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September 2019

Civil Services Reforms

[op-ed snap] Forging the steel frame


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Mussorie Academy - Civil Services


The 60-year-old Mussoorie Academy deserves some credit for producing officers who have contributed to nation-building.


  • The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration was simply called the Academy of Administration when it was set up in 1959 in Mussoorie. 
  • It signalled to systematically train members of the higher civil services in order to equip them to be the change agents of a resurgent India. 
  • The two All-India Services, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service attracted some of the finest minds from the university system. 
  • The IAS motto, ‘Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam (proficiency in action is yoga)’, and the Academy song, ‘Hao Dharomete Dheer, Hao Karomete Bir (Be firm in your faith, courageous in action)’, symbolised the nation’s expectation from them. 
  • The Academy introduced in 1960 a common Foundation Course (FC) in order to “instil a shared understanding of government and build camaraderie among the civil services”. 
  • It is the professional training institution for the IAS and continues to conduct an FC for various All-India and Central Services.

Changing with times

  • In the last six decades, there have been transformational changes in the country. 
  • The civil servants have also had to constantly upgrade themselves.
  • The Academy has been steered in critical junctures by administrators such as A.N. Jha, P.S. Appu, B.N. Yugandhar and N.C. Saxena. 
  • The content and methodology of training have changed to meet the demands of time.
  • The pattern introduced in 1969 — of district training being sandwiched between institutional exposures at the Academy — has remained broadly unaltered. 
  • On successful completion, IAS trainees are now awarded an M.A. degree in Public Management by the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
  • The Academy also conducts mid-career training programmes for officers, in keeping with their varying job requirements from policy implementation towards policy formulation. 
  • The Academy now houses five national research centres on rural studies, disaster management, gender, public systems management, and leadership development and competency assessment. 
  • Pursuant to the Kargil Review Committee recommendations, a joint civil-military programme on national security was introduced in 2001.

Challenges remain

  • How much of its effort gets reflected in the performance of officers remains a moot question. The correlation between the training imparted in Mussoorie and the quality of public services in the Indian polity should be established. 
  • There has been no serious attempt to record the experiences of the trainees/officers at the field/secretariat levels and publish them in scholarly journals, enabling others to benefit from such exposures. 
  • The Academy Journal, The Administrator, does not seem to have any discernible impact on the academic discourse on the various facets of our governance. 
  • What have been the outputs of the five national centres? How does such research inform the training curriculum? 
  • The Academy hasn’t yet realised its potential to emerge as the main think tank for civil service reforms.
  • The public sometimes resent the bureaucracy, often for valid reasons. Politicians criticise the bureaucracy as blocking the course of development. The reputation of officers is being unduly tarnished. The Academy should help build a national consensus on these contentious issues.
  • Civil servants should maintain their integrity and efficiency while serving in a system that deals with power play and corruption. 


  • In defending and expanding the constitutional values and in adhering to the spirit of various progressive legislation, the IAS and other Services have played a significant role in nation-building. 
  • If one looks at the trajectory of independent India and compares it with that of our immediate neighbours, our higher bureaucracy appears to be a defining difference. 

Tobacco: The Silent Killer

[op-ed snap] India’s vape ban only deprives smokers of safer options


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ENDS

Mains level : Tobacco - India; need to regulate ENDS rather than ban it


The world has embraced electronic cigarettes, commonly known as vapes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) as harm-reduction alternatives to combustible tobacco used in cigarettes. 


  • Globally, several tobacco control researchers have concluded that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less hazardous than combustible cigarettes. 
  • Studies by Public Health England show that the risk of passive smoking associated with them is also extremely low, as they do not produce tobacco fumes. 

India – Tobacco

  • The country bears 12% of the global burden of tobacco users, has 40% of its adults exposed to passive smoking.
  • We have shown the lowest quit rate among all countries surveyed in the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2. 
  • Since there is empirical evidence to suggest that countries, which have regulated ENDS, have witnessed a decline in smoking rates, India needs to take note and reconsider its stance on the matter.

