The program, The Big Picture of Rajya Sabha TV, is an interesting arena of debate and discussion in that the guests on this program are mostly very knowledgeable in their respective fields of inquiry The shows on Rajya Sabha TV deal with the social, political, cultural and economic issues in the country. This provides UPSC aspirants a rare insight into many issues and subjects which may otherwise would have been missing or overlooked.

 

As Civil Service Mains has essay-descriptive type questions, these RSTV discussions can be of big help. However, merely watching the Rajya Sabha TV shows is not enough and candidates need to make notes and align the same with the UPSC Syllabus.

The Big Picture - First Half of Budget Session 2020

The upper house of parliament- Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till March 2, after the culmination of first phase of the Budget session. The second phase of Parliament's budget session will commence from March 2nd and will go on till April 3rd. In the first part of the session, President Ram Nath Kovind addressed a joint sitting of Parliament on January 31, the first day of the session. The President’s address was followed by the presentation of the Union Budget 2020 on February 1st in the Lok Sabha. Replying to the debate on her Budget for 2020-21 in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, the Finance Minister said green shoots of recovery were visible with a rebound in industrial activity and GST collection crossing Rs 1 lakh crore-mark in six months of the current fiscal.

The Big Picture: Coronavirus & Impact on Economy

The human cost of the coronavirus outbreak is climbing across China and beyond. The economic cost is also mounting. That damage is, for the most part, not due to the virus itself, but due to efforts to prevent it from spreading. There are strict restrictions on moving out of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, a city with a population of 11 million. The lockdown, also now extended to other parts of Hubei province, prevents business-related travel as well as the movement of goods and workers. The impact is not confined to China. International retailers have closed operations in China. Several overseas airlines have stopped flights to China and international hotel chains have been offering refunds. And beyond that, there is growing concern about integrated international supply chains. Hyundai, of South Korea, has suspended its car production because of problems with the supply of parts from its operation in China - an early warning sign of possible extensive disruption ahead.

The Big Picture - UAE Banks: Indian Defaulters & Recovery

At least 9 banks from the UAE are in the process of initiating legal action against Indian defaulters to recover around Rs 50,000 crore, after New Delhi made the rulings of Emirati courts in civil cases enforceable here. While most of the cases involve corporate loans taken by Dubai or Abu Dhabi-based subsidiaries of Indian companies, action is also being planned against individuals, according to a report in the Economic Times. The banks include UAE-based Emirates NBD, Mashreq Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. A few other lenders such as Doha Bank, National Bank of Oman and National Bank of Bahrain, which have exposure to Indian entities or citizens through their branches in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, also have either already moved courts in the UAE or are in the process of doing so in the coming weeks, the report added. The Indian government on January 17 issued a notification allowing the decrees of certain UAE courts in civil cases to be enforceable in India. This means a UAE bank, if it has a court order in its favour against a defaulter who has fled to India or no more has operations in the Emirates, can seek to enforce it here like any local lender to recover the money.

The Big Picture: India - Sri Lanka Relations

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is on a four-day state visit to India. He will hold talks on a number of key areas including trade, defence and maritime security cooperation, his office announced on Thursday. The visit, beginning 7 February, will be the Rajapaksa senior's first overseas visit since his brother Gotabaya was elected President in November. Rajapaka will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday. The leaders are expected to prioritise defence and maritime security ties between both countries as the neighbours play a crucial role in the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative, seen largely as an attempt to counter China. The visiting dignitary hopes to finalise the implementation of the $ 450 million line of credit pledged by Prime Minister Modi to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his visit to New Delhi in November.

The Big Picture : India Calls CPEC Illegal

The Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday said the government’s position on China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ or ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ has been clear and consistent. Government’s concerns arise in part from the fact that the inclusion of the so-called illegal ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ as a flagship project of ‘OBOR/BRI’, directly impinges on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. This so-called illegal ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ passes through parts of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh which are under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Government has conveyed its concerns to the Chinese side about their activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and has asked them to cease such activities. Further, the Government is of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms. They must follow principles of openness, transparency and financial responsibility and must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of other nations.

The Big Picture - Army: Women in Commanding Role

The Supreme Court has been informed that women may not be suitable for command posts in the Army. This is because the male troops are not yet prepared to accept women, the Centre told the Supreme Court. The dangers of women being taken prisoner of war was also cited by the Centre. The Centre also said that the armed forces require sacrifices and commitment beyond the call of duty by the entire family of service personnel involving separation and frequent transfers, affecting the education of children and career prospects of the spouse. It is a challenge for women to meet these hazards of service owing to prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families especially when both husband and wife happen to be service officers the centre also contended in the Supreme Court. Opposing the plea, the lawyers representing the women officers told the court that many of them displayed exceptional bravery in adverse situations and command posts should not be based on gender.

The Big Picture - The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020

The government on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Aircraft Act whereby the fine amount for violations will be hiked from Rs 10 lakh to up to Rs 1 crore. The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also provides for keeping "aircraft belonging to any armed forces of the Union, other than naval, from military or air force outside the purview" of the Aircraft Act, 1934. Once the amendments are passed, the government would also have the power to issue directions to review, if necessary in public interest, any order passed by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau, as per the bill's Statement of Objects and Reasons. The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal as Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri was not present in the House. The proposed amendments to the Act were approved by the Union Cabinet in December. The Act pertains to control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft.

The Big Picture: Education & Aspiring India

In the Union Budget 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has suggested speedy implementation of the new education policy, besides several measures that will bring in a paradigm shift in the educational systems and creation of employment in India and abroad. The budget earmarked Rs 99,300 crore for the education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. In the previous Union Budget, the government's allocation for the sector was Rs 94,800 crore. The FM said about 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses by March 2021 and will start a programme whereby urban local bodies across the country would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year. To create infrastructure in education sector, steps would be taken to enable sourcing External Commercial Borrowings and FDI so as to able to deliver higher quality education. Institutions that are ranked within top 100 in the National Institutional Ranking framework will start degree level full-fledged online education programme for students of deprived section of the society.

The Big Picture - Analysis of Union Budget 2020 - 21

The budget cleverly talks in only absolute numbers, in fact it decreased the allocation for major social sectors area, especially MNREGA. The budget is all superficial with no proper measures to revive demand. The demand is not there because there is crisis in bottom 40% of the population. The budget does nothing to address this

The Big Picture - Economic Survey 2019-20

The Economic Survey 2019-20 tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday projected growth for the next fiscal starting April 2020-21 at 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent. The pre-budget survey has also retained the growth numbers for the current fiscal at five per cent. The annual economic survey, prepared by a team headed by the Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian, also stressed on the need to relax fiscal deficit for the current fiscal to revive growth. It also called for more reforms for making it easier to do business in the country. The survey observed that there is an urgent need to remove red tape at ports to promote exports apart from eliminating other business hindrances such as registering property, paying taxes and enforcing contracts. While it mentioned that weak global growth has impacted India, it also acknowledged the fact that investment has slowdown due to domestic financial sector issues. The Economic Survey also said that the government must deliver on reforms quickly as it is the only way to enable an economic recovery in the upcoming fiscal. Improving governance in public sector banks and the need for better disclosure of information other key steps recommended by the Economic Survey.

The Big Picture: Budget Expectations - Digital Economy

The Government in its Union Budget for FY 2019-20, called for additional investments in boosting the digital economy, while also making digital transactions more attractive, thus reiterating its vision to develop the sector. India's digital consumer base is the world's second-largest, as well as the second-fastest growing among 17 major economies, as per findings of the India Economic Survey. And this base is core to the creation of future economic value and societal empowerment as digital solutions backed by new-gen technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and automation become universal. It is no surprise that the growing digital economy in India is envisaged to reach a value of nearly $1 trillion by 2025 - a fivefold increase from 2019. Right from multinationals to government entities to entrepreneurs of all sizes, digitalisation is making Indian enterprises future-ready to take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges. This is in line with the Government's ambitious vision to make India a $5-trillion economy by 2025.

The Big Picture - Budget Expectations: Export Sector

The government is looking at the possibility of extending the popular Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS) and other export incentives, challenged by the US at the World Trade Organization, beyond March 31 as it is worried that replacing the existing schemes could hurt exports. The Foreign Trade Policy 2020-25 to be announced in the new fiscal may continue many of the old schemes with some adjustment in rates, according to a BusinessLine report. With exports showing a decline so far this year, there is a growing feeling amongst policy makers that the boat should not be rocked further. India’s exports declined almost 2 per cent to $239.29 billion in April-December 2019 with most labour-intensive sectors contracting. Once growing at over 20%, powering India’s economic growth, India’s exports have been stuck at around $300 billion for the last one decade. Indian industry has often played safe, content with the domestic demand and unwilling to upgrade technology or standards to match global levels.

The Big Picture: Budget Expectations - Infrastructure Sector

Infrastructure is a crucial enabler for growth. Creating new and upgrading existing infrastructure is the key to increasing India's competitiveness and achieving the target of 5 Trillion Dollar economy by 2025. Rapid changes in demography generate a compelling demand for development of a host of infrastructure facilities such as housing , water, sanitation , digital and transportation services.

 

Govt has so far taken a number of steps to improve infrastructure and boost the growth in this sector . A recent report by the task force for National Infrastructure Pipeline has also outlined plans to invest a substantial sum of approximately 102 Lakh crore rupees in various infrastructure projects in the next five years.

 

So what are the expectations of the Infrastructure Sector from Budget 2020 and what can the Finance Minister do to meet those expectations.

