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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 25th March 2019

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  • March 25, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 25th March 2019

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


American “Virtual SIM” Used By Pulwama Attacker, India Seeks Details

Part of: GS Mains III – Science and Technology; Security issues; Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

In news:

  • India has requested the US to provide details from a service provider of “virtual SIMs”, which were used by the JeM suicide bomber behind the Pulwama attack and his Pakistan and Kashmir-based handlers.
  • It was a fairly new modus operandi where terrorists across the border were using a “virtual SIM”, generated by a service provider in the United States.
  • Numbers used were pre-fixed with “+1”, the Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number (MSISDN) number used for the United States.

About virtual SIM technology

  • In this technology, the computer generates a telephone number and the user downloads an application of the service provider on their smartphone.
  • The number is linked to social networking sites like WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram or Twitter. The verification code generated by these networking sites is received on the smartphone and the user is ready.

Jamaat-e-Islami banned

Part of: GS Mains III – Terrorism and Security issues; Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

In news:

  • Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI-J&K), a socio-religious group that has been active in Jammu and Kashmir since 1942, was banned.
  • Most locals who joined terrorist groups were associated with the JeI, either through educational institutions run by it or religious activities.
  • An internal note from the Centre said – JeI has been using its network of schools to further promote anti-India feeling among children in the Valley.
  • The Centre has claimed that the JeI has been collecting funds in the name of religious activities and using the same for ‘anti-national separatist activities’.

Do you know?

  • In 2018, over 180 Kashmiri youths joined these groups, and around 56% were locals.
  • The same year, 252 terrorists were killed in various operations and around 60% were locals.
  • Earlier foreign terrorists killed were more in number but the trend has reversed in the past two years. More locals have joined the militant ranks and more are getting killed.

CAG Report unearths anomalies in border area development programme

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Governance issues; Government schemes and policies; Corruption; Infrastructure; Security challenges and their management in border areas

In news:

According to CAG report on implementation of Border Area Development Programme (BADP) from 2012-2017 along Mizoram’s border with Myanmar –

  • Mizoram’s Rural Development department and block development officers of Champhai and Lungsen Blocks hired “earth excavators” for 67 road projects along the border.
  • A cross-check of the registration numbers of the “earth movers” mentioned in money receipts with the State Transport Department revealed they were two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and small cars.
  • The report criticised the Myanmar government for wasteful and doubtful expenditures and creating idle assets under the BADP.

Do you know?

  • Earlier in Feb 2019, CAG had slammed Arunachal govt for anomalies in border dev plan (BADP)

About Border Area Development Programme (BADP)

  • The BADP was started in the country during the 7th Plan period (1985-1990) for two reasons – balanced development of sensitive border areas through adequate provision of infrastructure facilities, and promoting a sense of security among the local population residing in border areas.
  • The BADP has been implemented through 17 States (viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal) which constitute the International Land Borders.
  • The main objective of the BADP is to meet the special developmental needs and wellbeing of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border and to saturate the border areas with the entire essential infrastructure through convergence of Central/ State/ BADP/ Local schemes and participatory approach.
  • The funds under BADP are provided to the States as a 100% non-lapsable Special Central Assistance.
  • The BADP schemes include construction of primary health centres, schools, supply of drinking water, community centres, connectivity, drainage to enable sustainable living in border areas.
  • It also covers schemes or activities relating to Swachhta Abhiyan, skill development programmes, promotion of sports activities in border areas, promotion of rural tourism, border tourism, protection of heritage sites, and construction of helipads in remote and inaccessible hilly areas, which do not have road connectivity.

About Comptroller and Auditor General of India

  • Article 148 provides for an independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
  • He is the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department.
  • He is the guardian of the public purse and controls the entire financial system of the country at both the levels the Centre and the state.
  • His duty is to uphold the Constitution of India and laws of Parliament in the field of financial administration.

Sunstroke and Heat Wave

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Health issues; Impact of Climate Change and Global Warming; Disaster management

In news:

  • Sunstroke claimed three lives in Kerala. The number of sunstroke deaths in the State over just the weekend has now risen to three.
  • Between March 1 and March 24, as many as 125 persons sought medical attention due to sunburn.
  • IMD warns of further rise in temperatures.

Heat Wave on the rise

  • Earlier this month the IMD had forecast heat wave conditions in Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema. (India’s ‘core heatwave zones’)

Do you know?

  • Heat waves are among the leading causes of deaths among natural disasters in India.
  • The heat waves of 2015 and 2016 had killed 2,040 and 1,111 people across the country respectively, according to records from the National Disaster Management Agency.
  • Climate change is driving temperatures higher as well as increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves. India too is experiencing increased instances of heat waves every year.
  • NDMA has been closely working with vulnerable States to reduce the adverse impacts of heat wave.

According to recent UN climate report –

  • India to face threat of deadly heat waves
  • If the average global temperature rises by more than one degree Celsius from the present, India could “annually” expect conditions like the 2015 heat wave that killed at least 2,000
  • The report stated that capping the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities.

Impact of rising sea levels

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III –Impact of Climate Change and Global Warming; Disaster management

In news:

  • Rising sea levels to affect water table in T.N.
  • Fresh water will be replaced with saline water over time: study
  • The water table would witness an incursion of sea water to the extent of 2-3mm every year.
  • Rapid urbanisation and indiscriminate drawal have already led to salt water intrusion in many areas.

Do you know?

  • There is a rise in sea level by 2mm every year based on a report by the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The sea would also be moving closer to the land by 0.5 m every year because of the increase in sea level.

Indian Army’s wait for close-quarter-battle carbines(CQB) continues

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Defence

In news:

  • Even though the procurement of 93,895 close-quarter-battle carbines (CQB) a deal worth $ 553.33 million been put on Fast Track Procurement (FTP), the final report of the Oversight Committee is awaited.

Do you know?

  • In January 2018, the DAC approved the purchase of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines for ₹3,547 crore through the fast-track procurement (FTP) mode.
  • After evaluation, Sig Sauer of the U.S. emerged as the lowest bidder for the assault rifles and the United Arab Emirates-based Caracal for the carbines.

Pic: https://d39gegkjaqduz9.cloudfront.net/TH/2019/03/25/DEL/Delhi/TH/5_07/245b789e_2823430_101_mr.jpg


Rushikulya waits for Olive Ridleys

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity; Animal conservation

In news:

  • Even after waiting for almost a month, Olive Ridley turtles have not yet arrived for mass nesting at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery and Devi river mouth.
  • The reasons are not fully understood yet.
  • Mass nesting has already occurred at the Gahirmatha coast of the State.

Do you know?

  • Only two species of marine turtles display a unique mass nesting behavior. This behavior is known as an ‘arribada’.
  • This reproductive phenomenon was first observed by the scientific community in 1961.
  • By producing large numbers of offspring most organisms like sea turtles can insure their survival even after predation occurs.

Arribada- Spanish term meaning arrival; a mass nesting behavior

  • An arribada is a unique nesting phenomenon common to both the Olive ridley and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
  • The Olive ridley is endemic to the Pacific coasts of Mexico, Central America, and India. It is known to be a nocturnal nester.
  • Olive Ridley: IUCN Status-Vulnerable
  • The Kemp’s ridley is endemic to the Gulf of Mexico. It ranges from Galveston, Texas to Tampico, Mexico. Kemp’s ridley turtles display unique diurnal arribadas.

Major nesting sites in Odisha:

  • The Gahirmatha beach
  • The mouth of the Debi river
  • The Rushikulya rookery coast in the Ganjam district

The Gahirmatha beach is the largest mass nesting site for olive ridley turtles along the Indian coastline, followed by the rookery at the mouth of the Rushikulya river.


(MAINS FOCUS)


GOVERNANCE/ECONOMY

TOPIC: General studies 2 

  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Important aspects of governance

General studies 3

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to mobilization of resources, growth, development; Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Challenges to Fiscal Federalism

Concept of ‘Federalism’

  • We are aware of the concept ‘Federalism’ – It is a type of government in which the power is divided between the national government and other governmental units.
  • Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel favored the decentralized structure and stood for the idea of federalism.
  • Constitution framers felt that federal structure can efficiently meet the requirements of people from different regions.

Concerns:

  • However, in the immediate period following Independence, the Centre and all States were ruled by the same party and when many of the powerful provincial leaders migrated to the Centre, the process of centralisation gathered further momentum.
  • Also Economic Planning at a nation-wide level helped this centralising process.

Concept of ‘Fiscal federalism’

  • Fiscal federalism refers to the division of responsibilities with regards to public expenditure and taxation between the different levels of the government.
  • Having a Fiscal Federalism mechanism allows the government to optimize their costs on economies of scale, because in this manner, people will get public service which they prefer, and there will be no unnecessary expenditure.
  • It is generally believed that the Central government must provide national public goods that render services to the entire population. (For example, Defence)
  • Sub-national governments are expected to provide goods and services whose consumption is limited to their own jurisdictions.

Concerns:

  • However, centrally sponsored schemes, which have ballooned in recent years, have ‘encroached’ on the territory of States.
  • Over years, the performance of the Central government is judged not only on the basis of actions taken which fall strictly in its jurisdiction but also on initiatives undertaken in the areas which fall in the Concurrent and even State lists. Centralised planning has something to do with it.
  • Today, the Central government is held responsible for everything that happens, including, for example, agrarian distress.
  • Therefore, while viewing the responsibilities of the Centre and States we must take a broader view than what is stipulated in the Constitution.

Do you know?

  • The Constitution has provided provisions which enable the Union and the States to work in coordination and to levy and collect taxes through systematic arrangements.
  • One important aspect of fiscal federalism is the determination of the specific fiscal instruments that would enable the different levels of government to carry out their functions.
  • While determining the taxes that are best suited for use at different levels of government, one basic consideration is – in relation to the mobility of economic agents, goods and resources.
  • It is generally argued that the de-centralised levels of government should avoid non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units.
  • In other words, the Central government should have the responsibility to levy non-benefit taxes and taxes on mobile units or resources.

It is important that the above principle is specifically provided in the Constitution. However, different Constitutions interpret differently what is mobile and what is purely a benefit tax.

For example, in the United States and Canada, both Federal and State governments have concurrent powers to levy income tax. On the contrary, in India, income tax is levied only by the Central government though shared with the States.

Trends in Tax Revenue

  • A look at the composition of central and states’ own taxes and expenditure reveal that the share of the own tax revenue and expenditure of the states is approx. 38% and 58% respectively.
  • This reflects the more than proportionate expenditure obligations of the states and also the lesser revenue raising powers vis-à-vis the centre.
  • Also many studies has highlighted that the performance of tax revenue in India is below its potential. This limits not only the spending capacity of the centre, but also the amount of taxes devolved to the states.
  • Besides, what is constitutionally sought to be devolved to the states is not being done in its spirit by the centre, which imposes surcharges and cesses as a means of raising revenue, without the same being part of the divisible pool of taxes shareable with the states.

Against Co-operative Federalism

In addition to these, the FRBM acts have imposed an asymmetric burden on the state governments in the face of non-compliance to the targets by the central government. This is sought to be accentuated by the recommendations of the FRBM Review Committee, 2017.

The rate apportionment and voting rights in the GST Council are also not in accordance with the principles of cooperative federalism, in which decisions are to be taken by a consensus among equal stakeholders. The decentralisation of the LGs is impeded by the asymmetry in centre–state relations.

The ToR of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, which is the last in the chain of events, hastens the process of centralisation and if implemented, cooperative federalism would only exist in name, devoid of any content whatsoever.

Fundamental changes are needed to make cooperative federalism a meaningful and functioning one.

Connecting the dots:

  • What do you understand by Fiscal Federalism? Examine the challenges associated with India’s Fiscal Federalism.
  • How well the existing federal structure has given room to the states to function as independent units? Examine. Also explain the concepts of cooperative and competitive federalism.

ECONOMY/AVIATION SECTOR

TOPIC: General studies 2 and 3

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

Aviation sector in turbulence

Key pointers:

  • India has been the fastest growing aviation market over the last four years.
  • India was seventh largest aviation market with 187 million passengers in FY 2017-18. It is expected to become the third largest by 2022.
  • Along with telecom, the aviation sector has symbolised the successes of liberalisation — with a visible impact in terms of the entry of a number of players and opening up of access to flying, besides ensuring pan-India coverage.
  • India’s air passenger traffic is expected to grow six-fold to 1.1 billion and the number of operational airports increase to around 200 in 2040, according to Ministry of Civil Aviation’s vision document released.

Concerns: Turbulence in the domestic airline industry

  • The Indian aviation sector is the fastest growing in the world with a growth rate of 20 per cent a year. But despite this 20 per cent growth, we have only 3-3.5 per cent of population flying, signifying great potential to grow further.
  • Full service carrier, Jet Airways, has been forced to ground several of its aircraft due to its inability to pay rentals. Jet Airways is looking for working capital loans but banks want the airline to show a turnaround commitment.
  • Market leader, Indigo, is facing shortage of pilots.
  • The Kingfisher Airlines had collapsed because of its owner’s profligacy.
  • Surging fuel prices and a weaker rupee are hurting Indian airlines.
  • For the national carrier, Air India, with a debt burden of Rs 55,000 crore, the government has provided interim support, a sovereign guarantee and loaned funds from the National Small Savings Fund, helping it to keep flying while keeping alive another state-owned entity, BSNL, in the telecom sector.

It is ironic that the domestic aviation industry, expected to grow at 8.5% annually and register a six fold increase in the traffic flow over the next two decades, is facing an existential crisis.

Floundering Growth

There is not much hope for the (airline) industry until the cost structure fundamentally changes. The fault lies in two things.

  • One is that the cost of operation for Indian airlines is very high compared to its peers in other parts of the world.
  • The second is that revenue is lower compared with counterparts across the globe.

Cost of operation shoots up mainly because of aviation turbine fuel (ATF), which is around 50% of the total cost.

ATF has not been covered under Goods and Services Tax (GST). At present, it attracts an excise duty of 11%. Over this central levy, states charge different rates of value-added tax (VAT) that goes up to 30%.

Other than ATF cost, various surcharges, user development fee (UDF) and steep navigational, landing and parking charges at airports make the cost structure of domestic airlines unviable.

Classifying ATF as an input and subsuming it into the GST regime will allow airlines to claim credit on fuel tax.

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically analyze the issues plaguing the Aviation Sector in India. Discuss what measures are needed to address the issues.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) Consider the following statements with respect to ‘Border Area Development Programme (BADP)’

  1. The funds under BADP are provided to the States for execution of projects relating to infrastructure, livelihood, education and health
  2. It was initiated during the Second Five Year Plan period

Select the correct statements

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2) Consider the following statements:

  1. Gujarat is the only state which is both emergent and submergent
  2. Eastern coast is emergent in nature (barring the Coromandel coast), whereas western coast is submergent (barring the Malabar)
  3. The land advancing against sea is termed a positive movement and the sea advancing against land is known as a negative movement

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 2 and 3 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Q.3) Consider the following statements about Olive Ridley Turtles

  1. They are found in India
  2. They are the only turtles which display a unique mass nesting behaviour ‘arribada’

Select the correct statements

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.4) Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) do not audit which of the following?

  1. Local bodies
  2. Oil and Natural Gas Commission
  3. State governments
  4. All institutions established by act of Central government

Select the correct answer using code below

  1. Only 1
  2. 1 and 2
  3. Only 4
  4. 3 and 4

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