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CURRENT AFFAIRS 26-06-2018

OPEC

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper-2
  • International Relations, International Organizations, Bilateral Agreements

Why in news?

  • The OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) met in Vienna.

What did the meet aim for?

  • OPEC members agreed in 2016 to a historic deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day.
  • This was to end a supply surplus, and raise the price of oil.
  • Following this there was a dip in productions.
  • It was further worsened by outages in countries such as Venezuela and Libya.
  • The production cut contributed to the steep rise in oil prices.
  • Emerging markets such as India have been affected by the rising cost of oil imports.
  • The OPEC meet was thus aimed at arriving at an agreement to increase oil output.

What was the outcome of the meet?

  • OPEC agreed to increase its daily output to address the problem of rising crude oil prices.
  • Saudi Arabia announced that the cartel’s output would be increased by about a million barrels a day.
  • However, the group’s official statement did not mention any solid numbers.
  • It said that the OPEC countries would strive to adjust production levels.
  • There is thus lack of any clear commitment from OPEC to raise production.
  • This suggests that the threat of a supply shock still continues.

What would be the implications?

  • Iran has been opposed to raising OPEC output as it would lower the prices.
  • Iran is thus set to suffer a marginal loss as it lacks spare capacity to ramp up production.
  • It works in favour of its rival, Saudi Arabia.
  • The present deal could help the Saudis appease major oil consumers to some extent.
  • Saudi can recover from the impact of lower prices by capturing market share.
  • It is to be seen if all this politicking will bring a stable reduction in global oil prices.

UN’s report on Food Security and Nutrition

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper- 3, Agriculture

Why in news?

  • A report of the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World points to a worrying trend on food security at global level.

What did the report highlight?

  • Absolute numbers of people facing hunger and poor nutritionhave always been high.
  • However, there was a reduction in the rate of undernourishmentsince the year 2000.
  • But that has slowed from 2013, registering a worrying increase in 2016.
  • Around 815 million people endure chronic food deprivationin 2016, as against 775 million in 2014.
  • The deprivation is greater among people in conflict-affected and climate change events affected regions.
  • Contrastingly, the report says that child under nutritionrates continue to drop.
  • However, one in four children is still affected by

What are the common factors making food scarce and expensive?

The above numbers are averages and do not reflect the disparities among regions, within countries and between States.

Nevertheless, the common factors making food scarce and expensive for many are:

  • The impact of the economic downturn
  • Many violent conflicts
  • Fall in commodity export revenues
  • Failure of agriculture owing to drought and floods
  • The findings represent a setback to all countries trying to meet the sustainable development goal
  • On ending hunger
  • Achieving food security
  • Improved nutrition

What is the scene in India?

  • 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.
  • Despite these, 14.5% of the population suffers from undernourishment.
  • At the national level, 53% of women are anaemic.
  • Thus, Centre and State governments fall 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.

What is the way forward?

  • Families below the poverty line consume more cereals and less milk compared to the affluent.
  • NITI Aayog’s report on the role played by rations in shaping household and nutritional security highlights this.
  • Complementing rice and wheat with more nutritious food items should be the goal.
  • The report on nutritional deficiency calls for evaluating the role played by the Public Distribution System.
  • Assessing dietary diversity for those relying on subsidised food is crucial.

 

Proposed Greenfield Highways Between Chennai And Salem- Issues & Controversies

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper-2,3
  • Governance, Economic Development, Infrastructure

Why in news?

  • The latest series of protests against major projects in Tamil Nadu include Kudankulam power plant and the Tuticorin copper plant.
  • The proposed Greenfield highway between Chennai and Salem is also being opposed from various farmer’s organizations.

What is the highway project about?

  • The proposed eight lane road is estimated to cost is Rs 9,106 crore, with a tentative Rs 415 crore for rehabilitation of the displaced people.
  • It will run 277 Km and is slated to pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts.
  • The region is mostly agrarian with a few industrial zones and most of the land proposed to be usurped is fertile agricultural fields.

Why to have this highway?

  • There are three existing but twisty road routes between Chennai and Salem, two of which are already heavily trafficked, leading to abnormal delays.
  • Hence, Tamil Nadu CM Mr. Palaniswami is said to have written to the centre, suggested a highway that directly links the two cities and reduce fuel costs.
  • A subsequent feasibility report noted that the project is expected to generate development and employment in the towns along the route.
  • Hence, considering the business potential and other benefits, the centre is said to have approved the proposal and called it “Green Express Way Corridor”.
  • Notably, government’s feasibility report states that extensive public consultations were done and suggestions were also invited in the design stage.

Why are farmers opposing this proposal?

  • Many farmer organisations claim that they were not consulted in finalising the project contrary to the Government’s claim.
  • Farmer leaders have asserted that these regions do three crops a year and destroying these highly fertile lands for a highway cannot be accepted.
  • Also, the state that government’s promised maximum compensation in some regions is more than 10 times lower than the prevailing market rate.
  • It is being felt that the government is taking unusual interest in rushing a project that is likely t affect the livelihood of over 1 lakh people.
  • The protesters have planned multiple peaceful demonstrations against the project in stages.

What is the government’s take on this?

  • The revenue department is engaging retired officers to complete the survey and kick off the project due to staff shortage in its ranks.
  • Police have been arresting protest leaders, including Salem-based activist Piyush Manush and Valarmathi.
  • Sources say at least 10 people are in judicial custody for mobilising people, and protest participants across villages are also being arrested.

What is the opposition DMK’s take on the entire issue?

  • Opposition leader M K Stalin has said that his party will launch strong protests if the government tries to implement projects using police and force.
  • DMK has also moved a petition before the vigilance and anti-corruption wing, alleging that the CM has made malicious gains through the project’s tender.
  • The allegation is that contracts running into crores of rupees were given to people closely related to the CM’s family at inflated costs.

Why in news?

  • The latest series of protests against major projects in Tamil Nadu include Kudankulam power plant and the Tuticorin copper plant.
  • The proposed Greenfield highway between Chennai and Salem is also being opposed from various farmer’s organizations.

What is the highway project about?

  • The proposed eight lane road is estimated to cost is Rs 9,106 crore, with a tentative Rs 415 crore for rehabilitation of the displaced people.
  • It will run 277 Km and is slated to pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts.
  • The region is mostly agrarian with a few industrial zones and most of the land proposed to be usurped is fertile agricultural fields.

Why to have this highway?

  • There are three existing but twisty road routes between Chennai and Salem, two of which are already heavily trafficked, leading to abnormal delays.
  • Hence, Tamil Nadu CM Mr. Palaniswami is said to have written to the centre, suggested a highway that directly links the two cities and reduce fuel costs.
  • A subsequent feasibility report noted that the project is expected to generate development and employment in the towns along the route.
  • Hence, considering the business potential and other benefits, the centre is said to have approved the proposal and called it “Green Express Way Corridor”.
  • Notably, government’s feasibility report states that extensive public consultations were done and suggestions were also invited in the design stage.

Why are farmers opposing this proposal?

  • Many farmer organisations claim that they were not consulted in finalising the project contrary to the Government’s claim.
  • Farmer leaders have asserted that these regions do three crops a year and destroying these highly fertile lands for a highway cannot be accepted.
  • Also, the state that government’s promised maximum compensation in some regions is more than 10 times lower than the prevailing market rate.
  • It is being felt that the government is taking unusual interest in rushing a project that is likely t affect the livelihood of over 1 lakh people.
  • The protesters have planned multiple peaceful demonstrations against the project in stages.

What is the government’s take on this?

  • The revenue department is engaging retired officers to complete the survey and kick off the project due to staff shortage in its ranks.
  • Police have been arresting protest leaders, including Salem-based activist Piyush Manush and Valarmathi.
  • Sources say at least 10 people are in judicial custody for mobilising people, and protest participants across villages are also being arrested.

What is the opposition DMK’s take on the entire issue?

  • Opposition leader M K Stalin has said that his party will launch strong protests if the government tries to implement projects using police and force.
  • DMK has also moved a petition before the vigilance and anti-corruption wing, alleging that the CM has made malicious gains through the project’s tender.
  • The allegation is that contracts running into crores of rupees were given to people closely related to the CM’s family at inflated costs.

Caste Census And the Approaching 2021 Census

 

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper- 1, 2
  • Culture, Polity and Society

What is the issue?

  • With 2021 census approaching, the debate around having caste-based census has come up.
  • It is essential to understand the implications that caste statistics would have in the country.

What role did caste census play in colonial times?

  • Census of 1931 provides, to date, any information regarding the size and characteristics of various castes in India.
  • Colonial Censuses, beginning with the first Census in 1871, included questions about caste.
  • This generated an idea of homogeneous and classifiable community.
  • It was used to divide and conquer India.
  • This was done by first privileging Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture.
  • Slowly they were targeted as the roots of caste-based oppression and inequality.
  • This classification was also a source of anti-Brahmin movements of 20th century.
  • It thereby influenced the processes of political representation.

What is the impact of caste census in society?

There are apprehensions that caste based census would further promote:

  • Caste-based political mobilisation
  • strong sentiments for or against reservations
  • Post-Independence Censuses have thus shied away from including questions about caste.
  • However, Patels, Gujjars, Jats and Marathas do not seem to care about the lack of Census data as they demand reservations.
  • Also, even without caste census, caste does play a role in elections in terms of vote banks.

Does caste census impact economy?

  • Caste data from 1931 Census and a few special purpose surveys define certain categories.
  • They include Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and upper castes.
  • It is assumed these broad caste-based social categories continue to shape economic conditions in 21st century India.
  • However, each of these categories consists of thousands of jatis (castes) and upjatis (subcastes).
  • Hence, without accurate data for each of these, the claim that it shapes economic conditions is baseless.
  • Also, the society and economy, since 1931 census, has undergone various changes, crossing these caste boundaries.

What changed since 1931?

  • Land ownership that perpetuated the power of upper castes lost its hold.
  • Land fragmentation and agricultural stagnation have turned many upper caste landowners into marginal farmers.
  • Besides, rising rural wages, particularly construction wages, has made the landless better.
  • Broadly, mean consumption expenditure of forward castes is higher than that of Dalits.
  • However, clusters of poverty persist among forward castes also, as per National Sample Survey (NSS).
  • The bottom fourth of forward castes are poorer than the top half of Dalits.
  • India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children aged 8-11 cannot read.
  • But this is also the case with 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children.
  • Overall, some jatis have managed to pull themselves out of poverty and marginalisation.
  • While other groups have had a deterioration in their status.

How valid is caste census present?

  • Economic growth and affirmative action by governments have changed relative fortunes of various groups.
  • Hence, it is time to collect data that reflects the current situation.
  • So the social apprehensions on implications of caste census are largely invalid.
  • Without caste data, the discourse on caste and affirmative action are dominated by decisions made by the colonial administration.
  • Collecting data on caste is now essential to rationalise the reservation policies.
  • Challenges – Sometimes the same caste is spelt in different ways, or individuals report their jati and others upjati.
  • This makes it difficult to create mutually exclusive categories.

What could the methodology be?

  • There is nearly three years’ time before the Census of 2021.
  • Data from Socio-Economic Caste Census and technologies rooted in machine learning are at disposal.
  • It would be possible to set up an expert group that uses the SECC data in conjunction with other data sources.
  • Comprehensive list of castes can be made and condensed into meaningful categories via machine learning tools.
  • These categories could then be validated by domain experts in various States.
  • It can then be used to make a district specific list of castes that would cover more than 90% of individuals in any given district.
  • Respondents can then be allowed to self-identify from the precoded list.
  • The residual group’s responses recorded verbatim could be categorised later.
  • This is very similar to the technique through which occupational and industrial classification systems are created.

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