Daily Analysis: 13th October 2020

The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Index

A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

1. Tech for Tribals Initiative (PIB)

2. Kamdhenu Deepawali Abhiyan and Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (PIB)

3. Bharatmala Pariyojana (Livemint)

B) Economy

4. Whole-Sale Price Index (WPI) Vs Consumer Price Index (CPI) (TH)

C) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

5. National Supercomputing Mission (PIB)

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

6. Postal Ballots (PIB)

E) International Relations

7. EU to sanction Russia over Navalny (TH)

A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

1. Tech for Tribals Initiative (PIB)

  • It is an initiative of TRIFED (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) supported by Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, aims at the holistic development of tribal forest produce gatherers enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY) with a focus on entrepreneurship development, soft skills, IT, and business development through SHGs operating through Van Dhan Kendras (VDVKs).
  • It aims to transform 5 crore Tribal Entrepreneurs.
  • The Tech for Tribals, a project to train tribal entrepreneurs at 16 premier IITs & IIMs of the country, was launched on line in March 2020.

Van Dhan Vikas Kendras

  • Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs targeting livelihood generation for tribal population by harnessing the wealth of forest i.e. Van Dhan.
  • The programme aims to tap into the traditional knowledge and skill sets of tribal people by adding technology and Information Technology for upgradation of output at each stage and to convert the tribal wisdom into a remunerative economic activity.

TRIFED

  • Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development of India Ltd., (TRIFED) is an organization under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and is engaged in marketing development of tribal products including tribal art & craft under the brand name “TRIBES INDIA”. 
  • The main mandate of TRIFED is capability enhancement of the tribals, promotion of tribal products and creation of marketing opportunities for the tribals with a view to ensuring them fair prices for their products and augmenting their income on sustainable basis.  
  • All the products supplied by TRIFED carries “Tribal Craft Mark” in form of hologram/ label/tag for its genuineness and authenticity.
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs along with Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation Ltd (TRIFED), organizes “AADI MAHOTSAV”- a celebration of the spirit of Tribal Culture, Cuisine and Commerce.
  • Recently, Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED) signed an agreement to partner with Amazone’s Global Selling Programme to sell products made by tribes.

2. Kamdhenu Deepawali Abhiyan and Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (PIB)

  • Encouraged by the response to Gaumaya Ganesha Campaign which encouraged usage of eco-friendly material in manufacture of idols for the Ganesha Festival, Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) has started a nation- wide campaign to celebrate “Kamdhenu Deepawali Abhiyan” this year on the occasion of Deepawali festival.
  • Through this campaign, the RKA is promoting extensive use of cow-dung/ Panchgavya products during this Diwali Festival.
  • Manufacture of Cow dung based Diyas, Candles, Dhoop, Agarbatti, Shubh-Labh, Swastik, Samrani, Hardboard, Wall-piece, Paper-weight, Havan samagri, Idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi for this year’s Diwali festival has already started.
  • Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) is a high powered permanent body constituted vide resolution in 2019.
  • It comes under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying
  • Even though, the country is largest producer of milk, the average milk yield in India is only 50% of the world average.
  • The low productivity is largely due to deterioration in genetic stock, poor nutrition and unscientific management.
  • The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog has been constituted for:
  1. Conservation, protection and development of cows and their progeny;
  2. Proper implementation of laws with respect to prohibition of slaughter and / or cruelty to cows and
  3. Giving direction to the cattle development programmes.

The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog is aimed at achieving following:

  1. Sustainable development and genetic upgradation of genetic resources of cows in India.
  2. Conservation and development of Indigenous Breeds of cows and improved management of cows of the country.
  3. Enhanced production and productivity throughout country, leading to higher farm income and better quality of life for the dairy farmers.
  4. Protection and promotion of the interest of dairy cooperatives, Livestock Development Agencies, farmer producer companies and dairy industries in the country.
  5. Effective implementation of laws for welfare of the cows and its progenies in the country and proper working of Gaushals, Gosadans and Pinjrapoles and other organizations/institutes for protection and development of cows and their progenies.

3. Bharatmala Pariyojana (Livemint)

Context: 2921 km roads constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana.

