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February 2020

North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Still no finality, the third time round


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Bodo peace accord, issues involved.


There are indications that the new Bodo accord does not spell closure of the statehood movement by Bodo groups.

Power-sharing experiment under the Sixth Schedule

  • Sixth Schedule expected as a panacea: The experiment of power-sharing and governance under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution was expected to be the panacea of the ethno-nationalist identity questions in the Northeastern States.
  • Complexities of exclusion: Euphoria, as well as anger over the third Bodo Accord, have, however, held the mirror reflecting the complexities of exclusion of communities in such ethnocentric power-sharing and governance model.

Specifics of the new Accord

  • The new Accord was signed by the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), United Bodo People’s Organisation and all the four factions of the insurgent outfit- National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with Delhi and Dispur on January 27.
    • It promises more legislative, executive and administrative autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and expansion of the BTC territory in lieu of statehood.
  • The Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), the autonomous region governed by BTC, will be known as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) after demarcation of the augmented territory.

The emergence of the faultlines in the new Accord

  • What went wrong in the previous Accord? The previous Bodo Accord signed by the erstwhile insurgent outfit, Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) with Delhi and Dispur on February 10, 2003, led to the creation of the BTC as a new experiment of territorial autonomy under the Sixth Schedule.
    • No assent by the Governor to any BTC legislation: The constitutionally mandated legislative power of the BTC has been reduced to a farce as the Assam Governor has not given assent to any of the legislation passed by the BTC Legislative Assembly.
  • Intensification of demand for Kamatapur State: Bodo groups have suspended their statehood movement.
    • The new Bodo Accord has triggered the intensification of the movement for Kamatapur State by organisations of the Koch-Rajbongshi community.
    • Overlapping territory: The territory of the demanded Kamatapur State overlaps with the present BTAD, proposed BTR and demanded Bodoland.
  • Demand for ST status: Clamour for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by the Koch-Rajbongshis, Adivasis and several other non-ST communities has also grown.
  • Faultlines over ST status: Deeper ethnic faultlines in an ethnocentric power-sharing model will become exposed when the Koch-Rajbongshis and the Adivasis are granted ST status, as promised by the government.
    • For, the reservation of seats of BTC is for the STs and not exclusively for the Bodos.
    • The new accord has no clear answer to such critical questions.
    • In BTAD, the ST communities account for 33.50% of the total population and the Bodos account for over 90% of the ST population in the BTAD.
    • The ST populations are an overwhelming majority in territories overseen by nine other autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • Minority governing majority: Such a demographic composition in the BTAD has allowed the space for political mobilisation of other non-Bodo communities.
    • It also allowed the articulation of the campaign that the BTC is a faulty model as it allows the minorities to govern the majorities.
    • Exclusion demand: The organisations of these communities have been demanding exclusion of villages with less than 50% Bodo population from the BTAD.
  • Counter argument by Bodos: Bodo organisations have a counter-argument that non-Bodo is a political identity construction articulated to capture power in the BTAD by certain political forces.
  • The new accord promises to increase the current strength of BTC to 60 from 40 but “without adversely affecting the existing percentage of reservation for tribal[s]”.
  • Constitutional provision for dealing with such situations: Sub-paragraph 2 of the first paragraph of the Sixth Schedule provides that, “If there are different Scheduled Tribes in an autonomous district, the Governor may, by public notification, divide the area or areas inhabited by them into autonomous regions.”
    • However, constitutional amendments were made following the previous Bodo Accord to ensure that this provision shall not apply in respect of the BTAD.
  • What could be the solution to the present situation? The provision of setting up regional autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule can be explored to create the space for communities aggrieved by exclusion from the power-sharing model of BTC.

Provision of commission

  • The new accord promises to appoint a commission by the Assam government.
    • What the commission will deal with? It will look into the demands for inclusion of villages with ST majority and contiguous to the BTAD, and exclusion of villages which are contiguous to non-Sixth Schedule areas and have majority non-ST population.
    • However, the core area of the BTAD will continue to have many villages with majority non-ST population which were included for contiguity.

