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Type: op-ed snap

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc. Energy

[op-ed snap] Grid stability is key


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

The following things are important from the UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM)

Mains Level: Issues in purchasing surplus solar power from farmers and possible solution discussed in the newscard.


Plan to address concern related to Electricity in rural areas

  1. Instead of transmitting electricity to the farmers, the government wants farmers to use solar energy to power their irrigation pumps

How is it possible?

  1. According to the January 2018 report of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, there are about 142,000 solar pumps in India
  2. The government is planning to install one million solar pumps by 2021

Steps taken by the government

  1. To achieve this, the Union Budget 2018 has allocated close to Rs. 48,000 crore to set up the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM)
  2. This programme will help set up more than 28 GW of combined solar capacity through these solar pumps
  3. In the Union Budget 2018, the Finance Minister asked governments to put in place adequate procedures to purchase the excess solar power from farmers
  4. The government is also planning to purchase the surplus power through electricity distribution companies
  5. This proposal will almost certainly increase agricultural incomes and reduce electricity losses when transmitting power to remote rural areas
  6. Analysts claim that losses from distribution could fall to about 12% from the current level of at least 23%

Some issues in purchasing surplus solar power from farmers

  1. The feasibility of purchasing surplus solar power seems problematic
  2. There is a need to address the issue of grid stability that this injection of surplus power is bound to create
  3. The disadvantages currently outweigh the advantages because of the issue of grid stability
  4. All power grids require balancing
  5. This balancing entails meeting the demand with adequate supply 24×7 to ensure there is no blackout
  6. The reason for striking this balance is that electrical energy cannot readily be stored, meaning that power generation ought to work round the clock
  7. Why is the ‘balancing’ needed: wind and solar power sources constantly generate shortfalls and excesses
  8. Solution: to maintain a consistent round-the-clock power delivery the grid operators will need to have a back-up source of power in the form of coal or oil
  9. During the day as well, they will have to be ready to quickly adjust output to compensate for the rise and fall of solar power generation due to changing weather and rain
  10. More stability can be achieved by integrating the grids into all-India grids
  11. Expected advances in storage technology would also significantly improve grid stability


[op-ed snap] Canary in coal mine


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims Level: The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act of 2015, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, etc.

Mains Level: Steps taken by the government to improve the condition of Coal Sector in India.


Permission given to commercial mining firms

  1. The Central government has allowed the re-entry of commercial mining firms into the sector


  1. India’s coal industry was predominantly driven by the private sector after Independence until the Indira Gandhi government decided to transfer all coal holdings to Coal India through the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973
  2. The key reason cited for taking coal out of the private sector’s hands was that it was essential to meet power needs

Why is this step imortant?

  1. India has a high dependence on coal for power generation
  2. Despite an aggressive push for renewable and nuclear sources, 70% of electricity generation is through coal-fired thermal plants
  3. In recent years there has been a significant surge in imports as Coal India, despite its rich coal-bearing belts and increased output, is unable to keep pace with demand from new power plants
    (Coal India accounts for over 80% of the country’s coal supply)

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently cleared the methodology to be followed for auctioning rights

  1. In September 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal mines to public and private players, after the CAG report
  2. An ordinance was brought in(at that time) and a transparent auction process was evolved for the affected mines
  3. The intention was to ensure that there are no supply shocks for power producers on account of abrupt disruptions in mining operations
  4. Enabling provisions for commercial mining and sale of coal were already included in the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act of 2015
  5. Now, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has now allowed their operationalisation by clearing the methodology to be followed for auctioning rights
  6. The government says the move will boost energy security, making coal affordable and creating jobs
Swachh Bharat Mission Governance

[op-ed snap] Wealth from waste


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GOBAR-Dhan initiative

Mains level: Success of Swacch Bharat mission


GOBAR-Dhan initiative

  1. During his budget speech, the finance minister announced the launch of “GOBAR-Dhan(Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources-Dhan)
  2. The initiative has two objectives:
  • To make villages clean and generate wealth and
  • energy from cattle and other waste

3. The Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin will pilot this initiative

4. The GOBAR-Dhan initiative is expected to pilot opportunities to convert cattle dung and other organic waste to compost, biogas and even larger scale bio-CNG units

5. The programme, expected to be launched in April, aims at the collection and aggregation of cattle dung and solid waste across clusters of villages for sale to entrepreneurs to produce organic manure, biogas/bio-CNG

Tapping the full economic potential of cattle waste

  1. The 19th Livestock Census (2012) estimates India’s cattle population at 300 million, putting the production of dung at about 3 million tonnes per day
  2. Some European countries and China use animal dung and other organic waste to generate energy
  3. India is yet to tap the full economic potential of such waste

Solid and liquid waste management in rural India

  1. With the largest cattle population in the world, rural India has the potential to leverage huge quantities of gobar into wealth and energy
  2. Cattle dung, kitchen waste, and agricultural waste can be tapped to create biogas-based energy

Benefits of such initiative

  1. According to a 2014 ILO study, the productive use of dung could support 1.5 million jobs nationally
  2. For the farmer, there is a significant potential of greater income from the sale of cow dung


  1. One of the challenges for operating biogas plants, and even related higher value chain operations like bio-CNG plants, is the aggregation of cattle waste and maintaining a regular supply to plant operators
  2. Panchayats and village communities will have to play key roles to leverage the animal and organic waste that goes into water bodies, dumping sites, and landfills

Way forward

  1. Generating wealth from waste in rural areas will require the involvement of all actors and sectors
  2. Investments from the private sector and local entrepreneurs will be needed
  3. With appropriate policies and practices, the sector can be scaled up into opportunities for growth, leading to increased incomes, long-term livelihoods and, of course, more Swachh villages
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc. Health

[op-ed snap] Saving lives

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Unicef’s report and Janani Suraksha Yojana.

Mains level: Some possible solutions suggested in the report, for countering the issue of high neonatal mortality rate.


Report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef): “Every Child Alive”

  1. The report is on country-wise ranking of neonatal mortality rates
  2. It ranks India behind poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda
  3. The ranking shows that financial resources are not the biggest constraint in improving this health indicator; political will is
  4. According to the report, average newborn mortality in low-income nations is nine times that of high-income ones

Several countries showing a way forward for India

  1. For example, Sri Lanka and Ukraine, which like India are categorised as lower-middle income economies, had a neonatal mortality of around 5/1000 in 2016
  2. In comparison, the U.S., a high-income economy, did only slightly better with a rate of 3.7/1000
  3. India saw the 31st highest newborn-mortality rate, at 25.4 deaths per 1000 in 2016, while Pakistan had the highest
  4. This means India lost 640,000 babies in 2016, more than any other country

How can we solve this problem? 

  1. The report points out that the most powerful solutions are not necessarily the most expensive
  2. The 10 critical products that hospitals must stock to save newborns include a piece of cloth to keep a baby warm and close to the mother to encourage breastfeeding
  3. The list also includes antibiotics and disinfectants, the use of which can stave off killers like sepsis and meningitis
  4. There are factors outside the healthcare system, like female literacy rates, that make a big difference to healthcare-seeking behaviour
  5. But changes in education levels will come slowly
  6. Some other solutions will need greater investment

Biggest cause of death

  1. The biggest cause of death is premature birth, while the second is complications like asphyxia during delivery
  2. Preventing these would mean paying attention to the mother’s health during pregnancy and ensuring she delivers in a hospital attended by trained doctors or midwives
  3. India has programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana for this, but must expand its reach in laggard States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh

The way forward

  1. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu show that by focussing on these factors, newborn deaths can be brought to fewer than 15 per 1000 in Indian settings
  2. It’s time for the rest of India to follow suit
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc. Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Planning for electric mobility

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the b2b

Mains level: Fundamental issues(need to be addressed) discussed in the newscard.


