IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 07 October 2019

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SultanpurLodhi and Guru Nanak Dev

Topic: GS-I:  History

A town in Punjab’s Kapurthala district, SultanpurLodhi, is at the centrestage of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of the Sikh religion.It is here that the main anniversary programme will be held on November 12, with the Prime Minister expected to attend.

The Guru Nanak Dev link

  • It was in SultanpurLodhi that the Sikhism founder is believed to have attained enlightenment. The janamsakhis — birth stories or biographies of Guru Nanak Dev written towards the end of the 16th century — say he was a changed man after he took a dip in the rivulet Kali Bein that flowed through the middle of the town.

The duration of his stay

  • Guru Nanak was born at Rai-Bhoi-Di Talwandi in Sheikhupura district (now in Pakistan) in 1469. His father Mehta Kalyan Das is variously described as a revenue officer (patwari) or a chief accountant.
  • He moved to SultanpurLodhi between late 1480 and 1490 at the invitation of his elder sister Nanaki and her husband Jai Ram, who was in charge of the grain storage depot (Modikhana) of Daulat Khan Lodhi, the then shiqqdar (commissioner) of SultanpurLodhi, who later rose to become the governor of Lahore.
  • There are conflicting accounts of the duration of his stay at SultanpurLodhi. While historian DrGanda Singh writes he was there for 10 years between the ages of 18 and 27, DrHari Ram Gupta, another scholar, claims he was here from the ages of 16 to 30. But most scholars agree that he lived in the town for around a decade until 1500, when he decided to undertake his travels, called udasis.
  • Since the revenue from 40-odd villages in Daulat Khan’s jagir was collected in the form of grains, Modikhana was akin to a treasury. Nanak also started working there.

Legacy of SultanpurLodhi

  • Historians say it was in SultanpurLodhi that Guru Nanak came into intimate contact with Islam.
  • The janamsakhis depict the tension between a section of the clergy and Guru Nanak following his enlightenment. His utterances were not received kindly by the qazi. He complained to Daulat Khan Lodhi that Nanak was being blasphemous. Prof Grewal said Daulat Khan Lodhi also challenged Guru Nanak Dev to say the namaaz with him. “Lore has it that after the namaaz, Nanak told him your prayers will not be accepted because all along you were worried about your foal falling into an open well in your courtyard.’’
  • Janamsakhis claim Daulat Khan Lodhi became very fond of Nanak and defended him against critics. When Nanak decided to leave the town in 1500, he is said to have urged him to stay. But Nanak said it was a call from the supreme being and not his decision. Over time, Bhai Mardana, who accompanied Nanak on all his travels, and Daulat Khan, came to be considered among his two principal Muslim followers.
  • Today the town is home to several gurdwaras in the memory of Guru Nanak. Most of them were commissioned during the Khalsaempire when the Sikh rulers staked out the places associated with Guru Nanak and built gurdwaras there. GurdwaraBer Sahib, built by the side of an old ber tree that is believed to be the one under which Guru Nanak would sit in meditation along the Kali Bein, was commissioned by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. The cornerstone was laid by Bhai Arjan Singh of Bagarian in 1937, and Maharaja Yadavinder Singh of Patiala presided over its completion in 1941.

India’s wettest September in more than 100 years

Topic: GS-I:  Geography

Why is the monsoon refusing to leave this year? The answer may lie in a complex set of factors, including a little understood hot-cold condition over the Indian Ocean

  • The standout feature of this year’s monsoon has been the unusually high rainfall in September. The month just gone by normally sees 170.2 mm rain over the country as a whole; this year, September saw 259.3 mm of rain, over 52% more than the average.
  • Also, September 30 is officially the end of India’s four-month monsoon season. But this year, the monsoon has refused to go away. The last time it stayed until October was back in 1961 — when the withdrawal of the monsoon started on October 1.
  • This year, the India Meteorological Department has said, the monsoon might begin to withdraw only after October 10.
  • So why did September get so much rain this year? It is well into October, and large parts of Bihar, including the capital Patna, are reeling under floods due to massive rainfall events.

Was it the La Niña?

  • La Niña, the phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean in which the sea surface temperatures turn unusually cold, is known to strengthen rainfall over the Indian sub-continent during the monsoon months.
  • However, there is no La Niña this year. In fact, the year started with a weak El Niño, the opposite phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that has a negative impact on the Indian monsoon, before the situation turned neutral.

