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Daily Current affairs 24 DECEMBER 2018

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Need to open up India's dredging market to boost ports trade

The News

  • NITI Aayog said that India needs to open up its dredging market to boost trade by its major ports.

 

Background

  • Worldwide, ship sizes are increasing to achieve economies of scale.
  • As a result, there have been major investments in deepening the channel for ships, and expansion and development of new ports, which, in turn has led to an increased demand for dredging.
  • With various maritime programmes such as Sagarmala and the JalMargVikas, the union government is focusing on creating as well as maintaining deeper depths at ports and inland waterways.
  • For this the national think tank NITI Aayog has now given some suggestions.

 

Highlights of the news

  • NITI Aayog said that India needs to open up its dredging market to boost trade by its major ports, which at present cannot handle very large vessels in absence of proper draft depth.
  • It highlighted the shortcomings in current dredging market in India as following-
    • At present, the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) and a limited set of private vendors serve the Indian dredging market, limiting competition.
  • Other Challenges in development of dredging market
    • Inherent complexities in the sector such as high costs for dredging, shortage of qualified and certified dredging personnel, limited knowledge of dredging contracts, lack of proper soil investigations and environmental impact of dredging, etc.
  • For giving boost to the dredging market it suggested that more competition mainly from global players in dredging activities would help increase and maintain draft depth at ports and attract large vessels, enabling them to become hub ports.
  • Foreign players can be attracted to the market if the government takes measures such as-
    • Consolidating dredging contracts across cohorts of ports.
    • Withdrawing, at least temporarily, the right to first refusal given to Indian vendors.

 

Efforts already taken by the government

  • Action plan
    • To enable major ports to handle large vessels, the government has already made an action plan to increase the draft depth of ports.
    • Most major ports have already achieved a draft depth of 14 metres or more except Kolkata Port, where deeper draft has not been feasible because of the riverine nature of the port.
    • Some major ports are striving to achieve deeper drafts up to 18 metres.
    • The outer harbour in Visakhapatnam has very deep draft of more than 18 metres.
    • Work is in progress to create a draft of more than 18 metres in Mormugao and Kamarajar Port.
  • Strategic sale of DCI
    • The Union Cabinet last month approved strategic sale of government stake in Dredging Corporation of India to consortium of four ports namely Vishakhapatnam Port Trust, Paradeep Port Trust, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust.
    • The government currently holds 73.44 per cent in Dredging Corporation of India Ltd (DCIL).
    • This is aimed at facilitating the linkage of dredging activities with the ports, keeping in view the role of the DCIL in expansion of dredging activity in the country as well as potential diversification of ports into third party dredging.
  • The Sethusamudram project
    • It involves dredging of a ship channel across the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka.
    • When completed, it will alllow ships sailing between the east and west coasts of India to have a straight passage through India’s territorial waters saving up to 424 nautical miles (780km) and up to to 36 hours in sailing time.
  • Investment by ports
    • India’s 12 major ports have also lined up investments worth Rs6,304crore to deepen their channels.
  • Policy and fiscal support
    • Dredgers are covered under the new tonnage tax, a tax based on the capacity of ships that lowers tax outgo of firms when compared with the normal corporate tax.
    • Besides, the February Budget has granted infrastructure status to navigation channel in the sea and also fully exempted dredgers from payment of customs duty of 9%.
    • Following the government’s decision, firms engaged in dredging the channel of a port can claim income tax deductions for up to 10 years on profits arising from such business.

 

About Indian port sector

  • India has a coastline which is more than 7,517 km long, interspersed with more than 200 ports.
  • Most cargo ships that sail between East Asia and America, Europe and Africa pass through Indian territorial waters.
  • There are 12 major ports in the country; 6 on the Eastern coast and 6 on the Western coast.
  • Major ports are under the jurisdiction of the Government of India and are governed by the Major Port Trusts Act 1963, except Ennore port, which is administered under the Companies Act 1956.
  • These 12 major ports handle approximately 61 per cent ofthe country's total cargo traffic.
  • India has about 200 non-major ports of which one-third are operational.
  • Non-major ports come under the jurisdiction of the respective state Governments’ Maritime Boards (GMB).

 

 

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Section : Economics

 

No rise in working women despite high literacy levels: ICRIER study

The News

  • According to a recent study by ICRIER, better enrolment ratios and increasing higher education among women in India has not translated into better female labour force participation rates.

 

Context

  • Generally improvement in female fertility rates, income levels and education outcomes are associated with rising share of women in the labour force.
  • However this is not to be the case with women in India.
  • While there has been a marked improvement in the human development indicators such as decline in fertility rates, illiteracy and gender education gap, female labour force participation has decreased.

 

Key Findings

  • Researchers from Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations have conducted a study named ‘The Anomaly of Women’s Work and Education in India’.
  • Accordingly despite improvement in higher education among women, there is a fall in female labour force participation rates in India.
  • Besides the falling female labour force participation rates, the size of the total female labour force has also decreased in India.

 

Data

  • According to ILO estimates, the FLPR has fallen from 33.8% in 2000 to 27.3% in 2015.
  • Further the ILO projections indicate that FLPR will be at 24% by 2030.
  • According to World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2017, India is ranked at 108 out of 144 countries on their performance in gender parity.
  • Further according to the Gender Gap Report 2017 India performed very badly especially in economic participation and opportunity in which it is placed at 139 out of 144 countries.
  • According to NSSO data FLPR in rural areas (ages 15 and above) dropped from 49.4 percent to 37.8 percent and in urban areas from 24.4 percent to 19.4 percent between 2004-05 and 2009-10.
  • The higher participation in rural areas is due to unpaid family work in the agricultural sector.

 

Socio-economic Factors

Economic factors

  • Income effects of households.
  • Lack of job opportunities deemed suitable by women
  • Crowding out of female labour participation because of oversupply of educated workers
  • With increase in educational qualifications, there has been a cumulative explosion of potential high skilled female workers.
  • However, the increase in white-collar jobs have not been able to keep in pace with the increased supply of these women.
  • The reduction in female employment in agriculture is attributed increasing adoption of technology in agriculture.
  • The working age women in the age cohort 15-24 years are opting out of the labour force to continue their education.
  • Discriminatory wages and labour laws

Social Factors

  • Gendered morality that prevents women from working.
  • Cultural norms and stigmas attached to women working outside and participating in economic activities are still rampant.
  • Expansion of education in India has been to improve the marriage prospects of women, rather than their employment prospects.
  • Patriarchy and adverse social norms.
  • In urban India higher social status is negatively associated with female labour force participation rates.
  • Education in India seeks to ‘domesticate’ rather than ‘empower’ women.
  • The education perpetuate gender stereotypes through gender segregation in classroom and gender insensitive curriculum and pedagogy.

 

Importance of Gender Parity in Economic Sphere

  • Participation of women in workforce results in improved development outcomes for the entire household.
  • Greater female labour force participation rate has beneficial impact on child care for greater proportion of women’s income is spent on child goods.
  • Women not working outside their homes might encourage a general perception that women do not need to be strong and healthy.
  • Thus better participation in workforce results in better investment in women health.
  • According to estimates if women workforce increases to the same level as men, India’s GDP could increase by 27 percent.

 

Way Forward

  • Besides female education, the government schemes must target the cultural and social forces that shape patriarchy and thus facilitate behavioural changes.
  • Formulation of multi-stakeholder interventions that promote gender equitable norms leading to acceptability of female employment.
  • Implementing policies that reduce the time burden of women on domestic duties and care responsibilities.
  • Imparting quality education and skills.
  • Creating employment opportunities through quotas.
  • Encouraging greater participation of women in public administration
  • Adopting legal reforms to dismantle ‘protective legislation’

 

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Section : Social Issues

 

Mission Indradhanush: India’s immunisation growth rate since launch rises to four per cent

Why in news?

  • In December 2014, Mission Indradhanush was launched for a targeted approach to immunisation in India, in a bid to change the tardy annual growth rate of 1 per cent.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, India’s annual immunisation growth rate has risen to 4 per cent, with an unprecedented 16 per cent rise in the number of fully immunised children.

 

About Mission Indradhanush

  • Mission Indradhanush was designed as a booster vaccination programme in 201 districts with low immunisation coverage.
  • The word Indradhanush was chosen to represent the seven vaccines that were then included in the Universal Immunisation Programme against these seven diseases – tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and measles.
  • The number has since risen to 12 with the inclusion of vaccines against measles rubella, rotavirus, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococcus and polio.
  • In a select few states and districts, vaccines are also provided against Japanese Encephalitis.

 

India's immunisation coverage

  • Official data on India’s immunisation coverage still stands at 62 per cent as per the National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16).
  • However, the Union Health Ministry’s internal data, presented recently at the 4th Partners’ Forum meeting in New Delhi, stands at 83 per cent, with just 2 per cent unimmunised children.
  • The concurrent data for 2014 showed a full immunisation coverage of 67%.
  • The 83 per cent coverage figure is till November 2018.
  • However, the target that the ministry had set for itself was to touch 90 per cent by December 2018.

 

Note-

  • Mission Indradhanush was featured earlier this month in The BMJ medical journal as one of the 12 global best practices in child health.
  • Concurrent monitoring is a combination of provider reporting and supervisor surveys done within the system to estimate how a programme is working.

 

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Section : Social Issues

 

Tsunami strikes Indonesia without warning

The News

  • On 23rd December 2018, a tsunami struck the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra following an underwater landslide believed caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano.
  • Cause of the Tsunami- The tsunami was caused by an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau and was exacerbated by abnormally high tide because of the current full moon.

 

Why the tsunami struck Indonesia without warning?

  • While most tsunamis have seismic precursors that allow for some form of warning, an unfortunate chain of factors led to this catastrophic impact
  • The wall of the Anak Krakatau volcano collapsed during an eruption triggering an underwater landslide that spawned the tsunami.
  • This makes it different from most tsunamis, including the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed nearly 250,000 people in Indonesia and several other countries, which are triggered by seismic activity that often results in some sort of warning.
  • In this case, there was no earthquake as such so there wasn’t even the chance for people to realize an volcanic eruption would lead to a tsunami, so there was very little that could have been done in this case.
  • Even with a warning system, it would take less than 10 minutes to get where it is.

 

What led the Anak Krakatoa volcano to erupt?

  • Two theories have emerged about what caused the eruption: Either an underwater landslide or a spewing of molten lava caused the displacement.
  • Experts say it is more likely that the wave was triggered by a landslide.
  • The volcano that apparently triggered the tsunami in Indonesia emerged from the sea around the Krakatoa island 90 years ago and has been on a high-level eruption watchlist for the past decade.
  • Anak Krakatoa (the “Child of Krakatoa”) has been particularly active since June. Anak Krakatoa emerged around 1928 in the caldera of Krakatoa, a volcanic island that violently erupted in 1883.

 

Frequent Tsunamis in Indonesia

  • In September 2018 also Indonesia was devastated by another tsunami.More than 2,000 people died when a powerful earthquake struck near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which then triggered a tsunami that engulfed the coastal city of Palu.
  • On 26 December 2004, a series of huge waves caused by a huge earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed about 228,000 people in 14 countries - mostly in Indonesia.
  • However, tsunamis caused by volcanic activity do not happen as frequently.

 

Why is Indonesia prone to tsunamis?

  • Indonesia is prone to tsunamis because it lies on the Ring of Fire – the line of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific Rim.

 

Where is the Ring of Fire? 

 

  • Ring of Fire, also called Circum-Pacific Belt or Pacific Ring of Fire, long horseshoe-shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, volcanoes, and tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin
  • It is 25,000 miles-long (40,233km), is known for its chain of volcanoes.
  • The Ring is located in the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is said to be the location for 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

 

 

 

 

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Section : Environment & Ecology

 

Govt moves to access and trace all ‘unlawful’ content online

The News

  • The Union government is mulling changes in the Information Technology Act that makes it mandatory for the ‘intermediaries’ like online platforms to deploy technologies to curb unlawful content as well as to trace their origin.

 

Background

  • Recently India has witnessed rising incidents of violence due to misuse of social media platform.
  • Circulation of fake news, child porn and other objectionable content is on the rise in India.
  • In the Monsoon session of Parliament the government had spoke of introducing changes in Section 79 of the IT Act.
  • The government has been of the view that the online platforms will be treated as abettor of rumour propagation.
  • For instance recently in August 2018 the government had issued two notices to Whatsapp to curb objectionable content and rumours being spread on the messaging platform.

 

Proposed Amendment to IT Act

  • The proposed The Information Technology (Intermediaries ​Guidelines ​Amendment ​Rules) 2018 seeks to amend provisions under Section 79 of the Information technology Act.
  • Accordingly the online platforms or “intermediaries” must “deploy appropriate mechanisms to proactively identify, remove or disable access to unlawful content.
  • Further the intermediaries shall within 72 hours provid​e ​such information or assistance ​as asked for by any government agency.
  • Further the intermediary shall enable tracing out of ​originator of unlawful content on its platform as may be required by government agencies who are legally authorised.
  • Thus platforms like WhatsApp may have to break end-to-end encryption and save information on all data.
  • Further the intermediary shall preserve such information and associated records for at least 180 days for investigation purposes.
  • The intermediaries shall appoint a nodal person to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance.

 

What is unlawful content?