Global experience

  • According to a study conducted by The British Medical Journal, as many as 68 countries, including the UK, US, Canada, France, and Japan, are using a range of regulatory mechanisms to enhance the discretionary power of their adult citizens. 
  • These include laws that prohibit sales of ENDS to minors, regulate advertising and promotion, impose limits on nicotine concentration, and place checks on product quality and battery standards. 
  • The UK and France have witnessed a decline in their smoking rates, with the UK marking the lowest at 14.9% in 2017, in comparison to 19.8% in 2011, and a record 1.6 million people in France having moved away from combustible cigarettes over the past two years. 
  • Sweden has achieved the lowest rates of smoking-caused illnesses in Europe, mostly due to a low-risk form of smokeless tobacco called snus. 
  • Japan has reduced cigarette sales by a third in just three years through product substitution. 
  • New Zealand is promoting ENDS by launching a website called Vaping Facts to clarify myths and make the country smoking-free by 2025.
  • Canada, the UAE, and Seychelles have reversed their bans to regulate the product and allow access to adult smokers. 

Ban to regulate

  • Country-wise e-cigarette policies differ and the outcomes of their experience so far could inform a regulatory system in India.
  • These countries have regulatory mechanisms to monitor the manufacture, sale, labeling, and promotion of ENDS products to enable people to switch and deter unintended consequences. 
  • Canada has created a separate provision for vaping products under its existing tobacco control regulations to ensure that the category of modern products is regulated but these are more accessible than old tobacco products.
  • The World Health Organization and the EU have acted in favor of a regulatory framework instead of a blanket ban. They have provided detailed policy suggestions for countries to restrict producing, marketing, selling and using e-cigarettes. 

Course for India

  • With a smoking population at over 100 million, India is not only a lucrative market for e-cigarette players, but also has more to gain from a public health standpoint if ENDS are permitted.
  • A large chunk of India’s healthcare expenditure goes into the treatment and management of preventable diseases, including tobacco-related illnesses. India will not only gain economically but also find better solutions to combat the voluntary inhalation of harmful substances.
  • India needs to think of vaping as part of a solution and learn from the empirical evidence being provided by various countries.
  • The crisis of addiction has not been responsive to various measures adopted over the decades. 
  • India is currently the second-largest tobacco consumer in the world.


  • A ban on a widely accepted alternative to smoking regular cigarettes not only prevents consumers from making a less harmful choice, but it may also result in an illicit trade turning rampant. 
  • We need to check the entry of dangerous counterfeits and deny vulnerable groups access to these products via the black market.



Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] A minor win for India at WTO


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Domestic Content Requirement

Mains level : Solar dispute at WTO


A WTO panel in June accepted India’s claim in a dispute concerning U.S. regulations on the domestic content requirement in the production of renewable energy. 

The dispute and the verdict:

  • The dispute revolved around certain States in the U.S. that give incentives to local producers in the form of tax rebates, refunds, and credits when they produce renewable energy using locally manufactured products. 
  • Article III of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) requires that countries do not provide less favorable treatment to ‘like products’ originating from other nations. 
  • A solar PVC manufactured in the U.S. should be liable to the same amount of tax as one made anywhere else in the world.
  • WTO’s determine whether an item is a ‘like product’ based on a product’s end-use, composition, substitutability, consumer preferences, and tariff classifications.
  • In this case, the U.S. conceded that the import from India was a ‘like product’.
  • But the U.S. argued that the figures quoted by India showing growth in the number of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed in Washington State between 2005 and 2015 do not support the argument that additional incentives have induced wide-scale adoption of locally made renewable energy products.
  • WTO panel rejected this argument, stating that Washington State’s additional incentive accords an advantage on the use of local products not available for ‘like imported products’. 
  • India was not required to prove that the rise in the production of PV systems was caused by a rise in the production of upstream local products at the cost of ‘like-imported products’.


  • India had earlier lost a similar dispute over its own domestic content requirements. 
  • The U.S. imported 44% of the Indian solar module exports in the 2018-2019 period.
  • This dispute could have been easily avoided had the two countries settled their differences beforehand. 


There are various other disputes pending between the countries at the WTO involving the export promotion scheme brought in by India and the imposition of excess customs duty on steel and aluminum by the U.S. 



