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July 2019

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[op-ed of the day] Having the last word on ‘population control’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Better Ways to ensure Population Control

Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.


On July 11, World Population Day, a Union Minister expressed alarm, in a Tweet, over what he called the “population explosion” in the country, wanting all political parties to enact population control laws and annulling the voting rights of those having more than two children.

Demographic transition – The Economic Survey 2018-19 notes that India is set to witness a “sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades”. The fact is that by the 2030s, some States will start transitioning to an ageing society as part of a well-studied process of “demographic transition” which sees nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.


  • The demand for state controls on the number of children a couple can have is not a new one.
  • It feeds on the perception that a large and growing population is at the root of a nation’s problems as more and more people chase fewer and fewer resources.
  • This image is so ingrained in the minds of people that it does not take much to whip up public sentiment which in turn can quickly degenerate into a deep class or religious conflict that pits the poor, the weak, the downtrodden and the minorities against the more privileged sections.
1.Target free approach –The essence of the policy was the government’s commitment to “voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services” along with a “target free approach in administering family planning services”.

2.Lifecycle framework –  “lifecycle framework” which looks to the health and nutrition needs of mother and child not merely during pregnancy and child birth but “right from the time of conception till the child grows… carrying on till the adolescent stage and further”.

3.Offering More Choices – This argument is not about denying services but about offering choices and a range of services to mother and child on the clear understanding that the demographic dividend can work to support growth and drive opportunity for ordinary people only when the population is healthy.

Crucial connections

1.The health and education status – Thus, family health, child survival and the number of children a woman has are closely tied to the levels of health and education of the parents, and in particular the woman; so the poorer the couple, the more the children they tend to have.

2.Not particular to religion – This is a relation that has little to do with religion and everything to do with opportunities, choices and services that are available to the people.

3.Relation with poverty – The poor tend to have more children because child survival is low, son preference remains high, children lend a helping hand in economic activity for poorer households and so support the economic as well as emotional needs of the family.

Comparison –

1.On the basis of wealth – As the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) notes, women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, translating to a total fertility rate of 3.2 children versus 1.5 children moving from the wealthiest to the poorest.

2.On the basis of education – Similarly, the number of children per woman declines with a woman’s level of schooling. Women with no schooling have an average 3.1 children, compared with 1.7 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling. 

Control is not the desired way –

  • Demographers are careful not to use the word “population control” or “excess population”.
  • The NPP 2000 uses the world “control” just thrice: in references to the National AIDS Control Organisation; to prevent and control communicable diseases, and control of childhood diarrhoea.
  • This is the spirit in which India has looked at population so that it truly becomes a thriving resource; the life blood of a growing economy.
  • Turning this into a problem that needs to be controlled is exactly the kind of phraseology, mindset and possibly action that will spell doom for the nation.
  • Today, as many as 23 States and Union Territories, including all the States in the south region, already have fertility below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
  • So, support rather than control works.


  • The damage done when mishandling issues of population growth is long lasting.
  • Let us not forget that the scars of the Emergency are still with us. Men used to be part of the family planning initiatives then but after the excesses of forced sterilisations, they continue to remain completely out of family planning programmes even today.
  • The government now mostly works with woman and child health programmes. Mistakes of the Emergency-kind are not what a new government with a robust electoral mandate might like to repeat.


Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] India’s shifting strategic concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India Pakistan and third party mediation


The U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest gaffe has introduced another thorn in what is now clearly an unsettled India-U.S. relationship. While India’s hand is not as strong as we sometimes believe it to be, there might be opportunities to leverage the international situation further down the road.

 Perceived advantage

  • If we step back and evaluate the India-Pakistan equation over the past five years, what stands out is that both sides proceeded from a perception that each holds an advantageous position.
  • India’s confidence emanated from Mr. Modi’s electoral victory in 2014 that yielded a strong Central government and expectations of stable ties with all the major powers.
  • Mostly overlooked in India, Pakistani leaders too have displayed confidence that the international environment was moving in a direction that opened options for Pakistan that were unavailable in the previous decade.
  • This included the renewed patterns of Pakistan’s ties with the U.S. and China, with the latter reassuring Pakistan and, most importantly, the Army on their respective strategic commitments and bilateral partnerships.

Pakistan’s leverage

  • China’s angle – Historically, U.S. policymakers have always sought to restore the alliance with Pakistan whenever Islamabad’s ties with China became stronger. India has borne the brunt of this recurring geopolitical dynamic.
  • Afghan Situation – Much of Pakistan’s contemporary leverage can of course also be traced to the ongoing phase of the Afghan conflict. It fended off the most dangerous phase when U.S. policy might have shifted in an adversarial direction, or instability in the tribal frontier areas might have completely exploded.
  • So, both India and Pakistan perceive themselves to be in a comfortable strategic position.

