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Daily Current affairs 14 February 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

Blame Russian cheating, not America, for killing the INF treaty

Context

• On February 1, 2019, the USA announced its decision to suspend its obligation under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed in 1987.

• Accordingly, the USA will withdraw from the landmark INF Treaty at the expiry of 6 month in August 2019.

 

Background

About INF Treaty

• The Euro-missile crisis of 1970s and 80s represented the high-point of cold war, with both USA and its NATO allies on one side and USSR on the other, building up their nuclear arsenal.

• In this backdrop the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed in 1987 aimed to arrest the global arms race of the time.

• The landmark INF treaty put an obligation on the parties (USA, NATO allies and Russia) not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched intermediate cruise missile in the range of 500km to 5500 kms or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.

• The INF treaty does not cover missiles launched from air or water.

• In the aftermath, by 1991, all such American and Soviet missiles had been eliminated.

• Beyond 5500 km range, missile which are mostly ICBMs intercontinental ballistic missile are covered under New START Treaty of 2010.

 

Relevance of INF Treaty

• In the aftermath of the cold war era and changing geopolitics, the relevance of the INF treaty is questioned time and again.

• In 2004-05, Russia proposed to US, joint withdrawal from the treaty in changing security situation in Eurasia.

• The argument was that the INF treaty was irrelevant as it did not cover new actors like China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Iran where intermediate-range missiles was proliferating.

• However, USA had declined withdrawing from the treaty as there was a need for strategic stability regime between the USA and Russia.

 

End of INF Treaty

• USA has made several charges that Russia has violated the terms of INF Treaty.

• In 2014, the USA publically designated Russia of non-compliance to the treaty.

• Most recently in October 2018, the USA administration expressed its intention to withdraw from the INF treaty over Russia’s 9M729 missile system.

• USA and NATO allies have accused Russia of flight-testing, and deploying a beyond range cruise missile called the 9M729.

• Though diplomatic efforts succeeded in getting the two sides agree for inspection of 9M729 and other American cruise missile systems, the USA has declared its withdrawal from the treaty finally.

 

Why did US withdraw from the INF treaty?

• The tussle over Russia’s 9M729 missile system acted as the trigger for US’s withdrawal from the INF treaty.

• Just like Russia in 2004-05, now the USA is wary of China’s build up of missiles which is not covered under the treaty.

• Besides if US and its NATO allies are to compete with China, it may have to deploy air-based and sea-based weapons which are relatively expensive, given the ban on ground-based due to INF treaty.

• Further the limited range of 500-5500 km requires US to use its allies in Asia to place its cruise missile systems.

• However Japan and South Korea would be wary of backlash from China were they to host American weapons.

 

Conclusion

• If New START is also allowed to expire in 2021, there will be no strategic stability framework for USA and Russia, leading to resurgence of arms race. This should be avoided at all costs.

 

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Section : International Relation

 

Climate change could wipe out Bengal tigers in 50 years

The News

• A new study published in the journal "Science of The Total Environment" has warned that one of the world’s largest tiger populations could disappear by the 2070 as rising sea levels caused by climate change destroy their habitat along the Sundarbans.

 

Research undertaken

• The computer simulations were used to assess the future suitability of the region for tigers and their prey species, using mainstream estimates of climatic trends from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 

About Sunderbans

• The Subderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River, is the world’s largest single block of mangrove forest.

• Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, viz Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries.

• The dominant mangrove species Heritiera fomes is locally known as sundri or sundari. 

• Mangroves are found at the inter-tidal region between land and sea. It serve as breeding grounds for fish and help protect coastal regions from natural disasters such as cyclones, storm surges and wind damage.

• Situated on the lower end of Gangetic West Bengal, the Sundarbans is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries.

• Apart from being a unique largest mangrove eco-system of the world, the Sundarbans has the world’s largest deltaic mangrove forests and is also home to one of India’s most iconic wildlife species – the Royal Bengal Tiger.

• The Sundarbans is also home to reptiles, commercial fish, birds and mammals.

• The tigers living in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh represents as many as 10 percent of all the remaining wild tigers on Earth.

• It was recently declared a Ramsar site, making the Indian part the country’s largest wetland.

 

Factors leading to tigers going extinct in the Sunderbans

• Habitat loss because of industrial development and development of new roads in the region.

• Poaching

• Effects of climate change(especially rising sea-level)

• Drastic reduction in breeding among different tiger populations as per genomic evidence

 

Recommendations

• Locally, governments and natural resource managers should take immediate steps to conserve and expand mangroves while preventing poaching and retaliatory killing of tigers.

• Regionally, neighboring countries should increase sediment delivery and freshwater flows to the coastal region to support agriculture and replenishment of the land

• Globally, governments should take stronger action tolimit greenhouse gas emissions

 

About Royal Bengal Tiger

  • The Bengal tiger is found primarily in India with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar and is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies
  • The mangroves of the Sundarbans—shared between Bangladesh and India—are the only mangrove forests where tigers are found.
  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • Scientific Name: Panthera tigris tigris
  • Habitat: Dry and wet deciduous forests, grassland and temperate forests, mangrove forests

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

99.82% projects in forests got nod

Why in news?

  • According to a reply to question in Lok Sabha, the National Board for Wildlife has cleared the forest nod for 682 out of 687 projects since August 2014.
  • About 99.82% of the projects were cleared by the National Board for Wildlife since August 2014.

 

About National Board for Wildlife

• In accordance with section 5 A added in the 2002 amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the union government is empowered to constitute the National Board for Wildlife as a statutory body.

• Headed by Prime Minister, NBWL is the highest decision making body on matters relating to wildlifepolicy in India.

• Environment Protection Act and Wildlife Protection Act have provisions for diversion of forest land for non-forest use.

• Accordingly NBWL is entrusted with the power to approve projects around protected areas, eco-sensitive areas, Tiger Reserves etc

 

Composition

• According to Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, constitution of the National Board for Wild Lifeincludes

• Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Minister of MOEFCC, 3 MPs, one from RS and 2 from LS, 5 persons from NGOs to be nominated by the Central Government, 10 eminent conservationists, ecologists and environ-mentalists and other members.

 

Mandate of National Board for Wildlife

In accordance with the various provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, the National Board for Wildlife performs following functions:

• To promote the conservation and development of wild life and forests by such measures as it thinks fit.

• framing policies and advising the Central Government and the State Governments on the ways and means of promoting wild life conservation and effectively controlling poaching and illegal trade of wild life and its products;

• Making recommendations on the setting up of the management of national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas and on matters relating to restriction of activities in those areas;

• Carrying out or causing to be carried out impact assessment of various projects and activities on wild life or its habitat;

• Reviewing the progress in the field of wild life conservation in the country and suggesting measures for improvement thereto

 

Other Functions

• Approval of projects involving construction of commercial lodges, hotels etc around Protected Areas

• Approval for alteration of the boundaries of a National Park

• Issuing permit for destruction, removal of wildlife or forest produce from a National Park.

• Approval for diversion of habitat

• Ensuring tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area with another are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses.

• Approval for alteration or denotification of Tiger Reserves

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

The PM-KISAN challenge Editorial 14th Feb’19 TheHindu

State of agriculture

Large percentage of people dependent on the sector:

  • The agriculture sector in India employs over 50% of the workforce either directly or indirectly, and remains the main source of livelihood for over 70% of rural households.

But the sector is in distress:

  • Various factors have adversely affected agricultural productivity and stability of farm incomes.
  • The droughts of 2014 and 2015, ad-hoc export and import policies, lack of infrastructure, and uncertainty in agricultural markets.
  • Inconsistent growth rates: Consequently, agriculture growth rates have been inconsistent in the last five years — 5.6% in 2013-14, (-) 0.2% in 2014-15, 0.7% in 2015-16, 4.9% in 2016-17 and 2.1% in 2017-18.

 

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN):

  • In a bid to reduce farmer’s distress, the union government, in the Interim Budget 2019, has introduced PM-KISAN, an annual income support scheme for small and marginal farmers.
  • PM-KISAN is a structured income support scheme for 12.50 crore small and marginal farmers owning less than 2 hectares of land.
  • It is a direct cash transfer scheme providing Rs. 6,000 per annumin three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • The scheme seeks to provide small and marginal farmers assured supplemental income and also meet their emergent expenses, especially immediately after harvest.
  • This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore, and will be fully funded by the Central government.

Is it enough to mitigate India’s severe agrarian distress?

  • PM-KISAN is aimed at boosting rural consumption and helping poor farmers recover from distress.
  • The scheme is valuable in principle.
  • However, without adequate focus on proper strategy and implementation, it is unlikely to make any meaningful impact.

 

Shortcomings in the scheme

  1. Inadequate financial support:
  • The theory behind cash transfers is that it enables poor households to directly purchase the required goods and services as well as enhance their market choices.
  • Therefore, any such cash transfer measure (such as PM-KISAN) can only be impactful if the amount transferred provides farmers with adequate purchasing power to meet their daily basic necessities.
  • According to the Rangarajan Committee, India’s poverty line is Rs. 32 per person per day in rural areas and Rs. 47 in urban areas.
  • Therefore, the income support of Rs. 17 a day for a household under PM-KISAN (Rs. 6000 per annum), is largely insufficient for even bare minimum sustenance of vulnerable farmers.

What is needed?

  1. Cash transferred should be significant enough to be successful:
  • To be effective, any cash transfer scheme should ensure that there is enough cash provided to help bring an affected community out of poverty.
  • Examples of such schemes from the states:
    • Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS)
      • Telangana’s RBS, being implemented since May 2018, provides Rs. 4,000 per acre to each farmer in each season.
    • Odisha government’s Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA)
      • Odisha’s KALIA, in the process of being rolled out, offers a direct cash transfer of Rs. 5,000 for a farm family over five seasons, among other benefits.
  1. Take inflation into account:
  • Given the volatile market and price fluctuations in different regions, it is important to index the cash transfers to local inflation.
    • An example can be seen in the failure of Direct Benefit Transfer in kerosene in Rajasthan.
    • There, as the market price increased substantially, cash transferred to families has been insufficient to purchase kerosene.

 

  1. Implementation issues
  • While cash transfers to households may appear simple, the scheme requires significant implementation capabilities.
  • Example of failure: A study by NITI Aayog found that the government’s pilot programmes to replace subsidised food grains with cash in three UTs have failed due to data inconsistencies.
    • While 50% of the people received less cash, 17% received more than they were entitled to.
    • More than 40% of the money transferred could not be verified to have reached the beneficiaries.
  • Poor state of land records:
    • Majority of the States have incomplete tenancy records and land data are not digitised (for instance, in Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu).
    • In such states, identification of beneficiaries is daunting.
  • Only those with land titles will benefit:
    • In the absence of updated land records and complete databases, the scheme may end up benefitting only those who hold land titles.
    • It could end up excluding many small and marginal farmers (while tenant farmers are not even eligible).
  • No grievance redressal mechanism:
    • The scheme does not provide a clear design of transfers and a framework for effective grievance redress.
    • Its importance can be seen from the fact that in MGNREGS, State governments still struggle to resolve complaints and curb corruption.

 

Conclusion:

  • PM-KISAN is an ambitious scheme that has the potential to deliver significant welfare outcomes. However, the current top-down, rushed approach of the government ignores governance constraints.
  • An alternative is the bottom-up strategy and well-planned implementation mechanism which would allow weaknesses to be identified and rectified at the local level. The most effective modalities can then be scaled nationally and ensure success.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

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Section : Editorial Analysis

 

Rafale report: CAG says NDA's deal 3% cheaper; gives Opposition fodder on guarantee

The News

  • Recently, the CAG report on 'capital acquisition in IAF', containing a comprehensive evaluation of the 2016 Rafale deal, was tabled in Parliament.
  • According to the report, the government’s €7.87-billion Rafale fighter jet deal is 2.86% cheaper than the one that previous government was negotiating.

 

About Rafale Jets

 

  • Rafale is one of the most modern fighter aircraft operational in the world today.
  • Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation.
  • It is capable to perform several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles at a very low altitude, air-to-ground, and interceptions during the same sortie.
  • It has a top speed of 1.8 Mach (1.8 times the speed of sound) with a range of 3,700 km and its operational altitude ceiling is 50,000 feet.
  • It can carry out a wide range of missions:
    • Air defence
    • Reconnaissance
    • Close air support dynamic targeting
    • Air-to-ground precision strike
    • Anti-ship attacks
    • Nuclear deterrence
    • Buddy-buddy refueling: Fighter or attack aircraft is used to refuel another fighter or attack aircraft, its buddy.
  • The aircraft is fitted with an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) which suppresses the need for liquid oxygen re-filling or ground support for oxygen production.
  • Rafale’s design features provide it stability at supersonic speeds, while at the same time providing it high manoeuvrability and ability to withstand 9 g or -3.6 g forces.
  • An advanced digital “Fly-by-Wire” system, with an in built redundancy improves manoeuvrability as well as survivability.
  • The AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar can detect and track multiple targets in all weather and in jammed environment.
  • India has also negotiated the acquisition of the latest weapons package for the Rafale. These are the new weapons, beyond the standard package.
    • SCALP: A precision long range ground attack missile that can take out targets with extreme accuracy. Has a range of 300 km, capped by the missile technology control regime.
    • METEOR: A beyond visual range air to air missile that is possibly the best in its class. Can take out enemy aircraft at range of over 100 km.

