August 2018
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[op-ed snap] How WHO’s Essential Diagnostics List Can Spur Innovation, Quality Assurance


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: WHO EDL

Mains level: Diagnostic research in India & other low-income countries and its impacts on health as well as economy


WHO’s initiative for essential drug listing

  1. Lack of access to diagnostic services, incorrect diagnosis and late diagnosis often leading to wrong treatment, serious health complications, higher health cost and risk of spread of infectious diseases has prompted World Health Organisation to come out with a significant first ever Essential Diagnostics List (EDL) on May 15 this year
  2. EDL, developed by 19 experts with global representation, aims to serve as a reference for countries to either develop or update their list of essential diagnostics
  3. The EDL is aimed at bringing some parity in a world where half the population does not have access to essential health care services, where the Sustainable Development Goals have the tall task of achieving universal health coverage by 2030

Concern areas in diagnostics

There are broadly three areas of concern in diagnostics – access, quality and implementation

  1. Access issues include lack of laboratories, personnel, distance to the laboratory, high cost, lack of appropriate diagnostic test etc
  2. Quality issues which hinder implementation of many diagnostic tools in LMIC include poor quality of tests, trying environmental conditions like extreme temperatures, high humidity and maintenance of equipment (instruments) among others
  • Lopsided research and development is another issue in diagnostics
  1. For example, research in diagnostics continues to languish way behind than that in drugs and vaccines
  2. Diagnostics development is targeted mainly at high-income countries and there is a dire need to boost R&D in diagnostics in countries like India

Positive externalities of diagnostics

A sound diagnostics regime has many positive externalities

  • Checking rampant antibiotic use, accreditation to ensure quality
  • Establishing a sound supply chain
  • Creating laboratory infrastructure
  • Ushering technological advancement
  • Making more and exorbitant tests affordable
  • Building necessary human resources
  • Addressing existing information asymmetry

How can EDL help?

  1. There are a few innovations in diagnostics such as portable laboratories, smartphone-enabled microscopes, AI-led breast cancer screening tool which have shown promise in low cost, easy access diagnostics
  2. The EDL can now help channel such innovations to diagnostics
  3. Low and middle-income countries (LMIC), facing the double burden of communicable and non-communicable disease which limits their economic and human development could find EDL handy in moving away from the largely prevalent syndromic treatment by ushering innovation and better quality control practices

Way Forward

  1. It is in India’s interest to align itself with the WHO EDL to create the necessary innovative ecosystem and build capacity to fill the numerous gaps that currently exist in the country’s diagnostics
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] The human factor


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gaganyaan (Human mission to space)

Mains level: India’s plan to send a human mission to space & related details


Manned space mission of India

  1. The prime minister, in his Independence Day address, set a deadline to a project conceived over a decade ago, to put an Indian astronaut into orbit
  2. It is an ambitious target establishing India’s living presence in the firmament
  3. Fortunately, some of the key technology elements are already in place

Capabilities developed

  1. The problem of weight is the fundamental challenge since a crewed module weights two or three times more than the comsat and remote sensing payloads that ISRO usually launches
  2. The GSLV Mk-III or LVM-3 launch vehicle is capable of propelling a crewed module into orbit
  3. Future launches will be used to fine-tune the cryogenic engines
  4. Re-entry, a delicate operation that ISRO has limited experience in, since its payloads typically remain in space, was tested in a GSLV Mk-III flight in 2014
  5. On July 5, a simulated crew escape system for launch failures was also successfully tested
  6. India has an Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Bengaluru

Further efforts required

  1. The only hardware which remains untested is the crew capsule, suitable for keeping two or three astronauts in good health for over a week
  2. Elements include systems to maintain the environment, provide food and process waste, and deal with emergencies
  3. The most important element remains neglected: The human factor
  4. An astronaut training centre was scheduled to be set up by 2012 in Bengaluru, but it appears that the first batch of astronauts will have to be trained overseas
  5. It would take years to accustom them to life in zero gravity, which has impacts on myriad behaviour, from moving around to even eating and drinking

Gains from the human mission in space

  1. Human spaceflight no longer signals national prestige, as it did during the Cold War
  2. The project would bump up the entire space industry, forcing it to meet challenges beyond the low-cost launch of payloads
  3. Certain missions are better performed by humans than by robots
  4. These remain far in the future, but the development of human capabilities in space would prime the industry well in advance
  5. The technical knowledge generated in the process would be of use much later, in ways that may not be obvious today
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] No child left behind


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to poverty & hunger

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Poshan abhiyaan, Global Hunger Index (GHI), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meals (MDM), Public Distribution System (PDS),

Mains level: Persistent malnutrition among children in India & solutions to this problem


