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December 2018

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] A bridge across the Brahmaputra


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Importance of infrastructure development in Northeast India


Bogibeel bridge inaugrated

  1. Bogibeel, the longest railroad bridge of India, spanning nearly five-km across the Brahmaputra was inaugurated recently
  2. It will link Dibrugarh with North Lakhimpur district of Assam and parts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh
  3. For thousands of poor people, living in eastern Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, this is truly a momentous occasion

Why the bogibeel bridge is important?

  1. For decades, the only recourse for people to cross the Brahmaputra would be to chug along for over an hour, in a diesel-propelled ferry, which would also carry their vehicles and goods, even cattle
  2. Crossing the river could be a costlier proposition than flying between Mumbai and Goa
  3. Commissioning the bridge has reduced the journey time across the river to less than five minutes, bringing relief to people living in these remote parts

New era for northeast India

  1. The single biggest factor which has shackled the development of the Northeast region is the absence of robust connectivity
  2. A maze of river systems across Arunachal Pradesh, with their confluence in the Brahmaputra, have posed an enormous challenge
  3. The commissioning of Bogibeel, therefore, is a harbinger of hope
  4. The bridge’s significance goes well beyond the succour to local residents
  5. It has the potential to infuse economic dynamism in the region and provide opportunities for the expansion of tourism, industrial development and trade
  6. The iconic Bhupen Hazarika bridge over the Lohit river was commissioned recently
  7. A 7.5 km long bridge over the Dibang river was dedicated to the nation a few days ago
  8. The Trans Arunachal Highway has seen considerable progress, especially in the eastern part of the state
  9. An airport has been commissioned at Pasighat, barely two hours away from Dibrugarh

Dibrugarh connectivity is essential

  1. Dibrugarh is reclaiming its lost glory
  2. It used to be a thriving centre of the plantation industry during the colonial times
  3. For the people of the region, it remains a hub of higher education and medical treatment
  4. Dibrugarh lies at the heart of a crucial oil and gas axis in Assam, given its proximity to Digboi and Duliajan oilfields
  5. Further east lie the Kharsang gas fields and Kumchai oilfields of Arunachal Pradesh. The district also has significant coal deposits
  6. There are more than 200 tea factories in Dibrugarh
  7. Commissioning of the bridge has raised the prospects of industrial development and opportunities of productive employment for the youth, especially in the mining and plantation sectors

Foreign policy implications

  1. Bogibeel is the gateway to the historic Stilwell Road, which connects Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China, passing through Myanmar’s Kachin state, via Arunachal Pradesh
  2. The 1,800 km long route was used for transporting arms to the Chinese by the Americans during World War II
  3. Its revival for trade is well within grasp now
  4. The route could well become the centrepiece of the ambitious Act East Policy

Strategic importance

  1. From a strategic standpoint, movement of troops has become a much quicker, efficient and reliable proposition
  2. The road beyond Dibrugarh leads to the frontier parts of Arunachal Pradesh, with a fully functional advanced landing ground of Air Force at Walong, barely 100 km from the Chinese border
  3. This was a theatre of armed incursion in 1962. Now access to one of the remotest border outposts in Anjaw has been made much easier

Way forward

  1. Bogibeel is poised to usher winds of change in this part of the world
  2. However, the advantage of connectivity must be accompanied by an imaginative blueprint of economic development, drawing upon the region’s advantages
  3. The symbolism of Bogibeel goes well beyond the Brahmaputra

e-Commerce: The New Boom

[op-ed snap] Strange deal: on new e-commerce policy


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: Not much

Mains level: E-commerce sector regulation in India


New guidelines for e-commerce

  1. Tighter rules governing e-commerce platforms were notified by the government
  2. They are designed to level the playing field for all vendors in an online marketplace
  3. These impose restrictions on related-party transactions, preferential treatment to suppliers, and inventory dumping
  4. All of these were market imperfections that had crept in since the government had announced the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy for the sector in 2016, during which US retail giants Amazon and Walmart came to occupy a commanding position in India’s $41-billion e-commerce industry

Reasons behind new rules

  1. In March 2016, foreign investment up to 100% was allowed under the automatic route for e-com firms engaged in business-to-business transactions using the marketplace model — one where a firm sets up an enabling IT platform to facilitate trade between sellers and buyers
  2. However, FDI was not allowed where the e-com player owned the inventory of goods to be sold, or for business-to-consumer purposes, barring a few exceptions
  3. Indian brick-and-mortar retailers have grown restive, claiming online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart have acquired the power to influence retail prices, in contravention of the policy that restricts FDI in business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce, but not in business-to-business (B2B)
  4. The government appears to have bought this argument

Changed rules

  1. Earlier a single vendor or its group firms couldn’t account for over 25% of sales in a marketplace; now the rules bar sales by any entities where the e-com firm has an equity stake
  2. A vendor’s inventory will be deemed to be controlled by the e-com player if more than 25% of its purchases are from the latter or related firms
  3. Separately, any specialised back-end support for some sellers must now be extended to all vendors, while discounts, cash-backs and preferential subscription services have been made far trickier to implement
  4. An e-commerce marketplace entity will not mandate any seller to offer a product exclusively on its platform under the new rules
  5. The companies will now have to furnish reports to the Reserve Bank of India annually, adding another dimension to compliance and monitoring of the e-commerce industry

Implications of the new rules

  1. The Centre’s curiously timed attempt to ‘clarify’ foreign direct investment norms for e-commerce players could end up scuttling investor interest in the sector that has attracted large foreign players and generated thousands of jobs
  2. The fresh restrictions and the clarifications on certain operational aspects could reinforce investor complaints about India being unpredictable in terms of policies

Way forward

  1. Globally, India has been taking on protectionism has been emphasizing that free trade is essential so consumers get the best deal everywhere
  2. The same consumer focus and non-protectionist tenets must be applied for internal trade

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Cabinet approves Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative: Gaganyaan Programme


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gaganyaan  Mission

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space.


  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Gaganyaan Programme with demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative.

Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative

  1. This will demonstrate capability of the mission to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days.
  2. A human rated GSLV Mk-lll will be used to carry the orbital module which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a 3-member crew for the duration of the mission.
  3. Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of Gaganyaan Programme.
  4. The necessary infrastructure for crew training, realization of flight systems and ground infrastructure will be established to support the Gaganyaan Programme.
  5. ISRO will collaborate extensively with National agencies, laboratories, academia and industry to accomplish the Gaganyaan Programme objectives.

Implementation Strategy and Targets

  1. Gaganyaan Programme will be a national effort in collaboration with Industry, Academia and other scientific agencies and laboratories as stake holders along with ISRO.
  2. ISRO will be responsible for realizing the flight hardware through Industry.
  3. National agencies, laboratories and Academia will participate in crew training, human life science technology development initiatives as well as design reviews.
  4. First human space flight demonstration is targeted to be completed within 40 months from the date of sanction.
  5. Prior to this, two unmanned flights in full complement will be carried out to gain confidence on the technology and mission management aspects.

Expected Outcomes

  1. The programme is expected to spur research and development within the country in niche science and technology domains.
  2. Huge potential for technology spinoffs in areas such as medicine, agriculture, industrial safety, pollution, waste management, water and food resource management etc.
  3. Human spaceflight programme will provide a unique micro-gravity platform in space for conducting experiments and test bed for future technologies.
  4. The programme is expected to give impetus to economic activities within the country in terms of employment generation, human resource development and enhanced industrial capabilities.
  5. Human Spaceflight capability will enable India to participate as a collaborating partner in future Global space exploration initiatives with long term national benefits.

Developments so far

  1. ISRO has completed the development of launch vehicle GSLV Mk-lll which has the necessary payload capability to launch a 3-member crew module in low earth orbit.
  2. ISRO has also tested the crew escape system which is an essential technology for human space flight.
  3. The aerodynamic characterization of crew module has been completed as part of GSLV Mk-lll X mission flight.
  4. Elements of life support system and Space suit also have been realized and tested.
  5. In addition, the orbital & re-entry mission and recovery operations have been flight demonstrated in Space Capsule Re-entry experiment (SRE) mission.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Cabinet approves setting up of the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the draft bill

Mains level: Features of the proposed Commission


  • The Cabinet has approved the draft National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2018, which seeks to replace the existing regulator Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM) with a new body to ensure transparency.

Salient features of the Bill

  1. The draft bill is aimed at bringing reforms in the medical education of Indian medicine sector in lines with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for Allopathy system of medicine.
  2. The draft bill provides for the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting overall education of Ayurveda, under Board of Ayurveda and Unani, Siddha & Sowarigpa under Board of Unaini, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
  3. There are two common Boards namely, Board of assessment and rating to assess and grant permission to educational institutions of Indian systems of Medicine and Board of ethics and registration of practitioners of Indian systems of medicine to maintain National Register and ethical issues relating to practice under the proposed Commission.
  4. It also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam, which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses.
  5. Further, a teacher’s eligibility test has been proposed in the Bill to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.
  6. The proposed regulatory structure will enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public.
  7. The NCIM will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.

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

Govt approves submission of India’s second Biennial Update Report to UNFCCC


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNFCCC Biennial Update Report

Mains level:  India’s commitment towards climate change agreements


  • The Cabinet has approved submission of India’s second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the UNFCCC towards fulfillment of the reporting obligation under the convention.

Biennial Update Report (BUR)

  1. India had submitted its first BUR in 2016.
  2. As per the first report, the country had emitted 2,136.84 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases in 2010.
  3. It said energy sector was the prime contributor to emissions and with 71 per cent of total emissions.

About the Report

  1. The submission of India’s second BUR would fulfil the obligation of India to furnish information regarding implementation of the convention, being a party.
  2. The BUR contains five major components:
  • National Circumstances
  • National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
  • Mitigation Actions, Finance, Technology and Capacity Building Needs and Support Received and
  • Domestic Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV)
  1. The BUR has been prepared based on a range of studies conducted at the national level.

2nd Biennial Update Report (BUR)

  1. This year, India emitted around 2.607 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHGs in 2014, with the energy sector contributing over 70 per cent of the total.
  2. In 2014, a total of 26,07,488 Gigagram (Gg) CC-2 equivalent (around 2.607 billion tonnes of CC-2 equivalent) of GHGs were emitted from all activities (excluding LULUCF) in India.
  3. The net national GHG emissions after including LULUCF were 23,06,295 Gg COa equivalent at around 2.306 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

*(LULUCF stands for Land use, land-use change, and forestry)

Sectorwise Emissions

  1. Out of the total emissions, the energy sector accounted for 73 per cent, Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) 8 per cent, agriculture 16 per cent and waste sector 3 per cent.
  2. About 12 per cent of emissions were offset by the carbon sink action of forest land, cropland and settlements.


India’s obligations to UNFCCC

  1. India is a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  2. The Convention, in accordance with its Article 4.1 and 12.1, enjoins upon all Parties, both developed country Parties and developing country Parties to furnish information, in the form of a National Communication regarding implementation of the Convention.
  3. The UNFCCC in COP-16 Cancun decided vide paragraph 60 (c) of decision 1 that developing countries, consistent with their capabilities and the level of support provided for reporting, should also submit biennial update reports .
  4. Decision 2 of COP17, in paragraph 41 (f) states that Biennial Update Reports shall be submitted every two years.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Govt institutes annual awards to recognise excellent work in disaster management


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskaar

Mains level: Role of individuals and organizations in Disaster Management in India


  • The Centre has instituted annual awards to recognise the excellent work done by individuals and institutions in the country in the field of disaster management.

Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskaar

  1. Three eligible institutions and individuals will be given the aforesaid award every year with cash rewards ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 51 lakh by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  2. If the awardee is an institution, it will be given a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 51 lakh and the prize money will be utilised for disaster management-related activities only.
  3. If the awardee is an individual, the person shall receive a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.
  4. An application by an institution does not debar any individual from that institution to apply for the award in his individual capacity.
  5. The applications has to be filed online on

Criteria for the Award

  1. Only Indian nationals and Indian institutions can apply for the award.
  2. For institutional awards, voluntary organisations, corporate entities, academic, research institutions, response, uniformed forces or any other institution may apply for the award.
  3. The applicant must have worked in the area of disaster management like prevention, mitigation, preparedness, rescue, response, relief, rehabilitation, research, innovation or early warning related work in India.
  4. The application must be accompanied by details of the work done in disaster management and must highlight achievements in any one or more of the areas like saving human lives, reduction in impact of disasters on lives, livestock, livelihoods, property, society, economy, or environment.
  5. Mobilisation and provision of resources for effective response during disasters, immediate relief work in disaster hit areas and communities, effective and innovative use of technology in any field of disaster management and disaster mitigation initiatives in hazard prone areas are some of the other criteria.