Friday, May 15, 2015

CSE'2015; CSAT paper made Qualifying@33%

Civil Services Examination 2015
CSAT paper made Qualifying@33% score
 At last, GOI has conceded to the demands of last year protests by a large group of aspirants to existing biases and disparities in the CSE prelim exam since 2011, mainly on account of the GS Paper-II (Aptitude & Comprehension part) aka CSAT to the aspirants belonging to Rural & Hindi/ Regional languages background, and benefit only certain group of candidates from Engineering, Medical, Science, Management & other Technically Educated at the cost of Humanities & Social Sciences, which constitutes the major chunk engaged in the preparation from considerable period of time.

With these welcome changes, it is hoped that the undue tilt would be reduced to the extent possible as nothing is absolutely perfect.

The Government has approved the following in respect of Civil Services Examination:
ü  An Expert Committee would be constituted to comprehensively examine various issues raised from time to time namely, eligibility, syllabus, scheme and pattern of Civil Services Examination.

ü  Till such time the Government takes decision on the recommendation of the above Committee, the General Studies Paper-II(CSAT) in the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will remain a qualifying paper with a minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.

ü  The English Language comprehension skill portion from General Studies Paper-II of Civil Services(Preliminary) Examination will continue to remain excluded.

ü  The above decisions are incorporated in the CSE Rules-2015.

ALL THE BEST for CSE’2015!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Burn waste, pay Rs 5,000 fine: NGT

Burn waste, pay Rs 5,000 fine: NGT

The bench noted that “it is on record” that while burning of garbage and other waste was not the only source of pollution, it accounted for “29.4% of air pollution, with regard to PM 10”.

In yet another bid to check air pollution in Delhi and the rest of the NCR, National Green Tribunal recently banned burning of waste in the open.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed authorities in Delhi and NCR to impose a fine of Rs 5,000 on anyone caught burning waste — garbage, leaves, plastic, rubber or other items — in open areas.

NGT said Deputy Commissioners, Director of Horticulture, Area SHOs, Assistant Commissioners and Sanitary Officers of the area would be held responsible if there was any violation of its order.

The bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said all authorities are duty bound to oblige with the tribunal's orders. "We make it clear that the orders of the NGT are to be complied with as a decree or order of the civil court," the order said.

The bench noted that “it is on record” that while burning of garbage and other waste was not the only source of pollution, it accounted for “29.4% of air pollution, with regard to PM 10”. It also noted that burning of waste emitted pollutants, some of which were even carcinogenic.

It had data to support the view that waste burning is responsible for a major portion of emissions in the city. Nearly 29.4% of the total PM10 (coarse, pollution particles) are from waste burning, the bench said.

"Its contribution in terms of PM2.5 is not placed before us, despite our earlier orders. Burning trash in the open area produces many pollutants, including dioxins, particulate pollution, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), hexachlorobenzene—ash and fumes released from such burning can be carcinogenic," the bench noted.

It added that there was a need to issue prohibitory orders and “imposition of fine and heavy compensation” on those who for “short gains avoid hard work required of them in discharge of their duties and allow burning of garbage”.

The Central government approached the NGT with a plea seeking a “reasonable time of six months for suggesting measures for addressing pollution concerns”, in reference to the Tribunal’s previous order banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles and 15-year-old petrol vehicles. The NGT is expected to hear issues related to vehicular pollution on the next date of hearing.

In addition, the NGT asked the Delhi government to take a decision regarding new landfill sites “as soon as possible” and not later than three weeks. It also directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct an inspection of air quality around all thermal power plants in Delhi and NCR within two weeks and submit a report to the bench. The NGT also inquired about the “extent of fly ash” used in brick kilns, while directing authorities to submit a report to check whether brick kilns “operating in NCR have the consent of Boards and are adhering to the prescribed emission norms”.

While reiterating its previous order on prohibition on burning of waste in open areas, it added that “any person who notices burning of any material” will have the right to register a complaint with the station house officer, civic corporations, DPCC or other local authorities.

The NGT directed authorities that for every incident of burning of these material, the person who is found burning such material and/or responsible for/or abating such burning would be liable to pay compensation in terms of the Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. He/she will be liable to pay a sum Rs 5,000, instantaneously.

This money would be maintained by corporations and authorities as a “separate fund to be utilised for improvement, restoration, restitution of the environmental degradation resulting from such activity,” it said.

The bench also directed corporations to provide area-wise composting pits within one week so that there is proper disposal of organic waste. It directed DDA and Delhi government to provide alternative landfill sites within three weeks as the three landfills are already saturated.
Following an NGT order, DPCC had recently provided a complaint page on a social networking site and a WhatsApp number but lawyers claimed it was not being used widely.

The green bench directed all corporations to notify “within two days” numbers, websites or any other process through which complaints can be made.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ambitious Social Security Schemes of Govt of India

Govt of India to launch much awaited and ambitious Social Sector Schemes in Insurance & Pension on 1 June, 2015. 

This will be the highest ever Social Security measure by Govt. at affordable costs to the last men & women of the country. It may prove to be a breaking point for the incumbent government which is facing flak, particularly of the rural & farming community in view of the farmers' suicides and ongoing farm crises. 

Besides, this would be also a real bold step towards Financial Inclusion for the last mile coverage. 

Nature of Insurance
Eligible Age Group
Risk coverage amount
Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY)

Life Insurance

18-50 yr
Rs. 330/- per year
Death for any reason - Rs. 2 lakh

One year insurance cover,

Renewable from year to year
Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY)

Accidental  Insurance
Death or Disability
18-70 yr
Rs. 12/- per year
Accidental death and full disability – Rs 2 Lakh and Partial disability – Rs 1 Lakh

Atal Pension Yojna

Working in Unorganised sector & attaining the age of 60 yrs
18-40 yr joining & contribute till 60 yrs.

under 40 yr,  receive the fixed monthly pension –  Rs. 1000

At the age of 60 yr- Rs 5000 

Rs. 1000-
Rs. 5000

depending on the contributions
Open to all bank account holders who are not members of any statutory social security scheme.

Any person having a bank account and Aadhaar number linked to the bank account can give a simple form to the bank every year before 1st of June in order to join the scheme. 

Name of nominee to be given in the form.

The payment of premium will be directly auto-debited by the bank from the subscribers account.

The premium paid will be tax-free under section 80C and also the proceeds amount will get tax-exemption u/s 10(10D).But if the proceeds from insurance policy exceed Rs.1 lakh , TDS at the rate of 2% from the total proceeds if no Form 15G or Form 15H is submitted to the insurer.

 Comparison between PMJJBY vs PMSBY:
Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY)
Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY)
18-70 years
18-50 years
Number of Policy
One Policy Per Person
One Policy Per Person
When to Join the Scheme?
Any time
Any time
Sum Assured (Fixed)
Rs 2 lakhs
Rs 2 lakhs
Rs 12 per annum
Rs. 330 per annum
Cover stops at age
At the age of 70 years
At the age of 55 years
Maturity Benefit
Death Benefit (Natural Death)
Rs 2 lakhs
Death Benefit (Accidental Death)
Rs 2 lakhs
Rs 2 lakhs
Disability of both eyes, both hands, both legs or one eye and one limb
Rs 2 lakhs
Disability of one eye or one limb
Rs 1 lakh
Maximum Insurance cover
Rs 2 lakhs
Rs.2 lakhs
Risk Period
1st June to 31st May every year.
1st June to 31st May every year.
Mode of Payment
Auto debit from bank account
Auto debit from bank account

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

India’s farmer leaders

Where have India’s farmer leaders gone?
Movements thrive when participants believe their cause is worth fighting for. Agriculture per se is no longer viewed as an avenue for upward mobility.

By Harish Damodaran 

Almost everyone agrees Indian agriculture is in crisis. And while 2014-15 may have produced the “perfect storm” by way of sliding global commodity prices, monsoon failures and untimely rains/hailstorms, this is a crisis that’s been building up for long.

