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Type: op-ed snap

Railway Reforms Infrastructure

[op-ed snap] Going off track

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

Q.) “PPP model has not succeeded in metro rail projects. New policy overlooks lessons from past ventures.” How can government counter this challenge from past?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Important step for improving the condition of Indian Transport System.



  1. The article is related to new Metro Policy of the government

New Metro Policy

  1.  The Union Cabinet has approved the new Metro Rail Policy 
  2. It focused on on development of projects, collaborations, participation, standardising norms, financing and creating a procurement mechanism
  3. With this, projects can be implemented effectively
  4. Also, it allows respective states to formulate rules and regulations and it empowers them to establish permanent fare fixation authorities

Conditions under the new policy

  1. According to the new policy, the Metro rail projects will be approved and aided by the Central government only in one condition
  2. If their is private participation and the projects ensures last-mile connectivity for commuters

Better Rate of Return

  1. The projects, under the new policy will now be cleared on the basis on economic internal rate of return of 14%
  2. This is considered one of the widely followed best practices
  3. It will alter the system that runs on the current financial internal rate of return of 8%

Three models outlined in the Policy
(All three models have a mandatory requirement of private participation)
(1) Public-Private Partnership with Central assistance

  1. It will be part of the Union Finance Ministry’s viability gap funding scheme

(2) Grant by Centre 

  1. 10% of Metro project cost will be provided by the Central government as lump sum amount

(3) Equity sharing

  1. 50-50% Equity sharing model taken between the Centre and state

Issues with PPP Model

  1. The capital-intensive nature of such projects does not allow private players to get a return on their investments unless they hike their fares steeply
  2. And the metro has several issues that make it crucial for the government to subsidise it
  3. Private players look for a return of around 12-15 per cent, while no metro project has yielded an investment return of more than 3 per cent

The way forward

  1. As Indian cities expand, the metro will be an important constituent of the transport mix
  2. The new policy can be good for Indian Transport system, but the issues should be dealt with caution

[op-ed snap] Redrawing the arc of influence

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

Q.) “Indian diplomacy needs to display higher levels of sophistication for New Delhi to play a global role.” Discuss, what kind of Global role is needed.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geographical positions of discussed countries

Mains level: The article gives a good overview of India’s relationship with other countries. This overview is important.



  1. In the Article, the writer talks about the current foreign policy of Indian Government

Diplomacy with the US

  1. In the recent visit of Indian PM, India concentrated mainly on counter-terrorism and the defence security partnership, and avoided trade-related issues
  2. The naming of the Hizbul Mujahedeen chief as a “specially designated global terrorist” was the high point of the counter-terrorism agenda
  3. Reiteration of India’s position by US as a major defence partner, reflected the deepening security and defence cooperation

Diplomacy with Israel

  1. The main focus of the visit was on defence cooperation, joint development of defence products and transfer of technology
  2. India expects to benefit substantially, as the Israeli export rules are far more flexible than those of the U.S.
  3. India and Israel decided to set up a $40 million Innovation Fund
  4. Why: to allow Indian and Israeli enterprises to develop innovative technologies and products for commercial applications
  5. Issues: Israel is eager to participate in BRI, unlike India

Some concerns related to Chinese influence

  1. Most countries in South and South-East Asia have a desire to join China-based initiatives
  2. Even in South Asia, despite India’s commanding presence, China has been successful in winning quite a few friends among India’s neighbours
  3. These friends includes Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives
  4. Also, as Pakistan becomes still more deeply stuck in problems, its dependence on China is growing
  5. This is contributing to a strategic imbalance in the South Asian region

Diplomacy with Russia

  1. The problem for India and Indian diplomacy is that, now India-Russia relations appear less robust than at any time in the past half century
  2. India’s ‘Act East and Look West’ policies have given a new dimension to Indian diplomacy in both East and West Asia
  3. In west Asia, Indian diplomacy still lacks the effectiveness required to deal with fast-changing situations

Effects of ‘Act East Policy’

  1. The ‘Act East’ policy has produced better results
  2. Closer relations with countries in East and South East Asia are a positive development(especially with Japan and Vietnam)

The way forward

  1. Indian diplomacy currently needs to find a way to counter China and Pakistan
  2. The strategic and security implications need to be carefully pursued
  3. Indian diplomacy may possibly need to display higher levels of sophistication to overcome the its problems
RBI Notifications Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Economic Graffiti: Don’t be cautious, RBI

Decrease In Repo Rate: More Savings On Home Loan

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

Op-ed discusses about the impact of repo rate change on common man and it also gives, reasons why RBI should cut repo rate more.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Discuss the impact of change in repo rate on common man? why it is said that RBI should be more aggressive in cutting the repo rate?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Repo rate, reverse repo

Mains level: Monetary policies of RBI and its impacts on economy



  1. The Reserve Bank of India recently decided to lower the repo rate by 25 basis
  2. Ordinary citizens treat this as an abstruse topic, of no concern to them. In reality, the lives of ordinary citizens are greatly affected by it

Why this is important?

  1. The repo rate is the interest rate at which banks can borrow money from RBI for short durations
  2. If this is lowered, banks can lend to their borrowers at lower rates.
  3. This is the reason why changing this rate usually influences interest rates across the economy 
  4. Raising the repo rate lowers inflation but also restrains growth, while lowering it pushes up the growth rate but fuels inflation.

 Why RBI should be more aggressive in cutting the repo rate?

  1. There is no indication of rapid, generalised inflation in India.
  2. In an emerging economy, it is good to have an inflation rate of around 3 to 4 per cent. This makes the labour market more flexible and facilitates job creation.
  3. As a result of the liquidity crunch associated with demonetisation, GDP growth in India is now down to 6.1 per cent per annum. Some additional liquidity could partially offset this.
  4. Drop in the amount of investment taking place in the country. India’s investment-to-GDP ratio had risen since 2003 and was steady at above 35 per cent. This has now dropped to 28 per cent.

Global scenario

  1. The world is today caught in a low-interest rate regime. The European Central Bank cut its overnight deposit facility rate to below zero; and this prompted central banks in other countries — Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Japan, Hungary — to cut policy rates and enter negative territory.
  2. Such extreme low rates are, far from boosting consumption, making people save more since they are worried about not having enough money at the time of their retirement.
  3. Even the US Fed is more cautious about raising rates, because it would increase demand for dollars and cause the dollar to appreciate and hurt American exports.

Increase interest rate?

  1. If one country raises interest rates, money will flow into the country from the other economies in order to earn the higher return.
  2. As more players try to buy this country’s currency to invest in it, the currency will appreciate, causing exports to suffer.

India’s experience 

  1. By holding on to high interest rates, it is attracting capital flows into the country, as evidenced by the large foreign exchange reserve held by RBI.
  2. This is causing the rupee to be stronger than it should be and this is, in turn, stunting exports, and growth

[op-ed snap] Pushing institutional arbitration in India

Image result for Arbitration in india

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Institutional arbitration is the norm for commercial dispute resolution in most advanced jurisdictions. India must follow suit” Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business

Mains level: Arbitration mechanism in India – pros, cons, challenges and way forward



  1. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2017 reveals that India continues to fare badly on enforcement of contracts
  2. The absence of effective means for enforcement of contracts is a serious fetter on the legal system and impedes economic growth and development.

Why low ranking?

  1. High pendency of cases and endemic delays in Indian courts.
  2. Therefore, there is a need to provide viable alternatives to litigation.

Best alternative-Arbitration

What is Arbitration?

  1. Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts.
  2. The parties to a dispute refer it to arbitration by one or more persons, and agree to be bound by the arbitral decision. 
  3. It holds the promise of flexibility, speed and cost-effectiveness.

Ad hoc arbitration

  1. Ad hoc Arbitration is a proceeding that is not administered by others and requires parties to make their own arrangements for selection of arbitrators.
  2. The parties are under discretion to choose designation of rules, applicable law, procedures and administrative support.


  1. Delayed proceedings
  2. Unprofessional arbitrators and
  3. Poor quality of awards.
  4. These issues make ad hoc arbitration vulnerable to excessive court intervention at all stages of the arbitration proceedings.

Institutional arbitration

  1. It involves the regulation of arbitration proceedings by an institution, which applies its rules of procedure.
  2. It has expertise of the arbitral institution, access to a panel of arbitrators usually maintained by the institution, and good quality infrastructure.


  1. Despite the existence of several arbitral institutions, institutional arbitration in India remains in a nascent state.
  2. Many arbitral institutions have outdated rules of procedure
  3. Inadequately trained staff
  4. Poorly staffed panels of arbitrators.

Commercial dispute resolution

  1. Institutional arbitration has become the norm, particularly for high-value disputes involving international parties, in most advanced jurisdictions.
  2. The existence of competent arbitral institutions, such as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce and the London Court of International Arbitration, has enabled the sustained growth of institutional arbitration.


