Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Why dal imports have hit a seven-year high?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Domestic Production of Pulses;

Mains level: Inflation; Cereals and Pulses;

Why in the News?

Due to food inflation during an El Niño year and an election year, the country has lost the self-sufficiency it had achieved in pulses.

Pulse Production in India:

  • India is the largest producer (25% of global production), consumer (27% of world consumption), and importer (14%) of pulses in the world.
  • They account for 20% of India’s total area under cultivation and provide 7-10% of the total food grains in the country.
  • India’s production has increased by 50% (from 18 million tonnes to 27 million tonnes) up till 2022. However, it has not increased in step with the population growth, per capita availability of pulses has declined from 22.1 kg per person in 1951 to 16.4 kg per person in 2022.
  • Though there is surplus production of Chana, the imperfect substitution among pulses and limited international availability put pressure on the prices of some pulses.

Recent Decline in Domestic Production:

  • Total Production: Decreased from 27.30 million tonnes (mt) in 2021-22 to 23.44 mt in 2023-24.
  • Chana (Chickpea): Production fell from 13.54 mt in 2021-22 to an estimated 12.16 mt in 2023-24.
  • Arhar/Tur (Pigeon Pea): Output decreased from 4.22 mt in 2021-22 to an estimated 3.34 mt in 2023-24.

Significance of Pulse Production:

  • Suitable for Drought Areas: Drought-resistant and deep-rooting species of pulses can supply groundwater to companion crops when planted in the intercropping pattern. Locally adapted pulse varieties can enhance production systems in dry environments.
  • Enhances Fertility of Land: The leguminous plants of pulse also help in nitrogen fixation, thus ensuring higher soil fertility.
  • High Nutritional Value: In a country like India, where many people are poor and vegetarian, pulses are an important and affordable source of protein.
  • Low food wastage footprints: Pulses can be stored longer without losing their nutritional value and minimizing loss.

Imports have hit a seven-year high

Cause of the Inflation in Pulses

  • Impact of EL Nino: El Niño-induced patchy monsoon and winter rain led to a decline in domestic pulse production from 27.30 million tonnes (mt) in 2021-22 to 23.44 mt in 2023-24, as per the Agriculture Ministry’s estimates.
  • Sharp Output Falls: Both chana and Arhar/tur, the pulses with the highest inflation experienced sharp output falls. Chana production decreased from 13.54 mt in 2021-22 to 12.16 mt in 2023-24, while Arhar/tur production dropped from 4.22 mt to 3.34 mt over the same period.
  • Impact of Irregular Rainfall: Poor crops in regions like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana were attributed to irregular and deficient rainfall, leading to reduced planting area and lower yields.

Effects of Inflation :

  • Increased Retail Prices: Significant annual retail inflation, particularly for pulses like Arhar/tur and chana.
  • Higher Import Costs: Surge in imports to meet domestic demand, leading to increased expenditure on foreign pulses.
  • Economic Burden: Higher prices in the open market strain household budgets, especially for low-income families who cannot rely on subsidized distribution for pulses.

Challenges Ahead :

  • Monsoon Uncertainty: Future prices largely depend on the upcoming southwest monsoon; continued irregular weather patterns could sustain high inflation.
  • Import Dependency: Increased reliance on imports due to insufficient domestic production, especially for yellow/white peas and masoor.
  • Supply Position: Precarious domestic supply with minimal government procurement from recent crops, necessitating higher imports.

Government initiatives as relief measures: The government has removed tariffs and quantitative restrictions by liberalizing imports on most pulses to boost supply and reduce prices like an extension of duty-free imports of Arhar/tur, urad, masoor, and desi chana till March 31, 2025.

Conclusion: While the government has taken significant steps to mitigate the impact of high dal prices through import liberalization and policy adjustments, the actual relief to consumers will hinge on the performance of the upcoming monsoon and the global pulse market dynamics.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Mention the advantages of Cultivation of pulses because of which year 2016 was declared as the International year of Pulses By the United Nations. (UPSC IAS/2017)

 

Q Food Security Bill is expected to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in India. Critically discuss various apprehensions in its effective implementation along with the concerns it has generated in WTO. (UPSC IAS/2013)

Prelims PYQs:

With reference to pulse production in India, consider the following statements:

1) Black gram can be cultivated as both kharif and rahi crop.

2) Green gram alone accounts for nearly half of pulse production.

3) In the last three decades, while the production of Kharif pulses has increased, the production of rabi pulses has decreased.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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

Still no sign of the language of equity and inclusion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Minority sections and Government Initiatives;

Mains level: Minority sections; National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness

Why in the news?

The ECI’s election announcement lacked sign language interpreters, highlighting the everyday exclusion of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) citizens.

Present Issue:

  • India’s societal and structural framework often neglects the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) citizens.
  • This exclusion is evident in various aspects of daily life, such as the absence of sign language interpreters during major public announcements and inadequate accessibility in public services.

Sign Language versus Oralism

  • The Indian education system predominantly employs “oralism,” which emphasizes teaching deaf individuals to use their voices and lip-read, rather than using sign language.
  • This approach has been criticized for perpetuating social isolation and failing to remove barriers that hinder the integration of DHH individuals.
  • In contrast, using sign language has been shown to aid cognitive development and prevent linguistic deprivation.
  • Over 70 countries recognize their national sign languages legally, promoting accessibility and inclusion for deaf citizens.

Present Scenario:

  • As per WHO estimates in India, there are approximately 63 million people, who are suffering from Significant Auditory Impairment; this places the estimated prevalence at 6.3% in the Indian population.
  • As per the NSSO survey, currently, 291 persons per one lakh population are suffering from severe to profound hearing loss (NSSO, 2001).
  • Of these, a large percentage are children between the ages of 0 to 14 years.

What Does the 2011 Census Say?

  • The 2011 Census reported five million hearing-impaired individuals in India, while the National Association of the Deaf estimates 18 million.
  • Despite these large numbers, DHH individuals are often excluded from educational and employment opportunities. Only 5% of deaf children attend school, and they face prolonged graduation timelines due to oralist-focused curricula.
  • Government initiatives for employing the deaf are often ineffective, and there is a lack of ISL recognition, despite repeated demands and protests.

The National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness

    • The program was initiated in the year 2007 in pilot mode in 25 districts of 11 States/UTs. It has been expanded to other districts too after the 12th five-year plan.
    • The Program was a 100% Centrally SponsoredScheme during the 11th Five-year plan. However, as per the 12th Five Year Plan, the Centre and the States will have to pool in resources financial norms of NHRM.
    • However, it falls short of addressing the quality of life for DHH individuals. This program has been expanded to 228 districts of 27 States / U.Ts in a phased manner.

Objectives of the program:

  • To prevent avoidable hearing loss on account of disease or injury.
  • Early identification, diagnosis, and treatment of ear problems responsible for hearing loss and deafness.
  • To medically rehabilitate persons of all age groups, suffering from deafness.
  • To develop institutional capacity for ear care services by providing support for equipment and material and training personnel.

Components of the Programme: 

  • Manpower Training & Development to grassroots level workers.
  • Service Provision Including Rehabilitation – Screening camps for early detection of hearing impairment and deafness.
  • Awareness Generation for early identification of the hearing impaired.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation.

What Needs to be done?

  • Official Recognition of ISL: ISL should be recognized as an official language, and its use should be integrated into educational systems and public services. Teaching ISL in schools, colleges, and to the general public will promote inclusivity and fluency.
  • Inclusive Health Care: Health care systems need to be updated to ensure accessible communication for DHH patients. This includes training more ISL interpreters and reducing barriers for DHH individuals pursuing healthcare professions.
  • Media and Public Communication: Media channels should incorporate ISL interpretation and subtitles, especially in Hindi and regional languages. Government event announcements should have live ISL interpreters to ensure accessibility.
  • Employment Opportunities: Creating more employment opportunities for DHH individuals, beyond low-skilled jobs, is essential. This includes training and employing DHH individuals as ISL instructors and ensuring accessible workplaces.

Conclusion: To ensure inclusivity for DHH citizens, India must officially recognise ISL, integrate it into education and public services, improve healthcare accessibility, and expand employment opportunities and mental health support.