The other possibility: IOD

  • Given the fact that there was no La Niña that could possibly explain the massive September rain, scientists have been looking at a similar phenomenon much closer home, called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which could have contributed to enhanced rainfall.
  • The IOD is a phenomenon similar to the ENSO condition observed in the Pacific Ocean which creates the El Niño and La Niña events. The sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean get warmer and cooler than normal, and this deviation influences regional atmospheric and weather patterns, notably the Indian monsoon.

Difference between ENSO and IOD.

  • While the Pacific Ocean only has an El Niño or a La Niña condition at a time, the Indian Ocean experiences both warm and cold conditions at the same time – hence, a dipole.
  • One of these poles is located in the Arabian Sea, while the other is in the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole is said to be ‘positive’ when the western pole is warmer than the eastern one, and ‘negative’ when it is cooler.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole and ENSO are not unrelated. So, positive IOD events are often associated with El Niño, and negative IOD events with La Niña. Therefore, when the IOD and ENSO happen at the same time, the Dipole is known to strengthen the impacts of the ENSO condition.

Intertropical Convergence Zone

  • Many scientists like to describe the monsoon in terms of the movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, a region near the Equator where the trade winds of the northern and southern hemispheres come together.
  • The intense Sun and the warm waters of the ocean heat up the air in this region, and increase its moisture content. As the air rises, it also cools, and releases the accumulated moisture, thus bringing rainfall.
  • During the monsoon season, this ITCZ is located over the Indian subcontinent. By September, as the temperature begins to go down, the ITCZ starts moving southwards of the Indian landmass, towards the equator, and further into the southern hemisphere.

Telangana’s idea of supplying medicines to remote areas by drones

Topic: GS –II: Governance

The Telangana government has adopted a framework to use drones for last-mile delivery of essential medical supplies such as blood and medical samples in an effort to increase the access to healthcare to communities across the state.

  • The framework has been co-designed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Apollo Hospitals Group Healthnet Global Limited. In July, Telangana submitted a proposal for its drone policy to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The state hopes to become ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) compliant, making commercial use of drones possible.

Why drones?

  • Reduction of the time taken to transport material, and improving supply chain efficiency.
  • The project is a part of the WEF’s “Medicine from the Sky” initiative that aims to develop source materials for policymakers and health systems to analyse the challenges that come with drone delivery, and to compare this model with other competing delivery models.

Drone regulations

  • A drone is an aircraft that operates without a pilot on board and is referred to as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
  • It has three subsets: Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft, and Model Aircraft. An RPA can be further classified into five types on the basis of weight: nano, micro, small, medium and large. RPAs are aircraft that are piloted from remote pilot stations.
  • In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation acts as the regulatory body in the field of civil aviation, responsible for regulating air transport and ensuring compliance to civil aviation requirements, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
  • The DGCA’s drone policy requires all owners of RPAs, except drones in the smallest ‘nano’ category, to seek permission for flights, and comply with regulations including registration, and operating hours (only during the day) and areas (not above designated high security zones).
  • There is no blanket permission for flying BVLOS; the visual line of sight being 450 m with a minimum ground visibility of 5 km. The food delivery platform Zomato has tried out a drone to deliver a payload of up to 5 kg to a distance of 5 km, flying at a maximum speed of 80 km/h; however, regulations do not yet allow the delivery of food by drones.
  • A change of regulations will be required before largescale use of drones can be made possible for medical or other purposes.

Understand ‘A, B’ forms

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

Candidates aspiring to contest assembly elections on the ticket of a political party are required to submit various documents and forms.

  • The documents include those on citizenship, age and caste (if they are contesting from a reserved seat), as well as an affidavit on criminal cases, if any, and property and cash owned by the candidates and their immediate family members.
  • Form A and Form B, denote that a certain candidate has been approved by a political party and should be allotted the election symbol of that party.
  • These two forms — referred collectively as ‘AB Form’ — prove that a political party has appointed a person in charge of distributing tickets and the candidate has obtained a ticket for a certain constituency from that person.

What is Form A?

  • This is a communication from a ‘recognised national or state political party’ or a ‘registered but unrecognised political party’ to the returning officer of the constituency or the chief election officer of the state, conveying the names of office-bearers of the party, who have been authorised to intimate names of the candidates chosen by the party to contest the polls. This communication must come from either the president or secretary of the political party. These have to be signed and must carry the party seal.
  • The form also contains specimen signatures of the office-bearers who have been authorised by the party to distribute tickets.

