North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Centre and Manipur signs Peace Agreement with UNLF

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNLF, Meitei Tribe

Mains level: Read the attached story

UNLF

Central Idea

  • The Union and Manipur governments have signed a peace agreement with the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a banned Meitei extremist organisation.
  • UNLF is the oldest armed group based in the Manipur valley, marking this agreement as a notable event in the region’s history.

Understanding the UNLF

  • Formation: Established on November 24, 1964, under Arembam Samarendra Singh‘s leadership, the UNLF is the oldest valley-based insurgent group in Manipur.
  • Diverse Leadership: Initially led by a mix of ethnicities, including Naga and Kuki leaders.
  • Armed Wing and Activities: The Manipur People’s Army, formed in 1990, and has been responsible for multiple attacks against Indian security forces.
  • Current Status: The UNLF, now split into two factions, is estimated to have 400-500 cadres, operating primarily in the valley areas of Manipur and some Kuki-Zomi hill districts.
  • Base of Operations: Largely operating from Myanmar, the group has faced setbacks due to conflicts with the Myanmar military and other Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs).

Precedent for the Peace Agreement

  • Historical Context: This is a significant development as Meitei Extremist Organisations (VBIGs) have traditionally not engaged in peace talks with the Centre.
  • Previous Instances: Smaller groups like UPPK, KCP, and Maoist Communist Group have disbanded or diminished in influence, but the terms of their agreements are unclear.
  • UNLF’s Internal Dynamics: The group underwent splits in the mid-1990s and 2021, leading to the formation of factions under different leaders. The faction led by Khundongbam Pambei has been open to negotiations since 2020.

Status of Other Insurgent Groups

  • Broader Insurgency Landscape: The UNLF is one of several Meitei insurgent groups and is among the seven banned by the Union government.
  • Opposition to Talks: The UNLF faction under NC Koireng remains opposed to peace talks.
  • Agreements with Other Groups: A Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement was reached in 2008 with Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups, but the Manipur government withdrew from agreements with some groups in 2022.

Conclusion

  • The peace agreement with the UNLF marks a critical step in addressing the long-standing insurgency in Manipur.
  • It reflects a shift in the approach of Meitei insurgent groups towards dialogue and potential reconciliation.
  • The success of this agreement could pave the way for further peace initiatives in the region, contributing to stability and development in Manipur.

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

US Allegations on India in Terrorist Execution Plot

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Read the attached story

terror

Central Idea

  • US Allegations: The US has implicated an Indian official in a plot to assassinate a Khalistani terrorist, raising serious concerns for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
  • Indian Government’s Stance: While the MEA acknowledges the gravity of the situation, it refutes the claims of the Indian diplomat’s involvement.

Backdrop and Timing of the Allegations

  • Concurrent Events: The indictment period coincided with PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the G7 and Quad leaders’ summit and the India-US Defence Industrial Cooperation Roadmap’s conclusion.
  • Profile of the Accused Official: Described as a “Senior Field Officer” with a background in security management, intelligence, and military training, the official is also noted to have served in the Central Reserve Police Force.

terror

Pre-Indictment Measures by India

  • Proactive Steps: Anticipating the indictment, India formed a high-level inquiry committee on November 18.
  • Committee Composition: Likely includes officials from intelligence, investigative, law enforcement agencies, and the MEA.
  • Prior Diplomatic Engagements: The indictment followed months of diplomatic and intelligence discussions between the US and India, including meetings between US NSA Jake Sullivan and NSA Ajit Doval, and CIA Director William Burns’ visit to India.

India’s Diplomatic Response

  • Contrast with Canada’s Allegations: India’s response contrasts with its reaction to Canada’s allegations regarding the killing of another Khalistani separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, where it accused Canada of being a “safe haven” for extremists.
  • Previous Incident with the US: Recalls the 2013 incident involving Devyani Khobragade (IFS), which led to diplomatic tensions but was later resolved.
  • Current Approach: India is showing restraint, prioritizing its relationship with the US, and aiming to prevent the situation from escalating into a diplomatic crisis.

US-India Relations: A Complex Dynamic

  • Strategic and Values-Based Partnership: The relationship has evolved over decades, marked by significant trade and strategic interests, and a debate over shared values versus strategic interests.
  • Historical Perspective: The relationship has weathered various challenges, including the Nixon-Kissinger era, nuclear tests sanctions, and the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Way Forward

  • Commitment to Investigation: India’s thorough investigation is crucial for maintaining its credibility and managing its relationship with the US.
  • Extradition Considerations: India must question why the US is not keen on extraditing a man facing terror charges to India.
  • Global Diplomatic Impact: The outcome will affect India’s relations with the “Five Eyes” intelligence partner countries.
  • India’s reputation: India’s reputation as a consistent and credible power is at stake, necessitating a wise and principled approach.

Conclusion: Navigating a Diplomatic Tightrope

  • The Indian government faces a delicate diplomatic challenge in addressing the US allegations.
  • Balancing national integrity with maintaining robust international relations, especially with a key partner like the United States, is crucial for India’s diplomatic posture and global standing.

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

How UAPA has become more draconian over the years?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UAPA

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Students in Jammu & Kashmir were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) after allegations of abuse and threats during the World Cup final, along with raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
  • Jammu & Kashmir police invoked a ‘softer provision’ of UAPA, citing the act of ‘terrorizing’ others with pro-India or anti-Pakistan sentiments.

What is UAPA?

  • Purpose: UAPA empowers the government to investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism, and to designate entities as “unlawful” or “terrorist” organizations or individuals.
  • Enactment: Introduced in 1967, based on recommendations from the National Integration Council to counter national divisiveness. Initially focused on secessionist activities without explicit mention of terrorism.
  • Evolution of UAPA:
  1. Introduction of Terrorism (2004): Post-repeal of POTA, UAPA was amended to include terrorism. It defined terrorism, associated punishments, and introduced provisions for seizing ‘proceeds of terrorism’.
  2. Post-26/11 Amendments (2008): Expanded the definition of terrorism, introduced stringent bail conditions, and extended police and judicial custody durations. It also made bail more difficult to obtain and shifted the burden of proof to the accused in certain cases.
  3. Economic Security (2012): Included economic security under terrorism, categorizing activities like counterfeiting currency as terrorist acts. It also increased the duration for which an organization could be declared unlawful.
  4. Individual Designation (2019): Allowed the government to designate individuals as terrorists and expanded the NIA’s powers.

The ‘Softer’ Provision: Section 13

  • Section 13 of UAPA: Deals with punishment for ‘unlawful activities’ rather than ‘terrorist activities’. It includes imprisonment up to seven years for participating in, advocating, abetting, or inciting unlawful activities.
  • Implications: Although termed ‘softer’, this section still carries significant penalties and makes bail challenging to obtain.

Criticism and Concerns

  • Vague Definitions: The act’s broad and vague definitions, especially post-2008 amendments, allow for a wide interpretation of what constitutes terrorism or unlawful activities.
  • Human Rights Concerns: The act has been criticized for potentially violating human rights, including the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
  • Use against Dissenters: There have been instances where UAPA has been used against activists, journalists, and protestors, raising concerns about its use to suppress dissent.

Conclusion: Balancing Security and Rights

  • Need for Scrutiny: The use of UAPA, especially its ‘softer’ provisions, requires careful scrutiny to ensure it doesn’t infringe on fundamental rights while addressing security concerns.
  • Debate on Amendments: Ongoing debates about UAPA focus on finding a balance between national security needs and the protection of individual rights and freedoms.

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Coal and Mining Sector

Understanding Rat-Hole Mining

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Rat-Hole Mining, Coal reserves in NE

Mains level: NA

rat-hole

Central Idea

  • The rescue operation in Uttarakhand using rat-hole mining, a method banned for its hazardous nature and environmental impact, brings to light the complexities and challenges of mining practices in India.

What is Rat-Hole Mining?

  • Description: A primitive and hazardous method of mining involving digging small tunnels, just large enough for a person to crawl through, to extract coal.
  • Types:
    • Side-Cutting: Following a visible coal seam on hill slopes.
    • Box-Cutting: Involves digging a pit and then creating horizontal tunnels.
  • Irony: Thecued workers from Assam, a region that lost lives to rat-hole mining in Meghalaya, were ironically saved using the same method.

Why is Rat-Hole Mining Banned?

  • Location: Prevalent in Meghalaya, a Sixth Schedule State where central mining laws don’t apply.
  • Risks: Asphyxiation, mine collapse, flooding, and severe environmental impacts.
  • NGT Ban (2014): Due to safety hazards and environmental degradation, including river pollution.
  • Continued Illegal Mining: Despite the ban, illegal mining and transportation persist, with significant loss of lives (e.g., 17 miners drowned in 2018 in East Jaintia Hills).

Factors Leading to the NGT Ban

  • Activism: Environmental and human rights groups highlighted the dangers for two decades.
  • Child Labor: Reports estimated around 70,000 children, mostly from Bangladesh and Nepal, were employed in these mines.
  • Official Acknowledgment: Under pressure, the State admitted to child labor in 2013, leading to the NGT ban in 2014.

Feasibility of such mining

  • Economic Viability: Thin coal seams in Meghalaya make rat-hole mining more economically feasible than open-cast mining.
  • Coal Reserves: Meghalaya has significant coal reserves dating back to the Eocene age.
  • Government Action: Meghalaya announced the approval of mining leases for ‘scientific’ mining in 2023.
  • Concerns: Skepticism remains among anti-mining activists about the implementation of sustainable and legal mining practices.

Conclusion

  • While the approval of ‘scientific’ mining offers a legal and potentially safer avenue, it remains to be seen how effectively it will replace the dangerous and unregulated rat-hole mining, especially in regions with unique geological and socio-political contexts like Meghalaya.

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Does the Indian Judiciary have a ‘Patriarchy Problem’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Justice Fathima Beevi

Mains level: Women in Judiciary

Central Idea

  • India’s judiciary has long grappled with gender disparity, and the recent passing of Justice Fathima Beevi, the country’s first female Supreme Court judge, has brought attention to this issue.
  • Despite incremental progress, women continue to be underrepresented in both the Supreme Court and High Courts, highlighting the need for comprehensive reform.

About Justice Fathima Beevi

  • Justice Fathima Beevi, India’s first woman Supreme Court judge, passed away at the age of 96 in Kollam, Kerala.
  • She made history as the first Muslim woman judge of the Supreme Court, as well as the first woman Supreme Court Justice in Asia.

Gender Disparity in Indian Judiciary

[A] Supreme Court

  • Current Scenario: Of the 34 incumbent Supreme Court justices, only three are women: Justices Hima Kohli, Bela Trivedi, and BV Nagarathna.
  • Historical Perspective: India has had a total of 11 women judges in the Supreme Court’s history, since Justice Beevi’s appointment in 1989.
  • Low Representation: This translates to approximately 4% representation of women judges out of a total of 268 judges in the apex court’s history.
  • Recent Appointments: The current collegium, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, has made 14 appointments but is yet to appoint a woman judge to the Supreme Court.

[B] High Court

  • High Court Scenario: As of March 2022, India has 25 high courts with 1,114 sanctioned judge positions.
  • Working Judges: However, only 785 judges are currently working, with 329 positions remaining vacant.
  • Female Judges: Out of the working judges, only 107 are women, constituting 13% of the total.
  • Women Chief Justices: Only one of the country’s 25 high courts currently has a woman chief justice.

Efforts to Address Gender Disparity

  • Legal Perspective: The Union Law Minister stated that the Constitution’s Articles 124, 217, and 224 do not provide for caste or class-based reservations in higher judiciary appointments.
  • Recommendation for Diversity: Nevertheless, the Centre encouraged high court chief justices to consider suitable candidates who are women, minorities, scheduled castes, or tribes to ensure social diversity in the appointment process.

Challenges in Lower Judiciary and District Courts

  • Higher Representation: Women constitute approximately 27% of judges in the lower judiciary, but gender disparities persist in higher appointments such as district judges and high courts.
  • Regional Disparities: A study revealed that only a few smaller states like Goa, Meghalaya, and Sikkim had over 60% women judges, while others remained below 40%.
  • Reservation: Some states have introduced quotas for women in the lower judiciary, providing between 30% and 35% reservation for direct appointments.

Way forward

  • In April 2021, Chief Justice SA Bobde emphasized that capable candidates were required for greater women representation, rather than an attitudinal change.
  • His statement sparked controversy as female advocates challenged the assumption that women refused judgeships solely due to domestic responsibilities.
  • Advocates argued that men also decline judgeships for various reasons without hindering their appointment.

Conclusion

  • The gender disparity in India’s judiciary remains a persistent challenge, with slow progress towards equal representation.
  • It is imperative to address this issue comprehensively, from the highest courts to the lower judiciary, by promoting diversity and equal opportunities, ultimately strengthening the justice system and upholding gender equality.

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Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

President bats for All India Judicial Service (AIJS)  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: All India Judicial Service (AIJS)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • On Constitution Day, President emphasized the need for an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) to reflect India’s diverse fabric in the judiciary.
  • Designed to streamline the recruitment process for judges, particularly at the levels of additional district judges and district judges across all states, the AIJS concept has been the subject of longstanding debate and contention within legal circles.

All India Judicial Service (AIJS): Overview

  • Objective: To select and nurture talented individuals nationwide, ensuring representation from underrepresented social groups.
  • Current Recruitment: Under Articles 233 and 234 of the Constitution, states manage district judge appointments. State Public Service Commissions conduct recruitment, supervised by High Courts.
  • Rationale: AIJS aims to enhance judicial efficiency, standardize compensation, expedite recruitment, and ensure uniform training.

Historical Context

  • 1958: The Law Commission first proposed a centralized judicial service.
  • 1978: The Law Commission revisited the idea amid concerns about delays and case backlogs.
  • 2006: A Parliamentary Committee supported a pan-Indian judicial service, drafting a bill.

Judiciary’s Stance

  • 1992: The Supreme Court directed the Centre to establish AIJS (All India Judges’ Assam vs. Union of India case).
  • 1993: The Court permitted the Centre to initiate AIJS independently.
  • 2017: The Supreme Court suggested a “Central Selection Mechanism” for district judge appointments.

Necessity of AIJS

  • Challenges: The lower judiciary faces about 5400 vacancies and a backlog of 2.78 crore cases.
  • Quality Concerns: The declining quality of judicial officers necessitates high-caliber recruitment.
  • Financial Incentives: State services often fail to attract top talent due to lower salaries.
  • Training and Subjectivity: State-run institutions lack adequate training resources; current appointments are marred by subjectivity and nepotism.

Criticism and Concerns

  • Federalism: AIJS is seen as infringing on states’ powers.
  • Language and Representation: Centralized recruitment might impact the use of regional languages.
  • Equality and Education: A national exam could disadvantage less privileged candidates; law education standards are inconsistent.
  • Structural Issues: AIJS may not address systemic problems like low pay and inadequate infrastructure.
  • Bureaucratization: Centralizing recruitment doesn’t inherently guarantee efficiency.

Government’s Motivation

  • Business Environment: Reforming the lower judiciary is aligned with improving India’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.
  • Dispute Resolution: Efficient dispute resolution is crucial for business rankings.
  • IAS Inspiration: The government views the IAS system as a model for enhancing judicial services.

Way Forward

Niti Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @75’ report recommends:

  • Examination: An all-India judicial services exam to maintain high standards.
  • Technology: Implementing video-conferencing to expedite justice and reduce logistical issues.
  • Independence: AIJS cadre should report to the Chief Justice in each High Court to preserve judicial independence.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Elections: Concerns for India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Bangladesh's Elections

Bangladesh

Central Idea

  • In recent months, Western nations, including the US, UK, and EU have been urging Bangladesh to hold free, fair, and participatory elections.
  • These calls have been accompanied by pressure on the Sheikh Hasina government to step down and allow a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections in January.
  • While the US has eased its stance under Indian intervention, the EU continues to exert pressure.

This article explores the intricate dynamics of Bangladesh’s political landscape, the potential consequences of fair elections, and the global interests at stake.

Fair Elections vs. Radical Islamists

  • Opposition Demands: The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demands elections under a caretaker government, which the government has rejected.
  • Potential Outcome: With the BNP unlikely to participate, the elections may result in a one-sided contest favoring the Awami League, returning Sheikh Hasina to power for the fourth time.
  • Anti-Incumbency: After 15 years in power, the Awami League faces significant anti-incumbency, exacerbated by record-high inflation and economic challenges.
  • Economic Crisis: Falling forex reserves, currency depreciation, and mounting external debt have created a looming debt crisis.
  • Chinese Loans: Much of the infrastructure development relies on high-interest loans from China.

Authoritarianism and Islamist Influence

  • Authoritarian Practices: The Awami League’s authoritarian measures, including arrests and harassment of opposition leaders, have fueled resentment among the masses.
  • Corruption and Nepotism: Perceived corruption and nepotism within the Awami League have widened the gap between the government and the impoverished population.
  • Islamist Influence: The Awami League’s encouragement of Islamist groups like Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has created a toxic environment within the ruling party.
  • Radicalization: Islamist organizations, through religious schools and mosques, have radicalized a significant portion of the population, especially the youth.
  • Islamist Opposition: The Islamist parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami, Hefazat, and Islami Oikyo Jote, now fill the opposition space.
  • Political Analyst’s Perspective: Political analysts argue that the Awami League’s crackdown on the BNP has inadvertently strengthened Islamist parties, which seek to implement strict Sharia laws and turn Bangladesh into an Islamic state.

Potential Outcomes of Equitable Elections

  • Rise of Jihad: Fair and equitable elections may pave the way for radical Islamist parties to come to power.
  • Jamaat-e-Islami: Despite being banned from contesting elections, Jamaat nominees may run as Independents or on tickets from other parties, potentially leading to their victory.
  • Radicalists Victory: Political observers suggest that non-partisan elections would likely result in Islamist parties sweeping the polls and gaining power.
  • Impact on India: The rise of Islamists in Bangladesh could negatively affect India, potentially aligning Bangladesh with Pakistan and China, and posing a threat to India’s interests.
  • Global Concerns: An Islamist-controlled Bangladesh could become a breeding ground for jihadis and a potential failed state, posing a danger to global security.

World’s Interest in the Election Process

  • Global Implications: Given the far-reaching consequences of Islamist rule in Bangladesh, the world has a vested interest in allowing the election process to proceed with limited interference.
  • Focus on Future Actions: While the elections may be flawed or unfair, the priority should be to ensure that after returning to power, the Awami League commits to keeping China at bay, curbing Islamist forces, allowing a responsible and secular opposition to thrive, and cleansing the party of Islamist elements.
  • Securing Bangladesh’s Future: Striking a balance between a flawed elections and securing Bangladesh’s democratic and secular future is essential for the world’s stability and security.

Conclusion

  • The upcoming elections in Bangladesh present a complex dilemma for both the nation and the world.
  • While free and fair elections could bring radical Islamists to power, their absence could lead to continued authoritarianism.
  • Striking the right balance and securing Bangladesh’s future as a democratic and secular nation is paramount to global stability and peace.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

How Racism overshadowed India-Taiwan Co-operation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India Taiwan Relations

taiwan

Central Idea

  • Recent reports of India and Taiwan considering a MoU to facilitate Indian workers’ employment in Taiwan have revealed underlying issues of racism and stereotypes.
  • These negative perceptions have implications for both countries and the need for addressing such biases is paramount.

Racism in Taiwan and Stereotypes

  • MoU Announcement: Reports of a MoU between India and Taiwan sparked racism in Taiwan towards Indian men.
  • Negative Stereotypes: Taiwanese netizens labeled Indian men as dirty, uneducated, and even used derogatory terms like ‘rapists.’
  • China-Backed Media: China-backed media amplified stereotypes, perpetuating narratives about women’s safety in India.
  • Taiwan’s Response: Taiwan clarified that the news of Indian workers’ arrival was ‘inaccurate’ but acknowledged ongoing talks with India.

Reality of Indian Workers Globally

  • Worldwide Presence: Indian workers, both blue-collar and white-collar, are present globally, contributing significantly to economies.
  • Remittances: According to a World Bank report, Indian laborers remittances abroad reached a record USD 100 billion in 2021, highlighting their global acceptance.

Misconceptions and Global Gender Issues

  • Misplaced Blame: Associating crimes and issues with specific nationalities hinders cooperation.
  • Global Gender Inequality: Issues such as unequal pay, workplace harassment, and unfair work burdens affect women worldwide.

India-Taiwan Cooperation: Mutual Benefits

  • Taiwan’s Aging Population: Taiwan faces an impending ‘super-aged’ society by 2025 and requires a younger workforce.
  • India’s Labor Force: India can provide a youthful and skilled workforce to fill Taiwan’s labor gap.
  • Economic Benefits: Such cooperation benefits both countries by addressing unemployment and boosting foreign remittances for India and supporting Taiwan’s economy.

Taiwan’s Focus on India

  • Historical Perspective: Taiwan has traditionally focused on Europe and the US for economic growth, trade, and funding.
  • Need for Attention: India, as an economic and strategic partner, deserves more attention for stronger ties.

Taiwan’s Racism Problem

  • Past Instances: Taiwan has faced criticism for discriminatory policies against Southeast Asian workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Exploitative Practices: Some foreign workers in Taiwan experience exploitative practices bordering on forced labor.

Taiwan’s Reputation and India’s Support

  • Positive Image: Taiwan’s democratic credentials and resistance to China’s influence have earned it a positive image among Indians.
  • India’s Support: India’s support for Taiwan enhances its international standing and challenges China’s efforts to isolate it.

Conclusion

  • Addressing racism, stereotypes, and discriminatory policies is essential for nurturing the growing strategic and economic ties between India and Taiwan.
  • Both nations must work towards fostering a friendly and inclusive environment to protect the investment made in their relationship and counteract divisive narratives.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

1962 India-China War: Sudden Ceasefire and Withdrawal Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-China rivalry

1962 India-China War

Central Idea

  • On November 21, 1962, in a surprising move, China declared a ceasefire in a war against India, a conflict it seemed to be winning.
  • This war was a critical event for both countries, impacting India’s Prime Minister Nehru and showcasing China’s military strength.

Origins of the 1962 India-China War

  • India’s ‘Forward Policy’: India’s strategy of establishing outposts in contested areas is often seen as a trigger for the war. Critics suggest that these moves by an underprepared Indian Army might have forced China’s hand.
  • Sheltering the Dalai Lama: India’s choice to offer refuge to the Dalai Lama, fleeing from Chinese rule in Tibet, was another significant factor. China saw this as a chance to assert its dominance in Asia.
  • China’s Internal Struggles: Inside China, there was growing dissatisfaction with Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, a policy aimed at rapid modernization. A successful war could help improve Mao’s standing.

Ceasefire and Withdrawal

  • Stretched Chinese Supply Lines: China’s quick advance stretched its supply lines thin. With the Indian Army putting up a strong defense and the harsh winter setting in, the situation became more favorable for India. The difficult mountainous terrain also posed a challenge for China.
  • International Involvement: Nehru’s call for help to the US and UK led to quick support. President Kennedy sent weapons and supplies to India, and the Royal Air Force joined in. This global response hinted at a possible escalation of the conflict, which China might have wanted to avoid.
  • Changing Global Opinion: China’s capture of Tawang could have been a strategic stop, but its further advance into Indian Territory after October 24, 1962, shifted global opinion. Western powers started to view the situation more seriously, putting pressure on China.

Understanding China’s Strategy

  • A Tactic for Negotiation: Chinese scholar Hong Yuan suggested that China’s involvement in the war was not for conquest but for negotiation. The PLA’s military actions, reaching as far as New Delhi, were meant to facilitate peace talks.
  • Ensuring Long-Term Peace: The victory secured a peaceful border for China for the next fifty years. It showed that while war was a means to an end, it wasn’t the ultimate goal.

Conclusion

  • The 1962 India-China war, marked by China’s ceasefire and strategic retreat, is a complex and layered part of Indian history.
  • This ceasefire, though temporary, has a profound impact on the geopolitical landscape of the region and the world even today.

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Coal and Mining Sector

Explained: Coal isn’t Easy to Exclude from Sustainable Development

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Flue-Gas Desulphurisers (FGDs) , Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)

Mains level: India's energy mix

coal

Central Idea

  • Globally, 80% of energy comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. In contrast, renewable sources like solar and wind contributed only 2.4% in 2022.
  • India, with its energy supply per capita well below the global average, faces the dual challenge of meeting growing energy demands and pursuing sustainable development.

Need for Electricity Security

  • Stable and Affordable Power: Ensuring a reliable electricity supply that meets increasing demands at an affordable cost is crucial.
  • Renewables’ Minor Role: Despite India’s significant potential for renewable energy, it made up only a small portion of the energy mix in 2022.
  • Coal’s Predominance: In FY 2022-2023, coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) generated 74.3% of India’s electricity, driven by escalating demand and the need to support major industries.

Balancing Emissions and Development

  • India’s Global Emission Share: India’s cumulative emissions from fossil fuels and industry account for just 3.3% of the global total, highlighting its role in global development.
  • Sustainable Development Imperative: Catering to the energy needs of 17% of the world’s population, India must ensure that sustainable development is more than a slogan.

Challenges and Strategies

  • Dependency on Critical Battery Materials: Most materials for grid-scale battery storage are controlled by a few countries, posing energy security risks. Cost-effective batteries are expected post-2030.
  • Efficiency and Nuclear Expansion: India needs to improve TPP efficiency, expand nuclear energy, and enhance pumped storage to integrate more renewables.

Coal’s Role in Electricity

  • Future Projections: India’s national grid could absorb more renewable electricity by 2031-2032, but cost differences with coal-fired TPPs pose challenges.
  • Domestic Coal Dependence: With 96% of coal for TPPs sourced domestically, coal capacity in India is expected to grow significantly.

Concerns of Coal Transport

  • High Ash Content: Indian coal’s high ash content causes erosion and performance issues in TPPs.
  • Transportation Issues: Long-distance transport of unwashed coal strains transportation systems and raises environmental concerns.
  • Coal Washing: Requiring miners to supply only washed coal to TPPs over 500 km away can reduce emissions and pollution.

Flue-Gas Desulphurisers (FGDs) Dilemma

  • Sulphur Emissions: Despite Indian coal’s lower sulphur content, tall stacks and weather conditions lead to sulphur dioxide emissions.
  • Climate and Cost Implications: Installing FGDs in TPPs increases coal consumption, reduces efficiency, and requires significant investment.

Way forward

  • Advanced Technologies: Supercritical and Ultra-Supercritical technologies can lower carbon emissions.
  • IGCC for Carbon Capture: Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants can capture CO2, aiding in low-carbon electricity generation.
  • Government Incentives: Promoting IGCC or Advanced Ultra-Supercritical Technology (AUSC) before 2030 can foster low-carbon initiatives.

Conclusion

  • The challenge of global warming arises from all fossil fuels, not just coal.
  • The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” should guide global climate change efforts.
  • India’s journey towards low-carbon development is essential.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Explained: Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: BPTA

Mains level: India-China Border disputes

bpta

Central Idea

  • India and China, historical adversaries who fought a war in 1962, reached their first-ever border agreement, known as the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA), in 1993, following years of border disputes.
  • The BPTA aimed to maintain peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and reduce the risk of unplanned confrontations.

Why discuss this?

  • Thirty years later, the legacy of this historic agreement is continued by contested interpretations and unfulfilled commitments, while the ongoing border crisis further highlights the challenges both nations face in reaching a resolution.

BPTA: A Historic Yet Contested Agreement

  • Context: The BPTA was negotiated in the aftermath of the Sumdorong Chu standoff, marking a significant diplomatic achievement in the early 1990s.
  • Signing: The agreement was signed in 1993 during the tenure of PV Narasimha Rao as PM.
  • Peaceful Coexistence: The agreement committed both nations to avoid using or threatening force against each other. It emphasized strict adherence to the LAC and mutual reduction of military forces to maintain friendly relations.
  • Legacy: While it played a crucial role in maintaining peace for nearly two decades, the BPTA also spurred infrastructure development and frequent incidents, ultimately leading to the Galwan clash in 2020.

Ambiguity Surrounding the LAC

  • Inherent Ambiguity: The primary issue undermining border agreements is the inherent ambiguity surrounding the LAC, which was embedded in the BPTA.
  • LAC Problem: India’s discomfort with the term “LAC” proposed by China in 1959 remained a contentious issue.
  • Ambiguous Formulation: The BPTA allowed both sides to clarify the LAC wherever necessary, implying a lack of shared perception about the 1959 LAC.
  • Compromised Clarity: This formulation didn’t definitively reject China’s version of the LAC but aimed to prevent constant confrontation.

Impact on Subsequent Agreements

  • Positive Developments: The BPTA paved the way for additional agreements, such as confidence-building measures in the Military Field along the LAC (1996) and the appointment of Special Representatives (2003).
  • Unfinished Business: Negotiations for a final boundary settlement stalled, and the mechanisms to clarify LAC claims remained incomplete.

Infrastructure Development and Tensions

  • Race for Facts on the Ground: Ambiguity over the LAC drove both countries to strengthen their claims through infrastructure development and increased patrols.
  • Frequent Encounters: Frequent encounters between patrols exacerbated tensions along the border.
  • Unforeseen Consequences: The BPTA inadvertently contributed to a slowdown in boundary negotiations, as both sides aimed to bolster their positions along the LAC.

The Current Crisis

  • Blatant Disregard: The ongoing crisis, beginning in 2020, saw both nations cast aside the commitments made in the first article of the BPTA.
  • Stalled Boundary Negotiations: Amidst the crisis, efforts to settle the boundary dispute have almost completely stalled.
  • A Challenging Relationship: The 30-year-old border remains unsettled, mirroring the broader complexities of the India-China relationship.

Conclusion

  • The BPTA reached 30 years ago, marked a significant milestone in India-China relations.
  • However, its legacy remains deeply contested and fraught with ambiguities.
  • As the ongoing border crisis unfolds, the challenges in achieving a lasting resolution and fostering peaceful coexistence between the two nations persist.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Sub-Categorization among SCs: Legal Aspects and Implications

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Horizontal Subcategorization

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • In a recent election rally in Telangana, PM made a commitment to explore the sub-categorization of Scheduled Castes (SCs) to identify and uplift the most marginalized among them.
  • This move is seen as an attempt to garner support from the Madiga community, the largest among the SC communities in the state.

SC Sub-Categorization: Legality Check

  • State-Level Attempts: Over the past two decades, several states, including Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, have attempted to introduce reservation laws to sub-categorize SCs within their territories. These efforts have been held up in courts, awaiting a Supreme Court Constitution Bench’s decision.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s Initiative: The issue surfaced when the Andhra Pradesh government formed a commission in 1996, led by Justice Ramachandra Raju, to recommend sub-categorization based on disparities among SC communities. However, the Supreme Court, in 2004, ruled that states did not possess the unilateral authority to sub-categorize communities within the SC and Scheduled Tribes (ST) lists, as these lists are the prerogative of Parliament and the President.
  • Contradictory Rulings: A 2020 judgment by a five-judge Bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, contradicted the 2004 ruling by stating that determining benefits within the SC/ST lists would not amount to “tinkering” and could be done by states. This discrepancy prompted the referral of the 2020 judgment to a larger Bench.

Government Initiatives and Legal Opinions

  • Union Government’s Efforts: The 2004 judgment prompted the Union government to explore the possibility of sub-categorization. In 2005, the Attorney-General of India (AGI) opined that sub-categorization was feasible if supported by “unimpeachable evidence” and suggested a constitutional amendment for this purpose.
  • National Commission Recommendations: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) opined that a constitutional amendment was unnecessary. They cited Article 16(4) of the Constitution, which allows states to create special laws for under-represented backward classes.

Arguments for Sub-Categorization

  • Graded Inequalities: Proponents argue that sub-categorization addresses the graded inequalities within SC communities. It ensures that the more backward communities receive their fair share of benefits, preventing the dominance of relatively advanced communities.
  • Representation at All Levels: The goal is to ensure representation at all levels, including higher positions. However, the most backward SCs lag so far behind that even reserved positions at advanced levels may not benefit them due to a lack of suitable candidates.

Data Requirement for Sub-Categorization

  • Legal experts emphasize the importance of robust data, including population numbers, socio-economic indicators, and community-specific information.
  • This data would form the basis for reasonable categorization, quota allocation, and policy decisions.

Conclusion

  • The sub-categorization of Scheduled Castes (SCs) is a complex legal and social issue that remains unresolved, with contradictory Supreme Court rulings and varying opinions among government bodies.
  • While sub-categorization aims to address disparities within SC communities, it raises practical challenges, such as data collection and ensuring meaningful representation.
  • The quest for a fair and legally sound sub-categorization mechanism continues, with the need for comprehensive data and clear legal guidelines at the forefront of the debate.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Centre-State Disputes: Implications on India’s Economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Centre-State Financial Relations

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • In India, disputes between the Central and State governments regarding economic policies have a long history, but in recent years, they have escalated in both frequency and intensity, taking on the character of ‘persistent frictions’ within the federal system.
  • These disputes have significant implications for India’s economy and its federal structure.

Current Context

  • Impact of Economic Reforms: Economic reforms since 1991 have relaxed many controls on investments, granting some autonomy to States. However, States still rely on the Centre for revenue receipts.
  • Shift from ‘Give and Take’ to Hardened Stance: Recent State resistance has transformed the cooperative Centre-State relationship into a more rigid and confrontational dynamic.

Emerging Conflict Areas

  • Homogenization of Social Sector Policies: Conflicts arise over the homogenization of social sector policies, where States seek greater discretion, but central agencies push for uniformity.
  • Functioning of Regulatory Institutions: Differences emerge regarding the functioning of regulatory institutions, leading to conflicts over jurisdiction.
  • Powers of Central Agencies: Central agencies attempt to increase their influence, often imposing their preferences on States.

Economic Consequences of Interference

  • Crowding Out State Investments: Centralization of planning and implementation limits States’ flexibility in infrastructure development. This has resulted in reduced State investments, particularly in projects like roads and bridges.
  • Fiscal Competition: Frictions with the Centre have spurred fiscal competition between States and the Centre. States compete with each other and with the Centre, leading to complexities in welfare provisioning.
  • Inefficiencies Due to Parallel Policies: Frictions have resulted in parallel policies, where either the Centre or States duplicate each other’s efforts. For example, some States have rolled back from the National Pension System (NPS) due to fiscal concerns.

Inevitable Interdependence

  • Article 258A: The Centre relies on States for the implementation of many laws and policies, particularly in concurrent spheres.
  • Preserving Interdependence: In a large, diverse, developing society like India, interdependence between the Centre and States is inevitable and needs to be maintained.

Conclusion

  • The growing Centre-State disputes in India’s federal system have far-reaching economic implications.
  • Balancing autonomy and cooperation between the Centre and States is essential for the nation’s economic growth and effective governance.

Back2Basics:

Centre-State Financial Relations

 

Article 268 to 281 Distribution of taxes between the Central Government and States, specifying various taxes and their sharing.
Article 282 Allows the Central Government to provide grants-in-aid to States for specific purposes, including welfare programs.
Article 293 Regulates borrowing powers of States, requiring Presidential consent for external borrowing to ensure fiscal discipline.
Article 280 Establishes the Finance Commission, which recommends tax revenue and grants distribution between the Centre and States.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) Governed by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, and associated laws, transforming taxation in India.
Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act Guides fiscal discipline and management by setting fiscal targets for both Central and State Governments.
Inter-State Council Established under Article 263

Acts as a forum for dialogue between the Central Government and States on various issues.

 

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Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Challenges and Ambiguities in Biotechnology Policy for GM Insects

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GM Insects

Mains level: Read the attached story

insect

Central Idea

  • In April 2023, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) issued the ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects’.
  • The guidelines note that GE insects are becoming globally available and are intended to help Indian researchers navigate regulatory requirements.
  • However, the guidelines don’t specify the purposes for which GE insects may be approved in India or how the DBT, as a promoter of biotechnology, envisions their use.

Genetically Modified Insects (GE Insects)

  • A genetically modified insect is any insect whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.
  • GE insects offer multiple benefits, such as reducing disease burden, ensuring food security, and conserving the environment.
  • India’s bioeconomy contribution is expected to reach 5% of GDP by 2030, and GE insects play a crucial role in achieving this goal.
  • GE insects find applications in vector management, crop pest control, healthcare product production, and genetic improvement of beneficial insects.

Guidelines for GM Insects

  • Nodal Agency: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) is the nodal agency and promoter of biotechnology in India.
  • Purpose: The Guidelines provide procedural roadmaps for those interested in creating GE insects.
  • Harmonization: The guidelines have been harmonized with guidance from the World Health Organization on GE mosquitoes, emphasizing their potential applications in disease control.

Why discuss this?

  • India’s bioeconomy, currently contributing 2.6% to the GDP, aspires to reach 5% by 2030, requiring substantial investment and supportive policies.
  • However, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) faces challenges in both funding and policy alignment with these goals.

Challenges in Biotechnology Funding

  • Stagnating Funding: Biotechnology funding in India has stagnated, with no return to pre-pandemic levels. The current allocation stands at a mere 0.0001% of India’s GDP, insufficient to drive meaningful growth.
  • Impact on Pandemic Preparedness: Inadequate funding hampers pandemic preparedness efforts, undermining national interests and health security.
  • Lack of Private Investment: Attracting private investment for biotechnology research and development is challenging and necessitates enhanced funding efforts.

Policies for a Thriving Bioeconomy

Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects: In April 2023, the DBT released guidelines for GE insects, offering procedural guidance but revealing three key issues.

(1) Uncertainty of Purpose

  • The guidelines lack clarity regarding the purposes for which GE insects may be approved in India, hindering alignment with the broader bioeconomy commitment.
  • Emphasis is placed on improving disease management, food security, and environmental conservation, but the economic potential of GE insects is underemphasized.

(2) Uncertainty for Researchers

  • The guidelines only apply to research and not confined trials or deployment, limiting researchers’ options.
  • Deployment of GE insects requires community engagement and monitoring due to potential environmental impacts, but criteria for approval remain unclear.
  • The absence of clarity on government support for specific insect applications discourages research investment.

(3) Uncertainty of Ambit

  • Ambiguity surrounds the definition of ‘beneficial’ GE insects, creating uncertainty among funders and scientists.
  • Lack of precise guidelines inhibits progress, particularly in a country with limited public and private funding.
  • Inadequate consideration of potential misuse or unintended consequences adds to the uncertainty.

Way forward

  • To achieve the ambitious bioeconomy goals set out in the Bioeconomy 2022 report, India must address challenges in biotechnology funding and policy alignment.
  • Increased funding, private sector engagement, and clear, supportive policies are essential.
  • The guidelines for GE insects should reflect economic opportunities and research priorities, fostering a thriving bioeconomy that benefits India’s society, economy, and environment.

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Air Pollution

India’s Air Quality Management needs Transboundary Accountability

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Airshed

Mains level: Transboundary nature of Delhi Air Pollution Menace

airshed

Central Idea

  • The annual recurrence of ‘severe’ air quality levels in the Delhi-National Capital region and surrounding areas during winter often leads to the misconception that air pollution is a seasonal issue primarily driven by farm residue burning.
  • However, this perception falls short of the complex, year-round, multi-source, and multi-pollutant nature of the problem.

This article highlights the need to adopt a comprehensive, science-backed approach to address air pollution effectively.

Year-round, Multi-source Pollution

  • Misconception: Labelling air pollution as a ‘winter’ problem caused solely by farm residue burning oversimplifies the issue.
  • Complex Reality: Air pollution is a continuous problem arising from various sources, not confined to a particular season.
  • Ineffectiveness of City-Centric Strategies: Current initiatives like the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) focus on cities, ignoring the transboundary nature of pollution.

Transboundary Air Pollution

  • Understanding Dispersion: Pollution emitted in one region can significantly impact air quality in another due to transboundary dispersion.
  • Inter-state Implications: Weather, topography, and climatic conditions influence transboundary dispersion, creating challenges for downwind regions.
  • Limited Jurisdictional Power: Downwind regions often lack the authority to regulate upwind pollution sources, rendering mitigation strategies ineffective.

Need for Airshed Air Pollution Management

  • Defining Airsheds: An airshed is a geographic area governed by common meteorology, topography, and climate, impacting air mass dispersion.
  • Global Precedents: Countries like the United States, China, and the European Union have implemented effective regional airshed-level frameworks.

Policy Levers in India

  • Existing Legal Framework: The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) Act, 2021 recognizes the transboundary nature of air pollution.
  • Expanding Scope: The Air Act, 1981, can be expanded to cover multiple jurisdictions and pollution sources under a single air quality management framework.
  • Global Experiences: Drawing lessons from frameworks like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) in the US and the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) in Europe can inform India’s approach.

Implementation Challenges

  • Accountability: Holding upwind polluting regions accountable for transboundary pollution remains a challenge, necessitating legal mechanisms and cooperation.
  • Conflict Resolution: Implementing a formal procedure for resolving conflicts arising from the interpretation or application of airshed-level frameworks is crucial.
  • Political Will: Ensuring consistent implementation of air quality management measures despite bureaucratic cycles and political considerations is a persistent challenge.
  • Cross-Boundary Cooperation: Encouraging cooperation between jurisdictions and regions to collectively address air pollution requires coordinated efforts.
  • Data Integration: Integrating data from diverse sources and ensuring uniformity in air quality monitoring can be challenging.

Way Forward

  • Legal Framework Expansion: Expanding the scope of the Air Act, 1981, to encompass multiple jurisdictions and pollution sources under a single air quality management framework.
  • Global Lessons: Drawing lessons from international frameworks like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) to inform India’s approach.
  • Accountability Measures: Legally binding upwind polluters to address transboundary pollution through mitigation plans.
  • Scientific Independence: Separating scientific and technical activities from political negotiations to ensure data-driven decisions.
  • Conflict Resolution Mechanism: Implementing a mechanism for resolving disputes arising from framework interpretation or application.
  • Promoting Change: Integrating an airshed-level framework within existing legal structures or introducing a new framework to deliver cleaner air for citizens.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

India-Bhutan Relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-Bhutan Relations and China Factor

bhutan

Central Idea

  • The recent three-day visit of Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk to Assam marked a significant milestone in India-Bhutan relations.
  • Notably, it was the first-ever visit by a Bhutanese monarch to the state, signifying the close ties between the two neighbours and a fresh chapter of cooperation.

Bhutan and India: Historical Context

  • Border Proximity: Despite sharing a 265.8 km border, this visit was the first of its kind, underscoring the uniqueness of the occasion.
  • Challenging Times: The peaceful relationship between India and Bhutan faced complexities in the 1990s when insurgent groups from Assam established camps and operated in Bhutan’s southeast forests.

1990s: Indian Insurgent Presence in Bhutan

  • Backdrop: Pressure on insurgent groups in Assam, due to Indian military crackdowns and changes in Bangladesh’s political landscape, compelled them to seek refuge elsewhere.
  • Bhutanese Sanctuary: Insurgent groups, including ULFA, NDFB, and KLO, set up camps in Bhutan’s Samdrup Jongkhar district, near the Assam border.

Bhutan’s Initial Approach

  • Reluctant Engagement: Bhutan initially ignored the presence of Indian insurgents on its territory and attempted dialogue with them.
  • Diplomatic Pressure: The situation strained diplomatic relations with India, its significant neighbor, funder, and trade partner.
  • Limited Military Capability: Bhutan’s small and inexperienced military hindered decisive action against the insurgents.
  • Unfruitful Talks: Despite multiple rounds of dialogue with ULFA and NDFB, no tangible outcomes were achieved, with the KLO refusing to engage in talks.

Triggers for the Military Crackdown

  • Direct Threat to Sovereignty: The presence of insurgents became a direct threat to Bhutan’s sovereignty and national security.
  • Impact on Relations: Insurgent activities had negative implications for Bhutan-India relations, affecting development, economic activities, and bilateral trust.
  • Humanitarian Consequences: Attacks on Bhutanese nationals, threats, extortion, and violence-affected innocent lives and disrupted travel and trade routes.
  • Arms Supply to Ethnic Nepalese: Concerns emerged that insurgents might supply arms to ethnic Nepalese Lhotshampas, who were subjected to repression by the royal government, potentially sparking an ethnic insurgency in southern Bhutan.

Operation All Clear: The Result

  • Coordinated Offensive: On December 15, 2003, the Royal Bhutan Army, supported by the Indian Army, launched ‘Operation All Clear,’ simultaneously targeting ULFA, NDFB, and KLO camps.
  • Indian Support: India provided logistical and medical assistance and sealed the Indo-Bhutan border to prevent insurgent escape into India.
  • Significant Outcome: The operation resulted in the killing or capture of at least 650 insurgents, including top leaders from the three groups.

Conclusion

  • Bhutan’s historic royal visit to Assam signifies a strengthening of bonds and a reaffirmation of friendship after a complex period.
  • The military operation ‘Operation All Clear’ demonstrated Bhutan’s commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty and security, ultimately contributing to regional stability.
  • Today, India and Bhutan stand united, fostering peace, cooperation, and prosperity in the region.

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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

India’s Deep Ocean Mission: A Journey into the Abyss

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Deep Ocean Mission, Samudrayaan

Mains level: Read the attached story

matsya

Central Idea

  • India’s Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) is a visionary initiative aimed at exploring and harnessing the immense potential of the ocean’s depths.
  • Among its groundbreaking objectives, DOM will deploy an indigenous submersible with a three-member crew to reach a depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean, marking India’s first foray into the profound oceanic abyss.

Deep Ocean Mission Overview

  • Mission Pillars: DOM, principally led by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), encompasses six pillars:
    1. Development of deep-sea mining technologies and a crewed submersible for exploring depths of 6,000 meters.
    2. Ocean climate change advisory services, involving extensive ocean observations and modeling.
    3. Technological innovations for deep-sea biodiversity exploration and conservation.
    4. Deep-ocean survey to identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization.
    5. Harnessing energy and freshwater resources from the ocean.
    6. Establishment of an advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology.
  • Strategic Significance: DOM aligns with the ‘New India 2030′ vision, focusing on a blue economy as a core objective for India’s growth. It is part of the United Nations’ ‘Decade of Ocean Science’ (2021-2030) and complements Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on sustainably utilizing the ocean’s potential for national development.
  • Collaborative Efforts: Multiple MoES institutes, including the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), and National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), collaborate with national institutes and academia to achieve DOM’s objectives.

Progress on Pillar 1: Deep-Sea Mining Technologies and Crewed Submersible:

  • ‘Samudrayaan’ Initiative: India’s deep ocean mission, ‘Samudrayaan,’ was launched in 2021 under the leadership of MoES. It aims to reach a depth of 6,000 meters in the central Indian Ocean using the ‘Matsya6000’ submersible, accommodating a crew of three members.
  • Submersible Features: Matsya6000 is equipped with scientific sensors, tools, and an operational endurance of 12 hours (extendable to 96 hours in emergencies). The submersible’s design is complete, with testing and experimentation at a depth of 500 meters scheduled in the upcoming year.
  • Mining System: NIOT is developing an integrated system for mining polymetallic nodules from the central Indian Ocean bed. This mineral-rich region, allocated by the United Nations International Seabed Authority (ISA), includes copper, manganese, nickel, and cobalt.
  • Successful Trials: NIOT conducted deep-sea locomotion trials with the ‘Varaha’ underwater mining system at a depth of 5,270 meters in the central Indian Ocean. Varaha collected polymetallic nodules during the trial, marking a significant milestone.
  • Challenges: Deep-sea exploration faces immense challenges, including high pressure, soft and muddy ocean bed surfaces, power supply constraints, visibility limitations, temperature variations, and corrosion. NIOT and MoES are committed to addressing these complexities.

Significance of the Chosen Depth (6,000 meters)

  • Strategic Depth: Targeting a depth of 6,000 meters serves a strategic purpose. India aims to sustainably extract valuable resources such as polymetallic nodules and sulphides, with ISA allocating regions in the central Indian Ocean for exploration.
  • Resource Distribution: Polymetallic nodules, rich in metals like copper, manganese, nickel, iron, and cobalt, are found around 5,000 meters deep. Polymetallic sulphides occur at approximately 3,000 meters. By operating at 6,000 meters, India can effectively cover depths of 3,000 to 5,500 meters, spanning its Exclusive Economic Zone and the central Indian Ocean.

Challenges in Deep-Ocean Exploration

  • High Pressure: Exploring the deep oceans involves extreme pressure conditions, with water exerting tremendous force. Equipment must be meticulously designed to withstand these conditions.
  • Soft Ocean Bed: The soft and muddy ocean bed complicates landing and maneuvering for heavy vehicles.
  • Material Durability: Electronics and instruments must endure underwater conditions, unlike space where objects are designed to function in a vacuum.
  • Extraction Challenges: Extracting materials from the ocean bed necessitates significant power and energy, with the need to transport extracted minerals to the surface.
  • Visibility Constraints: Limited natural light penetration in deep waters poses visibility challenges.

Matsya-6000 and Varaha: A Vision for India’s Ocean Exploration

  • Matsya6000: India’s flagship deep-ocean submersible combines features of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous remote vehicles (AUVs). It accommodates a crew of three, is constructed from titanium alloy, and is designed to withstand high pressures.
  • Varaha: Varaha is India’s deep-ocean mining system, operating on the flexible riser technique. It successfully conducted deep-sea locomotion trials at a depth of 5,270 meters, marking a world record.
  • Unique Ecosystem: India is poised to possess a comprehensive underwater vehicle ecosystem, encompassing deep-water ROVs, polar ROVs, AUVs, deep-water coring systems, and more.

Conclusion

  • India’s Deep Ocean Mission is a pioneering endeavour to explore and harness the potential of the ocean’s depths.
  • With Matsya6000 and Varaha, India is poised to join the selective nations conducting deep-ocean exploration and mining.

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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Israel-Hamas War: Is Russia benefiting from the conflict?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Middle East conflicts and Russia's gains

russia

Central Idea

  • Russia’s official stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict places blame on the US for the actions of the militant Islamist organization Hamas.
  • However, experts suggest that Russia’s interests deviate from its stated position, as it appears to benefit from the ongoing conflict and the global attention it garners.

Russia’s Interests and Official Position

  • Friendship and Disappointment: Russia had hoped for support from Israeli PM in the Ukraine conflict. When Israel did not side with Russia, Putin was reportedly disappointed.
  • Diverting Global Focus: This diversion of global attention away from Ukraine and towards the Middle East benefits Russia, as it weakens its adversary, the US.
  • Blame Deflection: While publicly advocating for peace and blaming the US, Russia may secretly favor the continuation of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Potential Benefits for Russia

  • Public focus shift: The Israel-Hamas conflict provides material for Russian propaganda to manipulate public sentiment.
  • US hegemony loss: It can be used to suggest that while Russia is accused of starting the war in Ukraine, Israel’s actions are even more egregious and beyond US control, potentially leading to a larger conflict.
  • Affinity in the Islamic World: Despite diminished influence in the Middle East, Russia may use the conflict to demonstrate solidarity with the Arab world. This strategic posturing seeks to convey that Russia supports Palestinians, even though its influence in the region is limited.

Potential Challenges for Russia

  • Internal Turmoil: Recent anti-Semitic incidents in some Russian regions pose challenges to the Kremlin. These incidents, like the one in Dagestan, indicate difficulties in maintaining regional security. Escalating anti-Semitic rhetoric could destabilize Russia’s regions, necessitating caution from Moscow.
  • Economic Impact: Contrary to expectations, Russia may not experience economic benefits from the Middle East conflict. Rising oil prices, which usually benefit Russia, are not materializing due to oil-producing nations avoiding war support for Palestinians.

Can Russia mediate?

  • Controversial Hamas Delegation Visit: A recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Moscow raised concerns and criticism from Israel. The primary goal of the meeting was to secure the release of Russian hostages, potentially limiting Russia’s role as a neutral mediator.
  • Challenges in Hostage Negotiations: Negotiating the release of hostages requires engaging with multiple actors, making successful negotiations uncertain.
  • Irritation among Israelis: Russia’s behaviour, such as hosting a Hamas delegation and altering its stance, has irritated many Russian-speaking Israelis.

Conclusion

  • Russia’s role in the Israel-Hamas conflict appears to be marked by contradictions between its official position and underlying geopolitical interests.

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

Narayana Murthy’s Proposition: Notion of Extended Working Hours

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Work Productivity

narayana murthy

70 hours Work: Narayana Murthy Suggests

  • Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy’s recent call for young Indians to work 70 hours per week has ignited a debate on worker productivity in India.
  • He cited Japan and Germany as examples of nations that prospered due to longer working hours post-World War II.
  • However, his views raise questions about worker productivity, its relationship with economic growth, and India’s unique context.

Worker Productivity vs. Labour Productivity

  • Conceptual Difference: Worker productivity involves mental activities, while labour productivity is associated with manual tasks.
  • Measurement: Productivity is typically measured as the output value per unit of labor cost.
  • Complexity in Services: In intellectual labor, measuring output independently is challenging; hence, worker income often proxies productivity.
  • Fallacious Assumption: Murthy’s assertion that increased working hours lead to higher productivity is contentious, as it could exploit workers without commensurate pay.

Link between Worker Productivity and Economic Growth

  • Complex Relationship: While productivity improvements impact economic growth positively, the relationship is intricate.
  • Distribution of Income: India’s economic growth hasn’t necessarily benefited all income groups; wealth disparities persist.
  • Income Inequality: Income gains have disproportionately favored the top income strata, suggesting a disconnect between productivity and income distribution.
  • Factors Influencing Wealth: Factors like hereditary wealth transfers and arbitrary compensation for the super managerial class have contributed to income disparities.

Is India’s Worker Productivity One of the Lowest?

  • Proxy Fallacy: Using income as a proxy for productivity can yield misleading conclusions.
  • Indian Workforce: Indians are among the hardest working employees globally, but they receive comparatively lower wages.
  • Contradictory Statements: Narayana Murthy’s claim about low productivity seems unsubstantiated, possibly driven by motives to push labor reforms.

What data shows?

  • In 1980, India’s Gross Domestic Product was about $200 billion, which by 2015 exceeded $2,000 billion.
  • Income distribution data from 1980 to 2015 in India:
    1. Bottom 50% income groups experienced a 90% increase in income.
    2. Top 10% income group’s share increased from 30% to 58%.
    3. Top 0.01% experienced an increase of 1699%.
    4. Top 0.001% had an increase of 2040%.

Impact of Informal Labor on Worker Productivity

  • Rise in Informal Employment: Economic reforms have witnessed a surge in informal employment.
  • Limited Formalization: Formalization efforts have mostly focused on tax compliance and not labor standards or conditions.
  • Exploitation in MSMEs: Even within the formal manufacturing sector, Micro-Small-Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) engage in wage cutting to maximize profits.
  • Outsourcing Practices: Large corporations outsource production to smaller labour-intensive units, exacerbating labor exploitation.

Comparing India with Japan and Germany

  • Inadequate Comparisons: India’s unique context, including its labor force, technological trajectory, socio-cultural dynamics, and political structures, makes direct comparisons with Japan and Germany inapt.
  • Unique Development Path: India’s sustainable development requires enhancing social investments, tapping domestic consumption potential, and focusing on human-centric development.

Conclusion

  • The call for extended working hours to boost worker productivity raises complex issues regarding labor exploitation, income distribution, and India’s economic context.
  • Direct comparisons with Japan and Germany overlook India’s unique challenges and opportunities.
  • A comprehensive approach that addresses these intricacies is essential to ensure sustainable and equitable development in India.

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Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Pegasus Spyware Saga: Unveiling the Expert Committee’s Findings

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pegasus Spyware

Mains level: Whatsapp snooping and related issues

Pegasus

Central Idea

  • Several prominent opposition leaders recently reported receiving “threat notifications” from Apple regarding a potential state-sponsored spyware attack on their iPhones.
  • This incident has drawn parallels with the Pegasus Spyware Case, which targeted individuals globally, including in India.

About Pegasus Spyware

  • Functionality: Pegasus, like its name suggests, is a spyware designed to surveil individuals through their smartphones.
  • Covert Installation: It infiltrates a target’s device by enticing them to click on an exploit link, installing the malware without their knowledge or consent.
  • Comprehensive Access: Once installed, Pegasus grants the attacker complete control over the victim’s phone, enabling eavesdropping, data retrieval, and even activation of the camera and microphone.

What is the Pegasus Spyware Case?

  • Global Revelation: In July 2021, a collaborative global investigative project uncovered the use of Pegasus spyware, developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity company, to target mobile phones worldwide, including India.
  • Government Denials: The Indian government denied the allegations and accused the opposition of undermining national security but did not explicitly deny using Pegasus.
  • Supreme Court’s Involvement: On October 27, 2021, the Supreme Court appointed an Expert Committee headed by Justice R V Raveendran to investigate the allegations, considering their public importance and potential violation of citizens’ fundamental rights.
  • Cyber Terrorism: This intrusion constitutes a cyber-terrorism attempt and calls for the application of Section 66(F) of the Information Technology Act 2008 (IT Act) to deal with the perpetrators.

Expert Committee’s Mandate

  • Terms of Reference: The committee had seven terms of reference, including determining the entity that procured Pegasus, verifying if petitioners were targeted, and assessing the legal basis for using spyware like Pegasus on Indian citizens.
  • Policy Recommendations: It was also tasked with making recommendations on a legal and policy framework for cybersecurity to protect citizens’ privacy.
  • Technical Expertise: The committee comprised technical experts from various fields, including cybersecurity and forensic sciences.

Key Findings

  • Lack of Conclusive Evidence: On August 25, 2022, the Supreme Court revealed that the expert committee did not find conclusive evidence of Pegasus use in the 29 phones it examined.
  • Government Non-Cooperation: The Centre did not cooperate with the committee, as observed by the panel itself.
  • Malware Discovery: While malware was found in five phones, it could not be definitively linked to Pegasus.
  • Inconclusive Determination: The committee concluded that the limited data available made it inconclusive to determine Pegasus use.
  • National Security Concerns: The committee’s report contained information about malware that could pose threats to national security and private confidential information.

Implications and Urgent Action

  • Fundamental Right to Privacy: Protecting citizens’ smartphones through technologies like encryption is crucial for national security.
  • Need for Inquiry: Establishing an independent high-level inquiry with credible members and experts can restore confidence and ensure transparency.
  • Global Cooperation: Given the multinational impact of such attacks, coordinated global cooperation is essential for a thorough investigation.
  • Data Sovereignty and Privacy: Citizens’ data sovereignty should encompass their right to privacy, with stringent punishments for privacy violations.

Conclusion

  • The Pegasus spyware case, which raised significant concerns about citizen privacy and national security, prompted a comprehensive investigation by the Supreme Court-appointed Expert Committee.
  • While the committee did not find conclusive evidence of Pegasus use, it emphasized the potential risks associated with malware and cybersecurity.
  • The case remains open, and further developments may shed light on the extent of surveillance and privacy infringements.

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