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Daily Current Affairs

: 09-10-2021 : 45 Minutes

SUBJECT : Polity and Governance

Lateral Entry from Private Sector

In News

Recently, the government has selected 31 specialists from the private sector as joint secretaries, directors and deputy secretaries in central government departments.

Background

  • The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions had, in June 2018, invited applications for 10 joint secretary-rank posts through lateral entry mode — that is, appointment of private sector specialists in the government — for the first time.
  • This policy is about inducting the private sector in Governance so as to have better efficiency.

What is Lateral Entry?

  • The term lateral entry means the appointment of specialists and experts, mainly those from the private sector, in government organizations and ministries. 
  • Aim: To recruit outstanding individuals, with expertise in revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare, road transport and highway, civil aviation, commerce among many other sectors to serve for the benefit of the country.
  • Right talent for the right role is the principle behind it.

Perks of Lateral Entry

  • These lateral entrants into the civil service will be offered a three-year contract, which the government can extend to five years depending on performance.
  • The highlight of this announcement is the salary these lateral entrants will receive — Rs 1,44,200 to 2,18,200 per month. These are seemingly competitive salaries
  • Making matters better for potential candidates is that they shall be eligible for all government-mandated perks – for example, transport, accommodation and reimbursement of expenses. 

Lateral Entry: Pros

  • Specialisation: 
    • The lack of specialisation across the top tier of Indian bureaucracy is a concern that has remained unaddressed until now.
  • Seasoned Professionals:
    • IAS officers get recruited at a very early age via the UPSC exams. 
    • It is difficult to gauge their administrative judgement and capabilities then. 
    • Allowing for lateral entry of seasoned professionals and experts into the service makes up for this deficiency.
  • Filling The Gap: 
    • According to Department of Personnel and Training data, there is a shortage of about 1500 IAS officers. Lateral entry can help bridge this deficit.
  • Alternative to meritocracy:
    • Career promotions in the IAS move seamlessly with few impediments along the way. 
    • Attempts to introduce ‘meritocracy’ haven't quite worked out. 
    • Bringing in experts from the professional sphere is expected to shake the IAS out of their comfort zone.
  • Participatory Governance: 
    • Presently, governance is becoming a more participatory and multi-actor endeavor. 
    • In this context, the lateral entry provides stakeholders such as the private sector and non-profits an opportunity to participate in the governance process.
  • Dynamic Bureaucracy is needed:
    • It became more critical for the government to ascertain the impact its policy decisions have on various stakeholders such as the private sector, non-profits, and general public, i.e. those who have experienced government from the outside.
  • Some good case study prevail:
    • This isn’t the first time that the government brought in professionals from the private sector or academia into the top tier of government. 
      • For example, the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank of India and even the current NITI Aayog, which have hired the likes of Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian and Arvind Panagriya to name a few.

Lateral Entry: Cons 

  • Private and Public work culture:
    • Lateral entrants from the private sector and academia may not work well with the bureaucracy. 
    • The same pretty much goes for any inter-sector scenario. 
    • Differences in work culture, turf wars and systemic inertia often come in the way.
  • Privilege v/s Merit:
    • One of the distinguishing aspects that the current crop of IAS officers made through probably the hardest open competitive exam in the world and can hold up is their experience in the field, serving some of the poorest districts in our hinterlands. 
    • Those entering from privileged backgrounds and the private sector may have never seen a village school.
  • Profit Motive vs. Public Service: 
    • Private sector approach is profit-oriented. On the other hand, the motive of the Government is public service.
    • This is also a fundamental transition that a private sector person has to make while working in government.
  • Expertise Available: 
    • There is a difference between bringing expertise and being part of the decision-making process.
    • For bringing expertise, the government doesn’t strictly need to hire private-sector personnel. 
    • Expertise is widely available and used by almost every ministry — expert committees, consultations, think tank engagements, etc.
  • Exploitation of Newcomers:
    • It’s important to gauge what processes the Centre has put in place to ease the transition and establish authority
    • Candidates coming from the outside may not know the nuances of the system which can be exploited against them in any number of ways.
  • Transparency in Recruitment: 
    • One of the many reasons for the opposition against lateral entry recruitment is the transparency of the lateral entry process
    • It is essential to select the right people in a manner that is manifestly transparent. 

Second ARC and other recommendations on Lateral Entry

  • Sector Specialists: The second ARC headed by M. Veerappa Moily in 2008 proposed a plan to bring in sector specialists from various spheres into senior administrative positions in the government.
  • 10th Report: In its tenth report Refurbishing of Personnel Administration, the ARC recommended that:
    • At higher levels of government, lateral entry from the private sector should be introduced to encourage competition for the selected posts.
    • It also underlined the need to check the free flow of civil servants to the private sector for brief periods, asserting that it could result in serious conflict of interest.
    • Creating a senior management or leadership pool in the government, competition could be infused through two main mechanisms, one of which would be to open up the senior management cadre to all existing services. 
    • The other stream that it suggested was through lateral entry by opening the senior management cadre to aspirants from the private sector, who, it said, would bring new skills into government.
    • It had, however, also warned that lateral entry as done in the past on an ad hoc basis should not continue and the process should be ‘institutionalised’.
    • It had also laid down a roadmap for lateral entries, saying the Central Civil Services Authority should be entrusted with the task of identifying the posts at higher management level where induction of outside talent was desirable.
  • Other recommendations 
    • Remote areas experience:
      • The lateral entrants should have mandatory ‘district immersion’, serving at least five of their first ten years in field postings. 
      • The hard grind of such field postings will make lateral entry self-selecting, drawing in only those with commitment and aptitude.
    • Setting Objective Criteria: 
      • There are several joint secretaries in each ministry who handle different portfolios. If lateral entrants are assigned to an unimportant portfolio, there are chances that they will not be motivated.
      • A cursory look at the portfolios of the eight laterally-hired joint secretaries doesn’t suggest that they hold critical portfolios. That’s why one entrant has already quit.
      • Thus, what key skills, qualities, and experiences a particular role requires must be objectively decided.
    • Putting accountability:
      • The worst performing civil servants must be eased out of service after 15 years based of course on criteria that is both transparent and accountable. This will open up space for lateral entrants as well, leaving the IAS a little less top heavy.
    • Need for the Transparent Process: 
      • The key again to the success of this scheme would lie in selecting the right people in a manner that is manifestly transparent.
      • The constitutional role of UPSC should not be ignored as it will provide legitimacy to the entire process of selection 

 

Way Ahead

  • The government can consider lateral entry to head certain pre-identified mission-mode projects and public-sector entities where private-sector expertise actually matters. 
  • It should be a mix up of both private sector and civil servants.

Additional Information

The Union Public Service Commission has so far constituted following committees

for review of different aspects of Civil Services Examination including the language issues:

  • Kothari Committee – In 1976, the Kothari committee recommended a sequential system of examination based on the dictum that “the average quality would get richer as the stream proceeds from one ‘stage to the next'. Accordingly the examination was designed as a sequential three stage process - an objective type Preliminary examination, a Main examination and finally a Personality Test.
  • In 1989, the Satish Chandra Committee was appointed to suggest reforms and accordingly, an ‘Essay' paper was introduced and the marks for the Interview were enhanced.
  • Y.K. Alagh Committee, in 2001, recommended significant changes and it was this committee along with the committee discussed next that led to the introduction of a Civil Services Aptitude Test at the Preliminary level from the year 2011.
  • Surinder Nath Committee-  In its 2003 report, the committee stressed the idea for domain expertise of bureaucrats, suggesting that assigning particular domain to the officers should be a key step for their selection to the Central staffing scheme posts, identifying 11 domains.
  • Hota Committee- 
    • The 2004 report on Civil Service Reforms suggested that aptitude and leadership tests be held while selecting bureaucrats. In a significant recommendation, it also said civil service probationers should be allowed one month’s time after commencement of training to exercise their option for the service, adding that domain assignment should be introduced for civil servants to encourage acquisition of skills, professional excellence and career planning. 
    • It also recommended that empanelment and posting of joint secretaries, additional secretaries and secretaries should be carried out through domain assignment, competitive selection and matching of available skills with the job requirements.
  • S.K. Khanna Committee (2011)
    • Chaired by an ex-chairman, All India Council for Technical Education with engineering and management professors and bureaucrats as its members tried to remove the confusion that was created by so many former committees. 
    • The committee recommended a CSAT format, which was discussed within the UPSC and a draft sent to the government for approval. The present CSAT was notified.
  • Nigavekar Committee (2011) is thought to induce a system in UPSC pattern to judge the communications skills of the candidate, be it in any language.
  • Baswan Committee (2015) - 
    • The issue of dearth of IAS and IPS officers was highlighted in the Baswan Committee Report as well. 
    • However, the number of officers which can be inducted through UPSC CSE is limited and this may lead to compromise with the quality of the recruits and problems in training them at LBSNAA.
 

Covid and Traditional Bureaucracy

  • Specialists in every government department have to remain subordinate to the generalist officers.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weakness of this system.
  • Healthcare professionals who are specialists have been made to work under generalist officers and the policy options have been left to the generalists when they should be in the hands of the specialists.
  • Generalist provides a broader perspective compared to the specialist.


Sources: IE

SUBJECT : Indian Economy

Privatisation of Air India

In News

Recently, the government announced its decision to sell all its stake in Air India (AI) as well as AI’s stake in two other businesses — Air India Express Ltd (AIXL) and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd (AISATS).

