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September 2019

Rural Infrastructure Schemes

[oped of the day] Constitution’s Seventh Schedule, which differentiates between spending by the Centre and states, needs a re-look


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Rationalising CSS to preserve federalism

What’s this feature?

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that suddenly came into news and students may miss it in the daily news. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective papers.


The difference between a CS and a CSS is that for the former, all expenditure is borne by the Union government. For a CSS, part of the expenditure is borne by the Union government. States bear the rest. 

Centrally Sponsored Schemes – 3 trends

  • In CSS, the state’s contribution is contingent on the type of state — North East and Himalayan states versus the others. 
    • The present CSS basket has an expiry date of March 31, 2020, co-terminus with recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. From April 1, 2020, we will have a new CSS basket. 
    • Revamping a CS is the Union government’s prerogative, while revamping a CSS, without consultation with states, is not.
  • The ToR (terms of reference) for the 15th Finance Commission mentions a re-examination of CSS
  • The Union government is taking a look at CSS. 

Previous committees on CSS

  • The former Planning Commission’s 2001 B K Chaturvedi report on restructuring of CSSs and Niti Aayog’s 2015 Sub-Group of Chief Ministers’ Report on rationalisation of CSSs. 
  • Chaturvedi report
    • It suggested that nine flagship schemes (MGNREGA, IAY, SSA, NRHM, and so on) should remain as CSSs, while another six schemes (JNNURM, RKVY and so on) should become CSSs.
    • When implemented, all schemes were repackaged and retained. It was restructuring in the sense of rearrangement. 
  • Sub-group of chief ministers
    • It talked about implementation and divided schemes into core and optional ones. 
    • Existing CSS should be restructured and their number should be reduced to a maximum of 30 schemes. All these schemes would be ‘Umbrella Schemes’, with every scheme having a large number of components with a uniform funding pattern.
    • Thereafter, there are 28 CSSs, divided into “core of the core” and “core”.


  • The 28 umbrella schemes are very large umbrellas.
  • For example, the scheme on “Green Revolution” covers “Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission, Agriculture Marketing, Information, Integrated Scheme on Agricultural Cooperation, Integrated Scheme on Agriculture Census and Statistics, National Agri-Tech Infrastructure, National Mission on Horticulture, National Mission on Oilseed and Oil Palm, National Project on Agroforestry, National Project on Organic Farming, National Project on Soil Health and Fertility, Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rain-fed Area Development and Climate Change and Sub-Missions on Agriculture Extension, Agriculture Mechanisation, Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine & Seed and Planting Material.”
  • Clearly, the figure of 28 is misleading. The number of CSSs depends partly on how one defines a CSS. 
  • At the 3rd National Development Council (NDC) meeting in 1954, Shri Hanumanthaiah referred to the difficulties of the states in finding resources to meet their share of expenditure.
  • He also suggested a consultation with the states before directives in this regard were issued.
  • It was also pointed out that a large number of schemes were sponsored by other ministries also e.g. training schemes of the Ministry of Health and certain schemes for the industry of the Home Ministry. 

What was said in the past and what’s the way ahead

  • Given the paucity of resources, there can only be a limited number of CSS and CSS combined, such as the Chaturvedi figure of 15. 
  • There is an optimal level of governance at which public goods are best provided.
  • The Seventh Schedule was a product of historical evolution. There should be no CSSs for items on the State List.
  • A CSS restructuring/rationalisation debate requires a relook at the Seventh Schedule.
  • This should be done with consultation with states at an appropriate forum.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A case for a differential global carbon tax


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Financing global climate transition


Climate change is a global problem, and a global problem needs a global solution. 


  • The most recent IPCC report suggests that we might have just over a decade left to limit global warming. 
  • It says total global emissions will need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. 
  • If these targets are not met, tropical regions of the world, which are densely populated in the global South are likely to be most negatively affected because of their low altitudes and pre-existing high temperatures. 
  • Some impact of this was already felt during the Tamil Nadu water crisis this year.

Sharing the burden

  • The global South has historically contributed less to the problem and even at present its per capita carbon emissions are much smaller in comparison to the countries in the global North.
  • But they happen to be at the receiving end of the lifestyle choices made by the global North. 
  • Though time is running out, a genuine global consensus on the mitigation of this problem is missing. 
  • In the absence of a collective agreement, the environment is becoming a casualty. 
  • Both worlds need to contribute to averting this danger in their self-interest. 
  • The burden of adjustment cannot be equal when the underlying relationship between the two worlds has been historically unequal. 
  • A just approach would involve a global sharing of responsibility among countries according to their respective shares in global emissions. 
  • Currently, the most accepted model of mitigating strategy has been the carbon trading process. It has its own limitations.

A new burden-sharing model – Just Energy Transition (JET)

  • It is premised on a sense of global justice in terms of climatic fallouts and the respective contributions of the countries. 
  • It will also help the resource-poor developing countries to make the energy transition without having to worry about finances unduly.

A new way for Climate Financing

  • Fundamentally change the energy infrastructure. It requires massive investments for the green energy program across the world. 
  • Financing
    • On the top of the funnel, apart from funding their own energy transition, countries should partially support the transition for the countries at the bottom.
    • This sharing of the burden of development should be done in a way that inverts this injustice funnel. 
    • Countries have to spend around 1.5% of their GDP. 
  • Global energy transition should be financed through a system of the global carbon tax. Total global carbon emissions are 36.1 billion metric tonnes of CO2. This amounts to a global carbon tax of $46.1 per metric tonne.
  • Those at the receiving end of climate injustice are duly compensated for even as the entire world transitions to greener earth as a result of this process of carbon tax sharing.
  • Currently, the global average of carbon emissions is 4.97 metric tonne per capita. All the countries with emissions above this level are “payers” to finance energy transition for ‘beneficiary’ countries which are emitting below this level.
  • The total amount of “carbon compensation” made by the payer nations comes to around $570 billion. The distribution of this amount across the payer countries is based on their distance from the global average. 
  • Compensated countries and the distribution of this fund across them is also based on how to lower their emissions are in comparison to the global average.
  • Once you add (subtract) the carbon compensation amount to (from) each of the countries, you get the effective carbon tax for them.
  • The two top ‘payer’ countries in terms of absolute amounts of transfers are the U.S. and China since their emissions are higher than the global average. 
  • The effective tax rate for the Chinese is lower than the possible universal tax rate of $46.1 per metric tonne and that’s because their own energy transition (1.5% of China’s GDP) plus the global compensation they make requires a tax rate only of $34.4 per metric tonne. 
  • The burden of adjustment is only partially falling on their shoulders and only because they emit more than the global average.

Robin Hood Tax

  • In terms of ‘compensated’ countries, India comes at the top due to its population size and its distance from the global emissions’ average. India has per capita emissions of 1.73 metric tonnes. 
  • Countries like France, Sweden, and Switzerland are also in the compensated list. Even high-income countries that have currently kept their per capita emissions low are beneficiaries of this globally-just policy. 


It wants all nations to climb down the emissions ladder without necessarily having to give up on their standard of living. It’s a global green Robin Hood tax!

Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Striking a blow for investigative credibility


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Criminal Justice System and challenges to investigative agencies


These are highly contentious times for India’s criminal justice system. With sensational criminal cases, controversy erupts almost every day.

Criminal justice system

  • The judiciary enjoys a certain insularity. It is not required to be overly communicative. Thus it can stay away from direct confrontation with others. 
  • Prosecutors and investigators face an issue of trust. 
  • In the defence team, a few private lawyers hired by influential accused persons enjoy an immunity.
  • In all this, investigators have no mechanism to air their grievances. 
  • The prosecution lawyers and investigating officers are in an unequal battle against the defence. 