Pollution level in India

  1. The World Health Organisation’s urban air quality database had found four Indian cities to be among the world’s 10 most polluted
  2. The database also placed 10 Indian cities in the 20 worst list

Importance of electric vehicles (EVs)

  1. NITI Aayog has estimated that the nation can save up to Rs. 4 lakh crore by rapidly adopting EVs
  2. EVs have the potential to disrupt the mobility ecosystem, and could have a positive impact on the economy as well as the urban environment


  1. Transitioning from an internal combustion engine (ICE)-based regime to an EV-based one is expected to be a painful process 
  2. NITI Aayog lays stress on the need for a robust action plan to move towards electric mobility by 2030

What should be done?

  1. India needs to address some fundamental issues immediately


  1. The first is about who will take the lead
  2. EVs, unlike ICE vehicles, involve several actors at the national, State and city levels, respectively
  3. Coordination between all three is crucial in driving the EV agenda


  1. The second is figuring out the best mode forward
  2. China has focussed on the use of electric buses as a catalyst for EV penetration
  3. The Netherlands has captured the EV market using a simple yet well-crafted strategy of creating charging infrastructure and encouraging investment in charging technology by providing incentives to EV buyer
  4. These two case studies show that sustained growth is possible only due to positive economic impacts of EVs. India is today the largest manufacturer and exporter of two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws
  5. Could these vehicles pave the way for an EV revolution?


  1. The third is the battery conundrum
  2. India does not produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries currently, and companies making battery packs are dependent almost exclusively on imports from China
  3. Accelerating EV use in India should be linked to the “Make in India” goal and domestic battery production
  4. Investment is required for research and development in battery-making and exploring alternative technologies


  1. The fourth is about charging infrastructure
  2. EV charging is more than just using electricity. It involves exchange of information requiring a communication protocol
  3. There is no unique or single-charging technology for EVs
  4. The three major EV users, China, Japan and the European Union, have their own charging technologies which are often conflicting and not interchangeable
  5. The government needs to select or develop appropriate charging technology that avoids multiplicity and reduces the cost of infrastructure, while making it convenient and safe for users

The way forward

  1. India, however, needs a road map, with timelines, processes, well-researched impact studies, bold initiatives and robust investments in technological research to turn its EV dream into reality
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives Bilateral Relations

[op-ed snap] The game of chicken in the Arabian Sea


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Operation Cactus, geography of the East Indian Ocean.

Mains level: The newscard discusses an offensive show off by the Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean, for baking Abdulla Yameen’s government. And suggests some possible options to Indian government.


What is the issue?

  1. The ongoing crisis in the Maldives has acquired a particularly serious dimension
  2. In that time, several reports have emerged suggesting China may be directly backing Abdulla Yameen’s decision to impose—and extend—the emergency in the small island state
  3. These reports suggest that China has implicitly promised support to Yameen in the event that India moves to forcibly change the political status quo there

Chinese Navy presence in the Indian Ocean

  1. Earlier this month, a Chinese naval surface action group (SAG) of three ships entered the eastern Indian Ocean through the Sunda Straits
  2. The question then is about the timing and intent of the SAG deployment this time around
  3. While there is no definitive way of answering this question, several facts suggest that this is related to the ongoing crisis in the Maldives
  4. In order to stall an Operation Cactus kind-of-operation, China is signalling India that it has the muscle to push Indian forces out of the Maldives if it so chooses.

Why would China choose to signal(through its navy presence in Indian Ocean) that it is not averse to a power-play with India over the Maldives from thousands of miles away?

