June 2018
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STORY - Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[op-ed snap] For POCSO Act to effectively protect children, it should go beyond death penalty


Mains Paper 2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.  

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: POCSO Act and new proposed amendments, Vishakha Guidelines

Mains level:  The editorial highlights the demerits of reactionary lawmaking which should rather be a preventive one.


Amended POCSO Act

  1. India made world news with the introduction of the death penalty for child rapists.
  2. It is unfortunate how it takes tragic incidents such as the rape of minors to remind us that the laws of the country need serious reconsideration.

Reactionary Lawmaking is ineffective

  1. The ineffectiveness of reactionary lawmaking can be seen in the recently proposed amendments in the Criminal Law and POCSO Act, 2012, that were a result of the Unnao and the Kathua cases which shook the country’s conscience.
  2. The last time a major overhaul in the rape law was thought of was as a consequence of the Delhi 2012 rape and murder case.
  3. Before that, the Vishakha incident was a catalyst for the law on sexual harassment.

What are the new Reforms for minors?

The new reforms that have been proposed to the Indian Penal Code, which shall further apply to the POCSO are:

  • If a person rapes a minor girl below the age of 12 years then the punishment shall be rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years which, shall be extendable to life imprisonment or death.
  • Previously the punishment for the same was rigorous imprisonment for at 10 years or life imprisonment, along with fine.
  • If a person rapes a girl who is below 16 years, then the punishment is rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
  • The punishment for this as per the 2013 criminal amendment is rigorous imprisonment, not less than 10 years and which may extend to life imprisonment.
  1. The ordinance has suggested a few more changes, such as time-bound investigations, appeals and prior sanction from the courts for prosecution of government servants.
  2. However, the main change it suggests is in introducing the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12.

Special Juvenile Police Unit on paper only

  1. A major provision in the POCSO is that of setting up a Special Juvenile Police unit in-charge of investigating cases of child abuse.
  2. This was conceived of as a protection against the police intimidating children, either intentionally or unintentionally.
  3. Yet, no mention of a special juvenile police unit can be found in many cases.
  4. Similarly, with various provisions for the security and the care of the victim under the POCSO — such as the statement of a child should be taken at the residence of a child or a place where he or she is comfortable, by a lady police officer — there’s massive oversight when it comes to enforcement.
  5. In the Kathua case, for instance, the name of the victim was highlighted and essentially advertised on all the media channels even though this is strictly prohibited both under the POCSO Act as well as the IPC under section 228 A.

Death Penalty for Convict is more threat to Victim

  1. The prospect of harsh punishments, such as the death penalty, can, in fact, be a threat to the victim.
  2. NCRB data reveals that in more than 96 per cent of child sex abuse cases, the perpetrator is a close relative or a member of the family. This is why children often find it difficult to confess.
  3. Parents often try to resolve matters of abuse themselves due to the stigma that is associated with such crimes.
  4. Harsher punishments for the perpetrator can quickly become harsher threats for the victim, as the accused may go to any extent to protect themselves like murdering him/her.
  5. Worried for their own safety, children may choose not to provide testimony.

Way Forward

  1. For the POCSO Act to be effective in protecting children who are sexually abused, it should go beyond relying on the death penalty as a deterrent.
  2. It should focus on stricter enforcement of protections for the abused children, punish half-hearted investigations, do away with intimidating procedures and improve the overall sluggishness in the legal system.
  3. Justice is more than a punitive, knee-jerk reaction to the perpetrator of injustice. The child abuse law as it stands has multiple problems, mostly stemming from its focus on the abuser.
  4. It’s important to look at the systemic failures that allow child abuse to happen, prevent children who are abused from speaking up.
  5. Punishment alone is not a complete solution by any means
STORY - Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[op-ed snap] Skill development of the Youth: Pay heed to the market


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Labour Organisation, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

Mains level: Reaping benefits of India’s demographic dividend by better skilling


Unemployment in India to rise

  1. Coupled with a continual increase in voluntary unemployment, the International Labour Organisation expects unemployment in India to be higher in 2018
  2. In India, 65% of the population is below 35 years and unemployment, especially among youth, can limit the nation’s ability to reap the much-hyped demographic dividend

Enhancing youth employability

  1. A wide range of stakeholders, including the government, companies, civil society organizations, and for-profit enterprises are working either independently or in cohesion to enhance youth employability
  2. The government has also undertaken a structured approach via the establishment of the ministry of skill development and employment and the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana
  3. Currently, four models are used for supporting youth employability in the country
  • The first model, or the self-employment model, work on the rationale that if youth are trained in a particular skill, they will have the capacity to become micro-entrepreneurs
  • The second model, or the employer-led model, trains youth in specific skills relevant to an enterprise and then absorbs the youth into their own value chain
  • The third, the placement-led model, provides training to youth and also established linkages with potential employers
  • Fourth, the market linkage model provides end-to-end support to self-employed youth, assisting them in earning better incomes

Causes of increasing unemployment

  1. Unemployment is higher among the formally educated in comparison to the illiterate
  2. There is higher youth unemployment in rural areas, while most interventions focus on urban areas
  3. There is a mismatch between the skill sets that industries require and the skill sets that youth are equipped with
  4. These structural challenges result in a demand-supply mismatch which can be summarized as
  • a mismatch between youth aspirations and the skills training being provided
  • mismatch in skills training and industry needs
  • poor industry buy-in for vocational training courses because of lack of standardization and universally accepted certification

Solutions for this problem

  1. The focus should be put on understanding aspirations, industry requirements and standardization across the skill-development value chain
  2. Well-designed interventions will be effective only if the candidates are willing, receptive and capable of absorbing the knowledge or skill being imparted by the intervention
  3. Counseling in skilling programmes is essential to align the aspirations of programme beneficiaries with the expected outcomes of training
  4. While designing programmes, it is critical to map skills being imparted to the specific needs of potential employers so that the skilling-to-employment loop is closed seamlessly
  5. When it comes to designing programmes that focus on self-employment or entrepreneurship, it is important to assess demand for the product or service and study policies or schemes that can be leveraged to enhance sales
  6. There is also scope for increased public-private partnerships
  7. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can use existing under-utilized infrastructure available with educational institutions to facilitate vocational training and skill development

