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January 2020

Swachh Bharat Mission

[Op-ed snap]The ABCDEF of implementation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Government policies and intervention for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Over the years many well-designed schemes failed to make a significant dent on the lack of access to basic services that a large proportion of our population faced. However, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has thrown up six guiding principles, which can be applied to any large transformation scheme.

What made the difference?

  • Final delivery of service was considered as the only metric of success.
  • There has been a relentless emphasis on taking all schemes to fruition on the ground.
  • The success has thrown up six important guiding principles that can be applied to any large transformation scheme — the ABCEDF of implementation.


  • Different people at different levels may have competing priorities. So, goal congruence has to be achieved across the administrative ecosystem i.e. aligning the goal.
  • The message must percolate down to all the levels.
  • After the announcement of SBM the Department of Drinking water and Sanitation had to ensure that the message reaches the Chief Ministers, 700 district collectors, and 2,50,000 sarpanches.
  • The three layers of the PM-CM-DM model working in cohesion is the first and most important step towards policy translating into real delivery.
  • Team SBM-Grameen ensured sanitation remained on everyone’s agenda.


  • Believing in the set goal is crucial for achieving success.
  • When faced with seemingly insurmountable goals, teams that don’t genuinely believe that the goal can be achieved find themselves not motivated enough.
  • This lack of motivation results in them not trying enough and not achieving results- a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • So, the next important step is to build a team of people who believes that the goal is achievable.
  • The SBM brought in a unique blend of young professionals and experienced but driven bureaucrats, at the center and in the states, and each person quickly became a believer.


  • At its core, SBM is a behavioral change program.
  • Communication at all levels, above and below the line, mass and inter-personal, is fundamental to the SBM.
  • Trained grassroots volunteers called Swachagrahis were created, who went from door to door to communicate the message of swachhata.
  •  SBM attempted to make sanitation glamorous.
  • Glamour was sought to achieve by engaging extensively with media, leveraging popular culture, and associating Bollywood stars, sportspersons, and other influencers.
  • A recent study estimated that each rural Indian was reached by SBM messaging about 3,000 times over the past five years.


  • Democratize means developing a feeling of belonging or being part of something.
  • SBM has become a sort of Jan Andolan.
  • It nudged people to realise that sanitation is not an individual good, but a community good, as its full benefits accrue only when it is universal.
  •  Over the years, everyone became a stakeholder and sanitation became everyone’s business.
  • Even corporates, NGOs, civil society organizations and other government ministries and departments played a role in mainstreaming sanitation.


  • The SBM was operating at a massive scale in a largely decentralised manner
  • As progress started surpassing expectations many people questioned the veracity of official administrative progress figures.
  • So, it became important to encourage third-party monitoring.
  • The monitoring evaluates outputs, outcomes, and impacts to reinforce the credibility and keep the implementers motivated.
  • At the same time, pockets of excellence emerged which deserved to be studied and shared with others to replicate.
  • The various organization conducted an assessment with regard to various factors.
  • World Bank, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and WHO conducted various assessments of sanitation coverage and usage, successes and areas of improvement, as well as the health, economic and social impacts of the SBM.


  • There is a strong focus on not declaring SBM a “mission accomplished”.
  • The SBM is continuing to work towards sustaining the ODF behaviour and ensuring that no one is left behind.
  • Recently released a forward-looking 10-year sanitation strategy, articulating the goal of moving from ODF to ODF Plus.
  • This post-delivery follow-through is critical to ensure that the change becomes the norm and that things don’t reset to what they used to be in the past.


The lessons learned from SBM and these guiding principles could be applied in the implementation of other such policies. And aligning with this goal, the Jal Jeevan Mission is being designed to deliver, based on the ABCDEF of implementation.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[Op-ed snap]The new worry of depleting diplomatic capital


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : India and its neighborhood-relations.


India’s recent actions at home like the decision to amend Article 370, or the CAA 2019, may take a toll on its international relations.

Effects on the relation with the U.S. and Europe:

  • In the U.S. bipartisan support for India had been the norm for at least two decades.
  • The dwindling of Democrat support was evident early on during the “Howdy Modi” event in September 2019.
  • In that event, only three out of the two dozen lawmakers at the event were from the Democratic Party.
  • In the weeks that followed the event, the State Department and several bipartisan committees have issued statements of concern over continued detentions in Kashmir and the CAA.
  • They also held hearings in the U.S. Congress, and even referred to Kashmir in the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.
  • The same issue found a voice in the U.K. parliament.
  • In the European Parliament, there was also discussion on Kashmir.
  • Kashmir became a campaign talking point between Labour and Conservative candidates in the U.K. elections.

Deterioration in relations with Bangladesh and the neighbourhood

  • In the neighbourhood, Pakistan is predictably angry.
  • While Afghanistan is more muted.
  • The real damage has been done to ties with Bangladesh.
  • In the last decade, Dhaka and New Delhi had worked hard on building connectivity, opening energy routes, trade and developing travel links.
  • Bangladesh is upset for being clubbed together with Afghanistan and Pakistan on the issue of treatment of minorities.
  • At the same time, Bangladesh’s repeated requests for help on the Rohingya refugee issue were unheeded.
  • The OIC plans for a special meet on Kashmir and the CAA in April 2020.
  • If Bangladesh which defends India at the OIC feels that India’s actions are discriminatory, Arab countries could also become more vocal.

Possible fallouts

  • The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has already recommended sanctions be considered against Home Minister.
  • In the U.S. Congress lawmakers can effectively block defence sales to India, or pursue sanctions on the S-400 missile system purchase from Russia.
  • On the international stage, the United Nations and its affiliated bodies could provide a platform for India to be targeted.
  • At FATF, India hopes to blacklist Pakistan for terror financing.
  • Break in ties with Turkey and Malaysia for their comment at UN on Kashmir could also lead them to veto India’s position at the FATF.
  • Unrest in the country could lead to a lower number of foreign visitors and visit cancellation/postponement by leaders.
  • All this also takes a toll on its diplomatic resources that have been diverted for much of the year in firefighting negative international opinion.


  • The government must consider the impact of its domestic actions on India’s diplomatic capital.
  • This capital is a complex combination of the goodwill the country has banked on over decades as a democratic, secular, stable power, bilateral transactions it can conduct in the present, and the potential it holds for future ties, particularly in terms of its economic and geopolitical strengths.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[op-ed snap] Art of science diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDRI-Coalition For Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Mains level : Bilateral, regional and global groupings involving India and/or affecting India's interests.


Some of the most pressing issues and developmental challenges facing nations in contemporary times have a scientific and technological dimension. Science and Technology (S&T)-led innovation offers an opportunity to address these multifaceted challenges, which are now global in nature.

Role of S&T in national and international obligations:

  • S&T today has a national obligation.
  • For a diverse country such as India, S&T is expected to empower the common citizen, making his/her life easier and also being inclusive, which is a national obligation.
  • It has to also meet the international obligation of a responsible country.
  • Importance of S&T innovation in achieving the 2030 Agenda for UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- points towards new opportunities for cross border collaboration.
  • Science diplomacy, thus, is a crucial policy dimension.
  • India has launched several global initiatives.

Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA):

  • It was launched by India a few years ago.
  • GITA has provided an enabling platform for frontline techno-economic alliances.
  • It is an industry-led collaboration, with the government as an equal partner.
  • It is aimed at supporting the last phase of technology-based high-end, affordable product development — which can connect to both global and domestic markets.
  • Under GITA, enterprises from India are tying up with their counterparts from partner countries.
  • Partnering countries include Canada, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and the UK.

 International Solar Alliance (ISA):

  • It has more than 79 sunshine countries as signatories and nearly 121 prospective countries as partners.
  • The vision and mission of the ISA are to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource-rich countries.
  • ISA can make a contribution to increasing the use of solar energy in meeting the energy needs of member countries in a safe, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):

  • It was recently announced at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
  • CDRI is an international partnership piloted by India in consultation with 35 countries.
  • CDRI will support developed and developing nations in their efforts to build climate and disaster-resilient infrastructure.
  • It will provide member countries with technical support and capacity development, research and knowledge management, and advocacy and partnerships.
  • It is aimed at risk identification and assessment, urban risk and planning, and disaster risk management.
  • In the next two-three years, the coalition aims to have three types of impact.
  • First-impact on country’s policy framework, second-on infrastructure investments, third-reduction in economic losses from climate-related events and natural disasters.
  • Through this coalition, we can mitigate the fallouts of earthquakes, tsunami, floods.


  • No nation alone has the capacity, infrastructure, and human resources to address the massive challenges that the earth and mankind face, threatening our very existence. It is inevitable, therefore, that science, technology, and innovation should increasingly become an intrinsic diplomatic tool for India.

J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: The two holidays scrapped in Jammu and Kashmir


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Abrogation of Art. 370 and its aftermath

The Govt. in J&K has cancelled two existing public holidays and introduced a new one. This is seen by some as a move against their own assertion of their religious identity.

The three holidays

  • The government order has cancelled public holidays on December 5 and July 13.
  • December 5 is commemorated as the birth anniversary of Sheikh Mohd Abdullah, National Conference founder, former J&K Prime Minister, and former Chief Minister.
  • July 13 is observed as Martyrs’ Day in Jammu and Kashmir. On that date in 1931, 22 Kashmiris were killed outside the Srinagar Central Jail, where they had assembled to protest against autocratic Dogra rulers.
  • The new holiday is on October 26, the date in 1947 when the former state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Dominion of India.
  • A day later, Indian troops reached Srinagar to drive out tribal raiders. October 27 is observed as a Black Day in Kashmir, marked with a shutdown.

History & significance

  • In 1846, under the Treaty of Amritsar, the British sold J&K state to the Dogra king Maharaja Gulab Singh.
  • The Dogras hailed from Jammu and their rule lasted for over a century.
  • In 1931, Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir rose against the autocracy of Dogra rule.
  • The uprising, which led to the killing of 22 Muslims, is seen as the first assertion of Muslim identity in Jammu and Kashmir.

Implications of the move

  • The move is seen as a departure from the politics of Jammu and Kashmir since 1939.
  • Many people see this as an effort to erase the role of Sheikh Abdullah, and J&K’s Muslim assertion.
  • They see it also as a refusal to recognise Kashmir’s popular Muslim leaders who sided with India in 1947, and leaders who continue to identify with India.
  • It also raises a question mark over the revival of a political process in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The move comes when normalcy is yet to return even five months after the abrogation.

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Infrastructure Pipeline

Mains level : $5 trillion economy: Prospects and Challenges

Union Finance Minister has unveiled Rs 102 lakh crore of infrastructure projects, under National Infrastructure Pipeline. It will be implemented in the next five years as part of the government’s spending push in the infrastructure sector.

What is the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)?

  • NIP includes economic and social infrastructure projects.
  • During the fiscals 2020 to 2025, sectors such as Energy (24%), Roads (19%), Urban (16%), and Railways (13%) amount to around 70% of the projected capital expenditure in infrastructure in India.
  • It has outlined plans to invest more than ₹102 lakh crore on infrastructure projects by 2024-25, with the Centre, States and the private sector to share the capital expenditure in a 39:39:22 formula.

Key benefits of NIP

  • Economic: Well-planned NIP will enable more infra projects, grow businesses, create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, making growth more inclusive.
  • Government: Well-developed infrastructure enhances the level of economic activity, creates additional fiscal space by improving the revenue base of the government, and ensures the quality of expenditure focused in productive areas.
  • Developers: Provides a better view of project supply, provides time to be better prepared for project bidding, reduces aggressive bids/ failure in project delivery, ensures enhanced access to sources of finance as a result of increased investor confidence.
  • Banks/financial institutions (F1s)/investors: Builds investor confidence as identified projects are likely to be better prepared, exposures less likely to suffer stress given active project monitoring, thereby less likelihood of NPAs.

Is NIP a road to $5 trillion economy?

  • Finance minister said that the Rs 102 lakh crore National Infrastructure Projects will help make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.
  • These projects are on top of Rs 51 lakh crore spent by the Centre and the states during the last six years.
  • The new pipeline consists of 39 per cent projects each by the Centre and states and the balance by 22 per cent by private sector.

Electoral Reforms In India

[pib] Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Registration of political parties, PPRTMS

Mains level : Not Much

In order to enable applicants to track the status of the application, the Election Commission of India has launched a “Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS)”.


  • The salient feature in the PPRTMS is that the applicant, who is applying for party registration from 1st January, 2020 will be able to track the progress of his/her application and will get status update through SMS and e-mail.
  • The status can be tracked through the Commission’s portal at link


Registration of political parties

  • Registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • An association seeking registration under the said Section has to submit an application to the ECI within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation.
  • These guidelines are in exercise by ECI of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Millimeter Spectrum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Millimeter Spectrum

Mains level : Rolling out of 5G services in India

The DoT plans to auction the 24.75 – 27.25 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum in the 5G band in March-April 2020.

Millimeter Spectrum

  • The new spectrum under the 5G band called the ‘millimeter-wave bands’ is separate from the 8,300 megahertz (MHz).
  • The millimeter-wave band or extremely high-frequency frequency spectrum is mainly designed for usage in airport security scanners, closed-circuit television, scientific research, machine-to-machine communication, and military fire control.

What’s so special with this MM spectrum?

  • As the wavelength becomes smaller, the cell size becomes less, which is the footprint of the relay station. This will be used more by the industry.
  • If we you already have fiber connection and want to reach houses, this will be through millimeter bands.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Senna spectabilis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Senna spectabilis

Mains level : Impacts of the invasive alien species

The Kerala Forest Department is planning to adopt steps to arrest the rampant growth of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis, in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR).

Senna spectabilis

  • The Senna spectabilis species was planted as avenue trees in Wayanad. The vayal ecosystem (marshy land) of the forest area now has this plant in large numbers.
  • The spread is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the reserve, owing to its quick growth and coppicing character.
  • The tree species was found in nearly 10 sq km area of the 344.44 sq km sanctuary around five years ago.
  • The plant has started to invade the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka and the Mudumalai tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Now, it had invaded to more than 50 sq km of the sanctuary Wayanad WLS.
  • A recent study of the Ferns Nature Conservation Society recorded the presence of the plant in 78.91 sq km area of the sanctuary.


  • An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes thousands of seeds after gregarious flowering.
  • The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous tree and grass species and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores.
  • Moreover, wildlife will not feed on the leaf of the treeas it is not palatable for them.
  • The allelochemicals produced by this plant adversely affect the germination and growth of the native species.