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September 2019

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

[oped of the day] The nationalist hindrance to climate actions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Action on climate change - global challenges

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Global Climate Action Summit backed by the United Nations Secretary General seeks to bring concrete climate action with the support of global youth protests. It seeks to spur action to address climate change.

Climate change is a reality

  • The scientific advisory group to the summit reports the following
    • five years since 2015 is set to be the warmest of any equivalent recorded period
    • sea-level rise is accelerating
    • oceans have become 26% more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial era
  • Recent weather events show the implications of a warming world
    • this summer saw Delhi-like temperatures across southern Europe
    • Hurricane Dorian rendered large parts of the Bahamas unliveable
    • simultaneous raging fires in the Amazon, central Africa, and even Siberia
  • Scientists are able to link these individual events with climate change. Heatwave in France and Germany was made 8 to 10 times more likely by climate change. 

Root causes continue

Concentrations of CO2 continue to rise and current country pledges would not stem this increase even by 2030.

Rising youth

  • This has spurred an upwelling of social action among the youth. 
  • An estimated 4 million youth turned out in protest on Friday against inaction on climate change around the world.

Problems in addressing the issue at hand

  • A turn toward nationalism in multiple countries has created a short-term, look-out-for-our-own mentality inimical to the global collective action.
  • United States president not only refuses to enhance actions but has actively rolled back measures in the electricity sector and actions to limit methane emissions in the name of competitiveness. 
  • In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear he sees environmental protections as limiting Brazilian business. 

UN Summit – possibilities

  • Countries have been urged to enhance their pledges for action made as part of the Paris Agreement. 
    • A number of small and mid-sized countries, including the United Kingdom, have already committed to achieving the objective of making their economies net carbon neutral by 2050. 
    • Several large countries such as the United States, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico are reportedly not even going to participate in the event at a high level. 
    • China and India have issued hinted that they are doing quite enough.
    • India has highlighted the need for enhanced finance if it is to do more. 
  • By the use of diplomacy, it seeks to induce changes in real economies around a set of ‘action portfolios’.
    • Furthering and accelerating an energy transition toward low-carbon energy
    • Making cities more climate-friendly and more resilient to climate disruption
    • Starting the process of turning energy-intensive sectors such as steel and cement more carbon friendly. 
    • Domestic objectives are central to these actions: 
      • promoting solar energy for energy security reasons
      • making cities more liveable
      • making industries more efficient and competitive

What India should do

  • India is a deeply vulnerable country to climate impacts. It should argue for enhanced global collective action.
  • India has the potential to show the pathway to accelerating action on climate change while pursuing its development interests. 
  • Its energy efficiency track record helps limit greenhouse gases even while saving the nation’s energy. 
  • India is recognised for promoting renewable energy but is working on future coal use. 
  • While some increase in fossil fuel is inevitable for India, it needs domestic energy policies that are more clearly and coherently tuned to a future low carbon world.
  • India should be a truly global climate leader, rather than a leader only among climate laggards. 
  • India and China can jointly help ensure that Africa’s development is powered by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels and based on an energy-efficient future.


  • The pathway to enhanced action is unlikely to override entrenched national politics. 
  • The aim should be to make accelerated climate action congruent with national interest by focusing on areas such as energy and urbanisation.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] Let prices rise


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Need for deregulating Agricultural prices


Current consumer price index (CPI) inflation levels allow enough “room” for continued monetary easing. Policy rate reductions beyond the 110 basis points are already affected this year.

Food inflation

  • The credit for the going down of overall retail inflation to an average of  3.50% goes mainly to food items, which have a 45.86% in the CPI. 
  • Average consumer food inflation has been even lower, at 1.38%. 
  • If CPI inflation has to remain within the RBI’s target of 4%, it would hinge upon sustained low food prices.


  • This leads to a temptation to engage in “supply management” to contain food inflation at any cost. 
  • Recently, the commerce ministry imposed a minimum export price of $850 per tonne of onions. The state-run MMTC Ltd has been asked to import the bulb in order to control retail prices, which have crossed Rs 50/kg in major metros. 
  • These moves have angered onion growers, who say that the government showed no such enthusiasm when prices were consistently low for much of the last three years. 
  • Suppressing food prices through artificial means is not the way to meet the RBI’s inflation target. 
  • Between December 2018 and August 2019, annual WPI inflation for food articles has moved up from -0.42% to 7.67%. Retail food inflation is still only 2.99%. It should catch up with the trend in wholesale prices. ‘
  • The supply disruptions and crop loss from excess monsoon rains — could lead to some rising prices. This is seen in pulses, maize, jowar, and soybean. 
  • The prices are recovering from lows and some are trading below their official minimum support prices. 
  • The government should not invoke the Essential Commodities Act or ban exports or permit duty-free imports. 


Boosting farm incomes is more likely to guarantee an economic recovery than the slashing of interest rates.

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

[op-ed snap] A lifeline for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMJAY

Mains level : PMJAY - benefits and the road ahead


Ayushman Bharat is a conscious attempt to holistically address health, encompassing prevention, promotion and ambulatory care at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. 


  • It promises to bring healthcare to the poorest through two components: 
    • Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) delivering comprehensive primary healthcare through the development of 1.5 lakh HWCs
    • PM-JAY, the health assurance scheme delivering secondary and tertiary care to 55-crore people through a health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year. 
  • Ayushman Bharat has been designed based on the idea that prevention is better than cure.
  • No one should fall into poverty because of expenditure on healthcare, or die because they cannot afford treatment.
  • It promises free healthcare to the poorest 55 crore people in the country.
  • It would help them avoid the catastrophic healthcare expenditure that pushes 6 crores below the poverty line each year in India. 

The journey so far – healthcare

  • More than 20,000 HWCs have been made operational. 
  • More than five crore people have been screened for a whole range of common non-communicable diseases. 
  • More than 45 lakh hospital admissions have taken place for cashless treatment in more than 18,000 empaneled hospitals across the country, resulting in savings of more than Rs 13,000 crore for the beneficiary families. 
  • Ayushman Bharat has provided a platform and framework for the country to accelerate its progress towards comprehensive universal healthcare. 

Working with States

  • In several states and union territories, it has an opportunity to extend the benefits to far larger numbers, beyond those covered under the scheme. 
  • 11 states/UTs have expanded the coverage to include almost all families. 23 states/UTs have expanded the beneficiary base with the same benefit coverage as under PMJAY or lower. 
  • Several states have merged their many ongoing schemes with PMJAY to make implementation simpler for both beneficiaries and participating hospitals. 
  • They don’t need to deal with different target groups, rates, and reporting systems. 
  • Karnataka has merged seven different existing schemes into one, while Kerala has merged three different schemes.

Private sector participation

  • More than half of the empaneled hospitals are private. Over 62% of the treatments have been done by private hospitals. 
  • PM-JAY has created a massive demand for private and public sector services by making hospital facilities accessible to 55 crore people. 
  • In tier II and tier III cities, private sector hospitals are witnessing an almost 20% increase in footfall. 
  • Public sector facilities have streamlined their processes so as to improve service quality and amenities with funds from PMJAY.


  • With the setting up of 1.5 lakh HWCs by 2022, an expected 1.5 lakh jobs will be created for community health officers, including 50,000 multi-purpose health workers. 
  • It has generated approximately 50,000-60,000 jobs in the first year itself and is expected to add over 12.5 lakh jobs in both public and private sectors over the next three to five years.
  • 90% of them are in the healthcare sector and the remaining in allied sectors such as insurance and implementation support. 
  • 1.5 lakh beds will be added to existing and new hospitals. This will lead to the creation of around 7.5 lakh new opportunities for doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists and frontline healthcare workers such as Pradhan Mantri Arogya Mitras.

IT infrastructure

  • It is supported by a strong IT backbone that facilitates the identification of beneficiaries, records treatments, processes claims, receives feedback, and addresses grievances. 
  • A live dashboard helps in monitoring and improving performance, based on real-time data and regular analysis. 
  • This platform also helps states to compare their performance. 
  • A strong and sophisticated fraud prevention, detection and control system at the national and state level ensures that frauds are largely prevented. 

Way ahead

  • Tap the potential of collective bargaining and leveraging economies of scale to deliver affordable and quality healthcare through devices, implants, and supplies. 
  • Prescribing and ensuring adherence to standard treatment protocols. 
  • Strengthening the linkage between HWCs and PMJAY to improve the backward and forward referrals and enhance overall healthcare services to the poor. 
  • “Greenfield” states with no past experience of implementing healthcare schemes have to work harder to scale up their progress. 

India will make sure healthcare is no longer a privilege and is available to every Indian.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AISHE, Various terms mentioned

Mains level : Key highlights of the survey

  • Union HRD Ministry has released the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19.
  • AISHE 2018-19 findings are based on the responses from 962 universities, 38,179 colleges and 9,190 standalone institutions.

All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE)

  • To portray the status of higher education in the country, Ministry of HRD has endeavored to conduct an annual web-based All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) since 2010-11.
  • The survey covers all the Institutions in the country engaged in higher education.
  • Data is being collected on several parameters such as teachers, student enrolment, programmes, examination results, education finance, and infrastructure.
  • Indicators of educational development such as Institution Density, Gross Enrolment Ratio, Pupil-teacher ratio, Gender Parity Index, Per Student Expenditure will also be calculated from the data collected through AISHE.

Highlights of the survey

Fall in professional education pursuance

  • The government defines professional education as higher education programmes that are meant for students to acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies for a specific profession or a class of occupations.
  • Student’s enrolment in B.Tech and M.Tech programmes has seen a dramatic fall.
  • This has led to an overall dip in enrolment in professional courses, which has hit a four-year low.
  • Since the academic year 2015-16, the number of students pursuing professional courses at the undergraduate level has decreased by 7,21,506 (roughly 9%).
  • Enrolment in PG professional programmes dropped by almost 32%, from 18,07,646 in 2015-16 to 12,36,404 in 2018-19.

Fall in enrolment

  • The drastic dip comes at a time when student enrolment in higher education is at an all-time high.
  • According to the survey, total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 3.74 crore, as opposed to 3.66 crore the year before.
  • The waning popularity of professional degrees seems to have renewed interest in academics.

Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)

  • GER is a statistical measure for determining the number of students enrolled in UG, PG and research-level studies within the country and expressed as a percentage of the population in the 18-23 years age group.
  • According to AISHE 2018-19, the present GER in higher education is 26.3%, up from 25.8% in 2017-18.

Gender Parity on rise

  • Gender Parity Index (GPI), the female: male ratio in higher education measures progress towards gender equity.
  • Out of the total 3.74 crore students in higher education in 2018-19, 1.92 crore are men, and 1.82 crore are women.
  • The GPI has increased over the last five years, from 0.92 in 2014-15 to 1 in 2018-19.

Humanities is more popular

  • The highest number of students are enrolled in Arts courses.
  • The total number of students enrolled in Arts courses are 93.49 lakh, of which 46.96% are male and 53.03% are female.
  • Science is the second major stream with 47.13 lakh students, of which 49% are male and 51% are female.
  • Commerce is the third major stream with 40.3 lakh students enrolled. The share of male students enrolled in Commerce is 51.2%, whereas female enrolment is 48.8%,” the survey states.

Railway Reforms

Head on Generation (HOG) technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HOG technology

Mains level : Making railways function affordable

  • The Railway Ministry has announced that it would be upgrading all existing Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches with the Head on Generation (HOG) technology, a move that would cause the trains to become more cost-efficient and less polluting.

LHB coaches

  • The LHB coaches have been built in India at the Asansol-based Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) after the Railways purchased their technology from the German manufacturer Linke Hofmann Busch in 1996.
  • These coaches were originally designed to operate on the End on Generation (EOG) principle.
  • According to a research the train’s ‘hotel load’ (the load of air conditioning, lights, fans, and pantry, etc.) is provided with electricity from two large diesel generator sets, which supply 3-phase power at 750 Volts 50 Hz to the entire length of the train.
  • Each coach then picks up the power supply through a 60 KVA transformer, bringing down the voltage to 110 volts at which level the equipment in the compartment is run.
  • The generator cars are attached to either end of the train, giving the system its name.

Head on Generation (HOG) system

  • As opposed to the older EOG system, the Head on Generation (HOG) system runs the hotel load by drawing electricity from the overhead electric lines through the pantograph (an apparatus which mounted on the roof of electric train to collect power through with an overhead tension wire).
  • The power supply from the overhead cable is 750 volts at single-phase, and a transformer with a winding of 945 kVA converts it to a 750 Volts 50 Hz output at 3-phase.
  • This energy is then provided to the compartments.
  • The HOG system is free of air and noise pollution.
  • The system would bring down yearly CO2 and NOx emissions, which according to the press release are currently at 1724.6 tonnes/annum and 7.48 tonnes/annum respectively, to zero.

Why HOG?

  • Since the HOG-fitted trains do not require power from diesel generators at all, they only have one emergency generator car attached, instead of two regular generator cars.
  • The Railways has said that the extra space created would now be used for an LSLRD (LHB Second Luggage, Guard & Divyaang Compartment) meaning more passengers can be accommodated.
  • Once all LHB trains get the new system, the Ministry said that it would be saving INR 1390 crores every year.
  • The increased cost efficiency is because of the low price per unit of electricity in the HOG system @ INR 6/unit, as compared to the price of INR 22/unit in the EOG system.

Air Pollution

Happy Seeder (HS) Technique


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HS technology

Mains level : Alternatives to stubble burning

  • Punjab CM recently said that using Happy Seeders for direct wheat sowing leads to increased productivity.

Happy Seeder (HS)

  • Happy Seeder (HS) or Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) is a tractor-operated machine developed by the Punjab Agri University (PAU) in collaboration with Australian Centre for International Agri Research (ACIAR).
  • HS is used for in-situ management of paddy stubble (straw).
  • While it was developed in 2002, the PAU officially recommended it to farmers in 2005-06 and it made to the markets in 2006.
  • Currently, it costs around Rs 1.50 to 1.60 lakh and is manufactured by different companies.
  • The agriculture department gives 80 per cent subsidy to farmer groups and 50 per cent subsidy to individual farmers.

Using HS

  • After harvesting the paddy field using a combined harvester fitted with Super-SMS (Straw Management System) equipment.
  • This chops and evenly spreads the stubble in the field, farmers can directly sow wheat seeds using Happy Seeder with the stubble’s organic value adding to the soil.

Why use HS?

  • The average wheat yield a farmer gets using traditional sowing method (after burning stubble) is 19-22 quintal/acre (q/acre).
  • It has been found that using Happy Seeder for four years, in the first year the yield was 17 q/acre but now it’s 19-22 q/acre.

Issues with HS

  • Many farmers had to burn the stubble because Happy Seeder doesn’t work on thick bunches of straw left behind.
  • It is wrong to say that yield magically increases or decreases using Happy Seeder.
  • It mostly remains at par, with normal average yield.
  • Initially, farmers will face problems because after sowing with HS, fields require proper management
  • According to the experts, wheat yield will start increasing after the initial 2-3 years, as the stubble will add to the organic quality of the soil.

History- Important places, persons in news

Marsiya Poetry       


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Marsiya poetry       

Mains level : Not Much

  • Recently former Vice Prez Hamid Ansari, while addressing the function praised the Marsiya tradition of Urdu poetry, calling the art form an important part of ‘Adab’ (literature).

Marsiya poetry

  • Marsiya poetry, which holds special significance for Shia Muslims, is a form of literary expression that is dedicated to describing the persona of Imam Hussain.
  • Imam Hussain is a revered figure in the Islamic world, and the hardships he and his kin underwent during the historic Battle of Karbala.
  • Marsiya is typically read in the month of Muharram, which ended on September 10 this year.

The tradition

  • The word Marsiya means elegy, meaning a poem which is a lament for the dead.
  • In Urdu literature, Marsiya is written principally in praise of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet, and his family members who died at the Battle of Karbala in the year 680 CE in present-day Iraq.
  • Marsiya is a form of poetry which not only touches upon the death of Imam Hussain and other events, but also delves into his ethic (Akhlaaq) of forgiveness and etiquette (Adab) of compassion.
  • Marsiya is usually sung, and set to Indian Ragas, creating a fusion of music and poetry.


  • The Marsiya tradition first evolved in Delhi and the Deccan, but reached its zenith under the patronage of the Nawabs of Lucknow, who encouraged the art form in the 18th and 19th centuries around the same time when Mughal power was steadily receding.
  • Its most iconic poets from the 19th century, Mir Anis and Mirza Dabir, made a profound impact on Marsiya, making six-line stanzas the preferred form.
  • Marsiya is also noteworthy for its depiction of events in 7th century Arabia in a manner which could be relatable to audiences in South Asia, making the genre popular here.
  • For example, its Arab characters are depicted in the South Asian setting, having habits and customs like elite North Indian families.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Sagittarius A*


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sagittarius A*

Mains level : Black-hole theory and its relevance

Sagittarius A*

  • It is a supermassive black hole that sits 26,000 light years away from Earth, near the Galactic Centre, or the centre of the Milky Way.
  • It is one of the few black holes where we can witness the flow of matter nearby.
  • Since the discovery of Sagittarius A* 24 years ago, it has been fairly calm.

Why in news?

  • This year Sagittarius A* has shown unusual activity, and the area around it has been much brighter than usual.
  • It may be that the Sagittarius A* has become hungrier, and has been feeding on nearby matter at a markedly faster rate, which one researcher described as a “big feast”.
  • A black hole does not emit light by itself, but the matter that it consumes can be a source of light.
  • A large quantity of gas from the S0-2 star, which travelled close to the black hole last year, may now have reached the latter.
  • Other possibilities of the heightened activity are that it could be growing faster than usual in size, or that the current model that measures its level of brightness is inadequate and is in need of an update.

Mission Clean Ganga

Ganga Data Collector


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ganga Data Collector

Mains level : Namami Gange Project

Ganga Data Collector

  • Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has launched a mobile application “Ganga Data Collector”.
  • This is under the “Biodiversity and Ganga Conservation” project initiated by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) of Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The app will provide field researchers with a complete data entry solution to monitor the aquatic population in the river.
  • The scientists of WII, Ganga Prahri volunteers and staff of the forest department in the Ganga Basin will use this application on their mobile phones.
  • The Ganga basin covers 11 states including Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi.
  • It will make faster collection of more authentic and accurate data related to water quality and aquatic life in Ganga.


  • The associates will collect data related to quality of water, presence of different species of fishes, amphibians and reptiles, crocodiles and turtles, dolphins, birds, water level and weather.
  • They will file these details in data-sheets along with information of date, time and location of collection data.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Shodh Shuddhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shodh Shuddhi

Mains level : Promoting skillful research in India

Shodh Shuddhi

  • The union Ministry of HRD has launched the Plagiarism Detention Software (PDS) “Shodh Shuddhi”.
  • This service is being implemented by Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET), an Inter University Centre (IUC) of UGC.
  • PDS will significantly help to improve the quality of research outcome by ensuring the originality of ideas and publication of the research scholars.
  • Initially, about 1000 Universities/ Institutions (Central Universities; Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs); State Public Universities; Deemed Universities; Private Universities; Inter University Centre (IUCs) & Institutes of National Importance are being provided with this service.

What is Plagiarism?

  • Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
  • Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics.