29th October, 2019
TOPIC- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices
1. Do you agree with the view that higher MSPs and making it legally binding will solve the problems of farmers in India?
India is going through a deep agrarian crisis. The Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), based in Delhi, found that given an option majority of farmers in the country would prefer to take up some other work. Thousands of farmers recently protested against the government demanding higher MSPs and making it legally binding on private traders.
Will raising MSPs solve the problem of farmers?
• MSP formula based on just cost, be it A2+FL or C2, ignoring its demand side, is patently inefficient.
• It will cost the nation heavily in due course. Even in the current situation, the market prices are way below the MSPs announced in this kharif season. These are prices in districts with the highest arrivals in the largest producing states. Market prices are lower in many other districts. For example, moong market prices are 53% lower than MSP in Raichur, Karnataka.
Should MSP be made legal binding on private traders?
• Making it a legal binding will turn out to be anti-farmer as private trade will exit for fear of being jailed, and market prices will collapse even further.
• The government does not have the paraphernalia to procure, store, and distribute 23 commodities for which MSPs are announced.
• It is not that higher MSPs cannot be given, but then the government should just focus on 2-3 commodities and be ready to hold massive stocks, way beyond its buffer stock norms, as is the case with wheat and rice today.
• All this will amount to large inefficiency in the system.
• India needs massive reforms in its agri-markets, from reforming APMC markets to abolishing the Essential Commodities Act, and abolishing all export restrictions.
• Encouraging contract farming, allowing private agri-markets in competition with APMC markets, capping commissions and fees to not more than 2% for any commodity at any place in India, opening and expanding futures trading, a negotiable warehouse receipt system, e-NAM, with due systems of assaying, grading, delivery and dispute settlement mechanisms, are some of the necessary steps needed urgently.
• Once this is done, major investments need to follow in improving the functioning of markets and building efficient value chains, especially of perishables. This can be done through the PPP mode, creating millions of jobs.
It needs sustained and focused efforts along with a strong political will, only then, over a 3-5 year period, farmers can hope to get better and stable prices for their produce.
TOPIC- Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
2. What is cyber crime? What are the different types of computer related cyber crimes?
What is Cybercrime
Cybercrime, also called computer crime is the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy. Cybercrime, especially through the Internet, has grown in importance as the computer has become central to commerce, entertainment, and government. These are the unlawful acts where the computer is used either as a tool or a target or both. The term is a general term that covers crimes like phishing, credit card frauds, bank robbery, illegal downloading, industrial espionage, child pornography, kidnapping children via chat rooms, scams, cyber terrorism, creation and/or distribution of viruses, Spam and so on.
Computer related cyber crime
Hacking: It is an attempt to exploit a computer system or a private network inside a computer. Simply put, it is the unauthorised access to or control over computer network security systems for some illicit purpose. It is done by hackers who are highly skilled in computer. There are no hard and fast rules whereby we can categorize hackers into neat compartments. However, in general computer parlance, we call them white hats, black hats and grey hats. White hat professionals hack to check their own security systems to make it more hack-proof. In most cases, they are part of the same organisation. Black hat hackers hack to take control over the system for personal gains. They can destroy, steal or even prevent authorized users from accessing the system. They do this by finding loopholes and weaknesses in the system. Some computer experts call them crackers instead of hackers. Grey hat hackers comprise curious people who have just about enough computer language skills to enable them to hack a system to locate potential loopholes in the network security system. Grey hats differ from black hats in the sense that the former notify the admin of the network system about the weaknesses discovered in the system, whereas the latter is only looking for personal gains. All kinds of hacking are considered illegal barring the work done by white hat hackers.
Phishing: Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. The information is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.
Spamming: In spamming unsolicited commercial electronic messages are sent to the target computer. Although e-mail is the most common means of transmitting spam, blogs, social networking sites, newsgroups, and cellular telephones are also targeted.
Spoofing: It is a type of scam where an intruder attempts to gain unauthorized access to a user’s system or information by pretending to be the user. The main purpose is to trick the user into releasing sensitive information in order to gain access to one’s bank account, computer system or to steal personal information, such as passwords.
30th October, 2019
TOPIC- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
1. “Frequent disruptions, Points of Order without a point, Adjournment Motions and interruptions betray political immaturity, exhibitionism, excessive fondness for the limelight and inadequate appreciation of the need to utilise the opportunity of serving the public interest. ” In the light of this statement, highlight the present pitfalls of parliamentary democracy in India. Also suggest a roadmap to address the same.
The Parliament is the central institution of our democracy that makes laws, holds the central government accountable and allocates financial resources through the budgetary process. In recent years there has been debate about decline of Parliament, falling standards of debate, deterioration in the conduct and quality of Members, poor levels of participation etc. Strengthening of Parliament requires an understanding of its institutional design, processes and the issues that need to be addressed.
Present pitfalls of parliamentary democracy in India
• Declining number of sittings of legislatures.
• Persistent disruptions.
• Declining quality of debates.
• Growing number of legislatures with criminal record.
• High degree of absenteeism.
• Inadequate representation of women.
• Rising money and muscle power in elections.
• Lack of inner democracy in functioning of the political parties.
• Poor knowledge, low argumentative power of the masses, negative influences of poverty and economic disparities.
• Faulty ‘First Pass the Post (FPTP) election system.
• Society’s perpetual habit of accepting all permeable state to control public and private affairs.
Roadmap to address these challenges
• Parties need to ensure attendance of at least 50% of their legislators all through the proceedings of the Houses by adopting a roster system.
• Review of anti-defection law.
• Review of the whip system which is “stifling reasonable dissent even on non-consequential matters”.
• Set up special courts for time-bound adjudication of criminal complaints against legislators.
• Pre and post legislative impact assessment.
• Address problem of rising number of legislators with criminal background.
• Governments should be responsive to opposition and opposition to be responsible and constructive while resorting to available parliamentary instruments
• Consensus on the proposal for simultaneous elections.
• Steps should be taken for the effective functioning of the Parliamentary Committees.
• The representation of women in legislatures needs to be raised.
India’s electorate has rising aspirations, which only well-thought out public policies can achieve. Parliament should be a space for policy and not for politics. We need to undertake reforms to ensure that it is recast as such.
Reference: The Hindu
2. What is a coalition government? What are the recommendations of the MM Puncchi Commission with respect to the formation of the government in case of a hung assembly?
With the results of the Mahrashtra assembly election throwing up a hung house, the role of the Governor has come into focus, in regard to whether the single largest party or the leader claiming majority with post-poll alliance should be invited to form the new government.
What is a coalition government?
A coalition is formed when multiple political parties cooperate, join forces and come together (which can happen prior or post-elections) which reduces the dominance or power of any single political party. A coalition is usually formed:
• When no single political party is able to secure a working majority in the Parliament
• There is possibility for a deadlock to be created when two parties are even, in such a situation one of the parties would need an ally to gain majority
Recommendations of Puncchi Commission in case of a hung assembly
In a case of a Hung Assembly, the Punchhi Commission prescribed:
• The party or alliances which get the widest support in the Legislative Assembly should be called upon to form the government.
• If there is a pre-poll coalition or alliance, it should be treated as one political party. And in case, such coalition gets a majority, the leader of such alliances shall be called by the Governor to form the government.
• In case no pre-poll coalition or party has a clear majority, the governor should select the Chief Minister in the order of priorities indicated here:
➢ The group of parties which had a pre-poll alliance of the largest number.
➢ The largest single party which claims to form the government with the support of others;
➢ A post-electoral alliance with all partners joining the government;
➢ A post-electoral alliance where parties are joining the government and the remaining including independents are supporting the government from outside.
Reference: The Hindu
31st October, 2019
TOPIC- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
1. Niti Aayog’s Aspirational Districts Programme is a laboratory for governance reform. Comment.
The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is one of the largest experiments on outcomes-focused governance in the world. Spread across 112 of India’s socio-economically challenged districts, the ADP is Niti Aayog’s flagship initiative to improve health, nutrition, education, and economic outcomes. Initial evidence suggests that the ADP has already contributed towards improving lakhs of lives. If successful, the ADP can present a new template for governance.
How ADP is a laboratory for governance reform
• ADP is a laboratory of various cutting-edge governance reforms.
• First and foremost, the programme has shifted focus away from inputs and budgets to outcomes, such as learning and malnutrition, at the highest echelons of the government.
• It has also introduced non-financial incentives to encourage government officials to deliver results and actively encourages forging partnerships with philanthropies and civil society to create better impact using the same amount of budgetary spends.
• The programme has also developed a lean data infrastructure that smartly exploits complementary strengths of administrative and survey data.
• Each of these initiatives is a radical shift from the status quo in governance today. Therefore, it is critical to carefully document and learn from the ADP’s experiences.
ADP has presented itself as a new and efficient model of governance as has it brought all active players including all the tiers of the government, civil society and individuals together, which is the need of hour.
