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October 2019

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[oped of the day] A cost-effective way to power generation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Power generation and energy security

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.


India has been aggressively expanding its power generation capacity. Today’s installed capacity of 358 GW is about four times what it was in 1997-98. It shows a doubling of capacity in each of the past two decades. 

Sources of energy

    • Drivers – The major growth drivers have been renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and investment from the private sector. 
    • Private – The private sector accounts for almost half the installed generation capacity. 
    • Renewables – For the last three years, growth in generation from renewables has been close to 25%. 
    • Aggressive targets – India aims to have the capacity of renewable of 175 GW by 2022 and 500 GW by 2030. Solar and wind power plants would account for much of the targeted capacity from renewables. 

Realising the renewable targets – Thermal challenge

    • %share – the thermal generation capacity accounts for about two-thirds of the installed generation capacity in the country. Though there is increasing awareness about the environmental impact of fossil fuels, the reliance on thermal plants is unlikely to end any time soon. 
    • Capacity
      • Plant capacities are large and therefore targeted capacity additions can be achieved by constructing fewer such plants. 
      • It would take 18 solar or wind projects to generate the same quantity of power as one thermal plant. 
      • Administrative overheads that would have to be incurred in setting up the multiple projects could significantly add to the cost.
    • Cost of projects – infrastructure projects have an inverse relationship between size and unit cost, indicating economies of scale. 
        • As the capacity of power plants increases, the average cost of power per MW reduces. 
        • The average cost per MW for a thermal plant is about 25% lower than that of a solar plant. 
        • focus on developing larger solar and wind power plants that can also exploit similar economies of scale.

Project ownership

    • Private sector – Over the last two decades, 63% of the total planned generation capacity has come from the private sector. 
      • Private investment in renewables accounts for almost 90% of investment in wind and solar projects. 
    • Cost of private solar power – Private sector plants have an average cost per MW that is 12-34% lower for all categories except solar. 
      • Lower capacity cost has a direct impact on electricity tariffs.
      • Capacity costs account for more than 90% of the levelized cost of electricity, irrespective of the fuel type. 
    • Creating additional capacity at a lower cost will play a big role in keeping electricity tariffs low. 

Marginal capacity costs

    • Additional capacity – Even as total capacity in generation has been growing, the cost of installing additional capacity has fallen. 
    • Reasons for the decline could be as follows :
      • Advances in technology have resulted in the construction of larger power plants. 
      • Compared to the 15-year period before 2013, power plants installed in the past six years have on average been significantly bigger
      • The economies of scale in power generation. 
      • An increasing share of private sector investment. The share of the private sector in capacity creation has been 70% in the last decade as compared to 46% in the decade before that.

Conclusion and way ahead

    • With economic growth, the demand for power in India is only going to increase further. 
    • China added generation capacity that was equal to a third of India’s total installed capacity in 2018. 
    • India should create generation assets with the lowest unit cost by optimising plant capacities and encouraging private sector investment
    • The declining marginal cost for capacity can be used to replace existing capacity with newer capacity that are more efficient.

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] The gender digital divide


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Gender Digital Divide


India’s digital divide between men and women is huge.


  • At a recent session at the Indian Mobile Congress, it was pointed out that only 35% of Indian women have access to the internet. 
  • According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, male users account for 67% of India’s online population; women account for just 29%.
  • A large proportion of Indian women remain cut off from the world’s most significant phenomenon of recent decades.
  • The Internet has become a great enabler. The gap is not just socially appalling, it is also terrible for the country’s economic prospects. 
  • According to GSMA’s The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019, closing the gender gap in mobile internet use in developing countries could add $700 billion to their combined economy over the next five years.

Internet as an enabler

  • The impact isn’t just about money but also the empowerment of women through information. 
  • Those who have the means to cross-check assertions made in social settings are that much more likely to exercise greater agency in their lives. 
  • Greater female presence online could also make the internet a nicer place, given the bad civic sense—trolls, fake news, and various misdeeds—that prevails in large parts of cyberspace. 


The divide may mirror India’s structural inequities. A failure to address the gap will hurt us all.

FDI in Indian economy

[op-ed snap] There is a contradiction in trying to attract foreign investors before reforming labour, land acquisition laws


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : FDI India - challenges


India launched the Make in India campaign in 2014 with these words: “Sell anywhere but manufacture here.” 


    • Emulate China — India wanted to emulate China in attracting foreign investment to industrialise India. 
    • Manufacturing growth – to increase the manufacturing sector’s growth rate to 12-14% per annum.
    • Manufacturing share – to increase this sector’s share in the economy from 16 to 25% of the GDP by 2022.
    • Employment – to create 100 million additional jobs by then.

Status of FDI & exports

    • FDI – Foreign direct investment has increased from $16 billion in 2013-14 to $36 billion in 2015-16. 
    • Stagnant – FDIs have plateaued since 2016 and are not contributing to India’s industrialisation. 
    • Declining – FDIs in the manufacturing sector are on the wane. In 2017-18, they were just above $7 billion, as against $9.6 billion in 2014-15. 
    • Services – they cornered most of the FDIs — $23.5 billion, more than three times that of the manufacturing sector.
    • Export-led growth – Few investors have been attracted by this prospect. India’s share in the global exports of manufactured products remains around 2% — China’s is around 18%.

Reasons for failure

    • Shell companies – a large fraction of the Indian FDI is neither foreign nor direct but comes from Mauritius-based shell companies. Most of these investments were “black money” from India, which was routed via Mauritius. 
    • Productivity – The productivity of Indian factories is low.
      • According to a McKinsey report, workers in India’s manufacturing sector are almost four and five times less productive than their counterparts in Thailand and China. 
      • This is not just because of insufficient skills, but also because the size of the industrial units is too small for attaining economies of scale, investing in modern equipment and developing supply chains. 
    • Small companies – Labour regulations are more complicated for plants with more than 100 employees. Government approval is required under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 before laying off any employees and the Contract Labour Act of 1970 requires government and employee approval for simple changes in an employee’s job description or duties.
    • Infrastructure is also a problem area. 
    • Although electricity costs are about the same in India and China, power outages are much higher in India.
    • Transportation takes much more time in India. 
      • According to Google Maps, it takes about 12.5 hours to travel the 1,213 km distance between Beijing to Shanghai. A Delhi to Mumbai trip of 1,414 km takes about 22 hours. 
      • Average speeds in China are about 100 km per hour, while in India, they are about 60 km per hour. 
      • Railways in India have saturated while Indian ports have constantly been outperformed by many Asian countries.
      • The 2016 World Bank’s Global Performance Index ranked India 35th among 160 countries. Singapore was ranked fifth, China 25th and Malaysia 32nd. 
      • The average ship turnaround time in Singapore was less than a day; in India, it was 2.04 days.
    • Governance – Bureaucratic procedures and corruption continue to make India less attractive to investors.
      • In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, India is ranked 77 among 190 countries. 
      • India ranks 78 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index
      • To acquire land to build a plant remains difficult. 
      • India has slipped 10 places in the latest annual Global Competitiveness Index compiled by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF).


    • There is clearly a contradiction in the attempt to attract foreign investors to Make in India before completing the reforms of labour and land acquisition laws. 
    • Liberalization is not the panacea for all that ails the economy, but it is a prerequisite if India intends to follow an export-oriented growth pattern.

Steps in the direction

    • Reduction of the company tax from about 35 to about 25% comparable with most of India’s neighbors. 
    • This is also consistent with the government’s effort to compete with Southeast Asian countries, to attract FDIs. 
    • In the context of the US-China trade dispute, several companies will shift their plants from China to other Asian countries. 
    • According to the Japanese financial firm Nomura, only three of the 56 companies that decided to relocate from China moved to India. Of them, Foxconn is a major player which will be now assembling its top-end iPhones in India.

New challenge

India will have to face another external challenge too as it sees capital fleeing the country. The net outflow of capital has jumped as the rupee has dropped from 54 a dollar in 2013 to more than 70 to a dollar in 2019.

Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

KHON Ramlila


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : KHON Ramlila

Mains level : India- Thailand cultural relations

  • The Culture Department of Uttar Pradesh government is going to organise the country’s first training and performance programme of world famous KHON (खोन) Ramlila.

Khon Ramlila

  • KHON Ramlila of Thailand is included in the list of UNESCO’s Intangible cultural heritage and it’s a form of masked dance depicting the scenes of Ramlila.
  • It has no dialogues and background voices narrate the whole story of Ramayana.
  • KHON Ramlila’s performance is also a visual delight famous for its beautiful attire and golden masks.

History- Important places, persons in news

Rangdum Monastery


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rangdum Monastery

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Rangdum monastery in Ladakh in Kargil district could soon be given the status “monument of national importance” by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Rangdum Monastery

  • It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery belonging to the Gelugpa sect, situated on top of a small but steep sugarloaf hill at an altitude of 4,031 m (13,225 ft) at the head of the Suru Valley, in Ladakh.
  • The 18th century monastery is “perched picturesquely on a top of a hillock like an ancient fort”.
  • The main highlight of the monastery is its central prayer hall with an amazing collection of Tibetan and other artifacts.
  • Apart from the monastery, the Rangdum locality, located 130 km from Kargil town, also serves as the base for various trekking routes.

About ASI

  • The ASI is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture.
  • It is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Media coverage of terrorism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating role of social media against organized terrorism

  • In a conference of chiefs of Anti-Terrorism Squads, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval referred to former UK PM Margaret Thatcher on her remarks on role of media against terrorism.

Role of media in combating terrorism

  • Media is a very important organ to fight terrorism.
  • As Margaret Thatcher said, if terrorists take action and the media is quiet, the terrorism will end.
  • Terrorists terrorize people. If media does not write, nobody would come to know.

The context

  • In June 1985, militants affiliated with Hezbollah hijacked Trans World Airlines flight 847, taking more than 150 passengers hostage.
  • A US Navy diver was killed, and the hostages were released in batches in a prisoner exchange with Israel.
  • The hijacking got huge media coverage across the world.
  • On 15 July 1985, Thatcher spoke about the hijacking where she said that we must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.

What Margaret Thatcher said

  • In our societies we do not believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship.
  • The media should agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, a code under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists’ morale or their cause.
  • For newspapers and television, acts of terrorism inevitably make good copy and compelling viewing.
  • The hijacker and the terrorist thrive on publicity: without it, their activities and their influence are sharply curtailed.
  • There is a fearful progression, which the terrorists exploit to the full.
  • They see how acts of violence and horror dominate the newspaper columns and television screens of the free world.
  • They see how that coverage creates a natural wave of sympathy for the victims and pressure to end their plight no matter what the consequence. And the terrorists exploit it.
  • Violence and atrocity command attention. We must not play into their hands.

Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Global Hunger Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GHI

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The Global Hunger Index 2019 was recently released.

Global Hunger Index (GHI)

  • The GHI has been brought out almost every year by Welthungerhilfe lately in partnerships with Concern Worldwide since 2000; this year’s report is the 14th one.
  • The reason for mapping hunger is to ensure that the world achieves “Zero Hunger by 2030” — one of the SDGs laid out by the United Nations.
  • A low score gets a country a higher ranking and implies a better performance.
  • It is for this reason that GHI scores are not calculated for certain high-income countries.
  • Each country’s data are standardised on a 100-point scale and a final score is calculated after giving 33.33% weight each to components 1 and 4, and giving 16.66% weight each to components 2 and 3.

For each country in the list, the GHI looks at four indicators:

  • Undernourishment (which reflects inadequate food availability): calculated by the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient)
  • Child Wasting (which reflects acute undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, those who have low weight for their height)
  • Child Stunting (which reflects chronic undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, those who have low height for their age)
  • Child Mortality (which reflects both inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environment): calculated by the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

India’s performance

  • The latest GHI has ranked India a lowly 102 among the 117 countries it has mapped.
  • India is one of the 47 countries that have “serious” levels of hunger.
  • In 2018, India was pegged at 103 but last year 119 countries were mapped.
  • So while the rank is one better this year, in reality, India is not better off in comparison to the other countries.

Global scene

  • On the whole, the 2019 GHI report has found that the number of hungry people has risen from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million.
  • It further states that “multiple countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2010, and approximately 45 countries are set to fail to achieve ‘low’ levels of hunger by 2030”.

India’s score relative to its neighbors

  • Among the BRICS grouping, India is ranked the worst, with China at 25 and a score of just 6.5.
  • Within South Asia, too, India is behind every other country.
  • Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan (in that order) are all ahead of India.

Why is India ranked so low on GHI?

  • There is one category — Child Wasting, that is, children with low weight for their age — where India has worsened.
  • In other words, the percentage of children under the age of 5 years suffering from wasting has gone up from 16.5 in 2010 to 20.8 now.
  • Wasting is indicative of acute undernutrition and India is the worst among all countries on this parameter.
  • India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent — the highest wasting rate of any country in this report for which data or estimates were available.

Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

[pib] Food Safety Mitra (FSM) Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FSM Scheme

Mains level : Food safety measures

  • Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the ‘Food Safety Mitra (FSM)’ scheme, along with the ‘Eat Right Jacket’, and ‘Eat Right Jhola’ to strengthen food safety administration and scale up the ‘Eat Right India’ movement.

FSM scheme

  • The scheme will support small and medium scale food businesses to comply with the food safety laws and facilitate licensing and registration, hygiene ratings and training.
  • Apart from strengthening food safety, this scheme would also create new employment opportunities for youth, particularly with food and nutrition background.
  • The FSMs would undergo training and certification by FSSAI to do their work and get paid by food businesses for their services.

Eat Right Jacket

  • The ‘Eat Right Jacket’ will be used by the field staff.
  • This jacket has a smart design to hold tech devices like tablets/smart phone, a QR code and RFID tag for identification and tracking.

Eat Right Jhola

  • The ‘Eat Right Jhola’, a reusable cloth bag shall replace plastic bags for grocery shopping in various retail chains.
  • Since on repeated use, bags are often contaminated with microorganisms and bacteria, proper and regular washing of cloth bags is essential to ensure safety and hygiene.
  • These cloth bags are being provided on rental basis through a private textile rental service company.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Tulagi Island


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tulagi Island

Mains level : Chinese ambitious naval expansion

  • China is leasing an entire Pacific Island named Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. This has sparked worldwide concerns.

Tulagi Island

  • Tulagi is a small island (5.5 km x 1 km, area 2,08 km²) in Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Ngella Sule.
  • The town of the same name on the island was the capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate from 1896 to 1942 and is today the capital of the Central Province.
  • The capital of what is now the state of Solomon Islands moved to Honiara, Guadalcanal, after World War II.
  • The island was originally chosen by the British as a comparatively isolated and healthier alternative to the disease-ridden larger islands of the Solomon Islands archipelago.