  1. The answer comes from studying Chinese naval behaviour over the past few years carefully
  2. China has pioneered what Western experts call “grey zone coercion”
  3. It is a strategy by which China seeks to meet its strategic objective without crossing its adversary’s threshold for conventional military retaliation
  4. By choosing to message its resolve to India from a distance, Beijing ensured that India would not be provoked militarily and yet be compelled to take into account the strategic signal emanating from the east

What are India’s options?

  1. India must continue to keep up a robust presence in the Arabian Sea
  2. The Indian Navy must also be allowed to expand its presence operations in the South China Sea, long considered a Chinese preserve
  3. China’s vulnerabilities in its near-seas must be taken advantage of by Indian naval planners
  4. India must have an alternative plan ready for the Maldives, just in case naval posturing does not beget an optimal solution
Banking Sector Reforms Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] How banking frauds can be nipped in the bud


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Corporate governance, RBI, Blockchain technology

Mains level: Banking frauds and measures to reduce their incidence


Frauds in banking system

  1. The Nirav Modi case has once again cast the spotlight on the dark corners of the Indian banking universe
  2. The information available till now suggests that there was a failure at different levels—internal controls, corporate governance and weak regulatory capabilities

Ideas that could prevent such frauds in future

  1. Internal controls in a bank
  • This is the basic line of defense
  • Most banking regulation across the world works on this principle
  • A good technology system should make it impossible—or at least extremely difficult—for individual employees to bypass controls
  • Bank boards and especially the audit committees must have clear responsibilities

2.  Banks can also set up a special fraud monitoring agency

  • It may include officials specially trained to detect incipient frauds
  • Banks can also choose to appoint one member of the board to oversee fraud risk management

3. The role of third parties should be examined with a tough eye

  • Chartered accountants, auditors, and advocates who figure in bank frauds should be dealt with strictly
  • The regulator should revisit the role of auditors both in the case of borrowers and lenders

4. Banking regulators need to be a backstop

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said it had earlier warned banks about frauds
  • The Indian central bank will have to build capabilities, both in terms of designing rules and making sure that they are effectively implemented

5. The government should actively pursue the idea of privatizing public sector banks (PSBs)

  • Public sector banks have always been marred by poor governance
  • It is reflected in their stock market valuations
  • High levels of non-performing assets and the recent fraud are consequences of inept governance
  • The required reforms will go the distance only when banks are free of political and bureaucratic control

6. Use of blockchain technology

  • Blockchain technology could be used to make banking transactions more transparent
  • This would mean that every link in the chain can be scrutinized publicly
  • This also won’t affect privacy as borrowers disclose a lot of information in public statements, while mutual funds provide detailed disclosures about their bond portfolios

Way forward

  1. India needs a safe and efficient banking system to service the needs of a growing economy
  2. The government and RBI would do well to use the current opportunity to strengthen the banking system

[op-ed snap] Beyond physical access to schools


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: The ASER report

Mains level: Issues related to small schools in India. And possible solutions to improve the current situation.


Are elementary schools in India accessible?

  1. India has around 1.1 million elementary schools with 200 million children enrolled in them
  2. About 96% of the habitations now have elementary schools within a 3km radius
  3. In the last two decades, enrolment has been driven primarily by private schools

Issues in Indian Schooling System

  1. In 2015-16, there were about 250,000 elementary schools with an enrolment of 30 or less, out of which 78,300 have less than 15 students, according to Udise (unified district information system for education) data
  2. Nearly 7,200 schools have zero enrolment
  3. India has a huge dysfunctional public school system with small, tiny and empty schools scattered across the country

Why are small schools inefficient?

  1. Small schools compromise quality and efficiency by imposing enormous costs on providing physical and human resources, and for measuring and monitoring schooling outcomes
  2. Many studies have shown that small schools lead to increase in per-child expenditure
  3. Multi-grade teaching is common in small schools due to the difficulty in meeting teacher demands and increased cost, compromising schooling quality
  4. In small schools, teachers are also expected to handle a multitude of administrative tasks, such as monitoring midday meals and maintaining attendance records
  5. Teachers are also used for election duties and surveys
  6. The burden of school management and administration is much higher in small schools than large schools
    The Annual Status of Education Report
  7. Aser surveys from 2005-14 have indicated a learning-level crisis in India in reading and mathematics
  8. Due to low teaching inputs and infrastructural support, children in small schools are likely to have poor learning outcomes

What should be done?

  1. Restructuring the school systems by consolidating small schools in close proximity would bring efficiency by pooling students and teachers, without compromising access
  2. This would result in better utilization of resources, and monitoring
  3. The school management committees should be made functional with the effective participation of parents in monitoring school activities, and empowered to take financial decisions
  4. The medium of instruction, instead of being strictly vernacular, can combine with English from the early stages
Electoral Reforms In India Indian Polity

[op-ed snap] For cleaner, fairer elections

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Electoral Bonds

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the issue of party(political) funding. It also discusses some important court cases regarding electoral reforms.


Electoral reforms through the Supreme Court

  1. The Supreme Court has readily stepped in to introduce electoral reforms
  2. However, most of these interventions are directed at candidates, and rarely at the parties
    Lok Prahari v. Union of India:
  3. The Supreme Court’s recent decision on information disclosure paves a way for future constitutional interventions in India’s party funding regime, including the scheme of electoral bonds
    Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India (ADR):
  4. In 2002, the Supreme Court mandated the disclosure of information relating to criminal antecedents, educational qualification, and personal assets of a candidate contesting elections
  5. Now, the court has extended the disclosure obligation to further include information relating to sources of income of candidates and their “associates”

Voters’ right to know about their candidate

  1. The principled basis of the court’s decision is that voters’ right to know about their candidate is an extension of their freedom of expression
  2. Voters cannot be said to have freely expressed themselves (by voting) without having appropriate information about the candidates

Information on party funding

  1. Indian voter is deprived of information related to party funding
  2. The provision of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 exempts political parties from disclosing the source of any contribution below Rs. 20,000
  3. This gives political parties a convenient loophole to hide their funding sources by breaking contributions into smaller sums, even Rs. 19,999 each
  4. As a result, a vast majority of donations to political parties come from sources unknown to voters

Is the information about party funding relevant for a voter in choosing a candidate?

  1. Upholding the constitutionality of disclosure requirements for funding sources in Buckley v. Valeo , the U.S. Supreme Court held, “The sources of a candidate’s financial support also alert the voter to the interests to which a candidate is most likely to be responsive”

However, even if one assumes that parties do not fund their candidates, there is another rationale for disclosure of party-funding sources

  1. Parties occupy a special space in India when it comes to agenda setting
  2. By virtue of a strong anti-defection law in India, all elected legislators are bound by their party agenda
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

[op-ed snap] Canadian bathos: Justin Trudeau’s vote-banks


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold war, G7

Mains level: Sikh separatism issue and role of Canada


Justin Trudeau’s political indulgence of Sikh extremists in Canada

  1. Domestic politics often trumps the enlightened pursuit of national interest abroad
  2. In most countries, especially democracies, the cultivation of narrowly-based domestic constituencies for electoral reasons has its unfortunate consequences for the conduct of foreign policy
  3. Delhi’s perennial focus on elections of one kind or another makes its leaders quite sensitive to the domestic political considerations of India’s foreign interlocutors
  4. Sikhs form a 3 percent of Canadian population and Trudeau is supporting a small section of Sikhs which is hostile to Delhi

Cooling relationship

  1. PM Modi, who is more than eager to serenade visiting leaders in his home state, Gujarat, did not travel to Ahmedabad to be with Trudeau
  2. This underlines the new cooling that is enveloping the relationship
  3. It is entirely possible that Trudeau’s visit, instead of putting aside the Khalistan issue, could end up aggravating the differences with India

Trudeau’s mixed signals

  1. The Canadian PM’s visit is indeed a valuable opportunity to clear the air on Trudeau’s attitude towards Sikh separatism
  2. But still, it is not apparent whether he is ready to affirm a strong commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of India and dissociate himself from the Khalistanis
  3. Canada has seemed reluctant to address India’s concerns related to Sikh separatism

India-Canada relationship

  1. In the early years of the Cold War, India and Canada sought to create political breathing room for middle powers in a fraught bipolar world
  2. Delhi and Ottawa had good bonding on issue of liberal internationalism
  3. At the bilateral level, civil nuclear collaboration between the two countries was a shining example of scientific internationalism during the Cold War
  4. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, had unveiled in 2015 a vision for strategic partnership that was to build on the many shared interests between the two countries

Way forward

  1. It is indeed tragic that India-Canada relations have become a political hostage to the Khalistan question
  2. Delhi, however, has rightly decided it must stay engaged with Trudeau, who leads one of the world’s top economies and is a member of the Group of Seven advanced nations
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc. Energy

[op-ed snap] The renewable purchase obligation is hurting


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the b2b

Mains level: The newscard comprehensively discusses some issues related to renewable energy(RE) sector.



 The landmark Electricity Act of 2003

  1. This Act removed the licensing requirement to produce power, and also led to the unbundling of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity at the state level
  2. It introduced the radical idea of open access, and a choice for consumers
  3. It was also the first time that the use of renewable energy (RE) was advocated as part of the national energy policy

 The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC)

  1. It was to be implemented through eight missions
  2. One of these was the national solar mission, whose aim was to promote the development and use of solar power

The policy of renewable purchase obligations (RPOs)

  1. The RPOs were to be implemented by state governments
  2. The RPOs make it compulsory for all large consumers of energy to ensure that a certain percentage of that energy mix is from renewable sources such as wind and solar

India’s target in the renewable energy sector

  1. The Narendra Modi government in 2015 quite dramatically revised upward the national RE ambition to achieve 175GW by 2022, of which 100GW would be from solar
  2. As of December 2017, solar and wind capacity in the country was 17GW and 33GW, respectively
  3. This means that in the next four years, solar capacity needs to increase by 5.8 times, at a compound annual growth rate of 55.6% per year

Indications from the Economic Survey 2017

  1. The Economic Survey of 2017 indicated that the social cost of renewables is three times that of coal, at around Rs11 per kilowatt-hour
  2. One MW of solar plant requires 5 acres of land, whose cost is loaded on to the power cost
  3. Solar and wind have plant load factors of only 15-20%, which means the installed capacity is idle for nearly 80% of the time
  4. Thus a 50MW solar plant generates consumable power equivalent to about 10 or 12MW
  5. On the other hand, a thermal plant can operate at a plant load factor of as high as 95%

Other issues
Coal Cess

  1. Indian industry is already suffering the disadvantage of higher energy cost due to levies like the coal cess (rechristened clean energy cess)
  2. This cess has gone up by 800% in the last few years; from Rs 50 per tonne of coal in 2010 to Rs 400 in 2016

Renewable energy certificates (RECs)

  1. Furthermore, not every state has adequate RE power available to be purchased
  2. So, instead, renewable energy certificates (RECs) have to be purchased in lieu of RPOs
  3. RECs increase the cost of power, since these are in addition to the total thermal power that needs to be produced and consumed anyway

RE can’t become complete energy source for industries

  1. Solar and wind energy can never completely become the energy source for industries that need uninterrupted, reliable, steady and high wattage electricity
  2. That base load has to come from thermal power


Plant Load Factor (PLF)

  1. A plant load factor is a measure of average capacity utilization. If the PLF is affected by non-availability of fuel, maintenance shut-down, unplanned break down and no offtake (as consumption pattern fluctuates lower in nights), the generation has to be adjusted
  2. A power (electricity) storage is not feasible. A generation of power is controlled to match the offtake
    For any duration, a power plant generates below its full capacity
  3. To that extent it is a capacity loss