History of Air India (AI)

  • Established: 
    • AI was started by the Tata Group in 1932, but in 1947, as India gained Independence, the government bought 49% stake in AI. 
  • Nationalised:
    • In 1953, the government bought the remaining stake, and AI was nationalised.
    • For the next few decades, the national carrier dominated Indian skies. 
  • Problem:
    • However, with economic liberalisation and the growing presence of private players, this dominance came under serious threat. 
    • Ideologically too, the government running an airline did not quite gel with the mantra of liberalisation.
  • Loss making entity: 
    • By 2007, AI (which flew international flights) was merged with the domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, to reduce losses. But it is the mark of how poorly the airline was run that it has never made a profit since 2007.
    • In fact, since 2009-10, the government (and indirectly the taxpayer) has spent over Rs 1.1 lakh crore to either directly make up the losses or raise loans to do so. 
  • Present: 
    • As of August 2021, AI’s debt was Rs 61,562 crore. 
    • Moreover, every additional day that AI remains operational, the government suffers a loss of Rs 20 crore — or Rs 7,300 crore per year.

 

Why is the selling of Air India being considered a landmark? 

  • The process was a labour of nine months for officers in the Union Finance Ministry who encountered multiple obstacles, and had to shed the “over-conservatism” that is typical of bureaucracy.
  • This time the government had kept itself open in terms of what the bidding parameters would be, which is why there were so many changes to the conditions throughout the process.
  • No one among the Opposition Congress and the Left — a traditional opponent of privatisation — has so far reacted unfavourably. 

The Terms of the Air India deal between Tata and GoI

  • Tata group holding company, Tata Sons Pvt. Ltd, through its wholly owned unit Talace Pvt. Ltd, submitted a winning bid of ?18,000 crore as the enterprise value of Air India, against a reserve price of ?12,906 crore
  • The group will also assume ?15,300 crore of Air India’s debt with the remaining ?46,262 crore taken over by the government’s Air India Asset Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special company set up to hold half of the airline’s loans, four of its units and non-core assets. 
  • Air India’s non-core assets comprising land and building, valued at ?14,718 crore, will be transferred to AIAHL.
  • The Tata group will also have to pay ?2,700 crore in cash to the government.

Challenges in Privatisation of the Air India 

  • There were two main hurdles:
    • The government retained a partial stake: 
      • As long as the government kept a certain shareholding of AI, private players did not seem interested. 
      • That’s because the mere idea of government ownership, even if it was as little as 24%, made private firms wonder if they would have the operational freedom needed to turn around such a heavy loss-making airline. 
      • Unlike all the past attempts, this time the government put 100% of its stake on sale.
    • Mountain of debt on AI’s books: 
      • Not to mention the ongoing losses. 
      • In the past, the government expected the bidders to pick up a certain amount of the debt along with the airline. That approach did not work. 
      • This time, the government let the bidders decide the amount of debt they wanted to pick up. 

Significance

  • Clear Message to Investors:
    • The privatisation of Air India is a message from the Government to the markets and global investors that it has the political will to bite the reform bullet.
    • Its demonstrative effect gets amplified because Air India was always a hard sell given its colossal losses and debt despite continuous infusion of funds.
  • Boost to Future Privatisation:
    • A transaction as “tough and complex” as Air India’s in an open, transparent and competitive bidding process, will boost future privatisation.
    • There will be a fillip because bidders will get more confidence in the government’s capacity to close transactions.
  • In sync with Market Realities:
    • Several decisions such as a guarantee to the bad bank and willingness to convert its outstandings with private telecom companies into equity suggest the government is keen to push ahead in sync with market realities.
  • Reduced Government Role in Economy: 
    • It underscores the PM's commitment to reducing the government’s role in the economy. 

Issues with Disinvestment

  • Loss of Regular Income: 
    • The Sale of profit-making and dividend-paying PSUs would result in the loss of regular income to the Government. 
  • Ignoring Reforms:
    • It has become just a resource raising exercise by the government. 
    • There is no emphasis on reforming PSUs.
  • Culture of Inefficiency: 
    • The valuation of shares has been affected by the government’s decision not to reduce government holdings below 51 percent. 
    • With the continuing majority ownership of the government, the public enterprises would continue to operate with the earlier culture of inefficiency.
  • Bureaucratic Control: 
    • The process of disinvestment is suffering from bureaucratic control. Almost all processes starting from conception to the selection of bidders are suffering due to it. 
    • Moreover, bureaucrats are reluctant to take timely decisions in the fear of prosecution after retirement.
  • Social Insecurity:
    • Disinvestment affects labour forces' social security.
  • Risk to National Security: 
    • Strategic Disinvestment of Oil PSUs is seen by some experts as a threat to National Security. 
    • Oil is a strategic natural resource and possible ownership in the foreign hand is not consistent with our strategic goals. For example, disinvesting Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).
  • Private Monopoly: 
    • Complete Privatization may result in public monopolies becoming private monopolies, which would then exploit their position to increase costs of various services and earn higher profits
  • Funding Fiscal Deficit is Unhealthy:
    • Using funds from disinvestment to bridge the fiscal deficit is an unhealthy and short-term practice. 
    • It is said that it is the equivalent of selling ‘family silver’ to meet short term monetary requirements. 

Conclusion

  • Given the chequered track record Indian private airlines have, privatisation of Air India may not ensure its redemption. But that does not justify the government running a business or keeping a bleeding firm alive forever, causing huge losses to the exchequer. When the government has limited resources and state capacity, it must cautiously allocate both of them. Lack of such prioritisation may lead to cases like Air India.
  •  In the last two decades, an avalanche of political economy and red-tape has often hijacked the attempts to privatise Air India. Perhaps this time, if the deal takes off, economic sanity would prevail.

Sources: IE + IE

SUBJECT : Polity & Governance

Consequences of growing digital divide

In News 

Recently, the Supreme Court warned that the digital divide caused by online classes will defeat the fundamental right of every child to education. 

Background

  • The court was hearing a petition filed by private school managements challenging a Delhi High Court order of September 2020, directing them to provide their 25% quota EWS/DG students online facilities free of cost. 
  • The High Court had said the schools could get reimbursement from the government.
  • The Delhi government had earlier appealed to the Supreme Court against the High Court order, saying it had no resources to reimburse the schools for the online gadgets. 
  • Though the Supreme Court had stayed the High Court order in February 2021, the Bench led by Justice Chandrachud said both the Centre and States such as Delhi could not bow out of their responsibilities towards children.
  • The Bench asked the Delhi government to come out with a plan to effectuate the ‘salutary object’ upheld in the High Court decision. 
  • The court said even though schools are now reopening gradually due to the receding curve of the pandemic ,there is a need to provide adequate computer based equipment together with access to online facilities for children is of the utmost importance”

What is the digital divide ?

  • The digital divide refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that don't have access.
  • The digital divide encompasses the technical and financial ability to utilize available technology, along with access (or lack of access) to the Internet.
  • Digital divides exist between developed and developing countries, urban and rural populations, young and educated versus older and less-educated individuals, and men and women.
  • The urban-rural divide is the single biggest factor in the digital divide.
  • The consequences of the digital divide include isolation, which can affect mental health; educational barriers as post-secondary education increasingly moves online; and worsening gender discrimination.

Consequences of Covid-19 and Digital Divide on Education

  • Lack of Gadgets and connectivity 
    • Students lack laptops, tablets or personal mobiles along with the poor or no net connectivity, concerns of distraction on the phones.
      • Children belonging to the Economically Weaker Sections [EWS]/Disadvantaged Groups [DG] had to suffer the consequence of not having to fully pursue their education or worse still drop out because of the lack of access to the Internet and computers.
      • Little children have dropped out of school and even run the danger of being drawn into child labour or worse, child trafficking.
  • Due to the lack of physical classroom teaching, a feeling of isolation is developing in the minds of students.
  •  Trauma of the second wave
    • The trauma of the second wave will put a deep imprint on the student’s mind, leading to an irreconcilable contradiction and ordinary family members will not be in a position to address the issue.
  • Technical constraints
    • Educational institutes and teachers also face technical constraints and a majority of them are not able to use them with ease.
    • Parents face difficulty in adjusting to the whole online system, amid the added household responsibilities.
    • A lot of subjects need practical and physical teaching including beauty culture, fashion design and tailoring, office management, travel and tourism, web design etc., so it is difficult to teach them online.

Suggestions

  • Addressing the digital divide requires special, urgent and focused efforts of the government.
  •  A large investment needs to be made, year after year, in digital infrastructure. 
    • The establishment of a Broadband Infrastructure Fund with a large corpus from private, multilateral and government sources, including spectrum auction revenues, is a must. 
  • An empowered entity needs to be set up which is accountable for quality and timeliness to design and construct digital highways, their rural branches, and ensure their optimum utilisation by sharing the infrastructure
  • Digital skills, required today both for life and for livelihoods, must be imparted on a war footing by transforming government digital literacy programmes into skilling missions, expanding outreach, including through the private sector.
  • The last mile delivery of services has to be made a reality and connectivity, devices and handholding assistance of trained persons at village service centres, schools and clinics is imperative.

Initiatives to Boost Education Sector

  • Dhimsa Community Radio Center :It was set up by South Odisha Voluntary Action (SOVA), which is a Koraput based non-profit organisation (NPO).
    • It initially started broadcasting educational content for students in 2016.
    • It started focusing on special education programmes when the classroom studies stopped, after the outbreak of the Covid-19, with an aim to close the digital divide in education.
  • ‘Focus’: The Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in Payyoli (Kerala )has joined hands with Thikkodi gram panchayat and Payyoli municipality to set up 250 free public wi-fi points across the region to support the online education of its students. 
    • It is named ‘focus’
  • PM e-VIDYA: Launched to enable multi-mode access to education.
  • One class-One Channel: Dedicated TV channel per grade for each of the classes 1 to 12.
  • E-PG Pathshala: An initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to provide e-content for studies.
  • NEAT: Aims to use Artificial Intelligence to make learning more personalised and customised as per the requirements of the learner
  • SWAYAM: Integrated platform for online courses for school and higher education.
  • IITPAL: For the preparation of IITJEE/NEET.
  • PRAGYATA: Under it, only 30 minutes of screen time per day for interacting with parents is recommended for kindergarten, nursery and pre-school.
  • Digitally Accessible Information System: Study material for the differently-abled persons with sign language.
  • Manodarpan Initiative: Provides support related to mental health and emotional wellbeing through a website, a toll-free helpline and chat.
  • New National Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework: It is rooted in the Indian ethos and integrated with global skill requirements.
  • National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission: Ensures that every child in the country necessarily attains foundational literacy and numeracy in Grade 3 by 2020.
  • Other Initiatives: National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), National Knowledge Network, (NKN) and National Academic Depository (NAD), etc.
  • DIKSHA Platform: ‘One nation-one digital platform’ for providing quality e-content in school education.

Source:TH

SUBJECT : Indian Economy

Bi-monthly monetary policy review of RBI

In News 

Recently, The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) voted unanimously to maintain the status quo with regard to the policy repo rate and by a majority of 5 to 1 to retain the accommodative policy stance. 

  • It indicated the unwinding of the accommodative policy as the economy shows signs of emerging from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • This process has to be gradual, calibrated and non-disruptive while remaining supportive of the economic recovery”. 

About Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)

  • Constituted by RBI under section 45ZB of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act, 1934.
  • Chaired by the Governor of RBI. 
  • Mission: Fixing the benchmark policy interest rate (repo rate) to restrain inflation within the particular target level (2% to 6%)
  • MPC conducts meetings at least 4 times a year. 
  • The monetary policy is published after every meeting with each member explaining his opinions.

The objectives behind the move

  • RBI will continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary to revive and sustain growth on a durable basis and continue to mitigate the impact of Covid on the economy. 
    • It will spur strong enough economic growth to reduce unemployment or to prevent unemployment from rising.
  • It may help in neutralising the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

Major Points 

  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) kept the repo rate unchanged at 4 percent, the reverse repo rate at 3.35 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and bank rate at 4.25 per cent in the bi-monthly monetary policy review.
  • RBI has discontinued the government securities acquisition programme (G-SAP) as part of liquidity normalisation. 
    • The central bank pumped Rs 2.37 lakh crore through various market operations including G-SAP in the first six months of the current year to revive the economy.
  • The RBI has slashed the inflation forecast for 2021-22 to 5.3 per cent from the 5.7 per cent estimated earlier
  • The RBI has retained the projection for real GDP growth at 9.5 per cent in 2021- 22, consisting of 7.9 percent in Q2 of the current year
  • CPI inflation for Q1:2022-23 is projected at 5.2%. 

Issues and Challenges 

  • Output is still below pre-pandemic level and the recovery remains uneven and dependent upon continued policy support.
  • According to the RBI, even as the domestic economy is showing signs of mending, the external environment is turning more uncertain and challenging, with headwinds from slowing growth in some major Asian and advanced economies.
  • A steep jump in natural gas prices in the recent weeks, and concerns emanating from the normalisation of monetary policy in some major advanced economies

Conclusion and way forward 

  • The ongoing domestic recovery needs to be nurtured assiduously through all policy channels. 
  • The MPC will remain watchful given the uncertainties surrounding the outlook for growth and inflation.
  • The substantial acceleration in the pace of vaccination, the sustained lowering of new infections and the coming festival season should support a rebound in the pent-up demand for contact intensive services, strengthen the demand for non-contact intensive services, and bolster urban demand.
  • RBI would ensure adequate liquidity to support the process of economic recovery.  
  • The Reserve Bank will continue to support the market in ensuring an orderly completion of the borrowing programme of the Government.

What is Policy Rate/ Repo Rate and other terms mentioned above?

  • Repo Rate: It is the rate at which the central bank of a country (Reserve Bank of India in case of India) lends money to commercial banks in the event of any shortfall of funds. 
    • Repo stands for ‘repurchase option’ or ‘repurchase agreement’.
    • The central bank provides these short term loans against securities such as treasury bills or government bonds.
    • It is commonly known as Policy Rate too.
    • Repo rate is used by monetary authorities to control inflation.
    • The government increases the repo rate when they need to control prices and restrict borrowings. 
    • On the other hand, the repo rate is decreased when there is a need to infuse more money into the market and support economic growth.
  • Reverse Repo Rate: This is the rate the central bank of a country pays its commercial banks to park their excess funds in the central bank.
    • The reverse repo rate provided by RBI is generally lower than the repo rate.
    • While repo rate is used to regulate liquidity in the economy, reverse repo rate is used to control cash flow in the market. 
    • When there is inflation in the economy, RBI increases the reverse repo rate.
      • It encourages commercial banks to make deposits in the central bank and earn returns.
  • Marginal Standing Facility: MSF or marginal standing facility is a system of the Reserve Bank of India that allows scheduled commercial banks to avail funds overnight.
    • It was introduced by the RBI as a provision for banks to avail overnight funds during a revision of the country’s monetary policy in 2011-12.
    • It is usually higher than the repo rate.
    • Banks can use their SLR or statutory liquidity ratio to take loans under MSF. 
      • This is a short-term loan used to maintain the liquidity of banks.
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation: 
    • It measures changes in the price level of a weighted average market basket of consumer goods and services purchased by households.
    • It also represents retail inflation.
    • In India, five types of CPI are published.

CPI Type

Published by

Remark

CPI-Urban 

National Statistical Office (NSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Measures Urban Retail Inflation.

Combined with CPI Rural to produce Overall CPI.

CPI Rural

National Statistical Office (NSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Measures Rural Retail Inflation.

CPI for Industrial Workers (IW)

Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Used for determining dearness allowance (DA), fixation and revision of minimum wages in scheduled employments.

CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL)

Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Used to fix minimum wages of agricultural labourers.

CPI for Rural Labourer (RL)

Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Used to fix minimum wages of rural unskilled employees

Source: IE

SUBJECT : Indian Economy

India’s Ambitious Ethanol Plan & Food Security

In News

  • In June 2021, the Prime Minister accelerated the nation’s ethanol goal by 5 years.
    • The policy seeks to double production and to have gasoline 20% blended with the spirit by 2025. 
    • To help meet the target, the government is offering financial assistance to biofuel producers and faster environmental clearances.

Ethanol

  • Ethanol is an organic chemical compound.
  • It is simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O. 

  • It is a volatile, flammable, colourless liquid with a characteristic wine-like odour and pungent taste.
  • Ethanol can be produced from crops that have high starch content like sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc.
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by the fermentation process.
  • Ethanol can be mixed with the gasoline to form different blends.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to better combust the fuel.
    • It results in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
  • Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered a renewable fuel.

Ethanol blending programme in India: A Timeline

  • 2001: The Centre had “launched pilot projects wherein 5 per cent ethanol-blended petrol was supplied to retail outlets”.
  • 2003: Success of field trials paved the way for the launching of the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme.
    • It aimed to popularise 5 per cent ethanol-blended petrol in 9 States and 4 UTs.
    • Ethanol is blended through a separate pumping and BIO-metering mechanism.
    • Once blended, ethanol cannot be separated from petrol.
  • 2021: The central government released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025.
    • It proposed a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022.
    • It proposed a phased rollout of E20 (20 percent ethanol blending in petrol) from April 2023 to April 2025.

Need for Such Plan

  • Energy Security
    • India is the third-largest consumer of energy in the world after China and the US.
    • Ethanol will promote AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by ensuring energy self-dependency to some extent.
  • Reduction in import dependency
    • India is dependent on imports for about 82.1% of its crude oil requirement and to the extent of about 44.4% in the case of natural gas.
    • EBP will reduce oil import bills and can save precious USD 4 billion (Rs. 300 Billion) per year.
  • Entrepreneurial Opportunity
    • India is expected to need 10 billion litres of ethanol annually to meet the 20% blending target in 2030 if petrol consumption continues to grow at the current pace.
    • At present, the capacity stands at 1.55 billion litres a year.
  • Support for the agricultural sector 
    • It will help the sugar mill owner to pay farmers their pending FRP for sugarcane.
    • It will also mitigate the problem of low sugar prices in the international market.
  • Additional income to farmers
    • It is in line with the vision of the Prime Minister regarding Doubling the Farmer’s Income
  • Environmental friendly fuel.
    • It will decrease emissions of CO, Hydrocarbons, NOx, etc as it burns more smoothly due to the presence of Oxygen in the molecule itself.
  • SDG targets
    • Relatively low Emissions will help achieve SDG targets and mitigate climate change.

Criticism of the E20 plan

  • Threat to Food Security
    • Ethanol derived from rice, corn and sugar could undermine food security in the world’s second-most populous country.
    • India still ranks 94th on the Global Hunger Index 2020 comprising 107 nations.
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 209 million Indians, or about 15% of its population, were undernourished between 2018 and 2020. 
      • The coronavirus pandemic is also pushing more people into poverty, dealing a blow to decades of progress.
  • Water Crisis
    • The new ethanol policy should ensure that it doesn’t drive farmers toward water-intensive crops and create a water crisis in a country.
    • Rice and sugarcane, along with wheat, consume about 80% of India’s irrigation water.
    • There is a need to prioritise food production over crops for fuel due to following
      • Depleting groundwater resources, 
      • Arable land constraints, 
      • Erratic monsoons, and 
      • Dropping crop yields due to climate change.
    • A ton of corn can typically produce about 350 litres of ethanol, while a similar quantity of rice can yield about 450 litres of the spirit. 
      • For sugarcane, it’s about 70 litres.
  • Competition between the distilleries and the public distribution system
    • As per some critics, the food grains meant for the impoverished are being sold to distilleries at prices cheaper than what states pay for their public distribution networks.
    • Many ethanol producers are getting rice at 2,000 rupees per 100 kilograms, 
      • which compares with an estimated 4,300 rupees FCI pays to stock up the grain.
    • It could have adverse consequences for the rural poor and expose them to an enhanced risk of hunger.
  • Aversion among developed nations too
    • Many developed countries debate limiting policy support for grain-based biofuels.
    • Such steps are being taken amid reports of food-price increases and greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation
    • The USA is focussing on Electric Vehicles.
  • Non-uniform availability of Blending Infrastructure
    • About 50% of total pump nozzles in India are supplying only E0 even today especially in the North East States.
    • High Logistics Cost is also a challenge for petrol pump operators.
  • Challenges to Vehicle Manufactures and old Vehicle Owners
    • Rusting of the fuel tank was seen as ethanol sucks moisture from the atmosphere.
    • E20 compatible vehicles are expected to be costlier.

Way ahead and Conclusion

  • Shift Focus from 1G to next-generation Biofuels
    • It will counter the most genuine fear of loss of food security.
    • Even, the 2018 National Policy on Biofuels prioritized 
      • grasses and algae; 
      • cellulosic material such as bagasse, farm and forestry residue; and, 
      • items like straw from rice, wheat and corn for ethanol production.

Courtesy: Science Direct

  • Floor Price for Ethanol
    • To promote entrepreneurship and investment, predictability is required.
    • A floor price will help in that direction.
  • Making Vehicle manufacturers future-ready
    • The industry and petrol pump should be made ready for next pushes like E85 and E100.
  • India has a real opportunity here to become a global leader in sustainable biofuels policy if it chooses to refocus on ethanol made from wastes.
    • This would bring both strong climate and air quality benefits, since these wastes are currently often burned, contributing to smog.

Source: IE

SUBJECT : Facts in News

Javan Gibbon

Context 

Indonesian officials and researchers are working to preserve a small pocket of forest on the heavily populated island of Java as the habitat of the Javan gibbon.

About

  • Javan Gibbon is also known as the silvery gibbon and the primate is unique to central and western Java, where it plays a role in regenerating forest vegetation by dispersing seeds.
  • They have a fluffy appearance because of their very dense and long silvery-grey fur. 
  • They have very long forelimbs, long fingers and shorter thumbs which make them great brachiators (use their arms to swing between branches).
  • Diet: Javan Gibbons are omnivores and eat fruits, some leaves and sometimes nectar and grubs.
  • In the wild: They live in family groups made up of a male and female and up to three juvenile offspring. Like other gibbons the territory is maintained by patrols, physical conflict and loud calling.
  • Conservation Status : Conservation International estimates there are around 4,000 Javan gibbons left. They are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

                                                          Image Courtesy:Kidszoo.org

Source:IE

SUBJECT : Facts in News

Semi-cryogenic propellant tank

In News 

The heaviest semi cryogenic propellant tank (SC120­ LOX) ever fabricated by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been delivered to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

About 

  • The semi cryo liquid oxygen (LOX) tank — the first developmental welded hardware — is a part of the SC120 stage intended for payload enhancement by replacing the L110 stage in the existing Mk­III launch vehicle.
    • In 2020 ,HAL had delivered the biggest ever cryogenic liquid hydrogen tank (C32­LH2), four meters in diameter and eight meters in length, much ahead of contractual schedule.
  • HAL has delivered critical structures, tankages, satellite structures for the PSLV, GSLV­Mk II and GSLV­Mk III launch vehicles. 



 

 

What is a Cryogenic engine?

  • It is the last stage of space launch vehicles which makes use of Cryogenics.
    • Cryogenics is the study of the production and behaviour of materials at extremely low temperatures (below -150 degree Centigrade) to lift and place heavier objects in space.
  • Cryogenic stage is technically a much more complex system with respect to solid or liquid propellant (stored on earth) stages due to the usage of propellants at extremely low temperatures. 
  • A cryogenic engine provides more force with each kilogram of cryogenic propellant it uses compared to other propellants, such as solid and liquid propellant rocket engines and is more efficient.
  • Cryogenic engines make use of Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as propellants which liquefy at -183 deg C and -253 deg C respectively. LOX and LH2 are stored in their respective tanks. 

What is a Semi-Cryogenic Engine?

