INSPA WAR-LIKE STATE AND A BOND TO THE RESCUE
RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO PLANNING & ECONOMIC REFORMS
- As India’s ominous COVID-19curve stretches further, urgent attention needs to be paid to an economy that is teetering on the edge. Several economists, former Finance Ministers and central bank Governors have made the clarion call for a large stimulus to pull the economy back from the brink. There are a few who seem to believe that there are ways and means to provide this stimulus without breaking the bank as it were. As we spend more time in a national lockdown or quasi-lockdown situation, I believe that austerity measures and reallocations notwithstanding, we will definitely need to go beyond current revenue receipts to fund the complete stimulus.
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- In the Budget before the pandemic, India projected a deficit of ₹7.96-lakh crore. However, even then there were concerns around off balance sheet borrowings of 1% of GDP and an overly excessive target of ₹2.1 lakh crore through disinvestments. The financial deficit number is set to grow by a wide margin due to revenue shrinkage from the coming depression that will most certainly be accompanied by a lack of appetite for disinvestment.
- India can’t conquer COVID-19 without aggressive testing, says Manmohan Singh
- In addition to the expenditure that was planned, the government has to spend anywhere between ₹5-lakh crore and ₹6-lakh crore as stimulus. The Finance Ministry is sanguine about this fact as was clear in a press conference held by the Economic Affairs Secretary on March 31, 2020, where he said that the government will not exceed the borrowing limits indicated in the Budget. The insipid stimulus provided by the government so far and recent announcements by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) only serve to highlight how out of touch with reality they are. All the RBI’s schemes are contingent on the availability of risk capital, the market for which has completely collapsed. The two have tried several times over the last year to nudge banks into lending to below investment grade micro, small and medium enterprises, but have come up short each time. Furthermore, while the 60% increase in ways and means limits for States is a welcome move, many States have already asked for double the limits due to the shortages in indirect taxation collections from Goods and Services Tax, fuel and liquor. The government and the central bank need to understand that half measures will do more harm than good. It will only lull us into a false sense of security, much like a lockdown without adequate testing.
- Politicians and epidemiologists across the world have used the word “war” to describe the situation the world is currently in. As we wage a united war against this virus, it would be interesting for us to look at war-time methods of raising financing. One such method that has been used as early as the First World War is the Consol Bond. In 2014, the British government, a century after the start of the First World War, paid out 10% of the total outstanding Consol bond debt. The bonds, which paid out an interest of 5%, were issued in 1917 as the government sought to raise more money to finance the ongoing cost of the First World War. Citizens were asked to invest with the advertising messaging: “If you cannot fight, you can help your country by investing all you can in 5 per cent Exchequer Bonds. Unlike the soldier, the investor runs no risk.”
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- One cannot help but wonder how successful a Consol Bond issue would be for the Indian government if the Prime Minister had made a similar call to every citizen of our country to invest in them instead of making donations to PM-CARES, or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund. After all, most of the Consol bonds in the United Kingdom are owned by small investors, with over 70% holding less than £1,000. Furthermore, unlike PM-CARES, the proceeds of the bonds could be used for everything — from Personal Protective Equipment for doctors to a stimulus for small and medium-sized enterprises.
- There is no denying the fact that the traditional option of monetising the deficit by having the central bank buy government bonds is one worth pursuing. However, given an as yet hesitant (to raise debt) Prime Minister’s penchant for making citizens active participants to his missions, he might view a Consol Bond as a more compelling alternative. Furthermore, with the fall of real estate and given the lack of safe havens outside of gold, the bond would offer a dual benefit as a risk free investment for retail investors. When instrumented, it would be issued by the central government on a perpetual basis with a right to call it back when it seems fit. An attractive coupon rate for the bond or tax rebates could also be an incentive for investors. The government can consider a phased redemption of these bonds after the economy is put back on a path of high growth — a process that might take that much longer for every day we extend this lockdown.
- Rangarajan Mohan Kumaramangalam is an angel investor and a working president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee
UNION AGRICULTURE MINISTER CALLS FOR FARMERS’ MOVEMENT ON INTEGRATED SOIL NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT BASED ON SOIL HEALTH CARD
RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: AGRICULTURE ISSUES AND RELATED CONSTRAINTS
- Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
- Union Agriculture Minister calls for farmers’ movement on integrated soil nutrient management based on Soil Health Card
Launch mission mode awareness campaigns on increasing use of bio and organic fertilisers and reducing chemical fertilisers: Shri Narendra Singh Tomar
- The Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar has called for making integrated soil nutrient management a farmers’ movement. Reviewing the progress of the Soil Health Programme here today, he directed running mission mode awareness campaigns on increasing use of bio and organic fertilisers and reducing chemical fertilisers strictly based on recommendations of Soil Health Card.