The Big Picture - Budget Expectations - Manufacturing Sector

Budget session of Parliament is all set to begin on 31st January and the budget will be presented on 1st February. Starting today we will discuss and analyse in this show the expectations of various sectors of Indian economy from Budget 2020. So let's begin with the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing sector in India accounted for 14.83 percent of India's GDP in 2019. This sector has been experiencing sluggish growth in the current year and is likely to expand at 2 % as against nearly 7% last year. Growth of manufacturing sector in India is very crucial for country's growth and all eyes are now on the Union Budget 2020 to see how it spurs the growth in this sector . So what are the expectations of the manufacturing sector and what the finance minister might do to meet those expectations.

The Big Picture: Pornography - Impact on Children & Society

he Adhoc Committee of the Rajya instituted by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu has made 40 far reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of children and to contain access to and transmission of child pornography content on social media. The report of the Committee was presented by the Chairman of the Committee Jai Ram Ramesh to Naidu. Expressing concern over the seriousness of the prevalence of the horrific social evil of child pornography, the Committee has recommended important amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 besides technological, institutional, social and educational measures and state level initiatives to address the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effects on children and the society as a whole. Forty recommendations have been made by the Adhoc Committee to deal with the issue.

The Big Picture: Indian Economy - Shaking off a Slump

India’s economy appears to be shaking off a slump Bloomberg reported on Friday. The report said activity in the services and manufacturing sectors expanded for a second straight month in December, thus suggesting the worst could be behind us. Bloomberg News reported that the needle on a gauge measuring so-called animal spirits signaled the economy may be taking a turn for the better, as five of the eight high-frequency indicators came in stronger last month. The dial was last at the current position in August. Meanwhile, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said growth slowdown in India appears to be temporary and she expects the momentum to improve going ahead. Speaking at the WEF 2020 in Davos, she also said the world appears a better place in January 2020 compared to what it was when IMF announced its World Economic Outlook in October 2019.

The Big Picture - Regulating Artificial Intelligence

One of the most powerful men in IT, Sundar Pichai, has backed regulations for artificial intelligence. While Pichai isn’t the first big tech executive to say so publicly, his voice matters, given that Google is arguably the world’s largest AI Company. Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk has been vocal about the need for regulating AI several times in the past. Musk even said that “by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late". Microsoft president Brad Smith is another prominent person in tech who has called for regulation of AI. Pichai, in an editorial, advocated for AI to be regulated keeping in mind both the harm and societal benefits that the technology can be used for. He also said that governments must be aligned on regulations around AI for “making global standards work". While India has been vocal about the use of AI in various sectors, it is far from regulating it. A 2018 NITI Aayog paper proposed five areas where AI can be useful. In that paper, the think tank also noted the lack of regulation around AI as a major weakness for India. On this edition of The Big Picture we will analyse the need and challenges in regulating Artificial Intelligence.

The Big Picture - Trump, Kashmir & India’s Stand

US President Donald Trump said on January 21 that he was "watching and closely following" the developments between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Trump, who had met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, described him as "a very good friend". A White House statement quoted Trump as saying: “We are working together on some borders, and we are talking about Kashmir and the relation to what is going on with Pakistan and India. And if we can help, we certainly will be helping." The US president sparked a controversy in 2019 when he claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan's Osaka. Trump made the statement while meeting Khan at the White House. This claim was rejected by the Indian government. India has maintained that the Kashmir issue can only be discussed bilaterally and is not open to a third-party intervention.

The Big Picture - Multiple State Capitals & Governance

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly late on Monday night passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 that intended to give shape to state government's plan of having three capitals — executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial in Kurnool. The amendments to the Bill proposed by the Opposition Telugu Desam Party were rejected by the House. The cabinet chaired by Reddy approved the proposal on three capital cities aimed at “decentralised and inclusive development of all regions of the state”. It also approved repealing the Capital Region Development Authority Act and establishes the Amaravati Metropolitan Development Authority. The ruling YSR Congress Party has also reportedly decided to scrap the state’s Upper House as it is miffed with the Legislative Council stalling bills. On this edition of The Big Picture we will take a closer look at the issue of multiple state capitals.

The Big Picture - Decriminalising Company Law

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Government does not favour laws that treat business houses with suspicion and was working towards decriminalizing the Companies Law. Sitharaman said that apart from decriminalising corporate laws - settling tax disputes and privatisation of government-run firms are on the agenda to achieve the $5 trillion economy goal. The government has already identified statutory changes to be made in the Companies Act that decriminalise procedure lapses and do not affect public interest as part of its effort to improve ease of doing business. About 46 amendments to penal provisions may be made to either remove criminality or restrict punishment to only fine or allow rectification of defaults using alternatives, to de-clog the criminal justice system in the country. The intention now, is to extend this exercise to laws dealing with income tax and money laundering.

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