[pib] India and Asian Development Bank (ADB) sign up for India’s First Global Skills Park


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Skills Park

Mains level: Enhancing skill development ecosystem in India



  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $150 million Loan Agreement in today to establish a Global Skills Park (GSP) in Madhya Pradesh.

Global Skills Park (GSP)

  1. It is the First Multi-Skills Park in India, to enhance the quality of Technical and Vocational Education And Training (TVET) System in the State and create a more skilled workforce.
  2. The Project will help improve the quality and relevance of the State’s TVET programs.
  3. It will help impart advanced job-ready skills training of international standards that can meet the employment needs of the State’s emerging sectors.
  4. The Project will engage international TVET partners to support advanced training at the GSP who will bring global best practices in TVET management, training infrastructure, industry cooperation, and quality assurance.

About the GSP campus

  1. The new GSP campus, which will be established in Bhopal will consist of core Advanced Training Institutes including the Center for Occupational Skills Acquisition and the Center for Advanced Agricultural Training as well as other support services.
  2. The sole aim is focussed on entrepreneurship, training of trainers, and skill-related research.
  3. The campus will have training facilities focusing on skills for manufacturing, service, and advanced agricultural jobs, benefitting about 20,000 trainees and trainers.
  4. The Project will also help in modernizing 10 industrial training institutes across the state by renovating training infrastructure and upgrading skills courses to align with industry and market needs.
Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[pib] Rafting expedition “Mission Gange”


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Gange

Mains level: Not Much


Mission Gange

  1. National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has partnered with Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) to launch a month-long rafting expedition of a team of 40 members.
  2. It will be led by the first Indian woman to scale Mount Everest Ms. Bachendri Pal.
  3. The expedition will start from Haridwar traversing a distance of around 1500 km encompassing 8 major towns including Bijnor, Farrukhabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Buxar.
  4. It will conclude in Patna in Bihar.
  5. The expedition is aimed for public outreach to heighten the awareness for keeping cleaner Ganga.
  6. In the expedition team of 40 members, several are trained mountaineers. Seven of them have climbed Mount Everest.
  7. The team during its stay in the towns will carry out cleanliness drives at ghats and surrounding areas by engaging and motivating more and more people.
Mission Clean Ganga

[op-ed snap] Blended finance for meeting the SDGs


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues related to public financing and propsects of blended financing


Blended finance model

  1. Blended finance is in fashion in the development finance world
  2. It refers to the merging of public and private funds to maximize development impact
  3. t can be termed as a mechanism to reduce investment risks associated with things such as basic healthcare, energy access and livelihood for the poorest
  4. It is most often called upon in reference to meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that countries valiantly agreed to in 2015

How can blended finance help?

  1. Blended finance can reduce investment risk
  2. It can enhance returns
  3. It can increase financial flows

Issues in the management of public and private capital

  • The way money is managed
  1. Most aid agencies need to spend their commitments in a given calendar/fiscal year as internal accounting systems disallow payables over time
  2. This means that any contract that entails future payments is prohibited
  3. Many agencies are thus unable to enter into forward contracts
  4. In reality, projects get delayed and cost overruns happen—particularly in the typically challenging markets that SDGs are relevant to
  5. By focusing only on spending fast, measuring impact and outcomes become secondary leading to the low development
  • The way money is monitored
  1. Public agencies, aid, in particular, focus on monitoring every dollar spent, whereas private funds monitor outcomes over a pre-agreed period of time and rely on audited financial reports as the benchmark for healthy financial management
  2. This perceived micromanagement distracts from focusing on the real outcomes of the investment and redirects often significant human resources into the production of micro-level financial reporting
  3. Rather than control the process, public agencies should set their ‘public benefits’ criteria upfront, and private entities should make those integral to normal financial reporting
  • The pricing of risk
  1. In commercial finance, the higher the risk, the higher the cost of capital
  2. In an ideally blended structure designed to cater to risky markets or make investments economical, public capital should bear a higher share of the risk—but at lower costs of capital
  3. However, in reality, public capital tends to be risk-averse
  • Handling failures
  1. While every private agency works to minimize failures, some degree of failure is inevitable when investing in new technologies, business models or untested markets
  2. Public monies are intrinsically risk-averse, to the point of zero tolerance when it comes to ‘failure’
  3. Unless some level of failure is permitted, innovative business models of types needed to meet the global goals are unlikely to emerge
  • Ideological difference between governments and businesses
  1. While the landscape is changing, many aid agencies still cannot fathom the idea that public monies will be used to enable private entities to make profits
  2. The longer this ideological difference remains, the harder it will be to develop large-scale solutions where public monies will be needed to mitigate the risk that private entities will not otherwise take

