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April 2019

Air Pollution

Explained: The problem with diesel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS norms

Mains level : Reality check on preparedness for BS VI and major hurdles


  • The announcement by Maruti Suzuki —the country’s largest vehicle manufacturer — will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles.
  • This along with many other giants, pretty much marks the end of the road for the diesel mill in India.

Bone of content- BS VI Norms

  • The main reason is not the fuel price differential, but the new emission norms that will come into effect on April 1, 2020 — less than a year from now.
  • The prohibitively high cost of upgrading diesel engines to meet the new BS-VI emission norms is why leading carmakers have pulled the plug on their diesel options.
  • The economics of the conversion does not make it worthwhile to continue with the diesel option after the transition to BS-VI.
  • Also, the sentiment for diesel is not good in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, making it extra uncertain if customers would want to pay the big premium.

Bharat Stage Norms

  • The BS — Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • India has been following European (Euro) emission norms, although with a time lag of five years.
  • India introduced emission norms first in 1991, and tightened them in 1996, when most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades such as catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel specifications based on environmental considerations were notified first in April 1996, to be implemented by 2000, and incorporated in BIS 2000 standards.

Implementation history

  • Following the landmark Supreme Court order of April 1999, the Centre notified BS-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • BS-II was for the National Capital Region and other metros; BS-I for the rest of India.
  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.

What changes do the recent BS norms entail?

  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • But in November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.
  • Soon afterward, however, Road Transport Ministry announced that the government had decided to leapfrog to BS-VI from April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V all together.

Minutes of BS VI

  • Carmakers would have to put three pieces of equipment — a DPF (diesel particulate filter), an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system, and an LNT (Lean NOx trap) — to meet stringent BS-VI norms, all at the same time.
  • This is vital to curb both PM (particulate matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions as mandated under the BS-VI norms.
  • Ideally, the technologies should be introduced in series, and then synergized.

Why the transition is problematic?

  • A practical problem is that while it took as many as seven years for the entire country to shift from BS-III to BS-IV, the attempt this time is to entirely bypass one stage — BS-V — in less than half that time.
  • This makes the switch to BS-VI that much more difficult for both oil companies and automobile makers.
  • The decision to leapfrog directly from BS-IV to BS-VI is what carmakers cite as the reason for the unviability of diesel.
  • While petrol vehicles would also need upgrades to transition, these are limited to catalysts and electronic control upgrades.
  • For diesel vehicles, the upgrades are more complicated and entail higher costs, apart from the technical difficulties in managing the changes.
  • A step-by-step transition would have been easier; now, the entire cost will have to be borne in one go, alongside the operational difficulties of managing the transition.

Various complications

I. Early adaptation of components

  • Carmakers say there are technical constraints in carrying out design changes that will include adapting the three critical components — DPF, SCR and LNT — to conditions specific to Indian driving, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the United States.
  • The auto industry argues that the huge improvements in vehicular technology since 2000 have had little impact in India due to driving, road and ambient conditions.
  • So, technically, if the BS-V and BS-VI stages were to be implemented one after the other, diesel cars would have to be fitted with a DPF in the BS-V stage, and with the SCR in the BS-VI state.
  • Now both of these have to be incorporated simultaneously, alongside the LNT.

II. Fuel price gaps

  • Even if these were to be managed, a heavy cost would be involved, which would push up the price of diesel vehicles, and widen the price gap with the petrols.
  • So, for carmakers, skipping the diesel value chain at this point makes more sense.
  • Alongside these constraints, there are also question marks regarding the ability of the oil companies to manage the transition, because refiners were unable to produce the superior fuel in required quantities.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Influence of Islamic State in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Combating terrorsim


  • Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka that claimed 250 lives this Easter.
  • The threads of the attack are closely connected to India with one of the Lanka suicide bombers having stayed in India for a considerable time before the attack.
  • A coordinated attack of this scale so close to India’s shores has agencies worried.

What is the IS influence in India?

  • IS came on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies way back in 2013 when reports from Syria suggested that some Indians were fighting alongside the IS there.
  • It was still considered a problem of the Middle East by the agencies until in 2014, IS kidnapped 39 Indians in Iraq and executed them.
  • An IS map of the Khorasan Caliphate showed some of India’s states as its part.
  • Since then multiple Indians have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside IS and as many as 100 have been arrested by the agencies either on return from Syria or while preparing to join them.
  • Many have also been arrested for preparing to carry out an attack in India after being inspired by the IS.

