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September 2020

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Urban unemployment in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issue of employment in India

The article discusses the issue of vulnerability of informal jobs in India and suggests the steps to address the problem.

The urban unemployment in India crept up to 9.83% in August as against 9.15% in July, according to monthly unemployment data released Tuesday by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). In other words, roughly one in every 10 person in urban areas cannot find work

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Crisis in education in rural India and NEP


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2-National Education Policy

The article analyses the missing focus on the rural youth in the National Education Policy 2020 and its implications.

Education in rural India and NEP

  • Poor quality education marks and mars the lives of rural citizens.
  • The NEP fails to address the growing school differentiation in which government schools are now primarily attended by children of disadvantaged castes and Adivasi groups.
  • The mushrooming of private schools caters to the aspirations of the more advantaged castes and classes.
  • The NEP overlooks the complexity of contemporary rural India, which is marked by a sharp deceleration of its economy, extant forms of distress, and widespread poverty.
  • Rural candidates are finding it increasingly difficult to gain entry into professional education.
  • The lack of fit between their degrees and the job market means that several lakhs of them find themselves both “unemployable” and unemployed.

What the NEP misses

  • NEP overlooks the general adverse integration of the rural into the larger macroeconomy and into poor quality mass higher education.
  • The report calls for the “establishment of large, multi-discipline universities and colleges” and places emphasis on online and distance learning (ODL).
  • However, correspondence courses and distance education degrees have become a source of revenue generation for universities.
  • The possibility of forging and promoting environmental studies for local ecological restoration and conservation are missing.
  • Emphasis on local health and healing traditions from the vast repertoire of medical knowledge is missing.
  • Vernacular architectural traditions and craftsmanship to use local resources find no mention at all in the NEP.

Neoliberal ideas in NEP

  • The NEP moots the possibility of establishing “Special Education Zones” in disadvantaged areas and in “aspirational districts”.
  • But the report provides no details as to how such SEZs will function and who will be the beneficiaries of such institutions.


The NEP fails to cater to the needs of rural India’s marginalised majority, who in so many ways are rendered into being subjects rather than citizens.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India needs to change the framework of non-involvement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Peace in the Middle East

Realignment of relations is taking place in the Middle East with wider implications for the future of the region. India needs to reconsider its framework based on the non-involvement.

Recent geopolitical developments

  • India-China tensions have soared over the border issue.
  • The Afghan peace process is underway with the first direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban insurgents at Doha, in Qatar.
  • The normalisation of the relations between Israel and Arab countries began with the UAE and Bahrain normalising the relations.

Issues with the development

  • The chances of failure in Afghanistan are real.
  • The momentum behind the normalisation of ties between Israel and the Gulf kingdoms, may not necessarily lead to broader peace in the Middle East.
  • The US initiatives in Afghanistan and Arabia are driven by President Donald Trump’s quest for diplomatic victories.

Why it matters to India

1) The vulnerability of the peace process

  • Because of competing interests, the peace process in Afghanistan and the Middle East remain vulnerable.
  • The unfolding dynamic will alter the geopolitical landscape in both places.
  • Whether peace breaks out in Afghanistan or not, the Taliban is here to stay.
  • As UAE and Bahrain join Egypt and Jordan in having formal relationships with Israel, the contradiction between Arabs and Israelis is no longer the dominant one in the region.

2) India should recognise the importance of Arabia

  •  India’s strategic community tends to take too narrow a view of the Arabian salience.
  • The focus is mostly on ensuring oil supplies, promoting manpower exports, and managing the Pakistan problem.
  • We should consider that the Afghan peace talks are taking place in Qatar, a tiny Gulf Kingdom.
  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia were the only countries to recognise the Taliban government in the late 1990s.
  • This time around, they appear to have taken a backseat.
  • Delhi will need to pay more attention to the unfolding realignments between the Arabs and non-Arab states like Iran, Turkey and Israel.

3) Paradox of American power

  • The U.S. is being seen as a declining power in the matters of the Middle East and Afghanistan.
  •  But the reality remains that the US is the one forcing a change in both the places.

4) Implications of strategic vacuum created by the U.S. exit

  • As the US steps back from the region, the resulting strategic vacuum is likely to be filled by Russia and China.
  • Russia and China are quite active in both the Middle East and Afghanistan.
  •  China’s future role in Afghanistan, in partnership with Pakistan, could be quite significant and will be of some concern for India.
  • Regional powers have already acquired much say in the new geopolitics of the Middle East.
  • Qatar and UAE punch way above their weight, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are locked in a major contest for regional influence.

5) Domestic politics in the country

  • Religious radicalism, sectarian and ethnic divisions, and the clamour for more representative governments are sharpening conflicts within and between countries.
  • The collapse of the oil market is undermining the region’s economic fortunes.
  • Collapsing oil market is also making it harder for political elites to address the emerging political challenges.

Consider the question “Middle East is going through the major realignment of relations. What are its implications for India?.


As the old order begins to crumble in the greater Middle East, the question is no longer whether India should join the geopolitical jousting there; but when, how and in partnership with whom.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Life signature on Venus


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Phosphine, Venus

Mains level : Quest for extraterrestrial life

Scientists have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus a gas called phosphine that indicates microbes may inhabit Earth’s inhospitable neighbour, a sign of potential life beyond Earth.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which phenomenon has Venusian winds rotating 60 times faster than the planet below on the dark side?

(a) Super rotation

(b) Monrotation

(c) Dual rotation

(d) Macrrotation


  • Phosphine – a phosphorus atom with three hydrogen atoms attached – is highly toxic to people.
  • It is known to be produced only through a biological process, and not through any naturally occurring chemical process.
  • Phosphine was seen at 20 parts-per-billion in the Venusian atmosphere, a trace concentration.
  • Researchers examined potential non-biological sources such as volcanism, meteorites, lightning and various types of chemical reactions, but none appeared viable.
  • There are some other ways in which this chemical might be produced, for example, in the underbelly of volcanoes or meteorite activity, but that would have shown in much lower concentrations.

Why study Venus?

  • Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the sun. Earth is the third.
  • Venus is wrapped in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps in heat. Surface temperatures reach a scorching 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.
  • Existence of phosphine is the most credible evidence yet for the possibility of life away from Earth.

Hosting life on Venus

  • There are several things that we know about Venus that make life, as we know it, unsustainable on that planet.
  • The temperature of Venus is too high, and its atmosphere is highly acidic, just two of the things that would make life impossible.
  • It is too early to consider this as evidence for extraterrestrial life.

Paving way for future mission

  • Missions to Venus are not new. The finding can further ignite interest in space missions to Venus.
  • Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
  • In fact, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future.
  • As of now, the plan is still on the drawing board. All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

India becomes a member of UN Commission on Status of Women


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Commission on Status of Women, ECOSOC

Mains level : Not Much

India has been elected as a member of the United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women (UN-CSW), a body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Try this PYQ:

Q.Democracy’s superior virtue lies in the fact that it calls into activity:

(a) The intelligence and character of ordinary men and women

(b) The methods for strengthening executive leadership

(c) A superior individual with dynamism and vision

(d) A band of dedicated party workers

UN Commission on Status of Women

  • The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW or UNCSW) is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the main organs within the United Nations.
  • CSW has been described as the UN organ promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.
  • Every year, representatives gather at UN Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.
  • India will be a member of United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women for four years, 2021 to ‘25.
  • This year is the 25th anniversary of the famous Beijing World Conference on Women (1995).

History- Important places, persons in news

Who was Subramania Bharatiyar?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Subramania Bharati and his works

Mains level : Not Much

This newscard is an excerpt from an article originally published in TH.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.A recent movie titled The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on the biography of-

(a) S. Ramanujan
(b) S. Chandrasekhar
(c) S. N. Bose
(d) C. V. Raman

Subramania Bharati

  • Bharati was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist, social reformer and polyglot.
  • Popularly known as “Mahakavi Bharathi”, he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time.
  • His numerous works included fiery songs kindling patriotism during the Indian Independence movement.

Literary works

  • As a working journalist, Bharati necessarily employed prose to communicate, and his writings in Swadesamitran and India made an important contribution to Tamil political vocabulary.
  • He wrote stories, commentaries, and was also the pioneer of column writing in Tamil.
  • Active participation in the day-to-day politics of the nationalist movement notwithstanding, Bharati never lost sight of the future, the dream of how a free India should look like.
  • Aspects of this dream form part of his fantasy story, Gnanaratham (The Chariot of Wisdom), written when he was still in his late 20s.

Plantation Agriculture – RISPC, Tea Act, etc.

Panama Disease


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Panama disease

Mains level : NA

The scientists of Indian Council of Agriculture Research or ICAR have found a cure for one of the most dreaded diseases on Banana.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Recently, our scientists have discovered a new and distinct species of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 metres and has orange-coloured fruit pulp. In which part of India has it been discovered?

(a) Andaman Islands

(b) Anamalai Forests

(c) Maikala Hills

(d) Tropical rain forests of northeast

Panama Disease

  • The fungal disease, called Fusarium Wilt, is popularly known as the ‘Panama Disease’ and afflicts banana plants.
  • For the first time, Indian scientists have brought out a biopesticide that can control the disease. This biopesticide has been made using another fungus.
  • For a long time, banana cultivators have been struggling with the Panama Disease.
  • This disease affects the Cavendish variety or the G9 Banana cultivar, which is the most widely grown banana in the world.

Spread in India

  • In India, more than 60 per cent of bananas are of the G9 variety.
  • They go by names like ‘Grand Naine’, ‘Robusta’, ‘Bhusaval’, ‘Basrai’ and ‘Shrimanth’.
  • Farmers in at least four Indian states — Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh — have been badly affected by this disease.
  • All these are areas where the Cavendish variety is grown.

Why is the disease so deadly?

  • Panama Disease is caused by a fungus with a long and complicated name called Fusarium oxysporum f. Sp cubense.
  • One of its strains which is called ‘Tropical Race 4’ or ‘TR4’ is creating the most havoc, threatening almost 80 per cent of the global banana production.
  • The disease is so deadly that it is sometimes referred to as ‘banana cancer’.
  • The fungus resides below ground and infects the plant through its roots. The infection then stops water and essential nutrients from being transported to the rest of the plant.
  • The leaves begin to wilt, and the stem of the plant starts turning dark brownish before the plant dies. If one plant gets it, then it is most likely that an entire plantation can be wiped out.

Interstate River Water Dispute

[pib] Status of Mahanadi Tribunal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Inter-state water dispute

Mains level : Inter-state water dispute

At present, the Mahanadi dispute is under adjudication in the Tribunal under Section 5 (2) of Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956

Note the interrelation between the Article 262 and 253.They contain provisions related to international and interstate water sharing.

Mahanadi Tribunal

  • The Central Government has constituted Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal in 2018 under Section 4 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
  • It is set to adjudicate on water disputes between the riparian States of Odisha and Chhattisgarh
  • The tribunal is expected to give its verdict within a period of three years.
  • Provided that if the decision cannot be given for an unavoidable reason, within a period of three years, the Central Government may extend the period for a further period not exceeding two years.

What is the dispute about?

  • Chhattisgarh has been constructing dams and weirs (small dams) upstream the Mahanadi. This is being allegedly carried on without consulting Odisha.
  • It would affect the flow of the river downstream and affect drinking water supply. Also, it would impact the irrigation facilities in Odisha and adversely affect the interests of the farmers.
  • Moreover, the weirs and other projects would impact the flow of water in the Hirakud reservoir, a multipurpose river valley project, which is a lifeline for many in the state.

Back2Basics: Water Disputes Resolution in India

  • The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India on the eve of the reorganization of states on the linguistic basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river[1] or river valley.
  • Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments.
  • This Act further has undergone amendments subsequently and its most recent amendment took place in the year 2002.
  • A/c to art 262, the Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.

Note: Any river water sharing treaty made with other countries, has to be ratified by the Parliament as per Article 253 after deciding the share of the Indian riparian states per Article 262 to make the treaty constitutionally valid or enforceable by the judiciary. The government has signed Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan, Ganga water-sharing treaty with Bangladesh, etc. without the ratification by the Parliament and the consent of concerned riparian states per Article 252.