IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 23rd May 2018
Emerging solar trends: India
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Energy security, Infrastructure
- A report on emerging solar trends has been produced by the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a research body backed by a bunch of philanthropic organisations including the Rockfeller Brothers Fund and the Rockfeller Family Fund.
- Five out of the world’s biggest under-construction solar parks are in India.
- Once, Bhadla Industrial Solar Park, in Rajasthan — houses solar plants to its fullest capacity (2,225 MW), it will be the world’s biggest.
- When it comes to operating solar plants, India has two of the world’s top ten. These two are the 1,000-MW ultra mega project in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh and the Adani group’s 648-MW Kamuthi project in Tamil Nadu.
- India has made rapid strides in installation of solar power capacity. In the calendar year 2017, India contributed 8 GW to the 98 GW global addition of solar capacity, or 8.1 per cent.
- The world’s biggest single rooftop solar plant happens to be in India- The 19-MW Dera Baba rooftop solar project in Amritsar, Punjab.
- India’s name also figures in the list of top ‘corporate PPAs’ — instances when companies directly buy solar power from developers.
- India’s Kochi airport, with 40 MW, is the world’s first airport to be fully powered by solar energy.
Contract farming: Model law
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Indian agriculture
- After two drafts that received wide criticism from both industry and farmers groups, Agriculture Ministry has recently released the model law.
- Ashok Dalwai, CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority, who chaired the committee that drafted the model law.
- The law is aimed at reducing farmers’ risks by creating an assured market for their produce at a pre-agreed price, while encouraging investment from agribusiness and food processing industries by enhancing productivity and cost efficiency.
- It provides for State-level boards to be set-up to promote and facilitate — rather than regulate — contract farming and sets out a framework for registering and recording agreements.
- It also provides for a dispute settlement authority.
- The model law stipulates that the sponsor will not be allowed to build any permanent structure on the farmers’ land.
General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it; Effects of liberalization on the economy
- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security
General Studies 2:
- 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
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
India at WTO: Poverty, Hunger versus WTO rules
In an attempt to combat rural distress, the Union budget announced this year promised a new deal to farmers—minimum support prices (MSP) that would be 150% of the cost of production.
The new MSP policy could pull India into a confrontation at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Higher MSPs will likely make Indian farm subsidies breach the limit that the WTO finds acceptable.
US versus India:
The US has announced that it will be dragging India to the WTO because it claims India has under-reported the market price support (MPS) for rice and wheat.
According to the US, the MPS for wheat and rice, respectively, appears to be over 60% and 70% of the total value of production, against the permissible cut-off of 10%.
India is planning to officially respond at the WTO’s committee on agriculture meeting in June.
US versus India’s export promotion schemes:
The US has also launched a case against India’s export promotion schemes. These schemes—
- Market access initiative (MAI)
- Market development assistance (MDA)
- Merchandise exports from India scheme (Meis)
-are primarily aimed at promoting better export-oriented infrastructure facilities, capacity building, and export competitiveness.
They also assist exporters of agriculture and processed food products, thereby indirectly benefitting small and marginal farmers.
These schemes are, therefore, critical in keeping agriculture remunerative in India and hence are worth defending at the WTO.
India needs to question the foundation of the entire subsidy regime defined by the WTO.
The relevant question is not how much support a government can provide to farmers to avoid distorting trade. It is how much it should provide to feed a country that is home to a fourth of the world’s hungry population.
Also, small farmers and poor consumers in developing countries are the most vulnerable to volatile price movements in commodity markets.
Calculation of subsides:
The government needs to question the way WTO calculates subsidies, as well as the way the rich countries support their farmers.
For example, for the purpose of calculating current subsidies, the WTO uses the average of 1986-88 global prices as the base. Therefore, the difference between the ongoing MSP and these reference prices looks too high.
The way rich countries support their farmers:
Last year, before the 11th ministerial committee meeting of WTO at Buenos Aires, India and China jointly submitted a paper to the WTO.
The paper highlighted the subsidies that developed countries dole out to their farmers.
- Developed countries-
The six industrialized nations are entitled to an overall cap for their farm subsidy called aggregate measurement of support (AMS), which entails subsidy up to 10% of the value of total production.
This gives them an opportunity to manipulate the subsidies for individual products.
For instance, product-specific support in the US and the European Union crosses over 50% for a number of crops and reaches as high as 89% for rice in the US.
- Developing countries-
On the other hand, are trapped with a product-specific de minimis limit of 10%—for no crop can the AMS be higher than 10% of its value of production.
India, along with other developing countries, should make persistent efforts to fight the way WTO rules have been rigged to suit the developed countries.
India needs to make it clear at the WTO that it needs to stand by its poor at this stage of development, and that trade law should not meddle with the fight against poverty and hunger.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s new minimum support prices (MSP) policy breaches the rules set by the WTO. Comment critically.
NATIONAL/SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space
The Internet of Things: Risks involved
By 2020, there will be more than 20 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Gartner — that’s roughly 2.5 devices for every single person on the planet.
What is IoT?
The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention.
The IoT ecosystem:
We already rely on IoT on a daily basis. This ecosystem will become even more indispensable in the future.
Not only will it enhance quality of life for individuals — allowing us to control our homes with just a swipe on our smartphones, for example — it will allow companies to create new business models and to be more proactive in how they maintain their assets and equipment.
In India, which suffers from congestion in many urban areas, IoT can act as a platform for smart cities by empowering local authorities to effectively manage traffic and to reduce noise and pollution.
Like all emerging technologies IoT fuels emerging risks.
Four main risks that require careful consideration and the implementation of strict cyber-security controls are:
- The risk of an IoT network being hacked.
Example- A hacker can inflict human and physical damage by taking control of a self-driving car.
Security should be a fundamental pillar of any IoT network, and it should be in place from the outset.
- Testing IoT infrastructure presents a significant risk.
IoT is currently being implemented in a fairly agile(quick) way, with new devices and sensors being introduced on an ad-hoc basis and people experimenting as they go along.
With IoT the infrastructure is not being tested at all. No one is necessarily checking that the data sent by the sensors on different devices is actually accurate. Instead, people tend to assume that the sensors are properly calibrated and the information they provide is secure and correct.
Having accurate data is critical in an environment in which machines are talking to other machines and making decisions without interacting with humans. Organisations should use tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and statistical analysis to identify those sensors that are producing accurate data, and those that are not.
- IoT is giving rise to new privacy issues that need to be addressed.
Lack of awareness around privacy controls may expose customers’ personal data so it can be used for unauthorised purposes.
In addition, IoT devices generate a lot of unstructured data; any data analysis conducted on this raw data could generate an inaccurate representation of the individual and reflect incorrect behavioural patterns.
- Human behaviours and social engineering are major risk factors in an IoT environment. Example- Traffic lights. We all know that red means stop, yellow means wait and green means go. What would happen if someone were to turn all the traffic lights in a smart city to green?
Just as infrastructure needs to be protected from cyber threats, people need to be educated so they are able to challenge algorithms generated by machines that are responding to incorrect information.
India is at a nascent stage when it comes to IoT, and adoption is slow compared with the rest of the globe.
Many Indian organisations are still content with legacy IT over cloud infrastructure, making IoT a low priority in terms of changing business processes.
The government’s ‘Digital India’ and ‘Smart Cities’ initiatives are accelerating India’s journey towards adopting digitisation.
On this journey, it is imperative that adequate measures are taken to secure the IoT ecosystem, and to prepare organisations to unleash the full potential of IoT by mitigating the associated governance, privacy and security risks.
Connecting the dots:
- What do you mean by Internet of Things(IoT)? Discuss its potential benefits and the risks associated with the IoT ecosystem.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1) The Ashok Dalwai committee is related to which of the following:
Select the correct statements
- Data protection law in India
- To study Artificial intelligence in military
- 15th Finance Commission
- Model law on contract farming
Q.2) Which of the following statements are true regarding solar power infrastructure in India.
- Once at its full capacity, the Bhadla Industrial Solar Park located in Madhya Pradesh will be the world’s biggest
- The world’s biggest single rooftop solar plant happens to be in India.
- India’s Mangalore airport, with 40 MW, is the world’s first airport to be fully powered by solar energy.
Select the correct option
- 1 only
- 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- None of the above
The fading appeal of soft power
We are very interested in joining Exercise Malabar
The Nipah test
Because the judges spoke out
The Shaky frame
Why can’t grassroots bureaucracy deliver?
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