December 2018
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North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[pib] North East Industrial Development SchemePrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NEID Scheme

Mains level: Development projects in the NE


North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017

  1. NEIDS has been launched to catalyse the industrial development in the North Eastern Region.
  2. It has come into force from 01.04.2017 and will remain in force up to 31.03.2022.
  3. It covers eligible industrial units in the manufacturing and service sectors Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
  4. The scheme provides:
  • Central Capital Investment Incentive (30% of the investment in plant & machinery with an upper limit of Rs. 5 crore),
  • Central Interest Incentive (3% interest on working capital for 5 years),
  • Central Comprehensive Insurance Incentive (Reimbursement of 100% insurance premium for 5 years),
  • Income Tax Reimbursement of centre’s share for 5 years,
  • GST reimbursement of Central Govt. share of CGST & IGST for 5 years,
  • Employment Incentive under which additional 3.67% of the employer’s contribution to EPF in addition to Govt. bearing 8.33% Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) contribution of the employer in PMRPY and
  • Transport incentive on finished goods movement by Railways (20% cost of the transportation), by Inland Waterways Authority (20% of the cost of transportation) & by air (33% of cost transportation of air freight).
  1. The Scheme does not envisage sanction of projects; rather, eligible units are registered after following due process.
NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[pib] NITI Aayog releases Second Delta Ranking under the Aspirational Districts ProgrammePIB


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Delta Ranking 2018

Mains level:  Aspirational District Programme


  • NITI Aayog will release the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) .

Delta Ranking

  1. The ranking will measure the incremental progress made by districts.
  2. The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through key performance indicators.
  3. The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
  4. The rankings, for the first time, will also factor in inputs from household survey conducted by NITI Aayog’s knowledge partners, namely, TATA Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
  5. The first Delta ranking for the Aspirational Districts was released in June 2018.

Performance in 2018

  1. Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu has shown the most improvement overall, followed by Nuapada district in Odisha, Siddarthnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Aurangabad and Koraput in Odisha.
  2. These districts have championed the development narrative in fundamental parameters of social progress.
  3. Nagaland’s Kiphire district, Jharkhand’s Giridih, Chatra in Jharkhand, Hailakandi in Assam, and Pakur in Jharkhand have shown least improvement.


Aspirational District Programme

  1. The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is a essential retreat from India’s previous development strategies in its ownership, scope, and scale based on “One-size-fits-all” approach.
  2. 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following:
  • deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census,
  • key health and education performance indicators and the state of basic infrastructure
  1. A minimum of one district was chosen from every State.
  2. The areas under the programme that have been targeted for transformation are education, health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure and skills.
  3. There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme
  4. Its aim is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently.
Human Rights Issues

Sex workers, lawyers seek to amend language of anti-trafficking BillPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill

Mains level: Human Trafficking and other associated crimes.


  1. The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) has raised concerns over the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill.
  2. The proposed law aims to criminalise all adult sex work.
  3. It doesn’t make any clear distinction between the victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking and persons who voluntarily opt to provide sex to make a living.
  4. It has been observed that sex workers had not wanted to be ‘rescued’.

Legal Status of Prostitution in India

  1. Voluntary adult sex work is not illegal in India under certain circumstances, such as when a woman provides the service in her own home without any solicitation.
  2. The primary law on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1986.
  3. It punishes offences including procuring a person for the purpose of prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution of another person and keeping or using a brothel.

Core of the Issue

  1. Enforcement agencies often conflate trafficking with voluntary sex work and abuse the provisions of the law to evict sex workers from their houses.
  2. It is this experience that has stoked fears among sex workers about the new Bill, which is aimed at curbing “physical and other forms of trafficking”.
  3. They are urging lawmakers to revisit the language used in the Bill and to ensure that the legislation provides built-in safeguards.
  4. Their key demand is that the Bill should explicitly exclude adult persons voluntarily engaged in sex work.
  5. Certain offences in the Bill were “clearly directed” at sex workers and that these definitions needed to be reworded to remove all ambiguity.

Must seek consent

  1. Sex workers also demand that the consent of a person rescued from trafficking should be a mandatory requirement before a decision is taken to send him or her to a rehabilitation centre.
  2. Clause 4 in Section 17 of the Bill, allows the dismissal of a victim’s application for release if the Magistrate is of the opinion that such application has not been made voluntarily.
  3. With such provisions the current bill will become a tool in the hands of law enforcement agencies to victimize and harass sex workers.

Ensuring dignity to sex workers

  1. The Supreme Court had appointed a Panel for recommendations on rehabilitation of sex workers.
  2. The report recommended community-based rehabilitation through a multi-stakeholder board comprising representatives from the sex worker’s community, a doctor, a lawyer and officials of the State government.
  3. This body would examine educational, training and employability needs of women and help them access these. The panel recommended a scheme to provide interest free loans to enable a woman to set up a business as well.
  4. The panel also proposed a slew of measures to ensure dignity of life for those who want to remain in sex work such as providing them a ration card, right to education for their children as well as crèches and day-time and night-time care centres.
  5. The panel recommended that even when victims of trafficking were being rescued it was important to let them choose whether they wanted to reunite with their families or preferred community-based rehabilitation.

What is expected from the Law?

  1. The recommendations submitted to the Central government through the Supreme Court don’t find any mention in the proposed law.
  2. Activists said that while the law focuses a lot on surveillance and policing, there is very little in terms of the welfare of a survivor of trafficking apart from the provision of her rehabilitation in a shelter, and these are also weak.
  3. The Bill also doesn’t provide a mechanism to ensure monitoring and accountability of shelter homes or revocation of licences or punishment for those running the centres in case of non-compliance.

Way Forward: Imbibing best practices

  1. Partnership between sex workers and anti-human trafficking units to root out exploitative practices is essential.
  2. This is a model that activists cite as success stories such as in the country’s largest red-light district of Shonagachi in West Bengal.
  3. Here, a self-regulatory body of sex workers is operating since 2001 helps in tracking entry of minors and in identifying traffickers.
  4. This model has also been emulated in Sangli in Maharashtra where the anti-human trafficking unit has collaborated with workers to rescue minors and prevent trafficking.
e-Commerce: The New Boom

Centre tighten norms for e-commerce companies for sale of productsPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Analysis of Draft e-commerce policy


  • Tightening norms for e-commerce firms having foreign investment, the government has barred online marketplaces from selling products of companies where they hold stakes and banned exclusive marketing arrangements that could influence product price.
  • The decision comes against the backdrop of several complaints being flagged by domestic traders on heavy discounts being given by e-commerce players to consumers.

Protecting domestic interests

  1. The revised norms are aimed at protecting the interest of domestic players, who have to face tough competition from e-retailers having deep pockets from foreign investors, the Ministry said.
  2. The revised policy on foreign direct investment in online retail, issued by the Commerce and Industry Ministry, said that these firms have to offer equal services or facilities to all its vendors without discrimination.
  3. The policy would be effective from February 2019.

