A warm January 2020 : the records in India, world 

 

JANUARY 2020, THE WORLD
  • Globally, THE average temperature over land and ocean surfaces made January 2020 the hottest January on record, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) whose dataset dates back to 1880. 
  • In India, January 2020 was the second warmest since 1919 in terms of average minimum temperatures, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data dating back to 1901.

 

India trends 

  • Against a January normal of 20.59°C, minimum temperatures for January 2020 averaged approximately 21.92°C, a deviation of 1.33°C. 
  • The only warmer January on record was January 1919 at about 22.13°C, an anomaly of 1.54°C. 
  • The only other years when January was warmer than normal were 1901 (+1.23°C), 1906 (+1.1°C) and 1938 (+1.05°C). 
  • The average maximum for January 2020 was the third highest on record at 30.72°C (normal 30°C), after 2016 (+1.1°C) and 2013 (+0.95°C).
  • India’s mean temperature anomaly for January crossed 1°C for the first time since 1901. Against a January normal of 25.3°C, the mean temperature was 26.32°C — a deviation of 1.02°C. 
  • Other years when January mean temperature was over normal were 2016 (+0.88°C) , 2013 (+0.87°C), 1998 (+0.78°C) and 2005 (+0.57°C).

 

Global trends 

  • The January 2020 globally averaged temperature departure from average over land and ocean surfaces was the highest in the 141-year NOAA record, at 1.14°C above the 20th-century average of 12°C. 
  • This surpassed the 2016 record by only 0.02°C. Across all months, only March 2016, February 2016 and December 2015 had a greater temperature departure.   
  • January 2016 and 2020 were the only Januaries with a global temperature departure from average above 1°C. 
  • The four warmest Januaries have occurred since 2016; the 10 warmest Januaries have all occurred since 2002.  
  • The January 2020 temperature departure was the highest monthly temperature departure without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

 

Why government wants to locate dara shikoh tomb, and why it’s not easy 

The Ministry of Culture recently set up a seven-member panel of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate the grave of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59). He is believed to be buried somewhere in the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Delhi, one of around 140 graves of the Mughal clan 

 

Dara Shikoh’s legacy  

  • The eldest son of Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb. 
  • Dara Shikoh is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions. 
  • He translated into Persian the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads.

 

Dara Shikoh & Aurangzeb  

  • Some historians argue that if Dara Shikoh had ascended the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb, it could have saved thousands of lives lost in religious clashes. 
  • “Dara Shukoh was the total antithesis of Aurangzeb, in that he was deeply syncretic, warm-hearted and generous — but at the same time, he was also an indifferent administrator and ineffectual in the field of battle,”

 

The remains of Dara Shikoh  

According to the Shahjahannama, after Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh, he brought the latter to Delhi in chains. His head was cut off and sent to Agra Fort, while his torso was buried in the Humayun’s Tomb complex. 

 

Bad to worse 

The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for issuing a notification that asked for no coercive action against telecom companies even though they had not paid the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues by the stipulated deadline. 

 

What is AGR? 

  • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees. Pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively

What does SC order on AGR mean? 

  • The order by the top court means that the telecom companies will have to immediately clear the pending AGR dues, which amount to nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

 

Why is AGR important? 

  • The definition of AGR has been under litigation for 14 years.
  • While telecom companies argued that it should comprise revenue from telecom services, the DoT’s stand was that the AGR should include all revenue earned by an operator, including that from non-core telecom operations.
  • The AGR directly impacts the outgo from the pockets of telcos to the DoT as it is used to calculate the levies payable by operators.
  • Currently, telecom operators pay 8% of the AGR as licence fee, while spectrum usage charges (SUC) vary between 3-5% of AGR.

 

What exactly did the government notification say? 

  • The Licensing Finance Policy Wing of the DoT last month directed all government departments to not take any action against telecom operators if they failed to clear AGR-related dues as per the Supreme Court’s order.
  • The order came as a huge relief for operators — mainly Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — that would have otherwise faced possible contempt action for not paying dues by the deadline that ran out on that same day.

 

No more relief to telecoms 

  • Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea together owe the telecom department Rs 88,624 crore.
  • Prior to the DoT order restraining coercive action, the companies had told the government that they would wait for the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing.
  • Reliance Jio paid up its dues of Rs 195 crore on January 23.
  • As things have turned out, however, the companies have got no relief from the Supreme Court.

 

What is the background of SC’s AGR order? 

  • On October 24, 2019, the court had agreed with DoT’s definition of AGR, and said the companies must pay all dues along with interest and penalty.
  • Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had tried to persuade DoT to relax the deadline and, after failing, moved the court seeking a review of its judgment.
  • The court dismissed the review petition in mid-January, and also did not extend the deadline for paying AGR dues.
  • It had, however, agreed to hear the companies’ modification plea.

 

Where does the government stand in this situation? 

  • The payout by telecom and non-telecom companies is likely to lead to windfall gains for the central government, which could help it close some of the fiscal deficit gap for the current financial.
  • At the same time, however, the government will be under pressure to ensure that the telecom market does not turn into a duopoly if Vodafone Idea does indeed decide to shut shop.
  • It will also have to manage the payouts to be done by non-telecom companies as most of them, such as Oil India, Power Grid, Gail, and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation are public sector units.

 

What does this situation mean for customers and lenders? 

  • If Vodafone Idea does exit, an Airtel-Jio duopoly will be created, which could lead to bigger bills, considering it was the cutthroat competition in the sector that made mobile telephony and Internet almost universally affordable.
  • The AGR issue has triggered panic in the banking industry, given that the telecom sector is highly leveraged.
  • Vodafone Idea alone has a debt of Rs 2.2 lakh crore that it has used to expand infrastructure and fund spectrum payments over the years.
  • The mutual fund industry has an exposure of around Rs 4,000 crore to Vodafone Idea.

 

Way Forward 

  • A possible first step is to subsume this matter under the newly announced “Vivad Se Vishwas” scheme, wherein taxpayers are required to pay only the amount of disputed taxes and will get a waiver of interest and penalty. 
  • The Centre must also reconsider its approach to the sector, beginning with an overhaul of the current licencing regime.

 

A crisis deferred 

  • If there is one thing that bewilders a reader of the Union budget for 2020-21 in the agri-food space, it is the massive reduction in food subsidy. 
  • The revised estimates (RE) for food subsidy for 2019-20 have been slashed by a whopping Rs 75,552 crore — from the budgeted estimate (BE) of Rs 1,84,220 crore to Rs 1,08,668 crore (RE). 
  • For the next fiscal year, the budget estimate has been kept at Rs 1,15,570 crore.
  • Instead the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been asked to borrow more from a myriad sources, but most importantly from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF). 
  • An item that should have been in the budget, is now getting reflected as outstanding dues of FCI.

 

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Effective food subsidy 

  • A total amount of actual food subsidy allocation in budget and outstanding dues of FCI
  • Effective food subsidy turns out to be 3,57,688 crore.
  • By not provisioning for it fully in the budget, and not undertaking any reforms in the food grain management system or the NFSA, the government is only postponing the crisis.
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