[op-ed snap] The real bank crisis


Mains Paper 4: Ethics | Corporate governance, Work culture

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Importance of a credible and vigilant management board in banks as well as other private insititutions


Corporate governance dwindling at banks

  1. Recent decisions by the Reserve Bank of India on the various cases relating to the management at private sector banks brings into focus the role of the boards of private sector banks in India
  2. If the banking regulator has to put its foot down against the considered opinion of the board, it may be an indication that things have gone too far

Suggestions for better management

  • Boards must realise that real independence from the management is as important as the perception of independence as seen by outsiders
  1. In the recent ICICI case, there was a push from the independent directors — who were worried about the damage their reputation would have to suffer
  • Boards of private sector banks need to realise that oversight over the quality of financial reporting remains an important responsibility of the board
  1. Board oversight is needed on the quality of the loan asset portfolio, as under-reporting of NPAs and other stressed assets influences the integrity of financial reporting
  2. The successive lines of defence against financial misreporting are the bank CEO, bank auditors, bank audit committee, bank board, and the RBI supervisors
  3. The lack of board oversight can provide strong incentives to senior management to indulge in ever-greening of assets and RBI supervisors represent the final line of defence against financial misreporting on asset quality
  • Board members must realise that there is a significant information asymmetry between them and the senior management
  1. The management has the best information about the company
  2. In contrast, despite their best efforts at reading between the lines, board members must realise that they meet once in a few weeks and get informed about the bank through the agenda papers for the board and board committee meetings
  3. Board members in banks have to be extremely vigilant, especially about asset quality
  4. Not getting reappointed to the board cannot be worse than the significant reputational damage that a board member can suffer from being associated with negative events in the firm
  • When compared to the boards of firms led by professionals, boards of entrepreneur-led banks need to be particularly focused on ensuring credibility and independence
  1. In an entrepreneur-led bank, a general, albeit incorrect, perception can prevail that the board members need to toe the line to remain in the management’s good books
  2. As a result, any instance of the board being perceived to have not acted independently can significantly damage its credibility
  3.  If the board commands little credibility then there is a serious issue of board independence and, therefore, of governance in the bank

Way forward

  1. Given recent events, boards of private sector banks need to retrieve lost ground
  2. Independent and credible boards can guide the path for this

No trial in sewer death cases


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan

Mains level: The newscard covers important stats related to the prevalence of fatalities due to manual scavenging activities.


Most Cases Unreported

  1. A sample study of deaths due to sewer and septic tank cleaning since 1992, shows that FIRs were filed in only 35% of the cases.
  2. None led to a trial or prosecution of any sort.

Garima yet Unsecured

  1. The study was released by the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (RGA), an NGO partnering with the Union Ministry of Social Justice for an ongoing manual scavenging census.
  2. The Ministry has reported 323 deaths nationwide in 2017 alone.
  3. Only 31% of affected families received cash compensation, while none received the rehabilitation or alternative jobs to which they are entitled by law.

Families recount: A Case Study

  1. On the sidelines of the release event, families of victims shared the personal tragedies.
  2. A Dalit community held hartals to protest the two deaths in Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah in May 2009.
  3. Under pressure, the police registered an FIR and took the house’s owner into custody.
  4. The municipality promised compensation and permanent jobs for family members.
  5. A few months later, when the pressure died down, the owner was quietly released.
  6. The bereft family received no cash or jobs.
  7. The deceased family dint even gets a death certificate.
  8. They were not allowed to cremate him in the city because authorities wanted to avoid public outrage.

The Unanswered Question

  1. When the government builds toilets through its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it is not taking into account the question of who will have to clean the septic tanks.
  2. The government as an employer, so how could one file an FIR is an unanswered exclamation.
Human Rights Issues

India launches ‘Operation Samudra Maitri’ to help tsunami-hit Indonesia


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Op Samudra Maitri, Causes of the Tsunami

Mains level:  India’s HADR operations.


Operation Samudra Maitri

  1. India has launched a massive operation for humanitarian assistance to provide assistance to the earthquake and tsunami victims in Indonesia.
  2. It dispatched two aircraft and three naval ships carrying relief material to the country.
  3. The C-130J aircraft is carrying a medical team along with tents and equipments to set up a field hospital.
  4. The C-17 aircraft is carrying medicines, generators, tents and water to provide immediate assistance.
  5. Three Indian Navy ships — INS Tir, INS Sujatha and INS Shardul — have also been mobilised to carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).


What Caused Indonesia Tsunami?

  1. A chain of geological events set off by the violent quake liquefied the loose soil and possibly caused an underwater landslide, triggering a tsunami wave that may have been intensified by the shape of the bay.
  2. The quake was likely caused by movement of the Palu-Koro fault which runs almost north to south down Sulawesi on a line through Palu’s narrow bay.

  1. The Palu-Koro is a strike-slip fault, where the two sides slide past each other horizontally, unlike a thrust fault which pushes one side over the other.
  2. A thrust quake is more likely to trigger a tsunami because its vertical motion pushes a column of seawater upwards, setting a wave in motion.

  1. The fault usually shifts by 30 to 40 mm a year, with the western side heading south while the eastern edge moves north.
  2. The shaky nature of this particular quake has triggered the liquefaction, by agitating the water to such an extent that mud bubbled up from underground, weakening foundations, and uprooting trees.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

India moves up 8 spots in e-payments adoption ranking


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking

Mains level: India’s progress in facilitating cashless transactions.


Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking

  1. Visa, a global leader in payments technology has announced that India ranked 28th among 73 countries in the 2018 Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR) study.
  2. The 2018 GEAR, an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) global Index and benchmarking study commissioned by Visa, ranks governments by quantifying their e-payment capabilities based on various indicators.
  3. This is up from 36th rank in 2011, reinforcing the country’s progress towards digital transformation.
  4. This is the third edition of the study after those in 2007 and 2011.

India’s Progress

  1. Insights from this study will help India to build infrastructure and deploy electronic payment products and services.
  2. India leads the Business to Government category, along with Australia, Singapore and South Korea.
  3. The category refers to the ease with which businesses can calculate and make their tax payments, register and renew their registrations online and digitally calculate their pension fund contributions, thereby making those payments on a periodic basis.
  4. At the same time, by simplifying refund and loan application processes, businesses can track status digitally.
  5. Again coupled with dedicated digital portals to submit proposals for government procurement services, India leads the Government to Business category as well.
Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] The price is wrong


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)

Mains level: Recent increase in MSP by the government and its effect on farm sector


Debate around farm income

  1. The farmer and his income is an important theme of discussion these days
  2. The government has increased the MSP of Kharif crops substantially for this season, which has come as a shot in the arm for the farmers
  3. Viewed arithmetically, the income of a farmer is a function of three things — the cost of cultivation, production and sale proceeds of the produce

How to achieve these factors?

  • Cost of cultivation
  1. The cost of cultivation can be influenced by the farmer in a limited manner
  2. Farmers can reduce the consumption of inputs per unit of land by using a better package of practices
  3. But, the rising cost of inputs like seeds, phosphatic and potassic fertilisers, pesticides, etc is not in the hands of farmers and thus necessitates subsidies
  • Increasing production
  1. By using high-yielding variety seeds, mechanisation, fertilisers, irrigation facilities, micro-nutrients and the correct package of practices, it is possible to increase productivity and production
  2. With some concentrated effort and use of technology, it should be possible to enhance the yields quickly in low production areas
  • Getting the right price for the produce
  1. This is the most critical issue for farmers today
  2. The challenge for the farmers is that when production goes up, the price tends to fall
  3. This results in zero or very little net gain for the farmers

Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)

  1. It is an important step towards securing remunerative price (read MSP) for the farmers
  2. This provides for three methods of procurement: (i) Price Support Scheme (PSS), (ii) Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS), and (iii) Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme (PPSS)
  3. PDPS and PPSS have been allowed only for the procurement of oilseeds whereas, for all other MSP crops, PSS will be the main instrument
  4. A quantity restriction of 25 per cent of the total production of a state has been put for obtaining central assistance under all the three schemes
  5. Any quantity procured beyond this limit will have to be funded by the state’s own resources

Evaluating the methods under PM-AASHA

  1. PDPS has been tried by Madhya Pradesh during the last year and the feedback has been mixed
  2. PPSS is a new concept with a whiff of freshness but it needs to be seen how it plays out on the ground

Steps that can be taken

  • The mechanism under PSS needs to be strengthened
  1. Currently, the procurement takes place through state government agencies on behalf of NAFED, which itself is a weak organisation
  2. Farmers are not able to get the sale proceeds in time and so prefer to sell their produce at a lower rate in the open market
  3. The states and Centre will have to come together and put a robust system in place in order to provide the real benefit of the MSP increase to the farmers
  •  The inclusion of pulses and millets in the PDS
  1. It will result in the quick disposal of accumulated stocks
  2. This will also lead to health gains for the population and monetary gains for the farmers
  • Efforts to add value to the agricultural produce at the village level
  1. Even if primary processing like cleaning, sorting and grading of produce can be done at the farm-gate level, this will increase returns
  • Storage and negotiable warehouse receipt facility for farmers will have to be expanded
  1. By doing this, farmers will not be forced to undertake distress sales
  • Incentives for exports of surplus produce
  1. It will expand the market for farmers
  • A strategy to ensure appropriate acreage for crops
  1. It will ensure that the production is dictated by the market demand
  2. Most farmers tend to go by the herd mentality and whichever crop gives good returns this year sees a jump in the acreage the very next year
  3. This leads to overproduction and the price tends to crash leading to distress in the farming community

Way Forward

  1. Farm sector needs governmental intervention by providing an enabling policy environment, a robust institutional framework and a vibrant regulatory regime
  2. The government must provide policy, institutional framework for procurement
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

Use your face to zip through airports


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DigiYatra initiative

Mains level: Government interventions in the civil aviation sector in recent years and its impact on overall transportation sector


Digi Yatra Facility

  1. A mere facial scan will soon enable air travellers to skip long queues and zip through various check points at airports in the country.
  2. The Centre is set to introduce the “Digi Yatra” facility to start with at the Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports in February 2019.
  3. The facility which is voluntary would require passengers to initially register themselves at a web portal by providing an identity proof.
  4. The travellers would then be required to undergo a one-time verification at an airport.
  5. Following which, the individual’s facial identity would be captured and mapped onto a newly created “Digi Yatra” profile and a distinct identification number would be generated.
  6. Passengers would then have to provide this identification number at the time of purchasing an air ticket, to avail the paperless access facility.
  7. The passenger’s travel history would be “purged” after the completion of a journey and that the “Digi Yatra” programme would comply with the European Union’s Data Protection Regulation.

Scan a QR code

  1. The facility would enable travellers to enter the airport building by scanning a QR code on their mobile phones, after undergoing facial recognition.
  2. Once inside the airport, a passenger would be able to self check-in, drop baggage, pass through e-gates to access security and embarkation areas with just a facial scan, thus obviating the need to produce a boarding pass at every step.
  3. However the travellers would still have to undergo mandatory security checks including frisking.
  4. The web portal is scheduled to be ready by February 2019 and Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports would be the first to implement the digital processing of passengers.
  5. The facility would thereafter be also made available at four other airports of Kolkata, Varanasi, Vijayawada and Pune.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] 21 IORA Countries adopt the Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IORA, Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy, Global Renewable Energy Atlas

Mains level:  Importance of the Declaration in tapping RE in the IOR.


Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy

  1. As many as 21 countries in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) today adopted the Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy in the IOR.
  2. The Declaration aims for collaboration among IORA member states in meeting the growing demand for renewable energy in the Indian Ocean littorals.
  3. It calls for development of a common renewable energy agenda for the Indian Ocean region and promote regional capacity building.

Highlights of the declaration

  1. As per the declaration adopted, IORA member nations will collaborate with the member nations to exchange knowledge and share views and potential interests in the renewable energy sector;
  2. The MoU signed between IORA and ISA with a focus on joint capacity-building programs, research & development activities in solar energy and exchange of best practices.

Global Renewable Energy Atlas

  1. IORA member nations and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will undertake the expansion of the Global Renewable Energy Atlas.
  2. It will be the world’s largest-ever joint renewable resource data project, coordinated by IRENA, thereby creating the IOR’s first and most comprehensive map and database which will be used to tap RE potential of the region.
  3. It aims to collaborate on opportunities available under the International Renewable Energy Learning Platform (IRELP).
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] Assistive Aids and Appliances distributed to Senior Citizens Under 58th Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana Camp


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RVY, Devices distributed under RVY

Mains level: Incentives for Senior Citizens


Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY)

  1. A Distribution camp for free of cost distribution of Aids and Assistive Living devises under Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY).
  2. It is a scheme of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Department for Senior Citizen under BPL category.
  3. The event was organized by Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), a PSU working under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Assistive Living Devices distributed to Sr. Citizens under RVY

  • Wheelchairs
  • Tetra/Tripod
  • BTE Hearing Aids
  • Crutches
  • Walking Sticks
  • Dentures
  • Spectacles
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] First Regional Conference on ‘Women in Detention and Access to Justice’


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the Conference

Mains level: Prison Reforms in India


‘Women in Detention and Access to Justice’

  1. The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), Ministry of Home Affairs is organising the First ever Regional Conference at Shimla on ‘Women in Detention and Access to Justice’.
  2. The BPR&D organizes the conferences on newly emerged issues.
  3. The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women on this subject has made several recommendations.
  4. There is a need to deliberate upon some of the recommendations to devise strategies and programs for bettering conditions of Women Prisoners and upholding their FRs.
  5. The following themes have been identified for discussions and deliberations:
  • Reproductive Health Rights of Women Prisoners: National and International Legal Norms
  • Health Needs of Women Prisoners
  • Health, Skill, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Women Inmates and Their Children
  • Prison Reforms, Structural Managerial and Legal Issues with Focus on Women Inmates & Comparison to Global Norms
  • Neuro-Criminology Program for the Offender
  • Transforming Prisons

Aim of the Conference

  1. This conference is organised with a view to provide a platform for the prison personnel of all ranks at the national level.
  2. They are expected to share their candid views on various operational as well as administrative issues.
  3. It is aimed to identify best practices and standards in the working of Correctional Administration to meet new challenges in the present day’s context to bring out prison reforms in objective terms.
  4. Expected outcome of the conference will be to help in ensuring better implementation of Prison Reform and Rehabilitation Program in order to improve the conditions of Women Inmates and their Access to Justice.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Next steps at Gir


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gir lions

Mains level: Threat posed by reduced area of forests to various wildlife species and steps that can be taken to mitigate such threats


Gir lions under threat

  1. The magnificent Asiatic lion is under threat
  2. Twenty-three lions have died in as many days in the eastern part of Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary
  3. This case is more worrisome as the big cat population in Gujarat is the last of the Asiatic lions in the wild
  4. The Supreme Court, noting that the death of so many lions was a serious matter has asked the Central government to look into it

Relocating lions

  1. In 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an order that lions from Gujarat be relocated to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as a check against the threat of epidemic
  2. Gujarat has been unwilling to part with its lions, calling them “its pride” in an affidavit

Small area can be fatal

  1. A smaller population with limited genetic strength are more vulnerable to diseases and other catastrophes in comparison to a large and widespread population
  2. 30% of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti was killed due to an outbreak of canine distemper, a viral disease that affects animals
  3. Asiatic lion has been restricted to only one single habitat, i.e. the Gir National Forest and its surrounding areas and an outbreak of a possible epidemic or natural calamity might wipe off the entire species

Artificial medical treatment not feasible

  1. Wildlife conservation concerns itself with maintaining ecological processes and reducing threats to endangered species
  2. It does not entail treating wild animals for disease (in the way domestic animals are) as this can go against the processes of natural selection
  3. It is not conducive to the ‘natural’ process of life and death and ultimately compromises immunity
  4. The role of wildlife managers should be to reduce unnatural threats, not unnaturally prolong life

What can be done?

  1. Gujarat should turn its attention to reducing the drivers of disease, which includes controlling feral dog populations
  2. It should work towards colonising new habitats outside the Gir landscape within the State

Way forward

  1. There are spatial limitations in this industrialised State
  2. But, there is no getting around the fact that a geographically separate population of Asiatic lions needs to be created
Wildlife Conservation Efforts