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April 2019

Monsoon Updates

[op-ed snap]The heat is on


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Preparations to deal with a weak Monsoon


A forecast of a below average monsoon in 2019, after last year’s erratic rainfall that flooded Kerala and crippled agriculture in eastern and western States, is a cause for worry.

Forecast and predictions regarding Monsoon

  • If the assessment from one agency, Skymet, is any indication, there is a prospect of an El Niño, often associated with drought conditions, taking hold.
  • If the assessment from one agency, Skymet, is any indication, there is a prospect of an El Niño, often associated with drought conditions, taking hold.
  • Should the monsoon, which normally sets in between June 1 and July 15 across the country, turn out to be deficient, it will add to the pressures on rural employment and the economy as a whole.
  • Things may become clearer when the India Meteorological Department also issues its forecast, although error margins and the erratic nature of rainfall in different regions render the exercise fraught with uncertainty.
  • Last year, for instance, the realisation of rainfall was 91% of the long-term average, while the prediction was for 97%.

Preparations to handle an extreme situation

  • It is the responsibility of State administrations to prepare for the likelihood of a heat spike, particularly during April and May, to prevent loss of life and extreme distress to communities.
  • Official agencies and NGOs should start adopting the drill on this, using the template drawn up by the National Disaster Management Authority.

Steps to be taken

  • Small Precautions-The key elements of protection in a heat wave are avoiding exposure during the hottest part of the day around noon, especially in the case of senior citizens, staying adequately hydrated, wearing suitable clothing including headgear, and creating shade in public places.
  • Information technology-These messages and weather alerts can be disseminated through television, mobile phone messaging and social media platforms.
  • Local Bodies-Urban local bodies in particular have a responsibility to care for the large number of vulnerable city dwellers.


  • During the current year, there is apprehension that the focus of administrators will mainly be on the conduct of the elections, relegating the public health risk of heat waves to the backburner.
  • With the availability of advance weather alerts, there is no reason why local bodies cannot institute remedial measures.
  • Mitigating the effect of heat waves is vital to ensuring a high turnout in the elections by making it safe for voters.


  • India is looking at another uncertain monsoon, bringing into sharp relief the neglected potential of decentralised water-harvesting.
  • It is more than a decade since the National Commission on Farmers suggested the wider adoption of both rainwater harvesting and aquifer recharge, in order to provide irrigation for small farmers.
  • It is time to take measures that will help communities achieve resilience.

Issues related to Economic growth

[op-ed snap] The governance dashboard


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Evaluation of Government's policies in last 5 years


The current regime has failed to deliver on its promises of development and clean government.

Disappointment with previous regime

  • Towards the end of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance government (UPA-II), from 2009 to 2014, the corporate sector (captains of industry) had become thoroughly disappointed with the slow rate of “progress” being made.
  • The reputation of UPA-II had been tarnished by several high-profile corruption scandals.
  • Significant sections of the Indian elite, both urban and rural, were also upset about the government’s modest welfare schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) and also rights and entitlements such as the Right to Information, Right to Education and the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

Lack of data to evaluate the Current progress

  • it is very difficult to imagine how a reasoned debate can occur without adequate evidence.
  • Since Independence, India has carefully built an enviable reputation in terms of the integrity of its statistical organisations and the quality of its economic data.
  • Currently Government destroyed this reputation by meddling in the work of statistical organisations, changing the methodology of computation of key figures (such as GDP), and by suppressing important data.

Parameters For Evaluation

  • Two issues that are important in evaluating any regime are economic growth and distribution. India, of course, has been celebrated along with China as the growth engine of the world in recent decades.
  • Recent changes in methodology by the Central Statistics Office have rendered such comparisons very difficult.

Inequal Growth

  • In terms of distribution, researches (for the period 1991-2011) indicates that the Indian economy, after economic liberalisation, was largely driven by inequality-heightening rapid urban growth.
  • Farmers and informal workers in the urban areas have faced acute distress and witnessed losses in their income shares.
  • Given this, the volume draws upon other sources of data such as income taxes and the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Database to make a persuasive case that Indian inequality has continued to rise.

Rise in inequality

  • The share of the top 10% of income-tax payers has increased at the expense of the bottom half. The wealthiest group (top 1%) owns more than half the nation’s wealth today and has consolidated itself during 2014-2018.
  • Crimes against Scheduled Castes have increased during the period 2014-16. What is noteworthy is that both overall crimes and crimes registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act have increased.

Impact of signature Policies

  • The two major signature policies that the government undertook — demonetisation (ostensibly to root out corruption) and the goods and services tax (GST) — have proved to be colossal disasters for the economy and the vast majority of Indians
  • Comparing the periods before and after demonetisation, while the world economy witnessed improved growth (2.6% to 3.1%), the Indian economy suffered a growth decline from 7.8% to 6.8%


As Rabindranath Tagore reflected, if the choice is between a nation that is fundamentally exclusionary, and a society that stands for basic human values and espouses tolerance among a multiplicity of cultures and identities, the path forward is clear.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] Capital high


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FDI,FPI

Mains level : Foreign Investment is high and how to maintain flow in Indian Economy


The inflow of foreign capital into India’s stock market in the month of March hit a high of $4.89 billion, the biggest foreign inflow into Indian stocks since February 2012.

Foreign Investment  Situation in India

  • Foreign investment in Indian equities stood at $2.42 billion in February, as against a net outflow of $4.4 billion during the same month a year earlier, and is expected to be strong in April as well.
  • Both cyclical and structural factors are behind this sudden uptick in foreign investment that has helped the rupee make an impressive comeback.
  • Last year, India received more foreign direct investment than China for the first time in two decades
  • While the Chinese economy has been slowing down considerably in the last one year, India has emerged as the fastest-growing major economy.


  • Other short-term reasons may also be behind some of the recent inflow of capital into the country.
  • For one, there is a sense among a section of investors that their fears of political instability are misplaced.
  • More important, there are clear signs that western central banks have turned dovish.
  • Both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, for instance, have promised to keep interest rates low for longer.
  • This has caused investors to turn towards relatively high-yielding emerging market debt.
  • Indian mid-cap stocks, which suffered a deep rout last year, are now too attractive to ignore for many foreign investors.

Need for a cautious approach

  • The return of foreign capital is obviously a good sign for the Indian economy.
  • But policymakers need to be careful not to take foreign investors for granted.
  • Other emerging Asian economies will be competing hard to attract foreign capital, which is extremely nimble.
  • Any mistake by policymakers will affect India’s image as an investment destination.
  • To retain investor confidence, whichever government comes to power after the general election this summer will need to increase the pace of structural reforms and also ensure proper macroeconomic management with the help of the Reserve Bank of India.


  • Long-pending reforms to the labour and land markets are the most pressing structural changes that will affect India’s long-term growth trajectory.
  • The high fiscal deficit of both the Centre and the State governments and the disruptive outflow of foreign capital are the other macroeconomic challenges.
  • These are some issues that need to be solved sooner rather than later.

History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: Jallianwala Bagh Massacre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Rowlatt Act

Mains level : Causes, consequences and aftermath of the massacre

  • The upcoming 13th of April will mark centenary of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre that shook entire nation.
  • It has often been said that Britain lost its empire the day when, a hundred years ago when this massacre took place.

Protesting the contentious Rowlatt Act

  • The act officially known as the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, 1919 was passed in 1919 by the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • It had authorised the British government to arrest anybody suspected of terrorist activities.
  • It also authorised the government to detain such people arrested for up to 2 years without trial.
  • It empowered the police to search a place without a warrant. It also placed severe restrictions on the freedom of the press.
  • The primary intention colonial govt. was to repress the growing nationalist movement in the country.
  • The British were also afraid of a Ghadarite revolution in Punjab and the rest of the country.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

  • The massacre took place on 13 April 1919 when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Col. Reginald Dyer fired rifles into a crowd of Indians.
  • The civilians had assembled for a peaceful protest to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
  • Dyer without warning ordered his troops to fire at the unarmed crowd which included children as well.
  • The indiscriminate firing went on for about 10 minutes which resulted in the deaths of at least 1000 people and injured more than 1500 people.


  • In protest against the massacre Rabindranath Tagore gave up his knighthood.
  • Gandhiji relinquished his title ‘Kaiser-e-hind’ bestowed on him by the British for his services during the Boer War in South Africa.
  • Michael O’Dwyer, the then Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, who had approved the actions of Dyer, was assassinated by Udham Singh in London in 1940 as revenge against the massacre.
  • The heroic treatment to Dyer’s heinous act again set a benchmark of colonial arrogance.

Hunter Commission

  • In October 1919 the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, ordered the formation of a committee of inquiry into the events in Punjab.
  • Referred to as the Disorders Inquiry Committee, it was later more widely known as the Hunter Commission (Not to be consfused with Hunter Education Commission).
  • Still there are long-standing demands in India that Britain should apologize for the massacre.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Domkhar Rock Art Sanctuary


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level :  Domkhar Rock Art Sanctuary

Mains level : Pre-historic rock art

Domkhar Rock Art Sanctuary

  • The sanctuary is located at Domkhar village in Leh, next to the banks of Indus River. It has 500-odd petroglyphs.
  • These are numerous rocks carved figures, thought to date back between 2000 and 4000 years.
  • There are some dark and polished boulders that bear on their gleaming surface prehistoric carvings of men and beasts.
  • There are also rock carvings scattered along the 35 km stretch between Domkhar and Khalste village, but many have been damaged by human activity, especially road construction work, they tell me.
  • It consists of drawings of animals with horns, perhaps mountain goats; there’s one with a scorpion in the midst of a crowd of people; another shows a hunting scene.

Widely scattered

  • The archaic scripts on these rocks have been discovered to be similar to those found among the nomadic tribes of the steppe region of Central Asia who lived 2,000 years ago.
  • No one has been able to put an exact date to the carvings, but they are believed to be over two millennia old. They also shed some light on the pattern of human movement during that era.
  • Such petroglyphs are found scattered widely across Ladakh: some noteworthy places outside Domkhar are Tangtse, Khaltse, Kharu and Biama.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Neelakurinji Blossom

  • Experts fear that for next season, the Neelakurinji blossoms may not carpet the hillocks of the Western Ghats in a ravishing purple.


  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
  • Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.
  • It is the most rigorously demonstrated, with documented bloomings in 1838, 1850, 1862, 1874, 1886, 1898, 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018
  • Some Kurinji flowers bloom once every seven years, and then die. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.
  • The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

Threats to Neelakurinji

  • About 1,000 ha of forestland, grantis and eucalyptus plantations and grasslands have been destroyed in the fire.
  • These large-scale wildfires on the grasslands where Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiiana) blossomed widely last year after a period of 12 years could have wiped out all the seeds of the endemic flowers.
  • There are allegations that the areas coming under the proposed Kurinji sanctuary were set on fire with a motive to destroy the germination of Neelakurinji seeds.
  • In the proposed Kurinji sanctuary, there were encroachments and land grabbers wanted to keep the area off the limits of the sanctuary.

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

Candida Auris : Fungus immune to drugs is secretly sweeping the globe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Candida Auris

Mains level : Read the attached story

Candida Auris

  • auris is a mysterious and dangerous fungal infection that is among a growing number of germs that have evolved defenses against common medicines.
  • It is a fungus that, when it gets into the bloodstream, can cause dangerous infections that can be life-threatening.
  • It preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe.
  • Scientists first identified it in 2009 in a patient in Japan.

What makes it so freaky?

  • It causes serious infections: It can cause bloodstream infections and even death, particularly in hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems.
  • It’s often resistant to medicines: Its infections have been resistant to all types of antifungal medicines.
  • It’s becoming more common: Although auris was just discovered in 2009, it has spread quickly and caused infections in more than a dozen countries.
  • It’s difficult to identify: It can be misidentified as other types of fungi unless specialized laboratory technology is used. This misidentification might lead to a patient getting the wrong treatment.
  • It can spread in hospitals and nursing homes: It has caused outbreaks in healthcare facilities and can spread through contact with affected patients and contaminated surfaces or equipment.

What made it so strong?

  • For decades, public health experts have warned that the overuse of antibiotics was reducing the effectiveness of drugs that have lengthened life spans by curing bacterial infections once commonly fatal.
  • But lately, there has been an explosion of resistant fungi as well, adding a new and frightening dimension to a phenomenon that is undermining a pillar of modern medicine.
  • Simply put, fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defences to survive medicines.
  • Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting.
  • Scientists cite evidence that rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.

History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Battle of Kangla Tongbi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Battle of Kangla Tongbi and Imphal

Mains level : Japanese invasion of SE Asia

  • The Battle of Kangla Tongbi recently completed its platinum jubilee.

Battle of Kangla Tongbi

  • It is considered one of the fiercest battles of World War II, was fought by Ordnance personnel of 221 Advance Ordnance Depot (AOD) on the night of 6/7 April 1944.
  • Japanese forces had planned a three pronged offensive to capture Imphal and the surrounding areas.
  • At Kangla Tongbi, a small but determined detachment of 221 AOD put up stiff resistance against the advancing Japanese forces.
  • The position of 221 AOD was not at all sound from a tactical point of view and was exposed to the enemy from all sides and had to rely on its own combatant manpower for its defence.
  • However their combatant role shook the enemy and forced the Japanese to withdraw leaving many dead.

Significance of the battle

  • This battle is one of those fought during the Battle of Imphal that shook imperialist motives of Japan and made them reconsider.
  • Japanese armies attempted to destroy the Allied forces at Imphal and invade India, but were driven back into Burma with heavy losses.
  • The defeat was the largest defeat to that date in Japanese history with many of the Japanese deaths resulting from starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat.