Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - November 18, 2017

Economy

Moody’s has upgraded India’s sovereign credit rating

  • by a notch to ‘Baa2’ from Baa3
  • changed the outlook to stable from positive

Improvement in ratings

  • Possible reason behind this: Due to central government ongoing reforms such as the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime and the mechanisms for resolving bad loans and re-capitalise ailing public sector banks

Difference between Baa2 and Baa3

  • Baa2 are subject to moderate credit risk
  • They are considered medium grade and as such may possess certain speculative characteristics
  • Baa3, by contrast, was the lowest investment grade rating

On debt-to-GDP ratio

  • Moody’s expects India’s debt-to-GDP ratio to rise by about one percentage point this fiscal year to 69% of GDP

Other comments by the rating agency

  • The rating agency agreed that a lot remains to be done such as fixing the GST’s implementation challenges, weak private sector investment and the slow resolution of banking bad loans

Moody’s Investors Service

  • Moody’s Investors Service, often referred to as Moody’s, is the bond credit rating business of Moody’s Corporation, representing the company’s traditional line of business and its historical name
  • Moody’s Investors Service provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities
  • Moody’s, along with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, is considered one of the Big Three credit rating agencies
  • These include government, municipal and corporate bonds; managed investments such as money market funds and fixed-income funds; financial institutions including banks and non-bank finance companies; and asset classes in structured finance
  • In Moody’s Investors Service’s ratings system, securities are assigned a rating from Aaa to C, with Aaa being the highest quality and C the lowest quality

National Anti – Profiteering Authority

  • The Union Cabinet on approved the setting up of a National Anti-Profiteering Authority, a body with an overarching mandate to ensure that the reduction in tax rates under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime gets passed on to consumers by way of lower prices

The Anti-Profiteering Framework

  • The anti-profiteering framework under the new indirect tax regime consists of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority at the top, a standing committee, screening committees in every state and Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).

National Anti-Profiteering Authority

  • The authority will have the power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on the benefit of lower taxes under the GST regime to consumers and empowers consumers to approach it in case of any complaint
  • It enables consumers to file complaints in case the benefits are not transferred to them
  • Section 171 of the CGST Act, which pertains to anti-profiteering provides for the establishment of such a authority

Composition of the Authority

  • It will be a five-member committee
  • It will be headed by Cabinet Secretary and comprising Revenue Secretary, CBEC Chairman and chief secretaries from two states, has been entrusted to finalize the chairman and members of the authority
  • The chairman and the four members have to be less than 62 years
  • The authority will have a sunset date of two years from the date on which the chairman assumes charge

What actions can National Profiteering Authority take in case of Profiteering by Companies?

  • If the authority finds that a company has not passed on the benefits, it can direct the entity to pass on the benefits to consumers along with interest at the rate of 18 percent from the date of collection of the higher amount till the date of return of such amount.
  • If the beneficiary cannot be identified, the authority can ask the company to transfer the amount to the ‘Consumer Welfare Fund’, as provided under Section 57 of CGST Act.
  • According to the anti-profiteering rules, the authority can also order imposition of penalty if the registered GST assessee has not passed on the benefit to the recipient.

Environment

Report

Reason for Delhi Smog apart from Stubble Burning – Gulf dust storm

  • Besides stubble burning, a “multi-day dust storm” in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia was the main cause of Delhi’s smog between November 6 and 14.
  • According to a study by the System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting And Research(under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) and India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Enlighten about the study

  • There was a large multi-day dust storm that emerged in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the last week of October 2017 and continued up to November 3 and 4.
  • This dust storm was carried by relatively cool winds.
  • Winds at a height and low wind speed close to the surface meant that the pollutants were carried towards Delhi.
  • The study says that the dust storm was responsible for 40 percent of the pollution on November 8.
  • While stubble burning was responsible for 25 percent of the pollution, “local sources” also played a role.

Impact of measures taken under Graded Action Plan

  • According to the SAFAR and IMD report, the imposition of emergency measures such as a ban on construction and entry of trucks in Delhi made a positive difference of around 15 percent

System of Air Quality & Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR):

  • SAFAR envisages a research-based management system where strategies of air pollution mitigation go hand in hand with nation’s economic development to target a win-win scenario.
  • It helps in knowing the City Air Quality- Overall city pollution and Location specific Air Quality.
  • The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  • It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.

Bonn Climate Change Conference ( COP- 23)

The New Initiative- The Global Alliance To Power Past Coal

  • A new initiative, led by the United Kingdom and Canada, to phase-out the use of coal for electricity generation was launched at the COP-23 at Bonn
  • A declaration by the newly-launched alliance said that coal phase-out needed to be carried out no later than by 2030 in the OECD and EU countries
  • And no later than by 2050 in the rest of the world
  • Eighteen countries and a few states from the United States and Canada joined the alliance at the time of its launch

Financing of the IPCC

  • The French President promised to compensate for the loss of American funding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which carries out periodic assessments of climate change science and whose recommendations provide the scientific foundation to the international climate negotiations

Other Announcements

  • An important agreement on ‘pre-2020 actions’ was announced.
  • And also four European countries agreed to ratify the Doha amendments to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • A new ‘border tax’ to protect the economy of Europe from imports from countries that do not respect these (climate) goals and are not supporting the environmental transition was also proposed by French President.
  • Countries agreed to organise a series of workshops to explore ways to climate-proof agriculture

Education Sector

World Development Report 2018 - by World Bank

Lack of trust in government schools

  • Education systems in many countries are not performing up to expectation
  • And many families have been turning to private schools since they feel that the latter deliver better

World Development Report, 2018 comment on public and private schools

  • The World Bank’s recent flagship World Development Report, 2018 addressed some immediate challenges of quality education
  • The report highlights that research across 40 countries finds no difference in the learning outcomes of children with similar family backgrounds in both public and private schools
  • Private schools appear better since they enrol children from relatively advantaged backgrounds who are able to pay, not because they deliver better quality
  • The World Bank report thus challenges a popular perception in India and finds no consistent evidence that private schools deliver better learning outcomes than public schools

Lack of untrained teachers in private schools

  • Indeed, of the 1.27 million untrained teachers teaching in India, 925,000 are in private schools, pointing to the massive historic neglect of quality

Other particulars of the World Bank’s Report

  • The report warned that some private schools’ quest for profit “can lead them to advocate policy choices that are not in the interests of students”

How can we improve the quality of education?
The quality of education can only be improved if

  • steps are taken to ensure children come to school prepared to learn,
  • teachers have the skills and motivation to teach effectively,
  • inputs reach classrooms and management
  • and governance systems are strengthened in schools that serve the poorest

Risks associated with private schools

  • There are also clear risks as private schools skim off higher-income students that are easiest and most profitable to teach, leaving the most disadvantaged within the public system
  • The reliance on private schools risks segregating the education system on family income and deepening existing social cleavages;

Regulatory framework for private schools in India

  • India has taken some steps in the direction of developing regulatory frameworks for private schools, with several states enacting fee-regulation legislation and the courts intervening to challenge private sector failures
  • Recently, the Supreme Court intervened to direct states to enforce guidelines on safety in schools, it had to enforce fee regulation

What’s the way forward

  • The government is set to unveil the first New Education Policy in 25 years in December 2017
  • It needs to address the key concerns and should focus on equity in quality—ensuring universal access to free, quality, equitable and safe public education for all of India’s young citizens
  • This alone would help achieve India’s aspirations of global leadership by tapping into the demographic dividend that India still enjoys
  • This must be backed by adequate resources. India is committed to the global and domestic benchmark of allotting 6% of gross domestic product to education, but has never crossed the 4% threshold
  • Failing to invest in the best education for the poor will only widen the social inequalities that exist in India today
  • The road to reform is fraught with challenges but the cost of inaction will be much higher

Government Schemes

Government launches Saubhagya Web Portal

  • Ministry of Power launched Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – ‘Saubhagya’ Web Portal. The portal can be accessed at http://saubhagya.gov.in.
  • The web portal aims to ensure transparency as well as accelerate household electrification in rural as well as urban areas in the country.

Enlighten about it –

  • Saubhagya web portal will enable every state to fill current status of progress of electrification works which will enable accountability for State DISCOMs/utilities.
  • It offers feature on village electrification camps that will be organised by DISCOMs in villages for facilitating instant filling up of application forms and to complete requisite documentation to expedite release of electricity connections to households.

Enlighten about the scheme –

  • Electricity connections will be given to APL families for Rs 500, which will be payable in 10 equal monthly instalments.
  • The BPL cardholders will get free electricity connections.The total outlay of scheme is Rs. 16, 320 crore while Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) is Rs. 12,320 crore.
  • The Central Government will provide largely funds for the Scheme to all States/UTs.
  • The States and Union Territories are required to complete works of household electrification by 31st of December 2018.
  • For covering un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp with battery bank, comprising of 5 LED lights, 1 DC fan, 1 DC power plug.
  • It also includes the Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years.

Cabinet Decisions

CCEA approves continuation of four programmes under Integrated Child Development Services

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved four sub-schemes under Umbrella Scheme Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  • These four schemes include anganwadi services, programme for adolescent girls called Sabla, Child Protection Services and National Creche Scheme.

Enlighten about it –
Anganwadi Services (ICDS):

It aims at holistic development of children under age of 6 years and its beneficiaries are children of this age group and Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.

Sabla (programme for adolescent girls):

  • Its objective is to facilitate, educate and empower adolescent girls (AGs) to enable them to become self-reliant and aware citizens through improved nutrition and health status.
  • It aims at promoting awareness about health, hygiene, nutrition, mainstreaming out of school AGs into formal and non-formal education and providing information and guidance about existing public services.

Child Protection Services:

  • Its objectives are to provide safe and secure environment for children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • It also aims to reduce vulnerabilities through wide range of social protection measures, prevent actions that lead to abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation of children from families etc.
  • It also aims to bring focus on non-institutional care, develop platform for partnership between Government and Civil Society and establish convergence of child related social protection services.

National Creche Scheme:

  • Aims at providing safe place for mothers to leave their children while they are at work.
  • It is measure for empowering women as it enables them to take up employment.
  • It is also intervention towards protection and development of children in age group of 6 months to 6 years.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme

  • ICDS Scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by states/UTs. It was launched on 2nd October 1975.
  • It has following objectives:
    - Improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
    - Reduce mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout;
    - Promote policy coordination and implementation for promoting child development;
    - Lay adequate foundation for psychological, physical and social well-being of children etc.
  • Under the scheme, services such as Supplementary nutrition; Pre-school non-formal education; nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-ups; and Referral services through Anganwadi Centres for children below 6 years of age as well as to pregnant women and lactating mothers are offered.

Cabinet increases carpet area of houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

  • The Union Cabinet has approved increase in carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy under Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) for Middle Income Group (MIG) under Pradhan Mantri AwasYojana (Urban).
  • The purpose is to further enhance the scope, coverage and outreach of Scheme.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) PMAY(U)

  • Provide houses to all poor by 2022.
  • Its objective is to construct two crore houses across the nation.
  • It covers the entire urban area consisting of 4041 statutory towns with initial focus on 500 Class I cities.
  • Intended beneficiaries of the scheme are Poor people (BPL) and People living under EWS and LIG (Low income Group) categories in urban establishments of the country.
  • It also targets people living under MIG (middle income Group).

MP partners with Nagaland and Manipur under Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana

  • Madhya Pradesh has partnered with Nagaland and Manipur under Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana to strengthen cultural relations between them.
  • MP Government has made its Higher Education Department as nodal department to execute the scheme.
  • MP will participate in Sangai Mahotsav which is being organized in Manipur.
  • Likewise, teams from Nagaland and Manipur will take part in Lok Rang and Bal Rang programmes of MP to present their cultural programmes.
  • Moreover, translation work of Nagaland’s books also has been started in MP to introduce people to state with their activities and cultural heritage.

Enlighten about Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana

  • It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Ekta Diwas (31st October 2015) on the occasion of birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.
  • Its objective is to strengthen cultural relations of various parts of country and to embolden mutual connection between people dwelling in different states.

Tribal Affairs

Aadi Mahotsav: Fortnight long Tribal Festival held in New Delhi

  • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated Aadi Mahotsav, a fortnight long Tribal Festival in New Delhi.
  • The theme of the festival is A Celebration of the Spirit of Tribal Culture, Cuisine and Commerce’.
  • The festival will feature exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts, art, paintings, fabric, jewellery and much more through about 200 stalls

Enlighten about Aadi Mahotsav

  • The name Aadi Mahotsav suggests that the ‘adi’ factor is important about them.
  • The adivasi way of life is guided by primal truths, eternal values and natural simplicity.
  • The greatness of tribes lies in the way they have managed to retain primal skills, the natural simplicity.
  • ‎This quality gives their arts and crafts a timeless appeal. So, this festival seeks to channelize and promote their natural skills and provide then sources of income.
  • The Government has formed the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) for achieving this.
  • TRIFED is working in this direction and now has embraced e-commerce and digital platforms to take the business forward.

Background

  • In India, tribes constitute over 8% of country’s population which corresponds to over 10 crore Indians.
  • The national object of inclusive development includes the development of tribes as an important component.
  • Even Constitution enjoins upon Government the responsibility of addressing the special needs of the tribals.

Defence

Portable Diver Detection Sonar

  • In consonance with Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ Policy; Indian Navy on 15th November 2017, has concluded a contract with Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division for supply of Portable Diver Detection Sonar (PDDS) under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category.
  • This is the second contract to be signed by the Indian Navy under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category to boost Government of India’s Defence indigenisation effort.
  • The maiden contract under this category was also signed earlier this year by the Indian Navy for supply of Surface Surveillance Radar for IN warships.
  • Portable Diver Detection Sonar would be manufactured by Tata Power SED in India at their facility at Bengaluru with Transfer of Technology from DSIT Israel.
  • Induction of weapons and sensors under ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category, is one the numerous measures being taken by the Indian Navy to boost indigenisation for ensuring a self reliant Navy, in line with the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

INS Sarvekshak Reaches Dar-Es-Salaam : To Carry out Joint Hydrographic Survey with Tanzanian Navy

  • In an initiative to bolster bilateral relations with friendly foreign countries and navies in the Indian ocean region, INS Sarvekshak, a hydrographic survey ship of Southern Naval Command, arrived Dar-es-Salaam Tanzania on 15 Nov 17 for undertaking joint Hydrographic Survey along with the Tanzanian Navy.
  • The joint survey will be conducted with the Naval personnel of Tanzania who have been trained in India in National Institute of Hydrography, Goa.
  • During the survey, training of Tanzanian Naval personnel will also be undertaken on advanced hydrographic equipment and practices.

Energy Sector

Mission Innovation Smart Grids Workshop

  • Mission Innovation challenge on Smart Grids is collectively working to enable future smart grids powered by renewables.
  • 20 participating countries with India, Italy and China as Co-lead are working together to realise this aspiration.
  • An international workshop is being organised during 16-19th November, 2017 at New Delhi to define research priorities and develop action plan for time bound action for realisation of these objectives.

Conferences

International Conference on SDGs held in India

  • The first major international conference on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be organised in India, was held in Mysuru

Enlighten about it -

  • Values of sustainable living must be imbibed at a young age if planet Earth had to be saved.
  • By 2070 the world will be 70% urban, and therefore, the future of the world was one with the future of cities.
  • Goal 11 of the SDGs pertained to sustainable cities.
  • The challenge facing us now is that the “do-how” or ways of adopting change is lacking.
  • The youth of today are going to be the force to make the change possible.