[20 Feb 2018 | Low Priority News Items of the Day]

Low Priority News Items of the Day:

China’s rise a big disruption, says Jaishankar

The rise of China is a major disruption, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Thursday, in comments that mirrored those made by U.S. Pacific Commander (PACOM) Admiral Harry Harris. “One big disruption is the rise of China, then the posture of the U.S., the challenge of terrorism, and the fourth would be the implications of non-market economics. We are seeing the rise of a very different power, whether the rise is a model for others is certainly a question,” Mr. Jaishankar said. He was speaking at the concluding session of the Raisina Dialogue, organised jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation.

Personal comments of the former officials are not important from the UPSC perspective, because there statements are not official. No need to go these statements.


Failures of inference

It is a measure of the abject inadequacy of liberal thought today that all it can bring to the political arena, and to public discourse generally, is high indignation at the tawdriness of what it dismissively describes as ‘populism’. Even when, on occasion, some of the more serious liberal ideologues try to do better, there is a tendency to produce a pattern of analysis that goes roughly like this. They observe everywhere the dissatisfaction of ordinary people (by ordinary people I just mean working and workless people away from the centres of power and privilege).

The Op-Ed talks about the liberal trends across the globe. It is not related to the UPSC syllabus, as it will not have any significant direct affect on Indian Foreign Policy.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc. Conservation & Mitigation

[op-ed snap] The right way to save India’s forests


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAF Act, 2016, Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, CAG

Mains level: Issues related to forest conservation


Concerns related to compensatory afforestation

  1. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAF Act), 2016 has raised serious concerns about the human and environmental costs of compensatory afforestation (CA)
  2. Evidence establishes that CA plantations
  • Destroy natural forests
  • Harm biodiversity
  • Undermine the rights and nutrition of local communities and
  • Disguise rampant misuse of public funds

Act encourages bureaucratic encroachment

  1. The Act enables the forest bureaucracy to entrench its control over forests
  2. It can subvert democratic forest governance established by the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (Pesa), 1996

Commercial plantations in name of afforestation

  1. Case studies of CA plantation sites in Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh reveals that 60% of these are monocultural commercial plantations, sometimes set up in the name of “forests”
  2. These plantations have been carried out over forest lands both claimed and titled under the FRA, and even over dense natural forests
  3. The consent of these communities has not been sought, violating their legal rights and leading to livelihood distress

Shortcomings in the act

  1. The Act lacks a mechanism to monitor expenditure of funds
  2. The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report, 2013 had found massive misutilization by the forest department (FD)
  3. This prompted the finance ministry to object to the direct disbursal of funds through the public fund

Solution to this problem

  1. Repeal of, or amendments to, the CAF Act
  2. Adopting a framework of democratic forest governance as per the FRA as the principal approach for the governance of CA
  3. Forest Survey of India reports show that forest cover in tribal districts, constituting 60% of the country’s total forest cover
  4. It is well-established that communities are the best stewards for the governance and conservation of forests

Way forward

  1. The government needs to look no further than the FRA to reorient the current CA approach and meet its goals of ecological restoration
  2. The CAF Act needs to be integrated with the FRA and PESA by centering the role of gram sabhas and incorporating land and forest rights guarantees
  3. Government should promote community-led conservation initiatives
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Quest for innovation

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need to invent new innovative medications to counter rising cases of diabetes in India.


Level of diabetes in India

  1.  A large, nationally representative study of diabetes in India has found that more than 10% of Indians living in urban areas are affected with the disorder
  2. However, the more worrisome fact is that half the population living with diabetes has absolutely no knowledge of it

Drive to invent medication for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

  1. There is a relentless global drive to invent fresh, life-saving and life-improving treatments to counter diabetes
    India’s situation
  2. Our government has a long way to go in order to integrate world innovation with health policies and tackle an epidemic such as diabetes
  3. This is pertinent as the country’s productive segment of the population(its youth) is increasingly being exposed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  4. Thus, without a proper policy to integrate global innovation into the India’s health-care realm, the nation’s development is in jeopardy

Effect of diabetes on people

  1. People living with diabetes, nearly every aspect of their life gets affected
  2. This includes special dietary concerns and the necessary lifestyle alterations, along with daily medicines and regular check-ups
    Right time to introduce innovations
  3. There is a huge opportunity to introduce new global innovations in our country and bring about a positive change in the lives of those with diabetes

Importance of the IPR policy

  1. Medical innovation and IPR also go hand in hand
  2. Health care is one of the few sectors that calls for ongoing investment and persistent research, innovation and development
  3. This is because delivering pioneering medicines to tackle the ever-increasing occurrence of new diseases, is central to health care and pharmaceuticals
  4. While there are numerous medicines under development for the disease, the clamour for a strong IPR in the country needs more intensity if we are to fortify our efforts to tackle diabetes
  5. Therefore, a robust world-class IPR policy is needed

[op-ed snap] From Plate To Plough: A vision coloured green

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Government Budgeting

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the ‘Operation Greens’

Mains level: Objectives of the project ‘operation greens’ discussed in the newscard. And what should be done to achieve the targets of the project.


Announcement of the ‘Operation Greens’

  1. The finance minister announced Operation Greens, on the lines of Operation Flood, with a seed capital of Rs 500 crore(in the budget)
  2. Operation Greens wants to replicate the success story of the operation flood in fruit and vegetables, starting with tomatoes, onions and potatoes

Main objective of the project

  1. The main objective of this project is to reduce price volatility in these commodities, thereby helping farmers augment incomes on a sustainable basis
  2. It also aims to provide these vegetables to consumers at affordable prices
  3. The litmus test of this scheme would be in containing the booms and busts in prices

India as a producer of vegetables

  1. India is the second largest producer of vegetables in the world with about 180 MMT. But China produces four times more vegetables than India
  2. Yields of potatoes, onions and tomatoes have shown a healthy growth
  3. These commodities constitute almost half of the country’s vegetable production

Pricing issues related to these commodities(potatoes, onions and tomatoes)

  1. The problem with these commodities is that their prices collapse when their production rises sharply
  2. This is because the country lacks modern storage facilities and the links between processing and organised retailing are very weak
  3. As a result, farmers often end up receiving less than a fourth of what consumers pay in major cities

The basic principles of Operation Flood would be useful to operationalise Operation Greens as well
What should be done?

  1. First, link major consumption centres to major production centres with a minimal number of intermediaries
  2. The APMC Act will have to be changed to allow direct buying from FPOs, and giving incentives to these organisations, private companies and NGOs to build back end infrastructure as was done in the case of milk
  3. The announcement of tax concessions to FPOs(farmer producer organisations) for five years(announced in the budget) is a welcome step in that direction, if it encourages building such critical infrastructure
  4. Second is the investment in logistics, starting with modern warehouses, that can minimise wastage
  5. Large-scale investments in storage will require tweaking of the Essential Commodities Act
  6. Third is linking the processing industry with organised retailing
  7. On an average, about one-fourth of the produce must be processed. India is way behind on this curve compared to most Southeast Asian countries
  8. Dehydrated onions, tomato puree and potato chips should become cheap, so that an average household can use them
  9. Processing industry adds value and absorbs surpluses
  10. Seen this way, the finance minister’s announcement of increasing the allocation for the food processing industry by 100 per cent is a welcome step
  11. The food processing ministry will have to coordinate with Operation Greens

The way forward

  1. By developing such forward and backward linkages, the government can
    (i) ease large price fluctuations,
    (ii) raise farmers’ share in the price paid by the consumer and
    (iii) at the same time, ensure lower prices for the consumers — a win-win situation for all
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