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October 2019

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[oped of the day] Delhi needs to do more to protect and deepen ties with Dhaka


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Bangladesh

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.


Sheikh Hasina made a four-day official visit to India. 

Joint statement

  • The joint statement contained mutual appreciation for steps taken in various fields and outlines of what is intended in the use of ports and connectivity, water sharing, power, gas, education, culture, defence. 
  • For Bangladesh, the reference to the plight of the “forcibly displaced” persons of Rakhine in Myanmar is a positive development. 
  • The joint statement lacked the vision of the one issued after Hasina’s visit in 2010. The effort then was to raise the relationship after a dark period of suspicion and hostility. 
  • Today, the relationship has matured greatly and it is possible to undertake projects that underline continuity and interdependence. 

From the meet

  • Bangladesh PM articulated points critical for the future welfare of South Asia.
  • To move beyond the majority-minority mindset… Pluralism has been the strength. To celebrate South Asia’s diversities in religion, ethnicity and language.
  • To manage geopolitical realities through friendship and collaboration. To balance regional political realities for the interest of people.

Bangladesh – internal picture

  • In the months preceding general elections in Bangladesh in 2018, members of the BNP visited India to persuade public opinion on two counts. 
    • The party had abjured its anti-Indian posture and, if re-elected, would pursue a path of cooperation with India. 
    • Public opinion in Bangladesh is turning rapidly against the Awami League for its misgovernance.
  • After two terms in power, there would be a degree of public apathy towards the Awami League government. 
  • There’s also a steady increase in the GDP, improvement in all parameters of economic activity as also law and order. 
  • The committed pushback against jihadi activities supported from foreign shores. 

Trouble in India-Bangladesh relations

  • The National Register of Citizens has been a worry for Bangladesh. Given the impoverished and uneducated status of those affected, it is questionable how the levels of appeal can be accessed. 
  • The NRC, to be extended to all of India may eventually fall-out on Bangladesh and Indo-Bangladesh relations.
  • What Bangladesh delivered
    • The Ganga Waters Agreement had removed an intractable problem permanently vitiating the relationship. 
    • The Land and Maritime Boundary Agreements were of mutual benefit.
    • Bangladesh has comprehensively addressed Indian concerns with regard to support to militant elements in the North-east
  • India 
    • It continues to be unable to deliver on Teesta
    • The Ganga Barrage project in Bangladesh carries economic advantages as well as political overtones but has not been addressed with suitable despatch by India to enable Bangladesh to obtain external funding. 
    • Delay in implementation of the BBIN is inexplicable.
    • Lastly, the hate-mongering and incidents of lynching of Muslims in India can affect public perceptions. 

Way ahead

  • India should not be perceived as committed to the Awami League. 
  • India’s perceived quasi-support to the BNP prior to the 2001 elections and its consequences should not be forgotten.
  • India’s internal aberrations should not derail the one substantive relationship we have developed in the neighbourhood.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

[op-ed snap] A land of missed calls and revised deadlines


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Telecom pricing and challenges


Telecom service providers have reduced the ringing limit for outgoing calls to 25 seconds. 

Call duration – costing

  • The sounds that alert us to incoming calls are not exactly costless. 
  • Every ring eats up radio frequency, and Indian telecom companies cannot be faulted for wanting to move towards international standards. 
  • So far the majority view was in favor of rings that last 30 seconds. It was lost in a haze once Reliance Jio set the cut-off limit for its outgoing calls to 25 seconds, and its rivals Airtel and Vodafone Idea followed suit. 
  • Such a short ring duration lends itself to accusations of being designed to induce callbacks from call recipients who are unable to respond in time. 
  • Under a “calling party pays” framework, an operator that originates a call must pay a termination fee to the network that answers. 
  • This means a net gain is made if more calls come in than go out to other networks. 
  • This intake constitutes a sizeable chunk of operator revenues.

