June 2018
« May   Jul »

Novel initiative to encourage science communication


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AWSAR initiative

Mains level: Science studies in India and related issues


AWSAR initiative

  1. In an effort to encourage and equip PhD scholars and post-doctoral fellows with skills to communicate science with lay people, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) plans to reward students who write popular articles about their research
  2. The Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research (AWSAR) initiative will each year reward 100 best articles by PhD students with cash prize of Rs.1,00,000 each and a certificate of appreciation

Features of program

  1. The programme allows students to write only about their research
  2. Students will be encouraged to write at least one popular science article during the tenancy of their scholarship
  3. The articles can either be submitted to DST directly or published in newspapers
  4. The intent of the programme is to inculcate popular science writing skills and bring science closer to the society
Innovation Ecosystem in India

Ban proposed on obscene depiction of women on Net


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986, IT Act, 2008

Mains level: Rising crimes against women and curbing them effectively


Protecting dignity of women

  1. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has proposed to ban obscene depiction of women on the Internet and on SMS/MMS by amending the Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986
  2. The Ministry has also suggested that stricter punishments be awarded for such crimes on par with those recommended under the IT Act, 2008
  3. It has also proposed setting up a central authority under the National Commission of Women, which will include representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member with experience of working on women’s issues

IRW Act, 1986

  1. The Act in its current form defines an advertisement as any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other documents, visible representation made by means of any light, sound, smoke or gas
  2. It seeks to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures, among others
  3. The IRW Act provides for punishment of up to two years in jail for an offence committed for the first time and imprisonment of six months to five years for a second conviction

IT Act provisions

  1. Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act lay down a punishment of three to five years for circulating obscene material and five to seven years for circulating sexually explicit material, respectively
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

NITI Aayog proposes model to adopt AI for inclusive growth


Mains Paper 3: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AI, Big Data

Mains level: Utility of AI for Inclusive Growth


NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence

  1. India needs to create new jobs to absorb the large number of workers rendered redundant by automation and put in place a regulatory framework.
  2. This will help reap benefits of artificial intelligence use in areas such as health, farming, education, infrastructure and transportation.
  3. In a ‘national strategy for AI’, prepared to give the country an edge in this area, Niti Aayog suggested ways to promote adoption of machine learning in key areas of the economy guided by rules on ethics, privacy and intellectual property protection that are to be evolved by new institutions.

AI for Inclusive Growth

  1. The think tank said its blueprint was aimed at leveraging AI for economic growth, social development and inclusive growth and to make the country a model for emerging and developing economies.
  2. The blueprint suggested that a robust model to use this technology will increase access and affordability of quality healthcare, enhance farmers’ income and reduce wastage, improve access to quality education, provide efficient connectivity to the urban population and help create smarter transportation modes.
  3. Promotion of job creation in new areas like data annotation needs to be identified and promoted, as these would have the potential of absorbing a large portion of the workforce that may find itself redundant due to increasing automation.

Addressing Job Concerns

  1. The proposals come at a time when there is widespread concern about job losses on account of automation although it would result in new jobs, which require higher level of technical skills.
  2. As technology increasingly disrupts the nature of jobs and shifts the benchmarks of technological aptitude, skilling and reskilling of workforce forms an integral part of our approach to adopting artificial intelligence said the strategy paper.

The Way Forward

  1. While promoting use of AI, which is driven by big data, development of new technology and products has to be based on fairness, accountability and transparency
  2. Data is one of the primary drivers of artificial intelligence solutions, and thus appropriate handling of data, ensuring privacy and security is of prime importance.
  3. Challenges include data usage without consent, risk of identification of individuals through data and data selection bias
Digital India Initiatives

[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.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Centre to start measuring ‘green GDP’ of States


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, following things are important:

Prelims level: Green GDP, Particulars of the Initiative

Mains level: Importance of sustainable development


Green GDP calculation for States

  1. India’s environmental diversity and riches are universally recognised but have never been quantified.
  2. Starting this year, the government will begin a five-year exercise to compute district-level data of the country’s environmental wealth.
  3. The numbers will eventually be used to calculate every State’s ‘green’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  4. The metric will help with a range of policy decisions, such as compensation to be paid during land acquisition, calculation of funds required for climate mitigation, and so on.

What’s so special?

  1. This is the first time such a national environment survey is being undertaken.
  2. A pilot project is set to begin this September in 54 districts.
  3. The land will be demarcated into “grids” with about 15-20 grids per district.
  4. These will capture the diversity in the State’s geography, farmland, wildlife, and emissions pattern, and will be used to compute a value.
  5. For instance, there’s a no-go zone, we need to calculate what its economic impact.
  6. Much of the data required for the inventory would be sourced from datasets that already exist with other government ministries.

