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CURRENT AFFAIRS 30-05-2018

Unsound Recruitment of civil servants

Relevancy

  • GS Mains Paper-2 and Optional Paper
  • Governance, Public Administration Optional

Why in news?

  • The proposal to alter the current recruitment process of appointment of civil service officers is seen as unsound and unworkable.

What is the current pattern of recruiting civil service officers?

  • The Civil Service Examination for recruitments to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and about 20 other services of the government is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
  • UPSC conducts the exam every year in two stages: a preliminary examination and then the main examination and selects the best candidates through transparent procedures, insulating recruitments from political patronage.
  • The successful candidates are allocated services and cadres based on their ranks in the CSE and their preferences.
  • These successful candidates of the IAS, IFS, IPS and Central Services Group A undergo a 15-week foundation course in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (training academy) in Mussoorie.
  • The course focuses on promoting inter-service camaraderie, cooperation, and capacity building of the officer-trainees.

What is the recent proposal about?

  • The union government has recently mooted a radical proposal for allocating services and cadres based on the combined marks obtained in the CSE and the foundation course.
  • In other words, candidates who have cleared the CSE will have to wait till the foundation course is over to know which service and cadre they are likely to get.
  • The government has said that this is a suggestion under consideration and that no final decision has been taken yet.
  • There are good reasons to believe that the new proposal is legally unsound, administratively unfeasible and has not been thought through properly.

What makes the recent proposal unsound?

  • Articles 315 to 323 of the Constitution deal with Public Service Commission of the Union and the States.
  • It states that conducting examinations for appointments to the services of Union and States shall be duty of Union and State Public Service Commission respectively.
  • Thus the duty of conducting the CSE is vested only in the UPSC, and not with the training academy which is not a part of UPSC.
  • Article 316 mentionsthe Chairperson and members of the UPSC as constitutional functionaries and provides security of their tenure and unchangeable conditions of service.
  • Article 319 also bars them from holding further office on ceasing to be members.
  • These constitutional safeguards enable them to function independently without fear or favour, which are not present for the Director or members of the training academy as they are civil servants on deputation or academicians.
  • Therefore the Director and faculty members may not be able to withstand pressure from politicians, senior bureaucrats and others to give more marks to favoured candidates.
  • The training academy has facilities to handle only 400 candidates for the foundation course and if the limit exceeds, the foundation course will have to be conducted in other training academies situated in other cities.
  • With only about 12 faculty members in the training academy in Mussoorie, the trainer-trainee ratio for the foundation course is very high.
  • Hence it will be impossible to do the kind of rigorous and objective evaluation that is required under the government’s new proposal.
  • This rigorous evaluation of the trainees will turn out to be less rigorous and objective when the foundation course is conducted in training academies situated elsewhere.
  • Since the competition in the CSE is very intense, difference of a few marks can decide whether a candidate will get the IAS or the Indian Ordnance Factories Service.
  • Therefore, the inclusion of the highly subjective foundation course marks can play havoc with the final rankings and with the allocation of services and cadres, and ruin countless careers.
  • Finally, nearly 60% of the candidates qualifying for services other than IAS & IFS, do not join the foundation course and give the exam again to improve their prospects.
  • So, it is clearly not possible to evaluate such candidates in the foundation course as contemplated in the new proposal.
  • These reasons prove that the recent proposal is constitutionally unsound and also administratively unworkable.

 

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National Policy On Biofuels – 2018

Relevancy:

  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II, III
  • Schemes and policies of the government, National Policy on Biofuels

Why in news?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.

Background:

  • In order to promote biofuels in the country, a National Policy on Biofuels was formulated by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.
  • Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development.
  • They offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.
  • Biofuels programme in India has been largely hit because of non-availability of sustained domestic feedstock.

Salient Features:

  • The Policy categorises biofuels as
    • “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel
    • “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • Raw material expanded: The scope of raw material for ethanol production has been expaned by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • Surplus foodgrains of farmers: To alleviate the risk of Farmers of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  • Viability gap funding: With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
  • Supply chain management: The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

 

Expected Benefits:

  • Reduce Import Dependency: The ethanol supply year 2017-18 is likely to see a supply of around 150 crore litres of ethanol which will result in savings of over Rs.4000 crore of foreign exchange.
  • Cleaner Environment: There will be lesser emissions of CO2. By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.
  • Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
  • MSW Management: It is estimated that, annually 62 MMT of Municipal Solid Waste gets generated in India. It can be used to generate biofuels.
  • Infrastructural Investment in Rural Areas: At present Oil Marketing Companies are in the process of setting up twelve 2G bio refineries with an investment of around Rs.10,000 crore. Further addition of 2G bio refineries across the Country will spur infrastructural investment in the rural areas.
  • Employment Generation: There will be a requirement of employment in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.
  • Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same. Also, farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Thus conversion of surplus grains and agricultural biomass can help in price stabilization.

Conclusion:

  • The policy should take in to consideration technological and financial feasibility
  • To address the issue of infrastructure, the new policy envisages investment to the tune of ₹5,000 crore in building bio-refineries and offering other incentives over the next few years.
  • The government should also take steps to remove policy barriers that have discouraged private investment in building supply chains.
  • Until that happens, India’s huge biofuel potential will continue to remain largely untapped.

 

Bastariya Battallion

 

Relevancy:

  • GS Mains paper III
  • Governance, Internal security, the problem of Naxalism, Left Wing Extremism (LWE), Salwa Judum, Bastariya Battalion, Battalion 241

Why in news?

  • ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF, created for the first-time with more than 534 tribal youths from Chhattisgarh was commissioned by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

What comprises the new force?

  • The Bastariya Battallion comprises of local recruits from 4 ditricts of undivided Bastar: Sukma, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Bijapur.
  • The battalion has 33 percent representation of women combatants with 189 ‘mahila’ constables.
  • The recruits have been trained for about 44 weeks in jungle warfare, weapons firing, map reading, police laws and unarmed combat.
  • The concept to raise the team was mooted with the aim that the recruits, mostly tribals, will help address local issues such as unemployment, provide tactical advantage to CRPF in operations, intelligence collection and language benefits.

What are the special features of the force?

  • The battalion is familiar with the local terrain and language as the personnel have been recruited from the local districts.
  • It has been commissioned in order to fight with the Maoists in region.
  • It will also help bridge the disconnect between the CRPF, which comprises personnel from all over the country, and the local population.

What are the concerns about it?

  • It revives memories of the Salwa Judum, the now disbanded militia force.

About Salwa Judum:

  • Salwa Judum was mobilised in 2005. Many of the volunteers were former Maoists.
  • Those in favour of the idea claim that the Judum was a “spontaneous uprising” of tribal people against Maoist violence in Bastar, and helped in countering Naxals in the region.
  • Yet, by the time the force was banned by the Supreme Court in 2011, it had acquired a bloody and controversial reputation.
  • The state government allegedly supplied arms and tacit support to the Judum, which had turned into a vigilante group, recruiting poorly trained youth as “Koya Commandos”, or “SPOs (Special Police Officers)”.
  • There were many allegations against the Judum: entering and burning villages, sexual assault, murders etc.
  • The local population had two choice: either to join Judum or be declared as Maoists.
  • Many people were displaced to the nearby states of Andhra and Telangana, never to return back to their homes.
  • Activists argue that the New Bastraiya Battallion may bring back the terror of now disbanded Salwa Judum.
  • It is like pitting tribal against the tribals and giving an option between life and death to the local people.
  • What is the difference between Salwa Judum and Bastariya Battallion?
  • The main difference is between the training.
  • The latter has been given a 44 weeks training which included not just modules on jungle warfare and weapons training, but also civic responsibilities and human rights.
  • They are CRPF constables like any other, and not a vigilante group.
  • The presence of locals will increase the sensitivity of the CRPF, especially with one-third of the recruits being women.

Conclusion:

  • The scars that the Salwa Judum left behind in Bastar are deep, its wounds have still not completely healed.
  • The success or failure of the Bastariya Warriors in Chhattisgarh will be judged not only by their “operational successes”, but also by their human rights record.
  • They should be and will be under constant scrutiny of civil society, the media and, most importantly, the adivasis who live in the forests in Bastar’s conflict zone.

IFPRI study on Child Stunting in India

 

Relevancy:

  • GS prelims, GS mains paper I, II
  • Governance, health, child stunting, the relation of child stunting with socio-economic status, IFPRI study

Why in news?

  • A study by the Washington-based agri think tank International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released recently (24th May, 2018) has argued for a change in India’s approach to its malnutrition problem — by going beyond the current focus on health and stressing district-by-district reduction of socio-economic inequality and especially, gender inequality.

Some facts:

  • Stunting prevalence in India is high (38.4%) and varies considerably across districts (from 12.4% to 65.1%)
  • 239 of the 640 districts in India have stunting levels above 40% and 202 have prevalence of 30–40%
  • High‐stunting districts are heavily clustered in the north and centre of the country
  • Inter-district differences in stunting are strongly explained by a multitude of economic, health, hygiene, and demographic factors

Key findings of IFPRI study:

  • The study has analysed and spatially mapped data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS 2015-16) on India’s high childhood stunting prevalence of 38.4%.
  • It has concluded that very high-stunting districts could eliminate 71% of the gap with low-stunting districts if they are able to improve on specific issues of gender and inequality.
  • The 71% of the observed differences in stunting prevalence between low and high burden districts has been explained by a number of socio-economic factors such as:
    • Women’s low body mass index (BMI) – 19%
    • Women’s education – 12%
    • Children’s adequate diet – 9%
    • Assets – 7%
    • Open defecation – 7%
    • Age at marriage – 7%
    • Antenatal care (ANC) – 6%
    • Household (HH) size – 5%
  • These multifactorial determinants highlight the need for district-specific data for diagnostic assessments and call for a nationwide focus for stunting prevention, while addressing critical determinants district‐by‐district to reduce inequalities and prevalence of childhood stunting

 

Top 10 districts – lowest stunting rates

Ernakulam (KL)           12.4%

Pathanamthitta (KL)    13.3%

Kollam (KL)                 14.4%

Alappuzha (KL)           14.5%

Idukki (KL)                   15.1%

Cuttack (OR)               15.3%

Hyderabad (TG)          15.7%

Puri (OR)                     16.1%

South Garo Hills (ML) 16.8%

Kanniyakumari (TN)    17.2%

 

Bottom 10 districts – highest stunting rates

Bahraich (UP)                       65.1%
Shrawasti (UP)                     63.5%
Balrampur (UP)                    62.8%
Pashchimi Singhbhum (JH) 59.4%
Siddharthnagar (UP)            57.9%
Sitamarhi (BR)                      57.3%
Gonda (UP)                          56.9%
Sitapur (UP)                         56.4%
Koppal (KA)                          55.8%
Yadgir (KA)                           55.5%

Source: IFPRI

 

Conclusion:

  • The study shows that only focusing on health- and nutrition-related factors under the existing ICDS scheme isn’t enough; there is need to address gender-related inequalities at the district level so as to reduce stunting.
  • Factors concerning women across their life cycles, such as their education, nutrition, age at marriage, care during and after pregnancy, play a significant role, as do the overall socio-economic status of the household
  • The findings are significant when the union government has launched its National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyaan) with a district-level focus to reduce stunting.

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