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October 2019

Swachh Bharat Mission

[oped of the day] In last five years, Swachh Bharat mission has captured people’s imagination


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : SBM success - causes

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.


In the last five years, India has transformed from being the highest contributor to global open defecation to torch-bearer for global sanitation.

Key pillars behind the success of SBM

    • These may be applied to any large-scale transformation in the world.
    • Political leadership – Inspired by the top leadership and commitment, various chief ministers took up the cause. Leaders at all levels are prime catalysts for large-scale transformations.
    • Public financing – Over Rs 1 lakh crore was committed to ensuring universal access to sanitation, thereby backing the political will with budgetary support. About 90% of the 10 crore households which received toilets were from socially and economically weaker sections of society and they received financial incentives to build and use toilets.
    • Partnerships – SBM (G) partnered with implementers and influencers — national and international development agencies, media houses, civil society, celebrities, as well as all departments/ministries of the government of India.
    • People’ participation – SBM-G trained over half a million swachhagrahis, who triggered behaviour change in every village in India. 
    • Administrative disruption – it led to efficient on-ground implementation. A sunset clause brought a sense of urgency and accountability. 
    • SBM-G brought in a unique blend of young professionals and experienced but driven bureaucrats, and each person became committed to the goal.
    • Scalability – devised solutions which are easy to implement, like the on-site twin-pit toilet systems for rural India, as opposed to expensive networked sanitation solutions. 
    • By providing flexibility to states and implementers by design, the mission allowed them to tailor solutions to local contexts.
    • Targeted the low-hanging fruit first — the districts with the highest sanitation coverage — to become ODF on priority. This created a demonstration effect for others to learn from.
    • Behavior change – SBM-G engaged extensively with the media, leveraging popular culture, and associating Bollywood stars, sportspersons and other influencers to promote the message of sanitation.

Way ahead

  • 10-year sanitation strategy to move from ODF to ODF Plus
    • sustaining the SBM-G gains
    • ensuring that no one is left behind
    • ensuring access to solid and liquid waste management for all villages
  • Ensure piped water supply to all households by 2024. This will boost SBM-G’s sustainability efforts.

NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

[op-ed snap] Why 2005 declaration on synergy between government and NGOs is still relevant


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NGO - reforms needed


The idea of NGOs started in the 90s. It held that apart from the government agencies, corporates, the cooperative sector, and other citizens could get together for common developmental causes. This is loosely called the Fifth Estate.

Role of NGOs

  • The development required technology, capital, and other resources. 
  • But above all, the motivation and capability of the concerned people to utilise their resources in an efficient, equitable, and sustainable manner. 
  • The decade of the 90s saw sweeping changes in the way rural development — particularly matters relating to natural resources. 
  • Rural communities were required to prepare and implement micro plans appropriate to local conditions and needs. Joint Forest Management (1990), watershed development (1995), participatory irrigation management (1997) and Swajaldhara (2003) are good examples.
  • Those working for participatory management of natural resources were hoping to strengthen and carry forward the participatory approach in 2000-2001 at the time of the formulation of the Tenth Plan. 
  • The trends in the 10th Five Year Plan point to distortions and reversals of the healthy trends of the 90s. 

The decision at Bhopal – 8 principles

  • The problems called for a national-level meeting in 2005 at Bhopal. It was attended by leaders from NGO community, academics and policymakers from various parts of India. 
  • It prepared eight declarations based on eight principles:
    • The centrality of community-based organisations (CBOs)
    • Equity
    • Decentralisation.
    • Need of a facilitating agency
    • Monitoring and evaluation
    • Training and software
    • Sustained momentum of development 
    • Organisational restructuring

Challenges facing NGOs

  • There were conflicts with government and corporate entities — all those who had “sanctioned budgets”. 
  • There was corruption and no one to lead the well meaning when problems arose. 

Way ahead

If we decide to plan again with the large number of new schemes that were declared after planning was abolished, we must reinvent these principles.

[op-ed snap] States at centre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Fiscal federalism - state finances


In recent times, economic discussion in India has focused largely on the stress on central government finances. But state government finances are also facing headwinds. 

State of states’ finance

  • States increasingly account for a larger share in general government spending.
  • An RBI report on state finances notes that over the past two years, the overall size of state budgets has reduced. This may have “inadvertently deepened” the economic slowdown
  • States have pegged their revenues to grow at a slower pace largely due to lower tax devolution and grants
  • Revenue expenditure tends to be sticky in nature — rising due to higher interest and pension payments
  • States have offset slower revenue growth by curtailing capital spending, which will lower overall public sector capex.
  • RBI report also notes that state debt to GDP has surged to 25%of GDP in 2019-20. Bringing it down to 20% as per FRBM review committee will be challenging.

Challenges facing state finances

  • The strains on state finances stem from several sources.
  • States are increasingly undertaking capital expenditure through state public sector enterprises.
  • States extend support to these enterprises through guarantees on their borrowings, “weak cost recovery mechanisms”, as in the case of the power and transport sectors, pose a fiscal risk.
  • Under UDAY agreements, states have to take over incremental losses of power discoms. 
  • Sharp cuts in corporate taxes and sluggish GST collections will also impact tax devolution to states. 
  • There are concerns over the fiscal costs of Ayushman Bharat
  • The Centre has been increasingly relying on collections through cesses and surcharges to fund its expenditure. 
    • Revenue through these sources does not form part of the divisible tax pool
    • In 2019-20, the Centre hopes to mop up Rs 3.69 lakh crore through cesses and surcharges, worth 15% of its gross tax revenue. Thus states’ share in gross tax revenue works out to just 32.9%.
    • This amount is more than the Centre’s capital expenditure or its allocation to centrally sponsored schemes. 
  • Centre has also asked the 15th Finance Commission to look into the possibility of providing funds for defence and internal security. These are likely to come at the expense of states. 

Course ahead

  • States must focus on resource mobilisation.
  • With little scope to raise own-tax revenue, they must focus on raising non-tax revenue, through hiking user charges on services like power and irrigation.

Judicial Reforms

Explained: SC/ST judgment, in review


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SC/CT Act, Review petition

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The Supreme Court has recalled its directions in a March 20, 2018 verdict that had effectively diluted provisions of arrest under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • This was following a plea by the Centre seeking a review of that judgment.
  • The court accepted that Dalits have suffered for long and negated the basis of last year’s judgment in which the court had commented on false cases under the Act.

Review of a judgment

  • ‘Review’ of a Supreme Court judgment is done by the same Bench.
  • ‘Overruling’ means that the law laid down in one case is overruled in another case.
  • When a higher court on appeal alters the judgment of a lower court, it is called ‘reversal.’
  • Generally, a review is heard in the judge’s chamber, but may be heard in open court in important cases — as in the Sabarimala and Rafale cases, in which no order has been pronounced yet.

Why was the SC/ST Act enacted?

  • Since crimes against SCs and STs are fundamentally hate crimes, the Rajiv Gandhi enacted the Act in 1989.
  • It gave furtherance to the provisions for abolition of untouchability (Article 17) and equality (Articles 14, 15).

Why reviewed now?

  • The review stated that despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SCs and STs, they remain vulnerable.
  • They are denied number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassment.
  • They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property.

Human failings not Caste

  • The Bench reasoned that human failing and not caste is the reason behind the lodging of false criminal complaints.
  • The Supreme Court condemned its own earlier judgment, saying it was against “basic human dignity” to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook.”
  • Caste of a person cannot be a cause for lodging a false report, the verdict observed.
  • Members of the SCs and STs, due to backwardness, cannot even muster the courage to lodge an FIR, much less, a false one, the judgment noted.

The Subhash Kashinath Mahajan case

  • Mahajan was Director of Technical Education in Maharashtra.
  • Two non-SC officers had made an adverse entry on the character and integrity of a Dalit employee, whom Mahajan in 2011 denied sanction for prosecution against those officers.
  • The denial was challenged on the ground that the state government and not the director was the competent authority.
  • The apex Court held that safeguards against blackmail are necessary as by way of rampant misuse, complaints are largely being filed against public servants with oblique motive for the satisfaction of vested interests.

In what manner had the 2018 judgment diluted provisions for arrest?


  • In section 18 of the Act, Parliament had laid down that the provision of anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the CrPC of 1973 will not be available to an accused under the Act.
  • The provision of anticipatory bail was introduced for the first time on the recommendation of 41st Law Commission in 1973.
  • It is a statutory right, not part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution, and thus there is no fundamental right to anticipatory bail.
  • In the 2018 judgment, the Court laid down safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registering a case under the Act.
  • While review the Bench said Section 18 was enacted to instil a sense of deterrence and relied on Kartar Singh (1994) in which the court had held that denial of anticipatory bail does not violate Article 21.


  • The court had observed that “liberty of one cannot be sacrificed to protect another”, and the “Atrocities Act cannot be converted into charter for exploitation or oppression by unscrupulous persons or by police for extraneous reasons”.
  • He ordered that neither is an FIR to be immediately registered nor are arrests to be made without a preliminary inquiry by an SSP.
  • An arrest can only be made if there is “credible” information and police officer has “reason to believe” that an offence was committed.
  • In the review judgment, Justice Mishra said public servants already have a remedy in false cases under CrPC Section 482 and can get such FIRs quashed by High Courts.
  • He rejected the need of an SSP’s approval for arrest.


  • In 2018, the court had said that even if a preliminary inquiry is held and a case registered, arrest is not necessary, and that no public servant is to be arrested without the written permission of the appointing authority.
  • The court extended the benefit to other citizens and said they cannot be arrested without the written permission of the SSP of the district.
  • In review the court said that the decision on arrest is to be taken by the investigating authority, not the appointing authority.

Were other provisions diluted?

  • The court had observed that interpretation of Atrocities Act should promote constitutional values of fraternity and integration of the society.
  • This may require ‘check on false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines’.
  • Observing that the law should not result in caste hatred, the court overlooked the fact that the Act had to be enacted due to caste hatred.
  • The review judgment said that such riders for registering a report are wrong and it would give an advantage to upper castes whose complaints can be registered without any such inquiry.

How frequently do SCs/STs face atrocities?

  • A crime is committed against an SC every 15 minutes. Six SC women are raped every day on an average.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, there was a 66 per cent growth in crimes against SCs.
  • Data from the National Crime Record Bureau, which the 2018 judgment was based on, showed cases of rape of SC women had doubled in 10 years.

Were similar guidelines not issued by the SC in other cases?

  • The Supreme Court can lay down guidelines only in cases of legislative gaps.
  • For instance, it laid down guidelines on sexual harassment, khap panchayats, lynching etc.
  • But where the field is occupied by parliamentary legislation, the judiciary is bound by the text of law.
  • It can, however, examine constitutionality of such a law.
  • The review order observed that the March 2018 guidelines encroached upon the field reserved for Parliament, and therefore recalled these directions.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Role of Volcanoes in global warming


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vulcanism, Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO)

Mains level : Role of Volcanoes in global warming

  • Human activity churns out up to 100 times more carbon each year as all the volcanoes on Earth, says a decade-long study Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO).

Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO)

  • DCO is a 10-year global research collaboration of more than 1,000 scientists to understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth.
  • The findings are part of estimations by the DCO scientists of the Earth’s immense interior carbon reservoirs, and how much carbon the deep Earth naturally swallows and exhales.

Role of volcanoes

  • Scientists at the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) have found that even a handful of volcanic events have caused catastrophic releases of carbon, leading to a warmer atmosphere, acidified oceans, and mass extinctions.
  • Researchers from DCO’s DECADE (Deep Earth Carbon Degassing) subgroup found that volcanoes and volcanic regions outgassed an estimated 280-360 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
  • This includes the contribution from active volcanic vents, from the diffusing and widespread release of CO2 through soils, faults, and fractures in volcanic regions, volcanic lakes, and from the mid-ocean ridge system.

1. Particles of dust and ash

  • Volcanic ash or dust released into the atmosphere during an eruption shade sunlight and cause temporary cooling.
  • Larger particles of ash have little effect because they fall out of the air quickly. Small ash particles form a dark cloud in the troposphere that shades and cools the area directly below.
  • Most of these particles fall out of the atmosphere within rain a few hours or days after an eruption.
  • But the smallest particles of dust get into the stratosphere and are able to travel vast distances, often worldwide.
  • These tiny particles are so light that they can stay in the stratosphere for months, blocking sunlight and causing cooling over large areas of the Earth.

2. Sulfur

  • Often, erupting volcanoes emit sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide is much more effective than ash particles at cooling the climate.
  • The sulfur dioxide moves into the stratosphere and combines with water to form sulfuric acid aerosols.
  • The sulfuric acid makes a haze of tiny droplets in the stratosphere that reflects incoming solar radiation, causing cooling of the Earth’s surface.
  • The aerosols can stay in the stratosphere for up to three years, moved around by winds and causing significant cooling worldwide. Eventually, the droplets grow large enough to fall to Earth.

3. Greenhouse gases

  • Volcanoes also release large amounts of greenhouse gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide.
  • The amounts put into the atmosphere from a large eruption doesn’t change the global amounts of these gases very much.
  • However, there have been times during Earth history when intense volcanism has significantly increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and caused global warming.

Contrasting to humans

  • For the past 100 years, humanity’s annual carbon emissions through the burning of fossil fuels and forests were 40 to 100 times greater than those from geologic sources such as all volcanic emissions, a/c to DECADE.


  • About 400 of the 1500 volcanoes active since the last Ice Age 11,700 years ago are venting CO2 today, said DECADE.
  • Another 670 could be producing diffuse emissions, with 102 already documented.
  • Of these, 22 ancient volcanoes that have not erupted since the Pleistocene Epoch (2.5 million years ago to the Ice Age) are outgassing.
  • DECADE also confirmed that more than 200 volcanic systems emitted measurable volumes of CO2 between 2005 and 2017. Of these, several regions of degassing have been documented.
  • These include Yellowstone in the United States, the East African Rift, and the Technong volcanic province in China.

A fine balance

  • The quantity of carbon released from Earth’s mantle has been in relative balance with the quantity returned through the downward subduction of tectonic plates and other processes.
  • Any imbalance to the carbon cycle could cause rapid global warming, changes to the silicate weathering rate, changes to the hydrologic cycle, and overall rapid habitat changes that could cause mass extinction as the earth rebalanced itself.

Total carbon

  • The scientists also calculated that just two-tenths of one per cent of Earth’s total carbon — about 43,500 Gt — is above surface in the oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere.
  • The rest is subsurface, including the crust, mantle and core — an estimated 1.85 billion Gt in all.
  • While around 37,000 gt carbon (85.1 per cent) is in the deep ocean, 3,000 gt (6.9 per cent) lies in marine sediments.

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

D28 iceberg


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : D28

Mains level : Climate change and on cryosphere

  • A more than 1,500 D28 iceberg recently broke off Antarctica.


  • The iceberg, dubbed D28, broke away from the Amery ice shelf according to observations from European and American satellites.
  • It is about 210 metres thick and contains 315 billion tonnes of ice.
  • The east of Antarctica — where D28 broke off — is different from the west of the continent and Greenland, which are rapidly warming due to climate change.

Not related to Climate Change

  • Scientists found that the event is part of a normal cycle and is not related to climate change.
  • The figures are huge, but iceberg production is part of the normal cycle of ice shelves, which are an extension of the ice cap.
  • Ice shelves have to lose mass because they gain mass.
  • The gain in mass comes from snow falling on the continent and glaciers that move slowly toward the shore.

History- Important places, persons in news

Tamil Poet: Kaniyan Pungundranar


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaniyan Pungundranar

Mains level : Sangam Literature

  • Seeking collective efforts to address serious global challenges, PM Modi invoked famous Tamil philosopher and poet Kaniyan Pungundranar’s quotes at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Who is Kaniyan Pungundranar?

  • Kaniyan Poongunranar, also known as Poongundranar, was an influential Tamil philosopher from the Sangam age.
  • Born and brought up at Mahibalanpatti village of Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga district, Poongunranar laid down the principles of his version of natural law, throughout the poem ‘Way of Order’.
  • He composed two poems in Puṟanāṉūṟu and Natrinai.
  • Poongundranar’s “Yathum Oore“, which was declared as the theme song of the 10th World Tamil Conference scheduled in Chicago, is now depicted in the United Nations Organisation.
  • In the poem, Poongundrana had rejected the division of mankind into various categories, urging people across the world to be bound by one.
  • Poongundranar was extremely influential in the revivalist Self-respect movement.

 Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir

  • Quoting Pungundranar’s 3000-year-old quotes, PM gave a mention about his famous poem – “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir“, which means “We belong to all places, and to everyone”.
  • This sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India, PM added.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Consumer App


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the app and its features

Mains level : Consumer awareness measures

  • In order to fast-track consumer grievance redressal process and provide an effective forum for consumers to give their valuable suggestions Union Minister of Consumer Affairs launched the ‘Consumer App’.

Consumer App

  • The app aims to provide a one stop solution for consumer grievance redressal at the palm of every consumer across the nation via mobile phones.
  • The complaint status will be monitored on a daily basis by the ministry and on a weekly basis by the minister personally.
  • The registered consumer will be informed about their complaint via SMS/E-mail with a unique number which can be tracked by the consumer.
  • The knowledgebase available in the app is very useful feature that will help consumers get information pertaining to 42 Sectors including Consumer Durables, Electronic Products, e-commerce, Banking, Insurance, etc.

Grievance redressal

  • There will be time bound resolution of all grievances and those that are simple in nature will be resolved within 20 days.
  • Those that elicit a feedback from companies or further enquiries will be resolved within 2 months/60 days.
  • If after 60 days the grievance is not resolved, the consumer will be advised to proceed to consumer fora.
  • Also, now the consumer will be informed before closure of a complaint and if the consumer is not satisfied then the complaint will be referred further to the concerned department.