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April 2019

Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Election Omission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Election Commission

Mains level : Election commission has been less powerful in controlling misconduct in 2019 General Elections.


The Election Commission of India, once a formidable force during elections as poll monitor, is now being heard less and less, or only for its feeble interventions.

Events Weakening authority of election commission

  • The election process has only just begun but there is already a long list of interventions by the players that have seemed to challenge, if not outrightly flout, the Model Code of Conduct, and get away with it.
  • UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called the Indian army “Modi ji ki sena (Modi’s army)”, and despite the EC’s direction to parties, post-Pulwama, to desist from political propaganda involving the armed forces, earned only a tepid warning.
  • The Niti Aayog chairperson spoke publicly against the Congress’s Nyay scheme.
  • Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh also crossed the lines of his institutional role and shared his fervent faith in the leadership of Narendra Modi ahead of polls.
  • The EC has handed the Kalyan Singh matter to the President who has forwarded it to the Home Ministry.
  • The list goes on, and it includes the hagiographic Modi bio-pic seeking release days ahead of polling, and the income tax raids that seem to target leaders of the Opposition parties across the country.
  • Last but certainly not least, it includes speeches by the Prime Minister himself that are communally charged and appeal to “Hindu” voters and hold up the figure of the soldier.

Election Commission’s Response

  • In all these matters, the EC has been muted, when it has not been silent.
  • Of course, this is not to say that the EC, mostly, can go far beyond the slap on the wrist anyway — it has resorted only in extraordinary situations to its stronger powers under Article 324 of the Constitution.
  • The Model Code of Conduct, which is routinely invoked, is more spirit, less letter — primarily, a moral and ethical restraint on parties in the poll fray.
  • Yet, it is also true that the EC has, in the past, used its subtle powers to greater effect.
  • It has amplified its influence by its vigilance and impartiality. As a result, the EC’s censure was deemed to be embarrassing to the censured, it was a rebuke that mattered.


  • By all indications, the EC’s reprimand is losing its power to chasten.
  • It is also evident that this is not just because of a larger coarsening of the political discourse, but more specifically, due to the EC’s own unwillingness or inability, or both, to push back at a time when the political executive is strong and overweening.
  • This depletion of the EC’s stature is troubling and must be reversed — much depends on it in an exuberant and boisterous democracy.




Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] India stares at pile of solar e-waste


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Waste management Rules

Mains level : Solar waste is new category of waste that has emerged as a challenge and there are no guidelines to deal with it.


By 2050, India will likely stare at a pile of a new category of electronic waste, namely solar e-waste, says a study made public on Thursday.


  • Currently, India’s e-waste rules have no laws mandating solar cell manufacturers to recycle or dispose waste from this sector.
  • No laws mandating disposal; volume estimated at 1.8 million tonnes by 2050.
  • “India’s PV (photovoltaic) waste volume is estimated to grow to 200,000 tonnes by 2030 and around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050,” said the study by Bridge To India (BTI), an energy consultancy firm.

India’s achievement in solar sector

  • India is among the leading markets for solar cells in the world, buoyed by the government’s commitment to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • So far, India has installed solar cells for about 28 GW and this is largely from imported solar PV cells.

Solar cell waste

  • Solar cell modules are made by processing sand to make silicon, casting silicon ingots, using wafers to create cells and then assembling them to make modules.
  • India’s domestic manufacturers are largely involved in assembling cells and modules.
  • These modules are 80% glass and aluminium, and non-hazardous.
  • Other materials used, including polymers, metals, metallic compounds and alloys, and are classified as potentially hazardous, says the study.

Handling of solar waste

  • India is poorly positioned to handle PV waste as it doesn’t yet have policy guidelines on the same
  • a lack of a policy framework is coupled with the fact that even basic recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable.
  • Despite the e-waste regulation being in place for over seven years, only less than 4% of estimated e-waste is recycled in the organised sector as per the latest estimates from the Central Pollution Control Board


While the solar sector continues to grow robustly, there is no clarity on solar waste management in India.


History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] Jallianwala Bagh massacre:


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hunter Commission

Mains level : United Kingdom is yet to apologise for Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.