Technology offers benefits

  • As technology pulls down the cost of carrying voice traffic, termination fees are to be phased out. 
  • The payment system is currently the subject of a policy tweak to set a sunset date for it. 
  • Packet-switched networks, such as those using 4G cellular technology, render these charges redundant. 


  • It is expected that domestic telecom firms would have upgraded their grids and moved their legacy subscribers on these networks by the end of this year. 
  • The shift has been very slow. Every second cellular subscriber in India is still on either a 2G or 3G network. 
  • Only about half the handsets selling are 4G-enabled. 
  • Setting up new networks is one thing, getting subscribers to embrace them is quite another. Jio took just three years to expand its share of subscribers to around one-third of the total by bundling cheap tariff plans with elementary handsets hooked to its network. 
  • Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea were left vastly indebted by the large sums they paid for 2G and 3G spectrum. For them, pushing most of their subscribers to the latest available generation of mobile technology has been a far stiffer challenge.

Change in regulations 

  • The axing of termination fees was to mark India’s mass up-gradation
  • There is a need to address the incentive that operators have to resist change
  • If the status quo persists, millions of mobile subscribers could be left with outdated means of communication. 
  • The burden of high spectrum fees has already acted as a drag on the adoption of new technologies. 

Way ahead

  • As India gears up to roll out 5G services, telecom regulation must help the sector strike an optimal balance. 
  • The country has always taken a dual-lane approach to wireless telephony. A slow lane is alright, so long as the fast lane keeps up with the rest of the world.

Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

[op-ed snap] The great disruption of 2016


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Demonetisation - Impact


India’s overnight ban on high-value currency notes in 2016 was a shock. 


  • According to a study published recently by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, demonetization reduced jobs by up to 3%.
  • It also hurt economic activity by a similar magnitude in the first two months after it took effect. 
  • Research has also found that the exercise—aimed at spiking black money, curbing corruption and depriving terrorists of funds—led to a 2% decline in bank lending in that period.
  • The research paper examines the impact of demonetization across the country at the district level to make national-effect estimates.
  • The paper concludes that figures put out earlier had underestimated the economic impact of the move.


  • The research method employed reveals that the note ban’s shock was felt unevenly across the country.
  • Some regions were hit harder than others because they had a higher proportion of high-value notes in circulation. 
  • The study’s period of analysis has not captured the secondary effects of the ban which are still being felt. 
  • Late 2016 disrupted a recovery of India’s economy and sent it into a prolonged slump from which it is yet to emerge.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Explained: The fight over Mumbai’s Aarey Colony


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mithi River

Mains level : Urbanization at the cost of environment


Aarey Colony

  • The Aarey Milk Colony was envisioned by Dara N Khurody, the less famous colleague of Verghese Kurien. The two shared Ramon Magsaysay Award for their work in 1963.
  • The Colony was established in 1949 and was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1951.

Why under siege?

  • The felling of trees is aimed at creating space for the construction of a Mumbai Metro train shed, is being opposed by environmentalists as well as local residents.
  • This has sparked campaigns and protests all across the country.
  • The Aarey forest is very close to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The activists argue that the Aarey forest is part of the same vegetation cover.

Where do things stand in the Aarey Milk Colony tree-felling case matter?

  • A special Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday ordered status quo to be maintained till the next date of hearing with respect to cutting of trees.
  • This means that while the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) cannot cut any more trees at the site of the proposed car shed, it can go ahead with construction activity related to the project.
  • The court directed that everyone arrested for protesting the felling of the trees should be released.

What is the core issue?

  • The site is on the bank of the Mithi River, with several channels and tributaries flowing into it — and construction for the “polluting industry” could flood Mumbai.
  • The court accepted the letter of litigant as PIL and set up the special Bench.
  • The petitioners had questioned the propriety and legality of the BMC Tree Authority’s permission for the tree-felling, and asked for Aarey to be declared a flood plain and a forest.
  • Activists argue that Aarey is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and that the car shed would pave the way for greater commercial exploitation of the area.

Why does Metro want the car shed here?

  • MMRCL argues that this land belongs to the state — it is with the Dairy Development Department — and therefore, the long, messy, and expensive process of acquisition can be avoided, with zero additional cost to citizens.
  • Aarey is located 800 metres from SEEPZ, the last station on the 33.5-km Colaba-SEEPZ line — the optimum distance from where operations can be serviced swiftly.
  • In case of an emergency, the depot must be easily accessible for operating staff by alternative means. Alternate route would also delay the project, and add to the cost.

How will this affect Aarey environment?

  • The proposed car shed will house washing, maintenance, and repair works facilities.
  • A railway car shed is a “Red Category” industry, which causes the highest level of pollution.
  • Activists say activities at the shed will generate oil, grease, and electrical waste, besides hazardous materials such as acid and paints.
  • Effluents will be discharged into the Mithi, and could pollute the groundwater, they say.
  • Also, construction of the depot will increase exploitation of ground water resources, they say.

What is the argument about the environmental cost of the project?

  • According to a report the area is home to 86 species of butterfly, 90 species of spider, 46 species of reptiles, 34 species of wildflower, and nine leopards.
  • As per the BMC’s tree census, there about 4.5 lakh trees in Aarey, which is described as Mumbai’s green lung.
  • Activists says the Aarey depot plot is the sole surviving natural floodplain of the Mithi, whose reclamation through construction and felling of trees would lead to greater inundation during the monsoon.

Arguments for the Project

  • The proposed car shed will be set up on only 33 hectares, which is barely 2% of the 1,278 hectares of the green belt.
  • Beyond this plot, no other part of Aarey will be disturbed, as the site is accessible by road from three sides.
  • Also, the trees that were felled over the weekend stood on only 17% of the land earmarked for the car shed.
  • The MMRCL has said that 60% of the trees are non-native and exotic, and can be replaced by native species.
  • The MMRCL has argued that the Metro will bring enormous environmental benefits by reducing the overall carbon footprint:
  • seven days of Metro operation is projected to cut carbon dioxide equivalent to that absorbed by 2,700 trees in a year.

History- Important places, persons in news

Mamallapuram’s Chinese links set to give a fillip to Modi-Xi summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mamallapuram and its history

Mains level : India-China Relations since ancient times

  • While expectation is in the air in view of the India-China meet in Mamallapuram next week, the coastal town’s ties with China is ancient and it is set to give a historic fillip to the summit.

Mamallapuram and China

  • The 2004 Saluvankuppam excavations in Kancheepuram district make it clear that Mamallapuram was a port town even during the Sangam era about 2000 years ago.
  • The mighty Pallavas, whose flourishing sea port was Mamallapuram for a long time, had a relationship with China and had even sent envoys there during their rule.

Trade relations

  • Celadon ware (pottery) of the first, second Century C.E. recovered on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu gives us a clue to Chinese maritime activities.
  • Such finds and other archaeological evidences can be used to infer that regions, including coastal areas of present day Mamallapuram and Kancheepuram district had links with China.
  • Chinese coins dating to the same period were also found in Tamil Nadu adding they showed the ancient trade links to the dragon country.
  • Emperor Wei (185-149 BCE) encouraged traders and the Chinese text Ch’ien Han Shu of the first century refers to Kancheepuram as “Huang-Che” and Chinese kings had sent presents to the then ruler of Kancheepuram.

Literary evidences

  • The ancient Tamil work “Pattinapalai,” a post Sangam period work, cites the anchorage of a Chinese ship on the eastern coast of ancient Tamil Nadu.
  • Authored by Urutthiran Kannanar, the work refers to a ship “tungu naavay,” in Tamil, which is nothing but a big Chinese vessel “Zunk,” the archaeologist.
  • Also the Chinese text the “Han annals” has a reference to contacts with the Tamil country.

 Archaeological evidences

  • If you look at the Vayalur inscriptions (near Mamallapuram), they say that Pallavas had sent envoys (6-7th Century AD) to China.
  • Similarly Tamil inscriptions have been found in the dragon country as well.

Literary evidences

  • Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram in the seventh Century AD and he no doubt reached the ancient port town of Mamallapuram and then continued his journey to the temple town.
  • Keen on understanding more about Buddhism and to get original texts of his religion, Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram, which was then a flourishing Buddhist centre, as well as a hub of learning.
  • Ancient Indian sources indicate that Kancheepuram was referred to as a “kadiga,” which meant a “university,” and Tsang was attracted to Kancheepuram.



  • Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas, is a town that lies along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 60 km south of Chennai.
  • The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century Hindu Pallava King—Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla—for whom the town was named.
  • It contains many surviving 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief popularly known as “Arjuna’s Penance,” or “Descent of the Ganges,” a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Shiva temple on the seashore.
  • The town’s Five Rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas.
  • The entire assemblage collectively was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

In news: Nobel Prize


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nobel Prize

Mains level : Not Much

  • This year, the Nobel Prizes are being announced between October 7 and 14.

The Nobel Prize

  • Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite, in his last will and testament in 1895, gave the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes.
  • They were to be awarded for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace, to be called the “Nobel Prizes”.
  • In 1968, the sixth award, the Prize in Economic Sciences was started by Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank.
  • According to the official Nobel Prize website, between 1901 and 2018, the Prizes have been awarded 590 times, the recipients during this period being 908 Laureates and 27 organisations.
  • The Nobel Prize consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.

The prize money

  • The awardees of the 2019 Nobel Prize will receive in prize money Swedish kronor (SEK) 9 million (approximately Rs 6.45 crore) for a full Prize.
  • In his will, Alfred Nobel dedicated most of his fortune, SEK 31 million at that time, for the Awards.
  • This money was to be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities.”
  • The income from the investments was to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”.

How candidates are nominated

  • The Nobel Committees of four prize-awarding institutions every year invite thousands of members of academies, university professors, scientists, previous Nobel Laureates, and members of parliamentary assemblies among others to submit candidates for the Nobel Prizes for the coming year.
  • Per the Nobel website, the nominators are selected in such a way that as many countries and universities as possible are represented over time.
  • One cannot nominate himself/herself for a Nobel Prize.

The selection of candidates

  • The nomination processes for every year starts in September of the previous year and ends on January 31 (except the Nobel Peace Prize, nominations for which close on February 1).
  • The Prizes are announced in October, and the Nobel Laureates receive their awards at The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on December 10 in Stockholm.
  • The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later.

The institutions that choose winners

  • The Nobel Committees of the prize-awarding institutions are responsible for the selection of the candidates, the institutions being:
  • Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The Karolinska Institutet
  • Nobel Prize in Literature: The Swedish Academy
  • Nobel Peace Prize: A five-member Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
  • Prize in Economic Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Nobel Prize and India

  • The following Indians (or individuals of Indian origin) have been honoured with the Nobel: Rabindranath Tagore (Literature, 1913), C V Raman (Physics, 1930), Hargobind Khorana (Medicine, 1968), Mother Teresa (Peace, 1979), S. Chandrashekhar (Physics, 1983), the Dalai Lama (Peace, 1989), Amartya Sen (Economics, 1998), Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009), and Kailash Satyarthi (Peace, 2014).
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the chairmanship of R K Pachauri won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
  • The legendary physicists Meghnad Saha and Satyendranath Bose are two other glaring Indian exclusions in the list of Nobel Laureates.
  • Both Saha and Bose were nominated multiple times, but ignored by the Nobel Committee.

Why Gandhiji wasn’t awarded?

  • The Nobel Prize website laments not giving the Peace Prize to Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Under the section ‘Mahatma Gandhi, the missing laureate’, the website says: “Up to 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans.
  • In retrospect, the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee may seem too narrow.
  • Gandhi was very different from earlier Laureates.
  • He was no real politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organizer of international peace congresses.
  • He would have belonged to a new breed of Laureates says Nobel website.


Note: Awardees name and detailed citations will be updated in a separate newscard once all awards are declared.

Black Money – Domestic and International Efforts

Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) Programme

Mains level : Curbing black money

  • India has received the first tranche of details about financial accounts of its residents in Swiss banks under the automatic info exchange framework, the Switzerland government.

Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) Programme

  • India is all set to receive the bank account details under the AEOI programme.
  • In 2016, India and Switzerland had signed an information-sharing deal on bank accounts, which was to come in effect from January 2018.
  • This provides for exchange of information on financial accounts that are currently active as well as those accounts that were closed during 2018.
  • The next exchange would take place in September 2020.

Under high secrecy

  • This exchange of information is being carried out under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), the global reporting standard for such exchange of information.
  • The CRS has been developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • It takes care of aspects such as confidentiality rules and data safeguards.


  • In 2018, data from Zurich-based Swiss National Bank (SNB) had shown that after declining for three years, money parked by Indians in Swiss Banks rose 50 per cent to CHF (Swiss Franc) 1.02 billion (Rs 7,000 crore) in 2017 over the previous year.
  • India is among 75 countries with whom information on bank accounts will be shared this year.
  • The step is likely to shed more light on the wealth Indians have stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, for so long governed by strict local rules of secrecy.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Green Channel Combination


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Channel concept

Mains level : Mergers and Acquisition

  • Putting in place a speedier approval mechanism, Competition Commission has introduced a green channel route for clearing certain categories of mergers and acquisitions.

The Green Channel Concept

  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) or combinations beyond a certain threshold are required to have mandatory approval from the fair trade regulator.
  • The green channel is aimed to sustain and promote a speedy, transparent and accountable review of combination cases, strike a balance between facilitation and enforcement functions, create a culture of compliance and support economic growth.
  • This concept recommended by the high level panel that reviewed competition law — would allow for an automatic system for speedy approval of combinations subject to certain conditions.
  • Under this process, the combination is deemed to have been approved upon filing the notice in the prescribed format.
  • Parties to a combination can avail the green channel route subject to various conditions, including that there is no horizontal overlap or vertical relationship.

Benefits of the move

  • The amended regulation provide for a single summary of the proposed combination.
  • Earlier, entities had to provide both a short as well as a long summary.
  • This system would significantly reduce time and cost of transactions.

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

[pib] e-DantSeva


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : e-DantSeva

Mains level : Significance of oral health

  • Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare has launched the e-Dantseva website and mobile application.
  • This is first-ever national digital platform on oral health information and knowledge dissemination.


  • e-DantSeva is the first-ever national digital platform that provides oral health information both in the form of a website and mobile application.
  • The website and mobile application provide oral health information gathered from authentic scientific resources and connects the public to timely advice for managing any dental emergency or oral health problem.
  • This initiative of the Ministry with AIIMS and other stakeholders aims to sensitize the public about the significance of maintaining optimum oral health.
  • It equips them with the tools and knowledge to do so, including awareness on the nearest oral health service facility.


  • e-DantSeva contains information about the National Oral Health Program, detailed list of all the dental facility and colleges, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material.
  • It contains a unique feature called the ‘Symptom Checker’, which provides information on symptoms of dental/oral health problems, ways to prevent these, the treatment modes, and also directs the user to find their nearest available dental facility (public and private sectors both).

Why such move?

  • Dental caries/cavities and periodontal disease remain the two most prevalent dental diseases of the Indian population and dental infections have a potential for serious diseases/infections.
  • Oral health is indispensable for the wellbeing and good quality of life.
  • Poor oral health affects growth negatively in all aspects of human development.