Sunday, 5 July 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 01/07/2015

Monsoon Impact on Economy
Proving apprehensions of deficit rainfall false, monsoon in June showered 16% surplus rainfalls in well distributed manner. Only few areas (north east, Bihar, Kerala and T.N.) received deficit rainfalls. About 20% of total showers expected during the season, are received in June. However, IMD forecast for the months of July and August is pessimistic at 88% of normal rainfall. Overall performance of sector will emerge clearly only after a few months. Given that El Nino is prevalent this year, government already framed a ‘crisis management plan for drought’ for 2015.

Last year we witnessed drought in many places, which pushed agriculture growth down to meagre .2%. Previous few years registered robust growth of 4% plus on the back of good monsoons. Erratic rainfalls earlier this year devastated vast quantities of rabi crops bringing millions of farmers under distress. So, good monsoon is very crucial to prevent further deterioration. Good monsoon contributes to healthy growth in national GDP and this growth is much more inclusive than growth in Industry and services.

Crop sowing so far this year has dropped for rice, maize and millets in comparison to last year. In case of cash crops, Jute, sugarcane and cotton has witnessed the decline. For pulses and oil seeds, sowing is marginally up.

In anticipation of bad monsoon and spiraling prices of few commodities government has imported pulses and other essential goods to maintain the buffer stocks. We have sufficient stocks of Rice (20 Million tons) and wheat (40 MT), and these are expected to increase by current year’s surplus. That said, India doesn’t produce sufficient pulses and edible oils. We import about 20% of requirement. Recent crunch in supply of pulses resulted in 30% increase in prices. Main reason behind this is lower MSPs in comparison to food grains, Low productivity and technology resistance nature of pulses. Recently government increase MSP of pulses significantly, but this is only a partial solution. Pulses yield merely 700-1000 kgs per hectare and this is almost stable from pre green revolution period. In contrast, food grains despite being in similar state few decades ago now yield 2500-3000 kg. Per hectare. Accelerated Pulse Production Program (AP3) is in place to promote better farming, but so far there is limited success. In Canada, Australia and USA productivity is almost 2-3 times that of India. Similarly, edible oils are being imported from South East Asia even when we have ample potential.

India is net exporter of agriculture and monsoon in India is observed closely by whole world. Even some developing countries such as Brazil and ASEAN have as low as 3-4% population engaged in agriculture, so unlike India (which stocks physical grains) these countries are dependent on imports for food security in times of distress. Further, in case of natural calamities like recent Nepal EQ and floods in Pakistan last year, India is main provider of food grains. This is an opportunity given that every 1% increase in agri exports, brings Rs 8500 crore of revenues to India. But for this agriculture sector needs to be infused with new technologies and practices.

Financing and Technology are key determinants in future of this sector. Farmer needs money for all the Inputs viz, seeds, fertilizer, electricity, technology and also for post harvesting period so that he can hold the crop till it fetches good price. Despite numerous steps taken under aegis of NABARD small farmer is as vulnerable as ever.

Recent decline in value of Rupee against dollar is worrying trend especially in case of deficit monsoon. In that case first recourse of government will be to import to the extent of the shortfall of food stuff. Expensive dollar will pull up prices of imports and in turn food inflation in the country. Decline in Rupee, though is more attributable to international worries about possible Greek’s from European Union. But thankfully, India currently holds highest ever Forex reserves at more than 350 billion $s.

In past we have seen Government in spite of putting adequate contingency plan in place generally failed at delivery. This time it should work proactively and deliver good quality seeds in vulnerable villages. It should also chart out an Income Insurance scheme for farmers. This along with long term commitment of making agriculture monsoon proof will bring prosperity in our countryside.

CAG slams Delhi for poor fund allocation
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in it’s recently released annual report, has said that the Delhi Government’s allocation of funds was less productive and its social welfare schemes showed serious discrepancies in implementation.