Way Forward

  1. The larger goal of blending is a noble one
  2. It is time that a common understanding was achieved among the blenders of capital so that both sides know what to expect
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] Bear strides


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Afghnistan problem and India’s role in redevelopment as well as stability efforts


Afghanistan dynamics changing fast

  1. Set to overtake Syria as the deadliest conflict this year, Afghanistan is pivotal to the evolving re-alignments in India’s immediate neighbourhood
  2. The escalating violence and the increasing divergence of the US and Pakistan’s approaches to the Afghan endgame serve as immediate catalysts
  3. A meeting of the spy chiefs of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran in Islamabad earlier this year reflected the shifting strategic compass in Afghanistan
  4. Afghanistan is fast emerging as the theatre for strategic balancing as various powers jockey for influence and equilibrium

China’s increasing role in Afghanistan

  1. The US’s 2014 drawdown left a power vacuum in the volatile region, increasingly filled by China with the bait of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  2. Aimed at expanding its strategic footprint alongside its economic clout, the initiative posed direct challenges to US interests
  3. The US’s plummeting relationship with Pakistan exacerbated the situation
  4. The $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor sealed the Chinese foothold

Power games

  1. As a means to counter the expanding Chinese influence, the US sought to leverage its growing proximity with India
  2. This drew Russia, the other major player in the region, into the fray
  3. Fearing the spillover of Afghan instability to Central Asia, along with the closeness of its erstwhile strategic partner India to the US, Russia injected a new dynamic to the shifting calculus

Russia’s interest in Afghanistan

  1. As a power seeking to reclaim its lost grandeur, the changing regional equations offered Russia a unique opportunity to gain symbolic ground while securing its diplomatic, security and economic interests
  2. As a player in the Afghan conundrum, Russia could position itself as a stabilising force
  3. It has elevated its diplomatic stature by pursuing peace-building efforts through multilateral conferences and reviving the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Contact Group on Afghanistan
  4. It also tried to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table
  5. Russia opted to back the Taliban to undercut the ISIS. This also fits with Russia’s larger geopolitical aim of pushing the US back
  6. It has sought to re-brand itself as a “noble investor”, pouring millions into Afghanistan’s infrastructure, transport and mining sectors

Way Forward for India

  1. Both China and Russia are averse to air-tight alliances, yet the convergence of strategic interests could shape a new regional architecture
  2. New Delhi will need to perfect its tightrope-walking skills
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[op-ed snap] The creamy layer of social justice


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 355

Mains level: Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta verdict and its effect on SC/ST reservations


Recent verdict on the reservation in promotions

  1. The Supreme court in its recent verdict in Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta held that the government need not collect quantifiable data to demonstrate backwardness of public employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) to provide reservations for them in promotions
  2. The core issue here was whether the ‘creamy layer’ among SC/STs should be barred from obtaining promotions through reservations
  3. The court set aside the requirement to collect quantifiable data that was stipulated by its 2006 verdict in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India
  4. It ignored the reasoning of a nine-judge bench in Indra Sawhney (1992) that any discussion on creamy layer “has no relevance” in the context of SC/STs

What’s the issue?

  1. The court merely removed the government’s responsibility to collect quantifiable data on backwardness but reasoned that the creamy layer test would be consistent with the equality principle
  2. The Supreme Court relies on using arguments pertinent only in the case of OBCs to decide litigation on SC/ST quotas

Why reservations for SC/ST?

  1. A close reading of relevant constitutional provisions and the verdict in Indra Sawhney make it clear that the SC/STs are given job reservations not because they are poor but because they are excluded
  2. The first part of Article 335 stipulates job reservations for SC/STs as a right of representation, not as a welfare measure

Need of creamy layer provision

  1. The creamy layer among SC/ST employees helps fulfil the second part of Article 335 that requires maintaining the “efficiency of administration”
  2. The presence of the creamy layer works as a safety valve
  3. The rationale behind the demand to prohibit elite or privileged sections from accessing quota posts is that these sections are as well qualified as general candidates, if not more, and numerous enough to warrant their removal

Right to opt out

  1. The court could have addressed an often ignored aspect of the matter — the right of the creamy layer among the community to opt out of reservations
  2. At present, an SC/ST candidate does not have the right to reject reservations
  3. She is merely required to state whether she belongs to the SC or the ST category and a response in affirmation automatically puts her in the queue for reservations
  4. It is also a punishable offence to withhold one’s caste status while seeking government employment
  5. A simple administrative decision to allow SC/ST candidates to compete in the general category would have helped thousands to leave the space for the less privileged among them

Expectations from judiciary

  1. As citizens, we expect two certainties from any verdict on public policy by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court
  2. One, it must hold whether the underlying principle(s) is/are consistent with the Constitution of India
  3. Two, such a verdict must end governance paralysis

Way Forward

  1. India needs changes in matters related to caste as well as the constitutional provisions aimed at getting rid of the rough edges of caste discrimination
  2. The Indian state must be proud that its policies have created a creamy layer among the most disadvantaged that gel well with those in the general category
  3. It is recognition of the fact that socio-economic progress moves by generations
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

‘1,200 km/hour’: World’s first Hyperloop passenger capsule unveiled


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hyperloop Technology

Mains level: Utility of hyperloop technology in Transportation


World’s First Hyperloop Capsule

  1. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. unveiled its first full-scale passenger capsule, offering the world a peek at the future of travel.
  2. The capsule, 105 feet (32 meters) long and weighing 5 tons, was shown in Spain.
  3. Named as the Quintero One, the product is made almost entirely out of composite material.

Hyperloop Technology

  1. Hyperloop is a technology that gained popularity after billionaire Elon Musk touted it in 2013, prompting several companies to join the race to build a high-speed transportation system.
  2. It envisages moving passengers in capsules at speeds of more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) per hour through low-pressure tubes, in order to reduce friction.
  3. The technology will be able to propel trains faster than existing methods such as the Maglev, which uses a levitation technology to lift the train cars above a track to eliminate surface drag.

Hyperloop in India

  1. Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One held discussions in India, aiming to offer passengers in the futuristic technology fares that are cheaper than local airlines.
  2. Branson has signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai for a broad hyperloop framework and mooted a Mumbai-Pune system that would shrink travel time to 25 minutes and save about three hours.
Roads, Highways and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Gujarat acts to save its pride


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Viruses mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Government’s efforts for lion conservation.



  1. The Gujarat government got stunned by the deaths of 23 lions since September.
  2. It initially considered that the lions had died due to infighting for territorial domination.
  3. It has now launched rescue efforts and also called experts from outside, including London, and imported a vaccine from the United States.

Under treatment against Deadly Virus

  1.  More than 500 lions had already been screened to detect viral infections in the big cats in the Gir forests and revenue areas.
  2. Many are battling for their lives as a deadly outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and tick-borne Babesiosis is killing the cats.
  3. According to the State Forest Department, of the 23 deaths, four lions died of CDV, and 17 were killed by a tick-borne infection.
  4. According to experts, the Gujarat government was warned in 2011, when experts analysed tissues from a 2007 Gir lion carcass.
  5. It found the presence of highly contagious Peste Des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV), which carries an 80%-100% chance of mortality.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Japan drops new robot on asteroid


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hayabusa2 Probe, MASCOT

Mains level: Missions to study Asteroids



  1. The Hayabusa2 probe launched the French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT towards the Ryugu asteroid’s surface.
  2. The 10-kg box-shaped MASCOT is loaded with sensors.
  3. It can take images at multiple wavelengths, investigate minerals with a microscope, gauge surface temperatures and measure magnetic fields.
  4. The MASCOT got separated from the spacecraft as planned and got safely landed

Hayabusa2 Probe

  1. A Japanese probe launched a new observation robot towards an asteroid as it pursues a mission to shed light on the origins of the solar system.
  2. The Hayabusa2 is scheduled later this month to deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo copper object into it to blast a small crater on the surface.
  3. The probe will then hovers over the artificial crater and collect samples using an extended arm.

First Robot to land on Asteroid

  1. MASCOT’s launch comes 10 days after the Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of MINERVA-II micro-rovers on the Ryugu asteroid.
  2. It was the first time that moving, robotic observation device have been successfully landed on an asteroid.
  3. The rovers will take advantage of Ryugu’s low gravity to jump around on the surface travelling as far as 15 metres while airborne and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes.
  4. It is aimed to survey the asteroid’s physical features with cameras and sensors.
  5. Unlike those machines, MASCOT will be largely immobile it will “jump” just once on its mission, and it can turn on its sides.
  6. The MASCOT has a maximum battery life of just 16 hours, and will transmit the data it collects to the Hayabusa2 before running out of power.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Lagoon villas to come to Lakshadweep’s emeralds


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Holistic Development of Islands

Mains level: Enhancing Tourism Potential of the Islands of India


NITI Aayog Strategy to boost Tourism

  1. NITI Aayog through its plan for “holistic development of the islands” is set to boost eco tourism in Lakshadweep lagoons.
  2. It is planning to set up island water villas which in turn will be a popular alternative to leading destinations such as Mauritius and Maldives.
  3. The apex planning body, along with other stakeholders, including the Island Development Agency (IDA) is conducting a technical feasibility study for the project.

Details of the Plan

  1. The panel is identifying an island where a film city can be built.
  2. The new idea will not only attract tourists but also relieve some of the pressure on Mumbai as a filming hub.
  3. As part of the plan, the government will issue tenders for four tourism-based hospitality projects – three in Andaman & Nicobar, and one in Lakshadweep.
  4. These will mainly be eco-cottages for which private players can bid to build. The projects will add about 700 rooms.
  5. Ecological concerns and tribal-related issues are fully taken care of.

Foreign Tourists on Decline

  1. The arrival of domestic tourists in Andaman and Nicobar islands rose from over 2.02 lakh in 2011 to over 3.84 lakh in 2016.
  2. However the inflow of foreign tourists was stagnant at around 15,000.
  3. This is in spite of the fact that globally, there is a high demand for eco-tourism, adventure tourism (sea sports, game fishing) and cruise tourism.

Better Island Connectivity in A&N

  1. The Diglipur Airport (in the Andamans) is expected to be operational for civilian aircraft by December, 2018.
  2. Better connectivity to Diglipur, Port Blair, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay through smaller aircraft, supplemented with more helicopter services will boost inter-island connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar.
Tourism Sector

Toilet-for-all: WHO calls for more investment


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the guidelines

Mains level: Need for investments on Sanitation


First Global Guidelines on Sanitation and Health

  1. In its first such guidelines, the WHO warned that world will not reach the goal of universal sanitation coverage by 2030 unless countries make comprehensive policy shifts and invest more funds.
  2. By adopting these new guidelines, countries can significantly reduce the diarrheal deaths due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.
  3. WHO developed the new guidelines because current sanitation programmes are not achieving anticipated health gains.
  4. There is a lack of authoritative health-based guidance on sanitation.

Four Principal Recommendations

  1. Sanitation interventions should ensure entire communities have access to toilets that safely contain excreta.
  2. The full sanitation system should be undergo local health risk assessments to protect individuals and communities from exposure to excreta – whether this be from unsafe toilets, leaking storage or inadequate treatment.
  3. Sanitation should be integrated into regular local government-led planning and service provision to avert the higher costs associated with retrofitting sanitation and to ensure sustainability.
  4. The health sector should invest more and play a coordinating role in sanitation planning to protect public health.

Why invest more on Sanitation?

  1. Poor sanitation is a major factor in transmission of neglected tropical diseases.
  2. For every US $1 invested in sanitation, WHO estimates a nearly six-fold return as measured by lower health costs, increased productivity and fewer premature deaths.
  3. Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation with almost half forced to defecate in the open.
  4. They are among the 4.5 billion without access to safely managed sanitation services.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Udyam Abhilasha


Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Udyam Abhilasha

Mains level: Promoting Startup Ecosystem in India


Udyam Abhilasha

  1. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), had launched a National Level Entrepreneurship Awareness Campaign, Udyam Abhilasha in 115 Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog.
  2. The campaign would create and strengthen cadre of more than 800 trainers to provide entrepreneurship training to the aspiring youths across these districts.
  3. SIDBI has partnered with CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, a Special Purpose Vehicle, (CSC SPV) set up by the Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt. of India for implementing the campaign.
  4. SIDBI is also taking-up with stakeholders including Banks, NABARD, NBFCs, SFBs, District Industries Centres, State Govt. etc. to be a part of this campaign and ensure multifold impact.

Objectives of the Campaign

The objectives of the missionary campaign includes:

  • to inspire rural youth in Aspirational districts to be entrepreneurs by assisting them to set up their own enterprise,
  • to impart trainings through digital medium across the country,
  • to create business opportunities for CSC VLEs,
  • to focus on women aspirants in these Aspirational districts to encourage women entrepreneurship and
  • to assist participants to become bankable and avail credit facility from banks to set up their own enterprise.

Role of Village Level entrepreneurs

  1. CSC VLEs would play role of catalyst for these aspiring entrepreneurs.
  2. Apart from training, VLEs would also provide handholding support to the aspirants to establish new units by assisting them in availing loans for their enterprise.
  3. They will help making youth aware about various initiatives of Government of India like Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, SUI etc.


Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI)

  1. It is the Principal Financial Institution for the Promotion, Financing, Development and Coordination of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector.
  2. SIDBI meets the financial and developmental needs of the MSME sector with a Credit+ approach to make it strong, vibrant and globally competitive.
  3. SIDBI, under its revamped strategy SIDBI 2.0, has adopted the theme of ease of access to MSEs and being Impact Multiplier & Digital Aggregator.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.