February 2019
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[op-ed snap]Unemployment in India: The real reason behind low employment numbers


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).

Mains level: Mismatch in actual job growth and data being provided and reasons why there is a mismatch



Last month saw a series of discussions related to employment numbers reported in the leaked Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).

Reason Behind Different Employment rates reporting

  • There to be a stark difference in the methods used to choose survey households.
  • The PLFS is based on the education level of households and the EUS is based on expenditure (urban) or livelihood (rural) of households.
  • Any direct comparison of the survey results of the PLFS with the earlier EUS would lead to erroneous inference about the employment scenario.
  • The sample chosen in the PLFS was not quite representative of the underlying Indian population in terms of the achievement of secondary education leading to lower estimates for the population, labour force participation and employment.


  • The EUS, which was last conducted during the 68th round of the NSSO for the duration July 2011 to June 2012, is a comprehensive survey providing a complete scenario of the labour force, across sectors like agriculture, industry, services, etc, in both rural and urban areas.
  • In any survey, a sample of locations are chosen judiciously to represent the entire country.
  • For the EUS 2011-12, the selection of locations for First Stage Units (FSU) in the sample, urban and rural classification was made based on the data from Census 2001 and each town with a population of more than 10 lakh was represented as a separate group in sample locations.
  • For the Second Stage Strata (SSS), the criteria for choosing households in both the rural and urban areas was household affluence, as shown in the accompanying table.
  • In rural areas, 50% of chosen households are those with principal earnings from non-agriculture-based activities.
  • For urban areas, the Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) available from the previous rounds of the NSSO household surveys forms the basis for selecting households.
  • The sample also has good representation of the middle class engaged in gainful employment-related activities.


  • It provides continuous update on the employment situation in India (quarterly for urban and yearly for rural areas).
  • This survey has, for the first time, used the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) method to capture data—a great step towards technology adoption. The sample size of various NSSO surveys are comparable and may assumed to be in line with the last EUS survey of 2011-12.
  • There is a major change in the criteria for the selection of households in the SSS for both rural and urban areas, based on the number of members in the household having general education up to secondary level (10th standard).
  • At first glance, the household selection criteria for the PLFS seems aspirational in nature, as the choice of households is dependent upon the education level of the household instead of the earlier criteria of affluence/expenditure.
  • It is true that mostly formal or better-playing employment is linked to the education level of the household members and this move by the PLFS is really aspirational in nature.
  • Percentage of people above secondary level as of 2011 is quite low, at 21.51%, which goes further down to 15.3% for the rural population but has a healthy number of 35.24% for the urban population. Not all informal or daily wage employment requires more than secondary level education. A healthy literate level of 63.07% implies that a large portion of the population has basic literacy, which is what is required for daily wage employment.
  • It can be seen that there are 66.42% of households (75.61% rural and 46.20% urban) with no family members with general education above secondary level. Whereas only 25% of households have been sampled based on these criteria, leading to a huge mismatch between the reality and the samples drawn. People from these households are mostly daily wagers or engaged in informal employment, which would also show lower employment estimates.


  • These numbers provided a good view on the education level of the people in India and showed that the stratification criteria used in the PLFS is not quite aligned to the secondary and above secondary levels of education in the country.
  • This under sampling, leading to under-representation of such households, is leading to lower estimates of the people for this group in labour force participation and employment rate.
  • The percentages of households for the urban area, though far from the sample sizes are closer to the reality in urban areas compared to rural areas.
  • It would be proper to wait for the next round of the PLFS (2018-19) that is under progress and compare its findings with the results of the PLFS (2017-18) to make a more correct assessment of the employment rate in the country.



Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[oped snap] Little, late


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge  PM-KISAN .

Mains level: The news-card analyses PM-KISAN’s drawbacks and better alternative



That direct cash transfers (DCT) are the best way to support farmers — as opposed to subsidised supply of fertiliser and electricity or physical purchase of produce at above-market prices — is a well-established fact. The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) by Prime Minister, therefore, welcome, except that it is too little too late.

PM-Kisan Yojna

  • The scheme provides a flat Rs 6,000 per year to all small and marginal farmers owning up to 5 acres of land — an estimated 12 crore — payable in three instalments.
  • There is no crop with a basic cultivation cost below Rs 10,000 per acre today.

Drawbacks Of scheme

  • An instalment of Rs 2,000 under PM-Kisan would enable a farmer to barely buy Bt cotton seeds for two acres, meet his fertiliser requirement of wheat for two-thirds of an acre or harvest cane from one-sixth of an acre.
  • So, even if the money is transferred directly into the farmer’s Aadhaar-seeded bank sans any leakage, its utility from a purely agricultural standpoint is quite limited.
  •  Such a narrow time window and then blaming them — especially those ruled by the Opposition — for not showing interest in the scheme smacks of political opportunism.
  • Telangana and Odisha have come out with DCT schemes that, even if primarily politically-inspired, are more meaningful and effectively designed.
  • The Centre alone has, for 2019-20, budgeted a mammoth Rs 2,77,206 crore towards food, fertiliser and crop loan subsidies. This is over and above the Rs 75,000 crore provision towards PM-Kisan.

Better Usage of Funds

  • Abolishing the subsidy on fertiliser and farm credit — both of which have no real economic rationale — and limiting that on food to maintaining a minimum buffer stock to enable market intervention if necessary, it would be possible to create a Central DCT fund.
  • The money from this can be used not only for resource-poor landowning farmers but even share-croppers, landless agricultural labourers and other vulnerable households in both rural and urban areas.
  • And with Aadhaar-seeded bank accounts and digitisation of land records, it can be well-targeted too.


Direct Benefits Transfers

Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


  • The Economic Survey of Delhi 2018-19, released last week, states that the capital’s forest cover has increased from 12.72% of its geographical area in 2015 to 12.97% in 2017 while its tree cover has increased from 7.48% to 7.62%.

Tree Cover & Forest Cover

  • The MoEFCC defines ‘forest cover’ in India as all lands, more than one hectare in area with a tree canopy density of more than 10%.
  • The ‘tree cover’ is defined as tree patches outside recorded forest areas exclusive of forest cover and less than the minimum mappable area of one hectare.

Trees outsides Forest

  • Between these two is a third measure, called ‘trees outside forest’, or TOF.
  • The ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ defines TOF as “trees existing outside the recorded forest area in the form of block, linear & scattered size of patches”.
  • Since tree cover measures only non-forest patches that are less than 1 hectare, it is only a part of TOF.

Statewise cover

  • The India Report, as well as the Delhi Survey, cites state-wise figures, which show that Goa has the highest tree cover as a percentage of geographical area, at 8.73%, followed by Delhi and Kerala, both at 7.62%.
  • Forest cover highs are in Lakshadweep (90.33%) and Mizoram (86.27%). India has 93,815 hectares, or 2.85% of its area, under tree cover, and 7.08 lakh ha (21.54%) under forest cover.


Forest Cover Classification

  • Classification scheme for the purpose of Forest Cover assessment is described as follows:
Class Description
Very Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above.
Moderately Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%.
Open Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40%.
Scrub Degraded forest lands with canopy density less than 10%.
Non-forest Lands not included in any of the above classes.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

AP gets new railway zone called ‘South Coast Railway’


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: South Coast Railway Zone

Mains level: Importance of Railways Infrastructure


  • Indian Railways will be making a new zone in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh named ‘South Coast Railway’.
  • Indian Railways’ operations are currently divided into 17 zones, which are further sub-divided into divisions, each having a divisional headquarter. There are a total of 73 divisions at present.

South Coast Railway

  • As per item 8 of Schedule 13 (Infrastructure) of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014, Indian Railways was required to examine establishing a new railway zone in the successor State of AP.
  • The new zone named “South Coast Railway (SCoR)”, will comprise of existing Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada divisions.
  • Waltair division shall be split into two parts.
  • One part of Waltair division will be incorporated in the new zone i.e. in South Coast Railway and will be merged with the neighbouring Vijaywada division.
  • Remaining portion of Waltair division shall be converted into a new division with headquarter at Rayagada under East Coast Railway (ECoR).
  • South Central Railway will comprise of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Nanded divisions.
Railway Reforms

[pib] SHREYAS Scheme


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shreyas Scheme

Mains level: Skill Education in India


  • The Ministry of HRD has launched the Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS) for providing industry apprenticeship opportunities.


  • It is a programme conceived for students in degree courses, primarily non-technical, with a view to introduce employable skills into their learning, promote apprenticeship and also amalgamate employment facilitating.
  • SHREYAS portal will enable educational institutions and industry to log in and provide their respective demand and supply of apprenticeship.
  • The matching of students with apprenticeship avenues will take place as per pre-specified eligibility criteria.

Objectives of the Scheme

  • To improve employability of students by introducing employment relevance into the learning process of the higher education system
  • To forge a close functional link  between education and industry/service sectors on a sustainable basis
  • To provide skills which are in demand, to the students in a dynamic manner
  • To establish an ‘earn while you learn’ system into higher education
  • To help business/industry in securing good quality manpower
  • To link student community with employment facilitating efforts of the Government

Operation of the Scheme

  • The primary scheme will be operated in conjunction with National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) which provides for placing of apprentices upto 10% of the total work force in every business/industry.
  • The scheme will be implemented by the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) , initially the Banking Finance Insurance Services (BFSI), Retail, Health care, Telecom, Logistics, Media, Management services, ITeS and Apparel.


  • Under the NAPS scheme, Central Government shares 25% of the stipend per month subject to a maximum of Rs.1500 p.m during the period of the apprenticeship.
  • Apart from that, an amount upto Rs.7500 will be met towards basic training cost, where needed.


1st Track:  Add-on apprenticeship

  • The students who are currently completing the degree programme would be invited to choose a job role of their choice from a selected list of apprenticeship job roles given by the Sector Skill Councils of the MoSDE.
  • At the end of the apprenticeship period, there would be a test conducted by the Sector Skill Council concerned and successful students would get skills certificate in addition to their degree certificate.

2nd track: Embedded Apprenticeship

  • Under this approach, the existing B.Voc programmes would be restructured into B.A (Professional), B.Sc (Professional) or B.Com (Professional) courses – which would include a mandatory apprenticeship ranging from 6 to 10 months depending on the requirement of the skill.
  • During the apprenticeship period, the student would get a monthly stipend of about Rs. 6,000 per month by the industry, 25% of which would be reimbursed under the NAPS programme.

3rd Track: Linking National Career Service with Colleges

  • Under this, the National Career Service (NCS) portal of Ministry of Labour& Employment would be linked with the Higher Education institutions.
  • As of now, more than 9,000 employers have posted requirement of more than 2 lakh vacancies, for which the students can get considered.
Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[pib] Yuva Sahakar Scheme


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level: Promoting cooperatives business venture


Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme

  1. To cater to the needs and aspirations of the youth, the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) has come up with a youth-friendly this scheme for attracting them to cooperative business ventures.
  2. The newly launched scheme would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
  3. The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC.


  • The funding for the project will be up to 80% of the project cost for these special categories as against 70% for others.
  • The scheme envisages 2% less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.


  • It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible.



