[op-ed snap] Basic Needs, Basic Rights

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Basic rights are the need of hour.


The horrific tragedy in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where the systemic failure of health care has killed over a hundred children.

Defining rights in a new way

  • First, like the constitutional principle of a basic structure, it is time to articulate an equally robust doctrine of basic rights.
  • Second, these basic rights must be viewed primarily as positive, rights not against interference from the state (negative rights) but to the provision of something by it.
  • Third, just as individuals are punished for legal violations, the government of the day must also be punished for the violation of these basic rights.

Basic RIghts

  •  Basic rights flow from basic needs such as physical security or subsistence.  Their non-fulfilment can cause great harm, even kill.
  • The failure to get an antibiotic if you have a bacterial infection can hurt you very badly.
  •  Needs depend on the way human bodies are constituted. They are a solid necessity; one cannot get on without them.
  • Nor can they be fulfilled by substitutes.
  • For us, nothing can take the place of water, food and air.

Impact of lack of basic needs

  • People suffer if basic needs are met inadequately or with delay. They are then denied a minimally decent life.
  • Elementary justice requires that before anything else, the state does everything at its disposal to satisfy all basic needs of its citizens, particularly of those who cannot fend for themselves.

Basic Rights 

1.Right to physical security –

  • The right to physical security, the first basic right, is socially guaranteed when the state provides its people a well-trained, professional police force.
  • It follows that basic rights are a shield for the defenceless against the most damaging threats to their life which include starvation, pestilence and disease.

2. Economic Security –

  • The second is the right to minimum economic security and subsistence, that includes clean air, uncontaminated water, nutritious food, clothing and shelter.
  • By showing the devastation caused by its absence, the Muzaffarpur tragedy amply proves that the right to primary health care is also an integral part of the right to subsistence.
  • For this, proper budgetary allocation is required that depends in turn on getting one’s political priority and commitment right. When a government fails to provide primary health care to those who can’t afford it, it violates their basic rights.

3. The right to free public expression –

  • The right to free public expression of helplessness and frustration, if deprived of other basic rights.
  • The right to make one’s vulnerability public, be informed about the acts of commission and omission of the government regarding anything that adversely affects the satisfaction of basic needs, to critically examine them and to hold state officials publicly accountable is a basic right on a par with right to physical security and subsistence and inseparably linked to them.



  • These three basic rights can be summed up in a single phrase, the right to a minimally decent life.
  • A society may soar, strive for great collective achievement. Anything short of a minimally decent life is simply not acceptable. It is this precisely that horrifies us about the callousness of the Bihar government in Muzaffarpur and governments in India more generally.
  • They routinely abdicate responsibility for the suffering they directly or indirectly cause.
  • This is why we must ask why governments are not immediately and severely penalised when they undermine the exercise of these basic rights.
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] Paving a green path

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Agenda for Climate Change Negotiations


On the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, the UN Secretary General has convened a summit to discuss plans to address climate change.  The UN Secretary General is concerned that the collective climate ambition is low and is keen to launch new initiatives to close the gap between the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) made under the Paris Pact and the goal of climate stabilisation.

  • The recent IPCC report which called for limiting the global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius has added momentum to the push.
  • For this goal, the world will need to move towards zero carbon emission around 2050.
  • But such a world is contingent on heavy electrification of energy, industry and transport systems in the medium term and market adoption of low or near zero carbon technologies in the longer term.

Industry Track

  • Nine tracks of discussion are planned at the summit, with the hope of nudging countries to move to an aggressive path of decarbonisation.
  • One of them, the “industry track,” focussing on industrial decarbonisation, is led by India and Sweden.

Industrial decarbonisation –

  • The challenge of industrial decarbonisation looks daunting at first glance. However, India’s experience in this respect is telling.
  • As per government data, India may be on track to achieve its NDC target of emissions intensity well ahead of time.
  • The period between 2005 to 2014, for which emissions data is available, has seen consistently higher economic growth (around 6-7 per cent) than the rate of growth in emissions (around 3.8 per cent).
  • Falling energy costs of renewables have made it possible for incomes and jobs to be protected while lowering the emissions.
1.Harder-to-abate sectors  –
However, over a third of the emissions is generated by the harder-to-abate sectors which will witness high growth rate in the next decade, leading to three to four times increase in energy demand.
2.High emissions intensity –
  • While the energy intensity of these sectors may fall because of improved energy efficiency, their emissions intensity may remain high.
  • The fall in India’s emissions intensity of GDP may not be sustainable unless attempts are initiated now to address the carbon intensity of these sectors in the long term.
3.No Replacements –
  • The trouble is that for heavy industries such as iron and steel, cement, aluminum, plastics, and long distance transport, which depend on fossil fuels, technologies to replace such fuels are either not ready for commercial-scale application or simply not available.
  • Typically, industry is hesitant to adopt better but costly technology because of concerns about market share. 
Way Forward

One can think of the summit helping to build three levels of coalitions in a push for such transformation.

1.A voluntary coalition of industries – 

  • First, a voluntary coalition of industries having the desire to accelerate to low or zero carbon technologies could be formed.
  • These coalitions could adopt sector-wide goals by 2023 based on the best-available technology using life-cycle methods.

2. A coalition of Countries –

  • The second coalition could consist of countries interested in promoting decreased carbon intensity through specific schemes — for example, the perform, achieve and trade scheme for energy efficiency in India.
  • A coalition of industries and countries could also be formed to push for international agreements aimed at promoting technology solutions in harder-to-abate sectors through working groups and partnerships.


Whichever coalition India may offer to join, it will be useful for the country to think of its sectoral actions as part of a long-term low carbon national growth strategy.

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

[op-ed snap] Power play

Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc. |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Reforms in Power Sector



In a welcome move, public sector companies NTPC and Power Grid Corporation of India have formed a joint venture to set up a national electricity distribution company.

Implications of this decision

1.Power Supply Chain – The decision paves the way for a central public sector entity to enter the power supply business, which up until now has been largely the preserve of state distribution companies.

2.Distribution – Coming at a time when state discoms are struggling to contain their losses, the move is likely to have far reaching ramifications for the distribution segment.

  • Over the years, successive governments have tried to address issues plaguing the power distribution segment, but in vain.
  • The segment is the weakest link in the power chain, and its poor health affects the entire power sector.
  • In 2015, the NDA government had launched the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) to turn around the fortunes of beleaguered state discoms.
  • But almost four years later, discoms continue to struggle, plagued by a host of issues ranging from inadequate tariff hikes, to high aggregate technical and commercial losses, inadequate and untimely subsidy disbursements, among others.
  • Stressing Banking Sector – Their flagging fortunes have not only affected power generation companies, but have also caused stress in the banking sector.

National electricity distribution company

  • The creation of a national electricity distribution company, which also serves as a central electricity buying agency, could potentially address several of these issues.
  • Addressing pertinent Issues – It could bring relief to power producers, bring stranded capacity back to life, ensure timely payment and address the issue of stressed assets in power generation.
  • Benefiting Consumers – The new entity could also procure electricity at competitive rates, the benefits of which could then be passed on to end consumers.

Other Reforms

The move to create such an entity also signals the possibility of another round of reforms in power distribution,

1.The separation of content and carriage: Carriage refers to distribution, while content refers to electricity supply.

  • Separating them would allow consumers to buy electricity from a power company of their choice.
  • In a market that is currently characterised by geographical monopolies, this would help usher in competition.

2. Rationalising the power tariff structure

  • Such measures along with the creation of a national distribution company also raise the possibility of rationalising the power tariff structure across the country.
  • Currently, the power market in India is highly fragmented.
  • Different state discoms charge different tariffs to different customers.
  • These moves could potentially bring about a rationalisation in tariffs by providing national pricing benchmark across different categories of customers.
UDAY Scheme for Discoms

Explained: Debate over Data Localization

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Data Localization

Mains level : Debat over Data Localization Policy in India


  • The IT Ministry’s Bill on data protection is scheduled to be introduced in Parliament during the current session.
  • Worldwide, the data flow debate is playing out at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and G20.

The ‘Data’ under debate

  • Data is any collection of information that is stored in a way so computers can easily read it.
  • These days, most people refer to data to mean information about their messages, social media posts, online transactions, and browser searches.
  • Big data refers to the immense amount of data that can now be collected, stored, and analysed to find patterns.

Why is Data important?

  • This large collection of information about people’s online habits has become an important source of profits.
  • Your online activity can expose a lot about who you are, and companies find it valuable to use the information to target advertisements to you.
  • Governments and political parties have also gained interest in these data sets for elections and policymaking.

Data Localization

  • Data is stored in a physical space, like a file cabinet that can be the size of the Taj Mahal.
  • Data is also transported across country borders physically, traveling through underwater cables that run as deep as Mount Everest and as long as four times the span of the Indian Ocean.
  • Thirdly, just as oil is refined, data has to be processed to be useful. This means it is analysed by computers.
  • These aspects of data flows — where it is stored, where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful — determines who has access to the data, who profits off the data, who taxes the data, and who “owns” the data.
  • With these questions in mind, individual governments are developing their own domestic rules and negotiating with each other on a global stage, raising values of national security, economic growth, and privacy.

India in favor of Data Localization

  • India’s recent drafts and statements have strong signals for data localisation, which means that data of Indians (even if collected by an American company) must be stored and processed in India.
  • Along with a RBI directive to payment companies to localize financial data, the Ministry of Commerce’s draft e-commerce policy is currently in public consultation.
  • The IT Ministry has drafted a data protection law that will be introduced in Parliament and has also framed draft intermediary rules that were leaked earlier.
  • These laws, broadly speaking, could require Facebook, Google, and Amazon to store and process in India information such as an Indian’s messages, searches, and purchases.
  • In some cases, they restrict what type of data these companies can collect. In others, it requires only a copy of the data to be in the country.
  • By requiring a copy of the data to be stored in India (data mirroring), the government hopes to have more direct control over these companies, including the option to levy more taxes on them.
  • The government also argues for data localisation on the ground of national security, to prevent foreign surveillance and attacks.

What are counter-arguments against data localisation?

  • On the other side, the US government and companies want cross-border flow of data. It would allow companies to store the data of Indians in the most efficient place in the world.
  • Even though India’s data economy is not as large as that of others, it is one of the fastest growing, making it a market that global companies cannot afford to ignore.
  • Proponents of free flow of data worry that if all countries begin to protect their data, it may backfire on India’s own companies that seek global growth.
  • Others caution that these laws could bring increased state surveillance, like India’s draft intermediary rules that would require WhatsApp to change its design to proactively filter messages.
  • The company says messages are currently encrypted, meaning neither the company nor any government can see them.

Data policies in neighbourhood

  • China has developed similar laws, which proponents say allow for a flourishing domestic economy of data centres and data processing by blocking foreign players out.
  • This is why Indian companies, like Reliance and PayTM, usually support data localisation.
  • The other argument from the Indian government is that localisation will help law enforcement access the data.
  • Currently, India has to use “mutual legal assistance treaties” (MLAT) with the US to get the data of Indians that are controlled by American companies.

What is happening at the global forums?

  • Trade tensions worldwide are escalating, giving the data flow debate new relevance at the WTO and G20.
  • WTO member countries are negotiating rules about e-commerce, which is the buying and selling of goods and services online.
  • Digital trade contributes more to global GDP than physical trade. India is one of the fastest growing markets, with e-commerce expecting to reach $1.2 trillion by 2021.
  • These laws raise questions about where companies can store, process, and transport data about transactions.
  • In their proposals, the US and the EU have called to prohibit customs duties on online transactions while China and Pakistan have called for allowing them.
  • The US has also recommended not having overly burdensome data standards nor localisation requirements, while the EU wants data localisation requirements.

Ahead of G20 meet

  • A principle titled “Data Free Flow with Trust” (DFFT) — supported by US, Japan, and Australia — is expected to be a significant talking point at the upcoming G20 summit.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ Scheme in Haryana

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Hi Jivan Scheme

Mains level : Groundwater management


  • Farmers in paddy-growing districts of Haryana have agreed to opt for maize and other alternatives after the state government offered major incentives for crop diversification.
  • This was done in an attempt to address the rapidly falling groundwater levels in the state.

 ‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ Scheme

  • The ‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ scheme envisages diversification of 50,000 hectare area of non-basmati rice mainly into maize, pulses or oilseeds to achieve the target.
  • Apart from seeds and financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per hectare, the farmer’s share of crop insurance will also be borne by the government.
  • After it emerged that the groundwater level has depleted in 76% area of the state, Haryana launched the pilot scheme.
  • The objective of the scheme is to replace paddy with maize in seven major paddy-growing districts: Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Karnal and Sonipat.
  • According to the state Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department, the farmers have formally registered for alternative plantations over 40,000 hectares of land.

Why substitute Paddy Cultivation?

  • Paddy is not suitable for Haryana because it puts tremendous stress on the groundwater due to its water-intensive nature.
  • According to agriculture department officials, 1 kg of rice requires 2,000-5,000 litres of water, depending upon its variety, soil type and time of sowing.
  • With paddy production jumping, the number of tubewells in the state also shot up from a few thousand to 8 lakh, resulting in overdrawing of groundwater.
  • Experts also say that it has exhausted the soil health while the crops like arhar, pulses and oilseeds require minimum fertilizers.
  • If farmers opt for maize in place of rice, the water saved per hectare will be about 14 lakh litres per crop season.

Rise in dark zones

  • These are zones where the water table has fallen to a critical level, and the rate at which water is being drawn is much more than the pace at which it is being recharged.
  • In the last two decades, the farmers have pumped out much as 74% of the groundwater reservoirs.
  • If over-exploitation of the water continues, parts of Haryana will turn into a desert in the coming years.

First such scheme ever

  • Haryana is the first state to implement water-saving scheme involving sowing maize as an alternative crop.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Mains Paper 3 : Money-Laundering & Its Prevention |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FATF

Mains level : Global AML/CTF measures


  • Recently, Saudi Arabia has become the first Arab country to be granted full membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
  • Saudi had received an invitation from the FATF at the beginning of 2015 to join as an “observer member”.

FATF: Often in news

  • There is absolute possibility that Pakistan could be on its blacklist by its next plenary summit.
  • India had been pushing for Pakistan to get on the FATF blacklist for its failure to take “credible, verifiable, irreversible and sustainable measures” against terrorist activities.
  • Getting on the FATF blacklist, which currently only has Iran and North Korea on it, could severely cripple and isolate a country financially, resulting in a downgraded credit rating and denying it loans and development assistance.

Implications for Pakistan

  • Any conditionality associated with Pakistan’s loan from the IMF would not automatically have a connection to the FATF outcomes, although the IMF could choose to link the two.
  • IMF is an observer organisation to the FATF and so have complete visibility into everything that occurs within the task force, including a very detailed understanding of what the Pakistani incompetence.
  • The decision to condition fund disbursement under an IMF programme based on structural benchmarks that might be associated with the FATF is purely an IMF decision.


Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • FATF is an inter-governmental body established by G7 in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdiction.
  • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • The FATF has developed a series of Recommendations that are recognised as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.
  • The FATF’s decision-making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year.

The Blacklist and Grey list

  • FATF maintains two different lists of countries: those that have deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and combating terror finance regimes.
  • But these countries could commit to an action plan to address these loopholes, and those that do not end up doing enough.
  • The country who commits and addresses the concerns is put into grey list otherwise blacklisted.
  • Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures, increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether.
  • As of now there are only two countries in the blacklist, Iran and North Korea — and seven on the grey list, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen.

India and FATF

  • India became Observer at FATF in the year 2006.
  • FATF Plenary adopted the Mutual Evaluation Report on India on 24th June 2010 and on 25th June 2010 admitted India as 34th Country Member of FATF.
  • FATF membership is very important for India in its quest to become a major player in the International finance.
  • It will help India to build the capacity to fight terrorism and trace terrorist money and to successfully investigate and prosecute money laundering and terrorist financing offences.
  • India will benefit in securing a more transparent and stable financial system by ensuring that financial institutions are not vulnerable to infiltration or abuse by organized crime groups.
  • The FATF process will also help India in co-ordination of AML/CFT efforts at the international level.

With inputs from: https://dea.gov.in/pressrelease/indias-membership-financial-action-task-force

Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

RBI introduces Complaint Management System (CMS)

Mains Paper 3 : Inclusive Growth & Issues |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RBI CMS

Mains level : Customer awareness measures by RBI


  • The RBI has launched a Complaint Management System (CMS) by providing a single window on Reserve Bank’s website for lodging complaints against any regulated entity.

Complaint Management System

  • Members of public can access the CMS portal at the central bank’s website to lodge their complaints against any of the entities regulated by RBI.
  • CMS provides auto-generated acknowledgements and enabling them to track the status of their complaints and file appeals online against the decisions of Ombudsmen, where applicable.
  • Complainants can voluntarily share feedback on their experience in obtaining redressal.
  • CMS can generate various reports for monitoring and managing complaints pertaining to each entity.
  • The CMS has self-help material (in video format) to guide the users of the portal; videos on safe banking practices; and on the regulatory initiatives of RBI.

Resolution under CMS

  • CMS facilitates the regulated entities to resolve customer complaints received through CMS by providing seamless access to their Principal Nodal Officers/Nodal Officers.
  • The complaint would be directed to the appropriate Office of the Ombudsman/ Regional Office of the RBI.
  • The benefit to the financial system will accrue from seamless access of CMS to the nodal officers of banks and financial service providers (FSPs).


  • Customer awareness is an enabling tool for strengthening customer protection.
  • An alert and aware customer can effectively guard against the risks of mis-selling, cheating, frauds and such other threats.
RBI Notifications

Lunar Evacuation System Assembly (LESA)

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LESA

Mains level : Lunar missions by NASA


  • Among preparations for NASA’s 2024 Moon mission, one has been to test a device called Lunar Evacuation System Assembly, or LESA.
  • Astronauts are testing LESA under the sea. With its rocky, sandy terrain and buoyant salt water, the bottom of the ocean floor has much in common with the lunar surface.

About LESA

  • Developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), LESA is a pyramid-like structure whose purpose is to rescue an astronaut should he or she suffer an injury on the lunar surface.
  • Astronauts will be wearing heavy extravehicular activity (EVA) suits.
  • There is no way an astronaut could carry their fallen crewmate over their shoulder while wearing an EVA suit.
  • LESA can be operated by a single astronaut to rescue a fallen colleague.
  • It enables an astronaut to lift their crewmate onto a mobile stretcher in less than 10 minutes, before carrying them to the safety of a nearby pressurized lander.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries