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September 2019

Banking Sector Reforms

[op-ed snap] Who pays?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Banking Regulation Act

Mains level : Need for stringent banking regulation


RBI imposed curbs on the activities of the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC) for a period of six months. This came when certain irregularities in the bank were discovered, including the under-reporting of non-performing assets (NPAs).


    • The crux of the problem is the bank’s exposure to a real estate firm, which itself is currently undergoing insolvency proceedings. 
    • The bank’s financials for the year ended March 2019 does not provide any indication of financial stress. 

RBI’s response

    • Initially, RBI allowed depositors to withdraw only Rs 1,000 over a six-month period. 
    • After a public outcry, it revised this limit upwards to Rs 10,000. With this relaxation, more than 60% of depositors would be able to withdraw their entire account balance.
    • The restrictions imposed by RBI under section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, are aimed at safeguarding depositors’ interest and preventing a run on the bank.
    • These measures are seen as penalising depositors. But they can end up having the opposite effect of denting trust in cooperative banks and increasing the risk of contagion.
    • RBI has appointed J B Bhoria as an administrator of the bank. 
    • A forensic audit could shed light on an asset-liability mismatch and reveal the true extent of the problem. 
    • RBI could also explore the option of merging PMC with another healthy cooperative bank to avoid any instability, as it has done so in the past.

Issues that arise

    • It raises questions not only on the governance structures at these cooperative banks but also on their supervision
    • Cooperative banks are under the joint supervision of the RBI and states. 
    • While the RBI has signed MoUs with state governments, unless state governments cooperate in effecting regulations, supervision is likely to be ineffective.
    • There were no early warning signs of trouble in this case.
    • It is likely to raise calls for reviewing this regulatory framework and giving more powers to the RBI to oversee these entities. 

Way ahead

The RBI should also examine the long-term feasibility of their business models in light of the rapid technological changes in the financial sector. The larger question over the absence of a framework for the timely resolution of financial firms remains.



The Banking Regulation Act, 1949 is legislation in India that regulates all banking firms in India.

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

[op-ed snap] The food industry’s role in sustainable development


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sustainable food production


Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is not easy. 


    • Every person on the planet has the right to a healthy diet
    • Every farmer has the right to a decent livelihood
    • The roughly ten million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive. 
    • Every business that produces, processes and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.

Challenges to food security

    • Over 820 million people are chronically hungry
    • Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins. 
    • Around 650 million adults are obese. This is caused in part by ultra-processed foods stuffed with sugar, saturated fats, and other chemical additives.

Agri Industry – Issues

    • Healthfulness of products – Too few companies report on the healthfulness of their product lines or how their products contribute to healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. 
    • Environmental contribution – Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia. 
    • Tax practices – Companies don’t report in detail on their tax practices.

Agri industry – what can be done

    • It is a powerhouse of the global economy. 
    • Solving food crises needs the industry to change its ways.
    • Their practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity
    • Human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on crop production. 
    • In 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations agreed unanimously to two vital agreements.
      • Agenda 2030 – adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap to human well-being and planetary safety. 
      • Paris climate agreement – commits the world’s governments to take decisive action to keep global warming to less than 1.5º Celsius. 
    • All companies in the food sector should adopt clear guidelines, metrics and reporting standards to align with the global goals. 
    • Each company must address four critical questions:
      • Do their products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets? The fast-food culture has to change to promote healthy diets.
      • Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.
      • Company’s upstream supplier’s sustainability – no consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
      • Good corporate behavior – aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services.

Way ahead

Around the world, young people are demanding a sustainable and safe way of living and doing business. Companies will change. The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Explained: The PM’s Economic Advisory Council — role and evolution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMEAC

Mains level : Role and functions of the EAC

  • The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM).
  • Bibek Debroy, who was appointed Chairman of the Council in 2017, continues in his post.


  • The PMEAC was set up “with a view to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in government on the different point of view on key economic issues”.
  • Its functions included analysing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the PM and advising him thereon.
  • It aimed at addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister”, either on its own or upon reference; and presenting to the PM from time to time reports on “macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy”.

Its inception

  • PM Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power in 1980, faced formidable economic challenges.
  • The global oil shock and drought had led to a decline in the national income, and soaring prices.
  • In this situation, Finance Minister R Venkataraman stressed to the PM the need to arrest the slide and set the economy on the path to stability and growth.
  • Indira decided to rope in Prof Sukhamoy Chakravarty, a man who had taught alongside Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh at the Delhi School of Economics, and who had, in the mid-1970s, headed the Policy Perspective Division in the Planning Commission.

