August 2018
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Explained: How do roads impact wildlife, and why should anyone bother?


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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Major Highways passing through Conservation areas.

Mains Level: Importance of mitigation strategies to avoid loss of Wildlife in Road Accidents.


Habitat Loss – a serious implication

  1. Wild animals are vulnerable to vehicular traffic passing through forests, especially at night when, blinded by bright headlights, even swift species like cats freeze.
  2. Over time, as animals learn to avoid roads, busy multilane highways become barriers that hinder wildlife movement, fragment populations, and restrict gene flow.
  3. By blocking access to potential habitats, roads, railway lines and irrigation canals act as a major contributor to habitat loss.

India’s policy

  1. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex advisory body on all wildlife-related matters said no to new roads through protected forests in 2013.
  2. But it was open to the widening of existing roads with adequate mitigation measures irrespective of the cost, only if alternative alignments were not available. The government accepted this as policy in December 2014.
  3. In February 2018, the NBWL made it mandatory for every road/rail project proposal to include a wildlife passage plan as per guidelines framed by Wildlife Institute of India.
  4. However, features like underpasses are unlikely to suffice in dense wildlife-rich forests where too many animals compete for space.

Learning from Global examples

  1. Roads have destroyed tropical rainforests in South America, Asia and Africa.
  2. Though under severe pressure, the Amazon rainforests still hold over 1 million sq km of no-go zones, including national parks and territories for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.
  3. In North America and Europe, where the road network is extensive and wildlife density lower, wildlife passageways are more common. These features are seen in Malaysia and Kenya as well.
  4. In many protected areas such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, night traffic is prohibited.

Bandipur story

  1. In July 2008, Karnataka closed night traffic on the Mysore-Mananthavadi highway passing through Nagarhole Tiger Reserve.
  2. This and reports of frequent roadkills in Bandipur, prompted the Chamarajnagar district administration in June 2009 to restrict vehicular traffic between 9 pm and 6 am on two national highways passing through the reserve.
  3. Protests by Kerala however led to the order being withdrawn.After a PIL was filed, Karnataka High Court restored the ban on night traffic in July 2009 with reasonable restrictions.
  4. The state’s night traffic ban was subsequently replicated in Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve) and Gujarat (Gir National Park).

NTCA report seeking status-quo

  1. After the Bandipur matter went to the Supreme Court, the CMs of the concerned states agreed with an expert panel’s recommendation to maintain status quo.
  2. The expert committee included the Road Transport Secretary, with a representative each from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  3. In March the NTCA recommended maintaining status quo to continue with the existing restrictions over which all parties agreed.
  4. The report also included measures for mitigation strategies.

Limitations of the New Plan

  1. The proposal included elevating the road over four 1-km stretches to provide wildlife passageways below, and fencing the entire highway passing through the reserve with 8-foot-high steel wire barriers.
  2. While this may work for wandering elephants if the passageways cover their traditional routes, for territorial animals, just four openings in a 24-km stretch may not suffice.
  3. But big cats will use its immediate passageway (for hunting) to get over to its neighborhood territory split by the Highway.
  4. The argument for opening up and widening the restricted road is that the alternative road is 30 km longer, and apparently passes through hilly terrain — increasing travel time, fuel consumption, and pollution.
  5. So fencing the Highway is the only viable option available.

Way Forward

  1. The question is whether a 30-km detour to safeguard one of India’s most wildlife-rich forests is an unaffordable economic burden or a minor concession necessary in the national interest.
  2. This is a concern for all conservation areas intersected by major highways.
  3. A unified mitigation strategy needs to be developed to avoid the loss of habitation and subsequent deaths of wildlife in road accidents.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Defence Ministry throws 11 challenges at startups


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Defence India Startup Challenge

Mains level: Boosting innovation for defence manufacturing in India


Defence India Startup Challenge

  1. Defence Minister unveiled the Defence India Startup Challenge, an initiative to tap startups for finding safe and futuristic Indian solutions to critical needs of the three Armed Forces.
  2. Ministry released a list of 11 technologies that the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force need, to begin with.
  3. They included remote air vehicles, laser weapons, secure and safe communication systems and bandwidth, precision targeting systems, sensors, and protected and informed movement of soldiers in battle tanks.
  4. Those that come up with prototypes of usable products would be supported with ₹1.5 crore each and friendly procurement procedures from the Ministry under SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart in Defence.

Assistance for Startups

  1. Startups participating under the Make-II or indigenous production procedure of the Defence Procurement Policy 2016 projects would be entitled to get a prototype development cost of up to ₹3 crore.
  2. The schemes are part of Innovations for Defence Excellence initiative launched at the DefExpo held in Kanchipuram in April.
  3. They would be supported by a ₹100-crore Defence Innovation Fund kick-started by defence PSUs Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and Bharat Electronics Ltd.
  4. Bengaluru-based Tonbo Imaging received a first of its kind certificate of accord of approval in principle for its proposal, Night Fire Control System for AGS-30.

Top Tech Institutions to mentor

  1. The Defence Innovation Organization signed MoUs with four of five selected incubators to mentor entrepreneurs and small and medium industries to create technologies for the military.
  2. The four are the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmadabad; Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay; T-Hub, Hyderabad; and FORGE under the Coimbatore Innovation & Business Incubator. IIT-Madras is the fifth partner.
Start-up Ecosystem In India

Lateral entry of officers: Search panel decides UPSC will choose


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Selection of Personnel’s in Lateral entry scheme

Mains level: Lateral entry into civil services.


More faith in UPSC

  1. In order to limit scope for political intervention, the Search-cum-Selection Committee has decided that the appointment process to be handled by UPSC through the ongoing process.
  2. The panel headed by the Cabinet Secretary reposed more faith in the UPSC to make the appointments than take it upon the committee itself.

No affirmation yet over selection process

  1. No prior consultancy was done with any of the 10 ministries on how to go about the selection process.
  2. Therefore, the committee had no clue on how to select the bureaucrats.
  3. Also missing is the assessment criteria for screening individual applications, as these are likely to be varied as per demands of various ministries.
  4. The panel was therefore in two minds: either to hand over the shortlisting of candidates to the UPSC too or to let each ministry prune the applications for the UPSC’s selection procedure.

Screening through Experts

  1. In case if PM decides to hand over the shortlisting to the concerned ministry, one option would be to hand over the applications to a team of sectoral experts for screening.
  2. Those shortlisted would then be scrutinized by a panel of government representatives.
  3. Assessing a candidate’s domain knowledge and experience before assessing his motivation is a crucial task which can be effectively done by sectoral experts.

Lateral Entry to bypasses Reservations for Field Expertise

The ‘lateral entry’ route will also bypass the UPSC system under which 15 per cent seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes and 27 per cent for OBCs in the IAS.

Civil Services Reforms

DG AIR elected AIBD President


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AIBD

Mains level: Read the attached story


Proud moment for Indian broadcasting

  1. The Asia-Pacific Institute of Broadcasting Development (AIBD) on elected Fayyaz Sheheryar, Director-General of All India Radio, as its new President.
  2. This is the first time India has been elected for the position of president of AIBD.
  3. The elections were held at the 44th annual meeting of AIBD in Colombo.


Asia-Pacific Institute of Broadcasting Development (AIBD)

  1. The AIBD was established in 1977 under the auspices of UNESCO.
  2. It is a unique regional inter-governmental organization servicing countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development.
  3. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are founding organizations of the Institute and they are non-voting members of the General Conference.
  4. It is hosted by the Government of Malaysia and the secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur.
  5. The AIBD is mandated to achieve a vibrant and cohesive electronic media environment in the Asia-Pacific region through policy and resource development.
  6. The Institute will undertake to:
  • Encourage regional dialogue and cooperation in electronic media policy of the Asia Pacific region;
  • Provide an Asia-Pacific regional platform for international cooperation in the electronic media development;
  • Assist member countries in human resource development in the electronic media, consistent with their development needs;
  • Assist member countries with electronic media consultancy.

