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May 2019

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Sops to shun paddy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Focus should shift from water guzzling crops like rice to conserve ground water.


ALARMINGLY dire situations call for urgent and immediate measures. With 75 per cent of its groundwater already extracted, it is imperative for Haryana to arrest the depleting water table.

Ways to address the crisis

The last mile reach – It must ensure that its schemes reach the last acre and are implemented in totality so that soil health and its hydrological levels are restored.

No corruption – Any whiff of a scam or siphoning off of funds meant for the endeavour, if not dealt with strictly, will cost the state dearly, with the shadow of desertification looming large.

Incentives to other crops – The latest incentives to steer farmers away from the water-guzzling non-basmati paddy variety to maize or pulses include Rs 2,000 per acre, subsidised seeds and free crop insurance.

Of the 1.95 lakh hectares under this cultivation, the government hopes to divert 50,000 hectares to alternative crops.

Close Monitoring – An eagle eye on every transaction is needed to ensure that every penny of this scheme is accounted for; only that will make the intended difference.

Saathi (summer paddy) was banned about a decade ago, but efforts to curb its plantation have left a lot to be desired.


  • The peasant is not able to break free from the paddy-wheat cycle to crop diversification because paddy continues to give him higher returns and MSP.
  • Plus, the ad hoc nature of the doles promised rather than long-term lucrative prices and marketing of alternative crops make him wary of shifting.
  • Attractive prices for these crops should not be difficult to give. Weighing in the cost factor of paddy against the other crops reveals its feasibility.
  • Consider this: the production of 1 kg rice leaves the soil drier by 2,497 litres of water.
  • On top, a large portion of the power subsidy — worth Rs 6,700 crore was given in the state in 2017 as per the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission — goes into paddy cultivation.
  • Punjab, too, would do well to urgently review whether power subsidy doled out to paddy farmers is not rendering the state a net loser.
  • The irretrievable loss of groundwater and soil health is staring the state in the face.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

UNGA resolution demanding UK withdraw from Chagos Archipelago


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chagos Archipelago: Location and surrounding

Mains level : Decolonization measures across the world

  • India was among 116 nations to vote in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution demanding the UK to withdraw its “colonial administration” from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months.
  • This aimed at supporting Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty over the island chain in the Indian Ocean.

Colonization of Chagos

  • The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
  • It has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the US, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
  • The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.

An ICJ obligation for UK

  • The ICJ had said in its opinion that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.
  • It demanded that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.

Why India voted in favor of Mauritius?

  • As a part of India’s longstanding support to all peoples striving for decolonization, India has consistently supported Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty.
  • India has age-old people-to-people bonds with Mauritius.

Assist this newscard with:

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Anthropocene as Earth’s new epoch


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anthropocene epoch

Mains level : Geological time scale of Earth

  • Rising global temperatures, sea levels, depleting ozone layer and acidifying oceans are the result of human activity that has “distinctively” altered our planet.
  • Now, a team of scientists have voted to declare “Anthropocene” as a new chapter in the Earth’s geological history.

Anthropocene Epoch

  • Coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to denote the present geological time interval, Anthropocene has been used to describe humanity’s large impact on the environment.
  • The scientific community have intensely debated in the past the idea to formally define it as a geological unit within the Geological Time Scale.
  • Recently the 34-member Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), voted in favour of starting the new epoch.
  • The result builds on an informal vote taken at the 2016 International Geological Congress in Cape Town, and lays the groundwork for a formal proposal by 2021 to the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
  • The move signals the end of the Holocene epoch, which began 12,000 to 11,600 years ago.
  • The International Union of Geological Sciences needs to ratify the AWG formal proposal, before the new epoch can formally be recognised.

Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point

  • To show a clear transition from the Holocene, the scientists plan to identify a definitive geologic marker or ‘golden spike’.
  • It would be technically called a Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP).
  • For this, the group will search for the marker from around the globe, including a cave in northern Italy, corals in the Great Barrier Reef and a lake in China.

Demarcation of an epoch is not so easy

  • To demonstrate a sedimentary record representing the start of the epoch, the researchers are likely to choose the radionuclides that came from atomic-bomb detonations from 1945 until the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
  • The stratigraphic evidence indicates a time-transgressive Anthropocene with multiple beginnings rather than a single moment of origin.
  • Declaring a new epoch on the basis of the radionuclide signal alone impedes rather than facilitates scientific understanding of human involvement in Earth system change.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE launches ‘Golden Card’ scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Visa Scheme

Mains level : Indian diaspora in UAE

  • The United Arab Emirates has launched a permanent residency scheme to woo wealthy individuals and exceptional talents, a move that could attract more Indian professionals and businessmen to the Gulf nation.

