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October 2019

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[oped of the day] Raining misery: On ongoing monsoon fury


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate change - cities - monsoon

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.


Bihar is struggling to stay afloat in the ongoing monsoon. 

Situation of Bihar

    • Large parts of the capital, Patna, have been paralysed without power and communications.
    • Critical rations are distributed by boat and helicopter. 
    • Its distress can be traced to poor infrastructure and a lack of administrative preparedness. 
    • The plight of people struggling with underdevelopment is worse. 
    • Across Bihar, there has been a significant loss of life and property. 
    • Similar distress has been reported from some other States as well, notably eastern Uttar Pradesh. 

Monsoon – changing pattern

    • The monsoon is expected to withdraw after October 10, more than a month behind normal.
    • It is consistent with the prevalent scientific view on the effects of a changing climate: extreme rainfall and drought occurring at an increased frequency. 
    • Normal patterns will become less common in coming years. 

Urbanisation at the centre

    • Indian cities are attracting heavy investments in several spheres.
    • State and municipal administrations have not matched their ambitions for development with capacity building and infrastructure creation. 
    • Ignoring urban planning and adaptation is proving costly, and losses are sapping the vitality of the economy. 
    • In its Cities and Climate Change report, the UNFCCC pointed to flooding as a key danger, apart from drought and heat islands. 
    • This is particularly true of urban centres through which rivers flow — such as Patna — and are often located on the coast, facing the additional threat of cyclones

Way ahead

    • They must focus on ensuring the safety of citizens and durability of economic assets. 
    • India’s cities should work towards solutions that use engineering and ecology to contain the excess water from rain and put it to good use. 
    • This could be in the form of new lakes and bioswales, which are vegetated channels to manage rainwater. 
    • States should be able to find financial and technical linkages to put up flood-handling structures.
    • In Bihar’s case, coordination with Nepal to track monsoon flows is also vital, since big Gangetic rivers originate in the Himalayan region.

Important Judgements In News

[op-ed snap] Making amends


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing

Mains level : SC/ ST PO Act


The Supreme Court has recalled its 2018 order that diluted provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The previous judgement

  • A two-judge bench had forbidden the arrest of public servants and private persons without prior permission in cases filed under the SC/ST Act.
  • It insisted on a preliminary inquiry before registering an FIR in such cases. 

Current judgement

  • The three-judge bench observed that the March 20, 2018 judgment was “against the spirit of the Constitution”. 
  • The Court also found that the guidelines for the execution of the Act given in the 2018 order were beyond its remit and an encroachment on the legislature’s domain
  • The 2018 order had read the Act without taking into consideration the social context and imperatives that led to its enactment in the first place.

Incidents involving Dalits in the last few years

  • The 2018 order triggered unrest among Dalits. It gave fresh impetus to the mobilisations that started in the wake of a series of high-profile crimes against the community. 
  • Dalits came under attack from communities whose political-ideological prejudices found validation from elements of the Hindutva agenda such as cow protection. The public flogging of five Dalits by cow vigilantes in Una is a case in point. 
  • Attempts were made to crush Dalit assertion. The suicide of Rohith Vemula had bought to the fore the issue of caste discrimination on campus
  • They created a new narrative of Dalit resistance and agency that led to the emergence of a new generation of leaders such as Jignesh Mevani and political outfits including the Bhim Army. 
  • The 2018 order came in this backdrop and stoked unrest in large sections of the SC/ST communities. 


It is creditable that the Supreme Court has revisited its order and recalled it. It is in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution and institutional resilience.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] An effective plan to end the use of plastic


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Plastic ban - challenges due to plastic use and way ahead


India is embarking on a “very large campaign” to get rid of single-use plastic. 

Plastic – threats

    • Plastic poses a serious threat to the planet. 
    • This oil-derived material is not bio-degradable. Careless disposal pollutes the environment. 
    • The urban crisis of choked drains and garbage heaps, which can’t be incinerated.
    • Several species at threat of polymer ingestion. 
    • Marine life has been suffering since much plastic waste ends up in the sea and in the bellies of aquatic creatures. 
    • Micro-particles are increasingly being detected in fish, which puts people at risk of contaminant-caused illnesses.

The mission

    • The government clarified that it would spread awareness about the menace of plastic and create plastic-free zones around heritage sites to begin with. 
    • In the absence of sufficient alternatives to plastic, an outright ban would have caused much disruption across the country. 
    • Users of some flexible items such as carry bags can easily switch to slightly more expensive material. Those of hard-plastic products, such as disposable syringes, would have found an overnight switch-over difficult to achieve. 
    • The government, through its Swachhata Hi Seva campaign, plans to acquaint Indians with the perils of plastic and ask people to voluntarily reduce its use. 
    • It intends to ask all states to enforce existing rules against the storage, manufacture, and use of some single-use products, such as polythene bags. 

Other steps needed

    • Efforts should first be directed at waste disposal mechanisms. These remain archaic. 
    • Separation-at-source garbage collection has seen only patchy success in India.
    • Plastic items rarely have separate channels for recycling
    • Moral suasion could change attitudes here.A nudge of some sort such as express trash clearance assured to those who put anything “poly” in marked-out bins. 
    • Final disposal will need well-sealed landfills, inspired loosely by burial crypts for spent nuclear fuel rods. 
    • Institutional and corporate reduction of plastic use, a broad incentive scheme in favour of alternative material could be put in place. 
    • Defray the financial cost of switching to eco-friendly material. 
    • Manufacturers are likely to suffer if the material’s consumption were to drop. They need sufficient time to revise their business plans and move on to other opportunities. 


As demand begins to decline, a timeline could be declared for the elimination of some categories of plastic use. How well the objective is achieved would depend on how well we combine coaxing with coercion to wean the world off plastic.



Single-Use Plastics

Explained: Phasing out single-use plastics- Prospects and Challenges

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Explained: Phasing out single-use plastics- Prospects and Challenges


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Single Use Plastics

Mains level : Phasing out single-use plastics: Prospects and Challenges


  • On 73rd Independence Day, PM appealed to the citizens to make the country free of single-use plastics (SUPs) and to work towards this mission whole heartedly.
  • Earlier this month, at the UNCCD, the PM said recalled that the time has come for the world to say goodbye to single-use plastics.
  • This has not only bought plastics in the national spotlight but has also started debates around the ban being a good proposition or bad.

Single-use plastic

  • As the name suggests, single-use plastics (SUPs) are those that are discarded after one-time use.
  • Besides the ubiquitous plastic bags, SUPs include water and flavoured/aerated drinks bottles, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, straws, and stirrers, processed food packets and wrappers, cotton bud sticks, etc.
  • Of these, foamed products such as cutlery, plates, and cups are considered the most lethal to the environment.

 Poor response from states

  • The 2019 CPCB report remarked that states/UTs were not furnishing information regarding Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 in their jurisdiction.
  • This included PW generation records, creating state level advisory body, framing bylaws, marking and labelling of MPLs, plastic manufacturing/recycling units etc.
  • States/UTs were not taking concrete steps to take preventive and regulatory measures envisaged under the rules.

Why are states reluctant?

  • A bigger debate over the SUP ban issue is on the fact that more than a million workers will lose jobs.
  • According to a 2018 estimate, there are more than 3,500 organised recycling units and more than 4,000 unorganised units.
  • Approximately, 7 crore workers are employed in the industry.
  • This is a critical number and there needs to be a clear roadmap on how these workers will be transitioned to any other industry.

What could work to phase out plastics?

I. Baseline and inventory

  • There is a need for a thorough analysis of environmental, social and economic impacts of SUPs.
  • Inventorization studies in order to estimate how much fraction of single use plastics is there in our plastic waste, how much of this fraction comprises packaging waste, cutlery items, carry bags, PET bottles, etc., are to be done.
  • These numbers shall help assess the scale of such waste and look for a clear alternative.
  • There needs to be an initiative at state level to push cities to inventorize their dry waste. Since the composition of our waste has changed drastically with more plastics, it is important that this be done.
  • Only then we can assess the extent of their impact before imposing bans. Such a study has not been done so far and has now become the need of the hour.

II. Clear definition of SUPs

  • For this ban to be successful, we need a clear definition of SUPs. Currently, different definitions are used by governments.
  • Single use simply means products that are used once and then discarded. This includes a huge amount of packaging waste, including water bottles and so a clear definition is critical.
  • Any plastic that is made from polymers of HDPE, LDPE, PET, PS, PP, EPS is single use plastics, according to the United Nations.
  • The definition in Australia is that single-use plastic includes shopping bags, cups, straws and packaging.
  • The IEEP’s and European Commission’s definition says single-use plastics can include any disposable plastic item designed to be used only once.
  • Therefore, specific definitions pertaining to the composition, uses and categories of single-use plastics should be framed.

Classification of singe use plastics

Type of plastic

Usage in percentage

General usage

PS, PSE 6.7% PS: Eyeglasses frames, Plastic cups, egg trays PSE: packaging building insulation
PET 7.4% Bottles for water, soft drink, juices, cleaners
PUR 7.5% Building insulation, pillows and mattresses, insulating foams for fridges
PVC 10% Window frames, profiles, floor and wall covering, pipes, cable insulation, garden hose, inflatable pools
HDPE 12.3% Toys, Milk bottles, Shampoo bottles, pipes, houseware
LDPE, LLDPE 17.5% LDPE: Reusable bags, trays and containers, agricultural film LLDPE: food packaging film
PP 19.3% Food packaging, sweet and snack wrappers, hinged caps, microwave proof container, pipes, automotive parts, bank notes
Others 19.3% Hub caps, optical fibres, eyeglasses lenses, roofing sheets, touch screens, cable coating in telecommunications, medical implants, surgical devices

III. National Action Plan for phasing out SUPs

  • There is a need for a National Action Plan or guidelines that should focus to implement plastic ban in a phase-wise manner in terms of urgency.
  • This means products that have alternatives available should be phased out earlier than those that don’t have alternatives, simultaneously reinforcing R&D funding for different alternatives and eco-friendly products.
  • The phase-wise banning should be developed based on materials, recyclability, availability of alternatives and livelihood security to the informal sector.
  • Keeping this and current post-consumption patterns in mind, a framework indicating range of SUP products needs to be devised to assist the policy makers in ideating, planning and executing the phase-wise SUP ban.

IV. Strengthening waste management systems

  • Imposing a ban on SUPs is only a part and not the whole solution. However, better waste management systems with focus on segregation incentive models can help achieve long-term impacts.
  • If cities segregate waste into three fractions — wet, dry, and domestic hazardous waste — and if municipalities create infrastructure in terms of material recovery facilities or sorting stations, dry waste can be sorted into different fractions.
  • This then has value and a market and will not end up as litter. We need to source segregate.

V. Recycling

  • Establishing and monitoring domestic recycling units in every state and Union territory, incentivising the recyclers in the unorganised sectors should be promoted.
  • There should be training of low-skilled recyclers, setting up effective grievance redressal mechanisms, life cycle and cost analysis of plastic alternatives should be formulated and explored by the legislative bodies.
  • This is to increase the recycling efficiency in the country and implement effective and sustainable solutions at every stage of banning single-use plastics.

VI. Effective EPR implementation

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy tools and its implementation is still lax in the country.
  • An effective EPR framework, therefore, should be formulated keeping into context the applicability of EPR for certain items like PET, PP or dairy industry.
  • However, EPR implementation for multi-layered plastic (MLP) can still be a constraint considering the vast unorganised industry and present waste management systems.
  • The roadmap can, therefore, let producers implement their EPR obligations utilising the flexibility of brand and geography neutrality.

VII. Discourage small pack MLP sachets

  • Lighter, portable and cost-effective nature of single serve sachets/pouches makes them a major environmental menace as it is one of the major sources of plastic waste and litter, as their collection is economically non-viable.
  • Hence, the production of small packs such as single-use pouches and sachets should be discouraged and a regulation be enforced.
  • Instead Polypropylene packaged items can be brought into the stream to cater to low-income groups and also have a high recyclability.

VIII. Reducing plastic content in MLP

  • Ideal packaging materials were tailored by combining different materials with customised functionality to sufficiently protect sensitive food products and thus obtain extended shelf life.
  • Latest feasible techniques and technologies may be employed to cut down the use of multiple polymers/plastics.
  • More research in this area must be done. Use of single polymer/layer recyclable packaging materials should be encouraged.

Alternatives to single-use plastics

  • Devising feasible alternatives for single-use plastic items and targeting consumers and retailers for better marketing is needed.
  • However, their availability and affordability remain a challenge.
  • Solutions: providing robust infrastructures, strengthening market, innovation and entrepreneurship, subsidy or incentives to consumers at domestic level.
  • Also, a thorough analysis on the alternatives versus their carbon footprint as compared to SUPs needs to be done to push for any kind of alternative.
  • For instance, cotton bags sourced from virgin cotton, kulhad cups baked in kilns have a higher environmental footprint than plastics.
  • Also, options of giving enough time of transition to industry along with tax rebates for alternative industry need to be explored.
  • In the present context, jute and upcycled cloth bags, bamboo and wooden cutlery, leaf-based plates, glass and metal containers etc. are some of the immediate alternatives available.

Way forward

  • Presently, consumer awareness about negative impacts of littering single-use plastics and available reuse systems and waste management options for all these products are still limited.
  • This further need to be strengthened through communication, strategic planning, consumer awareness, media outreach, scientific research, constructive amendments in legislation(s) and sustainability.
  • These mechanisms will not only improve eco-consciousness among citizens but will also empower and encourage widespread actions.

Monsoon Updates

National Monsoon Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the mission

Mains level : Various factors causing uncertainty in monsoon predictions

  • The new monsoon model, called the Coupled Forecast Model (CFS), deployed by the IMD under the National Monsoon Mission (NMM) has failed to forecast the excess rainfall received during Aug-Sept 2019.

National Monsoon Mission (NMM)

  • Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) had launched NMM in 2012 with a vision to develop a state-of-the-art dynamical prediction system for monsoon rainfall on different time scales.
  • The responsibility of execution and coordination of this mission is vested to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.
  • Climate Forecast System (CFS) of USA has been identified as the basic modelling system for the above purpose, as it is one of the best among the currently available coupled models.


To build an ocean atmospheric model for –

  • improved prediction of monsoon rainfall on extended range to seasonal time scale (16 days to one season) and
  • improved prediction of temperature, rainfall and extreme weather events on short to medium range time scale (up to 15 days).

About Coupled Forecast Model (CFS)

  • The American model called “Climate Forecast System” (CFS) is developed by National Centres for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), USA.
  • CFS is a coupled ocean-atmosphere modeling system that combines data from ocean, atmosphere and land for providing long range forecasting (seasonal prediction of Indian Monsoon).

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Online Censorship


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Combating misinformation spread on social media

  • Indian legal demands for online content removal are the fourth highest in the world, according to a report.

India on the top

  • For the study, the researchers collated all data to find out which governments censor online content the most and which channels are targeted by each government.
  • India is followed by Russia, Turkey, France, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, the US and the UK in the top 10.
  • India and Russia are well ahead, accounting for 19.86 and 19.75 percent of the overall number of removal requests (390,764), respectively, Bischoff said.
  • While India sent 77,620 content removal requests, Russia sent 77,162 requests during the study period.
  • However, these two countries do not always dominate the top spots across all channels.

Why censorship in India?

  • The findings come at a time when India is trying to find ways to fight misinformation spread on social media.
  • According to Twitter records, many content removal demands from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology simply cited a violation of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

On the hit list: Social media contents

  • While Facebook received most of the content take down requests from India, Google got it from Russia, Microsoft from China, Twitter from Turkey and Wikimedia from the US.
  • In fact, a vast majority – more than 90 per cent – of India’s government content removal requests went to Facebook, the findings showed.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Bharat 22 ETF


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharat 22

Mains level : Disinvestment processes in India

  • The Further Fund Offer 2 (FFO 2) of Bharat 22 Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF), which is part of the government’s divestment programme, will be open for subscription for investors.

Bharat 22

  • Bharat 22 is an ETF that will track the performance of 22 stocks, which the government plans disinvest.
  • The ETF unit represents a slice of the fund, issued units are listed on exchanges for anyone to buy or sell at the quoted price.
  • The B22 will span six sectors, such as basic materials, energy, finance, FMCG, industrials and utilities.
  • Besides public sector banks, miners, construction companies, and energy majors, the ETF will also include some of the government’s holdings in SUUTI (Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India).
  • The B22 ETF will be managed by ICICI Prudential AMC while Asia Index will be the index provider.
  • The index will be rebalanced annually.

About Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

  • ETFs are mutual funds listed and traded on stock exchanges like shares.
  • The ETF simply copies an index and endeavors to accurately reflect its performance.
  • In an ETF, one can buy and sell units at a prevailing market price on a real-time basis during market hours.
  • There are four types of ETFs already available — Equity ETFs, Debt ETFs, Commodity ETFs and Overseas Equity ETFs.
  • The Bharat 22 ETF to be offered now allows the Government to park its holdings in selected PSUs in an ETF and raise disinvestment money from investors at one go.

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Village Secretariat Programme in AP


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Village Secretariat Programme

Mains level : Strengthening Panchayat Raj enforcement

  • The Andhra Pradesh government launched its Village Secretariat programme, under which 1.26 lakh new government employees will begin working.

Village Secretariat Programme

  • Under the new system, the AP government, one Village Secretariat has been set up for every population of 2,000, with each one comprising close to a dozen village officials from various departments like police, revenue, etc.
  • The idea behind it is to ensure that its services reach people on the ground, and also to strengthen the existing Panchayat Raj system.
  • The cost of hiring about 1.26 lakh new employees is going to be roughly about ₹2,200 crore a year for the AP government.
  • Aside from this, the state has also hired another two lakh Village Volunteers, with each of them being paid ₹5,000 per month.
  • Their job will to assist people in availing government services (each volunteer to look after 50 households).