Way forward

  1. India’s demography provides a great opportunity for the country with regard to economic growth and development milestones
  2. Concentrated and evidence-backed efforts which can cohesively develop and strengthen youth aspirations, the skill development ecosystem and markets where youth can be employed are necessary for India to realize that opportunity
STORY - Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Falling behind on Digital Silk Road


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Belt and Road Initiative, Qingdao summit of SCO, South Asia Satellite, Digital Silk Road, Pakistan East Africa Cable Express (PEACE)

Mains level: China’s expanding footprints in digital connectivity sector with India’s neigborhood and its consequences


China’s OBOR & India’s rising challenges

  1. India’s continuing political challenges with China’s Belt and Road Initiative have been matched by Delhi’s enduring difficulties in advancing its own connectivity initiatives
  2. At the Qingdao summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where India was participating for the first time as a full member, Delhi had to dissociate itself from the consensus in favor of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  3. China’s BRI will inch closer towards India this week when Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli travels to China
  4. Like most other neighbors of India, Nepal has already endorsed this Initiative & is getting ready to sign onto major BRI projects like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives
  5. Many of these projects would be grouped under the so-called Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Initiative

Neighborhood duties ignored

  1. Delhi has taken for granted the deep geographic interdependence with its neighbors and did little to modernize it for the 21st century
  2. Now they have an alternative in the form of Chinese connectivity initiatives
  3. For other neighbors, the BRI offers “strategic autonomy” from India
  4. The idea of seeking strategic autonomy from very large neighbors is not unique to South Asia
  5. Many of China’s immediate neighbors in East Asia do much the same
  6. They seek insurance through diversifying partnerships with many countries, including India

Ray of hope: Digital connectivity

  1. India has found it hard to develop institutional capabilities to implement infrastructure projects across and beyond its borders but it has some possibilities in the arena of digital connectivity
  2. During PM’s visit to Singapore, he signed a number of agreements to connect the financial markets of the two countries
  3. Last year, India had launched the South Asia Satellite as part of its neighborhood first policy
  4. To India’s worries, China has been a frontrunner here too
  5. Beijing has launched a number of ambitious initiatives, now being banded together as the “Digital Silk Road

What China plans to do?

  1. China’s Digital Silk Road agenda is about strengthening internet infrastructure, deepening space cooperation, lowering barriers to e-commerce, developing common technology standards, promoting cybersecurity, and improving the efficiency of policing systems among the BRI countries
  2. China wants to deploy its nationally developed platforms based on artificial intelligence, big data, cloud storage and quantum computing to pursue these goals
  3. China and Nepal have operationalised an optic fibre link between the two countries earlier this year
  4. The link would eventually reduce Nepal’s dependence on India for internet connectivity
  5. Last year, China’s Huawei signed an agreement to construct the Pakistan East Africa Cable Express (PEACE) that would connect Pakistan to Kenya via Djibouti
  6. China’s digital initiative also includes deepening space cooperation
  7. Last year, Sri Lanka joined China’s Beidou navigation system

India’s chance

  1. India has long had significant and growing national capabilities in the digital and space domains
  2. Delhi has fallen terribly short in integrating these with larger national economic and security strategies

Way forward

  1. At the turn of the century, India paid little attention to China’s internal, cross-border and international infrastructure projects that eventually came under the rubric of BRI
  2. Delhi is now struggling to cope with the strategic consequences for the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean
  3. Delhi needs to quickly shed its digital defensiveness and leverage possibilities on digital development and diplomacy
STORY - Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Why so few women work in India


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Skill India initiative

Mains level: Reasons behind less number of women in workforce and schemes required to increase their participation


Labour force disparity

  1. India has far fewer women working or available for work compared to any other large economy in the world
  2. Women’s participation in the labour force declined sharply in the country precisely when the country’s economic engine was growing the fastest: between 2004-05 and 2011-12

Reasons behind fewer women in the workforce

  1. A big reason why women don’t work is that there is usually no one else to do the tasks that a patriarchal society assigns to them
  2. In rural India, this often means attending to onerous tasks such as fetching water or collecting firewood
  3. In urban India, this may mean childcare in an environment where help is not as easy to come by as in rural India
  4. Data from the two latest quinquennial employment surveys of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) show that this was driven by a rise in the share of women who listed ‘attending to domestic duties’ as their principal activity in the year preceding the surveys
  5. The force of patriarchy also manifests itself in socio-religious constraints, which restrict the mobility of women
  6. Across major states, the share of women attending to domestic duties is broadly correlated with the share of women citing social and religious constraints as the main reason for attending to domestic duties

Women interested in part-time work

  1. A majority of women attending to domestic duties are willing to work part-time if such work were made available at their household
  2. Tailoring work seems to be the most preferred option for such women, followed by dairy-related and poultry-related work
  3. Most women who want to take up such work emphasized the need for finance and training

Way Forward

  1. The data suggest that the Skill India initiative may have missed a trick by focusing largely on male candidates looking for full-time work
  2. Given the rising demand for training among homemakers looking for part-time work, they could benefit greatly from a skilling initiative that helps them get into part-time work, or to start their own enterprises
STORY - Foreign Policy Watch: India-APEC

[op-ed snap] Countering China in the Indo-Pacific


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shangri-La Dialogue, Malabar exercises, Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises, two-plus-two dialogue, Guam, Martabali port, Sonadia port, Trincomalee port, Malacca Straits, Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)

Mains level: Indo Pacific cooperation and its importance for India


Shangri-La Dialogue

  1. At the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, PM Modi and the defense ministers of Japan, the US and Australia reiterated their shared commitment to the Indo-Pacific region
  2. It was closely followed by Japan-India-US Malabar exercises in Guam
  3. Japan, India, the US and Australia will also join Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises commencing on 27 June
  4. India and the US are planning to hold the first two-plus-two dialogue (between their foreign and defense ministers) in Washington

Turning cooperation into a “counter China strategy”

There are three possible ways

First, we should focus on the link between Indo-China border area and the East China Sea

