September 2018
« Aug   Oct »

[op-ed snap] A UN for the People


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UN and its parts

Mains level: Growing feeling of isolationism across the world and the need to embrace multilateralism


Role of UN fading

  1. Many world leaders are convening in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly which is the closest that we have to a world parliament
  2. Even as heads of state and government from around the globe gather to debate the big challenges of our times, we have to face the fact that political differences are deepening
  3. A sense of common purpose, needed to find effective solutions to those challenges, is looking ever more elusive
  4. Many of the multilateral agreements that the UN has painstakingly achieved in recent decades are being seriously questioned

Key responsibilities of UN need to include current problems

  1. UN’s key role is in bringing nations together in order to get an agreement on everything from climate change to Middle East peace and from security to migrant rights
  2. One of the greatest challenges we now face is a widespread lack of trust in the political institutions established to serve all citizens but increasingly seen as favouring the select few
  3. Terrible conflicts continue inside some countries, with all of the destruction, degradation and misery that the UN was established to prevent
  4. We have to recognise that the growing inequality and joblessness is helping to fuel a real sense of frustration in rich and poor countries alike

Growing feeling of isolationism

  1. Confidence in multilateralism is decreasing and isolationism, extreme forms of nationalism and xenophobia are increasing
  2. This can be attributed to a dangerous view that individual nation states can act more effectively by themselves than in concert with others

What needs to be done?

  1. We have to acknowledge that none of the problems mentioned arises from a vacuum
  2. We not only need to show that multilateralism can be more effective but ensure that national policy-makers have the room to mitigate the forces having a devastating effect over people’s livelihoods

Way Forward

  1. The better societies we all want to see are predicated to a large degree on building virtuous circles of economic, social and physical well-being that can lift all boats
  2. There should be a focus on taking the global opinion and political leadership towards seeking solutions together

[op-ed snap] Court’s lost chance


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Representation of People Act, 1951

Mains level: Legislative’s lax attitude on enacting a law to decriminalise politics in India and role played by the judiciary in various electoral reforms related to the same


SC verdict on decriminalisation of politics

  1. The Supreme Court has delivered its much-awaited pronouncement on the petitions asking it to bar politicians facing heinous criminal charges — like rape, murder and kidnapping — from contesting elections
  2. A five-judge bench led by Chief Justice said that the Court cannot play the role of Parliament
  3. The judgment left much to be desired

Role of judiciary and EC in democracy

  1. The judiciary can be called as the guardian angel of democracy
  2. This time, the SC has passed the buck to the EC, even though the Commission has been crying itself hoarse for the apex court’s aid for the past two decades

Directives by SC

  1. First, while filing their nominations, the candidates must declare if there are pending criminal cases against them in courts
  2. Second, political parties are also responsible for putting up details of criminal cases filed against their candidates on their websites
  3. Third, Parliament must legislate on the matter to ensure that candidates with criminal antecedents do not enter public life or become lawmakers
  4. Fourth, while filling the nomination forms, candidates must declare their criminal past and the cases pending against them in bold letters
  5. Fifth, political parties should publicise the background of their candidates via the electronic media and issue declarations

Flaws in the directives

  1. The recommendations have practical issues
  2. Parliament, regardless of who is in power, has always been reluctant to legislate on the issue
  3. Voters do not generally read the websites of political parties
  4. The recommendation regarding publicity campaigns about the criminal background of candidates by political parties sounds counter-intuitive. Why would they actively publicise anything that goes against their interests

Ban on convicted politicians but not undertrials

  1. Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, bans convicted politicians
  2. But those facing trial, no matter how serious the charges, are free to contest elections
  3. The political parties are united in their opposition to any law, which debars perpetrators of heinous offences during the pendency of cases
  4. They hold that this could lead to wrong cases being filed against candidates

EC’s proposals to avoid wrongful conviction

  1. First, all criminal cases will not invite a ban, only the heinous offences will do
  2. Second, the case should be registered at least six months before the elections
  3. Third, the court must have framed the charges

Opposition to EC’s proposals

  1. The opponents of the EC proposal have time and again stated that the candidates and the legislators are deemed “innocent until proven guilty”
  2. An argument can be raised about the 2.7 lakh undertrials, not yet convicted and hence innocent, but locked up in jails
  3. Four of their fundamental rights stand suspended — liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation and the right to dignity
  4. If the rights of those undertrials can be suspended within the ambit of the law, what is the sanctity of the candidates’ right to contest elections — only a statutory right, and not a fundamental one?