  • Unlike a Cryogenic engine, a Semi Cryogenic engine uses Refined kerosene instead of liquid hydrogen. The liquid oxygen is used as a Oxidiser. 
    • That’s the advantage of using a Semi Cryogenic engine as it requires Refined Kerosene which is lighter than liquid fuel and can be stored in a normal temperature. 
  • Kerosene combined with liquid oxygen provide a higher thrust to the rocket. Refined Kerosene occupies less space, making it possible to carry more propellant in a Semi Cryogenic engines fuel compartment.
  •  A semi cryogenic engine is more powerful, environment friendly and cost effective as compare to cryogenic engine


                                      Image Courtesy:DH

SUBJECT : Facts in News

Jayaprakash Narayan

Context 

 October 8 marked the 42nd death anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan.

Image Courtesy:mkgandhi.org

About 

  • He was a freedom fighter of great courage and one of the pioneers of the socialist movement in the country. 
  • Early Life: He was born on  October 11, 1902 in Sitabdiara, a quiet village susceptible to floods, situated near the confluence of the Ganga and Saryu rivers, nearly 118 km from Patna. 
  • Jayaprakash Narayan whose name means, “Victory to the light” was born in the early hours of October 11, 1902 in the remote Bihar village of Sitabdiara
    • Thereafter, his family moved to a small village in Uttar Pradesh’s Balia district.
  • Education : He was a brilliant student. He completed his matriculation with distinction, but quit college to take part in the non-cooperation movement.
  • He later went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he was exposed to Marxism. 
  • JP returned to India in 1929, influenced by Marxism and radical thought to some extent and joined the Indian National Congress (Congress Party).
  • Contributions in freedom struggle  :  In 1932 he was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for his participation in the civil disobedience movement against British rule in India. 
    • Upon release he took a leading part in the formation of the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group within the Congress Party, the organization that led the campaign for Indian independence. 
    • He was imprisoned by the British again in 1939 for his opposition to Indian participation in World War II on the side of Britain, but he subsequently made a dramatic escape and for a short time tried to organize violent resistance to the government before his recapture in 1943.
    • In 1948 he, together with most of the Congress Socialists, left the Congress Party and in 1952 formed the Praja Socialist Party
    • Soon becoming dissatisfied with party politics, he announced in 1954 that he would thenceforth devote his life exclusively to the Bhoodan Yajna Movement, founded by Vinoba Bhave, which demanded that land be distributed among the landless. 
      • He galvanised support for the Bhoodan movement, worked relentlessly for the poor and the underprivileged and, above all, became a symbol of the national conscience in the fight against corruption, anti-democratic conduct and repressive practices of Indira Gandhi’s government in the 1970s. 
    • He grew from socialism to Sarvodaya, becoming the leader of resistance against a repressive, anti-democratic regime. 
    • He set up the Azaad Dasta in the Terai region of Nepal to resist British rule.
    • Narayan, who had launched a 'Sampoorna Kranti' (total revolution) in 1974 against corruption in public life, is the third person to get the prestigious award this year.

Awards and Honours

  • Socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan was posthumously conferred with India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, for his "invaluable contribution to the freedom struggle and upliftment of the poor and downtrodden".

Source:IE

SUBJECT : Facts in News

Nobel Peace Prize

In News

  • Philippines journalist Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

About 

  • They have bagged the award “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
  • Both journalists have faced several attempts from both Philippines and Russian governments to silence their publication.

Maria Ressa 

  • Ressa is the Executive Editor and CEO of Rappler – an online news outlet – covering the policies and actions of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's regime.
  • She established Rappler in 2012 with three other female founders and with a small team of 12. 
    • The website became one of the first multimedia news websites in the Philippines – sweeping local and international awards.
  • In 2019, the journalist was arrested over a Rappler news story on businessman Wilfredo Keng, which was seen as politically motivated means to silence her.

Dmitry Muratov 

  • Muratov is the editor-in-chief of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. It was founded by him in 1993, and he edited the newspaper until 2017.
    • The newspaper has exposed several cases of abuse of power, human rights violation and corruption.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists called his newspaper the "only truly critical newspaper with national influence in Russia today."
  • He won the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2007
    • Three years later, he received the Legion of Honor order, France's highest award, in the degree of Chevalier (Knight).
  • He also received for the Novaya Gazeta the Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech in Middelburg, the Netherlands in 2010.

About Nobel Peace Prize

  • The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel.
  • Peace prize is along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature.
  • The first Nobel Peace Prize awarded In 1901. 
    • The prize was shared between Henry Dunant of Switzerland, founder of the Red Cross, and the French parliamentarian and peace activist Frédéric Passy.
  • Selection of Nobel Prize laureates
    • The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection of eligible candidates and the choice of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. 
    • The Committee is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament). 
    • The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not in Stockholm, Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the prize in economic sciences are awarded.
  • How are the Nobel Prize laureates selected?


 

Source:IE