  • If India cooperates with Japan and the US, it will not need to deal with all the Chinese fighter jets at once, because China is likely to keep some of its fighter jets to defend its eastern front.
  • Japan and the US are willing to support India’s efforts to modernize its defence in the Indo-China border area

Second, there is a high possibility that in the near future India will be the most influential sea power in the Indian Ocean Region

  • Japan, the US and Australia will then be able to deploy more military force in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to maintain the military balance against China
  • Therefore, these three countries should share the know-how related with anti-submarine capabilities and enhance India’s military preparedness
  • Developing infrastructure in countries of the region is useful, too
  • Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project
  • If the Trincomalee port project involving Japanese assistance in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline
  • The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa

Third, Japan, India, the US and Australia can collaborate to support South-East Asian countries in the South China Sea

  • The South-East Asian countries need to beef up their military power
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important
  • These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities
  • Japanese investment in India’s strategic road project in the latter’s North-East region will help increase India-South-East Asia trade
  • Growing India-South-East Asia trade could reduce China’s influence in South-East Asia

Way Forward

  1. Further security cooperation among Japan, India, the US and Australia is increasingly plausible
  2. The time has come to proactively further this cooperation to ensure prosperity and stability in the whole of Indo-Pacific
STORY - Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Parched or polluted: on India’s water crisis


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index, NITI Aayog

Mains level: Water crisis faced by India and how it can be toned down


India’s impending water crisis

  1. According to the Composite Water Management Index developed by Niti Aayog, 70% of the water resources are identified as polluted
  2. If the water accessible to millions is contaminated, the problem is infinitely worse than that of availability
  3. The trends that the data reflect of high to extreme stress faced by 600 million people call for speedy reforms

Focus Areas

Two areas that need urgent measures are

  1. Augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture
  2. Strict pollution control enforcement

Mihir Shah Committee recommendations

  1. The Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and the Central Ground Water Board, chaired by Mihir Shah, has called for a user-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture
  2. It advocates decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund

Way forward

  1. Groundwater extraction patterns need to be better understood through robust data collection
  2. Steady urbanization calls for a new management paradigm, augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse
  3. Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs
  4. A legal mandate will work better than just competition and cooperation as it would make governments accountable
STORY - Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

[op-ed snap] Demonetisation failed to make India a ‘less cash’ society


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: Measures of Money Supply (M0, M1, M2, M3, M4)

Mains level: Lessons from demonetisation


Evaluationg impact of demonetization

  1. On 8 November 2016, PM announced the “demonetization” of high-value currency notes.
  2. Now that sufficient time has elapsed since demonetisation, it is possible to bring data to bear on the specific question: Has demonetisation succeeded in making India a “less cash” society?
  3. Numerous commentators argued that one such goal would be to push the economy towards greater formalisation, and, relatedly, to push the financial sector towards greater digitisation and a reduced reliance on cash.
  4. But Demonetisation did not trigger any long-lasting behavioural change in the preference for currency, thus striking off one possible long-run gain induced by the short-run pain of the cash crunch.

Look at the chart

  1. The Chart plots currency in circulation (CIC) as a share of broad money (M3) —henceforth, CIC/M3. All data are sourced from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  2. The demonetisation shock in November 2016 saw CIC/M3 plunge to as low as about 0.08 within a month, not surprising when fully 86% of the currency stock was invalidated.
  3. It is not hard to see the trend: CIC/M3 is clearly converging back to its pre-demonetisation level—indeed, it is just about already back to that earlier level.

The Way Forward

  1. It should be added that the failure of demonetisation to make India a less-cash society does not necessarily imply a complete failure of the larger digitization drive.
  2. Data suggest that some components of digital payments are up after November 2016, although it is not clear if this is merely a continuation of pre-demonetisation trends or an effect wrought by demonetisation.
  3. Nor can one conclude, on the basis of the analysis, that demonetisation has failed, although such data as shown have question remain open to contestation and interpretation.


Measures of Money Supply

As we move from M1 to M4, Liquidity of the money goes on decreasing

  • Reserve Money (M0): Currency in Circulation + Bankers deposit with RBI + Other deposits with RBI
  • Narrow Money (M1): Currency with Public + Demand Deposits with banking System + Other deposits with RBI
  • M2: M1 + Savings Deposit with Post Office
  • Broad Money (M3): M1 + Time Deposits with Banking System
  • M4 : M3 + total post office deposits* (Excluding National Savings Certificate)
STORY - Internal Security Trends and Incidents

[op-ed snap] The changing nature of violence


Mains Paper 3: Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Not much

Mains level: The editorial highlights commonness amongst all mass agitations and protests and suggests security agencies understand their evolving nature. This will help them modify their tactics for effective handling of such situations.


Public Outrage vs. Police

  1. Events in Thoothukudi have helped turn the spotlight on the changing nature of violence, and the inadequacy of existing rules and procedures to deal with various new-era protests ranging from Stone Pelting , Dalit Angst to Farmers Agitation.
  2. This should be instructive, for new-era protests are redefining the internal security landscape.
  3. At present no one, the courts of judicature included, seems to understand the shifting taxonomy of violence.

What causes such Violence?

  1. In instances of this kind, it is vital to try to determine the actual trigger that led to the violence.
  2. For instance, in the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, it was the ‘unsynchronised eruption of simmering anger’ which seemed to have been the tipping point.
  3. A mere reference to the failure of intelligence, the usual charges against the administration, or to excessive use of force by the police is inadequate to explain the turn of events of such violence.

Absence of Leaders OR Provocateurs

  1. The widest gap separating the official version from that of the public is about the presence/absence of ‘agent provocateurs’ among the protesters.
  2. Agitations also tend more and more to be ‘leaderless’.
  3. It is no secret that many of today’s large-scale protests across the country are prompted by militant elements from outside, who are pre-programmed to create chaos through Social Media.
  4. Prolonged agitation multiplies its intensity. This is a phenomenon seen in other protest movements elsewhere as well.

Age of repressed anger

  1. This is the age of ‘high voltage’ revolt, basically an expression of repressed anger.
  2. Much of this arises from an “embedded wisdom” that the system is being “manipulated” in favour of the rich, the powerful, and the big multinationals.
  3. With several hundreds of workers now thrown out of work following the closure of the Sterlite factory, the danger is that they could become new nodes for instigating fresh rounds of violence.

Radicalization by LWE

  1. In Thoothukudi, the revolt was against Sterlite and its so-called disdain for the environment and the suffering of the locals.
  2. Far away in Bhangar, West Bengal, just a few miles away from Kolkata, for months villagers have been up in arms against a power grid project for which land had been acquired many years ago.
  3. The conditions may be different, but the opposition remains equally intense.
  4. In most instances, we see organisations genuinely interested in the welfare of the locals initially launching the agitations, which gradually tend to be taken over by extreme right-wing and left-wing organisations.
  5. The result remains the same: widespread disruption.

Initial nature of protests creates an Illusion

  1. It is possible that the initial peaceful nature of the protests lulled the authorities into believing that matters were well under control.
  2. What they failed to understand was the metastasising nature of the protests and signs of the growing revolt of an ‘underclass’ against the so-called ‘elite’.
  3. The police also do not seem to have taken into consideration the kind of impetus provided to agitational methodologies by the ‘digital wave’.
  4. This qualitative difference has not filtered down enough to effect changes in administrative policies and police methodologies.

Police effectiveness in Question

  1. Advice from old-timers in the police on how to manage today’s crowds, including the erection of barricades and promulgation of Section 144, have little relevance in the circumstances prevailing today.
  2. Police effectiveness is also hampered on account of several other reasons, including that they are often outnumbered by mobilised crowds, driven by indignation and rage, predisposed towards creating disorder.
  3. The police on their part need to realise that existing laws and procedures notwithstanding, merely putting faith and focus on strength is not likely to succeed.
  4. It ignores the asymmetrical measures available to today’s mobs, and the limits that these impose on tactics and policies of a bygone era.

The Way Forward

  1. Whenever situations of this kind arise, there are a spate of reports regarding revamping intelligence and introduction of new methods to overcome the lacunae in intelligence collection.
  2. These are equally unlikely to succeed, unless the police strengthen their ‘contextual’ intelligence to deal with today’s situations.
  3. This involves anticipating the meaning of ‘street power’ – enhanced by information technology and the presence of flash mobs.
  4. New ‘smart tactics’ have to be developed. Simply blaming the police is no answer to the growing volumes of protests everywhere.
STORY - Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] A drive to clean air


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO global air pollution database report, World Economic Forum, FAME scheme

Mains level: Rising air pollution levels across Indian cities and measures to reduce them


WHO air pollution report

  1. The WHO global air pollution database report that ranked 14 Indian cities among the 15 of the world’s most polluted, in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 concentration, received great attention in India
  2. As per a World Economic Forum study, the number of million-plus urban conglomerates in India has increased from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. By 2030, this number is expected to grow to 87
  3. 70 percent to 80 percent of PM 2.5 comes from vehicular emissions, domestic activity, construction activity, industry activity and road dust

Controlling vehicular emissions and domestic activity

  1. Just vehicular pollution contributes around 35 percent of the total PM 2.5 emissions today
  2. In a future with internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles (even post BS VI rollout), urban pollution will continue to remain 25 percent to 30 percent above safe global standards because of the growth in automobiles
  3. For reducing vehicular pollution, already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI) need to be combined with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies
  4. Shared mobility can moderate the demand for individual vehicle ownership and usage & technology solutions can allow for a sharp reduction in emissions per vehicle
  5. The movement away from kerosene, coal and wood fires for cooking will have a big impact on domestic activity
  6. We need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves

Three key policy recommendations

  1. We need to assess and refine the monetary incentives that are offered to bridge the viability gap for electric vehicles for the purpose of containing urban pollution
  • These include upfront subsidies, road/registration tax, reduced taxes, and interest rate subsidy
  • It is imperative for the government to continue the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicles programme under the Ministry of Heavy Industry

Non-monetary incentives must go along with subsidies

  • Technology choices should be rewarded with exemption from tolls/taxes, special toll lanes and other preferred access to public infrastructure
  • Norway gives preference to high occupancy vehicles and China gives preferential licence access
  • London imposes congestion charges during working hours on weekdays to vehicles entering the city center

There is also a need to think about improving the provision of non-polluting public transport

  • There is a need to impose restrictions through supply-side regulations on OEMs to increase production of zero-emission vehicles to curb urban pollution
  • These include electric buses, metros, and shared EV fleets to reduce traffic and usage
  • For the alternative mobility technologies to settle, an enabling infrastructure is required
  • There is an early need to standardise charging infrastructure/equipment to ensure interoperability and make it widespread

Way forward

  1. The need to address urban pollution is urgent
  2. India needs to start learning from global examples to push enabling infrastructure
STORY - Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Holes in the scheme


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS)

Mains level: Various issues associated with the implementation of NHPS


Launch of NHPS

  1. The Model Tender Document For The Selection of Implementing Agencies For the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare tries to address various concerns related to NHPS
  2. The document states that nearly 47 percent of the packages under the NHPS, including those related to heart ailments and cancer, require pre-authorisation
  3. This means hospitals impanelled under the scheme cannot perform these procedures until they have an authorization letter from the NHPS’s Implementation Support Agency

Why this system of checks?

  1. Current scheme’s predecessor, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, was riddled with unethical practices such as unnecessary hospitalization, needless investigations and billing for superfluous and unrelated treatment packages

Associated Concerns 

  1. Hospitals might shift the onus of obtaining the authorization letter on the critically-ill or their families
  2. Several procedures, including emergency consultation for acute colic, nebulization for an asthma attack, hypoglycemia in a diabetic and treatment of “dengue without complication”, will be covered by the scheme only if the treatment is availed in a government hospital
  3. Without timely treatment, a dengue fever can aggravate to a life-threatening disease

Way forward

  1. Checks on the impanelled hospitals are well in order under NHPS
  2. It would prevent private hospitals to milk the NHPS by prescribing unnecessary investigations
  3. But it should also be ensured that these checks do not come in between providing emergency care to critically ill patients or put an extra burden on their families
STORY - Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

[op-ed snap] Islands apart: on India-Maldives ties


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising discontent between India & Maldives and need for its early resolution


Soaring ties between India and the Maldives

  1. There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties, starting from March 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled a visit
  2. Recent moves by Abdulla Yameen, President of the Maldives, have put Malé on a collision course with New Delhi
  3. India criticised the government for its incarceration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, sentenced to 19 months in prison for an alleged plot to unseat Mr. Yameen

Discontent among partners

  1. The strain is now evident in two areas where India-Maldives ties had been the strongest: strategic relations and people-to-people engagement
  2. The Maldives has conveyed to India that it will not extend beyond June 30 the lease of Indian helicopters or the visas of personnel manning them
  3. This signals a marked downturn in defense cooperation between the two countries, which normally coordinate maritime and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) patrols together
  4. Hundreds of Indians offered employment in the Maldives at resorts, hospitals and colleges have been denied work visas for the past few months

Change in stance

  1. Until a few years ago, the Maldives affirmed an “India First” policy
  2. India’s vocal protests on democratic rights in the Maldives have been at variance with the past policy of taking a more muted line in public while encouraging democracy in official conversations

Way forward

  1. The Yameen government must reconsider these policies
  2. India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly
STORY - Rohingya Conflict

[op-ed snap] The crimes of a few condemn the fate of many


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rohingya Crisis, Rakhine Province and adjacent areas sharing boundary

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations


Amnesty International to intervene

  1. Amnesty International (AI) released a briefing that revealed that a Rohingya armed group had committed serious human rights abuses by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar.
  2. As a movement that campaigns to end human rights abuses against all people, AI aims to uncover all cases of human rights violations without bias, regardless of who the perpetrators are and where the violations are committed.
  3. The earlier briefing follows AI’s earlier reports documenting military attacks on the Rohingya that led to more than 693,000 people fleeing from their homes to other countries.

It’s about people

  1. We should be calling for better protection for survivors fleeing persecution in accordance with international human rights law. We should be calling for justice, truth and reparation for victims and their families.
  2. Nations should call for unfettered access to the northern Rakhine State for independent investigators.
  3. The debate has deteriorated to unfairly and unreasonably attributing the condemnable actions of the some to all Rohingya people.

Rohingyas in India

  1. The Rohingya have been labelled as “illegal immigrants” — even those recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India.
  2. In fact, in August last year, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs proposed return to Myanmar all the 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India. The Ministry claimed that the Rohingya are a threat to national security.

No attempt for alternatives by Myanmar

  1. There have been no attempts to consider alternative measures to distinguish people who actually pose a threat from people in dire need of protection.
  2. The mass expulsion of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar would be an abject dereliction of India’s obligations under international law.
  3. In the past, AI India has advocated that the most effective way for the Indian government to address security concerns is to conduct fair and efficient refugee determination proceedings.

A straightforward solution by Amnesty

  1. The UN Refugee Convention provides a straightforward solution to deal with the potential security concerns involving asylum seekers.
  2. Article 1F of the Convention excludes protection for those involved in serious crimes.
  3. Therefore, if India acceded to the Refugee Convention, it would be able to effectively assess Rohingya asylum applications and deny protection to those who might fall under Article 1F exceptions, such as members of ARSA who participated in the August 2017 violence.

The Way Forward

  1. Indian authorities have outsourced refugee status determination to the UNHCR, which follows a rigorous process.
  2. However, this is largely meaningless as India refuses to officially recognise Rohingya people identified as refugees by the UNHCR.
  3. These people are left in a state of limbo with neither the UNHCR nor the Indian government providing them effective protection.
  4. Even though India is not a party to the Refugee Convention, it has always had a longstanding tradition of providing shelter to those seeking protection.
STORY - Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Polls Are Best Kept Apart


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic Structure Doctrine, EMS Nachiappan Committee on Simultaneous Elections, Standing Committee,  Representation of Peoples’ Act 1951

Mains level: The editorial highlights the unconstitutionality of the demand of Simultaneous Elections


  1. PM has mooted the idea of holding simultaneous polls in the country.
  2. The step may appear to be purely reformist but in reality, it’s an unconstitutional measure and should not be pushed down the throats of people.

Misconceptions about the ease of Amendment for Simultaneous Elections

  1. There is a misconception that an amendment to the Representation of Peoples’s Act 1951 is all that is needed for holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
  2. If the Law Ministry were to attempt such an endeavour, it will realise the hollowness of the concept.

Basic Structure Doctrine at risk

  1. Apart from the basic structure, the federal structure of the polity — itself a part of the basic structure — will collapse if an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act is approved by Parliament.
  2. The Election Commission agrees to undertake the huge exercise but the agency cannot hold elections in even three states without dividing the process into as many as seven phases

Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament, headed by E M S Nachiappan

  1. Holding simultaneous elections may not be feasible in 2016 or even in a decade.
  2. The committee, however, expressed confidence that a solution will be found to reduce the frequency of elections and relieve the people and government machinery from tedium of frequent polls.
  3. This is important for India if it is to compete with other nations in its developmental agenda.
  4. However, this committee did not touch issues pertaining to the basic structure of the Constitution.

The Way Forward: Presidents Call on the Issue

  1. President Kovind recently said that frequent elections not only impose a burden on human resources but also impede the development process due to the promulgation of Model Code of Conduct.
  2. He called for a sustained debate is required on the subject of simultaneous elections and all political parties need to arrive at a consensus on this issue.
STORY - NPA Crisis

[op-ed snap] The government needs to handle public sector banks with care


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: PCA by RBI, Recapitalization Plan, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Mains level: The editorial discusses the difficulties in the operations of PSU Banks thereby creating NPAs


Low Confidence in the working of PSU banks

  1. PSU banks are grappling with a high level of bad loans, and a number of them have been put under RBI’s prompt corrective action and are not in a position to lend.
  2. In the March quarter, PSU banks booked losses in excess of Rs 62,000 crore and the total gross non-performing assets (NPAs) stood at about Rs 9 trillion.
  3. Although the government is in the process of recapitalizing state-run banks, it is likely that the current Rs 2.11 trillion PSU bank recapitalization plan will not be sufficient to put the PSU banks back on track.
  4. Since PSU banks own about 70% of banking assets, their inability to lend will have a direct impact on economic growth.