Mains PYQ:

How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate your answer. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Explained: The challenges in curbing cultivation of a banned rice variety in Punjab

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PUSA-44;

Mains level: Agricultural Issues in India;

Why in the News?

Punjab’s paddy farmers have begun sowing seeds for this year’s kharif season, despite the ban on variety PUSA-44 that was implemented last year.

About the Cultivation of Paddy Varieties like PUSA-44:

  • Pusa-44 is a long-duration paddy variety bred by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and has been a key contributor to stubble burning.
  • Its growth cycle of 155-160 days, from nursery sowing to harvesting, leads to late October maturity, leaving a short window for field preparation for the next crop.

The Impact on Groundwater in Punjab as per “CGWA’s Groundwater Estimation Report 2020″

  • Severe over-extraction: 119 out of 138 blocks are over-exploited.Central and southern parts of Punjab (Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa, Bathinda, Moga, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar) are most affected.
  • Water Table Depth: The average groundwater depth has crossed 70 meters (200 feet). In some southern areas, groundwater is unavailable even at 150-200 meters (450-600 feet).
  • Groundwater depletion vs. Demand: Punjab over-extracts 14 billion cubic meters (BCM) annually. Annual recharge is 20 BCM, but usage is 34 BCM.
  • Future Projections: Groundwater could drop below 300 meters in 18-20 years, making water highly contaminated and extraction costly. If the trend continues, Punjab may run out of groundwater for irrigation.

Why are Farmers in several districts unwilling to stop their Cultivation?

  • Higher Income: Farmers receive a higher yield and guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP), leading to increased incomes.
  • Seed Availability: Farmers retain seeds from previous seasons, and many stores have already sold seeds to farmers.
  • Resistance to Change: Despite awareness of the adverse effects, many farmers continue to cultivate PUSA-44. Significant cultivation areas in districts like Barnala, Sangrur, and Moga rely heavily on PUSA-44, making immediate change difficult.
  • Time Required for Transition: Changing entrenched agricultural practices and mindsets in heavily reliant districts cannot be achieved quickly.

Judicial Stand on the Cultivation of Paddy Varieties like PUSA-44:

  • The Supreme Court has emphasized the need to cease stubble burning in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, the discussion surrounding Pusa-2090 rice variety from its ability to provide an alternative to the problematic long-duration Pusa-44 variety.
    • Pusa-2090 rice matures in a shorter duration of 120-125 days while maintaining comparable yields, addressing the core issue of stubble burning.
  • Happy Seeder (Tractor) is also a solution that offers an eco-friendly alternative to stubble burning.

Way Forward:

  • Public Awareness and Guidance: Educate farmers on the benefits of short-duration varieties, which are more water-efficient and better for stubble management.
  • Supportive Policies: Government and agricultural experts need to provide support and incentives for transitioning to sustainable paddy varieties.
  • Gradual Implementation: Acknowledge the need for time and a phased approach to change farming practices in heavily reliant districts.

Mains PYQ:

Q The ideal solution of depleting groundwater resources in India is a water harvesting system.” How can it be made effective in urban areas? (15) (UPSC IAS/2018)

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

What are fire safety rules, and why are there compliance challenges? | Explained 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report

Mains level: Laws and guidelines for fire safety in buildings;

Why in the News?

Recent fire tragedies at a Rajkot gaming zone and a Delhi children’s hospital that killed 40 people highlight the urgent need for stricter fire safety enforcement.

According to the latest Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report

  • It was released by the “National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB)”
  • In 2022, 7,435 people died in over 7,500 fire accidents. This data shows that heavy casualties from fire accidents persist, with no lessons learned from the 1997 Uphaar Cinema tragedy or the 2004 Kumbakonam fire that killed 90 schoolchildren.

What are the various laws and guidelines which stipulate rules around fire safety in buildings? 

  • National Building Code (NBC): Published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in 1970, last updated in 2016.
    • Part 4 of NBC is about the details of fire safety measures, including construction guidelines, materials, and safety protocols. They are mandatory for states to incorporate NBC recommendations into local buildings.
  • Model Building Bye Laws 2016: It is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. It guides States/UTs in framing building bylaws with norms for fire protection and safety.
  • State Fire Services Act: Fire services are a state subject, and individual states have their own Fire Services Acts or building bylaws.
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Guidelines: Provide fire safety instructions for homes, schools, and hospitals. Include recommendations on maintaining safety spaces, exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and evacuation drills.

Key Points from Fire Safety Regulations by Government:

  • Building Classification: Buildings are classified based on occupancy (e.g., Residential, Institutional, Assembly). Specific measures for high-rise buildings, educational institutes, hotels, etc.
  • Construction Material: Use of non-combustible materials. Internal walls of staircases should have a minimum 120-minute fire rating.
  • Electrical Safety: Flame retardant wiring and cabling. Separate shafts for different voltage wiring, sealed with fire-stop materials.
  • Emergency Power and Signage: Provision of emergency lighting, fire alarm systems, and public address systems. Clear exit signage and escape lighting.
  • Technological Measures: Automatic fire detection and alarm systems.Down-comer pipelines, dry riser pipelines, automatic sprinklers, fire barriers, and fireman’s lifts.

Challenges in Fire Safety Compliance

  • Lack of Uniform Legislation: Fire safety rules exist in all States, with many drawing from the NBC. However, due to the absence of uniform safety legislation and the NBC being a “recommendatory document,“ its provisions are frequently ignored at the local level.
  • Inadequate Fire Safety Audits: Local bodies fail to conduct regular fire safety checks, leading to non-compliance.
  • Staff Shortages: Insufficient staffing in fire departments exacerbates enforcement issues.
  • Community Awareness and Preparedness: Need for better community awareness and training on fire safety protocols and emergency response.

Judicial responses to negligence over Public Safety

  • Apex Court: The Judiciary has frequently pulled up state authorities for failure to enforce fire safety regulations. It highlighted the laxity in compliance and the need for stringent enforcement.
  • Legal Actions: Cases like the Rajkot gaming zone fire reveal the consequences of not adhering to fire safety norms. Courts have mandated regular fire safety audits and strict adherence to NBC guidelines.
  • The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) emphasized the need for building community resilience and compliance with safety norms.
  • The report on “Fires in India: Learning Lessons for Urban Safety” underscored the failure of authorities to learn from past tragedies and enforce fire safety measures.

Way forward:

  • Building some National Standards: The National Building Code (NBC) needs to be converted from a recommendatory document to a mandatory standard across all states.
  • Regular Inspections: Mandate regular and frequent fire safety audits by local authorities.
  • Transparent Assessment: Allow third-party certified agencies to conduct independent fire safety audits to ensure unbiased assessments.

Mains PYQ:

Q Discuss the recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India departing from the earlier reactive approach. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Where animals are dying by a thousand cuts

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 243(W)

Mains level: Environment Conservation;

Why in the News?

In the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, the farmers are using razor wire and electric fencing to defend their farms against stray cattle.

About the Wildlife Populations in the Biodiverse Terai Areas of Uttar Pradesh

  • The Terai region in the U.P., encompassing districts like Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri, and Bahraich, is known for its rich biodiversity, thriving sugarcane agriculture, and two tiger reserves.
  • This area supports endangered species such as tigers, rhinoceros, swamp deer, and the Bengal florican. The landscape blends forests, grasslands, and agriculture, creating a habitat where people and wildlife coexist.

What does the Statistics say?

  • During the 2022-23 fiscal year, the livestock industry accounted for 30.1% of India’s Agricultural GDP and 4.35% of the national GDP.
  • India’s farming practices involve a blend of crop farming and livestock rearing. This combined approach offers extra income and job prospects, especially supporting landless workers, small-scale farmers, and women in the workforce.

Constitutional Provision for the Protection of stray cattle:

  • As per Article 243(W) of the Constitution of India, the local bodies are responsible for cattle pounds and pinjrapole. Therefore, the State may also endow panchayats to establish and run. Cattle Pounds (Kanji Houses)/ Gaushala Shelters (community assets) to keep stray cattle.
  • Many States have established Gaushalas and Shelter houses for stray cattle and provide for feeding of those animals.