What else the report says?
  • There was unrealistic budgeting and deficient financial management by several departments.
  • Though the Delhi Government had invested Rs.17,060.35 crore as of March 31, 2014 in statutory corporations, rural banks, joint stock companies and cooperatives, the return on these investments was a meagre 0.07%.
  • The Delhi Government paid interest at an average rate of 8.80% on its borrowings during 2013-14.
  • Overall fiscal liabilities of the State increased from Rs.26,544.20 crore in 2009-10 to Rs.32,080.32 crore in 2013-14, depicting a rise of 20.86%.
  • The Delhi Government has failed to obtain fund utilisation certificates (Ucs) from various institutions. Over 4,780 UCs amounting to Rs.19,064.02 crore were awaited from various departments at the end of March 2014.
  • The implementation of mid-day meal scheme, MLA local area development scheme and welfare schemes for persons with disabilities as well as management of jails, mechanisation of sanitation and performance of Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation are also not so good. While only 1,154 children were covered under the mid-day meal scheme, jails were overcrowded with 14,209 prisoners being lodged against the capacity of 6,250.
  • No State policy was developed to address the issues of persons with disabilities.
TAPI also on the agenda
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — in July is expected to give an impetus to various energy and mining projects including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline.

The multi-billion dollar TAPI project could be off to a year-end start, as the legal framework is expected to be in place by September followed by the announcement of the consortium.
TAPI will also be on the agenda for talks when Prime Minister Modi arrives in Turkmenistan.

What is TAPI?
  • The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline (TAPI) Project is a proposed natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank.
  • It aims to export up to 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year through a proposed approximately 1,800-kilometer (km) pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
  • This project makes way for enhanced energy trading between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India
  • The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.
TAPI Project

Mercury pollution victims seek justice
An ex-workers of the thermometer manufacturing unit of Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, who resigned from the company after exposure to hazardous mercury, has sought justice from the court.
  • The victim has said that he has been experiencing headaches, memory loss, skin and tooth infections and exposure to deadly mercury for over four years has left him impotent. He also said that his wife had to undergo abortion eight times.
  • The unit was shut down on March 7, 2001, after a spate of protests, but workers claim that tonnes of hazardous mercury waste continue to lie scattered around the unit compound in Kodaikanal.
  • A 2005 study on mercury pollution published by Elsevier Ltd., which had four experts from the BARC, Department of Atomic Energy, and Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, had concluded that the water, sediment and fish samples from Kodai lake showed elevated levels of mercury even four years after the stoppage of mercury emissions.
  • However, the company has said that no adverse impacts on the health of employees or the environment were seen.
Mercury- basic facts:
  • Mercury is a chemical element with symbol Hg and atomic number 80.
  • It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum.
  • Mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure. The only other element that is liquid under these conditions is bromine.
  • Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide).
  • Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), inhalation of mercury vapor, or eating seafood contaminated with mercury.
  • Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, float valves, mercury switches, mercury relays, fluorescent lamps and other devices. It is also used in lighting: electricity passed through mercury vapor in a fluorescent lamp produces short-wave ultraviolet light which then causes the phosphor in the tube to fluoresce, making visible light.
  • Mercury is a very rare element in the Earth’s crust. It accounts for only about only 0.08 parts per million (ppm).
  • It is a relatively poor conductor of heat. Most metals are excellent thermal conductors.
Effects of Mercury on Health:
  • Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
  • Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
  • Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
  • People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.
Bioaccumulation of Methylmercury

New case marks Ebola’s return to Liberia
The West African country, Liberia could face another outbreak of the Ebola disease nearly two months after being declared Ebola-free. Recently a boy was found to be infected with the Ebola Virus.
  • The World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free on May 9, after it went 42 days without a new case.
  • Liberia had been hardest hit before by the outbreak with a death toll of more than 4,800 people.
  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebolavirus.
  • Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches.
  • Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.
  • The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal.
  • Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well.
  • In order to reduce the spread, the World Health Organization recommends raising community awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take. These include avoiding contact with infected people and regular hand washing using soap and water. Traditional burial rituals, especially those requiring washing or embalming of bodies, should be discouraged or modified.
Quarantine: Quarantine, also known as enforced isolation, is usually effective in decreasing spread. Governments often quarantine areas where the disease is occurring or individuals who may be infected.

Vaccine: No vaccine is currently available for humans. The most promising candidates are DNA vaccines or vaccines derived from adenoviruses, vesicular stomatitis Indiana virus (VSIV) or filovirus-like particles (VLPs) because these candidates could protect nonhuman primates from ebolavirus-induced disease. DNA vaccines, adenovirus-based vaccines, and VSIV-based vaccines have entered clinical trials.

Treatment: No specific treatment for the disease is yet available. Efforts to help those who are infected are supportive and include giving either oral rehydration therapy (slightly sweet and salty water to drink) or intravenous fluids.

The recent outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. The most severely affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Green Climate Fund to become operational soon
The Green Climate Fund Board recently said that the $100-billion Green Climate Fund will soon become operational in India and the process of accrediting organisations which can access the funds is going on.

Some international agencies have already accessed funds to work towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Green Climate Fund (GCF):
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

Why it was founded?
  • It was founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
  • It was also founded to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change.
  • It is governed by a Board of 24 members and was initially supported by an Interim Secretariat.
How it helps?
  • The Green Climate Fund will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows.
  • It is intended to be the centerpiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020.
  • The Fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of those developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
  • The Fund will strive to maximize the impact of its funding for adaptation and mitigation, and seek a balance between the two, while promoting environmental, social, economic and development co-benefits and taking a gender-sensitive approach.
Who will govern the Fund?
  • The Fund is governed and supervised by a Board that will have full responsibility for funding decisions and that receives the guidance of the COP.
  • The Fund is accountable to, and functions under the guidance of, the COP.
Census data on disabled population released
The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India has released data on disabled population by type of disability, type of households and sex – 2011.

  • The data gives the number of households having disabled persons by type of households including normal, institutional and houseless households.
  • The disabled persons living in different type of households are further cross-classified into eight different disabilities i.e. seeing, hearing, speech, movement, mental retardation, mental illness, any other and multiple disability for India/States/UTs.

Details of the data:

  • The data released shows 207.8 lakh households have disabled persons in the country constituting 8.3% of the total households. Out of the total households having disabled persons, about 99% households are normal households, 0.4 % are institutional and 0.2% are houseless households.
  • Total households having disabled persons show an increase of 20.5 lakhs, from 187.3 lakhs in 2001 to 207.8 lakhs in 2011 (6.2 lakhs in rural and 14.3 lakhs in urban). Normal households increased by 2,02,4495, institutional households by 8,370 and houseless households by 13,560 during the decade 2001-11.
  • Disabled persons in normal households increased by 48,19,382, institutional households by 65,895 and houseless households by 22,948 during the said decade.
Three follow-on Water Jet Fast Attack Craft launched
The Indian Navy launched three Follow-on Water Jet Fast Attack Craft (FO-WJFAC) at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE) in Kolkata recently.
  • The vessels are named- INS Tarmugli, INS Tilanchang and INS Tihayu.
  • The names of the ships are based on picturesque places in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal.
About the vessels:
  • The Follow on Water Jet Fast Attack Craft are powered by the latest 4000-series of MTU engines, along with advanced machinery control system and water jets and can attain a maximum speed of 35 knots.
  • The craft will also have the latest communication equipment and radars which would enable effective surveillance.
  • These follow-on ships have higher power generating capacity of 280 kW, enhanced capacity of RO plant from 2 TPD to 4 TPD among many other features as compared to the Water Jet Fast Attack Craft already in service. The indigenous CRN 91 Gun with Optronic Pedestal gives them the requisite firepower to undertake their basic role of patrolling effectively.
Discuss the issue of “tribunalisation” of courts in India. Do you think it is a good development? Critically examine.
The tribunalisation of courts is the subsequent effect of the 42nd Constitutional amendments , establishing the Central Administrative Tribunal(CAT) under the Article 323 A through the Administrative tribunal act 1985 with jurisdiction to adjudicate all disputes in relation to recruitment and service matters of all-India services, the Central civil services, civil posts under the Center and tribunals on other matters like disputes regarding taxes claims ,foreign exchanges,import and exports ,security under the Article 323 B .
It took away the power to adjudicate on these matters form the hands of civil courts to the the administrative tribunals .

Positive aspect of tribunalisation:-
1. reduced the burden on courts at all levels significantly.
2. reduced the delays and complication in delivery of judgement related to government services disputes, tax claims and business and financial markets disputes.
3. paved way for participation of efficient and competent executives with knowledge and rich experiences over the respective matters in adjudication on those matters.

Concerns and criticisms/negative aspects:-
1. interference on the power of judiciary by restricting the Civil and High Courts on excising their jurisdiction over these matters .In the later case, the Supreme Court later declared the restriction unconstitutional and hence abrogated it.
2. finding retired judges and competent candidates with qualifications set out by Parliament, to be members of quasi-judicial tribunals has been a difficult task.
3. tribunals are under the direct administrative control of ministries within the government which administer their day to day functioning and appointments and hence are likely to be influenced by the government's opinion ,thus interfering with the justice delivery.

However, despite so many concerns, tribunals have been pivotal and effective in addressing disputes in past .They may adjudicate on matters under their jurisdiction but the ultimate power lie with the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

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