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November 2018

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Urban Only In Name


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: JNNURM, Smart Cities mission, AMRUT scheme

Mains level: Need of developing small towns to reduce the load on the major cities


The apathy of small towns

  1. Small towns in India are something of an oxymoron
  2. They are far removed from cities in character and appearance and are constantly struggling to establish their “urbanness”
  3. Every small town in India has its unique story and significance but their problems are similar — lack of basic services, dilapidated infrastructure, overcrowded spaces and dwindling job opportunities

Transformation in lifestyle

  1. These towns have thriving marketplaces with urbanesque spaces like supermarkets, beauty parlours and gymnasiums
  2. They have private schools and clinics, a variety of fast-food eateries, modern tailoring shops and mobile and electronic stores
  3. Such entrepreneurial energy says something about the growing small-town population which desires better services and an improved quality of life
  4. But this is relatively unrecognised by the government

Schemes only focused on major cities

  1. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) covered both big cities and small towns but gave financial preference to the former
  2. The change in government in 2014 led to amendments in urban policy
  3. JNNURM was replaced by the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) that focusses on infrastructural development for Class I cities (those with a population of one lakh and above)
  4. The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched to address our growing fascination with world-class cities that use technology to improve their services
  5. The common thread between these urban schemes is that they cater to Class I cities, which already have better access to services
  6. For example, as per the 2011 census, 50 to 60 per cent of households in these cities have access to piped sewerage and closed drains
  7. The percentage of the population who have access to these services in smaller towns is way lower

Why small towns are important?

  1. One-fourth of the urban population lives in these small towns (20,000 to 1,00,000 population)
  2. These 7 crore people need amenities to match up to their “urban” status
  3. Many of these towns may not be in the vicinity of big cities
  4. But though they are small in size, many of these small towns have an enormous growth potential
  5. Many studies have shown that the benefits of small town development can spill over to villages, especially in terms of employment generation

Way forward

  1. The debate between progress and development is not new — the former is largely about world-class cities while the latter focuses on a more inclusive agenda
  2. But the current government’s focus on big cities is problematic
  3. The development of small towns can make these urban centres fulfil the long-standing demand for a link between rural India and the country’s big cities and towns
  4. The growing population in these small towns needs to be backed by adequate investments by the Centre
  5. There should be a key role for these urban centres in development planning

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Make it the Indian way: Why the country must adapt to additive technologies


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: 3D printing

Mains level: Prospects of additive manufacturing and how can India leverage it


Upcoming manufacturing revolution in India

  1. We are fortunate to be in a historic moment when the manufacturing sector is about to go through a transformation wrought by disruptive technologies
  2. If ‘Make in India’ is to succeed, it needs to encompass ‘Make it the Indian Way’
  3. It need not emulate mass production technologies, fuelled in Detroit by massive capital investment or in Beijing by cheap labour

Lacunae in traditional manufacturing

  1. Traditional manufacturing of mechanical parts involves making a mould and then stamping out parts by thousands every day
  2. The equipment to make these parts and moulds is expensive, thus the cost of the first hundred units is high
  3. Per unit costs decline only when they are mass produced\
  4. Because of limitations of how this technology works, one typically builds many small parts, which are later on assembled on an assembly line using unskilled labour or robots to build an entire system
  5. Traditional manufacturing leads to high inventory costs of multiple parts that need to be produced and stored before being assembled
  6. This makes the design phase complex and costly, rendering it expensive to redesign to correct initial mistakes or innovate to meet changing consumer needs

Prospects of 3D printing

  1. Industrial 3D printing has begun to transform manufacturing in Western countries
  2. Although it began as a quick and cheap way of developing prototypes, additive manufacturing has now gone mainstream in developed countries and is beginning to replace traditional manufacturing for many different applications
  3. In additive manufacturing, the physical object to be built is first designed in software
  4. This design is fed to computerised machines, which build that object layer by layer
  5. The technology is suitable for building the entire system in one go, with hollow interiors without assembly or interlocked parts
  6. Changing features or tweaking shapes is a simple software change effected in minutes
  7. A retooling of machines is not required and each unit can be customised
  8. By eliminating the need to hold a large inventory of parts, set up an assembly line and purchase costly machines, adaptive manufacturing reduces capital and space requirements as well as the carbon footprint

What does this mean for developing nations?

  1. This technological nirvana carries dangerous implications for developing nations
  2. It decreases reliance on assembly workers and bypasses the global supply chain that has allowed countries like China to become prosperous through export of mass-produced items
  3. This may well lead to the creation of software-based design platforms in the West that distribute work orders to small manufacturing facilities, whether located in developed or developing countries, but ultimately transfer value creation towards software and design and away from physical manufacturing
  4. This would imply that labour-intensive manufacturing exports may be less profitable

India’s strengths

This manufacturing paradigm has several features that play to the strengths of the Indian ecosystem

  • It eliminates large capital outlays
  1. Machines are cheaper, inventories can be small and space requirements are not large
  2. Thus, jump-starting manufacturing does not face the massive hurdle of large capital requirement
  3. The traditional small and medium enterprises can easily be adapted and retooled towards high technology manufacturing
  • The Indian software industry is well-established, and plans to increase connectivity are well underway as part of ‘Digital India’
  1. This would allow for the creation of manufacturing facilities in small towns
  2. It would also foster industrial development outside of major cities
  • It is possible to build products that are better suited for use in harsh environmental conditions
  1. Products that required assembly of fewer parts also implies that they may be better able to withstand dust and moisture prevalent in our tropical environment and be more durable
  • In a country where use-and-throw is an anathema, maintaining old products is far easier because parts can be manufactured as needed and product life-cycles can be expanded
  • Maintaining uniform product quality is far easier because the entire system is built at the same time and assembly is not required

What needs to be done?

  1.  The “Make it the Indian Way” approach we advocate will need public-private partnership and multi-pronged efforts
  2. On the one hand, we need to accelerate research at our premier engineering schools on manufacturing machines and methods and encourage the formation of product design centres so that the products built to suit the Indian environment and consumers
  3. We also would need government support to provide incentives for distributed manufacturing in smaller towns, and for the IT industry to work on creating platforms and marketplaces that connect consumer demands, product designers and manufacturers in a seamless way

Way forward

  1. A combination of science and art, with a pinch of Indian entrepreneurship thrown in, will allow us to develop a manufacturing ecosystem that will not only allow India to compete with global manufacturing, it will also create products that are uniquely suited to Indian conditions
  2. The Industrial revolution somehow bypassed India, but we have a unique opportunity to catch the wave of the manufacturing revolution if we can learn to surf

Foreign Policy Watch: India-APEC

[op-ed snap] When giants clash: on the US-China discord


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Mains level: US-China trade war and its impact on global economics as well as geopolitics


Recent APEC meeting

  1. Breaking with more than a quarter-century of history, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organisation wrapped up its summit with no joint communiqué issued
  2. Its leaders, principally led by the U.S. and China, clashed over the proposed wording of the document
  3. The economic rivalry between Washington and Beijing appeared to fracture the 21-nation summit into two segments

What was the issue?

  1. The source of the friction stemmed from the Trump administration’s “America First” policy, under which Washington led the charge on “unfair trade practices”
  2. This was an implicit accusation that China wasn’t levelling the playing field in global trade
  3. The U.S. has been urging China to increase market access and grant intellectual property protections for American corporations, cut back on industrial subsidies and, at a broader level, bring down the $375-billion trade gap
  4. The US Vice President also hinted at strategic pushback when he called upon nations to eschew loans that could leave them in a debt trap with Beijing
  5. The Belt and Road Initiative has worried smaller Asian nations and the U.S., particularly given that China views the Asia-Pacific landscape as a means to secure economic predominance worldwide

The issue has been a long-standing one

  1. The troubles began over the summer when both countries started taxing $50 billion worth of the other’s imports, followed by the U.S. slapping $200 billion of Chinese exports with a 10% tariff, to be ratcheted up to 25% by the year-end
  2. China, unsurprisingly, retaliated with a promise to impose reciprocal taxes to the tune of $60 billion
  3. Already, the tariff war has resulted in the IMF downgrading its global growth outlook for this year and the next to 3.7%, down 0.2 percentage points from an earlier forecast

What does this mean for global trade?

  1. If this continues, eventually global supply chains may be hit, and shrinking trade volumes may cause companies to seek out new trading routes and partners
  2. Institutionally, multilateral rule-making bodies such as the WTO may lose their authority
  3. An interlocking system of bilateral trade treaties and punitive sanctions networks may substitute the consensus-based approach that was forged so painstakingly after World War II
  4. Asia will be at the heart of this war of attrition because strategic control of its high-value maritime trading routes is the key to China’s dreams of global trade dominance

Way forward

  1. After the APEC summit, the world is still poised on the edge of the trade war vortex
  2. The forthcoming G20 meeting in Argentina offers an opportunity to pull back from the brink

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

BASIC nations push for ‘climate finance’


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BASIC Countries

Mains level:  Importance of Finance for Green Initiatives


  • The 27th BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change in was held in New Delhi.

Reminder for Developed Countries NDCs

  1. Ahead of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in December, Environment Ministers and top climate change negotiators from Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) convened in Delhi
  2. The countries as a group would continue to push for developed countries on their earlier commitment to providing $100 billion annually from 2020.
  3. So far only a fraction of these monies have actually been provided.

COP-24 ahead

  1. This year’s edition of the COP the 24th such meeting will see representatives from at least 190 countries, think-tanks, and activists in Katowice, Poland.
  2. Members will try to agree on a Rule Book that will specify how countries will agree to take forward commitments taken at the 21st COP in Paris in 2015.
  3. At Paris, countries had agreed to take steps to limit global warming to 2C below pre-industrial levels and “as far as possible” limit it to 1.5C before the end of the century.
  4. A key aspect to make this possible is climate finance, but countries so far aren’t agreed on what constitutes climate finance.

Importance of Finance

  1. Finance is one of the critical enablers of climate actions in developing countries along with technology development and transfer and capacity-building support.
  2. Any regression or slow progress on these will hamper the progress of developing countries towards achieving higher ambition in their actions.
  3. Public finance in the form of grants and concessional finance is required for climate actions.

Importance of Public Finance

  1. Developed countries have not fulfilled their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion per annum by 2020.
  2. BASIC meet encouraged developed countries to scale up their financial support and finalise a new collective finance goal to inform parties for future action through NDCs.
  3. China too said that claims on finances provided so far by the developed countries were disputable.

Way Forward

  1. In the run-up to the climate conference, India has had meetings with several countries to firm up a key plank of the forthcoming negotiations on transparency.
  2. There should be a mechanism in place for countries for reporting their emissions inventory, steps taken and how other countries could be certain that this was being done truthfully.
  3. The BASIC bats for agree-upon norms of quality and transparency.


BASIC countries

  1. The BASIC countries are a bloc of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – formed by an agreement on 28 November 2009.
  2. The four committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit, including a possible united walk-out if their common minimum position was not met by the developed nations.
  3. This emerging geopolitical alliance, initiated and led by China, then brokered the final Copenhagen Accord with the United States.
  4. The grouping is working to define a common position on emission reductions and climate aid money, and to try to convince other countries to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord.
  5. However, in January 2010, the grouping described the Accord as merely a political agreement and not legally binding, as is argued by the US and Europe.
  6. The four countries also said they will announce their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31 January 2010 as agreed in Copenhagen.
  7. This move was apparently intended to share richer nations into increasing their funding for climate mitigation in poorer nations.

Swachh Bharat Mission

India gets its first sewer cleaning machine

Image Source


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: Sulabh Sewer Cleaning Machine

Mains level: Measures to end Manual Scavenging activities


  • In order to reduce sewer deaths and put an end to the unsafe practice of manual scavenging, the Sulabh International introduced India’s first “sewer cleaning machine”.

Sulabh Sewer Cleaning Machine

  1. The machine costs Rs 43 lakh and was unveiled on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2018.
  2. The new machine is ideal for periodic mechanical de-silting of manholes and to flush out sewer lines using the powerful jetting pump capable of producing 150 bar operating pressure and a flow of 150 litres per minute.
  3. It is also capable of de-choking sewer lines using specially designed flexible steel rods.
  4. The machine will do away with 99 per cent of manual scavenging in the country, where at least one worker has died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks every five days since the beginning of 2017.

Features of the Machine

  1. The machine will ensure that no safai karamchari dies inside the sewer.
  2. To avert such tragedies the Sulabh sewer cleaning machine is electro-hydraulically operated, with personal protective devices and a quick-view pipe inspection camera which extends up to 20 feet.
  3. The quick-view pipe view camera is designed to felicitate inspection of manholes, sewer, tunnels, tanks, mainline and other lateral pipeline facilities with an outstanding zoom function (industrial HD camera), scalable carbon fibre rods and a sunlight presentable controller.
  4. With the machine, a worker won’t have to enter the sewers.
  5. But if the need arises and a person has to go, then the machine is fully equipped with gas checking machine, protective gears and dress to protect the workers from harmful gases.

Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

Farmers badly hit by demonetization, admits Agriculture Ministry


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: Not Much

Mains level: Lessons from Demonetization


Loss: Now officially acknowledged

  1. India’s 263 million farmers live mostly in the cash economy and millions of them were unable to get enough cash to buy seeds and fertilizers for their winter crops.
  2. The report said that demonetization came at a time when farmers were engaged in either selling their Kharif crops or sowing the Rabi crops.
  3. Both these operations needed huge amounts of cash, which demonetization removed from the market.
  4. Even bigger landlords faced a problem such as paying daily wages to the farmers and purchasing agriculture needs for growing crops.

Failed to pick up

  1. Even the National Seeds Corporation (NSC) failed to sell nearly 1.38 lakh quintals of wheat seeds because of the cash crunch.
  2. The sale failed to pick up even after the government, subsequently, allowed the use of old currency notes of ₹500 and ₹1,000 for wheat seed sales.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Make elephant corridors eco-sensitive zones, says NGT


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Elephant corridors in India

Mains level: Legal protection of Elephant Corridors and their habitats


  • The NGT has asked the MoEFCC to consider declaring all elephant corridors in the country as eco-sensitive zones.


  1. The observations came while the green panel was hearing a plea that highlighted the increasing number of unnatural elephant deaths taking place across many states.
  2. Issue of elephant corridors has been raised by different applicants and various judgments have also been passed by the Tribunal.
  3. Therefore, NGT directed MoEFCC to look into this aspect in a broader perspective and also to have a permanent solution.

Designating a Eco-sensitive Zone

  1. The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.
  2. The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards
  3. Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations.
  4. These include the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.
  5. The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA).
  6. The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.

Why such guideline?

  1. The complete lack of legal protection to elephant corridors and elephant reserves has led to a large number of deaths in areas beyond the protected areas.
  2. Owing to the increased denudation and loss of their forest habitats, elephants have come increasingly into conflicts with humans.
  3. Hence they face deliberate retaliatory killings and accidents at railway crossings, high tension power lines, power fences and trenches.

Indian Army Updates

Indian Army zeroes in on Russian Igla-S missile


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of Igla-S MANPADS

Mains level: VSHORAD Program of Indian Army


  • After a series of delays, Russia has been declared the lowest bidder in the Army’s multi-billion dollar deal for man portable air defence systems (MANPADS).
  • It will soon be supplying $ 1.3 bn very short range air defense or VSHORAD program missile system to the Indian Army.


  1. IGLA-S (SA-24) is the latest model of Russian MANPADS technology offered to the Indian Army.
  2. It offers superior performance over the earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India which is in use since 1980s.
  3. Igla-S system is designed for use against visible targets as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle, cruise missile, head-on or receding, in the presence of natural (background) clutter and counter measures.
  4. As per requirements, the system should have a maximum range of 6km, altitude of 3km along with all-weather capability and will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.

Key Concerns

  1. The other concern is the US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.
  2. This act restricts defence purchases from Russia, Iran and North Korea.
  3. The US is yet to grant India a waiver for the $5.43 bn S-400 air defence deal with Russia signed in early October.