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

RBI Notifications

[op-ed snap] Regulator’s Role


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RBI

Mains level : Supreme court's direction to Kotak Bank on disclosures


The Supreme Court  has told the regulator that it is duty bound to disclose the list of defaulters and also make public its annual inspection reports of banks and financial institutions.


  • IT is a fraught time for India’s central bank.
  • After a much publicised conflict between the government and the RBI, which finally led to the exit of Governor Urjit Patel and a knock to its institutional reputation, it has been dealt another blow by the Supreme Court.
  • The SC, while stating that the RBI had committed contempt of court, has warned the regulator that non-compliance of its order would be taken seriously as the bank had been refusing to provide information on all these under the RTI Act, citing its disclosure policy.
  • The other legal test the RBI faces is the unprecedented case of a regulated entity — the Kotak Bank — taking it to court over a regulatory ruling on lowering the shareholding of the original promoter of the bank.

Reasons for non- disclosure

1. Protecting Banking Secrecy – For long, the RBI has resisted disclosure of defaulters on the ground that it would violate banking secrecy laws while justifying holding back information and inspection reports of its supervisory teams on individual banks on fears of a weakening of trust among depositors and the impact on the financial markets and stocks of listed banks.

2. Low levels of financial Literacy – There is some truth to this argument in a country with low levels of financial literacy given that in the past, the country’s finance minister and the RBI were forced to publicly assure depositors and investors of a private bank that their money was safe after a run on the bank, fuelled by rumours.

3.Damages due to different interpretations –Similarly, realising the potential damage which could arise because of the interpretation of a provision in the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill on protection of deposits, the government had to step in last year to assuage concerns.

Arguments in favour of disclosure

That does not, however, mean non-disclosure in perpetuity.

Based on regulatory Findings

  • One approach could be to provide this information after the RBI and the bank or an institution and its board have achieved closure and taken action based on regulatory findings, to limit any damage.
  • This could be preferably to Parliament, which could help strengthen prudential supervision.


  • As successive RBI governors and bankers have indicated, the pile up of bad loans in India is also because of judicial delays.
  • India’s two-year-old insolvency law has been a signature reform, but at the end of last year in over 30 per cent of the cases, the 270-day deadline had been breached.
  • It is with good reason that after the 2008 financial crisis, governments worldwide are focussed on financial stability. Any hasty step which endangers that mandate may prove costly.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[op-ed snap] No good options in Afghanistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doha Talks

Mains level : Peace in afghanistan seems elusive.


In Afghanistan, ‘reconciliation’ means different things to different players and to different groups of Afghans.


During the last 50 years, Afghanistan has been through different governance systems — monarchy till 1973; communist type rule, initially home-grown and then imposed by the U.S.S.R. with its 1979 intervention; jihadi warlordism in the early 1990s; shariat-based Taliban rule; and a democratic republic based on a presidential system since 2004.

Negotiating a U.S. exit

  • The U.S. began its operations in Afghanistan, primarily against the al-Qaeda, 18 years ago.
  • The cumulative cost has been over $800 billion on U.S. deployments and $105 billion on rebuilding Afghanistan, with nearly 2,400 American soldiers dead.

Trump’s Policy

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy announced in August 2017 was aimed at breaking the military stalemate by authorising a small increase in U.S. presence, removing operational constraints, putting Pakistan on notice, improving governance and strengthening the capabilities of Afghan security forces.
  • Within a year, the policy failure was apparent.
  • Afghan government continued to lose territory and today controls less than half the country.
  • Since 2015, Afghan security forces have suffered 45,000 casualties with over 3,000 civilians killed every year.

Talks With Taliban

  • Last year, U.S. senior officials travelled to Doha to open talks with the Taliban, followed by the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation.
  • Five rounds of talks have been held and a sixth is likely soon.

Terms of talks

  • Mr. Khalilzad is seeking guarantees that the Taliban will not provide safe haven to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Afghan territory will not be used to launch strikes against the U.S., while the Taliban have demanded a date for U.S. withdrawal along with the release of all Taliban detainees in Guantánamo and Afghanistan.
  • Mr. Khalilzad has also sought a ceasefire in Afghanistan and engagement in an intra-Afghan dialogue in return.
  • Al-Fatah- The Taliban have responded with their new spring offensive, al-Fath, and refuse to engage with the Afghan government.
  • An intra-Afghan dialogue with political and civil society leaders planned for around the third week of this month in Doha was called off on account of the presence of Afghan officials.
  • Us exit is aim of talks -It is clear that Mr. Khalilzad is not negotiating peace in Afghanistan; he is negotiating a managed U.S. exit. Given the blood and treasure expended, the optics of the exit is important. As former U.S. Defence Secretary J. Mattis said, “The U.S. doesn’t lose wars, it loses interest”.

Increasing polarisation

  • There is growing polarisation in Afghanistan along ethnic and even sectarian divides.
  • With three presidential elections (in 2004, 2009 and 2014) and three parliamentary elections (in 2005, 2010 and 2018), faith in the electoral process and the election machinery has eroded.

Elusive peace

  • Mr. Khalilzad met with his Russian and Chinese counterparts in Moscow where the three reiterated support for “an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process”.
  • However, there is no common understanding of what it means or which Afghans should own and lead the process.

The Pakistan factor

  • Pakistan is once again centre-stage as the country with maximum leverage. To demonstrate its support, Pakistan released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a leader and founder of the Taliban.
  •  Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement suggesting the formation of an interim government in Kabul to overcome the hurdles in the Doha talks provoking a furious backlash from Afghanistan from the government and the opposition figures.
  • Even Mr. Khalilzad dubbed the statement as ‘inappropriate’. Pakistan has since backtracked but it shows that old habits die hard.


  • Even without getting into details of why the post-Bonn order in Afghanistan is fraying, there is agreement that peace in Afghanistan cannot be restored by military action.
  • It is also clear that a prolonged U.S. military presence is not an answer.
  • The problem is that a U.S. withdrawal will end the U.S. war in Afghanistan but without a domestic and regional consensus, it will not bring peace to Afghanistan.
  • Sadly, today there are no good options in Afghanistan.

Intellectual Property Rights in India

[op-ed snap] Lay off


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FL 2027

Mains level : Pepsico suit against farmers will not benefit anyone.


PepsiCo’s suing nine Gujarat farmers for alleged infringement of its intellectual property rights (IPR) over a proprietary potato variety makes for bad optics, bordering on a public relations disaster.


  • The American food-and-beverage giant enjoys IPR protection in India for FL 2027, a potato variety with high dry matter and low sugar content that is better suited for making chips (normal table potatoes have more moisture, which adds to dehydration and energy costs during processing, and higher sugar that causes blackening on frying).
  • Such protection is, indeed, required for incentivising agricultural research and development of new plant varieties by breeders, both in the private and public sectors.

 Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act

  • Under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001(PPVFRA), over 3,500 varieties across a range of crops — including those bred or improved by individual farmers — have so far been granted registration certificates for up to 15 years.
  • These certificates confer on the breeders the exclusive rights over commercial production, sale, marketing, distribution, export and import of their protected varieties.

Exceptions Allowed

  • However, the PPVFRA simultaneously entitles farmers to “save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell” the produce and seeds of any variety protected under the Act.
  • Such freedom is conditional only upon no sale of such seeds in branded form — in other words, being “put in a package or any other container and labeled”.

No violation of IPR

It is clear from this that the Gujarat farmers had not committed any IPR infringement by merely growing FL 2027 potato, even if without PepsiCo’s authorisation.

Mutual benefit agreement

  • PepsiCo may have developed this processing-grade variety solely for its Lay’s chips and for contract cultivation by farmers through a buy-back mechanism at pre-fixed rates.
  • The company claims to be working with some 24,000 farmers across nine states.
  • It’s fair to assume they benefit from the arrangement, both on account of being insulated from open market price fluctuations — huge in potatoes — and also receiving quality farm inputs and extension support.
  • PepsiCo may, in turn, have legitimate concerns over farmers independently cultivating its proprietary varieties and possibly even supplying their produce to rival chips/French fries makers.
  • But that still does not constitute an IPR infringement.

Way Forward

  • It would be in PepsiCo’s best interest to simply withdraw its suit against the Gujarat farmers, without attaching conditions.
  • A $65-billion multinational seeking Rs one crore each of damages from Average Joe farmers of Sabarkantha — that too, during election time — is going to only invite opprobrium and consumer backlash.
  • The losses from that will far outweigh any pyrrhic legal victory.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Indian subcontinent’s collision with Asia boosted oxygen in world’s oceans


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Plate

Mains level : Plate Tectonics Theory, Continental Drift Theory

  • When the landmass that is now the Indian subcontinent slammed into Asia about 50 million years ago, the oxygen in the world’s oceans increased, altering the conditions for life.

Impact of Indian Plate

  • The collision was already known to have changed the configuration of the continents, the landscape, global climate and more.
  • Researchers used microscopic seashells to create a record of ocean nitrogen over a period from 70 million years ago – shortly before the extinction of the dinosaurs – until 30 million years ago.

Nitrogen dating to find Oxygen level

  • Every organism on Earth requires “fixed” nitrogen – sometimes called “biologically available nitrogen.”
  • Nitrogen has two stable isotopes: 15N and 14N. In oxygen-poor waters, decomposition uses up “fixed” nitrogen.
  • This occurs with a slight preference for the lighter nitrogen isotope, 14N, so the ocean’s 15N-to-14N ratio reflects its oxygen levels.
  • That ratio is incorporated into tiny sea creatures called foraminifera during their lives, and then preserved in their shells when they die.
  • By analysing their fossils researchers were able to reconstruct the 15N-to-14N ratio of the ancient ocean, and therefore identify past changes in oxygen levels.

Why study oxygen?

  • Oxygen controls the distribution of marine organisms, with oxygen-poor waters being bad for most ocean life.
  • Many past climate warming events caused decrease in ocean oxygen that limited the habitats of sea creatures, from microscopic plankton to the fish and whales that feed on them.
  • Scientists trying to predict the impact of current and future global warming have warned that low levels of ocean oxygen could decimate marine ecosystems, including important fish populations.
  • The researchers found that in the 10 million years after dinosaurs went extinct, the 15N-to-14N ratio was high, suggesting that ocean oxygen levels were low.
  • They first thought that the warm climate of the time was responsible, as oxygen is less soluble in warmer water.
  • Global climate was not the primary cause of this change in ocean oxygen and nitrogen cycling.


Movement of Indian Plate

  • Until roughly 140 million years ago, the Indian Plate formed part of the supercontinent Gondwana. It was a large island situated off the Australian coast, in a vast ocean.
  • The Tethys Sea separated it from the Asian continent till about 225 million years ago.
  • India is supposed to have started her northward journey about 200 million years ago at the time when Pangaea
  • India collided with Asia about 40-50 million years ago causing rapid uplift of the Himalayas.
  • The positions of India since about 71 million years till the present are shown in the Figure. It also shows the position of the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian plate.
  • About 140 million years before the present, the subcontinent was located as south as 50◦ S. latitude. The two major plates were separated by the Tethys Sea and the Tibetan block was closer to the Asiatic landmass.
  • During the movement of the Indian plate towards the Asiatic plate, a major event that occurred was the outpouring of lava and formation of the Deccan Traps. This started somewhere around 60 million years ago and continued for a long period of time.
  • Note that the subcontinent was still close to the equator. From 40 million years ago and thereafter, the event of formation of the Himalayas took place.

Air Pollution

Committee constituted to oversee clean air programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Clean Air Plan (NCAP)

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • The MoEFCC has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • The NCAP unveiled in January is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.
  • The NCAP is envisioned as a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. There would be a review every five years.
  • For achieving the NCAP targets, the cities would be expected to calculate the reduction in pollution, keeping 2017’s average annual PM levels as the base year.
  • The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures such as:
  1. Ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or
  2. Ensuring strict action against unauthorized brick kilns (within 30 days)
  • It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in.
  • Experts have criticised the lack of mandatory targets and the challenge of inadequate enforcement by cities.

Committee to implement NCAP

  • The committee will be chaired by the Secretary, Union Environment Ministry and has among its members the Joint Secretary (Thermal), Ministry of Power; Director-General, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) etc.
  • The committee would be headquartered in New Delhi and its remit includes ensuring “inter-ministerial organisation and cooperation, sharing information and resolving issues that could arise between ministries.
  • The committee would also give overall guidance and directions to effectively implement the programmes.

Why such move?

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) database on air pollution over the years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most polluted places in the world.
  • In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India.

Ishad Mango is under the threat of becoming rare


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ishad Mango

Mains level : Not Much

  • A local mango variety called Ishad is facing the threat of becoming rare in its homeland, Ankola of Uttara Kannada district.

Ishad Mango

  • The mango has two variants — Kari Ishad, which has thin skin, more pulp and is sweeter, and Bili Ishad, which has thick skin and has less pulp and sweetness.
  • Some farmers did try to grow it outside Ankola taluk, but failed.
  • It is delicate to handle given its short shelf life. Hence, the fruit cannot be transported to faraway places.
  • The pulp of this mango has been extracted for over a century for making value-added products.
  • Oriental Canneries and Industries set up a unit in Ankola in 1908 to extract pulp from Ishad for making value-added products.
  • The then Bombay government supported it by supplying wood.
  • The pulp is used for making 48 recipes. It was being used in the United States, Australia and Sri Lanka.

Indian Army Updates

Army invokes emergency powers for missiles deal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : VSHORAD, Spike-LR, Igla-S air defence systems

Mains level : Emergency financial powers to defence forces

  • The Army is in the process of procuring Spike-LR Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) from Russia through a set of new financial powers for emergency procurements sanctioned by the Defence Ministry earlier this month.

Emergency financial powers to Army

  • After the Pulwama attack, the government has given emergency powers to the armed forces for buying equipment to enable them to fight wars on the western border with Pakistan.
  • Under the latest emergency financial powers, armed forces have been given a free hand to procure equipment worth upto ₹300 crore on a priority basis.
  • The government also relaxed certain rules to cut delays in military purchase like allowing the three services to procure required weapons and equipment from a single vendor.
  • Entirely new systems not in use can also be procured under the new powers.
  • For the procurement under the emergency orders, the forces need not even take concurrence of the Integrated Financial Advisor from the defence finance department.
  • The defence Ministry feels that since the forces have to fight wars, they should decide on their requirement and priority in the acquisition and buy that equipment.

Air Pollution

Explained: The problem with diesel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS norms

Mains level : Reality check on preparedness for BS VI and major hurdles


  • The announcement by Maruti Suzuki —the country’s largest vehicle manufacturer — will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles.
  • This along with many other giants, pretty much marks the end of the road for the diesel mill in India.

Bone of content- BS VI Norms

  • The main reason is not the fuel price differential, but the new emission norms that will come into effect on April 1, 2020 — less than a year from now.
  • The prohibitively high cost of upgrading diesel engines to meet the new BS-VI emission norms is why leading carmakers have pulled the plug on their diesel options.
  • The economics of the conversion does not make it worthwhile to continue with the diesel option after the transition to BS-VI.
  • Also, the sentiment for diesel is not good in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, making it extra uncertain if customers would want to pay the big premium.

Bharat Stage Norms

  • The BS — Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • India has been following European (Euro) emission norms, although with a time lag of five years.
  • India introduced emission norms first in 1991, and tightened them in 1996, when most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades such as catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel specifications based on environmental considerations were notified first in April 1996, to be implemented by 2000, and incorporated in BIS 2000 standards.

Implementation history

  • Following the landmark Supreme Court order of April 1999, the Centre notified BS-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • BS-II was for the National Capital Region and other metros; BS-I for the rest of India.
  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.

What changes do the recent BS norms entail?

  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • But in November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.
  • Soon afterward, however, Road Transport Ministry announced that the government had decided to leapfrog to BS-VI from April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V all together.

Minutes of BS VI

  • Carmakers would have to put three pieces of equipment — a DPF (diesel particulate filter), an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system, and an LNT (Lean NOx trap) — to meet stringent BS-VI norms, all at the same time.
  • This is vital to curb both PM (particulate matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions as mandated under the BS-VI norms.
  • Ideally, the technologies should be introduced in series, and then synergized.

Why the transition is problematic?

  • A practical problem is that while it took as many as seven years for the entire country to shift from BS-III to BS-IV, the attempt this time is to entirely bypass one stage — BS-V — in less than half that time.
  • This makes the switch to BS-VI that much more difficult for both oil companies and automobile makers.
  • The decision to leapfrog directly from BS-IV to BS-VI is what carmakers cite as the reason for the unviability of diesel.
  • While petrol vehicles would also need upgrades to transition, these are limited to catalysts and electronic control upgrades.
  • For diesel vehicles, the upgrades are more complicated and entail higher costs, apart from the technical difficulties in managing the changes.
  • A step-by-step transition would have been easier; now, the entire cost will have to be borne in one go, alongside the operational difficulties of managing the transition.

Various complications

I. Early adaptation of components

  • Carmakers say there are technical constraints in carrying out design changes that will include adapting the three critical components — DPF, SCR and LNT — to conditions specific to Indian driving, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the United States.
  • The auto industry argues that the huge improvements in vehicular technology since 2000 have had little impact in India due to driving, road and ambient conditions.
  • So, technically, if the BS-V and BS-VI stages were to be implemented one after the other, diesel cars would have to be fitted with a DPF in the BS-V stage, and with the SCR in the BS-VI state.
  • Now both of these have to be incorporated simultaneously, alongside the LNT.

II. Fuel price gaps

  • Even if these were to be managed, a heavy cost would be involved, which would push up the price of diesel vehicles, and widen the price gap with the petrols.
  • So, for carmakers, skipping the diesel value chain at this point makes more sense.
  • Alongside these constraints, there are also question marks regarding the ability of the oil companies to manage the transition, because refiners were unable to produce the superior fuel in required quantities.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Influence of Islamic State in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Combating terrorsim


  • Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka that claimed 250 lives this Easter.
  • The threads of the attack are closely connected to India with one of the Lanka suicide bombers having stayed in India for a considerable time before the attack.
  • A coordinated attack of this scale so close to India’s shores has agencies worried.

What is the IS influence in India?

  • IS came on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies way back in 2013 when reports from Syria suggested that some Indians were fighting alongside the IS there.
  • It was still considered a problem of the Middle East by the agencies until in 2014, IS kidnapped 39 Indians in Iraq and executed them.
  • An IS map of the Khorasan Caliphate showed some of India’s states as its part.
  • Since then multiple Indians have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside IS and as many as 100 have been arrested by the agencies either on return from Syria or while preparing to join them.
  • Many have also been arrested for preparing to carry out an attack in India after being inspired by the IS.

India’s response

  • The Indian security establishment has approached the issue of IS influence with caution.
  • The approach is informed by the fact that despite a very large Muslim population, India has sent very few recruits to the IS.
  • It is clear that some of the youth eager to join IS are merely swayed by the IS online propaganda which has attracted a restive youth with video-game-like macabre videos.
  • That they may not be fully radicalized given their unblemished background has led agencies to take the counselling approach.
  • Only such people have been arrested who agencies believed were in the process of carrying out an attack or had made multiple attempts to go to Syria despite counselling.
  • This included Hyderabad youth Abdullah Basith who made three attempts to go to Syria and was apprehended each time. He was finally put under arrest under charges of terrorism on his third attempt.

Why is South India more vulnerable?

  • Even though it is North India which regularly sees communal clashes, it is southern states which have sent maximum recruits to IS.
  • According to agencies, almost 90% of all recruits who have gone to Syria are from the southern States.
  • A majority of those arrested by agencies while preparing to launch an attack are also from States such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • Most recruits from Kerala who joined the Islamic State were either working in the Gulf or had come back from there with an already developed liking for IS’s extreme ideology.
  • States such as J&K, MP and UP in North India have also seen some IS influence on the youth.

Indians dint fall prey to lures

  • It should be stated that ISIS hasn’t received support from Indian Muslims.
  • For a country with the world’s second largest Muslim population, India’s share of pro-ISIS individuals is minuscule.

The real threats to India

  • None in fact, IS has largely focused on inspiring the youth to either migrate to Syria and Iraq or carry out attacks in India with their own resources (lone wolf attacks).
  • Most of the recruiters, such as banned outfits Indian Mujahideen operative Shafi Armar, too have been Indians.
  • Many Indians haven’t even had a handler and they have merely come together on their own to allegedly carry out attacks in the name of IS.
  • Most of these groups were made to arrange for explosives and arms on their own with members contributing from their pockets.

Way Forward

  • IS, although militarily now on the backfoot, is still – as the Sri Lankan attacks show – very much alive, with branches in 18 countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, and new forays into Bangladesh.
  • In any case, thanks to Pakistan, terrorism will always remain a threat to India.
  • IS needs no specific motivation to carry out such an attack. All other religions, and all those not subscribing to IS’s perverted vision of puritanical Islamic supremacy, are enemies.
  • A secular India is anathema for IS ideologues. That we are a democracy is also a red rag because the IS believes that ‘all religions that agree with democracy have to die’.
  • Thus, what happened in neighbouring Sri Lanka must act as a wake-up call for us.

With inputs from:

Economic Times

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

ICMR launches ‘MERA India’ to eliminate malaria by 2030


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MERA India

Mains level : Menace of Malaria in India

‘Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India’

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched the MERA India – a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control – in order to prioritise, plan and scale up research to eliminate the disease from India by 2030.
  • The MERA India does not intend to duplicate international efforts rather complement this on a national scale while contributing to the broader global agenda.
  • The alliance will facilitate trans-institutional coordination and collaboration around a shared research agenda which responds not only to programmatic challenges and addresses gaps in available tools, but also proactively contributes to targeted research.
  • It aims to harness and reinforce research in coordinated and combinatorial ways in order to achieve a tangible impact on malaria elimination.
  • The National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program (NVBDCP) of India has developed a comprehensive framework to achieve the overarching vision of “Malaria free India by 2030”.

Why such move?

  • Over the past two decades, India has made impressive progress in malaria control.
  • The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent, 2.03 million cases in 2000 to 0.39 million in 2018, and malaria deaths by over 90 per cent, 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018.
  • This success has provided a strong foundation for the commitment from the leadership of the government of India to eliminate malaria from India by 2030.

RBI Notifications

RBI extends ombudsman scheme to non-deposit taking NBFCs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NBFC, Banking Ombudsman Scheme

Mains level : Banking Ombudsman Scheme

  • The RBI has extended the coverage of Ombudsman Scheme for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to eligible non deposit taking non-banking financial companies (NBFC-NDs) having asset size of Rs 100 crore or above with customer interface.

What is NBFC?

  • A NBFC is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities.
  • It does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
  • A non-banking institution which is a company and has principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in installments by way of contributions or in any other manner, is also a non-banking financial company.

About the Ombudsman Scheme

  • The scheme was launched on February 23, 2018 for redressal of complaints against NBFCs registered with the RBI under Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934 and covered all deposit accepting NBFCs to begin with.
  • It provides a cost-free and expeditious complaint redressal mechanism relating to deficiency in the services by NBFCs covered under the scheme.
  • The offices of the NBFC Ombudsmen are functioning in four metro centres — Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi — and handle complaints of customers in the respective zones.
  • The scheme also provides for an appellate mechanism under which the complainant/ NBFC has the option to appeal against the decision of the Ombudsman before the Appellate Authority.

Who are excluded under the scheme?

However, non banking financial company-infrastructure finance company (NBFC-IFC), core investment company (CIC), infrastructure debt fund-non-banking financial company (IDF-NBFC) and an NBFC under liquidation, are excluded from the ambit of the scheme.

Tribes in News

Wild Food Plants


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WFP and their nutrients content mentioned, Soliga Tribals

Mains level : Utility of traditional knowledge of tribals

Wild food plants (WFPs)

  • WFPs which are neither cultivated nor domesticated constitute a special category.
  • They grow wild in forests as well as in farmlands and are harvested by local people as sources of food.
  • The tradition of eating WFPs, to augment staple food crops, continues in the present day.
  • For forest- dwelling communities, forests remain the main source of food, nutrition, and livelihoods even today.
  • The Soliga tribe is one such community in the Western Ghats who use their indigenous tradition of eating WFPs, to augment staple food crops

Soligas and their traditional knowledge

  • The Soligas are one of few remaining forest-dwelling tribes in and around the forests of Biligiri Ranganath (BR) Hills, MM Hills, and Bandipur in Karnataka and the Sathyamangalam forests in Tamil Nadu.
  • The study revealed that the diversity of WFPs consumed by the Soligas evolved over generations as a survival strategy.
  • They relate the usage of WFPs to seasonal plant availability and the status of resources.
  • These tribals can even predict the availability of WFPs with respect to micro-climatic changes, indicating a long-term intimate knowledge of their surroundings.
  • In addition to their role in balancing food baskets of the poor, WFPs play an important role in maintaining the nutritional and livelihood security for forest communities during periods of drought or scarcity.

Examples of WFPs

  • According to Soligas, they get a variety of mushrooms, tender bamboo shoots, and fruits like Jamune, Karanada, wood apple, custard apple and several varieties of leaves during the rainy season.
  • Honey and tubers like Dioscorea, makal and many ceropegia are harvested throughout the year.
  • In the hot dry summers, the Soligas use leaves and fruits like mango, jackfruit, amla, bel and tamarind.
  • Except rice, another staple food of Soligas which they grow, the forests give them everything else.

Why WFPs?

  • For example, edible leaves such as Kaddisoppu and Javanesoppu available in the forest have a very high content of pro-vitamin A (Beta Carotene), anti-oxidants and soluble protein.
  • It is found that the leaves are rich in digestible iron, zinc, and manganese as well.
  • Tubers and fruits from the forest that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidant, are in high demand in local markets.
  • Some of the tubers and mushrooms also have high iron, zinc, vitamins and anti-oxidant content that is vital for nutritional security.

Threats to WFPs

  • Despite their role in food security, forests are mostly left out of policy decisions related to food security and nutrition.
  • Forest foods are in high demand, both in tribal community markets and nearby rural markets.
  • Though this may appear an opportunity for economic empowerment of tribal communities, if not managed, over-harvesting could lead to degradation of the forests and ultimately, disappearance of these very species.
  • Activities such as stone quarrying, mining and development pose grave threats to WFPs.
  • The other threat is from commercial monoculture plantations on forestland under afforestation and social forestry programmes, which are crowding out these wild species.

Way forward

  • For WFPs to be preserved for posterity, the forests must be co-managed by tribal communities.
  • For the tribal communities, the forest is not just a source of food, but is also a part of their identity.
  • Their way of life is respectful of nature and recognizes diversity in its different manifestations.
  • The tribal community’s relationship with the forest is one of belonging rather than ownership.
  • Community forest management is good for the health of the forests.
  • Implementation of India’s landmark 2006 Forest Rights Act that offers provisions to involve communities in safeguarding forest resources and developing co-management plans is needed.

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

Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica vanishes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emperor Penguin, Halley Bay

Mains level : Consequences of climate change

  • The Antarctic’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins collapsed in 2016, with more than 10,000 chicks lost, and the population has not recovered, according to a new study.
  • Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8% of the world’s population of emperor penguins.

Habitat loss leads to breeding failure

  • Emperor penguins — the world’s largest — breed and molt on sea ice, chunks of frozen seawater.
  • Under the influence of the strongest El Niño in 60 years, September 2015 was a particularly stormy month in the area of Halley Bay, with heavy winds and record-low sea ice.
  • The penguins generally stayed there from April until December when their chicks fledged or had grown their feathers, but the storm occurred before the chicks were old enough.
  • Those conditions appeared to have led to the loss of about 14,500 to 25,000 eggs or chicks that first year and the colony has not rebounded.

About Emperor Penguin

  • The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
  • Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
  • Its diet consists primarily of fish, but also includes crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid.
  • The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, emperor penguins trek 50–120 km over the ice to breeding colonies which can contain up to several thousand individuals.
  • In 2012 the emperor penguin was uplisted from a species of least concern to near threatened by the IUCN.

Halley Bay

  • Halley Research Station is an internationally important platform for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in a climate sensitive zone.
  • Built on a floating ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, Halley VI is the world’s first re-locatable research facility.
  • This award-winning and innovative research station provides scientists with state-of-the-art laboratories and living accommodation, enabling them to study pressing global problems from climate change and sea-level rise to space weather and the ozone hole – first discovered at Halley in 1985.

RBI Notifications

Supreme Court directs RBI to alter disclosure policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : RBI and autonomy issue

  • The Supreme Court gave the RBI “a last opportunity” to withdraw a November 2016 Disclosure Policy to the extent to which it stonewalls revelation of every other kind of information under the Right to Information Act, including the list of willful defaulters and annual inspection reports.

Last warning to RBI

  • The policy was found to be directly contrary to the court’s judgment of December 2015 that the Reserve Bank could not withhold information sought under the RTI Act.
  • The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.
  • The court had observed that there was “no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions”.
  • The court, in 2015, reminded the RBI that it had the statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the economy and the banking sector.

Why did RBI refuse?

  • The RBI had refused to provide information to the petitioner, claiming “fiduciary relationship” between itself and the banks in question.
  • Such information, the regulator had then said, was exempted from being revealed under Section 8(1) (d) and (e) of the RTI Act.
  • Section 8 allows the government to withhold from public some information in order to “guard national security, sovereignty, national economic interest, and relations with foreign states”.
  • The information to the petitioners was denied by the RBI despite orders from the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) to do so.

RBI Notifications

RBI divests entire stake in NHB, NABARD


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NABARD, NHB

Mains level : Disinvestment processes in India

  • The RBI has divested its remaining stake in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and National Housing Bank (NHB) in February and March this year.
  • The government now fully owns these two financial institutions.
  • The RBI once held 100 per cent shareholding in NHB, which was divested on March 19, 2019.


  • NABARD is an apex development financial institution in India, headquartered at Mumbai with regional offices all over India.
  • It is India’s specialised bank in providing credit for Agriculture and Rural Development in India.
  • The Bank has been entrusted with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
  • It was established on the recommendations of B.Sivaraman Committee on 12 July 1982 to implement the NABARD Act 1981.
  • NABARD supervises State Cooperative Banks (StCBs), District Cooperative Central Banks (DCCBs), and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and conducts statutory inspections of these banks.

About National Housing Bank

  • NHB is an All India Financial Institution (AIFl), set up in 1988, under the National Housing Bank Act, 1987.
  • The National Housing Policy, 1988 has envisaged the setting up of NHB as the Apex level institution for housing.
  • It is an apex agency established to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels.
  • It aims to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report 2019 was recently published.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index

  • Launched in 2013, the GTCI is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.
  • The report, which covers 125 economies and 114 cities, is based on research conducted by in partnership with The Adecco Group and Tata Communications.
  • It aims to advance the current debate around entrepreneurial talent, providing practical tools and approaches to leverage the full potential of individuals and teams as an engine and a basis for innovation, growth, and ultimately competitiveness.

Performance worldwide

  • In the 2019 GTCI, six Asia-Pacific countries rank in the top 30: Singapore takes the lead in the region (2nd globally), followed by New Zealand (11th), Australia (12th), Japan (22nd), Malaysia (27th) and South Korea (30th).
  • Top-ranking countries share several characteristics; including having talent growth and management as a central priority, openness to entrepreneurial talent, open socio-economic policies as well as strong and vibrant ecosystems around innovation.
  • Singapore continues to occupy the top spot in Asia Pacific. It is the highest-ranked country in three of the six pillars – Enable, Attract, and Global Knowledge Skills.
  • It is also one of the strongest performers with respect to the pillar on Vocational and Technical Skills. However, it ranks low in Retain, signifying its relative weakness in retaining talent.

India’s Performance

  • India remains the laggard in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) region.
  • It was ranked 80 even as Singapore retained its leading position in the Asia-Pacific region for the sixth consecutive year.
  • It performs better than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing talent, primarily by virtue of the possibilities for Lifelong Learning and Access to Growth Opportunities.
  • An above-average Business and Labour Landscape and Employability raise the scores of the pillars related to Enable and Vocational and Technical Skills that are otherwise hampered by the remaining sub-pillars, the report said.

Challenges to India

  • Notwithstanding the scope for improvement across the board, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to Attract and Retain talent.
  • Above all, there is a need to address its poor level of Internal Openness —in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerances towards minorities and immigrants.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Beyond the free trade idealism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WTO

Mains level : Need for policy intervention to boost growth.


The U.S. has begun trade skirmishes with India. It objects to India increasing import duties on electronic goods and wants India to reduce duties on U.S.-made motorcycles. Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation seems to be in the intensive care unit. It is time to apply fundamental principles to reshape a trade regime that is fair to all.

What is Free Trade?

  • The macro-economic case for free trade is that if each person would do only what he or she does better than everyone else and all would trade with each other, everyone’s welfare will increase.
  • Also, the size of the global economic pie would be larger because there will be no inefficiencies.

Problems emerging

  • The problem is that, at present, many people in the world are doing what others, in other countries, can do better than them.
  • To get to the economists’ ideal state, many people will have to stop doing what they are doing and learn to do something else.

Theory of efficient Production

  • Dani Rodrik has estimated that for every unit of overall increase in global income, six or seven units of incomes will have to be shuffled around within. Moreover, according to this theory, people should not start producing what others are already producing, because they will produce less efficiently until they learn to do it well.
  • According to this theory of free trade, Indians should not have bothered to learn how to produce trucks, buses and two-wheelers when the country became independent.
  • They should have continued to import them from American, European and Japanese companies.
  • Pillars of free trade – Free trade purists say that easy import of products from other countries increases consumer welfare.

Resistance to Free Trade

  • Milton Friedman had observed that, in international trade, exports help companies and imports help citizens.
  • Therefore, resistance to free trade does not come from consumers.
  • It generally comes from companies which cannot compete: companies in less developed countries which are not able to compete until their country’s infrastructure is improved and they have acquired sufficient capabilities, or even from companies in developed countries when producers in developing countries overtake them.

Need for good Jobs

  • However, to benefit from easy imports, citizens need incomes to buy the products and services available.
  • Therefore, they need jobs that will provide them adequate incomes. Any government responsible for the welfare of its citizens has to be concerned about the growth of jobs in the country.
  • Domestic producers can provide jobs.
  • Ergo, a developing country needs a good ‘industrial policy’ to accelerate the growth of domestic production, by building on its competitive advantages; and by developing those capabilities, it can compete with producers in countries that ‘developed’ earlier.

Next Step

1.Not Unsustainable Income Guarantee Schemes –

  • By 2019, it has become clear that India’s policy-makers must find a way for economic growth to produce more income-generating opportunities for Indian citizens.
  • Employment and incomes are the most pressing issues for Indian citizens according to all pre-election surveys of what citizens expect from the next government.
  • All parties are responding in panic with schemes for showering various versions of unearned ‘universal basic incomes’ on people who are not able to earn enough.
  • This approach is unlikely to be economically sustainable. Therefore, an ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the highest priority for the next government.

Way Forward

1.More income-generating opportunities

The ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ should guide the Industrial Policy to where investments are required, and also what is expected from those investments to produce more income-generating opportunities for young Indians.

2.Broaden Industry definition –

  • The scope of ‘industry’ must be broadened to include all sectors that can build on India’s competitive advantages.
  • For example, the tourism and hospitality industry, taking advantage of India’s remarkable diversity of cultures and natural beauty, has the potential to support millions of small enterprises in all parts of the country.
  • By building on India’s competitive advantage of large numbers of trainable youth, and with digital technologies to increase the reach of small enterprises, manufacturing and services can provide many domestic and export opportunities that India has so far not seized.

3.Lessons from Indian History

  • In Automobile – With the government’s insistence in the pre-liberalisation era that production and technology must be indigenised in phased manufacturing programmes, India’s automobile sector was able to provide Indian consumers with good products.
  • It now provides millions of people with employment and incomes in widespread domestic supply chains.
  • Moreover, Indian auto-component producers and commercial vehicle producers export to the world’s most competitive markets.
  • In electronics – In contrast, the Indian electronics sector has languished, while China’s has flourished.
  • India signed the Information Technology Agreement of WTO in 1996 and reduced import duties on IT-related manufactured products to zero.
  • China withheld for some time until its electronic sector was stronger. Now the U.S. and Europe are trying to prevent China’s telecom and electronic goods in their markets.


To conclude, the WTO’s governance needs to be overhauled to promote the welfare of citizens in all countries, especially poorer ones, rather than lowering barriers to exports of companies in rich countries in the guise of free trade idealism.








Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] CJI Sexual Harassment Case: How Fragile Is Judicial Independence?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Judicial Independence rhetoric should not impede Justice


Since the infamous Saturday morning emergency hearing in the Supreme Court on an “issue of great public importance”, several legal and political commentators have raised noteworthy concerns over the apparent absence of due process, and the possibility of abuse of the office of the Chief Justice of India.

Wrong Focus

  • Instead, the focus was mainly on how the incident represents an ‘attack’ on the independence of the judiciary. This view was then echoed by the Chairman of the Bar Council of India in a statement, and the Finance Minister on his website.
  • The Finance Minister, in fact, claimed that “a mass intimidation of judges is on”.
  • This approach suffers from two fundamental flaws that command a critical assessmen.

Is it threatening Judicial Independence?

1. Is there a connection?

  • For such an allegation to amount to a threat to judicial independence, there would have to be some connection between the individual and the institution – apart from the fact that the individual happens to be a member of the institution.
  •  The allegations made by the complainant are rather complex, and are seemingly reflected in a series of documents bearing the imprimatur of the Supreme Court administration.
  • Without any detailed inquiry or investigation, it is impossible to dismiss the allegations as necessarily false, and to do so constitutes a violation of due process that the complainant is entitled to.

2.Jeopardising Checks and balances

  • For individuals representing the government to assert that the allegations against the CJI are false – without demanding an impartial inquiry through proper channels – jeopardizes the system of checks and balances.

Questions that should be raised

  • How can we find out if the allegations are false?
  • What if the allegations are not false?
  • Does the victim’s right to access to justice deserve to be ignored owing to possibilities of other false allegations?
  • Can a mechanism can be put in place for an inquiry to be carried out by an independent committee efficiently and without delay?
  • What if an inquiry committee must give preliminary findings before judicial work is taken away from a judge?
  • What are the possible measures that can be instituted to deter politically motivated allegations of sexual harassment?

Perceived Fragility of ‘Judicial Independence

  • This view of the fragility of judicial independence is now rather familiar.
  • RTI case – Earlier this month, in the case concerning whether the judiciary’s decision on judicial appointments should be subject to the Right to Information Act, the government argued that making the judiciary amenable to the RTI Act would destroy “judicial independence”, without explaining how lack of transparency is a necessary facet of the independence of the judiciary.
  • Contempt of court Case –Similarly, in contempt of court proceedings, it is often asserted that criticism of judgments can compromise confidence in the judicial system, and therefore interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

Problems With Judicial Independence Recourse

  • Non- elected – It is important to remember that the judiciary consists of non-elected individuals.
  • Trust of people –Its power as an institution – in terms of issues of governance – has been amassed over time, and is predicated on the trust of the people.
  • Transparency –Judicial decisions on the importance and need for openness and transparency ought to be applied with equal – if not greater force – to the judiciary.

Way Forward

  • It is not enough to assert that judicial independence will be at risk whenever any matter related to the judiciary is sought to be debated. Instead, mechanisms must be evolved to ensure due process to both parties, where protecting judicial independence is one of the factors involved.
  • Thus, any committee that undertakes an inquiry into the allegations must not let the question of judicial independence eclipse the inquiry.



Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] India’s perilous obsession with Pakistan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Obsession with Pakistan is detrimental for India's growth in political as well as economic sphere


Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers’ relentless branding of the Congress/Opposition as ‘anti-national’ and as ‘agents of Pakistan’. Further, the Prime Minister even made an unprecedented threat of using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.The hyper-nationalistic frenzy to ‘defeat’ Pakistan comes with huge human and material costs.

Historical Hostility

  • As a country born of the two-nation theory based on religion, and then having to suffer dismemberment and the consequent damage to the very same religious identity, it is obvious why Islamic Pakistan must have a hostile Other in the form of a ‘Hindu India’.
  • But what is not obvious is why India, a (much larger) secular nation, must have a hostile antagonist in the form of Pakistan.

Self-defeating goal

  • It is widely recognised that the fulcrum of the Pakistani state and establishment is an anti-India ideology and an obsession with India.
  • But what has scarcely received notice is that India’s post-Independence nationalism has been equally driven by an obsession with Pakistan. .
  • Huge cost associated with jingoism – But, this hyper-nationalistic urge to ‘defeat’ Pakistan and to gloat over every victory, both real and claimed, is ultimately self-defeating, and comes with huge human and material costs. Much of these costs are hidden by jingoism masquerading as nationalism.

Self destructive to Pakistan

  • Words often used regarding the Pakistani state’s actions, even by critical Pakistani voices, are ‘delusional’ and ‘suicidal’, and rightly so.
  • For, no level-headed state would seek to attain military parity with a country that is six and half times larger in population, and eight and a half times bigger economically.
  •  Disproportionate spending on the military  –Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani diplomat and scholar, compared it to “Belgium rivalling France or Germany”. Pakistan’s vastly disproportionate spending on the military has been self-destructive for a poor nation.
  •  Ruinous policies – In 1990, Pakistan was ahead of India by three places in the Human Development Index. In 2017, Pakistan was behind India by 20 ranks, a sad reflection of its ruinous policies.
  • Sponsorship of Islamist terror groups – More critically, the Pakistani state’s sponsorship of Islamist terror groups has been nothing less than catastrophic.
  •  Victims of Islamist terrorism – What the world, including India, does not recognise is that Pakistan, ironically, is also one of the worst victims of Islamist terrorism.
  • In the period 2000-2019, 22,577 civilians and 7,080 security personnel were killed in terrorism-related violence in Pakistan (the number of civilian/security personnel deaths from Islamist terrorism in India, excluding Jammu and Kashmir, was 926 in during 2000-2018).

Muscular policy

1.No dialogue’ policy –

The fact that Pakistan has suffered much more than India in their mutual obsession cannot hide the equally serious losses that India has undergone and is willing to undergo in its supposedly muscular pursuit of a ‘no dialogue’ policy with Pakistan.

 2. Human and economic costs

  • Wars and military competition produce madness. Nothing exemplifies this more than India-Pakistan attempts to secure the Siachen Glacier, the inhospitable and highest battle terrain in the world.
  • India alone lost nearly 800 soldiers (until 2016) to weather-related causes only. Besides, it spends around Rs. 6 crore every day in Siachen.
  • Operation Parakram (2001-02), in which India mobilised for war with Pakistan, saw 798 soldier deaths and a cost of $3 billion. This is without fighting a war. Add to this the human and economic costs of fighting four wars.

Power Complex in Sub continent

Ten years ago, Stephen P. Cohen, the prominent American scholar of South Asia, called the India-Pakistan relationship “toxic” and notably termed both, and not just Pakistan, as suffering from a “minority” or “small power” complex in which one is feeling constantly “threatened” and “encircled”.

Why is India competing with Pakistan?

  • Here, one should ask the most pertinent question: why does India compete with Pakistan in every sphere, from military to sport, rather than with, say, China, which is comparable in size and population, and which in 1980 had the same GDP as India? (China’s GDP is almost five times that of India’s now.)
  • Of course, emulating China need not mean emulating its internal authoritarianism or its almost colonial, external economic expansionism.
  • On the contrary, it is to learn from China’s early success in universalising health care and education, providing basic income, and advancing human development, which as Amartya Sen has argued, is the basis of its economic miracle. It is precisely here that India has failed, and is continuing to fail.
  • Therefore, despite India being one of the fastest growing major economies in the world since 1991 (yet, only ranked 147 in per capita income in 2017), its social indicators in many areas, including health, education, child and women welfare, are abysmal in comparison with China’s.
  • Worryingly, in the focus on one-upmanship with Pakistan, India’s pace in social indicator improvement has been less than some poorer economies too. The phenomenal strides made by Bangladesh in the social sector are an example.


  • The more India, the largest democracy in the world, defines itself as the Other of Pakistan, a nation practically governed by the military, the more it will become its mirror. Any nation that thrives by constructing a mythical external enemy must also construct mythical internal enemies.
  • That is why the number of people labelled ‘anti-national’ is increasing in India. India has to rise to take its place in the world.
  • That place is not being a global superpower, but being the greatest and most diverse democracy in the world. That can only happen if it can get rid of its obsession with Pakistan.

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

Khasi ‘kingdoms’ to revisit 1947 agreements


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Khasi Kingdom, Himas

Mains level : Reorganisation of States in India

  • A federation of 25 Himas or Khasi kingdoms that have a cosmetic existence today has planned to revisit the 1948 agreements that made present-day Meghalaya a part of India.

Concerns of Khasis

  • The revisiting is aimed at safeguarding tribal customs and traditions from Central laws in force or could be enacted, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
  • The bill is one of the factors in move to strengthen the Federation of Khasi States that were ruled by a Syiem (king-like head of a Hima).
  • Himas are expecting to come to a conclusion on how best it can insulate their customs and traditions from overriding central rules and policies.
  • The Constitution has provided self-rule to a considerable extent through tribal councils, there has been an increasing demand for giving more teeth to the Khasi states.

History of Khasi Merger in India

  • During the British rule, the Khasi domain was divided into the Khasi states and British territories.
  • At that time, the British government had no territorial right on the Khasi states and they had to approach the chiefs of these states if they needed land for any purpose.
  • After independence, the British territories became part of the Indian dominion but the Khasi states had to sign documents beginning with the Standstill Agreement that provided a few rights to the states.
  • The 25 Khasi states had signed the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement with the Dominion of India between December 15, 1947, and March 19, 1948.
  • The conditional treaty with these states was signed by Governor General C. Rajagopalachari on August 17, 1948.


Statehood to Meghalaya

  • Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on 21 January 1972.
  • Before attaining full statehood, Meghalaya was given semi-autonomous status in 1970.
  • The Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdoms until they came under British administration in the 19th century.
  • Later, the British incorporated Meghalaya into Assam in 1835.
  • The region enjoyed semi-independent status by virtue of a treaty relationship with the British Crown.
  • At the time of Indian independence in 1947, present-day Meghalaya constituted two districts of Assam and enjoyed limited autonomy within the state of Assam.
  • A movement for a separate Hill State began in 1960.
  • The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 accorded an autonomous status to the state of Meghalaya.
  • The Act came into effect on 2 April 1970, and an autonomous state of Meghalaya was born out of Assam.
  • In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971, which conferred full statehood on the autonomous state of Meghalaya.