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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 3rd May, 2016
Published on May 3, 2016, 6:17 p.m.

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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 3rd May, 2016

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

TOPIC

General studies 1:

  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, cyclone etc., changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
 

Uttarakhand forest fires

Often unquantified, the social and economic impacts of forest fires are considerable: lives are lost, health problems occur, animals are killed and the environment suffers

The disaster:

Lives lost: 5

Land gutted by forest fire: Almost 1,600 acres of land (hundreds of villages/clusters)

Forest Fire in India:

Almost 50-55% of the total forest cover in India is prone to forest fire annually

Indian State of Forest Report, 2015: Tropical thorn forest, Tropical dry evergreen forest and Subtropical pine forest – most prone to forest fires

Period: Between February & mid-June

Why— Soil moisture is at its lowest

 

Himalayan Belt:

  • Western Himalayan region- moist deciduous, tropical dry deciduous, temperate and sub-Alpine types
  • Prone to fires owing to less rain in the pre-monsoon period
  • More susceptible trees: Pine forest in Garhwal & Kumaon Hills
 

Forest Fire & Ecology

  • The ground vegetation is completely destructed— severe loss of biodiversity
    • Loss of forest cover
    • Loss to the wildlife habitat
    • Loss of human lives
  • Emissions of Carbon in the Atmosphere (Climate change – lack of sustainable land use policy)
  • Expansion of deforested area— Change in landscape & micro-climate—Drying up of forest floor
  • Fires in the understorey of humid rainforests can cause tree mortality and canopy openness (Land transforms into ‘savannah’)
 

Major Issues related to Indian Forests:

Definition of Forest: No proper definition charted out with environmentalists and the government authorities having their own version of what exactly a forest is.

Greed for Land:

  • Increased industrial activity
  • Need to increase agricultural production
  • Nexus between land developers & Timber Mafia

Climate Change:

  • Natural Disasters: Volcanoes, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Cloudbursts in Himalayas, Droughts, Storms
  • Mild winter: More pests and diseases (insect infestations)
  • The El-Niño effect: contributes to increases in the frequency of drought and lightning strikes

A recent study of various forest conditions in Russia suggests that a 2°C rise in temperature could increase the area affected by forest fires by a factor of between one and a half and two

India’s Efforts:

Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs): Pledged to

  • Increase its forest cover and improve the quality of forest cover
  • Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent through additional forests and tree cover by 2030

Technology used for monitoring:

  • Satellite images to detect forest fires and its spread (INFFRAS)
  • Mapping of fire-sensitive zones as well as real-time data
  • Pre & post fire guidelines/warnings

Firefighting Techniques:

  • Clearance of stretches of ground vegetation in between forest areas to arrest the spread of forest fire
  • Beating the fire with the help of local community with specified certain equipment’s
  • Difficult to implement technique: Helicopters spraying water or carbon dioxide

Way Ahead:

  • The lack of regulatory enforcement and contradictory policies and laws need to be tamed in order to arrest the loss— ASEAN’s Zero Burning Policy needs to be reformed and given more teeth in order to keep the trend in check
  • Rural community is a major stakeholder and government should involve its large rural communities in preparing for the future— by utilizing effective intervention of community-led ‘van panchayats’ (forest councils) in preventing fires.
  • Usage of biomass alternatives, including cooking gas, has had a beneficial impact on fire risk, and this must be expanded
  • The plantation sector can be tapped for reducing the clearance of ecologically important natural oak forests, by giving preference to growing useful fodder and timber trees

Connecting the Dots:

  • What do you mean by Forest Degradation and Forest Fragmentation? How is the REDD Initiative related to the two?
  • Comment on the relationship shared between indigenous people and forests.
 

ECONOMICS

 

TOPIC

General studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

General studies 3:

  • Banking & related Issues

 

Banks Board Bureau(BBB): Old wine in a new bottle?

Background:

  • Banks Board Bureau was being set up to improve the governance of public sector banks.
  • BBB will be an Autonomous Body of eminent professionals and officials for public sector banks (PSBs). It will replace the Appointments Board of Government.
  • A committee set up by the RBI to review the governance of bank boards, headed by former chairman and managing director of Axis Bank Ltd J. Nayak, in May 2014 had suggested the formation of the bureau as a first stage in a three-phase process to empower the boards of public sector banks
  • Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in August the plan to set up the bureau as part of the Indradhanush programme to revamp state-run banks .
  • Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai has been appointed as the first Chairman of Banks Board Bureau (BBB).

What are the functions of Banks Board Bureau?

  • It would recommend for selection of the heads of public sector banks and financial institutions and help banks in developing strategies and capital-raising plans
  • Give recommendations for appointment of full-time Directors as well as non-Executive Chairman of PSBs.
  • Give advice to PSBs in developing differentiated strategies for raising funds through innovative financial methods and instruments and to deal with issues of stressed assets.
  • Guide banks on mergers and consolidations and also ways to address the bad loans problem among other issues.
 

Why there is a pressing need to have Banks Board Bureau?

  • Government wants BBB to restructure business strategy of PSBs and also suggest way forward for their consolidation and merger with other banks as they are grappling with a huge problem of bad loans and high collective gross NPAs (Non-Performing Assets).
  • Saddled with a large pile of bad assets, public sector banks need dollops of capital. They also need to focus on sharpening efficiency and strengthening corporate governance.

 

What was the outcome of PJ Nayak Committee?

  • Committee suggested the formation of the bureau(BBB) as a first stage in a three-phase process to empower the boards of public sector banks.
  • In the run-up to the incorporation of a Bank Investment Company as an intermediate holding company for these banks. The bureau would advise on all board appointments, including the whole-time directors and the top bank management, to professionalize and depoliticize the appointment process.
  • The members of the bureau would have a tenure of three years or until powers are passed on to the investment company, whichever is shorter, and their remuneration would at least be on a par with the senior bank chiefs.

 

What are the Hindrances?

  • The investment company can be set up only after legislative changes.
  • For instance, the Bank Nationalisation Acts of 1970 and 1980 and the SBI Act and the SBI (Subsidiary Banks) Act need to be repealed and all banks need to be incorporated under the Companies Act ahead of this.
  • Indeed, this is a long-drawn process but by keeping mum on this and selectively picking only the suggestion of setting up the bureau, government is essentially replacing the appointments committee with the bureau.

 

Way ahead:

  • It will not be easy to raise capital unless the government plans to overhaul the way public sector banks operate and this cannot be done by merely asking the bureau to select bankers for the top jobs.
  • The government must clarify whether it is an intermediate step towards setting up the investment company, and if it is, then the scope of work must be widened to include the appointment of independent directors of the board, as envisaged by the Nayak committee.
  • It also must look at the tenure of the managing director and the chief executive and the compensation of senior bankers, among other things. Finally, the process of appointment must also change.

Connecting the dots:

  • What is Banks Board Bureau(BBB) all about? Why there was a pressing need to have such a Bureau?. How will the board help banks in developing strategies and raising capital?
  • Can we bank on Banks Board Bureau(BBB) to professionalize and depoliticize the appointment process of whole-time directors and the top bank management?. Comment.
 

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