IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 28th December 2017
Excluding bamboo from definition of ‘tree’
- For the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill the government has argued that excluding bamboo from the definition of “tree” in the Indian Forest Act of 1927 will encourage cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas and decrease dependence on imports.
- The amendment would enable farmers, especially those in the Northeast, to cultivate bamboo in non-forest areas and sell it without harassment from the forest department.
- It is part of the government’s plan to double farmers’ income by 2022.
- The opposition on the other hand has argued that the increase in cultivation [bamboo in non-forest areas] will be at the cost of forest areas. This is not pro-tribal or pro-poor. This will only benefit private entities like paper mills.
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Controlling the virtual world
- Noting that “many are guided by inappropriate exposure to the Internet,” the Supreme Court has held that the government has a role in controlling the virtual world.
- The court ordered major online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to co-operate with the Centre to make concrete suggestions against publication of online pre-natal sex determination ads rather than oppose any move to make the Internet safer.
- The Centre has been asked to brainstorm with the search engines, in the next six weeks, on ways to ensure that materials violating Indian laws prohibiting pre-natal sex determination were not hosted on websites.
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Biocon is the first Indian biotech company to get a US FDA nod for a biosimilar drug.
- A biosimilar product is a biological product that is approved based on a showing that it is highly similar to an FDA-approved biological product, known as a reference product, and has no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety and effectiveness from the reference product.
- When the patents of Biologics is no longer in force, many companies resort to release similar biologics called Biosimilar. At molecular level, Biosimilar is almost same as Biologics. Their key advantage is cost.
- Biosimilars can be called generic version of the Biologics, however, this is not technically correct because Biosimilars are not exactly like original drug.
- Biologics on the other hand, are large and complex (200-1000 times bigger than drugs) molecules, prepared within the living cells (such as engineered bacteria). Examples of biologics include various types of therapeutic proteins for example Serum Albumin, antibodies etc.
- Unlike small molecule generic drugs, the development of biosimilars is a highly expensive, complex and time-consuming exercise. This is because biosimilars are large and complex target-specific molecules, placed at the high end of the pharma value chain.
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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its International relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Focusing on Indian Ocean Region
In its National Security Strategy (NSS), the U.S. has called China a “challenger” and “rival” while welcoming India’s emergence as a “leading global power and stronger strategic and defence partner”, and declared that it seeks to increase ‘Quadrilateral’ cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India.
The NSS also states that the U.S. would support India’s growing relationships throughout the region.
While the broader emphasis on improving the partnership is welcome, policy-makers in New Delhi should be cautious on two counts:
- One, India should be wary of any attempts at being made to compete as a front in the U.S.’s efforts to check China’s rise.
- Two, while the notion of the Indo-Pacific sounds attractive, India must not forget that its primary area of concern is the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Securing its position in IOR is vital before venturing elsewhere.
What needs to be done?
- India remains a balancing power:
India has always been wooed by both sides and has been a balancing power on the world stages. As its stature in global politics increases, it is in the nation’s as well as global interest that India remains a balancing power.
- Checking rapid expansion of China in IOR:
At the same time, India should hedge against the rapid expansion of Chinese presence in the IOR.
- For India, geographically the area of concern, and so the area of focus, should remain the IOR.
While reiterating its commitment to upholding the established laws of the global commons, New Delhi should not go adrift in the larger Indo-Pacific.
As more powers make inroads into this strategically crucial space, India must consolidate its position and not expect others to do its job, for it would only mean ceding space in the long run.
Indian Ocean Region(IOR):
The IOR stretches from the Gulf of Aden to the Strait of Malacca.
Consolidating India’s position in IOR:
There are two ways of doing this —
- Beefing up Indian capacity to secure interests
The tags of net security provider and leading global power would mean nothing if New Delhi cannot undertake capacity building in its own backyard, be it South Asia or the IOR.
While the offer of help from various countries to help expand India’s network in the region looks tempting, it actually reflects India’s failure to establish its primacy in the region.
Ideally, it should have been the other way round: India guiding outside powers in its backyard.
- Expanding partnerships to fill voids.
- It is imperative for policy-makers in New Delhi to conduct a reality check on relations with our neighbours.
Groupings like Quad cannot be at the expense of the neighbours. While being part of various groupings is important, it is imperative that they are in line with our interests.
- Last month, India and Singapore concluded an overarching bilateral agreement for naval cooperation. Besides being only India’s second bilateral logistics arrangement, it gives it access to the Changi naval base at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca.
- With Singapore’s assistance, India is also working out modalities for joint multilateral exercises with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- India is also negotiating similar logistics agreements with several other countries.
- The Goa Maritime Conclave hosted by the Indian navy last month where Navy Chiefs and maritime heads of 10 Indian Ocean littoral states brainstormed on ways to improve cooperation in the region. It is an India-led initiative where the navy has offered to share information of maritime movement in real-time.
These developments show the way forward for India to engage with like-minded countries in the region without getting entangled in groupings which are seen as being targeted or military in nature (In reference to Quad grouping).
Thus, India needs to build its primacy in the IOR before venturing into adjacent waters while also making sure that its interests are taken heed of while getting into various groupings and not end up doing what other countries like U.S. wants.
Connecting the dots:
- India needs to build its primacy in the Indian Ocean region(IOR) before venturing into adjacent waters.
General studies 1:
- Effects of Globalization on Indian Society; Urbanization and related issues
General studies 2:
- Important aspects of governance and e-governance
- Issues regarding services relating to Health, Education, Human Resource
The Union ministry of housing and urban affairs has prepared a comprehensive road map for municipal reforms. The road map consists of three tiers of reforms.
AMRUT- Basic reforms:
From 2015 to 2017, some basic reforms were implemented in 500 cities under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.
For example, 104 cities in 14 states collected more than 90% of user charges; many states have established municipal cadres and state finance commissions; cities started offering online citizen services etc.
Now, the time has to come to go to the next level of reforms.
Tier I reforms:
The purpose is to accelerate ongoing key financial and service delivery reforms.
There are three sets of reforms:
- Cities have to submit financial year audited accounts for the two years preceding the one in which the municipality seeks to claim the performance grant.
- Cities have to show an increase in their revenue over the preceding year, as reflected in the audited accounts.
- Cities have to measure and publish service levels for coverage of water supply, reduction of non-revenue water, 24×7 water supply and scientific processing of solid waste.
Once these conditions are met, cities get the performance grant (Rs18,000 crore in five years) set down by the Fourteenth Finance Commission.
Tier 2 reforms:
It consists of five transformative reforms:
- Formulating and implementing value-capture financing policy.
- Ensuring that all urban local bodies undergo credit rating and cities with investible- grade rating issue municipal bonds.
- Professionalize municipal cadres by creating five of them, filling up posts and allowing lateral entry of professionals.
- Implementing the trust and verify model.
- Enacting and implementing a land-titling law with a focus on using information technology.
The trust and verify model:
It is a paradigm shift from the current process for municipal permissions. While granting building permissions, cities generally inspect first and give approvals later. This is the verify and trust model. The process of inspection results in time delays and cost overruns, and opens up opportunities for rent seeking.
Inverting this process gives us the trust and verify process in which permission is issued first and inspection taken up later. The assumption is that citizens can be trusted and will furnish correct information. Inspections are only carried out after permission is issued.
In urban areas this is an area of concern.
A 2001 McKinsey study has reported that most, over 90% by one estimate, of the land titles in India are ‘unclear’ and land market distortions and unclear land titles cost India around 1.3% of gross domestic product.
In India, ownership rights to property are proved through title deeds. Even though the law provides that transfers of title and interest in property should be registered, this only provides limited assurance.
Therefore, there is a need to devise a mechanism by which transfers cannot be set aside. One way is to formulate a land-titling law.
The Rajasthan government, for instance, has passed the Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill, 2016 to issue certificate of ownership to state residents living in urban areas.
The new reform agenda incentivises all states to enact similar legislation.
Tier 3 reforms:
The focus of tier 3 is rapid and even more transformational reforms along three main avenues: governance, planning and finance.
The emphasis is on:
- Deepening decentralization and strengthening urban local bodies through greater devolution of funds, functions and functionaries.
- Own source revenue mobilization for self-reliance.
- Flexibility in urban planning, particularly aligning master plans to changing socio-economic conditions in cities.
- Enhancing downstream accountability mechanisms, like making local ward committees responsible for operation and maintenance of projects, etc.
- States and cities competing against each other and the incentive be given based on competition.
- Cities must have the flexibility to define their reform paths and innovate.
Connecting the dots:
- The ministry of housing and urban affairs has launched a roadmap for comprehensive municipal reforms. Discuss the components of the plan.
- Land titling is a major issue in India, especially in urban areas. Discuss.
- The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation implemented between 2015-17 were the basic reforms. Indian cities now require a push for next level reforms. Analyze.
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