Present Conflicts and Conservation Challenges:

  • Conflicts between humans and wildlife are common, including tiger attacks and crop damage by herbivores.
  • Farmers near protected areas sometimes use lethal methods such as razor wire and high-voltage electric fencing along the farm-forest boundaries. The presence of stray cattle, or “chutta jaanwar,” has intensified conflicts and conservation challenges.
  • Stray cattle disrupt wildlife movement corridors vital for species survival and potentially increase disease transmission risks to wild populations.
  • The Unvaccinated stray cattle can transmit diseases like bovine tuberculosis and lumpy skin disease to wildlife, with cases reported in various Terai districts.
  • The degradation of productive grasslands in protected areas further threatens the habitat of imperilled species.

Way Forward:

  • Providing safe and comprehensive shelters: Construct adequate cow shelters outside protected areas to house stray cattle, preventing them from impacting wildlife habitats and agricultural fields.
    • Promote and subsidize non-lethal fencing solutions for farmers to protect crops without harming wildlife, such as wildlife-friendly barriers.
    • Invest in habitat restoration projects in the Terai, focusing on expanding and maintaining productive grasslands within protected areas to support wildlife populations.
  • Enhanced monitoring and management: Implement comprehensive vaccination and disease monitoring programs for stray cattle to prevent disease transmission to wildlife.
    • Strengthen enforcement against illegal cattle trade and vigilante activities that disrupt the livestock economy.
    • Provide economic incentives and support for farmers to adopt alternative livelihoods that do not depend heavily on livestock, reducing the need for cattle rearing.
  • Community Engagement and Education: Engage with local communities to educate them on the ecological impact of stray cattle and encourage participatory conservation efforts. Foster collaboration between farmers and wildlife authorities to develop sustainable solutions for coexisting with wildlife.

Mains PYQ:

Q Examine the status of forest resources in India and its resultant impact on climate change. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

China’s share in India’s industrial goods imports jump to 30% from 21% in last 15 years: GTRI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Trends in Bilateral Trades;

Mains level: India- China Bilateral Trade;

Why in the News?

India’s imports from China crossed $101 billion in 2023-24 from about $70 billion in 2018-19, and the country’s share of India’s industrial goods imports has risen from 21% to 30% over 15 years, according to a report by the Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI).

  • The data shows, it’s resulting in a cumulative trade deficit exceeding $387 Billion in the last 5 years, which is an alarming situation for the Indian government.

What is meant by Trade Deficit?

  • A trade deficit refers to a situation where the country’s imports exceed the receipts from its exports. A trade deficit arises in the course of international trade when the payments for imports exceed the receipts from export trade.
  • A trade deficit is also referred to as a negative balance of trade.
  • The concerns arising due to this deficit include pressure on external payments and on the currency value of a country. Countries often alter import and export policies, curbing imports or increasing import duties on certain goods due to this.
  • They also encourage exports and consumption of indigenous goods.

India’s Industrial Imports from China:

  • Electronics and Telecom Sector: During April-January 2023-24, India’s import value for electronics, telecom, and electrical products was $67.8 billion, with China contributing $26.1 billion. (38.4% of the total imports)
  • Machinery Sector: China contributed 39.6% of India’s imports in this category. This highlights China’s essential role as a supplier of machinery to India.
  • Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sector: India’s chemical and pharmaceutical imports were $54.1 billion, with $15.8 billion coming from China (29.2% of the total).
  • MSMEs sector: Products like mobiles and data processing units, are imported by Indian MSMEs. These imports could potentially be produced domestically, highlighting gaps in India’s industrial capabilities.

Current Trade Observations concerning China and other countries:

  • Rising Trade Deficit with China: India’s exports to China have stagnated at around $16 billion annually (from 2019 to 2024), while imports from China surged from $70.3 billion in 2018-19 to over $101 billion in 2023-24.
  • Growth Rate of Imports: China’s share in India’s industrial product imports increased from 21% to 30% over the last 15 years. China’s exports to India grew 2.3 times faster than India’s total imports from all other countries.
  • Diverse Product Imports: Chinese firms are increasingly entering the Indian market, which is expected to accelerate the import of industrial products from China. India’s imports span high to low-technology items, like smartphones, electronics, electric vehicles, and solar energy.
  • Strategic Concerns: The growing trade deficit and dependence on China have profound strategic implications, affecting both economic and national security dimensions.

Way Forward:

  • Supply chain diversification: India must focus on diversifying its supply chains and reducing dependency on single-country imports, especially from geopolitical competitors like China.
  • Boosting R&D: Increase investment in research and development for electronics, semiconductors, and machinery to foster innovation and improve domestic production capabilities.
  • Incentivizing Production: Provide tax incentives, subsidies, and grants to local manufacturers of electronics, data processing units, and semiconductor devices to encourage production and reduce import dependency.

Mains PYQ:

Q China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’, In the light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbor. (UPSC IAS/2017)

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Menstrual hygiene in Indian prisons | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Issues associated with the Indian Prison System;

Why in the News?

Despite improvements in menstrual hygiene, female prisoners in India face neglect, highlighting systemic biases and unmet basic needs like sanitary products and proper facilities.

About NFHS Recently Conducted Survey:

  • The 5th round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-2020) revealed that approximately 80% of young women aged 15-24 years are now using safe menstrual hygiene products.
  • This survey highlights a positive shift in menstrual hygiene management across India, particularly in urban areas and among certain demographics.

About the NCRB Data:

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there are 23,772 women in Indian prisons. Of these, 77% are in the reproductive age group (18-50 years) and are likely to be regular menstruators.
  • The availability of sanitary napkins has been inconsistent across different prisons, and the quality has often been unsatisfactory.
  • Many States have not implemented provisions from “the 2016 Model Prison Manual”, such as supplying adequate water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and poor socio-economic conditions further exacerbate the struggle of incarcerated women to secure basic necessities during menstruation.

BACK2BASICS: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

  • NCRB was set up in 1986 to serve as a repository of information on crime and criminals. Its establishment was based on the recommendations of the Tandon Committee, the National Police Commission (1977-1981), and the Ministry of Home Affairs Taskforce (1985).
  • It is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • NCRB acts as a “national warehouse” for the fingerprint records of both Indian and foreign criminals. It assists in locating interstate criminals through fingerprint searches.

About the National Menstrual Hygiene Policy:

  • In 2023, India formulated this policy to recognize menstruation as a natural process requiring meaningful attention. The policy aims to ensure equity in the safe and dignified management of menstrual hygiene.
  • It prioritises ensuring that all menstruating individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status and geographical location, have equal opportunities to access and manage their menstruation safely and hygienically.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs, which influences menstrual hygiene management in prisons, is overlooked as a critical stakeholder in the policy.

The key challenge of the policy is that it identifies prisoners as a target population with compromised access to menstrual hygiene facilities but lacks a concrete action plan to enhance menstrual hygiene management in prisons.

Other Government Initiatives to Improve Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) in India

  • Integration of MHH into ASHA’s Role (2005-2010): The government integrated menstrual health and hygiene into the responsibilities of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) as part of the National Rural Health Mission.
  • Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) Launched (2010): India initiated the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) to distribute sanitary napkins to young girls.
  • Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram Programme (2010): This program, under the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health scheme, increased awareness and access to sanitary pads.
  • Menstrual Hygiene Management Guidelines Issued (2011-2015): In 2011, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued menstrual hygiene management guidelines. Additional directions were issued by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in 2015.
  • Nirmal Bharat Yatra and Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (2012): The Nirmal Bharat Yatra, a flagship sanitation program, included MHH as an integral aspect of its agenda. Simultaneously, other similar programs under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan began, including initiatives to promote sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators for safe disposal.
  • WASH targets for prisons:

Way Forward:

  • Ensure Basic Standards of Menstrual Hygiene: The Indian government must guarantee that basic standards of menstrual hygiene for women in captivity are met consistently across all prisons.
  • Implement Model Prison Manual 2016: The government must ensure that all States adhere to the recommendations outlined in the manual, which includes provisions for adequate water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.