- During 2020-21, the major focus of the programme would be on mass awareness programme for farmers in over 1 lakh villages covering all districts of the country. Shri Tomar advocated the setting up of village level Soil Testing Labs by youth having education in agriculture, Women Self Help Groups, FPOs etc. He said the SHC scheme will focus on enabling employment generation after appropriate skill development.
- The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare will launch a comprehensive campaign on soil test based rational application of fertilisers and promotion of organic farming including Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) for safe nutritious food in association with the Departments of Panchayat Raj, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation.
- Under the SHC scheme Soil Health Cards are provided to all farmers at an interval of 2 years. Launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on February 19, 2015 at Suratgarh, Rajasthan, these cards provide information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil along with recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.
- Deterioration of soil chemical, physical and biological health is considered as one of the reasons for stagnation of agricultural productivity in India.
- Soil Health Card provides two sets of fertilizer recommendations for six crops including recommendations of organic manures. Farmers can also get recommendations for additional crops on demand. They can also print the card as their own from SHC portal. SHC portal has farmers database of both the cycles and is available in 21 languages for the benefit of the farmers.
- A 2017 study by the National Productivity Council (NPC) found that the SHC scheme has promoted sustainable farming and led to a decrease of use of chemical fertilizer application in the range of 8-10%. Besides, overall increase in the yield of crops to the tune of 5-6% was reported due to application of fertilizer and micro nutrients as per recommendations available in the Soil Health Cards.
REPORT ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY MEASURES
RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :-INFRASTRUCTURE, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
- Recently the Ministry of Power and New & Renewable Energy released a report on the “Impact of energy efficiency measures for the year 2018-19”.
- Agency Involved:The report was prepared by a third party agency PWC Ltd, who was engaged by Bureau of Energy efficiency (BEE).
- Methodology:Since 2017-18, every year BEE has been appointing a third party expert agency which compares the estimated and actual energy consumption due to various energy efficiency schemes.
- The study assesses the resultant impact of current schemes at national as well as state levelfor the financial year and compares it with a situation where the same were not implemented.
- Objective:To evaluate the performance and impact of all the key energy efficiency programmes in India, in terms of total energy saved and the related reduction in the CO2
- Key Findings
- Electricity Saving: Implementation of various energy efficiency schemeshave led to total electricity savings to the tune of 113.16 Billion Units in 2018-19, which is 39% of the net electricity consumption.
- Energy Saving:The total energy savings achieved in 2018-19 is 23.73 Mtoe (million Tonne of Oil Equivalent), which is 2.69% of the total primary energy supply (estimated to be 879.23 Mtoe in India).
- Emission Reduction:These efforts have also contributed in reducing 151.74 Million Tonnes of CO2 emissions, whereas last year this number was 108 Million Tonnes of CO2.
- Flagship Programmes:This year the study has identified the following major programmes, viz. Perform, Achieve and Trade Scheme, Standards & Labelling Programme, UJALA Programme, Municipal Demand Side Management Programme.
- Perform, Achieve and Trade Scheme
- It is a market-based mechanismto further accelerate as well as incentivize energy efficiency in the large energy-intensive industries.
- The Energy Savings Certificates (ESCerts)were introduced in India in 2011 under the Perform, Achieve Trade scheme (PAT) by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under the National Mission of Energy Efficiency.
- NMEEE is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC)launched by the Government of India in the year 2008.
- This market- based mechanism is facilitated through the trading of Energy Savings Certificates (ESCerts)which are issued to those plants who have overachieved their targets.
- Those plants which under achieve their targets are entitled to purchase ESCerts through two power exchanges – Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange India Limited (PXIL).
- The scheme is unique in many ways, particularly from a developing country’s perspective since it creates a market for energy efficiencythrough tradable certificates ESCerts, by allowing them to be used for meeting energy reduction targets.
- Standards & Labelling Programme
- A key objective of this programme by BEE is to provide the consumer an informed choice about the energy savingand thereby the cost saving potential of the relevant marketed product.
- The programme targets display of energy performance labels on high energy end use equipment & appliances and lays down minimum energy performance standards.
- Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA)
- It was launched in 2015with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs and to nullify the high-cost of LEDs that acted as a barrier previously in the adoption of energy-efficient systems.
- The scheme was implemented to set up a phase-wise LED distribution.
- The objectiveis to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment that will reduce electricity bills and preserve the environment.
- It is theworld’s largest domestic lighting project.
- Municipal Demand Side Management Programme
- The Municipality Demand Side Management (Mu-DSM) programme of BEE was initiated during the Eleventh five year plan(2007-2012).
- The basic objective of the project is to improve theoverall energy efficiency of the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), which could lead to substantial savings in the electricity consumption, thereby resulting in cost reduction/savings for the ULBs.
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)
- The BEE is a statutory body established through Energy Conservation Act, 2001 under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
- It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
- BEE coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing its functions.
- Pledge: India has pledged in the Conference of the Parties (COP21)of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to bring down the energy intensity of its economy by 33 to 35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.
- Energy intensity is theamount of energy required to produce one unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- High energy intensities indicate a high cost of converting energy into GDP. Whereas, low energy intensity indicates a lower cost of converting energy into GDP.
- Achievement:With its energy efficiency initiatives India has already reduced the energy intensity of its economy by 20% compared to 2005 levels.
- Significance:Energy efficiency reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demand for energy imports, and lowering costs on a household and economy-wide level.
EPIDEMIC DISEASES ACT, 1897
RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :- HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
- Recently, the Union government directed States and Union Territories to invoke the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.
- The colonial-era Act empowers the state governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations in an epidemic. It also defines penalties for disobedience of these regulations, and provides for immunity for actions taken under the Act “in good faith”.
- The Epidemic Diseases Actaims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
- Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
- Powers to Central Government:
- Section 2Aof the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic.
- Health is a State subject,but by invoking Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, advisories and directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be enforceable.
- It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
- Penalty for Disobedience:
- Section 3provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant).
- Legal Protection to Implementing Officers:
- Section 4gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
- Enforcement of the Act in the Recent Past:
- The Epidemics Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as Swine Flu, Dengue.
- For Example in 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
- Context:The Epidemic Diseases Bill was introduced in 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague.
- Need:Since the existing laws were insufficient to deal with various matters such as “overcrowded houses, neglected latrines and huts, accumulations of filth, insanitary cowsheds and stables, and the disposal of house refuse.
- Special Powers:The Bill had called for special powers for governments of Indian provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers of trains and sea routes.
- Global Concern:The government of the day was also concerned that several countries were alarmed by the situation in India. As Russia had speculated that the whole subcontinent might be infected due to plague.
- Plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis usually found in small mammals and their fleas.
- There are two main clinical forms of plague infection: bubonic and pneumonic.
- Bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterized by painful swollen lymph nodes or ‘buboes’.
- Pneumonic plague is a form of severe lung infection.
- Plague is transmitted between animals and humans by the bite of infected fleas, direct contact with infected tissues, and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets.
- Antibiotic treatment is effective against plague bacteria, so early diagnosis and early treatment can save lives.
- Currently, the three most endemic countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and Peru.
Recent Changes in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
- Recently, the Cabinet amended the Act through an ordinancestating that commission or abetment of acts of violence against healthcare service personnel shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
- In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years and a fine of Rs1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
FALL IN TREATMENT UNDER AYUSHMAN BHARAT YOJANA
RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :- HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
According to recent data provided by the National Health Authority (NHA), the number of treatments for non-Covid procedures by both private and government facilities across the country dropped by over 20% between February, 2020 and April, 2020.
- The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown have adversely affected the Ayushman Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’s (AB-PMJAY)ability to cater to critical patients below the poverty line.
- Cardiology treatments offered under AB-PMJAY declined by 45%.
- General Surgeries’ declined by 23%.
- Procedures related to gynaecology and obstetrics declined by 25%.
- The only category of treatment that showed an increase was ‘General Medicine’.
- The treatments available under AB-PMJAY can be accessed at several private care hospitals. However, because of lockdown, private hospitals across the country are largely shut down.
- The government itself is encouraging people with ‘non-critical’ illnessto access hospitals via telemedicine or only partake of essential treatments (dialysis or non-elective surgeries) at hospitals.
- Moreover, with several reports of Covid-19 infections in healthcare workers and doctors across private and public hospitals, the number of visits to hospitals in general saw a decline.
Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana
- PM-JAY offers a sum insured of Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary care (which doesn’t involve a super specialist) as well as tertiary care (which involves a super specialist).
- It is an entitlement-based scheme that targets the beneficiaries as identified by latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
- Once identified by the database, the beneficiary is considered insured and can walk into any empanelled hospital.
- The insurance cost is shared by the centre and the state mostly in the ratio of 60:40.
- Packaged rates (Rates that include everything so that each product or service is not charged for separately):
- They also mention the number of average days of hospitalization for a medical procedure and supporting documents that are needed.
- They are flexible, but they can’t charge the beneficiary once fixed by the hospitals.
- The scheme also has prescribed a daily limit for medical management.
- The National Health Authority (NHA) has been constituted as an autonomous entity under the Society Registration Act, 1860 for effective implementation of PM-JAY in alliance with state governments.
- The State Health Agency (SHA) is the apex body of the State Government responsible for the implementation of AB PM-JAY in the State.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE NANOMATERIALS BASED SUPERCAPACITORS
RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :-ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDIANS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, INDIGENIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS
- Recently, a group of researchers (including a recipient of the INSPIRE Faculty Award) have made significant achievements in developing nanomaterials based super capacitors to achieve high energy density and power density of super capacitors.
- Energy density is the amount of energy that can be stored in a given mass of a substance or system, i.e. a measure of storage of energy.
- Power density is the amount of power (time rate of energy transfer) per unit volume, i.e. a measure of release of energy.
Energy: Batteries, Capacitors and Super capacitors
- Like batteries, Capacitors are also used to store energy. While batteries rely on chemical reactions, capacitors use static electricity (electrostatics) to store energy.
- Capacitors have many advantages over batteries: they weigh less, generally don’t contain harmful chemicals or toxic metals, and they can be charged and discharged many times. However, they cannot store the same amount of electrical energy as batteries.
- Supercapacitors, also known as EDLC (electric double-layer capacitor) or Ultracapacitors, differ from regular capacitors in that they can store a huge amount of energy.
- Batteries have a higher energy density (they store more energy per unit mass) but supercapacitors have a higher power density (they can release energy more quickly). This property makes supercapacitors particularly suitable for storing and releasing large amounts of power relatively quickly.
- Supercapacitors deliver quick bursts of energy during peak power demands and then quickly store energy and capture excess power that’s otherwise lost. In the example of an electric car, a supercapacitor can provide needed power for acceleration, while a battery provides range and recharges the supercapacitor between surges.
- Nanomaterials Based Supercapacitors:
- The researchers have been working oncarbon (Carbon Nanotubes, Graphene) nanomaterials based supercapacitors to achieve high energy density and power density of supercapacitors.
- High energy density of supercapacitors suggests that constant current can be withdrawn for a longer duration without recharging. Hence automobiles can run longer distances without charging.
- Thus, researchers have developed a reduced graphene oxide (rGO)at a moderate temperature of 100°C with high capacitance performance. It is cost-effective and suitable for commercial purposes.
- The focus on energy devices paves the way for the development ofcost-effective and efficient devices, which can be used for energy storage application.
- Optoelectronic Applications of Nanomaterials:
- Optoelectronics is the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect and control light, usually considered a sub-field of photonics.
- The researchers are developing novel nanostructures of carbon for Surface-Enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).
- Surface-Enhanced Raman spectroscopy or surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a surface-sensitive technique that enhances Raman scatteringby molecules adsorbed on rough metal surfaces or by nanostructures such as plasmonic-magnetic silica nanotubes.
- The enhancement factor can be as much as 1010to 1011, which means the technique may even detect a single molecule.
- The SERS can help detect harmful molecules present in water at ultra-low concentrations.
- The findings make way for materials which can be used as advanced photodetectorsand also be used as optical sensors for water pollution control.
Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research
- Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE)intends to attract talent to study science at an early age, and to help the country build the required critical resource pool for strengthening and expanding the Science and Technology base with long term foresight.
- It is an India specific model for attracting talent with an aptitude for research and innovation, for a career in Basic & Natural sciences.
- The scheme has been developed by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Ministry of Science and Technologyand approved in 2008.
- INSPIRE Scheme has included three programs and five components.The three programmes are:
- Scheme for Early Attraction of Talent (SEATS):It aims to attract talented youth to study science by providing INSPIRE Award of Rs 5000 to one million young learners of the age group 10-15 years.
- Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE):It aims to enhance rates of attachment of talented youth to undertake higher education in science intensive programmes, by providing scholarships and mentorship.
- Assured Opportunity for Research Careers (AORC):It aims to attract, attach, retain and nourish talented young scientific Human Resource for strengthening the R&D foundation and base.
IRE Scheme has included three programs and five components.The three programmes are: