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October 2019

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] A Bill that undercuts key constitutional values


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NRC and Citizenship Amendment Bill


The statement made by the Home Minister on protecting all religions except Muslim community reflect the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Citizenship Amendment Bill

  • It makes an amendment to the Citizenship Act – the umbrella law that sets out the elements of Indian citizenship. 
  • The Amendment stipulates that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan… shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”. 
  • These individuals are made eligible for naturalisation as Indian citizens, and the normal precondition for naturalisation — 12 years in the country — is halved to 6 years. 
  • It shields a set of individuals from being declared illegal migrants and it creates a fast-track to citizenship for these individuals. 

The issues with the bill

  • It does so on an explicitly communal basis: it categorically excludes Muslims from its ambit.
  • If the government goes ahead with implementing a nation-wide NRC, then those who find themselves excluded from it will be divided into two categories: 
    • (predominantly) Muslims, who will now be deemed illegal migrants
    • all others, who would have been deemed illegal migrants, but are now immunised by the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
  • The last bit shows that non-Muslims who are left out of a nation-wide NRC will not immediately receive legal immunity. 
  • By dividing migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the Citizenship Amendment Bill explicitly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos.

Flawed logic

  • As the PRS Legislative Research website points out, if the objective is the protection of minorities, then there is no explanation for why Jews and atheists have been left out.
  • There are Muslim religious minorities within these countries who are subjected to grave and serious persecution: the classic example is that of the Ahmadis in Pakistan.
  • There is no explanation for why only these three countries have been singled out. The Rohingya community in Myanmar has been subjected to prolonged persecution, ethnic cleansing, and potentially genocide. 
  • It is evident that the protection of minorities is not the genuine objective of the Citizenship Amendment Bill

Violating the Constitution

  • Some argue that Article 15 of the Constitution — that bars religious discrimination — applies only to citizens. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons equality before the law, and the equal protection of law. 
  • Discriminatory treatment that is arbitrary, and classifications that are unreasonable violate the essence of the equal treatment clause. 
  • A state that separates individuals and treats them unequally violates the prescription of Article 14 and the principle of respecting the dignity of all.

Other issues with the bill

  • It dramatically seeks to alter the basis of citizenship in India. During the framing of the Indian Constitution, it was agreed that the primary basis for Indian citizenship would be jus soli — or, citizenship by birth (in the territory of India). 
  • Over the years this principle has been diluted to an extent, with citizenship by descent replacing jus soli in certain respects. 
  • The Bill will be the first time that religion or ethnicity will be made the basis of citizenship. 
  • That would do grave damage to the very idea of India as an inclusive and diverse polity, where religion has no bearing on who can become a full member of society.
  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill is closely linked to plans for a nationwide NRC. It is said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is required to protect non-Muslims who are excluded from the NRC.


  • It is argued that NRC is required for national security, and India cannot “run smoothly under the weight of so many intruders”. 
  • There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is a huge influx of illegal migrants into India. Recent evidence suggests that the rate of migration has been declining. 
  • Assam NRC arose out of a very specific historical experience, and Assam’s own position as a border State.
  • For the rest of India, Assam’s own experience shows that an exercise such as this will only lead to misery and exclusion on a national scale.


A nationwide NRC will replicate the flaws of the Assam NRC on a much larger scale. The discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Bill will protect some based on their religion. Both exercises need to be urgently challenged before the courts.

Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Sedition annoyance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sedition law - misuse


A case of sedition was registered against 49 prominent citizens at a police station in Bihar for writing an open letter. 

The letter

  • The appeal asks for steps to stop lynching and other hate crimes, especially in the name of religion.
  • There is nothing that even vaguely made an attempt to promote disaffection or any prejudice to national integration. 
  • Criminal proceedings are initiated against the film-makers, artists, and writers such as Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aparna Sen and Ramachandra Guha for signing the open appeal on a matter of public concern. 
  • A chief judicial magistrate had taken this complaint on file and directed the police to register an FIR. 

Misuse of the law and procedure

  • The Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari vs. Uttar Pradesh (2013), laid down that registration of an FIR is mandatory if information received by the police discloses a cognisable offence. 
  • In some cases, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted before the FIR is registered. 
  • In this case, it is surprising how the court or the police could conclude that the contents were seditious or indicative of any other offence.
  • Private complaints targeting public figures are not unusual. 
  • The disregard for public opinion against the indiscriminate use of the sedition provision is disappointing.
  • Supreme Court judgments say sedition is attracted only if there is an incitement to violence and does not apply to statements that contain mere opinions, howsoever strong they may be.

Way ahead

  • Courts should not indulge the motivated outrage of litigious complainants. 
  • Superior courts do intervene to quell attempts by those claiming to be offended by some remark or public statements. The lower judiciary should stop acting reflexively on frivolous complaints.
  • Patna High Court should put an end to this attempt to use the judiciary for political ends, and also examine how its supervisory powers can be used to sensitise the magistracy to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Delhi might want to add another geography for its diplomatic lexicon — the Vanilla Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vanilla Islands

Mains level : India - Indian Ocean islands


Vice-President heads to Comoros and other destinations in Africa. 

New frontiers – Vanilla Islands

  • India is devoting greater attention to the Indian Ocean. Many places that have long fallen off Delhi’s political radar are coming into view.
  • A group of exotic island states in the South Western Indian Ocean — The Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Seychelles — joined hands to promote tourism.
  • Many of them grow vanilla and so they call themselves after it.
  • Vice president is the first senior figure from the Indian leadership to visit the Comoros.

Island states – Significance

  • India is witnessing a growing interaction with the island states.
  • Prime Minister met leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on the margins of the UNGA last month.
  • Together they account for more than 40 members. Their large numbers and impact on the voting patterns in the UN and other multilateral forums had made island states of interest to major powers.
  • Immediate vulnerability to rising sea levels has made island states the most active champions of urgent global action to mitigate climate change.
  • Island states have also taken the lead in developing the concept of “blue economy” focused on sustainable use and development of ocean resources.
    India’s activism on countering climate change and promoting blue economy have made the island states special partners for India.
  • Many of the island states are also beginning to see themselves as large “Ocean States”. Due to the provisions of the Law of the Sea, the ocean states are entitled to large exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
  • Seychelles for example, has a land area of approximately 455 sq km spread over 115 islands and a population of barely 100,000. But its EEZ is close to 1.3 million sq km.
  • Comoros is a founding member of the International Solar Alliance. It is a member of the IORA that India is reviving. It is also a member of the Arab League and the OIC.

Vanilla Islands – the colonial past

  • In the colonial era, the Vanilla Islands were the object of rivalry among the European powers.
  • All the sea lines of communication between Europe and the Indian Ocean came round Africa and went through the Mozambique channel – the Vanilla islands became attractive way stations.
  • The Comoros was of special importance as it sits at the northern end of the Mozambique channel and provided a strong base to control the channel.
    France gained the upper hand among the European powers in the Vanilla Islands in the 18th century.
  • The construction of the Suez Canal obviate the need for European shipping to go round Africa. This reduced the strategic significance of the Vanilla islands.

Vanilla countries – current importance

  • African resources became important for Asian powers like China, Japan, and India. Thus SLOCS from Africa’s east coast and the Vanilla islands have once again become important.
  • The islands are looking to develop partnerships with the major powers.

What is in it for India?

  • India can contribute significantly to the security and prosperity of the Comoros.
  • India has had strong ties with one of the Vanilla Islands, Mauritius. India has long seen it through the prism of the Indian diaspora.
  • Only recently, India has begun to pay attention to the strategic dimensions of the relationship with Mauritius.
  • Foreign Office set up a separate Indian Ocean Division with a focus on the island states. It clubbed Maldives and Sri Lanka with Mauritius and the Seychelles, but left out the other Vanilla Islands.
  • India must begin to treat the Vanilla Islands as a single strategic space.
  • It can build on its traditional presence in Mauritius to launch substantive economic and defence cooperation with the littoral.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

How will purchases from Russia affect India-U.S. ties?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAATSA, S-400

Mains level : Implications of India's defense purchase from Russia



  • Exactly a year ago India and Russia signed a contract to buy the Russian Triumf missile system, concluding negotiations that began in 2015.
  • During that time, however, a new U.S. law, called “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” or CAATSA was passed by the U.S. Congress.
  • This transformed what should have been a straightforward bilateral deal into a complex trilateral balancing game for India.

About S-400 Triumf

  • The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, capable of destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.

How significant is the deal for New Delhi?

  • A year after PM Modi and Russian President Putin signed an agreement, the deal continues to cast a cloud over India-U.S. ties.
  • The agreement to purchase the Triumf missile system boosted India-Russia defence ties at a point of inflection last year.
  • Russia has traditionally been India’s biggest defence supplier, but was surpassed by the U.S. in the last few years, a fact that had added to a perceptible drift in bilateral ties.
  • The Indian Air Force has also backed the superior air defence system in that it will fill the gap in India’s particular needs: countering its main adversaries and neighbours, China and Pakistan’s growing air power, while dealing with a depleting stock of fighter aircraft.

Is India the only country facing CAATSA sanctions?

  • By coincidence, CAATSA has now been invoked by the US twice already, and both times for countries buying the Triumf system from Russia.
  • In September 2018, US announced sanctions for the procurement of the S-400 Triumf air defence system and Sukhoi S-35 fighter aircraft.
  • Washington expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme in July this year after the first delivery of S-400s was received.
  • India is neither like China, which has an inimical relationship with the U.S., and hence not bound by its diktats, nor like Turkey which is a NATO ally of the US.

Is a sanctions waiver possible for India?

  • There is also an exit clause in CAATSA which states that the US President may waive the application of sanctions if the he/she determines such a waiver is in the national security interest of the US.
  • The U.S. Congress also modified the waiver clause to allow the President to certify that a country is cooperating with the US on other matters that are critical to its strategic national security interests.
  • It is no secret that US has misgivings about the CAATSA sanctions which were meant to curtail its own powers to deal with Russia, and the other countries included in the act — Iran and North Korea.
  • It is hoped that Mr. Trump will grant India a waiver on the deal, thanks to good bilateral relations with India and the fact that it is a “major defence partner” of the U.S.
  • Hence India expects to comply with Washington’s demands, and hence hopes to escape CAATSA sanctions.

What happens if a waiver is not granted?

  • Section 235 of the CAATSA stipulates 12 kinds of punitive sanctions against transactions in defence, energy, oil pipelines and cybersecurity technology with any of the U.S.’s “adversaries”.
  • According to the Act, the US may impose “five or more of the sanctions described”.
  • These measures include export sanctions, cancellation of loans from U.S. and international financial institutions, ban on investments and procurement, restrictions on forex and banking transactions, and a visa and travel ban on officials associated with any entity carrying out the sanctioned transactions.
  • None of these is expected to go into process until India takes delivery of the five S-400 systems it has paid an advance on, which are expected to begin in about 20 months and conclude by 2023.

Has India given the U.S. a fait accompli on the S-400?

  • India’s firm-footed response to the U.S. threat of sanctions on the Russian S-400 is in sharp contrast to its decision to “zero out” oil purchases from Iran, which were sanctioned by the U.S. last year.
  • It denotes that while the India is prepared to diversify its energy sources, it will not be bullied on its defence security options.
  • Given the stakes involved, the government hopes that the U.S. will put its burgeoning strategic, defence and business bilateral relationship with India above its rancour with Russia.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Geotail, Chandrayaan 2

Mains level : Accomplishments of Chandrayaan2 mission

  • Recently on board with Chandrayaan-2 mission, an instrument called CLASS, designed to detect signatures of elements in the Moon’s soil, had detected charged particles during the mission.
  • This happened in September, during the orbiter’s passage through the “geotail”.


  • The geotail is a region in space that allows the best observations.
  • The region exists as a result of the interactions between the Sun and Earth.
  • The Sun emits the solar wind, which is a continuous stream of charged particles. These particles are embedded in the extended magnetic field of the Sun.
  • Since the Earth has a magnetic field, it obstructs the solar wind plasma.
  • This interaction results in the formation of a magnetic envelope around Earth.
  • On the Earth side facing the Sun, the envelope is compressed into a region that is approximately three to four times the Earth radius.
  • On the opposite side, the envelope is stretched into a long tail, which extends beyond the orbit of the Moon. It is this tail that is called the geotail.


  • CLASS stands for Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer.
  • For the CLASS instrument seeking to detect element signatures, the lunar soil can be best observed when a solar flare provides a rich source of X-rays to illuminate the surface.
  • Secondary X-ray emission resulting from this can be detected by CLASS to directly detect the presence of key elements like Na, Ca, Al, Si, Ti and Fe.

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

MOSAiC Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the expedition

Mains level : Role of Arctic in global climate

  • Vishnu Nandan, a 32-year-old polar researcher from Kerala, will be the only Indian among 300 scientists from across the world aboard the MOSAiC expedition.


  • MOSAiC stands for Multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.
  • It aims for studying the impact of climate change on the Arctic and how it could affect the rest of the world.
  • MOSAiC is the largest ever Arctic expedition in history, will be the first to conduct a study of this scale at the North Pole for an entire year.
  • Previous studies have been of shorter periods as the thicker sea ice sheets prevent access in winter.

Key highlights

  • Under it, the German research vessel Polarstern has been anchored on a large sheet of sea ice in the Central Arctic.
  • They will allow the water to freeze around them, effectively trapping themselves in the vast sheet of white that forms over the North Pole each winter.
  • They will build temporary winter research camps on the ice, allowing them to perform tests that wouldn’t be possible at other times of the year or by satellite sensing.


  • The results of MOSAiC mission will contribute to enhance understanding of the regional and global consequences of Arctic climate change.
  • It will be helpful in understanding the reasons behind the sea-ice loss and improve weather and climate predictions.
  • Its expeditions will support safer maritime and offshore operations, increase coastal-community resilience, contribute to an improved scientific basis for future traffic along northern sea routes.

Tax Reforms

National e-Assessment Centre (NeAC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National e-Assessment Centre (NeAC)

Mains level : IT reforms

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) has unveiled a new initiative for faceless e-assessment to impart greater efficiency, transparency and accountability in the assessment process.


  • Under the new system, taxpayers have received notices on their registered emails as well as on registered accounts on the web portal, with real-time by way of SMS on their registered mobile number, specifying the issues for which their cases have been selected for scrutiny.
  • Replies to the notices can be prepared at ease by taxpayers at their own residence or office and sent by email to the National e-Assessment Centre by uploading the same on the designated web portal.
  • There would be no physical interface between the tax payers and the tax officers.
  • This is another initiative by CBDT in the field of ease of compliance for the taxpayers.

Direct Benefits Transfers

Public Finance Management System (PFMS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PFMS

Mains level : DBT to farmers

  • The Punjab govt has directed all government procurement agencies to link the bank accounts of farmers with the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) portal before the procurement of paddy begins.
  • This has angered the arhatiyas (commission agents), a large number of whom want the government to roll back its decision.

Public Finance Management System (PFMS)

  • PFMS is an online platform developed and implemented by the office of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) under the Union Ministry of Finance.
  • The PFMS portal is used to make direct payments to beneficiaries of government schemes.
  • In the present case, the idea is to monitor the accounts of farmers to ensure they get the payment for their crops from the arhatiyas, who pay farmers only after selling their produce and receiving the money from the buyers.


  • PFMS initially started as a Plan scheme named CPSMS of the Planning Commission in 2008-09 as a pilot in four States of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Mizoram.
  • It was for four Flagship schemes e.g. MGNREGS, NRHM, SSA and PMGSY.
  • In December, 2013 the Union Cabinet approved the national roll out of PFMS for all States

History- Important places, persons in news

In news: Sultanpur Lodhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Places associated with Sikhism

Mains level : Kartarpur corridor

  • A town in Punjab’s Kapurthala district, Sultanpur Lodhi, is at the centrestage of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of the Sikh religion.

The Guru Nanak Dev link

  • It was in Sultanpur Lodhi that the Sikhism founder is believed to have attained enlightenment.
  • The janamsakhis depict the birth stories or biographies of Guru Nanak Dev written towards the end of the 16th century.
  • It is said that he was a changed man after he took a dip in the rivulet Kali Bein that flowed through the middle of the town, and disappeared for three days.
  • The Guru said that he had seen the “navkhand”. Those days, geographers had divided the earth into nine continents.
  • It is after this episode in Kali Bein that Guru Nanak said he had seen all the nine continents.


  • Historians say it was in Sultanpur Lodhi that Guru Nanak came into intimate contact with Islam.
  • The janamsakhis depict the tension between a section of the clergy and Guru Nanak following his enlightenment.
  • His utterances were not received kindly by the qazi.
  • He complained to Daulat Khan Lodhi (then governor of Lahore) that Nanak was being blasphemous.
  • Janamsakhis claim Daulat Khan Lodhi became very fond of Nanak and defended him against critics.
  • Today the town is home to several gurdwaras in the memory of Guru Nanak.
  • Most of them were commissioned during the Khalsa empire when the Sikh rulers staked out the places associated with Guru Nanak and built gurdwaras there.

Architectural history

  • Sultanpur Lodhi was a major centre of Buddhism from the first century to the sixth century when it was called Sarwmanpur.
  • In the 11th century, the town was founded by Sultan Khan Lodhi, a general of Mohammad Ghaznavi.
  • Sikander Lodhi, assigned the construction of Sultanpur to Daulat Khan in the 15th century.
  • It was the central point in the trade route between Delhi and Lahore.
  • A footnote in Babarnama, the autobiography of Mughal emperor Babur, mentions Daulat Khan Lodhi as the founder of the town.

Air Pollution

[pib] Green Crackers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green crackers

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • In a bid to resolve the crisis of air pollution, the CSIR has launched green firecrackers.

About the Crackers

  • The new CSIR-NEERI formulation for green crackers has NO barium nitrate — one of the key ingredients of traditional firecrackers.
  • These crackers have been named “safe water releaser (SWAS)”, “safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL)” and “safe thermite cracker (STAR)”.
  • The three crackers release water vapour or air as a dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions.
  • These products can only be manufactured by those who have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with CSIR-NEERI.
  • The green crackers will be sold with a unique logo on the box, and will also have a QR code with production and emission details.


  • They eliminate the use of potassium nitrate and sulphur, and reduce particulate matter like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by at least 30 per cent.
  • The two types have matching sound intensity with commercial crackers, that is, in the range of 105-110 dBA.


  • It minimally uses aluminium, which results in at least 35 per cent reduction in particulate matter compared to commercial crackers.
  • Its sound intensity matches with commercial crackers in the 110-115 dBA range.
  • The product categories include Chinese crackers, maroons, atom bombs, flowerpots, pencils and sparklers.