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December 2018

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s maternity laws need serious tweaking


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Maternity Benefit Act

Mains level: Proposed changes in the MBA 2017 and changes required for better outcomes


Problems in maternity laws

  1. When the provisions of the amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act came into force effective 1 April 2017, it was lauded by the industry as a progressive step towards improvement in securing the employment rights of women
  2. The law had its heart in the right place but unintentionally led to higher caution on the part of the employers, leading to lower levels of the hiring of women
  3. According to a private sector study, there could be significant job losses for women in India in the short to medium term

Reasons for job losses

  1. India offers one of the world’s most generous maternity leave policies
  2. But India is also probably the only country where the entire financial burden of the maternity leave is supposed to be borne by the employer
  3. In most countries, the cost of maternity leave is shared across the government, employer, insurance and other social security programmes

Proposed changes by the Labour Ministry

  1. The ministry of labour and employment has proposed changes in the law
  2. First, wages equivalent to only seven weeks shall be reimbursed by the government of India to employers who employ female workers and provide maternity benefits of 26 weeks’ paid leave
  3. Second, to enable an entity to avail the incentive, the female employees working in the entity concerned should be earning wages less than ₹15,000
  4. Third,  the female worker has to be a member of Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) for at least one year and must not be covered under ESIC
  5. Fourth, provisions for crèches with certain prerequisites (caretakers, visits by mothers, suitable location)
  6. Last, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, as amended from time to time, is a state government legislation, implying thereby that state governments may amend the Act from time to time to extend benefits higher and incremental to the benefits recommended by the central government

Flaws in the proposed amendments

  1. The Employees’ State Insurance (ESIC) Act mandates that all employees earning wages of ₹21,000 or less shall be covered under the Act
  2. But the proposal to consider employees earning wages of ₹15,000 or less, with the conditions attached to it, does not seem justifiable
  3. This is owing to the fact that the women earning wages of ₹21,000 or less but are employed in non-implemented areas are not entitled to the benefits and the employer is forced to bear the entire cost
  4. The conditions set for 1 year enrolment into EPFO lack logic or reasoning considering a) entitlement to maternity benefits kicks in once an employee completes 80 days (less than three months) of continuous service, and b) an employee is entitled to the benefits under the proposed incentive only if she has been a contributing member of EPFO for at least a year and is not covered under ESIC
  5. Provisions of creche that are mandatory for commissioning mothers lack clarity

Desired changes

  1. The seven weeks reimbursement limit must be extended to a minimum of 13 weeks
  2. The period of wages of 13 weeks could also stand to be extended to all female employees who are not covered under ESIC, without any preconditions on wage ceiling or membership of the provident fund organization for one year, etc
  3. The government must set up crèches with all the attendant facilities proposed in the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, and allow employees eligible for such benefits to use these crèches at a very nominal cost
  4. Bringing the Maternity Benefit Act under central legislation will also help maintain uniformity
  5. There can also be cost sharing between employer and government by way of reimbursement once the employer furnishes the proof of payment of maternity leave wage
  6. Provision of slab-based tax rebates offered by the government on actual maternity wages paid
  7. Setting up a government insurance scheme to pay for maternity wages
  8. Leave sharing in the form of 13 months maternity and 13 months paternity to negate any possibility of gender bias

Way forward

  1. Such changes in the Act will likely encourage employers to provide employment opportunities to women without any gender discrimination and thus bring women into the mainstream of India’s progress
  2. With such active steps, we have genuine hope of raising India’s overall female labour force participation from the present 26% to a competitive level like China’s 60%

G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

[op-ed snap] The new trilateralism


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: JAI trilateral

Mains level: Shredding “hesitations of history” in Indian diplomacy and using new trilateralism for India’s interests


G20 summit and new engagements

  1. That PM Modi could sit down with the leaders of the US and Japan on the margins of the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires over the weekend and, soon after, parley with the presidents of China and Russia, has generated some surprise and much appreciation of India’s new international standing that the two trilateral summits underlined
  2. This is the first time that the trilateral engagement between India, Japan and the United States has been elevated to the highest political level
  3. PM Modi came up with a new acronym, “JAI”, for the trilateral partnership
  4. His meeting with President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin has taken place after a gap of nearly 12 years

An important marker for Indian diplomacy

  1. Given the history of Indian foreign policy and its deep suspicion of the West, there is no question that the trilateral summit with President Donald Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is an important marker in the evolution of India’s foreign policy
  2. Although India’s bilateral relations with the US and Japan and other Western countries have grown significantly in the 21st century and its officials have engaged with those from Washington, Tokyo and Canberra in the trilateral and quadrilateral format, Delhi has been hesitant to participate in these meetings at the summit level
  3. The domestic concern about abandoning “non-alignment” was one reason
  4. The fear of annoying India’s friends in the East — in Beijing and Moscow — has been cited as the other
  5. Delhi’s main weakness has been the inability to fully translate this extraordinary political leverage into substantive economic and military gains

