June 2018
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Rise in India-ASEAN naval games


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, Java sea, CORPAT, Malabar exercise, coast of Guam, Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC)

Mains level: India’s increasing cooperation with ASEAN and need of it to counter China


Naval games with ASEAN

  1. The Navies of India and Indonesia will hold their first bilateral exercise in the Java Sea
  2. India will stage a new trilateral exercise with Thailand and Singapore soon
  3. India is instituting a series of bilateral and multilateral naval exercises with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries
  4. This is being done as part of the increasing military-to-military cooperation
  5. India is also looking at a new multilateral exercise with ASEAN

Increasing cooperation

  1. The bilateral with Indonesia is in addition to the Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) that the two sides conduct
  2. The bilateral with Indonesia will be held after the conclusion of the Malabar trilateral naval war games between India, Japan and the U.S. which is underway off the coast of Guam
  3. Two of the ships participating in Malabar will head to the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest multilateral exercise, hosted by the U.S. biennially off the Hawaii islands
Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

[op-ed snap] India re-defines its regional role



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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Mains level: The editorial summarizes India’s stance towards non-alignment amid protecting its strategic interests in the so-called multipolar world order


Setting a new tone

  1. Recent foreign policy moves by India at SCO Summit indicate an inflexion point.
  2. Combining orthodox ideas from the Cold War era along with 21st century pragmatism, it appears that India has decided that the emerging multipolar world is becoming far too complicated for the binary choices.
  3. Not only has it recast its approach to the maritime Indo-Pacific but as the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit exemplifies, it is also building deeper and more constructive links with continental Eurasia.

Our Evolving Foreign Policy for a Multipolar Order

  1. First, the central theme was that at a time when the world is facing power shifts, uncertainty and competition over geopolitical ideas and political models, India would project itself as an independent power and actor across Asia.
  2. One of the most important parts of the speech was when PM described India’s ties with the three great powers. Russia and the United States were called as partners with whom India has relationships based on overlapping interests in international and Asian geopolitics.
  3. And, India-China relations were portrayed in complex terms as having “many layers” but with a positive undertone, that stability in that relationship is important for India and the world.
  4. This implies that India will not be part of a closed group of nations or aggregate Indian power in a bloc, but will chart out its own course based on its own capacity and ideas.

India bats for Strategic Autonomy

  1. When nations stand on the side of principles, not behind one power or the other, they earn the respect of the world and a voice in international affairs.
  2. For some, this portends a renewed emphasis on non-alignment.
  3. The PM himself used the more agreeable term “strategic autonomy”.
  4. In essence, it means that India has become too big to be part of any political-military camp whose design and role in Asian affairs are being conceived elsewhere, upon ideas that India might not fully share, and where India has a marginal role in strategy and policy implementation.

The China factor

  1. Second, even as China’s rise has undoubtedly increased the demand and space for India to increase its region-wide engagement, India’s role in the vast Indo-Pacific is no longer envisaged as a China-centric one.
  2. Our PM removed any lingering impression of an impeding crusade or an ideological sub-text to India’s Act East policy in the coming years when he remarked.
  3. India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members.
  4. In other words, India’s democracy is far more comfortable with a world of diversity than the spectre of a clash of civilisations or great powers locked in ideological contests

The Way Forward

  1. Without mentioning either, PM urged both the U.S. and China to manage their rivalry and prevent their “normal” competition from descending into conflict.
  2. He made it clear that while India would pursue many partnerships “in the region and beyond”, it was not going to choose “one side of a divide or the other” but would remain wedded to its principles and values that emphasise inclusiveness, diversity and of course its own interests.
  3. After drifting towards the U.S. for the past decade, Delhi is rediscovering a posture and policy for a multipolar world as well as taking greater responsibility for its own future and destiny.
  4. Reflecting its unique geographical position at the rimland of Eurasia and at the mouth of the Indo-Pacific, India’s foreign policy is likely to be driven by a dual attention to the balance of power and order building in the continental and maritime environment around the subcontinent.



Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

[pib] Railway Ministry and Coal launches “Rail Madad” – An App to expedite &streamline passenger grievance redressal


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models etc,

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RPGRAMS, Rail Madad

Mains level: Read the attached story


RPGRAMS – Rail Madad (Mobile Application for Desired Assistance During travel)

  1. RPGRAMS (Railway Passenger Grievance Redressal and Management System), which has been developed by Northern Railway (Delhi Division) comprises many novel features including ‘Rail Madad’.
  2. It is a mobile App to register complaints by passengers through mobile phone/web. 
  3. It relays real time feedback to passengers on the status of redressal of their complaints- the passenger gets an instant ID through SMS on registration of complaint followed by a customized SMS communicating the action taken thereon by Railway.
  4. RPGRAMS integrates all the passenger complaints received from multiple modes (14 offline/online modes currently) on a single platform, analyzes them holistically and generates various types of management reports.

Utility of the App

  1. This enables the top management to continuously monitor the pace of grievance redressal as well as evaluate the performance of field units/ trains/ stations on various parameters viz cleanliness, catering, amenities etc.
  2. It also identifies weak/deficient areas and laggard trains/stations for undertaking focussed corrective actions.

Salient features of Rail Madad application are-

  1. Rail MADAD  registers a complaint with minimum inputs from passenger(option of photo also available), issues unique ID instantly and relays the complaint online to relevant field officials for immediate action.
  2. The  action taken on complaint is also relayed to passenger through SMS, thus fast tracking the entire process of redressal of complaints through digitisation.
  3. Rail MADAD also displays various helpline numbers (e.g., Security, Child helpline etc) and provides direct calling facility for immediate assistance in one easy step
  4. All modes of  filing complaints including offline and online modes are being integrated on a single platform, therefore the resultant management reports present a holistic picture of weak/deficient areas and  enable focused corrective action by officials concerned.
  5. The data analysis would also generate trends on various performance parameters of a selected train/station like cleanliness, amenities etc thus making managerial decision more precise and effective.
Railway Reforms

India to host first BIMSTEC war games in September


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BIMSTEC, Particulars of the Exercise

Mains level: BIMSTEC as a bridge between SAARC and ASEAN


A Counter-Terrorism Exercise

  1. India will host the first military exercise of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) group focussing on counter-terrorism in September.
  2. As part of this, a conclave of the Army chiefs of all seven member-states is being planned.
  3. The exercise is scheduled to be held in Pune in the second week of September.
  4. The aim of the exercise is to promote strategic alignment among the member-states and to share best practices in the area of counter-terrorism.
  5. The theme includes “counter-terrorism in semi-urban terrain and cordon and search”, and each side will bring in some 30 soldiers.

What is so special?

  1. The conclave of Army chiefs is scheduled on the last two days of the exercise.
  2. The chiefs will debate the challenge of terrorism and transnational crime, which is a major concern among all the states and on how they can promote collective cooperation.
  3. BIMSTEC countries held a disaster management exercise in 2017, but this is the first military exercise of the grouping which brings together important neighbors of India in South and Southeast Asia



  1. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  2. This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  3. The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
  4. BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  5. The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economies
Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

PM’s maternity scheme benefits 23.6 lakh


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: PMMVY

Mains level: Hurdles in implementing PMMVY


Programme picking up after a slow start +  Huge Backlog

  1. After initial hiccups in implementing the maternity benefit programme Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), the government has finally made some headway and provided cash incentives to nearly 23.6 lakh beneficiaries out of an estimated 51.6 lakh a year.
  2. However, until January 2018, the government programme had covered only 90,000 women — a mere 2% of the target.
  3. However, due to a huge backlog from last year, the government needed to provide cash benefits to over 100 lakh estimated beneficiaries by the end of the financial year 2017-18.

States are yet to come on board

  1. Many States like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal have not yet come on board to implement the scheme.
  2. These States account for nearly 25% of the total beneficiaries
  3. These states have their own maternity benefit schemes and have been reluctant to implement the PMMVY
  4. But they were bound to comply because the scheme was a by-product of the National Food Security Act.


Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

  1. The maternity benefits under PMMVY are available to all Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) except those in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law.
  2. The scheme is being implemented on a 60:40 cost-sharing basis with the State governments.
  3. It is for first living child of the family as normally the first pregnancy of a woman exposes her to new kind of challenges and stress factors.
  4. The Government of India has approved Pan-India implementation of PMMVY in all districts of the country under which the eligible beneficiaries get Rs. 5,000/- under PMMVY
  5. The remaining cash incentive as per approved norms towards Maternity Benefit under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) after institutional delivery so that on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6000/-
  6. The objectives of the scheme are:
  • Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child; and
  • The cash incentives provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the PW&LM. 
  • However, to address the problem of malnutrition and morbidity among children, the Anganwadi Services Scheme, which is universal, is available to all PW&LM including the second pregnancy.
  • Further, in order to address the malnutrition and morbidity during pregnancies a number of interventions are provided to the pregnant women viz. universal screening of pregnant women for Anaemia and Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation, Calcium supplementation in pregnancy, Deworming in pregnancy, Weight gain monitoring and Counselling on nutrition, family planning and prevention of diseases. 
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

What caused the Dec. 1, 2015 Chennai downpour?


Mains Paper 1: Important Geophysical phenomena, geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold Pool Theory

Mains level: This sought to be a better explanation for the floods in some unexpected regions.


IISc researcher answers this by linking the Eastern Ghats and rain-bearing clouds

  1. In December 2015 Chennai and its surrounding regions experienced an unprecedented, heavy rainfall.
  2. In a region where the average rainfall during the season is expected to be 8-10 mm per day, one of the rain gauges in the city recorded an abnormally high, 494 mm rainfall in over 24 hours that day.
  3. This led to death of nearly 250 people, and Chennai was declared a ‘disaster zone’.

Cold Pool Theory

  1. When clouds give out water droplets, the droplets evaporate mid-air, as they fall down. This cools the surrounding air, forming a cold pool of air which sinks down and flows horizontally
  2. The gusty cold wind that heralds an approaching thunderstorm is nothing but a cold pool, which plays a pivotal role in cloud dynamics.
  3. Unlike the Western Ghats, which run close to the west coast of India, the Eastern Ghats are nearly 200 km away from the coast.
  4. Therefore, the link between the mountains orography and the rainfall over the region is crucial.
  5. The cold pool was obstructed by the Eastern Ghats from flowing downward; hence it piled up and remained stationary over the Chennai region.
  6. The reason for the clouds remaining stationary was that there was a balance between the piling of cold pool along the mountain and the winds from the bay.

Dust storms: Aandhis in North India are too caused by ‘Cold Pool’

  1. Cold pools are known to play an important role in the dust storms (Aandhi) that form in northern India.
  2. They form by the evaporation of raindrops.
  3. This process is more efficient in the drier and warmer environment as there is lot of scope of evaporation.
  4. So, the cold pools that form in these conditions, are deeper and more vigorous.
  5. As pre-monsoon conditions in north India are very dry and warm, cold pools that accompany the pre-monsoon thunderstorms there are far more destructive, causing widespread damages.

The Way Forward

  1. For the first time, this study links cold pools and the mountain structure to explain rainfall over south India.
  2. Though the primary aim of the study is to explain the anomalous rainfall over Chennai on December 1, 2015, the understanding gained from this analysis can be useful for improving the general weather forecast over this region.
Monsoon Updates

Why suicides happen


Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Health Organisation (WHO), World Health Day 2017, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

Mains level: Rising incidents of suicide in India other than Farmers suicides


WHO stats on Suicide

  1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts out disturbing statistics: close to 8,00,000 people die due to suicide every year.
  2. That’s 1 person every 40 seconds, making it the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally.

Causes of Committing Suicide

(A) Depression

  • A study published by WHO to mark World Health Day 2017 points out that depression and suicide are closely interlinked; at its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • Depression is quite unlike the normal sadness we have all experienced.
  • There are many cases that go undiagnosed because of our reluctance to talk about mental health.

(B) Substance abuse

  • Alcohol and drugs are risk factors.
  • While the person may not be addicted to alcohol or other substances, high intake can affect thinking and decision-making capacity.
  • A person may act on something they have been thinking about when under influence.

(C) Personal and professional stressors

  • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that the biggest factors abroad: gender, age, and marital status are not necessarily the cause in India.
  • The biggest factors seem to be relationship setbacks, family discord, educational and financial setbacks.

(D) Childhood trauma

  • This could range from physical, mental or emotional abuse of a child at home, to bullying and isolation at school.
  • It may play out immediately or may trigger episodes later in life, because of maladaptive coping styles and poor decision-making.
  • Parental discord, an exposure to violence early in life, the lack of emotional support, could all push up a person’s risk factors.

(D) A society in flux

  • Sociologists suggest that social cohesion, especially traditional family life, increased the feeling of belonging and protected against self-destructive behavior.
  • The breakdown of societies and families, as more people leave home and hearth in search of better opportunities, is a big part of the problem.
  • As societies that were traditionally collectivistic adapt a more capitalistic approach, there is an increased feeling of isolation and sadness, an incremental dilution of self-worth.

(E) Connected but disconnected

  • People are spending more time on social networks than on physical ones.
  • Living in an age of instant fix has also come with its own share of problems.
  • Social media creates the false perception that everyone else but you is enjoying life. Over time, this loneliness can lead to a space where the person sees nothing to live for.

(F) Idolisation

  • When an admired celebrity or even a mentor or a leader dies, suicide rates have been seen to spike.

(F)A poor lifestyle

  • Exercise, stress management, diet, sleep, sunlight: if your lifestyle doesn’t include a healthy dose of the above, it affects your overall mental health.
  • Exercise releases endorphins, leading to a greater sense of well-being.
  • Exercise is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better sleep patterns, each of which, in turn is related to lower suicide risk.

(G) Genes

  • There appears to be a strong association between genes and suicide.
  • Family, twin, and adoption studies have established a genetic basis for suicidal behaviour says a study.
Rural Distress, Farmer Suicides, Drought Measures