Mains PYQ:

Q In order to enhance the prospects of social development, sound and adequate health care policies are needed particularly in the fields of geriatric and maternal health care. Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

The controversy over eucalyptus planting in Kerala | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Species in News; Eucalyptus;

Mains level: Conservation and Mitigation Strategies;

Why in the news?

The Kerala state government permitted Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) to plant eucalyptus for financial reasons in 2024-2025. Environmentalists objected, citing forest impact and potential human-animal conflicts.

Reasons for Allowing KFDC to Plant Eucalyptus Trees:

  • Financial Sustenance: KFDC was permitted to plant eucalyptus trees to support its financial viability.
  • Existing Plantations: KFDC manages around 7,000 hectares of plantations, including eucalyptus, which contribute to its revenue generation.
  • Rotation Age: Plantations like eucalyptus have specific rotation ages for harvesting, ensuring a continuous cycle of revenue generation.

Significance of Eucalyptus

  • Timber and Fuel: Eucalyptus wood is extensively used in Australia as fuel and for building construction, fencing, and other timber applications.
  • Paper and Pulpwood: The bark of many eucalyptus species is used in papermaking and tanning, while the wood is used for pulpwood production.
  • Eucalyptus Oil: The leaves of many eucalyptus species contain aromatic oils, which are used for various purposes such as:
    • Medicinal Uses: Eucalyptus oil is used in expectorants and inhalants to relieve respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis.
    • Insect Repellent: The oil is used as a natural insect repellent.
    • Antimicrobial Activity: Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial properties, making it effective against bacteria and fungi

Why were environmentalists and social activists against the order?

  • Ecological Impact: Environmentalists raised concerns about the adverse effects of eucalyptus plantations on natural forests and ecosystems.
  • Human-Animal Conflicts: The proliferation of invasive species like eucalyptus was linked to increased human-wildlife conflicts, as animals ventured into human habitats in search of food due to habitat depletion.
  • Contravention of Eco-Restoration Policy: Activists argued that permitting eucalyptus plantations contradicted the state’s eco-restoration policy, which aimed to phase out exotic species and replace them with natural forests by 2024.
  • Invasive Species Management: The order was seen as undermining efforts to eradicate invasive species and mitigate their damaging effects on natural habitats and ecosystems.

Government Initiatives for Plant Conservation:

  • The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) in India operates seed banks to conserve crop diversity and wild plant species.
  • National Afforestation Programme (NAP) has been implemented since 2000 for the afforestation of degraded forest lands. It is being implemented by the MoEFCC.

 

Conclusion: The controversy over eucalyptus planting in Kerala reflects the balance between financial sustainability and ecological concerns. While eucalyptus offers economic benefits, it also poses ecological risks and challenges to conservation efforts.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Examine the status of forest resources of India and its resultant impact on climate change. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

A door to a housing scheme, tribals find hard to open

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PM-JANMAN Scheme

Mains level: Government initiatives and Programs; Technical Challenges in the implementation; PM JANMAN Housing Scheme;

Why in the News?

The PM JANMAN presents a new opportunity to transform the lives of India’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.

About PVTGs:

India has numerous Adivasi groups, with 75 identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). These comprise around 14.6 lakh households and live in scattered, remote, and often inaccessible areas. Their livelihoods rely on methods and tools that predate agriculture. PVTGs have low literacy rates, economic backwardness, and stagnant populations.

In 1960-61, the Dhebar Commission identified disparities among Scheduled Tribes, leading to the creation of the “Primitive Tribal Groups” (PTG) category.
In 2006, this category was renamed Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Government Initiatives:

  • Pradhan Mantri PVTG Development Mission. Announced for the fiscal year 2023-24 to improve socio-economic conditions of PVTGs.
  • Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN) launched in November 2023.
  •  Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsh Gram Yojana, Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP).

PM JANMAN Objectives:

  • Provide essential services to PVTGs, including safe housing, clean drinking water, and sanitation.
  • The largest Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme in the initiative.
  • Aims to reach 4.90 lakh PVTG households by 2026.
  • Households to receive ₹2.39 lakh each in three instalments.

Technical Challenges in the PM JANMAN Housing Scheme

App Functionality and Data Gathering:

  • Data Collection Areas: The ‘Awaas+’ app records geographical locations, household profiles with geo-tagging, and bank account details for cash transfers.
  • Mandatory Jobcard: Registration requires a jobcard, but many have been deleted, affecting PVTGs’ eligibility.

Jobcard Issues:

  • Deletion of Jobcards: Widespread deletion of over eight crore MGNREGA jobcards in the past two years has led to many PVTGs being ineligible for the scheme.
  • Jobcard Misuse: Cases of fraudulent registrations with someone else’s job cards further complicate the registration process.

Village List Discrepancies:

  • Inconsistent Data: The pre-populated list of villages in the app does not match the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS). For example, the app lists 22 villages while the MIS lists 31 villages for ‘Vanjari’ Panchayat in Andhra Pradesh, causing confusion.

Aadhaar-related Issues:

  • Name Matching: The app requires names as per Aadhaar records but does not guide what to do if Aadhaar is absent.
  • PVTG Identification: The app does not explicitly identify PVTGs, using a default ‘ST’ option, leading to non-PVTG registrations.

Certification Issues:

  • Local Certification: Ineligible registrations prompt local officials to ask PVTGs for certification from sarpanches/mukhiyas.
  • Conflict of Interest: Non-PVTG sarpanches/mukhiyas in mixed communities may act against the interests of PVTGs, complicating the certification process.

Geo-tagging Problems:

  • Network Issues: Geo-tagging required for planned construction locations faces chaos due to poor network connectivity, hindering accurate data capture.

Bank Selection Complexity:

  • Overwhelming Options: The app’s dropdown lists for banks are excessively long. For example, selecting ‘Commercial Bank’ shows over 300 options, and choosing ‘State Bank of India’ in Andhra Pradesh presents over 500 branches, adding unnecessary complexity for both PVTGs and officials.

Opportunity/Way Forward for PM JANMAN Housing Scheme

  • Simplify App Interface: Update the ‘Awaas+’ app to have a more user-friendly interface and reduce unnecessary complexities, such as the long dropdown lists for banks.
  • Clear Guidelines for Aadhaar: Provide explicit instructions on what names to use in the absence of Aadhaar, ensuring all eligible PVTGs can register.
  • Verify Jobcard Authenticity: Introduce robust mechanisms to prevent fraudulent registrations using others’ jobcards.
  • Improve Network Infrastructure: Invest in better network infrastructure in remote areas to support the geo-tagging feature.

Mains PYQ:

Q Given the diversities among tribal communities in India, in which specific contexts should they be considered as a single category? (UPSC IAS/2022)

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

How close is the World Health Organization to agreeing on pandemic response rules?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: WHO; Healthcare Initiatives;

Mains level: Health Care; Convention on Tobacco Control; Global Health Rules;

Why in the News?

Health officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) aim to finalize over two years of negotiations on new pandemic response rules when they convene in Geneva next week.

About the ‘Pandemic Treaty’

  • The pandemic treaty is a new legally binding agreement being negotiated to improve the global pandemic response. The treaty aims to address the shortcomings revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as inequitable vaccine distribution.
  • Article 12, a critical and contentious part of the treaty, proposes reserving around 20% of tests, treatments, and vaccines for WHO distribution to poorer countries during emergencies.
  • The treaty would be the second major health accord after the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Convention n Tobacco Control

  • Govt. of India ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004, the first-ever international public health treaty focusing on the global public health issue of tobacco control.
  • The FCTC is a legally binding treaty that requires countries bound by the treaty — or Parties to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

How will Global Health Rules Change?

  • Updates to the existing International Health Regulations (IHR) include a new alert system for different risk assessments of outbreaks, replacing the current single-level emergency declaration.
  • A new “early action alert” stage will be introduced, along with a potential “pandemic emergency” category for the most severe health threats.
  • Obligations for countries: Strengthened obligations for countries to inform the WHO about public health events, changing the language from “may” to “should”.

How do the countries view this pact?

  • Developed Countries
      • Wealthy countries are often cautious about sharing resources such as drugs and vaccines.
      • There is significant political pressure, especially from right-wing groups, fearing that the treaty could infringe on national sovereignty.
      • These countries are concerned about the financial implications, debating whether to set up a new fund or use existing resources like the World Bank’s $1 billion pandemic fund.
  • Underdeveloped Countries
    • Poorer countries emphasize the need for equitable access to treatments and vaccines, reflecting experiences of “vaccine apartheid” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • They advocate for stronger commitments from wealthier nations to support global health infrastructure and emergency response capabilities.

Future Scope of the New IHR Rules and the Pandemic Accord (Treaty):

  • More robust framework: The IHR updates and the pandemic treaty has designed to complement each other, creating a more robust framework for global health emergencies.
  • Promotes cooperation: The new rules aim to ensure faster, more transparent information sharing, and better co-operation during health crises.
  • Next steps for treaty negotiations: Next week’s World Health Assembly will focus on planning the next steps for the Treaty Negotiations, with a full agreement unlikely to be reached immediately.
  • Defenses against future pandemics: The successful implementation of both the IHR updates and the pandemic treaty could significantly strengthen the world’s defenses against future pandemics, addressing gaps exposed by COVID-19.

Conclusion: While there is a shared understanding of the treaty’s importance, countries’ views are shaped by their National interests, Financial concerns, and Political pressures, leading to complex and protracted negotiations.

Mains PYQ:

Q Critically examine the role of WHO in providing global health security during the Covid-19 pandemic. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

How Europe’s AI convention balances innovation and human rights | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Europe’s AI convention;

Mains level: What is Europe’s AI convention?

Why in the News?

Global AI governance is becoming increasingly intricate, with countries employing diverse approaches. This shows that the Global treaties may face significant challenges despite widespread support.

About the Council of Europe (COE)

  • The COE is an intergovernmental organization established in 1949. It currently has 46 member states, including the Holy See, Japan, and the U.S., alongside EU countries.
  • Aim: To uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.

What is Europe’s AI convention?

  • Europe’s AI convention, officially known as the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, represents a significant milestone in AI governance.
  • Adopted by the Council of Europe (COE) on May 17, this convention addresses the pressing need for comprehensive regulation of AI, particularly concerning its impact on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The scope of the Framework Convention on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law encompasses:

  • It ensures that activities throughout the lifecycle of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems align fully with Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law.
  • Consistent with the EU AI Act and the OECD’s definition, an AI system is defined as a machine-based system that generates outputs based on input to influence physical or virtual environments.

Coverage:

  • Application by Parties: The convention applies to activities involving AI systems conducted by both public authorities and private actors acting on their behalf.
  • Addressing Risks: Parties are required to address risks and impacts from AI systems activities by private actors that are not covered under (a) in a manner consistent with the convention’s objectives.

Difference Between a Framework Convention and a Protocol

  • Framework Convention: A legally binding treaty specifying broad commitments and objectives.Allows parties discretion in achieving objectives, adapting to their capacities and priorities.Example: Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Protocol: Specific agreements are negotiated under a framework convention. Sets specific targets or detailed measures to achieve the broader objectives of the framework convention.Example: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Addressing National Security in the AI Convention

  • Exemptions for National Security: Articles 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4 provide broad exemptions for national security interests, research, development, testing, and national defense, excluding military AI applications from the convention’s scope.
  • Balancing Flexibility and Regulation: Article 3(b) allows parties some flexibility in applying the convention to the private sector, preventing total exemption but accommodating national security needs.
  • General Obligations: Articles 4 and 5 ensure the protection of human rights, democratic integrity, and the rule of law, requiring parties to address disinformation and deep fakes as part of their national security measures.
  • Scope for Further Action: Article 22 allows parties to exceed specified commitments, enabling additional measures to address national security concerns related to AI.

Conclusion: The AI convention is essential because it reinforces existing human and fundamental rights within the context of AI applications, rather than creating new rights. It emphasizes the need for governments to uphold these rights and implement effective remedies and procedural safeguards.

Mains PYQ:

Q “The emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Digital Revolution) has initiated e-Governance as an integral part of government”. Discuss.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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WTO and India

India fighting pressure at WTO to allow ‘plurilateral pact’ on investment facilitation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Plurilateral Agreement/Pact and WTO

Mains level: India's Strong Stand against the IFD at WTO MC13;

Why in the News?

An official stated on Tuesday that India opposes a China-led proposal on investment facilitation at the WTO, arguing that it is a ‘non-trade’ issue beyond the global trade body’s mandate.

About Plurilateral Agreement/Pact:

  • A plurilateral agreement is a trade agreement between more than two countries, but not necessarily encompass all members of a larger organization such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • These agreements are binding only on the signatories and not on the entire membership of the organization under annexure-4 of the WTO.
  • They allow for deeper integration among interested parties without requiring full consensus, which can be difficult to achieve in larger multilateral frameworks.

What is the China-led Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (IFD)?

  • The IIFD Agreement is a proposed pact by China, with support from other countries, to streamline and facilitate foreign investment.
  • The main objectives of the IFD Agreement include:
    • Enhancing transparency of investment measures.
    • Streamlining and speeding up investment-related authorization procedures.
    • Promoting international cooperation, information sharing, and exchange of best practices.
    • Encouraging sustainable investment practices.
  • The proponents of the IFD argue that it would bring benefits to all WTO members, especially developing and least-developed countries, by creating a more predictable and transparent investment climate.

India’s Strong Stand against the IFD at WTO MC13

India has taken a firm stance against the inclusion of the IFD Agreement in the WTO framework for several reasons:

  • Investment is Not a Trade Issue: India argues that investment does not fall within the traditional purview of the WTO, which primarily focuses on trade issues. It points out that past Ministerial decisions have explicitly kept investment outside the WTO’s scope.
  • Sovereignty Concerns: A significant concern for India is the potential impact on its policy space. The IFD Agreement includes provisions that would require the government to consult with investors on policy matters, which India fears could undermine its ability to make sovereign decisions.
  • Lack of Consensus: India, along with South Africa, has highlighted the absence of a unanimous consensus among WTO members regarding the inclusion of the IFD as a plurilateral agreement. They argue that without exclusive consensus, it should not be brought onto the formal agenda.
  • Policy Autonomy: India is wary that the IFD Agreement’s requirements could constrain its autonomy in regulating investments to align with national development priorities and strategies.
  • Procedural Concerns: India contends that the issue should not have been part of the MC13 agenda and instead, should be discussed at the General Council, given the divisive nature of the proposal among WTO members.

Conclusion: India’s opposition to the IFD Agreement at the WTO stems from a combination of concerns about preserving national sovereignty, adhering to established WTO boundaries regarding trade versus investment issues, and ensuring that any significant changes in the WTO framework are backed by broad-based consensus.

Mains PYQ:

Q The broader aims and objectives of WTO are to manage and promote international trade in the era of globalisation. But the Doha round of negotiations seems doomed due to differences between the developed and the developing countries.” Discuss in the Indian perspective. (UPSC IAS/2016)

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Electoral Reforms In India

SC refuses to issue Interim order on Voter data     

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Form 17C

Mains level: Why did SC Refuse the request?

Why in the news?

On May 24, the Supreme Court rejected an [Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)] NGO’s request for the Election Commission of India to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which details the booth-wise account of votes recorded after each phase of Lok Sabha elections.

About the Application Filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR):

  • ADR sought an order directing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload authenticated, scanned, and legible copies of Form 17C, which shows the account of votes recorded booth-wise after each phase of polling in Lok Sabha elections.
  • ADR highlighted concerns regarding the delay in publishing final voter turnout data and the significant revisions in voter turnout percentages, which raised public suspicions and apprehensions about the accuracy of the data.

Why did the Supreme Court refuse to issue interim order on voter data?

  • Timing of the Elections: The Supreme Court refused the plea on May 24, stating that the nation was in the middle of the General Elections and at the moment of the sixth phase of polling.
  • Diverting the attention: The court acknowledged the mammoth nature of the elections, which require vast human resources. Diverting the attention of the Election Commission during this critical period was not deemed appropriate.
  • Ongoing Petition: The interim relief sought by ADR was already part of a relief sought in a petition pending since 2019. Granting interim relief at this stage would effectively mean providing final relief in the ongoing writ petition.
  • Already decided in previous judgments: Senior advocate Maninder Singh for the EC argued that ADR’s application was unfounded.
    • It aimed at discrediting the EC, invoking the concept of constructive res judicata, implying that issues already decided in previous judgments (like EVM-VVPAT case) cannot be re-litigated in the middle of an election process.

About the Role of the Judiciary During Election Polls:

  • Non-Interference During Elections: The Supreme Court emphasized that it should not interfere with the conduct of elections, which are managed by the Election Commission, during the polling process.
  • Enhancing Conduct of Polls: The judiciary’s role is to enhance the conduct of elections rather than interrupt or interfere in ongoing electoral processes.
  • Ground Reality Awareness: The judiciary must be conscious of the practical realities and complexities involved in the conduct of elections, ensuring that its actions do not disrupt the democratic process.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain ADR’s application highlights the judiciary’s cautious approach in intervening in electoral processes, especially during ongoing elections, to maintain the integrity and smooth functioning of the democratic exercise. The court seeks to balance the need for transparency and fairness in elections with the practicalities and operational challenges faced by the Election Commission.

Mains PYQ: 

Q To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC IAS/2017)

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Electoral Reforms In India

Reading the lower voter turnout scenario

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election process in India;

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

Low voter turnout has been a notable trend in the initial phases of the ongoing 2024 general elections in India which reflects the shift in dynamics of democratic politics.

American Scenario during Past Elections:

  • Conventional Wisdom: In the U.S., increased voter turnout is traditionally believed to benefit Democrats. For example, it was argued that higher voter turnout could have altered the outcome in favour of Hillary Clinton in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
    • According to Daron R. Shaw and John R. Petrocik in “The Turnout Myth” (2020), Hillary Clinton’s support did not significantly vary with voter turnout.
  • Class Cleavages: The advantage Democrats gained from higher turnout has decreased since 1960 due to the erosion of class-based voting patterns.
  • Simulation Studies: Research by Michael D. Martinez and Jeff Gill, and later by Spencer Goidel, Thiago Moreira, and Brenna Armstrong, used simulations to predict how changes in turnout would affect election outcomes. In recent studies, the impact of increased turnout on party advantage has varied over time.

Perception About the Party’s Prospects:

  • High confidence in a party’s victory can deter voters from participating, thinking their vote is unnecessary.
  • Polls showing Bill Clinton’s like victory during the 1996 US Elections,  led to low voter turnout, with some Clinton supporters abstaining because they believed his win was assured.
  • While both Clinton and Dole supporters showed reluctance to vote due to predicted outcomes, it led to higher abstention to vote for them.

Indian Scenario:

  • Class and Caste based: The 2019 Indian election saw a significant jump in the SC vote for the BJP, from 24% in 2014 to 34% in 2019, indicating a shift in voting patterns among Scheduled Castes. The Upper Caste Poor voted 49% BJP and 9% Congress, while Poor OBCs and Poor STs also followed a similar pattern. Poor Muslims, however, voted 8% BJP and 30% Congress.
  • Religion and Language-based: Religion is a significant factor, with political parties often indulging in communal propaganda to exploit religious sentiments. Language also plays a role, with parties arousing linguistic feelings to influence voter decisions.
  • Region and Personality based: Regionalism and sub-regionalism are important, with regional parties appealing to regional identities and sentiments. The charismatic personalities of party leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Narendra Modi, have significantly influenced voter decisions.
  • Voter turnout trends in India have fluctuated, with no consistent correlation to incumbent advantage or disadvantage.
  • It is generally believed that higher voter turnout is detrimental to incumbents, though recent elections (2014 and 2019) saw high turnout with incumbent victories.
  • The voting patterns of habitual versus non-habitual voters likely vary significantly, influenced by the diverse and multi-party nature of Indian politics.
  • Decreased turnout in the 2024 general elections could be due to factors like weather, COVID-19, economic issues, and voter apathy, potentially impacting different parties in varied ways.

Conclusion

The role of non-habitual voters in Indian elections adds an element of unpredictability, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions until election results are finalised.

Mains PYQ:

Q Individual Parliamentarian’s role as the national law maker is on a decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcome. Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2019)

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Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Southeast Asia origin of at least 45% cyber frauds targeting Indians

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Budapest Convention

Mains level: Internal and External Security; Challenges of Cybersecurity in India

Why in the News?

Over 5,000 unemployed/employed Indians are reportedly trapped in Cambodia and forced to work into cyber fraud, resulting in an estimated Rs 500 crore loss in India over six months.

Present Cybersecurity Status of India:

  • India has secured 10th rank in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) 2020 by ITU (International Telecommunication Union) by moving up 37 places.
  • The US topped (1st), followed by the UK (United Kingdom) and Saudi Arabia tied for the second position together.
  • India secured the fourth position in the Asia Pacific region.

What is the Budapest Convention? Is India a party to it?

  • The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Cybercrime Convention, commonly known as the Budapest Convention, was opened for signature in 2001 and came into force in 2004.
  • It is the only legally binding international multilateral treaty on cybercrime, coordinating investigations between nations and criminalizing specific cybercrime activities.
  • Budapest Convention is supplemented by a Protocol addressing xenophobia and racism committed through computer systems.
  • As of now, the Convention has 56 member countries, including the US and UK. However, India is not a party to the Budapest Convention.

Indian Nationals vs. Organised Crimes in the South Asian Region:

  • Most web applications use the Chinese language to perform financial fraud, thereby not ruling out the Chinese connection.
  • Financial crimes such as digital arrest, stock market scams, investment scams, and romance or dating scams account for a loss of over ₹1,776 crores in 89,054 cases in the first four months of the year spurt in organized crime from Southeast Asia.
  • Numerous Indian nationals employed within a suspected fraudulent operation based in Sihanouk City, Cambodia, have voiced their grievances against their employers.

What are the causes of the increase in Organized Financial Fraud?

  • Weak Prevention Measures:  Online Platforms in India at present account for 89% of all fraud incidents, with 40% of companies losing over $1 million.
  • Rapid Digitization and Payment Systems: After the pandemic, there was a massive shift, with the average Indian company now operating at least more than two online platforms in the normal course of business.
    • This has made it easier for fraudsters to operate anonymously and target a large number of victims.
  • Informal Investigation and Prosecution: India lacks the standardized data formats protocol system from the core banks itself. This makes it difficult to track devices and jurisdictional issues in interstate cases.
  • Lack of Deterrence: With only 26% of victims able to recover lost funds, fraudsters are encouraged to target individuals and organizations. The total value of frauds reported in 2021-22 was a staggering ₹60,414 crore.
  • Lack of Awareness: Sharing sensitive financial details with others or storing them insecurely it makes a common man vulnerable to fraud.

What are the Initiatives taken by the government to tackle cyber crimes in India?

  • National Cyber Security Strategy 2020: Currently being formulated to enhance cyber awareness and strengthen cybersecurity through more rigorous audits.
  • Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018: Based on the recommendations of the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee, this bill aims to secure citizens’ data.
  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C): Approved in October 2018, this initiative addresses all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  • National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In): Functions as the nodal agency for coordinating all cybersecurity efforts, emergency responses, and crisis management.
  • National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC): Established to protect and ensure the resilience of critical information infrastructure.

Way Forward:

  • Update and Enforce Laws: Regularly update the Information Technology Act and other relevant laws to address emerging cyber threats and ensure strict enforcement.
  • Upgrade Cyber Defense Systems: Invest in advanced cybersecurity technologies and infrastructure to protect critical information systems.
  • Training Law Enforcement: Provide specialized training for law enforcement agencies to equip them with the skills needed to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes.
  • Collaborate with Industry: Foster partnerships between the government and private sector to share threat intelligence and best practices.

Mains question for practice:

Q Discuss the current challenges of cybersecurity in India, citing examples of recent trends in cybercrime. What measures have been taken by the Indian government to address these challenges? 15M

Mains PYQ

Q What are the different elements of cyber security? Keeping in view the challenges in cyber security, examine the extent to which India has successfully developed a comprehensive National Cyber Security Strategy.(UPSC IAS/2022)

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Monsoon Updates

What is La Nina, expected to set in later this year, and how it could impact global weather

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: El Nino ,La Nina and ENSO

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has recently forecasted that La nina will affect the Indian monsoon in August and September.

What are El nino and La nina?

  • El Nino and La Nina are climate phenomena resulting from ocean-atmosphere interactions in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, significantly influencing global weather patterns.
  • El Nino (meaning “little boy” in Spanish) occurs when weak trade winds allow warm surface waters to accumulate near South America, reducing the usual upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water. This leads to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures.
  • La Nina (meaning “little girl” in Spanish) involves strong trade winds pushing warm water towards Asia, increasing upwelling and resulting in cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along South America.
  • Together with a neutral phase, they form the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

How could the incoming La Nina impact global weather?

  • Temperatures
      • Global temperatures are likely to decrease compared to the recent record-breaking heat during the 2023-2024 El Nino event.
      • However, despite the cooling effect of La Nina, temperatures will still be higher than in previous decades due to the long-term warming trend from greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Rainfall
      • La Nina typically brings drier conditions to parts of Southeast Asia, Australia, and the southern United States.
      • Wetter than normal conditions are expected in parts of South America and eastern Africa.
  • Tropical Storms
      • La Nina is associated with increased tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean and fewer storms in the Pacific.
      • The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season could see more intense storms due to La nina conditions.
  • Economic Impacts
    • Droughts and floods linked to La nina can negatively impact agriculture, food security, and infrastructure in affected regions.
    • Fishing communities in the eastern Pacific may face reduced catches due to cooler ocean temperatures.

La nina’s impact on India

  • Positive Impact on Monsoons
      • La Nina generally leads to above-average monsoon rainfall in India. Since 1950, out of the 13 droughts India faced, only one was during a La nina year.
      • The extended La Nina event in 2022 led to a change in wind patterns, with winds blowing from north to south instead of the usual northwesterly direction.
      • This caused pollutants from agricultural burning in northern states to bypass Delhi and reach southern regions like Mumbai.
  • Negative Impacts
    • La Nina can sometimes lead to heavy rains and floods in some parts of India, while the Western Ghats may receive average or below-average rainfall.
    • Winter rainfall is less than normal in north India, and snowfall over the Western Himalayas is also lower than usual during La Nina years.
    • Farmers may be at risk of losing their standing Kharif crops if heavy rains occur during this period.

Is climate change affecting EnSO?

  • El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a global climate phenomenon that emerges from variations in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical Pacific Ocean.
    • Climate change is likely impacting the ENSO cycle, potentially altering the frequency and intensity of El Nino and La Nina events.
    • Studies suggest that global warming may change mean oceanic conditions in the Pacific, possibly leading to more frequent or intense El Nino events.
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has indicated that climate change is expected to influence extreme weather events associated with EnSO, including more severe droughts, floods, and heatwaves.

 Way Forward:

  • Develop more accurate climate models for better prediction of EnSO events and their impacts.
  • Foster international collaboration to share data, resources, and strategies for managing EnSO-related challenges.

BACK2BASICS

India Meteorological Department (IMD)

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD), established in 1875, serves as the national Meteorological Service and is the principal government agency responsible for meteorology and related subjects in India.
  • Operating under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, IMD is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • IMD is one of the six Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organization.

Mains PYQ:

Q Most of the unusual climatic happenings are explained as an outcome of the El-nino effect. Do you agree? (UPSC IAS/2014)

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Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Expert Explains: Why the ICC Prosecutor has asked for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu, and what could happen now

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About International Criminal Court (ICC)

Mains level: World peace and challenges; International Courts and Justice;

Why in the News?

On 20 May 2024, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants against leaders of Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel about the events of October 7, 2023, and the conflict in Palestine.

What is the International Criminal Court?

  • The International Criminal Court formed in 2002, is an Intergovernmental Organization and International Tribunal seated in the Hague, Netherlands.
  • It deals with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
  • Unlike the international tribunals, the International Criminal Court is a permanent body.

Against whom has the Prosecutor requested warrants of arrest?

Specifically, warrants have been sought for senior Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, along with Netanyahu and Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant.

The process of ICC decision-making and the scope of the present case:

  • ICC decisions are binding, but they rely on the cooperation of member states for support.
    • A panel of judges at the ICC must decide on the Prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants.
    • If approved, all State Parties are obligated to cooperate, including arresting and extraditing the accused individuals to The Hague.
    • This could restrict international travel for Netanyahu and Gallant, affecting visits to countries that are State Parties to the Rome Statute.
  • Israel is not a Party to the Rome Statute. However, the ICC does have jurisdiction over crimes committed by nationals of both State Parties  (such as Palestine) and Non-state Parties (such as Israel) on the territory of a State Party (such as Palestine).

International Criminal Court (ICC) Vs. International Court of Justice (ICJ) 

ICC ICJ
Relationship with the UN ICC is an independent organization not part of the United Nations ICJ is an integral part of the UN and acts as its primary judicial branch
Members ICC has around 105 members, focusing on prosecuting individuals for crimes. ICJ has all 193 UN member countries as its members, primarily resolving disputes between states
Derivation of Authority ICC derives its authority from the Rome Statute, focusing on prosecuting individuals for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. ICJ derives its authority from the Charter of the United Nations, settling disputes between countries based on international law
Funding It mainly functions on contributions made by state parties to the Rome Statute and voluntary contributions Its funding sources differ based on its status as an organ of the United Nations

 

Way forward:

  • Need Enhanced Cooperation: Encouraging greater cooperation between the ICC and the UN to strengthen their effectiveness in addressing international crimes.
  • Need Wider Membership: Advocating for more countries to become State Parties to the Rome Statute to broaden the ICC’s jurisdiction and reach.

Mains PYQ:

Q India’s relations with Israel have, of late, acquired a depth and diversity, which cannot be rolled back.” Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2018)

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

‘Silent demise’ of vast ‘Rangelands’ threatens climate, food, wellbeing of billions: UNCCD 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNCCD Reports; Global Land Outlook Thematic Report

Mains level: UNCCD; Land Degradation; f

Why in the News?

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recently published the “Global Land Outlook Thematic Report” on Rangelands and Pastoralists, revealing that up to 50% of Rangelands are degraded.

About UNCCD:

  • UNCCD adopted in 1994 (effectively from 1996),  is a legally binding agreement that aims to protect and restore land and combat desertification and drought.
  • It is one of the three Rio Conventions (the other two being – the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)).

What is the Rangeland?

  • Rangeland, is any extensive area of land that is occupied by native herbaceous or shrubby vegetation which is grazed by domestic or wild herbivores.

    • It may include tallgrass prairies, steppes (shortgrass prairies), desert shrublands, shrub woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, and tundras.
  • These lands constitute 54% of all land cover, account for 1/6th of global food production, and represent nearly 1/3rd of the planet’s carbon reservoir.

World areas that are most acutely affected by Rangeland Degradation:

  • Central Asia, China, Mongolia: The replacement of government management with privatization and agricultural industrialization led to the abandonment of herders and reliance on insufficient natural resources, causing degradation.
  • North Africa and the Near East: Climate change is pushing pastoralists into poverty and degrading rangelands.
  • Sahel and West Africa: Conflict, power imbalances, and border issues have disrupted livestock mobility, leading to degradation.
  • South America: Climate change, deforestation from industrial agriculture, and land use conversion are primary drivers of degradation.
  • East Africa: Migration and forced displacement due to competing land uses are evicting pastoralists, causing degradation.
  • North America: Degradation of ancient grasslands and dry rangelands threatens biodiversity in ecosystems like tall-grass prairies and southern deserts.
  • Europe: Policies favoring industrial farming over pastoralism and misguided incentives are causing the abandonment and degradation of rangelands.
  • South Africa and Australia: Afforestation, mining, and land conversion are causing degradation and loss of rangelands.

How does it impact the Food chain?

  • Over two billion people, including small-scale herders, ranchers, and farmers, depend on healthy rangelands for their livelihoods, underscoring the critical link between rangeland health and food chain cycle.
  • Up to 50% of rangelands are degraded due to various factors including overuse, misuse, climate change, and biodiversity loss, posing a severe threat to food security.

The Economic significance of Rangelands:

  • Livestock Grazing and Agriculture: Rangelands are crucial for livestock production, providing natural forage for cattle, sheep, goats, and other herbivores. This grazing land supports the meat and dairy industries, which are vital to the global food supply and rural economies.
  • Eco-tourism and hunting: These areas support a wide range of wildlife, contributing to biodiversity and offering opportunities for eco-tourism and hunting, both of which generate significant income for local economies.
  • Ecosystem Services: Rangelands provide vital services like water filtration, carbon storage, and soil preservation, yielding economic advantages through climate regulation and conservation.
  • Income and employment opportunities: Harvesting these resources provides income and employment opportunities for rural populations. The economic contributions made by different countries are as follows:
    • Ethiopia: Livestock production from rangelands accounts for 19% of the country’s GDP.
    • India: Livestock from rangelands contributes 4% to the national GDP.
    • Brazil: As a major beef producer, Brazil generates one-third of its agribusiness GDP from cattle livestock, producing 16% of the world’s beef.

What is the innovative approach presented by the UNCCD Report?

  • The past estimates by UNCCD of degraded rangeland of roughly 25% are significantly underestimated, where the actual loss of rangeland’s health and productivity was potentially reaching up to 50%.
  • Conceptual Approach: The report outlines a new conceptual approach designed to help policymakers stabilize, restore, and manage rangelands more effectively.
    • This new approach is supported by detailed case studies from nearly every world region, which provide important lessons from both the successes and failures in rangeland management.
  • Core Recommendation – Protect Pastoralism: The report emphasizes the importance of protecting pastoralism a traditional, mobile way of life based on pasture-based livestock production as a key strategy for sustainable rangeland management.

Conclusion: Many countries like the U.S. and Canada makingare trying to reintroduce bison, an animal with significant cultural importance to indigenous peoples. This initiative aims to promote rangeland health and enhance food security.

Mains PYQ:

Q The process of desertification does not have climate boundaries. Justify with examples.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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Medical Education Governance in India

SC to reconsider its 1995 judgement to include the medical profession under the Consumer Protection Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Judiciary; Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

Mains level: Judiciary; Judicial overreach; Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

Why in the news?

Recently, the apex court held that lawyers as ‘professionals’ could not be subjected to legal proceedings for providing faulty ‘service’ under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (CPA). A similar case applies to Medical practitioners which is in high controversy.

What is the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)?

  •  
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Purpose Enacted to provide simpler and quicker access to redressal of consumer grievances. Repeals and replaces the CPA, 1986.
Introduction of Concept Introduced the concept of ‘consumer’ and conferred additional rights on consumers. Expands the scope of the definition of ‘consumer’ to include transactions conducted offline or online through electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling, or multi-level marketing.
Scope of Protection Protects individuals fitting the definition of ‘consumer’ as defined by the Act. Extends protection to a wider range of transactions, including those related to banking, insurance, transport, housing construction, entertainment, amusement, etc.

About the previous case – Indian Medical Association vs V P Shantha (1995):

  • In 1995, a three-judge bench of the SC ruled, “Doctors would be covered under the consumer protection law, allowing the filing of several medical negligence lawsuits against doctors for deficiency in service”.
  • The court also acknowledged that medical professional occupations are often “skilled” work which differs from other occupations and the success usually depends on factors that are beyond the doctor’s control.

Diversity of present Opinions:

  • What did the National Consumer Disputes Redressal (NCDR) Commission say?
      • In 2007, the NCDR Commission held that lawyers provide a service to their clients and hence they can be sued for deficiency of service.
      • This case ultimately reached the apex court where the judgement was passed recently.
  • What did the Apex court say?
    • The court said that the objective principle of the CPA 2019 was to protect consumers from unfair trade practices and unethical business practices (the law was not intended to include professionals).
    • The court noted that the legal profession is unique and cannot be compared with any other profession.
    • According to the SC, hiring or availing of an advocate is a contract of personal service and is therefore exempted from the scope of the consumer protection law.

About the Consumer Redressal Commissions in India:

  • Legal proceedings under the CPA are heard by the Commissions which are constituted at all the 3 tier- District, State, and National levels (According to the CPA, 1986).
    • The President of each Commission would be a person who was/ is qualified to be a judge at the District, High Court, and Supreme Court resp.
    • The other individuals who have the knowledge, experience, or capacity to deal with problems relating to economics, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, public affairs or administration.
    • Since there is no requirement for commission members to have knowledge in medical matters, they are not suited to deal with complex medical issues.
  • In 2024, another SC bench appeared to be more sympathetic to the medical practitioners and held that these professionals should not be held to the same standard as other occupations.

Why does the Apex Court not Exempt Medical Profession from the Purview of CPA?

  • Firstly, doctors have specific duties to their patients, such as deciding on treatment and its administration.
  • Secondly, if a doctor breaches these duties by failing to provide a reasonable standard of care, they can be held liable under the CPA.
  • Additionally, the court believes requiring commission members to have case-specific knowledge would be impractical and burdensome.

Conclusion: This decision aims to prevent potential imbalances between District and State Commissions in handling cases and places the responsibility on parties to provide evidence for informed decisions.

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Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

A vegetable triumvirate, inflation, and the takeaway

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Inflation; Agriculture; Perishable goods;

Mains level: Volatility and importance of shaping Inflation trends;

Why in the News?

The price fluctuations and Inflation trends in recent market underscore the necessity for Targeted Policy Interventions and a comprehensive grasp of Agricultural Supply Chains.

The Significance of Vegetable Triumvirate (trio):

  • Tomato, Onion, and Potato (TOP) aren’t just statistical entities but essential ingredients in Indian cuisine, forming the backbone of many dishes.
  • These vegetables represent more than just a portion of the CPI basket; they embody cultural and dietary preferences deeply ingrained in Indian culinary traditions.

Volatility and its role in shaping Inflation trends by TOP vegetables:

Vegetable prices in India rose by approximately 15% year-on-year, indicating significant inflation in this category.

  • Highly Volatile: There was notable volatility in vegetable prices, with a sharp decrease of 0.7% in June followed by a substantial increase of 37.4% in July.
  • High Contribution to Inflation: Despite vegetables weighing only 6% in the total CPI basket, their contribution to inflation was about 30% in Feb/March 2024.
    • For example, Tomatoes having a weight of only 0.6% in the CPI basket, prices soared by 202% in July 2023, contributing to 18.1% of the total headline inflation.
    • The contribution of vegetables to headline inflation was 31.9%, with TOP (tomato, onion, and potato) contributing 17.2%, further highlighting their substantial impact on inflation trends.

Navigating Culinary and Economic Realities (Challenges):

  • Policy Challenges: The volatility in TOP prices underscores the need for effective policy interventions, including agricultural value chain reforms and improved storage facilities to stabilize prices and support farmers.
  • Farmers’ Plight: Farmers, who are often net buyers of these crops, bear the brunt of price fluctuations, necessitating measures like Minimum Support Prices to ensure their livelihoods are protected.
  • Government Response: Despite protests and demands from farmers, policy responses have been inconsistent, relying on short-term measures like export bans rather than addressing underlying structural issues in the agricultural sector.

Way forward:

  • Need for Value Chain Reforms: Implement reforms aimed at improving the efficiency and resilience of agricultural value chains for TOP vegetables.
  • Need Price Stabilization Mechanisms: Introduce mechanisms to stabilize prices of TOP vegetables, such as market interventions, buffer stocks, or price ceilings during periods of extreme volatility. This can help mitigate the impact of price fluctuations on consumers and farmers alike.
  • Minimum Support Prices (MSPs): Establish MSPs for TOP vegetables to provide farmers with a guaranteed floor price for their produce.

Mains PYQ:

Q Do you agree with the view that steady GDP growth and low inflation have left the Indian economy in good shape? Give reasons in support of your arguments.(UPSC IAS/2019)

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