July 2018
« Jun    

[op-ed snap] Getting the language count right


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Diversity of India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNESCO, Census of India

Mains level: Status of various languages in India and need for their protection


Census data on languages

  1. Early this month, the Census of India made public the language data based on the 2011 Census, which took into account 120 crore speakers of a very large number of languages
  2. Recent Census data appear to inadequately reflect India’s linguistic composition

Previous census & their data collection

  1. The 1931 Census was a landmark as it held up a mirror to the country about the composition of caste and community
  2. It was during the 1961 census that languages in the country were enumerated in full
  3. India learnt that a total of 1,652 mother tongues were being spoken
  4. Using ill-founded logic, this figure was pegged at only 109, in the 1971 Census
  5. The logic was that a language deserving respectability should not have less than 10,000 speakers

Language enumeration

  1. The language enumeration takes place in the first year of every decade
  2. The findings are made public about seven years later as the processing of language data is far more time consuming than handling economic or scientific data
  3. The Language division of the Census office released stats related to languages
  4. A total of 1,369 names — technically called “labels” — were picked as “being names of languages”
  5. The 1,369 have been grouped further under a total of 121 “group labels”, which have been presented as “Languages”
  6. Of these, 22 are languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, called “Scheduled Languages”

Flawed methodology

  1. Under the heading “Hindi”, there are nearly 50 other languages
  2. Bhojpuri, Powari/Pawri of tribals in Maharashtra and even the Kumauni of Uttarakhand has been yoked to Hindi
  3. The use of English is not seen through the perspective of a second language
  4. Counting for this is restricted to the “mother tongue” category — in effect bringing down the figure substantially
  5. Given the widespread use of English in education, law, administration, media and healthcare, a significant number of Indians use English as a utility language
  6. To some extent, it is the language of integration in our multilingual country

Role of UNESCO in protecting languages

  1. From time to time, UNESCO tries to highlight the key role that language plays in widening access to education, protecting livelihoods and preserving culture and knowledge traditions
  2. In 1999/2000, it proclaimed and observed February 21 as International Mother Language Day, while in 2001 the ‘Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity’ accepted the principle of “Safeguarding the linguistic heritage of humanity and giving support to expression, creation and dissemination in the greatest possible number of languages.”
  3. In pursuit of these, UNESCO has launched a linguistic diversity network and supported research
  4. It has also brought out an Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, which highlights the central place of language in the world’s heritage

Way Forward

  1. The Census in India should adequately reflect the linguistic composition of the country
  2. It is not good practice when data helps neither educators nor policymakers or the speakers of languages themselves
  3. The Census, a massive exercise that consumes so much time and energy, needs to see how it can help in a greater inclusion of the marginal communities, how our intangible heritage can be preserved, and how India’s linguistic diversity can become an integral part of our national pride
Official Language of the Union & the issues around

[op-ed snap] Diluting a right


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RTI Act

Mains level: Proposed amendments in the RTI Act and its impact on legislation’s core cause


Bid to tinker with salaries, tenures of information commissioners

  1. The bill to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, that was to be introduced but was deferred in Rajya Sabha, ostensibly pertains only to the status of information commissioners (ICs) at the Centre and in the states
  2. It proposes that “The salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the chief information commissioner and the information commissioners shall be such as may be prescribed by the central government”
  3. It also states that the ICs “shall hold office for such terms as may be prescribed by the Central government, instead of five years”

Government’s reasoning and its impact

  1. The government has argued that the legislation intends to correct an anomaly in the original Act, which placed ICs on par with election commissioners
  2. If the changes proposed in the bill are carried out, they will dilute the RTI Act considerably

Why is current structure of act important?

  1. The Act allows an Indian citizen to seek “information from any authority in the country on the payment of Rs 10”
  2. Its efficacy hinges on the independence of the commissioners who are the final appellate authority for those denied information
  3. The Act, therefore, stipulates that these officials exercise their powers “without being subject to directions under any other authority”
  4. Making them dependent on the government for their tenure, therefore, strikes at the core mandate of the Act
  5. In fact, the bill, in its original avatar, had a provision for deputy commissioners who would function as per the direction of the government but the Parliamentary Committee recommended the deletion of this clause because “it would curb the independence and autonomy of the commissioners”

Objective of RTI & Way Forward

  1. The fundamental objective of the RTI Act is to ensure transparency in the government’s functioning
  2. Currently, there are four vacancies in the Central Information Commission, even though more than 23,000 appeals are pending before the agency
  3.  In the first week of July, the Supreme Court termed the shortfall in ICs as “very serious” and asked the Centre and the states to fill up the vacant positions
  4. In drafting the new bill, the government also seems to have gone against the spirit of the deliberations in Parliament that led to the enactment of the RTI law
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap] Reform agriculture marketing systems to address farm distress


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct & indirect farm subsidies & minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Food Corporation of India (FCI), Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Mains level: National Commission on Farmers (Swaminathan Commission) recommendations and how they can help in bringing farmers a better cost for their produce


MSP hike and its utility

  1. The recent increase in the minimum support prices (MSP) for major kharif crops has reignited the debate about food price policy
  2. Some analysts believe that the increase has been excessive, that it will push up inflation, both directly and also indirectly via the fiscal burden of higher subsidies
  3. Others maintain that the increase is not enough, that the government has not delivered on its promise of announcing MSPs that are 50% over cost, as had been recommended by the National Commission on Farmers (Swaminathan Commission)

Need of Food Price Policy

  1. Foodgrains are basic necessities
  2. Any sharp increase in their prices can be extremely stressful, especially for low income and poor households, leading in turn to heightened political tension
  3.  Conversely, any sharp drop in crop prices can cause widespread distress among the millions of small farmers for whom the proceeds of their marketed produce is the main source of their livelihood

Present Food Policy Regime

  1. The present food policy regime was established following two consecutive drought years that led to severe food shortages in the mid- 1960s
  2. It consists of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), which procures rice and wheat, along with some state agencies, the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which recommends procurement prices, and the public distribution system (PDS), which distributes foodgrains and a few other essential items at subsidized prices

Methodology adopted to hike MSP

  1. The government has in principle adopted the policy of fixing procurement prices at least 50% over what CACP calls cost A2 + FL
  2. A2 includes the actual or imputed cost of all purchased or own inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, manure, bullock or machine labour + actual rent on leased in land + actual interest on working capital
  3. FL is the imputed value of family labour
  4. Thus A2 + FL excludes the imputed value of owned fixed capital, such as farm machinery, and the rental value of own land
  5. Adding these components would give us cost C2, the cost on which the Swaminathan Commission had recommended a 50% markup for procurement prices

Why imputed values should be used?

  1. Imputed values are the opportunity costs of both inputs and factors of production, such as land, labour or capital
  2. This means the costs that the farmer would have incurred if s/he had acquired these from the market or what s/he would have earned if she had supplied these owned resources to the market
  3. If the imputed rental value of owned land is not included in the reckoning then the average rental value factored into the costing would be less than the actual rental value paid by those who have leased their land, the large bulk of whom are marginal or landless farmers

Why cost of production doesn’t matter much

  1. Cost of production is only one of several considerations factored into the determination of MSPs, such as the estimated demand-supply balance, global prices, etc.
  2. Besides, announcing an MSP means nothing unless it is supported by public procurement at the announced MSP

What does it mean for distressed farmers?

  1. MSPs are only one among a range of policies that impact farm revenues and costs
  2. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) uses two comprehensive indices of the net impact of all such policies on agricultural producers and consumers, respectively called the producer support estimate (PSE) and consumer support estimate (CSE)
  3. Based on an application of these indicators for India, it is claimed that Indian producers have suffered a net negative impact amounting to 14% of farm receipts on average for the period 2000-01 to 2016
  4. This bias against producers would in fact be much more severe for the small, marginal and landless farmers who account for 80% of rural households and face multiple price and non-price risks on top of the non-viability of their tiny plots of land
  5. Their circumstances also force them to sell their small lots of marketable surplus at prices way below the announced MSPs while having to buy their inputs at high prices

Way Forward

  1. Distressed farmers need not depend on the government to recover their viability
  2. The Amul Dairy Cooperative is an outstanding example of how farmers empowered themselves through cooperation
  3. There are more recent success stories in the Kudumbashree programme in Kerala, the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty in Andhra, and embryonic cases in other states of such cooperation led by women’s self-help groups, initially for mobilizing credit and later for other activities
  4. These examples point to the power of aggregation and collective action in activities ranging from marketing and purchasing of inputs and machinery to land pooling, water management, organic agriculture, dairy, fishery and even some non-farm activities
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] On crime against women, bad questions, poor answers


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues related to women safety and how to ensure a equitable treatment for them


Rising crimes against women

  1. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Foundation put out the results of its 2018 The World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women survey
  2. India, fourth most dangerous in 2011, was now the world’s most dangerous, it said
  3. The questions of the survey centred on five key areas:
  • Healthcare,
  • economic resources and discrimination,
  • customary practices,
  • sexual violence and harassment,
  • non-sexual violence and human trafficking

Impact of Nirbhaya incident

  1. In December 2012, a student was gang-raped in a Delhi bus and left to die, an act of such horrific brutality that it became a watershed moment for women’s rights
  2. That December changed the conversation around the place of women in India
  3. Public displays of misogyny and sexism have not abated but public disapproval of it is now far stronger
  4. Discussions around women’s autonomy — to work, to love, in dress — rage on in living rooms

Data on crimes related to women

  1. India’s use and misunderstanding of data on sexual crime has not evolved
  2. Official statistics do not capture the full extent of sexual crime in India
  3. There is the part that official data is not capturing, and the part that it is erroneously capturing
  4. Non-capture of data is due to the fact that in a deeply patriarchal and often violent country, women might fear speaking out about sexual crime, and also fear to report it to the police

False cases

  1. Majority of rape cases were that of involving consensual sex between sometimes inter-religious or inter-caste couples
  2. The matches were set by the couples themselves often to their families’ disapproval
  3. In case after case, adult couples had been detained by a cooperative, often paternalistic police force, after the woman’s father or uncle filed rape charges against her lover or chosen husband
  4. This and the enduring issue of some men being charged with rape after a “breach of promise to marry”, yet another example of the price on a woman’s “chastity” — have had the opposite effect of under-reporting

Way Forward

  1. False cases have inflated the number of rape cases to an unspecifiable extent
  2. If there is some “over-reporting” of rape in India, it stems from the deep discomfort the country continues to have over women’s sexual autonomy
  3. The question to ask is not whether India’s women are safe. It is whether India’s women are free
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] The mob that hates


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rise in lynching incidents across India and reasons behind them


SC directive on anti-lynching law

  1. The court has asked Parliament to consider passing a special law on lynching
  2. As the grim threat of lynching casts a terrifying shadow over large swathes of the country, directions from India’s Supreme Court to all governments to take steps to prevent what it described as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” can only be welcomed
  3. This is essential to protect citizens and ensure that the “pluralistic social fabric” of the country holds against mob violence

Lynching as a crime in India

  1. Lynching is not officially a crime in India
  2. But if state administrations choose to clamp down, the Indian Penal Code already punishes all the criminalities perpetrated by lynch mobs
  3. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together

Defining lynching

  1. Lynching is not just “mobocracy”; it is a collective hate crime
  2. Lynching may be sparked variously by disputes over allegations of cow smuggling or slaughter, or wild rumours of cattle theft or child kidnapping, or something even as trivial as a seat in an unreserved train compartment
  3. Whatever the ostensible trigger, murderous mobs gather to lynch people of hated identities with gratuitous cruelty

Minorities & disabled are easy targets

  1. IndiaSpend found that 86 per cent of persons killed in cow-related lynching were Muslim, and 8 per cent Dalit
  2. The recent spate of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping target strangers and mentally challenged persons

Reasons for rise in lynchings

  1. These hate crimes flourish most of all because of the enabling climate for hate speech and violence which is fostered and legitimised from above
  2. This frees people to act out their prejudices, and the impunity assured by state administrations to the perpetrators
  3. Senior ministers and elected representatives frequently come out in open defence of the attackers, charging the victims with provoking the attacks
  4. The members of the lynch mob in most incidents of lynching video-tape the act and upload the videotapes
  5. To record one’s crimes and display these on the social media reflects a brazen confidence that you will not be punished for your crime, and even if you are nabbed, you will be a hero for the ruling establishment

Role of police

  1. There is a recurring pattern in police action too. If present, even as the slaughter of innocents unfolds, they don’t act, pleading later that they were outnumbered
  2. In most cases, they come in too late to save lives, and very often they register crimes against the victims and drag their feet to charge and arrest the attackers
  3. After the lynching, police often tries to record the incident as a crime of cow smuggling, animal cruelty, rash driving and road rage
  4. In its investigations, the police never cordon off the site of the lynch attacks: Even hours after the crime, people walk over the ground still splattered with blood or burned flesh
  5. This is not a shoddy investigation. It is deliberate (and criminal) destruction of evidence which could have been used against the killers
  6. The police in almost every case, instead, registers crimes against the victims

Just a moral failure?

  1. For people in political authority, uniform and magistrates to take sides in hate battles is a profound crime against humanity
  2. Yet this still is recognised at best as a moral failure, not a punishable crime

Way forward

  1. If there is any new law we need to prevent the spread like an epidemic of this new scourge of targeted hate crime, of lynch mobs, it requires only one law, and this is the creation of a crime of dereliction of duty and communal partisanship by public officials
  2. The challenge, ultimately, is not of law, but of our collective morality and our collective humanity
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Explaining the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Laws to prevent economic frauds


Who is a fugitive economic offender?

  1. Under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, promulgated by the President in April, a fugitive economic offender is any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India and who has either left India to avoid criminal prosecution, or who, being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
  2. The list of offences that can qualify an individual to be designated an economic offender, enumerated in the schedule to the Ordinance, includes offences under several Acts such as:
  • Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881;
  • Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934;
  • Central Excise Act, 1944;
  • Customs Act, 1962;
  • Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988;
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002; and
  • Indian Penal Code.

What happens if a person is designated a fugitive economic offender?

  1. If the special court is satisfied that an individual is a fugitive economic offender, it can direct the Central government to confiscate the proceeds of the crime in India or abroad, whether or not such property is owned by the fugitive economic offender, and any other property or benami property in India or abroad that is owned by the fugitive economic offender.
  2. While the confiscation of property within India should not be a problem for the Centre, confiscating properties abroad will require the cooperation of the respective country.
  3. The fugitive economic offender will also be disqualified from accessing the Indian judicial system for any civil cases.

On whom does the burden of proof lie?

In keeping with the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender or that certain property is part of the proceeds of a crime is on the Director appointed to file an application seeking fugitive economic offender status.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

[op-ed snap] Dark clouds over the RTI


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: The Right to Information (RTI) Act

Mains level: Amendments being done in the RTI Act and its implications on the accountability revolution ushering in the country


Proposed amendments to RTI Act

  1. The government has struck another blow against transparency and accountability
  2. The legislative agenda of the monsoon session of Parliament says: “To amend The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005″
  3. The RTI Act has been under constant threat of amendments
  4. At least two major attempts to amend the Act have been met with such strong popular resistance that the government of the day has had to back off

No good intent

  1. Any amendment to the law should have been discussed before it went to the cabinet, as in the “pre-legislative consultation policy” of the government of India
  2. Bureaucratic jargon such as “consideration” is a euphemism for pushing the amendment through without due consideration of parliamentary processes
  3. There have been steps to steamroller legislative measures (in the garb of money Bills) that have destabilised access to information such as Aadhaar and electoral bonds
  4. Applications for information about amendments made under the RTI Act have been stonewalled and information denied

Retracting from disclosure

  1. Amendments to the RTI rules that were put up for public feedback have reportedly been withdrawn after objections
  2. There have been reports that the proposed amendments seek to change the status of the information commissions

RTI promotes transparency

  1. The spirit of the RTI law lies in not just the filing of an RTI application and getting an answer
  2. It actually mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy with a culture of transparency
  3. Under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, which has been poorly implemented, it says: “It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”

Way forward

  1. Since 2005, the RTI Act has helped transform the relationship between the citizen and government, dismantle illegitimate concentrations of power, legitimise the demand for answers, and assist people in changing centuries of feudal and colonial relationships
  2. Secret amendments to a law fashioned and used extensively are deeply suspect
  3. Any move to amend the RTI Act must involve public consultation
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap] EVs have the potential to fuel India’s growth


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EV30@30 campaign, National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), FAME India, International Solar Alliance (ISA)

Mains level: The newscard discusses some issues related to the adoption of the EVs in India.


Most Polluted cities are in India

  1. A recent report by the World Health Organization revealed that 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India.
  2. Emissions from the transportation sector contributed significantly to India’s pollution levels.
  3. As per the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change’s estimates, the sector emitted about 188 MT of CO2 till 2010; road transport alone contributed to 87% of the emissions.

Dependence on Oil Imports

  1. India’s current oil import dependency is about 80%.
  2. According to the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, diesel and petrol contribute to about 40% and 13% of oil consumption, respectively.
  3. The cell estimated, in 2014, that 70% of diesel and 100% of petrol demand was from transportation.

Global Efforts for EVs

  1. Globally, there have been various efforts (including financial/non-financial incentives to end users) to promote EVs.
  2. Many countries have rallied towards the EV30@30 campaign, which aims for 30% sales share of EVs by 2030.
  3. The Netherlands, Ireland and Norway are leading the way, aiming to achieve 100% EV sales in passenger light duty vehicles and buses by 2030.

Indian Initiatives

  1. In India, initiatives such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) are concerted efforts towards building an EV market.
  2. The procurement of over 500 electric buses by various state transport utilities is a testament to India’s commitment.
  3. India is also taking steps towards building a sustainable EV ecosystem.
  4. The department of heavy industry, Bureau of Indian Standards, and the Automotive Research Association of India are working towards establishing various technical standards for design and manufacturing of EVs and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or charging infrastructure.

Bengaluru Example is promising

  1. Enabling systematic adoption of EVs requires coordination among urban planning, transportation and power sectors.
  2. A study by the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) arrived at suitable routes for e-buses in Bengaluru.
  3. Upon analyzing the constraints posed by location and size of depots, schedule of buses and electrical loading of the distribution network, using a geographic information system platform and incentives and policy schemes to compare the total cost of ownership of electric and hybrid buses with that of diesel buses.
  4. It was found that around 164 routes were feasible for transitioning to EVs with minimal change in the system.

India’s vulnerabilities

  1. Power: Our electricity distribution grid assets are currently unable to handle large-scale EV energy requirements.
  2. Battery: On the material front, based on current knowledge, India has very little known reserves of lithium; we also import nickel, cobalt and battery-grade graphite, which are crucial components in battery manufacturing.
  3. Engine Equipments: Unavailability of rare earth materials used for making magnets for EV motors is another constraint.
  4. Know-How: On the technological front, we still lack sufficient technical know-how in lithium battery manufacturing. Other technological gaps include lack of semiconductor manufacturing facilities and controller design capabilities.

Utilising strategic potential

  1. India should consider signing a memorandum of understanding with appropriate countries for a continuous supply of raw materials.
  2. Organizations like the International Solar Alliance (ISA), initiated by India and France, can play a significant role in facilitating such trade.
  3. For example, ISA member countries like Australia, Chile, Brazil, Ghana and Tanzania are rich in lithium reserves.
  4. Similarly, nations such as Congo, Madagascar, and Cuba can partner for the supply of cobalt; Burundi, Brazil, and Australia are rich in nickel reserves.

Determination has a way

  1. In a welcome step, the Indian Space Research Organisation has expressed willingness to transfer its in-house technology non–exclusively to qualified production agencies.
  2. Further, the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu) and RAASI Solar Power Pvt. Ltd are expected to jointly start in-house lithium-ion battery manufacturing soon.
  3. These industries form the bedrock for manufacturing electronics for EVs; policies should bridge gaps that are hindering their growth.
  4. Despite these bottlenecks, there is merit in being ambitious about EVs.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

[op-ed snap] Educating girls can improve India’s health outcomes


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Op-ed is full of vital statistical data

Mains level: Various outcomes associated with girl’s education


Countering worst health outcomes

  1. India has some of the world’s worst public health outcomes, but educating girls can change that.
  2. Nationally, according to 2017 government data, 34 out of every 1,000 newborns will not survive till their first birthday, of which 25 would not have lived beyond their first 28 days.
  3. These figures are improving, because of concerted efforts by the national programme—but the gap is much too large for a country aspiring to be a world-beater on most fronts.

Female literacy = Delayed marriage

  1. Ensuring that the girl child is educated sets off a virtuous chain reaction—improved literacy leading to a delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children and a corresponding reduction in poverty.
  2. There are enough cases of girls whose families place greater priority on having their daughters finish school and perhaps college.
  3. These parents say they see a better overall future for their daughters if they are educated.

What data says?

  1. Data comparing two states that lead in terms of welfare indicators (Kerala and Tamil Nadu) and two that lag (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) is revealing. All figures cited here are the most recent government data.
  2. Female literacy rates in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are 92% and 73.9%, respectively, while the same rates for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are about half, at 42.2% and 33.1%, respectively.
  3. Average age at marriage for women in these states is 21.4 for Kerala and 21.2 for Tamil Nadu, above the national average of 20.7 years.
  4. The same figures for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are significantly lower at 19.4 and 19.5, respectively.

Female literacy + delayed marriage = Fewer babies per woman

  1. In many parts of rural India, there is immense pressure on women to produce boys, who will supposedly be the “breadwinners”.
  2. The sex ratio at birth (girls born per 1,000 boys) has fallen and is only around 800 in some North Indian states. Multiple pregnancies with inadequate spacing adversely affect the health of mother and child.
  3. The good news is that where there has been an improvement in literacy and delayed marriage, the fertility rate (average number of children per woman) has reduced.
  4. Kerala (1.7) and Tamil Nadu (1.6) perform better than the national average of 2.3, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are significantly worse at 3.1 and 3.3, respectively, though these figures are improving.

Female literacy + delayed marriage + fewer babies per woman = Higher child survival

  1. A woman who is educated, older when she gets married and plans fewer babies will proactively seek out good antenatal care.
  2. The percentage of women receiving full antenatal care is 61.2 and 45 in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, respectively.
  3. These figures are only 5.9 and 3.3 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, respectively, though improving. Fewer babies receiving better care mean that fewer children die in their first four weeks.
  4. The neonatal mortality rate in all states is improving, but Kerala and Tamil Nadu are way ahead of the national average (28), with figures of 6 and 15, respectively.

A Chain Reaction: Lowering poverty in the long run

  1. As families become smaller and children survive and thrive, they can spend more productively, and improve their economic situation.
  2. Between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of population below the poverty line in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar registered slight improvements from 32.8 to 29.4, and 41.4 to 33.7, respectively.
  3. The percentage of population below the poverty line for Kerala and Tamil Nadu halved from 15 to 7.1 and 22.5 to 11.3, respectively.

Way Forward

  1. States that invested in education and health earlier are alleviating poverty faster now.
  2. China is a global benchmark for how these social investments, made decades ago, formed the foundation for that country’s rapid economic growth.
  3. Ensuring that the girl child is educated sets off a virtuous chain reaction—improved literacy leading to a delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children and a corresponding reduction in poverty.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Overdue correction: on revisiting the Companies Act


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Companies Act, 2013

Mains level: Changes required in Companies Act, 2013 in order to improve ease of doing business


Panel to review Companies Act

  1. The Centre has announced the constitution of a committee to revisit several provisions of the Companies Act, 2013
  2. This 10-member committee appointed by the Corporate Affairs Ministry has been tasked with checking if certain offences can be ‘de-criminalised’
  3. This is being done as some of the provisions in the law are so tough that even a spelling mistake or typographical error could be construed as a fraud and lead to harsh strictures

Committee’s mandate

  1. The Uday Kotak panel has been tasked to assess whether some of the violations that can attract imprisonment (such as a clerical failure by directors to make adequate disclosures about their interests) may instead be punished with monetary fines
  2. It will also examine if offences punishable with a fine or imprisonment may be re-categorised as ‘acts’ that attract civil liabilities
  3. The committee has also been asked to suggest the broad contours for an adjudicatory mechanism that allows penalties to be levied for minor violations, perhaps in an automated manner, with minimal discretion available to officials

Mindset behind the changes

  1. The government hopes such changes in the regulatory regime would allow trial courts to devote greater attention to serious offences rather than get overloaded with cases as zealous officials blindly pursue prosecutions for even minor violations
  2. Industry captains had red-flagged the impact of such provisions on the ease of doing business, and investor sentiment in general
  3. The rethink is perhaps triggered by the fact that private sector investment is yet to pick up steam and capital still seeks foreign shores to avoid regulatory risks

Way forward

  1. The 2013 law entailed the first massive overhaul of India’s legal regime to govern businesses that had been in place since 1956 and was borne of a long-drawn consultative process
  2. The decision to build in harsh penalties and prison terms for corporate misdemeanours in the 2013 law was influenced by the high-pitched anti-corruption discourse that prevailed in the country at that moment in time
  3. But a trust deficit between industry and government owing to stray incidents of corporate malfeasance should not inhibit normal business operations
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] Making crop insurance work for Indian farmers


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | e-technology in the aid of farmers

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Mains level: Use of ICT in agriculture and allied activities


Crop damage by changing weather

  1. In recent months, several places in north India experienced unseasonal dust and thunderstorms, followed by unseasonal rains
  2. This has cost lives and led to extensive crop damage
  3. With freak weather events becoming more common, protection of farmers against these risks figures prominently in the government’s agricultural policy

Agriculture sector impact

  1. Mitigating risk in the agricultural sector has a direct implication for agricultural productivity and farmer welfare
  2. It also intersects with some of the key sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as ending poverty, achieving food security and curbing hunger

Using technology in agriculture

  1. The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) has funded a number of studies that explore the feasibility of using ICTs in the field of agricultural risk mitigation
  2. A 3ie-funded study conducted by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute demonstrates how to capitalize on the availability of low-cost internet and the rising use of smartphones
  3. The novel picture-based insurance (PBI) product welds technology with weather index based insurance (WBI)
  4. Farmers are asked to take pictures from the same site with the same view frame two to three times a week throughout the cropping season. The series of images thus created helps insurance agencies examine the condition of the crops
  5. Based on the assessment, payments for losses are directly issued to the farmers’ bank accounts
  6. Additionally, the application also provides customized agricultural advisory to farmers by experts, ensuring continual interaction
  7. Another study by the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) examines the PMFBY in Karnataka, which incorporates the use of mobile technology to record and upload the crop-cutting experiments (CCE), a mechanism to determine the overall yield of the village
  8. The use of ICT is expected to quicken compilation of data, verification and faster settlement of a claim

Other benefits of ICT

  1. The use of mobile-based technology can also help allied activities
  2. ICTs can address not only supply side and process-related bottlenecks but also influence behaviour change on the demand side
  3.  For example, ICTs such as the PBI that require farmers to participate may induce farmers to develop a vigilant attitude towards any loss of crop
  4. Formative and process evaluations of ICT-based programmes, usually done at the beginning of a programme spanning over a few months, can help policymakers take prompt programme-specific decisions
  5. By identifying various challenges, such evaluations can lead to better programme selection and design that are cost-effective

Way Forward

  1. Impact evaluations that are based on counterfactuals with a large sample size, and conducted over a longer period, can surely inform scaling up and replicability of such programmes
  2. And in turn, the resultant socioeconomic impact will help farmers across India
Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: India and Trump’s world


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, G-7

Mains level: Trump’s new international relations stance & its impact on India


America’s changed international relations policy

  1. A day before he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump put the European Union — whose members are some of America’s oldest allies and friends — at the top of the list of America’s foes
  2. His outburst against the EU might be shocking, but it is part of an emerging pattern
  3. Trump quarrelled with America’s leading economic partners in the G-7 summit last month on issues relating to trade
  4. At the summit of the world’s most powerful military alliance — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Trump accused Germany of being “totally controlled by Russia”
  5. Trump warned the NATO allies that if they did not contribute more to the collective defence burden, America would go its own way

Trump’s list of political demolitions in Europe

  1. One is the so-called special relationship between America and Britain. For nearly a century, the Anglo-American partnership has been the strongest bilateral relationship in the world
  2. Two, he is threatening to dismantle NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance
  3. Three, despite the huge resistance at home and in Europe, Trump seems determined to enhance the engagement with Putin’s Russia
  4. Fourth, he is sustaining the pressure on EU and China to change the terms of economic engagement with the United States

Impact of trump on India’s diplomacy

  1. Trump is compelling India to rethink its longstanding foreign policy assumptions
  2. The consensus on economic globalisation and a relative harmony among the major powers — which defined the post Cold War era — is now breaking down
  3. The tensions between the US and Russia and Moscow’s deepening embrace of Beijing have certainly created problems for India

What’s in store for India?

  1. As a late convert to economic globalisation, India will have much to lose, if the current trading order breaks down
  2. Claiming that it is “WTO compliant” is a poor strategy when the big boys are changing the trading rules

What does India need to do?

  1. Delhi needs a flexible negotiating strategy founded in a more ambitious internal reform agenda
  2. Equally important is the need for India to come to terms with Trump’s deconstruction of the “West”
  3. It is rarely that a dominant power seeks to overthrow the status quo
  4. Trump is doing precisely that in questioning the utility of the collective Western institutions built after the Second World War and demanding a re-arrangement of burdens and benefits between the US and its partners
  5. Delhi must avoid conflict with the powers with which it has serious disputes
  6. It also needs to lift self-imposed limits on security cooperation with the powers that are ready to boost India’s material power

Way Forward

  1. Through the 20th century, India’s foreign policy has been shaped by the impulse to stand up against the West — initially against colonialism and later against Western security alliances
  2. In the 21st century, India’s efforts to construct closer relations with the US, have been slowed by the presumed political centrality of retaining “strategic autonomy” from the West
  3.  In these troubled times, transactional diplomacy, and not political posturing, holds the key to achieving India’s ambitious national goals
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] A constitutional renaissance


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Note important features of constitutionalism and various terms described in the editorial


SC’s Delhi verdict

  1. Already much has been said and more will come on the nature and scope of constitutional powers of Delhi’s elected government and the Union
  2. But this judgment provided the conception of “constitutional renaissance” which was finely elaborated by the entire bench of SC hearing the case
  3. One does not know how the political class would respond to this momentous exposition of six key constitutional notions:
  • Renaissance
  • Morality
  • Pragmatism
  • Objectivity
  • Purposive interpretation
  • Good governance

The idea of constitutional renaissance

  1. It was first sounded in Manoj Narula (2014) judgment
  2. It stands severally described now as “a constant awakening as regards the text, context, perspective, purpose, and the rule of law”, an awakening that makes space for a “resurgent constitutionalism” and “allows no room for absolutism” nor any “space for anarchy”
  3. The term “rational anarchism” has “no entry in the field of constitutional governance or the rule of law” and by the same token constitutional text and context resolutely repudiate the lineages of absolutism or the itineraries of dictatorship
  4. One may then say that “constitutionalism” is the space between “absolutism” and “anarchy” and its constant repair and renewal is the prime function of adjudication
  5. That awakening is a constant process; renaissance has a beginning but knows no end because everyday fidelity to the vision, spirit and letter of the Constitution is the supreme obligation of all constitutional beings
  6. One ought to witness in daily decisions an “acceptance of constitutional obligations” not just within the text of the Constitution but also its “silences”
  7. To thus reawaken is to be “obeisant to the constitutional conscience with a sense of constitutional vision”

How to achieve the renaissance

  1. Courts should adopt that approach to interpretation which glorifies the democratic spirit of the Constitution
  2. “Reverence” for the Constitution (or constitutionalism) is the essential first step towards a constitutional renaissance

Rights of the people

  1. People are the true sovereigns, never to be reduced to the servile status of being a subject; rather as beings with rights, they are the source of trust in governance and founts of legitimacy
  2. All forms of public power are held in trust
  3. The relatively autonomous legislative, executive, administrative and adjudicatory powers are legitimate only when placed at the service of constitutional ends

Idea of constitutional morality

  1. It provides a principled understanding for unfolding the work of governance
  2. It is “a compass to hold in troubled waters”. It “specifies norms for institutions to survive and an expectation of behaviour that will meet not just the text but the soul of the Constitution”
  3. It also enables us to hold to account our institutions and those who preside over their destinies
  4. Constitutional morality balances popular morality and acts as a threshold against an upsurge in mob rule
  5. The democratic values survive and become successful where the people at large and the persons-in-charge of the institution are strictly guided by the constitutional parameters without paving the path of deviancy and reflecting in action the primary concern to maintain the institutional integrity and the requisite constitutional restraints

The doctrine of constitutional objectivity

  1. This “lighthouse” of constitutional interpretation demands of those in power to act “justly and reasonably”
  2. It overrides acts of purely subjective discretion
Delhi Full Statehood Issue

Coming home to jail: on the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Repatriation of Prisoners Act 2003

Mains level: Repatriation status of Indian nationals in various countries and mechanism available for it


Problems faced in the repatriation of Indian nationals

  1. Two cases of repatriation of Indian nationals, the first being 52-year-old Ismail Samma of Gujarat, and the second, of a sick 21-year-old, Jetendaera Arjanwara of Madhya Pradesh, highlights the tribulations of being imprisoned in a foreign prison
  2. Ismail’s imprisonment in Karachi, Pakistan, came to light last January after being given up for dead for nine years by his family
  3. Jetendaera’s case became known in May after five years of detention
  4. Both men had accidentally crossed the border with Pakistan and were sentenced for illegal entry
  5. They were detained well past their terms as a result of delayed consular attention and nationality verification

Global conventions related to repatriation

  1. The right to return to one’s home country is assured under Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, provides for information to consulate, consular protection and consultation upon arrest, detention and during trial in a foreign country including entitlement to travel documents
  3. Similarly, the UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, lays emphasis on the social rehabilitation of foreign prisoners through early repatriation to their home countries to serve their remaining sentence
  4. The legacy of transfer of sentenced prisoners lies in the post-war humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war and in two UN Conventions of 2004 (against transnational organised crime and against corruption) which have laid emphasis on the issue of inter-country transfer of prisoners
  5. Both anticipate, under Articles 17 and 45, respectively, that state parties may consider entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements for transfer to their territory of persons sentenced to imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty for completion of their sentences

Repatriation of Prisoners Act

  1. In consonance with these international humanitarian commitments, most countries have legislated on a Repatriation of Prisoners Act
  2. The transfer framework under the Act is premised on the principles that an offence committed abroad is also an offence in the home country and the sentence implemented upon transfer shall not be aggravated
  3. India legislated its Repatriation of Prisoners Act in 2003, which came into force on January 1, 2004
  4. The first part deals with the transfer of sentenced foreign national prisoners from India, while the second deals with the transfer of sentenced Indian nationals into India
  5. It explains the eligibility for transfer, the transfer process and obligations upon the transferring and receiving states with regard to consent, communication and custody of a prisoner
  6. Every sentenced foreign prisoner in an Indian prison and every Indian national in a prison abroad is technically eligible for repatriation to a prison in their home country under these conditions:
  • they are willing
  • have no pending appeals
  • the offence is not an offence under military law
  • the sentence is not a death sentence
  • they have at least six months of their sentence still left to serve, and
  • their transfer has the consent of both treaty countries

Importance of act for India

  1. The Act is significant for India which sees considerable outflow and inflow annually by blue- and white-collar workers, fishermen, students, stateless persons and other groups
  2. Several come into conflict with the law
  3. More than 2,095 Indian nationals (2017) were known to be sentenced abroad
  4. They would be eligible for repatriation subject to nationality verification

Implementation by India

  1. India has taken steps for reciprocal transfers under the Act
  2. It has developed a Standard Draft Agreement and signed 30 bilateral transfer agreements
  3. It also entered into transfer arrangements with signatories of the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad and the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons

Status of repatriation

  1. Between 2003 and March 2018, only 63 of 171 prisoner applicants abroad have been transferred to India

Way Forward

  1. Effecting transfers under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act presents a win-win situation for India as it need not spend unduly on the housing of foreign national prisoners
  2. It can also save the cost of providing consular services abroad by bringing back Indian prisoners
  3. It can simultaneously satisfy the public expectation of bringing nationals home and the meeting of international humanitarian commitments
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] The whole picture


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hybrid pixel detector technology (Medipix3), Large Hadron Collider

Mains level: LHC experiment key findings and avenues that it has opened up for further research


The next wave in medical imaging

  1. The hybrid pixel detector technology which the Large Hadron Collider used to track accelerated particles has been used to produce the first three-dimensional colour images of the human body
  2. A chip of the Medipix family developed by CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has been used to take colour see-through images of body parts which are a generation ahead of the currently available technology

Current technologies and their shortcomings

  1. The traditional radiological practices are complementary
  2. Techniques based on X-rays suffer from the deficit that they can sharply visualise only hard tissues
  3. The shadows of soft tissues are less precise
  4. Blood vessels and other conduits are imaged with invasive dyes
  5. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a slightly different picture, based on the difference in water and fat content in tissues
  6. Positron emission tomography (PET) finds widest use in oncology

New Technology and its advantages

  1. The Medipix3 promises a single solution superior to its predecessors
  2. Using algorithms to model very accurate spectroscopic data in three dimensions, it shows all tissues with equal clarity, in colour
  3. In the case of a fracture, for instance, not only would it show physical damage to a bone — which is what an X-ray depicts — but it would also reveal trauma to surrounding tissue and reveal if blood and nerve supply is compromised
  4. Also, it would depict structures exactly as they are, and not all of us are built exactly the same
  5. In the near future, when medical care will be customised to the individual, this exactitude would make a difference to the efficacy of care
  6. If a complete image of a human were taken by a future iteration of this technology, it might even be possible to 3D print a lost limb or a malfunctioning organ
  7. Researchers have already used Medipix to image cancerous tissue, bones and joints and the blood supply to the heart
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

[op-ed snap] Towards a culture of moral responsibility


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Mob lynching cases and ways to prevent them (Curated from the article written by Kailash Satyarthi)


Mob Rage- depicting lack of trust in state

  1. Twenty people have been killed by raging mobs, on the suspicion of being child-lifters, across the country in the last few weeks.
  2. The trigger for the fears in these violent incidents was undoubtedly WhatsApp rumours that were unfounded.
  3. Recent incidents of child rape and the sale of newborn by religious factions further fuelled their spark.

What frustrates people more?

  1. Many people fear that their children could be abducted for prostitution, organ trade, forced beggary or any other form of slavery.
  2. Eight children go missing every hour in India to remain untraced and four are sexually abused.
  3. Fears triggered by such insecurities quickly take the form of collective frustration.
  4. Mob action, condemnable no doubt, is the most violent expression of such frustration.

All these incidences raise serious questions

  1. Why are many of these residential religious institutions allowed to run without stringent regulations and checks?
  2. The government has information on 1.4 lakh missing children on one hand and on the other, has a database of three lakh children staying in state and NGO-run children’s homes.
  3. Why can’t it effectively use simple technological solutions like facial recognition software and try to reunite missing children with their families?
  4. Further, what stops us, the largest democracy in the world from passing more stringent laws against child trafficking and child pornography?

This is how we dispense our outrage

  1. Demanding capital punishment for the perpetrators of child rape is the easiest way to show social media heroism.
  2. The government’s response, which includes setting up an enquiry or bringing an ordinance, is equally convenient.

Moral responsibility is an individual decision and moral accountability is a culture.

  1. Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-Cooperation Movement against the British because some of his supporters turned violent in Chauri Chaura.
  2. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly called for compassion and hope despite facing vicious racist insults.
  3. More recently, Nelson Mandela adopted the approach of reconciliation to bring about justice, despite being a brutalised victim of apartheid.
  4. A culture of accountability can be created if the society and the state are guided by a moral compass.

Way Forward

  1. However, we never come across an incident where an individual or institution ever took moral responsibility for such a pathetic situation on child safety.
  2. We must develop a culture of moral responsibility and accountability among our institutions, as opposed to the prevalent culture of superficial, convenient responses.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[op-ed snap] Spirit Of Sendai


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai Framework

Mains level: Disaster vulnerability of India & Asia as a whole and steps that can be taken to mitigate disaster risks


Asia’s vulnerability to disasters

  1. No other region in the world illustrates the now chronic nature of displacement caused by extreme weather events and climate change more than Asia and the Pacific
  2. Asia accounted for almost 50 per cent of the worldwide loss of life from disasters last year
  3. Last year, 18.8 million people were forced to run for their lives from floods, storms and earthquakes in 135 countries across the globe
  4. 11.4 million people were from across East and South Asia and the Pacific islands
  5. Reports suggest that a million people have been displaced by heavy monsoon rains, floods and landslides in India and Bangladesh, where the cyclone season also threatens

Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

  1. It was held in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, early July
  2. The conference has been convening every two years since 2005
  3. The focus of the discussions was on the clear need for accelerated implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030
  4. It is the global plan to reduce disaster losses that was adopted in Japan three years ago

About Sendai Framework

  1. It sets out seven targets for
  • reduction in loss of life,
  • numbers of people affected,
  • economic losses and damage to infrastructure through enhanced international cooperation,
  • better risk information and
  • early warning systems

The plan also sets a deadline of 2020 for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk mitigation

  1. Both India and Mongolia have adopted national strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework’s priorities
  2. Both are investing in developing and maintaining national disaster loss databases, which are essential to guide risk-informed investment at the local level in critical infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, public utilities and transport links
  3. Their example must be emulated by many other countries across the region because it is at the local level that the work of prevention and risk reduction starts to pay a dividend in terms of resilience
  4. It is also at the local level that most progress can be made on ensuring an inclusive approach to disaster risk management, one which includes the insights and experiences of those who may be marginalised and disproportionately affected by disaster events
  5. Women, girls, youth, older persons, persons living with disabilities and indigenous people should be actively recruited as agents of change in their communities

Way forward

  1. Rapid scale of urbanisation across the region is an opportunity to do development in a risk-informed, resilient way that avoids creating future disasters
  2. More than anything, it is the human cost of disasters that is the most compelling argument for action
  3. Real progress will bring down the numbers of families and people internally displaced by disasters
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[op-ed snap] India needs to focus on water efficiency


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation & irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)

Mains level: Impending water crisis in India and ways to tackle it


Water scarcity in India

  1. Over the past few months, concern and awareness about water resources have reached an unprecedented high
  2. Two successive events have led to such a watershed change in discussion on water resources
  3. First, the news came in that Shimla is running out of water and was forced to turn away tourists that drive the city’s economy during summer
  4. Second, NITI Aayog released the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June

Findings in CWMI

  1. The CWMI is a pioneering exercise that seeks to identify, target and improve key water resources-related indicators
  2. The index has a set of 28 key performance indicators (KPIs) covering irrigation status, drinking water and other water-related sectors. Critical areas such as source augmentation, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation practices, sustainable on-farm water use practices, rural drinking water, urban water supply and sanitation
  3. This index highlighted the current plight, showing how low-performing states house approximately 50% of India’s population, and how 21 major cities may run out of the groundwater by 2021

Water usage pattern in India

  1. Presently, irrigation water use accounts for 80% of the available water, i.e. 700 BCM
  2. Within the limited availability of 1,137 BCM, we need to cater to the growing demand of the population, including domestic water requirement, industrial requirement, ecology sustenance, and power generation requirement
  3. The present level of irrigation efficiency for surface and groundwater is 30% and 55%, respectively

Measures that need to be taken

First, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and other water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems

  • Conventional surface irrigation provides 60-70% efficiency, whereas, higher efficiency of up to 70-80% with sprinkler and 90% with drip irrigation systems can be achieved

Second, the states should continue to focus on command area development (CAD)

  • This is now part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on “more crop per drop”
  • CAD will play a critical role in bridging the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilized (IPU)

Third, the cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones

  • Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency
  • Now it is time to focus on more nuanced aspects of water-use efficiency and agriculture productivity

Fourth, we need to address the issue of fragmentation in farming

  • There are two measures to tackle this issue
  • States can expedite the adoption of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016—which can lead to consolidation of small farms
  • The second option may provide early gains—creating and ramping up farmer producer organizations (FPO)
  • FPOs provide a sense of ownership to farmers and encourage community-level involvement with lower transaction costs
  • Almost 70% farmers in India are marginal farmers and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in forming the FPOs
  • This will lead to economies of scale on farm produce, water-usage and cost of production

Way Forward

  1. The above measures have huge scope for changing the landscape of water efficiency in the irrigation sector, which accounts for the majority of water resource consumption in India
  2. Doubling farmers income by 2022 is a noble vision, but preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India is as critical
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

[op-ed snap] Traffickers, peddlers, mules or users?


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Linkages of organized crime with terrorism

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)

Mains level: Punjab’s drug problem, its role in fuelling separatist movement and ways to resolve it


Punjab’s new drug law

  1. The Punjab government has recommended to the Union government the death penalty for first-time offenders convicted for drug trafficking and smuggling
  2. The assumption is that harsher measures can help deal with the State’s drug problem

NDPS act & its implementation

  1. The law on drugs is covered by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)
  2. The Act’s primary objective is to deter drug trafficking
  3. It uses every trick in the book to achieve this: strict liability offences, mandatory minimum sentences, even the death penalty for certain repeat offences
  4. The law also provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for offences involving commercial quantities of drugs
  5.  Deterrence by harsh punishments has consistently failed
  6. In 2015, 41.7% of all prisoners in Punjab were in jail for various offences related to this law

Escape route provided in law

  1. An executive notification passed by the Department of Revenue in 2009 led to a major change in how commercial quantities under the Act were determined
  2. This notification assigns punishment based on the weight of the whole drug and not just pure content
  3. As a result, sentencing in pharmaceutical drug cases changed drastically across Punjab
  4. A case in Patiala where unauthorised possession of 20 bottles of cough syrup led to a 10-year prison sentence drives home this claim

Flaws in the investigation process

  1. The law also seeks deterrence through strict liability provisions. Under the law, proving possession alone is sufficient, the prosecution does not have to prove intent to lead to a conviction
  2. The police in Punjab follow a template charge-sheet format, just to prove possession
  3. They rarely examine the intent of the criminal act
  4. The Act is also blatantly unforgiving of anyone found in possession of any drug
  5. The way investigation is conducted right now, it is impossible to tell whether the person is a peddler or smuggler, or an addict feeding his habit

Why is act proving a deterrent?

  1. Section 27 of the Act makes consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance a criminal offence
  2. Criminalising addiction stigmatises it, which automatically inhibits addicts from coming forward for treatment

Way Forward

  1. The Cabinet’s proposal to make the law even harsher may alleviate people’s concerns for the time being, but it will not yield the results the state, as well as its people so desperately, seek
  2. The state should consider decriminalising addiction and developing an effective treatment strategy by consulting experts, partner agencies and users, and allocate adequate resources
Liquor Policy of States

[op-ed snap] The problems with the HECI draft Bill


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: HECI Bill, 2018

Mains level: Issues plaguing higher education sector in India and what can be done to make higher education more accessible


Draft HECI bill

  1. The draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill, 2018 (HECI), aims to:
  • replace a historical statutory body, the UGC
  • push for more government control
  • stifle critical thinking on campuses

Concerns with the bill

The nature of the structure of the commission and its advisory council shows that they are bound to have more “government” in decision-making processes rather than academics

Sweeping powers render the HECI more authoritative than the collective strength of campus authorities

  • The powers and functions of the HECI trivialise the concept of autonomy because non-compliance of directions of the HECI could result in fines or jail sentence
  • This means that the authority of the HRD Ministry will be strengthened
  • Also, under the new terms of engagement, universities will have to take the concurrence of the HECI before offering a course
  • This restricts the freedom of a university’s Board of Studies

With its mandate of improving academic standards with a specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, and training of teachers, the HECI is likely to overregulate and micromanage universities

The proposal to empower the Centre to remove the HECI’s chairperson and vice-chairperson for reasons including “moral turpitude” will curtail the regulator’s autonomy, which in turn will impact the autonomy of universities

Instead of allowing institutions to evolve over time based on their specific needs, focussing on homogeneous, one-size-fits-all administrative models will go against the ethos of academic freedom, diversity, and knowledge production

The move to replace the UGC with the HECI points to the Centre’s aim to restrict the role of the States in matters relating to education

India’s worries

  1. No Indian university figures among the world’s top 500
  2. Despite being a country with a huge young population, higher education remains a privilege; many do not yet have access to it, mainly because it is not affordable
  3. Education is a continuum from lower to higher
  4. The quality of higher education is determined by the quality of lower education, which is extremely poor, and that should be our focus
  5. The number of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims who have access to even basic education, let alone higher education, remains abysmal

Way Forward

  1. Education must serve as a ladder for those in the lower rungs of society
  2. In India, there is no such ladder, and many children continue to lead a poor quality life with no access to education
  3. Including the excluded should be India’s goal, and reservation and affirmative action are the way forward
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.