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June 2019

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[pib] Resilient Kerala Program


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Resilient Kerala Program

Mains level : Disaster management

  • The Union, the Govt. of Kerala and the World Bank have signed a Loan Agreement of for the First Resilient Kerala Program to enhance the State’s resilience against the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

Resilient Kerala Program

  • The Resilient Kerala Program is part of the GoI’s support to Kerala’s ‘Rebuild Kerala Development Programme’ aimed at building a green and resilient Kerala.
  • The Program, which represents the First ‘State Partnership’ of the World Bank in India, is the First of two Development Policy Operations aiming to mainstream disaster and climate resilience into critical infrastructure and services.
  • The World Bank partnership will identify key areas of policy and institutional strengthening to maximize development impact.
  • The Program will focus on strengthening the State’s institutional and financial capacity to protect the assets and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable groups through an inclusive and participatory approach.

 Aim and Objectives

The program aims to support the State with:

  • improved river basin planning and water infrastructure operations management, water supply and sanitation services
  • resilient and sustainable  agriculture, enhanced agriculture risk insurance
  • improved resilience of the core road network
  • unified and more up-to-date land records in high risk areas
  • risk-based urban planning and strengthened expenditure planning by urban local bodies
  • strengthened fiscal and public financial management capacity of the state

Why such programme?

  • The 2018 floods and landslides in Kerala led to severe impact on property, infrastructure, and lives and livelihoods of people.
  • One sixth of the State’s population – about 5.4 million people – was affected while 1.4 million were displaced from their homes, especially the poor and vulnerable segments of the population.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EQUIP Programme

Mains level : Promoting India as a global study destination

  • The HRD Ministry has finalized and released a five-year vision plan named Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP) .
  • This has been done in accordance with the decision of the PM for finalizing a five-year vision plan for each Ministry.

Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP)

  • The Expert Groups drawn from senior academicians, administrators and industrialists, have suggested more than 50 initiatives that would transform the higher education sector completely.
  • The Groups have set the following goals for higher education sector:
  1. Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India
  2. Upgrade the quality of education to global standards
  3. Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities
  4. Introduce governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses
  5. Accreditation of all institutions as an   assurance of quality
  6. Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in the Top-3 countries in the world in matters of knowledge creation
  7. Double the employability of the students passing out of higher education
  8. Harness education technology for expanding the reach and improving pedagogy
  9. Promote India as a global study destination
  10. Achieve a quantum increase in investment in higher education

Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

India develops new groundnut line with desirable oil quality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GM Groundnut

Mains level : GM Crops in India

(This news was originally published on 12th of May)

GM Groundnut

  • In collaboration with scientists from India and Africa, researchers from Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have developed improved groundnut lines for disease resistance and high oleic acid content.
  • The improvement reported development of high (up to 82%) oleic acid content lines in three popular groundnut varieties.
  • In 2018 ICRISAT developed a groundnut line that has up to 82% of oleic acid content, while linoleic and palmitic acid content decreased up to 89% and 39%, respectively.
  • A U.S. groundnut variety that has high oleic acid and very less linoleic acid was used for breeding the new line.
  • These have been extensively field tested in different parts of India and will be soon released for commercial cultivation.

Whole genome sequencing

  • Since GM technology is mired in controversy, the scientists steered clear of it.
  • ICRISAT used conventional breeding techniques and looked for genes for high oleic acid content with the help of molecular markers in the progenies to select the lines for the next generation.
  • Based on whole genome sequencing of cultivated groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), ICRISAT scientists and other institutions have found 1,944 genes related to oil content and quality.
  • These genes are responsible for fatty acid synthesis, lipid signalling and triacylglycerol (TAG) biosynthesis.

What defines a good quality groundnut?

  • Fatty acid composition defines groundnut oil quality.
  • Six saturated fatty acids including palmitic acid constitute 10%, whereas oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acid) together with linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acid) constitutes nearly 80% of unsaturated fatty acid in groundnuts.
  • It is highly desirable to increase the oleic acid content and reduce both linoleic acid and palmitic acid content.
  • Groundnuts grown in India have about 55% oleic acid, about 25% linoleic acid and around 10% palmitic acid, whereas in the U.S., several groundnut varieties have 80% oleic acid and just 2-3% linoleic acid.
  • Efforts have been taken to increase the oleic acid content and reduce both linoleic and palmitic acid content for health benefits and to increase the shelf-life.

Various nutrients in groundnut

  • Excess consumption of palmitic acid increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Linoleic acid is not stable on heating and causes deterioration of foods due to oxidation with oxygen.
  • Linoleic acid also promotes formation of trans-fat.
  • On the other hand, oleic acid reduces the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and maintains level of high density lipoproteins (HDL).
  • Oleic acid also reduces the formation of tumour, and ameliorates inflammatory diseases.

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

Pilot Scheme for distribution of Fortified Rice through PDS


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BIofortification

  • A centrally-sponsored pilot scheme on fortification of rice and its dispersal through PDS has been approved by the government.

About the Scheme

  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution has approved the “Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on fortification of rice and its distribution through Public Distribution System.”
  • Financial assistance of up to 90 per cent in case of North-Eastern, Hilly and Island States and up to 75 per cent in case of rest of the States has been extended.
  • Further, the Govt. has also advised all states and UTs especially those states and UTs that are distributing wheat flour through PDS to distribute fortified wheat flour through PDS.

How it is finalized?

  • The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Indian population is finalized by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN-ICMR) based on the recommendations of the Expert Group.
  • It is based on individual variability and nutrient bio-availability from the habitual diet.



  • Fortification is a complementary strategy to fight malnutrition.
  • Under this, there is addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamins A & D to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk and salt are done to improve their nutritional content.
  • This is done to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.
  • It differs from conventional fortification in that Biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.

How is Rice fortified?

  • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying of the surface of ordinary rice grains with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating.
  • Rice can also be extruded and shaped into partially precooked grain-like structures resembling rice grains, which can then be blended with natural polished rice.
  • Rice kernels can be fortified with several micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.

Regulating Fortification

  • FSSAI has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
  • These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
  • The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory.
  • WHO recommends fortification of rice with iron, vitamin A and folic acid as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of population wherever rice is a staple food.

About Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC)

  • The FFRC is established under India’s government department that regulates food ie FSSAI in collaboration with TATA Trusts.
  • The FFRC works dedicatedly to provide essential support to stakeholders like relevant government ministries, food businesses, development partners etc., promoting and supporting food fortification efforts across India.



Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Ahmedabad-Kobe Sister City Partnership


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sister City

Mains level : India-Japan bilateral relations

  • Authorities from the Japanese city of Kobe exchanged a Letter of Intent (LoI) with their counterparts in Ahmedabad for a sister city partnership.
  • This will pave the way for an enhanced economic relationship between the two vibrant cities as well as the two countries.

Why such LoI?

  • The LoI was exchanged in the presence of PM Modi, who visited Kobe to address a large Indian diaspora event.
  • In November 2016, Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe inked a sister-state relationship MoU for Gujarat and Hyogo prefecture.
  • Kobe is the capital city of Hyogo. That time, PM had also visited a bullet train plant in Kobe.
  • The MoU sought to promote mutual cooperation between Gujarat and Hyogo in the fields of academics, business, cultural cooperation, disaster management and environmental protection.

Sister Cities

  • Sister cities are a form of legal or social agreement between towns, cities, counties, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, states, and even countries in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.
  • They are mostly affectionately named agreements between certain towns, cities, provinces or in some cases, countries all across the globe.
  • In each case the towns have come to an agreement or partnership, some of which are legally binding, where others are purely symbolic and social.
  • It’s here that the beauty and charm of the sister city is found: the voluntary forging of ties to encourage cultural understanding, friendship and exchange, as well as more practical applications, like trade agreements and business partnerships.

The City Diplomacy

  • In recent years, the term “city diplomacy” has gained increased usage and acceptance, particularly as a strand of paradiplomacy and public diplomacy.
  • The importance of cities developing their own foreign economic policies on trade, foreign investment, tourism and attracting foreign talent” has also been highlighted by the World Economic Forum.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Things to do to avoid another water crisis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Water conservation in urban areas to deal with severe water crisis.


The severe situation in Chennai

Chennai has been reeling under its worst water crisis in decades with its four main reservoirs (Sholavaram, Chembarambakkam, Poondi and Red Hills) nearly empty.

The city has not had rain in nearly 200 days; only over the past few days has the city has seen light rainfall. Groundwater too has been over extracted.

Problematic Structure in Chennai

An audit by the non-governmental organisation Rain Centre has shown that most government buildings in Chennai do not have a functioning RWH (Rainwater harvesting)structure; these include several police stations and municipality buildings.

Now, the Greater Corporation of Chennai has ordered the inspection of RWH structures, much after the crisis.

Chennai’s Day Zero: It’s not just meteorology but mismanagement that’s made the city run dry

Lack of systematised solutions –

The issue with any crisis in India is the fire-fighting strategy that we adopt in response as opposed to systematised solutions.

These stop-gap arrangements are soon forgotten when things temporarily go back to normal instead of making an attempt to deeply ingrain these practices in the system.

Case Study of Floods in Chennai -During the floods in Chennai in December 2015, the encroachment of wetlands was widely cited as a key issue. Vanishing catchment areas had resulted in floods. Three-and-a-half years later, no formal mechanism has been put in place to check whether wetlands are being desilted and whether we can avoid a similar flood-like situation again.

Need for water governance

  • According to a recent NITI Aayog report, 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020 if usage continues at the current rate.
  • Water governance in cities across India has been ad hoc.

1. Urban water planning and management board – Learning their lessons from the Chennai crisis, other metropolitan cities should now set up urban water planning and management boards, a permanent body similar to urban development authorities, that regulate the supply, demand and maintenance of water services and structures.

2.Regulation of water Supply –

  • Regulate groundwater supply – On the supply side, this authority should monitor and regulate groundwater in Chennai.
  • Water supply by private tankers must also be regulated with pricing for their services having reached exorbitant levels.
  • Desalinisation Plants – Additional desalination plants should also be commissioned as this water can result in water prices reaching to below 6 paise a litre.
  • Deepening of Existing Lakes – Experts are of the opinion that the beds of existing lakes can be deepened for greater water storage and better water percolation.

3.Demand Side Improvements

  • Measuring and pricing of water supply – Thus, on the demand side of things, Metro Water and groundwater use should be measured and priced progressively, similar to the electricity tariff, where the quantity of use determines the price.
  • Differential Pricing – The board can practise differential pricing and cross-subsidise those households with a lower per capita income use of water.
  • Water meters – For this to be implemented effectively, water meters are a must.

4.Stakeholder coordination

  • Desilting of lakes – The urban water management board should also oversee the desilting of lakes in the city on a regular basis.
  • Maintenance of RWH – The board must also have regulatory powers to monitor the maintenance of RWH structures at homes and in offices.
  • Problems with Existing RWH – In existing RWH structures, pipes are either broken or clogged, filtration equipment is not cleaned, bore pits have too much silt and drains are poorly maintained.
  • Granting approvals –  The body also needs to work in coordination with governments on granting approvals to new mass working spaces.
  • Case Study of  Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt –  The manufacturing sector around the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt, where a number of companies and large manufacturing units have been able to maintain production due to efficient water management practices. For example, in one unit, there is a rainwater harvesting pond and all buildings inside the complex are equipped with facilities for artificial ground water recharge.


  • The scarcity of essential resources not only leads to economic losses but also social unrest.
  • We must also learn from the experiences of other cities across the world such as Cape Town, South Africa, where water saving is being driven through the concepts such as Day Zero, thus prompting better and more efficient use of water.
  • A sustainable governance solution to this problem along with public participation is essential to ensure that our future generations do not suffer as a result of our failures.

Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

[op-ed snap] Rethink poverty — and policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Poverty line

Mains level : There is a need to rethink our approach to handle poverty.


There should be seismic changes in the way Indians (including the Union government) think about absolute poverty and its alleviation, macro-growth policies and micro policies, especially those on agriculture.

First rethink: We are not a poor country any more, not with just 4.5 per cent of the population classified as poor .

Second rethink: We have always considered food consumption as the ultimate criterion of poverty. Time has come to dismantle this ecosystem — an ecosystem that is biased against the poor farmer, against climate change mitigation and also against efficient use of water and energy.

Third rethink: 4.5 per cent of the population as poor is not right, does not sound right, and isn’t right. The rethink has to be about defining poverty in relative, not absolute terms.

Fifth rethink: We should recognise that that the country has a messed up and archaic agricultural policy, one that was not even fit for the earlier poor economy times.

1.Basic income programme

  • The new approach towards poverty alleviation should involve targeted income transfers.
  • Under a targeted basic income programme, which is a top-up scheme, the government transfers the poverty gap (difference between per capita consumption of the household and the poverty line faced by the household) into the bank account of the poor.
  • The cost of such a programme is likely to be between Rs 2.5 and 3 trillion and it will ensure nobody has a consumption below the poverty line.
  • India’s current expense on poverty alleviation programmes is approximately Rs 3.4 trillion and the cost to make one person non-poor through the PDS in 2011-12 was Rs 24,000.
  • The same for MGNREGA was Rs 40,500.
  • Therefore, assuming perfect targeting, a basic income programme is likely to cost substantially less that the current policies and it will ensure that the poverty rate is reduced to zero based on the higher poverty line.

Benefits of direct benefit transfer

  • The direct benefit transfer mechanism of the government has been able to resolve targeting problems for a bulk of the 430 government schemes and subsidies.
  • The current PM-Kisan programme that provides income support to approximately 14 crore farmers is an example of how, through DBT, the government can provide direct income support as its focal policy towards poverty alleviation.
  • Such a policy is likely to help the government in rationalising and consolidating its poverty reduction programmes, thereby freeing up resources for other sectors in the economy.
  •  The government should focus on bringing more people under the tax net at the higher income brackets.
  • Our recommendation towards achieving the same would be to reduce both corporate income tax rate and the highest personal income tax rate to a flat 25 per cent.
  • Therefore, to improve revenue realisation from direct taxes, the government should focus on improving compliance by reducing the highest slabs of the tax rate. 

3. Investment Reforms

  • The Indian economy requires adequate investments in critical areas such as road, railways and water.
  • Therefore, the government needs to rationalise its expenditure and tax rates to ensure reallocation of resources.


Our pace of poverty reduction has improved over the last five years. We can augment this through a targeted basic income policy and free up resources for other sectors of the economy. Times have changed and so should our policies towards poverty alleviation.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[op-ed snap] A policy to regulate coaching centres


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Need for regulating country's proxy education system


The ever growing industry

  • In May, a deadly fire at a coaching centre in Surat snuffed out 22 young lives.
  • The rate of suicides in Kota, where many students converge to prepare for entrance exams, remains high.
  • And yet, the coaching industry is rapidly growing.
  • Data from the NSSO’s 71st round reveal that more than a quarter of Indian students (a stupendous 7.1 crore) take private coaching.
  • Around 12% of a family’s expenses go towards private coaching, across rich and poor families alike.

What purpose do coaching institutions serve in society?

  • Various coaching centre can be attributed to enhance human capital. They serve the same purpose where schools and colleges lag.
  • But if they don’t, then they are imposing a huge emotional cost to society. They crush creativity.
  • In most cases, they only help a student to swiftly secure marks in some entrance exam, which is widely understood to be a sign of merit. This is a questionable connection.
  • To signal merit, exams are only one criterion, and not necessarily the best one.
  • So, coaching institutions exist to help people achieve only one idea of merit. This is a small benefit.
  • Confining students in classrooms and making them study subjects they often hate destroys their natural talent.
  • Hence, the social cost of these institutions outweighs their benefit by far. The industry needs a re-look.

Unregulated spaces in the industry

  • Economic theories suggest that when markets fail, governments need to be brought in.
  • Market failure may occur because of the presence of externalities or asymmetry in information.
  • Governments are also important because they act to coordinate moral norms.
  • On all these counts, coaching institutions emerge as the proverbial villains.
  • Hidden behind legislations meant for tiny shops (Shops and Establishment Act) as ‘other’ business, they run an empire of evening incarcerations that arrest creative freedom.

Hampering social capital

  • The coaching giants draw an entire generation of young minds and systematically erode their imagination.
  • They ignite psychological disorders in students, undermine mainstream education, impose huge opportunity costs to students, charge an exorbitant fee which is often untaxed, and yet remain unaccountable.
  • Several court cases on breach of promise of refund are underway.
  • The social costs are exacerbated by the absolute disregard for the well being of students, who are shoved into tiny rooms with little ventilation, let alone a fire exit.
  • Society bears the burden — only for the sake of finding out who is marginally better than the other in cramming for some exam.

Yet few are selling a valueless idea

  • Barring a few exceptions, coaching institutions sell a valued but costly idea.
  • Only those enterprises which have less value themselves play with the law.
  • To blame the systemic flaws in the implementation of safety laws and to blame corruption in the government is to normalize the lack of integrity in the entrepreneur who decided to violate the law.
  • To harp on lapses by the government is to turn a blind eye towards what kind of ethics we are drawing out of our enterprises, particularly those which purport to provide ‘education’.
  • Coaching institutions, of course, are not necessarily ethical entities. Most of them do not add to the value of education.

A common plight: No more knee-jerk reactions

  • The building in Surat had an illegally constructed terrace.
  • It had a wooden staircase that got burnt, thus disabling any possibility of escape.
  • It had no fire safety equipment, nor any compliance or inspection certificate.
  • The response of the State government was to shut down all coaching institutions in Gujarat until fire inspections were completed.
  • This was a typical knee-jerk reaction.