What is Form B?

  • This is a communication from the authorised office-bearer of a political party (whose name is mentioned in Form A issued by the president or secretary of the party) to the returning officer of the constituency.
  • This letter informs the returning officer about the name of the authorised candidate for the party, who should be allotted the party symbol. The letter also contains a substitute name for allotment of the symbol and candidature, in case the nomination of the primary candidate is rejected during scrutiny.
  • Form B also certifies that the person to whom the authorised candidature has been issued is a member of the political party and his name appears in the party rolls.

Geotail

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) tweeted that an instrument on Chandrayaan-2, had detected charged particles during the orbiter’s passage through the “geotail”.

What is geotail?

  • The geotail is a region in space that allows the best observations. The region exists as a result of the interactions between the Sun and Earth.
  • The Sun emits the solar wind, which is a continuous stream of charged particles. These particles are embedded in the extended magnetic field of the Sun. Since the Earth has a magnetic field, it obstructs the solar wind plasma. This interaction results in the formation of a magnetic envelope around Earth (see illustration). On the Earth side facing the Sun, the envelope is compressed into a region that is approximately three to four times the Earth radius. On the opposite side, the envelope is stretched into a long tail, which extends beyond the orbit of the Moon. It is this tail that is called the geotail.
  • Once every 29 days, the Moon traverses the geotail for about six days. When Chandrayaan-2, which is orbiting the Moon, crosses the geotail, its instruments can study the properties of the geotail.
  • For the CLASS instrument seeking to detect element signatures, the lunar soil can be best observed when a solar flare provides a rich source of X-rays to illuminate the surface. Secondary X-ray emission resulting from this can be detected by CLASS to directly detect the presence of key elements like Na, Ca, Al, Si, Ti and Fe, ISRO said.

State budgets

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

The Reserve Bank of India released its annual study of state-level budgets.

  • With each passing year, understanding about state government finances is becoming more and more important. That’s because of two broad reasons.
  • One, states now spend one-and-a-half times more than the Union government and, in doing so, they employ five times more people than the Centre. What these two trends mean is that not only do states have a greater role to play in determining India’s GDP than the Centre, they are also the bigger employment generators. As such, it is crucial to understand their spending pattern. If, for example, their combined expenditure contracts from one year to the other, then it will bring down India’s GDP.
  • Two, since 2014-15, states have increasingly borrowed money from the market — a trend captured in the fiscal deficit figure. In fact, their total borrowing almost rivals the borrowing by the Union government. This trend, too, has serious implications on the interest rates charged in the economy, the availability of funds for businesses to invest in new factories, and the ability of the private sector to employ new labour.

Why fiscal deficit matters

  • Suppose there is only Rs 100 in the economy that is available in the form of investible savings. This money could be borrowed either by private businesses (to invest in a new or existing venture) or by the government (to make roads, pay salaries etc.). Suppose again that initially, businesses borrow Rs 50 and the central government borrows Rs 50. If, however, state governments also start borrowing, say Rs 20, then private businesses will have only Rs 30 left to borrow and invest. Worse, this Rs 30 would come at a higher interest rate because the same number of people would be now vying for less money. That is why economy observers and businesses fuss over the fiscal deficit number the most.
  • There is another reason why states borrowing more and more should raise concerns especially when they borrow to meet unexpected policy goals such as farm loan waivers. Each year’s borrowing (or deficit) adds to the total debt. Paying back this debt depends on a state’s ability to raise revenues. If a state, or all the states in aggregate, find it difficult to raise revenues, a rising mountain of debt — captured in the debt-to-GDP ratio — could start a vicious cycle wherein states end up paying more and more towards interest payments instead of spending their revenues on creating new assets that provide better education, health and welfare for their residents.
  • In short, with each passing year, state government finances have become more and more important not only for India’s GDP growth and job creation but also for its macroeconomic stability. That is why, the 14th Finance Commission had mandated prudent levels of both fiscal deficit (3% of state GDP) and debt-to-GDP (25%) that must not be breached.

What RBI found

  • The RBI report has found is that, except during 2016-17, state governments have regularly met their fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP (see Chart 3).
  • However, any relief on the fiscal deficit front is of limited value because most states ended up meeting the fiscal deficit target not by increasing their revenues but by reducing their expenditure and increasingly borrowing from the market.