But that raises a question: Given the extended “crisis” in farming, why do we have so few farmer leaders of standing today? This, for a country with a history of agrarian activism going back to Sir Chhotu Ram in undivided Punjab, Sahajanand Saraswati in Bihar, Baldev Ram Mirdha in Rajasthan, Charan Singh in UP, N G Ranga in Andhra — and, more recently, the likes of Mahendra Singh Tikait, M D Nanjundaswamy and Sharad Joshi?

By contrast, one cannot name any notable ground-level mobilisers of farmers now. The influence of Raju Shetti and V M Singh is confined to the sugarcane belts of southern Maharashtra and western UP respectively. Other self-appointed ‘farm leaders’ have no base among those they claim to speak for, and draw sustenance more from agri-business corporates or European aid agencies.

What explains this decline in autonomous, grassroots-based farmers’ movements — remember Tikait’s Boat Club rallies that used to bring Lutyens’ Delhi to a halt in the 80s? Shouldn’t crises be breeding ground for new generations of farmer-activists, rather than creating a vacuum for the Rahul Gandhis and the Arvind Kejriwals to rush into?

Well, the reason this isnt happening is probably because the current “crisis” in agriculture is different from the earlier ones.

In the past, Indian farmers largely saw a future, both for themselves and their children, in agriculture. The increase in crop yields from the Green Revolution and rising disposable incomes made agriculture a worthwhile career option, notwithstanding the occasional crop failure or price slump. Having experienced upward mobility through modern intensive agriculture, they developed a collective consciousness to defend these gains. Movements thrive when participants have a stake in the cause they believe is worth fighting for. When the farm sector was doing reasonably well and options outside of agriculture were limited, it was natural for farmers to assert against any perceived injustices and rally behind leaders from within their own ranks.

That situation has changed. Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, thanks to the global commodity boom, rural incomes went up — but it also fuelled rising aspirations in a context of overall economic growth creating employment opportunities outside of agriculture. A 2003 NSSO situation assessment study revealed that 40% of Indian farmers would rather “take up some other career”. In the following years, they, perhaps for the first time, actually saw exit options open up.

The nature of farmers’ demands, too, has evolved in recent times to reflect their non-agricultural aspirations. Not many now envisage a future for their children or even themselves as agriculturalists. While retaining one foot in farming, the old commitment and motivation — extending to laying siege to the national/state capitals for weeks over power tariffs or minimum support prices — is missing. When agriculture per se is no longer viewed as an avenue for upward mobility, it shouldn’t surprise that even the odd farmer agitation is centered more on issues of land acquisition or job reservations, as against remunerative prices for crops.

The protests against the Land Acquisition Ordinance is precisely because of farmers’ willingness to explore options outside of agriculture, while, at the same time, not forgoing their bargaining power with respect to pricing of land. That power is what the dilution of the “consent clause” in the 2013 Act is seen to be taking away.
The farmer knows his land has value beyond the crops it produces. It is unlocked when put to non-agricultural uses, and the bighas get converted into square feet of real estate. This new value can’t be captured only by a quadrupling of so-called market rates.

Farmers’ movements could yet get a fresh lease of life — even though the issues might not be “agrarian” in the conventional sense. The government is partially right to say that farm suicides or falling crop realisations have little to do with the Land Ordinance. But to the extent it has become a rallying point for “real” farm issues to also emerge, technical distinctions may have only limited relevance.

Smoking kills — in India too

Smoking kills — in India too

A study shows that Indians are not immune to health consequences of smoking and that smokers have a higher death rate than non-smokers

Recently, a parliamentary committee declined to extend the size of health warnings on cigarette packets due to lack of independent evidence on the health impacts of smoking on the Indian population. A longitudinal study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economics (NCAER) and University of Maryland shows that in India too, smoking kills.

The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) was first conducted in 2004-05. In this survey, 41,554 households were surveyed in both urban and rural areas in all States and Union Territories with the exception of Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep. At this time, extensive information about the lifestyles of over two lakh individuals residing in these households was collected. In 2011-12, these same households were surveyed again. We were able to re-interview about 83 per cent of the original households. 

At the time of the re-interview, information on current location of the individuals from the original household was obtained, including whether they are still alive. Thus, we have access to a prospective data set, which contains both information on smoking tobacco products and whether the individual has died in the seven years between the two interviews. The results unambiguously show that even after we take into account individuals’ age, gender, education and household wealth, those who are reported to be daily smokers are more likely to die.

In the initial interview, 26 per cent men and 1.6 per cent women above the age of 15 smoked. These statistics are very similar to those observed in the Global Adult Tobacco Use Study by Professor Ram and his colleagues at International Institute of Population Sciences, conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2009-10. The GATS study also noted that 24.3 per cent of men and 2.9 per cent of women aged 15 and above smoked.

Categorising smokers
Since smoking is often underestimated for younger people, when smokers tend to hide their habits from the older family members, we focus on individuals who are 30 and above. In this age group, nearly 36 per cent men in the IHDS sample smoke; 29 per cent smoke daily. Among women, only 2.5 per cent smoke. Although men from all walks of life smoke, smoking is disproportionately concentrated among Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim men. Among this group, about 45 per cent men smoke; 37 per cent smoke daily. Lack of education also plays a role. About 46 per cent of illiterate men smoke, while only 16 per cent of the college graduates smoke. Moreover, smoking is concentrated among the lowest income group. 

Nearly 46 per cent of the men in bottom fifth smoke compared to only 20 per cent in the upper fifth. Death rates are higher for daily smokers than for non-smokers or occasional smokers. About 11.3 per cent of men aged 30 and above and who smoke daily died in the seven years following our initial survey; only 10.2 per cent of the non-smokers and occasional smokers died. However, as we noted above, smokers come from lower socio-economic strata. Hence, it is difficult to know if these characteristics, rather than smoking, may be the cause of higher death rates among smokers. So we compare like with like and control for education, marital status, age, caste/religious background, urban/rural residence, state of residence and whether the individual was employed at the first interview. We also control for household wealth. This does not change the relationship observed above.

Even after taking into account all these differences, we find that smokers have a higher death rate than non-smokers. Among men, daily smokers are 1.14 times as likely to die between the two interviews as the non-smokers and occasional smokers. Lest this seem like a small difference, the improvement in survival by giving up smoking would be more than by difference between illiterate and those with eight years of education or between men living in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. For women, smoking is even more harmful but given the very small number of women who smoke, this impact is not significant.

Delaying anti-smoking campaigns will take a heavy toll on the Indian population, particularly poorer and less educated men. What is disturbing about the current debate is the message that it sends to current and potential smokers. Whether the pictorial warning covers 20 or 30 per cent of the package is less important than the implication that Indian population’s risk profile is somehow different from that of non Indians and that until a study has been conducted in India, we should not believe that smoking increases health risks in India. Nonetheless, the results we show above should lay to rest the argument that Indians are not somehow immune to health consequences of smoking that beset non-Indian populations.

Debate in other countries
This debate is reminiscent of similar battles fought in other countries. In the U.S., for decades cigarette companies tried to throw a smoke screen over research results that unambiguously showed that smoking caused cancer and increased mortality. In France, even in the late 20th century, the legislature argued that controlling public smoking was pitting non-smokers’ rights against smokers’ rights. Financial interests played an important role in the French debate too. Constance Nathanson notes that by 1990, French tobacco market had been captured by multinationals, leading a smoking proponent to grumble that anti-smoking advertising would selectively weaken French tobacco industry and, “there will no less smoking or drinking in sweet France but smoking and drinking will be less French and more American.” These delays in anti-smoking legislations have led to slower decline in smoking in France than in other high income countries; as World Atlas of Smoking shows, today 34 per cent French men smoke compared to 23 per cent in neighbouring Switzerland.

Let us not give mixed messages to our young men and increasingly, young women; smoking is not harmless, smoking is not cool. Smoking kills, even in India.

(Sonalde Desai; Senior Fellow at NCAER and Professor of Sociology at University of Maryland &
Debasis Barik; Associate Fellow at NCAER. Views expressed are personal.)

Delaying anti-smoking campaigns will take a heavy toll on Indians, particularly poorer and less educated men

COURTESY: The HINDU, dtd 4 May, 2015