Need for a rational strategy

  • With such patterns of violating the laws, these inspections will only serve a tick-mark purpose.
  • Although government measures are more emotional than rational, they have achieved the purpose of drawing our attention to coaching centres.
  • In the last six months, three fire incidents have involved coaching institutions in Gujarat.

Way Forward

  • While the reason for the growth of coaching institutions is the entrance exam culture of India, what is urgently required is a policy on regulating them.
  • Some States have already passed laws to regulate the coaching industry — centres have to register with the government and meet certain basic criteria.
  • Existing State laws, however, do not evince a consistent rationale that could aid in framing national regulations.
  • There is also the Private Coaching Centres Regulatory Board Bill, 2016 in discussion.
  • While the discourse being triggered is a welcome step, it is now important to ensure regulations that emerge are agile, forward-looking and empowering.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] What it would take for India to become a proper space power


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Defence Space Agency (DSA)

Mains level : India's quest for security amidst clouds of space war

Cold war is under way for hegemony in Space

  • The Govt. has recently decided to set up Defence Space Agency (DSA) with command over the space assets of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • This is the most significant development in India’s defence establishment since the operationalization of the nuclear arsenal around 15 years ago.
  • It is not Star Wars yet, but space has undoubtedly become a military theatre.
  • The US, Russia, China and, since March, India, have shown that they have the capability to physically destroy satellites in orbit.
  • Like it or not, the post-Cold War space arms race is underway.

India’s is the  bottom-up approach

  • It is important to recall that India has taken an exceptional route took to get here.
  • The US, Russia, China and Europe developed space capabilities for military purposes first, and then put those technologies to civilian use.
  • Barring Europe’s Ariane rockets, their extant satellite launch vehicles are derived from their respective intercontinental ballistic missile designs.
  • India’s space quest, on the other hand, was focused on civilian use—weather forecasting, broadcast, telecommunications and remote sensing.
  • It was only in the mid-1980s that technology from the ISRO’s Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 was employed in the Agni ballistic missile.

We are the last in race

  • When it comes to satellites, India has a handful of military satellites in operation, compared to over 40 civilian ones.
  • Our first dedicated military satellite was launched only in 2013.
  • Just like India was late to militarize space, it has been late to weaponize it.
  • That’s not a bad thing, but in the changed circumstances of the 21st century, it is time to rethink our approach.

Then what should be India’s objectives in this new game?

  • India’s unstated space doctrine is to use space to promote development and the well-being and prosperity of its people.
  • However the need of hour is to include the word “security” in that sentence.
  • In doing so, the policy goal will change from having a space presence to being a space power.

What does it mean to be a space power?

  • Colin Gray, one of the world’s most respected scholars of strategy, says that it is “the ability to use space while denying reliable use to any foe”.
  • India already has significant ability to use space. But our ability to deny its use to an adversary is, understandably, negligible.
  • March’s anti-satellite (A-SAT) test is the first visible sign that India is on the road to acquire counter-space capability.
  • The newly instituted DSA will be supported by a defence space research organization (DSRO) that should create weapons to “deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy or deceive an adversary’s space capability”.

Challenges ahead for India

At this stage of the space game, the DSA will need to consider taking up four challenges as under:

I. Strengthening anti-space weapon capability

  • First, India must protect and secure two kinds of space assets—those that belong to us and those that are crucial to our economy and national security.
  • While satellites are usually hardened to weather the harsh extremes of the space environment, in older designs, protection against space weapons might not have been considered.
  • Future designs must certainly factor in the risk of attack by hostile forces.

II. Tracking space enemies

  • Second, in order to effectively defend our space assets, India must have the most reliable and accurate capabilities to track space objects, from debris and spacecraft to celestial bodies.
  • Since accurate tracking forms the basis of almost every conceivable action that we might undertake—including the all-important ability to target at will—this crucial capability must be developed indigenously.

III. Ensuring a credible offensive capacity

  • Third, for space defence to be effective, India must acquire a minimum, credible offensive capacity across the various types of space weapons, physical, electronic and cyber.
  • The “minimum” is to ensure that we do not get overly drawn into an arms race, while ensuring that we have what it takes to deter attacks on our space assets.
  • As India has demonstrated in the nuclear sphere, such a posture is wise, possible and works.
  • Credibility demands that both partners and adversaries are persuaded that we have the capacity, so occasional demonstrations become necessary.

IV. Technological perfection

  • Finally, our broader space policy must acquire a new seriousness in improving launch capabilities and spacecraft design.
  • The ability to place large satellites in geostationary orbits should become highly reliable.
  • ISRO’s budgets must be enlarged, of course, but just as importantly, private entrants encouraged in everything from launches to specialized payloads.
  • Like the US, China has recognized that the creative energies of private entrepreneurs can bolster its space power.


  • Five centuries ago, a few small European countries acquired global power and domination by investing in well-armed blue-water navies.
  • On the subcontinent, the mighty Mughal empire—larger and perhaps militarily more powerful than most of them—settled for a coastal force performing constabulary duties.
  • The failure to appreciate how much the game had changed, and how best to equip for it, proved very expensive in the long run. Let us not forget that lesson.


Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA)

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

National Mission on Natural Language Translation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Mission on Natural Language Translation, PMSTIAC

Mains level : Need for Natural Language Translation

  • The Ministry of Electronics and IT will soon place before the Union Cabinet a proposal for Natural Language.

National Mission on Natural Language Translation

  • It aims to make science and technology accessible to all by facilitating access to teaching and researching material bilingually — in English and in one’s native Indian language.
  • It is one of the key missions identified by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
  • To overcome the language barrier, the government planned to set up an ecosystem which involved the Central and State agencies and start-ups.
  • To achieve this, the government plans to leverage a combination of machine translation and human translation.
  • The govt. is looking at speech-to-speech machine translation as well as text-to-text machine translation for this additional to human translation.


