May 2018
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HRD Ministry launches apex education programme


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level: Initiatives towards holistic development of school going childrens


Samagra Shiksha Programme

  1. It subsumes three existing schemes:
  1. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),
  2. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikskha Abhiyan (RMSA) and
  3. Teacher Education (TE).
  4. This has been done to treat school education holistically, from pre-school to Class XII.
  5. The Minister said that it is for the first time that there is a scheme which focusses on inclusion of support from senior secondary to pre-school level.

Bridging gaps

  1. The programme will focus on quality education and enhancing learning outcomes of students, bridging social and gender gaps in the school education, and promoting vocalisation of education.
  2. It is also focussing on empowerment of girls, therefore, the upgradation of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) has been extended from class VI-VIII to class VI-XII.


  1. CWSN (Children With Special Needs) girls from Class I to XII would be given a stipend of ₹200 per month.
  2. To focus on the importance of libraries, schools would be given an annual grant of ₹5,000 to ₹20,000 under the initiative.


[op-ed snap] The transatlantic variants (for Data Protection Laws)


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Basics of cyber security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Data protection law, DGPR, Justice Srikrishna committee Recommendations

Mains level: Attached story talks about the Dos and Don’ts for India amid various Data Protection Laws in US and Europe. Their features are worth borrowing BUT with some evolutions in Indian context.


India must be careful in picking up best practices from elsewhere in DPR Laws

  1. With the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect on May 25, 2018, the absence of a comparable regulation across the Atlantic poses a question for India
  2. What path should it take? Should it follow the U.S. or Europe? Or, in fact, should India take the lead in this regard?

American Exceptionalism

  1. Among finely threaded legal arguments by US apex Court was the “third party doctrine”.
  2. It reasons that once a person turns over her data to a third party (such as a bank or a website), her expectation of privacy ends.
  3. This severely cripples the immunity that protects people from “unreasonable search and seizures”, thereby permitting the government to requisition data from third parties such as banks.

US: A poor defender of privacy and data protection

  1. With revelations around Cambridge Analytica and growing concern around the power of technology companies, new concerns have come to the fore.
  2. The consumer interest approach enforced by the Federal Trade Commission for unfair and deceptive trade practices and panoply of sectoral regulators and state laws are an ineffective substitute to a federal regulator that draws its power from a comprehensive data protection law.
  3. This is not only a deficiency in the absence of law, but a fundamental design error in which legal regulation has been designed to protect property, rather than people.

Increased Data Surveillance in US

  1. While the U.S. may present a dismal picture for data protection, it has seen an incremental movement towards surveillance reform after the disclosures.
  2. Greater government surveillance weakens and hurts data protection offered by private companies.
  3. However, the U.S. has a nominal body under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has the legal authority to pass interception orders.
  4. We in India have no such counterpart or even a bare acknowledgement that interception requires prior judicial sanction.
  5. For instance, evidence which is gathered illegally in the U.S. may eventually lead to an acquittal, but our courts have consistently reasoned that such an impropriety at best could lead to a departmental inquiry against the erring official.

Growing European influence:

  1. In contrast, the GDPR seems like as a modern, progressive text, it is in a lot of ways closer to our constitutional understanding of data protection as articulated by the Puttaswamy judgement of the Supreme Court which unanimously held privacy to be a pivot for our fundamental rights.
  2. So when the GDPR provides for an explicit consent-based mechanism and continuing control for users, it seems to be setting a legislative template for India.
  3. When it provides a “strong law” for users, the GDPR also seems like a strong-arm law to trade and commerce.

Indian Case: Two common business objections are made


  • The first cites a rise in costs that would impact users, in which a bureaucratic apparatus would require companies to pass on a data protection tax.
  • Such an argument is clearly out of step with the realisation of recent months that leaving personal data unprotected erodes trust in technology.
  • The second objection concerns the wider, sectoral ambitions of India’s IT entrepreneurs who ideologise permission-less innovation. They argue that regulation will make them unable to compete globally.