  • British Prime Minister Theresa May finally came out with: “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused.”Britain’s refusal to squarely apologise for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is expected but disappointing.

Problems With the nature of the statement

  • An aspect of the statement that stands out is its passiveness — “what happened”, “the suffering caused”. There is no hint of agency here; this could well be the statement of any observer and not of inheritors of the empire that committed the atrocity.
  • The blandness too is disturbing: one would have expected some sympathy for the victims or their descendants and some reference to the brutality of the massacre.

The history of incidence

  • On April 13, 1919, Baisakhi day, following unrest in Amritsar after protests against the Rowlatt Act, Brigadier General (temporary rank) Reginald Dyer took a strike force of 50 rifles and 40 khukri-wielding Gurkhas into an enclosed ground, Jallianwala Bagh, where a peaceful public meeting of 15,000-20,000 was being held.
  • The firing of 1,650 rounds was deliberate and targeted, using powerful rifles at virtually pointblank range.
  • Eyewitness accounts and information collected by Sewa Samiti, a charity organisation point to much higher numbers. Non-Indian writers place the number killed at anything between 500 to 600, with three times that number wounded.
  • Post incidence events – More was to follow after the proclamation, two days after the massacre, of Martial Law in Punjab: the infamous crawling order, the salaam order, public floggings, arbitrary arrests, torture and bombing of civilians by airplanes — all under a veil of strictly enforced censorship.

Evasion of responsibility

  • After calls for an investigation, including by liberals in Britain, a Disorders Inquiry Committee, soon to be known by the name of its Chairman, Lord Hunter, was set up.
  • In his testimony, Dyer asserted that his intention had been to punish the crowd, to make a “wide impression” and to strike terror not only in Amritsar but throughout Punjab.
  • The committee split along racial lines and submitted a majority and minority report.
  • Majority Report – The majority report of the Hunter Committee, using tactically selective criticism, established Dyer’s culpability but let off the Lieutenant Governor, Michael O’Dwyer.
  • Minority report – The minority report written by the three Indian members was more scathing in its criticism. By then Dyer had become a liability and he was asked to resign his command, after which he left for England.
  • The conservative Lords however took a different tack and rebuked the government for being unjust to the officer.
  • Similar sentiments in Dyer’s favour came from the right-wing press — the Morning Post started a fund for him which collected £26,000 — as well as from conservative sections of the public who believed he had saved India for the empire.

Similar Incidents

  • Dyer was certainly rogue, but he was not alone. He was one of a line of several such — John Nicholson, Frederick Cooper, J.L. Cowan — who resorted to severe disproportionate violence in 1857 and after the 1872 Kuka rebellion; he was also part of the despotic administration led by O’Dwyer (later assassinated by Udham Singh in 1940) which emboldened and then exonerated him.

Earlier Reactions on Massacre

  • The speech that carried the day in the House of Commons in 1920 was that of Winston Churchill, no fan of Gandhi and his satyagraha. He called Dyer’s deed “an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in sinister isolation”; privately he wrote that the “offence amounted to murder, or alternatively manslaughter”.
  • In 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron quoted the same Churchill epithet of “monstrous”, adding that this was a “deeply shameful event in British history” and “we must never forget what happened here.”
  • The Queen had earlier termed it as a “distressing example” of past history. Again, general homilies with hands nicely off and no admission of a larger culpability of racialised colonial violence that underpinned imperialism.


  • Deep regret is all we may get instead of the unequivocal apology that is mandated.
  • The expectation could be that time will add more distance to the massacre, making these calls for apology increasingly an academic exercise.
  • We will no doubt also be advised to forgive and move on.
  • The fact remains that there are many ways to heal a festering wound between nations, as Canada’s apology for the Komagata Maru shows; clever drafting is not one of them



Bamboo Rice shows up in Odisha


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bamboo Rice and its unique features

Mains level : Various forest produce and their importance

  • Odisha is among the states known for a wide variety of rice, the staple food of eastern and north-eastern India and beyond.

Bamboo Rice

  • Bamboo rice is special rice that is grown out of a dying bamboo shoot.
  • When the bamboo shoot breathes its last, it flowers into a rare variety of rice seeds, which are known as bamboo rice.
  • It is said that the bamboo rice harvesting is a major source of income for the tribal communities living in the interiors of Wayanad Sanctuary in Kerala.
  • The gates of Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary in Cuttack district Odisha have been recently opened for forest dwellers to come and collect the rice.

What’s so special about it?

  • The bamboo rice, which grows only twice or thrice in a century. And it is being harvested now.
  • The last collected bamboo rice in Odisha was in 1979.
  • Whenever bamboo blossoms, the rat population increases. To prevent rats from running the rice, local villagers and forest dwellers collect bamboo rice.
  • Also, the rice then becomes a major source of income and food for villagers living near the forest.

Nutritional content

  • The variety looks like paddy rice and tastes more like wheat.
  • It is believed to have low glycaemic index compared to other varieties and it is good for diabetics.
  • It’s rich in proteins and does not contain any fat.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

IIT Bombay’s bacteria preferentially degrade aromatic compounds


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bamboo Rice

Mains level : Bioremediation

  • Using a unique strain of bacterium isolated from soil contaminated with petroleum products, IIT Bombay researchers selectively removed from the environment toxic pollutants.

Pseudomonas Putida CSV86

  • The bacteria helped selectively remove pollutants such aas aromatic pollutants such as benzoate (sodium benzoate is used as a food preservative), benzyl alcohol and naphthalene.
  • The strain can degrade aromatics and organic acids simultaneously.

What makes this bacterium so special?

  • The unique feature of the bacterial strain is its preference for aromatic compounds and organic acid as a food source even when glucose is available.
  • Since breaking down aromatic compounds is difficult, bacteria generally prefer simple carbon sources such as glucose for obtaining energy.
  • Even the bacteria that are known to degrade aromatic compounds tend to first prefer glucose and other simple carbon sources for energy and feed on aromatic compounds only when glucose gets exhausted.
  • Even when both benzoate and glucose were available, the bacteria first utilized benzoate, and only when it was exhausted did it start feeding on glucose.
  • This gives an advantage to remove the pollutants with priority even in the presence of simple carbon source from the contaminated site.


  • The bacterial strain is a very good candidate for bioremediation or waste-water treatment.
  • We can increase the metabolic diversity and capacity by genetically engineering the strain.
  • The team hopes to engineer the strain so it can be directly applied to the soil to preferentially degrade aromatic pesticides.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

IMO’s new rule on electronic information exchange between ships and ports comes into force


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMO, FAL Convention

Mains level : Easing maritime logistics and its impact

  • A new global rule mandated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports has come to effect.

New rules to FAL Convention

  • The FAL Convention contains standards and recommended practices and rules for simplifying formalities, documentary requirements and procedures on ships’ arrival, stay and departure.
  • The requirement, mandatory under IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) is part of a package of amendments adopted in 2016.
  • The new FAL Convention requirement for all public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information related to maritime transport.
  • It marks a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport.

What are new rules in actual practice?

  • The Convention encourages use of a “single window” for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication.
  • The rules seeks to make cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient, for the more than 10 billion tonnes of goods which are traded by sea annually across the globe.

India: On IMO’s footsteps-

PCS 1x

  • India launched a Port Community System — ‘PCS1x’— at ports in December 2018. ‘PCS 1x’ is a cloud-based technology developed by Mumbai-based logistics conglomerate JM Baxi Group.
  • PCS1x offers value-added services such as notification engine, workflow, mobile application, track and trace, better user interface, better security features, improved inclusion by offering dashboard for those with no IT capability.
  • A unique feature of ‘PCS1x’ is that it can latch on to third party software which provides services to the maritime industry thereby enabling the stakeholders to access wide network of services.
  • PCS1x offers a database that acts as a single data point to all transactions.
  • It captures and stores data on its first occurrence thereby reducing manual intervention, the need to enter transaction data at various points and thereby reducing errors in the process.


International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

  • IMO is the UN specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
  • Its primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
  • IMO is governed by an assembly of members and is financially administered by a council of members elected from the assembly.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

PCI issues guidelines for objective reporting on polls


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Press Council of India

Mains level : Need for regulation (not censoring) of Mass Media

  • The Press Council of India (PCI) on asked the media to give objective reports about the election and cautioned it against the phenomenon of paid news.

Guidelines by PCI

[I] A note for Media

  • The PCI said newspapers are not expected to indulge in unhealthy election campaigns, exaggerated reports about any candidate or party during the elections.
  • It will be the duty of the press to give objective reports about the election and the candidates.
  • While reporting on the actual campaign, a newspaper may not leave out any important point raised by a candidate and make an attack on his or her opponent.
  • It also cautioned the press to eschew reports which tend to promote feelings or enmity or hatred between people on the grounds of region, religion, race, caste, community or language.
  • The press should refrain from publishing false or critical statements in regard to the personal character and conduct of any candidate or in relation to the candidature or withdrawal of any candidate or candidature.

[II] Against unverified news

  • The PCI also cautioned against publishing unverified allegations against any candidate or party.
  • The council said whenever the newspapers publish pre-poll surveys, they should take care to preface them conspicuously.
  • They should indicate the institutions which have carried on such surveys, the individuals and organisations which have commissioned them, the size and nature of sample selected and the method of selection of the sample for the findings.

[III] Against paid news

  • The PCI asked the media to guard against paid news which it defined as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”.

[IV] Lighter note for Authorities

  • It also urged authorities that rules and orders regulating entry of the media persons to places of election should be notified and the cut-off date for applying for passes should be given due and advance publicity.
  • The authorities cannot prohibit the use of vehicles by the media persons for movement during elections although its use for the voters by candidates and their agents is prohibited.
  • This is because the journalist have to move from booth to booth and collect information from all the centres whether on the polling day or at the time of counting.


Press Council of India

  • The Press Council of India is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press.
  • It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.
  • The PCI was first constituted on 4th July, 1966 as an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial body, with Shri Justice J R Mudholkar, then a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman.
  • A fresh legislation providing for the establishment of the Council was enacted in 1978 through Press Council Act of 1978 and the institution came to be reviewed in the year 1979.


  • The present Council is a body corporate having perpetual succession. It consists of a Chairman and 28 other members.
  • Its members include working journalists, management of newspapers and those who manage news channels.
  • It also includes 3 persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of education and science, law and literature and culture. One member each is nominated by the UGC, the Bar Council of India and the Sahitya Academy
  • The remaining five are to MPs : three from Lok Sabha, and two from Rajya Sabha.


  • The Act provides for selection of the Chairman by a Committee consisting of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of Lok Sabha and a person elected by the members of the Council from among themselves.
  • By Convention the Chairman is been a retire judge of Supreme Court
  • The term of the Chairman and the members of the Council is three years. A retiring member is eligible for renomination for not more than one term


  • Power to Censure news paper / agency / editors / journalist if they offended against the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste or that an editor or a working journalist has committed any professional misconduct
  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and examining them on oath
  • Receiving evidence on affidavits etc.

Electoral Reforms In India

EC stalls release of biopics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ECI, Art. 324

Mains level : Ensuring free and fair elections

  • The Election Commission (EC) banned the screening of the biopic of a leader along two other movies with political content, during the election period.

Elections: A level playing field

  • A level playing field is a concept about fairness, not that each player has an equal chance to succeed, but that they all play by the same set of rules.
  • A playing field is said to be level if no external interference affects the ability of the players to compete fairly.

Checking the violation of MCC

  • According to the order, any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate for the furtherance of electoral prospects, directly or indirectly, shall not be put on display in electronic media in the area where the MCC is in force.
  • Such ‘political content’ posed a “serious threat to the level playing field” and ought to be regulated during the election period to prevent violation of the MCC.
  • The order covers all other such movies, content on television and internet.

Why such move?

  • EC is of the considered view that there was an emergent need for intervention in the matter of those ‘political contents’, which are intended, or purported to be, for benefitting or discrediting the electoral prospect of any candidate or political party to ensure a level-playing field.

What empowers EC to do so?

  • The EC order pointed to Article 324 of the Constitution to state that it is the duty of the commission to take necessary measures to create a level playing field and provide a conducive electoral environment to all stakeholders.