June 2018
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[op-ed snap] A drive to clean air


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO global air pollution database report, World Economic Forum, FAME scheme

Mains level: Rising air pollution levels across Indian cities and measures to reduce them


WHO air pollution report

  1. The WHO global air pollution database report that ranked 14 Indian cities among the 15 of the world’s most polluted, in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 concentration, received great attention in India
  2. As per a World Economic Forum study, the number of million-plus urban conglomerates in India has increased from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. By 2030, this number is expected to grow to 87
  3. 70 percent to 80 percent of PM 2.5 comes from vehicular emissions, domestic activity, construction activity, industry activity and road dust

Controlling vehicular emissions and domestic activity

  1. Just vehicular pollution contributes around 35 percent of the total PM 2.5 emissions today
  2. In a future with internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles (even post BS VI rollout), urban pollution will continue to remain 25 percent to 30 percent above safe global standards because of the growth in automobiles
  3. For reducing vehicular pollution, already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI) need to be combined with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies
  4. Shared mobility can moderate the demand for individual vehicle ownership and usage & technology solutions can allow for a sharp reduction in emissions per vehicle
  5. The movement away from kerosene, coal and wood fires for cooking will have a big impact on domestic activity
  6. We need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves

Three key policy recommendations

  1. We need to assess and refine the monetary incentives that are offered to bridge the viability gap for electric vehicles for the purpose of containing urban pollution
  • These include upfront subsidies, road/registration tax, reduced taxes, and interest rate subsidy
  • It is imperative for the government to continue the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicles programme under the Ministry of Heavy Industry

Non-monetary incentives must go along with subsidies

  • Technology choices should be rewarded with exemption from tolls/taxes, special toll lanes and other preferred access to public infrastructure
  • Norway gives preference to high occupancy vehicles and China gives preferential licence access
  • London imposes congestion charges during working hours on weekdays to vehicles entering the city center

There is also a need to think about improving the provision of non-polluting public transport

  • There is a need to impose restrictions through supply-side regulations on OEMs to increase production of zero-emission vehicles to curb urban pollution
  • These include electric buses, metros, and shared EV fleets to reduce traffic and usage
  • For the alternative mobility technologies to settle, an enabling infrastructure is required
  • There is an early need to standardise charging infrastructure/equipment to ensure interoperability and make it widespread

Way forward

  1. The need to address urban pollution is urgent
  2. India needs to start learning from global examples to push enabling infrastructure
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Holes in the scheme


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: National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS)

Mains level: Various issues associated with the implementation of NHPS


Launch of NHPS

  1. The Model Tender Document For The Selection of Implementing Agencies For the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare tries to address various concerns related to NHPS
  2. The document states that nearly 47 percent of the packages under the NHPS, including those related to heart ailments and cancer, require pre-authorisation
  3. This means hospitals impanelled under the scheme cannot perform these procedures until they have an authorization letter from the NHPS’s Implementation Support Agency

Why this system of checks?

  1. Current scheme’s predecessor, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, was riddled with unethical practices such as unnecessary hospitalization, needless investigations and billing for superfluous and unrelated treatment packages

Associated Concerns 

  1. Hospitals might shift the onus of obtaining the authorization letter on the critically-ill or their families
  2. Several procedures, including emergency consultation for acute colic, nebulization for an asthma attack, hypoglycemia in a diabetic and treatment of “dengue without complication”, will be covered by the scheme only if the treatment is availed in a government hospital
  3. Without timely treatment, a dengue fever can aggravate to a life-threatening disease

Way forward

  1. Checks on the impanelled hospitals are well in order under NHPS
  2. It would prevent private hospitals to milk the NHPS by prescribing unnecessary investigations
  3. But it should also be ensured that these checks do not come in between providing emergency care to critically ill patients or put an extra burden on their families
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Islands apart: on India-Maldives ties


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising discontent between India & Maldives and need for its early resolution


Soaring ties between India and the Maldives

  1. There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties, starting from March 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled a visit
  2. Recent moves by Abdulla Yameen, President of the Maldives, have put Malé on a collision course with New Delhi
  3. India criticised the government for its incarceration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, sentenced to 19 months in prison for an alleged plot to unseat Mr. Yameen

Discontent among partners

  1. The strain is now evident in two areas where India-Maldives ties had been the strongest: strategic relations and people-to-people engagement
  2. The Maldives has conveyed to India that it will not extend beyond June 30 the lease of Indian helicopters or the visas of personnel manning them
  3. This signals a marked downturn in defense cooperation between the two countries, which normally coordinate maritime and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) patrols together
  4. Hundreds of Indians offered employment in the Maldives at resorts, hospitals and colleges have been denied work visas for the past few months

Change in stance

  1. Until a few years ago, the Maldives affirmed an “India First” policy
  2. India’s vocal protests on democratic rights in the Maldives have been at variance with the past policy of taking a more muted line in public while encouraging democracy in official conversations

Way forward

  1. The Yameen government must reconsider these policies
  2. India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

India among 90 nations without paid paternity leave for new dads: UNICEF


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNICEF

Mains level: DEmand for paternity leave across the world and various impediments in its implementation


No national policy on paternity leave

  1. India is among almost 90 countries in the world without national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies
  2. Almost two-thirds of the world’s children under one-year-old, nearly 90 million, live in countries where their fathers are not entitled by law to a single day of paid paternity leave
  3. This was revealed in a study conducted by UNICEF

Family-friendly policies being formulated

  1. Around the world, momentum for family-friendly policies was growing
  2. For example, in India, officials are proposing a Paternity Benefit Bill for consideration in the next session of Parliament which would allow fathers up to three months of paid paternity leave
  3. Earlier this year, UNICEF modernized its approach to parental leave provisions, with up to 16 weeks of paid leave for paternity across all of its offices worldwide

Need for paternity leave

  1. Evidence suggests that when fathers bond with their babies from the beginning of life, they are more likely to play a more active role in the child’s development
  2. Research also suggests that when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

DRDO turns Pinaka rocket system into guided missile, developmental trials soon

drdo, guided missile, pinaka rocket system, defence research org, drdo latest news, indian express


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pinaka rocket system, DRDO

Mains level: India’s strides in defense technology sector and need for further development


Pinaka upgradation

  1. The indigenous Pinaka rocket system of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is being evolved into a precision-guided missile, with enhanced range and accuracy to hit its targets
  2. It is known for firing a salvo of 12 rockets in just 44 seconds

About Pinaka

  1. The rocket has been developed by the Armament cluster of the DRDO, with a lead from Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE)
  2. Along with ARDE, the High Energy Material Research Laboratory in Pune and two DRDO establishments in Hyderabad have contributed to the development
  3. The initial version of the Pinaka rocket was Mark I, with a range of 40 km
  4. It was further developed into Pinaka Mark II, which has an enhanced range of 70 to 80 km
  5. Pinaka Mark I had been used in the 1999 Kargil conflict


Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

  1. DRDO is an agency of the government, charged with the military’s research and development
  2. It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India
  3. DRDO is a network of more than 50 laboratories which are deeply engaged in developing defense technologies covering various disciplines, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems and agriculture
Indian Missile Program Updates

20 States on board to implement Ayushman Bharat


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: Ayushman Bharat scheme, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme, SECC

Mains level: Universal health coverage and related issues


Status of States Joining the ambitious programme

  1. Twenty States are on board to implement the Ayushman Bharat Scheme by having a MoU with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)
  2. States that are likely to go for the insurance model are Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura. Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli will also opt for the insurance model.
  3. Those keen on adopting a trust model are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Lakshwadeep, Manipur, Puducherry, Telangana, Sikkim and Goa.
  4. Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have expressed an interest to adopt the hybrid model.
  5. For example, for all payments under ₹50,000, Gujarat has proposed to opt for insurance payment and for anything above it has opted for trust-based payment.
  6. West Bengal and Delhi chose to keep away from signing the MoU.
  7. Odisha will most likely not be a part of Ayushman Bharat as it wants to launch its own state-based scheme for health insurance.


Ayushman BharatNational Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM)

  • The scheme was announced in the Budget 2018
  • The scheme will provide a cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year
  • There will be no cap on family size and age
  • The benefits cover will include pre and post-hospitalization expenses
  • All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy
  • A defined transport allowance per hospitalization will also be paid to the beneficiary
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

India faces worst water crisis: NITI Aayog


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the report

Mains Level: The newscard emphasizes need to prioritize water conservation amidst other environmental crises.


Demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030, says NITI  

  1. The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history and that demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken.
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  3. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted.
  4. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the report says.

Ranking the States

  1. The NITI Aayog’s observations are part of a study that ranked 24 States on how well they managed their water.
  2. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh took the top three spots, in that order, and Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana came in last in the ‘Non-Himalayan States’ category.
  3. Himachal Pradesh — which is facing one of its worst water crises this year — led a separate 8-member list of States clubbed together as ‘North-Eastern and Himalayan.
  4. These two categories were made to account for different hydrological conditions across the two groups.

Low performers

  1. About 60% of the States were marked as “low performers” and this was cause for “alarm,” according to the report.
  2. Many of the States that performed badly on the index — Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh — which accounted for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output.

Conservation counts, not Scarcity

  1. The index noted, several of the high and medium performers — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana — irrespective of droughts in recent years.
  2. Therefore, a lack of water was not necessary grounds for States not initiating action on conservation.
  3. Most of the gains registered by the States were due to their restoration of surface water bodies, watershed development activities and rural water supply provision.

The Way Forward

  1. Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action this is likely to be a significant food security risk for the country.
  2. Envisioned as an annual exercise, the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), to evaluate States, has been developed by the NITI Aayog to raise awareness for the concern.
  3. Experts however say unless India woke up to its water crisis, disaster loomed.
  4. There is great awareness now about air pollution however; India’s water crisis does not get that kind of attention.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

The rising risks to financing India’s current account deficit


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAD, BoP

Mains level: Impact of rising crude oil prices on CAD and other vulnerabilities.


Higher oil prices are raising India’s CAD

  1. The higher current account deficit will put downward pressure on the rupee and it may also raise the cost of Indian borrowing abroad.
  2. The stress on BoP is already visible in Q1FY19 with the INR depreciating 4%; the RBI had to intervene to stem the depreciation.
  3. NRI flows too have proved to be volatile, especially if the rupee depreciates.

Financing CAD is risky

  1. It’s not just that the current account deficit is widening—the means of financing it also became riskier in 2017-18.
  2. On the one hand, higher oil prices are raising the current account deficit and on the other, foreign direct investment—the most stable source of financing the deficit—has come down.
  3. This has led to greater reliance on foreign portfolio inflows, particularly volatile debt inflows and also on short-term credit.

Why such Problem?

  1. This is a problem because the US Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates and has signalled more rate hikes to come.
  2. As per RBI governor the US programme of shrinking its balance sheet, coupled with increased US T-Bill issuance to fund a larger government deficit, has already led to dollar liquidity shrinking in international markets, particularly in the debt markets.
  3. This is behind the outflows from emerging market debt.

Cost of Protectionism

  1. The rapid deterioration in the trade environment as a result of protectionist policies is also likely to affect export growth, while rising investment demand will result in more imports.
  2. The UNCTAD, had in its recent World Investment report pointed to a slowdown in global foreign direct investment flows.

Dependence on FPI is dangerous

  1. Relying on portfolio flows to finance this deficit will expose the country to the vulnerabilities of uncertain international capital flows, making funding difficult particularly during risk-off episodes.
  2. Within portfolio flows, the increased reliance on debt inflows carries more risks, as unlike equity, debt has to be repaid.
  3. Earlier this month, credit rating agency Moody’s Indian affiliate, ICRA Ltd, said high global crude oil prices are likely to widen India’s CAD and pointed to slowing foreign portfolio investments as an area of concern.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] The crimes of a few condemn the fate of many


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rohingya Crisis, Rakhine Province and adjacent areas sharing boundary

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations


Amnesty International to intervene

  1. Amnesty International (AI) released a briefing that revealed that a Rohingya armed group had committed serious human rights abuses by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar.
  2. As a movement that campaigns to end human rights abuses against all people, AI aims to uncover all cases of human rights violations without bias, regardless of who the perpetrators are and where the violations are committed.
  3. The earlier briefing follows AI’s earlier reports documenting military attacks on the Rohingya that led to more than 693,000 people fleeing from their homes to other countries.

It’s about people

  1. We should be calling for better protection for survivors fleeing persecution in accordance with international human rights law. We should be calling for justice, truth and reparation for victims and their families.
  2. Nations should call for unfettered access to the northern Rakhine State for independent investigators.
  3. The debate has deteriorated to unfairly and unreasonably attributing the condemnable actions of the some to all Rohingya people.

Rohingyas in India

  1. The Rohingya have been labelled as “illegal immigrants” — even those recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India.
  2. In fact, in August last year, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs proposed return to Myanmar all the 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India. The Ministry claimed that the Rohingya are a threat to national security.

No attempt for alternatives by Myanmar

  1. There have been no attempts to consider alternative measures to distinguish people who actually pose a threat from people in dire need of protection.
  2. The mass expulsion of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar would be an abject dereliction of India’s obligations under international law.
  3. In the past, AI India has advocated that the most effective way for the Indian government to address security concerns is to conduct fair and efficient refugee determination proceedings.

A straightforward solution by Amnesty

  1. The UN Refugee Convention provides a straightforward solution to deal with the potential security concerns involving asylum seekers.
  2. Article 1F of the Convention excludes protection for those involved in serious crimes.
  3. Therefore, if India acceded to the Refugee Convention, it would be able to effectively assess Rohingya asylum applications and deny protection to those who might fall under Article 1F exceptions, such as members of ARSA who participated in the August 2017 violence.

The Way Forward

  1. Indian authorities have outsourced refugee status determination to the UNHCR, which follows a rigorous process.
  2. However, this is largely meaningless as India refuses to officially recognise Rohingya people identified as refugees by the UNHCR.
  3. These people are left in a state of limbo with neither the UNHCR nor the Indian government providing them effective protection.
  4. Even though India is not a party to the Refugee Convention, it has always had a longstanding tradition of providing shelter to those seeking protection.
Rohingya Conflict