January 2019
« Dec   Feb »

[op-ed snap] Where the rich got their way on the climate change convention at Katowice, Poland


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of COP24 and Climate Finance.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of climate change discussed in COP-24 of the UNFCCC, held at Katowice in Poland, in a brief manner.


  • The 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held at Katowice in Poland, brings little cheer on the climate front for developing countries.
  • With the passage of the “rulebook” for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the developed countries have largely succeeded in establishing a global climate regime that gives them the strategic advantage and assuages some of their core concerns.
  • This signals the making of a new, contradictory situation where the scope and complexity of the regime are fundamentally at odds with the very purpose for which the regime has been constructed.


  • At the heart of this strategic success is the substantial rollback of differentiation between the global North and South in climate action.
  • The first step of this process began with the Paris Agreement, when the developed nations were allowed to make voluntary commitments to climate mitigation, on par with the developing nations, without any benchmark to ensure the relative adequacy of their commitment.


Rulebook: Standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation

  • At Katowice the process went further, with uniform standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation for all countries.
  • These reporting requirements, while superficially impressive, appear in their true light when we realise that in their uniformity they are intended as much for Maldives as the U.S.
  • The real targets of this uniformity arenot the poorest nations, who have been provided exemptions, but the larger developing nations.
  • While all developing nations are ostensibly allowed flexibility in these reporting requirements, the concession has been hedged in with a number of conditions, with the intention of forcing them to full compliance in short order.
  • The reporting requirements are also marked by a pseudo-scientific concern for stringency, which is far in excess of the accuracy of climate science itself.
  • Indeed, the recent Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming at 1.5°C estimates substantial uncertainties in the quantum of cumulative global emissions that are still allowed before the global carbon budget of the world is exhausted.
  • In the face of such uncertainty, the requirement of reporting as little as 500 kilo tonnes or 0.05% of national emissions per country has little scientific significance.
  • More pernicious is the uniformity of the stringency in reporting being expressed in percentage terms.
  • Elementary mathematics informs us that a smaller percentage of the emissions of a large emitter will be a larger quantity in absolute terms compared to the larger percentage of emissions of a small emitter.


  • The crux of the problem is the contradiction between the onerous nature of these universal rules and the total lack of initiative by the developed countries in taking the lead in climate mitigation.
  • All developed countries continue to invest in fossil fuels either through direct production or imports.
  • Some do so because of the downgrading of nuclear energy due to domestic political pressures. Others are still trying to wean themselves off coal by shifting to gas.
  • Overall, as the International Energy Agency reports, the use of fossil fuel-based electricity generation continues to rise for OECD countries.

Special Report of the IPCC

  • In the event, the dispute that broke out at COP24 over whether the Special Report of the IPCC should be welcomed or merely noted must be considered a red herring.
  • Despite the vociferous pleas of the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States for the former choice, in the absence of adequate action, such symbolic gestures are clearly of little value.
  • Indeed, the report itself appears to have been used to generate a sense of urgency in stampeding countries into approval of the “rulebook” rather than point the way to more substantial mitigation by the developed nations.
  • The Special Report, for instance, did little to inspire the developed countries to increase the quantum of climate finance as well as speeding up its delivery.

Debate surrounding Climate finance

  • It has been the long-standing argument of the developing world that the bulk of climate finance must be from public sources.
  • In contrast, the developed countries have succeeded in putting other sources of finance, including FDI and equity flows, on par in the accounting of the flow of climate assistance that developing countries need.
  • As the “rulebook” stands today, private sector flows or loans, which will increase the indebtedness of developing countries, are to be considered adequate fulfilment of developed country obligations under the UNFCCC.
  • Much of the pressure exerted by developed countries at COP24 had the active backing and instigation of the U.S.
  • Despite the public posturing by other G-8 heads of state outside the climate summits, the marked synergy between the U.S. and its political and strategic allies in pushing through several critical elements of the “rulebook” was no secret.

India and COP24

  • India, despite its articulation of the need for equity in climate action and climate justice, failed to obtain the operationalisation of these notions in several aspects of the “rulebook”.
  • Even though it pushed for equity, particularly in the benchmarks for the periodic review of the Paris Agreement, it failed to press home its point.
  • Successive dispensations in New Delhi have fallen short of doing the needful in this regard.
  • In contrast, Brazil held its ground on matters relating to carbon trading that it was concerned about and postponed finalisation of the matter to next year’s summit.
  • Regrettably, while India has not been shy to hold out against the global nuclear order it has not extended this attitude to protecting its interests in the emerging global climate regime.
  • It is now evident that New Delhi underestimated what was at stake at Katowice and the outcome portends a serious narrowing of India’s developmental options in the future.
  • A number of environmental and climate think tanks, NGOs and movements have also done their share to disarm the government in the negotiations.
  • Buying uncritically into the climate narrative of the developed nations, they have been continually urging unilateral domestic action on moral grounds, while ignoring the elementary fact that global warming is a global collective action problem.
  • Despite the significant number of Indians at COP24, the broad articulation of India’s needs was at the lowest ebb seen in the last several years.


  • At the final plenary of COP24, the Like-Minded Developing Countries grouping echoed India’s reservations on the neglect of equity and climate justice in the final form of the “rulebook”, while the broader G77 plus China combine expressed its regret at the unbalanced nature of the outcome, with its undue emphasis on mitigation by all.
  • But with the “rulebook” nevertheless having been adopted, COP24 signals a global climate regime that benefits and protects the interests of the global rich, while leaving the climatic fate of the world, and the developmental future of a substantial section of its population, still hanging in the balance.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Alliances and strategic autonomy


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: Basics aspects of India’s Foreign Policy .

Mains level: The news-card analyses what should be the Indian Foreign Policy in context of present world order, in a brief manner.


  • Is “non-alignment” a special attribute of Indian foreign policy? Given Delhi’s continuing preoccupation with the idea of non-alignment, most visible recently at last week’s Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, one would think it is.


  • More than a hundred countries are members of theNon-Aligned Movement (NAM). They swear, at least formally, by the idea of non-alignment and show up at the triennial NAM summits. But few of them think of non-alignment as the defining idea of their foreign policies. Even fewer believe it is worth debating on a perennial basis.
  • The governments in Delhi might have been the last, but they have certainly moved away from the straitjacket of non-alignment — in practice if not in theory.


India is now “aligned”

  • The rhetoric has changed under the present government. As Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale put it in response to a question at the Raisina Dialogue, India is now “aligned”. “But the alignment is issue-based. “It is not ideological. That gives us the capacity to be flexible, gives us the capacity to maintain our decisional autonomy.”
  • If non-alignment belongs to the past, is “strategic autonomy” something unique to India? It isnot really. All countries, big and small, try to maximise their freedom of action.
  • And the autonomy that a nation can exercise depends on its specific circumstances such as size, location, comprehensive national power, and the nature of the threats among many other things.

The “independent” and “dependent” foreign policy

  • Take, for example, Pakistan. In Delhi’s foreign policy mythology — India chose an “independent” foreign policy and Pakistan a “dependent” one.
  • As the Cold War between America and Soviet Russia enveloped the world soon after Partition and Independence in the middle of the 20th century, India and Pakistan seemed to take opposite diplomatic paths.
  • India embraced non-alignment and refused to endorse America’s anti-Communist alliances.
  • Pakistan pooh-poohed non-aligned solidarity, calling it “zero plus zero is equal to zero”. It signed a bilateral defence pact with the US and joined the two regional security blocs — called Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) in the Middle East — and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in the Far East.

How then this change in stance?

  • The seeming ideological clarity that both India and Pakistan brought to their respective foreign policies dissolved quickly in the real world.
  • India, which had refused to join the West in isolating communist China and sought to befriend it, ended up in a conflict with Beijing. And when the border war broke out in 1962, India turned to the United States for military assistance.
  • Pakistan, which was quick to join the anti-Communist bandwagon did not take long to discover the convergence of interests with Maoist China.
  • Pakistan’s delegation went into the Afro-Asian summit at Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 with an anti-China orientation. It returned with an understanding of Pakistan’s shared interests with Beijing on balancing India.
  • The Chinese premier Zhou Enlai convinced Pakistan leader Mohammed Ali Bogra that Communist China is not a threat to Pakistan. Bogra, in turn, made it clear that Pakistan’s problem is not with communist expansion in Asia but with India.
  • The rest — the making of a very special bilateral relationship — is history. China has rarely complained since about Pakistan’s long-standing military relationship with the US.

Strategic Autonomy

  • That Pakistan could warm up to China so soon after it joined America’s anti-Communist alliances in Asia is probably one of the most impressive examples of exercising “strategic autonomy”. It was so successful that Pakistan became a bridge between China and the US at the turn of the 1970s.
  • Indian foreign policy community continues to be troubled by the question of alliances and autonomy when it comes to dealing with China and the US. It could, perhaps, find a thing or two from Pakistan that has managed these relationships quite well.

New Delhi’s fear of Alliances

  • Delhi’s traditional fear of alliances is based on a profound misreading of what they might mean.
  • Alliances are not a “permanent wedlock” or some kind of a “bondage”. They are a political/military arrangement to cope with a common threat. When the shared understanding of the threat breaks down, so does the alliance.
  • A couple of examples. To cope with the American threat Mao Zedong aligned with Soviet Russia in 1950. Two decades later, he moved closer to America to counter Russia. Now China is once again buddies with Russia in trying to limit American influence in Eurasia.
  • When Communist China walked into Tibet in 1949, the monarchy in neighbouring Nepal got India to sign a treaty in 1950 offering protection. Not too long after, Kathmandu figured China is not a threat and began to undo the security provisions of the 1950 treaty.


  • Not many countries in the world today are members of alliances. The few alliances that have survived since the Second World War are undergoing stress on the supply as well as demand side.
  • In America, President Donald Trump is questioning the costs and benefits of these alliances.
  • Presidents Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Moon Jae-in of South Korea, both treaty allies of the US, hardly share American perceptions on the regional threat in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula respectively.
  • Indiais a large and globalised economy with “big stakes in all parts of the world”.
  • The Indian foreign policy debate would be less metaphysical if it stops obsessing about “non-alignment” and “strategic autonomy” and starts focusing on a pragmatic assessment of India’s interests and the best means to secure them — including partnerships and coalitions — against current and potential threats.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] India’s a land of cities, not villages


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of challenges of urbanisation

Mains level: The news-card analyses the flawed definition of urbanisation in India, in a brief manner.


  • It’s an election year in India, with the world’s largest polls expected in the spring and the focus is, as usual, on farmers and rural areas and competitive pandering to both — hardly surprising in a country that considers itself a nation of villages.


  • This narrative, however, has one major flaw. India is, in fact, more urban than it is known or acknowledged.
  • This seriously affects India’s growth prospects, leading to inefficiencies and loss of productivity in both rural and urban areas.
  • What’s worse, the resulting misallocation of resources is making India’s blossoming urban areas well-nigh unlivable.


Problem of definition: What constitute an Urban area?

  • The problem in India as elsewhere is largely one of definition.What constitutes a city or urban area varies widely around the world.
  • Some nations employ simple population cut-offs: Mexico and Venezuela count any town with more than 2,500 residents as urban, while New Zealand uses 1,000 people.
  • Since 2000, the U.S. Census has focused instead on population density (above a minimum threshold of 2,500 residents).
  • China uses a density criterion of 1,500 people per square kilo-meter, but recently expanded the definition to include residents of villages that are directly connected to municipal infrastructure or that receive public services from urban municipalities.
  • In India, only “statutory towns” are considered urban and have a municipal administration — a definition that officially leaves the country 26 % urban.
  • State governments make the decision using widely differing criteria; demographic considerations are peripheral at times.
  • The Census of India provides the only other official, and uniform, estimate. Its formula uses a mix of population, density and occupation criteria, and pegs India at 31 % urban.
  • Such estimates can be misleadingly low. For instance, Kerala is statutorily only 16 % urban. Yet the census sees the well-developed southern state as approximately 48 % urban.
  • If we use a population cut-off of 5,000 residents as Ghana and Lebanon do, or even Mexico’s threshold of 2,500 people, Kerala’s urban share leaps to 99 %, which is more consistent with ground reality. In effect, then, a state that’s close to 100 % urban is being governed as if it was only 16 % urban.
  • This pattern plays out across many large Indian states. Using a reasonably conservative definition as Ghana does, in fact, India is already close to 50 % urban, far removed from the dominant narrative that India lives in her villages.

Implications and Challenges

  • The consequences of underestimating the urban share of the population are dire.
  • Resources are badly misallocated: By one estimate, over 80 % of federal government financing still goes to rural development.This reduces incentives for politicians, especially rural ones, to change the status quo.
  • Tens of millions of Indians who live in dense, urban-like settlements are governed by rural governments that lack the mandate and the money to deliver basic services.
  • In India, urban governments are constitutionally required to provide things such as fire departments, sewer lines, arterial roads and building codes. Local bodies in rural areas aren’t.
  • Not acknowledging towns as urban also encourages haphazard and chaotic development.
  • As satellite data clearly show, most cities extend well beyond their administrative limits, and dense, linear settlements spread out of those cities along transit corridors.
  • This growth is unregulated and unplanned, marred by narrow roads, growing distance from major thoroughfares, limited open space and haphazardly divided plots.

Example of Kozhikode

  • As the map below of growth in Kozhikode (formerly known as Calicut) between 1975 to 2014 shows, what appears to be a single economic unit is now governed by a multitude of rural and urban jurisdictions, with no mechanism to coordinate on mobility, public goods or municipal services.
  • It’s difficult and expensive to retrofit such cities with proper infrastructure and services: In the areas below, road widths fall from an average of 10 meters pre-1990 to four meters in new growth areas.

Way Forward: Need for standard definition

  • India is hardly the only country to face these problems, even though its size and level of development makes the challenge here particularly acute.
  • The planet is over 50 % urban and continues to urbanize rapidly, almost entirely in the developing regions of Asia and Africa.
  • As long as there are no standard definitions, urban-rural classifications are likely to be political, path-dependent and arbitrary.
  • This will deny many countries the vital scale and agglomeration economies provided by urban areas, a necessary condition for escaping poverty.
  • A universal definition would need to be flexible. Instead of imposing a simple population cut-off, governments could track population densities and offer more urban services where they are highest.
  • Additionally, satellite data can be used to track the spread of development, so that city boundaries are expanded when necessary and where logical.


  • Any attempt to create a common and well-understood urban definition will be politically fraught and contested. But such an effort is critical.
  • Whether millions get to live in the equivalents of Melbourne, Tokyo or Stockholm rather than Mumbai, Lagos or Kinshasa crucially depends on these choices.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Banks to review MUDRA loan book


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MUDRA scheme

Mains level: NPA Crisis


  • The Finance Ministry has asked the banks to review all loans sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, as the non-performing assets (NPA) have crossed Rs 11,000 crore within three years of the launch of the scheme.

Concerns over MUDRA

  1. The Mudra loan scheme has done very well.
  2. However, the rising NPAs under the scheme are a matter of concern.
  3. It is already three years and there is a need to review how the banks are sanctioning the loans.
  4. The RBI has already flagged its concerns regarding the bad loans to the government.

What went wrong?

  1. To push the scheme, there had been overemphasis on the banks to meet loan disbursal targets.
  2. In the race to meet the target, the credentials of loan-seekers were not being properly verified.
  3. In many instances, loans were being given without any collateral or security, making it difficult for banks to go after defaulters.

Critical Analysis of PMMY

  1. Critics of the scheme say that too many best practices in loan origination have been neglected while authorising and disbursing loans.
  2. Even if loans are sought by business owners genuinely seeking growth and bankers disburse them with an eye on economic development, ensuring repayment is still a challenge.
  3. First, these loans are unsecured a collateral that could protect the interests of the bank is not required, unless an asset that is purchased can itself serve as collateral.
  4. Secondly, the scheme is meant for those who need small amounts, but do not have access to such funds.
  5. But the very nature of the business of such borrowers is susceptible to volatility and annual cycles, not to mention the itinerant ways of some business owners, such as vegetable vendors.
  6. They may choose one location for their place of business on a day, and another elsewhere in their city the next day.
  7. Further, the public banking system may not be staffed for work this may entail.
  8. When it comes to collection, bank staff may choose to go after one loan with outstanding of ₹10 lakh, for example, rather than 10 loans of ₹1,00,000 each.


Mudra Scheme

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana: Funding the unfunded

Microfinance Story of India

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC)


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AWC

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


  • The first day of Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2019 showed an increase in the bird count from last year and almost doubles that of 2017.

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC )

  1. AWC, the largest such census in Asia, is organised by Wetlands International, is an international programme that focuses on monitoring the status of waterbirds and wetlands.
  2. The data collected each year is shared by Wetlands International with global conservation organisations such as IUCN and Ramsar Convention, while state coordinators share data with local wildlife departments to ensure conservation and sustainable management of wetlands in the region.
  3. It also aims to increase public awareness on issues related to wetland and waterbird conservation.
  4. The census is carried out each January as a voluntary activity at national and local level.
  5. The AWC is co-ordinated by Wetlands International as part of global programme, the “International Waterbird Census”.
  6. The AWC was started in 1987, and many birders were initiated into bird counting and monitoring through this project.
  7. To take part one simply has to visit a wetland and count the birds he/she see there.

Objectives of AWC

  1. To obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January), as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations.
  2. To monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands.
  3. To encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst people, and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the region.

AWC in India

  1. In India, the AWC is annually coordinated by the Bombay Natural history Society (BNHS) and Wetlands International.
  2. BNHS is a non government Organisation (NGO) founded in the year 1883.
  3. It engages itself in the conservation of nature and natural resources and also in the research and conservation of endangered species.
  4. Its mission is to conserve nature, primarily biological diversity through action based on research, education and public awareness.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Sakhi One Stop Centre


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sakhi OSCs

Mains level: Women Safety Issues


  • More than 1,90,000 victims across the country have accessed the OSCs, sponsored by the Centre under the Nirbhaya fund .

Sakhi One Stop Centre                                          

  1. Ministry of WCD has formulated a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for setting up One Stop Centre, a sub – scheme of Umbrella Scheme for National Mission for Empowerment of women including Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana.
  2. It is a scheme sponsored under the Nirbhaya fund set up for safety of women after the gang rape of a paramedical student in December 2012 in New Delhi.
  3. It being established across the country to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces in phased manner.
  4. The scheme envisages an OSC for medical, legal, psychological and police help for victims of gender-based abuse such as sexual assault or domestic violence.
  5. So far, 234 OSCs have been set up and 485 more are in the pipeline to cover all 719 districts in the country.
  6. According to government data shared before Parliament, more than 1,90,000 women across the country have accessed these centres.

Functioning of the OSCs

  1. When a victim of domestic violence comes here, she is asked what relief she wants.
  2. If she wants a compromise, the husband is called and both of them are counselled.
  3. After this, she is asked to sign on an agreement letter and is sent back to her home and a follow-up is conducted.
  4. If a rape victim comes to the centre , it is first ascertained whether she is speaking the truth.
  5. First the centre in-charge speaks to her and then a counsellor cross-examines her.

Ending up with a Compromise

  1. According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, Ajmer ranked third among all districts in Rajasthan in terms of crimes against women and recorded 1,303 cases.
  2. Of these 792 or 60% of crimes pertained to cruelty by husband or his family.
  3. Between October 2017 and December 2018, the centre has seen a total of 472 cases.
  4. Nearly 84% of these are cases of domestic violence and “compromise” is considered the most important way of resolving matters between spouses.
  5. A register on follow-up of cases records one-line remarks and the most common among them is, “everything is fine”.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[pib] First-ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award presented to PM Modi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Philip Kotler Presidential Award

Mains level: Not Much


PM gets Philip Kotler Award

  1. Hon’ble PM Mr. Modi is awarded the “first ever” Philip Kotler Presidential Award by the World Marketing Summit India.
  2. The Award focuses on the triple bottom-line of People, Profit and Planet. It will be offered annually to the leader of a Nation.
  3. The award acknowledges his pioneering works such as: Make in India, Digital India, Aadhar and Swachh Bharat.

About Philip Kotler Presidential Award

  1. Philip Kotler is a world renowned Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.
  2. The World Marketing Summit Group was founded by him in 2011.
  3. The WMS Group signed an agreement with Kotler Impact (its own marketing and sales partner) and Suslence Research International Institute Pvt Ltd, an Aligarh-based company established in 2017, to hold WMS in India for three years.
  4. The Kotler awards for marketing excellence were given following a nomination process, which required applicants to pay fees as high as Rs 1 lakh.
  5. Neither Philip Kotler or Professor Jagdish Seth, who presented the award to Modi at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, have tweeted or shared information on their websites about participating in the jury.
  6. However, the certificate presented to Modi bears Kotler’s signature, presumably as part of the 2018 agreement to use his name for awards.

[pib] Voter Awareness Forums for promoting awareness on electoral process


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: VAF

Mains level: Voter Awareness


Voter Awareness Forums

  1. Voter Awareness Forums will be set up in Ministries, Government Departments, Non-Government Departments and other Institutions to promote electoral awareness.
  2. Voter Awareness Forums are informal Forums for generating awareness around electoral process through activities like discussions, quizzes, competitions and other engaging activities.
  3. VAF is part of the Electoral Literacy Club programme of ECI.

Electoral Literacy Club

  1. Launched on the 8thNational Voters Day, 25th January 2018, the ELC programme envisages setting up of Electoral Literacy Club in every educational institution.
  2. The ECI also aims to set up Chunav Pathshala at every booth to cover those outside the formal education system.
  3. The ELCs and Chunav Pathshala activities are conducted by the Convener using a resource Guide where step by step instructions are given for conducting each activity.
  4. Separate Resource books have been developed for Class IX, X, XI and XII.
  5. A calendar of activities in a year has also be indicated. Total of 6-8 activities, with specific learning outcome, running into approximately 4 hours in all, have been identified for each class.
Electoral Reforms In India