No word on fast track courts

  1. The Court has not said a word on the provision of fast track courts for such cases though the issue is entirely in its domain
  2. Fast-tracking has been the accepted norm
  3. Many categories of special courts such as the CBI courts, consumer courts and, more recently, fast-track courts for rape cases do create special categories for the purpose of adjudication, and nobody has dubbed them as discriminatory
  4. The Representation of People Act also recognises this in principle, requiring the high courts to decide on election petitions within six months
  5. In a March 2014 SC judgment, the court had accepted the urgent need for cleansing politics and directed all subordinate courts to give their verdict on cases involving legislators within a year or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court
  6. Progress in this matter has not been reviewed

Way Forward

  1. The present verdict seems a missed opportunity by the Supreme Court, especially when seen in the light of the nation’s fight for free, fair and clean elections
  2. Judicial activism has been at the root of some of the most groundbreaking reforms in India’s democratic history
  3. The doctrine of separation of powers has to be seen in the light of the need for checks and balances
  4. When the executive and legislature are unwilling to do their job, the judiciary must step in on behalf of the citizens
Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Freedom to pray: on Sabarimala verdict


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: SC verdict in Sabarimala temple issue and its overall bearing on fundamental rights of women


Women’s right to worship vs religious freedom

  1. The Constitution protects religious freedom in two ways
  2. It protects an individual’s right to profess, practise and propagate a religion, and it also assures similar protection to every religious denomination to manage its own affairs
  3. The legal challenge to the exclusion of women in the 10-50 age group from the Sabarimala temple in Kerala represented a conflict between the group rights of the temple authorities in enforcing the presiding deity’s strict celibate status and the individual rights of women to offer worship there
  4. The Supreme Court’s ruling, by a 4:1 majority, that the exclusionary practice violates the rights of women devotees establishes the legal principle that individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in matters of religion

Breaking traditional notions of impurity

  1. The majority held that devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and that the prohibition on women is not an essential part of Hindu religion
  2. Beyond the legality of the practice, the court has also sought to grapple with the stigmatisation of women devotees based on a medieval view of menstruation as symbolising impurity and pollution
  3. Devotion cannot be subjected to the stereotypes of gender
  4. SC said that stigma built around traditional notions of impurity has no place in the constitutional order, and exclusion based on the notion of impurity is a form of untouchability

Way Forward

  1. Any rule based on segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is indefensible and unconstitutional
  2. The decision reaffirms the Constitution’s transformative character and derives strength from the centrality it accords to fundamental rights
Temple entry for women : Gender Equality v/s Religious Freedom

Supreme Court opens Sabarimala temple to women of all ages


Mains Paper 2: Indian Constitution| Historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fundamental rights involved

Mains level: Temple entry issue and all aspects related to it.



  1. The Supreme Court  in a majority opinion of 4:1 lifted the centuries-old practice of prohibiting women to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala.
  2. The Court condemned the prohibition as hegemonic patriarchy.

Entry ban is Un-Constitutional

  1. The main opinion shared that on one side we pray to goddesses; on the other, women of a certain age are considered ‘impure’.
  2. This dualistic approach is nothing but patriarchy practised in religion.
  3. It said that exclusion on grounds of biological and physiological features like menstruation was unconstitutional as it was violative of the right to equality and dignity of women.
  4. However the Nair Service Society countered the apex court’s observations about patriarchy.
  5. The prohibition was not based on misogyny but the celibate nature of the deity.

Entry ban  is a form of untouchability

  1. In a concurring opinion, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud held that to treat women as the children of a lesser God was to blink at the Constitution.
  2. The logic behind the ban was that presence of women deviated men from celibacy (brahmacharya).
  3. This was placing the burden of a men’s celibacy on women thus, stigmatizing women and stereotyping them.
  4. Individual dignity of women could not be at the mercy of a mob.

Entry ban isn’t fundamental to religion

  1. The Sabarimala prohibition was a prejudice against women, which was zealously propagated and was not an essential part of religion.
  2. The majority view declared Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Act of 1965, which mandates the prohibition in Sabarimala temple, as ultra vires the Constitution.
  3. The CJI and Justice Khanwilkar held that the Rule violated the fundamental right of a Hindu woman to offer worship at a place of her choice. Right to worship is equally available to men and women.

Dissenting Opinions against the Ruling

  1. Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench, dissented from the majority opinion.
  2. She held that the determination of what constituted an essential practice in a religion should not be decided by judges on the basis of their personal viewpoints.
  3. She held that essentiality of a religious practice or custom had to be decided within the religion. It was a matter of personal faith.
  4. Constitutional morality in a pluralistic society gave freedom to practice even irrational or illogical customs and usages.

Ruling is contrary to Art. 25

  1. Harmonization of fundamental rights with religion included providing freedom for diverse sects to practise their customs and beliefs.
  2. The Judge held that there were strong, plausible reasons to show that Ayyappa devotees had attributes of a religious denomination.
  3. They have distinct names, properties. Besides, the Sabarimala temple was not funded out of the Consolidated Fund.
Temple entry for women : Gender Equality v/s Religious Freedom

Centre to hike grant for SDRF


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SDRF- Funding and its mandate

Mains level:  Disaster management in India


90% of allocation to be paid by Centre

  1. The Centre has increased its contribution in the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) from 75% to 90% with effect from April 1, announced the Union Home Ministry.
  2. Kerala, which has recently faced the worst floods, will be a major beneficiary of the Centre’s decision.
  3. Henceforth all States will be required to contribute 10% to the SDRF.

About State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

  1. The SDRF constituted under Section 48 (1) (a) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
  2. The Central Government earlier contributed 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
  3. The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  4. SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
  5. Disaster (s) covered under SDRF: Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
  6. Local Disaster:A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context.
  7. These are such which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

NITI Aayog, Oracle to fight fake drugs through blockchain


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Use of Blockchain technology

Mains level: Curbing fake drug menace in India.


Curbing Fake Drug menace

  1. NITI Aayog has signed an agreement with cloud services provider Oracle, hospital chain Apollo Hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturer Strides Pharma Sciences.
  2. It aims to curb the distribution of fake drugs using new technologies.

India at greater risk

  1. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the third largest in the world in volume, accounting for 10% of the world’s production.
  2. A recent report by World Health Organisation estimates 20% of all drugs sold in India are fake.
  3. Also, as the largest producer of generic drugs in the world, India is reported to be the source of 35% of all counterfeit drugs sold worldwide.

Technology approach to track fake drugs

  1. The partners will pilot a real drug supply chain using blockchain decentralized ledger and IoT software.
  2. By piloting a real drug supply chain using blockchain and IoT software, they can support governments and healthcare experts to quickly detect fake drugs.
  3. These will aide authorities to enforce penalties on wrong-doers with easy, proof-based data.
  4. Oracle’s blockchain software permanently registers a drug’s record in the manufacturer’s drug supply chain (serial number, labelling, scanning), leaving no scope for record tampering.
  5. The company added that at every point of hand change, it records the drug’s movement — from manufacturer to logistics, from stockist to hospital, or from pharmacy to consumer.
  6. In case of a fake drug, the software will detect irregularity and notify the concerned nodal point.
Blockchain Technology: Prospects and Challenges

Ministerial panel to study need for disaster levy in GST


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much.

Mains level: Policy measures to mitigate disaster incurred losses.



  1. The Union Government set up a ministerial panel to study the legality of imposing a “disaster levy” to raise funds for states struck by natural calamities, such as the recent floods in Kerala.
  2. Following the floods, Kerala had suggested a 10% cess on the state component of the GST.

Tasks of the Panel

  1. The group of ministers will look into several issues, including the possibility of a pan-India levy or state-specific tax, and whether the tax will be levied on all items or sin and luxury goods.
  2. The panel will also decide on the scale of disaster, which would require funds in addition to what is provided under the national disaster relief fund (NDRF).
  3. The committee will have representation from north-eastern states, coastal states and hill states, which are prone to natural calamities.
  4. The Constitution amendment brought in to facilitate GST’s rollout has a provision that in the event of a natural calamity, a special rate can be imposed with the permission of the GST Council.

Questioning the viability

  1. Some experts, however, did not favour changes in the GST architecture to raise resources for dealing with natural calamities.
  2. The introduction of any cess either at the national level or at the state level should be avoided so as it would make the entire GST process, including the invoicing and return filings, much more complex for all businesses.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[pib] SATAT Initiative


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: SATAT initiative

Mains level: Promoting Compressed Bio-Gas as an alternative transport fuel


Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)

  1. Union Petroleum Minister has launched an innovative initiative to set up Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) production plants and make available CBG in the market for use in automotive fuels.
  2. This move has the potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, as well as to provide an additional revenue source to farmers.
  3. The initiative holds great promise for efficient municipal solid waste management and in tackling the problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions.
  4. Use of CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil imports.

Benefits of the initiative

There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:

  • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
  • Additional revenue source for farmers
  • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
  • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
  • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations
Biofuel Policy

[pib] MoHUA partners with Google to launch #LooReview Campaign


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:  Loo Review Campaign, Swachh Bharat Mission- Urban

Mains level: Measures to ensure proper sanitation and maintenance of Public Toilets to prevent open defecation and urination.


Locating Public Toilets on G-maps

  1. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, under the aegis of Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban has partnered with Google to launch the Loo Review campaign.
  2. It is aimed to encourage all local guides in India to rate and review public toilets on Google Maps.
  3. This campaign will allow all citizens to locate public toilets in their cities on Google Maps, Search and the Assistant and also provide feedback on the same.
  4. 500+ cities in India with more than 30,000 toilets with the name of “SBM Toilet” are currently live on Google Maps.
  5. The joint campaign to be run throughout October and November 2018 is an effort to increase the awareness and ease of locating public toilets across India.
  6. Local Guides are people who share reviews, photos, and knowledge on Google Maps to help people explore the world.

Ensuring Proper Maintenance

  1. One of the objectives of the SBM- U is to provide sanitation coverage through public toilet facilities across cities in India for achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
  2. There is now a need to ensure that the ODF status is sustained through continuous usage and proper maintenance of public toilets.
  3. The ‘Public toilets near me’ feature will benefit citizens, particularly women and senior citizens, who often find it difficult to find access to clean toilets in the public space.
  4. The feedback provide by local guides through the Loo Review campaign will press upon the Urban Local Bodies to take proactive steps to improve public toilet facilities across the country.
Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] Parakram Parv Celebrations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Parakram Parv

Mains level: The relevance of surgical strikes in present security scenario.


Parakram Parv

  1. Indian Army conducted surgical strikes in 2016 which had strategic ramifications and were aimed to dissuade inimical adversary from adopting the path of violence and to ensure an environment of peace for the Nation.
  2. To showcase the courage, valour and sacrifice of Armed Forces, ‘Parakram Parv’ is being observed from 28-30 September 2018.
  3. The main event is planned in India Gate Lawns, Rajpath, New Delhi and similarly at 53 locations in   51 cities across the Nation.
  4. It shall be showcasing the events highlighting valour of Indian Armed Forces in general and Special Forces in particular.
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] National surgical strike day: celebrating failures


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Security challenges & their management in border areas

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The relevance of surgical strikes in present security scenario


Celebration of Surgical strikes anniversary

  1. Last week, the government unveiled its plans to celebrate surgical strike Day on 29 September, to commemorate the cross-border operation India had carried out against terror camps in Pakistan two years ago
  2. Almost on cue, the Indian army chief general Bipin Rawat called out for another “stern action” against Pakistan to avenge the recent death of Indian soldiers on the border, alluding to another surgical strike

Significance of this move

  1. These developments are indicative of a fundamental transformation of India’s strategic culture
  2. New Delhi now seems to be making strategic choices based on psychological gratification rather than to achieve well-thought-out goals.
  3. This is a dangerous trend that is likely to further worsen the already deteriorating security situation in South Asia

Was surgical strike a success?

  1. From a goal-oriented perspective, the choice to carry out the strike has proved to be an abject failure
  2. In the last two years since the strike, India’s security vis-à-vis Pakistan has degraded by all metrics
  3. The Kashmir insurgency has worsened since the strikes
  4. There were 358 insurgency-related fatalities in 2017, compared to 267 the year before
  5. Estimated infiltrations went up to 406 in 2017 from 371 in 2016
  6. Civilian deaths increased by 166% in 2017

Pakistan’s role

  1. By all indicators, Islamabad’s covert support for the insurgency has also ramped up in the last two years
  2. This period has seen several Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks on the Indian armed forces, which specifically replicated the Uri attack which had prompted the surgical strike
  3. Border violence between Indian and Pakistani armies has become disturbingly brutal and regular like clockwork
  4. India-Pakistan ceasefire violations more than doubled in 2017, compared to the year before
  5. Both sides are now employing weapons of a higher calibre than the prior years

Options that were used previously

  1. If the decision-makers think that the conditions are favourable, they may use a diplomatic approach and bring international pressure upon Pakistan to change its policy
  2. India employed this route in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack
  3. Otherwise, the decision-makers may choose to precipitate a crisis by threatening Pakistan with a disproportionate military action in order to compel it to change its ways
  4. India tried this strategy in 2001 after the terror attack on the Indian Parliament, in what is today known as the Twin Peaks Crisis
  5. Both of these options are fraught with risks and other problems and aimed at achieving certain security goals

Does surgical strike really help?

  1. An operation like the surgical strike, which is really just a half-way measure, does little to enhance India’s security, although it does provide instinctive gratification
  2. In the long run, it ends up harming India’s overall security by eroding the credibility of its deterrence

Root cause analysis

  1. The root cause is the weakening normative sanctity of the line of control (LoC)
  2. Much of India’s security problems in Kashmir today stem from the fact that over the decades, the legitimacy and inviolability of the LoC has been steadily collapsing
  3. This cheapening of LoC’s notional value allows Pakistan to run elaborate cross-border terror networks, support constant infiltration, engage the Indian army in a continuous low-intensity conflict, and repeatedly challenge basic facts on the ground in international forums

Way Forward

  1. Successive governments have unwittingly gone along with Pakistan in reducing the LoC’s value and the celebration of surgical strike Day would be another egregious step in this direction
  2. Essentially what India would be celebrating is its decision to violate the LoC
  3. In effect, it would be admitting that LoC is not a sacred border endowed with all the legal and normative strengths of an international boundary, but rather simply a frontline that either countries may choose to violate whenever they please
  4. Indian policy should be to constantly prop up the normative strength of the LoC and insist on its legitimacy and unassailability
Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

[op-ed snap] Removing biases


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: Provisions related to reservation, Poona pact, Mac Donald award

Mains level: Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta & M. Nagaraj v. Union of India verdicts and their impact on reservation system


SC verdict on the reservation in promotions

  1. The issue for debate before a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta was whether M. Nagaraj v. Union of India (Nagaraj) required reconsideration
  2. Nagaraj verdict had held that before the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates can be promoted, the states had to prove by “quantifiable data” that they were indeed “backward”

Why the issue?

  1. There was no definition of the expression “backward” and whether it is social backwardness, educational backwardness, economic backwardness or untouchability of which “quantifiable data” was to be collected
  2. As a result, all promotions made post-Nagraj were struck down on the ground that there was no quantifiable data

Definition of SC & Backward caste

  1. The expression, “Scheduled Castes” simply refers to castes added to a Schedule in the Constitution
  2. The expression “backward class” in Article 16(4) of the Constitution refers to these “untouchable castes” known under British rule as “depressed classes”, and those we have come to be known as “other backward classes”

Flaws in Nagaraj verdict

  1. Article 16 (4-A) of the Constitution allows reservation in promotion for the untouchable castes and tribes only and not for “other backward classes”
  2. The marker of the identity of Scheduled Castes is the historic disadvantage of the untouchable
  3. Therefore the question of proving backwardness by quantifiable data does not arise
  4. At the heart of the problem is the inability of the Supreme Court to understand the very meaning of “equality” and the purpose of reservations

History of reservations in India

  1. Following the Poona Pact, B R Ambedkar gave up the demand of the Dalit community for separate electoral colleges
  2. Instead, it was agreed that the castes described by the British as “depressed classes” would be given reservation in employment with joint electorates (in the provincial and central legislatures) for a larger number of seats than envisaged by the Mac Donald award
  3. There was thus, a national compact that the “depressed classes” should be represented in appointments in public services as well as in local bodies, in other words, reservation in public services and local bodies
  4. The said ‘depressed classes’ came to be known as “Scheduled Castes” and “Scheduled Tribes”

Need for reservations

  1. There should be an equitable distribution of job opportunities among different sections of the society
  2. Everyone should have a stake in democratic governance, whether they determine their identities by gender or by caste or by a historic disadvantage
  3. A balance needs to be struck between the allotment of posts in the public sector between the claims of the upper castes and those of the untouchable castes and tribes
  4. This balance can be achieved by reserving the appropriate number of posts for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the rest of the candidates
  5. Reservations are intended to achieve equality in the matter of representation in public employment and, consequentially, in state power

Exclusion of creamy layer also questionable

  1. Creamy layer is an expression not found in the Constitution
  2. Given that the identification of beneficiaries is not based on economic criteria, but on caste markers, how can there be such an exclusion
  3. If indeed economic cut off is to be put ostensibly to advance the cause of the surely backward, then why should reservation not be given to the people of below poverty line (BPL) of all castes, including the upper castes

Way Forward

  1. The Court has been myopic in suggesting that the more backward among the backward must only get promotion in a country in which people die while manual scavenging and all the public sector positions of sweepers are occupied by Scheduled Castes
  2. An obsessive concern of the Supreme Court while denying reservation in different forms has been “efficiency in administration”
  3. If a department is underperforming, how does one say that it is on account of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe community
  4. The judgment in Jarnail Singh must be welcomed as paving the way for promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in public employment thereby furthering and deepening the Constitution’s equality
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A moral journey


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 497 of IPC, Section 198 of CrPC

Mains level: SC’s role in making India a progressive society and the need of removing various discriminatory laws from statute books


Adultery law struck down

  1. Equality before the law does not only signify equal access to the law, but also equal exposure to the law
  2. This is one of the principles followed by the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which has struck down as unconstitutional Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that had criminalised adultery for 158 years
  3. Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is also struck down

Giving women desired power

  1. In both cases, the court has found that the woman was robbed of agency and reduced to a chattel
  2. Law which allows only men to have agency and the right to be aggrieved is unacceptable at a time when sexual relations are understood to be between equals

What was Section 497?

  1. Section 497 criminalised men who knowingly had relations with the wife of another man, “without the consent or connivance of that man”
  2. The woman was not punishable as an abettor, while her husband was automatically the wronged party
  3. Section 198(2) clarified that only the woman’s husband can be the aggrieved party or, in his absence, “someone who had care of the woman”

Strains still remain

  1. Following the SC intervention, adultery is now a civil matter between individuals
  2. But a criminal residue remains — Section 306 of the IPC will be invoked if a suicide results from adultery

The road towards constitutional morality

  1. The striking down of Section 377
  2. Supreme Court ruling that a long-term live-in relationship to be indistinguishable from marriage, even for inheritance
  3. The triple talaq ruling and the right to privacy have maintained the trend
  4. With the decriminalisation of adultery, India has taken another step towards rights-based social relations, instead of a state-imposed moral order
  5. People can now look forward to the criminalisation of marital rape

Way forward

  1. It is only in a progressive legal landscape that individual rights flourish
  2. However, it is a matter of concern that refreshing the statute books is being left to the judiciary, without any proactive role of Parliament in amending regressive laws
  3. Parliament has failed in its legislative responsibility to address the old age laws and should now act to rid India of various Victorian-era laws that are no longer acceptable
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Adultery no longer a criminal offence as SC scraps Section 497 of IPC


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Adultery, Section 497 IPC

Mains level: The newscard puts end to the long driven debate against IPC Sec. 497. Make note of all justifications made by the Court.


Scrapping IPC Sec. 497

  1. A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by CJI Dipak Misra held that adultery is not a crime and struck it off the Indian Penal Code.
  2. The bench observed that Section 497 (adultery) of the Code “commands” married couples to remain loyal to each other.
  3. The Bench also held Section 198 (2) of the CrPC, which gives the cuckolded husband the exclusive right to prosecute his wife’s lover, manifestly arbitrary.

A matter of choice

  1. The court observed that two individuals may part if one cheats, but it is not viable to attach criminality to the infidelity caused by adultery.
  2. Besides, there is no data to back claims that abolition of adultery as a crime would result in “chaos in sexual morality” or an increase of
  3. How married couples deal with adultery is absolutely a matter of privacy.

Wife not a commodity

  1. Adultery is not a crime if the husband allows or consents to his wife’s extra-marital affair.
  2. Section 497 treats a married woman as her husband’s possession.
  3. The provision is a reflection of the social dominance of men prevalent 150 years ago and the biblical orders of the colonial government.

Codified Patriarchy phased out

  1. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his separate view, termed Section 497 as a “codified rule of patriarchy”.
  2. Marriage does not mean ceding autonomy of one to the other.
  3. Ability to make sexual choices is essential to human liberty.
  4. Society imposes impossible virtues on a woman. It objectifies her and says she should be pure.
  5. If the woman involved in the extra-marital affair happens to be single and has no husband who is wronged, the law treats the situation with total unconcern.

Doctrine of Coverture

  1. Justice Indu Malhotra, reading her opinion the last on the Bench, held that Section 497 is based on the Doctrine of Coverture.
  2. Coverture was a legal doctrine whereby, upon marriage, a woman’s legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband.
  3. Coverture arises from the legal fiction that a husband and wife are one person.
  4. This doctrine, not recognised by the Constitution, holds that a woman loses her identity and legal right with marriage, is violative of her fundamental rights.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Railways to roll out smart coaches


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about the Smart Trains, Make in India initiatives.

Mains level: Modernization of Railways


Make in India “Smart Trains”

  1. The Indian Railways are set to launch their ‘Make in India’ smart coaches with new features like black box and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered CCTVs, matching international standards.
  2. Named ‘Smart Trains’, the coaches have been equipped with sensors that can detect defects on bearings, wheels, and the railway track, giving constant inputs to those in the control room to avoid accidents, carry out maintenance, and to improve efficiency of operations.

Black Box for these trains

  1. The black box is being introduced for the first time by Indian Railways, has a powerful multi-dimensional communication interface.
  2. It will provide information on passengers and coach condition on real-time basis.
  3. The black box will act as a coach control unit with communication interfaces for passenger announcements, GPS-based announcement triggers.
  4. It will also handle emergency intercom for commuters, digital destination boards, train reservation display modules, and CCTVs with remote monitoring.

Better Monitoring and Maintenance

  1. For wheel, coach and track monitoring, Railways have come up with Internet of Things-based system.
  2. The vibrating-energy-based sensors will monitor the wheels, bearing and hard spots on the track, and will provide data through GPS/GPRS to the remote server for diagnosis and remedial measures.
  3. The Passenger Information and Coach Computing Unit (PICCU), an industrial grade computer, will monitor the coach maintenance and passenger interface.
  4. Commuters will also be able to communicate with Railways officials.

CCTV recording

  1. AI-powered CCTVs will help those in the control room to keep a tab on untoward incidents and on the behaviour of on-board staff.
  2. Six cameras installed in the coach will provide live recording.
  3. The footage can be accessed from the control room, which will be advantageous for law enforcers.
  4. An emergency talk-back system will enable communication between passengers and the guard during a crisis. A Wi-Fi hotspot information system is another innovative feature.

Other details

  1. Smart coaches are also laden with water-level indicator technology to know whether the water in the coach is sufficient and when it needs to be filled.
  2. An SMS will be sent to the next watering station when the water level falls below half the coach capacity.
  3. In the version 2.0 of these coaches, the Railways are planning to introduce a host of new features.
  4. They will include video analytics with face detection feature; unusual occurrence feature; fire-and-smoke detection unit; and an energy-metering module to measure the energy consumption of the coach.
Railway Reforms

MHA merges Police forces of 6 UTs


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the merger

Mains level: Policing Reforms


Non-IPS officers to be at direct disposal of MHA

  1. The Ministry of Home Affairs notified new rules amalgamating police forces in six Union Territories.
  2. The rules effectively mean that officers who are not direct IPS recruits could be posted in any of the six UTs and will be at the disposal of the Ministry.
  3. The MHA has notified this under the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh (Police Service) Rules 2018.

How will this benefit?

  1. This is the first step towards the creation of a central police cadre allowing for the posting of police personnel across the country irrespective of the force they are initially inducted into.
  2. A central pool allowing inter-transferability would also ensure that local police personnel do not fall prey to serving vested interests in their home services and ensure that they don’t become complacent.

Other details

  1. There are around 533 posts that will be covered under the new rules; they include assistant commissioners of police and deputy superintendent of police.
  2. The Rules will come into effect upon the promotion or direct recruitment of Inspectors to the post of ACP.
  3. Half of the posts at the ACP rank will be filled through direct recruitment and the other half through promotion.
  4. Earlier these postings were decided by the respective UT administrators.
Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

Cabinet approves 100% govt stake in GST Network


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSTN

Mains level: ICT management of GST in India.


100% govt. stake in GSTN

  1. The Union Cabinet approved increasing the government’s ownership in the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) to 100% from the existing 49%.
  2. The Union Cabinet also approved acquisition of the entire 51% equity held by the non-government institutions in GSTN equally by the Centre and the State governments.

About GSTN

  1. Currently, the Centre and states together hold 49 per cent stake in the GST Network, the company that provides IT backbone to the new indirect tax regime.
  2. The remaining 51 per cent is held by five private financial institutions — HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, NSE Strategic Investment Co and LIC Housing Finance Ltd.
  3. The proposal to convert GSTN into 100 per cent government-owned company was earlier approved by the GST Council.
  4. The GSTN was incorporated as a private limited company on March 28, 2013 under the UPA Government.
  5. It is a Section 8 company under the new Companies Act and hence is a not-for-profit entity.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)

[pib] Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics (CEDA)


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: CEDA

Mains level: Use of Machine Learning in Governance activities


Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics (CEDA)

  1. National Informatics Centre (NIC) and NIC Services Incorporated (NICSI) have jointly set up a Centre of Excellence for data analytics.
  2. This is aimed to support Government departments to unlock the hidden potential of the data that they are generating as part of the governance processes and use it to improve the overall governance.
  3. CEDA is envisaged to kick-start and fast track the adoption of advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities.
  4. It shall provide quality data analytic services to government departments at all levels by identifying appropriate tools and technologies and deploying people with right expertise.
  5. As part of its service offerings, it will help the departments
  • Understand their business requirements and define their analytic needs
  • Identify the data sets that are required to meet the analytic needs
  • Determine access to the relevant data sources (both within as well as outside the government)
  • Build the required data analytic solutions
  • In integrating departmental data silos and deliver an integrated whole-of government analytics for an integrated policy formulation.

About NIC

  1. NIC as a premier technology advisor and ICT solution provider to Government at all levels.
  2. It has always taken the first step to introduce the latest technologies and services in government like establishment of NICNET or National Knowledge Network (NKN), development of critical e-Governance solutions and a host of other services required by the Government.
  3. NICSI is a trusted partner of NIC and has been instrumental in supporting all NIC’s initiatives.
  4. NISCI provides resources and is responsible establishing & managing ICT infrastructure such as National Data Center, Development Center, Cloud infrastructure etc.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] India and the UN to sign a Five-Year Sustainable Development Framework (2018-2022)


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNSDF

Mains level: Sustainable development agenda of NITI Aayog.



  • NITI Aayog and United Nations are set to sign the Government of India-United Nations Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF) for 2018-2022.

India-UNSDF (2018-2022)

  1. The Framework outlines the work of UN agencies in India, to support the achievement of key development outcomes that are aligned to the national priorities.
  2. The NITI Aayog is the national counterpart for the UN in India for the operationalization of the UNSDF.
  3. Nineteen (19) UN agencies have signed on the UNSDF 2018-2022.

About United Nations Sustainable Development Framework

  1. The UNSDF 2018-22 comprises of seven priority areas that outline the work that UN agencies will undertake jointly or individually, fully aligned with the priorities of the GoI.
  2. The seven priority areas outlined in the UNSDF are:
  • Poverty and Urbanization;
  • Health, Water, and Sanitation;
  • Education and Employability;
  • Nutrition and Food Security;
  • Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Disaster Resilience;
  • Skilling, Entrepreneurship, and Job Creation;
  • Gender Equality and Youth Development.


NITI Aayog’s Assessment

Supreme Court Okays Constitutional Validity of Aadhaar

Image Source


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: Various articles of the Aadhaar Act

Mains level: The newscard ends the debate surrounded by Aadhaar. Every statement of the Judgment is vitally important.



  1. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in a majority opinion upheld Aadhaar as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy.
  2. Aadhaar aims to fulfils the government’s “legitimate aim” to provide dignity to a large, marginalized population living in abject poverty.
  3. The Constitution does not exist for a few or minority of the people of India, but ‘We the People’,” the Supreme Court observed.

A Money Bill

  1. Upholding the passage of the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill, the Court said neither were individuals profiled nor their movements traced.
  2. This is when Aadhaar was used to avail government benefits under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act of 2016.
  3. The statute only sought “minimal” biometric information, and this did not amount to invasion of privacy.

Bar on bank-mobile link

  • The majority opinion upheld the PAN-Aadhaar linkage, but declared linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile SIM cards unconstitutional.

Insulating children from the Aadhaar regime

  1. The card was not necessary for children aged between six and 14 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as right to education was a fundamental right.
  2. Statutory bodies like CBSE and UGC cannot ask students to produce their Aadhaar cards for examinations like NEET and JEE.
  3. Permission of parents and guardians was a must before enrolling children into Aadhaar.
  4. Children once they attained the age of majority could opt out of Aadhaar.

Aadhaar not a hurdle for Divyangs, Elderly

  1. Validating Aadhaar use was not trivializing the problem of exclusion faced by the elderly, the very young, the disabled and several others during the authentication process.
  2. Authentication was found to be only having a 0.232% failure (almost negligible), however it was accurate 99.76% times.
  3. Dismantling the scheme would only disturb this 99.76%.

Aadhaar not a Surveillance tool

  1. Authentication transactions through Aadhaar did not ask for the purpose, nature or location of the transaction.
  2. Besides, information was collected in silos and their merging was prohibited.
  3. The collection of personal data and its authentication was done through registered devices and was not expanded to the Internet.
  4. The Authority did not get any information related to the IP address or the GPS location from where authentication was performed.

Preventing Misuse of Data

  1. The Court quashed or read down several provisions in the Aadhaar Act in order to de-fang any possibility of the state misusing data.
  2. For one, the court held that authentication records should not be retained for more than six months.
  3. It declared the archiving of records for five years as “bad in law.”
  4. It also prohibited the creation of a metabase for transactions.
  5. It read down Section 33 (1), which allowed the disclosure of Aadhaar information on the orders of a District Judge.
  6. This cannot be done now without giving the person concerned an opportunity to be heard.

Striking down certain Sections

Aadhaar Card Issues