Way forward for India

  1. Modi’s renewed trilateral summitry with Putin and Xi proves India does not have to choose between one camp or the other
  2. China’s main focus at the G-20 summit was on cutting a deal with Trump on trade issues
  3. All major powers are engaging each other and Delhi must do the same without any inhibitions

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] Job creation at the farmer’s doorstep


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need of focusing on the non-farm sector for job growth and sustainable income opportunities for farmers


Rural economy in a poor state

  1. Rural India’s economic situation continues to worsen
  2. A recent survey by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey) shows that the average monthly income of rural households is ₹8,059, with agricultural households deriving only 43% of their income from agriculture
  3. This is also reflected in the decoupling of urban Indian incomes from rural India with per capita income in rural India lagging a fair bit
  4. The government has sought to double farmer income by raising minimum support prices, but such initiatives would apply directly only to 48% of rural India, with non-agricultural households being left behind

Rythu Bandhu model also not feasible

  1. The Telangana government’s recent announcement of the Rythu Bandhu scheme has spotlighted the policy of utilising cash transfer to assist land-owning farmers with a non-agricultural income — instead of the traditional policy measures of price interventions, trade restrictions and farm loan waivers
  2. While the scheme is nominally intended as investment support for inputs such as seeds and pesticides, it implies a transfer of ₹8,000 per acre for every landowning farmer over two crop seasons
  3. As Credit Suisse notes, the scheme has an inbuilt bias for large farmers, allowing 9% of farmers with more than five acres to earn 34% of the total payout

Raising farmer incomes

  1. The conversation on raising farmer income needs to embrace non-farm diversification, an important pathway for empowering landless labourers and marginal farmers
  2. Diversification, away from marginal farming, is typically the answer — helping to overcome land constraint to income growth while allowing farmers to cope with exogenous shocks through additional income
  3. In some cases, it even allows them to reinvest in productivity-enhancing agricultural technologies

Livestock sector: Interventions required

  1. The livestock sector can offer significant opportunities for bolstering non-farm income
  2. The current breeding policy (based on exotic blood and artificial insemination) needs to be revamped
  3. A national breeding policy is also needed to upgrade the best performing indigenous breeds
  4. Buffalo breeding ought to be given more attention, while poultry breeding should be focussed on conservation
  5. State governments should be encouraged to participate in national breeding policy implementation, creating an environment for competition among alternative suppliers of artificial insemination
  6. Consensus must be built among breeders to develop indigenous breeds
  7. The feed supply (currently inadequate) needs to be mitigated through greater imports, with feed technology packages developed for extension dissemination
  8. Geographical information system-based analysis must be utilised to map production systems
  9. Private investment must also be encouraged
  10. Animal health care should become a priority, with greater investment in preventive health care

Improving the condition of Migrant workers

  1. We should also embrace the fact that agricultural labourers routinely seek construction-related daily wage labour to bolster their income
  2. We have to enable migrant workers to get deserved access to various government (Central and State) schemes, despite the lack of identity proof
  3. Access to Anganwadi facilities should be provided regardless of their identity documents
  4. While multiple laws exist for the welfare of construction workers, compliance is abysmal
  5. The penalties for non-compliance have to be increased to a significant fraction of the construction cost, payable by the builder
  6. Registration of workers with the Welfare Board should be made mandatory and be the responsibility of the contractor and the builder
  7. If the contractor is found to engage or employ any worker without a registration card/ID, penalties (monetary and non-monetary) should be imposed, which would then be used for improving awareness and penetration of registration cards and their benefits
  8. The registration cards should be linked to their Jan-Dhan accounts, and transfer of payments on a periodic basis be made directly to their accounts
  9. In order to improve the condition of women, strict anti-harassment laws should be implemented
  10. Creche facilities at construction sites should be provided to also ensure that children are not neglected; they often play with gravel and dust, which can threaten their health
  11. Workers should also be provided with training and skilling in their areas of interest, as it could lead to higher earnings and credit-worthiness

Way forward

  1. Our policies should help create sustainable, long-term, rural, non-farm employment options which can aid the rural poor in overcoming barriers to economic prosperity
  2. India’s rural development policies should increasingly focus on developing markets, infrastructure and institutions that can help sectors such as livestock and construction growth

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

[pib] Digital Sky Platform launched for registration of drones, pilots, and operators


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Drone regulations 1.0 and 2.0, Digital Sky Platform

Mains level: Potential and threats posed by drone technology



  1. Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), popularly referred to as drones, are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications.
  2. In August 2018, India had announced the release of its Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) to enable safe flying of drones in India.
  3. The CAR detailed the obligations of operators, remote pilots/ users and manufacturers/ OEM for safe operations of RPAS and co-operative use of airspace.

Digital Sky Platform

  1. The Digital Sky Platform is a first of its kind that implements ‘no permission, no take-off’ (NPNT) – a novel system of software-based self-enforcement to minimize deviations from the CAR.
  2. The regulations has to come in effect from December 1, allowing the industry time to ready themselves for the launch.
  3. For micro and above categories, operators and pilots are required to register on the Digital Sky Portal.
  4. The platform has begun accepting registrations of users.
  5. Payments for Unmanned Aerial Operator’s Permit (UAOP) and Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) will be accepted through the Bharat Kosh ( portal.

How to get permissions?

  1. To get permissions to fly, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.
  2. Flying in the ‘green zones’ will require only intimation of the time and location of the flights via the portal or the app.
  3. Permissions will be required for flying in ‘yellow zones’ and flights will not be allowed in the ‘red zones’.
  4. The location of these zones will be announced soon. Permission, if granted, will be available digitally on the portal.
  5. If a drone does not have permission to fly, it will not be allowed to take-off under the policy of No Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT).

Drone 2.0 Framework

  1. The Minister for Civil Aviation has constituted a task-force on the recommendation of Drone Policy 2.0 under the chairmanship of the Minister of State.
  2. This task-force which is expected to release their final report by the end of this year.
  3. Drone 2.0 framework for RPAS are expected to include regulatory architecture for autonomous flying, delivery via drones and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights.


Highlights of Drone 1.0 Framework

  1. As per the CAR ruled out by DGCA , there are 5 categories of RPAS categorized by weight, namely:
  • Nano: Less than or equal to 250 gm
  • Micro: Greater than 250 gm but less than 2 kg
  • Mini: Greater than 2 kg but less than 25 kg
  • Small: Greater than 25 kg but less than 150 kg
  • Large: Greater than 150 kg
  1. The mandatory equipment required for operation of RPAS except nano category are (a) GNSS (GPS), (b) Return-To-Home (RTH), (c) Anti-collision light, (d) ID-Plate, (e) Flight controller with flight data logging capability, and (f) RF ID and SIM/ No-Permission No Take off (NPNT).
  2. The basic operating procedure will restrict drone flights to the daytime only and that too within “Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) for all categories.

Restricted Zones for drones

  1. RPAs cannot be flown within 5km of the perimeters of the airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and within 3km from the perimeter of any other airport.
  2. It cannot fly within “permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas” and within 25km from international border which includes the Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).
  3. It cannot fly beyond 500 m into sea from the coast line and within 3 km from perimeter of military installations.
  4. It also cannot fly within a 5 km radius of the Vijay Chowk in Delhi, within 2 km from perimeter of strategic locations/ vital installations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs and within 3 km from radius of State Secretariat Complexes.
  5. It also cannot be operated from a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft.
  6. Eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are off-limits without prior permission.
  7. Violations will be acted on under relevant sections of the IPC and the Aircraft Act 1934.

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

[pib] 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to begin


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GCF

Mains level:  India fulfilling its ambitious climate actions



  1. The COP-24 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held at Katowice, Poland from 2nd December 2018 to 14th December 2018.
  2. COP-24 is very significant as it is expected to finalise guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016.

Indian agenda at the COP

  1. India strongly supports the objective of the Paris Agreement to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.
  2. India is committed towards keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. India considers it important from the point of view of eradicating poverty and caring for the poor and the marginalized.
  4. The issue of pre-2020 commitments under Kyoto Protocol of developed countries to fulfill their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion per annum by 2020, will remain a priority for India in COP-24.

Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP)

  1. During the COP-24, India would like to emphasise its concern for climate change and reaffirm its commitments to finalization of the PAWP.
  2. India strives to ensure that Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), in the light of different national circumstances, are operationalised in all elements of the PAWP.

Greater responsibility for Developed Countries 

  1. These implementation gaps will present an additional burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period.
  2. Therefore, the key concern for India is to ensure that no undue burden is shifted onto developing countries in the post-2020 period.
  3. India is of the view that enhanced provision of new, adequate and predictable finance, technology development and transfer, as well as capacity-building support, is key enablers to achieve higher ambition in their climate actions.
  4. Therefore, PAWP must have mechanisms to ensure new, adequate and predictable support for developing country parties.

Talanoa Dialogue

  1. The final political phase of 2018 Facilitative Talanoa Dialogue and stock take exercise on Pre-2020 implementation and action are also scheduled during COP-24.
  2. India will be looking forward to a rich exchange of views during the high-level Talanoa dialogue at COP-24, with consideration of pre-2020 actions and support as a crucial element.
  3. India will be working together with all Parties in an open, transparent, inclusive and Party-driven manner to achieve a balanced and comprehensive outcome in the form of final PAWP at COP-24.

India’s targets achieved so far

  1. The ambitious goal of generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, and initiatives on smart cities, electric vehicles, energy efficiency initiatives etc. have now made India one of the global leaders in climate action.
  2. With the achievement of about 72 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2018 out of a targeted 175 GW, India stands at 4th position globally in wind power, 6th position in solar power installed capacity, and overall 5th position in renewable power.
  3. India made a voluntary pledge in 2009 to reduce the emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 20-25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 (excluding emissions from agriculture).
  4. India’s climate actions are synchronized with its development goals and simultaneously reflect its bold vision for combating climate change.
  5. The UN’s highest environmental honour, UNEP “Champions of the Earth” award was conferred on the PM Modi for his pioneering work in championing the ISA and for his unprecedented pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

[pib] Hornbill Festival 2018


Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture| Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hornbill Festival, Great Indian Hornbill

Mains level: India’s rich cultural treasure and ways to preserve it


  • Union Home Minister has inaugurated hugely popular Hornbill Festival 2018 in Kohima, coinciding with the Formation Day of Nagaland.

Hornbill Festival 2018

  1. The Hornbill Festival is a celebration held every year from 1 – 10 December, in Kohima, Nagaland.
  2. The first festival was held in the year 2000.
  3. The festival is named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes.
  4. Organized by the Nagaland State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments, the Festival showcases a mélange of cultural displays under one roof.
  5. Festival highlights include the traditional Naga Morungs exhibition and the sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, herbal medicine stalls, flower shows and sales, cultural medley – songs and dances, fashion shows etc.

About Great Indian Hornbill

  1. The great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) also known as the great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family.
  2. The great hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity.
  3. It is predominantly fruit eating, but is an opportunist and preys on small mammals, reptiles and birds.
  4. Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals.
  5. IUCN status: Vulnerable (uplisted from Near Threatened in 2018). It is also listed in Appendix I of CITES.

Indian Air Force Updates

[pib] Ex Cope India 2018


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Cope India

Mains level:  India-US strategic relations


Ex Cope India-18

  1. It is the fourth edition in the series of Bilateral Joint exercise held between IAF and USAF, which is conducted in India.
  2. The aim of exercise is to provide operational exposure and undertake mutual exchange of best practices towards enhancing operational capability.
  3. This is the first time, the exercise is being planned at two Air Force bases, Kalaikunda and Panagarh from 03-14 Dec 18.
  4. USAF is participating with F15 C/D and C-130. IAF is participating with the Su-30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000, C-130J & AWACS aircraft.

J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: J&K Roshni Act


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Roshni Act

Mains level: Governance challenges in J&K


  • The State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by J&K Governor has repealed the J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, popularly known as the Roshni Act.
  • This was so because it failed to realize the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions.

What was mandated in the Act?

  1. The Roshni Act envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.
  2. It set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land.
  3. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals (one-eighth of an acre) of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
  4. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.


  1. In 2005 the government relaxed the cutoff year to 2004.
  2. Subsequently with new govt coming to power the cutoff was relaxed further to 2007.
  3. The government also gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs 100 per kanal as documentation fee.

Allegations and Controversies

  1. Investigations into the land transfers subsequently found that land in Gulmarg had been given over to ineligible beneficiaries.
  2. However several government officials illegally possessed and vested ownership of state land to occupants who did not satisfy criteria under the Roshni Act.
  3. A report by the CAG estimated that against the targeted Rs 25,000 crore, only Rs 76 crore had been realized from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013, thus defeating the purpose of the legislation.
  4. The report blamed irregularities including arbitrary reduction in prices fixed by a standing committee, and said this was done to benefit politicians and affluent people.
  5. In November 2018, the High Court restrained all beneficiaries of the Roshni scheme from selling or carrying out any other transaction in respect of the land transferred to them.

War over Demography

  1. The decision to repeal the Roshni Act came after demands from a hardline religious group approached the High Court seeking court-monitored investigations into the transfer of land under the Act.
  2. The group assumed it as jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu. This led to a social and economic boycott of the Gujjars and Bakerwals.
  3. This was the same group who supported the accused in the gangrape and murder of the 8-year-old Bakerwal girl in January
  4. The Gujjar and Bakerwal groups in Jammu have been upset with the repeal of the Act.
  5. They have said that while the rich and influential managed to grab the benefits, their applications had remained pending.