  • The unlawful ​content to be curbed is relatable to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India in the interest of
    • Sovereignty and integrity ​of India
    • Security of the State
    • Friendly relations with foreign States
    • Public order, decency or morality
    • Contempt ​of court
    • Defamation or incitement to an offence

 

Criticism

  • The proposed amendments may have serious implications for freedom of speech online.
  • The amendments are very similar to Section 66A of the IT Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 in Shreya Singhal case.
  • It should be noted that Section 66A made it a punishable offence for any person to post any information that is offensive or has menacing character.
  • It had created a ‘liability regime for intermediaries’.
  • The proposed amendment will introduce ‘traceability requirement” to break end-to-end encryption that is continually being denied by platforms like Whatsapp.
  • Pro-active censorship or traceability may stand against the right to privacy guaranteed under Part 3 of the constitution.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

Debt isn’t killing India’s farmers Editorial 24th Dec’18 Livemint

Farm loan waivers happening:

  • It is election season in India and governments in many states have started implementing farm loan waivers in an effort to win votes. 

Rural distress is said to necessitate waivers:

  • The widely accepted argument is that India’s farmers are buckling under the weight of their debts and rural suicides are spiking dangerously. 
  • Rural households are desperate for relief.

 

However, facts tell a different story

Farmer suicides falling:

  • According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, the number of farmer suicides has actually been falling in recent years; fewer such deaths were recorded in 2016 than at any time in the previous 16 years. 
  • In comparison, nearly twice as many Indian housewives commit suicide as farmers do.

No clear link between farmer suicides and poverty:

  • There does not seem to be a clear link between farmer suicides and poverty. 
  • Suicide mortality rates are higher in the relatively wealthy states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh than in poorer Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. 

Indebtedness is not the major cause of farmer suicides:

  • It is not actually the poorer farmers with greater debt-to-asset ratio who are killing themselves. 
  • According to data from the National Sample Survey Office, nearly 90% of the farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra owned more than two acres of land. 
  • Six out of 10 owned more than four acres.

Not victims of moneylenders:

  • Data shows that states such as Bihar where more people are borrowing from moneylenders are actually seeing fewer suicides. 
  • In contrast, Maharashtra where formal loans account for 87% of total outstanding debt sees suicides far above the national average.
  • The overriding objective behind most of the government’s subsidized credit schemes since the 1950s has been to provide alternatives to these greedy moneylenders. 

 

India's farmers are not doing too bad:

  • Overall, India’s farmers are doing far better than is made out. 

Can be seen by rural consumption:

  • One way to gauge the well-being of rural households is to look at how much they’re buying.
  • Rural households now account for 45% of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector in India. 
  • This is remarkable given the vast disparity in disposable incomes between urban and rural households.
  • It implies that improvements in rural infrastructure, connectivity and digitization are translating into higher demand. 
  • Over the last three years, rural sales grew significantly faster than urban sales in both volume and value; consumption growth currently stands at a robust 9.7%.

 

Lessons for policymakers:

  1. Loans are not the only source of farmer distress:
  • It is true that “indebtedness” has been rising as a cause of farmer suicides (since the government began measuring them separately in 2014).
  • However, the most commonly cited causes of suicide in India historically have been “family problems” or “illness.” Despite that, this issue has seldom received enough policy attention in the past decades. 
  1. More targeted programs needed than loan waivers for farmers:
  • India has no single rural economy.
  • It’s always possible to find distressed households somewhere. 
  • More targeted programs would address the problem more effectively and far more cheaply than blanket farm loan waivers.

 

Other solutions needed for rural distress:

  • As agricultural productivity and output improve, for instance, and India grows more food-secure, farmers are inevitably going to face lower prices. 
  • Access to healthcare, as well as to rural infrastructure, play an important role in determining how optimistic and secure farmers feel.
  • Some ways to help:
    • Cash Transfers: The most effective and least distortionary way to support farmers would be through direct benefit transfers. 
    • Healthcare: The new National Health Protection Mission (Ayushman Bharat) should improve rural healthcare. 
    • LPG: Free LPG connections for poor households should lower their energy burdens while improving the respiratory health of women (smoke from cooking fires is a leading cause of death in many parts of India).

 

Conclusion:

  • Given the detrimental impact on credit discipline, and the hole such farm loan waivers are going to blow in state budgets, politicians would be wise to rethink about such waivers.
  • Each of the issues facing farmers in various regions requires a different prescription. 
  • What is abundantly clear is that farm loan waivers aren’t the all-encompassing solution they’re made out to be politically. 
  • Those who want to help India’s farmers should be working much harder to figure out what they really need.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

 

Section : Editorial Analysis