Solar Panel Dispute at WTO

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

UN Peacekeeping


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Peacekeeping

Mains level : Importance of the UN Peacekeeping

  • India has told the UN Security Council that peacekeeping currently is in a “no-man’s land” and called for next generation of reforms in peacekeeping based on incentivisation, innovation and institutionalization.

UN Peacekeeping

  • Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.
  • It is distinguished from peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peace enforcement although the UN does acknowledge that all activities are “mutually reinforcing” and that overlap between them is frequent in practice.
  • Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they may have signed.
  • UN peacekeepers often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.

Need for reforms

  • UN peacekeeping is a unique innovation of multilateralism to respond to threats to international peace and security.
  • However, at the current stage, peacekeeping is in a “no-man’s land, between trying to keep the peace in fragile environments and trying to enforce the maintenance of peace, where there is none to keep.
  • Responses to new security environments require a willingness to adapt abilities to meet emerging realities.

Need of hour: Institutionalization

  • The institutionalization of an approach where all key actors, especially Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs), are associated in a consistent and predictable manner in the decision-making matrix has been now discussed for decades.
  • However, in practice, there is not effective improvement of the cooperation between TCCs, the Security Council and the Secretariat.
  • It necessary to move from pursuit of activism of individual member states to collective action by this Council to institutionalize this effort.

Incentivizing women

  • India also called for further incentivising women peacekeepers.
  • As of July 31, women peacekeepers constituted 6 per cent. There are 5,243 female peacekeepers, out of a total of 86,687 peacekeepers.
  • In 26 years, member countries have increased the share of women by 5 per cent. At this rate, it may not be possible to meet even minimum targets.
  • There need to be special incentives for women peacekeepers and priority deployment of all women- unit pledges. Otherwise, the targets will remain just targets.


  • Innovation in capacity building of peacekeepers needs to be a priority, if nations are to move away from a culture of caveats that bedevils peacekeeping into a segmented activity.
  • Innovative options such as co-deployment of peacekeepers from different countries engenders a genuine spirit of partnership for peace and needs to be promoted.
  • Further, there is need for expansion of online initiatives to develop capacities of future commanders and managers so that they lead by example and raise awareness of UN standards.

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

National Genomic Grid


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Genomic Grid

Mains level : Need for such grid

National Genomic Grid

  • In a move to take cancer research to the next level and make treatment viable for people of different economic classes, the government has plans to set up a National Genomic Grid.
  • It will study genomic data of cancer patients from India.
  • The grid to be formed will be in line with the National Cancer Tissue Biobank (NCTB) set up at the IIT Madras.
  • It will collect samples from cancer patients to study genomic factors influencing cancer and identifying the right treatment modalities for the Indian population.
  • The grid will have four parts, with the country divided into east, west, north and south. The genomic samples will help researches to have India-specific studies on cancers.
  • The government plans to set up the National Genomic Grid in the same style with pan-India collection centres by bringing all cancer treatment institutions on board.

About National Cancer Tissue Biobank

  • The NCTB is functioning in close association with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
  • NCTB, which has the capacity to stock 50,000 genomic samples from cancer patients, already has samples from 3,000 patients.

Madhya Pradesh’s Happiness Dept. to open Time Bank


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Time Banks

Mains level : Concept of Time Bank and its benefits

Time Bank in MP

  • The Madhya Pradesh government’s Happiness Department plans to set up a Time Bank that would lend currency to an hour, which could be exchanged to learn a new skill without the need for any paper money.
  • Whenever a bank member needs a service or wants to acquire a skill, say gardening or playing a guitar, she could exchange a credit, worth an hour, with another member knowing the skill.
  • It is a new way to link untapped social capacity to unmet social needs.
  • At the start, the 50,000 volunteers registered with the department through local networks will form community-level banks and list skills they could impart or services they could offer.
  • An experienced volunteer will induct new members and keep a record of all the transactions.
  • Whether one need someone to drive you to a supermarket, tend to an ailing grandmother or simply a jogging partner, it could all be sought at the bank.


  • In Madhya Pradesh, time banks will enable person-to-person, person-to-agency and agency-to-agency transactions.
  • Members will start with zero credits, which they could gradually acquire by imparting skills. Credits can even go in negative.
  • And in case a skill becomes popular over time benefiting only a few members, other members will be compelled to do their mite with vigour to collect more credits.

About the concept

  • Conceived at the Cincinnati Time Store in 1827, the concept gained currency with the setting up of the first Time Bank in Japan in 1973, and later when Edgar Cahn, CEO of TimeBanks USA, popularised ‘Time Dollars’.
  • Today, there are more than 500 such communities across 32 countries.

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

India Iodine Survey 2018-19 Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : Iodine related deficiencies in Children

  • Tamil Nadu has the lowest consumption of iodized salt despite being the third biggest producer of salt in the country, according to a first-of-its-kind national survey to measure the coverage of iodised salt.

Highlights of the Survey

  • The study shows that 76.3% of Indian households consumed adequately iodised salt, which is salt with at least 15 parts per million of iodine.
  • The five worst performers were Tamil Nadu (61.9%), Andhra Pradesh (63.9%), Rajasthan (65.5%), Odisha (65.8%) and Jharkhand (68.8%).
  • The survey was conducted by Nutrition International in collaboration with the AIIMS and the Indian Coalition for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD).
  • The survey tested the iodine content in samples of cooking salt from households to estimate the coverage of iodised salt.
  • The survey revealed that 13 out of 36 States have already achieved Universal Salt Iodisation or have 90% of households with access to adequately iodised salt.

Why such difference

  • The northeastern States are doing very well with respect to iodised salt consumption at the household level because of the distance they have from the three salt producing centres — Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
  • By and large most States get their salt from Gujarat and Rajasthan and because of the distance, it is sent by rail.
  • Salt-producing States have access to common (or non-iodised) salt and, therefore, they start consuming it since it is readily available.

Salt production in India

  • Rajasthan, which is the second largest producer of salt, also figured among the five worst covered States.
  • Gujarat produces 71% of salt in the country, followed by Rajasthan at 17% and Tamil Nadu at 11%.
  • The rest of the country accounts for a mere 1% of salt produced.

Significance of Iodised Salt

  • Iodine is a vital micro-nutrient for optimal mental and physical development of human beings.
  • Deficiency of iodine can result in a range of disabilities and disorders such as goitre, hypothyroidism, cretinism, abortion, still births, mental retardation and psychomotor defects.
  • Children born in iodine deficient areas may have up to 13.5 IQ points less than those born in iodine sufficient areas.
  • India made fortification of salt with iodine mandatory for direct human consumption in 1992. This was relaxed in 2000 and then reimposed in 2005.
  • In 2011, the Supreme Court, too, mandated universal iodisation for the control of iodine deficiencies.

Key recommendations

  • The key recommendation of the study is to sustain the momentum so that iodine coverage does not fall below current levels.
  • It also recommends that the States and the Centre work together to address the current gaps and look into issues that vary from one State to another, leading to adequately iodised salt not being produced.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Motihari-Amalekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Pipeline

Mains level : India-Nepal Economic Realtions

  • PM Modi and his Nepalese counterpart KPS Oli will “switch on” the Motihari-Amalekhgunj petroleum pipeline from their offices in New Delhi and Kathmandu.

About the Pipeline

  • The pipeline will transport fuel from Barauni refinery in Bihar’s Begusarai district to Amalekhgunj in southeastern Nepal, situated across the border from Raxaul in East Champaran district.
  • The 69-km pipeline will drastically reduce the cost of transporting fuel to landlocked Nepal from India.
  • The Amalekhgunj fuel depot will have the capacity to store up to 16,000 kilolitres of petroleum products.
  • The pipeline will help in tackling the oil storage problem in Nepal and doing away with transportation of petroleum products through tankers.
  • It will ensure smooth, cost-effective and environment-friendly supply of petroleum products to Nepal.

Years in making

  • The pipeline project was first proposed in 1996, but progress was slow. Things began to move after PM visited Kathmandu in 2014.
  • The following year, the two governments signed an agreement to execute the project; however, political tensions, including India’s alleged “economic blockade” of Nepal, acted as roadblocks in the implementation.
  • In 2017 Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) signed a petroleum trade agreement to supply about 1.3 million tonnes of fuel annually to Nepal with a promise to double the volume by 2020.
  • In July, the two countries successfully concluded a “testing transfer” through the oil pipeline.