Evaporating of euphoria over the accord

  • Failure in uniting the four factions: Euphoria among the Bodos over the accord is also fast evaporating with efforts to unite all the four factions of NDFB having turned futile.
    • The factions are divided into two camps.
    • The new accord will be the pivot of political mobilisation in the BTAD during the forthcoming BTC elections due in April.
  • Revival in homeland demand: A shift in the political equilibrium in the BTC resulting from a likely expansion of the ST list in Assam has the potential to keep the Bodos out of power in the BTC and push Bodo organisations to revive their homeland demand


Peace will continue to be fragile in Assam’s Bodo heartland until an all-inclusive power-sharing and governance model is evolved under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.





Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Debating water quality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Jal Jeevan Mission, ensuring quality drinking water.


The competitive politics of Delhi election has brought the issue of drinking water to centre stage.

Controversy over BIS water status report

  • Politicising of the report: The controversy started with the release of the BIS report for 21 major Indian cities, in keeping with the objectives of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’.
    • The mission aims to provide safe piped water to all households by 2024.
    • The fact that drinking water in Delhi was ranked the most unsafe, as the samples failed in 19 out of 28 parameters, was challenged by the Government of Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
  • Compilation of information on the existing status: The study is scheduled to cover all districts in the country within a year. Supply of potable water obviously requires first compilation of information on the existing status
  • Water as an urgent concern: The fact that water should be treated as an urgent concern for public health and the ecosystem of the country cannot be denied.
  • Imperceptible threat: The threats to human health due to poor water quality, except when they appear as an epidemic, are largely imperceptible.
    • This generally subjects the population to subtle health problems without its knowledge or consent.

Pollution and water crisis in India

  • Pollution contributing to water crisis: India is on the throes of a severe water crisis, not only because of a gradual reduction in per capita availability of water due to a rising population but also because of rising and unchecked pollution in the country’s rivers and water bodies.
    • It is a fact which is mostly overlooked in the deliberations on water resources management.
  • Only 30% sewage treatment capacity in major cities: As per published estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country has a treatment capacity of only about 30% of sewage generated in the major cities.
    • Not to talk of other urban and rural areas where the sewage finds its way to local water bodies or rivers without treatment.

Impending water stress in the country

  • NITI Aayog report: A 2018 Report of the NITI Aayog has observed that currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress.
    • The report also states that about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • Demand twice the supply by 2030: The crisis is only going to get worse.
    • By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people.
  • High methane in Yamuna water in Delhi: For the water coming from the Yamuna released from Haryana, the DJB has to often stop the supply for a few days if the concentration of methane goes up beyond a certain level.
    • This is because the tri-chloromethane that may be produced during the disinfection process is highly carcinogenic.
    • The effect may surface on human health not immediately but over a period of time.

The capital’s high pollutant load and need for improvement in governance

  • Contributing 50% pollutant: Delhi, which constitutes less than 1% of the total catchment of the Yamuna, contributes more than 50% of total pollutant load in the river.
    • Delhi has 7,000 km of sewer line as on date, against a requirement of 24,000 km.
    • The 17 sewage treatment plants being operated by the DJB are able to take care of not more than 30% of sewage treatment.
  • There is no sewerage system at all for over 45% of the population in unauthorised and even regularised colonies and rural areas.
  • As of now, there are 18 major drains carrying sewage, garbage and industrial effluents into the Yamuna.
  • Solid waste dumping in Yamuna: It is not only the untreated sewage water and industrial effluents, but also the solid wastes and construction material discharged by individuals, companies and municipal bodies that have caused the suffocation of the Yamuna.
    • Also, floodplains have been encroached upon by settlements.
  • Challenge of supplying quality water: Ensuring the supply of quality drinking water is not only expensive, but it also needs improvement in governance.
    • It needs technical knowledge on measurement and regulation of water quality.
    • It is not the fault of the DJB or the Delhi government alone that they have not been able to ensure a 100% supply of quality water to the citizens of Delhi.
    • Given the constraints they face, especially those concerning the water resources management and laws in the country.


The Jal Jeevan Mission, even if it has not been so far structured, conceptualised and funded adequately, has begun the important work of gathering information on the scale and scope of the problem and making it available in an open and transparent manner. The best outcome is that the competitive politics of the Delhi election has ensured a political debate on water quality.




Important Judgements In News

When a court pronounces a verdict, without giving reasons


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Supreme Court delivering its judgement without giving the reasons and its implications.


In a highly unusual move, a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court resorted to a non-speaking order as it ruled affirmatively on the preliminary issue arising out of the Sabarimala review petition.

Departure from norms

  • The importance of a ‘reasoned decision’ in a constitutional democracy committed to the rule of law, is self-evident.
    • Its importance cannot be overstated and this curious departure from the norm merits close analysis.
  • Time and again, the Supreme Court has unequivocally endorsed and underlined the requirement of giving reasons in support of the order.
    • The SC has often chastised subordinate institutions for their failure to supplement their orders with reasons.

Importance of ‘reasoned decision’

  • The juristic basis for the ‘reasoned decision’: The juristic basis for this has also been explored in a number of cases.
  • In various decisions, the court has ruled that speaking orders promote-
    • Judicial accountability and transparency.
    • Inspire public confidence in the administration of justice; and
    • Introduce clarity and minimise the chances of arbitrariness.
  • Quotes from various judgements: In addition to being a “healthy discipline for all those who exercise power over others”, recording of reasons has been described by the Supreme Court as the “heartbeat of every conclusion”; the “life blood of judicial decision making”; and a cherished principle of “natural justice”.
  • The Madhya Pradesh Industries Ltd case: In this case Justice Subba Rao K. stated:
    • “The condition to give reasons introduces clarity and excludes or at any rate minimises arbitrariness;”
    • “… it gives satisfaction to the party against whom the order is made; and it also enables an appellate or supervisory court to keep the tribunals within bound… Speaking order will at its best be reasonable and at its worst be at least a plausible one.”

Devaluation by the SC and implications

  • Implicit rules: The need for a court to provide an intellectual substrate for its decisions is also implicit in the expression “pronounce judgment” in Supreme Court Rules, 2013.
    • According to settled decisions, the same signifies “judicial determination by reasoned order”.
  • However, when it came to applying the principle to its own verdict, the apex court has inadvertently devalued the importance of concurrent reporting of reasons.
    • The court seems to have downplayed the fact that it may be coming across as inarticulate at best and indecisive at worst.
  • Undermining integrity: Besides undermining institutional integrity, a decision’s authority as a binding precedent is also potentially compromised by this omission.

Culture of justification

  • The term “transformative constitutionalism” has recently found currency in constitutional adjudication (Navtej Joharand Joseph Shine).
    • The Supreme Court is yet to articulate a comprehensive theory of the concept but it has been fleshed out in other jurisdictions.
  • From authority to justification: For example, Pius Langa, former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, argued that “transformative constitutionalism” entails a transformation of legal culture from one “based on authority” to the one “based on justification”.
  • Karl Klare (the scholar who coined the term) posited that it may be legitimately expected of constitutional adjudication to “innovate and model intellectual and institutional practices appropriate to a culture of justification”.


In light of the above, it can be concluded that the practice of issuing non-speaking orders and giving post-hoc rationalisations later is an anathema to the principle of constitutional governance. Duty to give reasons is an incident of the judicial process and constitutional justice should not be a matter of afterthought.




North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Explained: Assam-Mizoram Boundary Dispute


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Assam as the centre-stage of disputes


Assam is at the centre of a fresh inter-State border row in the northeastern region. The Mizoram government has sought the revision of the boundary with Assam, based on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873 and the Inner Line of the Lushai Hills Notification of 1993.


