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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (25th June)

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. GSP: win-win for Indo-U.S. trade

  1. For over 40 years, GSP has fulfilled its purpose of promoting economic growth in a large number of developing countries by allowing increased exports of eligible products.
  2. This tremendous benefit to the global economy is a small aspect of the U.S. trade balance; for example, of the total $2.4 trillion U.S. imports in 2017, only amounting to less than 1% of total U.S. imports.
  3. Despite GSP’s low significance in the U.S. trade balance, its benefits ultimately help U.S. consumers and exporters by contributing to lower pricing of final products.
  4. It is important to note that Indian exports to the U.S. under the GSP programme are mostly intermediaries, and are not in direct competition with U.S. producers — ultimately, these goods benefit the U.S. economy.

Role of Indian Exports

  1. Most of the 3,500 Indian products imported by the U.S. under the GSP are raw materials or important intermediaries of value chains.
  2. In many cases, Indian exports are less-expensive, high-quality alternatives that reduce the costs of final products, thereby creating value that is subsequently exported the world over by U.S. companies or directly conveyed to the U.S. consumer.
  3. Most of these products are intermediate goods, many of which are not competitively produced in the U.S. given their lower role in manufacturing value chains.
  4. Indeed, this enables the U.S. economy to be more globally competitive.

GSP should be continued

  1. Despite continued economic growth over the last two decades or so, India is a lower middle-income country.
  2. GSP allows Indian exporters a certain competitive edge and furthers the development of the country’s export base.
  3. It also allows India to integrate with global value chains (GVC) and hence, with global markets.
  4. These advantages provide opportunities for small enterprises and help in the overall livelihood creation endeavor in India.
  5. In addition to the economic perspective, the U.S. should consider continuing India’s GSP eligibility as a gesture of goodwill that reaffirms its commitment to the mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries.
  6. The India-U.S. relationship has continued to grow stronger as India liberalizes along a positive and steady trajectory.

Way Forward: Balancing Trade with the US

  1. India has made systematic efforts to reduce trade imbalance with the U.S. and has enhanced purchases of shale gas and civilian aircraft.
  2. Adhering to the rules-based international trading system, India is in the process of examining its export subsidies.
  3. As per a CII survey, the U.S. remains a favored destination for Indian companies which have invested $18 billion in the U.S. and support as many as 1.13 lakh jobs.
  4. Today, our two countries engage in countless areas of mutual cooperation, and a supportive stance in recognition of our greater goals and shared values would promise significant progress in the future.
  5. The GSP remains a central aspect of the overall trade engagement and must remain available for Indian exporters keen to address the U.S. markets.

Generalised System of Preferences

  1. The GSP is one of the oldest trade preference programmes in the world and was designed to provide zero duties or preferential access for developing countries to advanced markets.
  2. The U.S. GSP programme was established by the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 and promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from one of the 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
  3. In April 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it would review the GSP eligibility of India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
  4. The proposed review for India was initiated in response to market access petitions filed by the U.S. dairy and medical device industries due to recent policy decisions in India, which were perceived as trade barriers.

2. For nutrition security: On undernourishment

  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to inform on progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and to provide in-depth analysis on key challenges for achieving this goal in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • The report targets a wide audience, including policy-makers, international organizations, academic institutions and the general public.

For the first time, the report provides two measures of food insecurity.

  • FAO’s traditional indicator of the extent of hunger, the prevalence of undernourishment, is complemented by the prevalence of severe food insecurity, which is estimated based on data collected from adult individuals worldwide using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
    • The FIES is a new tool to measure people’s ability to access food, based on direct interviews.
  • In addition, the report assesses the trends for six nutrition indicators: anaemia in women of reproductive age, stunting, wasting, overweight, obesity and levels of exclusive breastfeeding.

India – Status of food security and nutrition

  • India’s efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act. There are special nutritional schemes for women and children operated through the States.
  • In spite of such interventions, 14.5% of the population suffers from undernourishment, going by the UN’s assessment for 2014-16. At the national level, 53% of women are anaemic.
  • In India, cereal production recovered markedly after two consecutive bad seasons.
  • Country-level prevalence rates for stunting among children under five years of age for India is 38.4%.
  • As with most developmental outcomes, stunting prevalence varies markedly between poor and rich households. The stunting rates for the poorest, middle and richest quintiles are 50, 38 and 30 respectively.
  • India is on course and registered good progress towards achieving the target on reducing overweight in children under five years of age.

Global Trend

  • In 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.
  • The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.
  • Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.
  • The number of conflicts is also on the rise. Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, conflicts seriously affect food security and are a cause of much of the recent increase in food insecurity.
  • Conflict is a key driver of situations of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, while hunger and undernutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak.
  • Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual”. It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace.
  • The 2017 report sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.

Challenges

  • The Centre and State governments are woefully short on the commitment to end undernourishment.
  • Institutions such as the State Food Commissions have not made a big difference either.
  • Distributing nutritious food as a public health measure is still not a political imperative, while ill-conceived policies are making it difficult for many to do this.

Way Forward

  • The report on nutritional deficiency should serve as an opportunity to evaluate the role played by the PDS in bringing about dietary diversity for those relying on subsidised food.
  • In a report issued two years ago on the role played by rations in shaping household and nutritional security, the NITI Aayog found that families below the poverty line consumed more cereals and less milk compared to the affluent.
  • Complementing rice and wheat with more nutritious food items should be the goal.

3. IAS officers to be judged on integrity

  • Top IAS officers at the level of secretary and additional secretary will soon be assessed on their attitude towards weaker sections of the society, among other qualities, according to draft appraisal forms finalised by the Personnel Ministry.

Details

  • Besides this, their annual performance appraisal report will carry details on their ability to take timely and effective decision, especially in complex, ambiguous and critical situations.
  • They will be asked to comment in not more than 50 words on their attributes like ‘ownership of responsibilities with courage to stand up for what is right, innovativeness, track record of delivery and ability to lead a team with coordination and collaboration’.
  • The Personnel Ministry has written to chief secretaries of all the state governments and the Union territories suggesting changes in the annual performance appraisal forms for the officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
  • All the IAS officers, except at the level of secretary and additional secretary, will be appraised on their “integrity” in general.
  • Those at the secretary and additional secretary level will be assessed on both “financial integrity” and “moral integrity”.
  • All bureaucrats will have to indicate at least four domain assignments like social development, internal affairs and defence, industry and trade, public finance and financial management, natural resource management and personnel and general administration, governance reforms and regulatory system, among others.
  • Barring those at the top levels, all other IAS officers will have to send an updated CV, including details of additional qualifications acquired/training programmes attended/ publications/special assignments undertaken, in a prescribed proforma, to the cadre controlling authority once in five years so that the records remain updated.

The changes have been proposed in two forms —

  • form one, which is meant for all the IAS officers except those at the level of secretary and additional secretary.
  • form two, that will be for secretary and additional secretary or equivalent officers.

4. Countering India’s labour market imbalances

India is dealing with slow job creation in some sectors and shortage of skills in others. These imbalances need to be checked

Demographic Dividend – a benefit or bane?

  1. The issue of jobs has come into focus with forthcoming general elections.
  2. While economic growth has been impressive over the last couple of decades, job creation has been relatively slow.
  3. The increase in the share of young adults in the total population often called India’s “demographic dividend”, has turned out to be a problem rather than an asset.
  4. Whether or not job creation has slowed down in recent years has been debated vigorously, primarily owing to the poor quality of jobs data.

Jobs scenario in India

  1. Multiple data sources clearly show that job opportunities in India are, at present, limited, with the average annual addition to regular jobs during 2012-16 falling to 1.5 million from 2.5 million in 2004-12.
  2. Besides, job creation in India’s organized manufacturing sector experienced a sharp fall in 2012, later recovering only to a level considerably below any prior year during 2006-12.
  3. Furthermore, the share of regular workers with any form of social security has declined from 45% in 2011-12 to 38% in 2016.

Where the real problem lies- finds NITI Aayog

  1. NITI Aayog’s Action Agenda (AA), published over a year ago, attempted to find the issue.
  2. According to the AA, underemployment and poor job quality have been the real problems.
  3. No formula for the unemployment rate differs in India’s low labour force participation rate—the proportion of working-age people looking for jobs or working.
  4. It stands at its lowest in two decades, at 54%, compared to 62% in the late 1990s (it is currently around 70% in Brazil, China and Indonesia).

Find outs of NITI Aayog’s AA

  1. The AA has provided several good ideas for job creation, including labour law reforms at the state level, recognizing the difficult national political landscape as well as the wide cross-state variation in the nature of political constraints.
  2. Recent progress in this regard includes raising the minimum firm-level employment threshold for the application of the Industrial Disputes Act (that puts severe constraints on the hiring and firing of workers) from 100 to 300 workers.
  3. The AA has also identified labour-intensive sectors, such as apparel, electronics, food processing, gems and jewellery, financial services, and tourism, where employment needs to be encouraged.
  4. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the role of exports in job creation and recommends establishing coastal employment zones (CEZs), similar to China’s special economic zones (SEZs)

Health and Education- facing the real shortage

  1. There are some real imbalances across the economy, with some key sectors facing a shortage of skills and personnel. Such shortages are primarily in social services like health and education.
  2. The quality of these services, especially those available to low-income, remote and rural households, is shockingly low owing to the scarcity of quality doctors, nurses and teachers.

Automation and AI – filling the gap

  1. Another recently released NITI Aayog document, titled “National Strategy For Artificial Intelligence #AIforall”, proposes a strategy based exactly on such a principle of filling up the skill gap.
  2. For example, specialized software can be used to diagnose diseases (and prescribing appropriate medications) or grading students’ written work and providing feedback, thereby enabling large-scale online education.
  3. India’s information technology (IT) sector, until recently, had been able to create a number of high-skilled jobs due to a significant amount of offshore outsourcing by developed countries.
  4. In future, the support and maintenance services for AI, rather than IT, may be in demand, given that IT support itself is being robotized.

Way Forward: Countering Jobs- Skills Mismatch

  1. The new NITI document provides some specifics in this regard. However this document does not take seriously any job displacement threats from AI.
  2. For its future growth, India’s IT (and AI) sector needs to reinvent and position itself in a more innovative role, which will require considerable capacity building.
  3. Thus, there are serious imbalances, varying across sectors, between the availability of jobs and the supply of skills and workers.
  4. While good ideas to deal with them exist both within and outside the government, implementation is key. This is where the government often does not perform well.

NITI Aayog Action Agenda

  1. The draft “Three Year Action Agenda” of the NITI Aayog been released in 2017  for 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  2. It focuses on seven key areas that include revenue and expenditure, economic transformation in major sectors, regional development, growth enablers, and reforms in governance, social sectors and sustainability.
  3. It is said to be a phasing out of Five Year Plan as a concept.

5. Chilika Lake

  • It is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha
  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest coastal lagoon in the world
  • Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention
  • It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. The lake is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals

Proposed water aerodrome in Chilika Lake likely to face green hurdle

The Airports Authority of India has proposed to set up a water aerodrome in Chilika Lake for starting amphibious aircraft operations in Odisha.

The project will most likely face a green hurdle

  • Chilika turns into a temporary habitat for lakhs of migratory and residential birds. If an aircraft flies at low height, there is every chance of the birds getting hit. While the bird population will be in danger, safety of passengers of amphibious aircraft will also be jeopardised.
  • Noise pollution generated by close to 10,000 boats has already taken a toll on the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the lake. The amphibious aircraft operation would add to the woes.
  • As many as 155 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins were spotted in Chilika, which is the single largest habitat of this species in the world. After clearing the lake of illegal man-made enclosures, dolphins have now started moving freely in all sectors.

6. Musi River

  • It is a tributary of the Krishna River
  • Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar are dams built on it which used to act as source of water for Hyderabad.
  • The river was known as Nerva during Qutub Shahi period.

Polluted Musi water used for irrigation affecting aquifers

  • The continuous irrigation of agricultural and horticultural crops along the banks of the highly polluted Musi river is leading to the contamination of the city’s aquifers.
  • The highly polluted river water seeps into the ground and contaminates the underground aquifers that sustain the state’s water table.

The problem is only compounded during the monsoon season, as percolation is higher. Chemicals present in the polluted river water also seep into the water table, changing its texture.

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