Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System
Mains level: Need of reforms in the functioning of BSF
Challenges being faced by BSF
The Border Security Force, the world’s largest border guarding force, finds itself at the crossroads on its 54th Raising Day
When it was established on December 1, 1965, policy makers conceived a force capable of guarding the country’s borders during peacetime and assisting the Army during hostilities
After 53 years, the Border Security Force is facing myriad challenges, ranging from the reassessment of operational philosophy and a personnel management dilemma to an acute disconnect of the leadership with ground realities
Hostile border conditions
The situation on the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh differs vastly from the one that prevailed in 1965
Pakistan is a hostile neighbour and Bangladesh – East Pakistan as it was then – is a friendly country
A proxy war by Pakistan has kept the western borders alive, necessitating militaristic border guarding structures and border management practices
Troops face life-threatening situations daily on account of militant threat and high stakes drug smuggling. “Shoot to kill” and “Ek goli Ek Dushman” (one bullet, one enemy) are the prevalent philosophy on these borders, particularly at night
A 150-yard area across the fence remains generally unpatrolled, especially at night
This needs to change, with an assertion of sovereignty through physical domination
A different set of problems at Bangladesh border
As for the Bangladesh border, high population density and lack of development and employment opportunities make it prone to crime
The Border Security Force faces the policy dilemma of avoiding the use of force in conformity with the national objective of maintaining good relations with Bangladesh and ensuring the safety and security of soldiers while also preventing crime
Troops operate with their hands tied as a ban has been imposed on the use of firearms
This has emboldened criminals, as seen in the growing attacks on troops
The soldiers are also expected to stop cattle that have travelled unintercepted through the breadth of North India from crossing over into Bangladesh
Need for in-house leadership
An important factor for the efficient functioning of the force relates to leadership
It is high time the reins of the force are handed over to cadre officers who are connected with ground realities and well-versed in the ethos of the force
The Indian Police Service leadership is completely out of depth in comprehending the complexities of managing a specialised unit like the Border Security Force
Trained in policing and law and order, they have no comprehension of the dynamics of border management
Being transient, they do not connect with the psyche of troops and are unable to comprehend their requirements
They are content with simply marking their time
Poor personnel management
Since 1965, the strength of the force has grown from a mere 25,000 to about 2.5 lakh
But this ten-fold growth has not been uniform, causing severe personnel management dilemma
Such sporadic expansion has caused acute stagnation
It now takes anywhere between 20 years and 24 years for a jawan to earn his first promotion
A chunk of the blame for this state of affairs lies with faulty policy decisions such as the abolition of ranks like naik and lance naik and the introduction of ineffectual ranks like assistant sub-inspector
Stagnation among cadre officers is even more acute. Most officers retire much before their rich experience can be garnered at policy-making levels
The civil-military dilemma
Border Security Force personnel face double jeopardy in terms of pay and allowances
Treated as civilian employees, their salaries, allowances and post-retirement benefits are regulated by civil rules
However, unlike civil employees, they lose out on three years of service and pension benefits as they retire at the age of 57
They frequently encounter life-threatening situations but are not entitled to pension, unlike their counterparts in the defence forces
Large numbers of Border Security Force units are deployed on the Line of Control performing the same duties as Army personnel, yet they earn almost 25% less than their counterparts in the Army even while deployed at the same post
Additionally, when a soldier of the Border Security Force dies in the line of duty, his family receives none of the benefits available to the families of Army jawans in similar situations
This is because there is no provision for a Border Security Force soldier to be declared a martyr
What does this lead to?
Adverse service conditions and the inability to meet urgent family obligations cause a great deal of stress, reflected in the high rate of attrition – 12,096 personnel have either resigned or proceeded on voluntary retirement from 2015 to 2018 while 121 have committed suicide in the same period
Technology must be introduced extensively to ease the burden on troops, who put in long hours, sometimes stretching to 16 hours a day
This technology must be user-friendly, suit terrain conditions, and not be vendor-driven
The trial of the “Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System” in Jammu and Assam should be extended to ascertain the suitability of such costly technology
Only a smart border man will be capable of adopting “Smart Border Management” practices and, therefore, they should be encouraged to come up with innovative ideas besides adopting dynamic training policies
In view of increased interaction with civilians both at the borders and in counter-insurgency areas, soft skills attain importance besides the conventional training
The organisation needs to take a fresh look at arming policy. Heavier weapons systems should be authorised only when needed
In the near future, borders are expected to transform from “barriers” to “bridges” between nations
A smart border man, therefore, has to be aware of the developing scenario and understand the functioning of the various agencies that are involved in the working of “Integrated Check Posts” and “Land Customs Stations” to facilitate hassle-free movement of personnel and goods across borders
With inculcating a sense of security being an important task, the Border Security Force should have a larger role in the government’s “Border Area Development Programme”
The force is the sole face of the government in remote areas, and the government should take advantage of its reach to plan development programmes and infrastructure in border areas
Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Contract farming & regulations related to it
Mains level: Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018 and problems associated with it
New law for contract farming
The Union government, with its ambitious and untenable plan of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, has embarked on reforms in the farming sector, one of which is the formulation of a law on contract farming
The NITI Aayog recently circulated a draft model contract farming law titled Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018, which proposes a comprehensive legal regime to enable contract farming
If devised and implemented in the right way, this law could indeed alleviate some of the stresses that India’s farmers face
Studies have shown that contract farmers earn considerably more than non-contract farmers
Present status of contract farming
At present, contract farming is regulated under the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (Development and Regulation) (APMC) Act of 2003
This is the law that legalises contract farming
It mandates that private companies (sponsors) must register themselves as well as the farming contract agreements with the market committees created under the Act
Significantly, the Act provides that the sponsor cannot, at any time, lay claim to the land title of the farmer, thereby giving farmers some protection
However, these provisions are woefully inadequate
The Act does not provide for an effective monitoring mechanism, capacity building programmes or a robust dispute settlement system
Problems in the proposed law
The draft says, “Contract farming is a pre-production seasonal arrangement between farmers and sponsors which transfers post-harvest market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors.”
In theory, contract farming seeks to combine agriculture with corporate efficiency while ensuring the provision of inputs such as seeds and technology to the farmers
Sponsoring entities typically rely on economies of scale to achieve profit maximisation and therefore often exclude small-scale farmers
This would be untenable in the Indian context as this would exclude a majority of Indian farmers, who are small farmers, owning less than 2 hectares (ha) of land, and marginal farmers who, on an average, own 1.1 ha of land
India also has no concrete law on land pooling that would be necessary to make this law a success
Contract farming is also known to lead to an increase in monoculture farming and a loss of crop diversity, making crops more vulnerable to destructive pests and crop diseases as only a single crop is sown to achieve efficiencies of scale
There is a great probability that the disparate bargaining power between farmers and sponsors could also lead to exploitative contracts for farmers
Although the Model Contract Farming Act provides for the setting up of “Registering and Agreement Recording Committees” where the contracts are to be registered, it does not make provisions to ensure that these committees must be staffed with legally-trained persons who must vet the contracts to ensure that no dubious or unfair clauses have been included
Changes required in the law
The new law must find a way to address the additional risks that contract farmers have to confront and find a way to ensure protection to farms through better fertilisers, pesticides and incentivisation
Therefore, it is imperative that the government promotes risk sharing between the contracting parties and farmers and provide easy access to non-exploitative crop insurance schemes
It is necessary that state governments do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, and rather promote crops that are uniquely suited to the state’s own unique soil, weather and technological conditions
The improved yields, greater technology transfer and market access that could potentially accrue from contract farming are advantages that will significantly benefit the Indian farmers
Many studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization also show that contract farming can indeed benefit both parties by increasing efficiency, productivity and farmers’ income, while at the same time, giving private sponsors a greater say in farming methods, type and quality of produce
While contract farming, if implemented wisely, does have the potential to alleviate the suffering of India’s farmers, it is imperative that the government takes a cautious, research-backed approach rather than imposing another hasty, ill-thought-out decision that will cause more harm than good
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: Not much
Mains level: Need of moving towards energy efficiency
Climate change concerns
The impact of climate change is being felt by everybody and everywhere
Extreme weather conditions, air pollution, crop failure, biodiversity losses, and much more are affecting both human health and natural wealth
More than 70% of India’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution, which has contributed to one in eight deaths and has reduced the average life expectancy of Indians by nearly two years
The cost of not addressing global warming today would far exceed the expense of addressing it in the future
Role of energy sector & focus on the reduction of fossil fuel usage
Energy production and consumption remains the largest contributor of global carbon emissions and greenhouse gas
Although global investments in renewable energy has increased rapidly in recent years, its share in the global stock of energy is still very small
Carbon pricing has attracted more attention in recent years, as it goes to the source of the problem and puts a price on carbon pollution as a means of bringing down emissions
It shifts energy investments towards cleaner options by making fossil fuels more expensive relative to low-carbon fuels, and renewable energy
Besides carbon-pricing reforms, a package of additional interventions is needed to internalize externalities that are much more significant in developing countries compared to advanced countries and play an import role in increasing energy efficiency
Need for energy efficiency
It is estimated that nearly 70% of the global carbon emissions could be reduced by increasing energy efficiency
Many quick wins on energy efficiency that have been overlooked in the past can be given a bigger seat at the table, including energy efficiency in the kitchen, residential buildings, industries, transport, utilities, and energy labelling
Increasing energy efficiency is also a prerequisite for most developing countries for preparing them to move towards more expensive energy system needed to deal with carbon capture and storage, and other technology solutions
India’s performance in energy efficiency
India’s energy intensity has declined during the last decade
China’s energy intensity is roughly 1.5 times that of India
Cities and urban settings increase energy efficiency and reduce the cost of electricity use per output level because of denser customer bases and more efficient plant sizes for local energy producers
However, large industrial enterprises in India are moving away from cities and opening plants in rural areas to remain competitive
Rising spatial disparities in energy efficiency within India is a worrying trend
Developed states in India have improved energy efficiency. But electricity usage per unit of output is twice the level in lagging states compared to leading states
There remains a huge potential for energy efficiency gains in most industries, ranging from 46-88% in the textile industry to 43-94% in paper and pulp industry, to 51-92% in the iron and steel industry
Energy efficiency gain policy will need to go beyond industries and enter our kitchen, buildings and transport
Energy policy will also need to focus much more on rural regions that are the future drivers of growth
Up to half of the global annual emissions could be reduced through more efficient use of energy in kitchens, residential buildings and transport
Improved energy efficiency is a win-win for everybody
Energy-efficiency planning is prevalent globally, but the quality of targets and specifications could be improved
There is a big market potential for scaling up energy efficiency through green mortgage, green bonds, tax incentives, credit lines with banks for energy efficiency activities, and public-private partnerships in energy sector investments
Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: E-commerce Regulation in India
Mains level: Various acts/policies mentioned in the newscard for regulations of Ecommerce in India.
E-commerce Governance in India
E-commerce activities are governed by a number of Regulations and Acts of the Government.
I. Information Technology Act 2000
It provides legal recognition for the transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication.
It involves the use of alternatives to paper based methods of communication and storage of information.
II. Companies Act, 2013
Ecommerce companies have to comply with the Companies Act, 2013 and other applicable laws of the country. Such companies with FDI can operate only in activities which are specifically permitted.
Any violation of FDI regulations are covered by the penal provisions of the FEMA.
Reserve Bank of India administers the FEMA and Directorate of Enforcement under the Ministry of Finance is the authority for the enforcement of FEMA.
Further, activities of e-commerce companies inter alia involve compliance of Shops and Establishments Act of the State concerned.
IV. Consumer Protection Act, 1986
This act has been enacted to better protect the interests of the consumers which covers all goods and services and all mode of transactions including e-commerce.
Under the provision of this Act, a three tier quasi-judicial mechanism, called Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and Forum, has been set up at the district, State and National levels to provide simple, quick and inexpensive redressal to consumer disputes.
From August 2016, the portal www.consumerhelpline.gov.in has been developed to provide a platform to consumers to register their complaints.
Measures for Grievances Redressal
National Consumer Helpline (NCH) has been set up by the Department of Consumer Affairs to receive complaints from consumers.
As part of this convergence programme, NCH gives access to the individual convergence company to address these complaints as per the company’s own internal grievance handling system.
Companies which have partnered with NCH and directly respond to these complaints according to their redressal process and revert by providing a feedback to the complainant on the portal directly.
Complaints regarding the companies which have not partnered with National Consumer Helpline are forwarded by NCH to the company for redressal.
Further, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has a consumer affairs department to provide consumers with prompt attention and speedy redressal of their grievances lodged regarding quality of BIS certified products.
Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: DSRV
Mains level: Rising capabilities of Indian Navy
The Indian Navy has inducted its first Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) System at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.
DSRV is used to rescue crew members stranded in submarines that get disabled. The Indian Navy joins a select group of naval forces in the world that boasts of this niche capability.
The DSRV can be operated at a depth of 650 meters and can hold around 15 people.
The Indian Navy in March 2016 had commissioned two DSRVs, the second will deployed at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam.
The induction of the DSRV marks the culmination of years of effort of the Indian Navy in acquiring this niche submarine rescue capability.
Why need DSRV System?
The Indian Navy currently operates submarines of the Sindhughosh, Shishumar, Kalvari Classes as well as nuclear powered submarines.
The operating medium and the nature of operations undertaken by submarines expose them to high degree of inherent risk.
In such an eventuality, traditional methods of search and rescue at sea are ineffective for a disabled submarine.
To overcome this capability gap the Navy has acquired a third generation, advanced Submarine Rescue System considering of a Non-tethered Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) and its associated equipment.
What makes Indian DSRV special?
The Indian Navy’s DSRV System is considered to be the most advanced system currently in operation globally for its capability of undertaking rescue from a disabled Submarine upto 650 m depth.
It is operated by a crew of three, can rescue 14 personnel from a disabled Submarine at one time and can operate in extreme sea conditions (sea state 6).
A sea state is the general condition of the free surface on a large body of water—with respect to wind waves and swell—at a certain location and moment.
It is characterized by statistics, including the wave height, period, and power spectrum.
The sea state varies with time, as the wind conditions or swells conditions change.
Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important
Prelims Level: Bioplastics
Mains Level: Issues associated with bioplastics
Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study.
The study from the University of Bonn in Germany, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that shifting to plant-based plastics could have less positive effects than expected.
Consumption is on rise
An increased consumption of bioplastics in the following years is likely to generate increased greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion on a global scale.
Plastics are usually made from petroleum, with the associated impacts in terms of fossil fuel depletion but also climate change.
It is estimated that by 2050, plastics could already be responsible for 15% of the global CO2 emissions.
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, food waste, etc.
Bioplastics can be made from agricultural by-products and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms.
Bioplastics are usually derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, lactic acid.
Common plastics, such as fossil-fuel plastics (also called petrobased polymers) are derived from petroleum or natural gas.
Not all bioplastics are biodegradable nor biodegrade more readily than commodity fossil-fuel derived plastics.
Main advantages of using bioplastics
No adverse change to flavour or scent in food stored in bioplastic containers
They can reduce human carbon footprint
Less consumption of non-renewable raw materials
A reduction of non-biodegradable waste, which contaminates the environment
Increased energy savings in terms of production
Fewer harmful additives such as phthalates or bisphenol A
Nature of Bioplastics
Bioplastics are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat or sugar cane.
These plants get the CO2 that they need from the air through their leaves.
Producing bioplastics therefore consumes CO2, which compensates for the amount that is later released at end-of-life.
Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero.
Assumption doesn’t hold true
Bioplastics are thus often consumed as an environmentally friendly alternative.
However, at least with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed.
The production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally.
This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land.
Forests absorb considerably more CO2 than maize or sugar cane annually, if only because of their larger biomass.
The increasing demand for the “green” energy sources has brought massive deforestation to some countries across the tropics.
Not all bioplastics are easily degradable
Just because plastics are made from plants does not automatically make them easily degradable in marine environments.
The study has found that it takes a lot of time for the switch to bioplastics to pay off.
Bio-PE and Bio-PET are for example not biodegradable, same as their petroleum-based counterparts.
The Cabinet has approved changes to National Pension Scheme or NPS which will make the pension plan at par with other schemes like PPF and EPF.
The government granted NPS exempt, exempt and exempt or EEE status.
It means that like PPF (public provident fund) or EPF (employee provident fund) investment at the investment stage, accumulation and withdrawal stage will be tax free.
Earlier, NPS only enjoyed exempt, exempt and taxable or EET status, meaning that on withdrawal NPS was partially taxable.
New NPS rules at glance
NPS withdrawal will be totally tax exempted
Currently, 40% of the total accumulated corpus utilized for purchase of annuity at retirement or reaching the age of 60 is already tax exempted.
Out of 60% of the accumulated corpus withdrawn by the NPS subscriber at the time of retirement, 40% is tax exempt and balance 20% is taxable.
Now, the whole 60% of the accumulated corpus will be tax free, bringing it on a par with other investment schemes like PPF and EPF.
These changes in tax rules on NPS withdrawal will apply to all subscribers, including government employees.
The contribution under Tier-II of NPS will now be covered under Section 80C for deduction up to Rs. 1.50 lakh for the purpose of income tax benefits for a lock-in period of three years.
This brings it on a par with other schemes such as EPF and PPF.
NPS offers two types of accounts to its subscribers. The Tier I account is non-withdrawable till the subscriber reaches the age of 60. Partial withdrawal before that is allowed in specific cases.
The Tier II account is a voluntary savings account and subscribers can withdraw their money from it whenever they want.
The government has decided to increase its contribution to the NPS for central government employees to 14% of their basic pay as compared to 10% earlier.
This move will benefit 18 lakh central government employees.
The government will bear an additional annual recurring expenditure of Rs 2,840 crore due to its higher contribution.
The central government employee’s contribution will remain changed at 10% of the basic pay.
This will increase the accumulated corpus of all central government employees covered under NPS eventually give them greater pension payouts after retirement without any additional burden.
National Pension System (NPS)
The NPS is the umbrella old age social security mechanism for providing pension to the citizens.
It was launched on 1st January, 2004 with the objective of providing retirement income to all the citizens.
A remarkable feature of the NPS is that it provides pension to the employees of the formal sector (central and state government and other organized sector employees) and also to unorganised sector workforce.
For the organized sector, NPS scheme is designed with tax concessions to encourage participation.
Central Government Employees, State Government Employees, as well as all citizens between the age of 18 to 60 can join the NPS.
PFRDA is the autonomous body set up by the Government of India to develop and regulate the pension market in India including the administration of the NPS.
For additional reading on NPS, navigate to the page:
Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: UN Panel of External Auditors
Mains level: India and the UN
CAG of India, Rajiv Mehrishi has become the Vice-Chair of the UN Panel of Auditors which consists of External Auditors of the United Nations and its agencies.
About UN Panel of Auditors
The United Nations General Assembly in 1959 established the Panel of External Auditors, comprising the individual external auditors of the United Nations system, who are also Heads of Supreme Audit Institutions.
Panel Members share experiences and methodologies on an on-going basis so as to ensure as far as possible uniformity of external audit practices throughout the United Nations system.
It seeks to ensure a transparent and accurate basis for the financial decisions made by the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies.
The panel members play a significant role in assisting the Organizations to improve their operations and their internal control activities.
The panel consists of 11 countries – India, Germany, Chile, Canada, France, Italy, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
Currently (in 2018), the panel is chaired by the Comptroller and Auditor General of the UK.
The panel held its annual meeting in New York from 3 to 4 December 2018 and discussed various issues concerning audit of United Nations and the agencies under the United Nations System.
The panel also elected the Comptroller and Auditor General of the UK as Chair of the Panel for another term (2019).
The panel also unanimously elected the Comptroller and Auditor General of India as the Vice Chair of the panel for the year 2019.
The next meeting of the panel will be held in Bonn, Germany in November-December 2019.