January 2019

Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[op-ed snap] Left out, abused: on the state of child care institutionsop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic aspects of JJ Act, NCPCR.

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues, related to the Child Care Institutions(CCIs)/Homes, in a brief manner.


  • The study of the Mapping Exercise of the Child Care Institutions(CCIs)/Homes throws light on a critical component of the Juvenile Justice System i.e. functioning of CCIs/Homes across the country, in the context of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Rules framed there under.


  1. The Juvenile Justice Act’s Section 66 mandates a CCI to get registered in the state where it functions even if it has not been recognized as Specialized Adoption Agency (SAA).
  2. A CCI is required to ensure all orphans; abandoned or surrendered children under its care are reported, produced and declared legally free for adoption.
  3. The CCIs are supposed to develop formal linkages with nearby SAA and furnish details of the children declared legally free for adoption. Violation of Section 66 invites 50,000 penalty.

Insight Given by Central government committee

  1. It studied 9,589 Child Care Institutions and Homes, mostly run by NGOs, that come under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
  2. Only an emergency measure to address the serious lacunae can bring some semblance of order to these faceless shelters.
  3. Most of the inmates are orphaned, abandoned, sexually abused, trafficked or victims of disasters and conflict. Among them are 7,422 children in conflict with the law, and 3,70,227 in need of care and protection, including 1,70,375 girls.
  4. That they often have to live in facilities without proper toilets, secure compounds or the opportunity to vent their grievances as provided for under law underscores the painful reality that they remain virtually invisible.
  5. As per the recently disclosed study, only 32% of Child Care Institutions or Homes were registered under the JJ Act as of 2016, while an equal number were unregistered, and the rest were either empanelled under other schemes or awaiting registration.
  6. Some States obviously have too few homes, giving authorities little incentive to take up cases of children in distress. Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala together account for 43.5% of all shelters.
  7. A few States do not have even one home of every category, such as child care, observation and adoption.
  8. The Ministry’s study lays bare the disconnect between civil society and the welfare system for children, and the poor engagement elected representatives have with such a vital function.

Way Forward

  1. Reform of this depressing system, as the Ministry of Women and Child Development seeks, can be achieved only through systematic scrutiny by State governments.
  2. This could be done by appointing special officers whose task it would be to ensure that all institutions register under the JJ Act, account for funds received by each, and enforce mandatory child protection policies during adoption.
  3. The priority should be to bring about uniformity of standards and procedures, evolving common norms for infrastructure, human resources, financial practices and external audits.
  4. The imperative now is to turn the findings of the Ministry’s committee into a blueprint for action. Credentialed NGOs should take a greater interest in this effort, holding the authorities to account.
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Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] We don’t need career judgesop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity| Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic aspects of polity

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues and  challenges, related to the Indian Judiciary, in a brief manner.


  • The vision document titled ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’, released by the NITI Aayog, amongst other things, proposes a spate of judicial reforms.
  • The think-tank has come out batting for the creation of an All India Judicial Service, akin to the other central services like the IAS and the IPS.


  • The proposal for an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) in lines of All-India Services was proposed as early as 1950.
  • The idea was first mooted by the Law Commission in the 1950sto have an All-India Judicial Services.
  • The Constitution of India was amended in 1977to provide for an All-India Judicial Services under Article 312.
  • The Chief Justices conferences in 1961, 1963, and 1965 favouredcreation of All-India Judicial Services and even the Law Commissions (1st, 8th and 11th, 116th) had suggested the creation of the service. However, each time it was faced with opposition.
  • The proposal was again floated by the ruling UPAgovernment in 2012 but the draft bill was done away with after opposition from High Court Chief Justices who labelled this an infringement of their rights.


Despite the constitutional permit, the road to setting up an AIJS is ridden with numerous concerns, which remain unaddressed in the NITI Aayog’s trite proposal.

  1. The AIJS is being proposed as a panacea to cure the chronic vacancy crisis plaguing the Indian subordinate judiciary.
  • Given the limited extent to which the Constitution only permits the appointments of district judges to such a prospective AIJS, it will not magically remedy this crisis.
  • At best, what an all India service potentially offers is a more streamlined and regularised recruitment process for the limited number of vacancies for district judges in the country.
  1. The second concern is the much wider composition of the AIJS proposed by NITI Aayog, than what is permissible under Article 312.
  • The top government think-tank has rather ambitiously pitched an omnibus service to covering entry level civil judges, prosecutors and legal advisers to comprise the service.
  • Such a sweeping mandate would require considerable amendments to the Constitution, especially with respect to the appointments process for the lower subordinate judiciary.
  • These amendments, establishing a centralised appointments mechanism, may arguably be constitutionally untenable and vulnerable to being struck down as flagrant violations of the basic structure doctrine and judicial federalism.
  1. The final contention against the NITI Aayog’s proposal for an AIJS is the oversimplification of a complex legal and political issue into a punchline reform.
  • The idea of an AIJS has been significantly contentious within the legal fraternity and other concerned stakeholders.
  • Last year, on a reported internal note prepared by the Department of Justice on the feasibility of an AIJS, there was vehement disagreement by almost half the high courts in the country.
  1. Other issues includes the need to familiarise oneself with the local languages, customs, and laws of the state where a potential judicial officer will be posted, or the need to ensure reservation for locally domiciled citizens, these central selection mechanisms have thrown up grave concerns impugning their utility and legality as judicial reforms.

Way Forward

  1. The proposal of NITI Aayog leaves much to be desired, both in terms of research rigour, as well as the presentation and articulation of a complex policy challenge.
  2. While policy-vision statements are typically broad and hyperbolic, being the government’s chief policy think-tank, the onus rests on the NITI Aayog to accurately project the scope and limitations of its solutions, in order to facilitate a responsible deliberative process to address these concerns.
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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[op-ed snap] After the inevitable exitop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: IR| India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic geographical aspects of Afghanistan, The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

Mains level: The newscard discusses US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its impact on India


  • Despite the White House’s spirited denial of reports that it has issued no orders for the pullout of U.S. troops, the course seems set for a thinning of American presence in Afghanistan.
  • S. President Donald Trump had promised this during his campaign, and several advisers have said since then that he is keen to bring back most, if not all, troops before his re-election bid in 2020.


  1. Afghanistan is experiencing political, social and security instability, with extremists taking advantage of the turmoil in the country. The United States and its allies launched a military operation in Afghanistan in 2001, just after the 9/11 terror attacks. The mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014.
  2. On January 1, 2015, NATO announced its new mission in the country, called Resolute Support, to train and assist the Afghan security forces. Despite Washington’s efforts, the Asian state is still being hit by multiple attacks against its civilians and military targets.
  3. “As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people, we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future,” said the President of the United States in 2009, announcing a “regional strategy” for Afghanistan after the worst year of the conflict.
  4. President of United States unveiled his new “regional strategy” for Afghanistan, it was in large part a reiteration of the above speech in terms of strategic objectives. By now 2016 has become the worst year of the conflict.

