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July 2019

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[op-ed snap] One more quota


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothig Much

Mains level : Implications of community based reservations


  • Ever since the Supreme Court gave its ruling in the Indra Sawhney case, the complications surrounding the issue of OBC reservations have defied solutions.
  • As I have argued, identifying backwardness, periodic scrutiny of claims to being backward and ensuring fair treatment of those included in the list of backward communities, constituted three challenges emanating from the Mandal discourse .
  • Subsequently, this list of key issues became more complicated by claims from many regionally important peasant communities that they are backward, resulting in crossing the 50 per cent threshold.

Impact of latest Ruling

  • The latest ruling of the Bombay High Court is bound to lead to a new route for states to accommodate demands of various communities.
  • The Court has approved the report of the M G Gaikwad Commission which undertook studies to examine the status of Marathas and made recommendations about the quantum of reservation.

1.No access to report

  • The first question regarding such a policy instrument is this: Can such a far-reaching policy be undertaken without the public having access to the findings of the Commission and without the courts having the benefit of public discussions?
  • Can secrecy and urgency be the basis for policies?
  • For instance, the projected calculations of the population of backward communities, as is quoted in the HC ruling, appear to be tricky, if not altogether problematic.
  • Secondly, the argument of exceptionality is brought into sharp focus by this ruling.
  • It is not clear what constitutes an exceptional situation justifying reservation exceeding 50 per cent.
  • This is likely to open a Pandora’s Box in that all similar claims by other communities (Gujjars of Rajasthan, Dhangars of Maharashtra and so on) could be accepted as being exceptional.

3. Separate Quota

  • Three, the issue of the Maratha quota has brought forward an even more serious issue that the Court has not addressed.
  • Suppose a community is found to be backward and it is not included in the present list of OBCs, what is the justification for creating a separate quota for it?
  • However, such a strategy effectively means that one community is assured of a guaranteed quota while all others have to compete within the quota.
  • For the 19 per cent reservation for OBCs in the state, all the OBC communities need to compete whereas for the 12 or 13 per cent under the HC ruling, only the Marathas get to compete.

Community-specific quota.

  • Reservation, so far, has generally been for a class of citizens belonging to various castes or communities.
  • Even the SC and ST quotas are for a group of communities.
  • By upholding the “Maratha quota”, the Gaikwad Commission, state of Maharashtra and the High Court seem to be creating precedence for a community-specific quota.
  • Such a caste- or community-specific quota has a different logic and trajectory from that of a grouping of communities into classes of citizens deserving affirmative action.

4. Logic of backwardness

  • Fourth, in the present case, the logic of backwardness on grounds of traditional status appears to be overwhelmed by the logic of backwardness on grounds of contemporary economy.
  • Communities that are mainly rural and numerous are bound to have internal stratification, regional variation and skewed access to resources.


  • Evidently, all these are results of contemporary policies and failures of successive state governments to address the wellbeing of a large section of society.
  •  This tendency of transposing contemporary routes of distress and discrimination onto history tends to undermine the logic behind the social justice policy as understood so far.
  • Precisely this same logic of contemporary distress is being used for the reservation for economically weaker sections.
  • In this sense, we are rapidly moving away from the constitutional logic behind enabling clauses such as Articles 15 and 16.
  • Instead, reservation is seen as the solution to hide distortions of contemporary economic development.


But beyond political compulsions, and beyond legality or constitutionality, this issue poses a larger challenge. That challenge is not merely about semantics, about the meanings of “exceptional” or “adequate representation”. It is to realise that such easy routes endanger societal balance (among groups identified as backward) even as they give a false sense that the issue is amicably resolved.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

[op-ed snap] Caution on spectrum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Auction of spectrum may not be a good idea.


  • On Monday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) reiterated its stance on the issue of spectrum pricing, including that of 5G, for the upcoming auctions.
  • This was in response to the Digital Communications Commission, the apex decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications, which had sought a review of the Trai’s August 2018 recommendations on the auction of spectrum.

Reviewing the Trai’s recommendations

  • The commission’s call for reviewing the Trai’s recommendations came amid concerns over the financial health of telcos, and worries that demand for spectrum is likely to be muted as consolidation in the sector has effectively left only three private telecom service providers.
  • But, in its response, Trai has stayed with its earlier position, stating that all relevant factors, such as the methodology, assumptions, as well as developments between the spectrum auction held in October 2016 and its recommendations, released in August 2018, have been considered.

Telecom sector and revenue

  • Over the years, the telecom sector has been a major source of revenue for the government.
  • And at a time when the Centre is struggling to meet its revenue targets, higher proceeds from spectrum auctions could provide the much-needed boost to government coffers.
  • But the temptation of revenue maximisation should be resisted when there are legitimate concerns over the financial health of the sector.

Lessons from the last bidding

  • Aggressive bidding by telcos in the 3G auctions in 2010 marked a turning point in the industry’s fortunes.
  • As a result of the pile-up in debt, highly indebted telcos exercised restraint in the 2016 spectrum sale, with the government realising only Rs 65,789 crore as revenue against Rs 5.63 trillion (base price) worth of spectrum that had been put up for sale.
  • The price war, which began in September 2016, only exacerbated the already precarious financial position of incumbents.
  • Their deteriorating finances have also taken a toll on the government’s revenue. In 2018-19, the Centre was able to collect only Rs 39,245 crore through licence fees and spectrum usage charges, as against the initial target of Rs 48,661 crore.
  • In comparison, it had collected Rs 70,241 crore in 2016-17.
  • While average revenues per user (ARPUs) have risen of late, a turnaround is still some time away.
  • With precarious finances, a repeat of the 2016 auction is a possibility.

Implications for Telecom Sector

  • At such high prices, cash-strapped operators will find it difficult to bid, without sinking even more into debt.
  • This could impact their capital expenditure, leaving them with fewer resources to invest in towers and fibre optics.
  • Acknowledging the issues plaguing the sector, the telecom minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has recently set up a panel to rationalise levies, and to look into other issues.
  • While it might be difficult to set aside Trai’s recommendations, the government would do well to think carefully through the implications of the recommendations, before rushing to auction high-priced spectrum.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Automated facial recognition: what NCRB proposes, what are the concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Automated Facial Recognition System

Mains level : Need for an advanced criminal tracking system

  • On June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

What is automated facial recognition?

  • AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces.
  • Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.
  • The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.
  • Currently, facial recognition in India is done manually.

Are there any automated facial recognition systems in use in India?

  • It is a new idea the country has started to experiment with.
  • On July 1, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s “DigiYatra” using facial recognition for airport entry was tried in the Hyderabad airport.
  • State governments have also taken their own steps towards facial recognition. Telangana police launched their own system in August 2018.

What does the NCRB request call for?

  • The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  • Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  • The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  • It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country.

Why need AFRS?

  • Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.
  • While fingerprints and iris scans provide far more accurate matching results, automatic facial recognition is an easier solution especially for identification amongst crowds.
  • The integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.

Integration of databases

  • NCRB has proposed integrating this facial recognition system with multiple existing databases.
  • The most prominent is the NCRB-managed Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS).
  • Facial recognition has been proposed in the CCTNS program since its origin.
  • The new facial recognition system will be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Khoya Paya portal on missing children.

What are the concerns around using facial recognition?

  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
  • Amid NCRB’s controversial step to install an automated facial recognition system, India should take note of the ongoing privacy debate in the US.
  • In the US, the FBI and Department of State operate one of the largest facial recognition systems.
  • International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.



  • In 2009, following the Mumbai terror attacks, CCTNS was envisaged as a countrywide integrated database on crime incidents and suspects, connecting FIR registrations, investigations, and chargesheets of all 15,500 police stations and 6,000 higher offices.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.

How far has CCTNS progressed?

  • The Rs 2,000-crore project is accessible to the CBI, IB, NIA, ED and the Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • The project did not meet its initial 2015 deadline and was extended to March 2017.
  • In August 2018, the first phase of connecting the police stations was nearly complete.
  • In the second phase, the Home Ministry proposed integrating the database with the fingerprint database of the Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB).
  • NCRB is currently rolling out the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) and its integration with CCTNS.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Plan Bee


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plan Bee

Mains level : Elephant connservation efforts

Plan Bee

  • Plan Bee an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.
  • A device was designed to generate the amplified sound of honey bees audible from 700-800 metres.
  • The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat.
  • The Plan Bee device has been helpful in diverting herds of elephants, especially when trains approach and dashing becomes imminent.
  • A mix of Plan Bee and other measures have helped them save 1,014 elephants from 2014 to June 2019.

Why such plan?

  • The desperation to find an “elephant repellent” was triggered by 67 jumbos being knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019.
  • Most of these cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.
  • There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal.
  • Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.
  • But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths.

Banking Sector Reforms

Basel Norms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basel Norms: I, II and III

Mains level : Banking regulation in India

  • The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has said that India is compliant regarding regulation on large exposures though, in some respects, regulations are stricter than the Basel large-exposures framework.

Banking regulations in India are more stricter: Basel Accord

  • In some other respects, the Indian regulations are stricter than the Basel large exposures framework.
  • For example, banks’ exposures to global systemically important banks are subject to stricter limits in line with the letter and spirit of the Basel Guidelines.
  • The scope of application of the Indian standards is wider than just the internationally active banks covered by the Basel framework.

What are Basel Norms?

  • Basel is a city in Switzerland. It is the headquarters of Bureau of International Settlement (BIS), which fosters co-operation among central banks with a common goal of financial stability and common standards of banking regulations.
  • Basel guidelines refer to broad supervisory standards formulated by this group of central banks – called the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS).
  • The set of agreement by the BCBS, which mainly focuses on risks to banks and the financial system are called Basel accord.
  • The purpose of the accord is to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.
  • India has accepted Basel accords for the banking system.

Basel I

  • In 1988, BCBS introduced capital measurement system called Basel capital accord, also called as Basel 1.
  • It focused almost entirely on credit risk. It defined capital and structure of risk weights for banks.
  • The minimum capital requirement was fixed at 8% of risk weighted assets (RWA).
  • RWA means assets with different risk profiles.
  • For example, an asset backed by collateral would carry lesser risks as compared to personal loans, which have no collateral. India adopted Basel 1 guidelines in 1999.

Basel II

  • In June ’04, Basel II guidelines were published by BCBS, which were considered to be the refined and reformed versions of Basel I accord.
  • The guidelines were based on three parameters, which the committee calls it as pillars:
  • Capital Adequacy Requirements: Banks should maintain a minimum capital adequacy requirement of 8% of risk assets.
  • Supervisory Review: According to this, banks were needed to develop and use better risk management techniques in monitoring and managing all the three types of risks that a bank faces, viz. credit, market and operational risks.
  • Market Discipline: This need increased disclosure requirements. Banks need to mandatorily disclose their CAR, risk exposure, etc to the central bank. Basel II norms in India and overseas are yet to be fully implemented.

Basel III

  • In 2010, Basel III guidelines were released. These guidelines were introduced in response to the financial crisis of 2008.
  • A need was felt to further strengthen the system as banks in the developed economies were under-capitalized, over-leveraged and had a greater reliance on short-term funding.
  • Also the quantity and quality of capital under Basel II were deemed insufficient to contain any further risk.
  • Basel III norms aim at making most banking activities such as their trading book activities more capital-intensive.
  • The guidelines aim to promote a more resilient banking system by focusing on four vital banking parameters viz. capital, leverage, funding and liquidity.

Port Infrastructure and Shipping Industry – Sagarmala Project, SDC, CEZ, etc.

Maritime Anti-Corruption Network


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MACN

Mains level : Maritime security and logistics

  • Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), a global business network of over 110 companies working to tackle corruption in the maritime industry, has announced the launch of a Port Integrity Campaign in India.

Maritime Anti-Corruption Network

  • The MACN is a global business network working towards the vision of a maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of society at large.
  • Established in 2011 by a small group of committed maritime companies, MACN has grown to include over 100 members
  • It has become one of the pre-eminent examples of collective action to tackle corruption.
  • MACN and its members promote good corporate practice in the maritime industry for tackling bribes, facilitation payments and other forms of corruption.
  • MACN collaborates with key stakeholders, including governments and international organizations, such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), to identify and mitigate the root causes of corruption in the maritime industry.

About Port Integrity Campaign

  • The campaign aims to reduce and (in the long term) eliminate integrity issues and bottlenecks to trade during operations in Indian ports.
  • It is a collective action of MACN, the Government of India, international organizations, and local industry stakeholders.
  • The pilot of the campaign will take place in Mumbai ports (MbPT and JNPT) and will run until October this year.
  • The main activities of the campaign include implementation of integrity training for port officials and the establishment of clear escalation and reporting processes.

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MKSP

Mains level : Feminization of Agriculture in India

  • As per Agriculture Census conducted at an interval of every five years by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, the percentage of female operational holdings in the country have increased from 12.78 percent during 2010-11 to 13.78 percent during 2015-16.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP)

  • In line with the provisions of National Policy for Farmers (NPF) (2007), Ministry of Rural Development is already implementing a programme exclusively for women farmers namely MKSP.
  • It is a sub-component of Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).
  • The primary objective of MKSP is to empower women by enhancing their participation in agriculture and to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for them.
  • Funding support to the tune of up to 60% (90% for North Eastern States) for such projects is provided by the Government of India.

Feminization of Agriculture in India

  • Rural women form the most productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India.
  • More than 80% of rural women are engaged in agriculture activities for their livelihoods.
  • About 20 per cent of farm livelihoods are female headed due to widowhood, desertion, or male emigration.
  • Agriculture support system in India strengthens the exclusion of women from their entitlements as agriculture workers and cultivators.
  • Most of the women-headed households are not able to access extension services, farmers support institutions and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc.
  • As agricultural workers, women are paid lower wage than men.
  • MKSP recognizes the identity of “Mahila” as “Kisan” and strives to build the capacity of women in the domain of agro-ecologically sustainable practices.