January 2019

Nuclear Energy

[op-ed snap] Jaitapur: A risky and expensive projectop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of nuclear technology, AERB,IAEA, Indian nuclear Programme.

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues and challenges of EPR in a brief manner.


  1. The idea of nlems, in the past few months, the Modi government has taken several high-level steps towards actuating the project.


  1. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly most controversial, yet critical part for India’s future energy security. As we know India’s annual energy demand is expected to rise to 800 GW by 2032, it is very important to consider every source of energy in the optimum energy mix.
  2. Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project is a proposed 9900 Megawatt project of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra. If and when completed, Jaitapur “will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world”.


  1. An impact assessment report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has strongly criticized the nuclear power plant being proposed at Jaitapur in the Konkan region.
  2. The report has indicated that the project – which requires about 968 hectares of land panning five villages – will have a huge negative impact on the social as well as environmental development of not just these villages and the surrounding areas, but also on the Konkan region in general.
  3. The findings suggest that the government subverted facts and called fertile agricultural land barren. It also says that the Jaitapur project is sitting on a high to moderate severity earthquake zone.


  1. The urgency is inexplicable as it comes before the techno-commercial offer has been examined and as earlier questions about costs and safety remain unanswered.
  2. Moreover, with the Indian power sector facing surplus capacity and a crisis of non-performing assets (NPAs), a large investment in the Jaitapur project is particularly risky.


  1. It is clear that electricity from the Jaitapur project will be more expensive than many other sources of electricity, including solar and wind power.
  2. Using international estimates of capital costs for EPRs from the 2010-2012 period, it is argued that first year tariffs would be around 15 per kilowatt-hour.

Delays and cost overrun

  1. Across the world, EPRs have experienced delays and cost increases. For instance, the first EPR entered commercial operation in December 2018 at the Taishan site in China, five years later than originally projected.
  2. Its final capital cost was estimated by industry sources to be “40% over the original estimate

High capital cost and NPA

  1. The high capital costs of the EPRs are of particular concern because power-generating capacity in India has grown faster than demand causing projects to run into financial difficulties.
  2. In March 2018, the parliamentary standing committee on energy listed 34 “stressed” projects, including NPAs and “those which have the potential to become NPAs”, with a cumulative outstanding debt of 1.74 lakh crore.
  3. The NPCIL’s debts would ultimately be underwritten by the Indian government, if the project encounters financial difficulties, the costs would fall on Indian taxpayers.

Safety problems

  1. Safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. The most serious of these pertained to the pressure vessel, which is the key barrier that prevents the spread of radioactive materials from the reactor.
  2. For instance, the EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland encountered problems with vibrations in the pipe that connects the primary coolant system with the pressuriser, which maintains the pressure of the water circulating in the reactor.

Indian nuclear Liability law issue

  1. The safety concerns are exacerbated by India’s flawed nuclear liability law. In the event of an accident, the nuclear liability law would require the public sector NPCIL to compensate victims and pay for clean-up, while largely absolving EDF of responsibility.
  2. Further, the Indian law provides NPCIL with a limited opportunity to obtain compensation from the French company Électricité de France (EDF) for the “supply of equipment… with… defects… or sub-standard services”.
  3. The “enforcement of India’s rules” in accordance with the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for nuclear damage, which severely limits the operator’s (NPCIL) right of recourse, i.e. not to exercise its right to claim compensation from EDF as allowed by Indian law.
  4. Thus, thereby EDF can escape with limited or no consequences even after a severe accident, having little material incentive to maintain the highest safety standards, particularly if the requirements of safety come into conflict with the imperative to lower costs.

Data secrecy

  • There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore.

Way forward

  1. Nuclear energy, though is critical for India’s energy security but is not panacea for the problem. People of India have right to have safe and sustainable energy.
  2. So future development should depend upon cost benefit analysis taking into account all the externalities involved in various components of energy mix.
  3. If this is done, it is most likely that policy will get incline strongly in favor of non-conventional sources of energy that is solar, wind and biomass.


Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)

  • The PWR uses regular water as a coolant.
  • The primary cooling water is kept at very high pressure so it does not boil.
  • Pressurized water reactors (PWRs) constitute the large majority of all Western nuclear power plants.
  • In a PWR, the primary coolant (water) is pumped under high pressure to the reactor core where it is heated by the energy generated by the fission of atoms.
  • The heated water then flows to a steam generator where it transfers its thermal energy to a secondary system where steam is generated and flows to turbines which, in turn, spin an electric generator.
  • In contrast to a boiling water reactor, pressure in the primary coolant loop prevents the water from boiling within the reactor.
  • PWRs were originally designed to serve as nuclear marine propulsion for nuclear submarines.
Coal and Mining Sector

[op-ed snap] Death traps: on Meghalaya’s illegal minesop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NGT, Geographical Aspects of Meghalaya

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues related to illegal mining in a brief manner.


  • The tardy response of the Centre and the State of Meghalaya to the plight of at least 15 workers trapped in a rat-hole coal mine since mid-December has exposed the extraordinary indifference in government to labour welfare and the law.


  1. Ongoing efforts to reach victims of a mining disaster in northeastern India have exposed what campaigners say is poor enforcement against such illegal mines, where undocumented workers risk injury or death.
  2. Environmental concerns have led to India imposing bans on the mining of coal, mica and sand, among other minerals. Yet, workers across the country continue to put themselves at risk as illegal mining continues.
  3. The most recent disaster highlighted the dangers of so-called “rat-hole” mines, where workers crawl into narrow shafts on bamboo ladders to extract low-quality coal.
  4. In Meghalaya, it is estimated that 5,000 rat-hole mines continue to function despite a ban imposed in 2014 by India’s environmental court, the National Green Tribunal.

Why is it very prevalent?

  1. In Jharkhand, the coal layer is extremely thick, where open-cast mining can be done.
  2. But no other method would be economically viable in Meghalaya, where the coal seam is extremely thin.
  3. Removal of rocks from the hilly terrain and putting up pillars inside the mine to prevent collapse would be costlier.
  4. So despite a ban, rat-hole mining remains the prevalent procedure for coal mining in Meghalaya.
  5. Rat-hole mining is the locally developed technique and the most commonly used one.
  6. It is not regulated by any law, and coal extraction has been made by unscrupulous elements in a most illegal and unscientific manner.
  7. Meghalaya’s annual coal production of nearly 6 million tonnes is mostly said to have come through rat-hole mining.

What are the impacts?


  • Rat-hole mining in Meghalaya had caused the water in the Kopili river (flows through Meghalaya and Assam) to turn acidic.
  • The entire roadsides in and around mining areas are used for piling of coal.
  • This is getting to be a major source of air, water and soil pollution.
  • Off road movement of trucks and other vehicles in the area causes further damage to the ecology of the area.

Risk to lives

  • Due to rat-hole mining, during the rainy season, water flood into the mining areas resulting in death of many.
  • If water has seeped into the cave, the worker can enter only after the water is pumped out.

Does Meghalaya not have a policy?

  • The NGT finds the 2012 policy inadequate. The policy does not address rat-hole mining and instead states: “Small and traditional system of mining by local people in their own land shall not be unnecessarily disturbed.”
  • In its 2015 order, the NGT observed: “The State of Meghalaya has promulgated a mining policy of 2012, which does not deal with rat-hole mining, but on the contrary, deprecates it.


Trafficked workers

  1. Illegal mining tends to attract workers from around India and neighbouring countries who are lured by the promise of relatively high wages, but are faced with dangerous conditions once they arrive.
  2. Workers in the coal mines are promised about 2,000 rupees ($28.46) per day, more than 10 times the average Indian daily wage.
  3. When the anti-trafficking charity Impulse NGO Network surveyed rat-hole mines in Meghalaya between 2007 and 2013, it found 1,200 children, many of whom were trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Mining -A death trap

  1. India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a coal miner, with one miner dying every six days on average in 2017, according to government data.
  2. The number is likely even larger, as deaths in illegal mines are common but often go unreported.

State apathy

  1. Although the primary responsibility for the operation of illegal mines lies with the State government, the Meghalaya government has been evasive on the issue of the continued operation of the illegal mines, in spite of the adverse findings of the Justice B.P. Katoki committee appointed by the NGT.
  2. As reported by the Katoki panel, it could be of the order of 24,000 mines, majority of them were operating illegally.
  3. Illegal mines continue to operate is flagrant violation of rules under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, the responsibility lies with the State government.
  4. Parliament was informed that 22 States had constituted a task force to review illegal mining and act on it, but Meghalaya does not figure in that list.

Way Forward

  1. State governments need to draw up protocols on how to monitor and enforce bans against illegal mining, while the central government must follow up as well.
  2. The State government should implement reforms and diversify employment away from dirty mining under primitive conditions over the years,
  3. The Justice B.P. Katoki committee had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.
  4. It is the responsibility of the Centre and the State to rehabilitate the workers from impoverished communities, reportedly including some child labourers, who are ready to undertake the risky labour.


Rat hole mining

  • It is a primitive and hazardous method of mining for coal, involves digging of very small tunnels, usually only 3-4 feet high, which workers (often children) enter and extract coal.
  • Rat-hole mining is broadly of two types. “In side-cutting procedure, narrow tunnels are dug on the hill slopes and workers go inside until they find the coal seam.
  • In the other type of rat-hole mining, called box-cutting, a rectangular opening is made, varying from 10 to 100 sq m, and through that is dug a vertical pit, 100 to 400 feet deep.
  • Once the coal seam is found, rat-hole-sized tunnels are dug horizontally through which workers can extract the coal.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[op-ed snap] The Centre moves Eastop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAARC, BIMSTEC, BCIM.

Mains level: The newscard discusses impact of B’desh election result on the sub-continent, in a brief manner.


  • Sheikh Hasina’s party, which leads the Grand Alliance, has romped back to power for an unprecedented fourth term in office.
  • The general election has given the Grand Alliance, or, more specifically, the Awami League, a huge majority in the Jatiyo Sangshad, the country’s Parliament, to a point where no effective Opposition is in sight.


What is India’s interest in the Bangladesh elections? Given India was an active player in the birth of this 47-year-old nation, Delhi has always looked out for Dhaka.

For India, Bangladesh is important for numerous reasons.

  1. Connectivity
  • Perhaps on top of the list is connectivity between India’s mainland and the crucial northeast, which is part of India’s “Look East” Policy.
  • The only connection between India’s mainland and the northeast was the Chicken’s Neck – a narrow strip of land that has always been a huge security concern. Snap the chicken’s neck and a huge part of the country is cut off.
  • India and Bangladesh have signed several pacts, so India can actually send goods and passengers over land across Bangladesh, connecting Bengal to Tripura.
  • Chittagong port, too, is now open to Indian vessels and will ease supply of goods, meaning India is much more connected to the northeast than before.
  1. Security
  • The other part of ensuring the security of the northeast is by ensuring that Bangladesh does not become a shelter for its insurgents.
  • It had played a sterling role, flushing out northeastern terrorists from Bangladesh and even handing over the once-dreaded ULFA terrorist Anup Chetia to India.
  • The other big security concern for India is that Bangladesh should not turn into the frontline of Islamic terror in the southeast — something that looked possible in the early 2000s when the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or the JMB, ruled the roost and its leaders like Bangla Bhai terrorised not just Bangladesh but India too. Bangladesh turned into a launchpad for Islamic terror activities in India.
  • It was Sheikh Hasina who proactively cracked down on groups like the JMB that had a free-run in the previous regime of Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
  • India’s relationship with Bangladesh is also linked to its relationship with China. India does not want Bangladesh to become a pearl in China’s “String of Pearls” strategy to hem in India by using its neighbours.
  • Given Bangladesh’s GDP and economic growth, the Indian industry is taking a serious interest in investing in the country. Sheikh Hasina has helmed an economic upswing in the country which the industry hopes will continue.

Significance of this election

  • First, for the first time in a decade, all the political parties took part in the election (the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or the BNP, boycotted the 2014 election). In other words, this time voting was based on an inclusive election.
  • Second, this was the first time a general election was held under a political governmentsince the fall of the Hussain Muhammad Ershad military regime in 1990.
  • The earlier stipulation of elections being supervised by a caretaker administration.
  • It stuck to the justified position that a government elected for five years cannot morally and logicallyhand over power to an unelected administration for three months before a new elected government comes into office.

Bangladesh transformation under the critical leadership of Sheikh Hasina

  • Bangladesh has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its per capita income has doubled over the last decade. It is all set to leave the category of “least developed countries”.
  • Hasina’s ambition is to accelerate the annual economic growth rate from the current 7 per cent to nearly 10 per cent by the time Bangladesh celebrates its 50th birthday in 2021.

What does this economic transformation of Bangladesh mean for the Subcontinent as a whole?

  1. Economic model
  • It has begun to change the economic hierarchy in the region, by displacing Pakistan in the second spot.
  • The per capita income and aggregate GDP of Bangladesh are $1800 and $275 bn respectively, is now larger than that of Pakistan’s at about $1600 and $310 bn.
  • Thus, there is urging in Islamabad to adopt the “Bangladesh model” — where the focus is on economic development rather than political adventurism and promoting religious moderation instead of extremism.
  1. Shift in centre of gravity
  • It alters the balance within South Asia by tilting the region’s economic centre of gravity towards the east.
  • The economic advancement of Bangladesh helps lift up the whole of the eastern Subcontinent, including India’s Northeast as well as Bhutan and Nepal.
  • It had chosen the path of regional cooperation, i.e. helped found the SAARC in the mid-1980s, re-vitalisation of the BIMSTEC forum.
  • Bangladesh is also critical for the success of Beijing’s plans to integrate its Yunnan province with Myanmar, Bangladesh and eastern India.
  1. Peaceful resolution of territorial issues
  • Bangladesh have peacefully resolved its maritime territorial issues with India and Burma through arbitration.
  • That opens up significant room for maritime economic and security cooperation within the Bay of Bengal. That in turn will deepen the integration between eastern Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Maintaining Balance in the Foreign Policy

  1. In the field of foreign affairs, the government has based its approach to the outside world on pragmatism, thus successfully preserving a balance in Bangladesh’s relations with India, China and Russia.
  2. The government has also found appreciation from the international communityin its treatment of the Rohingya refugees nearly 1 million refugees have found shelter in Bangladesh following their expulsion from Myanmar.
  3. It has gone out of its way to ensure the safety of the refugees even as it tries, rather fitfully, to strike a deal with Myanmar on the return of the Rohingya.
  4. For China, the most desirable long-term outcome would be to manage its relations with Dhaka in such a manner that Indian anxieties are assuaged and a regional win-win framework linking China-Bangladesh-India is a possibility.

Way forward

  1. The current challenges for Hasina are to consolidate her domestic agenda and balance her country’s relations with India and China the neighboring giants.
  2. While India enabled the creation of Bangladesh, it is a complex relationshipwith a number of areas of discord, including illegal immigration.
  3. In the next five years, it will be the government’s responsibilityto go beyond an emphasis on economic progress to ensure rule of law and democracy, in the form of a properly functional Parliament, a free judiciary, and an efficient executive.
  4. The rise of Bangladesh and the expanding regional cooperation centred around it allows us to imagine a positive future for the Eastern subcontinent and its integration with the dynamic East Asian region.

With inputs from: NDTV

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Cabinet approves 10% quota for EWS in general categoryPriority 1SC Judgements


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Bill, Various judgments mentioned

Mains level: Viability of providing Reservation to economically weaker sections and legal issues surrounding


  • The Union Cabinet has given its nod for a Constitutional amendment Bill providing 10 percent more reservation for economically weaker sections in direct recruitment (in Government jobs) and for admission in higher educational institutions.

Proposed EWS Quota

  1. The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as:
  • One having annual income below Rs 8 lakh;
  • Agriculture land below 5 acres;
  • Residential house below 1,000 sq.ft;
  • Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality and residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area.
  1. The income includes agricultural income; profession etc.

Legal Test of the EWS Quota

(A) Economic Basis

  1. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney Case (1992) specifically ruled whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.
  2. It categorically held that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.
  3. It may be a consideration or basis along with or in addition to social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.

(B) Quota Limit

  1. The judgment declared 50% quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.
  2. If the government proposes to bring a constitutional amendment to include the 10% quota for “unreserved economically weaker sections, the 11-judge Kesavananda Bharati judgment may stand in the way.
  3. The judgment held that constitutional amendments which offended the basic structure of the Constitution would be ultra vires.
  4. Neither Parliament nor legislatures could transgress the basic feature of the Constitution, namely, the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14.

Exceeding Quota Limit: Sacrificing the Merit

  1. The government proposes to bring the 10% over and above the 49% quota — 7% for SCs, 15% for STs and 27% for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, including widows and orphans of any caste, which is permitted.
  2. But a total 59% (49%+10%) quota would leave other candidates with just 41% government jobs or seats.
  3. This may amount to “sacrifice of merit” and violate Article 14.

Learning from States

  1. This proposed Bill finds an echo in an ordinance promulgated in Gujarat in 2016 which provided 10% quota to upper castes there.
  2. All the arguments here are based on the 104-page judgment of the Gujarat High Court in the DKVerma versus State of Gujarat, which quashed the ordinance in August 2016.

Reasons: Upholding DPSP

  1. Gujarat had justified the ordinance by referring to how Article 46 of the Constitution, which deals with the Directive Principles of the State Policy, required the State to promote weaker sections.
  2. It had categorised the 10% quota as a ‘reasonable classification’ under Article 14 and not ‘reservation’.
  3. It said the 50% ceiling limit in the Indira Sawhney judgment applied only to SC/ST and SEBC.
  4. The court observed that the “unreserved category itself is a class” and economic criteria was too fluctuating a basis for providing quota.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

New national policy for domestic workers being drafted, 40 lakh to benefitPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | 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: National policy for domestic workers

Mains level: Welfare measures for domestic workers and unorganized sector workers


  • The Ministry of Labour & Employment is set to formulate a National Policy on Domestic Workers for providing various social securities.

Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers

  1. In a bid to give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions, labour ministry is drafting the national policy.
  2. As per the National Sample Survey, there are an estimated 39 lakhs people employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
  3. Some of the salient features of the proposed draft are:
  • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations
  • Right to register as unorganized   workers
  • Right to form their own associations/unions
  • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
  • Right to enhance their skills
  • Protection against from abuse and exploitation
  • Access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
  • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies.
  • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.

Other Policy Measures

  1. The Centre is already implementing Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.
  2. The act aims to provide social security relating to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, old age protection to the unorganised workers including domestic workers.
  3. The ministry is also drafting a Universal Social Security Code that would cover even domestic workers, who are otherwise deprived of benefits such as medical insurance, pension, maternity and mandatory leave.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[pib] Formulation of a new Labour CodePIB


Mains Paper 2: Polity | 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: Basics of the proposed Code

Mains level:  Labour related legislation in India


Labour Code on Industrial Relations

  1. The Ministry of Labour & Employment has prepared a Labour Code on Industrial Relations, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the following three Labour Laws:-
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947,
  • The Trade Unions Act, 1926,
  • The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  1. The provisions of the draft Code have been discussed with stakeholders in various Tripartite Meetings and then finalized.
  2. Labour code on wages and industrial relations are two of the four codes that labour ministry had been working over the last few years.
  3. In line with recommendations of Second National Commission on Labour, ministry had formed four labour codes, namely wages, industrial relations, social security & welfare and occupational safety, health and working conditions.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism – NCA, Lok Adalats, etc.

Lok Sabha passes New Delhi International Arbitration Centre BillPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill 2018

Mains level: Arbitration mechanism in India – pros, cons, challenges and way forward


  • The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill 2018.

 Propositions of the Bill New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

  1. The Bill aims for creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalized arbitration and their better management so as to make it a hub for institutional arbitration.
  2. It will replace the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution set-up in the year 1995, which is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act.
  3. It is based on the opinion of the High Powered Committee appointed by the Centre that the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution has failed to address the growing needs of the institutional arbitration.


  1. The proposed New Delhi International Arbitration Centre will be a statutory body.
  2. It will consist of:
  • Chairperson,
  • Two eminent persons having substantial knowledge in international and domestic arbitration,
  • One representative of a recognized body of commerce,
  • Secretary to the Ministry of Law & Justice and
  • Finance Advisor and a Chief Executive Officer.

Eligibility Criteria for Members

  1. The Chairperson should have been a judge of the Supreme Court or High Court, or an eminent person having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration.
  2. He will be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  3. The two eminent persons and the representative of commerce body are to be appointed by the Central Government.

Objectives of the Arbitration Centre

  • to bring targeted reforms to develop itself as a flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration;
  • to promote research and study, providing teaching and training, and organising conferences and seminars in arbitration, conciliation, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution matters;
  • to provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation, mediation and arbitral proceedings;
  • to maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators both at national and international level or specialists such as surveyors and investigators;
  • to collaborate with other national and international institutions and organisations for ensuring credibility of the Centre as a specialised institution in arbitration and conciliation;
  • to set-up facilities in India and abroad to promote the activities of the Centre;
  • to lay down parameters for different modes of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms being adopted by the Centre

Assist this newscard with the op-ed given below:

[op-ed snap] Pushing institutional arbitration in India

No policy for rare diseases, govt declares ‘one-time financial assistance’Priority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Rare Diseases

Mains level:  Effectiveness of one-time financial assistance for the treatment of rare diseases


  • Days after withdrawing the national policy for treatment of rare diseases (NPTRD), the Union health minister announced a ‘one-time financial assistance’ in Parliament.

What are Rare Diseases?

  1. India does not have a definition of rare disease. However, World Health Organization (WHO) defines rare disease as often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder condition with a prevalence of 1 or less, per 1,000 population.
  2. Some common rare diseases are Haemophilia, Pompe disease, Thalassemia, Sickle-cell Anaemia and Gaucher’s disease
  3. India has recorded 450 of such rare diseases, according to the NPTRD 2017

Rare diseases in India

The  most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immuno deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

One-time Financial Assistance

  1. The standing finance committee has approved a proposal for adding a sub-component under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN).
  2. It would include a provision of one-time financial assistance to those below threshold poverty line for specified rare diseases which require one-time treatment
  3. While there is no registry of rare diseases patients in India, according to government’s own estimates, given in the national policy document, there are between 70-90 million patients.
  4. The cost of treatment varies from Rs 18-70 lakh according to the govt. study.

MPs’ panel proposes legal status for SSCPrelims Only


Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SSC, UPSC

Mains level: Various recruitment agencies and their mandates


Statutory Status for SSC

  1. A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) has recommended that the Centre accord statutory status to the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), one of the largest recruitment agencies in the country.
  2. The UPSC and all State PSCs either have constitutional or legal status.
  3. The SSC is the only such organisation that performs similar functions on a much larger scale, but does not enjoy statutory status.

Why such demand?

  1. The SSC was created to ease the burden of the UPSC by taking over the recruitment for posts below the Group ‘A’ level.
  2. There has been a phenomenal increase in the workload of the SSC, from 9.94 lakh candidates in 2008-09 to over 2 crore in 2016-17.
  3. While the workload and responsibilities of the SSC have increased exponentially over the years, it has remained an “attached body” under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

What Statutory status implies for SSC?

  1. SSC has to depend entirely on the government for all its needs, with no autonomy.
  2. Statutory status to the SSC would contribute to greater functional autonomy, faster decision-making and efficiency in the overall performance and delivery of results by the SSC in the recruitment process.

Present Scenario

  1. At present, the SSC has sanctioned staff strength of 481 officers but is functioning with 75% of its sanctioned strength.
  2. The SSC would be conducting the Common Eligibility Test at three levels — Matriculation, Higher Secondary and Graduation.
  3. This would attract around 5 crore candidates, making it the largest examination in the world.