[pib] IWAI sets out on large public outreach along Ganga for Jal Marg Vikas Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP)

Mains level: Enhancing hinterland connectivity with the help of Inland Waterways


Context: Inland Waterways Authority of India held a two day long intensive advocacy and communications outreach at Sahibganj and Rajmahal in Jharkhand.

Aimed at boosting rural economy

  1. These interventions are set to change the socio-economic landscape of the land-locked region which has missed the development.
  2. Participants included people from diverse backgrounds – NGO, Panchayat Members, Village Pradhans, Farmers, Fisherman, Boatmen and other local community.
  3. The IWAI is working with State Livelihood Missions for imparting necessary skill training for the youth, boatmen and other community members so that they could benefit from the employment opportunities, informed the IWAI officials who conducted the outreach programmes.

Easing Transportation

  1. The construction of the multi-modal terminal at Sahibganj will provide critical last mile connectivity to the hinterland of Jharkhand, the state richly endowed with mineral resources.
  2. The multi-modal terminal at Sahibganj will play an important role in transportation of domestic coal from the local mines in Rajmahal area to various thermal power plants located along NW-1.
  3. Other than coal, stone chips, fertilizers, cement and sugar are other commodities expected to be transported through the terminal.


Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP)

  1. It is aimed for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1) Varanasi to Haldia.
  2. It will impact the ongoing process by creating :
  • An alternative mode of transport that will be environment-friendly and cost-effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country
  • Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids
  • Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.
Inland Waterways

[op-ed snap] The problem at the WTO


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WTO

Mains level:  WTO dispute settlement mechanism and its importance in world trade


Trade wars & changing WTO

  1. Adherence to the rules of an international trade organisation was expected to serve as an important domestic incentive (and imperative) for governments by allowing them to resist protectionist demands and provide for greater legal certainty
  2. The U.S. drove the agenda to establish the World Trade Organisation (WTO) purely to pursue its own commercial interests
  3. The U.S. has been long proven isolationist and has never truly embraced the idea of a multilateral system in which its leadership could be contested
  4. A closer look at the Doha round of trade negotiations shows that the U.S. may well have consciously (or not) destroyed the negotiation process in formulating excessive demands that no country was prepared to meet
  5. The current crisis with the WTO dispute settlement system does not come as a surprise. In trade wars, the objective is not to settle a dispute; it is to win the battle

What’s the issue?

  1. The U.S. has systematically blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (“judges”) and de facto impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism
  2. With only four working members out of seven normally serving office in July 2018, the institution is under great stress
  3. If no appointment is made, it will simply be destroyed by December 2019, with only one remaining member to tackle a massive number of disputes that are also increasingly hypertechnical
  4. Other WTO members are expressing concerns over the politicisation of the Appellate Body appointment and reappointment process; and the quasi-attribution of permanent Appellate Body seats to the U.S. and the European Union (EU)
  5. There is concern that China may be on its way to having a permanent seat

Resolving the issue

  1. Since its accession to the Organisation, in 2001, and despite an extremely demanding protocol of accession designed by the U.S. and the EU to literally constrain its emerging power and limit the impact of its commercial domination on their own economies, China has largely benefited from the rules-based WTO system
  2. China has accumulated a vast experience close to that of the U.S. or Europe
  3. China now claims to hold the legitimacy to take the lead in WTO matters
  4. The recent EU-China proposal to promote the reform of the WTO is said to combat “unilateralism and protectionism”

Way Forward

  1. The world has changed and multilateral institutions now have to embed these changes
  2. Today’s WTO crisis might well be the last ditch battle to retain control over a Western-centric organisation
  3. The time has come for the emerging economies and the developing world to have a greater say in how to shape multilateralism and its institutions
WTO and India

[op-ed snap] Citizenship and compassion


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Refugee crisis in India as well as other parts of the world and dealing with it


NRC updation in Assam

  1. The current situation in Assam seems like a nightmare, a warning about the internal contradictions of democracy
  2. It is a warning that the 19th century ideas of democracy as electoral-ism and the notion of the nation-state as a fetishism of borders may be inappropriate as imaginations for the 21st century
  3. It is a caution that governance and politics are full of ironies and paradoxes and that the best of intentions might lead to the worst consequences
  4. Inherent in it is the banalisation of evil that can take place when suffering on a large scale gets reduced to a cost-benefit scenario

History of citizen registers

  1. The politics of citizens’ registers underlines the problem of migratory politics, refracted through the layered memories of many historical events
  2. It began in the colonial era when the British attempted to import labour for the plantations
  3. Major displacements like Partition and the Bangladesh war added to a huge “illegal” population

What’s the issue with current NRC updation?

  1. A register which began as a routine, even clinical exercise now acquires a Machiavellian shadow
  2. In this tussle between the nation-state and an open democracy, the enclosure and the panopticon as mediums of control are at odds with the idea of the commons and the hospitality of the community
  3. Technocratic solutions cannot hide the absence of human and historical understanding
  4. The handling and management of large populations create a problem of ethics. Assam raises the question of both triage and exterminism
  5. The dispensability and disposability of large populations confronts India on a large scale

Handling such situations

  1. One cannot handle such situations merely through law
  2. One needs generosity, hospitality and compassion
  3. One needs to understand that once our civics accepts the detention centre and the internment camp as routine, we are creating gulags of the mind, where one can begin with an ordinary act of classification and erase a people
  4. Indian democracy has to face the genocidal prospect inherent both in its technocratic sense of governance and in the anxieties that electoralism creates

Security vs Nation state paradigm

  1. The shift from citizenship to a preoccupation with security unfolds a different paradigm of thought
  2. Nation-state and citizenship as encompassing entities offer different ideas of order and control
  3. Security is a panopticon-ising notion, while citizenship is a caring, even protective, one
  4. Security operates on the grids of surveillance, scrutiny and separation
  5. Citizenship is a more hospitable notion of initiating the other into a system

Way Forward

  1. We need to go back and look at our Constitution and reread notions of the border, the very idea of citizenship
  2. We need to go beyond hard definitions and look at the penumbra of these concepts
  3. We need to think of a nation-state with permeable borders and a fluid sense of citizenship which makes life more hopeful for the refugee
Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Change gears: amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Concurrent List

Mains level: India’s fast-growing transport sector and various issues related to it


Opposition to Motor Vehicles Act

  1. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha last year, seeks to address lacunae in transport sector, but it has now run into opposition in the Rajya Sabha because of its perceived shift of power from the States to the Centre
  2. As the subject is in the Concurrent List, Parliament can make a law defining powers available to the States
  3. Some State governments are concerned about the new provisions

Concerns of the states

  1. Sections 66A and 88A will empower the Centre to form a National Transportation Policy through a process of consultation, and not concurrence
  2. The changes will also enable Centrally-drafted schemes to be issued for national, multi-modal and inter-State movement of goods and passengers, for rural mobility and even last-mile connectivity
  3. Since all this represents a new paradigm that would shake up the sector, several States have opposed the provisions as being anti-federal

Changing dynamics of the transport sector

  1.  The passenger transport sector operating within cities and providing inter-city services has grown amorphously
  2. Vested interests of some people have resulted in exploiting the lack of transparency and regulatory bottlenecks
  3. State-run services have not kept pace with the times
  4. Major investments made in the urban metro rail systems are yielding poor results in the absence of last-mile connectivity services

What needs to be done?

  1. Creating an equitable regulatory framework for the orderly growth of services is critical
  2. This could be achieved through changes to the MV Act that set benchmarks for States
  3. Enabling well-run bus services to operate across States with suitable permit charges is an imperative to meet the needs of a growing economy
  4. The effort to curb institutionalised corruption at Regional Transport Offices by making it possible for dealers to directly register new vehicles, and enabling online applications for driving licences is welcome
  5. It is the certainty of enforcement, zero tolerance and escalating penalties that will really work

Way Forward

  1. India’s law governing motor vehicles and transport is archaic, lacking the provisions necessary to manage fast motorisation
  2. The lacunae in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, require to be addressed to improve road safety, ensure orderly use of vehicles and expand public transport
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.