July 2018
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[op-ed snap] The narrow and the transformative


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Philosophy behind the working of Judiciary

Mains level: Judicial adjudication in certain cases can create the fear of alienation and leaves all possibility to trigger a cultural war. However the role played by Indian Judiciary is revolutionary , a golden mean of narrow and transformative approaches.


Hearing most crucial cases

  1. Certain cases have placed the apex court at the heart of the culture wars.
  2. The Aadhaar challenge was argued on the relatively straightforward basis of when and to what extent the state can exercise its coercive power over individuals.
  3. The 377 and Sabarimala hearings have seen clashes between the invocation of personal rights and the claims of cultural and religious groups.
  4. This is set to continue with the forthcoming adultery hearings, where the state’s objection to the decriminalisation of adultery is premised on the argument that it would destroy the institution of marriage.

The strategy of containment

  1. Whenever a constitutional challenge brings individuals against the state, the court’s task is to find if there has been a breach by the state, and it must strike down the offending law (or rules), and vindicate the rights at issue.
  2. This is because these conflicts often represent deep, long-standing and irreconcilable divisions in society, touching issues of personal belief and conviction.
  3. This strategy of containment creates a situation where, for the most part these conflicts remain submerged.
  4. The fear of permanent defeat prompts all parties to maintain a tense equilibrium. One method of resolution is through the courts.
  5. Unlike in political or economic disputes, a decisive loss in personal belief risks creating deeply embittered and alienated communities, and risks an erosion of faith in the neutrality and impartiality of state institutions.
  6. Ex: Constitution framers consciously refrained from directly addressing them: for example, the framers of the Constitution deliberately placed the provision for a uniform civil code in the unenforceable DPSP chapter, thinking that it was too divisive to be made a FR.

The narrow approach

  1. To avoid overreach, there is a popular school of thought that asks the court to tread with particular caution when questions of culture are at stake.
  2. As far as possible the court should avoid hearing and deciding such questions altogether. If it is must to decide, then it should do so on the narrowest grounds possible.
  3. The role of the court, in short, is to do everything it can to lower the stakes, and take a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to the conflict rather than an ideal-oriented, expansive one.
  4. In the Section 377 hearings, the government stated that it would not oppose the “reading down” of Section 377 as long as it was confined to same-sex relations between consenting adults in private.
  5. During oral arguments, every time the petitioners pressed for something more, government counsel urged the court to limit itself to simple decriminalisation, and nothing more.

The transformative approach

  1. The philosophy of Constitutional Adjudication holds that the Constitution is a transformative document, whose goal is to erase and remedy long-standing legacies of injustice.
  2. A particular feature of these injustices is their deep-rooted, social and institutional character. In the Indian context, the most obvious example is that of caste.
  3. The ill influence of caste-discrimination in our society not only prompted the inclusion of a specific article in the Constitution abolishing untouchability (Article 17), but it gave rise to a constitutional vision of equality that specifically included affirmative action.
  4. Consequently, the narrow approach sees a culture war triggered by the disruption of a carefully-maintained accommodation of cultural difference.
  5. The transformative approach sees a long-suppressed protest against a system of hierarchy and subordination that has found its utterance in the language of constitutional rights.
  6. Ex: In the 377 hearings, it was argued that decades of social exclusion and ostracism of the LGBT community could not be remedied simply by “decriminalisation”.
  7. Rather, it would require the court that no institution, public or private, would be permitted to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, or deny any person their civil rights.

Way Forward

  1. In section 377 case, SC ruled for equal moral membership of the LGBTQI community.
  2. Similarly, in the Sabarimala case, Court ruled that constitutional morality must prevail over precepts that are rooted in any particular religion.
  3. In these cases, therefore, the court is faced with a stark choice between the narrow and the transformative approaches to navigating the choppy waters of culture and the Constitution.
  4. Which direction it chooses to take, depends upon what it believes the Constitution is for and will have profound consequences in the years to come.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

[op-ed snap] A long-term strategy to reduce crude imports


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Strategy to reduce oil imports and make a sustained supply of other cost effective fuels


Turmoil in oil industry

  1. The oil industry has been witnessing significant turmoil and uncertainty in recent months
  2. The primary benchmark for international oil prices, the Brent crude, reached a level ($80.49 per barrel) in May that was not seen since 2014
  3. Histrionics around the US sanctions on Iran have also affected sentiments considerably
  4. In recent weeks, tariffs imposed by the Donald Trump administration and the increasing production from Saudi Arabia and Libya have caused the abatement of prices

Impact on India

High oil prices is a double whammy for India:

  1. It would widen the country’s trade deficit
  2. And also impose a fiscal burden on account of fertilizer, kerosene and LPG subsidies

Possible options to reduce oil prices & their impact

  1. The expectation is that the excise duty on petroleum products might be lowered unless the recent fall in prices sustain
  2. The government had collected around ₹2 trillion from such duties in 2017-18, which played a crucial role in fiscal management
  3. So, lowering the excise duty would exert pressure on the fiscal balance
  4. Alternatively, oil marketing companies (OMCs) may be asked to absorb losses but that would intrude on their capital expenditure plan
  5. That would also send rather negative signals to markets, which have been watching out for any government moves on price control and passing over subsidy burdens to oil producing and marketing companies, and, in effect, rolling back pricing reforms

A strategy that can be used

  1. India now needs a carefully devised strategy that is not driven by short-termism but aims to gradually insulate the country from global oil price volatility
  2. Such a strategy should be centred on three things:
  • Expediting the migration to electric mobility
  1. Since the transport sector accounts for around 70% of the total diesel sales in the country, it is an appropriate sphere for a transition from traditional fuels to electric motors
  2. A favourable incentive mechanism (subsidy up to 60% of the total cost of an electric bus) to help the adoption of electric buses gain traction is already in place
  3. What we now need to do is to get the pace of building electric vehicle (EV) supportive infrastructure to catch up with the addition of new electric buses to the public transportation system
  4. Within the transport sector, trucks alone account for around 28% of the diesel consumption. Thus, creating dedicated electric corridors for trucks on the highways could go a long way in curbing oil imports
  • Expanding the biofuel blending in petrol
  1. Increasing the blending proportion of domestically available biofuels in cooking gas and transportation fuel is another way to reduce India’s reliance on imported crude oil
  2. Ethanol is mainly used for blending in our country and it is mostly derived from sugarcane molasses means its production is contingent on weather patterns
  3. Sugarcane, refining of which creates molasses, is a water-intensive crop, so fresh incentives to increase ethanol production may not be good economics in a country where water scarcity is a serious problem
  4. Hence, methanol, produced from coal, should be given more weightage when it comes to blending
  5. Besides, biodiesel supply should be augmented by making jatropha farming more productive through genetic modification
  • Stimulating exports
  1. If all these measures together reduce oil imports by 20%, the country could save up to $18 billion a year in terms of foreign exchange (assuming oil prices stay around their current level)

Way Forward

  1. Reducing the country’s reliance on oil imports would bode well for energy security, and make our financial markets less volatile in the event of untoward developments in the oil market
  2. The savings from reduced oil imports could in turn be used to finance infrastructure projects, which are crucial for India’s long-term growth prospects
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

[op-ed snap] The big five at 10


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Johannesburg Declaration, BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR)

Mains level: Initial aim of BRICS and its current agenda


BRICS Summit, 2018

  1. The heads of state and government of all five BRICS nations including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa convened for the 10th BRICS Summit from July 25-27, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. The summit saw the BRICS leaders come together and discuss various international and regional issues of common concern and adopted the ‘Johannesburg Declaration‘ by consensus
  3. The declaration reaffirms principles of democracy, inclusiveness and agrees to fight unilateralism and protectionism

Johannesburg Declaration

  1. In the age of Twitter, BRICS has produced a 102-paragraph-long Johannesburg Declaration, one of the longest in recent years
  2. It implies that this important multilateral grouping has a lot to say about the state of the world
  3. The leaders jointly reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of mutual respect, sovereign equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration
  4. The BRICS leaders have used the summit to reject the growing unilateralism and instead reiterate their commitment to the strengthening of multilateral institutions, calling for stronger intra-trade within member states
  5. This stemmed from their broader commitment to cooperate for strengthening multilateralism, the rule of law and an equitable international order

BRICS not performing as per agenda

  1. BRICS is still far from achieving its initial goals: reform of global financial governance, the democratisation of the United Nations, and expansion of the Security Council
  2. This is partially because two of its members (China and Russia) do not want the other three members (India, South Africa and Brazil) to obtain parity in the global pecking order

Fourth Industrial Revolution

  1. The other big idea emanating from the summit is to help nations to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  2. Participants embraced it, articulating the need for a new strategy on employment, education and skill development as the digital revolution unfolds
  3. The leaders commended the establishment of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR)
  4. The BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) aims to deepen BRICS cooperation in digitalisation, industrialisation, innovation, inclusiveness and investment and to maximise the opportunities and address the challenges arising from the 4th Industrial Revolution
  5. PartNIR will make a meaningful contribution only if it goes beyond the five ministries of industry
  6. It should engage with the private sector and young innovators working at the cutting edge of technology today

BRICS Plus continues

  1. The BRICS outreach to Africa began at the last summit hosted by South Africa, in 2013
  2. It has picked up momentum now but African leaders want more
  3. They need big loans from the New Development Bank (NDB) for their infrastructure projects
  4. China introduced the “BRICS Plus” format at the Xiamen summit last year by inviting a few countries from different regions
  5. South Africa emulated it, arranging the attendance of top-level representation of five nations of its choice: Argentina, Jamaica, Turkey, Indonesia and Egypt
  6. The precise role of “BRICS Plus” countries will take time to evolve
  7. An immediate benefit is the immense opportunities it provides for networking among leaders

The relevance of BRICS today

  1. As a partnership that represents over 40% of the world’s population and accounts for 22% of global GDP, BRICS will continue to be an influential voice as long as its convergences prevail over its divergences
  2. With 10 years of development, BRICS has grown into an important platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries
  3. Together, the nations account for 26.46 per cent of the world land area, 42.58 per cent of the world’s population, 13.24 per cent of the World Bank voting power and 14.91 per cent of IMF quota shares
  4. According to IMF’s estimates, the BRICS countries generated 22.53 per cent of the world GDP in 2015 and they have contributed more than 50 per cent of world economic growth during the last 10 years
BRICS Summits

Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) in Fin Min domain: Govt


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF), Central Road Fund Act, 2000

Mains level: Various cess being charged and their usage as well as relevance


Fund for roads & infra

  1. Work related to the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) has been taken away from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and brought under the domain of the Finance Ministry
  2. It will now be under the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Finance Ministry

Changes in the usage pattern of road cess

  1. Budget 2018 amended the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, and renamed the Central Road Fund the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund
  2. The objective of the amendment was to use proceeds of the road cess under CRIF to finance other infrastructure projects such as waterways, some portion of the railway infrastructure and even social infrastructure, including education institutions and medical colleges

Ministerial Panel to approve projects

  1. The government recently constituted a ministerial panel headed by the Finance Minister to decide on fund allocation for infrastructure projects from the CRIF
  2. The four-member committee would approve recommendations made by the sub-committee headed by the Economic Affairs Secretary on the list of infrastructure projects to be financed from the CIRF
  3. Other members of the committee include the Ministers of Road Transport and Highways, Railways and Human Resource Development
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

LS passes Bill on rape of girls


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: Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, POCSO Act

Mains level: Increasing incidents of child/women rape in India and its impact on India’s image globally


Amendments to POCSO Act

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, that provides for the death sentence for raping a girl under 12 years and enhances the minimum punishment for rape of a woman from seven to 10 years
  2. It amends the IPC, CrPC, Indian Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act

Provisions in the bill

  1. The minimum punishment for the rape of a girl under 12 will be 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, the maximum being the death sentence or life imprisonment
  2. For gang-rape of a girl below 12, the punishment will be life imprisonment or death
  3. The minimum punishment for rape of a girl under 16 will be 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, extendable to life imprisonment
  4. In the case of gang-rape of a girl below 16, the punishment will be life imprisonment
  5. The minimum punishment under the Bill for the rape of a woman over 16 is 10 years, extendable to life (under Section 376, IPC)
  6. The Bill also provides for investigation of rape cases within two months from the registration of an FIR
  7. There was no longer any provision for anticipatory bail in the case of rape of a girl below 16
  8. The government would set up fast track, special courts for rape cases

Character not to be judged

  1. The “character” of the victim would not be relevant to the question of consent
  2. No lawyer will be allowed to examine the “character” or past episodes of the victim
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

The citizenry test: Assam NRC explained


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Register of Citizens (NRC), Citizenship Act, 1955, Assam Accord, 1985

Mains level: Updation of NRC and its implications on demography as well as security situation of Assam as well as other neighbouring states


Draft NRC released

  1. The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on 30 July
  2. It includes only those able to prove they were in Assam before 1971

Why is NRC being updated in Assam?

  1. Officially, the NRC process will address the issue of illegal migrants, specifically from Bangladesh
  2. The National Register of Citizens was first published in 1951 to record citizens, their houses and holdings
  3. Updating the NRC to root out foreigners was a demand during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985)

Who is a citizen in Assam?

  1. The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord  for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens
  2. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported

Why is March 24, 1971 the cut-off date?

  1. There have been several waves of migration to Assam from Bangladesh, but the biggest was in March 1971 when the Pakistan army crackdown forced many to flee to India
  2. The Assam Accord of 1985 that ended the six-year anti-foreigners’ agitation decided upon the midnight of March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date

Who is a D-voter?

  1. Short for ‘dubious’ or ‘doubtful, this is a category of voters disenfranchised by the government for alleged lack of proper citizenship documents

Who is a declared foreigner?

  1. D-voters are tried by special tribunals under the Foreigners’ Act
  2. If they fail to defend their citizenship claim they are marked as declared foreigners and sent to any of six detention camps, which are within jails for criminals, for deportation

What happens to the excluded 40 lakh?

  1. They will have to file for claims and objections and submit relevant documents for re-verification
  2. The documents will be verified and accepted or rejected for the final NRC to be published on an unspecified date
  3. The cases of those left out of the final NRC will be heard in the Foreigners’ Tribunals, after which applicants can approach the High Court
Citizenship and Related Issues

Leg-up for private sector participation in defence equipment manufacturing


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SPG

Mains level: Indigenization of defence manufacturing


Implementing Strategic Partnership guidelines

  1. In a major step towards boosting private sector participation in domestic defence manufacturing, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the implementation of Strategic Partnership guidelines.
  2. SP model aims to revitalise defence industrial ecosystem and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon system for future needs of armed forces.
  3. The guidelines lay emphasis on incentivisation of transfer of niche technology and higher indigenous content.
  4. All procurements under the SP model would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to provide focused attention and ensure timely execution.

Four segments of Policy

  1. The SP model has four segments viz. submarines, single-engine fighter aircraft, helicopters and armoured carriers/main battle tanks which would be specifically opened up for the private sector.
  2. Under this policy, one Indian private company would be selected in each segment which would tie-up with shortlisted global equipment manufacturers to manufacture the platforms in India under technology transfer.

Other developments

  1. The DAC also approved platform-specific guidelines for procurement of Naval Utility helicopters
  2. In another decision, the DAC gave approval for the acquisition of eight Fast Patrol Vessels (FPV) for the Coast Guard at an approximate cost of ₹800 crore
  3. These would be indigenously designed and manufactured.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Govt. plans ‘ISRO-like’ ocean mission


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: Particulars of the DOM

Mains level: All such missions are important from examination point of view.


Deep Ocean Mission

  1. The Centre has drawn up a five-year, ₹8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.
  2. The Union Earth Sciences Ministry tasked with coordinating the exercise unveiled a blueprint of the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM).
  3. Among the key deliverables to achieve these goals are an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy and developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 meters with three people on board.
  4. The focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, underwater vehicles, and underwater robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among other aspects.

Other deep-sea missions

  1. India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometers in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN)
  2. These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
  3. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  4. It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  5. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometres and in the deep sea, lies unexplored and unutilised.
  6. Recently India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from the seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years by International Seabed Authority


UN International Sea Bed Authority

  1. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body that was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans
  2. It is an organization established by the Law of the Sea Convention
  3. It is based in Kingston, Jamaica
  4. Currently, the Authority has 167 members and the European Union, composed of all parties to the Law of the Sea Convention
  5. The Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities authorizing them to explore, and eventually exploit, specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources essential for building most technological products
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Govt planning national e-commerce regulator


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the draft

Mains level: Regulation of e-commerce in India


Draft National e-Com Regulator

  1. A national regulator for e-commerce provisioning mandatory data localization and tax sops for data centres is a part of an upcoming legislation governing all aspects of electronic commerce in the country.
  2. The regulator will ensure consumer protection and compliance with foreign investment caps in e-commerce.
  3. This is in response to a proposal for multilateral discipline in e-commerce at the WTO as various government departments have contradictory views on the matter.
  4. The national policy framework in this regard has been prepared by a task force headed by commerce secretary Rita Teaotia

Data Localization

  1. Storing user data in a data centre on the Internet that is physically situated in the same country where the data originated is called data localization.
  2. While the draft e-commerce policy has strongly recommended data localization, it has suggested a two-year sunset period for the industry to adjust before localization rules become mandatory.
  3. It has also suggested direct and indirect tax incentives as well as according infrastructure status to data centres to encourage domestic data storage.
  4. The move will help private sector companies comply with the norms laid down by the Srikrishna committee on data localization.

Promoting MSMEs

  1. To encourage micro, small and medium enterprises, the draft policy recommends allowing them to follow inventory-based e-commerce models for selling locally produced goods through an online platform.
  2. Such companies may also be allowed up to 49% foreign investment.
  3. Currently, e-commerce platforms are allowed only to follow marketplace model where 100% FDI is allowed.
  4. However, the government has so far not permitted any FDI in inventory-based models.

Curbing competition-distorting mergers

  1. The draft policy recommends that the Competition Commission of India consider suitably amending the thresholds so that competition-distorting mergers and acquisitions below the existing threshold also get mandatorily examined by it in case of e-commerce entities.
  2. For such entities, thresholds based on other variables (such as access to data) which are more relevant in this area, would be considered.

Simplified GST Procedures

  1. The task force has also recommended that the GST procedures for e-commerce be simplified by allowing centralized registration instead of local registration.
  2. The relevant GST provisions would be modified in order to create a level playing field between online and offline delivery of goods and services for the purpose of GST.
  3. Currently, MSMEs with revenue of less than ₹20 lakh a year are not subject to GST if they sale offline whereas they have to pay GST if they sell goods on online platforms.
e-Commerce: The New Boom

[pib] 26 religious cities/sites in 19 States have been identified under PRASHAD Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PRASHAD Scheme

Mains level: Not Much


Under the PRASHAD Scheme, 26 religious cities/sites in 19 States have been identified for development which inter-alia include:

Amaravati and Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh), Kamakhya (Assam), Patna and Gaya (Bihar), Dwarka and Somnath (Gujarat), Gurudwara Nada Saheb (Haryana), Hazratbal and Katra (Jammu & Kashmir), Deogarh (Jharkhand), Chamundeshwari Devi (Karnataka), Guruvayoor (Kerala), Una (Himachal Pradesh), Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Trimbakeshwar (Maharashtra), Puri (Odisha), Amritsar (Punjab), Ajmer (Rajasthan), Kanchipuram and Vellankani (Tamil Nadu), Varanasi and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Badrinath and Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Belur (West Bengal).


  1. PRASHAD means Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive
  2. A 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Tourism Ministry
  3. Provisions under the scheme include
    • Tourism Promotion and Tourist Ecosystem
    • Vocational Training for Tourists and Hospitality Business
    • Hunar se Rozgar tak (HSRT) and earn while you learn programs
    • Improving Tourist Infrastructure
  1. Provisions regarding Tourist Infrastructure in PRASAD
  • ATM, foreign currency exchange counters
  • Rail, road water transport
  • Green energy streetlights
  • Water adventure sports
  • First-aid centres, Wi-Fi hotspots, Parking facilities
  • Green landscaping, water fountains, walkways, furniture etc.
  • Removing encroachments
Tourism Sector

[op-ed snap] Government-mukt governance


Mains Paper 2: Governance | e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, & potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nation’s E-Government Development Index, E-Participation Index, India Stack

Mains level: Implemenatation of e-governance in India & its role in public services delivery as well as poverty alleviation


India’s low rank on e-governance index

  1. Despite the astonishing pace of digitisation in India, it continues to rank a relatively low 96 in the United Nation’s E-Government Development Index, whose 2018 rankings were released last week
  2. With an EGDI index score of 0.5669, India is just above the world average of 0.55
  3. India’s score is also shy of Iran (0.6083) and even in the SAARC region, Sri Lanka is ahead of India

About the index

  1. The UN E-Government Development Survey is the only global initiative to measure and track how governments are faring on the e-governance front
  2. The report looks at how e-government can facilitate integrated policies and services across the three dimensions of sustainable development

Reasons for low ranking

  1. In areas like public health and land records, the progress has stopped with putting up some downloadable forms online
  2. Many government departments still insist on physical forms and signatures, despite the near universalisation of an identity instrument like Aadhaar, which allows simple and foolproof authentication

High ranking in e-participation

  1. India does rank very high in one sub-index
  2. It moved up 12 places in the E-Participation Index, from 27 in 2016 to 15 in 2018
  3. The EPI looks at issues like e-information, e-consultation and e-decision making to arrive at a score

The significance of this ranking

  1. India’s high ranking does signify two things:
  • that the government is making more information available online and
  • that more people are in a position to access that information, and also electronically participate in policy formation and decision-making

Linkages between e-governance and poverty alleviation

  1. The reason the UN compiles this index and urges member countries to focus on e-government initiatives is that there is a clear link between greater e-governance and easier public access to government services and a reduction in poverty and inequality
  2. One of the biggest reasons our poverty alleviation measures have failed to achieve the desired impact (apart from corruption and leakage) is inefficient targeting, and lack of information with the intended beneficiaries about plans and schemes meant to assist them

Way Forward

  1. Knowledge is power, but access to knowledge is another kind of power and this is where digital can be a great disruptor
  2. With the India Stack (Aadhaar, UPI, etc. aimed at ensuring presence-less, cashless and paperless service delivery), and the ongoing mobile and broadband revolution, India can become a world leader in e-governance
Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Draft data protection bill recommendations throw up questions of acceptability, feasibility


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: General Data Protection Regulation

Mains level: Importance of Justice K S Puttaswamy (retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors case in upholding the right to privacy in India and its impact on other proposed legislation concerning privacy issues


Draft data privacy law

  1. The Committee of Experts under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna has submitted its proposed law on data protection
  2. Guided by the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Justice K S Puttaswamy (retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors, the framework seeks to empower individuals to protect their personal data

Data protection is now a global concern

  1. In the past few decades, data protection has emerged as a hotbed of legislative action globally
  2. The European Union has implemented its General Data Protection Regulation recently

Proposed provisions

  1. The crux of the proposed legislation is that the personal data of individuals (data principals) can be processed (i.e. collected, used, stored, disclosed to third parties, etc.) by entities (data fiduciaries) only if the individual has given her free, informed and specific consent
  2. Such consent is capable of being withdrawn
  3. Personal data may also be processed under certain specific circumstances such as state function, emergent health and safety situations, compliance with a judicial order etc.
  4. However, in each case, data fiduciaries, be it the government or private entities, will be required to strictly comply with principles such as collection limitation, purpose limitation, security safeguards, and measures of transparency and accountability that are laid down in the law
  5. The law provides heightened safeguards for processing of sensitive personal data, such as financial data, health data, sex life and sexual orientation, caste or tribe, official identifiers such as Aadhaar, religious and political beliefs or affiliations, etc.
  6. The proposed law will be applicable to both private and public entities

Concerns related to these provisions

  1. The proposed law contains exemptions for the processing of personal data for certain purposes, such as journalistic activities, law enforcement, security of the state, etc.
  2. It has been pointed out that the exemption may be too broad and may not effectively address the issue of surveillance and systematic access to citizens’ data by the state
  3. The proposed data protection law ensures that state surveillance agencies attempting to access personal data or sensitive personal data without the authorisation of law will not be able to avail of this exemption

Current status of data protection in India

  1. As of now, there is no statutory framework that holistically protects the informational privacy of individuals in India
  2. The Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 were a small but significant step in this direction
  3. However, these Rules are selectively applicable to certain body corporates and suffer from poor implementation
  4. There are scattered oversight mechanisms laid down in statutes such as the Telegraph Act of 1885

Principles laid down in Puttaswamy case

It held that to allow a restriction on privacy, three requirements ought to be fulfilled:

  1. First, the restriction must be by law
  2. Second, it must promote a legitimate state interest of which national security is an example; and
  3. Third, it must be necessary and proportionate

Applicability still an issue

  1. Many of the recommendations made by the committee throw up important questions of acceptability and feasibility for the industry, stakeholders and allied sectors
  2. The stance on cross-border flow of personal data heightened organisational measures on data fiduciaries, and individual participation rights have sparked a debate on compliance burdens on data fiduciaries and perceived impediments to a free and fair digital economy

Way Forward

  1. The committee has set the ball rolling on several issues concerning the protection of personal data by setting out a proposed law
  2. The proposed data protection law, after taking into account the existing gaps in the current framework and global best practices, creates a novel framework tailored to India’s constitutional, economic, and socio-political realities
  3. It is expected that through further consultations and dialogue, citizens and stakeholders will build on this foundation by giving suggestions to strengthen the legal framework and ensure that an effective data protection regime is set up in India
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] Layers of protection: on changes in anti-corruption law


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, UN Convention Against Corruption

Mains level: Corruption menace prevalent in India and steps that can be taken to curb it


Amendment to PCA, 1988

  1. The amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, adopted recently by both Houses of Parliament, are a mixed bag
  2. Moves to make changes in this law, aimed at combating corruption in government, were largely centred on the misuse of one provision — Section 13 (1)d
  3. Under this provision, public servants are culpable for securing a pecuniary advantage for another “without any public interest”

Impact of Section 13(d)

  1. It resulted in many honest officials being prosecuted even when they gained nothing and merely exercised their power or discretion in favour of someone
  2. It had a chilling effect on governance and deterred bold decision-making

Effect of the amendment 

  1. The amended form may have a liberating effect on honest officials
  2. It is more concise and restricts criminal misconduct to two offences:
  • misappropriating or converting to one’s own use property entrusted to a public servant or is in his control, and
  • amassing unexplained wealth

An explanation has been added that a person “shall be presumed to have intentionally enriched himself” if he cannot account for his assets through known sources of income

On lines of UN convention

  1. By making citizens liable for offering a bribe to a public servant, the anti-corruption law has been brought in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption
  2. The only exception to this rule is when one is forced to give a bribe
  3. This exception kicks in only when the fact that one was forced to pay a bribe is reported to a law enforcement authority within seven days
  4. The penal provision can empower people by allowing them to cite it to refuse to pay a bribe

Adverse effect also possible

  1. There is no mention on what happens when the police or any other agency refuses to register a complaint
  2. People may be left in the lurch with no redress
  3. Further, it may render them vulnerable to threats from unscrupulous public servants who collect money to speed up public services but do not deliver

Prior sanction for investigation

  1. The most unacceptable change is the introduction of a prior approval norm to start an investigation
  2. When a prior sanction requirement exists in law for prosecution, it is incomprehensible that the legislature should create another layer of protection in the initial stage of a probe

Way forward

  1. Public servants need to be protected against unfair prosecution, but a genuine drive against corruption needs a package of legislative measures
  2. These should contain penal provisions, create an ombudsman in the form of a Lokpal or Lokayukta, as well as assure citizens of time-bound services and whistle-blower protection


UN Convention Against Corruption

  1. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is a multilateral treaty negotiated by member states of the United Nations (UN) and promoted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  2. It is one of several legally binding international anti-corruption agreements
  3. UNCAC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 31 October 2003
  4. UNCAC’s goal is to reduce various types of corruption that can occur across country borders, such as trading in influence and abuse of power, as well as corruption in the private sector, such as embezzlement and money laundering
  5. Another goal of the UNCAC is to strengthen international law enforcement and judicial cooperation between countries by providing effective legal mechanisms for international asset recovery
  6. UNCAC requires state parties to the treaty to implement several anti-corruption measures that focus on five main areas:
  • prevention
  • law enforcement
  • international cooperation
  • asset recovery
  • technical assistance and information exchange
Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.

Image result for India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NASAMS-II

Mains level: Defending India’s airspace as well as other strategic locations


Shield for NCR

  1. India is in talks with the U.S. to procure an advanced air defence system to defend the National Capital Region (NCR) from aerial attacks
  2. The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) has been initiated

About the project

  1. India is deploying a multi-tiered air defence network to fully secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)
  2. NASAMS is a “highly adaptable mid-range solution” for any operational air defence requirement and provides a tailorable, state-of-the-art defence system
  3. It can maximise the ability to quickly identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, UAV or emerging cruise missile threats
  4. NASAMS-II is an upgraded version of the NASAMS and features new 3D mobile surveillance radars and 12 missile launchers for quicker reaction
  5. India is also in an advanced stage of talks with Russia for the procurement of very long range S-400 air defence systems
  6. India is also developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Govt to roll out DigiYatra offering for air passengers soon


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DigiYatra initiative

Mains level: Government interventions in the civil aviation sector in recent years and its impact on overall transportation sector


DigiYatra initiative

  1. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is close to rolling out DigiYatra service at airports in a few months
  2. Under this initiative, the moment you will enter the airport, your images will be captured and then you will be able to go through the full lifecycle of your travel in a seamless manner

About DigiYatra

  1. DigiYatra is an industry-led initiative coordinated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in line with Digital India programme
  2. It aims to transform the flying experience for passengers and position Indian Aviation amongst the most innovative aviation networks in the world
  3. The facility will use digital technology to enhance air passenger experience all the way from ticket booking to airport entry check, security check and aircraft boarding
  4. For this, a passenger needs to enrol into DigiYatra program through AirSewa app and a DigiYatra verified passenger will get hassle free entry at the airport through E-Gates
  5. At the entry gate, a single token for the passenger will be created
  6. This will also facilitate walk-through security scanners swiftly owing to advanced biometric security solutions

Optional facility

  1. This facility will be optional for passengers
  2. If somebody does not want to disclose the identity, there will be a separate provision for them
  3. It is not just Aadhaar based but is beyond Aadhaar
  4. The ID verification will be done by the BCAS-approved Government ID
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

All about the FASTag


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FASTag

Mains level: Measures being taken to ensure highway safety along with increasing speed of movement on highways


FASTags mandatory

  1. It is mandatory for cars and trucks sold after December 1, 2017, to be fitted with a FASTag

What is a FASTag?

  1. A FASTag is a reloadable tag that automatically deducts toll charges and allows a vehicle to pass through a toll gate without stopping for the payment
  2. It uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to make cashless payments through a prepaid account linked to it
  3. The tag is fixed to the windscreen of a vehicle and an RFID antenna in the canopy of the toll gate scans the QR code and the tag identification number, following which the boom barrier lifts to allow a vehicle to pass through
  4. Apart from enjoying a cashless transaction, users can also pass through the plaza without having to stop their vehicle to make the payment

Categorisation & usage

  1. The tag, which is valid for five years, comes in seven different colours — violet, orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, black
  2. Each colour is assigned to a particular category of vehicles
  3. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has tied up with 20 banks to allow people to recharge their cards as well as for owners of old vehicles to purchase a FASTag
  4. The tags can also be procured from kiosks set up at toll plazas
  5. The NHAI also has a mobile application for FASTag that allows users to buy and recharge these tags as well as seek information on toll rates on different routes
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Gold council to aid exports on the anvil


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Domestic Council for Gold, Priority sector lending

Mains level: Role of gold in India’s trade balance & government steps to reduce its imports (Sovereign Gold Bonds etc.)


Govt sets up a dedicated gold council

  1. The Centre has decided to set up a Domestic Council for Gold to aid exports of jewellery
  2. This will also help in creating an ecosystem to harness the true potential for jewellery-making in the country

Structure of the council

  1. This council will represent all the jewellers of India who will be the electoral college
  2. They will form different interest groups and elect those who will sit in the council
  3. A Coordination Committee will be set up comprising senior officials of the Ministry and the gem and jewellery industry, who will meet monthly to ensure that industry concerns are addressed on priority

Tasks of the council

The council would work towards

  • industry development
  • job creation
  • the building of regional clusters and
  • strengthening of value chains

Exports not in PSL category

  1. Exports is a priority for India but not marked for priority sector lending for the banking sector
  2. The government has asked RBI to consider bringing exports in PSL category
Gold Monetisation Scheme

[op-ed snap] Outward flow


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising footprint of Indian companies in the global market and its advantages for India


Acquisitions by Indian companies

  1. The last few days have seen two big-ticket overseas acquisition announcements by Indian companies
  2. The first is the Aditya Birla Group-promoted Hindalco’s purchase of American aluminium rolled products maker Aleris Corporation and the Shroff family-controlled UPL Ltd’s buyout of the North Carolina-based agrochemicals major, Arysta LifeScience
  3. With Aleris, Hindalco will become a truly value-added aluminium player, as against just a primary metal supplier
  4. The Arysta deal could, likewise, make UPL the fifth biggest global crop protection chemical company

What does this mean for industries in India?

  1. The above acquisitions are significant from the concerned companies’ standpoint
  2. To the extent the strengthened global footprint from these leads to increased sourcing from their Indian manufacturing facilities, there would be some domestic spinoffs as well
  3. It is good that Indian corporates are emboldened to make big investments

Need of the hour

  1. From an overall Indian perspective, this basically represents outward foreign direct investment
  2. What the country really needs today is more investment within the country, whether by domestic or foreign companies

The situation of Indian Economy

  1. The Indian economy is today at a crossroads
  2. The ghosts of demonetisation and GST have been laid to rest, even as the new indirect tax regime has settled down enough to prompt a rationalisation of rates
  3. The “micros”, as far as debt-equity or interest coverage ratios of corporates go, have also improved for many to consider resuming investments
  4. There are two things that are restraining them now:
  • The first is political uncertainty, which may go up in the run-up to next year’s national elections
  • The second is the not-so-great “macros” — global crude prices, rupee, interest rates and fiscal deficits

Way Forward

  1. Adherence to fiscal discipline is what India really needs
  2. It can make a huge difference to investor perception, more so in an uncertain global environment
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Country life


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Decsion to promote mahua and what it could mean for states that are thinking about liquor ban


Sale of Mahua

  1. As part of a remarkable push to market forest produce from the tribal belt of central India, the Tribal Affairs Ministry plans to bottle mahua from Chhattisgarh and mainstream its sale all over the country
  2. Other produce like amla and tamarind will also be incorporated into jams and candies, but these may not be immediately successful since they would have to do battle with established brands

Unique decision

  1. The decision to market mahua reverses the tide of history
  2. Country liquor was marginalised in colonial times in favour of a class of dodgy produce with a patently dodgy name — Indian Made Foreign Liquor

Support for tradition

  1. Mahua has persisted in subcultures across the country, rejoicing in the names of the fruits, like santra, from which these beverages are made
  2. Besides, recipes from times past linger in the collective memory of some old families and communities
  3. The central ministry has done the right thing by the people of Bastar, from where most of the mahua to be bottled will be sourced
  4. Indian companies have recently focused on premium products suitable for the international market
  5. Country liquors, professionally bottled, would add to the bouquet

Way Forward

  1. Bottled mahua is a unique product and its success is guaranteed
  2. Apart from offering Indians a healthier alternative to cheap IMFL, they could create a brand new segment in the export market
Liquor Policy of States

These two freight corridors will change the way India transports goods


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DFC, DFCCIL

Mains level: Initiatives for making freight transport cheaper, rapid and feasible


Inaugurating first DFC

  1. India is all set to get its first publicly owned freight corridors on August 15.
  2. It is a 190-km railway line between Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and Phulera in Rajasthan, which fall under the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC).

Dedicated freight corridors (DFC)

  1. These are freight-only railway lines to move goods between industrial heartlands in the North and ports on the Eastern and Western coasts.
  2. The dedicated freight-only lines are being built along the four key transportation routes – known as the Golden Quadrilateral and connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Howrah and its two diagonals (Delhi – Chennai and Mumbai – Howrah).
  3. Covering a total of 10,122 km, these corridors carry the heaviest traffic and are highly congested.
  4. The route carries 52 per cent of passenger traffic and 58 per cent of freight traffic, according to the Make-in-India report of 2017.

What is the need of Dedicated Freight corridors?

  1. The above-mentioned routes are highly saturated, with line capacity utilisation reaching as high as 150 per cent.
  2. Considering increased transport demands, overtly congested routes and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with road transport, the government had proposed this initiative.
  3. These freight corridors will help reduce the cost and allow faster transportation.
  4. Along with that, Indian Railways will open new avenues for investment, as this will lead to the construction of industrial corridors and logistic parks along these routes.

Benefits of the DFCs

  1. Freight corridor will permit the trains to carry higher loads, in a more reliable manner.
  2. These lines are also being built to maximize speeds to 100 km an hour, up from the current average freight speed of 20 km an hour.
  3. Freight corridor envisages long-haul operations with trailing loads to increase from 5,000 to 15,000 tonnes and container capacity will go up to 400 per train.
  4. The DFCs will allow much shorter transit times from freight source to destination which means it will reduce the time by up to 50 per cent in some cases.
  5. DFCs made possible by higher freight volumes without substantial investment in infrastructure, increased axle load, reduction of turn-round time, reduced unit cost of transportation, rationalization of tariffs resulting in improvement in market share and improved operational margins.


Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL)

  1. The DFCCIL is a corporation run by the Ministry of Railways (India) to undertake planning & development, mobilisation of financial resources and construction, maintenance and operation of the Dedicated Freight Corridors.
  2. DFCC has been registered as a company under the Companies Act 1956 on 30 October 2006.
  3. It is both enabler and beneficiary of other key Government of India schemes, such as and Industrial corridor, Make in India, Startup India, Standup India, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, UDAN-RCS, Digital India, BharatNet and UMANG.
  4. The DFCC is one of the largest ever infrastructure projects being undertaken by railways since 1947.

DFCs Under implementation:

  1. Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, 1,468 km from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai.
  2. Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, (Ludhiana, 1,760 km from Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal .

Approved in January 2018:

  1. East-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,000 km-long from Kolkata to Mumbai
  2. North-South Dedicated Freight Corridor, 2,173 km long from Delhi to Chennai
  3. East Coast Dedicated Freight Corridor, 1,100 km long from Kharagpur to Vijayawada
  4. South-West Dedicated Freight Corridor, 890 km-long from Chennai to Goa, this DFC goes through Bangalore-Chennai Industrial Corridor promoted by Japan & India and as a part of Bangalore-Mumbai Economic corridor promoted by UK & India.
Railway Reforms