  • Since 1962 most of the state borders of states carved out of Assam were divided following the myopic vision of the Central government.
  • On ground these borders still do not run in sync with the tribal territories and identities, creating repetitive conflicts in the region and disturbing its peace.
  • Assam finds itself at the center of all the conflicts since most of the neighboring states were carved out of its territory since independence.
  • This was done to consolidate the Indian Union at the time by catering to the aspirations of the local tribes and including them in the mainstream by giving them independent statehoods.

What is the dispute?

  • Mizoram shares a 123-km border with southern Assam and has been claiming a 509-square mile stretch “occupied” by the neighbouring State.
  • Mizoram used to be the Lushai Hills district of Assam before being made a Union Territory in 1972 and a State in 1987.
  • Both States have been disputing an extensive stretch of this boundary.

About Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation

  • The Inner Line Regulations, commonly referred to as the Inner Line Permit system (ILP), first gained legal effect through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
  • At present the BEFR continues to apply, but only in present-day Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • It had been lifted in the whole of Assam, as well as the entirety of present-day Meghalaya.
  • The BEFR allows Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland not to let non-resident Indians in without an inner-line permit for a temporary stay.

Present status of ILP

  • The Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 is the modern embodiment of the ILP.
  • This Order was passed in furtherance of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The Order defined the ‘inner line’ throughout present-day India starting from Jammu and Kashmir and ending at Mizoram.
  • This inner line is different from the one envisioned in the Bengal Frontier Regulations.
  • This line represents the furthest point up to the international border where a foreigner can visit on the strength of a visa alone.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s InSight Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : InSight Mission

Mains level : Key findings of the InSight Mission


It’s now more than a year since NASA’s InSight lander mission touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018. This week, NASA published a report regarding findings on the Mars.

About InSight Mission

  • The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport mission is a robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of the planet Mars.
  • It is the first mission dedicated to looking deep beneath the Martian surface.
  • Among its science tools are a seismometer for detecting quakes, sensors for gauging wind and air pressure, a magnetometer, and a heat flow probe designed to take the planet’s temperature.
  • The InSight mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program.
  • It is being supported by a number of European partners, which include France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).

Key findings of the Mission

Underground: rumbles

  • Mars trembles more often than expected, but also more mildly.
  • This emerged from readings of the ultra-sensitive seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
  • The instrument enables scientists to “hear” multiple trembling events from hundreds to thousands of miles away.
  • Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth, but it does have volcanically active regions that can cause rumbles.

The surface: Magnetism

  • Billions of years ago, Mars had a magnetic field.
  • Although it is no longer present, it left behind what NASA describes as “ghosts” – magnetized rocks that are now between 61 m to several km below ground.
  • InSight is equipped with a magnetometer, which has detected magnetic signals.
  • At a Martian site called Homestead hollow, the magnetic signals are 10 times stronger than what was predicted earlier (based on data from orbiting spacecraft).

In the wind: dust devils

  • InSight measures wind speed, direction and air pressure nearly continuously.
  • Weather sensors have detected thousands of passing whirlwinds, which are called dust devils when they pick up grit and become visible.
  • The site has more whirlwinds than any other place where a landing has been made on Mars while carrying weather sensors.
  • Despite all that activity in the wind and frequent imaging, InSight’s cameras have yet to see dust devils. But SEIS can feel these whirlwinds pulling on the surface.

The core: still to come

  • InSight has two radios. One is for regularly sending and receiving data. The other radio, which is more powerful, is designed to measure the “wobble” of Mars as it spins.
  • This X-band radio, also known as the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), can eventually reveal whether the planet’s core is solid or liquid.
  • A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would.
  • This first year of data is just a start, NASA said in the statement. When it is two years on Earth, Mars will have completed one year.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

‘MH-60R and AH-64E Apache’ Choppers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Details of the choppers

Mains level : India-US defence cooperation


During his speech in Ahmedabad, Mr. Trump announced: deals to sell over $3 billion state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian Armed Forces.

MH-60 Romeo helicopters

  • The incoming 24 multirole MH-60 Romeo helicopters are expected to boost the Indian Navy’s efforts to expand its role in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • The MH-60 Romeo Seahawk, made by defence giant Lockheed Martin, is one of the most advanced naval helicopters in the world, used by the US Navy among others.
  • It is the most capable and mature Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) multi-mission helicopter available in the world today, the makers say.
  • MH-60 Romeo Seahawks have equipped with anti-submarine Mark 54 torpedoes and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, along with precision-kill rockets.
  • It also has an advanced system for passive detection, location, and identification of emitters. It can not only track and hunt ships but is also used by the US Navy as an anti-submarine weapon.

Apache helicopters

  • Indian Army will receive six more Apache helicopters in addition to the 22.
  • The Apaches can operate at high altitudes and will be deployed along the Pakistan border. The Army is likely to get the helicopters armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles and Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles.
  • Among the Apache’s modern capabilities are the ability to shoot fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets, and other munitions.
  • It also has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility in network-centric aerial warfare.
  • The choppers are all-weather capable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage.
  • They can be easily maintained in field conditions as well as during operations in the tropical and desert regions.

Textile Sector – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Handloom, etc.

National Technical Textiles Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Technical Textiles, About the Mission

Mains level : Textile sector of India and its global competitiveness

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval to set up a National Technical Textiles Mission with a view to position the country as a global leader in Technical Textiles.

What are Technical Textiles?

  • Technical textile is a textile product manufactured for non-aesthetic purposes, where the function is primary criterion.
  • They are functional fabrics that have applications across various industries including automobiles, civil engineering and construction, agriculture, healthcare, industrial safety, personal protection etc.
  • Technical Textiles is a high technology sunrise sector which is steadily gaining ground in. India.

National Technical Textiles Mission

  • The Mission would have a four year implementation period from FY 2020-21 to 2023-24.
  • It will move into sunset phase after four years period.
  • A Mission Directorate in the Min. of Textiles headed by an eminent expert in the related field will be made operational.
  • The Directorate will not have any permanent employment and there will be no creation of building infrastructure for the Mission purpose.

Components of the mission

Component-I:  Promoting both (i) fundamental research at fibre level and (ii) application-based research in geo-textiles, agro-textiles, medical textiles, mobile textiles and sports textiles and development of bio­degradable technical textiles.

Component-II: Promotion and Market Development.

Component-III: Export promotion of technical textiles and ensuring 10% average growth in exports per year upto 2023-24. An Export Promotion Council for Technical Textiles will be set up for this purpose.

Component-IV: Promoting technical education at higher engineering and technology levels related to technical textiles.

Indian Air Force Updates

[pib] Exercise Indradhanush


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ex. Indradhanush

Mains level : Not Much

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) jointly commenced the fifth edition of Exercise Indradhanush at Air Force Station Hindan.

Ex. Indradhanush

  • It is a joint air force exercise conducted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) of United Kingdom and the Indian Air Force (IAF) being held since 2006.
  • The exercise is tasked to enhance mutual operational understanding between the two air forces via close interaction.
  • The focus of this edition of the exercise is ‘Base Defence and Force Protection’.
  • This theme is of significance considering the recent threats to military establishments from terror elements.

AYUSH – Indian Medicine System

[pib] ICoSDiTAUS-2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICoSDiTAUS-2020

Mains level : NA

ICoSDiTAUS-2020 a two-day International Conference on Standardisation of Diagnosis and Terminologies in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems of Medicine was concluded in New Delhi.


  • The conference was jointly organized by the Ministry of AYUSH and the WHO at New Delhi
  • It adopted the “New Delhi Declaration on Collection and Classification of Traditional Medicine (TM) Diagnostic Data”.
  • The New Delhi declaration emphasised the commitment of the countries to Traditional Medicine (TM) as a significant area of health care.
  • It further sought the opportunity for including traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) of WHO which is the standard diagnostic tool for health management across the world.