Supreme Court judgement

  • A bench of the Supreme Court recently observed that probe agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) needed a free hand to conduct their investigations.
  • Recently certain defence lawyers requested that courts should scrutinise every piece of evidence collected by the agencies before passing any orders, including ones related to the granting of bail.
  • The court believed that investigators should not be pressured to compromise on the confidentiality of evidence they have gathered during the process of data collection.

Changing the nature of criminal investigations

  • In the early 1980s and 1990s, arrests were rare. 
  • Now, given the volume and complexity of investigative processes linked to multi-layered economic crime and pressure from the public and the executive, the pressure that the CBI should produce instant results is telling. 
  • The charge against the CBI is that it has been selective in its targets, pursuing a campaign of a vendetta at the behest of its political masters. 
  • Two issues were flagged in court recently:
    • the right of an accused to get bail
    • the need for custodial interrogation by probe agencies. 
  • Although the maxim that ‘bail is the rule, and jail is an exception’ was held since Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, the growing volume of crime and the dexterity of offenders have induced a change in judicial thinking. 
  • Courts at all levels now believe that granting bail cannot be a routine and mechanical process and that certain cases deserve an application of mind while ordering bail. 
  • This has led to lengthy hearings before a bail application is disposed of. While the application of an ordinary offender is summarily rejected, the rich and the famous are able to persuade judges to devote several sittings to decide on the bail application.
  • Courts now demand and peruse prosecution documents to satisfy themselves that no injustice has been done to a bail applicant. 
  • Neither the prosecution nor those accused can complain of judicial caprice or arbitrariness in the matter.

Custodial interrogation

  • There is a controversy over the need for custodial interrogation of an accused person. 
  • The complexity of present-day crime and the ease with which the many details of a crime can be hidden enhance the need for the custodial examination. 
  • While courts are convinced of its utility they sparingly grant such custody. 
  • This could also lead to possible misuse in questioning under controlled conditions. 
  • Police custody is a serious responsibility for the investigating officer. Any pressure tactics or attempted physical violence on the person in custody is fraught with serious consequences. 
  • There are reasonable guarantees including accountability to the judiciary for civilised treatment of an accused in police custody.


Criminal law and its contours are evolving. It is easy to criticise and accuse police agencies charged with efficient solving of crime with arbitrariness. The attempt should not be to choke them. There’s a need for allowing them more freedom to be professional without diluting the controls that are already in place.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Eurasian Economic Forum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eurasian Economic Forum

Mains level : Read the attached story

India skips the summit

  • India has skipped a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which was organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Xi’an in China.
  • Since the BRI’s launch in 2017, India has remained firm on not singing it off at the SCO’s annual summits in 2018 and 2019.
  • The summit’s declarations of both years reflected the endorsement of the controversial project by all members but India.
  • India has been a member of the SCO since 2017.

The EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative

  • In November 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev met in Beijing for the 23rd annual meeting between heads of government, and the two sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties.
  • China would aims to synergize the Belt BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Both sides expressed willingness to dovetail the China-proposed BRI and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

The BRI and India’s opposition

  • The BRI is a mammoth infrastructure project unveiled by China in 2017, which plans to connect the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • The ‘Belt’ part refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, consisting of three overland routes.
  • First, a link between China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. Second, a link through Central Asia and West Asia linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. And third, a connection from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean.
  • The ‘Road’ part refers to the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, creating maritime trade channels from China through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific.
  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an important part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • In May 2017, India strongly opposed the BRI as it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.



  • The SCO, an intergovernmental body for security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region, was formed in 2001 by the ‘Shanghai Five’ (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan).
  • It was formed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
  • Uzbekistan joined the SCO in 2001, with India and Pakistan following suit in 2017.
  • The SCO has traditionally prioritised on counter-terrorism, listing terrorism, separatism and extremism as “the three evils.
  • However, since its formation, the SCO’s domain has expanded to include subjects such as culture and economics.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

Mains level : Smart Cities Mission

  • Starting with an open data platform for the 100 cities of the Smart Cities Mission by 2020, the government is planning to make a wide range of data — from health, education to finances, public by 2024.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

  • IUDX is a research project under smart cities mission being implemented by Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
  • The India Urban Data Exchange set up by the MoHUA for its Smart Cities would be expanded, eventually leading to a “marketplace”.
  • IUDX will be an open source software platform for cities, industry and researchers to share Smart City data with each other that could be monetised in the future, similar to the UPI for bank accounts and digital payments.

Facilities provided

  • MoHUA said that the open data platform for the 100 cities would be expanded to cover 500 cities by 2022 and all urban centres in the country by 2024.
  • It will facilitate secure, authenticated and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, third-party authenticated and authorized applications and other data sources, data producers and consumers, both within a city to begin with and scaled up across cities eventually at a national level, in a uniform and seamless way.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Basel Ban amendment becomes law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basel Ban

Mains level : Global mechanisms against desertification

  • The 1995 Basel Ban Amendment, a global waste dumping prohibition, has become an international law after Croatia ratified it on September 6, 2019.

Basel Convention against global waste dumping

  • Basel Convention in 1995, to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, according to Basel Action Network (BAN).
  • BAN is a Unites States-based charity organisation and is one among the organisations and countries, which created the Basel Ban Amendment — hailed as a landmark agreement for global environmental justice.
  • The Ban Amendment was originally adopted as a decision of the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties in March 1994.
  • The Ban Amendment prohibits all export of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and obsolete ships from 29 wealthiest countries of the OECD to non-OECD countries.
  • The Ban Amendment had been stalled for all these years due to uncertainty over how to interpret the Convention.

Giants are yet to ratify

  • Most countries like the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico are yet to ratify the ban.
  • The US produces the most waste per-capita but has failed to ratify the Basel Convention and has actively opposed the Ban Amendment.
  • Non-adherence to international waste trade rules has allowed unscrupulous US ‘recyclers’ to export hazardous electronic waste to developing countries for so-called recycling.
  • Nearly, 40 per cent of e-waste delivered to US recyclers is exported to Asian and African countries.

Air Pollution

Air pollution in Delhi drops 25% in four years


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5, PM 10

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi

  • Pollution levels in Delhi, primarily the concentration of particulate matter has reduced by 25% over a period of four years.
  • Five years ago, in 2014, a global study on air quality trends by the WHO had declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Since then, the Centre, states and courts have taken several steps to arrest pollution in the city.

Delhi air pollution

  • Delhi, through its pollution control committee, started monitoring air quality in real time only in 2010.
  • It was in 2012 that Delhi saw its worst air quality due to full force of crop-residue burning that year, especially in October and November.
  • It was the first time that this burning was seriously flagged.
  • But since 2012, the average annual concentration of particulate matter — the primary cause of pollution in the city — has been falling.
  • In Delhi’s air, the primary pollutants are PM2.5 (inhalable particles of diameter 2.5 micrometres and smaller) and PM10 (10 micrometers and smaller).
  • Particulate matter, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in air.
  • Some particles can be seen with the naked eye; others can only be detected under a microscope.

What data show?


  • DPCC data from 2012 to 2019 show 2018 saw the lowest average concentration of PM2.5.
  • In 2012, the annual average was 160 micrograms per cubic metre; it came down 20% to 128 micrograms/cubic m in 2018.
  • The most polluted months of the year are November, December and January, with pollution peaking in November, monthly averages between 2012 and 2018 show.
  • It is in November that the highest volume of crop residue is burnt in Haryana, Punjab and UP.
  • It is also when temperatures fall and humidity rises, aiding the increase in concentration of pollutants in the air. Locally, the burning of leaves picks up in November.
  • However, as the chart shows, PM2.5 concentrations have fallen over the years — in November as well as in the ‘cleaner’ months of July, August and September.


  • Between 2012 and 2018, the concentration of PM10 reduced by 21% from an average 351 micrograms/cubic m to 277 micrograms/cubic m.
  • PM10 is more prominent in the air in winter, primarily because of open burning and road and construction dust.
  • Until August this year, Delhi’s performance in terms of PM10 concentration has been encouraging.
  • In August, the average concentration fell to double digits for the first time since 2012; in 2013, this figure was as high as 288 micrograms/cubic m.

Seasonal variation, weather

  • Over the past five years, several studies have pointed to the fact that weather and seasons are among the biggest determinants of Delhi’s air quality.
  • No matter how much authorities try, air quality in winter will be worse than in summer.
  • Localised weather conditions also have a major role in determining air quality.
  • On a sunny and windy winter day, air quality can improve several notches within hours.
  • Weather conditions are also the reason why winters are more polluted than summers. Cold, foggy, windless days help in the accumulation of pollutants.

What has worked in Delhi

  • Between 2014 and 2017, the Delhi government has implemented orders passed by NGT to curb air pollution, including the implementation of the odd-even road rationing scheme.
  • The biggest push came in 2017, when the Centre notified the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which provided state governments in Delhi and the NCR with a roadmap for action.
  • If the air was severely polluted for more than 48 hours, for example, the entry of trucks would be stopped, and all construction work halted. The GRAP also set roles for each agency, fixing accountability.
  • Shutting of the two thermal power plants in Delhi, completion of the eastern and western peripheral expressways for vehicles not destined for Delhi, a ban on PET Coke as industrial fuel, and the introduction of BS VI fuel have, experts believe, made a big difference.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Cryodrakon boreas: the largest flying animal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cryodrakon boreas

Mains level : Not Much

  • Scientists unveiled a new species of pterosaur, the plane-sized reptiles that lorded over primeval skies above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

Cryodrakon boreas

  • With a wingspan of 10 m and weighing 250 kg, C. boreas rivals another pterosaur as the largest flying animal of all time.
  • It was identified as being distinct from Quetzalcoatlus the other giant pterosaur for which it was initially mistaken.
  • Its remains were first discovered more than 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, yet elicited scant excitement because of the misclassification.
  • But a closer look at the fossil remains of a juvenile and the intact giant neck bone of a full-grown specimen left no doubt that a new species had been discovered.
  • Like other winged reptiles living at the same time, about 77 million years ago, C. boreas was carnivorous and probably fed on lizards, small mammals and even baby dinosaurs.
  • Despite a likely capacity to cross large bodies of water, the location of fossil remains and the animal’s features point to an inland habitat.

About Pterosaurs

  • They were flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria.
  • They existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous. Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight.
  • There are more than 100 known species of pterosaurs.
  • Despite their large size and wide distribution — across North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe — only fragmentary remains have been unearthed, making the new find especially important.

[pib] Accessibility Standard for TV Programmes for the Hearing Impaired


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Various initiatives for the specially abled

  • In order to enhance the accessibility of television programmes for the hearing impaired, Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting announced the implementation of Accessibility Standard for TV Programmes for persons with hearing impairment.

About the Standards

  • The Accessibility will be enhanced through the provision of captioning and Indian Sign Language.
  • All news channels are advised to carry a news bulletin with sign language interpretation at least once per day and all TV channels and service providers will run at least one programme per week with subtitles / captioning.
  • Live news, live and deferred live content/events such as sports, live music shows, award shows, live reality shows, live debates, scripted/ unscripted reality shows, etc. and advertisements/ teleshopping content have however been exempted.
  • The channels could either make their own programme with sign language interpretation, or, if they wished, carry a bulletin prepared by DD News free of cost.
  • This will be implemented from 16th September, 2019. The overall implementation of the Standards will be done in a phase wise manner in the next five years. The policy will be reviewed after two years.