Early years

  • In the initial years of its existence, the members of the Council included the famed economist K N Raj, besides C Rangarajan, who would later become the Governor of the RBI.
  • Vijay Kelkar was the first Secretary of the PMEAC during 1982-83.
  • Chakravarty who briefed the Prime Minister occasionally on the state of the economy, continued in the post after Rajiv Gandhi succeeded Indira in 1984.

First case of reference

  • Around 1986-87 the government had opened up the economy a little and allowed liberal foreign borrowings while spending to boost growth.
  • The Council made a presentation to the PM flagging emerging faultlines, and warning of an emerging fiscal imbalance.
  • Rajiv acknowledged the input, and announced that the government had decided to accept the report of a committee appointed in 1985 by then RBI Governor Manmohan Singh to review the working of the monetary system and Budget deficit.

The 1990s

  • Manmohan Singh himself headed the Council briefly when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, before moving on to become Advisor to the PM in the months leading to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
  • Bimal Jalan, who was finance secretary in the V P Singh government and, for a while in the Chandra Shekhar government as well, was moved to head the Council.
  • When P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, and Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister, the Council held only a few meetings.

The Vajpayee years

  • Things changed after Vajpayee became PM for the second time in 1998.
  • The economy was again in trouble after the Asian crisis, and the PMEAC was expanded with the Prime Minister himself at its head.
  • A 12-member Council for Trade and Industry was also appointed. Vajpayee’s PMEAC had heavyweights such as I G Patel, the former RBI Governor; P N Dhar, a former Secretary in Indira’s PMO; and noted economists.
  • At a meeting of the Council in July 2002, Vajpayee unveiled an economic agenda for 8% growth — featuring plans to provide 10 million job opportunities annually, re-target subsidies and spending.
  • Through this period, the Finance Ministry remained dominant in economic policymaking.

The Manmohan years

  • After he became PM in 2004, Manmohan Singh, conscious that he could no longer afford to focus on multiple economic issues, got his former RBI colleague Rangarajan to head the PMEAC.
  • The EAC by this time was more compact, with fewer than a half-dozen members. The Council was seen as the advisory group best equipped to provide independent advice to the PM.
  • During the 2004-14 decade, the Council often brought out its own review of the economy, besides reports on a range of issues.
  • Singh’s Council was the most influential in the over three-decade history of the institution.
  • It drew its strength, most importantly, from the confidence and trust that the economist PM had in the head of the Council.

Revival in 2017

  • One of the early decisions that the new government under PM Modi took was to dismantle the Planning Commission.
  • However, the PMEAC was not restructured under the new government.
  • The Council was later reconstituted during first Modi government, with Debroy, then a member of the NITI Aayog, as chairman.
  • The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.

Citizenship and Related Issues

In news: National Population Register (NPR) 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR, NRC

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Government has revived National Population Register (NPR) project at a time when National Register of Citizens has been published in Assam.

National Population Register (NPR)

  • The NPR is a list of “usual residents of the country”. The exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • The data for the NPR were first collected in 2010 along with the houselisting phase of Census 2011. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey.
  • It will be conducted in conjunction with the houselisting phase, the first phase of the Census, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the MHA for Census 2021.

How is NPR different from NRC?

  • Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.
  • Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

Controversy around it

  • It comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding 19 lakh people in Assam.
  • With the government insisting that the NRC would be implemented across the country, the NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
  • The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
  • The NPR is also amongst a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more that MHA would like to see combined into one card.

Is the NPR a new idea?

  • The idea actually dates back to the UPA regime and was put in motion in 2009.
  • In fact, at that time it had clashed with Aadhaar (UIDAI) over which project would be best suited for transferring government benefits to citizens.
  • The MHA had then pushed the idea of the NPR being a better vehicle because it connected every NPR-recorded resident to a household through the Census.
  • Back then, the Home Ministry push had even put the UIDAI project on the backburner.
  • The exercise to update the 2015 NPR with additional data has begun and will be completed in 2020.

What kind of data will NPR collect?

  • The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data.
  • There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation, that the RGI is supposed collect in the NPR.
  • For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.
  • Apart from this, in a test run going on across the country, the RGI is seeking details of mobile number, Aadhaar, PAN card, Driving Licence, Voter ID card and passport (in case the resident is Indian).
  • It is also working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.

More personal data

  • In the 2010 exercise, the RGI had collected only demographic details.
  • In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents.
  • In the 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.
  • According to MHA sources, while registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary.
  • The Ministry has also floated the option of residents updating details in the NPR online.

Why does the government want so much data?

I. Identifying own citizens

  • The first is the assertion that every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details.
  • It says it will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.

II. Streamlining data

  • The second, largely to justify the collection of data such as driving licence, voter ID and PAN numbers, is that it will only ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape.
  • Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.

III. Preventing duplication of data

  • It is common to find different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that.
  • With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work. It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, government insists.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Project NETRA


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project NETRA

Mains level : Need for ensuring Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • ISRO has initiated ‘Project NETRA’ – an early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.

Project NETRA (Network for space object Tracking and Analysis)

  • The project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which is used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
  • NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the GEO, or geostationary orbit, scene at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate.
  • The space agency says our SSA will first be for low-earth orbits or LEO which have remote-sensing spacecraft.
  • Under NETRA the ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre.
  • They can, among others, spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
  • The NETRA effort would make India a part of international efforts towards tracking, warning about and mitigating space debris.

What NETRA consists of?

  • In the plans are a high-precision, long range telescope in Leh and a radar in the North East.
  • Along with them, we will also use the Multi-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR) that we have put up at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, and the telescopes at Ponmudi and Mount Abu to get a broad SSA picture.
  • NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.
  • The new SSA centre would consolidate debris tracking activities that are now spread across ISRO centres.
  • Currently there are 15 functional Indian communication satellites in the geostationary orbit of 36,000 km; 13 remote sensing satellites in LEO of up to 2,000 km; and eight navigation satellites in medium earth orbits.

Why Space debris matters?

  • Space debris could be floating particles from dead satellites or rocket parts that stay in orbit for many years.
  • Satellite agencies worry over even a speck of paint or fragment floating towards their spacecraft: it disables on board electronics and cripples the satellite worth several hundred crore rupees.
  • Agencies constantly look for debris at the time of a launch and through the life of a satellite.

Enhancing Space situational awareness (SSA)

  • India, as a responsible space power, should have SSA as a part of a national capability, as in the U.S. This is a vital requirement for protecting our space assets and a force multiplier.
  • The SSA has a military quotient to it and adds a new ring to the country’s overall security.
  • It uses satellites, ground and air radars to secure its two countries against attacks from air, space or sea.
  • With long-range tracking radars, the SSA also provides us the capability of an early warning system against ballistic missiles coming in at a height.
  • Apart from radars and telescopes, he said India should also think of deploying satellites that track other satellites — as the U.S. and other space powers had done.
  • Combined with other elements of military intelligence SSA would help us to understand motives behind any suspicious orbit changes of other satellites and to know if they were spying on or harming our spacecraft.

Forest-PLUS 2.0 Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest PLUS 2.0

Mains level : Forest management in India

  • US Agency for International Development (USAID) and India’s MoEF&CC officially launched Forest-PLUS 2.0 initiative.

Forest-PLUS 2.0

  • It is a five-year programme initiated in December 2018 that focuses on developing tools and techniques to bolster ecosystem management and harnessing ecosystem services in forest landscape management.
  • Forest-PLUS 2.0, the second set of pilot project is meant to enhance sustainable forest landscape management after Forest-PLUS completed its five years in 2017.
  • The programme’s first set focused on capacity building to help India participate in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
  • It included four pilot projects in Sikkim, Rampur, Shivamogga and Hoshangabad.

About the programme

  • Under these, field tests, innovative tools and approaches for Indian forest management were developed.
  • Promotion of bio-briquettes in Sikkim, introduction of solar heating systems in Rampur and development of an agro-forestry model in Hoshangabad were some of the achievements of this programme.
  • Forest-PLUS 2.0 comprises pilot project in three landscapes — Gaya in Bihar, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Medak in Telangana.


  • 1,20,000 hectares of land under improved management
  • New, inclusive economic activity worth $12 million
  • Measurable benefits accrued to 800,000 households
  • Three incentive mechanisms demonstrated in managing landscapes for ecosystem services

Three focal points of action

i. Developing tools for multiple services in forests management

  • The tools consist innovative apps for automating forest planning processes, model forest management plans.
  • These tools are expected to result in enhanced water flow and quality, improved livelihoods and resilience of forest-dependent communities.

II. Developing incentive-based instruments for leveraging finance

  • For example, a payment mechanism where a municipality or industry would pay upstream forest communities to use water flowing down because of improved forest management.

III. Unlocking economic opportunities for forest-dependent people

  • This is to be done by modelling and setting up conservation enterprises and mobilizing investment from the private sector.

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

Mains level : Ensuring sustainable development worldwide

  • PM Modi has announced a $150 million line of credit to the group of Pacific island nations for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate related projects based on their requirement.

Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

  • The PSIDS comprises of the 14 Pacific Island countries viz. The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

About Small Island developing states (SIDS)

  • SIDS is a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges.
  • The challenges include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.
  • Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.


  • These countries are across the globe in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and South China Sea.


  • These are broken down into following three geographic regions, with each region having it’s own regional cooperation body.
  1. Caribbean: The Caribbean Community
  2. Pacific: The Pacific Islands Forum
  3. Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS)

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Dial 112: India’s new all-purpose emergency number


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ERSS, Justice Verma Committee

Mains level : Utility of ERSS

  • Delhi became the fifth UT after Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to implement the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) since it was inaugurated.
  • In November 2018, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to roll out the ERSS, under which there is a single emergency response number across the country — 112.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

  • In India, the decision to launch the ERSS system was taken in the wake of the 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case.
  • The MHA accepted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the backdrop of unfortunate incident of Nirbhaya in December 2012 and has approved a national project by name of ERSS.
  • ERSS was earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance, etc.

Why ‘112’?

  • A single emergency number under the ERSS makes it easier for people travelling across states/UTs, since they don’t have to remember the local emergency numbers of every place.
  • The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in India.
  • This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.

How it will work

  • Existing emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire, 108 for health services, the women’s helplines 1091 and 181, the child helpline 1098, etc., will be gradually integrated under 112.
  • A “112 India” app has been launched as well, through which users, after registering, can reach out to police, health, fire, and other services.
  • 112 is the common emergency number in several other countries as well, including most countries in Europe.


Justice Verma Panel

  • The Justice Verma Committee was set up to recommend amendments to criminal law with the aim to provide for quicker trial and stronger punishment for sexual assault against women.
  • The panel was constituted on December 23, 2012, and included, apart from former CJI J S Verma, former High Court Justice Leila Seth, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium.
  • It submitted its report on January 23, 2013.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] High Temperature Fuel Cell System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fuel Cells

Mains level : Fuel cell technology and its uses

  • The President of India unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by CSIR.

What is Fuel Cell?

  • A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions.
  • Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction.
  • Whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery, except in flow batteries.
  • Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

High Temperature Fuel Cell System

  • The Fuel Cells developed are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) Technology.
  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane, with heat and water as bi-products for further use.
  • It has greater than 70% efficiency, which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.

Utility of the cell

  • It is most suitable for distributed stationary power applications like; for small offices, commercial units, data centers etc.; where highly reliable power is essential with simultaneous requirement for air-conditioning.
  • This system will also meet the requirement of efficient, clean and reliable backup power generator for telecom towers, remote locations and strategic applications as well.
  • This development would replace Diesel Generating (DG) sets and help reduce India’s dependence on crude oil.

Why fuel cell?

  • In the field of clean energy, Fuel Cell distributed power generation systems are emerging as promising alternative to grid power.
  • The developed technology is world class and the development has placed India in the league of developed nations which are in possession of such a knowledgebase.
  • The Fuel Cells fit well in India’s mission of replacing diesel with green and alternate fuels.
  • The development of this technology is indigenous and carries immense national importance in terms of non-grid energy security.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[pib] “Voluntary Code of Ethics” by Social Media Platforms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating role of social media in elections campaigning

  • Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing State Assembly Elections.
  • IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and TikTok had presented and observed this Code during the General Elections to 17thLok Sabha 2019.

Highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics”

  • Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases  reported by the ECI.
  • Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification  mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential  violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.
  • Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in   paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[op-ed snap] Sexual and reproductive health data need to be accurate to form effective basis for policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Reproductive Health


On World Contraception Day, there is a need to talk about reproductive health practices and the rights of people in India. 

Reproductive health

  • The government has been vocal about the need for a small and healthy family to contribute to India’s socio economic growth in the long term.
  • To achieve this vision, there is a need for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), which are fundamental for family planning and the overall well-being of individuals.

Family planning

  • India’s family planning programme dates back to the 1950s and it has made significant progress. 
  • The recent emphasis on increasing spacing between children and providing access to the basket of contraceptive choices poses the promise of universal access to reproductive health services.
  • The NFHS 4 shows that the use of modern contraceptive methods (mCPR) continues to be around 48% since 2006. 
  • In the states which showed mCPR decline, sterilisation contributed to more than 70% of contraceptive use. 
  • Further, according to NFHS 4, female sterilisation in India continues to be around 37% since 2006, despite health complications and deaths, highlighting the gender inequality in contraceptive use. 
  • This could be because of lack of accessibility or awareness of other contraceptive methods and requires immediate redressal.
  • According to NHFS 4.36% females and only 0.3% males underwent sterilisation which showcases the level of the disparity. 
  • With male sterilisation on rapid decline, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the National Health Policy 2017 which aims uptake of male sterilisation to 30%.

The issue of data

  • India has a vast repository of health and demographic data. But such a repository can also be confusing. 
  • Contraceptive use data from large-scale surveys show different levels in selected geographies, making planning challenging. 
  • These inaccuracies could be due to errors in data collection. But the errors in data collection impact the quality of data, which compromises the survey findings.
  • Researchers have pointed out that data quality gets affected due to factors like interviewer bias, which leads to incorrect data entry. 
  • The level of the bias has been found to be higher in the states that recorded a decline in mCPR. It reflects that the findings were influenced due to errors in data collection. 
  • Also, there is difficulty in distinguishing between methods like sterilisation and hysterectomy for some interviewers, which leads to incorrect reporting.
  • Research shows that state-level decline in the utilisation of mCPR and decline in sterilisation acceptance could lead to a reduction in the use of mCPR.

Way ahead

  • There is a need to address data quality issues and introduce technological interventions in data collection, training, and capacity-building of survey officials. 
  • The role of the National Data Quality Forum (NDQF), a multi-institutional initiative hosted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) becomes crucial in addressing the gaps between data collection and analysis and using that data for advocacy and policy making.
    • NDQF aims at improving data quality for better and efficient research, identify discordance and errors, and establish protocols and good practices for improving data quality. 
    • It plans to create an integrated platform to share new ideas, develop advanced techniques with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology, for improving data quality in health and demographic research for effective policy planning.
  • The onus should be on making data collection inclusive of people, choice, agency, awareness, and decision-making. 
  • It is also crucial to address women’s reproductive rights.


The focus should be on improving data for identifying the issues in contraceptive use and addressing gender inequality in SRHR in India. 

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Peekaboo, guess who


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Accountability for online abuse


The Supreme Court, responding to a plea by Facebook, has expressed serious concern about the electronic Wild West that internet technology has opened up. It  directed the government to file an affidavit within three weeks outlining a strategy to get social media platforms to share information with law enforcement without compromising the privacy of citizens.

What the court said

  • It asked why citizens must suffer being trolled and maligned with the impunity conferred by anonymity, and without hope of easy legal remedy.

What are the problems in handling the issue

  • The society has become eager to both give and take offence.

  • There are countervailing claims of different rights.

  • None of the stakeholders involved have practised fully ethical practices.

  • The government itself permits the rampant misuse and abuse of the law against citizens who speak out online.

  • Even after the offensive Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was struck down as unconstitutional in 2015, the harassment of citizens involved in opinionating, advocacy or discussion has continued, without the government requiring application of mind from the police.

  • Some governments have stooped to using the instrument directly against their own people.

  • Supreme Court ruling in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India said that “It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions.” In the judges’ view, Section 66A suffered from the deficit of “vagueness”, encouraging arbitrariness.

  • The guidelines which the government is required to produce may be as arbitrary in practice, because perceptions of right and wrong are socially determined, rather than legally.

  • The social media platforms which would follow these guidelines have not consistently been ideal guardians of the balance between privacy and accountability.

  • Facebook is still firefighting the Cambridge Analytica scandal and allegations of letting its platform be used to influence the US elections and Brexit. And troll-teeming Twitter is permanently beleaguered by allegations of unresponsiveness to complaints of abuse.

Way ahead

  • Clarity concerning guidelines would remove the arbitrariness with which action has been sought and draconian curbs applied.

  • Caution is required since the imperative of public order and safety is often used to justify innovations that are revealed to be intrusive or coercive.


The court, has, over the years has expanded the contours of free speech. It may finally rely on existing laws and processes. If applied prudently and morally, they should suffice the purpose.

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] After Assam NRC, troubles may visit ‘sister’ Tripura


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Impact of NRC on Tripura


The National Register of Citizens (NRC) can negatively impact the politics and ethnic unrest alike in North-east India.

Problems with the exercise

  • Assam released a list which could make 1.9 million people stateless. A large number are Hindus. This is proving to be tricky for the government.

  • Both BJP and RSS stands on the proposal to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, would allow non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan the opportunity for naturalization by reducing residency requirements.

Tripura – a background

  • In Tripura, the matter has received focus in an unexpected manner. The largely Bengali population of Tripura, more Hindu than Muslim, are essentially not from Tripura.

  • While many are settlers for a generation or more, some are more recent arrivals.

  • Tripura was not long ago a kingdom. The Manikya kings ruled in a nearly unbroken line from the 15th century.

  • The current titular king, Pradyot, identifies himself as Tiprasa, as the province’s indigenous collective of peoples call themselves.

  • Tiprasa as an identity is more inclusive than Borok because it includes people beyond the Tripuri tribes who have immigrated over the past several centuries.

  • It’s an important nuance because this identity is distinct from Tripura’s overwhelming Bengali identity.

  • In 1949, the queen regent, Kanchan Prava Devi, Pradyot’s grandmother, signed a treaty of accession to India.

  • It stopped being Twipra, the land by the water, jettisoned the British-colonial Hill Tipperah, and emerged fully as the Sanskritized Tripura.

  • Tripura went from being majority indigenous Borok people – Tripuri, Reang, Noatia, Halam and some Meitei (Manipuri) to being majority Bengali.

  • Between 1941 and 1951 the percentage of tribal folk in Tripura dropped from a little over 53% to a little over 37%. By 1981, it had dropped below 30%. The census of 2011 showed the tribal population hovering above 30%.

The arrival of Bengalis

  • Bengalis arrived as refugees from East Pakistan as a result of communal violence years after 1946 and 1947, and wars with India, in waves of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and sometimes, hundreds of thousands.

  • In 1952, close to a quarter of a million refugees poured in.

  • Pakistan’s conflict with India over 1964–1965 drew more than a hundred thousand. Pakistan’s actions in Bangladesh in 1971 opened the floodgates. Tripura’s population of about 1.5 million at the time—already majority Bengali—swelled by a third.

  • Dainik Sangbad, a daily newspaper in Agartala, in mid-1971, estimated refugees at nearly 1.3 million. Nearly all were Bengalis.

  • Tripura took them all in, during what is called the Regency Period, when Kanchan Prava Devi ran affairs on behalf of her minor son from 1947 to Tripura’s formal accession to India in 1949.


The ethnic churn of Tripura’s past and present is evident now. The BJP’s ally in Tripura, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), has also demanded NRC. Pandora’s box is wide open.

Explained: Impeachment of a US President


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Impeachment Process

Mains level : Comparison of the process with that of Indian process

  • The speaker of US House of Representatives announced that it would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
  • Trump is accused for his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 elections.

Impeachment in US

  • Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States.
  • Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the “the sole power of impeachment” while the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”.
  • The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.

Grounds for impeachment

  • The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
  • What constitutes these “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” (misdemeanors), however, is not clearly spelt out.
  • The NY Times explained that the expression “high crimes and misdemeanors” came out of the British common law tradition.
  • Essentially, it means an abuse of power by a high-level public official. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of an ordinary criminal statute.
  • Historically, in the US, it has encompassed corruption and other abuses, including trying to obstruct judicial proceedings.

Impeachment history

  • No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment.
  • The House did impeach two Presidents — Andrew Johnson (1968) and Bill Clinton (1998) — but the Senate did not convict them.
  • In between, President Richard Nixon (1974) resigned before he could be removed.

The process

House Vote

  • It begins with an investigation by a House committee.
  • In the Nixon and Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee held that investigation and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House.
  • In Trump’s case, six committees are investigating him on impeachable offences. I
  • If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House (see flow chart).
  • When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. Next, the proceedings move to the Senate.

Senate Trial and Vote

  • The Senate holds a trial, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
  • A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors.
  • The President has defence lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury.
  • If at least two-thirds of the Senators present find the President guilty, he is removed and the Vice President takes over as President.


Impeachment of President of India

  • The president may be removed before the expiry of the term through impeachment for violating the Constitution of India by the Parliament of India.
  • The process may start in either of the two houses of the parliament.
  • The house initiates the process by levelling the charges against the president.
  • The charges are contained in a notice that has to be signed by at least one-quarter of the total members of that house.
  • The notice is sent up to the president and 14 days later, it is taken up for consideration.


  • A resolution to impeach the president has to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total number of members of the originating house.
  • It is then sent to the other house.
  • The other house investigates the charges that have been made. During this process, the president has the right to defend oneself through an authorised counsel.
  • If the second house also approves the charges made by special majority again, the president stands impeached and is deemed to have vacated their office from the date when such a resolution stands passed.
  • No president has faced impeachment proceedings so the above provisions have never been used.

Legal immunity

  • As clarified by the Supreme court in the case Rameshwar Prasad & Ors vs Union Of India & Anr on 24 January 2006; the president cannot be prosecuted and imprisoned during his term of office.
  • He/She can be prosecuted after he/she steps down from the post for the guilty committed during the term of presidency as declared earlier by the courts.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NREP

Mains level : Need for enhancing resource efficiency

  • Against the backdrop of resource depletion in India the MoEFCC has drafted a National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP).

About the Policy

  • It aims to double the recycling rate of key materials to 50% in the next five years and enable upcycling of waste.
  • The agenda is to develop a circular economy.
  • This can be achieved by two measures—
  1. by recycling the materials, and
  2. by increasing the efficiency of use of these resources.
  • The draft has proposed significant policy instruments like addressing regulatory gaps in implementation of waste laws, landfill taxes, high tipping fees especially for bulk generators of waste, etc.

National Resource Efficiency Authority

  • The draft policy envisions setting up a National Resource Efficiency Authority which will help develop resource efficiency strategies for different sectors and adopt them into a three-year action plan.
  • To begin with, seven key sectors have been identified—automobile, plastic packaging, building and construction sector, electrical and electronic equipment sector, solar photo-voltaic sector, and steel and aluminium sector.

Why need such Policy?

  • Linear production and consumption is leading to a lot of wastage in the entire value chain.
  • Opportunities exist at each and every stage of the product cycle which can be utilized, especially at a time, when the economy is going through a rough patch.

For various sectors

The Automobile Sector

  • The NGT had imposed ban on diesel vehicles more than ten years old in the National Capital Region in view of the rising pollution levels.
  • Following which, more vehicles will end up as end-of-life vehicles.
  • Under the policy, the government plans to set up centres to collect such vehicles and carry out the deregistration process, and shredding centres which would segregate materials for recycling.
  • As many as 20 official dismantlers would be established across major urban centres by 2020.
  • The plan is to ensure 75% recycling rate for vehicles made before 1990, 85% recycling rate for vehicles made between 1990 and 2000, and 90% recycling rate for vehicles made after 2000.

Plastic wastes

  • Another concern is plastic waste, contributing 8% of the total solid waste.
  • The draft policy aims to achieve a 100% recycling and reuse rate polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic by 2025.

Construction materials

  • The draft policy also aims to gradually reducing dependence on virgin materials and enhance re-use of construction and demolition waste.
  • There will be emphasis on developing codes and standards for quality of secondary raw materials to ensure confidence in the product, so that by 2025, at least 30% of total public procurement of construction materials can be from recycled materials.

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

IPCC report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IPCC

Mains level : Key highlights of the report

  • With representatives from nearly 200 countries at the UN Climate Summit underway in the United States, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made public a special report.
  • It underlined the dire changes taking place in oceans, glaciers and ice-deposits on land and sea.

About the report

  • The ‘Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ was prepared following an IPCC Panel decision in 2016 to prepare three Special Reports.
  • It follows the Special Reports on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), and on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL).

 Unprecedented conditions ahead

  • Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions with increased temperatures, further ocean acidification, marine heatwaves and more frequent extreme El Niño and La Niña events,” according to the report.
  • It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (high confidence).
  • Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled.
  • Marine heatwaves have very likely doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity, the report notes.
  • The Southern Ocean accounted for 35%–43% of the total heat gain in the upper 2,000 m global ocean between 1970 and 2017, and its share increased to 45%–62% between 2005 and 2017.

Sea level rise

  • Globally sea levels are estimated to rise 1.1 metre by 2100, if countries are not able to restrict emissions “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • This is likely to have a direct impact on the lives of 680 million people living in low-lying coastal zones.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  • The IPCC is an intergovernmental body of the UN dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.
  • The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and was later endorsed by the UNGA.
  • Membership is open to all members of the WMO and UN.
  • The IPCC produces reports that contribute to the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main international treaty on climate change.
  • In addition to climate assessment reports, the IPCC publishes Special Reports on specific topics.

Soil Health Management – NMSA, Soil Health Card, etc.

Radioactive Cesium Technology for measuring Soil Erosion


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the technology

Mains level : Preventing Soil Erosion

  • Indian scientists have now developed a method to measure the rate of soil erosion and associated decrease in organic content in soil by assessing levels of radioactive cesium in soil.

Radioactive Cesium Technology

  • Researchers at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun have developed a way to monitor soil erosion and decrease in carbon content in soil by relating it with levels of radioactive cesium in soil.
  • Carbon concentration is soil correlates with levels of isotope of cesium.
  • Different sites were found to have varying levels of cesium pointing at different degrees of soil degradation in different sites.
  • By applying various formulas, the cesium loss was then used to calculate erosion and associated carbon loss in soil.
  • For measuring cesium levels in soil, gamma spectroscopy technique was used.

Benefits of this technique

  • Radioactive cesium technology is a more rapid and less expensive method for soil erosion studies in the severely intensive croplands.
  • It gives more accurate results for all types of erosion studies including historic, comparative and long-term soil and soil organic carbon erosion.
  • This method can help in monitoring the effects of soil erosion and effectiveness of soil conservation strategies.

Why monitor Soil Erosion?

  • Soil supports plants, insects and microbial life and is formed by natural forces over a long period of time.
  • Carbon reaches soil through the microbial action on withering plant parts and remains in soil, changing its physio-chemical properties and also enhancing its fertility.
  • This way soil also sequesters carbon helping in regulating carbon levels in the atmosphere.
  • Soil erosion, which involves disaggregation and displacement of soil, leads to decrease in its organic content and eventually its fertility.
  • Natural and human activities are contributing to soil erosion and posing problems for both food production and climate change.
  • Therefore, monitoring of soil erosion induced-carbon loss from soil is important.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Quantum Supremacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Supremacy

Mains level : Quantum Computing

  • A draft research paper claimed Google researchers have achieved a long-ought-after goal in physics called “quantum supremacy”.

Quantum supremacy

  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.
  • This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
  • The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a speech.
  • According to reports the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.
  • The draft paper is believed to be an early version of a paper that has been submitted to a scientific journal.

What is quantum computing?

  • Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.
  • Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

How is Quantum computer different from a traditional computer?

  • What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s state before it is measured – instead of just 1s or 0s – which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers.
  • Classical computers carry out logical operations using the definite position of a physical state.
  • These are usually binary, meaning its operations are based on one of two positions. A single state – such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 – is called a bit.
  • In quantum computing, operations instead use the quantum state of an object to produce what’s known as a qubit.
  • These states are the undefined properties of an object before they’ve been detected, such as the spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.


Quantum Mechanics

  • Quantum mechanics (QM) is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.
  • It is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behavior of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe.

[pib] Sardar Patel National Unity Award


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardar Patel National Unity Award

Mains level : Significance of the award

  • Government of India has instituted the highest civilian award in the field of contribution to the unity and integrity of India, in the name of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Sardar Patel National Unity Award

  • The Award seeks to recognize notable and inspiring contributions to promote the cause of national unity and integrity and to reinforce the value of a strong and united India.
  • The award will be announced on the occasion of the National Unity Day, i.e. the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel on 31st October.
  • The Award shall be conferred by the President by a Sanadunder his hand and seal and presented by him in a presentation ceremony along with the Padma award presentation ceremony held in Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Components of Award

  • The Award would consist of a medal and a citation.
  • No monetary grant or cash award would be attached to this Award.
  • Not more than three Awards would be given in a year.
  • It would not be conferred posthumously except in very rare and highly deserving cases.

Award Committee

  • An Award Committee would be constituted by the PM, which would include the Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary to the PM, Secretary to the President, Home Secretary as Members and three-four eminent persons selected by the PM.


  • The Nominations would be invited every year.
  • The applications would need to be filed online on the website specifically designed by MHA.
  • All citizens, without distinction of religion, race caste, gender, place of birth, age or occupation, and any institution/organization would be eligible for the Award.
  • Any Indian national or institution or organization based in India would be able to nominate an individual for consideration for this Award. Individuals may also nominate themselves.
  • State Governments, UT Administrations and Ministries of Government of India may also send nominations.

Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] PM receives ‘Global Goal Keeper Award’ for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SBM , Goalkeeper Award

Mains level : Success of SBM

  • PM Modi received the ‘Global Goalkeeper’ Award by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

About the award

  • ‘Goalkeepers’ is an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Its aim is to bring together leaders from around the world to accelerate progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • The organization also provides reports and data flow charts over SDGs progress.


Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

  • SBM is a nation-wide campaign in India for the period 2014 to 2019 that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, towns, urban and rural areas.
  • The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use.
  • Run by the GoI, the mission aims to achieve an “open-defecation free” (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi by constructing 90 million toilets in rural India.
  • The mission will also contribute to India reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), established by the UN in 2015.
  • It is India’s largest cleanliness drive to date with three million government employees and students from all parts of India participating in 4,043 cities, towns, and rural areas.
  • The mission has two thrusts: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (“gramin” or ‘rural’), which operates under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (‘urban’), which operates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.