges if they use their services.
  • Invest in market yards: 
    • There must be substantial investment in the market yard premises, to create modern storage & cold chain facilities, state of the art auction halls, fintech, hygiene, etc, to make the market yards modern and efficient.
  • Prioritize the provision of ‘farm services’ to support farmers 
  • There is a need to drastically reduce the APMC schedule of commodities to a bare minimum.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About: Ballistic missiles

About: Ballistic missiles

  • A ballistic missile is a missile with a high, arching trajectory (path in the form of an arc), which is initially powered and guided, but falls under gravity on to its target.
  • Thus these weapons are not guided for the entire duration of their flight and most of the flight is unpowered.
  • These weapons are in a distinct category from cruise missiles, which are guided in a powered flight.

In Focus: Prithvi missile

  • Prithvi is a surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) and is deployed by India’s Strategic Forces Command.
  • Developed as a battlefield missile, Prithvi can carry a nuclear warhead in its role as a tactical nuclear weapon.

Prithvi I

  • Prithvi I is a single-stage liquid-fuelled surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It has a maximum warhead carrying capability of 1,000 kg, with a range of 150 km.
  • This class of Prithvi missile was inducted into the Indian Army in 1994.

Prithvi II

  • Prithvi II is also a single-stage liquid-fuelled missile. It is capable of carrying 500 to 1,000 kg of warheads, with an extended range of 350 km.
  • The state-of-the-art missile uses an advanced inertial guidance system, that helps to manoeuvre (guide) its trajectory, to hit its target.
  • It has been inducted into India’s Strategic Forces Command in 2003.

Prithvi III

  • Prithvi III is a two-stage surface-to-surface missile, with a solid fuelled first stage and liquid fuelled second stage.
  • The missile can carry a 1,000 kg warhead to a distance of 350 km and a 500 kg warhead to a distance of 600 km and a 250 kg warhead up to a distance of 750 km.

About: Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)

  • India launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program in 1983 to achieve self-sufficiency in the development and production of a wide range of missiles.
  • The main agencies responsible for development of this programme were Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) and Ordnance Factories.
  • IGMDP has developed five missiles and their variants: Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul, and Nag.
  • The DRDO formally announced the successful completion of IGMDP in 2008.

About: Strategic Forces Command (SFC)

  • The Strategic Forces Command (SFC), also called as the Strategic Nuclear Command, forms part of India’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).
  • Created in 2003, it is responsible for the management and administration of the country’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • The SFC exercises complete command and control over nuclear assets, and creates plans as needed to fulfill the required tasks.
  • It is the responsibility of the Strategic Forces Command to operationalize the directives of the NCA.

About: Nuclear Command Authority

  • The Nuclear Command Authority of India is the authority responsible for command, control and operational decisions regarding India’s nuclear weapons programme.

To Return To Steady Growth Editorial 25th Sep’20 TimesofIndia

To Return To Steady Growth Editorial 25th Sep’20 TimesofIndia

Economic downturn due to Covid-19:

  • The GDP of India fell by 23.9% in April-June quarter of 2020 relative to that in the same quarter in 2019, according to recent government estimates.
  • The decline is comparable to countries in which economic activity had been similarly severely impacted during the quarter due to Covid-19.
  • For instance, the United Kingdom saw its GDP shrink by 21.7%, Spain by 22.1% and Italy by 17.7%.
  • Less severely impacted Germany saw its GDP decline by 11.7%.

Varied impact across sectors in India:

  • Worst impact:
    • GDP decline in India was concentrated in sectors that bore the brunt of the lockdown.
    • Thus, construction fell by 50.3%; trade, hotels, transport and communication by 47%; and manufacturing by 39.3%.
  • No impact:
    • Agriculture, which had been largely unaffected by the lockdown, could grow at its approximate trend rate of 3.4%.
  • Low impact:
    • Likewise, financial, real estate and professional services, which can be substantially provided online, declined a modest 5.3%.

Demand shock was expected due to lockdowns:

  • The lockdown had administered an unprecedented shock to both demand and supply.
  • The dominant view at the time was that the demand shock would overwhelm the supply shock.
  • This lead to the vast majority of analysts to recommend a large fiscal stimulus (to restore demand in the economy). However, the government chose a modest fiscal stimulus.

However, Supply shocks turned to be dominant:

  • The sectoral pattern of GDP growth during April-June clearly points to the dominance of supply shock.
  • High inflation rates of 7.2% in April, 6.3% in May and 6.1% in June reinforce this conclusion.

Government’s decision on slow stimulus was thus vindicated:

  • As the supply shock dominated the demand shock, the decision by the government to go easy on fiscal stimulus (large stimulus would have been the right decision for demand shock) the is thus vindicated.

What needs to be done now?

  • As the economy gradually returns to its pre-Covid-19 level on its way to 7% plus growth trajectory, both monetary authority (RBI) and fiscal authority (government) need to support it.

What monetary authority (RBI) needs to do:

  • Making credit cheaper and easily available:
    • RBI should tilt towards the side of supporting aggregate demand rather than using its tools to push inflation down.
    • Rising supply of output would help lower inflation in any case.
    • But even if not, it is critical for the central bank not to thwart recovery by making credit more expensive and thus clamping down on investment demand.
  • Prevent rupee from appreciating:
    • It is also critical that RBI prevents rupee from appreciating in response to strong inflows of foreign capital.
    • Increased monetary easing by developed countries in the wake of Covid-19 has led to huge capital flows to emerging markets, especially India.
    • The result has been an appreciation of the rupee.
    • In the coming months, foreign capital inflows are likely to continue at a fast pace and it is critical for RBI not to let them force further appreciation of the rupee.
    • As workers continue to return to work and economic activity picks up, India will need to recapture its share in the world markets for which a competitive exchange rate is critical.

What fiscal authority (government) needs to do:

  • Boost public spending:
    • With regards to fiscal policy, due to Covid-19 related uncertainty, private consumption demand is expected to remain low in the foreseeable future.
    • At this point, any income transfers run the risk of translating into savings rather than extra private consumption.
    • Therefore, the safer bet for fiscal policy is to work its way through a boost to public spending.
  • Spend on infrastructure could give the best results:
    • With regards to public spending to boost recovery, this is a good time for the government to significantly expand its spending on infrastructure.
    • To do this speedily, it will be best to work on cutting red tape and removing bottlenecks facing projects already underway.
    • One major advantage of infrastructure spending is that this is a labour-intensive activity.
    • Therefore, it would create jobs and in turn partially restore the confidence of households as consumers.
    • It may also help catalyse private investment demand in construction related activities.
  • Bank recapitalisation:
    • During 2014-17, India hesitated and delayed recapitalisation of banks on an adequate scale.
      • Consequently, the GDP growth in 2019-20 witnessed its sharpest decline since the global financial crisis.
    • As the economy travels towards normalcy, the country must not repeat this mistake. The government must move decisively to recapitalise the banks pre-emptively.
    • While restructuring of loans will delay bankruptcies, it is a foregone conclusion that when payments on restructured loans become due, defaults will accelerate and the banks’ non-performing assets would grow.
    • If India is to avoid the recurrence of credit collapse it experienced in 2016-17, it must act now.

Increase in expenditure will increase debt:

  • Even before any additional expenditure on infrastructure, fiscal deficit in 2020-21 is predicted to rise to 13% of GDP, which would raise debt-to-GDP ratio to 85%.
  • Increased debt in turn would bring significantly larger interest payments in future years, which will further limit the government’s ability to spend on education, health and defence.

Sale of PSUs and monetisation of public assets can fund the expenditure without increasing debt:

  • A partial way out of this fiscal problem is the sale of public sector enterprises and monetisation of public assets such as roads, bridges, ports, airports and transmission lines.
  • Such a policy will not only get the government much needed revenue but also lead to public enterprises and public assets performing considerably more efficiently in private hands.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

  • Kofi Atta Annan was born on April 8, 1938, in the city of Kumasi in what was then Gold Coast and which, in 1957, became Ghana, the first African state to achieve independence from British colonialism.
  • After a spell at the elite Mfantsipim boarding school founded by Methodists, he went on to higher education as an economist in Ghana, at Macalester College in St. Paul, in Geneva, and at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Career

  • His first appointment with a United Nations agency was in 1962, at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
  • Annan returned briefly to Ghana to promote tourism and worked in Ethiopia with the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa before returning to the health organization’s European headquarters.
  • In New York, he worked in senior human resources and budgetary positions until, in the early 1990s, the secretary general at the time, Boutros BoutrosGhali of Egypt, appointed him first as deputy and then as head of peacekeeping operations.
  • The appointment plunged Mr. Annan into a maelstrom of conflicts in which United Nations forces were deployed.
  • During the Rwanda genocide in 1994, he refused the permission to raid an arms cache that was believed to be used in massacres.
  • On behalf of the United Nations, he acknowledged this failure and expressed his deep remorse.
  • In Bosnia, too, the United Nations was accused of being overcautious.
  • Critics said it had been restricted by a mandate, approved by the Security Council, for the establishment of so-called safe havens under United Nations protection that proved, in Srebrenica, to be illusory.
  • European powers opposed airstrikes to halt the advancing Bosnian Serbs, who overran Srebrenica despite the presence of peacekeeping troops from the Netherlands.
  • Later, Mr. Annan seemed to adopt a tougher line, approving the NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to the negotiating table to sign the 1995 Dayton peace accords.
  • With Washington pressing for the ouster of Mr. Boutros Ghali, Mr. Annan took office as secretary general with American approval on Jan. 1, 1997.
  • He became the seventh secretary general of the United Nations, projecting himself and his organization as the world’s conscience and moral arbiter despite bloody debacles that stained his record as a peacekeeper.
  • The desire to burnish his legacy seemed to motivate Mr. Annan long after Ban Ki-moon replaced him as secretary general, and he set up a nonprofit foundation to promote higher standards of global governance.
  • In 2008, he headed a commission of eminent Africans that persuaded rival factions in Kenya to reconcile a year after more than 1,000 people were killed during and after disputed elections.
  • In February 2012, Mr. Annan was appointed as the joint envoy of the Arab League and the United Nations to seek a settlement in Syria as civil war there tightened its grip.
  • But he resigned in frustration that August, citing the intransigence of both sides in a conflict that had convulsed and reshaped the region and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

 

Achievements

  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, Mr. Annan was the first black African to head the United Nations, doing so for two successive five-year terms beginning in 1997 — a decade of turmoil that challenged that sprawling body and redefined its place in a changing world.
  • Annan was the first secretary general to be chosen from among the international civil servants who make up the organization’s bureaucracy.
  • Annan was credited with revitalizing the United Nations’ institutions, shaping what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,”particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep.
  • He was lauded for persuading Washington to unblock arrears that had been withheld because of the profound misgivings about the United Nations voiced by American conservatives.
  • In 1998, Mr. Annan traveled to Baghdad to negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein over the status of United Nations weapons inspections, winning a temporary respite in the long battle of wills with the West.

 

A charismatic personality

  • Despite the serial setbacks, Mr. Annan commanded the world stage with ease in his impeccably tailored suits, goatee and slight, graceful physique.
  • He seemed to radiate an aura of probity and authority.
  • In addition to his charm, of which there is plenty, there is the authority that comes from experience.
  • Few people have spent so much time around negotiating tables with thugs, warlords and dictators.
  • He has made himself the world’s emissary to the dark side.

 

Some flaws

  • While his admirers praised his courtly, charismatic and measured approach, Mr. Annan was hamstrung by the inherent flaw of his position as what many people called a “secular pope” — a figure of moral authority bereft of the means other than persuasion to enforce the high standards he articulated.
  • In assessing his broader record, moreover, many critics singled out Mr. Annan’s personal role as head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations from 1993 to 1997 — a period that saw the killing of 18 American service personnel in Somalia in October 1993, the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans in the genocide of 1994, and the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995.
  • In Rwanda and Bosnia, United Nations forces drawn from across the organization’s member states were outgunned and showed little resolve.
  • In both cases, troops from Europe were quick to abandon their missions.
  • And in both cases, Mr. Annan was accused of failing to safeguard those who had looked to United Nations soldiers for protection.

 

Section : Miscellaneous

Should India have two time zones?

Headline : Should India have two time zones?

Details :

Why in news?

  • Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones. Now, a proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself.
  • Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), which maintains Indian Standard Time, have published a research article describing the necessity of two time zones, with the new one an hour ahead of the existing time zone.
  • The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone.

 

How time is maintained?

  • If lines of longitude are drawn exactly a degree apart, they will divide the Earth into 360 zones.
  • Because the Earth spins 360° in 24 hours, a longitudinal distance of 15° represents a time separation of 1 hour, and 1° represents 4 minutes.
  • Theoretically, the time zone followed by any place should relate to its longitudinal distance from any other place.
  • Political boundaries, mean that time zones are often demarcated by bent lines rather than straight lines of longitude. This is “legal time”, as defined by a country’s law.
  • The geographic “zero line” runs through Greenwich, London. It identifies GMT, now known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is maintained by the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France.
  • Indian Standard Time, maintained by CSIR-NPL, is based on a line of longitude that runs through Mirzapur in UP.
  • At 82°33’E, the line is 82.5° east of Greenwich, or 5.5 hours (5 hours 30 minutes) ahead of UCT.
  • While India follows one IST, the United States follows several time zones across its breadth.

 

 

The debate in India

  • India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective.
  • This has led to the argument that early sunrise in the easternmost parts (the Northeast) causes the loss of many daylight hours by the time offices or educational institutions open, and that early sunset, for its part, leads to higher consumption of electricity.
  • In March, in reply to a question in Parliament, the government said it has not taken any decision on separate time zones.
  • A committee set up in 2002 did not recommend two time zones because of the complexities involved.
  • It had cited the same committee’s findings in the Gauhati High Court, which last year dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Centre to have a separate time zone for the Northeast.

 

 

 

Arguments against the idea

  • Those arguing against the idea, cite impracticability — particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another.

 

The new findings

  • The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h).
  • The article identifies where the two time zones be demarcated from each other i.e. at the “chicken neck” that connects the Northeast to the rest of India, an area that is spatially narrow and reduces the possibility of railway accidents.
  • The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.
  • States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I).
  • States east of the line (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunanchal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands) would follow IST-II.
  • The article puts a figure to the country’s potential savings in energy consumption — 20 million kWh a year, if it does follow two time zones.
  • They also analysed the importance of synchronising office hours as well as biological activities to sunrise and sunset timings.
  • While the article asserts that CSIR-NPL already has the technical expertise to duplicate its existing facility, it also acknowledges that the move would require legislative sanction.
Section : Miscellaneous

In focus: Blast disease in rice

In focus: Blast disease in rice

Introduction

  • Blast disease is a fungal disease that infests rice severely threatening food security worldwide.
  • In India, blast disease is epidemics occurred 7 times between 1980 and 1987 in AP, HP, Haryana and TN.

Details

  • Blast disease in rice is caused by fungus Magnaporthe oryzae which is one of the top 10 fungal plant pathogens in the world.
  • It can infest rice plant in every stage of growth right from seedling including leaves, roots, nodes, panicles etc.

Disease Management

  • Use of fungicides
  • Fertilizer management
  • Planting at a time when pathogens are dormant
  • Breeding programme employing disease resistant cultivars

Challenge

  • The pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae has adaptability to various environmental conditions and therefore widespread.
  • Managing the disease with fungicides is expensive and also has side effects on human health and environment.
  • The pathogen is extremely virulent posing a constant challenge to disease resistant varieties.

Solution

  • In this regard, identifying new spectrum of genes responsible for development of disease resistance in the rice genome is necessary.
  • This work was undertaken by ICAR-NRRI.
  • Once the disease resistant genes are mapped, the rice germplasms dominant in the identified disease resistant genes can be used in breeding programmes.

 

 

In brief: National Gene Bank

  • National Gene Bank was established in 1997 under National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).
  • National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources primarily deals with crop improvement and diversification in India by maintaining and augmenting genetic diversity.
  • Its activities include germplasm exploration, exchange and conservation and plant quarantine.
  • In this direction, National Gene Bank was established as safe repository to conserve the seeds of crop germplasm.

 

 

In brief: National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack

Introduction

  • NRRI is the successor of Central Institute for Rice Research in India.
  • The Central Institute for Rice Research was established to arrest sever food shortage that occurred in the aftermath of the Great Bengal Famine.
  • It is under the Crop Science Division of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Functions

  • Primarily providing research support for stabilizing rice productivity in India.
  • To collect, evaluate and conserve rice germplasm.
  • Integrated pest, disease and nutrient management.
  • Maintain a database of features of rice and rice-based cropping systems in India.
Section : Science & Tech