  1. It gained the trust of parties through their modern rules, the organized structure of proceedings, excellent administrative support and infrastructure.
  2. Expertise on the panels of arbitrators
  3. Fixed fee structures
  4. Organized and timely conduct of arbitration
  5. Almost all these institutions benefit from government support to different degrees and have gradually developed through healthy competition.

Institutional arbitration in IndiaCritical areas for improvement

  1. Need for minimum standards for arbitral institutions
  2. The accreditation of arbitrators
  3. Creation of a specialist arbitration bar and bench.
  4. Specific amendments to India’s arbitration legislation aimed at promoting India’s prospects as a preferred arbitration destination.

Way forward?

  1. Increase awareness about institutional arbitration in India so that efforts being taken to reform institutional arbitration are supported by an increase in usage
  2. Adopt best practices from around the world which will encourage parties to use their services over foreign arbitral institutions.
  3. The government must assist by creating state-of-the-art physical infrastructure for the conduct of arbitration.
  4. They must also foster innovation among arbitral institutions to help realize the flexibility, speed and cost-effectiveness promised by institutional arbitration.
Policy Wise: India’s Health Sector Health

[op-ed snap] On rural India’s health systems: the health checklist


Image SourceNote4students

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

Q.) “Equity in access to doctors, diagnostics and medicines for rural India must be a priority.” Examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Problems and solutions related to Indian Rural Health Sector.



  1. The article presents a brief picture of Rural Health Sector in India

Some proofs of Bad Health Sector in India

  1. Recently happened crisis at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur
  2. The CAG’s report on reproductive and child health under the National Rural Health Mission for the year ended March 2016
  3. In Uttar Pradesh, the CAG found that about 50% of the primary health centres (PHCs) did not have a doctor, while 13 States had significant levels of vacancies

Main Issues

  1. Government’s inability to absorb the funds allocated
  2. Shortage of staff at primary health centres (PHCs)
  3. Community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals
  4. lack of essential medicines
  5. broken-down equipment and unfilled doctor vacancies

Government’s Efforts

  1. The Centre has set ambitious health goals for 2020
  2. And is in the process of deciding the financial outlay for various targets under the National Health Mission
  3. The goals also includes reduction of the infant mortality rate to 30 per 1,000 live births, from the recent estimate of 40

What we need to achieve health goals?

  1. This will require sustained investment and monitoring
  2. We also need access to a health facility with required medical and nursing resources within a 3-km radius, from every individual
  3. Our disease surveillance system needs to be strengthened in both community and hospital settings, to provide reliable real-time data
  4. Periodic quality audits must include technical, administrative and social audits
  5. To make this happen, we need to invest in training and deploying professionals in public health management at different levels of the system

The Way Forward

  1.  Government doctors must be well paid but barred from private practice
  2. Giving access of doctors, diagnostics and medicines to the rural population has to be a priority for the National Health Mission
Disaster Management Disaster Management

[op-ed snap] Living With The Deluge

Image result for floods north east

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Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster and disaster management.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Flood governance: focus should shift from relief measures to building resilience in flood-prone areas” Discuss

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Floods: India’s vulnerability, solutions etc.



  1. Narendra Modi announced a Rs 2,000 crore package for relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the flood-affected states in the Northeast.
  2. Rs 100 crore will be used to set up a high-powered committee that will work on finding permanent solutions to the flood problem
  3. There is a need to shift the focus from flood protection to flood governance.

Reasons for flood


  1. Rivers in the Northeast, originating in the Eastern Himalayas, experience a sharp fall in gradient as they move from Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan to reach Assam’s floodplains.
  2. Rivers carry large amounts of sediments, which then get deposited on the floodplains, reducing the storage capacity of the river channels and resulting in inundation of the adjoining floodplains.


  • Sediment load carried by the rivers is accentuated through “developmental” interventions in the Eastern Himalayas that result in deforestation.

Flood protection methods

  1. Embankments
  2. Dredging rivers and bank strengthening
  3. Storage dams: Its scope is limited in Arunachal Pradesh, given the region’s geology and the ecology.

Flood affected people


  1. Building resilience for the flood affected communities
  2. Water and sanitation issues require attention during the flood months.
  3. Floods are accompanied by outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhea. Ensure access to veterinary services.
  4. People in the flood-prone areas in the Northeast, by and large, practice subsistence agriculture.
  5. While the land remains inundated for an extended period in the monsoons, proper irrigation facilities must be provided

Flood governance through resilience building 

  1. Reducing vulnerability
  2. Increasing access to services
  3. Maximising productivity through optimal use of available resource
  4. Community-based advance flood warning systems
  5. Elevated toilets, ecosanitation units — promoted in the flood-prone areas of North Bihar — and elevated dugwells or tubewells with iron filter need to be installed in the Northeast.

