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February 2020

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.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Cop out in Delhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Need for the police reforms.


Political parties across the spectrum escape the blame for continuing to use the police as an instrument to further their political agenda.

The backdrop of violence in protest against CAA in Delhi

  • The culmination of dithering by police: It was the culmination of weeks of dithering and selective action on the part of the Delhi Police in dealing with those agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
  • No preventive action is taken: No preventive action appears to have been taken, and when the national capital was rocked by agitators in different areas the police appeared to have been caught by surprise.
  • Hesitation in acting against the rioters: There appeared to be hesitation on the part of the police in taking firm action against the rioters who continued to be on the rampage, destroying public and private property.
    • There was a disturbing scene of a rioter openly brandishing his firearm at a policeman.

Disturbing patterns in the Police actions

  • Delhi Police- The extremes of action and inaction: The Delhi Police is the best-resourced police in the country.
    • It is looked upon as a model by state police forces across the country. Its response, in fact, shows a disturbing pattern.
    • There have been extremes of action and inaction.
    • Forcible entry: In Jamia Millia Islamia, the police is alleged to have entered the campus forcibly and roughed up students after their march against the CAA turned violent.
    • Inexplicable delay: In JNU, there was an inexplicable delay in responding to violence by a group of outsiders within the campus.
  • Bengal Police-Turning blind eye to rioters’vandalism: In West Bengal, with Mamata Banerjee leading the charge against the CAA, the message to the police was clear.
    • They turned Nelson’s eye to rioters’ vandalising government and private property; the Eastern Railways alone suffered a loss of Rs 72.19 crore.
  • Uttar Pradesh Police- Excesses committed during protests.
    • In UP, where over 20 people were killed, the Allahabad High Court has called for a detailed report on the alleged police excesses.
  • Karnataka Police- Over-zealousness.
    • In Karnataka, the High Court has blamed the Mangaluru police of “over-zealousness” in dealing with the anti-CAA protests.
  • Party bias in the Police actions: Police response invariably reflects the bias of the ruling party.
    • The partisan police response to situations, which were strikingly similar, has caused dismay and consternation among the people.
    • One must get to the root of the problem.

Observations and the Supreme Court guidelines

  • National Police Commission observation: The National Police Commission recorded as far back as 1979 that “the present culture of the police system appears a continuation of what obtained under the British regime when the police functioned ruthlessly as an agent for sustaining the government in power”.
    • In such a situation, the Commission went on to say, “police find it difficult to play their lawful role and make their performance acceptable to the people at large”.
  • The Supreme Court directions: The Supreme Court issued a set of six directions in 2006 to state governments with a view to transforming the ethos and working philosophy of the police.
    • Setting up the State Security Commission: The SC’s most important direction was about setting up of a State Security Commission with a view to insulate the police from external pressures.
    • It is true that several states have enacted laws purportedly in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders.
    • Recommendation not supported in letter and spirit: But these acts, as their critical examination reveals, violate the letter and spirit of the judicial directions. The old order continues for all practical purposes.
  • The Justice Dhingra Committee report on anti-Sikh riots: In its recently released report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the report slammed the Union government and the Delhi Police.
    • It observed that a large number of crimes remained unpunished for the simple reason that there was “lack of interest shown by the police and by the authorities in handling these cases as per law or to proceed with the intention of punishing the culprits”.
    • The effort of the police and the administration “seems to have been to hush up the criminal cases concerning riots”.

Way forward

  • Implement the recommendations of NPC: It is unfortunate that the NPC recommendations have not been acted upon even after the Supreme Court’s directions. No wonder, in the recent agitation in different states, the police have acted in the manner they did.
  • Interference of the political parties need to be reduced: The police are, no doubt, to blame for not being able to function in an objective and impartial manner. There is definitely a failure of leadership also. The political leadership need to ensure the autonomy of the police.
  • Role of media: The media cannot escape its responsibility for treating the police as a convenient punching bag from time to time and not taking up the cause of police reforms as aggressively as it should be doing.
  • Introspection by the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court would also need to introspect as to why the implementation of its directions has been so ineffective.

Electoral Reforms In India

More psychological than an empowering voter option


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- How NOTA has fared so far, what are the shortcomings and scope.


The recently-concluded Delhi Assembly elections were the 45th Assembly polls since the inception of the none of the above (NOTA) option in 2013. And Delhi, although mostly urban, is widely regarded as the microcosm of India.

NOTA in Delhi

  • Delhi’s preference to NOTA is less than the national average.
  • From 0.63% in 2013, Delhi polled 0.39% of those favouring NOTA in 2015, a statistically significant reduction indeed.
    • It now increased to 46% in 2020; again statistically significant.
  • While 96% of the constituencies had a reduced percentage of NOTA votes in 2015 than 2013, the NOTA percentage has increased in 71% constituencies this year.
  • In the Lok Sabha elections, Delhi polled 0.47% and 0.52% of those favouring NOTA, in 2014 and 2019, respectively.
  • Takeaway: Roughly one in 200 voters of Delhi opted for NOTA in the last six to seven years, with relatively larger support for NOTA in reserved constituencies.

Gujarat and Maharashtra examples

  • Interestingly, in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, despite being 1.8%, NOTA got more votes than any political party other than the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (except the Independents).
  • Again, in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election, NOTA became a runner-up in two constituencies – Latur (Rural) and Palus-Kadegaon.
  • Do these cases mark any significant shift in the voter mindset?

Essence and scope of NOTA

  • Not a right to reject: In 2013, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting through NOTA.
    • However, it is not a “right to reject”.
  • Toothless option: NOTA in India is a toothless option.
    • Former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi, had observed in an article: “Even if there are 99 NOTA votes out of a total of 100, and candidate X gets just one vote, X is the winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or ‘no votes’.”
  • Not right to select: NOTA enfeebles the electorate as it does not empower to “select” either.
  • Democratic means to express resentment: Certainly NOTA provides democratic means to express resentment anonymously rather than boycotting the polls outright.
    • A group of women activists in Kerala out on the road urging people not to elect any candidate if no woman was present in the fray.
    • A youth group in Tamil Nadu that campaigned for NOTA as a protest vote against corruption.
  • Pleas to extend the scope of NOTA: There have been pleas to extend the scope of NOTA.
    • Recommendation of re-elections: In 2018, a former CEC, T.S. Krishnamurthy, has recommended holding elections again in those constituencies where the victory margin is less than the total numbers of NOTA.
    • Right to reject in place of NOTA: A PIL has been filed in Madras High Court seeking the full right to reject in place of NOTA.

Cases of extending the scope of NOTA

  • Maharashtra SEC order: In June 2018, the Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) issued an order that said:
    • “If it is noticed while counting that NOTA has received the highest number of valid votes, the said election for that particular seat shall be countermanded and a fresh election shall be held for such a post.”
  • NOTA as a fictional candidate in Haryana: In November 2018, the SEC of Haryana went a step further and issued an order where NOTA is treated like a “fictional candidate” in municipal polls from December 2018.
    • If NOTA gets the maximum vote, none of the “real” candidates will be declared elected, and the elections will be cancelled and held afresh.
    • What is more, the candidates securing votes less than NOTA would be barred from contesting in that re-election.
  • Example from Indonesia: Interestingly, in Makassar, Indonesia, the only candidate in the 2018 election for mayor received 35,000 less votes than NOTA, which forced a repeat election in 2020.

The optimism expressed by the Supreme Court on NOTA

  • The SC’s anticipation: While introducing NOTA, the Supreme Court anticipated that “there will be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity.”
    • Thus, its percentage should either increase to enforce the political parties to field candidates with “integrity”.
    • Or NOTA percentage should consistently decrease if the electorates feel that the system has achieved the desired level of cleansing.
  • No increase or decrease in NOTA votes: In contrast, the share of NOTA votes in India remained around a meagre level of 1% on an average; 1.11% in the 2014 Lok Sabha, and 1.08% in 2019, if we consider constituency-wise averages.
  • What this represents? This perhaps represents a confused state of mind of the electorate. Has the perceived cynicism of Indian voters regarding the right to reject been exaggerated?

Would NOTB- None of The Below more advantageous?

  • Last option disadvantage? Is NOTA, as the last button of all EVMs in the country, a psychological issue as far as the electorates are concerned?
  • First position on ballot advantage: A 2004 article in The Journal of Politics, have discussed the possible advantage of the first position in the ballot, at least in the U.S. context.
  • NOTB instead of NOTA: Although there is no such concrete study to gauge the Indian voter’s mindset, one wonders whether using NOTB (‘none of the below’) instead of NOTA- with such an option as the first on the electronic voting machine — might produce a significantly different outcome or not.
    • An experiment, after changing the rule suitably, can be attempted, at least.


Extending the scope of NOTA by empowering it with the right to reject along with other changes like placing NOTA at the top of EVM would help in making the election process clean and fair.





Citizenship and Related Issues

Rights, duties and the Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Conflating duties and rights and its consequences.


At an International Judicial Conference 2020 this weekend, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, drew attention to the Constitution’s Fundamental Duties chapter.

The logic of duties

  • Wide range of duties: The first thing to note is that as citizens, there exists a wide range of duties that bind us in everyday life.
    • Duties towards the state and individual: These duties are owed both to the state and to other individuals.
  • Legal duties: We have a legal duty to pay our taxes, to refrain from committing violence against our fellow-citizens, and to follow other laws that Parliament has enacted.
    • Breach of these legal duties triggers financial consequences (fines), or even time in jail.
  • Following the duties is price for living in the society: At any given time, therefore, we are already following a host of duties, which guide and constrain how we may behave.
    • This is the price that must be paid for living in society, and it is a price that nobody, at least, in principle, objects to paying.
  • Self-contained whole: Our duties and the consequences we bear for failing to keep them, therefore, exist as a self-contained whole.
    • Co-existence and sacrifice: The peaceful co-existence requires a degree of self-sacrifice, and that if necessary, this must be enforced through the set of sanctions.

The logic of rights

  • Understanding the logic through history: Rights, on the other hand, follow a different logic entirely. This is a logic that is best understood through history.
    • Two concerns: At the time of the framing of the Indian Constitution and its chapter on Fundamental Rights, there were two important concerns animating the Constituent Assembly.
    • Treatment as subjects: The first was that under the colonial regime, Indians had been treated as subjects.
    • Their interests did not count, their voices were unheard, and in some cases — for example, the “Criminal Tribes”- they were treated as less than human.
    • Holocaust example: Apart from the long and brutal history of colonialism, the framers also had before them the recent example of the Holocaust, where the dignity of more than six million people had been stripped before their eventual genocide.
  • The first role of fundamental rights chapter: To stand as a bulwark against dehumanisation.
    • Dignity and equality guaranteed: Every human being no matter who they were or what they did had a claim to basic dignity and equality that no state could take away, no matter what the provocation.
    • Unconditional right: One did not have to successfully perform any duty, or meet a threshold of worthiness, to qualify as a rights bearer. It was simply what it meant to be human.
  • Second role of the fundamental rights: To stand against the hierarchy.
    • Removing the subordination and degradation: The axes of gender, caste and religion had all served to keep masses of individuals in permanent conditions of subordination and degradation.
    • Equalising and democratising: Through guarantees against-
    • Forced labour.
    • Against “untouchability”.
    • Against discriminatory access to public spaces, and others.
    • Fundamental rights were meant to play an equalising and democratising role throughout society, and to protect individuals against the depredations visited on them by their fellow human beings.
  • Significance of the above two roles
    • Transformative purpose: The twin principles of anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy reveal the transformative purpose of the fundamental rights chapter.
    • The recognition that true democracy could not exist without ensuring that at a basic level, the dignity and equality of individuals were protected, both from the state as well as from social majorities.
    • Rise from subject to citizen: It was only with these guarantees could an individual rise from the status of subject to that of the citizen.
    • And, as should be clear by now, it was only after that transformation had been wrought, that the question of duties could even arise.
  • Importance of the language of the duty:
    • The language of duties can play an important role in a society that continues to be divided and unequal.
    • In such a society, those who possess or benefit from entrenched structural and institutional power (starting with the state, and going downwards) certainly have a “duty” not to use that power to the detriment of those upon whom they wield it.
    • That is precisely what the guarantees against “untouchability”, forced labour, and discriminatory access in the Constitution seek to accomplish.

Issue of conflating duties and rights

  • The problem lies in the conflation of rights and duties.
  • In that context, it is always critical to remember Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly (which were also cited by the CJI in his speech): that the fundamental unit of the Constitution remains the individual.
  • If the position of the individual and the Constitution’s commitment to combating hierarchy is kept in mind, then the language of duties can be understood in its proper context.
  • Chances of duties leading to unpleasant consequences: Without the moral compass of rights and their place in the transformative Constitutional scheme the language of duties can lead to unpleasant consequences.
    • It can end up entrenching existing power structures by placing the burden of “duties” upon those that are already vulnerable and marginalised.
  • The constitution is about rights: It is for this reason that, at the end of the day, the Constitution, a charter of liberation, is fundamentally about rights.


It is only after guarantee to all the full sum of humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom promised by the Constitution, that we can ask of them to do their duty. Perhaps, then, it is time to update Hind Swaraj for the constitutional age: “real duties are the result of the fulfilment of rights”.

Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Poverty and its measurement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Poverty measurement, MPI , Various committees

Mains level : Poverty measurement

US President recently praised India for having lifted “over 270 million people out of poverty” in “a single decade”, and said that “12 Indian citizens are lifted out of extreme poverty every single minute of every single day”.

What is poverty?

  • Poverty can be defined as a condition in which an individual or household lacks the financial resources to afford a basic minimum standard of living.
  • Economists and policymakers estimate “absolute” poverty as the shortfall in consumption expenditure from a threshold called the “poverty line”.
  • The “depth” of poverty indicates how far the poor are below the poverty line.

Defining the poverty line

  • The official poverty line is the expenditure incurred to obtain the goods in a “poverty line basket” (PLB).
  • Poverty can be measured in terms of the number of people living below this line (with the incidence of poverty expressed as the head count ratio).

Committees for poverty estimates

  • Six official committees have so far estimated the number of people living in poverty in India — the working group of 1962; V N Dandekar and N Rath in 1971; Y K Alagh in 1979; D T Lakdawala in 1993; Suresh Tendulkar in 2009; and C Rangarajan in 2014.
  • The government did not take a call on the report of the Rangarajan Committee; therefore, poverty is measured using the Tendulkar poverty line.
  • As per this, 21.9% of people in India live below the poverty line.

Poverty Line Basket (PLB)

  • The PLB comprises goods and services considered essential to a basic minimum standard of living — food, clothing, rent, conveyance, and entertainment.
  • The price of the food component can be estimated using calorie norms or nutrition targets.
  • Until the 1990s, the calorie norms method was used — it was based on the minimum number of calories recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for a household of five members.
  • However, this method does not consider the different food groups that are essential for health — this is why the Tendulkar Committee targeted nutritional outcomes.
  • The Lakdawala Committee assumed that health and education is provided by the state — therefore, expenditure on these items was excluded from the consumption basket it proposed.
  • Since expenditure on health and education rose significantly in the 1990s, the Tendulkar Committee included them in the basket.
  • As a result of revisions to the basket and other changes in the method of estimation, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in 1993-94 rose from 35.97% to 45.3%.

Issues with PLB

  • The PLB has been the subject of much debate. The 1962 group did not consider age and gender-specific calorie requirements.
  • Expenditure on health and education were not considered until the Tendulkar Committee — which was criticized for setting the poverty line at just Rs 32 per capita per day in urban India (and at Rs 27 in rural India).
  • And the Rangarajan Commission was criticized for selecting the food component arbitrarily — the emphasis on food as a source of nutrition overlooks the contribution of sanitation, healthcare, access to clean water, and prevalence of pollutants.

Why are poverty numbers important?

  • Poverty numbers matter because central welfare schemes like Antyodaya Anna and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana use the definition of poverty given by the NITI Aayog or the erstwhile Planning Commission.
  • The Centre allocates funds for these schemes to states based on the numbers of their poor.
  • Errors of exclusion can deprive eligible households of benefits.

Alternate measures of poverty: The MPI

  • In 2011, Oxford University researchers Sabina Alkire and James Foster devised the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) to capture poverty using 10 indicators.
  • These indicators include nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, ownership of assets, and access to proper house, electricity, drinking water, sanitation, and clean cooking fuel.
  • Poverty is measured in terms of deprivation in at least a third of these indicators.
  • The MPI is a more comprehensive measure of poverty because it includes components that capture the standard of living more effectively.
  • However, uses “outcomes” rather than expenditure — the presence of an undernourished person in the household will result in it being classified as “poor”, regardless of the expenditure on nutritious food.

MPI measures of India

  • In 2015-16, 369.546 million (nearly 37 crore) Indians were estimated to meet the deprivation cut-off for three or more of the 10 indicators.
  • While the overall headcount multidimensional poverty ratio in 2015-16 was 27.9%, the number was 36.8% for rural and 9.2% for urban India.
  • There were wide variations across states — poverty was the highest for Bihar (52.5%), followed by Jharkhand (46.5%), Madhya Pradesh (41.1%), and Uttar Pradesh (40.8%).
  • It was the lowest for Kerala (1.1%), Delhi (4.2%), Punjab (6.1%), Tamil Nadu (7.3%) and Himachal Pradesh (8.1%).

So what is the current “level” of poverty in India?

  • The National Statistical Office (NSO) Report on Household Consumer Expenditure for 2017-18 was junked in 2019 — so there are no data to update India’s poverty figures.
  • Even the MPI report published by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative used data from the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey, figures for which are available only until 2015-16.
  • Social scientists used data from a leaked version of the consumer expenditure data to conclude that the incidence of poverty in India increased from 31.15% to 35.1% between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
  • The absolute number of poor people also increased from 270 million to 322.22 million over the same period, which translates to 52 million more poor people in six years.

Air Pollution

World Air Quality Report, 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5

Mains level : World Air Quality Report, 2019


The 2019 World Air Quality Report was recently released

World Air Quality Report

  • The World Air Quality Report is released by the pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace.
  • The report focuses on PM2.5 as a representative measure of air pollution.

Highlights of the report

  • India accounts for two-thirds of the world’s most polluted cities — 21 of the most polluted 30 cities; 14 of the highest 20; and 6 of the highest 10 — in the report.
  • Among countries, when population is taken into account, average PM2.5 pollution is highest in Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan, while India is at number 5.
  • China is at number 11 in the list of countries affected by population, with population factored in. Chinese cities achieved a 9% average decrease in PM2.5 levels in 2019.
  • While cities in India, on average, exceed the WHO target for annual PM2.5 exposure by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019, with 98% of cities experiencing improvements.
  • It said 90% of the global population breathing unsafe air.

Top polluted Indian Cities


PM 2.5

  • PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter (ambient airborne particles) which measure up to 2.5 microns in size and has a range of chemical makeups and sources.
  • It is widely regarded as the pollutant with the most health impact of all commonly measured air pollutants.
  • Due to its small size PM2.5 is able to penetrate deep into the human respiratory system and from there to the entire body, causing a wide range of short- and long-term health effects.
  • Particulate matter is also the pollutant group which affects the most people globally. It can come from a range of natural as well as man-made sources.
  • Common sources of PM include combustion (from vehicle engines, industry, wood and coal burning), as well as through other pollutants reacting in the atmosphere.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Blue Dot Network


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Dot Network

Mains level : Blue Dot Network


With US President Donald Trump on his maiden visit to India, the two countries are expected to have discussed the Blue Dot Network, a proposal that will certify infrastructure and development projects.

Blue Dot Network

  • Led by the US’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Blue Dot network was jointly launched by the US, Japan (Japanese Bank for International Cooperation) and Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in November 2019 on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
  • It is meant to be a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
  • The network is like a “Michelin Guide” for infrastructure projects.
  • This means that as part of this initiative, infrastructure projects will be vetted and approved by the network depending on standards, as per which, the projects should meet certain global infrastructure principles.
  • The projects that are approved will get a “Blue Dot”, thereby setting universal standards of excellence, which will attract private capital to projects in developing and emerging economies.

Countering China’s BRI?

  • Observers have referred to the proposal as a means of countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched over six years ago.
  • While Blue Dot may be seen as a counter to BRI, it will need a lot of work for two reasons.

Fundamental difference between BRI and Blue Dot

  • While the former involves direct financing, giving countries in need immediate short-term relief, the latter is not a direct financing initiative and therefore may not be what some developing countries need.
  • The question is whether Blue Dot offering first-world solutions to third-world countries.
  • Secondly, Blue Dot will require coordination among multiple stakeholders when it comes to grading projects.
  • Given the past experience of Quad, the countries involved in it are still struggling to put a viable bloc. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Blue Dot fares in the long run.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

Mains level : Mahadayei Water Dispute


The cost of Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project on the Mahadayi River skyrockets by 1,674% since inception. It rose from about ₹94 crores (2000) to ₹1,677.30 crores (2020) due to the ongoing inter-State river water dispute.

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

  • The project is undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the three districts of Belagavi, Dharwad, and Gadag.
  • It was planned in 1989; Goa raised an objection to it.
  • It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert water to the Malaprabha, a tributary of Krishna River.
  • Malaprabha river supplies the drinking water to Dharwad, Belgaum, and Gadag districts.

About Mahadayi Water Dispute

  • The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 square kilometres of which 375 square km lies in Karnataka, 77 sq km in Maharashtra and the remaining in Goa.
  • It originates in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, briefly passes through Maharashtra and flows through Goa (where its known as Mandovi), and drains to the Arabian Sea.
  • Since the eighties, Karnataka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna.
  • In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project.
  • Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on and thus Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010.

Read more about the Mahadayi Dispute and award of the tribunal at:

Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal Comes

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Solar Storms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solar Storms

Mains level : Solar storms and their impact on Earth


According to a research, sudden releases of high-energy particles from the sun, called solar storms, can mess with the navigational ability of gray whales, causing them to strand on land.

Solar storms

  • Solar storms are a variety of eruptions of mass and energy from the solar surface.
  • Flares, prominences, sunspots, coronal mass ejections are the common harbingers of solar activity, as are plages and other related phenomena seen at other wavelengths.

Impact on Whales

  • Solar storms have the potential to modify geomagnetic field and disrupt magnetic orientation behaviour of animals, hampering their navigation during long periods of migration.
  • They disrupt earth’s magnetic field — and the whales’ navigational sense.
  • The radio frequency noise created by the solar outburst affects the whales’ senses in a way that prevents them from navigating at all.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

A U.S. strategy only meant to isolate China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Balancing India's interests in the light of US's strategy to contain China in the Pacific.


Since 2017, the United States government has released a few reports and fact sheets on its new Indo-Pacific strategy. Buried in these documents is a much deeper agenda of the U.S. government: to use three large Asian states — Australia, India, and Japan — to isolate China. There is nothing else to it.

The scale of BRI and the US objections

  • Objections to BRI: The U.S. government has made it clear that what it finds most objectionable is China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has signed on more than 70 countries in the world.
  • What BRI aims to achieve? Adopted in 2013, the BRI is intended as a mechanism to-
    • Development of new markets: BRI aims to end China’s reliance upon the markets of the West and to develop new markets in other continents.
    • Building infra: It is also intended to use China’s massive surpluses to build infrastructure in key parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
    • Investment of $ 1.3 trillion: By 2027, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley, China will spend about $1.3 trillion on this ambitious construction project.
    • Involvement of Saudi Arabia: Even Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the U.S., has made the BRI one of the cornerstones of its Saudi Vision 2030 plan.
  • Involvement of Pakistan: While China has invested $68 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port.
    • Saudi Arabia has agreed to invest $10 billion in the port itself.

Significance of the BRI and comparison with the US spending

  • Staggering scale and participation: The scale of Chinese investment, and the participation of a range of countries with different political identities in the BRI, is staggering.
  • Loss of appetite in the US to spend: At the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in July 2018 the U.S. said that it has spent $2.9 billion through the Department of State and the USAID (United States Agency for International Development).
    • It has lined up hundreds of millions of dollars more through its U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
    • Inadequate US spending: If one adds up all the money that the U.S. intends to spend for economic projects, it is still a fraction of the amount spent by China.
    • ‘America First’ attitude: There is no appetite in Washington, D.C., with its ‘America First’ attitude, to funnel more money towards investments in the region currently being built by the BRI.

Military Claims of the US and investment

  • US investment with military presence: It appears as if U.S. investments will come only with military claims.
    • The case of Nepal: A few years ago, Nepal discovered a large amount of uranium in Mustang, near the Nepal-China border; this has certainly motivated U.S. interest in Nepal’s economy.
    • If the U.S. money comes with U.S. military presence, this will create a serious flashpoint in the Himalayas.

Raising human right and transparency issue against China

  • The argument of human rights and transparency
    • Rhetorical argument: Unable to outspend the Chinese, the U.S. government is making a rhetorical argument that it has more respect for “transparency, human rights, and democratic values” than China, which “practices repression at home and abroad”.
  • The argument of transparency and the debt trap
    • Debt trap used by the US: It is hard to imagine the U.S. being “transparent” with its trade deals. It is equally hard to imagine the U.S. being able to argue that it would not put countries into debt.
    • Debt crisis created by the US in the 1980s: The U.S. government enabled a massive Third World debt crisis in the 1980s, which was then used by the U.S.-driven International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programs to strangle countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
    • This history is alive, and it makes a mockery of the U.S.’s attempt to say that its own approach is superior to that of China’s.

US withdrawal from multilateralism

  • Apart from that, the U.S. government has already indicated that it is uninterested in multilateral deals.
  • Withdrawal from TPP: The US withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, for instance.
    • Australia and Japan shrugged, and then put their energy into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which sidelines the U.S.

The claim of free and open Indo-Pacific

  • Renaming the Pacific Command: In May 2018, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command was renamed the Indo-Pacific Command, a symbolic gesture that provides a military aspect to the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
  • What free and open mean to the US? The U.S. government has made it clear that for all its talk of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, what it actually wants is an Indo-Pacific with fewer Chinese ships and more U.S. warships.
  • Just before this renaming, the U.S. National Security Strategy of 2017 noted that “China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region”, and so the Indo-Pacific Strategy intends for the S. to fight for its dominance in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and in the Asian rim.
  • This is a very dangerous war that the U.S. seeks to impose on Asia.

India adopting the US project of Indo-Pacific

  • Australia and Japan moving away: As the military aspect of the Strategy increased, both Australia and Japan edged away from full-scale adoption of the U.S. project.
    • Japan has begun to use the term “Indo-Pacific” without the word “Strategy”.
    • Australia has signed onto a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with China.
  • Only India adopting the project: Only India remains loyal to the agenda set by U.S. President Donald Trump.
    • No US strategy to contain China: In all the documents released by the U.S. government and in all the speeches by officials, there is no discussion of the strategy to contain China.
    • There is only rhetoric that skates into the belligerent territory.


India would be advised to study the U.S. project rather than jump into it eagerly. Room for an independent foreign policy for India is already narrowed, and room for independent trade policy is equally suffocated. To remain the subordinate ally of the U.S. suggests that India will miss an opportunity to be part of a reshaped Asia.



Right To Privacy

The issues around data localisation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Data localisation and issues involved.


The contentious clauses on local data storage in the revised Personal Data Protection Bill need re-examination.

What Personal Data Protection Bill contains?

  • Greater control to an individual: The draft law is a comprehensive piece of legislation that seeks to give individuals greater control over how their personal data is collected, stored and used.
  • The promise of improvement over the current privacy law: Once passed, the law promises a huge improvement on current Indian privacy law, which is both inadequate and improperly enforced.
  • Criticism of the bill: The proposed bill has attracted criticism on various grounds such as-
    • The exceptions created for the state.
    • The limited checks imposed on state surveillance, and-
    • Regarding various deficiencies in the structures and processes of the proposed Data Protection Authority.

The issue over the “data localisation”

  • Data within the country: The phrase, which can refer to any restrictions on cross-border transfer of data, has largely come to refer to the need to physically locate data within the country.
  • Provisions for the transfer of personal data outside India: The PDP Bill enables the transfer of personal data outside India, with the sub-category of sensitive personal data have to be mirrored in the country (e. a copy will have to be kept in the country).
    • Ban on transfer of critical data outside the country: Data processing/collecting entities will, however, be barred from transferring critical personal data (a category that the government can notify at a subsequent stage) outside the country.
    • Different from Justice Srikrishna committee report: These above provisions have been changed from the earlier version of the draft Bill, released by the Justice Srikrishna Committee in 2018. 
    • The 2018 draft imposed more stringent measures that required both personal and sensitive personal data to be mirrored in the country (subject to different conditions).
    • Welcome move: The move to liberalise the provisions in the 2019 version of the Bill is undoubtedly welcome, particularly for businesses and users.

How removing the restriction matters?

  • Reduction in cost to business: Liberalised requirements will limit costs to business and ensure users have greater flexibility in choosing where to store their data.
  • More proportionate approach: The changes in the 2019 draft reflect a more proportionate approach to the issue as they implement a tiered system for cross-border data transfer, ostensibly based on the sensitivity/vulnerability of the data.
  • Move-in accordance with the right to privacy: This seems in accord with the Supreme Court’s dicta in the 2017 Puttaswamy case.
  • Conditions for interference in privacy: The Court had made it clear that interference in the fundamental right to privacy would only be permissible if inter alia deemed necessary and proportionate.

Test of proportionality in the bill

  • On closer examination, it appears that even the revised law may not actually stand the test of proportionality.
  • The three-argument for imposing norms: There are broadly three sets of arguments advanced in favour of imposing stringent data localisation norms:
    • Sovereignty and government functions. Referring to the need to recognise Indian data as a resource to be used to further national interest (economically and strategically), and-
    • To enable enforcement of Indian law and state functions.
    • Accruing benefits to the local industry: The second claim is that economic benefits will accrue to local industry in terms of creating local infrastructure, employment and contributions to the AI ecosystem.
    • Protection of civil liberties: Regarding the protection of civil liberties, the argument is that local hosting of data will enhance its privacy and security by ensuring Indian law applies to the data and users can access local remedies.
  • Contradiction in the claim of protection? If data protection was required for the above purposes, it would make sense to ensure that local copies were retained of all the categories of personal data provided for in the Bill (as was the case with the previous draft of the law).
    • Sectoral obligations: In the alternative, sectoral obligations would also suffice as is currently the case with sectors such as digital payments data, certain types of telecom data, government data, etc.
  • Will data localisation lead to privacy protection? We note that the security of data is determined more by the technical measures, skills, cybersecurity protocols, etc. put in place rather than its mere location.
    • Localisation may make it easier for domestic surveillance over citizens.
    • Enabler of better exercise of privacy by citizens: It may also enable the better exercise of privacy rights by Indian citizens against any form of unauthorised access to data, including by foreign intelligence.
    • Effectiveness matters: The degree of protection afforded to data will depend on the effectiveness of the applicable data protection regime.
  • Protecting privacy through less intrusive measures: Insofar as privacy is concerned, this could be equally protected through less intrusive, suitable and equally effective measures such as requirements for contractual conditions and using adequacy tests for the jurisdiction of the transfer.
    • Such conditions are already provided for in the PDP Bill as a set of secondary conditions.
    • The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation too uses a similar framework.
    • Extra-territorial operation: The extraterritorial application of the PDP Bill also ensures that the data protection obligations under the law continue to exist even if the data is transferred outside the country.
  • Giving an individual a choice: If privacy protection is the real consideration, individuals ought to be able to choose to store their data in any location which afford them the strongest privacy protections.
    • It is arguable that data of Indians will continue to be more secure if stored and processed in the European Union or California.
    • These two jurisdictions have strong data protection laws and advanced technical ecosystems.

Way forward

  • Identification of the issues: The joint parliamentary committee ought to, ideally, identify the need, purpose and practicality of putting in place even the (relatively liberal) measures contained in the PDP Bill.
  • Broader thinking at policy level: Further, in order for localisation-related norms to bear fruit, either in terms of protecting citizen rights, enabling law enforcement access to data or enabling the development of the local economy, there has to be broader thinking at the policy level.
    • This may include for instance-
    • Reforming surveillance-related laws.
    • Entering into more detailed and up-to-date mutual legal assistance treaties.
    • Enabling the development of sufficient digital infrastructure, and
    • Creating appropriate data-sharing policies that preserve privacy and other third party rights, while enabling data to be used for socially useful purposes.




The Crisis In The Middle East

Location in news: Idlib Province


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Location of Idlib Province

Mains level : Usual turmoil in Syria


The nine-year-old war in Syria is currently raging in the northwestern province of Idlib, with rapidly escalating tensions between government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the Turkish military.


  • President’s Assad’s forces are backed by Russia, who are clashing with thousands of Turkish troops south of its border with Syria.
  • Turkey has closed the border and is trying to seal itself from waves of displaced refugees as Assad presses forth with a brutal campaign to take back Idlib.

Why is Idlib important?

  • Assad has been pushing to recapture Idlib, which, along with parts of neighbouring Hama, Latakia and Aleppo, are the last remaining strongholds of the rebel opposition and other groups that have been attempting to overthrow Assad since 2011.
  • At one point, the opposition held large parts of Syria under its control, but that changed after Assad, with Russian military support, slowly regained control over most of the country.
  • In 2015, Idlib province was overtaken by opposition forces.
  • Now, Syrian government forces are attempting to capture the strategic M4 and M5 national highways that connect Idlib, Aleppo and Damascus, the capital of the country.
  • Idlib skirts the two national highways and lies between Aleppo in the north and Damascus in the south.
  • It’s proximity to the Turkish border makes Idlib strategically important to the Syrian government.

Who controls Idlib now?

  • Since the province fell to opposition forces, there is no one group that controls Idlib, but rather, several separate factions.
  • International watchdogs say that the dominant faction in Idlib is the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a UN-designated terrorist organization set up in 2017, with links to al-Qaeda.
  • Also operating in Idlib is the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army, an armed opposition group. Included in the mix are the remnants of the Islamic State.
  • Watch groups say that other factions in Idlib strongly oppose the presence of IS fighters in the province.

Why is Idlib important for Turkey?

  • Idlib’s proximity to the Turkish border makes it not only important for the Syrian government, but also a cause of concern for Turkey.
  • Since the war started in Syria, thousands of displaced Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey over the years.
  • According to the latest known figures, Turkey presently hosts some 3.6 million refugees and is feeling the socio-economic and political strain of their presence in the country.
  • More conflict in Idlib would only serve to displace more people, pushing them towards the Turkish border.
  • Turkey has been witnessing a surge in hostility among its citizens towards refugees and a fresh wave of refugees will only exacerbate the situation.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Yongle Blue Hole (YBH)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yongle Blue Hole (YBH)

Mains level : Signifcance of Blue Holes


Carbon more than 8,000 years old has been found inside the world’s deepest blue hole — the Yongle Blue Hole (YBH).

Yongle Blue Hole (YBH)

  • The deepest known marine cavern is the Yongle blue hole, which measures roughly 300 metres from top to bottom.
  • Blue holes are marine caverns filled with water and are formed following dissolution of carbonate rocks, usually under the influence of global sea level rise or fall.
  • Its waters are mostly isolated from the surrounding ocean and receive little fresh water from rainfall, making it a rare spot to study the chemistry of oxygen-deprived marine ecosystems.
  • What distinguishes them from other aquatic caverns is that they are isolated from the ocean and don’t receive fresh rainwater.
  • They are generally circular, steep-walled and open to surface.

Significance of YBH

  • YBH has a depth of 300 metres, far deeper than the previously recorded deepest blue hole, Dean’s Blue Hole in Bahamas, which had a depth of 202 metres.
  • However, like most blue holes, it is anoxic i.e. depleted of dissolved oxygen below a certain depth. This anaerobic environment is unfavorable for most sea life.
  • Such anoxic ecosystems are considered a critical environmental and ecological issue as they have led to several mass extinctions.
  • Concentrations of carbon, usually found in deep marine holes like YBH, provide a natural laboratory to study carbon cycling and potential mechanisms controlling it in the marine ecosystem.
  • The transition from aerobic to anaerobic environment adversely affects the biogeo-chemistry of the ocean.