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December 2018

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

[op-ed snap] Act together and quickly on climate change


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, COP24, Paris Agreement

Mains level: Various reports highlighting the impact of climate change and need of urgent measures by all nations


India’s vulnerability to climate change

  1. A recent review by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, a wing of the agriculture ministry, predicts that crops, plantations and livestock in 151 districts (one-fifth of India’s districts) are susceptible to the impact of climate change
  2. In a recent report, the United Nations highlighted that people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations are seven times more likely to die than a similar person in the richest nations
  3. The “protection gap” between the rich and the poor is evidently wide enough
  4. It is little wonder then that India, and even China, want to set and meet “bold and ambitious targets” under a global agreement, despite the non-participation of the US, which is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter

Challenges in achieving climate change goals

  1. Even as India strives to meet its goals, the bigger challenge remains the lack of consensus on climate action among the developing and developed countries
  2. In November, India held two meetings with like-minded developing countries to collectively make a big issue of technology transfer and climate funding from the developed world
  3. While the issue of climate funding dates back to Cancun in 2010—when rich nations first made a commitment to creating a green corpus in order to help countries like India purchase new technology—there has been little money to show eight years down the line
  4. For India to meet its national targets, and for global human-caused CO2 emissions to reach “net zero” by 2050, advanced technology to capture carbon has to be more widely available
  5. While the Paris Agreement requires that developed countries “shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation”, there is a continuing lack of clarity on the release of these funds and the modalities regarding its accountability and use

Importance of COP24

  1. The exit of the US from the Paris Agreement; a slew of recent studies which bring the window of irretrievable planetary change much closer (to 2040); and the glacial pace in effecting substantial carbon emission cuts have cast a pall of gloom
  2. COP24 is significant as it is expected to finalize guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016
  3. The rulebook negotiations would be central to the Katowice conference, in the background of differences prevailing between developing and developed countries over its contents

India’s firm commitments

  1. India’s self-declared national target is to achieve 40% electric power generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reduce the emission intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35% from the 2005 level
  2. In the inaugural session of COP24 in Katowice, Poland, India reaffirmed that it is on track to meet these targets
  3. The country has also installed 72GW of renewable energy capacity
  4. The massive push towards renewable energy is a result of India’s leading role in promoting the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which pledged to generate 1,000GW of solar power capacity by 2030

Need of fulfilling UNFCCC targets

  1. If the world wants to save the poor and vulnerable who account for more than half of the world’s population, the global temperature rise has to be curtailed at 1.5 °C
  2. The next 15 years are critical for action on climate change and any delay would only render it impossible to limit the level of planetary warming to even 2°C
  3. Absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high-income countries, but the human costs of disasters would fall on low and lower-middle-income countries

Way forward

  1. The need of the hour is to strike a balance between the adaptation and mitigation, but in a manner that it does not put any additional burden on developing economies
  2. COP24 should be able to frame guidelines, which are pragmatic and gives due consideration to the challenges and priorities of developing countries—their vulnerabilities and challenges, including poverty, food security, energy access, and public health

Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] A new deal for the farmer


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kisan Credit Card, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), Mudra Scheme

Mains level: The idea of a basic pay for farmers and its plausibility


Farm distress and farmer suicides

  1. The neglect of Indian agriculture by the successive governments has been the cause of untold suffering of the Indian farmer
  2. According to Census 2011, 54.6 per cent of India’s workforce was engaged in agriculture
  3. However, the sector contributes less than 17 per cent of the GDP
  4. The policies of successive governments have failed to correct this imbalance
  5. This has led to large-scale farmers suicides and spawned unprecedented agrarian unrest in many parts of the country

Urgent interventions required

  • Farmers must receive expert advice by trained officials at their doorstep at the beginning of every crop season
  1. These recommendations should be related to issues like which crops to sow, technology, market prices, soil fertility, irrigation
  2. Agricultural extension services are almost non-existent today
  • Trade bans on agricultural exports must be removed
  1. Such restrictive policies keep domestic prices low, harming farmers’ interests
  2. Farmers should have free access to global markets, as it will help augment incomes
  3. Restrictions, if any, should be imposed only in emergencies
  4. As for domestic trade, all restrictions on inter-district and inter-state movement should be removed
  • Every farmer family must have a Kisan Credit Card (KCC)
  1. According to the NABARD, the cumulative number of KCCs issued since inception till March 31, 2015, is 14.64 crore of which operative/live KCCs are 7.41-crore
  2. Counter-posing this against the 13.83 crore operational land holdings (Agricultural Census 2010-11) shows that a large number of farmers are yet to be covered under the KCC scheme
  • Rainwater harvesting should be incorporated in irrigation projects, owing to its magnificent untapped potential
  1. According to the Standing Committee on Rural Development, only 10 per cent of the projects taken up under the watershed development component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) have been completed so far
  2. The establishment of micro, small and medium irrigation projects like tube wells and check dams, instead of big irrigation projects should be encouraged and financed entirely by the Centre
  • A “paani panchayat” should be established for every scheme, which will act as a specialised registered body responsible for the execution of irrigation projects
  1. The panchayat will be responsible for the maintenance of water channels and collecting user charges from the beneficiaries
  2. This will help in the augmentation of self-financing water management mechanism
  3. It could also act as cross-panchayat body wherever applicable, for example, in cases where more than one beneficiary panchayat exists under a particular irrigation project
  • Minimum basic pay to farmers
  1. Every small and marginal farmer and every agricultural labourer above the age of 60 should receive a monthly pension of Rs 5,000
  2. All small and marginal farmer households, including tenant and sub-tenant farmers, should receive a basic income of Rs 6,000 per acre per crop season. This will work out to Rs 12,000 per household per annum
  3. Farmers holding land in excess of 5 acres of irrigated land, who produce disposable surplus and take advantage of the minimum support price may not be included in the scheme. For unirrigated holdings, the limit could be 10 acres
  4. The total financial burden of this scheme, likely to be Rs 1.84 lakh crore, could be distributed in the ratio of 70:30 between the Centre and the states
  5. The financial burden on the Centre will thus be Rs 1.29 lakh crore, less than 1 per cent of the country’s GDP
  6. The total expenditure budget of the Government of India in 2018-19 is Rs 24.42 lakh crore
  7. It is therefore not difficult to find this money within the resources available to it with better expenditure management
  8. However, even if this adds to the fiscal deficit it will be a worthwhile step because it will make the farmers happy and increase their productivity
  • Food processing
  1. There should be a separate category of entrepreneurs under the Mudra Yojana who will set up processing and storage plants for agricultural units
  2. With a low rate of interests on loans ranging from 3.5 per cent to 6 per cent, small and medium enterprises for storage and processing can aid the development of infrastructure for the agriculture sector

Way forward

  1. A Basic Income Scheme for the farmer will not tax the government’s resources
  2. But it could stem the tide of distress in the countryside

Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

[op-ed snap] Stunted, wasted: on Global Nutrition Report 2018


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Nutrition Report 2018, FAO, El Niño

Mains level: Trend in undernourishment across India and the world


Undernourishment rising

  1. The health, longevity and well-being of Indians have improved since Independence, and the high levels of economic growth over the past two-and-half-decades have made more funds available to spend on the social sector
  2. Yet, the reality is that a third of the world’s stunted children under five — an estimated 46.6 million who have low height for age — live in India. A quarter of the children display wasting (that is, low weight for height) as well
  3. As the Global Nutrition Report 2018 points out, this finding masks the wide variation in stunting levels in different parts of the country
  4. A decade-long phenomenon of the number of undernourished people in the world falling between 2003 and 2014, both in absolute terms (from 961.5 million to 783.7 million) and relative to total population (from 15.1% to 10.7%), has reversed during the last three years
  5. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the world’s population suffering from hunger — the food they consume isn’t sufficient to provide the minimum dietary energy requirement for leading a normal, active and healthy life — rose to 784.4 million in 2015, 804.2 million in 2016 and 820.8 million in 2017

Role of agri prices

  1. The reversal of a prolonged declining trend in world hunger has come despite a collapse in international agri-commodity prices after 2014
  2. Ironically, throughout the period of rising food prices from 2003 to 2011, global hunger numbers kept dipping
  3. Using sophisticated simulation models and econometric tools, it has been shown that the increase in food prices during the last decade benefited the rural poor and “likely contributed to faster global poverty reduction from the mid-2000s onward”
  4. Conversely, the recent decline in agricultural prices could retard global poverty reduction
  5. Sustained high prices can stimulate production, leading to increased farm incomes
  6. It may result in a higher demand for unskilled agricultural labour, raising overall rural wages as well
  7. The only losers in the bargain would be the urban poor

Factors affecting hunger

  • The first is the displacement of civilian population and food insecurity resulting from conflicts
  1. Roughly 500 million out of the world’s 821 million undernourished people live in conflict-ridden regions such as West Asia, North and northern sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe
  2. Violent conflicts, both state-based and between organised armed groups, have increased dramatically, especially after 2010
  • The second is climate variations (in temperature and rainfall) and extremes (leading to droughts, heat waves, floods, storms, etc)
  1. The 2015-16 El Niño — the abnormal warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean waters, known to adversely impact monsoon rainfall in countries such as India — was one of the strongest events of the past 100 years
  2. It also contributed to 2016 being the warmest and 2015 the second warmest year based on recorded global average temperatures
  3. The six warmest years for the planet have all occurred since 2010

The effects of conflicts and climate-related disasters, if any, would be mainly on agricultural production and supply, in turn, driving up commodity prices

Instead, the world has been awash with wheat, corn, rice, soyabean, palm oil, sugar, cotton, milk and almost every other agri-commodity

The story of the last four years, both globally and in India, has been one of glut and depressed price realisation for farmers

  • This has to do with the general economic slowdown and commodity prices (whether agri, oil or metals) themselves falling
  1. These result in lower fiscal revenues and foreign exchange earnings for commodity exporting countries, whose governments, then, have less money to spend on welfare programmes
  2. That — and the fact of poor households also often being producers and now realising lower prices or wages — is a plausible reason for hunger making a comeback even in peaceful settings amidst over-supply of agri-commodities

Interventions required in India

  1. Among the factors affecting the quantity and quality of nutrition are maternal education, age at marriage, antenatal care, children’s diet and household size
  2. Now that mapping of malnutrition at the district level is available, as in the Global Nutrition Report, it is incumbent on State governments to address these determining factors
  3. India should invest more of its economic prosperity in its welfare system, without binding itself in restrictive budgetary formulations

Way forward

  1.  The Economic Survey 2017-18 put social services spending at 6.6% of GDP, an insignificant rise after a marginal decline from the 6% band during the previous year to 5.8%
  2. The latest report on stunting and wasting should convince the Centre that it needs to understand the problem better and work with the States to give India’s children a healthy future

With inputs from the article: Explained: Why number of hungry is rising

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Why Qatar has left OPEC, and how the decision will impact oil prices, India


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: OPEC

Mains level: Impact of Qatar’s leaving OPEC on India


  • Qatar among the world’s smallest countries by area and the richest in terms of per capita gross national income has announced it was walking away from OPEC.


  1. OPEC is a cartel of 15 countries that produce about 45% of the world’s oil and contain over 80% of its “proven” reserves.
  2. OPEC was founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Qatar joined in 1961. Saudi Arabia dominates the cartel, having pumped 11 million barrels per day in October.
  3. OPEC has a very big influence on global oil prices, which play a crucial role in determining the economic health of many countries, including India.

Why has Qatar left OPEC?

  1. Qatar wanted to focus on its gas industry rather than on oil, in which it was in any case a small player.
  2. Qatar’s riches are due to its natural gas reserves, and it is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

What is Saudi’s problem with Qatar?

  1. Qatar has long showed an independent mind in foreign policy that does not always align with the priorities of its regional Arab neighbours.
  2. This includes having a close economic and diplomatic relationship with Shia Iran, Sunni Saudi’s great regional rival.
  3. In June, 2017, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, directed Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days, and forbade their citizens from going to or staying in Qatar.
  4. Egypt too severed diplomatic contact with Doha, and all of them shut their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and told foreign airlines to seek permission if flying to and from Qatar.
  5. Saudi sealed Qatar’s only land border, and closed its ports to Qatari-flagged ships.

What pulled Saudi to do so?

  1. Riyadh claimed Qatar had refused to end ties with “terrorists”, after Doha declined to fulfill 13 demands that were presented to it.
  2. Those demands included: cutting diplomatic relations with Tehran and military ties with Turkey, shutting down the TV station Al Jazeera, and aligning with other Arab countries “militarily, politically, socially and economically”.
  3. Qatar refused all these saying the demands amounted to “surrendering our sovereignty”.
  4. Doha has backed the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, but it is also part of the US-led war on the Islamic State, and has assisted the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Will Qatar leaving OPEC impact global oil prices?

  1. Qatar is a tiny player that pumped 609,000 barrels a day in October, only 2% of OPEC’s total output of 32.9 million barrels per day.
  2. However, over the last many decades, it has played a role mediating internal rivalries in OPEC and striking production-cut deals with producers like Russia.
  3. This is where its absence may hurt OPEC a bit.

And will India be impacted by the departure in any way?

  1. Qatar has limited influence on OPEC’s pricing decisions.
  2. From India’s perspective, its position as the world’s top LNG exporter (annual production of 77 million tonnes per year) and an influential player in the global LNG market is more pertinent.
  3. Qatar is one of India’s oldest LNG suppliers, with Petronet LNG among the companies that have contracted to buy LNG from Qatar.
  4. But LNG pricing is not in OPEC’s domain, so Qatar’s decision is unlikely to impact these trends.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India’s heaviest satellite GSAT-11 is aloft in space from Kourou


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the GSAT-11

Mains level: Utilities of the GSAT -11 to high speed Internet services in India


  • As most of India slept, its heaviest and most advanced communication satellite, GSAT-11, was shot to space from a European spaceport in faraway South America.
  • GSAT-11 was launched from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou in French Guiana.

About GSAT -11

  1. GSAT-11 is the heaviest ever built by ISRO.
  2. Its next biggest is the GSAT-17, weighing 3,477 kg and which was also launched for ISRO in June 2017 by the same European launch operator Arianespace.
  3. GSAT-11 is part of ISRO’s new family of high-throughput communication satellite (HTS) fleet that will drive the country’s Internet broadband from space to untouched areas.
  4. The broadband domain is now ruled by underground fibre and covers partial and convenient locations.

High-speed data

  1. Already up in space are two HTSs — GSAT-29 (November 14) and GSAT-19 (June 2017) — while one more is due to join them in the near future.
  2. They are all to provide high-speed Internet data services at the rate of 100 Gbps (Gigabits per second) to Indian users.
  3. ISRO has earlier said this speed would be far better than what is available in the country now.
  4. The HTSs will also be the backbone of pan-India digital or easy Internet-based programmes and services — such as Digital India, BharathNet for rural e-governance, and commercial and public sector VSAT Net service providers.
  5. According to ISRO, GSAT-11’s multiple spot beam coverage — 32 in Ku band and eight in Ka bands — will deliver an improved service of 16 gbps over the Indian region and nearby islands.

Arianespace and India

  1. Arianespace will launch two more GSATs, 31 & 30, which would be orbited from Guiana. GSAT-31 would go up first in early 2019.
  2. Since 1981 Arianespace has put to space 22 Indian communication satellites (including GSAT-11) and will launch GSAT-31 and GSAT-30 in 2019.
  3. It also holds the highest number of 590 commercial satellite launches to date worldwide.

Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

India’s biggest Floating Solar Plant to be set up in Uttar Pradesh


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Locations Mentioned

Mains level: India’s solar power ambitions and hurdles to it


Floating Solar Plants in India

  1. The largest floating solar plant to date is a 2MW one in Vishakhapatnam.
  2. The country’s largest floating solar plant of 50MW will be set up in the reservoir of Rihand dam (Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar, Rihand River is a tributary of the Son River) in Sonbhadra district of UP.
  3. Another is a 500-kWh plant built by the Kerala State Electricity Board at the Banasura Sagar Dam.

Land starved UP to get benefited

  1. Floating solar or an array of solar panels set up on a structure that floats on a water body has long been viewed as an advantage over ground mounted solar plants owing to its cooling effect and unavailability of land.
  2. Floating solar makes intuitive sense in geographies with high land costs and poor availability.

Challenges for Implementation

  1. Floating solar plants are clearly more expensive.
  2. The tariff for large scale solar around the country is well under Rs 3 per kWh.
  3. The higher tariffs is UP is partly due to higher land costs as there isn’t a lot of waste land available for the taking in the highly fertile, populated state.
  4. The floating platforms, on which the plants are mounted on the water surface, and anchoring to keep the plant fixed over the fluid, is estimated to be more than 20 per cent of the total plant capital expenditure.
  5. Floating devices are difficult to transport incurring costs that are five times that of the solar panels.
  6. It is also unclear if there is an indigenous manufacturing base for the floatation devices.

Way Forward

  1. In India, floating solar is likely to face challenges scaling up to the level of ground-mounted plants.
  2. It is unclear that domestic R&D efforts can quickly expand to deliver the envisioned 10GW Solar Power.
  3. However floating solar is a definite for states that are a significant market for more renewable energy but with little land to spare, as is the case with Uttar Pradesh.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Soyuz: first manned mission to ISS since October failure


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Soyuz Programme, ISS

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


Mission to ISS

  1. A Soyuz rocket carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts took off from Kazakhstan and reached orbit in the first manned mission since a failed launch in October.
  2. It was the first manned launch for the Soviet-era Soyuz when a rocket carrying astronauts failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make an emergency landing.
  3. They escaped unharmed but the failed launch as first such incident in Russia’s post-Soviet history raised concerns about the state of the programme.
  4. The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the U.S. retired the space shuttle in 2011.

About Soyuz Programme

  1. The Soyuz programme (meaning “Union”) is a human spaceflight programme that was initiated by the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.
  2. It was originally a part of Moon landing project intended to put a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon.
  3. It was the third Soviet human spaceflight programme after the Vostok and Voskhod programme.
  4. The programme consists of the Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz rocket and is now the responsibility of the Russian Roscosmos.
  5. Since the retirement of the US Space Shuttle in 2011, all human spaceflights to and from the International Space Station have been carried out using Soyuz.

Indian Navy Updates

Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX)


Mains Paper 3: Security | Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: TROPEX

Mains level: Enhancing coastal security of India


  • The Indian Navy will be conducting its flagship Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise, (TROPEX), from January end till early March next year.


  1. Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) is an inter-service military exercise involving the participation of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and the Coast Guard.
  2. The exercise generally commences at the beginning of each year and lasts a month.
  3. It is generally carried out in three phases: independent workup phase, joint workup phase and tactical phase.
  4. The exercise is designed to test the combat readiness of the Indian naval units, as well as the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard.
  5. It also seeks to strengthen interoperability and joint operations in a complex environment.

Exercise Sea Vigil

  1. The Indian Navy will conduct a large-scale coastal defence exercise next month to test the robustness of the entire coastal security apparatus.
  2. It will involve all stake holders across mainland and Island territories, and will see the participation of all operational ships, submarines and aircraft as well as units of Indian coast guards, Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.

Tourism Sector

[pib] First ever Swadesh Darshan Project in the state of Nagaland


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: Swadesh Darshan Scheme

Mains level: Expanding tourism in Tribal areas


  • Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project is the first project to be implemented in Nagaland under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism.

Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project

  • The project “Development of Tribal Circuit: Peren-Kohima-Wokha” was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism in November 2015.
  • Under the project the Ministry has developed facilities like Tribal Tourist Village, Eco Log Huts, Open Air Theatre, Tribal Rejuvenation Centre, Cafeteria, Helipad, Tourist Interpretation Centre, Wayside Amenities, Last Mile Connectivity etc.
  • In addition to this, the Ministry has also sanctioned another project in Nagaland “Development of Tribal circuit: Mokokchung–Tuensang-Mon” which is under progress.


Swadesh Darshan

  1. India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country
  2. This can be achieved only through an integrated approach by providing engaging experiences for distinct categories of tourists i.e. Domestic and International
  3. In due recognition to this the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism (MoT) launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme (Central Sector Scheme) for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country in 2014-15
  4. Various themes which are unique and specific to the area can include beaches, culture, heritage, wildlife etc.
  5. Such theme based tourist circuits are developed in a manner that supports communities, provides employment and fosters social integration without comprising upon the environmental concerns and provides unique experiences to the tourists
  6. This scheme is envisioned to synergise with other Government of India schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India etc. with the idea of positioning the tourism sector as a major engine for job creation and economic growth.