Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

UP Law against Forceful Inter-Faith Marriage and Conversions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 21 and 25

Mains level : Freedom of Religion

The UP Cabinet has cleared a draft ordinance against forceful inter-faith conversions for marriage, amid similar steps by other states.

Try this question:

Q. In a world where religiosity is rising, the contemporary liberal ideas seem outdated and incapable of handling dangerous issues of religious bigotry. Critically comment.

What is the proposed UP law on ‘love jihad’?

  • The proposed law defines punishment and fine for three different cases.
  1. Conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
  2. Conversion of a minor, a woman from the SC or ST would have to face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
  3. If such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
  • It proposes among other things that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” of the same is to “change a girl’s religion”.

Who can convert and how can they do it under the proposed law?

  • Under the new proposed law, anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance.
  • The government is supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
  • However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means.
  • In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.

Need for such law

  • The state of UP is witnessing rising incidents of forced religious conversions or conversions through fraudulent ways.
  • The extreme right wing politicians in the state were quiet vocal against alleged religious conversions.
  • There are cases of being allegedly lured and honey-trapped by men and those girls now seeking their help to free themselves.

Interfaith marriages and the Constitution

  • The right to marry a person of one’s choice is a guarantee under Article 21.
  • At the same time, freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, including not following any religion, are guaranteed under Article 25.
  • One set of rights cannot invalidate the other.

What do critics say?

  • Such law to regulate matrimonial relationships between two consenting adults is simply against the constitutional guarantees.
  • The right to marry a person of one’s choice flows from the freedom of individuality, naturally available to any individual.
  • Hence, interfaith marriages and religious conversions should not be the matter of concern for social watchdogs.
  • Hence, the mere statement of two consenting adults about the existence of their matrimonial relation is sufficient.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Western Disturbances and winters in North


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Western disturbances , Winter rainfall

Mains level : Peculiarities of Indian weather

For the past few days, Chandigarh and its neighbouring states have been experiencing unusually cold days although the night temperatures are normal.

Try this PYQ:

Consider the following statements:

  1. The winds which blow between 30°N and 60°S latitudes throughout the year are known as westerlies.
  2. The moist air masses that cause winter rains in the North-Western region of India are part of westerlies.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) Only 2

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Temperature anomaly in North

  • Meteorological officials have attributed the trend to the cloud cover in the region which was absent until a few days ago.
  • It is the result of a western disturbance, which has brought about a spell of precipitation in the northwest Himalaya.

Role of clouds

  • During the day, clouds obstruct the heat from the sun from reaching the surface of the earth, reflecting some of it back into space.
  • This lowers the temperature. Cold winds blowing down from snow-bound areas in the mountains also contribute to the cooling effect.
  • At night, however, clouds act like blankets – they help retain some of the heat energy radiated back by the earth’s surface.
  • Overcast weather at night, thus, increases greenhouse warming.

What are western disturbances?

  • In northern India, winter rains and clouds are generally caused by moisture-bearing wind systems called western disturbances.
  • They originate and gather moisture over the Mediterranean region and flow eastwards towards the Indian subcontinent.
  • When some of these winds run into mountains of the northwest Himalaya, they are forced upward.
  • At higher altitudes, the temperatures drop and water vapour gets condensed. This leads to cloud formation and eventually rain and snow.

Other factors for severe winters in North

  • In north India, the huge temperature difference between summers and winters is due to its continentality (distance from seas and oceans).
  • Air from oceans moderates the temperature as it moves onshore, but this effect is missing in continental interiors.
  • As a result, north India has greater seasonal differences as compared to peninsular India.
  • Temperature also reduces rapidly with altitude, and thus, the Himalayan region is colder still.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

What are Miyawaki Forests?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Miyawaki Forests

Mains level : Various afforestation measures

Japan-inspired Miyawaki forests are emerging as a popular solution to restoring degraded habitats in the country.

Try this question:

Q.The Miyawaki Forests technique has to potential to revolutionize the concept of urban afforestation in India. Discuss.

Miyawaki Forests

  • Doctor Akira Miyawaki, botanist and professor, is the inventor of the technique since 1980.
  • He is a recipient of the 2006 Blue Planet Prize, which is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in ecology.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • It involves planting dozens of native species in the same area and becomes maintenance-free after the first three years.

The technique

  • The method takes its inspiration directly from processes and diversity in nature: 15 to 30 different species of trees and shrubs are planted together.
  • This plant community works very well together and is perfectly adapted to local weather conditions.
  • The habitat thus created will get more complex over time and attract much biodiversity.
  • Vegetation becomes much denser than conventional plantations, and it has the structure of a mature natural forest. It is a multi-storey structure, where different levels of vegetation appear.
  • The forest thus structured delivers many benefits in the form of ecosystem services.
  • It would take about 200 years to let a forest recover on its own. With the Miyawaki method, a similar result is achieved in 20 years.

Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

Personal Vehicle on a Public Road


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Road safety issues

The Delhi government has told the Delhi High Court that a personal vehicle on a public road cannot be said to be a private zone — rather, it is a public space.

Do you know?

India sees the largest number of road fatalities in the world. More than 1.5 lakh people lost their lives in road crashes in the country in 2018, according to government data.

Why such an argument?

  • The argument was given to defend its decision of making it compulsory for people to wear masks when they are travelling.

Supreme Court’s definition of ‘public space’

  • The Supreme Court in one of its ruling has said defined a “public place” to mean any place to which the public has access, whether as a matter of right or not — and includes all places visited by the general public, and also includes any open space.
  • The keywords are “any place to which public have access”, which phrase is further qualified by the phrase “whether as a matter of right or not”, the court noted.
  • When a private vehicle is passing through a public road it cannot be accepted that the public has no access.
  • It is true that the public may not have access to a private vehicle as a matter of right but definitely, public has the opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road, said the court.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Fake News


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Social media and spread of fake news.

