Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (18th December)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Rohingya crisis and Mandarin geopolitics

The regional strategic dry-cleaning that Bangladesh has been providing will submerge under the blanket of Sino-US realpolitik

China’s increasing interference in neighborhood

  1. China has outlined a conciliatory “three-stage plan” to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the protracted Rohingya crisis
  2. The agreement has provision on return of displaced persons back to Rakhine state from Bangladesh

Agrrement provides little hope to Rohingyas

  1. The agreement has redrawn the ethnic boundaries of the Rohingya heartland in the northern Rakhine state
  2. But there is a scant possibility of Rohingyas returning voluntarily
  3. The process of verification of the identity of the Rohingyas could potentially remain a source of dispute
  4. The agreement provides a pathway for the UN high commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and international development partners to be involved in the return and resettlement of the Rohingya population

Emerging new geopolitics in a region

  1. Apart from the UN endorsements, the Chinese formula and the Donald Trump administration’s declaration of this crisis as a threat to the world are evidence of the emerging new geopolitics in a region
  2. The fourth largest Muslim country in the world—Bangladesh—has become a geopolitical chessboard
  3. Competition for the Balkanization of South and South-East Asia is conceivably possible

China’s support to Bangladesh in dealing with crisis

  1. Bangladesh’s non-belligerent approach to this crisis has successfully avoided armed conflict situations
  2. It has been a mammoth task for the government and the armed forces to ensure biometric registration and humanitarian support in collaboration with international partners
  3. India remained strikingly indifferent to Bangladesh’s agonies
  4. China’s proactive engagement, since April 2017, in facilitating bilateral solutions came as one of the two stable supports for Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis
  5. The UN, European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have remained useful platforms for multilateral initiatives

Way forward

  1. The Palestine effect of the Rohingya crisis is emerging as a bridging conduit for the sectarianism across the Ummah
  2. The cumulative effect of Rohingya politics is transforming Bangladesh into a compelling geopolitical entity
  3. Beijing and Washington will need to readjust to the new sociopolitical realities in Dhaka

2. The question of intraparty democracy

Most leaders are unwilling to institutionalize procedures for the selection of office-bearers.

Prelims : Not important
Mains: GS Paper 2 (In 2016, UPSC has asked one question)

3. From Plate to Plough: For farmers, the next big idea

PM’s comment on urea usage

  1. PM has asked farmers to cut urea consumption by half by 2022

Is it beneficial?

  1. A village in HP has increased wheat productivity by three times,
  2. By reducing urea consumption significantly through the use of soil health cards (SHCs) and increased their income by Rs 5,000 to 6,000 per acre

India’s urea market

  1. India consumes about 30 million tonnes (MT) of urea annually, of which about 24.5 MT is domestically produced and the rest is imported

Reason behind rising demand of urea

  1. Most of the industry players had been projecting increasing consumption of urea in India, given that higher incomes have increased the demand for food in the country
  2. Puzzling statement by the PM: In such a situation, the PM’s call for halving urea consumption by 2022 was somewhat puzzling to the fertiliser industry
  3. More so when the government itself is trying to increase urea production

But per hectare use of Urea is declining

  1. Urea consumption on a per hectare basis, has stagnated in India and the overall per hectare consumption of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and pottasium (K) has declined somewhat (See chart below)
  2. May be, this is due to dramatic changes in pricing of DAP (diammonium phosphate) and MOP (muriate of potash)
  3. Or government policies pertaining to to SHC or Neem Coated Urea (NCU)

Low price of urea in India

  1. Urea prices in neighbouring countries in South and Southeast Asia, including China, are at least two to three-times higher
  2. Also, the price ratio of urea to DAP and MOP is highly skewed
  3. Indian farmers are using higher doses of urea (nitrogen) compared to phosphate (DAP) and potash (MOP), and not getting the best results in terms of yields

Why is countering this situation important?(health wise)

  1. Indian soils are deficient in micronutrients, especially zinc (about 48 per cent) — a fallout of which is zinc deficiency in wheat and rice, which, in turn, contributes to stunting in children
  2. The imbalanced use of N, P and K, therefore, needs urgent correction
  3. And therefore, serious thought needs to be given to the PM’s call to slash urea consumption
  4. The PM’s call is as important as his call on February 28, 2016 to double farmers’ incomes by 2022

Importance of Neem Coated Urea(NCM) and Soil Health Cards(SHCs)

  1. NCU can improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) by about 10 per cent by slowing the release of nitrogen
  2. SHCs  can also help rationalise the use of urea, provided they are backed by a massive extension programme

The way forward

  1. If the government can move quickly in right direction, there is hope to cut urea consumption significantly, at least for some time

4. Going beyond the problems of bitcoin

Though the future of cryptocurrencies is uncertain at this stage, the idea of blockchain deserves more attention

Bitcoin demand increasing

  1. Bitcoin has dominated headlines in the financial world in recent months with a return of over 1,700% so far this year
  2. Rising prices are attracting more investors

Problems for the formal financial system

  1. If the prices of bitcoin and other such currencies keep going up for a considerable period, the fall could be painful
  • Rising prices will attract more people to start such currencies and invest in them
  • This will increase the contact of virtual currencies with formal finance, and developments in this market would affect the financial system

2. If adoption of bitcoin or other such instruments actually increases significantly, it will make things difficult for central banks

  • A central bank manages the supply and cost of money in the system to attain maximum growth with price stability
  • But in the world of unregulated cryptocurrencies, central banks may find it difficult to manage the level of economic activity
  • Bitcoin, for example, is deflationary by design
  • Greater adoption could also alter the dynamics of capital control, especially in developing economies

3. An increase in the use of such instruments could also affect financial intermediation, investment, and growth

Technology on which bitcoin works has a much wider appeal

  1. Bitcoin is an unregulated cryptocurrency which is administered by a network of users through an open and distributed ledger known as blockchain
  2. Each transaction is verified by the network
  3. Since it is a distributed ledger and no one person or organization controls it, technically, chances of someone manipulating the system are very low

Potential of blockchain technology

  1. Blockchain has the potential to end property-related litigation in a country like India
  2. The government can have a blockchain where ownership and transactions can be tracked easily
  3. Blockchain can make government spending more efficient in areas such as the social sector, as it will increase transparency
  4. The technology is also being tested in the financial sector to settle transactions
  5. This could help reduce costs for financial institutions and the working capital requirement for other firms
  6. The distributed ledger can have other usages such as smart contracts

Challenges posed by blockchain technology

  1. If automated risk management, smart contracts, and similar tools are deployed across a network, cascades of rapid and hard-to-control obligations and liquidity flows could propagate across a network
  2. This interdependence will likely call for creative organizational thinking to address the need for governance and strong risk management

Way forward

  1. The idea of blockchain deserves more attention, as it could potentially transform the way transactions are settled
  2. Blockchain be used to reduce costs and increase efficiency


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