Way forward?

  1. Productivity can be maximised by giving people access to cheaper sources of irrigation, research on short duration boro paddy, and innovative agriculture techniques like floating vegetable gardens. 
  2. Scientific fish farming on the waterbodies and the inundated land can ensure that inundation, when it cannot be avoided, is put to optimal use.
  3. Strategic environment assessment of development activities
  4. Strengthening planning authorities like the Brahmaputra Board and flood control departments by staffing them with scientists from a wide range of disciplines is essential
Scientific Inventions Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] How technology can deliver freedom from male calf

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) “There can be nothing worse for dairy farmers than their cows or buffaloes delivering male calves.” Examine the usefulness of Sex Semen Technology in this context.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic concepts behind sex semen technology

Mains level: This technology can be very useful for Indian farmers. It will make animal husbandry less stressful.



  1. The article talks about a new technology capable of producing only female calf offspring

New Technology

  1. Technology is in the form of ‘sexed semen’ having 90%-plus sperms carrying the X-chromosome, and capable of producing only female offspring
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves
  3. How: by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms

How it works?

  1. A bull’s/cow’s sperm has 30 chromosomes, including one which is either an X- or a Y-chromosome whose genes code for sex
  2. When a sperm and egg unite, and the sperm carries the X-chromosome, the resultant offspring is female (XX)
  3. And, when a Y-chromosome-bearing sperm fertilises an egg, the result is a male calf (XY)

Objective of this technology

  1. Sexed semen technology is about preselecting the sex of offspring by sorting or separating the X-sperms from Y-sperms
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves, by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms


  1. Sperm-sorting technology is claimed to be 93% accurate
  2. Thus, if a cow is inseminated using such sexed semen, there is a 93% chance that the calf produced will be female
  3. But with ordinary semen used in artificial insemination (AI), probability is 50-50

Issues with Male Calves

  1. If a cow after insemination and 9-10 months of pregnancy produces a male calf, the loser is the farmer
  2. As, farmer will have to rear an animal that’s not going to yield him either milk or an income

Issues with Sexed Semen Technology

  1.  For AI using conventional semen frozen in 0.25-ml vials (‘straws’), is just over Rs 50 per insemination dose
  2. And the comparable cost of sexed semen to the farmer is anywhere between Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,600 per straw

Two reasons behind high prices of using Sexed Semen Technology

  1. The first is the virtual monopoly 
  2. Sexed semen is produced from raw ejaculate, largely using ST’s proprietary sperm-sorting technology
  3. Second, the sexed semen currently being used by farmers is entirely imported
  4. Moreover, Semen imports are subject to cumbersome procedures entailing approvals from both at the centre and state levels

The way forward

  1. But with all its drawbacks, this is a technology still evolving and destined for improvement
  2. Sexed semen’s usefulness is obvious, particularly in a country where even male calves cannot be sent freely to the slaughterhouse


Concept behind Sex Chromosomes 

  1. Sex chromosome, either of a pair of chromosomes that determine whether an individual is male or female
  2. The sex chromosomes of human beings and other mammals are designated by scientists as X and Y
  3. In humans the sex chromosomes comprise one pair of the total of 23 pairs of chromosomes
  4. The other 22 pairs of chromosomes are called autosomes.
  5. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are female; individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male
  6. The X chromosome resembles a large autosomal chromosome with a long and a short arm
  7. The Y chromosome has one long arm and a very short second arm
  8. This path to maleness or femaleness originates at the moment of meiosis, when a cell divides to produce gametes, or sex cells having half the normal number of chromosomes
  9. During meiosis the male XY sex-chromosome pair separates and passes on an X or a Y to separate gametes; the result is that one-half of the gametes (sperm) that are formed contains the X chromosome and the other half contains the Y chromosome
  10. The female has two X chromosomes, and all female egg cells normally carry a single X
  11. The eggs fertilized by X-bearing sperm become females (XX), whereas those fertilized by Y-bearing sperm become males (XY)

[op-ed snap] Caution from a sobering Survey

Image result for growth

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Index of industrial production (IIP) shows negative growth, in the recent years. What could be the possible reasons? How it can be improved?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Corporate debt restructuring, strategic debt restructuring and scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets, NPA, GST

Mains level: Current status of the economy, problems, government initiatives


The second part of the Survey comes almost six months later, has some additional analytical pieces.