Golden Card Programme

  • The “Golden Card” programme is open to investors and “exceptional talents” such as doctors, engineers, scientists, students and artists.
  • The visa categories include:
  1. General investors who will be granted a 10 years visa
  2. Real estate investors, who can get a visa for 5 years Visa
  3. Entrepreneurs and talented professionals such as doctors, researchers and innovators: 10 years Visa
  4. Outstanding students — will also be permitted residency visas for 5 years
  • All categories of visas can be renewed upon expiry.

Benefits of the move

  • The new initiative will attract greater foreign investment and stimulate the local economy, making it more efficient and attractive for investors.
  • It will also increase the UAE’s competitiveness and reaffirms the country’s position as a global incubator.
  • The benefits of the permanent residency also include the spouse and children of the cardholder to ensure cohesive social ties.

Benefits for India

  • The Indian expatriate community is reportedly the largest ethnic community in the UAE, constituting roughly about 30 per cent of the country’s population of around nine million.
  • Though most of the Indians living in the UAE are employed, about 10 per cent of the Indian population constitutes dependent family members, according to the Indian Embassy.

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

Taj Mahal: First Indian Heritage Site to Get a Breastfeeding Room


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Awareness about antenatal care and breastfeeding

  • The Taj Mahal has become one of the only three UNESCO Heritage Sites to have a breastfeeding room for women.

Breastfeeding room in Taj

  • In a country like India, breastfeeding has a lot of social stigma attached to it.
  • It is often seen as disgusting or even embarrassing.
  • This initiative aims at removing the social stigma regarding breastfeeding and helping new mothers to get the freedom to breastfeed in public without being forced to cover-up.
  • The main objective continues to be normalizing public breastfeeding.
  • The breastfeeding room will also be introduced in other monuments including the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

Why such move?

  • India accounts for one-fifth of neonatal deaths.
  • Over 20 percent neonatal deaths can be prevented if the child is breastfed.
  • Various factors come into play when the question comes to why less than 55 percent babies are breastfed in the country.
  • Aside from poor health of the mother, lack of time and the convenience of formula milk, one of the biggest hindrances when it comes to breastfeeding is the taboo attached to it.
  • There have been various instances internationally where women have been asked to exit the premises or even “take their business in the washroom” for breastfeeding in public.
  • However, initiatives like the one taken in the Taj Mahal, are actively working towards removing the taboo and stigma related to breastfeeding and to normalize something as simple as a mother feeding her child.

Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] When the big guys fight


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : nothing much

Mains level : Opposition Parties' mistrust over EVMs is not a good precedent for democratic setup.


ON the eve of counting, the Opposition demonstrated its mistrust of the electoral process yet again.

Mistrust of EVMs

  • In a memorandum, several top leaders urged the Election Commission (EC) to match VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips with EVMs in five polling stations per Assembly segment before going ahead with the counting of votes.
  • Their argument: verifying VVPATs beforehand would give poll officers a chance to prevent discrepancies.
  • They wanted 100 per cent matching in all polling booths of an Assembly constituency if even one discrepancy was reported during sample checks. However, the EC decided to stick to the procedure of counting first and conducting VVPAT verification later.

Supreme Court’s Judgement

  • A fortnight ago, the Supreme Court had rejected a review petition by 21 leaders of Opposition parties demanding that the random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs should be raised to at least 25 per cent as against the present 2 per cent.
  • But the apex court refused to modify its April 8 order directing the EC to increase the number for random tallying from one to five polling booths per Assembly segment in the parliamentary polls.
  • This fair arrangement should have been acceptable to all, but Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu and others have continued to fuel suspicion on the pretext of seeking greater transparency and confidence-building in the EVM system.


  • It’s ironical that the Opposition parties have submitted themselves to the humongous poll exercise over the past month and a half but at the same time missed no opportunity to question its reliability.
  • They have also repeatedly cast aspersions on the functioning of the EC.
  • Indeed, the poll conductor has done itself no favour by first delaying action on complaints against PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah and then, after being pulled up by the Supreme Court, disposing of the petitions with undue haste.
  • The rapid-fire clean chits were in stark contrast to the assertiveness shown by TN Seshan and JM Lyngdoh when they were at the helm.
  • Warts and all, the EC should have the last word on the conduct of the elections.