[op-ed snap] Foreign policy needs consensus


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s relationship straining due to state’s interference in foreign policy issues and effects of it.



States play an important role in foreign policymaking. A consensus based approach is required for benefit of subcontinent,


  • One of the interesting foreign policy ideas that this government unveiled early in his tenure, was to enhance the role of states in India’s engagement with the world.
  • The NDA government created a “states division” in the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the international interactions of the state governments on a range of issues
    • from promoting trade and tourism to attracting foreign investments.
    • It has also hosted visiting dignitaries in state capitals.

Effects of Challenges  in integrating states with foreign policy in past

  • The problem of finding common ground with state chief ministers on developing effective neighbourhood policies has not disappeared.
  • In West Bengal, then CM wrecked carefully prepared visit by Prime Minister  to Bangladesh in 2011.
  • Although the state government officials had participated in the negotiation of an agreement on sharing the Teesta river’s waters, CM vetoed the agreement hours before the PM’s meeting with Sheikh Hasina.
  • It brought into stark relief Delhi’s inability to deliver on initiated agreements.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the imperative of keeping the Dravidian parties happy made it hard for Delhi to pursue a sensible policy towards Sri Lanka.
  • Under pressure from Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu, including senior figures like P Chidambaram, PM Singh cancelled plans to attend the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo.

Changes in policy discourse due to the majority in parliament

  • As part of his early tours in the neighbourhood, Modi travelled to Sri Lanka and launched intensive dialogue with both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
  • A majority in the Lok Sabha helped Modi to prevent the Sri Lanka policy becoming a hostage to Chennai politics.

Questions regarding the future of foreign policy if a coalition government is formed in 2019

  • Can the next government pursue productive engagement with Colombo if its survival depends on support from the Dravidian parties?
  • Can a weak coalition in Delhi balance the explosive political dynamic in Assam on the citizenship issue with the need to strengthen the partnership with Dhaka?
  • Can the next government consult the chief ministers of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to improve strained ties with Nepal?


  • Prospects for a sensible neighbourhood policy can’t rest solely on having single-party governments at the Centre and “responsible” CMs in the border states.
  • India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.
  • If the political classes choose to turn every problem in the neighbourhood into a domestic contestation, Delhi’s adversaries will continue to gain ground in India’s neighbourhood.
  • The current intense politicisation of ties with Pakistan might seem like an exception. But similar dangers lurk on all of India’s frontiers.


[op-ed snap]Paradigm shift for TB control


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: Not Much

Mains level:Tamilnadu pilot model to curb TB infection as a guide to other initiatives.



Tuberculosis (TB) remains the biggest killer disease in India, outnumbering all other infectious diseases put together — this despite our battle against it from 1962, when the National TB Programme (NTP) was launched.


  • In 1978, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) began, giving BCG to all babies soon after birth and achieving more than 90% coverage.
  • In 1993, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death.
  • However, treatment is not prevention. Prevention is essential for control.

The effectiveness of these programmes

  • Yet, when evaluated in 1990, the NTP and the EPI had not reduced India’s TB burden.
  • Why did the NTP and the EPI fail?
    • Visionary leaders had initiated a BCG vaccine clinical trial in 1964 in Chingelpet district, Tamil Nadu.
    • Its final report published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 1999.
    • It held that BCG did not protect against TB infection or adult pulmonary TB, the ‘infectious’ form.
    • BCG immunisation does prevent severe multi-organ TB disease in young children, and must be continued but will not control TB.
  • By 2014-15, the RNTCP was found to be very successful in reducing mortality, but failing to control TB. Why?
    • From when a person becomes infectious to when he/she turns non-infectious by treatment, there is a gap of several weeks during which the infection saturates contacts in the vicinity.
    • Delays in care seeking and diagnosis are the result of lack of universal primary health care.

Tamil Nadu Pilot Model to control TB infection

  • Tamil Nadu is planning to implement new strategy in one revenue district, Tiruvannamalai.
  • To ensure public participation — a missing element in the RNTCP — the new model will be in public-private participation mode.
  • The Rotary movement, having demonstrated its social mobilisation strengths in polio eradication, will partner with the State government in the TB control demonstration project.
  • Tiruvannamalai, a pioneer district in health management, was the first in India (1988-90) to eliminate polio using the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
  • The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and the National Health Mission will lead all national, State and district health agencies, district and local administration, departments of education, social welfare and public relations and government medical college.
  • The Rotary will ensure the participation of all players (health and non-health) in the private sector.

Other steps to control TB infection

  • The Rotary will spearhead public education for behaviour modification, starting in all schools and continuing through to adults.
  • Progression to TB disease from infection can be prevented by giving World Health Organisation-recommended short-term ‘preventive treatment’.
  • Infection is silent, but diagnosable with the tuberculin skin test (TST).
  • Cohorts of schoolchildren (5, 10 and 15 years) can be tested and those TST positive given preventive treatment.
  • On March 13, 2018, the Prime Minister, who was inaugurating the End TB Summit, declared that India would end TB by 2025.

Way Forward

  • A strategy of simultaneously using all biomedical and socio-behavioural interventions can help in controlling infection.
  • Ending TB by 2025 is impossible but pulling the TB curve down by 2025 and sustaining the decline ever after is a possibility.
  • Tamil Nadu, an erstwhile global leader in TB research during the 1960s through the 1990s, will now become the global leader in TB control.






Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

[op-ed snap]The point of having democracy


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Secularism

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issue of nationalism, secularism in democracy and how to revive vision of prosperous India.




While elections may be an integral part of democracy, surely they are not its end. The people, and the content of their lives matter more. However, going by the actions of political parties when in power and their pronouncements when they are not, the end of democracy gets overlooked in the political process in India.

The relevance of  Nationalism and secularism in democracy

  • Two constructs have repeatedly been projected by the main political formations in the country. These are nationalism and secularism.
  • The concepts of nationalism and secularism have proved to be quite that in the use to which they are put by India’s political parties.
  • Actually, it is possible for nationalism and secularism to be part of state policy even in the absence of democracy.
  • Thus both Iran under the last Shah and Iraq under Saddam Hussein ran a secular state, though they were both dictators.
  • The People’s Republic of China is so nationalist that even its socialism is said to be imbued with ‘Chinese characteristics’.
  • Its state is not just secular but avowedly atheist. However, it is not a democracy.
  • What is at stake here is that democracy is meant to be something more than just nationalism and secularism.

Nationalism and securing the national interest

  • Once we have imagined ourselves as a democratic community we must defend our national interest.
  • Threats to India come from two sources.
    • There are authoritarian regimes in the region that are hostile to India.
    • Second, the western powers have captured global bodies to promote their economic and political interests, for which think of the multilateral agencies that attempt to prise open India’s market without yielding the West’s to migration.

Secularism and its maintenance

  • A democracy cannot allow any religious influence on the state’s actions.
  • However, there is a reality in India today that requires a contextual understanding.
  • This would require the secular state to go beyond this limited brief to protect religious minorities.
  • The relevance of this is brought home by an incident that took place on Holi day when a gang of hoodlums, attacked without provocation, a Muslim family including young children with iron roads in broad daylight in Gurugram outside the national capital.

History of Political response to construct of nationalism and secularism

  • Nationalism or national pride has shown itself to be a means to establish Hindu majoritarian rule, a project with potentially destructive consequences for the country.
  • For its part, over the past 30-plus years the Congress party has often resorted to a sham secularism, the high mark of which came in the form of its response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Shah Bano case.
  • Some years earlier, at the moment of the ending of colonial rule, Nehru had stated that it was an opportunity to create a “prosperous, democratic and progressive” India.

Is Just society a possibility for India?

  • In the close to three-quarters of a century since, the goal of Indian democracy had been articulated prosperity is not in sight for the vast majority.
  • On the other hand, a section of Indians has surged ahead economically.
  • For the rest of the country, however, it is an ongoing struggle to earn a living.
  • A just society must seem far away to these Indians.
  • But a just society by just means is no longer a pipe dream, it is entirely feasible, and in our times at that.
  • The pathway to it lies in adopting the right public policies, and it is in the hands of India’s political parties to do so.

Addressing economic Growth

  • Public policy should now shift gear to launch an assault on the capability deprivation which underlies India’s low human development indicators.
  • The poorly educated millions are helplessly caught in the eddies of a market economy.
  • Their skills do not match what is required for them to earn a decent living.
  • Overcoming this requires two actions to be undertaken.
    • It would require committing resources to education and training and then governing their use.
    • The second task of public policy in India at this moment is to raise the tempo of economic activity. Jobs are an issue.

Way Forward

  • The government cannot create jobs directly but it can create the preconditions.
  • It does so through public investment and macroeconomic policy.


Amateurish economic management is responsible for rising unemployment. India’s political parties cannot say that the pathway to the ends of democracy has not been shown to them. If they fail to take the country there, they must assume responsibility.

Explained: How rocks in Meghalaya cave connect Northeast monsoon to El Niño


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: El Nino, Karst Topography

Mains level: Impact of El-Nino


A new study led by researchers from a US university, on the rock formations in a cave near Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, has found new evidence to suggest that India’s winter rainfall are influenced by the state of the ocean waters in the faraway Pacific.

El Niño & monsoons

  • India’s summer monsoon which brings in about 70% of annual rainfall in the country, is already known to be heavily influenced by the variability in sea-surface temperatures of Pacific Ocean.
  • This is a condition referred to as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
  • A warmer than usual Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America, is known to suppress the monsoon rainfall in India.

Connection with retreating Monsoon

  • This relationship is not so strongly established with the winter monsoon, also called as the northeastern monsoon, which occurs during the months of October, November and December.
  • It is vital for several regions in the Northeast and India’s eastern coast.
  • More than 50% of the annual rains in coastal Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, and Kerala comes during these winter months.
  • ENSO is known to have an impact on the winter monsoon as well but is weaker and opposite.
  • The warming of sea-surface waters, for example, is seen to help winter rainfall rather than suppressing it.
  • The impact varies in time and space. The influence is weaker in October and stronger in November and December.

Deducing monsoon variations from stalagmites

  • The latest study claims to have found new evidence to suggest that the state of Pacific Ocean do indeed impact the winter rains.
  • Their findings are based on more than three years of research on stalagmites (mineral deposits, mainly limestone, in caves) of the Mawmluh Cave, near Cherrapunji, in the East Khasi Hills district.
  • These solid stalagmite structures, or mineral deposits, are the result of slow but steady water dripping in the caves, and contain several thin layers of different kinds of minerals that get picked up while the water is flowing.
  • From a careful study of the composition of these stalagmites, scientists can deduce the amount of rainfall that could have happened over the caves in the past, or even whether the water was a result of local rainfall, or had flown in from a different place.
  • Using such techniques, the researchers in this case were able to estimate local variations in rainfall in the past, and then correlate it with old ocean records of the Pacific Ocean.

Stalagmites revives drought history

  • The stalagmites indicate the recurrence of intense, multi-year droughts in India over the last several thousand years.
  • Stalagmite records from monsoon regions, including India, are vital to understanding past variability in the global climate system and the underlying reasons for this variability.


Karst Topography

  • Karst is a landscape which is underlain by limestone which has been eroded by dissolution, producing towers, fissures, sinkholes, etc.
  • Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.
  • It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes, caves etc.

Stalactite and Stalagmite

  • The water containing limestone in solution, seeps through the roof in the form of a continuous chain of drops.
  • A portion of the roof hangs on the roof and on evaporation of water, a small deposit of limestone is left behind contributing to the formation of a stalactite, growing downwards from the roof.
  • The remaining portion of the drop falls to the floor. This also evaporates, leaving behind a small deposit of limestone aiding the formation of a stalagmite, thicker and flatter, rising upwards from the floor.
  • Sometimes, stalactite and stalagmite join together to form a complete pillar known as the column.
Monsoon Updates

[pib] Young Scientist Programme (YUVIKA)


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Young Scientists Programme

Mains level: Read the attached story 


Young Scientist Programme

  • ISRO has launched a special programme for School Children called “Young Scientist Programme” “YUva VIgyani KAryakram from this year.
  • The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  • The residential training programme will be of around two weeks duration during summer holidays and it is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/ UTs to participate in this programme covering state, CBSE, and ICSE syllabus.
  • Those who have just finished 9th standard (in the academic year 2018-19) and waiting to join 10th standard (or those who have started 10th Std just now) will be eligible for the programme.
  • The selection will be based on the 8th Std marks.
  • Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

World Food Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WFP

Mains level: Not Much


  • Japan has donated 69 million dollars to the United Nations World Food Programme to provide vital aid to 28 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, with the biggest shares of the money earmarked for Yemen and Iraq.
  • Japan is one of WFP’s top donors and has contributed $$958 million to the UN agency since 2014.

About World Food Programme

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
  • From its headquarters in Rome and from more than 80 country offices around the world, the WFP works to help people who cannot produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its executive committee.
  • WFP has been working in India since 1963, with work transitioning from food distribution to technical assistance since the country achieved self-sufficiency in cereal production.
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Survey


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ADR

Mains level: Decriminalization of politics in India


  • A nationwide survey involving more than 2.7 lakh people revealed that for 41.34% respondents, distribution of liquor, cash and freebies was an important factor behind voting for a particular candidate in an election, according to the ADR.

ADR survey of India

  • This is the third all-India survey commissioned by the ADR.
  • 86% interviewees felt that candidates with criminal background should not be in Parliament or State Assembly.
  • 89% were willing to vote for a candidate with criminal records if the candidate had done good work in the past.

Evaluating Govt. Performance

  • The respondents rated the government’s performance on 31 listed issues as below average.
  • On a scale of one to five, the respondents gave an average of 2.58 for better public transport, followed by 2.53 on the issue of electricity for domestic use and 2.52 for drinking water.
  • The government’s performance on initiatives against river and lake water pollution was rated as 2.51; 2.48 for empowerment of women and security; just 1.37 on eradication of corruption; and 1.15 on the issue of terrorism.

Priorities of Voters

  • As per the survey, better employment opportunities (46.80%), better healthcare (34.60%) and drinking water (30.50%) were the top three priorities, followed by better roads (28.34%) and better public transport (27.35%).
  • Statewise, better healthcare was the highest priority in Assam (45.78%), Kerala (45.24%) and Rajasthan (43.13%) and drinking water was the most important factor for the respondents in Karnataka (50.42%), Andhra Pradesh (45.25%) and Kerala (44.77%).

About Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

  • The ADR is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works in the area of electoral and political reforms.
  • ADR aims at bringing transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections.
  • National Election Watch (NEW) is a conglomeration of over 1200 organizations across the country.
  • ADR has become the single data point for information/analysis of background details (criminal, financial and others) of politicians and of financial information of political parties.
  • ADR has chosen to concentrate its efforts in the following areas pertaining to the political system of the country:
  1. Corruption and Criminalization in the Political Process
  2. Empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, for a better and informed choice
  3. Need for greater accountability of Indian Political Parties
  4. Need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning
Electoral Reforms In India

PSLV-C45/ Emisat Mission


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the payload

Mains level: Unique features of the launch 


  • For the sheer number of ‘firsts’ to its credit, the scheduled PSLV-C45/Emisat mission scheduled will be a memorable one for the ISRO.


  • C-45, which is set for lift-off from the second launchpad at Sriharikota, will mark the 47th flight of the PSLV.
  • It is meant for electromagnetic spectrum measurements, according to the ISRO.
  • It will be released into an orbit at 749 km.
  • EMISAT is primarily based on on the famous Israeli spy satellite called SARAL or (Satellite with ARgos and ALtika), and inherits its SSB-2 bus protocol for conducting sharp electronic surveillance across the length and breadth of India.
  • The satellite would serve as the country’s roving device for detecting and gathering electronic intelligence from enemy radars across the borders as it circles the globe roughly pole to pole every 90 minutes or so.
  • For the third successive PSLV mission, the ISRO plans to reuse the rocket’s spent fourth stage or PS4 to host short experiments.

Unique Features of PSLV-C45/Emisat

  • For one, it will be ISRO’s first attempt at placing payloads in three different orbits.
  • The chief payload the 436 kg Emisat will be injected into a 749 km orbit.
  • After that, the fourth stage of the rocket will be maneuvered to a 504 km orbit for releasing 28 international satellites.
  • Once that job is over, the fourth stage will be restarted and guided to an altitude of 485 km.
  • For the next six months, this stage will serve as an orbital platform for space-based experiments. This is another first for the ISRO. Normally, the spent stage simply becomes space junk.
  • The orbital platform will also sport solar panels, which too is a first.
  • The launch vehicle itself is a new variant, designated PSLV-QL. For the first time, ISRO will be employing four XL strap-on motors on the first stage.
  • The other two experimental payloads aboard the orbital platform are the Automatic Identification System (AIS), an ISRO payload for maritime satellite applications, and the Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS), meant to assist amateur radio operators.

Foreign satellites on-board

  • As many as 28 small foreign co-passenger satellites will also travel to space with it, but to a lower orbit at 504 km.
  • They include 24 small satellites from the U.S., among them 20 which are part of previous customer Planet Labs’ earth observation constellation.
  • The other four customers are from Lithuania, Spain and Switzerland.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries