[op-ed snap] A failing state

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : State's lack of preparedness cost children's lives.


The death of children in Muzaffarpur due to AES, a preventable disease, shows that malnutrition needs to be addressed urgently.


More than 100 children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district have died of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), with the state’s medical authorities initially blaming the deaths on the heat wave, hypoglycemia (sudden drop in blood sugar levels) and lack of awareness.


Now, belatedly, they have acknowledged the two most critical reasons for the deaths — malnutrition and the inadequacy of primary health centres (PHCs).

  • The state government’s lack of preparedness is indefensible.
  • AES has struck Muzaffarpur with regularity in the summers since 1995.
  • The disease claimed nearly 1,000 children between 2010 and 2014. It seemed to have become less virulent after 2014.

Study on AES

For example, a 2014 study by researchers from the Christian Medical College, Vellore, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in the US showed how a combination of factors, unique to Muzaffarpur, sharpened the vulnerability of its children to the disease.

Litchi’s toxins – The district is a major litchi-growing region and the study found that toxins present in the fruit were a source of AES.

Malnutrition –

  • But the fruit was a triggering factor only in the case of children who had not received proper nutrition, the study reported.
  • It said that the toxins in the fruit assume lethal proportions when a poorly-nourished child eats litchis during the day and then goes to sleep without a proper meal.
  • The links between the fruit and AES have been debated but most researchers agree that the disease affects only under-nourished children.

No Action by the state on report

However, the state government has not taken the cue from medical research. It does not have a special nutrition programme for AES-prone areas.

Poorly Equipped PHCs

  • Medical literature has also shown that AES can be contained if the child is administered dextrose within four hours of the onset of symptoms.
  • But every AES outbreak in the past 10 years has shown that Muzaffarpur’s PHCs — the first point of healthcare for most AES patients — are ill-equipped to deal with the disease.
  • Most of them do not have glycometers to monitor blood sugar levels.
  • The Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, the designated hospital in Muzaffarpur to deal with the disease, do not have a virology lab or adequate number of paediatric beds.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Preventing violence: on protection to doctors

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Improved health infrastructure is solution to violence against the doctors.


A law to protect doctors is good, and a health-care upgrade is essential.


  • The attack on a junior doctor on June 10 over the death of a patient had sparked the agitation, which spread to other parts of the country when it appeared that the State government was reluctant to negotiate with the striking doctors.
  • Now that Ms. Banerjee has reached out to young doctors and conceded that their demands are genuine, the government, in West Bengal and elsewhere, must focus on addressing the deficiencies afflicting the health-care system as a whole.

Reasons for violence against doctors

  • Reprisal attacks on doctors by agitated relatives of patients who die during treatment are known to happen.
  • Such violence is invariably the result of systemic problems that adversely affect optimal attention to patients, such as infrastructural and manpower constraints.
  • It is apparent that doctors work in stressful environments, sometimes under political pressure with regard to admissions.

Provisions in place

  • Several States have enacted laws to protect doctors and other health-care personnel from violence.
  • Last week, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to State governments highlighting the need for stringent action against anyone who assaults doctors.
  • He asked States that do not have a law to protect doctors against violence to enact one, and circulated a 2017 draft of a law that envisaged imprisonment besides recovery of compensation from perpetrators for loss or damage to property.

Effectiveness of such a law

  • Ironically, West Bengal, the epicentre of a strike that involved nearly the entire medical fraternity across the country, has such a law too.
  • Like the law in most other States, the West Bengal Act provides for a three-year prison term and a fine, which could go up to ₹50,000, to anyone indulging in violence against any “medicare service person”, which covers doctors, nurses, medical and nursing students and paramedical staff.
  • The offence is cognisable and non-bailable.
  • It also provides for recovery of compensation for the loss.
  •  It is clear that having this law did not prevent the incident that sparked the latest agitation.
  • There are no figures available on how many times the medical service person protection law has been invoked.


In any case, causing simple or grievous injuries to anyone is a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code. Treating the issue as a law and order problem is just one way. The real solution may lie in improving health infrastructure, counselling patients about possible adverse treatment outcomes, and providing basic security in medical institutions.

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

[op-ed snap] Building confidence, BIT by BIT

Mains : Investment Models |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : New model of bilateral investment treaties should balance state and investor's rights


Indian bilateral investment treaties need to strike a balance between foreign investor interests and those of the state .

Current  Economic scenario

  •  The GDP growth rate is at a five-year low, domestic consumption is sinking, the business confidence index has plunged, and India has recorded its highest unemployment rate in the last 45 years.
  • To add to this list of woes is a claim made by Arvind Subramanian, India’s former Chief Economic Adviser, that India’s GDP has been overestimated.
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) equity inflows to India in 2018-19 contracted by 1%, according to the government’s own data.

Lost opportunity

1.Shifting base of global supply chains –

  • This contraction in FDI inflows comes at a time when global supply chains are shifting base as a result of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. India has failed to attract firms exiting China.
  • Many of these supply chains have relocated to Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • India is clearly not the natural/first option for these firms for a host of reasons, such as poor infrastructure, rigid land and labour laws, a deepening crisis in the banking sector and a lack of structural economic reforms.

2. Termination of bilateral investment treaties  –

  • The decline in the FDI growth rate, despite the well-advertised improvement in India’s ease of doing business rankings, interestingly, has coincided with India’s decision, in 2016, to unilaterally terminate bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with more than 60 countries; this is around 50% of the total unilateral termination of BITs globally from 2010 to 2018.
  • Unilateral termination of BITs on such a mass scale projects India as a country that does not respect international law.
  • India also adopted a new inward-looking Model BIT in 2016 that prioritises state interests over protection to foreign investment.

Impacts of BITs

Studies have shown that BITs positively impacted foreign investment inflows to India.

Bad regulation in previous BIT

  • True, India’s BITs gave extensive protection to foreign investment with scant regard for the state’s interests — a characteristically neoliberal model.
  • This design flaw could have been corrected by India negotiating new balanced treaties and then replacing the existing ones with the new ones instead of terminating them unilaterally, which has created a vacuum.

Reasons for increased BIT claims

  • Importantly, the design flaw was not the real reason for the increasing number of BIT claims.
  • Judiciary’s interference – A large number arose either because the judiciary could not get its act together (an example being inordinate delays in deciding on the enforceability of arbitration awards) or because it ruled in certain cases without examining India’s BIT obligations such as en masse cancellation of the second generation telecom licences in 2012.
  • Executive interference – Likewise, the executive — the Manmohan Singh government — got the income tax laws retrospectively amended in 2012 to overrule the Supreme Court’s judgment in favour of Vodafone and cancelled Devas Multimedia’s spectrum licences in 2011 without following due process, thus adversely impacting Mauritian and German investors.
  • In correcting the pro-investor imbalance in India’s BITs, India went to the other extreme and created a pro-state imbalance as evident in the Model BIT.

Way Forward

  • Indian BITs should strike a balance between the interests of foreign investors and those of the state.
  • A certain degree of arrogance and misplaced self-belief that foreign investors would flock to India despite shocks and surprises in the regulatory environment should be put to rest.
  • Clarity, continuity and transparency in domestic regulations and a commitment to a balanced BIT framework would help India project itself as a nation committed to the rule of law, both domestically and internationally, and thus shore up investor confidence.
  • As the 2019 World Investment Report confirms, since India is fast becoming a leading outward investor, balanced BITs would also help in protecting Indian investment abroad.
FDI in Indian economy

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

Mains Paper 2 : Parliament & State Legislatures |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Speaker of the Lok Sabha

Mains level : Terms of reference for Speaker


  • Om Birla, a Member of Parliament from Rajasthan, was elected Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha.

Speaker of the Lok Sabha

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower house of the Parliament of India.
  • The speaker is elected generally in the very first meeting of the Lok Sabha following general elections.
  • Serving for a term of five years, the speaker chosen from sitting members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), and is by convention a member of the ruling party or alliance.


  • Newly elected MPs from the Lok Sabha elect the Speaker among themselves.
  • It is desired Speaker should be someone who understands Lok Sabha functions and it is someone accepted among the ruling and opposition parties.
  • MP’s propose a name to Pro tem speaker. These names are notified to President of India. President through their aid Secretary- General notifies the election date. If only one name is proposed, Speaker is elected without any formal vote.
  • However, if more than 1 nomination are received, a division (vote) is called.
  • MPs vote for their candidate on such date notified by President. Successful candidate is elected as Speaker of the Lok Sabha until next general election

Powers and Functions

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha conducts the business in house; and decides whether a bill is a money bill or not.
  • She/he maintains discipline and decorum in the house and can punish a member for their unruly behaviour by suspending them.
  • She/he also permit the moving of various kinds of motions and resolutions such as a motion of no confidence, motion of adjournment, motion of censure and calling attention notice as per the rules.
  • The Speaker decides on the agenda to be taken up for discussion during the meeting.
  • Further, all comments and speeches made by members of the House are addressed to the Speaker.
  • The Speaker also presides over the joint sitting of both houses of the Parliament of India.

Removal from office

  • Speaker can be removed by the Lok Sabha by a resolution passed by an effective majority (>50% of total strength excluding vacancies) of the house as per Articles 94 (vacation) and 96 (resolution for removal).
  • Speaker is also removed on getting disqualified for being Lok Sabha member under sections 7 and 8 of Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • This would arise out of speaker’s wrong certification of a bill as money bill inconsistent with the definition given in Articles 110 of the constitution.
  • When courts uphold the unconstitutional act of the speaker for wrong certification of a bill as money bill, it amounts to disrespecting the constitution deserving conviction under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
  • It is applicable for disqualification of speaker’s Lok Sabha membership under section 8K of Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • However the omissions in the procedure committed by the speaker in the Lok Sabha can not be challenged in court of law per Article 122.


Also read:


Chairman of Rajya Sabha

  • The counterpart of the Speaker in the Rajya Sabha (Council of the States) is its Chairperson; the Vice President of India is the ex-officio chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
  • On the order of precedence, the Speaker of Lok Sabha ranks sixth, along with the Chief Justice of India. The Speaker is answerable to the House.
  • Both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker may be removed by a resolution passed by the majority of the members.

World Population Prospects Report 2019

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : World Population Prospects 2019

Mains level : Demographic transition


  • According to ‘The World Population Prospects 2019’, by 2027, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country.
  • Some of the key takeaways are as follows:

Global population on rise

  • The global population is projected to increase by another 2 billion people by 2050, from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 9.7 billion thirty years down the line.
  • By the end of the century, the world population is set to peak at a level of about 11 billion.

Indian Case

  • India is expected to remain the world’s most populous country with nearly 1.5 billion inhabitants, followed by China at 1.1 billion, Nigeria with 733 million, the United States with 434 million, and Pakistan with 403 million.
  • In 2019, India has an estimated population of 1.37 billion and China 1.43 billion and by 2027, India’s population is projected to surpass China’s.
  • India is also expected to add 273 million people by 2050 and will remain the most populated until the end of the century.

More in 65+ bracket

  • In India, children under age five still outnumber the over-65 population, who are projected to overtake the under-five group between 2025 and 2030.
  • By 2050, persons over age 65 will make up about one-seventh of India’s population. By then, the 15-24 group in India (13.8%), too, will outnumber the over-65 group (13.6%).
  • Children under age five are projected to constitute less than 6% of India’s population in 2050, as compared to 7% globally.

Govt. sacks tainted officers

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Civil services reforms in India


  • According to an official release, 15 IRS officers in the Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs (CBIC) cadre, who had attained the age of 50 years and above, have been given retirement without notice.

Compulsory retirement

  • Under 56 (j), the performance of an officer who has turned 50 or 55 or has completed 30 years of service (whichever is earlier) is being reviewed to ascertain if he/she is liable for compulsory retirement.
  • Though the rule that provides for compulsory retirement of government staff in public interest has existed for several decades, it has sparingly been invoked.
  • The order said that the each official retired will be paid a sum equivalent to the amount of his pay plus allowances for three months equivalent to last drawn salary.

Rule 56 of Fundamental Rules

  • Rule 56 of Fundamental Rules states that the appropriate authority has the absolute right to retire, if it is necessary to do so in public interest.

Perform or Perish

  • In the case of officers who have entered the government service before the age of 35 years and attained the age of 50 years and in other cases where the officers have attained the age of 55 years or have completed 30 years of service, the government begins periodic review three to six months in advance and takes a decision on the basis of effectiveness of an officer.
  • This is a potent tool in the hands of the Union government as the top court of the country has upheld its validity.

Validated by the Court

  • Supreme Court has not only held the validity of Fundamental Rules 56 but it has also held that there is no need to issue a show-cause notice to such officers before serving a retirement notice to the concerned officer.
  • These people are those who have completed more than 50 years.
  • And the message has to be sent to others and that is why the government is sending the message.

For all services

  • The provision is there for all the services. It has to be done by the ministry concerned.
  • For the IAS officers it is DoPT and for IPS officers it is MHA so the decision has to be taken by them.
Civil Services Reforms

India unlikely to meet carbon sink commitment

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Afforestation Programme , Green India Mission

Mains level : India's INDCs


  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030, is unlikely to materialize.

State of Afforestation in India

  • The current rate of afforestation — 35 million tonnes per year carbon dioxide equivalent — is lower than what is needed to achieve the target.
  • At this rate, there will be a shortfall from the target pledged.
  • Various afforestation programmes like the Green India Mission (GIM) and National Afforestation Programme (NAP) are under-funded, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on S&T.
  • There had been a decline in the progress area brought under afforestation as part of the NAP — from 80,583 hectares in 2013-14 to just 35,986 hectares in 2015-16.
  • The report also found that there had been no recent studies to know the efficacy of these programmes.

What needs to be done?

  • The Ministry should undertake a study to assess the impact of National Afforestation Programme and Green India Mission in improving the quality of degraded forests.
  • This should be done so that their actual impact on the forest cover is known and further strategies in this regard could be drawn accordingly.
  • To increase afforestation and reduce land degradation, there was a need to improve the quality of the forest under the categories ‘Open Forests’ and ‘Shrubs’.


Green India Mission (GIM)

  • National Mission for a Green India is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • GIM, launched in February 2014, is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • The mission has the broad objective of both increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha,  as  well as increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in  another 5 million ha of forest/ non forest lands in 10 years.
  • The Mission proposes a holistic view of greening and focuses not on carbon sequestration targets alone, but also, on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass etc.
  • It will also increase options of forest based livelihood of households living in the fringe of those landscapes where the Mission is implemented.

National Afforestation Programme (NAP)

  • National Afforestation Programme (NAP) of the MoEFCC is a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Afforestation and tree plantation and eco-restoration of degraded forests and adjoining areas in the country.
  • The Scheme is being implemented through a decentralized mechanism of State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) at State level, Forest Development Agency (FDA) at Forest Division level and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at Village levels.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Ajivika School of philosophy

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ajivika Philosophy

Mains level : Heterodox philosophies in India


  • Around the 6th century BC, at the time of the Buddha, there was an explosion all across India of different schools of thought and philosophy.
  • One of the most popular was the Ajivika sect. Though it had been around for ages, its most important leader Makkhali Goshala was a contemporary of both the Buddha and Mahavira.

Ajivika Philosophy

  • The Ajivikas’ central belief was that absolutely everything is predetermined by fate, or niyati, and hence human action has no consequence one way or the other.
  • According to them, each soul’s course was like a ball of thread that is unravelling.
  • It will go as it has to go, and similarly each cycle of life and death will have to be experienced, as will joy and sorrow.
  • Once the ball of thread is fully unwound, its journey will end, and so the soul will be liberated through nirvana.


  • Like Jains, Ajiviks wore no clothes, and lived as ascetic monks in organised groups.
  • They were known to practice extremely severe austerities, such as lying on nails, going through fire, exposing themselves to extreme weather, and even spending time in large earthen pots for penance!

Open for all

  • There was no caste discrimination and people from all walks of life joined them.

Patrons of Ajivika

  • Ajiviks were quite influential, and had many powerful followers. The sect reached its peak during the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s father’s (Bindusara’s) time.
  • Ashoka himself, best known for his spreading of Buddhism all over India and Southeast Asia, was an Ajivik for most of his life.
  • Interestingly, the oldest rock-cut caves in India, the Barabar Caves in Bihar dating from the Mauryan Empire, were made for Ajiviks and Jains to retreat and meditate!
  • Their reputation for such fearsome penance spread far and wide, and appeared in later Chinese and Japanese literature.

Rivalry with Jainism and Buddhism

  • Buddhist and Jain texts are very critical of the Ajiviks and Makkhali Goshala, which shows us that the Ajiviks must have been considered fairly important rivals of both.
  • For instance, Ajivik monks were known to eat very little food, but Buddhists accused them of eating secretly!
  • Jain texts describe a violent quarrel between Mahavira and Makkhali Goshal, which naturally, was won by their leader!
History- Important places, persons in news