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November 2019

[op-ed snap] Bringing back treasures: On stolen idols


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Cultural Artefacts


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will bring three cultural artefacts, during his 2022 visit to India. The sculptures include a pair of dwarapalas from Tamil Nadu and one nagaraja or serpent king from either Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh.


  • The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) voluntarily returned them to India after establishing that they were stolen. 
  • This ‘cultural repatriation’ comes in the wake of a similar return of idols in 2016. Washington handed over around 200 sculpture pieces valued at $100 million to India.


  • India’s historical artefacts are a treasure-trove of a rich cultural legacy and religious significance.
  • They are strewn across far-flung lands as a result of decades of trafficking. 
  • The most extensive and ruthless of smuggling rings is by Subhash Kapoor, who has taken the illicit trade in antiquities to a global scale. 
  • The NGA and many U.S. museums and art galleries had obtained artefacts from Kapoor in good faith.
  • Rigorous provenance research had proved that their acquisition was a mistake.

Issue of missing artefacts

  • We still see continued operations of idol thieves who are looting ancient temples.
  • We have to request foreign institutions collecting art to conduct a greater degree of due diligence before acquiring any Indian idols.
  • Even among Indian institutions, the inventory documentation of idols is poor. 
  • Southern Tamil Nadu has many ancient temples situated in small, abandoned premises of a village.
  • Investigative reports have revealed the extent to which certain sections of law enforcement have abetted the loot. 

Way ahead

  • Major institutional reforms are required to end the operations of smugglers.
  • India should leverage the power of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. 
  • Most major western nations are signatories. India should demand that they institute stricter vetting protocols for international trade in historical artefacts. 


Unless such multi-pronged action is taken by the government, targeting loopholes in domestic legislation and enforcement, idol trafficking will continue to erode India’s invaluable cultural heritage.

US policy wise : Visa, Free Trade and WTO

Global Migration Report 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Migration Report 2020

Mains level : Remittances inflows in India

The Global Migration Report 2020 highlighting the international migrants stock was recently released.

Global Migration Report 2020

  • It released by the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM).
  • It reiterates the key trend of the International Migrant Stock 2019 dataset released by the UN Population Division in September — of the 272 international migrants worldwide (3.5% of the global population).
  • According to the report, roughly two-thirds of international migrants are labour migrants.
  • Oceania (a geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia) is the region with the highest proportion of international migrants.
  • The UAE is the country with the highest proportion of international migrants.

Top destinations

  • The top destination for international migrants is the US where, as of September 2019, there were 50.7 million international migrants.
  • The US is followed by Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation and the UK.
  • The top migration corridors for Indians are the United Arab Emirates, the US and Saudi Arabia.
  • Conversely, the highest number of migrants entering India comes from Bangladesh.
  • The US is also the top choice for migrants from China.

Indian case

  • India accounts for the highest share with 17.5 million Indians living outside the country
  • India is followed by Mexico (11.8 million) and China (10.7 million).

Remittances inflows

  • Among other details in the new report, the high count of international migrants living abroad also makes India the leading recipient of remittances.
  • International remittances in 2018 (2020 report) reached $689 billion, out of which India received $78.6 billion from the 17.5 million living abroad.
  • India is currently followed by China ($67.4 billion), Mexico ($35.7 billion), Philippines ($33.8 billion), Egypt ($28.9 billion) and France ($26.4 billion).
  • The US was the top remittance-issuer, at $68 billion, followed by the United Arab Emirates ($44.4 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($36.1 billion).

Internal Security Trends and Incidents

Gujarat terror law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Definition of "Terrorist Act"

Mains level : Curbing terror related activities in India

The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Act which received President’s this month comes into effect on December 1.

An edge over MCOCA

  • The anti-terrorism law, which three Presidents had returned to the state, draws heavily from The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, with two significant differences t.
  • The checks on interception of communication that are part of the Maharashtra law are missing in the Gujarat law; and the definition of “terrorist act” in the GCTOCA also covers “intention to disturb public order”.
  • These differences make the Gujarat law tougher and broader in scope than MCOCA.

Interception in MCOCA

  • Five MCOCA sections (13, 14, 15, 16, and 27) deal with the interception of communication.
  • The law states that the interception, if approved by the competent authority, cannot be for more than 60 days and that an extension would require permission.
  • The application for extension must include a statement of the results of the interception thus far, or a reasonable explanation for the failure to obtain results.
  • Extension, if granted, cannot be for more than 60 days.
  • The law provides for a panel to review the orders of the competent authority, and stipulates a prison term of up to a year for unauthorized interception or violation of the rules of interception.
  • The analysis of the utility of the interceptions must be submitted to the Maharashtra Assembly within three months of the end of the calendar year.

Who can intercept the calls?

  • A police officer of the rank of SP or above is required to supervise the investigation and to submit the application seeking authorisation for the interception of electronic or oral communication.
  • The law specifies various details that the application must mention.
  • Interception is allowed only if the investigating agency states that other modes of intelligence gathering have been tried, and have failed.
  • The competent authority shall be an officer of the state Home department, not below the rank of Secretary to the government.
  • In urgent cases, an officer of the rank of Additional DGP or above can authorise interception, but an application must be made to the competent authority within 48 hours of the ADGP’s order.

How is GCTOCA more powerful?

  • The Gujarat law deals only with the admissibility of evidence collected through interception, and do not mention the procedure for intercepting communication.
  • Its section 14 mirrors a corresponding section of MCOCA, and adds: “Notwithstanding anything contained in CrPC, 1973 or in any other law for the time being in force, the evidence collected shall be admissible as evidence against accused in the court during trial of case.”
  • “Any other law” is not defined.
  • GCTOCA also has no provision similar to the annual report mandated in the MCOCA.

Definition of ‘terrorist act’

  • The Gujarat law’s definition of a “terrorist act” is similar to the one in the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, but includes “an act committed with the intention to disturb public order”.
  • A prosecutor in Gujarat said that the widening of the definition “allows, say, the Patidar agitation to be described as an act of terrorism, allowing stricter punishment”.
  • This prosecutor underlined that The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, India’s main central anti-terror law, “does not allow an agitation of such form or scale (to be called) ‘terrorism’, and is instead covered under IPC sections, (and) the law of sedition, (which) is not effective enough for stringent punishment”.
  • The Gujarat law defines a terrorist act as “an act committed with the intention to disturb public order or threaten the unity, integrity and security of the State or to strike terror in the minds of the people or any section of the people”

Argument for Gujarat law

  • The government could, while framing the Rules, introduce the checks and balances that are absent in the Gujarat terror law.
  • In case this is not done, there is also the provision where the court can ask the state government to frame Rules to this effect.
  • The constitutional validity of the law can be challenged on a “case-specific” basis.
  • With respect to GCTOC, there is a competing interest of law and order versus privacy. However, only time will tell how communication interception is used, and is interpreted.”
  • The definition of “terrorist act” was “very wide” — however, there were mechanisms built into the law to limit it.
  • The first check is the registration of FIR that can be done by an officer of rank SP or above. Ordinarily, if the power to register FIR is given to a sub-inspector- or inspector-level officer, it can be misused.
  • Secondly, assuming that the FIR is registered with a political motive, there is the provision that after submission of chargesheet, sanction from the state government is required before the court takes cognizance.
  • While the GCTOC Act does grant power to the executive with respect to the investigation process, there were similar provisions under previous laws TADA and POTA, both now repealed.

History- Important places, persons in news

Persons in news: Udham Singh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Udham Singh, Ghadar Party

Mains level : Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and its aftermath

An extremely chauvinist MP raked up a storm in the Lok Sabha after she praised Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse and she later claimed that remark was meant for Udham Singh and not Godse.

This is not the first time that Udham Singh has been mentioned in Parliament.

Who was Udham Singh?

  • Singh, born in Sunam in Punjab’s Sangrur district in 1899, was a political activist who got associated with the Ghadar Party while in the US.
  • The multi-ethnic party was believed to have communist tendencies and was founded by Sohan Singh Bhakna in 1913.
  • Headquartered in California, the party was committed to the ouster of the British from India.
  • In 1934, Singh made his way to London with the purpose of assassinating O’Dwyer who in 1919 had been the Lt. Governor of Punjab and unsurprisingly Singh considered O’Dwyer to be responsible for the massacre.
  • As per a book, “A Patient Assassin” written by Anita Anand, when O’Dwyer ordered Brigadier Reginald Dyer to Amritsar before the massacre, he was worried that there might be a second Indian mutiny, given the Hindu-Muslim unity and the demonstrations and strikes.
  • Instead of Dyer, who instructed his men to open fire at the crowd gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, O’Dwyer is considered to be the actual perpetrator, since Dyer could not have executed it without his permission.

The assassination of O’Dwyer

  • On March 13, 1940 Singh shot O’Dwyer at a meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society at Caxton Hill.
  • Singh was immediately arrested and held in Brixton prison following this.
  • At the prison, Singh staged a 36-day hunger strike and in police statements and at the court referred to himself as Mohamed Singh Azad, to symbolize Hindu-Sikh-Muslim unity in the fight for India’s freedom.
  • He was sentenced to death and was hanged on July 31, 1940 at Pentonville Prison.
  • In 1974, his remains were sent back to India and he was cremated in his village in Sunam.

In popularity

  • For avenging the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Singh is seen by some as a hero.
  • Gandhi had famously decried Singh’s revenge as an “act of insanity”.
  • Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand is named after the freedom fighter.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Chagos Archipelago


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chagos Islands

Mains level : Decolonization of Asian countries


In a heated statement, Mauritius has called the UK an “illegal colonial occupier” of Chagos Island after it ignored a UN mandated deadline to return Islands. The UN had given UK six months to process the transfer, a move the UK and the US have bitterly resisted.


  • Mauritius has argued that the Chagos Islands has been a part of its territory since at least the 18th century.
  • The UK broke the archipelago away from Mauritius in 1965 and the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches from the Seychelles in the region to form the British Indian Ocean Territory.
  • In June 1976, after the Seychelles gained independence from the United Kingdom, the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches were returned by the UK.

Colonization of Chagos

  • The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
  • It has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the US, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
  • The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.

An ICJ obligation for UK

  • The ICJ had said in its opinion that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.
  • It demanded that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.

Assist this newscard with:

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

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

Species in news: Clownfish


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Clownfish

Mains level : Climate change and its impact

The clownfish, made so popular by the animated film Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding Dory, cannot be expected to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, a new study has concluded.


  • Clownfish are found in various parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including the Great Barrier Reef.
  • They typically live at the bottom of shallow seas in sheltered reefs or in shallow lagoons. It is this habitat that is under threat.

Habitat under threat

  • Clownfish breed only in sea anemones, sharing a symbiotic bond.
  • Clownfish shelter in the anemone and are the only fish that do not get stung by the nematocysts of the anemone.
  • The anemone benefits because clownfish can defend the anemone from fish that might eat it. They never live anywhere but in the anemone.
  • Like coral reefs in general, Anemones are under direct threat from the impacts of climate change.
  • The anemones share another symbiotic bond, with algae. Under stress in warming waters, the algae leave the anemones.
  • If the algae stay away too long, the anemone starve to death. Which leaves the clownfish without a home.

GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

[pib] List of certain G.I. Tagged Handloom Textile Products


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : NA

The Ministry of Textiles provides financial assistance for registration of handloom products under the Geographical Indications (GI) of Goods Act, 1999.

So far, 65 handloom products and 6 product logos are registered under GI Act. State- wise list of handloom products is as under:

[Note: It’s neither necessary nor possible to memorize all these GIs. But a simple overlook is advised.]



Geographical Indications



1 Uppada Jamdani Sarees Handloom Andhra Pradesh
2 Venkatagiri Sarees Handloom Andhra Pradesh
3 Mangalagiri Sarees And Fabrics Handloom Andhra Pradesh
4 Dharmavaram Handloom Pattu Sarres And Paavadas Handloom Andhra Pradesh
5 Muga Silk of Assam Handloom Assam
6 Bhagalpur Silk Handloom Bihar
7 Champa Silk Saree And Fabrics Handloom Chhattisgarh
8 Tangaliya Shawl Handloom Gujarat
9 Kachchh Shawls Handloom Gujarat
10 Patan Patola Handloom Gujarat
11 Kullu Shawl Handloom Himachal Pradesh
12 Kinnauri Shawl Handloom Himachal Pradesh
13 Kashmir Pashmina Handloom Jammu & Kashmir
14 Kani Shawl Handloom Jammu & Kashmir
15 Navalgund Durries Handloom Karnataka
16 Ilkal Sarees Handloom Karnataka
17 Molakalmuru Sarees Handloom Karnataka
18 Udupi Sarees Handloom Karnataka
19 Cannanore Home Furnishings Handloom Kerala
20 Balaramapuram Sarees And Fine Cotton Fabrics Handloom Kerala
21 Kasaragod Sarees Handloom Kerala
22 Kuthampully Sarees Handloom Kerala
23 Chendamangalam Dhoties & Set Mundu Handloom Kerala
24 Kuthampully Dhoties & Set Mundu Handloom Kerala
25 Chanderi Sarees Handloom Madhya Pradesh
26 Maheshwar Sarees & Fabrics Handloom Madhya Pradesh
27 Solapur Chaddar Handloom Maharashtra
28 Paithani Sarees And Fabrics Handloom Maharashtra
29 Shaphee Lanphee Handloom Manipur
30 Wangkhei Phee Handloom Manipur
31  Moirang Phee Handloom Manipur
32 Kotpad Handloom Fabric Handloom Odisha
33 Orissa Ikat Handloom Odisha
34 Khandua Saree And Fabrics Handloom Odisha
35 Gopalpur Tussar Fabrics Handloom Odisha
36 Dhalapathar Parda & Fabrics Handloom Odisha
37 Sambalpuri Bandha Saree & Fabrics Handloom Odisha
38 Bomkai Saree & Fabrics Handloom Odisha
39 Habaspuri Saree & Fabrics Handloom Odisha
40 Berhampur Patta (Phoda Kumbha) Saree & Joda Handloom Odisha
41 Kota Doria Handloom Rajasthan
42 Kancheepuram Silk Handloom Tamil Nadu
43 Bhavani Jamakkalam Handloom Tamil Nadu
44 Madurai Sungudi Handloom Tamil Nadu
45 Arani Silk Handloom Tamil Nadu
46 Kovai Kora Cotton Sarees Handloom Tamil Nadu
47 Salem Silk know as Salem Venpattu Handloom Tamil Nadu
48 Pochampally Ikat Handloom Telangana
49 Gadwal Sarees Handloom Telangana
50 Siddipet Gollabama Handloom Telangana
51 Narayanpet Handloom Sarees Handloom Telangana
52 Agra Durrie Handloom Uttar Pradesh
53 Banaras Brocades And Sarees Handloom Uttar Pradesh
54 Mirzapur Handmade Dari Handloom Uttar Pradesh
55 Santipore Saree Handloom West Bengal
56 Baluchari Saree Handloom West Bengal
57 Dhaniakhali Saree Handloom West Bengal
58 RajKot Patola Handloom Gujarat
59 Mysore Silk Handloom Karnataka
60 Guledgudd Khana Handloom Karnataka
61 Solapur Terry Towel Handloom Maharashtra
62 Karvath Kati Tussar Sarees And Fabrics Handloom Maharashtra
63 Chakhesang Shawls Handloom Nagaland
64 Salem Fabric Handloom Tamil Nadu
65 Warangal Durries Handloom Telangana


Details of GI Registered Handloom Products Logos
1 Mysore Silk (Logo) Handloom Karnataka
2 Muga Silk of Assam (Logo) Handloom Assam
3 Kullu Shawl (Logo) Handloom Himachal Pradesh
4 Navalgund Durries (Logo) Handloom Karnataka
5 Kota Doria (Logo) Handloom Rajasthan
6 Banaras Brocades and Sarees (Logo) Handloom Uttar Pradesh


Railway Reforms

[pib] Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project

Mains level : High speed railway connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges

Some information about the Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project was given by the Minister of Railways in Rajya Sabha.

Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project

  • In the Railway Budget 2014-15, it was announced to undertake planning of high speed rail connectivity on Diamond Quadrilateral network connecting major metros and growth centres of the country.
  • Accordingly, Ministry of Railways has undertaken feasibility studies for some routes namely Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Nagpur and Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru.
  • However, being highly capital intensive, the sanction of any High Speed Rail Project has not yet commended.
  • Till now, Government has sanctioned Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) Project with technical and financial assistance of Government of Japan.
  • This project is targetted for completion by the year 2023.


Note: Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail isn’t a part of this project.

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

[pib] Nationwide Artificial Insemination Programme (NAIP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pashu Aadhaar

Mains level : Bovine productivity in India

The Nationwide Artificial Insemination Programme (N.A.I.P) which was recently launched by PM covering 600 chosen districts including aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog.

Nationwide Artificial Insemination Programme

  • The NAIP is a campaign mode genetic upgradation program covering all breeds of bovines to enhance the milk production using low cost breeding technology.
  • It aims for improving genetic merit of milch animals with high quality seed.
  • The gestation period for getting the benefits from the AI bovine is approximately 3 years.

A mission mode project

  • The aim of the program is to inseminate over 1 crore bovines in 6 months.
  • The rate of Artificial Insemination is continuously increasing and has reached an average of 25,000 animals per day so far.
  • 8 Lakh Artificial Inseminations has been performed under this programme benefitting more than 3.7 lakh farmers as on 29th November, 2019.

Pashu Aadhaar

  • The NAIP also aims to ear-tag them with ‘PashuAadhaar’ which is a unique identification provided to the animals.
  • This will enable the Government to identify and track the animals uniquely with all details such as the breed, age, gender and owner details.
  • Every cow and buffalo under AI will be tagged and can be tracked through the Information Network on Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) Database.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[pib] Exercise SURYA KIRAN – XIV


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Exercise

Mains level : India-Nepal strategic realtions

Joint military exercise ‘SURYA KIRAN – XIV’ between India and Nepal will be conducted in Nepal in the coming week.


  • It is an annual event which is conducted alternatively in Nepal and India.
  • It is an important exercise in terms of the security challenges faced by both the nations in the realm of changing facets of global terrorism.
  • The aim of this exercise is to conduct a Battalion level combined training between Indian Army and Nepal Army to increase interoperability in jungle warfare and counter terrorist operations in mountainous terrain, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, medical and environmental conservation including aviation aspects.
  • The joint military exercise will enhance the level of defence cooperation which will further foster the bilateral relations between the two nations.

Organ & Tissue Transplant- Policies, Technologies, etc.

[op-ed snap] Getting organ donation to tick again


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Organ Donation


Organ donation day is observed with the primary objective of promoting organ donation and transplantation. This helps a number of persons suffering from organ failures, such as the kidneys and liver, as they can get a new lease of life using organs gifted by others who have lost their lives.

Undermining altruism

  • Certain negative perceptions appear to be growing and undermining the altruistic donation mindset of donor families. 
  • There is a steep drop seen in Kerala — from 76 deceased donors in 2015 to 8 in 2018.
  • This is due to a perceived scandal that private hospitals were declaring a person brain dead when they were not really so, to harvest their organs and profit from them.
  • The reasons are as below:
    • the highly privatized health-care system in India and the growing trust gap between patients and doctors in the tertiary care-seeking second and third opinion on patient treatment is commonplace today
  • Though an organ comes free, transplanting it to another person costs between ₹5 lakh and ₹25 lakh, including profit to the hospital. 
  • There will be an unavoidable suspicion that unethical practices may take place, as seen in a recently published book “Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India.”
  • A majority of accident victims who become donors are lower middle class and below. A majority of organ recipients are from the small number of persons who can afford transplant surgery and costly lifetime medication thereafter. 
  • The cost factor is the key reason why more than 3/4th of the donated hearts and lungs do not get taken.

Public hospitals cannot help

  • Very few public hospitals in the country do kidney transplants and less than five do liver and heart transplants. 
  • In a country where public spending on healthcare remains an abysmal 1.2% of GDP, priority should be on spending on areas that would benefit the greatest number of persons. 
  • A World Health Organisation Consultative Group in its 2014 report points to a study in Thailand which finds that money spent on dialysis can save 300 times more healthy life years if spent on tuberculosis control. 
  • It considers expansion of low- and medium-priority services before near-universal coverage of high priority services as an “unacceptable trade-off”.
  • It does not include dialysis or organ transplantation even in the low-priority category. 
  • If a given amount is spent on organ failure prevention, it will save many more lives than if spent on organ transplants.


  • Regulate hospitals through acts and rules. The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 should be revisited for its effectiveness.
  • Substitution of bureaucratic procedures for hospital and transplant approval by self-declaration and mandatory sample verification involving civil society.
  • A further amendment is needed to ensure full State autonomy in this area. 
  • Avoiding the Central government’s interference in organ distribution, which is demotivating many hospitals. 
  • State organ distribution agencies need to make their operations fully transparent
  • Making online organ distribution norms and the full details on every organ donation will help build public confidence.
  • To tackle the feeling of “organs from poor to rich” moderation of the inequality in our country is needed. India figures in the top 10% of unequal countries in the world. It is among the top 10% of high proportion population spending more than 1/10th of their income on health.
  • Mandate that every third or fourth transplant done in a private hospital should be done free of cost to a public hospital patient.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[oped of the day] On a new footing


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Sri Lanka future of ties


India receives the new Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. During his first term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a big effort to normalise the relationship; but the fractures in Sri Lanka’s power structure and its poor governance limited the possibilities.


  • It is feared as heralding the renewal of authoritarian rule in Sri Lanka.
  • The previous government in Colombo became dysfunctional due to deep differences between the president and prime minister.
  • The Rajapaksas are expected to bring political coherence.

With respect to India

  • The first trip to India – Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit to Delhi, the first trip abroad since the election, is an occasion to build mutual trust.
  • Moving ahead – Both sides have learnt much from their past mistakes and will have to find a new balance in the relationship. 
  • Managing proximity – For Gotabaya, the challenge is to be mindful of the sensitivities of its larger neighbour. For Modi, it is about respecting the sovereignty of its smaller neighbour.
  • Sri Lanka’s affirmation – Gotabaya has affirmed that Colombo will not do anything that might harm Delhi’s interests. He also expects that Delhi will respect Colombo’s freedom of choice in the conduct of its foreign and domestic policies. 

Indo – Sri Lankan issues

  • SL’s foreign relations – Sri Lanka’s ties to other powers have been of some concern to Delhi. This is focused on the nature of the ties between Colombo and Beijing. 
  • Tamil minorities – the prolonged conflict between the Sinhala majority and Tamil minority in Sri Lanka has undermined bilateral ties in recent decades.
  • No power game – Sri Lanka has affirmed that it does not want to be caught in the rivalry among the major powers and that it will follow a policy of “neutrality”. 
  • Red lines – India can’t accept a situation where Sri Lanka lets the People’s Liberation Army turn the Emerald Island into an aircraft carrier for China.

New regime

  • On Hambantota – Gotabaya said that it was a mistake for the previous government to have handed over the Hambantota port on a 99-year lease to China. He said that his government would like to renegotiate the agreement with China. 
  • On national interest – on economic issues, Lanka made it clear that it has every right to follow its national interest in engaging China. It wants all major countries including India, Japan, Singapore and the US to invest in Sri Lanka. The government has promised to reform and reorient the economy.

Legacy of the civil war

  • India’s involvement in the conflict saw India become a major collateral casualty in the war. 
  • The end of the war did not materially improve India’s position vis a vis Lanka.
  • There is scepticism that the grievances of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and the strong majoritarian sentiment of their support base may complicate the peace process. 
  • The intervention in the 1980s proves that Delhi’s ability to shape its neighbour’s domestic politics is limited. India may be the loser if it makes the entire relationship hostage to the question of Tamil minority rights.
  • In the past, coalition politics saw Delhi cede a veto to Chennai over its Lanka policy. The present government is stronger vis a vis Chennai.

Way ahead for both nations

  • Colombo’s confidence-building measures with the Tamils.
  • India’s strong support for practical advances between Colombo and Jaffna.
  • Greater cross-border economic cooperation as well as between northern Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.
  • Delhi’s political investment in resolving the fisheries dispute.


India must be seen as a friend of all the communities in Sri Lanka that can offer its good offices to resolve problems between themselves. Sri Lanka has to find that incremental progress on the Tamil question will widen its space in regional and global affairs and create better conditions for a much-needed economic renewal.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The misadventure of a new citizenship regime


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Citizenship issues


Too much moves on counting

  • The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner has recently completed a 10-year project of data collection, at the household level, for the Census of 2021.
  • The individual level data collection for the National Population Register is also to be uploaded next summer, alongside the Census.
  • As of January 2019, nearly 123 crore Aadhaar cards had been issued.

Nationwide NRC in queue

  • In Parliament, recently, an exercise in counting was proposed, for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  • While its predecessors were counting “residents” rather than “citizens”, the objective of this latest initiative is to count citizens — specifically to sift and sort citizens from non-citizens.
  • This move is to include and exclude, and having done so to weed out “infiltrators” destined for detention camps and potential deportation.

Eliminating aliens

  • The rationale for a nationwide NRC, its feasibility, and, above all, its moral legitimacy, is questionable.
  • Under the Foreigners’ Act, 1946, the burden of proof rests on the individual charged with being a foreigner.
  • Since the Citizenship Act provides no independent mechanism for identifying aliens — remember the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, or IMDT Act, in 2005 — the NRC effectively places an entire population under suspicion of alienage.
  • This is tantamount not only to using an elephant to crush an ant, but of torturing the elephant to do it.

Why is Nationwide NRC unfeasible?

The cost of ‘authentication’


  • Let us also consider the resources needed to conduct such an NRC before discussing the deep moral misgivings such a project must provoke.
  • The Assam NRC is reported to have cost ₹1,600 crore with 50,000 officials deployed to enroll almost 3.3 crore applicants in an exercise that even its champions acknowledge to be deeply flawed excluding 19 lakh people.
  • On this basis, and taking as an indicative number the Indian electorate of 87.9 crore, a nationwide NRC would require an outlay of ₹4.26 lakh crore.
  • This is more than double the presumptive loss in the 2G scam, and four times the budgetary outlay for education this year.

Personnels required

  • The work of “authenticating” 87.9 crore people would entail the deployment of 1.33 crore officials.
  • In 2011-12 (the most recent official data available), the total number of government employees in India was 2.9 crore.
  • If, like the Census, this exercise is to be managed exclusively by the Central government, the additional personnel needed would make this a truly novel employment generation programme.

Not an easy task

  • Yet the limitation of administrative capacity in India is a public secret.
  • One way or another, the entire population of India and more than half its government officials will be involved, for at least the next 10 years, in counting and being counted.
  • The remainder can be involved in building the new detention centres that will be needed to incarcerate the unhappily excluded.

Learning from Assam

  • Few lessons have evidently been learned from the Assam experience that yielded unanticipated outcomes, especially unwelcome to those who were most enthusiastic about it.
  • It would increase the illegal practices of “paper citizenship” acquired through “networks of kinship” and “networks of profit”.
  • As in Assam, such an enrolment drive could actually put undocumented nationals at risk of losing their citizenship in a futile search for non-national migrants who are invariably better documented.
  • The fear of not having papers has already led to many suicides; we should brace ourselves for many more.

Confusion over cutoff date

  • Among the many uncertainties that persist is that about the cut-off date. March 1971 has little relevance beyond Assam.
  • The speculation about a July 1948 date for the rest of India is implausible in light of constitutional provisions, post-Partition jurisprudence, and the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1955.
  • Second, will enrolment in the NRC be compulsory or voluntary (as in Assam), and what might the consequences of not seeking registration be?
  • Finally, there is the federal imperative of seeking the consent of State governments. Already, many States in northeast India are erupting in protest.
  • It is sobering to recall that political considerations alone have prevented the implementation, for over two decades, of the Supreme Court ruling awarding citizenship to Chakma and Hajong tribals in Arunachal Pradesh.

Weak assurances of CAB

  • It has been asserted in Parliament that the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) are unrelated.
  • Such assurances are however unlikely to assuage the anxieties of Muslim citizens given the larger ecosystem for minorities in India.
  • Vigilante violence against minorities and legal impunity for its perpetrators, the triple talaq legislation and the reading down of Article 370, are suggestive of a state-society consensus on the status of minorities as second-class citizens in the New India.

A move for racial citizenship?

  • At the end of a prolonged debate the Constituent Assembly settled on the principle of jus soli or birth-based citizenship as being “enlightened, modern, civilized” as opposed to the “racial citizenship” implied by the rival descent-based principle of jus sanguinis.
  • A shift from soil to blood as the basis of citizenship began to occur from 1985 onwards.
  • In 2004, an exception to birth-based citizenship was created for individuals born in India but having one parent who was an illegal migrant (impliedly Bangladeshi Muslim) at the time of their birth.
  • The CAB and the NRC will only consolidate this shift to a jus sanguinis citizenship regime.


  • Constitutionally, India is a political community whose citizens avow the idea of the nation as a civic entity, transcending ethnic differences.
  • The NRC-CAB combination signals a transformative shift from a civic-national conception to an ethno-national conception of India, as a political community in which identity determines gradations of citizenship.

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Explained: FASTags


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RFID technology

Mains level : FASTags

From December 1, lanes on NH toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag. One hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.

What is ‘FASTag’?

  • FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  • The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
  • As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number.

How does it work?

  • The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
  • It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
  • RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
  • If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
  • If it is linked to a savings account, rthen money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
  • Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that it is like a prepaid e-wallet.

How can one buy it?

  • E-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM sell these tags issued by various banks.
  • Places, where these counters are set up, include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
  • A FASTag bought from NHAI comes with a one-time fee of Rs 100 besides a refundable security deposit of Rs 150.
  • Apart from the currently free tags at NHAI booths, there is also a cashback of 2.5 per cent on FASTag transactions as an offer.
  • In the tag taken from NHAI, the Rs 150 security deposit, which the government is bearing as a promotion, comes back to the user as wallet value if the FASTag is linked to the NHAI e-wallet in the “My FASTag app” mobile app.
  • So in this particular scheme, the user gets Rs 150 back without even paying it.


  • A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required.
  • Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.

Will those living close to toll roads not end up paying more frequently?

  • As per a government notification, users living within 10 km of a toll plaza can avail a concession on toll to be paid via FASTag.
  • They need to submit proof of residence and nearest point-of-sale location to validate.
  • Once the address is verified, the concession is ensured via FASTag affixed on the vehicle.

Is it working smoothly?

  • The tags sold by banks are not “bank-neutral”.
  • A FASTag bought from one bank can be recharged through that particular bank only and not through other banks.
  • However, tags sold/distributed by NHAI are bank-neutral as one can use any bank account to recharge/top up the value in the tag.

What about state highways?

  • Under a new “One Nation One FASTag” scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
  • Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capability (CBDR-RC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CBDR-RC

Mains level : Developed countries and thier negligence for Climate action

India will insist upon the principle of ‘equity and common but differentiated responsibilities’ at next week’s COP-25 in Madrid, Spain.

What is CBDR-RC?

  • It is a principle within the UNFCCC that acknowledges the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change.
  • In simpler terms, it means that while all countries should do their best to fight global warming, developed countries – with deeper pockets, which were primarily responsible for the climate mess – should take a bigger share of the burden than the developing and under-developed countries.

India’s agenda at COP-25

  • India will stress upon the need for fulfilling pre-2020 commitments by developed countries.
  • The ‘pre-2020 period commitments’ refers to the promises made by the developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol — developing countries faced no binding commitments under the protocol.


Paris Agreement (COP-21)

  • The Paris Agreement that was signed by all countries (and since ratified by the required number of countries) was hammered out in the 21st COP, in 2015.
  • In that agreement, all countries agreed upon a common target of “2 degrees Celsius” – they resolved not to allow the world to warm more than 2 degrees over the average temperatures that existed in the pre-industrialisation period of the mid 19th century.
  • To limit global warming to not more than 2 degrees, all countries brought in their own action plans — NDCs — and pledged to walk the talk.
  • They also agreed that the developed countries should mobilise funds for the developing countries to undertake climate-action projects — but neither any quantum of funds nor the nature of such funds was specified.
  • In general, it was agreed that the developed countries would provide technology and that all countries would sit for a review of the status once in five years – called ‘global stocktake’ – and would “raise ambition”.

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

UNDP Accelerator Lab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Accelerator Lab

Mains level : SDGs and various initiatives for their attainment

The UNDP Accelerator Lab India project was recently launched in collaboration with the government’s Atal Innovation Mission.

Accelerator Lab

  • It seeks to address some of the most pressing issues facing India, including air pollution, through innovation.
  • The laboratory will be housed in the UNDP India office has partnered with the Indian government’s Atal Innovation Mission to achieve its objectives.
  • Other issues that the laboratory will seek to address include sustainable water management and client-resilient livelihood.
  • The vision is to make faster progress in meeting the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the U.N. by 2030.

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



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dendrochronology

Mains level : Bio-indicators

Reconstructions of past responses of vegetation from different ecosystems can predict the impact of climate change on weather and other environmental parameters.


  • It is the study of tree rings that hold a wealth of information about not only a tree’s past but also that of the ecosystem in which it lives.
  • Tree rings are layers of growth that a tree acquires in a year.
  • The colour of old wood is always darker than a comparatively newer wood which creates a contrasting pattern of rings year on year.
  • In the years of good growth, characterized by a healthy supply of resources, the ring is thick.
  • It is thin when the ecosystem has dearth of resources.
  • Trees can be great records for past and recent climates, much better than climate records as their density in a region is much greater than climate observatories and their information close enough to actual conditions.

How does Dendrochronology help?

  • As trees are sensitive to local climate conditions, such as rain and temperature, they give some information about that area’s local climate in the past.
  • For example, tree rings usually grow wider in warm, wet years and they are thinner in years when it is cold and dry.
  • If the tree has experienced stressful conditions, such as a drought, the tree might hardly grow at all in those years.

Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[pib] Yuwaah Youth Skilling Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : YuWaah

Mains level : Various initiatives for Skill development in India

UNICEF has informed that they have launched ‘YuWaah’ Generation Unlimited in India.


  • YuWaah in is a multi-stakeholder alliance which aims to facilitate youth to gain relevant skills for productive lives and the future of work.
  • The target age group of YuWaah includes adolescent girls and boys and its key mission is to promote access to foundational, transferable and 21stcentury skills for youth inside and outside formal education systems.
  • This includes defining foundational skills, life skills and flexible learning and identifying and scaling impactful delivery models.
  • It intends to create platforms to guide youth to market opportunities (career guidance, mentorship, internships, apprenticeships) and facilitate integration of career guidance in school education.

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

[op-ed snap] Widening gap: On UN’s Emissions Gap Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emissions Gap

Mains level : IPCC Emissions Gap report


The UN’s Emissions Gap Report comes as a sharp warning to countries preparing to meet in Madrid in December.


    • No more inaction – the report proves that every year of inaction is jeopardizing the main goal of the Paris Agreement: to keep the rise in global temperature over pre-industrial times below 2°C at 1.5°C
    • Emissions gapthe UN report estimates that there would have to be a 2.7% average annual cut in emissions from 2020 to 2030 for temperature rise to be contained at 2°C. The more ambitious 1.5° C target would require a 7.6% reduction. 
    • More risk for high emissions nations – countries with large emissions, such as the U.S., China, the European Union (EU) nations and India, will face more challenging demands if corrective measures to decarbonize are not implemented now.

Action on ground

    • EU is considering an emergency declaration, and the British Parliament adopted a resolution earlier this year. 
    • If sufficient action is not taken, hundreds of millions of people could face extreme impacts.
    • In the U.S., the Trump administration has initiated the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
    • The EU is working on legislation to bring about net-zero emissions. 
    • The U.K., which is responsible for a large share of historical emissions, has turned its net-zero 2050 goal into a legal requirement.

Rich – poor divide

    • Innovation – For these rich nations, the road to lower emissions is mainly through innovation and higher efficiencies in energy use. 
    • Development needs – China and India have to reconcile growing emissions with development needs. 
    • Innovations needed – They should scale up investments in renewable energy, leapfrog to clean technologies in buildings and transport, and greater carbon sequestration.

Role of India

UN report points out that India could do much more. 

    • Renewable – It needs to provide more consistent support for renewable energy.
    • Coal – India should have a long-term plan to retire coal power plants.
    • Other steps – enhance ambition on air quality, adopt an economy-wide green industrialization strategy, and expand mass transport. 
    • Buildings – the energy conservation code of 2018 needs to be implemented under close scrutiny.


India could use green technologies to galvanize its faltering economy, create new jobs and become a climate leader.


Emissions gap

It represents the difference between current actions to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and what is needed to meet the target.

Air Pollution

[oped of the day] Stubble burning is not the only culprit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Delhi air pollution


The problem of air pollution in Delhi is safely pushed onto just one issue — stubble burning by farmers in Punjab.

An oversimplification

  • The simplification of the narrative to stubble burning may not stand scientific scrutiny.
  • Satellite observations on stubble burning from 2002-17 reported that there has been an increase of 3% in aerosol loading attributable to crop residue burning during October and November every year. 
  • No data were presented on the impact of the burning of biomass in urban Delhi, coal-fired ovens and coal-based industries, coal-based power plants in the outskirts of Delhi, the increase in SUVs in the NCR and so forth.

Stubble burning

  • Farmers do it out of economic compulsion. 
  • An argument puts that Punjab now produces 25% more rice than what it did 15 years ago. 
  • Many others argue that the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act 2009 is the main culprit. 
  • Many believe that a generous distribution of direct seeders should make a difference.

Proposed three ways out

  • Reduce paddy area/production
  • Allow farmers to plant/transplant paddy before June
  • Distribute “happy seeders”

Reduction in production of paddy

  • Punjab was never a traditional rice cultivator.
  • It took up rice cultivation in response to the national policy of food self-sufficiency. 
  • They achieved the highest productivity in the country and contributed maximum among all States to the central pool of rice procurement. 
  • The area went up from 2.6 million hectares in 2001 to 3 million hectares in 2017. Production went up from 9 million tonnes to 12.5 million tonnes. 
  • Punjab dug deeper to get groundwater and caused long-term damage to itself.
  • Attempts at diversification did not take off because of the difference in net farm returns and market risks. 
  • A rice farmer earns about ₹57,000 per hectare whereas maize in a maize-wheat combination would set them back by about ₹15,000-17,000. 
  • An estimate by agricultural economist Ashok Gulati suggests ₹12,000 per hectare as an acceptable compensation. 
  • To reduce the area of common paddy by half a million hectares, and achieve a reduction of output of 2 million tonnes, the government has to support this change for the next five years. 
  • This half-a-million hectare should be in water-stressed blocks and can be encouraged to shift to maize or any other crop. Another one lakh hectare can shift to basmati production.

Falling water levels

  • Punjab Preservation of Sub-soil Water Act 2009 -there exist strong arguments to prevent over-exploitation of groundwater, especially if farmers cultivate rice in April/May. 
  • Strong evidence is necessary to establish improvement in groundwater levels.
  • If farmers are allowed to go back to the pre-2009 regime, it may deplete groundwater resources. 
  • The problem is one of free power to tube wells. This amount of about ₹6,000 crores can be shifted to a direct benefit transfer as has been suggested by policy experts.

Happy Seeder

  • Direct seeders do help but have limitations. 
  • The seeder has to operate within about 4-5 days of the harvest.
  • The effectiveness depends on the moisture present in the soil at the time of seeding. This requires a good understanding of soil conditions. 
  • Agronomic practices need to change with regard to the application of fertilizer and irrigation. 
  • These machines may be used only during the 15-day window in a whole year. They will remain idle for the remaining 350 days. 
  • Punjab may need about 20,000 of these machines if basmati areas and rice-potato areas are excluded from the calculation.


The problem is complex and needs a solution. But the solution should take into consideration the economic condition of farmers, the scientific options available and the willingness of the Central government to change policy and fund a major part of the expenditure. Blaming the farmers alone will not do.