August 2018
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Indian-origin mathematician gets prestigious Fields Medal


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fields Medal

Mains level: Contribution of Indians in the field of science


Mathematics Nobel to Indian-origin person

  1. Akshay Venkatesh, a renowned Indian-Australian mathematician, is one of four winners of mathematics’ prestigious Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize for math.
  2. He has won the Fields Medal for his profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics.
  3. The citation for Venkatesh’s medal awarded at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro — highlights his profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics and his strikingly far-reaching conjectures.

About Fields Medal

  1. The Fields medals are awarded every four years to the most promising mathematicians under the age of 40.
  2. The prize was inaugurated in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, who ran the 1924 Mathematics Congress in Toronto.
  3. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize. At least two, and preferably four people, are always honoured in the award ceremony.
Innovation Ecosystem in India

Ballistic Missile Interceptor AAD Successfully Flight Tested

Image result for Advanced Area Defence (AAD)


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AAD

Mains level: India’s missile arsenal


AAD test successful

  1. DRDO has conducted the successful test of the Ballistic Missile Interceptor Advanced Area Defence (AAD) from Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha.
  2. The endo-atmospheric missile, capable of intercepting incoming targets at an altitude of 15 to 25 kms was launched against multiple simulated targets of 1500 km class ballistic missile.
  3. One target among simultaneously incoming multiple targets was selected on real-time, the weapon system radars tracked the target and the missile locked on to it and intercepted the target with a high degree of accuracy.
  4. The complete event including the engagement and interception was tracked by a number of electro-optical tracking systems, radars and telemetry stations.

Advanced Area Defence (AAD)

  1. AAD is an anti-ballistic missile designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 30 km (19 mi)
  2. AAD is a single-stage, solid-fuelled missile.
  3. Guidance is provided by an inertial navigation system.
Indian Missile Program Updates

[pib] NITI Aayog launches Move Hack, a global mobility hackathon



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of Move Hack

Mains level: Not Much


Move Hack

  1. NITI Aayog has launched Move Hack, a global mobility hackathon to crowdsource solutions aimed at the future of mobility in India.
  2. The hackathon has a two-pronged campaign approach:
  • Just Code It”: aimed at solutions through innovations in technology/product/software and data analysis, and
  • Just Solve It”: innovative business ideas or sustainable solutions to transform mobility infrastructure through technology.
  1. Move Hack is open to individuals of all nationalities, making it a truly global hackathon.

Why such hackathon?

  1. Transportation and mobility are emerging as potential drivers of innovation and economic growth of the 21st
  2. Rapidly evolving technologies and business models for delivering mobility services have dramatic potential to transform the global transportation sector.
  3. Mobility that ranges from pedestrian and personal transport to public transit and freight movement is extremely critical and impacts rural and urban daily lives.
Digital India Initiatives

India ranks 56th in early initiation of breastfeeding, say UNICEF, WHO


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important International institutions

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Highlights of the report

Mains level: Importance of breastfeeding


Breastfeeding scenario over the world

  1. A new report released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Sri Lanka at the top of the list of countries with early initiation of breastfeeding.
  2. The report released ahead of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), says that only two in five newborns are breastfed within the first hour of life across the world.
  3. The first feed, or colostrum, is termed as the baby’s first vaccine and is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
  4. Continuous and exclusive breastfeeding thereafter is also important.

Performance of the countries

  1. India ranks 56th among the 76 countries that were analyzed.
  2. Countries like Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Bhutan and Uruguay have fared much better than India, making it into the top 10.
  3. Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Montenegro are at the bottom.

Low awareness holds India back

  1. Though nearly 80% of births are institutional deliveries in India, there are missed opportunities of early initiation of breastfeeding due to low awareness among healthcare staff.
  2. The early initiation period has doubled in NFHS 4 as compared to NFHS 3.
  3. But more progress can be made by capitalizing on opportunities and creating awareness at the community level.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Explained: SC/ST (Amendment) Act, 2018


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, National Crime Records Bureau,

Mains level: Misuse of various laws made for the protection of vulnerable sections of society



  1. The Union Cabinet approved an amendment to The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to undo certain provisions of the law by the Supreme Court.
  2. The Act would be amended to remove any possibility of interpretation by a court of law.


  1. The SC/ST Act was originally passed in 1955 by the Parliament as the Untouchability (Offences) Act.
  2. It was renamed as the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act in 1976 but the law was considered ineffective in the 1980s and replaced with the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 1989.
  3. In 2015, more offences were brought under its ambit by including acts like tonsuring of the head, the moustache of backward caste people by upper-castes as a criminal activity.

20 March SC ruling

  1. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that there were “instances of abuse” of the Act by “vested interests” for political or personal reasons.
  2. It, thereafter, laid down guidelines for arrests under the Act “to avoid false implications”.
  3. The court said a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by a DSP to ensure allegations are not “frivolous or motivated” before a case is registered.
  4. It added that a public servant if accused can be only arrested with the permission of the appointing authority.
  5. Others can be arrested only after permission is granted from the Senior Superintendent of Police of the district.
  6. The SSP will have to record in writing the reason for granting permission and hand it to the accused and the concerned court.

Why this decision?

  1. The bench referred to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, which said that closure reports had been filed in 15-16 percent of the complaints under the Act
  2. Over 75 percent of such cases taken up by the courts had resulted in acquittals/ withdrawal or compounding of the cases
  3. There was a need to safeguard innocent citizens against false implication and unnecessary arrest for which there is no sanction under the law

What this amendment aims?

  1. The Amendment seeks to insert three new clauses to Section 18 of the original Act.
  2. The first stating the purposes of the Act that, a “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against any person.
  3. Second that “the arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval”.
  4. While third says that the provisions of Section 438 of the CrPC which deals with anticipatory bail, shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court”.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] The warping of the logic of reservations


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Protests across India by various communities demanding reservation and effective ways of dealing with such demands


Reservation demands from various communities

  1. The Maratha reservation demands, like those of the Patidars in Gujarat, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh and the Jats in Haryana, are the inevitable outgrowths of the political warping of the logic of reservations
  2. This has been a contested issue since its inception
  3. The Constituent Assembly fiercely debated the potential divisiveness of a policy of religion or caste-based reservation during a time of nation-building

Comparing oppressed groups across nations

  1. When it comes to certain groups that have been systematically oppressed for centuries, community identity and economic outcomes are difficult to disentangle
  2. The Dalit experience has often been compared to the African-American experience
  3. A solid body of study in the US has shown that centuries of slavery followed by decades of discrimination in housing, education, employment and law and order continue to affect African-American communities today in terms of capital formation, social capital and economic mobility
  4. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes face the same problem in India
  5. In addition, economic opportunities, entrepreneurship, access to credit and the like are still mediated to a large extent through informal kin and caste networks today

Economic basis for the reservation not plausible

  1. Affirmative action on an economic basis must be nuanced
  2. It cannot be the job of a state as large and diverse as India to carve out a slice of the pie for every economically disadvantaged citizen
  3. Its job is to grow the pie via inclusive growth, ensure good governance that will give citizens a fair shot at it and put in place social safety nets for those who can’t find a place at the table
  4. Economic reservations, if they are to exist, must be only in instances of persistent, intergenerational poverty

Failure of government

  1. Decades of a closed economy failed to deliver the growth necessary for socioeconomic progress and rid the country of entrenched modes of crony capitalism
  2. Various administrations have also failed to put in place policies and governance structures that will allow them to fulfil their basic functions: delivering public goods to citizens and enabling them to partake of economic growth
  3. Reservation is now a quick and dirty fix for problems that are best addressed by the longer, more arduous process of good governance
  4. It also has the advantage of being a practical tool of targeted political mobilization

Way Forward

  1. In May 1949, Vallabhai Patel had said during the Constituent Assembly debates that rather than quotas on the basis of religion, he would wait for the blossoming of toleration and fair-mindedness for the growing conscience among my own countrymen, for there can be no future for this country except on the basis of true democracy and fair opportunity for all
  2. The caste consciousness still runs deep in Indian society and it shapes socioeconomic structures in negative ways
  3. It would take political courage and effective governance of a high order to push back against quota politics
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Data localisation is not enough


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Draft Personal Data Protection Bill

Mains level: Rising cyber crimes and the role data protection bill would play in reducing them


Data protection bill seeks localisation of data

  1. The Justice Srikrishna Committee in its report accompanying the draft Personal Data Protection Bill notes that eight of the top 10 most accessed websites in India are owned by U.S. entities
  2. This reality has often hindered Indian law enforcement agencies when investigating routine crimes or crimes with a cyber element
  3. Police officials are forced to rely on a long and arduous bilateral process with the U.S. government to obtain electronic evidence from U.S. communication providers
  4. The committee seeks to correct this
  5. The Bill calls for a copy of user data to be mandatorily localised in India

Is data localisation enough?

  1. A fundamental error that the Srikrishna Committee seems to have made is in its belief that the location of data should determine who has access to it
  2. The reason that Indian law enforcement relies on an outdated Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process to obtain data stored by U.S. companies is because the U.S. law effectively bars these companies from disclosing user data to foreign law enforcement authorities
  3. Technology companies are allowed to share data such as content of an email or message only upon receiving a federal warrant from U.S. authorities
  4. This scenario will not change even after technology companies relocate Indian data to India

Crimes across the globe not covered

  1. The draft bill mandates local storage of data relating to Indian citizens only
  2. Localisation can provide data only for crimes that have been committed in India, where both the perpetrator and victim are situated in India
  3. Prevalent concerns around transnational terrorism, cyber crimes and money laundering will often involve individuals and accounts that are not Indian, and therefore will not be stored in India
  4. For investigations into such crimes, Indian law enforcement will have to continue relying on cooperative models like the MLAT process

Is location sole measure of claiming data rights?

  1. Questions around whether access to data is determined by the location of the user, location of data or the place of incorporation of the service provider have become central considerations for governments seeking to solve the cross-border data sharing conundrum
  2. The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this year, seeks to de-monopolise control over data from U.S. authorities
  3. The law will for the first time allow tech companies to share data directly with certain foreign governments
  4. This requires an executive agreement between the U.S. and the foreign country certifying that the state has robust privacy protections and respect for due process and the rule of law
  5. The CLOUD Act creates a potential mechanism through with countries such as India can request data not just for crimes committed within their borders but also for transnational crimes involving their state interests

Way Forward

  1. With the highest number of users of American technology offerings and a high number of user data requests, second only to the U.S., India is a clear contender for a partnership under the CLOUD Act
  2. If India recognises this opportunity and reforms laws around government access to data, both the Indian user and law enforcement will be better served in the long run
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] Discounting logic: on e-commerce policy


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Analysis of Draft e-commerce policy


Draft e-commerce policy

  1. The process of putting together a regulatory framework for electronic commerce in the country is finally speeding up
  2. A task force of the Union Commerce Ministry has submitted the draft National Policy on Electronic Commerce
  3. India’s e-tail business, estimated to be worth around $25 billion, is still a fraction of the overall retail sector in the country, but it has been witness to some frenetic activity of late

Future of e-commerce

  1. Over the coming decade, the e-commerce pie is expected to swell to $200 billion, fuelled by smartphones, cheaper data access and growing spends

Policy proposals

  1. The draft policy proposes the creation of a single national regulator to oversee the entire industry, although operationalising its different features would require action from multiple Ministries and regulators
  2. Among the ideas in the draft policy are a sunset clause on discounts that can be offered by e-commerce firms and restrictions on sellers backed by marketplace operators
  3. Foreign direct investment restrictions on players who can hold their own inventory are sought to be lifted, but there must be a majority Indian partner and all products have to be made in India
  4. There are proposed norms for storing and processing data locally
  5. There is a plan to stipulate payments via Rupay cards

Impacts of these proposals

  1. The aim of regulating discounts may be to prevent large players from pricing out the competition through unfair practices but taken too far such licensing and price controls can depress the sector
  2. To give the government a say on who can offer how much discount and for how long, instead of letting consumers exercise informed choices, would be a regressive step for the economy
  3. E-tailer costs are also likely to rise on account of proposed norms on storing and processing data locally

Way Forward

  1. The proposed e-commerce policy could drive away those planning online retail forays — and the opportunity to create jobs and benefit consumers would be lost
e-Commerce: The New Boom

Statutory status for BCs panel


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill, National Commission for Backward Classes, Article 338 B, Article 368

Mains level: Reservation and various issues related to it


Backward classes panel now a constitutional body

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill providing for a National Commission for Backward Classes as a constitutional body
  2. The bill provides for the grant of constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) on par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

Provisions of the bill

  1. The Bill as passed by the Lower House inserts Article 338 B in the Constitution
  2. It provides for a Commission for the socially and educationally backward classes with a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other members, all of whom shall be appointed by the President of India
  3. It states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories
  4. He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state

Domain of NCBC

  1. The duties of the NCBC include investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented and probe specific complaints regarding violation of rights
  2. Under this measure, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while probing any complaint

Bill sent back to RS

  1. As the Lok Sabha passed an alternative amendment to one proposed by the Rajya Sabha, the Bill will once again go to the Rajya Sabha
  2. A constitutional amendment under Article 368 needs to be passed by both Houses separately with a special majority
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.