July 2018
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India’s genetically modified crop area fifth largest in world


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), GM Crops

Mains level: Growing use of GM crops by farmers and what are regulatory impediments in furthering their expanse


Growing demand for GM crops

  1. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), India has the world’s fifth largest cultivated area under genetically modified (GM) crops
  2. This is an indication of demand for GM technology among Indian farmers
  3. India’s entire GM crop area is under a single crop i.e. cotton
  4. This finding was published in ISAAA’s latest ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’ report

GM crops under regulation

In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration are:

  • glyphosate-tolerant cotton
  • biotech hybrid mustard

Bt/insect-resistant cotton has already been commercialised

Transgenic mustard has been developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (harbouring three alien genes that enable higher yields through hybridisation)


International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)

  1. ISAAA is a non-profit international organization that shares agricultural biotechnology, focusing on genetic engineering
  2. ISAAA documents approved GM crops worldwide and present them in a database available in the organization’s website
  3. The Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology is the information network of ISAAA
  4. The organization releases an annual publication on the global status of commercially approved genetically engineered crops
  5. The ISAAA receives funding from both public and private donors
Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

[op-ed snap] Traffickers, peddlers, mules or users?


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Linkages of organized crime with terrorism

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)

Mains level: Punjab’s drug problem, its role in fuelling separatist movement and ways to resolve it


Punjab’s new drug law

  1. The Punjab government has recommended to the Union government the death penalty for first-time offenders convicted for drug trafficking and smuggling
  2. The assumption is that harsher measures can help deal with the State’s drug problem

NDPS act & its implementation

  1. The law on drugs is covered by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)
  2. The Act’s primary objective is to deter drug trafficking
  3. It uses every trick in the book to achieve this: strict liability offences, mandatory minimum sentences, even the death penalty for certain repeat offences
  4. The law also provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for offences involving commercial quantities of drugs
  5.  Deterrence by harsh punishments has consistently failed
  6. In 2015, 41.7% of all prisoners in Punjab were in jail for various offences related to this law

Escape route provided in law

  1. An executive notification passed by the Department of Revenue in 2009 led to a major change in how commercial quantities under the Act were determined
  2. This notification assigns punishment based on the weight of the whole drug and not just pure content
  3. As a result, sentencing in pharmaceutical drug cases changed drastically across Punjab
  4. A case in Patiala where unauthorised possession of 20 bottles of cough syrup led to a 10-year prison sentence drives home this claim

Flaws in the investigation process

  1. The law also seeks deterrence through strict liability provisions. Under the law, proving possession alone is sufficient, the prosecution does not have to prove intent to lead to a conviction
  2. The police in Punjab follow a template charge-sheet format, just to prove possession
  3. They rarely examine the intent of the criminal act
  4. The Act is also blatantly unforgiving of anyone found in possession of any drug
  5. The way investigation is conducted right now, it is impossible to tell whether the person is a peddler or smuggler, or an addict feeding his habit

Why is act proving a deterrent?

  1. Section 27 of the Act makes consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance a criminal offence
  2. Criminalising addiction stigmatises it, which automatically inhibits addicts from coming forward for treatment

Way Forward

  1. The Cabinet’s proposal to make the law even harsher may alleviate people’s concerns for the time being, but it will not yield the results the state, as well as its people so desperately, seek
  2. The state should consider decriminalising addiction and developing an effective treatment strategy by consulting experts, partner agencies and users, and allocate adequate resources
Liquor Policy of States

[op-ed snap] The problems with the HECI draft Bill


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: HECI Bill, 2018

Mains level: Issues plaguing higher education sector in India and what can be done to make higher education more accessible


Draft HECI bill

  1. The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill, 2018 (HECI), aims to:
  • replace a historical statutory body, the UGC
  • push for more government control
  • stifle critical thinking on campuses

Concerns with the bill

The nature of the structure of the commission and its advisory council shows that they are bound to have more “government” in decision-making processes rather than academics

Sweeping powers render the HECI more authoritative than the collective strength of campus authorities

  • The powers and functions of the HECI trivialise the concept of autonomy because non-compliance of directions of the HECI could result in fines or jail sentence
  • This means that the authority of the HRD Ministry will be strengthened
  • Also, under the new terms of engagement, universities will have to take the concurrence of the HECI before offering a course
  • This restricts the freedom of a university’s Board of Studies

With its mandate of improving academic standards with a specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, and training of teachers, the HECI is likely to overregulate and micromanage universities

The proposal to empower the Centre to remove the HECI’s chairperson and vice-chairperson for reasons including “moral turpitude” will curtail the regulator’s autonomy, which in turn will impact the autonomy of universities

Instead of allowing institutions to evolve over time based on their specific needs, focussing on homogeneous, one-size-fits-all administrative models will go against the ethos of academic freedom, diversity, and knowledge production

The move to replace the UGC with the HECI points to the Centre’s aim to restrict the role of the States in matters relating to education

India’s worries

  1. No Indian university figures among the world’s top 500
  2. Despite being a country with a huge young population, higher education remains a privilege; many do not yet have access to it, mainly because it is not affordable
  3. Education is a continuum from lower to higher
  4. The quality of higher education is determined by the quality of lower education, which is extremely poor, and that should be our focus
  5. The number of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims who have access to even basic education, let alone higher education, remains abysmal

Way Forward

  1. Education must serve as a ladder for those in the lower rungs of society
  2. In India, there is no such ladder, and many children continue to lead a poor quality life with no access to education
  3. Including the excluded should be India’s goal, and reservation and affirmative action are the way forward
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Telecom Commission approves net neutrality, new telecom policy


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of new telecom policy

Mains level: Debate of net neutrality in India


TRAIs Recommendation on net neutrality

  1. Internet access in India will remain unfettered with the government accepting the telecom regulator’s recommendations to introduce one of the strongest net neutrality protections in the world.
  2. To implement Net neutrality, the regulator had recommended that the terms of licence agreements that govern the provision of Internet services in India be amended “to incorporate the principles of non-discriminatory treatment of content along with the appropriate exclusions and exceptions.”
  3. It had then suggested that Internet of Things, as a class of services, should not be excluded from the scope of restriction on non-discriminatory treatment but certain critical services should be exempt from these rules.
  4. DoT will also frame a policy on traffic management practices for service providers and separately set up a body of industry representatives and civil society to monitor and enforce net neutrality norms.
  5. It has further recommended establishing a multi-stakeholder not-for-profit body for the monitoring and enforcement of these principles.

Net neutrality approved

  1. In a move that will ensure open and free internet in India, the government has approved the principle of net neutrality.
  2. This means that telecom and Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, site, platform, or application.
  3. They cannot engage in practices such as blocking, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content.
  4. The Telecom Commission (TC) — which is the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecom, approved the recommendation made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

Critical services are exceptions to this

  1. Certain emerging and critical services will be kept out of the purview of these norms.
  2. A separate committee has been set up under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to examine what these critical services will be.
  3. These may include autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare services like remote surgeries or disaster management.
Net Neutrality & The Debate Around It

Govt. seeks help to end manual scavenging


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: Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention

Mains level: Government measures to end Manual Scavenging activities


Ending Manual Scavenging

  1. The Centre launched a challenge asking innovators, NGOs, research institutions, companies and cities to propose technology and business solutions to clean urban sewers and septic tanks without human entry.
  2. The challenge will be part of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention to be held on October 18 this year.

Objectives of the initiative:

  1. The objectives are-
  • to identify technological and business process innovations,
  • endorse viable business models suitable for cities of different sizes and geographies, and
  • pilot test shortlisted technologies and solutions in select project cities
  • bridge the gap between innovators or manufacturers and beneficiaries such as urban local bodies and citizens.

The machines to clean sewers and septic tanks are already available globally, but they need to be adapted to Indian conditions


Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention

  1. It will be held in Delhi from September 29 to October 2
  2. Ministers from over 70 countries will be invited and taken on a ‘Gandhi Trail’ in Gujarat
  3. The government will use the occasion to “showcase its performance” and “success story” in the Swachh Bharat programme in the past four years, which was launched on October 2, 2014, and have a face-to-face dialogue with the world leaders to share their experiences on sanitation programmes
  4. The Foreign Ministry will coordinate this mega exercise along with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

World Population Day: What ails the Youth of India


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard gives a quick recap of the issues faced by Indian Youth despite unemployment.


Liabilities to Indian Youth

  1. Plagued with problems ranging from stress, unmet family planning needs, unbalanced diets and gender disparities in labour, the Indian youth seems far from turning into an aggressive workforce in future.
  2. Population dynamics, marital statistics, fertility and contraception, mortality and neonatal health care, literacy and employment play important roles in the lives of young men and women.

Family Planning- the multifaceted problem

  1. An unmet need for family planning not only affects the abilities of men and women to plan families, but it also decreases overall well-being.
  2. It limits opportunities to increase earnings, participate in the workforce, access health services, and pursue their own education and that of their children.

Stress remains a major factor

  1. The Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey 2018 done by Cigna TTK Health Insurance covering nearly 14,500 people in 23 markets around the world reveals that stress levels are high in India compared with other developed and emerging countries.
  2. About 89% of the population in India said they are suffering from stress compared with the global average of 86%.

Women are worst hit

  1. The statistics are also disturbing for women in the workforce. A report by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation—Youth in India-2017—stated that during 2011-12, about 55% of males and about 18 % of females in rural areas were in the labour force.
  2. Whereas the corresponding percentages in urban areas were about 56% for males and about 13% for females.
  3. The lack of infrastructure, unavailability of basic amenities at workplaces, rigid and inflexible work hours, the absence of care facilities at or near the workplaces have not motivated women to participate in the labour market significantly.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[pib] Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Haryana Top Rankers in Ease of Doing Business


Mains Paper3: Indian Economy | Issues relating growth and development.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Ease of Doing Business

Mains level: Read the attached story


State Reform Exercise

  1. The State reform exercise under Ease of Doing Business in India is creating a lot of interest in other countries like Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia which proves that such reforms are imperative for improving the business and regulatory environment.
  2. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, released the final rankings of States in Ease of Doing Business.


  1. The top rankers are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Haryana.
  2. Jharkhand and Gujarat stood fourth and fifth respectively.

Feedback system to monitor the reach

  1. It is for the first time that DIPP has introduced taking feedback to ensure that the reforms have actually reached ground level.
  2. The feedback was collected through face-to-face interviews of actual users selected from more than 50,000 users of the services provided by the State and UT governments.
  3. DIPP organised numerous outreach programmes including 30 workshops and periodic video conferences with States and UTs.
  4. Another practice introduced in the current reform exercise was handholding support provided by the higher scoring States.

Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP)

  1. DIPP, Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the World Bank conducted an annual reform exercise for all States and UTs under the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP).
  2. The aim of this exercise is to improve delivery of various Central Government regulatory functions and services in an efficient, effective and transparent manner.
  3. States and UTs have conducted reforms to ease their regulations and systems in areas such as labour, environmental clearances, single window system, construction permits, contract enforcement, registering property and inspections.
  4. States and UTs have also enacted the Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act to enforce the timelines on registrations and approvals.
  5. The current assessment under the BRAP 2017 is based on a combined score consisting of Reform evidence score that is based on evidence uploaded by the States and UTs and Feedback score that is based on the feedback garnered from the actual users of the services provided to the businesses.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

North India’s obsession with the male child remains unchanged


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BBBP

Mains level: Increasing concerns due to male child preferences in society and its impacts.


Hampering Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

  1. Notwithstanding the Union government’s ambitious BBBP programme, Indians continue to desire a male child, new government data reveals.
  2. Haryana—notorious for female foeticide—followed by Rajasthan and Punjab continue to top the list of offenders seeking to illegally ascertain the gender of the unborn baby.
  3. This practice, health ministry officials point out, manifests in a low child-sex ratio.
  4. At present, India has a child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 919 females per 1,000 males.

Ministry data reveals

  1. According to the latest data available with the ministry of health and family welfare, complaints for illegal communication of the gender in 2017-18 were 158 in Haryana, 112 in Rajasthan and 44 in Punjab.
  2. These have been registered under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC & PNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
  3. According to the quarterly progress reports (QPRs) submitted by states and Union territories to the Union health ministry, till March 2017, authorities filed 2,371 complaints for various violations before criminal courts; in 2017-18 it was 2,735.

Male Child Preference still rooted

  1. Union health ministry is also taking care of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme now on a pan-India level.
  2. Implementation of the PC-PNDT Act is a part of this programme.
  3. The registration of cases and convictions are also increasing gradually because of the government’s stringent action and zero tolerance towards the issue.

Way Forward

  1. Generally we blame it on the education of parents when they wish for a baby boy, but unfortunately education, status, caste or creed nothing matters.
  2. One has to be mature and enlightened to treat boys and girls equally.


Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP)

  1. It is a campaign of the Government of India that aims to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls. The scheme was launched with an initial funding of ₹100 crore.
  2. It mainly targets the clusters in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar and Delhi.
  3. It aims to address the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) through a mass campaign across the country targeted at changing societal mindsets & creating awareness about the criticality of the issue.
  4. The Scheme will have focused intervention & multi-sectoral action in 100 districts with low Child Sex Ratio.
  5. This scheme is a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  6. These guidelines cover the key elements of the scheme including enforcement of Pre-Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, awareness and advocacy campaign and multi-sectoral action in select 100 districts which are low on Child Sex Ration (CSR).
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.