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to explain its “mechanism” against fake news and bigotry on air, and to create one if it did not already exist.

Discuss how Fake News affects free speech and informed choices of citizens of the country?

What did the Centre say?

  • The media coverage predominantly has to strike a balanced and neutral perspective.
  • It explained that as a matter of journalistic policy, any section of the media may highlight different events, issues and happenings across the world as per their choice.
  • It was for the viewer to choose from the varied opinions offered by the different media outlets.

What is Fake News?

  • Fake news is untrue information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity, or making money through advertising revenue.
  • Once common in the print and digital media, the prevalence of fake news has increased with the rise of social media and messengers.
  • Political polarization, post-truth politics, confirmation bias, and social media have been implicated in the spread of fake news.

Threats posed

  • Fake news can reduce the impact of real news by competing with it.
  • In India, the spread of fake news has occurred mostly with relation to political and religious matters.
  • However, misinformation related to COVID-19 pandemic was also widely circulated.
  • Fake news spread through social media in the country has become a serious problem, with the potential of it resulting in mob violence.


  • Internet shutdowns are often used by the government as a way to control social media rumours from spreading.
  • Ideas such as linking Aadhaar to social media accounts have been suggested to the Supreme Court of India by the Attorney General.
  • In some parts of India like Kannur in Kerala, the government conducted fake news classes in government schools.
  • The government is planning to conduct more public-education initiatives to make the population more aware of fake news.
  • Fact-checking has sparked the creation of fact-checking websites in India to counter fake news.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

‘Myths of Online Education’ Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2-

The Azim Premji University has published the report titled “Myths of Online Education”, on the efficacy and accessibility of e-learning.

We have studied the Impacts of COVID-19 on Education. https://www.civilsdaily.com/burning-issue-education-in-times-of-covid-19/
This report provides decent data about the woes of online education and is easy to remember.

About the study

  • The study was undertaken in five States across 26 districts and covered 1,522 schools. More than 80,000 students study in these government schools.
  • It examined the experience of children and teachers with online education.

Highlights of the study

  • More than 60% of the respondents who are enrolled in government schools could not access online education.
  • Children with disabilities in fact found it more difficult to participate in online sessions.
  • 90% of the teachers who work with children with disabilities found their students unable to participate online.
  • Almost 70% of the parents surveyed were of the opinion that online classes were not effective and did not help in their child’s learnings.
  • 90% of parents of government school students surveyed were willing to send their children back to school.
  • The survey also revealed that around 75% of the teachers spent, on an average, less than an hour a day on online classes for any grade.

Online classes are less effective

  • Teachers as well as students their expressed frustration with online classes.
  • More than 80% surveyed said they were unable to maintain emotional connect with students during online classes, while 90% of teachers felt that no meaningful assessment of children’s learning was possible.
  • Another hurdle that teachers found during the online classes was the one-way communication, which made it difficult for them to gauge whether students understood what was being taught.
  • Teachers also reported that they were ill-prepared for online learning platforms.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

What is ‘Infodemic’ Management?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Infodemic Management

Managing the “infodemic” has been a serious challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, says a Chief Scientist at World Health Organization (WHO).

Try this question for mains:

Q.‘Infodemic’ management these days has become a greater challenge than the actual course of pandemic management. Discuss.

Defining Infodemic

  • Infodemic implies too much information, including false or misleading information, particularly on social media.
  • It has led to confusion, risk-taking and ultimately mistrust towards governments and the public health response.

WHO framework for infodemics

  • The WHO has a framework for managing the coronavirus infodemic.
  • Infodemiology is now acknowledged by public health organizations and the WHO as an important emerging scientific field and critical area of practice during a pandemic.
  • From the perspective of being the first “infodemiolgist” who originally coined the term almost two decades ago, the author posts four pillars of infodemic management:
  1. Information monitoring (infoveillance)
  2. Building eHealth Literacy and science literacy capacity
  3. Encouraging knowledge refinement and quality improvement processes such as fact-checking and peer-review
  4. Accurate and timely knowledge translation, minimizing distorting factors such as political or commercial influences

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Wildlife Week


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wildlife week

Mains level : Conservation of wildlife

Celebrating Wildlife Week

  • Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in India between October 1 and 8.
  • The annual theme of the campaign is to promote the preservation of fauna – i.e. animal life.
  • Wildlife Week was conceptualized in 1952 with the overall goal of raising awareness to serve the long-term goal of safeguarding the lives of wildlife through critical action.
  • In addition, the Indian Government established an Indian Board of Wild Life which works to improve awareness towards the preservation of wildlife.

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

Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (PIB)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission

Mains level : Significance of Venture Capital Fund for Schedule caste

Union Social Justice Minister launched the Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission(ASIIM) under Venture Capital Fund for SCs, with a view to promoting innovation and enterprise among SC students studying in higher educational institutions.

What is ASIIM ?

  • Under Ambedkar Social Innovation Incubation Mission initiative, one thousand SC youth will be identified in the next four years with start-up ideas through the Technology Business Incubators in various higher educational institutions.
  • They will be funded 30 lakh rupees in three years as equity funding to translate their start-up ideas into commercial ventures.
  • Successful ventures would further qualify for venture funding of up to five Crore rupees from the Venture Capital Fund for SCs.

Venture Capital Fund for SCs:

  • The Social Justice Ministry had launched the Venture Capital Fund for SCs in 2014-15 with a view to developing entrepreneurship amongst the SC and Divyang youth and to enable them to become job-givers.
  • The objective of this fund is to provide concessional finance to the entities of the SC entrepreneurs. Under this fund, 117 companies promoted by SC entrepreneurs have been sanctioned financial assistance to set up business ventures.

History- Important places, persons in news

Who was Kanaklata Barua ?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kanaklata Barua

Mains level : Role of women in Indian National Movement

A Fast Patrol Vessel (FPV) named ICGS Kanaklata Barua was commissioned in the Indian Coast Guard on Wednesday, in Kolkata. It is named after a teenage freedom fighter who was shot dead in Assam during the Quit India Movement.

Who was Kanaklata Barua ?

  • One of the youngest martyrs of the Quit India Movement, Kanaklata Barua has iconic status in Assam. Barua.
  • Then 17, led the Mukti Bahini, a procession of freedom fighters to unfurl the Tricolour at Gohpur police station on September 20, 1942. When police did not let them move forward, an altercation led to firing, killing Barua at the head of the procession.
  • She had joined the Mrityu Bahini [a kind of a suicide squad] just two days before the incident. The squad strictly admitted members aged 18 and above but Kanaklata was an exception. She wanted to lead the procession and after much persuasion she was allowed to.
  •  Even as Barua fell to bullets, she did not let go of the flag. She did not want it to touch the ground. Another woman volunteer behind her — Mukunda Kakoty — came and held the flag, and she, too, was shot.

    How important is her legacy ?

  •  1940’s was a time where you saw a lot of women coming to the fore, leading processions, patriotic fervour was at its peak — and Kanaklata was a product of this time.
  • There are schools named after her, there are two statues, there is a ship. While we see her as an icon now, people in her village hated her then — she was a rebel, who questioned patriarchy.

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

What are defence offsets ?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kelkar committee and defense offset

Mains level : Procurement of defense equipments

What are defence offsets ?

  • In simplest terms, the offset is an obligation by an international player to boost India’s domestic defence industry if India is buying defence equipment from it.
  • Since defence contracts are costly, the government wants part of that money either to benefit the Indian industry, or to allow the country to gain in terms of technology.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) defined offsets as a “mechanism generally established with the triple objectives of: (a) partially compensating for a significant outflow of a buyer country’s resources in a large purchase of foreign goods (b) facilitating induction of technology and (c) adding capacities and capabilities of domestic industry”.

When was the policy introduced?

  • The policy was adopted on the recommendations of the Vijay Kelkar Committee in 2005.
  • The idea was that since India has been buying a lot of defence equipment from foreign countries, so that India can leverage its buying power by making them discharge offset obligations, which is the norm world over.
  • The Sixth Standing Committee on Defence (2005-06) had recommended in December 2005 in its report on Defence Procurement Policy and Procedure that modalities for implementation of offset contracts should be worked out.
  • The first offset contract was signed in 2007.

How can a foreign vendor fulfil its offset obligations?

  • There are multiple routes. Until 2016, the vendor had to declare around the time of signing the contract the details about how it will go about it. In April 2016, the new policy amended it to allow it to provide it “either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations”.
  •  Investment in ‘kind’ in terms of transfer of technology (TOT) to Indian enterprises, through joint ventures or through the non-equity route for eligible products and services.
  •  Investment in ‘kind’ in Indian enterprises in terms of provision of equipment through the non-equity route for manufacture and/or maintenance of products and services.
  •  Provision of equipment and/or TOT to government institutions and establishments engaged in the manufacture and/or maintenance of eligible products, and provision of eligible services, including DRDO (as distinct from Indian enterprises).
  • Technology acquisition by DRDO in areas of high technology.

Will no defence contracts have offset clauses now ?

  • Only government-to-government agreements (G2G), ab initio single vendor contracts or inter-governmental agreements (IGA) will not have offset clauses anymore. For example, the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, signed between the Indian and French governments in 2016, was an IGA.
  • IGA is an agreement between two countries, and could be an umbrella contract, under which you can go on signing individual contracts. G2G is transaction specific, or an acquisition specific agreement.


Why was the clause removed?

  •  Vendors would “load” extra cost in the contract to balance the costs, and doing away with the offsets can bring down the costs in such contracts.

Conclusion-  The CAG is not very hopeful of the obligations being met by 2024. It said the audit “found that the foreign vendors made various offset commitments to qualify for the main supply contract but later, were not earnest about fulfilling these commitments”.

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

India needs a Fiscal Council


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Idea of fiscal council

Mains level : Paper 2- Fiscal Council

The newscard highlights the need of bipartisan, independent Fiscal Council to report and analyse FRBM discrepancies by the Government.

Try this question for mains:
Q.Fiscal Council is an important institution needed to complement the rule-based fiscal policy. Discuss.

What is a Fiscal Council?

  • A Fiscal Council is an independent fiscal institution (IFI) with a mandate to promote stable and sustainable public finances.
  • They aim to provide nonpartisan oversight of fiscal performance and/or advice and guidance — from either a positive or normative perspective — on key aspects of fiscal policy.
  • These institutions assist in calibrating sustainable fiscal policy by making an objective and scientific analysis.

Voices for a Fiscal Council

  • The 13th Finance Commission recommended that a committee be appointed by the Ministry of Finance which should eventually transform itself into a Fiscal Council.
  • The FC expected it to conduct an annual independent public review of FRBM compliance, including a review of the fiscal impact of policy decisions.
  • The FRBM Review Committee too made a similar recommendation underlining the need for an independent review by the Finance Ministry appointing the Council.

Why need a fiscal council?

(1)Burgeoning deficits

  • For the current year, even without any additional fiscal stimulus, the deficit is estimated at about 7% of GDP as against 3.5% estimated in the Budget due to a sharp decline in revenues.
  • The consolidated deficit of the Union and States could be as high as 12% of GDP and the overall debt could go up to 85%.
  • Thus it is necessary that the government must return to a credible fiscal consolidation path once the crisis gets over.

(2)Transparency issues

  • Besides large deficits and debt, there are questions of comprehensiveness, transparency and accountability in the Budgets.
  • The practice of repeated postponement of targets, timely non-settlement of bill payments and off Budget financing to show lower deficits has been common.
  • The report of the CAG of India in 2018 has highlighted various advances done to keep the liabilities hidden.

Fiscal Council can be a game changer. How?

  • First, an unbiased report to Parliament helps to raise the level of debate and brings in greater transparency and accountability.
  • Secondly, costing of various policies and programmes can help to promote transparency over the political cycle to discourage populist shifts in fiscal policy and improve accountability.
  • Third, scientific estimates of the cost of programmes and assessment of forecasts could help in raising public awareness about their fiscal implications and make people understand the nature of budgetary constraint.
  • Finally, the Council will work as a conscience keeper in monitoring rule-based policies, and in raising awareness and the level of debate within and outside Parliament.

Issues meddling between

  • The problem is that a Council created by the Finance Ministry and reporting to it can hardly be expected to be independent.

Diverse role to play ahead

  • According to the IMF, there were 36 countries with IFIs in 2014 and more have been established since.
  • While most of the IFIs are in advanced countries, emerging economies too have also shown growing interest in them.
  • Although their common agenda has been to function as watchdogs, there is considerable diversity in their structure and functions.
  • Over the years, monitoring compliance with fiscal rules and costing policies and programmes have become major tasks of these councils.

Way forward

  • When the markets fail, governments have to intervene.
  • Whenever governments seem obstructed, it is here that we need systems and institutions to ensure checks and balances.
  • In that respect, a Fiscal Council is an important institution needed to complement the rule-based fiscal policy.


  • Of course, it is not a ‘silver bullet’; if there is no political will, the institution would be less effective, and if there is political will, there is no need for such an institution.
  • That is also true of the FRBM Act. While we cannot state that the FRBM Act has been an unqualified success, it has also not been an abject failure either.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Magnetoseismology of Sun’s Corona


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MHG, CoMP, Corona

Mains level : Study of solar atmosphere

A group of researchers has measured the global magnetic field of the Sun’s corona for the very first time.

Try this PYQ:

The terms ‘Event Horizon’, ‘Singularity’, `String Theory’ and ‘Standard Model’ are sometimes seen in the news in the context of (CSP 2017)-

(a) Observation and understanding of the Universe

(b) Study of the solar and the lunar eclipses

(c) Placing satellites in the orbit of the Earth

(d) Origin and evolution of living organisms on the Earth

Basis of the research

  • The properties of waves depend on the medium in which they travel.
  • By measuring certain wave properties and doing a reverse calculation, some of the properties of the medium through which they have travelled can be obtained.
  • Waves can be longitudinal waves (for example, sound waves) or transverse waves (for example, ripples on a lake surface).
  • The waves that propagate through magnetic plasma are called magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves.
  • From the theoretical calculation, it can be shown that the properties of the transverse MHD wave are directly related to the strength of magnetic fields and the density of the corona.

How was the Magnetic Field measured?

  • The team used a technique known as coronal seismology or magnetoseismology to measure the coronal magnetic field which has been known for a few decades.
  • This method requires the measurement of the properties of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves and the density of the corona simultaneously.
  • In the past, these techniques were occasionally used in small regions of the corona, or some coronal loops due to limitations of our instruments/and proper data analysis techniques.

The CoMP instrument

  • The team used the improved measurements of the Coronal Multi-channel Polarimeter (CoMP) and advanced data analysis to measure the coronal magnetic field.
  • CoMP is an instrument operated by High Altitude Observatory, of the U.S.
  • It is located at Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, near the summit of that volcano on the big island of Hawaii.

Why measure the solar magnetic field?

  • It is very important to measure the corneal magnetic fields regularly since the solar corona is highly dynamic and varies within seconds to a minute time scale. There are two main puzzles about the Sun which this advancement will help address:

(1) Coronal heating problem

  • Though the core of the Sun is at a temperature of about 15 million degrees, its outer layer, the photosphere is a mere 5700 degrees hot.
  • However, its corona or outer atmosphere, which stretches up to several million kilometres beyond its surface, is much, much hotter than the surface.
  • It is at a temperature of one million degrees or more.
  • What causes the atmosphere of the Sun (corona) to heat up again, though the surface (photosphere) is cooler than the interior? That is the question which has baffled solar physicists.
  • Popular attempts to explain this puzzle invoke the magnetic field of the corona. Hence the present work will help understand and verify these theories better.

(2) Mechanisms of eruptions of the Sun

  • The eruptions on the Sun include solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
  • These are driven by magnetic reconnections happening in the Sun’s corona.
  • Magnetic reconnection is a process where oppositely polarity magnetic field lines connect and some of the magnetic energy is converted to heat energy and also kinetic energy which leads to the generation of heating, solar flares, solar jets, etc.

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

Ammonium Nitrate:  Behind the massive explosion in Beirut


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ammonium Nitrate and its uses

Mains level : Chemical disasters these days

The catastrophic explosion at Beirut port, Lebanon caused by the blast of over 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, has rocked the world.

Practice question:

Q. Despite a robust policy framework governing the hazardous chemicals in India, the recent gas leakage incident in Vizag highlights India’s unaddressed vulnerability to chemical disasters. Critically comment.

