June 2018
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[pib] Ministry of Railways PSU IRCTC introduces bagasse based food packaging to commemorate World Environment Day 2018


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  World Environment Day 2018, Bagasse Packaging

Mains level:  Initiatives to promote the use of non- biodegradable materials for packaging


  • IRCTC with this new initiative reaffirms its commitment to a cleaner and greener India and has taken a small step in this direction to achieve the same.
  • Provision will be made to collect the used packaging which will then be processed for disposal through composting to ensure environmental sustainability.

What is Bagasse?

  • Bagasse is the fibrous remains left behind after extracting sugarcane juice
  • It is being used to make disposable cutlery and containers in which meals will be served

Aims of the Initiative

  • The aim is to progressively introduce bagasse based packaging as a viable alternative of non-bio-degradable material being currently used on all Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto trains managed by IRCTC
Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] World Bank approves Rs. 6,000 crore Atal Bhujal Yojana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Atal Bhujal Yojana

Mains level:  Schemes for water resources management


The World Bank has approved Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), a Rs.6000 crore Fund.

Type: Central Sector Scheme

Related Ministry/Department: Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

Period: The scheme is to be implemented over a period of 5 years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with World Bank assistance.

Aim of the Scheme

  1. The scheme aims to improve groundwater management in priority areas in the country through community participation.
  2. The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of  Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  3. These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of groundwater in India.  
  4. They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.


  1. Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating groundwater development in 23 States/UTs.
  2. For enforcement of the regulatory measures in these areas, concerned Deputy Commissioners/ District Magistrates have been directed under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take necessary action in case of violations of directives of CGWA.

Funds Mobilization

  1. Funds under the scheme will be provided to the states for strengthening the institutions responsible for ground water governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving ground water management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water.
  2. The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.
  3. Implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats in 78 districts in these states. Funds under the scheme will be made available to the participating states as Grants.

Community Participation

  1. The scheme envisages active participation of the communities in various activities such as formation of Water User Associations, monitoring and disseminating ground water data, water budgeting etc.
  2. Preparation and implementation of Gram-Panchayat wise water security plans and IEC activities related to sustainable ground water management is also to be carried out.
  3. Community participation is also expected to facilitate bottom-up groundwater planning process to improve the effectiveness of public financing and align implementation of various government programs on groundwater in the participating states
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, 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
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Dalit women in India die younger than upper caste counterparts: Report


Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NFHS, Particulars of the report

Mains level:  Issues associated with Healthcare access for Women, particularly from vulnerable sections in India


Discrimination in accessing Healthcare

  1. This is borne out by recent data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)
  2. Dalit women in India die younger than upper caste women and lag behind on almost all health indicators
  3. While violence against Dalits may be the main form of discrimination visible to the outside world, there are many other ways in which caste prejudice manifests itself, one of them being health
  4. For Dalits, who make 16.6% of the total population, health inequalities are the result of both past and ongoing discrimination, including limited educational opportunities, high health risk occupations they are forced to take up, discrimination in access to land, employment, housing and other resources

NFHS corollary to Lancet report

The NFHS finding backs up a 2015 Lancet report ‘Health and the Indian caste system’which says at least three factors are associated with how the caste system affects health—

  1. Genetics
  2. Early environment, and
  3. Opportunities due to social mobility.

Here’s the health status of the women from the community. In all counts, they do worse than the national average:

[A] Anemia:

  1. According to the recent data from the NFHS, among the women in the age group 25-49 who have anaemia, 55.9 % are Dalits. The national average among Indians is 53%.
  2. Even though anaemia is a widespread problem faced by women in India, for Dalit women the problem is compounded.

[B] Life expectancy:

  1. The average age of death for Dalit women is 14.6 years younger than for higher caste women, according to the report.
  2. According to that finding, the average age at death for Dalit women was 39.5 years against 54.1 years for higher-caste women.

[C] Access to healthcare:

  1. According to the NFHS data, among Dalits, 70.4 % of women reported problems with accessing healthcare when they knew they are sick.
  2. Among the reasons cited, getting permission to go to the hospital facility, or distance to the health facility, or money were stated as the reasons. In a number of cases those who are admitted receive discriminatory treatment.

[D] Institutional and in-home deliveries:

  1. Among Dalits, 52.2 % women in the age group 15-49 years had a live birth in the presence of a doctor in the preceding five years.
  2. For the upper castes it is 66.8%.

[E] Nutritional status of Dalit women:

One in four women among the Dalits in the 15-49 age bracket are undernourished according to their Body Mass Index (BMI), while one in six women among upper castes have a similar nutritional profile

Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-5


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 Agni-V missile, RINS, MINS

Mains level: Strategic Importance of ICBM development for India, Indigenization of defence technologies.


Agni V testing

  1. This is the sixth successful test of the missile and the second in its pre-induction configuration
  2. Launch Location: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island [Wheeler Island]
  3. Agni-5 can carry the nuclear warhead weighing 1.5 tonnes to a distance of over 5,000 km and is the longest missile in India’s arsenal capable of reaching most parts of China

Indigenous Technologies Used

  1. The missile features many new indigenously-developed technologies, including the very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS), and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) which improves the accuracy of the missile

Hitting the target with speed and precision

  1. The missile has been programmed in such a way that after reaching the peak of its trajectory, it will turn towards the earth and continue its journey towards the intended target with an increased speed due to the attraction of earth’s gravitational pull.
  2. The path has been precisely directed by the advanced onboard computer and inertial navigation system
  3. As the missile enters the earth’s atmosphere, the atmospheric air rubbing the skin of the missile during the re-entry phase raises the temperature beyond 4,000 degrees Celsius
  4. The indigenously designed and developed carbon-carbon composite heat shield continues to burn sacrificially, protecting the payload and maintaining the inside temperature below 50 degrees Celsius


 Agni Series Missiles

  1. At present, India has in its armory the Agni series –
  • Agni-1 with 700 km range,
  • Agni-2 with 2,000 km range,
  • Agni-3 with 2,500 km range,
  • Agni-4 with more than 3,500 km range.
  • Agni-5 with more than 5500km.

The first test of Agni-5 was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second on September 15, 2013, the third on January 31, 2015, and fourth on December 26, 2016. The last test was held on January 18, 2018.

All the five earlier trials were successful.

The third, fourth and fifth launches were from canister integrated with a mobile launcher, in its deliverable configuration that enables the launch of the missile with a very short preparation time as compared to an open launch

Indian Missile Program Updates

India among top 5 nations in e-waste generation: Report


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

From UPSC perspectives, following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the report, E-Waste

Mains level: Hazards of high e-waste generation and their management.


ASSOCHAM-NEC joint study on “World Environment Day”

  1. India is among the top five e-waste generating countries in the world besides China, the US, Japan and Germany, according to a report
  2. The global volume of e-waste is expected to reach 52.2 million tonnes (MT) or 6.8 kg per inhabitant by 2021 from 44.7 MT in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 20%, according to the study
  3. Among states, Maharashtra contributes the largest e-waste of 19.8% but recycles only about 47,810 tonnes per annum (TPA)
  4. Of the total e-waste produced in 2016, only 20% (8.9 MT) is documented to be collected properly and recycled, while there is no record of the remaining, e-waste, the study said



  1. E-waste typically includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), Printed Circuit Board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, white goods such as Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)/ Plasma televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators etc.
  2. Arsenic, Barium, Brominated flame- Casing, Cadmium, Chrome , Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Lithium, Mercury, Nickel Alloys, Selenium, Zinc, Steel, Brass alloys etc are some of the pollutants or toxins in the e-waste that can harm human, animal and plant life
  3. High and prolonged exposure to these chemicals/ pollutants emitted during unsafe e-waste recycling leads to damage of nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys and brain development, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage
e-Waste Management

[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”
Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

Centre not to file counter-affidavit on Article 35A


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 35A, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition

Mains level: Special status to J&K and associated issues


Status quo on Article 35A

  1. The Centre has decided not to file any “counter-affidavit” on Article 35A, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition
  2. According to it, this case is a matter of interpretation of the law and the Supreme Court should decide on it

About Article 35A

  1. Article 35A allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to decide the “permanent residents” of the State, prohibits a non-State resident from buying property in the State and ensures reservation in employment for residents
  2. It grants a special status to Jammu and Kashmir

Background of Article 35A

  1. This particular provision was included in the Constitution by a Presidential Order
  2. It was incorporated into the Constitution by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet in 1954
  3. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir
J&K – The issues around the state

Fortified rice will be distributed through PDS


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biofortification

Mains level: Nutrition levels in India and government policies and schemes for their improvement


Improving nutrition via PDS

  1. Union Food Ministry is mulling over a proposal to distribute fortified rice through the public distribution system
  2. Rice will be fortified with essential vitamins and minerals



  1. Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food
  2. This is done to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health
  3. Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology
  4. Biofortification differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.