Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPlaces in newsPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
December 2019

[oped of the day] Domestic political climate affects external relations. India must recognise this urgently


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India's internal politics - external relations


India will need some decisive domestic course-corrections to prevent the crystallization of serious external challenges. The combination of internal strife and a faltering economy could turn out to be a dangerous recipe for India’s polity.

India – International Relations

  • In the 21st century, two important factors have boosted India’s international relations.
  • One is India’s rapid economic growth stemming from the reforms of the 1990s. It put India on the course to join the league of major powers. 
  • The expanding size of the economy and the attractiveness of its market was reinforced by another important factor.
  • India’s growing economic weight made believe that it would translate into military power and shape the regional balance of power in Asia and the Indian Ocean.
  • The rise of India’s hard power capabilities was complemented by its soft power — defined by India’s democratic values, the spread of Indian culture and the positive influence of its diaspora.

Soft power

  • It is easy to underestimate the weight of India’s soft power that is both intangible and difficult to measure. 
  • The idea of shared political values with the West played a critical role in ending the decades-old high technology blockade against India and improving the country’s standing in the West.
  • India’s democratic values helped cement India’s strategic partnerships with the US, Europe, Japan and other Asian democracies in the new century.
  • India’s ability to live with religious, linguistic and ethnic differences highlighted its political exceptionalism amidst the proliferation of intra-national conflicts and civil wars around the world.


  • The economic slowdown and the antipathy to trade might be limiting India’s attractiveness as a commercial partner.
  • The sense of creeping Hindu majoritarianism has begun to generate concern among a range of groups from the liberal international media, the US Congress, to the Islamic world. 
  • The diaspora is now becoming part of Delhi’s foreign policy problem. India’s internal divisions are transmitted to the diaspora that feeds into the emerging negative sentiment towards Delhi.
  • The sharpening religious divide within the country coupled with the renewed confrontation with Pakistan is generating major headaches for the conduct of India’s external relations. 

International Relations – Impact of domestic politics

  • Through the ages, statesmen have sought ways to manage the complex interdependence between the internal and the external.
  • Those who pretended that there is no relationship between the two had to pay a high price.
  • For most nations today, domestic economic policy and technology policy are shaped by a dynamic interaction between the internal and external. 
  • Absolute economic sovereignty is unsustainable in a globalized world. While one can control the degree of exposure to the world, there is no room for absolute separation.
  • Political sovereignty has never been absolute and is always constrained by size, economy, geography, demography, and history. 
  • There is no country that does not have internal fault lines. Maximizing political sovereignty involves limiting domestic conflict and strengthening internal political coherence.

Taking benefit of others’ weakness

  • Statecraft has recognized the value of taking advantage of others’ internal problems. 
  • When a country chooses to inflame the divisions at home, it disappoints its friends and well-wishers and also provides huge opportunities for exploitation by its adversaries.
  • Russia is now being accused of interference in the domestic politics of more powerful Western democracies. 
  • Qatar in the Gulf is charged by many in the Middle East of destabilizing other, larger societies, in the region. 
  • Beyond governments, old and new media, trans-national groups and non-governmental organizations are highlighting internal conflicts in societies and then shape the international narratives on them.


  • Nothing draws international attention to a country more than religious conflict. 
  • This goes back to the dawn of the modern state system. As the European Christendom organized itself into nation-states, the religion of the sovereign and the citizenry were no longer the same. 
  • As governments persecuted religious groups within their territories, the demand for their protection from other states who shared the faith of the oppressed began to grow louder. 
  • This eventually led to agreed principles among the sovereigns about protecting freedom of religion.

India – religious challenge

  • Few countries have had to bear the kind of religious burden that independent India has. 
  • The partition of India along religious lines has left Delhi with extraordinary challenges about sustaining religious harmony at home and maintaining reasonable relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • All governments in Delhi have struggled to cope with the bitter legacies of Partition. 
  • The very nature of these challenges inevitably produced much ambiguity, self-doubt, and vacillation in India’s engagement with Pakistan and Bangladesh. 
  • It will be a tragedy if the government’s attempts to answer some of these challenges ends up exacerbating them.

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

[op-ed snap] For a personal healing touch


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Personalised Health care - importance of family physician


As the Mayo brothers’ initially modest set-up (Mayo Clinic) prolifically expanded into the ‘multispecialty group practice’ in the U.S., concerns that such arrangements would be bereft of the personal touch in patient care were raised.

Organised structures

  • This continued through the evolution of more and more organised structures like Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs).
  • They were criticised for turning healthcare into a marketable commodity sold by healthcare providers in supermarket-like institutions.
  • U.S. healthcare ended up as one of the most impersonal healthcare systems.

Problematic proposition

  • The NITI Aayog’s 15-year plan for Indian healthcare entitled “Health Systems for a New India: Building Blocks — Potential Pathways to Reform”.
  • The report makes proposals for health system strengthening — including the elimination of informality, merging of fragmented risk pools, and reduction of out-of-pocket health spending.
  • The proposal to consolidate small practices into larger business-like organisations appears problematic on multiple fronts.

Challenges with the proposition

  • Nearly 98% of healthcare providers have less than 10 employees. It is identified as a negative trait.
  • Apart from cost and competition-related concerns, it could portend a commodification of healthcare from the bottom-up. 
  • The report’s bent towards the U.S. HMO model adds to such a foreboding.
  • Loyalty and longitudinality form vital pillars of the patient-physician relationship. 
  • The edifice of these is built upon mutual trust, warmth, and understanding that accrues over time between a patient and their personal physician. 
  • Momentary and haphazardly physician-patient interactions in a system that limits access to one’s ‘physician of choice’ are incapable of fostering such enduring relationships. 

Family physician

  • The role of a family physician is instrumental.
  • Apart from providing comprehensive care and coordinating referrals, a family physician’s longitudinal relationship with their patient helps in a better understanding of the patient’s needs and expectations.
  • It avoids unnecessary clinical hassles and encounters — this reflects in better outcomes and increased patient satisfaction.

Commercialization of care 

  • Widespread commercialisation over the past few decades has entailed that the family physician is a dying breed in India today. 
  • This has a sizeable role in impairing the doctor-patient relationship, manifested through violence against healthcare providers. 
  • In a setting of overcrowded public hospitals, and profiteering healthcare enterprises, mistrust in the healthcare provider and its gruesome implications are not difficult to anticipate.

Advantage of small clinics

  • Studies have demonstrated that healthcare received in small clinics scores higher in terms of patient satisfaction than that received in larger institutions.
  • This increased satisfaction manifests as better compliance with the treatment regimen and regular follow-ups, culminating in improved clinical outcomes. 
  • A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials has established that patient-clinician relationship has a statistically significant effect on healthcare outcomes.
  • Disregard for this aspect in health services design is bound to entail a sizeable cost to the health system.

The need for empathy

  • A popular myth often floated is that considerations regarding emotive aspects of healthcare such as empathy and trust are disparate from health policy and system design considerations. 
  • In reality, these are entirely amenable to cultivation through careful, evidence-based manipulation of the health system design and its components. 
  • It would necessitate installing an inbuilt family physician ‘gatekeeper’ in the health services system who acts as the first port of call for every registered patient. 
  • NITI Aayog’s long-term plan provides a good opportunity to envisage such long-called-for reforms, but that would require not the U.S. model but the U.K. model to be kept at the forefront for emulation. 
  • A step of sorts is taken in introducing Attitude, Ethics, and Communication (AETCOM) in the revised undergraduate medical curriculum.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

[op-ed snap] Guarantee Internet rights


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Right to internet


The Software Freedom Law Centre data says there have been more than 100 Internet shutdowns in different parts of India in 2019 alone. 


  • In Kashmir, the government imposed a complete Internet shutdown on August 4, which still continues. 
  • The enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act led to protests all over the country and state governments responded by suspending the Internet. 
  • Assam witnessed a suspension of mobile and broadband Internet services in many places, including in Guwahati for 10 days. 
  • There were Internet bans in Mangaluru, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
  • These bans are being imposed under different provisions of the law — Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and without any legal provisions at all.

Lifeline for people

  • We have to recognise the right to Internet access as a fundamental right. 
  • While the Internet is certainly the main source of information and communication and access to social media, it is so much more than that.
  • People working in the technology-based gig economy — like the thousands of delivery workers for Swiggy, Dunzo and Amazon and the cab drivers of Uber and Ola — depend on the Internet for their livelihoods.
  • It is a mode of access to education for students who do courses and take exams online. Access to the Internet is important to facilitate the promotion and enjoyment of the right to education.
  • The Internet provides access to transport for millions of urban and rural people.
  • It is also a mode to access to health care for those who avail of health services online. 
  • It is a means for business and occupation for thousands of small and individual-owned enterprises that sell their products and services online.

Right to Internet

  • The access to the Internet is a right very similar to what the Supreme Court held with respect to the right to privacy in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy judgment.
  • Internationally, the right to access to the Internet can be rooted in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
  • The Human Rights Council of the United Nations Resolution dated July 2, 2018, on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, made important declarations.
  • It noted with concern the various forms of undue restriction on freedom of opinion and expression online, including where countries have manipulated or suppressed online expression in violation of international law.
  • It said that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.

The Kerala case

  • The High Court of Kerala made a start to the domestic recognition of the right to Internet access.
  • The judgment in Faheema Shirin R.K. v. State of Kerala & Others holds that “…a rule or instruction which impairs the right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of the law.” 
  • It notes that mobile and broadband Internet shutdowns impact women, girls, and marginalised communities more disproportionately than others.


It is time that we recognise that the right to access to the Internet is indeed a fundamental right within our constitutional guarantees.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Taliban ceasefire in Afghanistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Taliban Ceasefire and its significance

The Taliban’s ruling council agreed to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the US can be signed. Since October 2018, Taliban representatives and US officials have been meeting to chalk out a peace treaty.

Significance of the ceasefire

  • A key pillar of the agreement, which the U.S. and Taliban have been hammering out for more than a year, is direct negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.
  • A peace deal would allow the U.S. to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest.
  • The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups.
  • The U.S. currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Expected outcomes

  • The first item on the agenda is expected to address how to implement a cease-fire between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s National Security Forces.
  • The negotiations, however, were expected to be prickly and will cover a variety of issues including rights of women, free speech, and changes to the country’s constitution.
  • The intra-Afghan talks would also lay out the fate of thousands of Taliban fighters and the heavily armed militias belonging to Afghanistan’s warlords.


US-Taliban Conflict

  • Afghanistan has been ravaged by war since 2001 when a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban.
  • Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States was harbored by Taliban.
  • The Taliban initially has emerged as a militia – largely consisted of students called as Talibs in 1994.
  • This group comprises of militants who had been educated in traditional Islamic schools and fought during the Soviet–Afghan War (ended in 1989).

SDG India Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SDGs, SDG India Index

Mains level : Sustainable development strategies in India

NITI Aayog has released its latest SDG India Index 2019, which assesses each state and Union Territory’s achievement on 16 sustainable development goals (SDG).

About the Index

  • The SDG India Index 2019 tracks progress of all States and UTs on 100 indicators drawn from the MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework (NIF).
  • Each of the 16 SDGs — ranging from good health to quality education, gender equality, and climate action — comprise several indicators, with the number of these varying from SDG to SDG.
  • Scores are given for a state or UT on each SDG.
  • The composite score for each state or UT is computed by aggregating their performance across these goals, and then by taking the arithmetic mean of individual goal scores.
  • A score of 100 implies that the state/ UT has achieved targets set for 2030.

Classification criteria based on SDG India Index score is as follows:

  • Aspirant: 0–49
  • Performer: 50–64
  • Front Runner: 65–99
  • Achiever: 100

States performance

  • Kerala is in the top slot with a score of 70, while Bihar is at the bottom with 50.
  • Following Kerala’s composite score of 70, Himachal Pradesh took the second spot with a score of 69 while Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana shared the third spot with each scoring 67.
  • There are eight states in the highest bracket, called frontrunners, with scores in the range 65-99.
  • Behind Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the other states in this category are Karnataka (66), Sikkim (65) and Goa (65).
  • Two UTs, Chandigarh and Puducherry, scored in this range.


Sustainable Development Goals

  • The UN General Assembly in its 70thSession considered and adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years.
  • The 17 SDGs came into force with effect from 1stJanuary, 2016.
  • Though not legally binding, the SDGs have become de facto international obligations and have potential to reorient domestic spending priorities of the countries during the next fifteen years.
  • Countries are expected to take ownership and establish a national framework for achieving these Goals.
  • Implementation and success will rely on countries’ own sustainable development policies, plans and programmes.


Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

India State of Forest Report (ISFR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : State of forest conservation and afforestation in India

The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the biennial India State of Forest Report (ISFR).

About the Report

  • The ISFR is a biennial report published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
  • FSI has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country including wall-to-wall forest cover mapping in a biennial cycle.
  • Starting 1987, 16 assessments have been completed so far. ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.

Highlights of the report

  • In the present assessment, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectare which is 24.56 percent of the geographical area of the country.
  • As compared to the assessment of 2017, there is an increase of 5,188 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover of the country.
  • Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 3,976 sq km and that in tree cover is 1,212 sq. km.
  • Range increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest followed by very dense forest and moderately dense forest.
  • The top three states showing increase in forest cover are Karnataka (1,025 sq. km) followed by Andhra Pradesh (990 sq km) and Kerala (823 sq km).

Some Major Findings

  • Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are Mizoram (85.41%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%), Meghalaya (76.33%), Manipur (75.46%) and Nagaland (75.31%).


  • Mangrove cover has been separately reported in the ISFR 2019 and the total mangrove cover in the country is 4,975 sq km.
  • An increase of 54 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2017.
  • Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Gujarat (37 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (16 sq km) and Odisha (8 sq km).


  • The extent of bamboo bearing area of the country has been estimated 16.00 million hectare.
  • There is an increase of 0.32 million hectare in bamboo bearing area as compared to the last assessment of ISFR 2017.


  • Wetlands within forest areas form important ecosystems and add richness to the biodiversity in forest areas, both of faunal and floral species.
  • Due to importance of wetlands, FSI has carried out an exercise at the national level to identify wetlands of more than 1 ha within RFA.
  • There are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.8% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country.

Carbon Stock

  • Under the current assessment the total carbon stock in country’s forest is estimated 7,124.6 million tonnes.
  • There an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of country as compared to the last assessment of 2017.
  • The annual increase in the carbon stock is 21.3 million tonnes, which is 78.2 million tonnes CO2 eq.

Belgaum Dispute


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Inter-state disputes

The decades-old boundary dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum has flared up again. It is a longstanding issue between the two states, and has been pending before the Supreme Court for many years.

Genesis of the dispute

  • The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Bijapur, Belgaum, Dharwar and Uttara-Kannada (previously North Kanara).
  • In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.
  • However, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided states on linguistic and administrative lines, made Belgaum a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973).
  • The Maharashtra government contested the inclusion and lodged a protest with the Centre in September 1957.
  • This led to the formation of the Mahajan Commission under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan in October 1966.
  • The Commission, which submitted its report in August 1967, recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.
  • Maharashtra rejected the report and demanded another review.

Current status

  • Maharashtra continues to claim over 865 villages along the border, as well as Belgaum city, which are currently part of Karnataka.
  • Successive governments in Maharashtra have demanded their inclusion within the state. Karnataka has contested these claims.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

India’s first Chief of Defence Staff


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Terms of Reference of the CDS

Mains level : Office of the CDS

The outgoing Army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, was appointed as the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Terms of references for CDS

  • According to an official gazette dated December 28, the upper age limit for the CDS has been fixed at 65 years.
  • However, the tenure of CDS has not been fixed.
  • Service Chiefs have a tenure of three years or 62 years, whichever is earlier, and it remains unchanged.
  • As Gen. Rawat has not reached 62 years of age, his tenure as CDS could be longer than his tenure as the COAS unless the government fixes the tenure of CDS at a later stage.

Role and responsibilities

  • The CDS will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister on tri-Service matters.
  • The three Chiefs will continue to advise Defence Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services.
  • The CDS will administer tri-services organisations while their military command, will be with the Chief of the duly notified Service.
  • However, Tri-services agencies/organizations/ commands related to Cyber and Space will be under the command of the CDS.
  • The CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee.

For additional readings, navigate to the page:

[Burning Issue] Appointing the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

History- Important places, persons in news

Andaman and Nicobar Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : INA's connection with A&N

Mains level : INA and India's govt. in exile

On December 29, 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose arrived in Port Blair and renamed the Islands.

INA’s seize of the Islands

  • The Islands were under Japanese occupation during World War II for three years (1942-45), and were formally handed over to Bose’s Azad Hind government on this day, although effective control remained with Japan.
  • The islands were first controlled by the Dutch, then by the British, and were taken over by the advancing Japanese military during World War II.
  • Bose, who had allied with the Japanese during the War, declared at a public meeting in August 1943 that the Azad Hind Fauj would be on Indian soil before the end of that year.
  • On October 24, Bose reiterated his promise before a gathering of 50,000 Indians in Singapore, where he said he would be “on the holy soil of India before the end of this year”.


  • The Azad Hind government was able to obtain de jure control of the islands from the Japanese by the end of 1943, and Bose arrived in Port Blair on December 29.
  • Before his departure, he renamed Andaman as Shaheed (“Martyrs”) Island, and Nicobar as Swaraj (“Freedom”) Island.”

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

[oped of the day] India needs a bottom-up growth model


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Economic growth - approach for India


India’s decision to stay out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership until the needs of the country’s small enterprises, farmers, and poorest citizens are properly addressed dismayed by many economists. 

Reasons for the decision

  • Indian government feared that the increase in Chinese exports would harm small producers and farmers.

India – China

  • China and India embarked on new journeys around the same time.
  • More than 70 years later, China has progressed much faster. 
  • India is yet to reach the development indicators that China attained back in the early 1990s.
  • A Chinese thought leader said 15 years ago that both countries have the same vision: of prosperity for their citizens.

People-centric policies

  • They need to make their policies people-centric rather than growth-centric. The Communist Party of China demands that local officials address the needs of citizens effectively, as does Singapore’s government. 
  • The Chinese government derives its legitimacy from citizens’ satisfaction with their well-being, not from a vote in an election.
  • In the case of India, its constitutional structure enables its States to adopt different models of development. 
  • There is a ‘Kerala model’, a ‘Gujarat model’, and now a ‘common man’s model’ implemented by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi.


  • Local, participative governance has been a distinction of Kerala’s model
  • The State has been well ahead of the rest of the country, matching China in its Human Development Indicators in education, health, and women’s inclusion.


  • Delhi’s AAP government has adopted a people-centric model of government. It has established School Management Committees with parental involvement. Teacher training budgets have increased five-fold. 
  • The performance of Delhi’s government schools is not only higher than the national average, it now exceeds the performance of private schools in Delhi. 
  • Public health expenditures have more than doubled. ‘Mohalla clinics’ have been set up in poor colonies to provide accessible and affordable health care.
  • The share of unauthorized colonies provided with piped water has increased from 55% to 93% in just five years.
  • This reduced the need for poor people to pay for expensive tanker-delivered water. 
  • Despite water subsidies for the poor, the Delhi Jal Board’s income has increased. 
  • Electricity supply has expanded to include 20% more consumers. Amongst Indian metros, Delhi provides the cheapest electricity. 
  • Still, its distribution companies, all in the private sector, have improved their financial performance.

Increase in disposable incomes

  • The government has computed that its programs for improving the ‘ease of living’ of citizens and reducing the costs of a range of public services has increased savings per family by ₹4,000 per month. 
  • The increase in disposable incomes has resulted in additional consumer-buying power, estimated at ₹24,000 crores per annum.
  • This proves that growth must be bottom-up to be equitable and sustainable. 
  • India has climbed many rungs on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Business’ rankings. Yet, investments to expand production ventures have not increased much because consumer demand, even for basic items like packaged biscuits fell. 
  • Democratically elected governments such as India, who should be focused on citizens’ well-being, have become focused on making it easy for global capital to do business in their countries. 
  • This has made citizens rise up against the globalization paradigm promoted by an ‘establishment’ of policymakers and economists. 
  • Citizens want their governments to put jobs in their countries first, and to implement policies that increase incomes at the bottom of the pyramid rather than facilitating only further growth at the top.

India’s challenges

  • The country must improve on many fronts simultaneously. 
  • India ranks very low in international comparisons of human development (education and health), even below its poorer subcontinental neighbors.
  • It is the most water-stressed large economy in the world; its cities are the most polluted. 
  • India’s economic growth is not generating enough jobs for its burgeoning population of youth: the employment elasticity of India’s growth is amongst the worst in the world. 
  • Unemployment of persons with vocational education has gone up between 2011-12 and 2017-18, from 18.5% to 33%. India now has a larger number of frustrated youth.

More free trade, not the answer

  • The RCEP decision shows that India is now standing up to pressure from a rump of Washington Consensus economists who advocate that more free trade is the solution to India’s economic problems, despite the evidence that India has not benefited from the agreements it has entered into.
  • India’s challenge is to build an Indian ecosystem in which competitive enterprises will grow to create more opportunities for jobs for youth and for increasing citizens’ incomes. 
  • The growth of incomes in India will make India more attractive to investors. A stronger industrial system will give India more headroom in trade negotiations too. 
  • India’s industrial and entrepreneurial ecosystem’s growth must be accompanied by an improvement in the environment. 
  • Policies must be managed with a whole systems view. While ‘Ease of Doing Business’ gauges health from a business perspective, ‘ease of living’ should become the measure of the health of the whole system.


  • Policy decisions require compromises between competing interests.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman provides a good test. The government should think of the needs of the poorest citizens first.
  • A citizen’s fundamental need is for a good job and source of income to buy imported goods. 
  • India urgently requires an employment and income strategy to guide its industry and trade policies.

[op-ed snap] Governance Index: On study of States on governance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Good Governance Index

Mains level : Good Governance - limitations


The nation-wide comparative study of States on governance, the Good Governance Index (GGI) incentivises States to competitively deliver on public services to the citizens.


  • 3 groups were formed for the study.
  • The big 18 States, the north-east and hill States and Union Territories are the groups.


  • Different agencies including NITI Aayog are evaluating the States on different parameters.
  • Tamil Nadu has always had the reputation of being a better-run State. It is ranked first in the study.
  • Governance in TN – ability to ensure stable and smooth delivery of services without much ado. 
  • Southern states – 3 of its neighbours are among the top 10 of the big 18 States. Traditionally, the south has been ahead of others in several parameters of development. 
  • “BIMARU” States are catching up with others in development. Of the nine sectors, Rajasthan has finished within the top 10 in five sectors, Madhya Pradesh in four and Uttar Pradesh in three. 
  • In agriculture and allied sectors, almost all the “BIMARU” States are within the top 10 category and in human resources development, U.P. and Bihar figure.
  • Northern states – In the composite ranking, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are ranked fourth and ninth. These northern States can catch up with others in due course of time if the political leadership shows the will to overcome historical obstacles and stays focused on development.


  • Indicators left out — farmers’ income, prevalence of micro irrigation or water conservation systems and inflow of industrial investment — have been left out. 
  • “Ease of doing business” has been given disproportionate weight in the sector of commerce and industries, to the virtual exclusion of growth rate of major and micro, small and medium enterprises. 
  • Debate over indicators — which of the indicators, process-based or outcome-based — should get more importance, is always a debate.


  • It is noteworthy is that the Centre has made an attempt to address the problem of the absence of a credible and uniform index for an objective evaluation of the States and Union Territories. 
  • GGI requires fine-tuning and improvement. 
  • That does not take away the inherent strength of the work that has been accomplished.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Preamble to the Constitution of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Preamble

Mains level : Preamble: It features, significance and amendments

In the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, many have held up the Preamble as reflective of the essence of the Constitution of India for Secularism.


  • The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out guidelines, which guide the people of the nation, and to present the principles of the Constitution, and to indicate the source from which the document derives its authority, and meaning.
  • The hopes and aspirations of the people are described in it.
  • The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.
  • It was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly and came into effect on 26 January 1950, celebrated as the Republic day in India.

Resolution and discussion

  • The Preamble is based on the Objective Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946.
  • The Resolution was adopted on January 22, 1947.
  • On October 17, 1949, the Constituent Assembly presided by Rajendra Prasad took up the Preamble for discussion.

The heart and soul

  • In the Berubari Case (1960) Supreme Court held the view that Preamble cannot be a part of the constitution but later in Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973), the Supreme Court gave a comprehensive verdict.
  • It said that Preamble is part of the Constitution and is subject to the amending power of the parliament as are any other provisions of the Constitution, provided the basic structure of the Constitution is not destroyed.
  • It has been clarified by the Supreme Court that being a part of the Constitution, the Preamble can be subjected to Constitutional Amendments exercised under article 368, however, the basic structure cannot be altered.
  • Therefore it is considered as the heart and soul of the Constitution.


  • The original Preamble, adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, declared India a “Sovereign Democratic Republic”.
  • By the 42nd Amendment of 1976, enacted during the Emergency, the words “Socialist” and “Secular” were inserted; the Preamble now reads “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”.

Concept of three capitals in Andhra Pradesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Three capitals concept

The Andhra Pradesh CM has hinted that Andhra Pradesh could have three decentralized capitals, on the lines of South Africa.

What is the proposal?

  • The new capital being developed at Amaravati could become the “Legislative Capital”, port city Visakhapatnam the “Executive Capital” and Kurnool the “Judicial Capital”.

Three capitals concept in Andhra Pradesh

  • Three cities serve as capitals of the country– Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial).
  • This arrangement was a result of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in which Britain annexed the two Afrikaner speaking states -– the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (also called Transvaal Republic).
  • Cape of Good Hope then remained in the British Empire, becoming self-governing in 1872, and uniting with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa in 1910.

What are the other examples of multiple capital cities?

  • Several countries in the world have implemented the concept.
  • In Sri Lanka, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the official capital and seat of national legislature, while Colombo is the de facto seat of national executive and judicial bodies.
  • Malaysia has its official and royal capital and seat of national legislature at Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya is the administrative centre and seat of national judiciary.
  • Among Indian states, Maharashtra has two capitals– Mumbai and Nagpur (which holds the winter session of the state assembly).
  • Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamshala (winter).
  • The former state of Jammu & Kashmir had Srinagar and Jammu (winter) as capitals.

Reasons behind such considerations

Why Vizag?

  • Visakhapatnam was in the radar, as it was felt that it has all the requirements. Vizag always had been the biggest city, after Hyderabad, even in the combined State.
  • It has all the settings to become a good living space.

Sri Krishna panel

  • The advantages and qualities of Visakhapatnam to become the capital was elaborately deliberated by the Sri Krishna Committee, which was formed by Union Ministry of Home Affairs to study the alternatives for a new capital for the State of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Coming to suggestion for the alternative capital, the Committee primarily took up three things for consideration — creation of single city or super city in greenfield location, expanding existing cities and distributed development.


  • This idea was elaborately described in the Sri Bagh pact.
  • The pact clearly defined decentralisation, for the benefit of all three main regions such as Coastal AP, Godavari and Krishna districts and Rayalaseema.


  • According to government records, there is about 10,000 acres of government land.
  • Land is not an issue, as the requirement to set up a few new offices and quarters will not exceed 2,000 to 3,000 acres.
  • Most of the experts and intellectual are of the opinion that the decision is a win-win situation both for the government and the city.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Sun’s Corona


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sun's Corona

Mains level : Space Weather

Solar physicists from Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences (CESSI), IISER Kolkata, have succeeded in predicting the shape of Sun’s corona at the time of the recent annular eclipse.

What is Corona?

  • The corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. It is the aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun and other stars.
  • The Sun’s corona extends millions of kilometres into outer space and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but it is also observable with a coronagraph.
  • Spectroscopy measurements indicate strong ionization in the corona and a plasma temperature in excess of 1000000 Kelvin much hotter than the surface of the Sun.

Predicting in advance

  • The Predictive Solar Surface Flux Transport model developed by the CESSI team can predict the shape of the corona well in advance.
  • The researchers can predict the large-scale structure of the Sun’s corona up to two months in advance.
  • This model gives advance knowledge and a large window of preparedness for space weather driven by coronal magnetic fields.

Why Space weather matters?

  • The dynamic events on the Sun can affect Earth’s outer atmosphere and our technologies, leading to disruption in communication and navigation networks (GPS).
  • These are more frequent during solar maxima and pose a threat to space reliant technology and astronauts.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Russia’s Avangard Missile


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard and other ICBMs

Mains level : Not Much

  • Russia’s military deployed a new intercontinental weapon, the Avangard hypersonic missile system that can fly 27 times the speed of sound.
  • This will be the Russian military’s first Avangard hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • This feat is highly significant and comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

Avangard Hypersonic Missile

  • Previously referred to as Project 4202, the Avangard hypersonic missile system is a reentry body carried atop an existing ballistic missile, which has the capability to manoeuvre.
  • The missiles have a range of over 6,000 km, weigh approximately 2,000 kg and can withstand temperatures of over 2000 degree celsius.
  • It’s manoeuvring capability makes it difficult to predict its trajectory and gives it the ability to protect itself from the air and ballistic missile defences by delivering nuclear warheads to targets, for instance, in Europe and the US.

Banking Sector Reforms

[pib] eBkry (eBक्रय) Portal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : eBkry Portal

Mains level : Not Much

Union Finance Ministry has recently launched the eBkry e-auction portal.

eBkry Portal

  • To enable online auction by banks of attached assets transparently and cleanly for the improved realization of value, eBक्रय is launched.
  • It is framework for promoting online auction of assets attached by the banks.
  • It is equipped with the property search features and contains navigational links to all PSBs e-auction sites.
  • The framework aims to provide single-window access to information on properties.
  • eBkry also contains photographs and videos of the properties uploaded on the platform.

Drake Passage


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Drake Passage

Mains level : Oceanic Circulations

  • In a first, six rowers from four countries crossed the Drake Passage, in just under two weeks setting up a new Guinness World Records (GWR).
  • Last year, an all-woman Indian Navy team on Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini had also successfully crossed Passage.

Drake Passage

  • The Passage is located between Cape Horn at the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • It is named after Sir Francis Drake, who was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.
  • It has an average depth of about 11,000 feet, with deeper regions going up to over 15,600 feet near the northern and southern boundaries.

Why is it considered so treacherous?

  • The Drake Passage is considered one of the roughest waterways in the world because here, layers of cold seawater from the south and warm seawater from the north collide to form powerful eddies.
  • This eddies when combined with strong winds and storms can be treacherous for those attempting to navigate it.
  • It is also the narrowest stretch in the Southern Ocean and spans approximately 800 km between the southern tip of South America and the northern tip of the West Antarctic Peninsula.
  • The waters of the passage are highly turbulent, unpredictable, and frequented by icebergs and sea ice.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

[op-ed snap] For a humane and autonomous police


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Policing challenges


These are tumultuous times for the Indian police in their bid to maintain law and order. After losing the debate inside Parliament, certain elements have chosen to take some contentious issues out to the streets.

Binary picture

  • Protests and demonstrations form the core of democracy and are unexceptionable as long as they do not disrupt the life of the common man or cause damage to public property. 
  • In an ideal world, we may expect this clear-cut theoretical proposition to work perfectly. 
  • But in the raw violence-prone streets of the present times, this clinical allocation of respective space repeatedly proved to be mere pontification. 
  • Some media reporting has tended to be one-sided, tending to portray the police as the villain of the piece and the protesters as harmless and pacifist. 
  • This binary picture is blind to the truism that the police do enjoy a measure of operational autonomy, free from the dictates of other state agencies.

Shadow of politics

  • It is too simplistic to look upon the police as merely an agency that has been caught in the crossfire between the establishment and protesters. 
  • The vicissitudes of politics over the decades have deprived police the luxury of resting on the statute book and responding to a developing situation.
  • They will now have to be proactive and react within split seconds to an incendiary situation arising from contentious political situations. 
  • While doing so they are bound to overstep the contours of law. 


  • It is fallacy to argue that the police cannot enter campuses unless they are invited to do so by heads of institutions.
  • In Jamia Millia, the police appeared to have taken the initiative when no such invitation was forthcoming. 
  • There is no law that prohibits such police entry on their own, and any attempt to frame such a law will be preposterous to the core. 
  • The police are obligated under law to intervene wherever and whenever they apprehend danger to lives.
  • The statement of the English jurist, Lord Denning says “… (it) is for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or the chief constable, as the case may be, …….to decide on the disposition of his force and the concentration of his resources on any particular crime or area. No court can or should give him direction on such a matter…”

On the measure of force

  • Another bone of contention relates to the quantum of force that the police can use in quelling disorder. 
  • There is no scientific formula that applies to explosive scenes that have become routine in the national capital.
  • The amount of force used in such situations can vary significantly and will be related mainly to the strength of the mob, its composition, its mood and the kind of weapons it has at its command. 
  • The use of stones has become the most favorite, because of ease of availability and potency. 
  • To say that the police or any security agency should not overreact to this kind of barbarity is unfair.
  • Mob control techniques are a part of the police curriculum in major training institutions. Their impact depends on the imaginative nature of the instruction. 
  • In the wake of violence across the country, police leadership should concentrate on this important aspect of policing.


  • In a democracy such as ours, we certainly need civilized and humane police. 
  • This should not dilute the need to have a potent force that will not hesitate to use the resources at its command.
  • It should re-emphasize the dictum that democracy can flourish only when violence is checked and not allowed to hold sway. 
  • There is a crucial need for senior police officers to devote time to improving the quality of policing in the field, instead of frittering away their energies in concentrating on “politician management”.

Innovation Ecosystem in India

[op-ed snap] The tech frontier for developing nations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Capturing the Digital Revolution


The rapid technological transformation will be a key feature of the economy of the future. At the national, regional and global levels, frontier technologies are offering promising new opportunities, but are also introducing new policy challenges.


  • Technological innovation has boosted economic performance, improved efficiency, accelerated the pace of globalization, and transformed human society in the process.
  • It is fundamentally altering how goods, services and ideas are exchanged
  • As the costs are rapidly declining, making digital technologies even more affordable and accessible, they will transform people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • Digital technologies have unlocked new routes to prosperity through agriculture, manufacturing, trade in services, the linking of informal and formal sectors, and domestic interconnectivity. 
  • Low- and middle-income countries around the world now have an opportunity to build new industries, deliver better services, and improve peoples’ lives.


  • Access to poor – These gains may not reach the world’s poorest people. An estimated three billion people could still lack internet access by 2023, and many more will have little or no opportunity to reap the benefits of digital technologies. 
  • It demands renewed policy cooperation at all levels of governance. 
  • The latest wave of technological change is broad, and it is coming fast.
  • Digital technologies can also entrench existing forms of exclusion, disrupt livelihoods, and provide new tools for the powerful to abuse and exploit the weak.
  • Developing countries have more difficulties because they are already grappling with the challenges of low human capital, ineffective institutions, and a difficult business environment


  • The Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development has shown that developing countries can still harness the new wave of frontier technologies for the benefit of all. 
  • All countries will need to prepare themselves for new and upcoming technologies, by maximizing inclusiveness and guiding markets toward the right types of innovation. 
  • Governments should start by recognizing that the challenge is not just about “digital policy.” Rather, it calls for a “whole-of-economy”— a “most-of-society”—approach
  • Support for marginalized groups will need to be built into the policy process from the outset.
  • National governments should start planning for digital readiness in four areas: infrastructure, human capital, policy and regulation, and finance
  • Regional-level policymakers — need to start building momentum on policy cooperation.
  • At the global level, cross-border issues associated with frontier technologies will need to be addressed multilaterally. Multilateral organizations should be developing an antenna for identifying new technologies and development challenges. 
  • More must be done to mitigate technological disruptions to employment, boost investment in human capital, and ensure fair taxation in the new digital economy.


  • Countries have been coming together in global fora to safeguard public goods and pursue collective prosperity. 
  • To capture the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to strengthen public-private partnerships and make our economies more efficient and flexible. 
  • For its part, Indonesia recognizes the need for policies to manage the new digital economy
  • The key will be to put people at the center of the agenda. Beyond furnishing workers with the right skills, we must create a digital world where all people have a voice.


  • The challenge we face is also an opportunity. Digital and frontier technologies have enormous potential to improve government administration and the delivery of public services. 
  • It is time for a new kind of conversation involving governments, business leaders, innovators, civil-society organizations and citizens alike. 
  • Developing countries must ride the wave of technological change, rather than wait for it to crash down on us.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Fuel to the fire: On Cabinet announcement on NPR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR

Mains level : NPR - NRC - CAA


The Union Cabinet announced that the National Population Register (NPR) would be updated across the country, barring Assam, at an expense of over ₹3,941.35 crores.

What it means

  • It would have been considered a routine administrative measure but for the concerns among the public about the government’s intentions. 
  • The announcement on the NPR came amid continuing protests against the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, in many parts of the country.
  • There is also a lingering uncertainty regarding the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). 

What government says

  • Prime Minister said that the NRIC had not been discussed in the government, but that did not mean that it would not be taken up. 
  • His assurance that no Indian of any religion will be adversely affected by the controversial CAA rings hollow when the government has not cleared the air that it has no plans for an elaborate plan to tabulate citizens. 


  • The NRC, as it was rolled out in Assam, puts the burden of proof on citizens to establish that they are indeed citizens. 
  • The undocumented and the poor will bear the brunt of this approach. 
  • The proposed format for enumerating the NPR only exacerbates this concern. It adds a third axis to the ongoing confusion and turmoil.


  • The NPR is not about citizenship but only about residency. 
  • When additional questions such as “place of birth of father and mother”, etc are being proposed for the forthcoming exercise, the concern that this may be a prelude to the NRIC is logical.
  • It is nobody’s argument that the state should not enumerate the population or collect data on the people. 

Problem with the actions

  • Never in the past did the prospects of a religious test for citizenship appear even remotely in this country. 
  • In 2014, the BJP election manifesto explicitly stated that India was a natural homeland for “persecuted Hindus”. 
  • The government made the now-familiar, and extremely problematic, the distinction between “infiltrators” and “refugees”. 
  • With the passage of the CAA and the announcement of the NRIC, there is the factual basis for doubting the government’s claim that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRIC.

Way ahead

  • In the current climate of panic among a significant section of the country’s poor and the Muslim minorities, the government must speak up to bolster their confidence in India’s constitutional democracy. 
  • Equivocation, and polarising grandstanding on the CAA, the NRIC, and NPR, may yield political dividends for the government but at a very high cost to the nation.