Launching “Green Skilling Programme”

  1. The government has also launched a ‘green skilling’ programme under which youth, particularly school dropouts, would be trained in a range of ‘green jobs’— as operators of scientific instruments used to measure environmental quality, as field staff in nature parks, and as tourist guides.
  2. Some of the labour required for the survey would also be sourced from the green-skilled workforce.


Green GDP

  1. Green GDP is a term used for expressing GDP after adjusting for environment degradations.
  2. Green GDP is an attempt to measure the growth of an economy by subtracting the costs of environmental damages and ecological degradations from the GDP
  3. The concept was first initiated through a System of National Accounts.
  4. The System of National Accounts (SNA) is an accounting framework for measuring the economic activities of production, consumption and accumulation of wealth in an economy during a period of time.
  5. When information on economy’s use of the natural environment is integrated into the system of national accounts, it becomes green national accounts or environmental accounting.
  6. The process of environmental accounting involves three steps viz. Physical accounting; Monetary valuation; and integration with national Income/wealth Accounts:
  • Physical accounting determines the state of the resources, types, and extent (qualitative and quantitative) in spatial and temporal terms.
  • Monetary valuation is done to determine its tangible and intangible components.
  • Thereafter, the net change in natural resources in monetary terms is integrated into the Gross Domestic Product in order to reach the value of Green GDP
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[op-ed snap] Governance and the Governor


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Article 355, Article 156 of the Constitution, Sarkaria and M.M. Punchhi Commissions, S.R. Bommai v. Union of India & B.P. Singhal v. Union of India case

Mains Level:  Issues related to the discretionary powers and appointment of Governor


Misuse of the office by some is not a justification for removing it altogether. We need proper checks

Read in Continuation with the newscard [op-ed snap] Do we need the office of the Governor? – Civilsdaily

Governor: An overseer

  1. Under the constitutional scheme, the Governor’s mandate is substantial. From being tasked with overseeing government formation, to reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in a State.
  2. To maintaining the chain of command between the Centre and the State, he can also reserve his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature and promulgate ordinances if the need arises.
  3. Further, under Article 355, the Governor, being the Central authority in a State, acts as an overseer in this regard.
  4. There are numerous examples of the Governor’s position being abused, usually at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre.

The root lies in the process of appointment itself

  1. The post has been reduced to becoming a retirement package for politicians for being politically faithful to the government of the day
  2. Consequently, a candidate wedded to a political ideology could find it difficult to adjust to the requirements of a constitutionally mandated neutral seat. This could result in bias, as appears to have happened in Karnataka
  3. A possible solution would be not to nominate career politicians and choose “eminent persons” from other walks of life
  4. Both the Sarkaria and M.M. Punchhi Commissions seem to hint at this. But this could also lead to the creation of sycophants within the intelligentsia, an equally worrisome prospect
  5. On the other hand, there are instances of politicians who have risen above partisan politics and performed their role with dignity and without fear or favor

B.P. Singhal v. Union of India

  1. This deals with interpreting Article 156 of the Constitution and the arbitrary removal of Governors before the expiration of their tenure
  2. This judgment is crucial since a fixed tenure for Governors could go quite far in encouraging neutrality and fairness in the discharge of their duties, unmindful of the dispensation at the Centre

Hung Assembly and the Governor

  1. The Governor has the task of inviting the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government; overseeing the dismissal of the government in case of a breakdown of the Constitution in the State; and, through his report, recommending the imposition of President’s rule.
  2. There are examples of the last two having been frequently misused to dismiss “belligerent” State governments, but this has been checked substantially by the Supreme Court through S.R. Bommai v. Union of India
  3. Following the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations, the Court underlined that the breakdown of constitutional machinery implied a virtual impossibility, and not mere difficulty, in carrying out governance in a State.
  4. It said that while the subjective satisfaction of the President regarding such a breakdown was beyond judicial scrutiny, the material on which such satisfaction was based could certainly be analyzed by the judiciary, including the Governor’s report
  5. It reserved the power to declare this report mala fide and restore the dismissed government. The same idea can be extended in case of the Governor’s discretion in inviting a party to form the government
  6. Since the Bommai verdict allows the Supreme Court to investigate claims of mala fide in the Governor’s report, a similar extension to cover mala fide in the invitation process could be a potential solution

The Way Forward

  1. In India, the balance in power is tilted towards the Union
  2. The importance of the Governor’s position arises not from the exceptional circumstances that necessitate the use of his discretion, but as a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State
  3. As a figurehead who ensures the continuance of governance in the State, even in times of constitutional crises, his role is often that of a neutral arbiter in disputes settled informally within the various strata of government, and as the conscience keeper of the community
  4. There is need to ensure proper checks and balances to streamline the functioning of this office
  5. However, misuse of a position of power should not serve as a justification for removing the office altogether, unless such a position has totally lost its relevance
President’s Rule