Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
January 2020

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[op-ed of the day] Data and its discontents


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Paper 3-Cyber security


The Personal Data Protection Bill which was introduced in Lok Sabha contains a certain provision that might have implications for India’s digital economy. These provisions must be carefully considered as Parliament reviews the proposed legislation.

What are the stated objectives of the bill?

  • The first purpose deals with privacy concerns.
  • Its purpose is to safeguard the constitutional guarantee of privacy for Indian citizens
  • The second purpose is to provide a just and equitable vision for the future of India’s digital economy

What are the incongruent provisions?

  • One of the provision enables the central government to direct the regulated entity under the act to provide anonymised personal data.
  • The government wants to use this anonymised personal data to enable the targeted delivery of services or evidence-based policymaking
  • The above provisions could have certain implications that need to be carefully considered.

Anonymised data and issues with it

  • Under the bill, anonymised data refers to data from which all the markers of identity have been irreversibly removed.
  • Recent research shows that the present methods of anonymisation are imperfect.
  • With the use of modern machine learning techniques, the data released as “anonymous” can be re-identified.
  • So, the approach to regulation of anonymised data must be contextual and sectoral- with a focus on finance and healthcare.

Use of big data and AI in governance

  • The government also plans to use big data and artificial intelligence within governance and planning systems.
  • The use of these techniques has the potential to increase government capacity and transparency.
  • It can also help in making an informed decision about economic and social planning.
  • However, the provision ignores the multiplicity of existing and inchoate rights like IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights), copyrights and trade secret protections.

Consequences of the conflicting provision

  • While the government wants the data to be open for acquisition similar to the power of “eminent domain” over land, but it comes in conflict with existing laws.
  • It comes in conflict with the copyright acts, intellectual property rights, and trade secret laws.
  • Databases are commercially significant for commercial companies.
  • Overlap of these existing rights within the government system can jeopardise accountability and transparency.

 Problems with Big data and AI in governance

  • Unregulated use of the database in governance could have consequences for the people and communities who are being made visible or being invisible by this data.
  • A shift from a qualitative method like census to the quantitative method like big data which is collected in a different context and used for a different purpose may not be smooth.
  • Such data will be incomplete for governance.
  • The data could also be replete with biases of the private entity collecting the data.
  • So, the use of this unregulated data for policymaking or targeting beneficiaries could be disastrous.

Way forward

The regulation of non-personal data must take into account both the potential harms to individual privacy as well as the wider social and political consequences of the use of data for governance.



Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] When defection is a mere detour for an MLA


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provisions of anti-defection law.

Mains level : GS Paper 2-Parliament and the state legislature-Structure functioning, conduct of business, power and privileges, and the issues arising out of it


In the recently concluded by-election in Karnataka, most of the disqualified MLA’s were re-elected. This set of the event lay down a well-structured framework to sidestep the law, it even set a dangerous precedent for neutralising the consequences of the Anti-Defection Law altogether.

Historical background

  • Defection is not new to the Indian political landscape.
  • An independent MLA from Haryana had switched parties three times in two weeks in 1967.
  • The recurrence of this phenomenon led to the 1985 Anti-Defection Law.

Provisions of the law

  • The law defined three grounds for disqualification-Giving up party membership, violation of whip, and abstaining from voting.
  • Before the amendment, the law allowed for a “split” in the party if at least one-third of the MLAs defect.
  • 91st Constitutional Amendment in 2003 deleted the provision allowing split.
  • Resignation is not the condition for disqualification.
  • This loophole was exploited by the MLAs in Karnataka while they resigned.
  • The resignation was not accepted by the speaker of the house and declared the MLAs disqualified.
  • Law puts no time constraint on the speaker to decide on the resignation of MLAs.

Speaker as a tribunal under law

  • The law originally protected the Speaker’s decision from judicial review.
  • This safeguard was struck down in Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu and Others (1992).
  • In this case, the SC upheld the Speaker’s discretionary power, it underscored that the Speaker functioned as a tribunal under the law.
  • This made the Speaker’s decision subject to judicial review.
  • The same was said in Shrimanth Balasaheb Patel & Others v. Speaker Karnataka Legislative Assembly & Others (2019).


Neutral role of the SC

  • The SC struck down ban on Karnataka disqualified MLAs from contesting election till 2023.
  • This effectively removed the only possible permanent solution to the problem.


Way forward

The minimum period limit of six years is needed to ensure that the defectors are not allowed to enter the election fray for at least one election cycle which is five years.

History- Important places, persons in news

In news: Partition of Bengal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Partition of Bengal

Mains level : Partition of Bengal and its significance

West Bengal Governor drew widespread condemnation over his tweet referring to a table, apparently used by Lord Curzon to sign papers pertaining to the Partition of Bengal in 1905, as “iconic”.

Who was Lord Curzon?

  • Curzon, India’s Viceroy between 1899 and 1905, was one of the most controversial and consequential holders of that post.
  • The partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency in 1905 was one of his most criticised moves, which triggered widespread opposition not only in Bengal but across India, and gave impetus to the freedom movement.
  • Curzon was deeply racist, and convinced of Britain’s “civilizing mission” in India.
  • In 1901, he described Indians as having “extraordinary inferiority in character, honesty and capacity”.
  • He was deeply intolerant of Indian political aspirations.

The Partition of Bengal

  • In July 1905, Curzon announced the partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency.
  • The Presidency was the most populous province in India, with around 8 crore people, and comprised the present-day states of West Bengal, Bihar, parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Assam, as well as today’s Bangladesh.
  • A new province of East Bengal and Assam was announced, with a population of 3.1 crore, and a Muslim-Hindu ratio of 3:2. Bengal, the western province, was overwhelmingly Hindu.
  • While the move was ostensibly aimed at making the administration of the large region easier, Curzon’s real intentions were far less benign.

Aftermath of the partition

  • The partition provoked great resentment and hostility in Bengal.
  • It was clear to the Bengal Congress and patriotic Indians in both Bengal and elsewhere that Curzon’s motive was to crush the increasingly loud political voices of the literate class in the province, and to provoke religious strife and opposition against them.
  • But the protests against the partition did not remain confined to this class alone.
  • A campaign to boycott British goods, especially textiles, and promote swadeshi began.
  • There were marches and demonstrations with the protesters singing Bande Mataram to underline their patriotism and challenge the colonialists.
  • Samitis emerged throughout Bengal, with several thousand volunteers.
  • Rabindranath Tagore led the marches at many places, and composed many patriotic songs, most famously ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ (My Golden Bengal), which is now the national anthem of Bangladesh.
  • The message of patriotism and Bengali nationalism was showcased in Jatras, or popular theatre.

Scrapping of the partition

  • Curzon left for Britain in 1905, but the agitation continued for many years.
  • Partition was finally reversed in 1911 by Lord Hardinge in the face of unrelenting opposition.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement

Mains level : Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement

Pakistan has recently shared a list of its nuclear installations with India under the said bilateral agreement.

Exchange of list of nuclear installations

  • The list was handed over to an Indian High Commission in accordance with Article-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India.
  • It was signed on December 31, 1988.
  • The agreement contains the provision that both countries inform each other of their nuclear installations and facilities on 1st of January every year.

What is Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement?

  • The Non-nuclear aggression agreement is a bilateral and nuclear weapons control treaty between India and Pakistan, on the reduction (or limitation) of nuclear arms.
  • Both pledged not to attack or assist foreign powers to attack on each’s nuclear installations and facilities.
  • The treaty was drafted in 1988, and signed by the PM Rajiv Gandhi and his counterpart Benazir Bhutto on 21 December 1988; it entered into force on January 1991.
  • The treaty barred its signatories to carry out a surprise attack (or to assist foreign power to attack) on each other’s nuclear installations and facilities.
  • Starting in January 1992, India and Pakistan have annually exchanged lists of their respective military and civilian nuclear-related facilities.

Rural Distress, Farmer Suicides, Drought Measures

NCRB Report on Farmers Suicide


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCRB

Mains level : Strategies to combat farmer's distress in India

In 2017, 10,655 people involved in agriculture committed suicide in India, according to data released January 2, 2020 by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

NCRB had released the 2017 crime data last October 2019, but held back information on suicides.

Highlights of the report

  • NCRB highlighted that the toll was the lowest since 2013.
  • Among those who took their lives, 5,955 were farmers / cultivators and 4,700 agricultural labourers — both lower than in 2016.
  • They comprised 8.2 per cent of all suicide cases in the country in 2017.
  • In 2016, 6270 farmers killed themselves, down from 8,007 in 2015, while 5,109 farm hands committed suicide, up from 4,595.
  • The number of women farmers committing suicide, however, jumped to 480 in 2017 from 275 in ’16.

Farm suicides over half a decade

Years No. of farm sector suicides No. of farmers
2017 10,655 5,955
2016 11,379 6270
2015 12,602 8007
2014 12,360 5650

Statewise data

  • In 2017, the most number of farm suicides were reportedly in Maharashtra (34.7 per cent), followed by Karnataka (20.3 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (9 per cent), Telangana (8 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (7.7 per cent).
  • The trend was quite similar to previous year: In 2016, Maharashtra accounted for 32.2 per cent, Karnataka 18.3 per cent, MP 11.6 per cent, Andhra 7.1 per cent and Chhattisgarh 6 per cent.
  • In 2015 too Maharashtra tops in farmers suicides followed by Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh in 2016.
  • West Bengal, Odisha, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry reported zero suicides by farmers or agricultural labourers.

Causes of Farmers Suicide

  • Major causes of farm suicides were reportedly bankruptcy / indebtedness, problems in the families, crop failure, illness and alcohol / substance abuse.

Assist this newscard with:

[Burning Issue] Annual Crime in India Report-2017

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

SATCOM technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EDUNET

Mains level : Applications of SATCOM

The Rajasthan government has started using satellite communication technology in a big way to enhance the learning outcome in educational institutions and generate awareness about social welfare schemes while giving priority to the five aspirational districts selected by NITI Aayog in the State.


Rajasthan has taken an initiative to provide the facility of receive only terminals (ROT) and satellite interactive terminals (SIT) for getting the services of subject experts in the government schools and colleges and propagate various schemes in the remote areas with no Internet connectivity.

What are ROT and SIT?

  • Satellite Interactive Terminal (SIT) is one of the six selected user networks used by CEC-UGC.
  • It is operating independently with their user terminals anywhere in the main land of India.
  • It has one main teaching end along with remote SITs and ROTs.
  • At present, there are over hundred SITs and ROTs under CEC EDUSAT network, installed at various colleges, and Universities across the country.



  • EDUSAT is the first Indian Satellite built exclusively for serving the educational sector. It was launched in September 2004 by the ISRO.
  • The satellite based distance education system enables virtual classrooms at rural and remote locations across the country.
  • Consortium for Educational Communication (CEC) has started two-way audio-video communication through EDUSAT network from 5th September 2005.
  • ISRO set up a nationwide multi-user educational network in its EDUSAT national Ku – band.

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

2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WHO

Mains level : Role of nurses and midwives , ASHA

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has selected the year 2020 as the international “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”.

Year of the Nurse and Midwife

  • It was decided in the honour of 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale.
  • WHO said that nurses and midwives are the people who devote their lives to caring for children and mothers, looking after senior citizens and giving lifesaving immunizations.
  • The declaration will help to strengthen nursing and midwifery for Universal Health Coverage.
  • The declaration will also help to endorse “The NursingNow!” a three-year campaign (2018-2020) to improve health globally by raising the status of nursing.

Arabica Coffee


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arabica and RObusta

Mains level : Coffee production in India

India’s Arabica production has hit an all-time low this coffee-picking season.

Coffee Production in India

  • Coffee is grown in three regions of India with Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu forming the traditional coffee growing region.
  • It is followed by the new areas developed in the non-traditional areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa in the eastern coast of the country and with a third region comprising the NE states.
  • Indian coffee, grown mostly in southern states under monsoon rainfall conditions, is also termed as “Indian monsooned coffee”.
  • The two well known species of coffee grown are the Arabica and Robusta.

History of Coffee in India

  • In the Indian context, coffee growing started with a saint, Baba Budan who, while returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, smuggled seven coffee beans from Yemen to Mysore in India.
  • He planted them on the Chandragiri Hills now named after the saint as Baba Budan Giri in Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka.

Digital India Initiatives

‘MANI’ app


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MANI app

Mains level : Eliminating counterfeit currency notes

With an eye to aid the differently-abled, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched a mobile app to identify currency notes.


  • ‘MANI’, is an acronym for Mobile Aided Note Identifier.
  • The visually challenged can identify the denomination of a note by using the application, which can also work offline once it is installed.
  • A user will have to scan the notes using the camera and it will give the audio output to give out results in Hindi and English.
  • RBI has clarified that the app does not authenticate a note as either genuine or counterfeit.