  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  2. The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.
  3. It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.
  4. It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.
Innovation Ecosystem in India

[pib] India’s first indigenous semiconductor chips for 4G/LTE and 5G NR modems


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Semiconductor chips mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Not Much


  • A Bengaluru based company SIGNALCHIP has fabricated high performance and cost-efficient semiconductor chips.
  • These would enable high-speed wireless communication.

Four chips designed by SIGNALCHIP

  1. SCBM3412: a single chip 4G/LTE modem including the baseband and transceiver sections in a single device
  2. SCBM3404: a single chip 4X4 LTE baseband modem
  3. SCRF3402: a 2X2 transceiver for LTE
  4. SCRF4502: a 2X2 transceiver for 5G NR standards


  • The RF sections cover all LTE/5G-NR bands upto 6 GHz.
  • These chips also support positioning using India’s own satellite navigation system, NAVIC.
  • The combined multi-standard system-on-chip (SoC) can serve as a base station chipset for a wide range of form factors from low-cost indoor small cells to high performance base stations.
  • Through the IPs created for devices, the company now has the potential to design products for multiple related fields.


  • Currently, in India, all devices and infrastructure, whether imported or domestically manufactured, use imported silicon chips.
  • Silicon chip design is a very challenging activity requiring high-cost R&D, deep knowhow and mastery of multiple complex domains.
  • Hence, this technology is not available in most countries.


  • Data Security is the paramount concern in the World today and India cannot remain secure in terms of data, unless it manufactures its own chips.
  • India is just breaking into the elite club of the world and this will have huge implications for India’s data security and data sovereignty, besides the positive economic implications.
  • At present only 8 companies and a few countries can design and build semiconductor chips.
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[op-ed snap]Good jobs, not Universal Basic Income, are needed for a good society


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: universal Basic Income

Mains level: Debate surrounding Universal Basic Income and alternatives such as good jobs.



Neither is quotas in limited government jobs, nor raining down cash on farmers and informal workers in the garb of universal basic income are solutions for the Indian economy’s failure to create more good jobs at the bottom of the pyramid.

Need for Universal Basic Income

  • The fear is that unless fundamental economic structures are changed, further advances of technologies into the realms of “Industry 4.0″ will deprive even larger numbers of people of opportunities for work from which they can earn adequate and steady incomes.
  • UBI and its many variants—quasi-UBI and income supplements for targeted groups—treat only the symptoms of the disease.
  • The root cause of the disease is that many people do not have work that provides adequate incomes.
  • The “gig” economy is creating many opportunities for earning incomes. However, the incomes are insecure and often insufficient. Moreover, the conditions in which people have to work to earn their incomes are not always satisfactory.

What is a good Job?

  • A good job implies a contract between the worker and society.
  • The worker provides the economy with the services it needs. In return, society and government must create conditions whereby workers are treated with dignity and can earn adequate incomes.
  •  Good jobs require good contracts between workers and their “employers”.
  • Therefore, the government, to discharge its responsibility to create a good society for all citizens, not only for investors, must regulate contracts between those who engage people to work for the enterprise and those who do the work, even in the gig economy.

Good Jobs Instead Of UBI

  • The solution is not to endow workers with a UBI—that way leads to dependency, unfulfillment, depression and marginalization.
  • Employers to employ more numbers of less-skilled workers and pay them well. If they are provided good working conditions and opportunities to learn and grow, they will lead more satisfying lives.
  • To increase the productivity of firms, too often governments subsidize labour-replacing, capital-intensive technologies, rather than pushing innovation in socially more beneficial directions to augment rather than replace less skilled workers.”
  • India’s political leaders are challenged to provide more good jobs for the country’s huge number of young jobseekers.
  • Panic solutions are quotas for everyone in the limited numbers of government jobs and raining down cash to farmers and workers in informal sectors in the garb of “universal basic income”.

Way Forward

  • Economists and policymakers must go to fundamental principles: one, “fairness” for workers must be a stronger principle than “flexibility” for employers.
  • Reduce the number of labour regulations but be very firm about the essential regulations to ensure good incomes and good working conditions.
  • Two, tax incentives should be directed towards hiring of less-skilled workers, rather than attracting more capital investments that displace workers, so that people at the bottom of the pyramid can step on to the formal escalator for upward mobility in society.


Direct Benefits Transfers

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Small town, cleaner future


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Mains level: This article analyses how big cities can learn waste management from small cities and towns



Small and mid-size cities and towns of India are showing the way on how to manage solid waste by getting communities to segregate waste and keeping the waste streams separate.

The case study of Suryapet

  • The earliest and the best success story was of Suryapet, a city in Telangana, located 136 km east of Hyderabad, with a population of a little over one lakh.
  • A single individual, S A Khadar, the commissioner of Suryapet municipal corporation, demonstrated personal leadership which made a big difference.
  • He managed all of the Suryapet’s wet and dry waste (32 tonnes daily at that time) on a half-acre site within the city, earning a gross income of Rs 1 lakh per month from vermi-composting and recycling.
  • He began by winning the hearts of his sanitary workers by prompt satisfaction of minor demands, such as granting leave and/or reassignment of workplaces.
  • Next, he wooed the residents, one mohalla or street or commercial area at a time, by organising daily meetings on morning rounds from six to nine am before beginning his office work. Residential pockets that gave 100 per cent unmixed waste earned token gifts.
  • The commissioner got banks to fund new tractor-trailers (which can unload waste mechanically) for self-help groups by guaranteeing their monthly repayments to banks from the city payments to their SHGs for waste collection services.
  • Open drain cleaning was done in the afternoons. Soggy silt went directly into a wheelie-bin and then into a dedicated leak-proof collection vehicle which unloaded the silt and the debris for widening the road shoulders of all radial roads.
  • The Suryapet experience clearly shows that citizens can be incentivised to give wet and dry wastes unmixed when they see clear administrative will and primary collection vehicles designed to accept and transport wastes unmixed.

The case study of Karjat

  • Within two days of joining, Kokare commissioner of the municipal council of Karjat, strictly enforced Maharashtra’s ban on plastic carry bags. These are now replaced by sari-cloth bags which cost Rs 6 per bag.
  • Handcart vendors use bags made out of newspapers.
  • What is amazing is how he persuaded Karjat residents, already enjoying doorstep waste collection, to cooperate in giving 36 kinds of waste separately on different days of the week! This is probably a global first.

Secret of success

  • The secret of the success of Kokare and Khadar, is passion and daily personal supervision, both going around the city every morning before office hours to meet, persuade and exhort citizens to cooperate.
  • In Karjat, after initial warnings, doorstep collectors refuse to collect mixed waste and also report the person. The same evening, an official comes and grills the person on where they dumped their uncollected mixed waste.
  • Such intense individual effort is especially required at the start. Once word gets around, cooperation is easier.

Other examples

  • In Namakkal (population of 55,000) in Tamil Nadu, pushcart collection workers have been manually separating mixed waste into wet and dry, daily at the doorstep of each household, rather than attempt behaviour change.
  • Alappuzha in Kerala was recently recognised by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for its decentralised system of waste management.
  • In these and many more small towns, the secret of success is meticulous micro-planning, committed leadership at the administrative level and receptive and engaged communities. The objective is clear — a litter-free, bin-free and dump-free city.

Lessons for metro cities

  • Big cities scoff at small towns leading the way and claim that their own waste volumes are unmanageable. But even in large metropolitan cities, populations of most wards are smaller than of these towns. Decentralisation and effective use of delegated power at the ward level is crucial if micro-planning and implementation is to work with cooperation from RWAs. Only then can we find a collective solution to the challenges of solid waste management in our larger cities.


Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] Smart farming in a warm world


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Climate change threat to Indian agriculture and moving towards climate resilient agri practices.



Many areas are facing drought in recent years like Bundelkhand. There is a need to introduce alternatives.

Changes in rainfall and weather and it’s impact

  • Bundelkhand was once blessed with over 800-900 mm rainfall annually, but over the last seven years, it has seen this halved, with rainy days reported to be down to just 24 on average in the monsoon period.
  • There is hardly any greenery in many villages, making it difficult for farmers to even maintain cattle.
  • Hailstorm has been destroying crop in recent years, with the arhar crop failing completely in 2015. Farmers are increasingly abandoning their lands and heading to nearby towns to find work as labourers.

Vulnerability due to Monsoon

  • India is fortunate to have the monsoon, but it is also uniquely vulnerable to rising temperatures, with the country ranked 14th on the Global Climate Risk Index 2019.
  • The country has over 120 million hectares suffering from some form of degradation.
  • According to one estimate, they may face a 24-58% decline in household income and 12-33% rise in household poverty through exacerbated droughts.
  • With rain-fed agriculture practised in over 67% of our total crop area, weather variability can lead to heavy costs, especially for coarse grains (which are mostly grown in rain-fed areas).
  • A predicted 70% decline in summer rains by 2050 would devastate Indian agriculture.
  • Within 80 years, our kharif season could face a significant rise in average temperatures (0.7-3.3°C) with rainfall concomitantly impacted, and potentially leading to a 22% decline in wheat yield in the rabi season, while rice yield could decline by 15%.


  • Promotion of conservation farming and dryland agriculture, with each village provided with timely rainfall forecasts, along with weather-based forewarnings regarding crop pests and epidemics in various seasons, is necessary.
  • Our agricultural research programmes need to refocus on dryland research, with adoption of drought-tolerant breeds that could reduce production risks by up to 50%.
  • A mandate to change planting dates, particularly for wheat, should be considered, which could reduce climate change induced damage by 60-75%,
  • There needs to be an increase in insurance coverage and supply of credit. Insurance coverage should be expanded to cover all crops, while interest rates need to be subsidised, through government support and an expanded Rural Insurance Development Fund.

Loss of forest land

  • India is estimated to have lost over 26 million hectares of forest land and 20 million hectares of grasslands/shrublands between 1880 and 2013.
  • , insufficient coordination between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) has led to institutional apathy towards alarming air pollution levels in the metros.
  • India hosts over 172 globally threatened species, primarily in reserve forests where they have little meaningful protection against wildlife crime and forest protection, given limited budgets for anti-poaching.

Reforming IFS

  • The Indian Forest Service would also benefit from restructuring, in order to make it equivalent to the police and the army, albeit in the environmental domain.
  • State-of-the-art training to its personnel must be provided, and specialisation should be encouraged in wildlife, tourism and protection for new recruits.
  • Deputations from other services will no longer do; this needs to remain a specialised service.
  • heritage towns should be given more attention — cities like Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur, Chikmagalur and Jabalpur, which are adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries, need to be converted into green smart cities with upgraded waste recycling processes.
  • The Van Dhan Yojana, as adopted by the State government in Rajasthan, can be scaled up towards building a green mission to save our non-protected forests (outside the existing national parks and sanctuaries).

Way forward

  • Prudent investments and policy reform can help make India resilient to climate change.
  • Any adaptation to ongoing climate change will require that climate justice.
  • This is not a blame game — this can be induced by expansion of joint research and development partnerships (like the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center), pairing India’s emerging smart cities with green cities in the West.
  • India needs to decarbonise, there is no doubt about that. But the West needs to pay its bills too.


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

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chagos Archipelago (map based)

Mains level: Decolonization of IOR


  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has said in an advisory opinion that Britain has an obligation to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago.
  • The Chagos Islands are home to the U.S. military base of Diego Garcia, under lease from the United Kingdom since the 1960s.

Ending Decolonization

  • The ICJ concluded that the decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed, as a result of Britain’s continued administration of the Chagos Islands.
  • The continued administration of the territory by the U.K. amounted to a “wrongful act”, which was not consistent with the right to the people of self determination.
  • The judges concluded that any detachment of part of a colony had to be based on the freely expressed and genuine will of the people.

Why UK needs Chagos?

  • The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.
  • Britain says that the islands will be returned to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes.

Why ICJ intervened?

  • In his statement, the judge also noted that the original agreement had not allowed for third party involvement in the territory.
  • The base’s construction led to the displacement of some 1,500 people, who have been unable to return to the islands.

1965 pact

  • Under an agreement struck in 1965, in return for compensation to Mauritius and fishing rights, Britain has maintained control of the islands.
  • It has continued to do so despite efforts by Mauritius to regain control, and UN resolutions requiring it to complete the decolonization of Mauritius.
  • The ICJ held public hearings in September 2018 in the case after Britain was defeated in its attempt to halt a UNGA resolution calling for the UN’s highest court to delivery an advisory opinion on the issue.
  • In June 2017, the UNGGA adopted a resolution calling on the ICJ to delivery an advisory opinion on whether the continued administration by UK was lawful.
  • The UNGA win by Mauritius against the U.K., and the U.S.  was seen as a major blow to Britain.

Questioning its legitimacy

  • The legacy of colonialism and whether the kind of agreements struck between colonial powers and their colonies in the final stages cannot be legitimate.
  • While Britain contended that Mauritius freely consented to the detachment of the archipelago, Mauritius maintained that the choice faced was no choice at all.
  • The leadership of its independence movement had been forced into agreeing to the 1965 separation of the islands, fearful that if they did not do so, independence would not be granted.

Indian Stance

  • India too supported Mauritius in its case, with India’s Ambassador to the Hague telling the court last year that a historical survey of facts placed the archipelago as part of Mauritian territory.
  • Regarding the process of decolonization of Mauritius, it remains incomplete both technically and in substance as long as the Chagos Archipelago continues to be under the colonial control.

Conclusion: On Advisory Opinions

  • The ICJ which last week heard from India and Pakistan on the contentious case of Kulbushan Jadhav, can also deliver advisory opinions.
  • Unlike the Jadhav case, which is binding and non-appealable, advisory opinions are not binding, though they do carry substantial legal weight and are mostly adhered to.
  • However, there have been several occasions in which they have not been: such as the 2003 advisory opinion which obligated Israel to stop building the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

Banks may set repo rate as benchmark for lending


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MCLR, Repo Rate

Mains level: Role of RBI & various functions performed by it.


  • Most commercial banks in India are likely to select RBI’s repo rate as the external benchmark to decide their lending rates, from April 1.
  • The repo rate is the key policy rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Deciding lending rates

  • Banks had four options from which to choose the external benchmark: the repo rate, the 91-day Treasury bill, the 182-day T-bill or any other benchmark interest rate produced by the Financial Benchmarks India Private Ltd (FBIL).
  • A few other banks confirmed that the repo rate is the ideal candidate for the external benchmark. At present, the repo rate is 6.25%.
  • The marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR) is currently the benchmark for all loan rates.
  • Banks typically add a spread to the MCLR while pricing loans for homes and automobiles.

Why repo?

  • The RBI has mandated that the spread over the benchmark rate to be decided by banks at the inception of the loan should remain unchanged through the life of the loan.
  • It should remain unchanged unless the borrower’s credit assessment undergoes a substantial change and as agreed upon in the loan contract.
  • If the lending rates are linked to the repo rate, any change in the repo rate will immediately impact the home and auto loan rates, since RBI has mandated the spread to remain fixed over the life of the loan.

Benefits of Repo Rate

  • It will make the system more transparent since every borrower will know the fixed interest rate and the spread value decided by the bank.
  • It will help borrowers compare loans in a better way from different banks.
  • Under the new system, a bank is required to adopt a uniform external benchmark within a loan category so that there is transparency, standardisation and ease of understanding for the borrowers.
  • This would mean that same bank cannot adopt multiple benchmarks within a loan category.


Repo Rate

  • Technically, Repo stands for ‘Repurchasing Option’.
  • It refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI in case of shortage of funds. It is one of the main tools of RBI to keep inflation under control.
  • When we borrow money from the bank, they charge an interest on the principal. Basically, it is cost of credit.
  • Similarly, banks too can borrow money from RBI during cash crunch on which they must pay pay interest to the Central Bank. This interest rate is repo rate.


  • Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) is the minimum interest rate, below which a bank is not permitted to lend. RBI can give authorization for the same in exceptional cases.
  • MCLR replaced the earlier base rate system to determine the lending rates for commercial banks.
  • RBI implemented it on 1 April 2016 to determine rates of interests for loans.
  • It is an internal reference rate for banks to decide what interest they can levy on loans.
  • For this, they take into account the additional or incremental cost of arranging additional rupee for a prospective buyer.
Banking Sector Reforms

Offshore Wind: The sleeping giant has been stirred


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Challenges for harnessing offshore wind energy


  • India’s offshore wind energy sector is hoping for a new lease of life with the draft offshore wind energy lease rules

Unmet challenges

  • The offshore wind energy comes with expensive challenges like resource characterization, sub-sea installation, turbine foundation and development of long transmission infrastructure.
  • India is ill-prepared to meet these challenges due to the lack of technological knowhow and studies to assess resources.
  • The country, nevertheless, jumped on to the bandwagon with its ‘National Offshore Wind Policy’ in 2015.
  • And, as is the trend in India, the government set ambitious targets — a capacity of 5 GW by 2022 and 30 GW by 2030.

Progress till date

  • FOWIND, or the Facilitating Offshore Wind in India, is a Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)-led consortium that hoped to bring to India its leanings from the European experience.
  • The preliminary assessments estimated tremendous potential along the coasts in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
  • It was also handed the responsibility of the first demonstration project or the First Offshore Wind Project in India (FOWPI).
  • The first round of geotechnical, geophysical, ground investigation and metocean assessments was conducted by national Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) and by FOWPI.
  • The latter led the first Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based wind profiling in the Gulf of Khambhat, which began in November 2017.

What the government did

  • Instead in April 2018, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released an expression of interest (EOI) to get the lay of the land.
  • Despite considerable interest that the conservative EOI drew, no tender was issued.
  • In parallel, with the slowdown in the onshore wind industry, the excitement around offshore wind energy fizzled out very soon.

Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind

  • The MNRE in 2019 released Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind.
  • The regulations apply to leasing of offshore blocks anywhere between 100 and 500 square metres within the exclusive economic zone off the Indian coast.
  • The lease for prospecting can be for up to five years, for developers to undertake necessary assessments and feasibility studies.
  • Project development activities will be allocated a 30 year lease, with a facility to extend for five more years.
  • It talks about compensation to the developer in case the central government pre-emptively procures the energy generated and also permits curtailment if issues with grid stability or security arise.

Promises of the rules

  • The lease rules have also included social and environmental caveats rigidly stating that the development of the farm wind should not in any way affect the livelihood of the coastal population.
  • It should not lead to the deterioration of local flora and fauna.

Various loopholes

  • The National Offshore Wind Policy lays the onus of development of transmission infrastructure (till the sub-station on land) on the developer.
  • Large investments in offshore structures and transmission facilities will result in uncompetitive high tariffs – something Indian power procurers do not have the stomach for.
  • Second, there has been no mention on port augmentation and utilization for the purposes of offshore wind project development.
  • Functional ports close to offshore farms are essential to reduce costs. They could also help in operation and maintenance, repowering and decommissioning.
  • Neither the policy nor the regulations discuss upgrading or redesigning existing ports.
  • If India is serious about offshore wind, it must set up dedicated ports. Europe, for example, has 10 such ports.
  • Further, there is no visibility on whether the energy procurers will even buy the electricity generated at the high tariffs that offshore wind projects will inevitably yield.

Way Forward

  • There are several reasons for India to diversify to offshore wind, the primary one being the contentious nature of land in India.
  • A close second is that the best wind potential sites in the country are filling up.
  • Further offshore wind development in India is egged on by the tremendous potential, an underutilized manufacturing capacity and a thirst for more energy.
  • These worries might need to be addressed with government-backed guarantees in long-term power-purchase agreements.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

India successfully test-fires Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: QRSAM and its specification

Mains level: Developing missile arsenal


  • India has successfully test-fired two indigenously developed Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles (QRSAM) from a test range off the Odisha coast.
  • The trials were conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from Launch Complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur.


  • This missile has been developed to replace the ‘Akash’ missile defence system, and has 360-degree coverage, light weight, high mobility and shorter second reaction time as compared to ‘Akash’.
  • It also uses solid fuel propellant and has a stated range of strike range of 25-30 km with capability of hitting multiple targets.
  • It is capable of hitting the low flying objects.
  • It successfully demonstrated the robust Control, Aerodynamics, Propulsion, Structural performance and high manoeuvering capabilities thus proving the design configuration.
  • Radars, Electro Optical Systems, Telemetry and other stations have tracked the Missiles and monitored through the entire flights.
Indian Missile Program Updates

[pib] Exercise Sampriti – 2019


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ex Sampriti

Mains level:  India-Bangladesh strategic relations


Exercise Sampriti-2019

  • It is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and this will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
  • As part of the ongoing India Bangladesh defence cooperation, the joint military exercise will be conducted at Tangail, Bangladesh.
  • The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate.
  • In addition to understanding each other in tactical level operations, emphasis will also be laid for greater cultural understanding to strengthen military trust and cooperation between the two nations.
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] The correct prescription


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: E-pharmacies

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of cartelisation in pharma sector and how e-pharmacies will increase the competition leading to better prices.



Amid a slew of conflicting judicial decisions from different High Courts, the legality of e-pharmacies continues to be questioned by various trade associations such as the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD).


  • E-pharmacies, which operate through websites or smartphone apps on the Internet, offer medicines for sale at a discount of at least 20% when compared to traditional pharmacists.
  • The added convenience of home delivery of medicines to one’s doorstep is there.
  • For scheduled drugs, patients can submit photographs of prescriptions while placing orders.
  • The legal status of these e-pharmacies is not clear because the government is yet to notify into law draft rules that it published in 2018.

Opposition to e-pharmacies

  • The fiercest opponents of e-pharmacies are trade associations of existing pharmacists and chemists.
  • They argue that their livelihoods are threatened by venture capital-backed e-pharmacies and that jobs of thousands are on the line.
  • These trade associations also spin imaginary tales of how e-pharmacies will open the door to drug abuse and also the sale of sub-standard or counterfeit drugs, thereby threatening public health.

Need for e-pharmacies to curb cartelisation

  •  The entry of e-pharmacies will have effect on lowering the price of medicine for Indian patients.
  • Associations of pharmacists is one of rampant, unabashed cartelisation that has resulted in an artificial inflation of medicine prices.
  • In a fully functional, competitive market, pharmacists would compete with each other for business.
  • This competition could happen in the form of discounts or improving operational efficiency.
  • This practice of two competitors colluding to fix the sale price and area of operation is called cartelisation and is illegal under India’s Competition Act.
  • Over the last decade, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has had to deal with several complaints alleging that trade associations of pharmacists are providing platforms for cartelisation.

Barriers in way of e-pharmacies

  • The practice of requiring pharmaceutical companies to apply for a no-objection-certificate (NOC) from the regional trade association before they appoint new stockists in a region to sell a particular drug prohibits competition.
  • By creating such artificial, extra-legal barriers to the free trade of medicines within India, these trade associations create huge distortions in the Indian market.
  • In its recent policy note on “Making markets work for affordable healthcare”, published in October 2018, the CCI noted, “One major factor that contributes to high drug prices in India is the unreasonably high trade margins.”
  • One of the culprits for this phenomenon identified by the CCI was “self-regulation by trade associations [which] also contributes towards high margins as these trade associations control the entire drug distribution system in a manner that mutes competition”.

Solutions Proposed by CCI

  • As stated by the CCI in its policy note, “Electronic trading of medicines via online platforms, with appropriate regulatory safeguards, can bring in transparency and spur price competition among platforms and among retailers, as has been witnessed in other product segments.”

Way Forward

Where the state has failed, it is possible that venture capitalist backed e-pharmacists will succeed in bringing back competition to the retail drug markets in India. There is no reason for India to continue indulging trade associations that have no taste for competition or fair business practices.

Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] The thing about air


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: air quality standards,Lancet Report, NCAP

Mains level: Worsening air quality and findind alternatives to energy consuming air cleaning methods.



Air pollution is a silent killer in India, especially in the country’s northern belt. Eighteen per cent of the world’s population lives in India, but the country bears 26 per cent of the global disease burden due to air pollution.

Impact of air pollution on public health

  • According to estimates of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative — published last year in Lancet Planetary Health — over half the 12.4 lakh deaths in India attributed to air pollution in 2017 were of individuals under the age of 70.
  • The average life expectancy in the country could be 1.7 years higher if air pollution is contained at a level at which human health isn’t harmed.

Policy and civil society responses to air pollution

  • Policy and civil society responses to air pollution have been limited and delayed.
  • in January that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change revamped the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to make it the country’s first overarching policy framework on air quality.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) came forward to provide technical assistance to the government for implementing the NCAP by an emission inventory database.
  • The two institutes would also cooperate with the government in identifying sources of pollution and tracking emissions in order to help it realise the target of reducing particulate matter by 20-30 per cent in the next five years.

Energy costing Measures to tackle Air Pollution

  • In India too, researchers, entrepreneurs and environmentalists have voiced the need for devices such as sensor-based monitors, air purifiers and smog towers.
  • The use of mass spectrometers  to identify volatile substances that pollute air. But their energy footfall is likely to offset recent gains in energy efficiency.
  • It is a nationwide concern that requires systemic measures, long-term planning, stringent action against those violating emission laws and standards.
  • The country also requires inter-departmental coordination, continuous monitoring, appropriate warning systems and adequate protocols for assessment of air quality.

Problems with air purifiers

  • These devices consume energy, require constant maintenance and constitute a lopsided and expensive answer to the air pollution problem.
  • Studies have shown that many types of air purifiers used in households, offices and commercial set-ups do not actually improve the air quality .
  • ertain types of air purifiers do not remove chemicals or gases. Ionisers have limited utility against harmful particles and activated carbon filters — amongst the most popular air purifying devices — are not effective against particulate matter and allergens.
  • Electrostatic filters are not effective in large rooms and ozone purifiers are known to trigger asthma attacks.

Way Forward

  • It is also high time we recognise that air pollution problem is not merely a technological issue, but a social concern.
  • It is high time we recognise that air pollution will not go away if we continue to see it as a problem of only the affluent sections of society.
  • Besides emphasising on clean energy devices, energy efficiency technologies, dust control mechanisms and clean transport facilities, the government must be alive to the concerns of the people whose livelihoods are affected when polluting industries are banned.
  • Some states of the US, Singapore and China, for instance, have come out with citizen-friendly remedies that emphasise dust management, soil conservation and ecological restoration.
  • Addressing air pollution is a human concern. Regulation and technological solutions should not lose sight of this perspective.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Slipping on Democracy


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EIU, Democracy Index

Mains level: State of democracy in India & world.



The Economist Intelligence Unit recently published its 11th report on the “State of Democracy in the World in 2018” titled “Me Too?Democracy Index confirms the paradox of India being the world’s largest electoral wonder, but an increasingly flawed democracy.

About Survey

  • The survey ranks 165 independent countries based on five parameters — namely, electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of the government, political participation and political culture.
  • Index classifies countries into four types — Full Democracies, Flawed Democracies, Hybrid Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes.
  • Most of the shift has taken place into flawed democracies, which constitute the largest group with 43 per cent of the world’s population.
  • A third of the world lives under authoritarian governments, the majority being in China.
  • Nordic democracies continue to top the rankings year after year, with high political participation, robust welfare state and progressive workers’ rights and environmental standards.

Findings of The Survey

  • Voter turnout was on the rise in 2018, in expression of disillusionment.
  • The culture of protest is on the rise, with a number of demonstrations around the world for a plethora of causes.
  • The rise of social media has made public outreach quicker and easier, making lawful assembly an increasing trend.
  • Quotas for women candidates have made parliaments more inclusive, pointing to the instrumental importance of positive political discrimination.
  • Japan introduced women’s quota legislation in 2018. In the subcontinent, Nepal already tops South Asia in women’s representation, with 33 per cent of the seats reserved for women in Parliament and a record 40 per cent of women in local bodies.
  • It is time the Indian Parliament also walks the talk on women’s representation.
  • Four out of five attributes of the Democracy Index either showed stagnation or improvement for the whole world, except for “civil liberties”, which continues its decline since 2008, coming down from 6.3 to 5.7.
  • “Functioning of the government” remains at the bottom of the score card, with hardly any improvement from a high of 5.0 since 2008.
  • The score for perception of democracy as a sub-attribute suffered its biggest fall in the index since 2010, indicating that people are losing faith in the capability of democracy to deliver basic goods and utilities.

Situation in The South Asia

  • Among the SAARC countries, India (41) and Sri Lanka (71) are classified as flawed democracies, followed by Bangladesh (88), Bhutan (94) and Nepal (97) which are hybrid regimes, with Pakistan (112) and Afghanistan (143) being authoritarian.
  • This is the worst ranking ever on the index for India. It is a mid-range country among flawed democracies, with a high score of 9.17 in electoral process and pluralism but moderate record not crossing 7.5 on the rest of the parameters.

Factors Affecting Indian ranking

  • What has adversely affected Indian rankings, according to the report last year, is the rise of “conservative religious ideologies”.
  • Vigilantism, violence, narrowing scope for dissent, threat to minorities and marginalised groups has affected our ranking.
  • Journalists are increasingly under attack, with murders taking place in several areas.
  • As a result of limited scope for fair reportage, the Indian media is classified as only “partially free”, a fact also corroborated by the “Freedom in the World Report, 2018”.


This year’s report maintains those concerns, and also warns of incumbents trying to further consolidate power: “In India, the ruling  coalition has struggled to maintain its dominance in state elections. To some extent, this is in fact a reflection of the strength of the country’s democratic institutions, which has yielded upsets for the government, despite various coercive tactics used by the ruling Party to consolidate power.”

Explained: PRC Issue


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PRC, Various tribes mentioned

Mains level: Row over PRC



  • Violence erupted in the state over Arunachal Pradesh government’s proposal to grant permanent resident certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities.
  • The state government announced it was considering issuing PRC to six non-Arunachal Scheduled Tribes (APSTs) communities.
  • There is resentment among several community-based groups and organisations who feel the rights and interests of indigenous people will be compromised.

Permanent Resident Certificate

  • Permanent resident certificate is a legal document issued to Indian citizens that serves as evidence of residence and is required to be submitted as residential proof for official purpose.
  • It is a domicile certificate otherwise called as Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) to the residents of the state who stayed therein over a period.
  • Those citizens who are not currently residing in the state but are sure of permanently staying therein can also apply for it.
  • Besides the permanent residence certificate, the State also offers Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) for those who reside in the State on a temporary basis.
  • It enables the citizens to avail various policies and claims made in their particular state.

Communities under Proposal

  • The government in the state is considering issuing the certificate to the six non-APSTs communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.
  • Amongst those communities are Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings.
  • Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam.

Who gets PRC in Arunachal Pradesh?

  • Communities listed as Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes (APST) have been given PRC status.
  • This is because they are considered the original natives of the state.
  • Several other communities have been demanding the status to get domicile-linked benefits.
  • These non-APST communities say that while their names are on land records, they do not get “pattas” (ownership documents).

What is the main bone of contention?

  • The non-APST communities have a sizeable population in neighbouring Assam and enjoy domicile-linked rights in that state.
  • Many of these communities are recognised as STs in Assam, while Morans and Adivasis come under the Other Backward Classes category in Assam.
  • They say that they should have the same rights in Arunachal Pradesh; the APST communities are opposed to this.

Why do APST communities not want other communities to get PRC?

  • APST communities say that giving other communities PRC will dilute the Bengal Eastern Frontier (Regulation) Act 1873, which says that all non-residents and visitors to Arunachal Pradesh must get a permit to travel to the state and stay there.
  • The APST communities say that allowing residency to other communities will lead to many non-tribals entering the state.
Citizenship and Related Issues

EVM is ‘information’ under RTI Act


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CIC, SIC

Mains level: Issues surrounding EVMs


  • An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is “information” under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has ruled.

Defining Information

  • The CIC noted that the definition of information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act includes “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form.

What CIC Ruled?

  • The Chief Information Commissioner ruled that the EVM which is available with the respondent [ECI] in a material form and also as samples is an information under the RTI Act.
  • The Commission was hearing the appeal of an RTI applicant who had asked the Election Commission for an EVM but was denied.
  • The models/samples of EVM are available with the ECI, but the same are only kept for training purpose by the ECI, and not saleable to the general public.

Why such ruling?

  • EVMs have been in the spotlight recently as several Opposition leaders have raised doubts about the credibility of the machines.
  • They have also demanded that the ECI cross-check 50% of results with voter-verifiable paper audit trails (VVPAT) in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll.

Certain Exemptions

  • The information was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act as the software installed in the machines is an intellectual property of a third party.
  • The disclosure would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned.
  • The CIC noted this fresh argument, but did not rule on it.
  • Instead, he directed the ECI to file an appropriate response to the appellant, as it had erroneously denied the information sought, using Section 6(1) of the RTI Act, which does not deal with grounds for exemption.


Central Information Commission (CIC)

  1. The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorized quasi judicial body, established in 2005.
  2. It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
  3. The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
  4. CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.