What are the Rules?

  1. Inventory of a vendor will be deemed to be controlled by e-commerce marketplace entity if more than 25 per cent of purchases are from the marketplace entity or its group companies.
  2. An entity having equity participation by e-commerce or its group companies, or having control on its inventory by e-commerce marketplace entity or its group companies, will not be permitted to sell its products on the platform run by such marketplace entity.
  3. E-commerce marketplace entity “will not mandate” any seller to sell any good “exclusively” on its platform “only”.
  4. Any service like logistics provided by e-commerce companies to vendors in which they have direct or indirect equity participation or common control stake should be fair and non-discriminatory.
  5. These services include logistics, warehousing, advertisement, marketing, payments, financing etc.

Impact of the Rules

  1. The move would completely prevent influencing prices by e-commerce players.
  2. This will also ensure better enforcement of FDI guidelines in e-commerce companies.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Government rejects separate time zone for NE StatesPriority 1States in News


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  IST system

Mains level: Issue of two time zones being raised by NE India receives a full stop.


  • A panel, formed to examine having a separate time zone for the NE States, recommended against it for “strategic reasons”.

Proposed time zones: IST-I and IST-II

  1. The custodian of Indian Standard Time (IST) proposed two time zones IST-I and IST-II for the country as follows:
  • IST-I would be same as current IST, that is, UTC +5:30
  • IST-II would be UTC +6:30 owing to the difference of one hour between eastern and western part of the country
  1. The borderline between two time zones would have been 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.
  2. States west of this line would have followed IST-I (UTC +5:30) while states east of this line (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands) would have followed IST-II (UTC +6:30).
  3. The implementation would require the establishment of a laboratory for ‘Primary Time Ensemble II’ generating IST-II in any of the north-eastern states, which would be equivalent to the existing ‘Primary Time Ensemble-I’ at CSIR-NPL, New Delhi.

Need for two time zones

  1. India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29 degrees, which amounts to almost two-hours from the geographical perspective.
  2. For decades, legislators, activists, industrialists and ordinary citizens from India’s northeast have complained about the effect of IST on their lives.

Following are the factors which compelled the people from northeast to demand a different time zone:

1. Loss of daylight hours and excess electricity usage

  • Since the sun rises as early as four in the morning and in winter it sets by four in the evening, the region loses most of its daytime hours before the government offices and schools are opened.
  • This ends up with more electricity usage.
  • A different time zone would allow sunsets to take place later, allowing the citizens to better use their daylight hours.
  • A study done by Bengaluru based National Institute of Advanced Studies concluded that a separate time zone for the northeastern region could help in saving 2.7 billion units of electricity every year.

2. Effect on biological clocks of citizens

  • The longitudinal extremes of the country are assigned a single time zone which not only creates the loss of daylight hours but also creates problems relating to the biological clock.
  • The biological clock is so active that when we move from one time zone to another, it forces us to sleep at an unusual time.
  • This is commonly known as jetlag and it requires few days to resynchronize our biological clock with the local solar timings.

No need for separate Time Zone

What are the strategic reasons?

  1. The other countries that have multiple times zones in single land mass, the population density is much less compared to India.
  2. The NE is hung with mainland of India through the narrow chicken’s neck.
  3. But in India, any border between separated time zones will run through densely populated areas, creating huge chaos.
  4. Separate time zones will mean separate schedules for same trains, flights that criss-cross the country on a daily basis.
  5. Moreover, the administration in India is not known for its efficiency.

Easy Solutions against separate time zone

  1. Although India has a single time zone, it does not mean that everyone has to follow the same routine/ work shifts.
  2. The regions in the east can start and end their work day one or two hours earlier, and get all the benefits of having a separate time zone, without the chaos associated with it.
  3. Individual organisations, companies, factories, educational institutions, public sector units, state governments can fix work hours based on their geographic location.
  4. For example, an office in Kolkata can have a workday of 8 to 4, there is no bar on doing so.

Best Example

  1. In Assam, the tea gardens follow a different time zone, known as Tea Garden Time or Bagan Time which is one hour ahead of IST.
  2. Most tea gardens in the organised sector in Assam start their workday at around 7 AM.
  3. Even the administrative offices of public sector companies like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) and Oil India Limited (OIL) in Assam start working at 7 AM.
  4. As long as total work hours do not exceed prescribed limits set by labour laws, there is no bar on the private sector to fix their own work timings.
  5. Likewise, several colleges in Assam start their classes at 7 AM, or even before that.

Electricity: Not a big deal

  1. While talking about the benefit of separate time zone, it is said that there will be huge savings in money due to better utilisation of daylight.
  2. In the analysis of estimated savings, the entire power bill of an organisation is taken into account.
  3. But that is the wrong approach to estimate that, because the light is not the only purpose that uses electricity, it is not even the largest user.
  4. In fact, with the advent of LED lights, the lighting takes a minuscule amount of power in a house.
  5. Most power is consumed in cooling, running computers and other equipment etc, and those uses will remain fixed no matter what the work timings are.

Global examples are misleading

  1. There is a misleading information about countries like France has 12 time zones, and Britain has 9 time zones.
  2. France and Great Britain has only one time zone each.
  3. But as both the countries have several overseas territories, a legacy of colonies they had in past, those territories have separate time zones according to their geographic locations.
  4. Those are separate land masses located at different continents, most of them being islands at oceans, hence they do not suffer from any problem that India might face with multiple time zones.


Biological / Circadian Clock

  1. The 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young for their research which elucidated that plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with Earth’s revolution.
  2. They established that biological species are ruled by internal clocks (biological clocks) that run on a 24-h light-dark cycle in synchronization with the sun.
  3. Due to this synchronization humans fall asleep at night and plants synthesize chlorophyll in the presence of sunlight.
  4. This diagram depicts the circadian patterns typical of someone who rises early in the morning, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night (10 pm).

With inputs from: India Today

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Govt.’s draft rules to regulate social media echo SC ordersPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various sections mentioned in the amendment bill

Mains level: Menace of unlawful content over social media and measures to curb it


  • The draft rules proposed by the government to curb “unlawful content” on social media that make it mandatory for intermediaries to trace the “originator” of such content have drawn strong criticism.
  • However, a close look at the draft Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Amendment Rules, 2018, shows that they are in line with the Supreme Court in recent cases.

Court’s concern

  1. The court has voiced its concern over irresponsible content on social media.
  2. It has reflected in a July 2018 judgment in the Tehseen S. Poonawalla case.
  3. The court gave the government a virtual carte blanche to stop/curb dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages on various social media platforms, which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
  4. For instance, Rule 3 of the draft speaks about the “due diligence” to be observed by online platforms that have over 50 lakh users.

Norms for access

  1. It proposes the publication of rules, a privacy policy and user agreement for access to a social intermediary’s resource.
  2. Clause (1) of Rule 3 mandates that a user cannot host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share information, for example, which is pornographic, pedophilic, racially or ethnically objectionable, invasive of another’s privacy, harms minors in anyway, etc.
  3. On December 6, a SC Bench, led by Justice Lokur, mentioned online giants and recorded that everybody is agreed that child pornography, rape and gang-rape videos and objectionable material need to be stamped out.
  4. The same order also noted submissions by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for WhatsApp, that they have an end-to-end encryption technology, due to which it will not be possible to remove the content.
  5. Subsequently, on December 11, the Bench ordered the Centre to frame the necessary guidelines and implement them within two weeks to eliminate child pornography, rape and gang rape imagery, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
  6. These two orders came on a suo motu case being heard in the SC from 2015 to curb online sexual abuse.
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Various achievements of Indian scientists in 2018Prelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: The attached story provides a quick recap of all significant developments which were less highlighted in news


  • The year 2018 is ending with spectacular success of Indian scientists and technologists in space and defence sectors, with a series of high impact missions.
  • But that’s not all Indian scientists achieved in 2018.

Here is a collection of such stories that gives a glimpse of important developments by Indian scientists during the year.

A gel that can protect farmers from toxic pesticides

  1. Most farmers do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields, which often leads to pesticide exposure and toxicity.
  2. Scientists at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore have developed a protective gel – poly-Oxime.
  3. It can be applied on skin and can break down toxic chemicals into safe substances
  4. This will prevent them from going deep into the skin and organs like the brain and the lungs.

World’s thinnest material with novel technique

  1. Pushing the envelope in nanotechnology, researchers at the IIT Gandhinagar have developed a material that is 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper.
  2. They synthesized a two-dimensional material of just one-nanometer thickness (a human hair is about 80,000 nanometer wide) using Magnesium diboride – a compound of boron.
  3. This is said to be the world’s thinnest material.
  4. It can find a range of applications – from next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films.

Gene editing applied to banana genome

  1. Using the gene editing technique – CRISPR/Cas9 – researchers at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, Mohali have edited the banana genome.
  2. This is the first such work in any fruit crop in India.
  3. Banana is a the fourth most important food crop after wheat, rice and corn in terms of gross value of production.
  4. Gene editing could be deployed for improving nutritional quality, agronomical important traits as well as pathogen resistance in banana.

Discoveries to tackle Zika, dengue, JE and chikungunya

  1. The National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) at Manesar has figured out cellular and molecular mechanisms that show how Zika virus causes microcephaly or small head size in babies.
  2. Researchers discovered that envelop protein of Zika virus affects proliferation rates of human neural stem cells and promotes premature but faulty neuron formation.
  3. Another study led by scientist at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad has identified a key protein which helps dengue as well as Japanese Encephalitis viruses replication inside human body by inhibiting anti-viral cytokines.
  4. This finding could pave way for development of targeted drugs for dengue and JE.
  5. For detecting Chikungunya, a group of researchers have developed a biosensor using molybdenum disulphide nanosheets.

Faster diagnostic tests for tuberculosis

  1. Scientists at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad and AIIMS, New Delhi have jointly developed highly sensitive and rapid tests for detection of TB infection.
  2. The current test uses antibodies for detection of bacterial proteins in sputum samples.
  3. New tests use Aptamer Linked Immobilized Sorbent Assay (ALISA) and Electrochemical Sensor (ECS) for detection of a bacterial protein in the sputum.

Space weather warning model rules out ‘mini ice age’

  1. A team of scientists from the IISER Kolkata have dismissed the speculation that the upcoming sunspot cycle is going to be stronger, based on calculations using a model developed by them.
  2. The near-Earth and inter-planetary space environmental conditions and solar radiative forcing of climate over the upcoming sunspot cycle 25 will likely be similar or marginally more extreme.
  3. The method makes it possible to make predictions almost a decade before the next sunspot cycle activity peaks in strength.

New tool developed for autism screening

  1. In many cases, autism is misdiagnosed as mental retardation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  2. Early identification and interventions may help children with autistic disorders.
  3. To help this process, scientists at the GMCH, Chandigarh, have developed an Indian tool for screening children for autism.
  4. The Chandigarh Autism Screening Instrument (CASI) is designed to help community health workers to carry out initial screening for autism.

Hope for Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s

  1. Scientists at the IISc Bengaluru, have figured out the way memory deficit develops in early stages, resulting in Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. They have found that early breaking down of a protein, fibrillar actin or F-actin, in the brain leads to disruption in communication among nerve cells and consequently memory deficits.
  3. This knowledge can be used to develop early diagnosis test in future.
  4. In another study done in fruit flies, researchers at Department of Genetics at Delhi University found that it was possible to restrict the progression of Huntington’s disease by increasing insulin signaling in the brain neuronal cells.

Green technique can address Plaster of Paris pollution

  1. A team of scientists at Pune-based CSIR-NCL has developed a technique that helps recycle Plaster of Paris waste from hospitals in an eco-friendly and economical way.
  2. The new technique disinfects waste and converts it into useful products like ammonium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate.
  3. The technique can also be used to disintegrate PoP waste from idols immersed in water bodies.

Stone Age tools, genetic studies throw new light on peopling of India

  1. The Stone Age tools discovered in a village near Chennai suggest that a Middle Palaeolithic culture was present in India around 385,000 years ago.
  2. It is roughly the same time that it is known to have developed in Africa and in Europe.
  3. The discovery pushes back the period when populations with a Middle Palaeolithic culture may have inhabited India.
  4. It challenges popular theory that the Middle Palaeolithic was brought to India by modern humans dispersing from Africa only around 125,000 years ago or later.
  5. In the North, a population genetic study has revealed that the Rors who inhabit modern Haryana came to the Indus Valley when it was flourishing during the Bronze Age and inducted West Eurasian genetic ancestry.

Computing capacity for weather forecasting gets a boost

  1. During the year, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) upgraded its computing capacity for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
  2. It took its total high performance computing (HPC) power to as high as 6.8 Petaflop.
  3. With this, India rose to the fourth position, next only to United Kingdom, Japan and USA in terms of dedicated capacity for HPC resources for weather and climate proposes.

Scientists use silk polymer to develop artificial vertebral disc

  1. Scientists at IIT, Guwahati developed a silk-based bioartificial disc that may find use in disc replacement therapy in future.
  2. The group has developed a fabrication procedure for a silk-based bioartificial disc adopting a “directional freezing technique”.
  3. The disc mimics internal intricacy of human disc and its mechanical properties too are similar to those of the native ones.
  4. The use of a silk biopolymer to fabricate a biocompatible disc can reduce the cost of artificial discs in future.

Transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation, flowering mustard

  1. To address the problem of arsenic accumulation in rice grains, researchers at Lucknow- based CSIR-NBRI developed transgenic rice.
  2. They inserted a novel fungal gene, which results in reduced arsenic accumulation in rice grain.
  3. They cloned Arsenic methyltransferase (WaarsM) gene from a soil fungus and inserted it into rice genome.
  4. In another study, TERI School of Advanced Studies has developed an early flowering transgenic variety of mustard.
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

[op-ed snap] Policy tweaks for investment in airports and roadsop-ed snap


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Crisil InfraInvex

Mains level: The potential of the aviation sector and dealing with various issues associated with it


Booming aviation sector of India

  1. India has become the third-largest aviation market in the world
  2. For both Indian developers and international investors, this presents a huge opportunity
  3. Privatization of metro airports undertaken earlier had yielded good returns for developers
  4. A significant recent announcement was the Cabinet approval for privatization of six airports. It comes at a good time—when investment in the sector is improving
  5. The Crisil InfraInvex—an index that tracks the development and investment attractiveness of the infrastructure sector—score for the aviation sector has already risen to 6.5 in October 2018 from 6.1 a year ago (on a scale of 10, where 1 indicates least attractiveness)

Sector expanding its wings

  1. Domestic airlines will together boast of one of the largest fleets anywhere in the short to medium term
  2. As of August 2018, they have ordered 1,055 aircraft, with orders for another 100 wide-body aircraft expected over the next 12 months
  3. Airlines need to pump in close to ₹3.5 trillion for fleet expansion by 2027
  4. The fleet expansion also opens up a huge potential to develop India as a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub
  5. The $776 million MRO business in India is estimated to grow to more than $1.5 billion by 2020
  6. The overall investment potential for Indian aviation (airlines and airports put together) is estimated at a whopping $100 billion over the next 12-15 years

Handling privatisation 

  1. The government should make sure that all the land required for development is made available at the bidding stage itself
  2. It should provide an easier exit option on achieving the commercial operations date
  3. It should have more clarity on the bidding parameter—whether to follow a revenue sharing model, as in cases of brownfield airports or as suggested by the consultative paper, to cap the yield and make concession fee as the bidding parameter
  4. The risk should be apportioned equitably among partners
  5. A robust industry-focused tribunal should be put in place for expeditious resolution of issues

Roads sector

  1. The roads sector has seen significant policy changes in the past couple of years and the average construction done per day has quadrupled
  2. New public-private partnership (PPP) models, such as the hybrid annuity model (HAM), and asset monetisation programmes, such as toll-operate-transfer (TOT), have been set in motion and have achieved initial success
  3. The Crisil InfraInvex score for roads has risen to 7.4 (in October 2018) from 6.9, primarily because of the successful launch of the TOT programme, which brought a new class of investors into the sector
  4. Also, bringing out the next five-year-plan as envisaged in the rollout of the Bharatmala programme
  5. Increased award and construction have also helped boost the investment attractiveness of the sector

Addressing issues of road sector

  1. As in the case of airports, here too the government should be ready with all the land required for construction. In other words, it should make available shovel-ready projects for the bidders. This is important given the problems faced while acquiring land for industrial use
  2. About 50% of all projects awarded in fiscal 2018 are under HAM. Given the challenges in terms of budgetary resources, the time is ripe for getting built-operate-transfer (BOT) back in the fray. At present, the share of BOT projects is not even 10% compared with the government’s decision to execute future projects through HAM, engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) and BOT in a ratio of 60:30:10
  3. Address the banking sector’s concerns over funding of HAM projects
  4. Encourage more developers to come up with infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs), which are an excellent exit strategy tool

Way forward

  1. Both airports and roads are at an inflection point and have generated the interest of a varied category of stakeholders
  2. A continued policy push and a clear road map of development will increase stickiness among the investing community
e-Waste Management

[op-ed snap] The afterlife of e-goodsop-ed snap


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: E-Waste Management Rules 2016

Mains level: Problem of e-waste and ways to tackle it


E-Waste problem

  1. E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world
  2. The Global E-Waste Monitor estimates that 44.7 million tonnes (mt) of e-waste was generated in 2016
  3. India was the fourth-largest generator (2 mt) after China (7.2 mt), the US (6.3 mt) and Japan (2.1 mt) in 2016
  4. As Indians spend more on electronic items and appliances with rising incomes, e-waste is expected to continue to grow rapidly

Reasons for rising e-waste

  1. E-waste is generated when electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) is discarded, or returned within warranty, by consumers, and also from manufacturing and repair rejects
  2. Discarded laptops, desktops, cellphones and their batteries, air conditioners and television sets, cables and wires, tubelights and CFLs which contain mercury, are some examples of e-waste
  3. While technology obsolescence creates e-waste (for example, landline phones, 2G vs 4G), power supply voltage surges which damage electronics are a major factor contributing to India’s e-waste
  4. India enjoys a frugal hand-me-down culture with a long line of re-users from a younger sibling to a maid to her village. As a result, our e-waste takes a lot longer to reach end of life
  5. An additional problem arises when developed countries export their e-waste for recycling and/or disposal (legally or illegally) to developing countries, including India

Poor recycling & associated health hazards

  1. A study by ASSOCHAM and NEC finds that a mere 5 per cent of India’s e-waste gets recycled, much less than the global recycling rate of only 20 per cent
  2. 95 percent of India’s e-waste is managed by the unorganised sector (kabadiwalas, scrap dealers and dismantlers) using dangerous methods to recover metals from circuit-boards and wires
  3. Since electrical wires are almost invariably encased in PVC, which contains 57 per cent chlorine, the act of burning produces deadly dioxins
  4. The smoke from such burning is known to cause cancer, damage the nervous system, and also poses several other health hazards
  5. The National Green Tribunal has advised a ban on single-use PVC and short-life PVC products but not on wires and cables
  6. The workers themselves ignore safety measures needed for their work

Measures that can be taken

  1. Management of e-waste requires its dismantling, refurbishment or recycling and safe disposal
  2. The E-Waste Management Rules 2016 address these issues. Extended producer responsibility is mandated to ensure effective plans for the collection, setting up collection centres and buyback mechanisms or a deposit refund scheme
  3. But the Rules need to be backed by enforcement of the regulatory framework, provision of the necessary infrastructure, and an enabling environment for compliance
  4. Wire stripping units can be set up at the points of aggregation and burning, funded by wire and cable manufacturers
  5. Similarly, producers can offer attractive buyback prices for circuit boards and channelise their recycling to the formal sector
  6. Cities should organise quarterly collection drives or provide drop -off centres. Producers should set up collection centres for EEE
  7. Ideally, we should all purchase new products turning in our old ones for a discount so that dealers become aggregators for channelising e-items to authorised dismantlers

Way forward

  1. A rapidly growing e-waste crisis needs rapid official decision making and time-bound responses
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] On a shaky foundationop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IT Act provisions

Mains level: Section 69 of the IT Act and how it affects individual freedom


Misusing Section 69 of IT Act

  1. The Union Home Secretary has promulgated an order authorising 10 Central agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt information which is transmitted, generated, stored in or received by any computer
  2. Under the order, an individual who fails to assist these government agencies with technical assistance or extend all facilities can face up to seven years of imprisonment or be liable to be fined
  3. The notification was reportedly issued in pursuance of powers stipulated in Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which enables government agencies to intercept personal information of citizens under certain conditions

Section 69 is now invalid

  1. Section 69 of the IT Act after K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India — ‘the right to privacy case’, in 2017 — seems to fail the litmus test of constitutionality
  2. The nine-judge bench in K.S. Puttaswamy declared that there is a fundamental right to privacy flowing from inter alia Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution
  3. In order for a restriction such as Section 69 allowing for interception of personal data on a computer to be constitutionally valid, it would not only have to pursue a legitimate state aim (say, for instance, national security) but also be proportionate, so that there is a rational nexus between the means adopted (i.e., authorisation of interception) and the aim

Problems with Section 69

  1. Section 69 of the IT Act is so broadly worded that it could enable mass surveillance to achieve relatively far less serious aims such as preventing the incitement of the commission of a cognisable offence
  2. Such surveillance could be justified to achieve relatively far less serious objectives such as a Facebook post expressing dissent against government policy which, in the state’s opinion, is offensive
  3. The state, through the powers under Section 69, can therefore justify authorising surveillance, purporting this to be a grave concern

Right to free speech under danger

  1. Under Section 69, the government can intercept personal information under any of the following conditions: when it is necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty or integrity; security of the state; friendly relations with foreign states; public order; and for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence related to these
  2. While the first four feature in Article 19(2) of the Constitution, the last, namely preventing incitement to commission of cognisable offences, is not an enumerated restriction
  3. A restriction in the form of authorised surveillance would not be justified unless it is in order to maintain public order, a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2)
  4. While public order is characterised by public peace and tranquillity, law and order requires preventing the incitement of an offence
  5. Section 69 allows mass surveillance even when only law and order is affected while public order prevails: merely for precluding the incitement of the commission of an offence
  6. Such a broadly worded provision can have potential ramifications on free speech
  7. This is because a constant sense of being watched can create a chilling effect on online communication, crippling dissent

Against natural justice

  1. Section 69 also falls short of meeting with the principles of natural justice by failing to accommodate pre-decisional hearings
  2. The Section only makes post-decisional hearings before a review committee possible as a part of its procedure, compelling people to give up their personal information without being given an opportunity to be heard

Way forward

  1. Surveillance does not show direct discernible harms as such but rather imposes an oppressive psychological conformism that threatens the very existence of individual freedom
  2. Section 69 of the IT Act allows for disproportionate state action, and is antithetical to the right to privacy
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

NE and Himalayan states stare at climate riskPrelims OnlyStates in News


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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Highlights of the report

Mains Level: Sustainable development and conservation of Himalayan region


  • All the 12 Himalayan states in India are extremely vulnerable to global warming with Assam, Mizoram and J&K topping the list says a report.

Climate Vulnerability Assessment

  1. The report titles ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region Using a Common Framework’.
  2. It is submitted by IIT Mandi and IIT Guwahati in collaboration with IISc Bangalore presents a chilling vulnerability map and assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region.
  3. The study is based on four broad indicators in each state:
  • Economic and sociological status of the people and their health,
  • Possible impact on agriculture production,
  • Forest-dependent livelihoods
  • Access to information services and infrastructure.
  1. States having low per capita income, low area under irrigation and low area under forests per 1,000 households and high area under open forests received a high vulnerability score.
  2. Assam has the least area under irrigation, least forest area available per 1,000 rural households and the second lowest per capita income among the other IHR states, and thus scores the highest vulnerability score.

Prospects of the report

  1. The Himalayan ecosystem is vital to India’s ecological and economic security.
  2. Himalayan communities have a large dependency on climate-sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture and have a fragile mountain ecosystem.
  3. The communities have limited livelihood options and experience higher marginalization because physical infrastructure is limited and there is a high dependence on natural resources.
  4. Under changing and variable climate such constraints are likely to add to the vulnerability of Himalayan communities.

Policy Measures

  1. In response to the serious threats posed by climate change to the development process and the limitations, the Centre has a  National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.
  2. Recently NITI Aayog has constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region.
Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

Power ministry mandates use of smart prepaid meters from April 2019Priority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Saubhagya scheme

Mains level: Utility of smart meters


  • The government has mandated the use of smart prepaid electricity meters in the country beginning April next year, as it looks to complete the transition over the next three years.

Utility of Smart Prepaid Meters

  1. Smart meters are a part of the overall advanced metering infrastructure solutions (AMI) aimed at better demand response designed to reduce energy consumption during peak hours.
  2. Manufacturing of smart prepaid meters will also generate skilled employment for the youth.
  3. Other benefits include:
  • Reduction in AT&C losses
  • Better health of DISCOMs
  • Incentivizing energy conservation
  • Ease of bill payments and doing away with the paper bills

Initiatives so far

  1. The government is procuring smart and prepaid meters to be deployed across the country.
  2. State-owned Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has floated two global tenders for procuring a total of 10 million smart meters.
  3. The government also plans to install 10 million prepaid meters in Uttar Pradesh as part of the Saubhagya scheme which aims to electrify over four crore households till March 2019.

States gearing up

  1. State governments had earlier signed the Power for All documents and had agreed to supply power round the clock to their consumers.
  2. Under this, the distribution licensee shall provide 24×7 power to their consumers by 1st April, 2019 or earlier.
Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Implementing NOTA in the right spiritop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NOTA option in elections

Mains level: Changes initiated in the election process by Maharashtra & Haryana Election commissions and need of replicating these across states


NOTA provision

  1. In People’s Union For Civil Liberties v. Union Of India (September 27, 2013), the Supreme Court had ruled that a None of the Above (NOTA) option “may be provided in EVMs” so that voters are able to exercise their “right not to vote while maintaining their right of secrecy”
  2. On October 29 that year, the Election Commission of India (ECI) said that if a situation arose where the number of NOTA votes exceeded the number of votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate with the highest number of votes would be declared the winner
  3. This, it said, was in accordance with Rule 64 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961
  4. This provision made the NOTA option almost redundant
  5. While it ensured confidentiality for a voter who did not want to choose any of the candidates and yet wished to exercise her franchise, the provision clarified that a NOTA vote would not have any impact on the election result, which is what interests candidates, political parties, and voters
  6. Soon after this, candidates began campaigning against NOTA, telling voters that choosing the option meant wasting a vote

SC view of NOTA

  1. The ECI seemed to have completely overlooked the spirit of the judgment, illustrated in the following excerpts
  2. For democracy to survive, it is essential that the best available men should be chosen as people’s representatives
  3. This can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values, who win the elections on a positive vote
  4. Thus, in a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose NOTA, which will compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate
  5. Democracy is all about choice. This choice can be better expressed by giving the voters an opportunity to verbalize themselves unreservedly and by imposing least restrictions on their ability to make such a choice
  6. By providing a NOTA button in the EVMs, it will accelerate the effective political participation in the present state of the democratic system and the voters will be empowered
  7. When the political parties will realize that a large number of people are expressing their disapproval with the candidates there will be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity

Changes at the state level started by ECI

  1. The State Election Commission (SEC) of Maharashtra was the first to understand the spirit of the judgment
  2. It issued a reasoned order on June 13 saying, “If it is noticed while counting, that NOTA has received the highest number of valid votes, then the said election for that particular seat shall be countermanded and fresh elections shall be held for such post.”
  3. This was commendable, but it stopped short of giving NOTA the teeth that the court wanted. It meant that the same candidates could contest the new election, which meant that the result could be the same as earlier
  4. The SEC of Haryana, in an order dated November 22, stated that if “all the contesting candidates individually receive lesser votes than NOTA,” then not only would “none of the contesting candidates be declared as elected,” but “all such contesting candidates who secured less votes than NOTA shall not be eligible to re-file the nomination/contest the re-election

Powers of State ECs

  1. The two SECs are within the ambit of the Constitution and various Supreme Court judgments to issue these orders for various reasons: they have powers identical to the ECI for elections that take place in their jurisdictions
  2. They have plenary powers to issue directions in areas related to the conduct of elections where there is no specific legislation, till such time as Parliament or the State Assembly enacts such legislation; and there is no specific legislation pertaining to NOTA

Way forward

  1. With two SECs showing the way, the remaining SECs and the ECI should follow suit so that political parties are compelled to nominate sound candidates, and are forced to accept the will of the people, as desired by the highest court in the land
Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] A solution in search of a problemop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 233, 234, 312

Mains level: Vacancy across various levels of the judiciary and the idea of an All India Judicial Service


Idea of a pan India judicial service

  1. In its report, ‘Strategy for New India@75’, the NITI Aayog mooted the creation of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) for making appointments to the lower judiciary through an all India judicial services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in order to maintain “high standards” in the judiciary
  2. Similar proposals were made by the Union Law Minister on three different occasions this year as a solution to the problems of vacancies in the lower judiciary and a lack of representation in the judiciary from marginalised communities

The argument against AIJS

  1. The argument that the creation of the AIJS and a centralised recruitment process will help the lower judicial services is based on the assumption that the current federal structure, that vests the recruitment and appointment for the lower judiciary in the hands of State Governors, High Courts and State Public Service Commissions, is broken and inefficient
  2. Going by the latest figures published by the Supreme Court in its publication Court News (December 2017 and the last available figures), many States are doing a very efficient job when it comes to recruiting lower court judges
  3. The problem of vacancies is not uniform across different States and varies significantly from one state to another
  4. The argument that the centralisation of recruitment processes through the UPSC automatically leads to a more efficient recruitment process is flawed and not a guarantee of a solution
  5. For example, the Indian Administrative Service — its recruitments are through the UPSC — reportedly has a vacancy rate of 22%, while the Indian Army’s officer cadre, also under a centralised recruitment mechanism, is short of nearly 7,298 officers

Against equality

  1. Another argument in support of the AIJS is that its creation, along with provisions of reservations for the marginalised communities and women, will lead to a better represented lower judiciary
  2. Dalit and tribal politicians are supporting the AIJS on these grounds
  3. The fact is that several States already provide for reservations in their lower judicial service
  4. Unlike States, the Centre almost never provides reservation for women in the all India services
  5. On the issue of caste, an AIJS may provide for SC/ST reservation along with reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) but it should be noted that a recent Supreme Court ruling has held that SC/STs can avail the benefit of reservation in State government jobs only in their home States and not when they have migrated
  6. The same principle is usually followed even for OBC reservations
  7. Thus, instituting an AIJS would mean that nationally dominant SC, ST and OBC groups would be at an advantage as they can compete for posts across the country, which they would otherwise be disqualified from because of the domicile requirement

No constitutional hurdle in creating AIJS

  1. Articles 233 and 234 of the Constitution vested all powers of recruitment and appointment with the State Public Service Commission and High Courts
  2. During the Emergency, Parliament amended Article 312 of the Constitution to allow for the Rajya Sabha to pass a resolution, by a two-thirds majority, in order to kick-start the process of creating an all India judicial service for the posts of district judge
  3. Once the resolution is passed, Parliament can amend Articles 233 and 234 through a simple law (passed by a simple majority), which law will strip States of their appointment powers
  4. This is unlike a constitutional amendment under Article 368 that would have required ratification by State legislatures
  5. In other words, if Parliament decides to go ahead with the creation of the AIJS, State legislatures can do nothing to stop the process

Way forward

  1. The AIJS is not a solution to judiciary recruitment problems and the government would be well advised to reconsider its stance
  2. The solution is to pressure poorly performing States into performing more efficiently
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] The case against surveillanceop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s march towards a surveillance state and preventing such moves via the right to privacy


Extended surveillance of citizens

  1. A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification authorising 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt online communications and data has caused a furore in both Parliament and the wider civil society
  2. The notification was described as an incremental step towards a surveillance state
  3. The government’s defence was equally swift: it protested that the notification created no new powers of surveillance. It was only issued under the 2009 Information Technology Rules, sanctioned by the previous United Progressive Alliance government
  4. The 10 agencies had not been given a blank check; rather, specific surveillance requests, the government contended, still had to be authorised by the MHA in accordance with law

Status of surveillance in India

  1. The existing surveillance framework is complex and confusing
  2. Two statutes control the field: telephone surveillance is sanctioned under the 1885 Telegraph Act (and its rules), while electronic surveillance is authorised under the 2000 Information Technology Act (and its rules)
  3. The procedural structure in both cases is broadly similar, and flows from a 1997 Supreme Court judgment: surveillance requests have to be signed off by an official who is at least at the level of a Joint Secretary

Features of the regime

  • It is bureaucratised
  1. Decisions about surveillance are taken by the executive branch (including the review process), with no parliamentary or judicial supervision
  2. An individual will almost never know that she is being surveilled means that finding out about surveillance, and then challenging it before a court, is a near-impossibility
  •  The surveillance regime is vague and ambiguous
  1. Under Section 69 of the IT Act, the grounds of surveillance have been simply lifted from Article 19(2) of the Constitution, and pasted into the law
  2. They include very wide phrases such as “friendly relations with foreign States” or “sovereignty and integrity of India”
  • The regime is opaque
  1. There is almost no information available about the bases on which surveillance decisions are taken, and how the legal standards are applied
  2. Indeed, the evidence seems to suggest that there are none: a 2014 RTI request revealed that, on an average, 250 surveillance requests are approved every day
  3. It stands to reason that in a situation like this, approval resembles a rubber stamp more than an independent application of mind

The tradeoff between security and privacy

  1. Surveillance is essential to ensure national security and pre-empt terrorist threats, and it is in the very nature of surveillance that it must take place outside the public eye
  2. Consequently, the regime is justified as it strikes a pragmatic balance between the competing values of privacy and security
  3. The staunchest civil rights advocates will not deny that an individual reasonably suspected of planning a terrorist attack should be placed under surveillance

Need for a better process

  1. A heavily bureaucratised and minimally accountable regime of surveillance does nothing to enhance security but does have significant privacy costs
  2. Such a system often has counterproductive effects: a government that is not checked in any meaningful way will tend to go overboard with surveillance and, in the process, gather so much material that actually vital information can get lost in the noise
  3. It is exceedingly important to assess the balance on the basis of constitutional principles and fundamental rights, rather than blindly accepting the government’s rhetoric of national security
  4. After the Supreme Court’s 2017 judgment in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (‘the right to privacy case’), the constitutional contours within which the questions of ‘how, when, and what kind’ have to be answered have been made clear
  5. Any impingement upon the right to privacy must be proportionate. One of the factors of the proportionality standard is that the government’s action must be the least restrictive method by which a state goal is to be realised
  6. In other words, if the same goal — i.e., protecting national security — can be achieved by a smaller infringement upon fundamental rights, then the government is constitutionally bound to adopt the method that does, indeed, involve minimal infringement

What can be done for improvement?

  1. Given the seriousness of the issue, a surveillance regime cannot have the executive sitting in judgment over the executive: there must be parliamentary oversight over the agencies that conduct surveillance
  2. They cannot simply be authorised to do so through executive notifications
  3. And equally important, all surveillance requests must necessarily go before a judicial authority, which can apply an independent legal mind to the merits of the request, in light of the proportionality standards
  4. Judicial review will not achieve much if the grounds of surveillance remain as broad and vaguely worded as they presently are
  5. Therefore, every surveillance request must mandatorily specify a probable cause for suspicion, and also set out, in reasonably concrete terms, what it is that the proposed target of surveillance is suspected of doing
  6. As a corollary, evidence obtained through unconstitutional surveillance must be statutorily stipulated to be inadmissible in court

Way forward

  1. Across the world, there is an increasingly urgent debate about how to protect basic rights against encroachment by an aggressive and intrusive state, which wields the rhetoric of national security like a sword
  2. The MHA notification lays bare the lopsided character of the surveillance framework in India and highlights an urgent need for comprehensive reform
Surrogacy in India

Explained: Altruistic SurrogacyPriority 1


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016

Mains level: Various laws for the protection of women from exploitation


What is an altruistic surrogacy ?

  1. According to the new Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, it includes contracting a ‘close relative’ as a surrogate by a heterosexual married couple who have been childless for five years of their marriage.
  2. This line separates altruism from the commercial tinge that surrogacy carries with it.

Reasonable Expenses to Surrogates

  1. In the U.K., laws on surrogacy allow only altruistic arrangements where the surrogate can be paid only ‘reasonable expenses’.
  2. The fluidity in defining reasonable expenses means that this should ideally include payment for medical treatment, and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) but may include other ‘expenses’.

Defining Motherhood in such cases

  1. Altruism also entails the provision that the surrogate is the legal mother of the child, which can be transferred to the parents through a legal process, including adoption.
  2. In many countries in Europe, the act of gestation defines motherhood, even though the egg used for the pregnancy through IVF may belong to the couple entering the arrangement.

Role of the surrogate

  1. As per the new Surrogacy Bill, the surrogate in India continues to fulfill her role as a gestate.
  2. In keeping with the gestational surrogacy, the current Bill is faithful to the ICMR’s Draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010.
  3. The latter has governed the practice of surrogacy till the Surrogacy Bill of 2016 banning commercial surrogacy comes into effect.
  4. The relinquishment of the child was an absolutely essential clause within the draft bills on commercial surrogacy, and in practice in the surrogacy contract.

Altruistic vs. Commercial Surrogacy

  1. The commercial surrogacy arrangement in India was an exchange of money for services: and yet, clinics and surrogacy agents went to great lengths to transform the commercial elements.
  2. These elements included were primarily identified as the surrogate’s fees, into gift-giving, and sacrifice.
  3. In that sense, altruistic surrogacy is not very different from its opposite commercial variant.
  4. Unlike the U.K., altruism in India is being defined through the tie of kinship, not through the exchange of payment for ‘services rendered’.
  5. Here, kinship and family hide the commercial element entailed in seeking a surrogate from among close relatives.
  6. Thus, much of the criticism against the Surrogacy Bill in Parliament points toward the lack of definition that the category of the ‘close relative’ carries.

A Parallel Case in Organ Donations

  1. Let’s look at the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA), 1994, as a parallel to the conversation on altruism and its linkages with commercial surrogacy.
  2. The Act prescribes that organ donors are allowed to donate their organs before death only to ‘near relatives’.
  3. Donating organs to ‘strangers’ or not near relatives before death is not allowed, and may be approved of only through the authorisation committee.
  4. The category of the ‘near relative’ appears again in a similar vein to the ‘close relative’.
  5. But unlike the Surrogacy Bill, the THOA identifies ‘near relatives’ as ‘spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister’.
  6. It’s a closed group of relatives — within the structure of the nuclear family unit — members who may not be eligible to be surrogates, unfortunately.

Word of caution

  1. By banning commercial surrogacy in favour of its altruistic avatar, the identification of ‘close relatives’ will take on a murky turn.
  2. Just like in the case of organ donation, wherein ‘strangers’ were dressed up as ‘near relatives’, in altruistic surrogacy too, similar negotiations may be entered into.
  3. In an overtly patriarchal society, women are always at the receiving end of ostracism and exploitation.
  4. In facilitating altruistic surrogacy among close kin, we have to be wary of the kind of exploitation we are fostering.
Start-up Ecosystem In India

Explained: Angel Tax ControversyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Investment Models

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Angel Tax

Mains level: Interventions required by the government to diversify India’s startup’s financing



  1. Over past few weeks, several startups have reportedly been receiving notices from the I-T department asking them to clear taxes on the angel funding they raise.
  2. In some cases they were levied a penalty for not paying Angel Tax.
  3. However, this is not the first time that this issue has come up. Startups have been raising the issue of Angel Tax for years, requesting the government to do away with it.

Who is an Angel Investor?

  1. An angel investor is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.
  2. It is also known as a business angel, informal investor, angel funder, private investor, or seed investor.

What is Angel Tax?

  1. Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor.
  2. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’.
  3. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
  4. Angel tax was introduced in 2012, with the purpose of keeping money laundering in check.
  5. The notices demanding what is known as ‘angel tax’ were served under Section 56(2) (viib) of the IT Act, which was introduced by the previous UPA government in 2012 to fight money laundering.

Why is Angel tax problematic?

  1. There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup.
  2. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage.
  3. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point.
  4. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.
  5. In a notification in May, 2018, the CBDT had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfillment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the DIPP.
  6. However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Income Tax notices

  1. One of the reasons put forward by the IT Department to send such notices is to get information for distinguishing the genuine startups from the bogus ones.
  2. The notices essentially fall under two brackets: Notices under section 56(2) (viib) of the Income Tax Act, which is called income from other sources.
  3. This section states that any excess consideration received by a company will be treated as its income if it issues shares to a resident at a price which exceeds the fair market value of the shares.
  4. The section is invalid if consideration is received from venture capital companies, venture capital funds or a class of persons notified by the government.

Government’s stand

  1. It is a fact that less than 10% of our VC investments in startups come from domestic investors.
  2. We should liberalise the angel tax provisions to unlock the domestic capital and trigger off a new wave of startup value and job creation.
  3. The controversial sections discriminate between resident Indian investors (angel investors) and venture capital (VC) funds registered with the market regulator.
  4. The provision does not apply to investments raised via VC firms irrespective of any valuation, but the startup has to justify the valuation for the capital raised from other resident investors.

Way Forward

  1. Earlier in the year, the Department of Revenue had issued a notification directing assessing officers not to take coercive steps on recovery of angel tax against registered start-ups.
  2. But unregistered startups that have already raised angel investment may still be under the scanner of the income tax authorities.
  3. CBDT recognizes that startups are going to bring a lot of innovation to the country and, therefore, have to be supported in every possible manner.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China launches first satellite for space-based broadband projectPrelims Only


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: Hongyun Project

Mains level: Global quest for low-cost, high-performance satellite network


  • China on December 22 launched its first communication satellite to provide broadband internet services worldwide in an apparent bid to rival Google and other international firms.

Hongyun Project

  1. The Hongyun project, started in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions.
  2. The satellite was launched from a Long March 11 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western China.
  3. It is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).
  4. The spacecraft is tasked with verifying basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.

About the Satellite

  1. Weighing 247 kilograms, the satellite works in a sun-synchronous orbit about 1,100 kilometres above earth.
  2. It is powered by solar arrays and has a design life of one year, but is expected to operate longer.
  3. CASIC plans to launch four mass-production Hongyun satellites in future.

A Global Quest

  1. The concept of running a low-cost, high-performance satellite network to provide space-based communications and internet services has become popular globally among industry players.
  2. Currently, many foreign tech companies, including Google, SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat, have already launched plans to use satellites to provide free internet access.
  3. The U.S.’ SpaceX launched two experimental satellites last month to test technologies for its Starlink project, in which tech tycoon Elon Musk proposes to put a total of nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit by the mid-2020s.
  4. Similarly, U.S. firm, OneWeb, plans to launch a satellite constellation of 648 low-Earth orbit microsatellites by the end of 2019, though few developments have been reported.
  5. Chinese internet technology firm unveiled the first satellite in a constellation plan comprising of 272 satellites to provide free WiFi service worldwide.

India’s first music museum to be set up in ThiruvaiyaruPrelims Only


Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture | Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Carnatic Music and its Trinity

Mains level: Classical art forms of India


  • The country’s first music museum will be set up with assistance from the Central government in Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, the birth place of Saint Tyagaraja, one of the Trinities of Carnatic music.

Trinities of Carnatic music

  1. The other two of the Trinity are Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.
  2. All three composers were born in Thiruvarur, formerly part of Thanjavur District in Tamilnadu.
  3. Along with Purandaradasa, the Pitamaha or father of Carnatic music, the trinity are considered in a way the greatest musicians and composers of the tradition.

Saint Tyagaraja

  • Tyagaraja, also known as Tygayya in Telugu, was a renowned composer of Carnatic music, a form of Indian classical
  • He was prolific and highly influential in the development of the classical music tradition.
  • Tyagaraja saw the reigns of four kings of Maratha dynasty Tulaja II (17631787), Amarasimha (17871798), Serfoji II (17981832) and Sivaji II (18321855), although he served none of them.

Saint Muthuswami Dikshitar

  • His compositions, of which around 500 are commonly known, are noted for their elaborate and poetic descriptions of Hindu gods and temples and for capturing the essence of the raga forms through the vainika (veena) style that emphasises gamakas.

Saint Syama Sastri

  • Although Syma Sastri did not compose as so many kritis as his two prolific contemporaries, his compositions are still well known due to the literary, melodic and rhythmic proficiency observed in them.


Carnatic Music

  1. It is a system of music commonly associated with South India, including the modern Indian states of Andhra Pardesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil nadu as well as Sri Lanka .
  2. The basic elements are śruti (the relative musical pitch), swara (the musical sound of a single note), rāga (the mode or melodic formulæ), and tala (the rhythmic cycles).
  3. It is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians, consisting of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (usually a violin), a rhythm accompaniment (usually a mridangam), and a tambura, which acts as a drone throughout the performance.
  4. Other typical instruments used in performances may include the ghatam, kanjira, morsing, venu flute, veena, and chitraveena.
  5. The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gayaki (singing) style.
Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Buddhist site museum at Lalitgiri OdishaStates in News


Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture | Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Lalitgiri Museum, Diamond Triangle

Mains level: Buddhist Architecture


  • One of the earliest Buddhist settlements in Odisha, Lalitgiri (Located in Cuttack district), where excavations have yielded ancient seals and inscriptions, has been converted into a museum.

Lalitgiri Museum

  1. Located in Cuttack district, it will be the third site museum of the Bhubaneswar circle of the ASI after Ratnagiri and Udaygiri.
  2. The three sites together form the Diamond Triangle of Buddhism in Odisha.
  3. The museum complex is spread over 4,750 sq. m. The building and auditorium are built over 1,310 sq. m. The complex has been constructed at a cost of ₹10 crore.

Historical importance of Lalitgiri

  1. Excavations at Lalitgiri have yielded the remains of four monasteries, showing cultural continuity from the post-Mauryan period till the 13th century CE.
  2. Tantric Buddhism was practiced at this site.
  3. The centre of attraction is a relic casket containing corporal remains found inside the Mahastupta.
  4. Huge sculptures of Buddha, architectural fragments of Viharas and Chaityas are arranged period-wise.
  5. The central gallery is designed after a Buddha Mandala with a colossal Buddha image at the centre and six Bodhisattva images surrounding it.