Pakistan’s benefactors

  • Both the U.S. and China have overlapping interests in regional stability and avoidance of a major subcontinental conflict.
  • While each maintains deep ties with Pakistan for different reasons, it is unclear to what extent their longer term interests coincide with India, which seeks a structural transformation in Pakistan’s domestic politics and external behaviour.
  • The U.S. and China appear content with, or probably prefer, a Pakistan with a strong Rawalpindi, along with competent civilian governance structures and an elite with a wider world view.
  • For China, a stable Pakistan can be a partner in the Belt and Road initiative and future continental industrial and energy corridors.
  • In sum, both the U.S. and China seek a strong, stable and secure Pakistan that controls its destabilising behaviour because that undermines their wider regional interests. For the U.S., a revisionist Pakistan pulls India inward and away from potential India-U.S. cooperation on Asian geopolitics.
  • For China, it undermines its industrial and connectivity projects in Pakistan, while negatively impacting India-China ties.

India’s Stand –

Maintaining that India has the right and the capacity to adopt an active defence posture — that is, blocking the flow of cross-border terror by proactive operations on the Line of Control (LoC) along with reserving the option for more ambitious punitive strikes in response to major terrorist attacks on Indian military targets — would play an important part in shaping how third parties view Indian interests and thereby assume constructive roles in managing Pakistani behaviour.


If India ever asks third parties to assist in the region, it should be for a cessation of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir, and, once an atmosphere of peace has been established, to persuade Pakistan to accept the LoC as part of a final territorial settlement similar to the offer by Indira Gandhi in the 1972 Shimla negotiations.

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

[op-ed snap] Share of the state


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Maintaining Fiscal Federalism


Last week, the Union cabinet passed an amendment to widen the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission.


  • The Commission has now been asked to examine the possibility of setting up a mechanism for funding defence and internal security.
  • As capital spending on defence continues to fall well short of what is required, it is difficult to contest the premise that it needs to be bolstered.
  • But, as the creation of “secure and non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security” may end up reducing the divisible tax pool further, the move could face resistance from states, especially when several of them are arguing for a greater share in tax revenues.
  • While the commission is yet to spell out its views on the subject, this request raises fundamental questions over the spending priorities of different levels of government and the framework that governs Centre-state fiscal relations.
  • The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution specifies the separate as well as concurrent responsibilities of the Centre and state governments, with defence falling in the Union list.
  • The inability of the Centre to ramp up its spending on defence indicates the limited fiscal space available to it.
  • In large part, this is due to an increase in spending on items in the state and concurrent list, and a corresponding decline in spending on items in the Union list.
  • In 2015-16 alone, the Centre spent 16 per cent of its revenue expenditure on items in the state list, and another 16.4 per cent on items in the concurrent list.

Reduced Fiscal space for states –

  • In a federal structure, the Centre must address regional imbalances in the delivery of public services.
  • But the bulk of this spending is routed through sector-specific transfers or centrally sponsored schemes that curb the autonomy of the states in deciding their own expenditure priorities.
  • The added fiscal pressures on the Centre have, in turn, contributed to reduced fiscal space for states.
  • Over the years, the Centre has begun to rely increasingly on taxes collected through cesses and surcharges to meet its expenditure priorities.
  • But revenue from these sources does not form part of the divisible tax pool, it is not shared with states — squeezing them from both ends.


While the compulsions of the political economy have ensured greater central government spending on items in the state and concurrent lists, the current juncture may well be an opportune moment to rethink the spending priorities of different levels of the government. There is a need, particularly, to address legitimate concerns of states about increasing encroachment by the Centre.

Banking Sector Reforms

Explained: 50 years of Bank Nationalization in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Nationalization of banks in India and its impact

  • This 19th of July marked 50 years of nationalization of banks in India.
  • The govt. under Indira Gandhi carried out bank nationalization through an Ordinance in 1969.
  • 14 big private banks were nationalized to help agriculture and social welfare programmes.


  • In 1955 Imperial Bank of India was nationalized as RBI with State Bank of India to act as the principal agent  for extensive banking facilities on a large scale, especially in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • The other banks of the princely states were acquired by SBI much earlier.
  • However, the nationalization of banks in 1969 and later in 1980 was of a completely different scale.
  • In 1969, the move covered 14 (followed by six in 1980) of the largest private sector banks—putting 85% of the deposit base into the hands of the government.
  • This brought 80% of the banking segment in India under Government ownership.

Why nationalization of banks?

  • After independence, the Government of India (GOI) adopted planned economic development for the country.
  • Nationalization was in accordance with the national policy of adopting the socialistic pattern of society.
  • The actual course came at the end of a troubled decade when India had suffered many economic as well as political shocks.

Other reasons

  • Social welfare
  • Controlling private monopolies
  • Expansion of banking to rural areas
  • Reducing regional imbalance to curb the urban-rural divide
  • Priority Sector Lending
  • Mobilization of savings

Immediate causes

  • There were two wars with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965 that put immense pressure on public finances.
  • Banks were failing largely due to speculative financial activities when Indira Gandhi became the prime minister in 1967.
  • Two successive years of drought had not only led to food shortages but also compromised national security because of the dependence on American food shipments.
  • Subsequently, a three-year plan holiday affected aggregate demand as public investment was reduced.
  • Agriculture needed a capital infusion, with the initiation of the Green Revolution in India that aimed to make the country self-sufficient in food security.
  • The collapse of banks was causing distress among people, who were losing their hard-earned money in the absence of a strong government support and legislative protection to their money.

Post-nationalization challenges

  • Having ownership and operational control of the banks was a challenging task for government.
  • The banks were constantly challenged on their profitability parameters—particularly RRBs which had both geographical and portfolio concentration risks.

Establishing regional balance

  • The objective of social control was about making banking sector accessible in areas where these services were not accessible.
  • The state established 196 Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) between two nationalizations.
  • While nationalization, branch licensing policy and priority sector lending targets helped the banks to go to rural areas and certain sectors, it did not achieve regional balance.
  • Of the 20 banks that were nationalized, seven were concentrated in south India, six in west India, four in north India and three in east India.
  • The expanded rural branch network followed the extant regional concentration, bringing more intensive banking in southern and western regions.

How was regional balance achieved then?

  • This skew was partially set right by two initiatives. The first was an institutional intervention of opening 196 RRBs which had focused area of operation.
  • The RRBs contributed significantly to reduce the regional imbalance with their expanding branch network in the 1980s.
  • RRBs also had a greater proportion of their loans flowing to priority sector in general and agriculture in particular.
  • The second was the policy on lead bank scheme where one bank was assigned as a lead for each district.
  • The lead bank was responsible for the growth and penetration of banking in districts and had to achieve it in coordination with other banks and the state machinery.
  • A “district credit” plan (euphemism for a banking plan), dovetailed with the government schemes, was to be prepared and monitored by the lead bank.

I. Regional Rural Banks

  • RRBs are a shade better when it comes to rural lending.
  • While they have deployed 72% of the rural and semi-urban deposits as credit in those areas, the figure for urban understandably is very low, and most of these funds have gone into investments.

II. Small Finance Banks

  • The new small finance banks (SFBs) give an entirely different picture—a large number of them are MFIs that converted into banks.
  • These institutions are trying to collect deposits from the middle and upper middle class and deploy those resources towards the poor.
  • From a paradigm point of view, possibly SFBs are the most interesting institutions that have turned the tables and are trying to achieve from the private sector the objectives set out in the bank nationalization.

Public versus Private Banks

  • A look at the broad performance ratios for 2017-18 shows that private sector banks score better on efficiency and profitability parameters.
  • They have better return on assets, return on equity, net interest margin and a higher proportion of low-cost deposits.
  • On the other hand, public sector banks (PSBs) have a better impact on priority sector lending achievement, and paid higher wages.
  • Of the new Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts 77% were opened by state-owned banks, 20% by RRBs, and a mere 3.4% accounts were opened by private banks.
  • From this perspective bank nationalization was indeed a good move at that time.

What benefits do we reap today?

  • Banking under government ownership gave the public implicit faith and immense confidence about the sustainability of the banks.
  • Banks were no longer confined to only metropolitan or cosmopolitan in India. In fact, the Indian banking system has reached even to the remote corners of the country.
  • The present government has reached out to people through banks.
  • Assistance for constructing toilets under Swachh Bharat programme, DBT, Crop insurance schemes etc was given through banks.
  • The dispensing of Mudra loans to about 20 crore individuals, benefits under PM Kisan scheme for providing cash assistance to close to 15 crore farmers annually are only possible through this banks.
  • Thus banks became the government’s dispenser of goodies due to the decision which was taken 50 years ago.

What about Financial Inclusion?

  • The All India Debt and Investment Survey reports indicate that the formal sector has been losing ground to the informal sector in the rural indebtedness pie since 2001 onwards.
  • This is worrying and indicates that the inclusion agenda is far from achieved.
  • Some examples in the public sector banking system—particularly SBI—have shown that it is possible to achieve the double bottom line of being in the commercial market while continuing to achieve significant targets in inclusion, sectoral, spatial and geographical.

Way Forward

  • From the larger perspective of efficiency and better utilization of capital, it may be a good idea to move state-owned banks towards more market-based framework.
  • However, that call should be taken to achieve the residual task of inclusion.
  • Making state-owned banks more autonomous and accountable to the market may be the first significant step that can be taken for now.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Explained: How lightning strikes, and why it kills


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lightening

Mains level : Lightening mechanism

  • Twenty-nine people have been killed by lightning over the past 36 hours in Bihar.

Deaths by Lightening

  • Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes.
  • A few years ago, over 300 people were reported killed by lightning in just three days — a number that surprised officials and scientists.
  • And yet, lightning remains among the least studied atmospheric phenomena in the country.
  • Just one group of scientists, at the Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) in Pune, works full-time on thunderstorms and lightning.

What is lightning?

  • Lightning is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
  • These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.
  • The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away.
  • Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.

How does it strike?

  • As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense. Heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
  • As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals.They continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  • This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  • Collisions follow, and trigger the release of electrons — a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity.
  • As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  • This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts.
  • In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  • An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud.
  • This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?

  • While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral.
  • However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged.
  • As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well.
  • It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
  • There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings.
  • This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

When does lightening hit people?

  • Lightning rarely hits people directly — but such strikes are almost always fatal.
  • People are most commonly struck by what are called “ground currents”.
  • The electrical energy, after hitting a large object (such as a tree) on Earth, spreads laterally on the ground for some distance, and people in this area receive electrical shocks.
  • It becomes more dangerous if the ground is wet (which it frequently is because of the accompanying rain), or if there is metal or other conducting material on it.
  • Water is a conductor, and many people are struck by lightning while standing in flooded paddy fields.

How uncertain is its prediction?

  • Predicting a thunderstorm over a pinpointed location is not possible.
  • Nor is it possible to predict the exact time of a likely lightning strike.

Precautions to be taken

  • For reasons given above, taking shelter under a tree is dangerous.
  • Lying flat on the ground too, can increase risks.
  • People should move indoors in a storm; however, even indoors, they should avoid touching electrical fittings, wires, metal, and water.

Dracaena cambodiana : India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the specie

  • Assam has added to India’s botanical wealth a plant that yields dragon’s blood — a bright red resin used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye.

Dracaena cambodiana

  • A group of researchers has discovered Dracaena cambodiana, a dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong, Assam.
  • This is for the first time that a dragon tree species has been reported from India.
  • In India, the Dracaena genus belonging to the family Asparagaceae is represented by nine species and two varieties in the Himalayan region, the northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • But Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species.
  • The Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.
  • Recent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant.


  • Dracaena cambodiana is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree.
  • It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China.
  • Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc., have been extracted from various parts of the plant.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tiangong 2 mission

Mains level : Not Much

  • Tiangong-2 was a manned Chinese space station that was destroyed upon its controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on July 19.
  • Tiangong-2 was retired from service after it had completed its experiments in space.


  • Tiangong means “Heavenly Palace”. It was 10.4 metres long and 3.35 metres wide at its widest point, and weighed 8.6 metric tonnes.
  • It was launched on September 15, 2016 and, in late 2016, hosted two Chinese astronauts for 30 days in what was China’s longest manned space mission so far.
  • The recently decommissioned space lab followed the Tiangong-1, China’s first space station, which crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean on April 1, 2018 after Chinese scientists lost control of the spacecraft.
  • China had launched Tiangong-1 in 2011 as proof-of-concept of technologies for future stations. The lab was visited by two teams of Chinese astronauts for 11 days and 13 days respectively.

FDI in Indian economy

Mauritius leaks


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mauritius leaks

Mains level : FDI routes in India

Mauritius Leaks

  • According to the recently released data by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), as many as 50 entities, or one-fourth of those disclosed in the Mauritius leaks, had India as their only country or one of the countries of activity.

India-Mauritius connection

  • The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) was signed between India and Mauritius in 1982.
  • Under this,any entity could apply for tax residency and pay zero capital gains tax.
  • This became the principal reason why Mauritius emerged as a top channel for investments being routed into India.
  • Over 200,000 emails, contracts and bank statements leaked from Mauritius show how it was used by corporates to facilitate partnerships with multinationals.
  • This was done without paying any capital gains tax, remit profits as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to India.

Why is the Mauritius connection important?

  • In 2016, India amended its Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Mauritius, and the new provisions — capital gains tax, instance — are now fully applicable.
  • Almost a third of India’s FDI came through Mauritius.
  • There was strong resistance from Mauritius. They were benefited in the sense that lots of support and infrastructure like accounting firms and firms that set up companies and get income from that.