What is Ammonium Nitrate?

  • In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water.
  • A common chemical ingredient of agricultural fertilizers, the nitrogen-rich compound is also the main component of the explosive composition known as ANFO — ammonium nitrate fuel oil.
  • It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
  • Many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by terrorists around the world have ANFO as the main explosive, triggered by primary explosives like RDX or TNT.
  • In the majority of terror attacks in India, ammonium nitrate has been used along with initiator explosives like RDX.

Ammonium nitrate as an explosive

  • Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive on its own.
  • It is classified as an oxidiser (Grade 5.1) under the UN classification of dangerous goods.
  • If mixed with ingredients like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive.

Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard

  • Large quantities of stored ammonium nitrate are regarded as a major fire hazard, with multiple reported cases across the world.
  • The explosion of large storage can happen primarily in two ways.
  • One is by some type of detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with the explosive mixture.
  • Second, the blast can result due to a fire which starts in the ammonium nitrate store because of the heat generated due to the oxidation process at large scale.

Regulations in India about ammonium nitrate

  • Because it is used as an ingredient for the production of explosives, anaesthetic gases, fertilizers, cold packs and has a possibility of misuse, it is highly regulated in India.
  • There exists the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884.
  • It defines ammonium nitrate as the compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate by weight.
  • The manufacture, conversion, bagging, import, export, transport, possession for sale or use of ammonium nitrate is covered under The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012.
  • The rules also make storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas illegal in India.
  • For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an Industrial licence is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1951.

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

NPA issue in India:Complete analysis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Finance commission and related constitutional provisions

Mains level : Implication in federal relation; scope for reforms

The Financial Stability Report (FSR) released by RBI recently has once again underlined the vulnerability of the Indian public sector banks (PSBs). They have been under a severe balance sheet crisis even before the pandemic, and the crisis created by the pandemic, and the moratorium offered, will explode when the chickens come to roost.

Current banking scenario in India

According to the FSR

  • The gross non-performing assets would go up from 11.3% in March 2020 to 15.2% in March 2021, and to 16.3% under a very severe stress scenario. 
  • The CRAR is estimated to deteriorate from 14.6% in March to 13.3% in the baseline scenario, and to 11.8% under a very severe stress scenario. 
  • The volume of recapitalisation required is humongous.

What is a Non-Performing Asset (NPA)?

  • You may note that for a bank, the loans given by the bank is considered as its assets. So if the principle or the interest or both the components of a loan is not being serviced to the lender (bank), then it would be considered as a Non-Performing Asset (NPA).
  • Any asset which stops giving returns to its investors for a specified period of time is known as Non-Performing Asset (NPA).
  • Generally, that specified period of time is 90 days in most of the countries and across the various lending institutions. However, it is not a thumb rule and it may vary with the terms and conditions agreed upon by the financial institution and the borrower.

Reasons for rise in NPA in India

  • Historical factors -Between early 2000’s and 2008 Indian economy were in the boom phase. During this period Banks especially Public sector banks lent extensively to corporate. However, the profits of most of the corporate dwindled due to slowdown in the global economy, the ban in mining projects, and delay in environmental related permits affecting power, iron and steel sector, volatility in prices of raw material and the shortage in availability of. This has affected their ability to pay back loans and is the most important reason behind increase in NPA of public sector banks.
  • Relaxed lending norms : One of the main reasons of rising NPA is the relaxed lending norms especially for corporate honchos when their financial status and credit rating is not analyzed properly. Also, to face competition banks are hugely selling unsecured loans which attributes to the level of NPAs.
  • Lack of contigency planning: Banks did not conducted adequate contingency planning, especially for mitigating project risk. They did not factor eventualities like failure of gas projects to ensure supply of gas or failure of land acquisition process for highways.
  • Restructuring of loan facility was extended to companies that were facing larger problems of over-leverage& inadequate profitability. This problem was more in the Public sector banks.
  • Unforseen economic shocks like Demonetization and Covid 19

What is the impact of NPAs?

  • Lenders suffer a lowering of profit margins.
  • Stress in banking sector causes less money available to fund other projects, therefore, negative impact on the larger national economy.
  • Higher interest rates by the banks to maintain the profit margin.
  • Redirecting funds from the good projects to the bad ones.
  • As investments got stuck, it may result in it may result in unemployment.
  • In the case of public sector banks, the bad health of banks means a bad return for a shareholder which means that the government of India gets less money as a dividend. Therefore it may impact easy deployment of money for social and infrastructure development and results in social and political cost.
  • Investors do not get rightful returns.
  • Balance sheet syndrome of Indian characteristics that is both the banks and the corporate sector have stressed balance sheet and causes halting of the investment-led development process.
  • NPAs related cases add more pressure to already pending cases with the judiciary.

What are the various steps taken to tackle NPAs?

1.Corporate Debt Restructuring – 2005

It is for reducing the burden of the debts on the company by decreasing the rates paid and increasing the time the company has to pay the obligation back.

2.5:25 rule – 2014

  • Also known as, Flexible Structuring of Long Term Project Loans to Infrastructure and Core Industries.
  • It was proposed to maintain the cash flow of such companies since the project timeline is long and they do not get the money back into their books for a long time, therefore, the requirement of loans at every 5-7 years and thus refinancing for long term projects.

3.Joint Lenders Forum – 2014

  • It was created by the inclusion of all PSBs whose loans have become stressed. It is present so as to avoid loans to the same individual or company from different banks.
  • It is formulated to prevent instances where one person takes a loan from one bank to give a loan of the other bank.

4.Mission Indradhanush – 2015

The Indradhanush framework for transforming the PSBs represents the most comprehensive reform effort undertaken since banking nationalization in the year 1970 to revamp the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and improve their overall performance by ABCDEFG.

  • A-Appointments: Based upon global best practices and as per the guidelines in the companies act, separate post of Chairman and Managing Director and the CEO will get the designation of MD & CEO and there would be another person who would be appointed as non-Executive Chairman of PSBs.
  • B-Bank Board Bureau: The BBB will be a body of eminent professionals and officials, which will replace the Appointments Board for the appointment of Whole-time Directors as well as non-Executive Chairman of PSBs
  • C-Capitalization: As per finance ministry, the capital requirement of extra capital for the next four years up to FY 2019 is likely to be about Rs.1,80,000 crore out of which 70000 crores will be provided by the GOI and the rest PSBs will have to raise from the market.
Financial Year Total Amount
FY15-16 25,000 Crore
FY16-17 25,000 Crore
FY17-18 10,000 Crore
FY18-19 10,000 Crore
Total 70,000 Crore
  • D-DEstressing: PSBs and strengthening risk control measures and NPAs disclosure.
  • E-Employment: GOI has said there will be no interference from Government and Banks are encouraged to take independent decisions keeping in mind the commercial the organizational interests.
  • F-Framework of Accountability: New KPI(key performance indicators) which would be linked with performance and also the consideration of ESOPs for top management PSBs.
  • G-Governance Reforms: For Example, Gyan Sangam, a conclave of PSBs and financial institutions. Bank board Bureau for transparent and meritorious appointments in PSBs.

5.Strategic debt restructuring (SDR) – 2015

  • Under this scheme banks who have given loans to a corporate borrower gets the right to convert the complete or part of their loans into equity shares in the loan taken company. Its basic purpose is to ensure that more stake of promoters in reviving stressed accounts and providing banks with enhanced capabilities for initiating a change of ownership in appropriate cases.

6.Asset Quality Review – 2015

  • Classify stressed assets and provision for them so as to secure the future of the banks and further early identification of the assets and prevent them from becoming stressed by appropriate action.

7.Sustainable structuring of stressed assets (S4A) – 2016

  • It has been formulated as an optional framework for the resolution of largely stressed accounts. 
  • It involves the determination of sustainable debt level for a stressed borrower and bifurcation of the outstanding debt into sustainable debt and equity/quasi-equity instruments which are expected to provide upside to the lenders when the borrower turns around.

8.Insolvency and Bankruptcy code Act-2016

  • It has been formulated to tackle the Chakravyuha Challenge (Economic Survey) of the exit problem in India.
  • The aim of this law is to promote entrepreneurship, availability of credit, and balance the interests of all stakeholders by consolidating and amending the laws relating to reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner and for maximization of value of assets of such persons and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

9.Pubic ARC vs. Private ARC – 2017

  • This debate is recently in the news which is about the idea of a Public Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARC) fully funded and administered by the government as mooted by this year’s Economic Survey Vs. the private ARC as advocated by the deputy governor of RBI Mr. Viral Acharya.
  • Economic survey calls it as PARA (Public Asset Rehabilitation Agency) and the recommendation is based on a similar agency being used during the East Asian crisis of 1997 which was a success.

10.Bad Banks – 2017

  • Economic survey 16-17, also talks about the formation of a bad bank which will take all the stressed loans and it will tackle it according to flexible rules and mechanism. It will ease the balance sheet of PSBs giving them the space to fund new projects and continue the funding of development projects.

11.Prompt corrective action

  • PCA is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI.
  • The RBI introduced the PCA framework in 2002 as a structured early-intervention mechanism for banks that become undercapitalised due to poor asset quality, or vulnerable due to loss of profitability.
  • It aims to check the problem of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the Indian banking sector.

12.RBI’s revised stressed asset resolution norms

  • The RBI in June 2019 released a revised set of norms on stressed asset resolution which are substantially less stringent from the previous one.

About the February 2018 RBI circular

  • Through a notification issued on Feb 12, 2018 the RBI laid down a revised framework for the resolution of stressed assets, which replaced all its earlier instructions on the subject.
  • Banks were required to immediately start working on a resolution plan for accounts over Rs 2,000 crore, which was to be finalised within 180 days.
  • In the case of non-implementation, lenders were required to file an insolvency application.
  • RBI termed it necessary to substitute the existing guidelines with a harmonized and simplified generic framework for resolution of stressed assets.
  • Also, banks have to recognise loans as non-performing even if the repayment was delayed by just one day.
  • Not adhering to the timelines in the circular would attract stringent supervisory and enforcement actions.

What did the revised framework replace?

  • The circular went into effect on the same day that it was issued, and all existing schemes for stressed asset resolution were withdrawn with immediate effect.
  • The circular was ostensibly intended to stop the “evergreening” of bad loans the practice of banks providing fresh loans to enable timely repayment by borrowers on existing loans.
  • The RBI warned banks that not adhering to the timelines laid down in the circular, or attempting to evergreen stressed accounts, would attract stringent supervisory and enforcement actions.

New circular of the RBI

  • The new framework gives lenders a breather from the one-day default rule whereby they had to draw up a resolution plan (RP) for implementation within 180 days of the first default.
  • It gives lenders (scheduled commercial banks, all-India financial institutions and small finance banks) 30 days to review the borrower account on default.
  • During this review period, lenders may decide on the resolution strategy, including the nature of the RP and the approach for its implementation.
  • Lenders may also choose to initiate legal proceedings for insolvency or recovery.
  • The new circular is also applicable to small finance banks and systemically important non-deposit taking non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and deposit-taking NBFCs.
  • In cases where the RP is to be implemented, all lenders have to enter into an intercreditor agreement (ICA)for the resolution of stressed assets during the review period to provide for ground rules for finalisation and implementation of the RP in respect of borrowers with credit facilities from more than one lender.
  • Under the ICA, any decision agreed to by the lenders representing 75 per cent of total outstanding credit facilities by value and 60 per cent by number will be binding upon all the lenders. In particular, the RPs will provide for payment which will not be less than the liquidation value due to the dissenting lenders.
  • In cases where the aggregate exposure of a borrower to lenders (scheduled commercial banks, all-India financial institutions and small finance banks) is ₹2,000 crore and above, the RP has to be implemented within 180 days from the end of the review period, and the reference date has been set as June 7, 2019.
  • In the case of borrowers in the ₹1,500 crore and above but less than ₹2,000 crore category, January 1, 2020 has been set as the reference date for implementing the RP. In the less than ₹1,500 crore category, the RBI will announce the reference date in due course.

 What if the Resolution Plan is delayed?

  • There is a disincentive for banks if they delay implementing a viable resolution plan.
  • In case the plan is not implemented within 180 days from the end of the review period, banks have to make additional provision of 20% and another 15% if the plan is not implemented within 365 days from the start of the review period.
  • The additional provisions would be reversed if resolution is pursued under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Further reforms needed

  • Banks have to accept losses on loans (or ‘haircuts’).
  • They should be able to do so without any fear of harassment by the investigative agencies.
  • The Indian Banks’ Association has set up a six-member panel to oversee resolution plans of lead lenders. To expedite resolution, more such panels may be required.
  • An alternative is to set up a Loan Resolution Authority, if necessary through an Act of Parliament.
  • Also, the government must infuse at one go whatever additional capital is needed to recapitalise banks — providing such capital in multiple instalments is not helpful
  • The quality of lending by PSB must be improved in future so that the same problem does not arise again.
  • To provide Public sector banks with greater autonomy the shareholding of the government can be reduced to less than 50 percent or 33 percent.
  • A second requirement is that public sector banks should become board-managed institutions, with the board responsible for all appointments, including that of the chief executive officer (CEO). If the shares of the government are actually transferred to a holding company, then decisions regarding appointments could be taken by the board of the new company on the recommendation of the board of the bank.
  • The objective of creating a genuinely commercial environment in which public sector banks can function and managements are made accountable can only be achieved if the government is willing to step back from exercising direct control. 

History- Important places, persons in news

What is the Gandhi-King Initiative?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi in India's freedom struggle

Mains level : World History: American Civil Rights Movement

A Bill to promote Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr’s legacies has been passed in American Senate.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss how the civil rights movement in America is paralleled by India’s freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi-King Initiative

  • The initiative is an exchange program between India and the U.S. to study the work and legacies of Gandhiji and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
  • It will establish annual scholar and student exchange programs for Indians and Americans to study the leaders’ legacies and visit historic sites in India and the U.S.
  • The visits will be relevant to India’s freedom struggle and the U.S.’s civil rights movement.

Gandhi-King Global Academy

  • The bill also seeks to establish the Gandhi-King Global Academy, a conflict resolution initiative based on the principles of nonviolence.
  • It proposes the establishment of the United States-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation set up by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the GoI, organized under Indian law.
  • The Foundation, which has a proposed budget authorized of up to $ 30 million per year for five years through 2025.
  • It is tasked with administering grants to NGOs that work in health, pollution and climate change, education and empowerment of women.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

In news: Ghazipur Landfill


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Landfills

Mains level : Social and environmental threats posed by Landfills

The Ghazipur landfill site rises by nearly 10 metres a year and is expected to surpass the height of Qutub Minar and other vertical structures in the country.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q.What can be the impact of excessive/inappropriate use of nitrogenous fertilizers in agriculture?

  1. Proliferation of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms in soil can occur.
  2. Increase in the acidity of soil can take place.
  3. Leaching of nitrate to the ground-water can occur.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What are Landfills?

  • A landfill site, also known as a tip, dump, rubbish dump, garbage dump, or dumping ground, is a site for the disposal of waste materials.
  • Some landfill sites are also used for waste management purposes, such as temporary storage, consolidation and transfer, or for various stages of processing waste material, such as sorting, treatment, or recycling.

Threats posed by landfills

Landfills have the potential to cause a number of issues. Infrastructure disruption, such as damage to access roads by heavy vehicles, may occur amongst others.

1) Leachate

  • When precipitation falls on open landfills, water percolates through the garbage and becomes contaminated with suspended and dissolved material, forming leachate.
  • If this is not contained it can contaminate groundwater.

2) Decomposition gases

  • Rotting food and other decaying organic waste create decomposition gases, especially CO2 and CH4 from aerobic and anaerobic decomposition, respectively.
  • Both processes occur simultaneously in different parts of a landfill.

3) Other threats

  • Poorly run landfills may become nuisances because of vectors such as rats and flies which can spread infectious diseases.
  • The occurrence of such vectors can be mitigated through the use of daily cover.
  • Other potential issues include wildlife disruption due to occupation of habitat and animal health disruption caused by consuming waste from landfills, dust, odour, noise pollution, and reduced local property values.

Wetland Conservation

What is Khazan Farming System?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Khazan farming, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Mains level : Integrated Farming System, Khazan etc.

The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in low-lying floodplains of Goa is characterized by an estuarine agricultural system called Khazan farming.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

How far is the Integrated Farming System (IFS) helpful in sustaining agricultural production? (10 Marks)

Khazan Farming

  • The low-lying floodplains of Goa host an estuarine agricultural system called Khazan farming.
  • This system is a carefully designed topo-hydro-engineered agro-aquacultural ecosystem mainly based on the regulation salinity and tides.

How does it work?

  • Centuries ago, people in this region reclaimed low-lying brackish coastal floodplains and mangrove forests.
  • They constructed bunds using locally available material to prevent the ingress of saltwater, which killed the halophilic mangroves.
  • To control the flow of tidal waters, they built openings in bunds fitted with one-way gates.
  • These channels would fill in with the oncoming tide and bring with them fish, crab and shrimp, and the gates would automatically shut when the water level was equal on both sides.
  • This prevented the water from overflowing into the fields used to grow paddy and which has a low tolerance to salt.
  • When the tide receded, these gates would open outwards automatically, allowing the water to drain out.
  • During this time, a bag net was set at the gate to catch fish that had entered in earlier.

Benefits of Khazan

  • Every bit of space was precious and used efficiently — the bunds were used to grow a variety of vegetables.
  • The Khazan system allowed for the farmer and the fisher to harmoniously coexist and was the key to sustaining what is considered Goa’s staple — fish, curry and rice.

Why is it neglected these days?

  • Today, for various reasons, but primarily due to post-independence agrarian reforms of 1961, these lands largely lie fallow and are in a state of decay.
  • Lack of cultivation and maintenance of the bunds and sluice gates is leading to their breaching and the natural reclamation of these fallow lands by mangroves.
  • Moreover, mangroves are protected by law and it is illegal to cut them.
  • Areas that have these trees growing on them also come under the purview of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ); according to the 2011 notification, the mangrove areas are classified as CRZ I and cannot be developed upon.

Back2Basics: Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

  • The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is Goa’s smallest protected area — it comprises barely two square kilometres of lush mangrove forests.
  • The sanctuary is located on Chorão, one of Goa’s estuarine islands in the Mandovi river approximately five kilometres from capital Panaji.
  • The sanctuary and its surrounds are home to marsh crocodiles, smooth-coated otter, the unique glossy-marsh snake that feeds on crabs, mud lobsters, sap-sucking sea slugs, among others.

Anti Defection Law

Judicial intervention in Anti-defection Proceedings


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tenth Schedule

Mains level : Issues over Judicial discretion in Anti-defection

A Supreme Court Bench is scheduled to hear an appeal filed by the Rajasthan Assembly Speaker’s office challenging the State High Court order to defer anti-defection proceedings against former Deputy CM.

Try these questions:

Q. “The anti-defection law works best as an insurance against violation of the people’s mandate for a party, but it cannot be made a tool to stifle all dissent.” Discuss.


Q.Which one of the following Schedules of the Constitution of India contains provisions regarding anti-defection? (CSP 2014)

(a) Second Schedule

(b) Fifth Schedule

(c) Eighth Schedule

(d) Tenth Schedule

What is the issue?

  • The petition said the HC has crossed its jurisdiction by asking the Speaker to put off his decision on the disqualification notices issued to dissident MLAs.
  • The HC order was an affront to the powers of the Speaker.
  • The High Court’s interim order granting extended time to rebel MLAs to file their replies to anti-defection notices amounted to a violation of Article 212 (courts not to inquire into the proceedings of the legislature).

Backed by Tenth Schedule

  • The petition said that judicial review of ongoing anti-defection proceedings was limited.
  • Notice is much prior to any final determination or decision on disqualification.
  • The proceedings, including the notice, are in the realm of the legislative proceedings under Paragraph 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule, the Speaker’s office argued.

Citing the Kihoto Hollohan case

  • The petition referred to the Constitution Bench judgment of the top court in the Kihoto Hollohan case in 1992 in this context.
  • Judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman and a prior action would not be permissible.
  • Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings, the verdict says.

Must read:

Kihoto Hollohan Order (1992)

What does the dissident MLAs have to say?

  • The dissident MLAs had challenged the constitutionality of Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule which makes “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party” liable for disqualification.
  • The MLAs had argued that the provision infringed their right to dissent.
  • But the Speaker’s office countered that Paragraph 2 (1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule was the law of the land.
  • A mere challenge to its constitutionality cannot efface it from the statute book.



Explained: Anti-defection law and its evolution

Urban Floods

National Flood Commission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NFC

Mains level : Paper 3- Urban floods and related issues

At least 43 years after India’s first and last commission on floods was constituted, there is no national-level flood control authority in the country so far.

Try this question for mains:
Q. What are the various causes of urban floods in India?

National Flood Commission

  • Rashtriya Barh Ayog or the National Flood Commission (NFC) was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in 1976.
  • It aimed to study India’s flood-control measures after the projects launched under the National Flood Control Programme of 1954 failed to achieve much success.

NFCs recommendation

  • In 1980, the NFC made 207 recommendations and four broad observations:
  • First, it said there was no increase in rainfall in India and, thus, the increase in floods was due to anthropogenic factors such as deforestation, drainage congestion and badly planned development works.
  • Second, it questioned the effectiveness of the methods adopted to control floods, such as embankments and reservoirs, and suggested that the construction of these structures be halted until their efficacy was assessed.
  • Third, it said there have to be consolidated efforts among the states and the Centre to take up research and policy initiatives to control floods.
  • Fourth, it recommended a dynamic strategy to cope with the changing nature of floods. An analysis of the report suggested that the problem began with the methods of estimating flood-prone areas of the country.

Why revive NFC?

  • An accurate estimate is crucial for framing flood management programmes.
  • The NFC estimated that the total area vulnerable to floods in 1980 was around 40 million hectares.
  • There is another problem. The very definition of the flood-prone area does not reflect the effectiveness of the flood management works undertaken.