These objections are baseless: Why?


  • It ignores that privacy and data protection are inherent to the coming waves of innovation. Data protection will act as a regulatory springboard to the next generation of online products and services.
  • This, in turn, will provide a cleaner, sustainable and rights-friendly alternative to the existing theology of treating data as a fossil fuel.
  • If anything, “strong” data protection is beneficial for the long-term health of the technology sector by improving user trust and sectoral competitiveness.


India should NOT be hasty in framing Data Protection Law

  1. Blind adoption of the GDPR would present immediate peril for several reasons.
  2. As an ambitious project, the text of the GDPR has tremendous breadth and is riddled with business exceptions which may provide porous sieves for personal data.
  3. We in India at the outset need to have foresight in adopting the drafting choices of a foreign, even if it has  influential text.

Privacy: To curtail Transparency?

  1. There has been constant worry by activists for expanding the ambit of Right to Information Act to Judiciary.
  2. Their prior experience makes them wary, as the judiciary has been frequently citing privacy to undermine government transparency.
  3. For instance, in Girish Deshpande v. Central Information Commissioner, the Supreme Court upheld an order denying access to the income tax returns of a public servant.
  4. Hence, every effort should be made that the motivation to correct the absence of a data protection law does not end up hurting individuals by making government opaque and unaccountable.

The Way Forward: We should synthesise DPR carefully

  1. As India stands at a crossroads, it should chart its course picking up the best ideas and practices that promote user control over data.
  2. This requires adaptation from both the U.S. and the GDPR.
  3. Our challenges are extensive, and our interests diverse. Here virtue lies in the humility to learn from others and care to protect our residents.
  4. As a public policy goal, we should borrow freely but use such knowledge within legal regulation to enlarge individual liberty.
  5. Even when it seems we are much more progressive in our constitutional doctrine, there always remains room for learning.


India’s ONGC to quadruple production from Bay of Bengal block


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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Location of the Gas Block

Mains Level: Importance of the increase in the production of natural gas


Increase in output from Deendayal natural gas block in the Bay of Bengal

  1. India’s state-owned exploration company Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) will by early 2019 quadruple the output from an offshore gas block in the Bay of Bengal
  2. The ONGC had spent a billion dollars on the block last year
  3. Output from the block off India’s east coast will reach as high as a million standard cubic metres per day by January 2019

Why is this increase important?

  1. ONGC, which meets up to 40% of India’s total natural gas demand, had been saddled with ageing fields and dropping production for almost a decade

Target set by the government

  1. Government has set a target of increasing the share of natural gas in India’s energy mix to 15% by 2030, from 6.5% now
  2. Government wants to cut down on energy imports, especially crude oil

Demand of natural gas in India

  1. India consumed around 145 million cubic metres of natural gas a day, nearly 50 percent of it imported, in 2017-18
  2. The government has projected India’s potential demand at nearly 500 million cubic metres of gas a day
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

[pib] Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav


  • Ministry of Culture is organising the 9thedition of the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav under the Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat, in Tehri, Uttarakhand.
  • Tehri Lake Festival where one can explore the water sports, organized by the Uttarakhand Tourism every year, will be subsumed within the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav. 
  • Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav was conceived by the Ministry of Culture in the year 2015, when the Ministry decided to organize it with an intent to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Country in all its rich and varied dimensions.
  • So far, the Ministry of Culture has organized 8 RSM’s i.e. 2 in Delhi, 2 in Karnataka, 1 each in Varanasi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and RSM North East in all NE State capitals.
  • The essential thrust of Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) is to present rich diversity and uniqueness of Indian culture and to promote the cultural inter-linkages amongst the states to strengthen National integration and also to bid the artists of other parts of the country with the people of Uttarakhand in a single thread of culture.
  • The paired state for Uttarakhand under the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat matrix is Karnataka, and while troupes from all over the country will be performing, special emphasis is being given to Karnataka.
  • The North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC), Patiala has been entrusted with the responsibility as the nodal agency to carry forward the execution of the National Cultural Festivalunder the banner of the slogan “EK BHARAT SHRESHTHA BHARAT”.


[op-ed snap] The RERA report card


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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Particulars of the RERA

Mains Level: The issues related to bad implementation of RERA rules in different states.



  1. It is a year since the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) came into effect (May 1)
  2. A year after the real estate legislation came into effect, the follow-up in many States has been dismal
  3. There is still a long way to go before the real estate sector operates in an “efficient and transparent manner and protect the interest of consumers”

Implementation of the Act: Issues
Dilution of the RERA rules

  1. Only 20 of the 28 States (the Act is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir) have framed the rules stipulated under RERA to carry out its legal mandate
  2. In some States such as Uttar Pradesh, the Act’s provisions have been watered down in favour of builders by altering the definition of “on-going projects” which need registration under RERA
  3. There is also a dilution on the penalties for non-compliance

The speedy dispute redress mechanism envisaged by the Act is yet to take shape

  1. Apart from Maharashtra, only Punjab and Madhya Pradesh have appointed a permanent regulatory authority (to be established within a period of a year)
  2. To ease the transition, RERA allows State governments to designate an existing body as the regulatory authority until a permanent one is established
  3. This has resulted in 13 States working with only a designated regulatory authority. West Bengal is yet to even designate a regulatory authority

Other issues

  1. Additionally, only six States have set up the online portal contemplated by the Act
  2. In the Northeastern States, RERA has been challenged on certain constitutional grounds — of land belonging to the community and autonomous councils

Conflict between the IBC and the RERA

  1. One of the most notable provisions of the RERA is the requirement to keep 70% of funds received for a project in a separate escrow account
    (a step to prevent a diversion of funds which usually happens and in turn results in project delays)
  2. Perhaps because of this stipulation and the overall ill-health of the real estate sector, many developers are now facing insolvency proceedings under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)
  3. There appears to be a potential conflict developing between the IBC and RERA which needs to be checked as it would be against consumer interests

Government is taking the cognizance of the issue

  1. Recently, the Central government notified June 30 as the date by which all States have to do away with dilutions and bring in all incomplete projects within the ambit of RERA
  2. This date is also the deadline by when permanent regulators have to be formed and for the websites of all States to become functional
  3. One hopes that in due course, developers will recognise that they can no longer operate with impunity by arbitrarily escalating costs of construction or missing timelines without being held responsible
Real Estate Industry

Rustom-2 drone to be delivered to armed forces by 2020: DRDO chief


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 perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Particulars of the Rustom-II

Mains Level: It can be seen as an ‘Make in India’ example in the Defence Sector.


Delivery of the Rustom-II

  1. Rustom-II Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will be delivered to the armed forces by 2020
  2. It is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

Development of the UAV

  1. Rustom II has completed one test at Chitradurga recently
  2. At present, the basic UAV system is being perfected
  3. Attempts are also being made to increase the altitude
  4. By the end of this year, DRDO will be ready with the bird, after which the focus will be on the machine systems on it

Particulars of the UAV

  1. The drone is being developed for use by all three services of the Indian Armed Forces, primarily for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations
  2. The medium-altitude prototype can fly at over 22,000 feet and is a long-endurance UAV that has an 20 hours approximate flight time


Rustom-2 project

  1. Rustom 2 or TAPAS-BH-201 is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance roles for the Indian Armed Forces
  2. It is capable of carrying different combination of payloads including synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems and situational awareness systems
  3. The UAV has an endurance of 24 hours and is similar to the American predator series of drones
  4. DRDO carried out a successful test flight of Rustom 2 on 25 February 2018, at the Aeronautical Test Range(ATR) located in Chalakere, Chitradurga district. This was the first flight of the UAV in user configuration with higher power engine
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.