  1. Economic growth for fiscal year 2016-17 was 7.1%.
  2. This was the year when oil prices and inflation were moderate, abundant monsoon, foreign direct investment at peak, the currency was stable and the fiscal deficit was under control.
  3. With such macroeconomic context, the year should have recorded at least one percentage point higher growth than the previous year; demonetisation could be the biggest reason.

Growth forecast

  1. The Survey says that signs of slowdown were evident even before the announcement of demonetisation.
  2. Next year too, the Survey forecasts a growth closer to its lower bound, possibly lower than 7%.

The continuing deflationary trends arise from

  1. Lower investment ratio
  2. Low farm prices especially for non-cereals foods,
  3. The cutting back on development spending by State governments owing to the burden of loan waivers
  4. Twin balance sheet problem

Industrial problems

  1. Latest data on the index of industrial production (IIP) shows negative growth, i.e. contraction of the index, which is the first in the last four years.
  2. The contraction is particularly widespread across manufacturing sectors, with 15 out of 23 industries showing negative growth.


  1. De-stocking of warehouses before the launch of the GST
  2. Twin balance sheet problem.
  3. Corporates too are reeling under stretched balance sheets, burdened by excessive borrowing at high interest rates, excess capacity and not-so robust demand for their products.
  4. Their situation is made worse with the flood of imports, which take away their domestic market share. The strong rupee makes imports more attractive.
  5. Under the GST regime, the countervailing duty paid in lieu of excise is now tax deductible. This makes imports that much more attractive
  6. Investment-to-GDP ratio has been steadily falling for five years in a row. Of this the private sector component growth is abysmally low.
  7. The bank credit growth to industry has been consistently negative

Financial sector

  1. Economic survey implicitly blames the high interest policy of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for thwarting industrial growth.
  2. Burden of non-performing assets (NPA).
  3. Repeated and innovative proposals from the RBI such as corporate debt restructuring, strategic debt restructuring and scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets have not borne fruit
  4. The fiscal situation at the Centre is improving. Exports are finally in positive territory.
  5. The four major reforms: GST, a new insolvency and bankruptcy code to deal with NPAs, a new monetary policy framework, and Aadhaar linkage to government services will help in improving the situation


Judicial Appointments Conundrum Pre-NJAC Verdict Constitution

[op-ed snap] No case for an all India judicial service

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

Q.) “The proposal to create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS) is one that has been endlessly debated since the idea was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950s.” Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 312

Mains level: It is a vary important topic. Read every article on this topic, very carefully.



  1. The article is related to the proposal to create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) along the lines of the All India Services (AIS)
  2. It is in news because the debate has once again started with a fresh move to implement it and nine High Courts expressing their disapproval

Brief outline of the AIJS

  1. District judges will be recruited centrally through an all-India examination and allocated to each State along the lines of the AIS
  2. This will ensure a transparent and efficient method of recruitment to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession

Objection against AIJS

  1. The first objection to this idea is that it does not adequately diagnose the problem
  2. Important Question: What exactly is holding back the smartest and the best from the judiciary?
  3. The answer lies in the fact that the Bar Council of India has mismanaged legal education
  4. Almost no effort has gone into improving the standard of legal education across the country

Why are best talents in law field not joining Judicial Services?

  1. The judiciary offers very unremunerative pay and limited avenues for career advancement
  2. While a lot of effort has been undertaken by the Supreme Court to ensure uniformity in pay scales across States through its orders in the All India Judges’ Association case
  3. But still it is very low when compared to that in the private sector, notably law firms, litigation and the corporate sector
  4. A civil judge (junior division), and the lowest entry level post, can expect a basic pay of Rs. 27,700 per month.
  5. Top graduates can expect to earn at least three times as much in Indian law firms in equivalent entry level positions
  6. Lower pay would also be acceptable, if the position was accompanied by a defined career progression
  7. According to a study published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2016, less than a third of seats in the High Courts are filled by judges from the district cadre

Issues with ‘National Exam’

  1. It may end up not taking into account local laws, practices and customs
  2. These points vary widely across States, and this will increase the costs of training for judges selected through the mechanism

The way forward

  1. The problems of the Indian judiciary at all levels have reached catastrophic levels
  2. The public is losing confidence in the judiciary
  3. None of the problems related to judiciary will be solved to any degree by centralising the manner of recruitment of judges
  4. This matter should be treated expeditiously
Scientific Inventions Basic Sciences

[op-ed snap] Beauty and the regulatory beast

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) ‘The fight today is more about which of the threats rate higher for Mankind: Artificial Intelligence (AI) or gene editing?’ Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR technique

Mains level: Article explains valid concerns related to Designer Babies. These kind of topics are important for Mains paper.



  1. The article is related to the topic of Designer Babies and concerns related to it

What are designer Babies?

  1. A baby whose genetic make-up has been selected in order to eradicate a particular defect, or to ensure that a particular gene is present
  2. Technique Used: It can be done by editing our genes by bacterial DNA scissors called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)

More about the CRISPR technique

  1. CRISPR/Cas9 has been tested across an array of domains, such as human health (gene-based therapy) and agro biotech (pest-resistant crops)
  2. In fact, trials for gene-based therapies are already under way
  3. And scientists has successfully edited genetic mutations that code for disorders such as
    (1) hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a functional impairment of the heart) and
    (2) retinitis pigmentosa (a degenerative disorder of the eye)

How can this techniques be tested?

  1. Most drug regulatory regimes insist that drug makers submit clinical trial data to establish that their drugs are safe and effective
  2. Gene therapies and the defect-free babies that flow forth ought to be subject to a similar regulatory standard


  1. Genetic changes and alterations take years to show their exact results and side effects can take even more time to reveal
  2. Even after best testing of standard drugs, the most voluminous of safety data still does not ensure that the drug is safe
  3. There are plenty of instances of adverse effects reported well after the drug has been cleared by the regulatory bodies
  4. If we are to wait for the perfect safety data, that wait may well be forever
  5. Important Question:  how long must these trials last?

What should be done to minimize the risks related to these techniques?
We could begin by establishing certain Baseline Principles

  1. First, We should go for a more rigorous regulatory standard (safety/efficacy data, etc.)
  2. Second, all data relating to safety and efficacy of these new technologies ought to be put out in the public domain

The way forward

  1. We need to encourage more transparency and openness in trial results
  2. And open up this trial data to the wider public, and to scientists and doctors
  3. By this, we can effectively counter the dangers related to designer babies



Women Empowerment: Policy Wise Human Resource Development

[op-ed snap] An odd leniency to minor’ sexual offences

Image result for violence against women in india

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“So-called ‘minor’ sexual offences such as stalking inhibit women from occupying public space” Discuss it in the backdrop of increasing violence against women in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Increasing violence against women – reason, government initiatives, way forward



  1. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau show that there has been a rise in stalking registered since the provision was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
  2. Despite rising numbers, the conversation on sexual violence in India continues to be centred on rape.

Why Amendment ?

  1. Before the 2013 amendment, the law was ill-equipped to deal with the offence of stalking
  2. Section 509 of IPC: “Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.” The provision was inadequate in tackling the menace of stalking because one had to prove that the accused intended to ‘outrage the modesty of the woman’ through his act
  3. Section 354 – “Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty” — necessitated the use of physical force. The phrase “outraging the modesty of a woman” is not defined anywhere in the law, leaving its interpretation open-ended
  4. The IT Act, 2000 also lacks adequate provisions to deal with electronic stalking. Under it, Section 66E, on the violation of the privacy of an individual, requires the intentional capturing, publishing or transmission of an obscene image of a person without their consent.

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

  1. Apart from expanding the scope of rape and penalising voyeurism and eve-teasing, the 2013 Amendment also defined and recognised stalking as a standalone offence.
  2. Section 354-D of the IPC makes both physical and electronic stalking an offence. Here, under subsection 1, the intention of the perpetrator is irrelevant as long as the woman in question “has clearly expressed her disinterest”.
  3. Subsection 2 criminalises the monitoring of a woman’s online behaviour.

Problem with subsection 2

  1. The Verma Committee draftstated that online monitoring should amount to stalking only when it results “in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind” of the victim.
  2. It has been argued that subsection 2 has the potential to be used arbitrarily.

Further, there are three exceptions to the offence if the conduct was:

  • Pursued for prevention or detection of crime by a person authorised to do so
  • Pursued under any law
  • Reasonable and justified in the circumstances.

Such loose drafting can be attributed to the fact that the 2013 Amendment was a knee jerk reaction.

Way forward?

  1. “Minor” sexual offences such as stalking, voyeurism and eve-teasing in effect deprive us of our fundamental right to occupy public space without fear.
  2. So we must broaden our narrative on sexual violence and start recognising the multitudes of infractions as a part of it.


Agricultural Sector

[op-ed snap] From plate to plough: Plan for the agri-futures

Image result for agri-futures

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Op-ed discusses about the India’s poor performance in Agri-future trading and lessons we can learn from Chinese success in Agri-future trading.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“The futures market is one way to ensure that farmers’ planting and selling decisions are forward-looking.” Examine reasons for India’s poor performance in Agri-futures trading and give suggestions?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Futures market, e-NAM

Mains level: Agri-trading in India-problems ,solutions



  1. Even after 70 years of Independence, the marketing system for agri-products remains un-supportive to farmers.
  2. The e-NAM aims to create an all-India spot market by creating an electronic platform.

e-NAM, what is required?

  1. For transactions to take place across mandis and states, one has to do much more than installing a simple software.
  2. It needs assaying, grading, sorting, storing, delivering and settling disputes with respect to each transaction.

Agri-futures market

  1. The agri-futures market is one way to ensure that farmers’ planting and selling decisions are forward-looking, and not based on past prices.
  2. This can help smoothen the typical boom and bust problem in agri-prices.

India’s agri-futures trading experience

  1. India recorded the first trade in futures in 1875 in cotton in the Bombay Cotton Exchange, just 10 years after the first trade was consummated in USA.
  2. But India’s agri-futures could not develop much due to a series of suspensions around the Second World War in view of the shortage of essential commodities.
  3. This mind-set continued post-Independence, and only pepper and turmeric were allowed to trade in 1977
  4. In 2003 three national exchanges were set up and all commodities were allowed to be traded in futures markets. But since 2003, 15 commodity futures were suspended, leading to uncertainty in the market.

Problems with Indian agri-futures trading

  1. They are often disrupted by sudden bans or suspensions by the government as many policy-makers have a deep mistrust in the functioning of these markets
  2. Very few farmers or farmer producer organisations (FPOs) trade on futures, which in turn reinforces the mistrust of policymakers.
  3. The overall size of agri-futures in India remains trapped at low levels, and since 2012, it has been tumbling down

Lessons from the Chinese success

  1. China, which started in the early 1990s, and by 2016, it was the largest player in global agri-futures contracts with a whopping share of 69 per cent.
  2. State participation in the futures markets through the State Trading Enterprises
  3. No abrupt suspensions of commodities
  4. Focus on choice of commodities, which are not very sensitive from the food security point of view

Way forward

  1. Well thought-out strategy to pick the right commodities is a better way to develop agri-futures rather than a frequent stop-go policy
  2. India being now the largest importer of edible oils, especially palm and soya oils, these are promising candidates for agri-futures provided global players are allowed to trade in these.
  3. The trust in commodity futures will enhance once more FPOs start trading on agri-futures, and they start gaining directly or indirectly from agri-futures.
  4. SEBI can help incentivise the participation of FPOs on the futures trading platform, but the real onus lies with agri-commodity exchanges, and it is here that the progress has been extremely slow.


Scientific Inventions Basic Sciences

AI smartphone system can spot fake products

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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: Particulars of the AI

Mains level: E-Commerce is becoming more and more famous these days. This system can help it grow more.


System to spot fake products

  1. Recently, a team of Indian-origin researchers in the U.S  has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm
  2. It allows smartphones to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit versions of the same product
  3. Why is this system important: Some reports indicate that counterfeit trafficking represents 7% of the world’s trade today 

How it works?

  1. It provides a solution to easily distinguish
    (1) authentic versions of the product created by the original manufacturer and
    (2) fake versions of the product made by counterfeiters
  2. It does so by deploying a dataset of three million images across various objects and materials such as fabrics, leather, pills, electronics, toys and shoes





[op-ed snap] A strong rupee hurts the economy

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

Q.) “A more appropriate exchange rate would stimulate exports and dampen imports, just as it would help domestic manufacturing firms to be more competitive.” Upto what extent, this statement is correct from Indian Economy perspective.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Concepts of Devaluation and Overvaluation

Mains level: The article comprehensively explains the effects of Exchange Rates on Economy.



  1. The article talks about the effects of strong and weak rupee on Indian Economy

Rupee is becoming stronger

  1. Recently, the exchange rate of the rupee rose to Rs 63.50 per US dollar
  2. According to some analysts, the rate might climb down to Rs 60 per dollar by end-2017
  3. This might be a source of joy and pride for a few
  4. But the objective to increase investment, create employment and foster growth could become difficult to achieve

Why is Rupee price important for Indian Economy?

  1.  It is a determinant of the price competitiveness of exports in world markets and the price competitiveness of imports in the domestic market
  2. Similarly, it exercises an important influence on the profitability of domestic firms that produce goods which are exported, or produce goods which compete with imports

Effects of Overvaluation and Undervaluation

  1. Overvaluation of the rupee means that its price in terms of foreign currencies is too high, compared to what it would be with a more appropriate exchange rate
  2. This makes our exports expensive in foreign markets and our imports cheap in the home market


  1. Undervaluation of the rupee means the opposite of Overvaluation
  2. It means the price of rupee in terms of foreign currencies is too low, so that it discriminates against imports and in favour of exports

India’s export performance in the past three years

  1. During the period 2011-12 to 2013-14, average annual exports were $307 billion
  2. Total exports were $310 billion in 2014-15, $262 billion in 2015-16 and $275 billion in 2016-17
  3. Thus, there was a stagnation followed by decline in the value of exports in current prices at market exchange rates
  4. Main Reason: Strong Rupee is one of the main reason behind this decline
  5. The exchange rate of the rupee has been the main culprit in recent years

Effects of strong rupee on Indian Imports

  1. Strong rupee made imports distinctly cheaper than home-produced goods, whether fruits, mobile phones, consumer electronics or household goods
  2. It has increased the presence of Chinese products in Indian Market

Impact of portfolio investment on Exchange Rate

  1. Portfolio investment flows have a significant impact on the exchange rate
  2. Large portfolio inflows lead to an appreciation of the rupee and large outflows lead to a depreciation of the rupee

Impact of high interest rates on Growth

  1. Why high: Interest rates have been kept at high levels in India to combat inflation(supposedly)
  2. Also, it is being done to ensure profitability of short-term foreign capital inflows and maintain confidence in international financial markets
  3. These conditions had negative effects on domestic investment in the real sector of the economy, whether agriculture, manufacturing or services
  4. Such effect on domestic investment means that economic growth is slower than it would have been in the absence of high interest rates

The Way Forward

  1. It is essential to recognize that the exchange rate is a price which matters for the economy in many spheres
  2. The overvaluation of the rupee makes exports difficult and imports attractive, it must be corrected
  3. The time has come to let the rupee depreciate not just in nominal but in real terms
  4. The way forward now, is to drop interest rates which would help the exchange rate depreciate
  5. It will stimulate investment and revive exports, which in turn will drive economic growth and employment creation from the demand side
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] No level playing field

Image result for Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy Issues relating to planning

Op-ed discusses about the flaws in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has loopholes to close down businesses instead of assisting entrepreneurs” Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, National Company Law Tribunal, Article 19(1)(g)

 Mains level: Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016- features, flaws, challenges.



  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has loopholes to close down businesses.

Why Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code?

  1. It was enacted to improve the ease of doing business in India
  2. It aims to overhaul laws relating to reorganisation and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms, and individuals
  3. Attempts to ease the process of recovery of money by operational and financial creditors in a timely manner.
  4. Places the onus on professionals to put forth resolution plans within 180 days

A quick procedure

  1. Code looks to wrap up the process in 180 days.
  2. It warrants a notice of dispute to be issued followed by a response period of 10 days for the corporate debtor, failing which the creditor is entitled to file an insolvency application before the National Company Law Tribunal.
  3. Upon admission of the application, the moratorium period commences.
  4. At this stage, the existing management of the company loses complete control and all powers vest with an interim resolution professional, who has merely 30 days to put together all the relevant information and call for a meeting of the financial creditors.
  5. Once the financial creditors meet, they must appoint a resolution professional who will propose a resolution plan for the company.
  6. All such resolution plans are placed before the financial creditors. When at least 75% of the financial creditors approve, the plan is implemented by way of an order by the NCLT. If the financial creditors fail to arrive at a consensus, the default plan is to liquidate the company.

The flaws

  1. The Code has enough loopholes to close down businesses instead of assisting entrepreneurs.
  2. It fails to provide adequate safeguards to protect the rights of the company before handing over the management in its entirety to the resolution professional.
  3. Neither does the corporate debtor have an opportunity to put forth his/her case nor is there any scope of discretion provided to the adjudicating authority itself.
  4. At various stages, the Code fails to provide any opportunity to the corporate debtor to make a representation
  5. The Code is also deficient in providing a yardstick for the qualification of insolvency resolution professionals
  6. It allows for any person to access the information memorandum put together by the insolvency professional. There is no law protecting confidentiality and vitiates the fundamental right to business under Article 19(1)(g).
  7. Code prohibits withdrawal of the application once the same has been admitted. This means that there is no scope whatsoever for settlement
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