  • The IT ministry is the lead agency for implementation of the mission along with the Ministry of HRD and Department of Science and Technology.

Two pronged strategy

  • Translation activities can also help generate employment for educated unemployed.
  • The mission would help not just students but also teachers, authors, publishers, translation software developers and general readers.


  • The PM-STIAC is an overarching body that identifies challenges in certain areas of science and technology.
  • It then creates a road map to deal with these challenges and presents the recommendations to the Prime Minister.
  • Besides natural language translation, other missions identified by the body includes Quantum Frontier, AI, National Bio-diversity mission, electric vehicles, BioScience for Human Health and deep ocean exploration.

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

‘One Nation One Ration Card’ Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : One Nation One Ration Card Scheme

Mains level : Read the attached story

One Nation One Ration Card” scheme

  • The union govt. is working on a plan to launch a “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme for beneficiaries to access to any PDS shop across the country.
  • The scheme is aimed at providing freedom to beneficiaries, as they will not be tied to one PDS shop.
  • It aims to reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail corruption.
  • The biggest beneficiaries will be migrant workers who move to other states to seek better job opportunities.

Plan of action

  • PoS machines are available at all PDS shops in various states, like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and a few other others, but 100 per cent availability is required to provide the benefit across the country.
  • The availability of PoS (Point of Sale) machines needs to be ensured at all PDS shops to implement the scheme.


  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution will implement the scheme.
  • It will be subsumed under the Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS), under which beneficiaries can avail their share of food grain from any district.
  • Such a scheme is operational in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura.

Importance of the scheme

  • The work done by the PDS  fair price shops is a lifeline for 81 crore beneficiaries across the country.
  • There is 612 lakh tonnes of food grains stored in warehouses of FCI, CWC, SWCs and private godowns for distribution annually.
  • Around 78 per cent of Fair Price Shops in India have so far been automated by installing electronic PoS devices.

History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: The enduring legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Misls

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Recently a statue of Ranjit Singh, who ruled Punjab for almost four decades (1801-39), was inaugurated in Lahore. June 27 is his death anniversary. His legacy endures for Punjabis around the world.

Ranjit Singh: Life and times

  • Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.
  • At that time, Punjab was ruled by powerful chieftains who had divided the territory into Misls.
  • Ranjit Singh overthrew the warring Misls and established a unified Sikh empire after he conquered Lahore in 1799.
  • He was given the title Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab) because he stemmed the tide of Afghan invaders in Lahore, which remained his capital until his death.
  • His general Hari Singh Nalwa built the Fort of Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, the route the foreign rulers took to invade India.
  • At the time of his death, he was the only sovereign leader left in India, all others having come under the control of the East India Company in some way or the other.

Held a powerful and modernized Army

  • Ranjit Singh’s combined the strong points of the traditional Khalsa army with western advances in warfare to raise Asia’s most powerful indigenous army of that time.
  • His army was a match for the one raised by the East India Company.
  • He appointed French General Jean Franquis Allard to modernise his army.
  • He also employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops.
  • During the Battle of Chillianwala, the second of the Anglo-Sikh wars that followed Ranjit Singh’s death, the British suffered the maximum casualties of officers in their entire history in India.

His quest for empire

  • Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire spread over several states. His empire included the former Mughal provinces of Lahore and Multan besides part of Kabul and the entire Peshawar.
  • The boundaries of his state went up to Ladakh — Zorawar Singh, a general from Jammu, had conquered Ladakh in Ranjit Singh’s name — in the northeast.
  • His empire extended till Khyber pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.
  • During his regime, Punjab was a land of six rivers, the sixth being the Indus.

His legacy

  • The maharaja was known for his just and secular rule; both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his Darbar.
  • The Sikhs take pride in him for he turned Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold.
  • Right at the doorstep of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is a plaque that details how in 1830 AD, the maharaja did sewa over 10 years.
  • He is also credited with funding Hazoor Sahib gurudwara at the final resting place of Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra.

Global recognition

  • In 2016, the town of St Tropez in France unveiled the maharaja’s bronze statue as a mark of respect.
  • Today, his throne is displayed prominently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
  • Exhibitions on his rule are frequent in western countries home to the Punjabi diaspora.
  • Last year, London hosted an exhibition that focused on the history of the Sikh Empire and the international relations forged by the maharaja.

Right To Privacy

Explained: Why govt wants to bank DNA


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Debate over the proposed legislation


  • The Union Cabinet cleared the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill once again, paving the way for its reintroduction in Parliament.
  • The Bill had been passed by Lok Sabha in January this year, but could not get the approval of Rajya Sabha before general elections.
  • The fresh clearance by the Cabinet is the third attempt since 2003 by the government to enact a law to regulate the use of DNA technology in the country.
  • The text of the Bill has undergone several changes over the years to address some of the concerns on privacy and the possibility of abuse.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill

  • The Bill seeks to create a regulatory framework for obtaining, storing and testing of DNA samples of human beings, mainly for the purposes of criminal investigations, and with the objective of establishing the identity of a person.
  • DNA testing is already being used for a variety of purposes, such as criminal investigations, establishment of parentage, and search for missing people.
  • The proposed law seeks to bring in a supervisory structure to oversee these practices, and frame guidelines and rules so that the DNA technology is not misused.
  • To achieve these objectives, the bill proposes to set up two institutional structures — a DNA regulatory board, and a DNA data bank — at the national level.
  • Regional centres of the board as well as the data bank can be set up at the state level as well.

Supervisory structure

  • The DNA regulatory board, which is proposed to be the main regulatory authority, would frame the rules and guidelines for DNA collection, testing and storage.
  • The data bank would be the repository of all DNA samples collected from various people under specified rules.
  • The Bill proposes that testing of DNA samples can be carried out only at laboratories that are authorised to do so by the regulatory board.
  • The bill also specifies the circumstances under which a person can be asked to submit DNA samples, the purposes for which such requests can be made, and the exact procedure for handling, storing and accessing these samples.

DNA Regulatory Board

  • The Regulatory Board will comprise 12 members.
  • Some of them will be experts in the field of biological sciences, whereas the others will be the director-general of the NIA, the directors of the CBI, the heads of the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, and a member of the NHRC.
  • The principal responsibility of the Board will be to accredit DNA-testing labs from which data can be collected for the databank and ensure they maintain high quality standards at all times.

Collecting DNA samples

  • DNA samples can be collected from the objects found at the crime scene, or from the body of the accused or volunteer.
  • The samples, collected by an authorised technician or medical practitioner, would have to be sent to an accredited laboratory for tests and analysis.
  • The information generated from these tests would have to be mandatorily shared with the nearest DNA data bank, which in turn, would be required to share it with the national data bank.

DNA data banks

  • Under the provisions, the data banks are required to store the information under one of the five indices — a crime scene index, a suspect or undertrial index, an offenders’ index, a missing persons’ index, and an unknown deceased persons’ index.
  • Although information from DNA can yield a lot of information about the person, the data banks are supposed to store only that information that is necessary to establish the identity of the person.
  • While the information in the crime scene index can be stored permanently, entries in other indices can be removed through processes prescribed.

Removal of information

  • People whose DNA samples have been collected, either from the crime scene, or through voluntary written consent, can also request the removal of their information from the index.
  • DNA samples of people who are not suspects or undertrials cannot be matched with already stored information in the suspects/undertrial index or the offenders’ index.

Using DNA samples

  • According to the provisions of the proposed law, police can ask for DNA samples of the person accused of an offence to facilitate their investigation.
  • But unless the offence is of a very serious nature, punishable by death or by imprisonment for at least seven years, the DNA sample can be obtained only on the written consent of the accused.
  • It can be also be obtained if an authorised magistrate is satisfied that a DNA test is absolutely necessary for investigation of the crime.
  • People who are witness to a crime, or want to locate their missing relatives, or in similar other circumstances, can volunteer to give their DNA samples, again through written consent.

Criticisms  of the bill

I. Over matter of Consent

  • Written consent is required from everyone for their DNA samples to be collected, processed and included in the database except from those who have committed crimes with punishment of 7+ years or death.
  • However, a similarly specific instruction is missing for the collection of DNA samples for civil matters. Such matters include parentage disputes, emigration or immigration and transplantation of human organs.
  • The Bill also doesn’t state that the consent has to be voluntary.

II. Civil Disputes

  • Second, it’s not clear if DNA samples collected to resolve civil disputes will also be stored in the databank (regional or national), although there is no index specific for the same.
  • If they will be stored, then the problem cascades because the Bill also does not provide for information, consent and appeals.
  • If a person’s DNA data has entered the databank, there is no process specified by which they can have it removed.
  • All of these issues together could violate the right to privacy.

III. Authenticity of DNA Labs

  • There’s also the question of whether the DNA labs accredited by the Regulatory Board are allowed to store copies of the samples they analyse.
  • And if so, how the owners of those samples can ensure the data is safe or needs to be removed from their own indices.
  • It’s unclear if the Regulatory Board will oversee other tests performed at the accredited labs.
  • This could become necessary because, unlike one’s biometric data or PAN number, the human genome contains lots of information about every individual.

IV. Overreaching access to identity

  • So a test undertaken to ascertain a person’s identity by analysing her DNA will in the process also reveal a lot of other things about that person, including information about their ancestry, diseases to which they are susceptible, etc. – i.e. information that the individual has a right to keep private.
  • The Bill does not specify which parts of an individual’s DNA can be analysed to ascertain their identity.
  • The more parts are subjected to analysis, the more conclusively a person’s identity can be established.
  • But this can’t be used as a license to parse more than is necessary, because then the DNA lab is also likely to reveal more information than it has the right to seek.

Govt. stance on this

  • The government, on the other hand, has been arguing that since DNA tests are already happening, and frequently used as the most reliable tool to establish identity.
  • It would be better to have regulatory safeguards so that it is carried out only in prescribed manner and by authorised personnel and institutions.
  • The government has also claimed that very limited information is proposed to be stored in the indices — just 17 sets of numbers out of billions that DNA samples can reveal.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] New Space India Limited (NSIL)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : New Space India Limited (NSIL)

Mains level : Expanding commercial functions of ISRO

  • New Space India Limited (NSIL) has been incorporated as a wholly owned GoI Undertaking/Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE).
  • Antrix Ltd is another PSU under the Department of Space that acts as an commercial arm of the ISRO

New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • It functions under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • It aims to commercially exploit the research and development work of ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS.
  • The NSIL would enable Indian Industries to scale up high-technology manufacturing and production base for meeting the growing needs of Indian space programme/
  • It would further spur the growth of Indian Industries in the space sector.

Functions of NSIL

  • Small Satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein NSIL will obtain license from DOS/ISRO and sub-license it to industries;
  • Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector;
  • Production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry;
  • Production and marketing of Space based products and services, including launch and application;
  • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS;
  • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Space Activities Bill


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Space Activities Bill

Mains level : Promoting private space activities in India

  • India has begun prelegislative consultations on a “Space Activities Bill” that is designed to encourage domestic private rocket and satellite companies to offer services for Indian and global customers.

About the Space Activities Bill, 2017

  • The Bill will address the liability issues arising from their space activities, in a suitable/ rational manner, in line with international practices.
  • The government first introduced the Bill in 2017.

Key propositions of the Bill

  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Why reconsider the Bill?

  • The current space policy does not cover liabilities for damage to third party space assets although the country is a signatory to the UN Treaties on Outer Space activity.
  • The Bill will help formulate necessary rules under the Space Activities Act to deal with damages under the liability provisions and the mode of securing financial guarantee to compensate for damages.
  • This bill would address a long-pending concern on covering liabilities in the event of a mishap or damage to spacecraft.

For tapping global opportunities

  • India’s PSLV has emerged as the preferred rocket to hurl small satellites globally.
  • India is also working on a small satellite launch vehicle that is designed to tap the global opportunity to carry satellites of less than 50 kg into space.
  • The US, France and the EU have legislations that underwrite costs of damage if it exceeds insurance when a private satellite launch goes awry or a rocket hits another object in space.

With inputs from:

Tribes in News

[pib] Museums for Tribal Freedom Fighters


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various tribal uprisings

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Govt. has decided to up six museums dedicated to tribal freedom fighters in Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.
  • The particulars of museums sanctioned, location of museum and tribal freedom fighters / heroes associated with the museum are as under:
Sl. No. Name of State Location of Museum Tribal Freedom Fighters / Heroes  
1 Gujarat Garudeshwar, Rajpipla Prominent freedom fighters from across the country
2 Chhattisgarh Raipur Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh
3 Jharkhand Ranchi Birsa Munda
4 Andhra Pradesh Lammasingi Shri Alluri Seetha Ram Raju
5 Madhya Pradesh Chhindwara TantyaBheel, Bheema Nayak, KhajayaNayak,etc.
6 Kerala Kozhikode Thalakkal Chandu
7 Manipur Makhal Village, Senapati Rani Gaidinliu
8 Telangana Hyderabad Ramji Gond


[op-ed snap] India must recognise the right to a minimally decent life


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basic Vs Fundamental Rights

Mains level : Debate over right to a minimally decent life

  • The thought-provoking aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Muzaffarpur, Bihar has led to serious questions on the nature of governance in India.
  1. First, like the constitutional principle of a basic structure, it is time to articulate an equally robust doctrine of basic rights.
  2. Second, these basic rights must be viewed primarily as positive, rights not against interference from the state (negative rights) but to the provision of something by it.
  3. Third, just as individuals are punished for legal violations, the government of the day must also be punished for the violation of these basic rights.

But what are basic rights? How are they different from other fundamental rights?

  • Basic rights flow from basic needs such as physical security or subsistence.
  • Needs are different from wants. Basic needs are different: their non-fulfillment can cause great harm, even kill.
  • Moreover, wants are subjective; one cannot be mistaken We may not be able to tell if we need an antibiotic because mind can’t tell the difference between bacterial and viral infections.
  • This determination is done by a more objective criterion. Needs depend on the way human bodies are constituted.
  • They are a solid necessity; one cannot get on without them. Nor can they be fulfilled by substitutes. For us, nothing can take the place of water, food and air.
  • It is true that though terribly important, basic needs are not what we live for.
  • They don’t make our life worth living. But anything really worth pursuing depends on the satisfaction of basic needs.

Their fulfillment: A necessity

  • When basic needs are not fully met, we feel vulnerable and helpless. We complain and demand elementary justice from our community, especially from the state.
  • Elementary justice requires that before anything else, the state does everything at its disposal to satisfy all basic needs of its citizens, particularly of those who cannot fend for themselves.
  • We feel aggrieved when the state abdicates this responsibility.

What does the language of rights add to the idea of basic needs?

First, a right is something that is owed to us; it is not a favour

  • So, rights help the recognition of anything that satisfies basic needs as an entitlement.
  • Basic rights are claims on the state to provide us with goods and services that satisfy our basic needs.
  • Second, when something is identified as a basic right, it puts the state under a duty to enable its exercise. The state becomes its guarantor.
  • For example, the right to physical security, the first basic right, is socially guaranteed when the state provides its people a well-trained, professional police force.
  • When society and its government render on its commitment to do so, we hold them accountable.
  • It follows that basic rights are a shield for the defenseless against the most damaging threats to their life which include starvation, pestilence and disease.

The second is the right to minimum economic security and subsistence, that includes clean air, uncontaminated water, nutritious food, clothing and shelter

  • By showing the devastation caused by its absence, the Muzaffarpur tragedy amply proves that the right to primary health care is also an integral part of the right to subsistence.
  • A straightforward link exists between malnutrition and disease.
  • AES, the biochemical disease that results from eating litchi fruit pulp, occured only in malnourished children.
  • It is common knowledge that malnourishment lowers resistance to disease. A similar link exists between disease, unemployment and poverty.

What can be done to ensure minimum basic rights?

  • Credible threats to these rights can be reduced by the government by establishing institutions and practices that assist the vulnerable.
  • For example, by setting up hospitals with adequate number of doctors, nurses, beds, medical equipment, intensive care units, essential drugs and emergency treatments.
  • For this, proper budgetary allocation is required that depends in turn on getting one’s political priority and commitment right.
  • When a government fails to provide primary health care to those who can’t afford it, it violates their basic rights.

Need for a Legal Accountability

  • To these two basic rights, the author adds a third — the right to free public expression of helplessness and frustration, if deprived of other basic rights.
  • The scope of freedom of expression is large and all of it can be deemed basic.
  • But the relevant part of it is, the right to make one’s vulnerability public, be informed about the acts of commission and omission of the government regarding anything that adversely affects the satisfaction of basic needs,
  • The right to critically examine them and hold state officials publicly accountable is a basic right on a par with right to physical security and subsistence and inseparably linked to them.

The clear message

  • In short, defaulting governments must be held legally accountable.
  • The systematic violation of basic rights by authorities could be treated on a par with the breakdown of constitutional machinery.


  • These three basic rights can be summed up in a single phrase, the right to a minimally decent life. This is a threshold right.
  • A society may soar, strive for great collective achievement. There are no limits to the longing for a better life.
  • But the point of having a threshold of minimal decency is that our life must not fall below a certain level of existence.
  • Anything short of a minimally decent life is simply not acceptable. It is this precisely that horrifies us about the callousness of the Bihar government in Muzaffarpur and governments in India more generally.
  • They routinely abdicate responsibility for the suffering they directly or indirectly cause.
  • This is why we must ask why governments are not immediately and severely penalized when they undermine the exercise of these basic rights.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Not just pipes and tankers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Water crisis in India


  • Many metropolis in the country has been in news recently for its water crisis.
  • Scuffles and water realetd crimes have been reported from different parts of the country.
  • Cape Town in South Africa was the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water, as reported by the BBC.
  • The BBC listed another 11 cities most likely to run out of water. This list included Bengaluru.

Water Crisis: A problem with no solution?

I. Irrigation losses

  • Water scarcity in India has come about not so much from insufficient supply as from the way in which we manage the water we have.
  • Agriculture uses 78 per cent of India’s water, and uses it very inefficiently
  • Notwithstanding the large investments in irrigation networks, about two-thirds of water used for irrigation comes from groundwater.
  • Two factors — the huge electricity subsidies for farmers to pump groundwater and the fact that groundwater is largely unregulated — have led to a steady explosion in groundwater use through tube-wells.
  • About 80 per cent of the rural demand for drinking water is also met by groundwater.
  • Above all, increaed water-use efficiency in agriculture is critical to release water supply from agriculture for other uses.

II. Urban inefficieny in water use

  • Urban India’s inefficiency in water use arises from inadequate, old and dilapidated distribution networks, inefficient operations, inadequate metering, incomplete billing and collection, and a general state of poor governance.
  • Another source of inefficiency comes from not treating wastewater and using the recycled water for specialised uses such as horticulture, and also for flushing toilets.
  • Under-pricing of urban water also contributes to wasteful use. If something is under-priced, users will use more of it.
  • The Niti Aayog has projected that the groundwater of 21 cities will run out by 2020 (that is, next year) and the cities include Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad.

III. Poors : Yet  deprived of piped Drinking water

  • Most of us living in cities expect to have access to drinking water from taps in our homes.
  • This requires a distribution network of pipes which can bring water from the basic source of bulk supply to our homes.
  • However, access to treated tap water is available to only 62 per cent of urban households (Census 2011).
  • Those who are unconnected to the piped network and include mostly, but not only, the poor, have to rely on buying water from tankers at exorbitant rates.
  • This leads to increasing but unaccounted use of groundwater by extensive digging of borewells to meet the demand deficit.

The usual hinderance: Finance

  • There is clearly a need to expand coverage to the “unconnected” population.
  • This will call for the expansion and renovation of the infrastructure of the distribution network.
  • Financing the expansion in urban water supply will be a problem.
  • Even if the capital cost of the infrastructure is made available either through National Missions or PPP, the operation and maintenance cost will have to be recovered through user charges.
  • Pricing water is important both for demand management and for economic viability of water delivery systems.

What needs to be done?

I. Diversifying resources

  • We also need to mobilise more supply of water from basic natural sources. Only then can greater connectivity result in piped water delivery to all in urban areas.
  • The mobilisation of additional supplies poses a major challenge since the natural recharge zones are increasingly eroded because of unplanned urbanisation.
  • We also need to deal with the supply constraints arisingfrom the neglect of the rivers, lakes, ponds and other waterbodies in and around our cities that feed the reservoirs which are the bulk sources of water.
  • These water bodies need to be protected from encroachment so that our catchment area for water storage and rainwater harvesting is not reduced.

III.Ensuring  quality

  • The quality of water issue is also very significant because of its serious implications for public health. Water is even more important than food for survival.
  • Only about 30 per cent of the municipal waste water or sewage is treated and the rest is released untreated into the rivers and/or the ground.
  • Because of the density and concentration in urban areas, contamination from wastewater happens much faster.
  • Surveys of groundwater in recent years show higher and higher levels of microbiological contamination

Way Forward

  • It is clear that management of water requires a holistic approach, taking account of the multiple aspects that have been spelt out above.
  • In a way, setting up of the Ministry of Jal Shakti is a recognition of this, except that the ministry deals with rural water needs only.
  • We cannot split urban water from rural. Water will flow from rural to urban and vice-versa, and has always done so.
  • Besides, reshaping water governance will require state governments and local governments to take coordinated action in a federal system.
  • What is needed is a political compact between the Centre and states to jointly address the challenges of saving India’s water, while actively involving local governments and engaging with the communities of water users.
  • It is a tall order but there is no alternative but to begin.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Govt. to start Jal Shakti Abhiyan for 255 water-stressed districts


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Mains level : Ensuring safe drinking water for all

  • The Centre is set to initiate the Jal Shakti Abhiyan to ramp up rainwater harvesting and conservation efforts in 255 water-stressed districts of the country.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Effective monitoring

  • The Jal Shakti Abhiyan would aim to accelerate water harvesting, conservation and borewell recharge activities already being carried out under the MGNREGS and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme of the Rural Development Ministry.
  • Progress would be monitored in real time through mobile applications and an online dashboard at
  • Block and district-level water conservation plans would be drafted, and Kisan Vigyan Kendras would hold melas to promote better crop choices and more efficient water use for irrigation.
  • A major communications campaign on TV, radio, print, local and social media would be carried out, with celebrities mobilised to generate awareness for the campaign.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

India’s non-permanent membership of UNSC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : India's bid for UNSC's permanent membership

  • India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council has been endorsed unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan.

How is a non-permanent member nominated?

  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of a total of 10, for a two-year term.
  • These 10 seats are distributed among the regions thus: five for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; two for Western European and other countries.
  • Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia; there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one for an Arab country.
  • The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.
  • The 55-member Asia-Pacific Group gets to nominate one of its members for the June 2020 elections to a non-permanent seat on the UNSC.

Why it’s special?

  • The endorsement means that India has a “clean slate” candidature – that is there is no other contestant from the group – for the elections that will be held for five non-permanent members next year, for the 2021-22 terms.
  • The development is particularly significant given that Pakistan and China, both countries with which India has had diplomatic challenges at the UN, supported the move.
  • Afghanistan, a potential contender, withdrew its nomination to accommodate India’s candidacy based on the “long-standing, close and friendly relations” between the two countries.

India and UNSC

  • India has already held a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for seven terms: 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.
  • It has been keen to hold the seat in 2021-22 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022.


United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.