Impact on national economy

  • The RBI’s report states that this reduction in overall size of state budgets likely worsened the economic slowdown that was slowly setting in since the start of 2016-17, when India had grown by 8.2%. “… There has been a reduction in the overall size of the state budget in 2017-19. This retarding fiscal impulse … has coincided with a cyclical downswing in domestic economic activity and may have inadvertently deepened it,” it states. It is noteworthy that 2017-18 saw India’s GDP growth rate decline to 7.2% and it has been declining since.
  • Possibly the most worrisome observation by the RBI is that while states have met their fiscal deficits, the overall level of debt-to-GDP (Chart 4) has reached the 25% of GDP prudential mark. “A slightly stringent criterion as prescribed by the FRBM Review Committee and in line with the revised FRBM implied debt target of 20 per cent will put most of the states above the threshold,” warns the RBI
  • The trouble is states have found it difficult to raise revenues. As the report explains, “States’ revenue prospects are confronted with low tax buoyancies, shrinking revenue autonomy under the GST framework and unpredictability associated with transfers of IGST and grants. Unrealistic revenue forecasts in budget estimates thereby leave no option for states than expenditure compression in even the most productive and employment-generating heads.”

The role of Arhatiyas in rural Punjab; row over linking farmers’ details to central database

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Under pressure from the Centre, the Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Department has directed all government procurement agencies to link the bank accounts of farmers with the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) portal before the procurement of paddy begins. This has angered the arhatiyas (commission agents), a large number of whom want the government to roll back its decision.

What is the PFMS portal?

  • It is an online platform developed and implemented by the office of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) under the Union Ministry of Finance.
  • The PFMS portal is used to make direct payments to beneficiaries of government schemes. In the present case, the idea is to monitor the accounts of farmers to ensure they get the payment for their crops from the arhatiyas, who pay farmers only after selling their produce and receiving the money from the buyers.

Why are arhatiyas against it?

  • The Food and Civil Supplies Department has announced that if accounts are not linked with the PFMS portal, the arhatiyas’ commission, which is 2.5%, and the administrative charges, would not be released. While government agencies have asked the arhatiyas to provide the account details of farmers, the arhatiyas have claimed that the farmers are not willing to share the details. Some farmers with longstanding relationships with the arhatiyas have, meanwhile, approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the government.
  • While the government has been underlining the need to bring transparency into the system, the arhatiyas are wary of monitoring. They also fear that the linking of farmers’ accounts to the PFMS database is only one step short of the government deciding to make payments directly to farmers, cutting the agents out all together.

What do the farmers themselves want?

  • A majority of farmers now want to link their accounts with the PFMS portal and prefer direct payments in their accounts. Most of the members of the eight main farmers’ organisations, with memberships running into lakhs, are against the arhatiya system in Punjab. However, the arhatiya system continues to flourish. This, experts say, is due to the strength of the arhatiya lobby, which allows a section of the 48,000 registered arhatiyas to control some 18.50 lakh farmers.
  • There are also allegations of massive corruption and vested interests. “The government is hand in glove with the arhatiyas,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the BKU EKTA (Dakaunda). It is alleged that many influential officials and politicians use arhatiyas to employ their ill-gotten wealth in high-interest loans to distressed farmers.
  • Arhatiyas remain powerful figures in the rural landscape. Each agent has between 20 and 200 farmers, whose crops he sells. Together, arhatiyas manage around 160 lakh tonnes of paddy and 180 lakh tonnes of wheat that is procured every year over a period of 3-4 weeks in October and April respectively. Even the government is dependent on the arhatiyas, who provide fans, weighing machines, and labour to shortstaffed government agencies.
  • Arhatiyas are also moneylenders who fund farmers’ requirements of cash for both cropping operations and personal and social requirements. For many farmers, borrowing from the arhatiya, whom they know personally, is easier and more convenient than approaching a bank with its unfamiliar procedures, impersonal service, and unfamiliar officials.

Editorial section:

A Bill that undercuts key constitutional values-The Hindu

Sedition annoyance-The Hindu

Best friends for now-The Hindu

A road to economic revival runs through agriculture-The Hindu

Criticism is not sedition-The Hindu

Acts of violence, acts of grace-The Hindu

 

 

 

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