September 2018
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[op-ed snap] The gap in disaster management funding


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NDMA, NDRF, SDRF,

Mains level: Need of post-disaster funds for adequate mitigation and rehabilitation of affected population


Debate on post-disaster funds

  1. The debate between the Centre and the Kerala government on the offer and acceptance of foreign aid following the floods has drawn attention away from the core question at stake—one of fiscal federalism
  2. The goods and services tax (GST) has increased the centralization of fiscal powers, limiting the autonomy of states to raise their own revenue for public expenditure
  3. The interplay of the fledgling GST regime with the role and responsibilities of the Centre and states under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, (DMA) has led to an uncharted situation

Fiscal domain of states

  1. Public health, roads, bridges and ferries, inland waterways, agriculture and land are state subjects, under List II of the Constitution
  2. The Kerala government has sought to impose a cess of 10% to finance the rebuilding of the state following the devastation caused by floods
  3. In terms of Article 279A of the Constitution, the GST Council is the forum for approving any new state tax on account of a natural calamity or disaster

Need for more finance devolution

  1. Given that the taxation powers (and consequently, budgets) of states are significantly constrained on account of GST, it is incumbent on the Centre to share the states’ burdens in times of crisis
  2. Previously, states received 60% of all indirect taxes, while the Centre received 40%. This has now changed to a 50-50 division, even though the Centre forgoes cesses
  3. The GST is believed to increase state revenue in the long term, but, at the moment, several states, including Kerala, have reported a significant reduction in tax revenues under the new tax regime
  4. State governments have increased expenditure responsibilities (on account of the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana scheme, pay revisions and farm loan waivers)—more so in times of crises
  5. Without an adequate share of taxes, they are pushed to borrow more, hardly a sustainable source of financing public expenditure

Ignorance of state demands as well as DMA

  1. The DMA, which predates the GST Act, expands the role of the Centre in disaster management, but this has not resulted in adequate budgetary apportionment for states
  2. The prime minister is the ex-officio chairperson of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and secretaries of the concerned central government ministries and departments are members of the National Executive Committee (NEC)
  3. The NEC is responsible for formulating the national plan, which the central government is to finance by making “adequate provisions”
  4. Despite the statutory role of the Centre under the DMA, it places primary responsibility for disaster management on the states

Post-disaster mitigation has no specific funds

  1. The state disaster response fund (SDRF) is the primary means available to the states of financing disaster relief and response
  2. As per the operational guidelines for the national disaster response fund (NDRF), the fund is intended only to provide immediate relief to disaster victims
  3. Neither the NDRF nor the SDRF can be used for restoration or reconstruction in the aftermath of a disaster
  4. These expenses are to be met from normal budgetary heads or plan funds

Inadequate resources available for mitigation

  1. The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF for general category states and 90% to special category states
  2. The total budgeted expenditure for the entire country for 2018-19 was ₹12,500 crore
  3. Assocham estimates the loss suffered by Kerala alone, at ₹15,000-20,000 crore

Way Forward

  1. By concentrating taxing power, the 122nd amendment to the Constitution has tilted the balance of federal powers towards the Centre
  2. It is not unreasonable for states to expect that the Centre will extend financial support during disasters
  3. The Centre must step in with additional disaster relief to prevent excessive borrowing by the state and the makings of another disaster
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[op-ed snap] Steps to stop the rot: on dangers of storing foodgrains in the open


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Public Distribution System – objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks & food security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PDS system, Food Corporation of India

Mains level: Foodgrain storage practices in India & how it leads to huge wastage of foodgrains


Storage of foodgrains inefficient

  1. Most grain in India, which is procured from farmers by the government, is stored using the CAP, or cover and plinth method
  2. The agencies build a cement plinth and pile up foodgrains in bags and then cover all this with a tarpaulin
  3. India stores about 30.52 million tonnes of rice, wheat, maize, gram and sorghum in such structures at the Food Corporation of India godowns and hired spaces
  4. It is estimated that there is a 10% loss of harvested grain, of which 6% (around 1,800,000 tonnes) is lost in storage
  5. This means that the grain is so damp and fungus-ridden that it cannot be ground and passed on to the public for consumption

Effects of eating mouldy grains

  1. Eating mouldy grain causes a variety of illnesses
  2. According to a World Health Organisation paper, mycotoxins, which are found in mouldy grain/foods, are associated with human disease and produce aflatoxins (cancer-causing), trichothecenes, ochratoxins, citrinin and other toxins
  3. Aflatoxicosis causes abdominal pain, vomiting, hepatitis and (sometimes) death after acute exposure to high concentrations in food
  4. Chronic low dose exposure to aflatoxin can result in impaired growth in children

International storage practices

  1. In other parts of the world, grain is stored in silos
  2. Here, stored grain is kept dry and aired so as to prevent fungal and insect attacks
  3. The U.S. has a permanent storage capacity nearly equivalent to its annual grain production

Status of storage in India

  1. In India, the government has considered only four silos to be sufficient for the nation’s needs — one each in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Hapur-Ghaziabad
  2. The remainder of government-procured grain is stored in shoddy conditions
  3. In order to export basmati rice, Punjab has, in a public-private partnership, built modern, temperature-controlled grain silos with a storage capacity of 50,000 tonnes — but this is not for the Indian market

Way Forward

  1. Even though foodgrain production has been encouraged and increased, there need to be efforts to ensure that grain being procured annually is stored properly
  2. There is now an abundance of steel, cement and other building materials, money and the technological know-how
  3. The government should move on a war footing to store food grains in the proper manner
Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[op-ed snap] What’s in a name?: on the use of the term ‘Dalit’


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Article 341

Mains level: Recent issues related to Dalit identity and need to protect the vulnerable communities


Directive to abandon the use of the term ‘Dalit’

  1. Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued an advisory to the media saying they “may” refrain from using the term ‘Dalit’ while referring to members of Scheduled Castes
  2. This is unnecessary, intrusive and issued with little application of the mind

Why such a directive?

  1. This has been done in compliance with a direction from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court
  2. A reading of the court’s order shows that it only wanted the Centre “to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable decision upon it”
  3. The court gave such suggestion after it was brought to its notice that the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had issued a directive to use only the term ‘Scheduled Castes’ in all official matters
  4. The court noted that since media institutions were not a party before it, the I&B Ministry could consider the question of issuing a similar direction to the media

Debate against the word ‘Dalit’

  1. A decade ago, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes disfavoured the use of ‘Dalit’, which it felt was unconstitutional
  2. This is because belonging to a ‘Scheduled Caste’ is a legal status conferred on members of castes named in a list notified by the President under Article 341 of the Constitution
  3. Therefore, ‘Scheduled Caste’ is the appropriate way to refer to this class of people in official communications and documents

Evolution of the term

  1. The term has evolved over a period of time and has come to symbolise different things in different contexts — self-respect, assertion, solidarity and opposition to caste oppression
  2. In the past, Dalits were referred to as ‘untouchables’, but the official term during British rule was ‘depressed classes’
  3. Mahatma Gandhi sought to remove the stigma of ‘pollution’ by using the term ‘Harijans’, or ‘children of God’
  4. The community rejected this appellation as patronising and sanctimonious
  5. The evolution of the word Dalit or Pad-Dalit was strongly emphasised by B R Ambedkar in his Marathi writings during his years of active journalism and public speaking from 1920 onwards
  6. He fashioned the term for the Depressed Classes to unionise the political categories that are subsumed under it
  7. Dalit is a political identity that emerged in the 1970s in connection with the rise of Dalit literature in Marathi and the Dalit Panthers, a militant movement based out of Maharashtra’s urban centres

Importance of the term

  1. “Dalit” is primarily an anti-caste, anti-Brahminical, anti-capitalistic, anti-oppression, anti-superstition rebellion moulded into the totemic traditions of Dalit emancipation drawn from the experiences of their ancestors’ quest to life
  2. ‘Dalit’ literally means ‘downtrodden’ or ‘broken’ reflecting the struggle of a community to reassert its identity and lay claim to the rights that were denied to them for centuries
  3. The idea of “humanism, freedom, rebellion, and equality” is strongly reinforced in the popularisation of the term

Way Forward

  1. It is inexplicable to oppose the use of the term ‘Dalit’ in the media and in non-official contexts — a nomenclature chosen and used by the community itself
  2. We must recognise that ‘Dalit’ is an expression of self-empowerment
  3. The advisory must be withdrawn as there is no reason to tell the media how to do their job, even if it is couched in the form of gratuitous advice
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Supreme Court bats for minor rape survivors


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: Compensation Plans as per SC directive

Mains level: Compensation for victims of sex crimes especially the Minors.


Extends Compensation Plan

  1. The Supreme Court ordered that minor survivors of rape or sexual assault will get compensation on par with women victims.
  2. The apex court extended the National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) compensation scheme for women rape and sexual assault survivors to minor children.
  3. A three-judge Bench directed that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act should disburse compensation to minor victims of sex abuse as per the NALSA’s ‘Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/Other Crimes-2018’.
  4. The NALSA scheme would be made applicable to minor victims from October 2 until the Centre frames compensation guidelines under the POCSO.

Details of the Compensation Plan

  1. The NALSA scheme provides a uniform payment of ₹ 5 lakh to a maximum ₹ 10 lakh for “loss of life” and to gang rape survivors in any part of the country.
  2. Similarly, in case of rape and unnatural sexual assault, the victim would get a minimum of ₹4 lakh and maximum of ₹ 7 lakh as compensation.
  3. Among other categories, if a victim suffers the loss of foetus, that is, by miscarriage as a result of assault or loss fertility, the NALSA scheme offers a compensation of ₹ 2 lakh to 3 lakh.
  4. The scheme provides a victim of acid attacks, in case of disfigurement of face, would get a minimum compensation of ₹ 7 lakh, while the upper limit would be ₹ 8 lakh.
  5. In acid attack cases, if the injury was more than 50%, a minimum compensation of ₹ 5 lakh would be given, while the maximum would be ₹ 8 lakh.
  6. The compensation for sex abuse survivors should be a source of financial solace for victims of sex crimes and acid attacks during court trial.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Trade talks stuck as U.S. presses oil, aircraft sales to India


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: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard talks of uncertainty of Trump administration over its strategic relation with India merely over India’s trade surplus with the US.


Crosshairs of Trump administration

  1. India and the United States are in a deadlock over contentious trade issues.
  2. This comes after the Trump administration sought a formal commitment of additional purchases of $10 billion annually for the next three years, as part of a trade agreement under negotiation.
  3. has a surplus of $23 billion in trade with America, and the U.S. wants to wipe that off by forcing more imports by New Delhi, as part of a proposed trade agreement.

Reviewing the GSP status for India

  1. The USTR had launched a review of India’s GSP status, which allows preferential treatment to certain number of specified goods from beneficiary countries.
  2. Earlier signals from the USTR suggested there could be a resolution by India, rationalizing the trade margin over medical devices, and for India by reducing the steel and aluminum tariffs.
  3. But the draft agreement prepared by the USTR sought concessions from India on Compulsory Registration Order that governs standards in telecom equipment, American exports of boric acid, pork, poultry and dairy.

Overt expectations by US

  1. American interlocutors took Indian officials by surprise last month with a draft agreement that committed additional imports by India, in civilian aircraft and natural gas.
  2. With talks in stalemate, the U.S is proceeding with its review of India’s GSP status and India is moving ahead with retaliatory tariffs.
  3. Postponed twice, India’s retaliatory tariffs are now set to come into force on September 18.
  4. Meanwhile, there is a shadow of uncertainty over the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) that was announced for the last week of October.
  5. India was expecting to negotiate general market access issues at the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), but the USTR wanted all of them resolved at earliest.

Fight for Market Access

  1. The US must understand that there are different ways of addressing the trade deficit.
  2. With the US restarting oil and natural gas exports Indian imports in these sectors have been going up.
  3. In the first six months of this year, US exports to India have gone up by 28% compared to last year.
  4. The US should not be hasty. There has been a decrease in the deficit last year by about 5% or about $1.5 Bn because India imports gas and oil from the United States.
  5. According to ballpark figures, this calendar year we are likely to import up to US $2.5 billion in oil and gas. This must be acknowledged by the US.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

New Ganga clean-up law plans armed force, prison terms & fines


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Namami Gange Project, Particulars of the draft

Mains level: Making stringent laws for Ganga’s protection



  1. In July 2016, a committee was constituted under retired judge of the Allahabad High Court Justice Girdhar Malviya.
  2. He had submitted a draft Bill last year named The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017.
  3. Subsequently, a four-member committee was set up by the Ministry to examine that and the Ministry has circulated a Cabinet note which includes a revised version of that draft Bill.

Draft Bill for Ganga’s Protection

  1. The draft Bill says that present environmental laws aren’t adequate to restore and protect the river.
  2. An armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river.
  3. Certain illicit activities be regarded as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
  4. These are among the measures in the draft Bill prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation which has sought opinion of various stakeholders.
  5. The Bill calls for a National Ganga Council and a National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority to enforce the law and protect the river which flows over 2500 km.

Cognizable offences under the Bill

  1. Cognizable offences marked in the draft Bill include:
  • construction activities causing obstruction in the river;
  • withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries;
  • commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries;
  • discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.
  1. The draft Bill says that commercial fishing or aqua culture activities in the Ganga and any of its tributaries shall be punishable with imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2 lakh or both.
  2. Similarly, construction of permanent structure for residential, commercial and residential purposes in the active flood plain area of Ganga will be punishable with a two-year imprisonment or fine up to Rs 50 lakh or both.
  3. No person or municipal authority will establish or take any steps to set up any industrial or residential or commercial premises or structure which may result in discharge of any sewage or trade effluent into the Ganga
  4. This may face a five-year prison term or a fine of Rs 50,000 per day or both.

Ganga Protection Corps

  1. The draft Bill envisages the Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force “constituted and maintained” by the Central government.
  2. If any member of GPC has reason to believe that any person has committed an offence punishable under this Act, he may take such person in custody to the nearest police station.
  3. GPC will follow Code of Criminal Procedure.
  4. Its personnel, the draft Bill says, will be provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and will be deployed by National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
  5. While almost similar provisions are there in the Environment Protection Act 1986, creation of GPC is new.

[pib] Cabinet approves continuation of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats Scheme beyond 12th Plan


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH)

Mains level: Various efforts by the government to conserve wildlife through  elephant corridors, project tiger and other wildlife habitats.



  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the Centrally Sponsored Umbrella Scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH) beyond the 12thPlan period from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH)

  1. The Scheme consists of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of-
  • Project Tiger (CSS-PT),
  • Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-DWH) and
  • Project Elephant (CSS-PE).
  1. A total of 18 tiger range States, distributed in five landscapes of the country would be benefitted under the Project Tiger scheme.
  2. Similarly, for other two schemes, the coverage is entire country in case of Development of Wildlife Habitats (DWH) and 23 elephant range States for Project Elephant.

Benefits of the Scheme

  1. The schemes would result in overall strengthening/ consolidation of tiger, elephant and wildlife conservation in the country.
  2. The schemes would address the human wildlife conflict effectively.
  3. These schemes would generate employment opportunities resulting in economic upliftment of people in and around tiger reserves/ Protected Areas.
  4. It will generate direct employment of about 30 lakh mandays annually which shall include many local tribes besides non-tribal local workforce.
  5. Local populace would get opportunities to serve as guides, driver, hospitality personnel and in other ancillary jobs.
  6. These schemes would foster imparting various skills towards making people self-dependent through various eco-development projects, thereby enabling them to go for self-employment.
  7. These schemes would result in resource generation through tourist visits, thereby fostering in securing tiger source areas.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Union HRD Minister releases the curriculum on Experiential Learning – Gandhijis Nai Talim


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nai Talim

Mains level: Not Much


Experiential Learning – Gandhijis Nai Talim

  1. Union HRD Ministry released the curriculum on Experiential Learning – Gandhijis Nai Talim.
  2. This curriculum was brought out simultaneously in 13 languages i.e., Assamese, Tamil, Bengali, Odiya, Kannada, Malyalam, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Urdu, Hindi and English.
  3. It is in consultation with the state councils of educational research and training along with the universities in the country.
  4. The curriculum was a holistic approach of developing body, mind and soul (hand, head and heart), by making a productive art, craft or community engagement activity as the centre of learning.
  5. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s upcoming 150th birth anniversary celebrations, a movement is on across the educational institutions in the country to promote Nai Talim, Work Education and Experiential Learning.
  6. A special effort is on school and teacher education in the areas of work education and experiential learning through the education departments of Universities as well as Central and State Governments and the SCERTs.

Launching of the book

  1. Marking the occasion of Teacher’s Day, the book titled “Experiential Learning – Gandhiji’s Nai Talim is launched today.
  2. The book contains basic principles of Gandhiji’s Nai Talim (our notes and interpretations), along with the Work and Education curriculum for Schools, D.Ed, B.Ed and Faculty Development Programmes for teachers.
  3. This book and this project is a joint effort of the Universities in the state, state SCERT and Mahatma Gandhi National Council of Rural Education (MGNCRE), formerly known as National Council of Rural Institutes (NCRI).

[pib] Rashtriya Poshan Maah celebrations get under way across India


Mains Paper 2: Indian Society| Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Poshan Maah

Mains level: Mission Mode implementation of Poshan Abhiyaan.


Poshan Maah

  1. The Government is celebrating the month of September, 2018 as the National Nutrition Month under the Poshan Abhiyan.
  2. The key feature of this programme is mobilization of communities across the country and gets their participation in addressing various aspects of the nutritional challenges.
  3. The primary aim is to enable awareness on the importance of nutrition and how individual families can easily access government services to supplement nutrition for their children and pregnant/lactating mothers.
  4. National Nutrition Month has eight key themes-
  • Antenatal Care,
  • Optimal Breastfeeding,
  • Complementary Feeding,
  • Anemia,
  • Growth Monitoring,
  • Education;
  • Diet and right age of marriage for girls,
  • Hygiene and Sanitation and Food fortification.

Jan Andolan under the Project

  1. POSHAN Abhiyaan seeks to synergise efforts of key stakeholders by leveraging technology and intends to take Nutrition Awareness to the level of Jan Andolan or People’s Movement.
  2. This People’s Movement intends to reach 11 crore beneficiaries during the Rashtriya Poshan Maah itself.
  3. Since the launch, Government has organised many Awareness Workshops with an aim to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight.
  4. Stakeholders across India will be encouraged to undertake activities ranging from State Level Workshops to Nomination of Brand Ambassadors to Multi-Media Campaigns.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.