 

Rafale procurement necessary to reinforce India's combat aircraft strength

  • Indian Air Force conducted technical and flight evaluations and in 2011, declared that Rafale had met its criteria.
  • Rafale fighter jet is expected to be used in an 'airborne strategic delivery system' i.e. these may be used for the delivery of nuclear weapons during a strike role.
  • In modern warfare, air dominance from day one is a must, so that air-to-ground and air-to-sea operations can be conducted safely and efficiently.
  • Rafale fighter jets will give the country the edge to stay ahead in the changing security landscape of the region.
  • It has ability of the situational  awareness through which pilot gets situationally aware and able to detect enemy aircraft and  to  integrate  itself  seamlessly into  the  existing  battlefield  scenario using the AESA radar.
  • The Rafale will be India's most capable fighter aircraft.
  • India will have the second-strike capability from the air, land and sea in case of a nuclear strike from the enemy, establishing credible nuclear deterrence.

 

The Rafale Deal: a backgrounder

  • To replace the aging fleet of MiG aircrafts of the Indian Air Force with the procurement of advance jet fighters, the process was initiated by UPA government in 2007.
  • In an open competition, the bid was won by Dasault Aviation of France.

Previous Deal (UPA government)

  • The deal was inked with Dassault for 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts in 2012.
  • Out of 126 jet aircrafts, 18 were to be imported in a fly- away condition.
  • Rest 108 were to be manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) with the with Transfer of Technology from Dassault.

New Deal signed (NDA government)

  • After Modi government came to power in 2014, India and France announced a deal in 2015 to acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition.
  • The proposals were presented to the Defence Acquisition Council and after a Cabinet Committee on Security nod the deal was signed.
  • The Rafale deal was signed between India and France for a €7.87 billion agreement for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition in 2016.
  • Offset Clause: Additionally, an accompanying offset clause was sealed through which France will invest 30% of the 7.8 billion Euros in India's military aeronautics-related research programmes and 20% into local production of Rafale components.

Rafale deal controversy

  • The opposition critised the present Rafale deal and termed it as the "biggest scam" of the government because of the following arguments they provide:
    • No open tender like earlier agreement and direct government-to-government agreement
    • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was removed from the deal to benefit a private player.
    • Absence of Transfer of Technology in the new deal.
    • The 36 fighters were said to be purchased at a much higher price than earlier negotiated price.
  • Former French president also heated the debate with his remarks on the deal suggesting involvement of crony capitalism in the deal.
  • In October 2018, the former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with lawyer Prashant Bhushan, have filed a PIL in the Supreme Court for registration of FIR and investigation by CBI into the Rafale deal.
  • Later in Dec 2018, Supreme Court refused to judicial review the deal based on the PILs.
  • Recently, CAG has submitted its report on the deal.

 

News Summary

  • The CAG has compared the deal for 36 Rafale with the price bid by Dassault for 126 Rafale jets in 2007, by converting it into an equivalent cost for 36 aircraft in 2016.
  • Based on the comparison, the CAG has stated that the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft signed in 2016 is 2.86% cheaper than the one UPA was negotiating.
  • According to the report, the biggest factor which makes the deal for 36 aircraft cheaper is a 17% saving on India-specific enhancement as the missile package included under the earlier deal was removed which is now being developed indigenously by the DRDO.
  • However, as per the report, the deal could have been even lower, if it had not offered certain concessions.
  • Also, the delivery schedule of the first 18 Rafale aircraft is better than the one proposed in the 126 aircraft deal, by five months.

 

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Section : Defence & Security

 

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