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July 2019

WTO and India

[op-ed snap] A thumbs down to unilateralism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : US trade practices are against WTO rules.


Economic relations between India and the United States are on a knife-edge after the U.S. took a series of unilateral actions against India’s exports, that began in 2018, followed by India’s recently announced retaliatory move of increasing tariffs on 28 products imported from its largest trade partner. As a result of these developments, India has become the Trump administration’s most significant target after China.

Some background

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) — have “investigated” India’s trade policies, the conclusions of which have been used by the administration to demand changes in policies that would benefit American businesses.

Propriety and procedures

  •  It is important to mention here that all of India’s trade-related policies (which include intellectual property rights that were investigated and questioned in the two USITC reports were done under the cover of the U.S.’s domestic laws.
  • This is tantamount to unilateralism, the response to which should be an unequivocal “no” in this age of multilateralism.
  •  Propriety and global trade rules demanded that the concerns of American businesses about India’s policies had to be addressed within the WTO through consultations among the members.

Flawed step

  • The fact that the U.S. is not approaching the WTO to challenge India’s trade and investment policies that American businesses find detrimental to their interests implies the following:
  • India’s largest trade partner is acting in defiance of agreed rules to target India’s WTO-consistent policies.
  • Take, for instance, India’s high tariffs which have left Mr. Trump greatly perturbed.
  • These tariffs were agreed to in the Uruguay Round negotiations in consultation with all members of the organisation.
  • Moreover, in the period since, India has lowered tariffs on many agricultural and industrial products.
  • Contrast this with the U.S.’s position wherein it continues to defend its high levels of agricultural subsidies which are used for lowering commodity prices to levels at which no other country can have access to its domestic market.
  • Thus, the U.S. does not need tariffs to protect its agriculture; it uses subsidies, instead.
  • The WTO also informs us that the U.S. also uses very high tariffs on tobacco (350%), peanut (164%) and some dairy products (118%).


  • The India-U.S. discord over trade stems from a deep-seated desire of U.S. businesses to have a bigger footprint in the Indian economy, and to achieve this goal, the administration is stepping beyond legitimate means.
  • This discord defies Mr. Pompeo’s simplistic formulation that “great friends are bound to have disagreements”.
  • In fact, the basis of the discord lies in the way the U.S. has been targeting India’s policies, disregarding the rule of law.

Way Forward

  • Early resolution of this discord seems difficult as the U.S. has decided to undermine the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism and walk down the path of unilateralism instead.
  • Under these circumstances, the Government of India would have focus on two fronts: to remain engaged with its largest trade partner and to also engage actively with the global community to make the U.S. understand the imperatives of a rules-based trading system.

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

[op-ed snap] Start with preventive care


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Preventive health care


The medical profession is a calling. It requires sacrifice and grit to become a healer, a clinician, and from then on, it is a responsibility and commitment to a lifetime of service and learning. Beyond the initial years of studying medicine, doctors have to work very hard every single day to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

Challenges in this profession

  • What makes the process more challenging is the dynamic nature of the world we live in today.
  • Knowledge and the nature of knowledge are evolving, driven by technological developments.
  • Healthcare challenges have also constantly evolved.
  • Doctors have reduced many feared ailments to stories of the past.
  • But ailments have also remodelled and resurfaced and are posing different tests to doctors today.

Developments in healthcare

  • Health is on the national agenda for the first time after Independence. Ayushman Bharat is a game-changer.
  • It will cover the cost of medical care for almost 40% of India’s population, while the 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres being developed will strengthen the national focus on preventive healthcare.
  • There is a willingness amongst our administrators to hear the perspectives of the sector.
  • Innovative plans are on the anvil to boost medical education and hospital infrastructure.
  • Skilling for healthcare is gaining momentum, and will undoubtedly be a key engine for job creation.
  • Millions of medical value travellers from over a hundred countries are choosing India for medical and surgical treatment.
  • Huge investments are being made to build hospitals, contemporary medical centres and remote healthcare models.

The big challenge today

  • The World Health Organization has been ringing the warning bells for the last few years on the challenges that NCDs pose.
  • NCDs have been rapidly growing. Cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes are some of the ailments growing at an alarming pace.
  • They affect people across ages and threaten the younger population a lot more than the older population.
  • The limited pool of medical professionals, technicians and nurses, equipment and hospital beds will make it very difficult to tackle the onslaught of patients and diseases in the coming decade.
  • The entire medical fraternity must come together to tackle this threat with a disruptive and innovative approach of creating a continuum of care.
  • This will enable healthcare to start from preventive care instead of limiting medical excellence to curative care.


On the occasion of National Doctors Day, doctors need to pledge again the medical oath. They have to be the harbingers of change in the attitudes and approaches towards healthcare. They need to become role models for their patients to lead healthier lives. They must educate patients about NCDs, and promote preventive care.

[op-ed snap] Among members: on G-20 Osaka summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G20

Mains level : Issues and concerns at G20 summit


The countries that make up the G-20 (19 nations and the European Union) account for 85% of the world’s nominal GDP, and each has pressing issues it wishes to discuss with other members on bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral levels.

Events at G 20 Summit

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the occasion of the G-20 summit at Osaka for as many as 20 such meetings, including nine bilaterals, eight pull-aside engagements, and of the Russia-India-China, Japan-U.S.-India and Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa groupings.
  • The most anticipated were President Donald Trump’s meetings with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and Mr. Modi, given the escalation in trade tensions.
  • Both ended on a cordial note, but with no breakthrough or “big deals”.
  • The Indian and U.S. Commerce Ministers will sit down again, as they have on at least three occasions in the past year, to try to resolve the impasse over trade issues, and the U.S. and China have called a halt to raising tariffs until they resolve issues.
  • Both come as a relief to India, given the impact of those tensions on the national and global economies.

Issues raised and settled

  • India’s Concerns – Mr. Modi raised several Indian concerns at the G-20 deliberations, including the need for cooperation on dealing with serious economic offenders and fugitives, as well as climate change funding.
  • This found its way into the final declaration.
  • Dissent on digital economy – India sent a tough message by refusing to attend the digital economy summit pushed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as his plan for “data free flow with trust”, included in the G-20 declaration, runs counter to the Reserve Bank of India’s proposed data localisation guidelines.
  • Us’s standing on climate change – The U.S. wrote in a counter to the paragraph praising the Paris accord, while trade protectionism was not mentioned in the document.
  • On issues such as ocean pollution management, gender equality and concerted efforts to fight corruption, the G-20 found consensus more easily.

Way Forward

  • With Saudi Arabia hosting the next G-20 in 2020, followed by Italy in 2021, all eyes will soon turn to the agenda India plans to highlight when it holds the G-20 summit in 2022.
  • Many global challenges, such as climate change and its impact, the balance between the needs for speed and national security with 5G networks being introduced, as well as technology-driven terrorism, will become even more critical for the grouping, and the government must articulate its line.
  • India should lead the exercise in making the G-20 more effective in dealing with some of the inequities in its system.
  • The G-20 is an important platform to discuss pressing issues, and it must not be detracted from its original purpose of promoting sustainable growth and financial stability by grandstanding by one or two members.


  • G20 is the agenda-setting forum that develops and guides rules of global economic governance.
  • The G20 leaders-level dialogue came into being during the western financial crisis of 2008, when the large developing economies including India and China, helped fund the G8 countries out of the crisis.

G20 is unique

  • Here, developing countries can display their political, economic and intellectual leadership on a par with the most powerful countries.
  • The G20’s rotating presidency ensures that no one country dominates the agenda.
  • Instead, the G20 host sets an annual agenda, wielding vast direct and indirect influence on nations’ economies.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Explained: How US coined ‘Indo-Pacific’ to redefine geo-politics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Significance of Indo-Pacific Region

What is Indo-Pacific?

  • In geographical terms, the Indo-Pacific refers to the two oceans — the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean — between the east coast of Africa, and the American west coast and all the countries with a coast on it.
  • It has been in currency among scholars of international relations and geo-politics since the first decade of this century as an economic and a strategic region.
  • However, its widespread use began after an October 2017 speech on US-India relations by former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who spoke of an India-US partnership in the interests of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, as India was more reliable than China.

Why use the term?

  • This move is redefining the region away from China’s economic and strategic dominance.
  • India’s resistance at the height of the tensions over several issues – the Doklam military standoff, the CPEC running through PoK, and more generally over the entire Chinese BRI.
  • The adoption of the term appeared to challenge India to play a larger role in the region, for instance in the Quad.

More focus on India

  • US emphasizes to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity — so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.
  • It also seemed to put India squarely in the middle of this region, challenging it to a larger role in the region, for instance in the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that informally brings together for strategic talks and military exercises.
  • The “Indo-Pacific” has evoked mixed reactions in the Indian strategic community, with some cautioning that such positioning should not aggravate Delhi’s tensions with Beijing.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s PUNCH mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUNCH mission

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • NASA has selected an US based Indian researcher to lead its PUNCH mission which will image the Sun.

About PUNCH Mission

  • PUNCH stands for “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere,” is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.
  • It will consist of a constellation of four microsatellites that through continuous 3D deep-field imaging, will observe the corona and heliosphere as elements of a single, connected system.
  • This is a landmark mission will image regions beyond the Sun’s outer corona.
  • The Sun and the solar wind are one interconnected system, but these have until recently been studied using entirely different technologies and scientific approaches.

Why such mission?

  • Other missions such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the ESA-NASA joint project, Solar Orbiter, which is due to be launched in 2020, can study the structures of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • The PUNCH mission enhances these by tracking these structures in real time.
  • Since the Sun’s corona is much fainter than its surface layers, it cannot be viewed by the instruments directly.
  • So PUNCH will block out the light from the Sun to view its corona and the structures in it.

Constellation of satellites

  • PUNCH will consist of a ‘constellation’ of four suitcase-sized microsats that will orbit the Earth in formation and study how the corona, which is the atmosphere of the Sun, connects with the interplanetary medium.
  • The mission is expected to be launched in 2022.
  • The mission will image and track the solar wind and also the coronal mass ejections – which are huge masses of plasma that get thrown out of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • The coronal mass ejections can affect and drive space weather events near the Earth.

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

WHO launches its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Self Care

Mains level : Importance of Self Care

  • The WHO has launched its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health.
  • This is in response to an estimate that by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers.
  • Currently at least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services.

What is Self-Care?

  • Explaining what self-care means, the WHO says that it is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.
  • Self-care interventions represent a significant push towards new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-careers and caregivers.
  • WHO noted that self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics, including those who are forcibly displaced, to have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as many people are unable to make decisions around sexuality and reproduction.

About the guidelines

  • In its first volume, the guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Some of the interventions include self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.
  • These guidelines look at the scientific evidence for health benefits of certain interventions that can be done outside the conventional sector, although sometimes with the support of a health-care provider.
  • They do not replace high-quality health services nor are they a shortcut to achieving universal health coverage.

Autonomy and engagement

  • It adds that self-care interventions represent a significant push towards new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-careers and caregivers.
  • People are increasingly active participants in their own health care and have a right to a greater choice of interventions that meets their needs across their lifetime, but also should be able to access, control, and have affordable options to manage their health and well-being.
  • The guidelines, meanwhile, will be expanded to include other self-care interventions, including for prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases.
  • WHO is establishing a community of practice for self-care, and will be promoting research and dialogue in this area during the self-care month between June 24 and July 24.

Judicial Reforms

Analysis of Free Legal Aid Services in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NALSA

Mains level : Status of free legal aid in India


  • In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act was enacted to give free and competent legal services to the poor.
  • The Act paved the way for the constitution of National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) and other legal service institutions at the State, district and taluka level.
  • Free legal services under LSA Act are available to a person belonging to Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste, woman, child, victim of human trafficking, differently abled person, industrial workman, and person in custody in a protective home and the poor.
  • According to the statistics provided by NALSA, about 8.22 lakh people across India benefited through legal aid services from April 2017 to June 2018.

The unpopular free legal aid: Report

  • A majority of the people who are entitled to the free legal aid system see the service as an option only when they cannot afford a private lawyer.
  • First-of-its-kind pan-India research by National Law University, Delhi (NLUD) has found that people don’t have faith over the services of legal aid counsel (LAC) under the free legal aid services due to a variety of factors.
  • The services offered by LAC are absolutely free. But a majority of potential beneficiaries are disinclined towards the option of availing these services.
  • This is observed in the research report titled ‘Quality of Legal Representation: An Empirical Analysis of Free Legal Aid Services in India’.

Status of Legal system in India

  • Last year, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) had come out with a report stating that India’s per capita lawyer ratio is better than most countries in the world.
  • There are about 1.8 million lawyers in India which mean there is one lawyer for every 736 people.
  • The same report also stated there are 61,593 panel lawyers in the country, which translates to just one legal aid lawyer per 18,609 population or five legal aid lawyers per 1,00,000 population.
  • Also, 22.6% of the beneficiaries responded that they won’t opt for free legal aid services for the second time.

What most aggrieved sections think

  • The study also found that 60% of women, who were aware of the free legal aid services, chose to opt for private legal practitioner because they could have better control over their lawyer.
  • These women have no faith and confidence over the quality of services offered under the legal aid system, the study said.

Why private lawyers?

  • The beneficiaries opt for free legal aid service due to the dearth of resources to engage a private lawyer.
  • About 75% of beneficiaries opted for free legal aid because they had no means and resources to hire a paid private practitioner.
  • They would never have approached for the legal aid services if they had resources to engage private legal practitioners,” the study found.

Fault lines in LAC

  • The survey found that 56% of LAC spends an average of 1 to 10 hours per week on legal aid cases. On the contrary, around 58% LAC spend on an average of 20 hours and above per week on private cases.
  • Although the services offer by LAC are absolutely free, the ground reality is that around 16.30% of beneficiaries claimed their LAC often demand money before or after every court hearing.
  • Also, around 33% of the judicial officers said complaints were received against LACs for demanding money from beneficiaries.
  • LAC can withdraw from an aided case by submitting a reason to member-secretary. In this scenario, a beneficiary has to go through the painstaking task of retelling their case history to newly allotted LAC.

Problems with beneficiary

  • The trust deficit among the beneficiaries towards the panel lawyers was hard to eradicate.
  • The problem with most of the beneficiaries is that they are illiterate and don’t have the procedural knowledge of the functioning of courts.
  • Hence they end up getting irked after three or four dates. Thereafter, they don’t want to come to court.

NALSA’s views

  • The quality of legal aid is one of the prime focus areas of NALSA in 2019.
  • NALSA was improving the selection process of panel lawyers to ensure selection and empanelment of committed lawyers.
  • After periodic assessments, lawyers can be delisted from the panel.
  • The Structure and Framework of Monitoring Committees have been changed, and now these committees also do the work of mentoring of panel lawyers in legal aided cases.
  • Front offices at the district level are being upgraded to make them one-stop centres for legal aid seekers.

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Warehousing Grid


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Warehousing Grid

Mains level : Need for National Warehousing Grid

  • The government is likely to introduce warehousing schemes at village and National level to build an efficient storage infrastructure.
  • A National Warehousing Grid along the National Highways may also be introduced in the Budget.

National Warehousing Grid

  • The Centre’s scheme aims at broad integration of the warehousing capacities in India.
  • Approximately 90% of the warehousing space is controlled by unorganised players, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • An action plan has already been approved by the Centre on sectoral basis for the construction of steel silos with a capacity of 100 lakh metric tonnes in PPP mode for modernizing storage infrastructure and improving shelf life of stored food grains.

Why need such scheme?

  • Practically, much of the country’s warehousing capacity outside of the agri sector is in the unorganised sector, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • Currently, of the total warehousing space of about 180 million sq ft in the country, the industrial segment accounts for about 86% and the agricultural sector the rest 14%, according to NITI statistics.
  • Two-thirds of the warehousing capacity in the food storage segment is owned by the public sector.
  • Apart from conventional storing services, India’s warehousing capacity is increasingly being used to offer value-added services such as the consolidation and breaking up of cargo, packaging, labelling, bar coding and reverse logistics.

Plugging deficiencies

  • The project is aimed at plugging deficiencies given that India’s current cold storage capacity at 25 MT is barely sufficient for 10% of the fruits and vegetables produced in the country.
  • The lack of adequate storage infrastructure is an important reason for the high cost of food products and wastage.
  • Nearly 60% of the modern warehousing capacity in India is concentrated in top six cities, namely Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Pune, with Hyderabad and Kolkata being the other major markets, according to Care Ratings.
  • This trend is driven by the concentration of industrial activity and presence of sizeable urban population around these clusters.


  • The prime beneficiaries of the new wave of growth in warehousing include peripheral locations of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
  • Much of the fresh investments would go into creating storage facilities for retail and consumer goods.

Forthcoming challenges

  • The primary challenge that India’s warehousing market currently faces is acquisition of a feasible land parcel, given that land cost constitutes the largest component of a warehousing project.
  • While rental values that a warehouse owner can charge are primarily driven by demand and supply factors, land prices are inherently dependent on multiple factors like development control regulations, infrastructure development and the best alternative usage of land.