Reference: Indian Express
TOPIC- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
2. Discuss the role of aluminium in providing greener applications for sustainable development.
Today, world economies are growing rapidly, and the need for sustainable development is far more pertinent than ever before. Large businesses across industries are constantly on the lookout for greener alternatives that can aid the implementation of sustainable business models. Aluminium has been at the helm of green applications in the last decade. To achieve lower carbon footprints, countries are extensively using aluminium for green applications.
Role of aluminium in providing greener applications
Green Buildings: Green buildings have gained popularity over the last five years, and this revolution is heavily backed by aluminium. Aluminium’s strength makes it the first choice for structural frameworks, while its reflectivity makes the buildings more energy efficient. The recycling rate for aluminium in the construction industry is 95%, making it a key component of LEED-certified buildings. It also enhances the solar efficiency and minimises air leakage through aluminium fenestration. It is an excellent alternative to metals like steel in the manufacturing of green buildings.
Electric Vehicles: Aluminium is expected to accelerate worldwide adoption of electric vehicles, making it one of the most sought-after metals in the automobile industry, as it is crash absorbent, durable, corrosion-resistant, easily formable and infinitely recyclable. By virtue of being light-weight, aluminium reduces the mass weight of a vehicle, thereby making it more fuel-efficient. It plays an instrumental role in reducing the CO2 emissions from electric vehicles and thereby improving the air quality. Furthermore, the thermal and anti-corrosion properties of aluminium make it an ideal component for battery frames. These light-weighted vehicles are also expected to meet the safety requirements given its structural strength and can be fully recycled while emitting 1.5 tonnes fewer greenhouse gases over its lifecycle.
Aluminium Packaging: Aluminium’s ability to be extruded or rolled into any shape, and its insulating properties, make it a versatile choice of metal for packaging. This non-toxic green metal can be rolled up to eight times thinner than a banknote! With the recent ban on single-use plastic in India, aluminium is increasingly being used for packaging, like foils, packaging, etc. It also reduces shipping costs and carbon emissions for beverage makers. Alloys of series 1xxx, 3xxx, and 8xxxx are the most common forms found in packaging that have a shelf-life exceeding 12 months.
With the advent of energy-efficient technology, countries like India need to adopt a green-mindset. India currently exudes 5.7% of the total global emissions and is progressing towards lowering that number. The use of aluminium presents the excellent potential for increasing the sustainable use of energy.
Reference: Financial Express
1st November, 2019
TOPIC- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times
1. Write a note on Tipu Sultan.
Recently, Karnataka government announced that it will try to remove history lessons on Tipu Sultan from the textbooks.
Role of Tipu Sultan in the history of India
• Tipu was the son of Haider Ali, a professional soldier who climbed the ranks in the army of the Wodeyar king of Mysore, and ultimately took power in 1761. Tipu was born in 1750 and, as a 17-year-old, fought in the first Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69) and subsequently, against the Marathas and in the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84). Haider died while this war was on, and Tipu succeeded him in 1782.
• In the wider national narrative, Tipu has been seen as a man of imagination and courage, a brilliant military strategist who, in a short reign of 17 years, mounted the most serious challenge the East India Company faced in India.
• He fought the forces of the Company four times during 1767-99, and gave the Governors-General Cornwallis and Wellesley bloody noses before he was killed heroically defending his capital Srirangapatnam in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
• With Tipu gone, Wellesley imposed the Subsidiary Alliance on the reinstated Wodeyar king, and Mysore became a client state of the East India Company.
• Tipu reorganised his army along European lines, using new technology, including what is considered the first war rocket. He devised a land revenue system based on detailed surveys and classification, in which the tax was imposed directly on the peasant, and collected through salaried agents in cash, widening the state’s resource base.
• He modernised agriculture, gave tax breaks for developing wasteland, built irrigation infrastructure and repaired old dams, and promoted agricultural manufacturing and sericulture.
• He built a navy to support trade, and commissioned a “state commercial corporation” to set up factories. As Mysore traded in sandalwood, silk, spices, rice and sulphur, some 30 trading outposts were established across Tipu’s dominions and overseas.
Reference: Indian Express
TOPIC- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
2. What are the challenges facing NBFC sector in India. Also suggest a roadmap to tackle these challenges.
India’s non-banking financial companies (NBFC) sector — also known as the shadow banking system that provides services similar to traditional commercial banks but outside normal banking regulations — is passing through a turbulent period following a series of defaults by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and the subsequent liquidity crunch. Let us have a look at some of the challenges faced by the NBFC sector in India.
Challenges facing NBFC sector in India
• Several corporates, mutual funds and insurance companies had invested in short-term instruments such as commercial papers (CPs) and non-convertible debentures (NCDs) of the IL&FS group that has been defaulting on payments since August 2018. This has stoked fears that funds of many could have been stuck in IL&FS debt instruments which, in turn could lead to a liquidity crunch for them. This has become a cause of concern that the funding cost for NBFCs will zoom and result in a sharp decline in their margins.
• Banks have slowed down lending to NBFCs, virtually closing a major resource avenue for NBFCs.
• The fundamental issue, is an asset-liability mismatch in the operations of NBFCs like IL&FS. These firms borrow funds from the market — for 3 or 5 years — and lend for longer tenures — 10 to 15 years. Now, because interest rate are rising, the margin of NBFCs have suffered and consequently, funding to NBFCs has decreased. Hence, lack of funds has triggered such a scenario.
• Further, because of erosion of credibility of debt payment, their stocks have suffered majorly.
• There were more than 200 subsidiaries in case of IL&FS which brought considerable management problem, further worsening the status of NBFCs.
• NBFCs should be under greater supervision of the RBI with better regulatory mechanism. Since, they deal with a substantial portion of credit of the market, they cannot be left unregulated. This would ensure that they are not lending beyond their means.
• Instead of bringing all the NBFCs under supervision, effort must be made to focus on the systemically Important NBFCs, which are around 250.
• Adequate funding is necessary to make NBFCs a viable platform for investment in various developmental projects. Consequently, the first step would be to strengthen the banking sector.
Reference: Financial Express
2nd November, 2019
TOPIC- Indian Economy
1. Strong corporate governance a must for long-term business sustenance of Indian enterprises. Discuss.
In small and mid-sized entities, the tendency is to focus on the top line and dismiss the bottom line. In the process, investment in ethical organisational culture and governance structure is often ignored and is seen as a ‘cost center’. In a growing start-up eco-system, a robust mechanism is a must to safeguard from collapse of the ecosystem.
What strong corporate governance includes
Good corporate governance reflects a strong emphasis on risk management, enhanced transparency and greater stakeholder engagement.
The Companies Act, 2013 and the Companies Rules, 2014 are efforts to ensure financial sustainability and enhance shareholder value.
A strong corporate governance framework not only reflects strong emphasis on risk management, enhanced transparency and greater stakeholder engagement, but also ensures improved decision-making abilities and risk management capabilities along with protecting interest of all stakeholders—investors, employees, customers, suppliers and the public at large.
Corporates are well advised to adhere to the guidelines and framework to build a strong foundation for itself and survive the changing landscape of business environment.
Lastly, putting robust corporate governance should not be taken as a cost center. Corporate governance will come with a cost, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.
The culture of being too harsh too harsh on corporate losses and failures, will kill the spirit of entrepreneurship. Issues of corporate governance need to be dealt with appropriately. The diagnosis of the intent is very important for a judgement call on such issues.
Reference: Financial Express
TOPIC- Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth
2. What are the factors responsible for India’s rise in the Doing Business rankings released recently?
In The World Bank Doing Business Ranking released recently, India has climbed 23 spots to rank 77th globally. This is a substantial jump in the rankings for the second year running.
Factors responsible for India’s rise in the rankings
• Improvement in areas like starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, and trading across borders.
• The National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) 2017-2020 for increasing the efficiency of cross-border trade, is putting in place the architecture for decreasing border and documentary compliance time, permitting exporters to electronically seal their containers at their own facilities, and reducing physical inspections to up to only 5% of all shipments.
• The implementation of the single-window clearance system for construction permits in Delhi and the online building permit approval system in Mumbai are important.
• The country has made significant improvements in ‘Resolving Insolvency’ with an astonishing jump of 56 positions made on this front in the last one year.
• Among other improvements, India made the process of obtaining a building permit more efficient. Obtaining all permits and authorizations to build a warehouse now costs 4% of the warehouse value, down from 5.7% the previous year.
• In addition, authorities enhanced building quality control in Delhi by strengthening professional certification requirements.
• Importing and exporting also became easier for companies with the creation of a single electronic platform for trade stakeholders, upgrades to port infrastructure and improvements to electronic submission of documents.
Despite some challenges in the implementation of the reform—particularly regarding court operations and the application of the law by multiple stakeholders—the number of reorganizations in India has been gradually increasing. As a result, reorganization has become the most likely procedure for viable companies as measured by Doing Business, increasing the overall recovery rate from 27 to 72 cents on the dollar.