Shift in policy

  1. Mr. Trump had defined the strategy with following features:
  • that U.S. troops would remain involved in the country until “conditions”, not a timeline, mandated their return;
  • that the U.S. would put Pakistan on notice for its support to the Taliban.
  • a political settlement with the Taliban would only follow “after an effective military effort”; and
  • that the policy would hinge on further developing the strategic partnership with India.
  • It is easy to see that each element of the U.S.’s policy on the ground has shifted, if not been entirely reversed.
  1. The appointment of special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in September to lead talks with the Taliban after a particularly brutal year shows that the U.S. is no longer waiting for military operations to take effect.
  2. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report to the U.S. Congress, casualties of Afghan National and Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) in May-September 2018 were the “greatest it has ever been” compared to corresponding periods since 2001, and
  3. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan “documented more civilian deaths in the first nine months of 2018 than they had during the same nine-month reporting period since 2014”.
  4. Khalilzad’s direct talks with the Taliban that cut out the National Unity government (NUG) in Kabul reportedly didn’t even have President Ashraf Ghani in the loop until after the first talks were held in Qatar — this reversed the previous U.S. position not to engage the Taliban until it engages the NUG.
  5. Far from the tough talk on Pakistan for support to the Taliban, Mr. Trump wrote a letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan thanking him for his efforts.
  • The departure from the avowed U.S. position on an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led” process has clearly ruffled feathers in Kabul.
  • In December, Mr. Ghani appointed two aides of former President Hamid Karzai known for their hardline position on the Taliban and Pakistan as his Defence and Interior Ministers.
  • Putting the seal on the clear drift in the U.S. Afghanistan and South Asia policy from the past was the exit of Defence Secretary James Mattis. He had pushed most strenuously to keep India in the Afghan game by swinging a waiver for India on Chabahar and Iran oil purchases.

Present Scenario in Afghanistan

  • The internal situation in Afghanistan is aggravated now by the uncertainty of the democratic process.
  • Parliamentary elections were held in October after being delayed by more than two years, but even their preliminary results haven’t yet been declared, casting doubt on the government’s ability to conduct elections.
  • Presidential elections have been postponed till July, despite the constitutional clause that they were to be completed by April 22, 2019.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. Ghani has been unable to keep his commitment to hold a Loya Jirga (grand council of representatives) to turn Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s post in the NUG into an executive Prime Ministership.

US withdrawal vis-à-vis–India

For India, these developments may appear discouraging, but a more pragmatic view is necessary to deal with all possible outcomes.

  • The U.S.’s eventual pullout as Afghanistan’s peacekeeper is inevitable, and it would make more sense to prepare for it than to deny it will happen.
  • New Delhi was caught off guard in 2010 when Mr. Obama planned the drawdown and discouraged India from a stake in projects there in an effort to placate Pakistan.
  • Trump’s administration has no doubt been much more welcoming of Indian investment in Afghanistan, but that itself is symptomatic of his desire to pare down “Pax Americana” in every part of the world.
  • The removal or reduction of the U.S. presence from most theatres of action has created space for regional players: leaving Syria to Iran and its allies; Yemen to Saudi Arabia; Afghanistan to players like Russia, Pakistan and Iran; and Pakistan to China.

Some other hard truths must be faced:

  • India cannot replace Pakistan’s position geographically, nor can it ever offer the U.S. or any other force what Pakistan has offered in the past, including bases and permission for U.S. forces to bomb its own territory.
  • Pakistan’s problem is that it sees its relations with Afghanistan through the prism of its relations with India. It seeks a veto on Afghanistan’s relations with India which the Afghans will not accept.
  • Changing this dynamic requires getting rid of the military’s stranglehold on Pakistan’s India and Afghan policies.
  • The decision to abandon the SAARC in favour of groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) and IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) may have provided some short-term returns in “isolating Pakistan”, but it has had the effect of cutting Afghanistan loose from Indian leadership of South Asia as well.

Way Forward

  1. India’s best course with Afghanistan remains its own regional strategy, not becoming a part of any other country’s strategy.
  2. Close bilateral consultations like this week’s visit to Delhi of National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, are the basis of India’s ability to help Afghanistan according to its needs, not India’s ambitions, and the reason for the immense popularity and goodwill India continues to enjoy in Afghanistan.
  3. Finally, it is necessary to recognise the cyclical nature of interventions in Afghanistan, which has been called the “graveyard of empires” for forcing all world powers to retreat at some point or the other.
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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Ultima Thule: Farthest object ever visited, what secrets does it hold?Prelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: New Horizon Probe, Kupier Belt, Ultima Thule

Mains level: NASA missions and their objectives


  • Recently NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft carried out a historic flyby of a distant object called Ultima Thule followed by beaming back of the first images.
  • It is the most distant object ever visited, which is one of the reasons that make the mission special.

Ultima Thule

  1. Officially named (486958) 2014 MU69, it earned the nickname Ultima Thule following a public contest in 2018.
  2. It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a disc in the outer Solar System (beyond Neptune) that consists of small bodies including Pluto.
  3. 2014 MU69 was discovered in June 2014 by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope but is so distant that many of its characteristics remain to be understood.

Peculiarity of the object

  1. Located about 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth, 2014 MU69 is believed to be a peanut-shaped space rock about 32 km long and 16 km wide.
  2. Its shape has given rise to the theory that it might actually be two rocks moving in tandem.
  3. It orbits the Sun once every 298 years.
  4. In March 2018, NASA invited suggestions for a nickname for 2014 MU69. Out of 34,000 submissions, NASA chose Ultima Thule, which means “beyond the borders of the known world”.
  5. In July 2018, scientists calculated that they would be able to see the object’s shadow from the southern tip of Argentina.

The mission

  1. New Horizons, a space probe that was launched in 2006, became the first mission to visit Pluto in 2015.
  2. Travelling farther into the Kuiper Belt, the nuclear-powered space probe has come within 3,500 km of Ultima Thule.
  3. Images taken revealed that the object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, or a “snowman”, or a peanut spinning end over end, or could be two objects orbiting each other.
  4. Flyby data showed that Ultima Thule is spinning like a propeller with the axis pointing approximately toward New Horizons.
  5. NASA released a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager.

Importance of the Probe

  1. The mission will look for more exact details of the object’s size, shape, orbit and environment.
  2. The probe is important because it holds remnants from the birth of the Solar System.
  3. Many Kuiper Belt objects have remained unchanged for billions of years, and could provide clues to the history of the Solar System, and possibly the conditions that led to the evolution of a habitable world like Earth.


Kuiper Belt

  1. Kuiper belt is a region of the solar system beyond the planets, extending from the orbit of Neptune. It consist mainly small bodies or remnants from the solar system’s formation.
  2. It is similar to the asteroid belt, although it is far larger 20 times as wide and 200 times as massive.
  3. The Kuiper belt objects (KBO) are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed ‘ices’), such as methane, ammonia and water.
  4. Kuiper belt is home to at least three dwarf planets Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
  5. Pluto, discovered in 1930, is considered its largest member.

Centre to miss Street lighting programme targetGovt. SchemesPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  EESL, SLNP

Mains level: SLNP: its objectives and its implementation


  • The Centre is likely to miss the goals it had set under the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP).
  • As on date, it is implemented in all ULBs of 13 States and 1 Union Territory and partially in 11 other states and 3 UTs.

Street Light National Programme

  1. Under the SLNP, the Government aims to replace 3.5 crore conventional street lights with energy efficient LED lights.
  2. It has been launched on 5th January 2015 to convert conventional street and domestic lights with energy efficient LED lights.
  3. This would result in annual energy saving of 900 crore units and the total cost savings of municipalities every year will be Rs 5,500 crore.
  4. Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI) is the implementing agency for SLNP.
  5. The program is to be implemented by the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

Work in Progress

  1. Energy Efficiency Services Limited has installed over 76.77 lakh LED street lights in 28 States or Union Territories till January 3, 2019.
  2. But, the target under SLNP is to replace 1.34 crore conventional street lights with energy efficient LED street lights by March 2019.
  3. This goal is likely to be missed as a little over just half has been attained till now.
  4. SLNP has not been implemented so far in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Daman & Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

RBI forms expert committee to rejuvenate MSMEsPriority 1


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Measures for revitalizing MSMEs


About the Committee

  1. The RBI has constituted an expert committee, which will review the current institutional framework in place to support MSMEs along with examining the factors affecting timely and adequate availability of finance to them.
  2. The new 8-member committee would be chaired by former Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman UK Sinha.

Terms of Reference

  1. The new committee will review the current institutional framework in place to support the MSME along with examining the factors affecting the timely and adequate availability of finance to the sector.
  2. The committee will also study the impact of the recent economic reforms on the sector and identify the structural problems affecting its growth.
  3. It will conduct a study about the best global practices with respect to MSMEs and recommend its adoption in India, wherever appropriate..
  4. Furthermore, the committee would also review the existing MSME focused policies and its impact on the sector and to propose measures for leveraging technology in accelerating the growth of the sector.

Compliment this newscard with:

[op-ed snap] Going beyond the credit requirements of MSMEs

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

[pib] Menstrual Hygiene for Adolescent Girls SchemeGovt. SchemesPIB


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Menstrual Hygiene Scheme

Mains level: Read the attached story


Menstrual Hygiene Scheme

  1. To address the need of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls residing primarily in rural areas, Government of India is supporting the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme.
  2. Under the scheme, funds are provided to States/UTs through National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins packs.
  3. It would thus make its provision to rural adolescent girls at subsidized rates as per proposals received from the States and UTs in their Programme Implementation Plans.

Components of the Scheme

  1. Increasing awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
  2. Improving access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins by adolescent girls in rural areas.
  3. Ensuring safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.
  4. Provision of funds to ASHAs to hold monthly meeting with adolescents to discuss issues related to menstrual hygiene.

Other inititatives for menstrual health

  1. A range of IEC material has been developed around Menstrual hygiene Scheme, using a 360 degree approach to create awareness among adolescent girls about safe & hygienic menstrual health practices.
  2. It includes audio, video and reading materials for adolescent girls and job-aids for ASHAs and other field level functionaries for communicating with adolescent girls.
  3. ASHAs across the country are trained and play a significant role in promotion of use and distribution of the sanitary napkins.
  4. Department of Health Research, under the Ministry of Health, is involved in assessment of all newer, alternative, environment friendly menstrual hygiene products to look into their safety and acceptability features.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[pib] Amendment to the Trade Unions Act, 1926 to make provisions regarding Recognition of Trade UnionsPIB


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trade Unions Act, 1926

Mains level:  Labour related legislation in India


  • The Union Cabinet has approved Amendment to the Trade Unions Act, 1926 to make provisions regarding Recognition of Trade Unions.

What Amendments brings in?

  1. The proposed Bill will ensure that the nomination of workers’ representatives in tripartite bodies by the government will become more transparent.
  2. Trade Unions so recognized would be accountable in maintaining industrial harmony.
  3. Recognition of Trade Unions at Central/State level would reduce duplicacy of such exercise by different departments. Recognized Trade Unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level.

Benefits of the Amendments

The approval will facilitate:

  • Recognition of Trade Unions at Central and State level;
  • Ensure true representation of workers in the tripartite bodies;
  • Check on the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the Government
  • Reduce litigations and industrial unrest

Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926

  1. The legislation regulating the trade unions is the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926.
  2. The Act deals with the registration of trade unions, their rights, their liabilities and responsibilities as well as ensures that their funds are utilized properly.
  3. It gives legal and corporate status to the registered trade unions.
  4. It also seeks to protect them from civil or criminal prosecution so that they could carry on their legitimate activities for the benefit of the working class.
  5. The Act is applicable not only to the union of workers but also to the association of employers and extends to whole of India.
  6. Also, certain Acts, namely, the Societies Registration Act, 1860; the Co-operative Societies Act, 1912; and the Companies Act, 1956 shall not apply to any registered trade union, and that the registration of any such trade union under any such Act shall be void.

Trade Unions in India

  1. The credit for the first association of Indian workers is generally given to the Bombay Mill-Hands Association founded by N.M. Lokhande in 1890.
  2. This was in the period just after the passing of the ‘First’ Factories Act in 1881 by the British Government of the time.
  3. The following years saw the formation of several labour associations and unions.
  4. The first clearly registered trade-union is considered to be the Madras Labour Union founded by B.P. Wadia in 1918.