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November 2018

[op-ed snap] What does Brazil’s new president-elect hold for India, China and the future of BRICS?


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Esurption of right-wing across the globe and its impact


Leadership change in Brazil

  1. A far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro has been declared the winner of Brazil’s presidential election
  2. His election, however, sent alarm bells ringing among certain sections of Brazilian society, especially minorities
  3. During his election campaign, he made several remarks that were deemed misogynist, racist and homophobic
  4. He criticised descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves, implying that they were lazy

Implication on global geopolitics

  1. Brazil is the most populous nation in South America and the world’s eight-largest economy
  2. Bolsonaro’s ascent as the country’s president therefore also has global implications
  3. Following his election, it is being speculated that the leader – who is inexperienced in matters of foreign affairs and trade – will follow a radically different foreign policy from that of his predecessors, as this is what he emphasised during his campaign
  4. His presidency is expected to bring about a dramatic shift in relations with India and China as well as the power politics of BRICS
  5. Bolsonaro, who is being referred to in the international media as the Trump of the Tropics, is not likely to be as involved with BRICS as his predecessors were

What should India expect?

  1. Brazil is one of India’s most important trading partners in the entire Latin America and Caribbean region
  2. Bilateral trade between the two countries grew 35% in 2017
  3. As in India, agriculture is the strength of the Brazilian economy
  4. Both countries are therefore competitive in similar areas of agriculture. Brazil is projected to be the largest beef exporter in the world in 2018 followed by India, Australia and the United States
  5. Brazil also is the leading exporter of chicken meat
  6. This is likely to influence commercial relations between India and Brazil during Bolsonaro’s term
  7. The president-elect is a strong proponent of agribusiness – one of the pillars of his political platform – and has called for a new, pro-business approach in this sector

Changes proposed and their possible effects

  1. The merger of the Ministry of Agriculture with that of the Environment Ministry, proposed by Bolsonaro, could change the supply curve for several commodities, especially beef and soybeans
  2. Bolsonaro’s promises to drastically roll back environmental regulations for agriculture, including speeding up deforestation, converting forests into range and cropland could dramatically affect agribusiness globally, including in India
  3. This means opportunities to enhance bilateral investments in agribusiness between India and Brazil could be difficult in the future, and rebalancing agribusiness with other sectors will probably not be easy

PPP Investment Models: HAM, Swiss Challenge, Kelkar Committee

[op-ed snap] The conundrum of PPP road projects


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Investment model

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PPP model, Hybrid Annuity model

Mains level: Problems being faced by the private sector in infrastructure development and solutions for them


Growth of PPP sector in India

  1. Developing road networks in a timely and cost-effective fashion plays an important role in economic development
  2. In recent years, the government has extensively adopted the public-private partnership (PPP) approach in road development
  3. India has the distinction of having the largest PPP programme globally in the roads sector

Types of PPP projects

  1. PPP road projects broadly fall in one of the two categories of toll or annuity, though many recent projects are being implemented under a hybrid annuity model
  2. Toll and annuity projects vary mainly in the way the developers recoup their investment
  3. In the former, the road developer collects a toll from the users, whereas in the case of the latter, the developer receives predefined annuity payments from the government
  4. While the private developer assumes the demand risk in toll projects, it is not the case with annuity projects
  5. A basic difference between the toll and annuity projects is in the risk-reward equation
  6. In the case of annuity projects, the developer does not assume any demand risk, but the upside is capped
  7. However, in toll projects, the private developer assumes the demand risk, but would also benefit if the traffic growth is more than what is assumed

More profits for developers

  1. While PPP in roads has multiple objectives, the fundamental reason for going for the PPP route in India is that it helps to attract private sector capital
  2. Private developers will consider bidding for toll-based PPPs if they see a sensible risk-reward balance because the private sector by its very nature will pursue the path of higher returns rather than settle for modest returns
  3. Toll projects, in general, are characterized by longer stretches, and therefore higher project costs
  4. They also have more structures as compared to annuity projects, indicating that they could have a higher degree of complexity
  5. But the estimated unit project costs are lower, indicating that developers are able to achieve economies of scale associated with longer stretches

Lukewarm response in recent years

  1. In the last few years, the response from developers to new projects has been poor
  2. The estimated project costs have significantly escalated in the case of toll projects, hitting the project economics
  3. There is also a gap between the actual and projected traffic estimations made by the developers
  4. The toll projects are not as investment ready at the time of project award as compared to that of annuity projects
  5. The private sector also needs to do the task of handling much of the pre-development phase risks—such as clearances, land acquisition, and so on, leading to increases in cost overruns

Way forward

  1. It is important to understand the reasons behind the cost escalations
  2. The government should focus on making the project development ready at the time of award to attract more private sector interest, rather than changing the concession model
  3. That would lead to sustainable results, else the euphoria of the hybrid annuity model will be short-lived too

Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

[op-ed snap] Setting a proper diet plan


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to poverty & hunger

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Hunger Index

Mains level: Problem of child malnutrition in India & interventions that can be made to reduce it


Hunger growing in India

  1. Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India has been ranked at 103 out of 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2018
  2. The hunger levels have been  categorised as “serious”

Children suffering from malnutrition

  1. India’s child malnourishment level is not only the highest in the world but varies considerably across States
  2. Growing prosperity has hardly made any significant dent in chronic malnutrition of children
  3. India is home to over 53.3 million stunted, 49.6 million underweight and 29.2 million wasted (low weight for height) children under five
  4. As per the National Family Health Survey-2016, the proportion of stunted (low height for age) children under five is significantly higher (38.4%) than global (22.9%) averages
  5. The underweight (low weight for age) children rate (35.7%) is a lot higher than the global average (13.5%) too

Growth-oriented development not a solution

  1. The problem lies with the current thinking of growth-oriented development
  2. Although the low income and Empowered-Action-Group (EAG) States face major challenges to improve malnutrition, two EAG States, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, have performed better on this front compared to Gujarat and Maharashtra where per capita income is almost double
  3. The development path prevalent in Gujarat is more about growth and investment, which, however, has not been able to translate as better nutritional status in the State
  4. Odisha, which is a low-income State, has a better network of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), public health facility/workforce per lakh population and educational attainment among women, which have translated into a better nutritional status when compared with Gujarat
  5. Tribals, rural, poor and illiterate mothers’ children are worse off in so-called developed States of Haryana, Gujarat and Punjab
  6. Around two-thirds of stunted/underweight children are from 200 districts of both less developed and developed States

The link between agricultural growth and nutrition

  1. There is a contradiction between agrarian plenty and malnutrition
  2. Malnutrition continues to be high in agricultural surplus States like Haryana (34% stunting and 29.5% underweight)
  3. Recently, Madhya Pradesh has registered double-digit growth in food grain production making it one of the wheat granaries of India, but acute malnutrition is still critical in most of its districts with a high proportion of underweight (42.8%) and stunted children (41.9%)

Diversity in food intake required

  1. With the increase in diversity in food intake, measured through Food Intake Index using 19 food items in all 640 districts, malnutrition (stunted/underweight) status declines
  2. Only 12% of children are likely to be stunted and underweight in areas where diversity in food intake is high, while around 50% children are stunted if they consume less than three food items
  3. A majority of children across districts in Tamil Nadu consume a reasonably highly diversified food, leading to lower percentage of stunted/underweight children across districts
  4. The diversified food intake is very low in a majority of Indian districts; just 28% of children consumed over five items of the total 19 food items

Steps that can be taken

  1. An inclusive and holistic approach, including controlling/regulating food price, strengthening the public distribution system (PDS) and income support policies for making food cheaper are important steps
  2. The ICDS was a high impact nutrition intervention, but its universal availability and quality are questionable due to poor functioning
  3. The government must broaden the ICDS programme by ensuring diversity in food items in worst-hit districts

Way forward

  1. Faster economic growth has enormous benefits, but it is by no means sufficient and sustainable if millions of children remain undernourished, as it not only impacts early childhood health and imposes disease burden but also affects education, wages and productivity when they grow up, which will impact India’s growth
  2. The launch of the National Nutrition Mission as a strategy to fight maternal and child malnutrition is a welcome step towards achieving the targets of underweight and stunted children under five years from 35.7% to 20.7% and from 38.4% to 25% respectively by 2022

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Is Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary safe for migratory birds?


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Point Calimere WLS

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


Birds began to avoid the sanctuary

  1. Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in Vedaranyam Range has been closed for a week in view of water-logging caused by a heavy spell of rainfall.
  2. The water quality at the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary might be unsafe for avifauna to feed and breed, notes a study that examined different pollution indicators in water.
  3. Researchers compared their results with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards to reach this conclusion.

Peak Breeding Season at Risk

  1. The pH and salinity of the waters exceeded the permissible limits for ecologically sensitive zones.
  2. Previous studies have shown that high acidic or high alkaline water can affect the metabolic and developmental activities of wild animals and birds.
  3. Atmospheric temperature at a few stations exceeded 36-40 degrees Celsius.
  4. This can affect the egg albumen during the pre-incubation period, thereby providing better growth conditions for harmful microorganisms in the eggs.
  5. There are many salt pans near the sanctuary. This could be increasing the salinity.
  6. The chemical companies are also letting out untreated effluents into the waters.

Microbial Indicators

  1. Microbial indicators such as coliform bacteria were also found to be very high at all the five sites.
  2. The faecal waste of the birds contains a high level of microbial load besides nitrogen, and this can significantly alter the nutrients in the water.
  3. Previous studies have shown that drinking the contaminated water can lead to deformities in birds.
  4. Coliform infections in the birds have also been reported to cause a change in their natural behaviour and even affect their long distance migration.
  5. There are also high chances for the prevalence of antibiotic resistance among the coliform bacteria

Way Forward

  1. Eco-tourism is causing disturbances in such areas.
  2. Strict environmental regulations should be imposed and salt pan and other aquaculture practices around the sanctuary should be prohibited.


Point Calimere WLBS

  1. The wildlife and bird sanctuary located in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu spreads across an area of 30 and comprises sandy coastal, saline swamps and thorn scrub forests around the backwater.
  2. Though it is a protected area and a Ramsar site, chemical companies and small-scale shrimp farms around the wetland have started to pose a threat to the biodiversity and ecosystem of the sanctuary.
  3. It harbors the single-largest stretch of the unique dry-evergreen forest in the country besides open grasslands and tidal mudflats is of interest to tourists.
  4. It marks the presence of 364 flowering plants including 198 medicinal plants.
  5. Point Calimere is the spot inside the Calimere WLS where the coast takes a 90 degree turn from the Bay of Bengal towards Palk Strait.
  6. The sanctuary and the surrounding wetlands are important wintering grounds for water birds from the North.
  7. Around 100 species of birds including the Greater Flamingo, Painted Stork, Little Sting, Sea Gull and Brown-headed gull have been making their presence felt since September.
  8. Blackbuck (Antilope Cervicapra) is the flagship species of the sanctuary.
  9. Other important animals are the spotted deer, black-napped hare, wild boar, Indian jackal, feral horses, palm civet, short-nosed fruit bat, jungle cat and monitor lizard.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

GSAT-29 has a perfect launch


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSAT 29, GSLV MK III

Mains level: Importance of the Launch


Heaviest satellite launched on indigenous rocket

  • Amid concerns over Cyclone Gaja, the country’s heaviest satellite to be carried on board an indigenous rocket was successfully launched into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).


  1. GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  2. Two massive boosters with solid propellant constitute the first stage, the core with liquid propellant form the second stage and the cryogenic engine completes the final stage.

About GSAT 29

  1. GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies.
  2. Its Ku-band and Ka-band payloads are configured to cater to the communication requirements of users including those from remote areas especially from Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern regions of India.
  3. In addition, the Q/V-Band communication payload onboard is intended to demonstrate the future high throughput satellite system technologies.
  4. Geo High Resolution Camera will carry out high resolution imaging.
  5. Optical Communication Payload will demonstrate data transmission at a very high rate through optical communication link.

Whats so special with this launch?

  1. The success of GSLV MkIII-D2 marks an important milestone in Indian space programme towards achieving self-reliance in launching heavier satellites.
  2. The success of this flight also signifies the completion of the experimental phase of GSLV Mark III.
  3. With declaring GSLV MKIII operational, Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan missions will be launched by this heavy-lifter.

Death Penalty Abolition Debate

India votes against UNGA draft resolution on use of death penalty


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Debate over ban on death penalty


  • India has voted against a United Nations General Assembly draft resolution on the use of death penalty, saying it goes against the statutory law of the country where an execution is carried out in the “rarest of rare” cases.

UN Against Death Penalty

  1. The draft resolution, taken up in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) of the General Assembly was approved with a recorded vote of 123 in favour, 36 against and 30 abstentions.
  2. India was among the countries that voted against the resolution, which would have the Assembly call on all States to respect international standards on the rights of those facing death penalty.
  3. The draft aimed to ensure that it is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws or as a result of discriminatory or arbitrary application of the law.

India’s Stance of Death Penalty

  1. The resolution sought to promote a moratorium on executions with the aim of abolishing death penalty.
  2. India has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law in India.
  3. The death penalty is exercised in ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society.
  4. Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair trial by an independent Court, presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for defence, and the right to review by a higher court.
  5. Indian delegation has argued for the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties.

Singapore brings in Amendment

  1. Singapore’s delegate decried the draft resolution’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to a delicate question, which seeks to impose a particular vision of the world onto others.
  2. The representative of Singapore said the amendment aimed to ensure respect for the diversity of views.
  3. The amendment is simple and neutral and it does not take a position on the substance of the draft resolution, nor make judgments about State policies.

Voting for Sovereignty over Legal System

  1. The draft resolution’s passage followed an intense debate and Singapore introduced an amendment on behalf of 34 countries that reaffirmed the countries’ sovereign right to develop their own legal system.
  2. The Committee then approved this amendment by a recorded vote of 96 in favour to 73 against, with 14 abstentions.
  3. India voted in favour of this amendment.
  4. By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations.

Innovation Ecosystem in India

[pib] Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level: Promoting cooperatives business venture


Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme

  1. To cater to the needs and aspirations of the youth, the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) has come up with a youth-friendly this scheme for attracting them to cooperative business ventures.
  2. The newly launched scheme would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
  3. The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC.


  • The funding for the project will be up to 80% of the project cost for these special categories as against 70% for others.
  • The scheme envisages 2% less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.


  • It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible.

Sahakar 22

  1. The NCDC, being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, has embarked on Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.
  2. To achieve the Mission of New India by 2022 in Cooperatives, through Doubling The Farmers Income, NCDC would launch a new Mission Mode activity,
  3. SAHKAR 22 would include:
  • FOCUS 222: Converge NCDC assistance for Cooperatives in 222 Districts
  • PACS HUB: Transform PACS and other Coops as APNA KISAN Resource Centres
  • AENEC: ACT East and North East Coops
  • CEMtC: Centres of Excellence to Market through Coops
  • SAHAKAR PRAGYA: Laxmanrao Inamdar National Academy for Cooperative Research & Development as Capacity Development base for SAHKAR 22


About NCDC

  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  2. The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.
  3. It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.
  4. It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.

Innovation Ecosystem in India

[pib] Atal Innovation Mission and UNICEF announce Young Champions Awards


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Award

Mains level: Not Much


Young Champions Awards

  1. NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and UNICEF India have come together on this Children’s Day, to provide an open platform to young children of India, to contribute towards sustainable development.
  2. AIM and UNICEF seek to drive extensive forward and backward linkages within the stakeholders in India, to prepare children to become young innovators and entrepreneurs.
  3. The awards were presented to the top six most innovative solutions from across the country, which were shortlisted through the Atal Tinkering Marathon.

Atal Tinkering Marathon

  1. Last year, AIM’s Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) had launched a six month long nationwide challenge called the Atal Tinkering Marathon, across different thematic areas.
  2. The objective was to encourage students to observe community problems and develop innovative solutions.
  3. The top 30 teams were awarded with several prizes including a three month-long ATL Student Innovator Program in partnership with industry and start-up incubators, where students were trained on business and entrepreneurship skills.
  4. These Top 30 innovations are symbolic of a larger movement which is taking root in every school, in every district across India.

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] MNRE circulates draft Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS)


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: IWTCS

Mains level: Need for such scheme


  • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, in consultation with National Institute of Wind Energy, has prepared a draft of new Scheme called Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS) incorporating various guidelines Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS).

Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS)

  1. The IWTCS is a consolidation of relevant National and International Standards (IS/IEC/IEEE), Technical Regulations and requirements issued by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), guidelines issued by MNRE and other international guidelines.
  2. It also incorporates various best practices from other countries to ensure the quality of the wind energy projects.
  3. The draft Scheme enlists the guidelines for the benefit of all the stakeholders from concept to lifetime of wind turbine including:
  • Indian Type Approved Model (ITAM),
  • Indian Type Certification Scheme (ITCS),
  • Wind Farm Project Certification Scheme (WFPCS)
  • Wind Turbine Safety & Performance Certification Scheme (WTSPCS)

Why need such Scheme?

  1. Wind sector in India is growing at a rapid pace with increased utilization of wind energy for the power development.
  2. The modern wind turbines have higher dimensions and capacity and improved Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF) along with technological improvements.
  3. Under these developments, there was a need for comprehensive document which provides the complete technical requirements which shall have to be complied by the wind turbines for the safe and reliable operation by all the stakeholders.
  4. Also, there is a need for technical regulations.