India’s response

  • The Indian security establishment has approached the issue of IS influence with caution.
  • The approach is informed by the fact that despite a very large Muslim population, India has sent very few recruits to the IS.
  • It is clear that some of the youth eager to join IS are merely swayed by the IS online propaganda which has attracted a restive youth with video-game-like macabre videos.
  • That they may not be fully radicalized given their unblemished background has led agencies to take the counselling approach.
  • Only such people have been arrested who agencies believed were in the process of carrying out an attack or had made multiple attempts to go to Syria despite counselling.
  • This included Hyderabad youth Abdullah Basith who made three attempts to go to Syria and was apprehended each time. He was finally put under arrest under charges of terrorism on his third attempt.

Why is South India more vulnerable?

  • Even though it is North India which regularly sees communal clashes, it is southern states which have sent maximum recruits to IS.
  • According to agencies, almost 90% of all recruits who have gone to Syria are from the southern States.
  • A majority of those arrested by agencies while preparing to launch an attack are also from States such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • Most recruits from Kerala who joined the Islamic State were either working in the Gulf or had come back from there with an already developed liking for IS’s extreme ideology.
  • States such as J&K, MP and UP in North India have also seen some IS influence on the youth.

Indians dint fall prey to lures

  • It should be stated that ISIS hasn’t received support from Indian Muslims.
  • For a country with the world’s second largest Muslim population, India’s share of pro-ISIS individuals is minuscule.

The real threats to India

  • None in fact, IS has largely focused on inspiring the youth to either migrate to Syria and Iraq or carry out attacks in India with their own resources (lone wolf attacks).
  • Most of the recruiters, such as banned outfits Indian Mujahideen operative Shafi Armar, too have been Indians.
  • Many Indians haven’t even had a handler and they have merely come together on their own to allegedly carry out attacks in the name of IS.
  • Most of these groups were made to arrange for explosives and arms on their own with members contributing from their pockets.

Way Forward

  • IS, although militarily now on the backfoot, is still – as the Sri Lankan attacks show – very much alive, with branches in 18 countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, and new forays into Bangladesh.
  • In any case, thanks to Pakistan, terrorism will always remain a threat to India.
  • IS needs no specific motivation to carry out such an attack. All other religions, and all those not subscribing to IS’s perverted vision of puritanical Islamic supremacy, are enemies.
  • A secular India is anathema for IS ideologues. That we are a democracy is also a red rag because the IS believes that ‘all religions that agree with democracy have to die’.
  • Thus, what happened in neighbouring Sri Lanka must act as a wake-up call for us.

With inputs from:

Economic Times

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

ICMR launches ‘MERA India’ to eliminate malaria by 2030


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MERA India

Mains level : Menace of Malaria in India

‘Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India’

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched the MERA India – a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control – in order to prioritise, plan and scale up research to eliminate the disease from India by 2030.
  • The MERA India does not intend to duplicate international efforts rather complement this on a national scale while contributing to the broader global agenda.
  • The alliance will facilitate trans-institutional coordination and collaboration around a shared research agenda which responds not only to programmatic challenges and addresses gaps in available tools, but also proactively contributes to targeted research.
  • It aims to harness and reinforce research in coordinated and combinatorial ways in order to achieve a tangible impact on malaria elimination.
  • The National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program (NVBDCP) of India has developed a comprehensive framework to achieve the overarching vision of “Malaria free India by 2030”.

Why such move?

  • Over the past two decades, India has made impressive progress in malaria control.
  • The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent, 2.03 million cases in 2000 to 0.39 million in 2018, and malaria deaths by over 90 per cent, 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018.
  • This success has provided a strong foundation for the commitment from the leadership of the government of India to eliminate malaria from India by 2030.

RBI Notifications

RBI extends ombudsman scheme to non-deposit taking NBFCs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NBFC, Banking Ombudsman Scheme

Mains level : Banking Ombudsman Scheme

  • The RBI has extended the coverage of Ombudsman Scheme for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to eligible non deposit taking non-banking financial companies (NBFC-NDs) having asset size of Rs 100 crore or above with customer interface.

What is NBFC?

  • A NBFC is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities.
  • It does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
  • A non-banking institution which is a company and has principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in installments by way of contributions or in any other manner, is also a non-banking financial company.

About the Ombudsman Scheme

  • The scheme was launched on February 23, 2018 for redressal of complaints against NBFCs registered with the RBI under Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934 and covered all deposit accepting NBFCs to begin with.
  • It provides a cost-free and expeditious complaint redressal mechanism relating to deficiency in the services by NBFCs covered under the scheme.
  • The offices of the NBFC Ombudsmen are functioning in four metro centres — Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi — and handle complaints of customers in the respective zones.
  • The scheme also provides for an appellate mechanism under which the complainant/ NBFC has the option to appeal against the decision of the Ombudsman before the Appellate Authority.

Who are excluded under the scheme?

However, non banking financial company-infrastructure finance company (NBFC-IFC), core investment company (CIC), infrastructure debt fund-non-banking financial company (IDF-NBFC) and an NBFC under liquidation, are excluded from the ambit of the scheme.