Fear of Investigation amongst CEOs

  1. Four out of 21 PSU banks have not appointed replacements for chief executive officers (CEOs) and top executives in nine more banks are expected to leave in the coming months.
  2. However, it is likely that the government will find it difficult to attract talent due to the fear of investigative agencies among bankers.
  3. A number of present and former senior executives are under investigation for past transactions ex. Chanda Kochar
  4. The government must ensure that investigations don’t become a witch-hunt, and that the issue is handled with utmost care.

Problem of Valuation of Stressed Assets and Capital Infusion Plan

  1. The government is now mulling the formation of asset reconstruction companies for faster resolution of bad loans and has constituted a committee to make recommendations in this regard.
  2. But the basic problem will be valuation of stressed assets.
  3. The ARC will need a significant amount of capital, which the government is not in a position to provide.
  4. In fact, now that India has the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in place, there is no need for the government to form an ARC. Banks should be able to resolve bad assets under this framework.

Lacking Governance reforms for PSU Banks

  1. The government has refrained from micromanaging PSU banks, but this in itself will not solve the problem.
  2. A situation where banks run without a CEO should never arise.
  3. PSU banks should be in a position to attract talent by offering competitive compensation at every level to be able to improve their operation and risk management systems.
  4. Only when banks are run by professionals will they be in a position to fund India’s growth in the long run and create value for all stakeholders, including the taxpayer.

The Way Forward

  1. At a broader level there should be clarity on the future of PSU banks.
  2. In fact, some of the banking reforms will only work if a clear roadmap is defined.
  3. For instance, if the government believes that a few banks should focus on under-banked areas, some financial support may be warranted.
  4. Perhaps banks should be allowed to focus on specific areas of strength so that they become more efficient over time and are not dependent on budgetary support for growth.
  5. It will be difficult to sustain higher growth without a strong banking system
STORY - Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] Averting Ponzi schemes


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: Ponzi Schemes, Particulars of the Draft

Mains level: The new bill seeks to protect investors from rising instances of scams



  1. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors.
  2. Instances of people losing their hard-earned money to Ponzi schemes keep coming to light.
  3. The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 was approved by the Union Cabinet to provide comprehensive legislation to deal with illicit deposit schemes in the country.

Provisions of the draft Bill

  1. The Bill imposes complete prohibition of unregulated deposit taking activity.
  2. Primarily, the Bill defines the “deposit taker” and “deposit” comprehensively.
  3. Some other provisions include:
  • Stringent punishment for fraudulent default in repayment to depositors.
  • Designation of a competent authority by the State government to ensure repayment of deposits in the event of default by a deposit taking establishment
  • Powers and functions of the competent authority including attachment of assets of a defaulting establishment
  • Designation of courts to oversee repayment of depositors and to try offences under the Act, and
  • Listing of Regulated Deposit Schemes in the Bill with a clause enabling the Central government to expand or prune the list.
  1. The Bill contains a substantive banning clause which bans deposit takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme.
  2. The primary responsibility of implementing the provisions lies with the State governments.

Bill recognises 3 types of Offences

The Bill specifies three different types of offences:

  • Running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes,
  • Fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and
  • Wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.

Prevention better than Cure

  1. The principle of the bill is that it would ban unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence ex-ante, rather than the existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework which only comes into effect ex-post with considerable delays.
  2. It has adequate provisions for repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally.
  3. The Bill provides for attachment of properties/ assets by the competent authority and subsequent realisation of assets for repayment to depositors in a stipulated time.
  4. The Bill also enables creation of a central online database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit taking activities in the country.
STORY - Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Sustaining earth for the future


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anthropocene era, Half Earth project, India’s forest policy

Mains level: Changing biodiversity patterns in light of climate change and India’s efforts to deal with them


India’s rich fabric of biodiversity

  1. India is blessed with an extraordinary richness of life
  2. A myriad of unusual and exquisite species occur in the countless ecosystems spread across our vast lands, rivers, and oceans

Change in structure

  1. This unique bio-cultural tapestry has been resilient to change for centuries, but with the unleashing of unprecedented economic and environmental forces, it is now subject to increased wear and tear
  2. These forces could even destroy our tapestry of life, cultures and traditions — and in the process, ourselves
  3. Modern extinction rates are more than a thousand times greater than the rates of the geological past
  4. In recent decades, populations of more than 40% of large mammals have declined and insect biomass has decreased by more than 75%
  5. Natural habitats all over the world have shrunk

Start of Anthropocene era

  1. We have entered what scientists are calling the Anthropocene era
  2. It is a new period in earth’s history when humans have begun to impact our environment at the global scale

Half Earth project

  1. To protect life on earth, the famous American biologist E.O. Wilson has described an ambitious project he calls “Half-Earth”
  2. He calls for formally protecting 50% of the earth’s land surface in order to conserve our rapidly disappearing natural heritage

India’s efforts & policy interventions required

  1. India’s forest policy calls for forests to cover almost a third of the country, and if we include other natural systems such as grasslands and wetlands, the area to be protected could amount to almost 40%
  2. We need a massive new effort to catalog, map, and monitor life, using fundamentally different approaches
  3. This mapping effort would include not only all life, including cultures, ethnicities, and dialects but also the use of biodiversity and its vulnerability to changes in land use and climate
  4. Our institutions need to place far more emphasis on the scientific study of life at higher levels
  5. We also need a comprehensive inquiry into how our society is shaping as well as responding to changes in biodiversity

Way forward

  1. The India Biodiversity Portal has the ambitious goal of mapping India’s biodiversity with the engagement of civil society
  2. The government and private philanthropy need to bring together multiple stakeholders to develop a programme to document, map and monitor all life
  3. There is also a need to develop a new knowledge enterprise to fully explore various dimensions of biodiversity and ecosystem services and their critical link to our future
STORY - Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] Life in plastic: on waste management framework


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Mains level: This article critically analyses policy vacuum in India in plastic waste management.


Dismal Framework on Paper only

  1. The Solid Waste Management Rules and the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016, which built on previous regulations, mostly remain on paper.
  2. The Centre’s somewhat liberal estimate shows over 60% of about 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily is collected.
  3. That essentially means a staggering 10,000 tonnes of trash is being released into the environment, a lot of it going into the sea. Also, not every piece of plastic collected by the system is scientifically processed.
  4. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system is on the UN map of 10 rivers worldwide that collectively carry the bulk of the plastic waste into the oceans.
  5. The effects are evident: they threaten marine life and the well-being of people, as microplastics are now found even in drinking water.

Outreaching with Environment (Protection) Act: Need of the hour

  1. In their response to the crisis, communities and environmentally minded individuals are ahead of governments and municipal authorities.
  2. But, valuable as they are, voluntary efforts cannot achieve what systemic reform can.
  3. It is the Centre’s responsibility to ensure that the Environment (Protection) Act, the overarching law that enables anti-pollution rules to be issued, is implemented in letter and spirit.
  4. Ideally, regulation should help stop the manufacture of single-use plastic articles such as carry bags and cutlery, and encourage the use of biodegradable materials.

The Real Challenge

  1. The provisions of the Plastic Waste Management Rules require manufacturers of compostable bags to get a certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board, but this has not stopped counterfeit products from entering the market.
  2. Local bodies mandated under rules to ensure segregation, collection and transfer of waste to registered recyclers have spectacularly failed to fulfil their responsibilities.
  3. The State Level Monitoring Committees provided for under the rules have not been made accountable. The waste management framework is dysfunctional, and India and the world face a plastics crisis.
  4. Solving it will take more than slogans
STORY - Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[op-ed snap] Has the Indian economy caught the Dutch disease?


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: “Dutch Disease”, Trends in CAD, Fragile Five

Mains level: Impact of rising crude oil prices on CAD, fiscal deficit, etc.


Rising crude oil prices

  1. Crude Oil Prices are 50% up over the last nine months.
  2. With India particularly sensitive to oil, the combination of higher oil and global turbulence has inevitably raised questions about India’s preparedness to deal with global stress. This raises following questions:
  • How much more insulated is India?
  • Is there any risk of a 2013 repeat, when India was part of the “Fragile Five”?

Emerging pressures

  1. India’s current account deficit (CAD) is on course to triple to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017-18—even though crude prices averaged just $57 per barrel last fiscal—affected by underperforming exports and over-performing imports.
  2. Now, if crude prices were to average $75 per barrel in 2018-19, we estimate the CAD would widen towards 3% of GDP or $80 billion
  3. Over the last five years, even as oil prices collapsed and India’s fiscal reaped a large windfall, the consolidated deficit has not witnessed any meaningful reduction
  4. While the Centre has reduced its deficit, states have increased theirs, such that the consolidated deficit has only inched down from 6.9% to 6.5% over the last five years

Rise in Crude Oil Prices: Implications on India’s CAD

  1. The collapse in oil prices in 2014 served as a large, positive terms-of-trade shock for India.
  2. India witnessed large gains from the collapse in oil prices (3.1% of GDP across two years, of which two-thirds was estimated to have been spent).
  3. So the collapse in oil prices should have put upward pressure on actual and equilibrium real exchange rates.
  4. The only choice policymakers had was whether to accommodate this real appreciation through nominal appreciation or relatively higher inflation.
  5. Operationally, this manifested itself in a collapse of the CAD (because of oil) and therefore a larger balance of payments surplus that was putting upward pressure on the rupee.
  6. This was compounded by foreign direct investment flows almost doubling after this government came to the power. All this exacerbated the rupee appreciation pressures.

What is Dutch Disease?

  1. The 20% real appreciation between 2014 and 2017— reflecting this positive terms-of-trade shock—has impinged on the competitiveness of India’s manufacturing sector (exports and import competitors) and therefore contributed to the deterioration of underlying balances.
  2. India likely caught the “Dutch disease”—a term that describes the Netherlands in the 1960s where a discovery of gas deposits in the North Sea and the income boom that followed, led to a real appreciation of the exchange rate that crowded out manufacturing exports.
  3. In India’s case, the analogy is the collapse in oil prices resulted in a large, positive terms-of-trade shock that was largely spent, drove up the actual and equilibrium real exchange rate which, in turn, has affected the competitiveness of India’s tradable sector.

Policy Implications

  1. Firstly, policymakers should not fight this real depreciation since it’s an equilibrium phenomenon, but simply use reserves to ensure the new equilibrium is reached in a gradual manner, so as to avoid self-fulfilling panic and overshooting.
  2. Second, there are bound to be inflationary consequences of the rupee depreciation. Under the new inflation-targeting framework, this will need to be countered by monetary tightening.
  3. So, external stress will need to be buffered through a weaker currency and higher rates, as is being witnessed all around the world.
  4. Third, it is crucial that fiscal policy (at the Central and states) does not slip again.
  5. The more expansive the fiscal policy, the more it will offset the real depreciation that will occur from the positive terms-of-trade shock reversing, and thereby hurt the competitiveness of the tradable sector.
  6. Fourth, policymakers need to continue working on improving underlying trade competitiveness, apart from exchange rate, by boosting infrastructure, total factor productivity and assimilating into global value chains.

The Way Forward

  1. India is much more fortified than in 2013, but that should not mask the fact that underlying, external imbalances have widened.
  2. The recent rise in crude prices and the real depreciation that it will induce may well be a blessing in disguise, because it may help improve underlying competitiveness.
  3. But the scale of what needs to be done to improve trade competitiveness, more fundamentally, remains daunting and should be underestimated only at our own peril.


Fragile Five

  1. Fragile Five is a term coined in August 2013 by a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley to represent emerging market economies that have become too dependent on unreliable foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions.
  2. The acronym follows a long line of analyst acronyms that have caught on over the years, including Jim O’Neill’s BRICS and MINTS acronyms.
  3. As capital flows out of emerging markets to developed markets, many of their currencies experienced significant weakness and made it difficult to finance current account deficits.
  4. The lack of new investment also made it impossible to finance many growth projects, which contributed to a slowdown in their respective economies. This created a potential issue for certain vulnerable economies.
  5. The five members of the Fragile Five include:
  • Turkey
  • Brazil
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Indonesia
STORY - Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

[op-ed snap] Preventing the next health crisis


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of nutrition report, stunting, wasting, non-communicable diseases,

Mains level: Rising levels of obesity in India and associated health dangers


Annual state nutrition report

  1. In March, the government had announced that it would release an annual “state of nutrition” report
  2. It would be detailing India’s level of stunting, malnutrition and feature best practices for States to scale up nutrition interventions

Nutrition challenges

  1. 26 million children in India suffer from wasting (a low weight-for-height ratio)
  2. The country also has the second highest number of obese children in the world

Fighting obesity

  1. India must step up its efforts to fight overweight and obesity just as it has been doing with wasting and stunting
  2. Rising obesity is putting pressure on already fragile health systems in India by posing a high risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers (clubbed together as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs)
  3. Research shows that Indians have higher levels of body fat and lower levels of lean muscle when compared to many other populations
  4. The potent combination of Indian children eating more junk food while becoming increasingly sedentary puts them at an even greater risk

Good opportunity to tackle obesity expansion

  1. This year is an ideal opportunity to tackle obesity
  2. Global health decision-makers are focussing on how to garner the political will to drive “best buys” such as sugar taxes and mass media campaigns on healthy diets
  3. A high-level commission and a UN General Assembly meeting on NCDs are giving new life to existing evidence-based yet largely unimplemented plans of action

Policy interventions that are required

  1. Policy responses should include
  • agricultural systems that promote crop diversity (to enable dietary diversity)
  • regulatory and fiscal measures (to decrease the availability, affordability and promotion of unhealthy foods, while making healthy foods more accessible)

2 India should ban the sale of junk food in and around schools

Obesity management, prevention and treatment should be provided as essential health services

India should link obesity and undernutrition and treat them as twinned challenges to be jointly addressed under the universal health coverage umbrella

Way forward

  1. Tackling obesity benefits the economy and the environment, as healthy and sustainable diets are good for productivity levels and the planet
  2. While tackling undernutrition through assurance of adequate nutrition (usually interpreted as dietary calories), we need to ensure that it is also about appropriate nutrition (the right balance of nutrients)
  3. Our policy response has to move from “food security” to “nutrition security”
STORY - Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[op-ed snap] To be an environmental world power


Mains Paper 3: Disaster and disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Attached story is full of small facts to be noted at a glance

Mains level: The newscard critically examines India’s role in mitigating impacts of climate change.


Cross-border environmentalism is crucial for South Asia, but India is not inclined to take the lead

  1. Ecological ruin is on a gallop across South Asia, with life and livelihood of nearly a quarter of the world’s population affected.
  2. Yet, our polities are able to neither fathom nor address the degradation.
  3. The distress is paramount in the northern half of the subcontinent, roping in the swathe from the Brahmaputra basin to the Indus-Ganga plain.
  4. The erosion of civility in geopolitics keeps South Asian societies apart when people should be joining hands across borders to save our common ground.
  5. Because wildlife, disease vectors, aerosols and river flows do not respect national boundaries, the environmental trends must perforce be discussed at the regional inter-country level.
  6. As the largest nation-state of our region, and the biggest polluter whose population is the most vulnerable, India needs to be alert to the dangerous drift.

China: Doing better

  1. China has been resolutely tackling air pollution and promoting clean energy.
  2. But while Beijing’s centralised governance mandates environmentalism-by-decree, the subcontinental realities demand civic participation for sustainability to work.

Demand for Collaboration

  1. Bihar is helping destroy the Chure/Siwalik range of Nepal to feed the construction industry’s demand for boulders and conglomerate, even though this hurts Bihar itself through greater floods, desertification and aquifer depletion.
  2. Wildlife corridors across States, provinces and countries are becoming constricted by the day, but we look the other way.
  3. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has chosen India to be the ‘host country’ to mark World Environment Day today.
  4. But there is a need for greater participation by India

Rivers into Sewers

  1. In the hills, the Ganga in Uttarakhand and the Teesta of Sikkim are representative of rivers that have been converted into dry boulder tracts by ‘cascades’ of run-of-river hydroelectric schemes.
  2. The same fate now threatens the rivers of Nepal and India’s Northeast, while the tributaries of the Indus were ‘done in’ decades ago through water diversion.
  3. Everywhere, natural drainage is destroyed by highways and railway tracks elevated above the flood line, and bunds encircling towns and cities.
  4. Reduced flows and urban/industrial effluents have converted our great rivers into sewers

Sea-Level Rise

  1. Climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia, most notably from the rise of sea levels.
  2. The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected, but the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas where the Indus, the Irrawaddy and the Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea.
  3. To understand this imminent phenomenon, one may recall what the Farakka Barrage did to livelihoods in downstream Bangladesh, causing the flood of ‘undocumented aliens’ in India.

Brown Cloud

  1. The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial nature of our rivers and climate scientists are now zeroing in on the ‘atmospheric brown cloud’ to explain the excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya.
  2. This high altitude haze covers the Indo-Gangetic plains for much of the dry season and penetrates deep into the high valleys.
  3. This cloud is made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog sent up by stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust, as well as dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind.
  4. It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice, which absorb heat and melt that much faster. It is no longer anecdotal that the icefalls of the Himalaya could before long transform into waterfalls.

Cold Wave  

  1. The ground-hugging fog that engulfs the subcontinent’s northern plains for ever-extended periods in winter, a result of the spread of canal irrigation and simultaneous increase in the presence of particulate matter in the air.
  2. This inattention to the indescribable distress of millions of the poorest and shelter-less of the plains is hard to comprehend.

The Way Forward

  1. Tomorrow’s activists must work to quantify the economic losses of environmental destruction and get local institutions to act on their ownership of natural resources.
  2. The activists must harness information technology so as to engage with the public and to override political frontiers, and they must creatively use the power of the market itself to counter non-sustainable interventions.
  3. Work towards ecological sustainability must go beyond ritual, with the path seeming to lie in the empowerment of local government all over.
  4. Elected representatives in cities and districts must be challenged to emerge as the bulwark of environmentalism even as the provincial and national governments are asked to rise to their regulatory responsibilities.
  5. When ‘organic environmentalism’ rises from the grassroots and makes state authority accountable, South Asia and its peoples will be protected.