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May 2019

Govt plans to merge CSO, NSSO


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSO, NSSO

Mains level : Merger of the two and its impact

  • To streamline and strengthen the statistical system, the government has decided to merge the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) to form a National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • While the NSSO comes out with various sample surveys such as on consumption expenditure, employment and unemployment, the CSO releases various data such as GDP and IIP.

Merging NSSO and CSO into NSO

  • The move is a follow-up of a decision taken in 2005 by the UPA government’s based on recommendations of the report of the National Statistical Commission, headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan.
  • Both the wings are currently part of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

Rangarajan committee recommendations

  • The Rangarajan committee had recommended setting up of the NSC, headed by a person with a Minister of State-level designation, to serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country.
  • The NSC was constituted on July 12, 2006 with a mandate to evolve policies, priorities and standards in statistical matters.
  • According to the Commission, the new NSO was envisaged as an agency to implement and maintain statistical standards and coordinate statistical activities of Central and State agencies as laid down by the NCS.
  • The NSO’s other roles included collection of core statistics, carrying out methodological research and studies, maintaining a warehouse of core statistics, as per the Commission report.

Benefits of the merger

  • This is a measure to avoid duplication of work and leverage the strength of the statistical system.
  • There is no dilution of independence and in fact strengthens the system.
  • This will help in meeting the requirement of the statistical system as a lack of control on these two bodies was one challenge presently.

National Statistical Office (NSO)

  • The Statistical Wing, comprising the NSO with constituents as the CSO and the NSSO, to be an integral part of the main ministry.
  • The NSO would be headed by Secretary Statistics and Programme Implementation, with various divisions reporting to the Secretary through Director Generals (DGs).
  • Presently the CSO is headed by a DG brings out macro economic data like economic (GDP) growth data, industrial production and inflation.
  • While the NSSO conducts large-scale surveys and brings out reports on health, education, household expenditure and other social and economic indicators.

Data Quality Assurance Division

  • A Data Quality Assurance Division has also been set up, replacing the Data Processing Division, which will have the responsibility to bring about improvements in survey and administrative databases.
  • This division will be strengthened through “re-skilling and deployment of existing personnel”.

In recent controversy!

  • India’s official statistics came under a cloud after several experts raised questions on credibility of the new GDP series.
  • The government’s move to withhold the first periodic labour force survey, which showed unemployment rate at a 45-year high, put a further dent.

Assist this newscard with:

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

Draft Export Policy unveiled


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Draft export policy 2019

  • The Commerce Ministry has come out with a comprehensive draft of the export policy which includes product- specific rules with a view to provide a ready reckoner for exporters.

Draft Export Policy, 2019

  • The draft policy aims at consolidating the export norms for each product as applicable at different government agencies.
  • It is proposed to bring out a comprehensive exports policy for all ITC (HS) tariff codes (including items which are ‘free’ for export and do not currently exist in the policy), covering conditions/restrictions imposed by partner government agencies on exports.
  • ITC-HS Codes are Indian Trade Clarification based on Harmonised System of Coding. It was adopted by India for import-export operations.
  • Every product has been accorded eight digit HS codes.
  • The compendium will help an exporter know all the applicable norms pertaining to a particular product, helping him/her understand policy conditions for that item.

Consolidating norms

  • This exercise is for consolidating the norms and not for making any changes in the existing export policy of the country.
  • It also includes non-tariff regulations imposed by different government agencies.

Indian Missile Program Updates

AKASH – MK 1S Missile


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Akash MK 1S

Mains level : India's missile arsenal

  • DRDO has successfully test fired AKASH-MK-1S missile from ITR , Chandipur.


  • AKASH Mk1S is a surface to air missile which can neutralize advanced aerial targets.
  • It is an upgrade of existing AKASH missile with indigenous Seeker.
  • The Akash weapon system has combination of both command guidance and active terminal seeker guidance.
  • The medium range multi-target engagement capable missile was developed as part of the Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) other than Nag, Agni, Trishul, and Prithvi missiles.


  • The supersonic missile has a range of around 25 km and up to the altitude of 18,000 metres.
  • The missile uses high-energy solid propellant for the booster and ramjet-rocket propulsion for the sustainer phase.
  • Several variants of the missile — Akash MK1, Akash-MK2 — with improved accuracy and higher ranges are under development by the DRDO.

History- Important places, persons in news

Orchha on UNESCO world heritage sites tentative list


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Orchha Architectural Complex

Mains level : UNESCO heritage sites in India

  • THE architectural heritage of Orchha town of Madhya Pradesh – has been included in the tentative list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
  • It is declared following a proposal sent by the ASI to the UNESCO.

About Orchha

  • Orchha town in Niwari district of MP’s Bundelkhand region has a peculiar style of architecture used by the Bundela dynasty.
  • The town, located on the banks of river Betwa, around 80 km from MP’s Tikamgarh district and 15 km from Jhansi district of UP, was built by King Rudra Pratap Singh of Bundela dynasty in the 16th century.
  • The town is celebrated for its rich and ancient architecture of Chaturbhuj Temple, Orchha Fort Complex, and Raja Mahal among others.
  • It is famous for its two elevated minarets – Saavan and Bhadon; and four palaces – Jahangir Palace, Rai Praveen Mahal, Raja Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal.
  • It represents the concept of open bungalows, animal statues depicting the culture of Bundelkhand and stone work windows.
  • The site houses ‘Sri Ram Raja Mandir’, the only place in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King, not as a deity, with this dedicated temple in his name.

Mughal Confluence

  • The Orchha town is boasts of Bundela as well as Mughal architecture influence due to the closeness of both the dynasties.
  • Veer Singh Dev, King of Bundela dynasty, was a close friend of Mughal emperor Jahangir.
  • King Dev also fought wars as Mughal emperor Akbar’s aid.

What is tentative list?

  • As per rules, to be a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, the heritage or any historical site first has to be on the tentative list.
  • After it makes to the tentative list, another proposal is sent to UNESCO.
  • If the architectural splendour of Orchha makes it to the final list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, it would be the 38th site in India to form part of the treasured list.
  • Three historically famous sites in MP, including the rock shelters of Bhimbedka, Buddhist monuments at Sanchi, and the Khajuraho group of monuments are among the 37 Indian heritage sites on the UNESCO list.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Modi’s Taiwan opportunity


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Stronger relationship with Taiwan may boost India's Act East policy


Some in Delhi, however, would say that Modi’s focus on Taiwan is too big and risky an idea. They worry it might offend Chinese political sensitivities. But productive engagement with Taiwan is not about abandoning India’s “One-China” policy or playing some kind of a “card”. India has been rather scrupulous in respecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Relationship with Taiwan

  • Most major nations have significant cooperation with Taiwan without extending it diplomatic recognition. India, however, has too many self-imposed constraints on its Taiwan policy.
  • It is now time to lift many of them.
  • To be sure, since the establishment of formal channels of contact in the mid-1990s, there has been steady progress in the relationship.
  • Annual bilateral trade has reached $7 billion last year and the hope is to raise it to $20 billion in the next few years.
  • There has been a rise in Taiwan’s investments in India and a steady growth in exchanges between the two societies.
  • During the last five years, the NDA government has taken steps to enhance the relationship.
  • These include the upgradation of the bilateral investment agreement, promotion of major Taiwanese investments, expanding parliamentary exchanges and facilitating track-two dialogues on regional issues.

Reasons to enhance the relationship

There are at least three reasons why Delhi should take a fresh look at Taiwan and replace its current incrementalism with a more ambitious policy.

  1. Geopolitical –
  • The delicate three-way political compromise between US, China and Taiwan crafted in the 1970s appears to be breaking down, thanks to rising China’s regional assertiveness, the renewed threat of forceful reunification of Taiwan and Beijing’s relentless pressure tactics against Taipei.
  • If there is one piece of real estate that holds the key to the geopolitics of East Asia, it is Taiwan. The unfolding dynamic around Taiwan will have significant consequences for India’s Act East Policy and its emerging role in the Indo-Pacific Region.

2. Geo-economic –

  • The unfolding trade war between the US and China is compelling Taiwan to accelerate its plans to move its large manufacturing bases away from China to Southeast Asia and India.
  • As the structure of industrial production in East Asia undergoes a profound transformation, amidst the prospect of an economic decoupling between the US and China, India has once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost its own manufacturing sector.

3. Talent and technology

  •  As it turns out, Taiwan has embarked on a big mission to attract skilled workers.
  • With a declining birth rate and growing emigration, Taiwan’s industry, education, and technology development could do with Indian engineers and scientists. At present, there are barely 2,000 Indians working in Taiwan.

Future of relationship

  • There is no shortage of ideas for the transformation of India’s relations with Taiwan.
  • An agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation is one of those.
  • The synergy in human resources provides the basis for massive collaborations between the universities, research institutions and technology enclaves in the two countries.
  • Expanding the engagement with Taiwan can’t be a tactical game; it should be an important part of Delhi’s effort to come to terms with all corners of Greater China that looms so large over India’s future.

Those who think Taiwan is small beer in the wider scheme of Indian grand strategy should ponder over two facts. Taiwan’s GDP is about $600 billion and twice the size of Pakistan’s economy. And few entities in the international system are today as eager and capable of boosting Modi’s domestic economic agenda.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

[op-ed snap] Shadow over data


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Loss of autonomy of NSC will raise doubts on official data.


On May 23, while the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha election was underway, the NDA government passed an order to merge the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) with the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Details of the order

The order, which cleared the formation of an overarching body — National Statistical Office (NSO) — skipped any mention of the National Statistical Commission (NSC).

As the NSC is an independent body which oversees technical aspects of the NSSO’s statistical work, the worry is that this move will impinge on the autonomy enjoyed by the NSSO so far.

Coming at a time when data put out by the Indian statistical system is already under a cloud of suspicion, this is likely to raise further questions over the independence of the statistical system.

Loss of autonomy of Indian statistical system

Events over the past year have suggested that all is not well in the Indian statistical system.

New GDP series data –

  • At the centre of it all, was the NSC. It all began when a report, prepared by a committee appointed by the NSC, showed that under the new GDP series, the economy had grown at a much faster pace under the UPA, than previously estimated.
  • With the NDA government quick to disown it, the matter acquired a political dimension.

Employment Report

  • A few months later, P C Mohanan, acting chairman of the NSC, and J V Meenakshi, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, resigned from the NSC, protesting against the decision to not publish the NSSO’s employment survey.
  • The results of the survey showed that unemployment in India had surged under the NDA.

Shell companies under MCA 21

  • Then, a few weeks ago, another report by the NSSO showed that a large number of companies in the MCA21 database — which is integral to estimating GDP under the new series — either couldn’t be traced or had closed down or were operating in different sectors.
  • This warrants a relook at the manner in which the MCA21 database is used for estimating GDP.


  • This series of events, followed by the government’s latest order, is likely to increase scepticism of official data.
  • But, while the more immediate concern is that of the role of the NSC, the larger concern is the decline of what was once a famed statistical system.
  • For a government that should have begun its new term by re-building the credibility of the system, this is not a good start.

[op-ed snap] Global implications of the 2019 mandate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : A strong mandate will help tin taking strong decision to secure India's Interests.


The clear and decisive mandate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a defining moment in India’s democratic history. Its extent, which is manifest from the highest-ever voter turnout in a general election and the share of votes won by the winning coalition, creates its own very unique set of circumstances.


  • It is a unique moment for India that the rising aspirations of people in one of the fastest growing economies have resulted in this kind of a mandate.
  • While it raises the bar on expectations, more importantly, it gives the leadership of the country the necessary wherewithal to take the kind of decisions that are needed to put India on a high growth trajectory.
  • At a time when two of the largest economic powers in the world, the U.S. and China, are locked in a trade war of sorts, this mandate opens the window for India to take advantage of economic opportunities that are likely to develop in the geopolitical space.
  • To get the Indian economy on the right trajectory, to spur our exports and to create jobs — while this kind of a mandate creates expectations, it also empowers the leadership to take the right decisions to realise the same.

A chance to steer geopolitics

International Solar Alliance – India over the last five years has taken a leadership position in quite a few initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, while facilitating global action on climate change through the Paris Agreement.

International Yoga day – India has also projected its soft power through a global projection of yoga to shine the spotlight on how Indian spirituality can be a force for greater good.

Other venues –  India should would take up its rightful role in steering geopolitics in a host of areas: from global trade to regional conflicts to setting the global direction in emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence and space exploration, to name a few.

Net neutrality and privacy – The mandate also calls for a new creed of techno-nationalism as a counter to borderless techno-activism that has threatened Indian interests through its pursuit of innocuous agendas (net neutrality and privacy) which have advocated measures inimical to India.

Ahead in technology curve – The political mandate demands that India devise ways and means to stay ahead of the curve in emerging technology areas such as 5G and artificial intelligence, among others.

Data Localisation – India is also the largest open market to global technology majors which continue to locate their computing and storage infrastructure outside India and beyond Indian jurisdictions.


The mandate demands that India leverage the strength of its democracy and the power of its markets to ensure that the global platforms play by rules that do not hurt the Indian national interest. While India continues to benefit from global digital innovations, this needs to happen within a framework that enhances Indian interests.