Analysis

  • Bharatmala Pariyojana is an umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions like development of:
  1. Economic Corridors,
  2. Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes,
  3. National Corridor Efficiency Improvement,
  4. Border and International connectivity roads,
  5. Coastal and Port connectivity roads and
  6. Green-field expressways.
  • Bharatmala also envisages building 3300 kms of Border Roads of strategic importance along international boundaries and 2000 km of International Connectivity roads to promote trade with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • Most important is the development of about 26,000 km length of Economic Corridors, which along with Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) and North-South and East-West (NS-EW) Corridors are expected to carry majority of the Freight Traffic on roads.
  • The central government plans to finish the first phase before the end of 2022.
  • Grand Challenge’ mechanism is to be adopted to encourage State Government participation in implementation of the program. 
  • Bharatmala will subsume all existing highway projects including
  1. The flagship National Highways Development Project.
  2. Development of State roads along coastal border areas, including connectivity of nonmajor ports;
  3. Backward areas, religious and tourist places connectivity programme;
  4. Setubharatam Pariyojana, which is for the consruction of about 1500 major bridges and 200 rail over bridges rail and under bridges;
  5. District Headquarters connectivity Scheme for the development of about 9000 km newly declared National Highways.
  • Balance works under various phases of National Highways Development Project (NHDP) shall be fully subsumed under the proposed Bharatmala Pariyojana, to remove overlap and undertake comprehensive development.
  • Balance works under NH(O), SARDP-NE, EAP & LWE schemes would continue under relevant schemes 
  • The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) (5,846 km) connects the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
  • The NS-EW Corridors (7,300 km) connect Srinagar in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, including a spur from Salem to Kochi and Silchar in the East to Porbandar in the West.

B) Economy

4. Wholesale Price Index (WPI) Vs Consumer Price Index (CPI) (TH)

Context: The National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) released the All India Consumer Price Index (CPI) on Base 2012=100 and corresponding Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) for Rural (R), Urban (U) and Combined (C) for the month of September 2020 (Provisional) in this press note.

Analysis

  • Inflation is the sustained increase in the prices of goods and services over time. 
  • These are the two primary measures of inflation – Whole-sale Price Index and Consumer Price Index.

Whole-sale Price Index

  • WPI index reflects average price changes of goods that are bought and sold in the wholesale market.
  • WPI in India is published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. 
  • Further, the data for WPI is monitored and updated on a monthly basis taking into account all the items that form the index.
  • The various commodities taken into consideration for computing the WPI can be categorized into primary article, fuel and power, and manufactured goods with corresponding weightages as 22.62%, 13.15% and 64.23% respectively.
  • Primary articles included for the computation of WPI include food articles, non-food articles and minerals.
  • An important point to take note of is, the whole sale price index (WPI) does not include the cost of services (CPI includes certain services too); we cannot buy services on a wholesale basis.
  • Further, as WPI accounts for changes in general price level of goods at wholesale level, it fails to communicate actual burden borne by the end consumer.
  • The pricing norms of wholesale and retail are also different.
  • Certain items on WPI, such as fuel, are also closely linked to international prices, creating a gap between the figures on this index and the CPI.
  • The base year for the WPI index has been revised for the seventh time from the earlier 2004-2005 to 2011-12 to better capture changes in the economy.
  • The measure of wholesale price gains is the key deflator in computing the Index of Industrial Production and is also used to deflate Gross Domestic Product at current prices.
  • The index basket of the present 2011-12 series has a total of 697 items including 117 items for Primary Articles, 16 items for Fuel & Power and 564 items for Manufactured Products.)
  • The prices tracked are ex- factory price for manufactured products, mandi price for agricultural commodities and ex-mines prices for minerals.
  • Weights given to each commodity covered in the WPI basket is based on the value of production adjusted for net imports.
  • WPI basket does not cover services.

The main uses of WPI are the following:

  • It provides estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy as a whole. This helps in timely intervention by the Government to check inflation in particular, in essential commodities, before the price increase spill over to retail prices.
  • WPI is used as deflator for many sectors of the economy including for estimating GDP by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
  • WPI is also used for indexation by users in business contracts.
  • Global investors also track WPI as one of the key macro indicators for their investment decisions.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

  • Consumer Price Index is an index measuring retail inflation in the economy by collecting the change in prices of most common goods and services used by consumers.
  • Figures of CPI-based inflation are issued every month in India.
  • The index assigns different weights to various goods and services in the basket and tracks the movement of their prices.
  • It also tracks the price movement of the entire basket on a pan-India level to calculate the overall inflation figure or CPI inflation.
  • While CPI is the most relevant index for the consumer as it shows the increase in their actual outgo, it is not a completely accurate cost of living indicator since it focuses on certain goods and services more than others.
  • CPI is not the cost of living index, and is, therefore, not an accurate reflection of consumer spending.
  • The weightage of food in the CPI is close to 50%, but most households don’t spend nearly that much of their overall expenditure on food. What we spend more on are services such as education, health care and transportation, where inflation levels are much higher.

How does Consumer Price Index help?

  • The Reserve Bank of India and other statistical agencies study CPI so as to understand the price change of various commodities and keep a tab on inflation.
  • CPI is also a helpful pointer in understanding the real value of wages, salaries and pensions, the purchasing power of a country’s currency; and regulating prices.
  • Two Ministries – Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) and Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) are engaged in the construction of different CPIs for different groups/sectors.
  • CPI inflation is also called as ‘retail inflation’ as the prices are quoted from retailers.
  • CPI is based on retail prices and this index is used to calculate the Dearness Allowance (DA) for government employees.

Table: Different Price Indices in India

IndexAgencyBase Year
WPIOffice of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industries2011-12
CPI All India, CPI -Urban and RuralCSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation2012
CPI-ALLabour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment1986-87
CPI-RL1986-87
CPI-IW2001

Divergence between CPI and WPI inflation

Food inflation

  • Traditionally, the major reason for the CPI inflation being higher than WPI inflation has been that food articles had a higher weight (48.3 per cent) in CPI than in WPI (24.3 per cent).
  • This factor plays an important role, whenever the primary trigger of inflation is food inflation.

Non-Food Inflation

  • Non-food inflation according to WPI and CPI have very different composition.
  • What is included in this category also differs very much.
  • Similarly, manufactured goods are given more weightage in the wholesale basket. Therefore, any movement in the price of such items will move the WPI more than it does the CPI.
  • In fact, this divergence is inexplicable. There are certain items which figure in CPI but do not figure in WPI. These may be broadly treated as ‘services’.

Does RBI use WPI or CPI Inflation to manage monetary policy?

  • While earlier the Reserve Bank of India used WPI inflation to manage monetary policy expectations, it is now the CPI inflation which is largely taken into account.

Why CPI?

  • CPI data are available with the same lag as WPI.
  • CPI is also being updated with a new base frequently.
  • Since the control of inflation is aimed at minimising the impact of rising prices on the people.

Do you know?

  • Inflation can be described as the general rise in the price of goods and services in an economy over time.
  • The net effect of inflation is that the value of your money decreases over time, so make sure to align and diversify your investments so that you can inflation-proof your corpus.
  • Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Core inflation removes the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month, which can cause unwanted distortion to the headline figure.
  • The most commonly removed factors are those relating to the cost of food and energy.
  • Inflation deliberately undertaken to relieve a depression- Reflation
  • Rise in prices with little change in output- Stagflation. Stagflation is when economic growth is stagnant but there still is price inflation.
  • Price rise at full employment- Continuous inflation
  • The term ‘benign inflation’ implies a mild rate of inflation.

Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA)

  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. 

The main functions of the Office of Economic Adviser include, inter alia the following:

Policy Functions

  • Economic policy inputs on industrial development.
  • Rendering advice relating to formulation of Industrial Policy, Foreign Trade Policy with respect to industrial sector in general with thrust on manufacturing, issues relating to bilateral and multilateral trade, as well as taxes and duties related to industry, including but not restricted to safeguard and anti-dumping duties.
  • Analysis of trends of industrial production and growth.
  • Examination of multilateral and bilateral issues and processing Policy Notes with economic implications referred to the Office.

Statistical Functions

  • Compiling and releasing monthly Wholesale Price Indices.
  • Compiling and releasing monthly Index of Core Industries Production.
  • Developing other Indices on experimental basis, e.g. select business service price indices.
  • Supervising as a ‘source agency’, compilation of monthly production statistics for identified industrial items, their validation, and onward transmission for computation of the monthly Index of Industrial Production (IIP) by Central Statistics Office.
  • Monthly Statistical compilation of macro indicators (secondary information).

C) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

5. National Supercomputing Mission (PIB)

Context: C-DAC and National Supercomputing Mission Host Institutes sign MOU for establishing Supercomputing Infrastructure in various premier institutions across India.

Analysis

National Supercomputing Mission

  • This is a visionary program to enable India to leapfrog to the league of world class computing power nations.
  • Two key departments of the Government of India, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), will be implementing the mission jointly through two leading organizations.
  • These are the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore over a period of seven years.
  • The Mission envisages empowering our national academic and R&D institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
  • These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN).
  • The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high-speed network.
  • Academic and R&D institutions as well as key user departments/ministries would participate by using these facilities and develop applications of national relevance.
  • The Mission supports the government’s vision of “Digital India” and “Make in India” initiatives.

PARAM Shivay Supercomputer

  • It is the first Supercomputer designed and built under Build approach of National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) by C-DAC at Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Varanasi.
  • “PARAM Shivay” uses more than one lakh twenty thousand compute cores (CPU + GPU cores) to offer a peak compute power of 833 teraFlops.
  • Similar systems Param Shakti and Param Brahma were installed at IIT-Kharagpur and IISER, Pune. 

Pratyush and Mihir

  • Pratyush and Mihir are the supercomputers established at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF), Noida respectively.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputer in India with a maximum speed of 6.8 petaFlops.

Do you know?

  • Supercomputer is any of a class of extremely powerful computers.
  • The term is commonly applied to the fastest high-performance systems available at any given time.

Distinguishing Features

  • Unlike conventional computers, they usually have more than one CPU (central processing unit).
  • Most supercomputers have a very large storage capacity, as well as a very fast input/output capability.
  • Still another distinguishing characteristic of supercomputers is their use of vector arithmetic—i.e., they are able to operate on pairs of lists of numbers rather than on mere pairs of numbers.

What is FLOPS?

  • Floating-point operations per second, or FLOPS, is the unit of measurement that calculates the performance capability of a supercomputer.
  • One petaFLOPS is equal to one thousand teraFLOPS.

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

6. Postal Ballots (PIB)

Context: More than fifty two thousand electors belonging to Senior Citizen (above 80 years of age) and PwD categories, have opted to exercise the facility to vote through postal ballots in the forthcoming phase 1 of General Election to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar 2020. 

Analysis

  • The Election Commission has also said that the postal ballot facility for electors above the age of 65 in the Bihar Assembly elections, which would have been the first time it would have been used since the Centre had notified it on June 19, would not be implemented.
  • In a statement, the EC said the decision was taken for the Assembly elections and bypolls due soon due to logistical challenges.
  • The poll body said the option of postal ballots would be available to:
  1. Electors over 80 years of age,
  2. Persons with disabilities,
  3. Essential service workers and
  4. Those infected with COVID-19 or suspected to be.

June 2020: Voters over 65 can opt for postal ballot

  • Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Ministry has reduced the age limit for senior citizens who can opt for postal ballot in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
  • The Ministry has notified a fresh change, allowing those aged 65 years and above to opt for postal ballot.
  • In October 2019, the Law Ministry amended the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to allow people with disabilities and those who are 80 or older to opt for postal ballots in the absentee voter list.
  • The absentee voter refers to a vote cast by someone who is unable to go to the polling station.
  • While amending the rules on the suggestions of the Election Commission, the Ministry also allowed “COVID-19 suspect or affected persons” to use the postal ballot facility.
  • Currently, only service voters (armed forces, the armed police force of a state and government servants posted abroad), voters on election duty and those in preventive detention are allowed to cast their votes through postal ballot.
  • The exception is provided in Section 60 of the RP Act, 1951.
  • Under this method, ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and returned via post.
  • The remaining eligible voters are expected to cast a vote in person at designated polling stations.
  • The government has already accepted the EC’s recommendation to allow registered NRI voters to appoint proxies to cast a vote on their behalf.
  • An amendment to the RP Act was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2019 to this effect. It is now pending in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Keen on expanding the ambit of postal ballots, the Election Commission (EC) has proposed to allow voters on duty in the aviation sector, shipping sector, trains, fire services, medical services, traffic, long-distance road transport corporation buses, and journalists covering elections to vote by post in the upcoming assembly elections.

E) International Relations

7. EU to sanction Russia over Navalny (TH)

Context: European Union Foreign Ministers backed a Franco-German plan to impose sanctions on Russians suspected of poisoning Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.

  • The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed the presence of the banned Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in Mr. Navalny’s body.

Analysis

  • Novichok nerve agents – also known as the “N-series” – were secretly developed by the former Soviet Union beginning in the 1970s.
  • Some Novichoks can be eight times as deadly as the US equivalent known as VX, the V-series agent that was used to kill North Korean exile Kim Jong-nam.

How do nerve agents work?

  • Novichoks work in the same way as other nerve agents, which disrupt nerve signals to the muscles by inhibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase.
  • The gaps between nerve cells become flooded with acetylcholine, causing continuous contraction of the muscles.
  • Symptoms include convulsions (a sudden, violent, irregular movement of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles) and difficulty breathing.
  • Like other binary nerve gases, Novichok too is absorbed through the lungs or skin and interferes with the nervous system, leading to paralysis. 
  • In November 2019, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) added Novichok to its list of banned toxins, in one of the first major changes to the treaty since it was signed in the 1990s.

Organisation for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons

  • It is an international organization established by the Chemical Weapons Convention (adopted 1992, entered into force 1997) to implement and enforce the terms of the international treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, or transfer of chemical weapons by signatory states.
  • Its headquarters are located in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Its vision is that of a world that is free of chemical weapons and of the threat of their use, and in which cooperation in chemistry for peaceful purposes for all is fostered.
  • It provides a credible and transparent regime for verifying the destruction of chemical weapons and to prevent their re-emergence, while protecting legitimate national security and proprietary interests.
  • It provides protection and assistance against chemical weapons.
  • It encourages international cooperation in peaceful uses of chemistry.
  • It also aims to bring about universal membership of the OPCW by facilitating international cooperation and national capacity building.
  • The OPCW is authorized to perform inspections to verify that signatory states are complying with the convention, which includes a commitment to grant inspectors full access to chemical weapons sites and a common pledge to destroy all stocks of chemical weapons.
  • The OPCW also performs testing of sites and victims of suspected chemical weapons attacks.
  • The OPCW reports on its inspections and other activities to the UN through the office of the secretary-general.
  • The OPCW Member States represent about 98% of the global population and landmass, as well as 98% of the worldwide chemical industry.
  • India is also a member of OPCW.
  • The OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for “its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons” in the context of the OPCW’s direct involvement in the inspection and planned destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

  • The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.
  • The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  • The CWC is open to all nations and currently has 193 states-parties.
  • Israel has signed but has yet to ratify the convention.
  • Three states have neither signed nor ratified the convention are Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan.
  • OPCW inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.
  • The world faced daunting challenges with discovery of new toxic molecules, advancements in deployment and dissemination techniques and “emergence of non-state actors are among the important developments that call for greater vigilance and thus this convention was born out of this extreme necessity.

India and OPCW

Chemical Weapons Convention Act 2000

  • National Authority Chemical Weapons Convention (NACWC) has been established under the Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000 as an office in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
  • The Act defines chemical weapons as toxic chemicals, including munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm.
  • The definition includes in its ambit “any equipment” specifically designed for employing chemical weapons.

The major functions of the National Authority, among others, are as follows:

  • Regulate and monitor the development, production, processing, consumption, transfer or use of Toxic Chemicals or Precursors as specified in the Convention;
  • Conduct inspections for the purposes of CWC Act 2000 and ensure decontamination of Approved Equipment after completion of an Inspection.
  • Interact with the Organisation in respect of acceptance of request of India for Challenge Inspection or to counter any frivolous or defamatory request made by any State Party against India to the Organisation; etc.

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