January 2019

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Lopsided spatial development in India needs to be fixedop-ed snap


Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MoHUA Schemes

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues, related to Lopsided spatial development in India, in a brief manner.


  • India’s unprecedented economic growth during the last two decades has been spearheaded by lopsided spatial development, with clusters of economic activity concentrated in a few highly dense megacities.
  • Engines of growth have failed to spread to less dense secondary cities.


  1. A majority of the population in India still lives outside megacities, this has created huge spatial disparities. Uneven spatial development is common in many countries, but it is much more pronounced in India.
  2. Unlike in China, Europe and the US, where the engines of growth and job creation have spread to the secondary cities, in India medium-sized cities remain mired in joblessness and poverty.
  3. Policymakers frown upon unequal spatial disparities and this has increased the importance of inclusive spatial development in our development discourse.

Why is India’s spatial development so lopsided?

  1. India’s manufacturing sector is spatially spreading at a much faster pace than the services sector. However, the manufacturing sector has not spread to all districts. Only those districts that have improved their physical and human infrastructure have attracted manufacturing enterprises.
  2. India’s services sector, a bigger engine of growth and job creation, has experienced different spatial evolution trends. High-density service clusters have continued to grow at a much faster pace than less dense areas and more dense locations have become more concentrated over time.
  3. This stands in contrast with the US, where in the last decades services have tended to grow fastest in medium density locations, such as Silicon Valley. India’s experience is not common to all fast-growing developing economies.

Why is India’s spatial evolution so different?

  1. One explanation is that while India’s megacities suffer from severe congestion costs, they also benefit from huge agglomeration economies and knowledge spillovers.
  2. The Fourth Industrial Revolution and new technology have favoured the trade-offs toward a concentration in services and a spread of maturing manufacturing.
  3. Modern services are benefitting more from knowledge spillovers compared to the manufacturing sector. This explains why agglomeration economies in services is likely to dominate congestion costs even in megacities, thus allowing high-density locations in India to grow at a much faster pace.
  4. It is more likely that the megacities in India are more successful not because they are less congested, but because spatial development policies and frictions are preventing the secondary cities from growing.

Future spatial trends

  1. Like spatial evolution experience of China and the US, India’s engines of growth and job creation will be in its secondary cities and not megacities.
  2. The relatively slow-growing Indian districts will grow much faster in the future.
  3. Of the well-known IT clusters in India, the medium-density places, such as Ahmedabad, Pune and especially Bengaluru, will have high growth rates in the future, while the high-density places, such as Chennai and Mumbai, will slow down.

Way Forward

  1. Engines of growth and job creation are not tied to big cities. Services can spread spatially at a much faster pace than the manufacturing sector and contribute to more inclusive growth.
  2. For this to happen, policymakers will need to improve access to telecommunication and post-secondary education in secondary cities.
  3. It is unfortunate that the services sector, which has contributed more to growth and job creation than manufacturing during the last two decades, has not got a seat at the table in our development discourse.
Posted on | Custom
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] An Answer To Rural Distressop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Transport & marketing of agricultural produce & issues & related constraints

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: APMC Act, Basics of MSP, Agriculture Schemes.

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues, related to the Rural distress and ways to resolve it, in a brief manner.


  • There’s nothing new about rural distress. Nor is it surprising. The issue is as much political as it is economic.
  • A systemic crisis in farming goes back to probably the entire post-reform period.
  • Rural India’s deepening distress unfolds against the canvas of policy-driven inequality over the past two decades.

What’s the problem?

  1. The monsoon behaviour has been very erratic and farmers have been facing the problems of severe drought for the past few years.
  2. Fortunately, there is a bumper crop [unusually large crop growth and harvest] this year, but farmers are not satisfied with the procurement price.
  3. They are, therefore, unable to repay loans they have taken, both from institutional sources and private moneylenders.
  4. And without doing so, they will not be eligible for fresh credit for the Rabi [winter] crop. This is one of the reasons why they have been demanding a loan waiver. 

Why the crisis?

  • The main reason for farm crises is the rising pressure of population on farming and land assets.
  • Government data show the average farm size in India is small, at 15 hectare, and since 1970-71, there has been a steady declining trend in land holdings.
  • The small and marginal land holdings (less than 2 hectares) account for 72% of land holdings, and this predominance of small operational holdings is a major limitation to reaping the benefits of economies of scale.
  • Since small and marginal farmers have little marketable surplus, they are left with low bargaining power and no say over prices.
  • Risk because of pests, diseases, shortage of inputs like seeds and irrigation, which could result in low productivity and declining yield; the lower remunerative price; the absence of marketing infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen adds to the financial distress of farmers.
  • Also, the predominance of informal sources of credit, mainly through moneylenders, and lack of capital for short term and long term loans have resulted in the absence of stable incomes and profits.
  • Farmers face price uncertainties due to fluctuations in demand and supplyowing to bumper or poor crop production and speculation and hoarding by traders.
  • The costs of farm inputshave increased faster than farm produce prices
  • The absence of a robust market for buying and selling forward-looking contracts
  • Uncertain policies and regulations such as those of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee, besides low irrigation coverage, drought, flooding and unseasonal rains, are some other factors that hit farmers hard.


Three significant solutions have been doing the rounds:

  1. Higher minimum support prices (MSPs)-
  • The irony of a MSP policy is that it pertains to a limited number of farmers.
  • As per NSSO 2012-13, less than 10 per cent of the country’s farmers sold their produce at MSPs — the percentage though is a little higher for sugarcane, wheat and rice farmers.
  • If one accounted for the increased procurement of pulses and oilseeds during 2016-17 and 2017-18, this percentage is still not likely to exceed 20 percent.
  • Moreover, MSP operations mostly benefit large farmers who have marketable surplus; these operations exclude much of country’s marginal farmers who produce little surplus.
  • Besides, the large inefficiencies and market distortions caused by a MSP-regime make it an unfavourable choice.
  1. Loan waivers-
  • As per NABARD’s Financial Inclusion Survey (NAFIS), between July 2015-June 2016, 43.5 per cent of all agri-households took loans. Of these, 69.7 per cent took institutional loans — 60.5 per cent took only institutional loans and 9.2 per cent took both institutional and non-institutional loans.
  • This means that about 30.3 per cent (69.7 per cent multiplied with 43.5 per cent) of Indian agri-households took loans from institutions.
  • A loan-waiver is thus likely to benefit only this 30 per cent — even a subset of it, if conditions are imposed on loan waiver schemes.
  • The remaining 70 per cent of Indian farmers, who do not access institutional credit, will not benefit from this scheme.
  • Such high rates of exclusion must be the single-most important failure of our banking system with regard to financial inclusion.
  1. Direct income/investment support-
  • The third option, pioneered by the Telangana government is income/investment support through the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS). Telangana started RBS in May 2018, whereby it gave Rs 4,000 per acre to every farmer.
  • This transfer is made twice a year, coinciding with the two cropping seasons. By directly giving cash, the government aims to support the input purchases of farmers.
  • An RBS-style income transfer is likely to cost about Rs 2 trillion (with some improvisation to include tenants, and restrictions to the actual cropped area).
  • A price-deficiency based payment or actual procurement under MSP operations, if done at a large-scale, is going to cost about Rs 1 to 1.5 trillion (depending on whether market prices are 20 per cent or 30 per cent below MSP).
  • Such operations, of course, are likely to be prone to large-scale corruption.

Policy solutions ahead

  • A government panel aiming to double farmers’ income by 2022 has come up with a 13-volume report, but its final set of policy recommendations is still pending with the Agriculture Ministry.
  • It is expected to focus on ways to ensure sustainability of production, monetisation of farmers’ produce, re-strengthening of extension services and recognising agriculture as an enterprise and enabling it to operate as such by addressing structural weaknesses.
  • This week, the Cabinet approved an agriculture export policy, lifting restrictions on organic and processed food, which it hopes will double farm exports by 2022 and widen the market for domestic produce.
  • Farmers groups are urging political parties to support two private member Bills introduced in the last session of Parliament for guaranteed implementation of MSP and a comprehensive loan waiver and debt reduction scheme.
  • However, they have also come out with a wider charter of demands, which deals with input costs, social security, farm workers employment, land rights, irrigation, agro-ecology, crop insurance and contract farming.

Way Forward

  • The time is ripe for action; one hopes the government acknowledges the reality of farm distress and tries to resolve it on priority.
Posted on | Custom
J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] In 2019, a new Outreachop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic aspects of Polity, Developmental Schemes for J&K.

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues, related to the J&K, in a brief manner.


  • Given the developing regional geopolitical environment at the end of 2018, the feasibility of any movement towards “meaningful” engagement with Pakistan in 2019 appears remote. This will have the maximum impact on the situation in J&K.
  • The governor’s administration gamely attempts transformational governance without the baggage of politics, what it could be missing out on are the much-needed and oft-demanded initiatives of public outreach.


  • J & K Valley’s prolonged anti-India protest; rising insurgency in Kashmir, intense counter- insurgency operation has caused acute distress in the region. Demand for the political outreach emerged to prevent radicalisation of local youth which is the topmost concern for the Indian security establishment.
  • The political community is largely marginalised in the Valley heartland due to personal security issues and the local administration, despite having some experienced officials, cannot initiate social outreach measures.
  • Operations by security forces have resulted in neutralising a large number of terrorists, mostly local. But, they have created an almost similar number of terrorists through recruitment and infiltration, leaving us in sheer quantified terms, where we began in 2018.
  • There can be little doubt that the stabilisation of the security situation is necessary for the emergence of initiatives in political, social and economic spheres.
  • Prime Minister mentioned in his Independence Day declaration that ‘Neither by bullet nor by abuses but only by an embrace we can solve the problem of Kashmir’.
  • While the army’s Operation Sadbhavna (a military civic action initiative of 20 years) has helped in extending marginal outreach, the lack of mass engagement has prevented the development of any perception change and the creation of alternative narratives to counter the propaganda from Pakistan and the separatists.
  • The army’s initiatives are personality and formation based; the J&K Police is far too embroiled in policing issues. The CRPF, deployed in strength in the urban areas, has been insufficiently used.

What escalated the unrest in J&K?

  1. Radicalisation played a major role, though its impact was felt in other parts of the country as well, as several men were arrested for being inspired by the Islamic State.
  2. Brainwashing via the Internet played a key role.
  3. Poor and Unemployed youth can easily be targeted by radicalists.
  4. It was a concerted effort by some to radicalise the youth to spread violence.
  5. It’s been closely watched and took several steps to ensure that the youth don’t fall for such propaganda.


  1. Isolated efforts by different organisations prevent the emergence of a cogent strategy.
  2. There are four areas in this “outreach strategy” that need refinement and coordination by all stakeholder organisations. The intelligence agencies need to provide their support.

The first involves direct outreach-

  • A model for that exists from 2010-12 when the army successfully undertook the conduct of public meetings or “awami sunwais” in the field in areas where the reach of the administration had become marginal.
  • Local problems that were languishing over time were corrected by officials through direct contact with the people. It gave an opportunity to the leaders and the administrators to listen to the people.
  • A deliberate effort was made to engage with the youth through meetings at universities and schools, something that is difficult to imagine today.
  • The recruiting rallies for different central and state institutions must be exploited for such windows of engagement, as the youth is usually in a different frame of mind while seeking employment opportunities.

The second element is to engage the clergy and, through that route, seek its cooperation in messaging the youth and others on the uniqueness of the Indian system.

  • The clergy has a powerful hold over the public in any Islamic society — to the less informed, this need not necessarily give the perception that it is an unnecessary boost to the position of the clergy that might prove counterproductive later.

The third aspect of the strategy is the exploitation of social media, as much as the countering of online propaganda.

  • Surprisingly, intelligence agencies, the MHA itself and the army’s public information directorate, have all understood the concept but are hesitant to join forces due to lack of trust and the potential loss of individual space.
  • The army’s focused information warfare at the Corps and Command level is simply outstanding, but exists in isolation.
  • The need for 5,000 young civilian “information warriors” under the aegis of a joint organisation under the Unified Command in J&K. It will give the requisite continuity, technology and content support to the campaign.

The fourth, and final domain, is the setting aside of the mutual fears of the people of J&K and bringing the people of Ladakh into this ambit as well.

  • If the people of these regions have to live together as an entity of one state, they need to stop suspecting each other.
  • Through the ambit of the central and other universities in the state, we need to create a platform for the “meeting of minds” from all three regions and from different professions and callings.

Way Forward

  1. Operation All Out will no doubt continue successfully through 2019, but it should become a supporting campaign to the four initiatives outlined above instead of the other way around.
  2. J&K needs a coordinated effort from all stakeholder organizations.
Posted on | Custom
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

70 point Performance Index to assess states on schooling systemPriority 1


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: 70 Point Grading Index

Mains level: Schooling Reforms


  • A 70 Point Grading Index for assessing schooling systems across states, four year integrated BEd to train teachers for Std. 1 to 10 and the Digital Board are three of the key missions that the government will drive to implementation before it enters the next general election cycle.

70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI)

  1. The government will use a 70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI) to assess areas of deficiency in each state’s school education system.
  2. The 70 indicators will grade state schooling systems on areas like number of existing teacher vacancies, number of direct entry recruitments especially at leadership positions, school infrastructure etc.
  3. The Index will assess states on a 1,000 point grading system with 10-20 points per parameter- is aimed at helping states understand where they may be lagging behind.
  4. It will thus prioritize areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
  5. The NITI Aayog which was earlier developing its own School Education Quality Index, will be using 33 of the 70 criteria under the PGI for their own assessments.

Why such move?

  • The move is in keeping with the government’s overall thrust on quality improvement, teacher training and learning outputs.

Enhanced training of Teachers

  1. The HRD ministry is also readying plans to launch a four year integrated Bachleors in Education (Bed) course next year.
  2. This will be an integrated course to prepare teachers holistically for teaching from Class 1 to Class 10 level.
  3. This course will have a strong focus on internship and be launched with teacher training institutes under Central Universities and state universities besides private institutes that opt to go for it.
  4. The idea is as much to create a pool of well equipped teachers for the schooling system as to create a parity between teachers of all grades.
  5. The course structure will ensure modern pedagogical tools, e-learning material and global best practices.

Other measures

  1. NCERT is helping the HRD ministry set up a Central institute of Assessment to strengthen Continuous and Comprehensive Education/.
  2. It will handhold states in ensuring customized teacher training and work on pedagogical improvements.
  3. The Mission to equip every school with a Digital Board is also on full throttle to reach e learning material in various languages to schools.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Maharashtra farmers to get sops for using solar pumpsGovt. Schemes


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASKP Scheme

Mains level: Facilitating Irrigation through solar power


  • To encourage farmers to use solar agriculture pumps, the Maharashtra government has decided to give two LED bulbs, a DC fan and a mobile charging socket as freebies.

Atal Solar Krishi Pump (ASKP) Yojana

  1. Maharashtra govt. has launched ASKP scheme for farmers to provide subsidy of upto 95% on solar agriculture pumpsets.
  2. Farmers with less than 5 acres of land just need to day 5% i.e. Rs. 12,000 and get three horse power pump
  3. Farmers with more than 5 acres of land just need to pay Rs. 30,000 and get five horse power solar powered pump

Benefits of the Initiative

  1. The State aims to reduce losses due to non-payment of electricity bills and also promote solar energy by implementing the scheme.
  2. The scheme would be beneficial to farmers who reside in remote areas where the agricultural feeder is not possible.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Yellow Alert sounded as Cyclone Pabuk reaches A&N IslandsPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Cyclone Warning Systems of IMD

Mains level: Increasing incidences of tropical cyclones


Pabuk Cyclone

  1. A ‘yellow alert’ was issued in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Saturday as Cyclone Pabuk made its way towards the archipelago.
  2. The cyclone was originated over the Gulf of Thailand.
  3. It has moved west-northwestwards with a speed of 10 kmph and lay centred over Thailand and neighbourhood.

Weather Warning Systems

  1. Colour coded weather warning system is used to alert the public to the predicted severity of weather: cyclones, floods, storms and winds.
  2. The colour system ranges from green, which is low risk, to red, which is the highest risk of severe conditions.
  3. Lets overlook these:


  • Yellow level weather alerts is to notify those who are at risk because of their location and/or activity, and to allow them to take preventative action.
  • It is used for weather conditions that do not pose an immediate threat to the general population, but only to those exposed to risk by nature of their location and/or activity.


  • Orange level indicates the weather conditions which have the capacity to impact significantly on people in the affected areas.
  • Its issue implies that all recipients in the affected areas should prepare themselves in an appropriate way for the anticipated conditions.

3.  RED

  • Red level severe weather warnings should be a comparatively rare event and implies that recipients take action to protect themselves and/or their properties.
  • This is usually done by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily (evacuation), by staying indoors or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions.
  • It is in the case of a red weather alert that we could see serious disruption to public transport, road closures and school closures.
Railway Reforms

Railway sets out new rules for Security checksPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Ensuring security at Railway Stations


  • Railways is planning to seal stations just like airports and passengers would have to arrive 15-20 minutes before scheduled departure of trains to complete the process of security checks.

New Security Plan by RPF

  1. These are part of a security plan under the Integrated Security System (ISS) which was approved in 2016 to strengthen surveillance mechanism at 202 railway stations.
  2. It is primarily about identifying openings and to determine how many can be closed.
  3. There are areas which will be closed through permanent boundary walls, others will be manned by RPF personnel and yet others will have collapsible gates.
  4. At each entry point there will be random security checks.
  5. However, unlike at airports, passengers need not come hours in advance, but just 15-20 minutes ahead of their departure times to ensure that they are not delayed because of the security process.
  6. Passengers will be checked randomly — every eighth or ninth passenger will undergo the process on his arrival at the station.

About Integrated Security System

  1. The ISS will comprise CCTV cameras, access control, personal and baggage screening system and bomb detection and disposal system which together provide multiple checking of passengers and baggage from the point of entry in the station premises till boarding of train.
  2. The security plan envisages a layered security check where passengers will be scrutinised even before they enter the station premises to ease the pressure at stations during peak hours.
  3. It will also include real-time face recognition software which will alert the RPF command centre of any known offenders.
Make in India: Challenges & Prospects

Defence manufacturing rules easedGovt. Schemes


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SPG

Mains level: Indigenization of defence manufacturing


Opening up for Private Players

  1. The government issued a notification last week simplifying the process for approval of manufacturing of a range of defence and aerospace equipment and components by private industry.
  2. It is to be done by bringing them under the licensing authority of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

Warships included

  1. Items are listed in three categories — defence aircraft, warships of all kinds, and allied items of defence equipment.
  2. The most significant aspect is that warships of all kinds, surface and sub-surface, have been included in the listing.
  3. The industrial licensing has been terminated for ‘parts and components of the equipment’ which would benefit the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Foreign manufacturers

  1. This move is also expected to help foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) looking for partnerships with the private sector.
  2. The Defence Ministry has also formulated an ambitious Strategic Partnership (SP) model under the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).


Navigate to this page for more readings on SP Model in defence manufacturing:

Leg-up for private sector participation in defence equipment manufacturing