Poor nutrition among children in India

  1. 25% of India’s children less than 5 years old are still malnourished
  2. NFHS-4 in 2015-16 (the latest available information), to the Global Nutrition Report 2016 and the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017, which ranks India at 100 out of 119 countries all confirm low nutrition among children in India
  3. Among children less than 5 years, wasting (low weight for height), continues to be 21% in the 2017 index — it was 20% in 1992
  4. 190.7 million people in India sleep hungry every night, and over half of adolescent girls and women are anaemic

Proposed measures

  1. The recently announced flagship program of the Ministry of Women and Child Development will be anchored through the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), or Poshan Abhiyaan
  2. NITI Aayog has worked on a National Nutrition Strategy (NNS), isolated the 100 most backward districts for stunting and prioritised those for interventions
  3. The National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) has set very ambitious targets for 2022 and the Poshan Abhiyaan has also specified three-year targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year, and to reduce anaemia by 3% each year

What is required to curb malnutrition

  1. Altering the fundamentals of poor nutrition requires multiple and sustained interventions over a period of time — increased availability and accessibility of nutritious food, potable water, hygiene and sanitation, primary health care, etc
  2. The challenge for India is to simultaneously address insufficient and poor diets, inadequate hygiene and sanitation and better management of disease and infections

Approach that can be followed

  • Adequately re-engineer the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meals (MDM) and Public Distribution System (PDS) for greater effectiveness
  1. This is an ideal initiative for public-private partnerships as the strength of good private sector companies is in creating and designing frameworks, structures, processes and metrics for action, implementation and tracking
  2. Involving the best nutritionists to work with local communities on calorie and nutrition dense supplementary foods, using easily available local ingredients that are within the ICDS and MDM budget guidelines
  3. Products produced by self-help groups could easily be anchored by the relevant private sector and development agencies, working with State governments, and considered a corporate social responsibility initiative
  4. The key advantages of this disaggregated supply model are that it engages local communities, generates employment and ensures minimal leakage as it works with and inside the community
  5. This will also ensure that space and other constraints of lack of hygiene at Anganwadi Centres do not become impediments in the supply of nutritious food
  • To mandate and scale staple food fortification comprising edible oil, wheat, rice and dairy products, in addition to salt
  1. There is persuasive evidence from several countries of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of large-scale staple food fortification to address “hidden hunger” or micro-nutrient deficiencies
  2. The success of micro-nutrient fortified food is that it does not entail a change in behaviour
  3. A case in point is the mandate of July and August 2017 to use fortified oil, salt and wheat flour in the ICDS and MDM by the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Human Resource Development, respectively
  • Multiple campaigns designed to inform, communicate and educate on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive behaviours
  1. These behaviours include breastfeeding, diet diversity, hand-washing, de-worming, safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation
  2. Nutrition has to be “marketed” and made interesting, engaging, simple and personally relevant
  3. Nutrition is complex, and therefore its delivery must be simplified through greater awareness and actions

Way Forward

  1. Unless economic growth improves social and human development, it cannot be sustained
  2. Equally, economic growth itself is impeded by low levels of productivity in an under-nourished and malnourished population
  3. Exploring new models to address the structural and systemic issues on a priority basis, learning from what has worked or not, and single-minded focus on implementation will be critical to delivering better nutritional outcomes and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, to which India is a signatory
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

[op-ed snap] Can regional trade agreements boost India’s exports?


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RCEP, WTO

Mains level: The problem with multilateral agreements and what India needs to do to gain most from them


Demand for India to join multilateral agreements

  1. As the World Trade Organization (WTO) comes under mounting attack from the Trump-led US administration, there is a clamour in India to negotiate regional trade agreements with peer countries
  2. It is perceived that this will boost exports and insulate India’s trade from the uncertainties of the global trading system

Are multilateral agreements really beneficial for India?

  1. An analysis of trade agreements suggests that India has often failed to gain from such agreements
  2. This could explain why Indian policymakers have become cautious about pursuing new trade agreements in recent years

History of trade agreements

  1. The rise of regional trade agreements (RTAs) globally coincided with the end of the Uruguay round of WTO talks in the mid-1990s
  2. Their growth has often been explained as a result of slow progress in multilateral negotiations
  3. RTAs include both preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs)

Criticism of RTAs

  1. RTAs face criticism for being detrimental to the spirit of multilateral free trade
  2. This is because countries that are not part of a regional agreement find themselves at a disadvantage
  3. This is especially true in an era of rising protectionism and uncertainty

Solution: Trade blocs

  1. It is possible to address such issues to some extent by creating mega-trading blocs
  2. One such bloc being negotiated is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), consisting of China, India, Japan, south-east Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand

Scope for India

  1. There might be scope for India to increase its trade with the Asia-Pacific region, given that its level of integration with the region is relatively low
  2. But India has remained ambivalent about the RCEP, with officials expressing concern that it might actually harm India

The reason behind India’s concerns

  1. India’s existing agreements with South Korea, Japan and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are often deemed to have benefited the partner countries at India’s expense
  2. India has not been able to sufficiently leverage these agreements to increase its presence in the markets of its partners
  3. The import-export ratio with these countries deteriorated in the years following the implementation of the trade agreements
  4. Even as partner countries have benefited, Indian exports to these regions have remained lacklustre

The actual reason for fewer gains from RTAs

  1. India’s inability to gain market share in these regions may be partly explained by its lack of competitiveness in exports
  2. India has various structural bottlenecks hurting its exports

Way Forward

  1. The focus needs to be on where India can promote its exports
  2. India needs to be careful in weighing each trade deal on its own merit
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

[op-ed snap] A Law Past Its Sell-by Date


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: Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

Mains level: Changes required in abortion law in India in order to make abortions safe as well as improve health of women


Abortion law in India

  1. Abortion has been legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971 when it was hailed as one of the more progressive laws in the world
  2. According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions
  3. Though the Act was liberal for its time, it has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions

Objectives of the law

  1. To control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies (which even today are to the tune of 48 per cent)
  2. To reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions

What are the barriers in the law?

  1. Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks
  2. When it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider
  3. Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit (a phenomenon that is fairly common due to later detection of abnormalities in the foetus or shame and stigma associated with rape), often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy

What does this lead to?

  1. Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination
  2. According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities
  3. Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 per cent of maternal deaths in India

Amendments returned back

  1. In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act
  2. It proposed various changes key amongst which were increasing the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in the case of foetal abnormalities
  3. In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands

Way Forward

  1. We are living in times when abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights
  2. Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] The roadmap to military reform

Related image


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Gaganshakti

Mains level: The idea of integrated theatre command in Indian military and what are the obstacles in implementing it


Debate on reform in the Indian military

  1. The initial flavour of the debate in the decades following the Group of Ministers’ report, the Kargil Review Committee report, and the Naresh Chandra Committee report focussed on a restructuring of higher defence organisation as the first step
  2. This was intended to improve synergy among different tools of statecraft (bureaucracy, military, research and development, intelligence, internal security mechanisms, and more)
  3. The debate has now shifted to the second tier of reform in the operational realm
  4. This has unfortunately pitted the three services against one another in a series of turf wars that have ranged from control over space to control over cyber and special forces

The idea of standalone integrated theatre commands

  1. Dissection of the recently conducted exercise, Gaganshakti, would be good in weighing this idea
  2. The main apprehensions of the IAF leadership revolve around how best to exploit its dwindling offensive resources if they are hived off to multiple theatre commands
  3. A more serious concern is how the limited availability of enabling equipment and platforms (AWACS, refuelers, electronic warfare platforms and more) could seriously jeopardise operations even in a single-adversary limited conflict
  4. This conflict could involve up to three of the proposed theatre commands, including the Indian Navy

Crucial role of IAF

  1. If there is any service that is truly ‘joint’ in terms of participation in statecraft or military operations in tandem with other tools, particularly as first responders, it is the IAF
  2. If the flying task of the IAF in terms of its distribution between joint and exclusive tasks is scrutinised, 60% of it is used in joint operations
  3. Capturing ground beyond a few kilometres or taking physical control of vast maritime spaces for prolonged durations are no longer sustainable operations of war as they arguably result in avoidable depletion of combat potential
  4. This causes unacceptable attrition in limited but high-tempo operations
  5. It is in this context that air power would offer a viable alternative by shaping ‘battlespaces’ adequately before the other services enter combat

Other alternatives for integration

  1. India’s armed forces have little experience in training, staffing and exercising Joint Task Forces based on at least a division-sized land component
  2. Creation of three division-sized task forces for operations in varied terrain, including out-of-area contingency operations, could be mulled over
  3. These would be commanded by an Army, Navy and Air Force three-star officer, respectively, reporting to the Chairman of the Chief of Staffs Committee

Way forward

  1. National security reforms and restructuring are bound to have far-reaching consequences and call for political sagacity, wisdom and vision
  2. A concurrent three-pronged approach to military reform would be ideal
  3. Such an approach should respect the collective wisdom of past reports and take into account contemporary political and security considerations
Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Fear isn’t the key: On regulation of securities markets


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Investment model

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SEBI

Mains level: T.K. Vishvanathan panel recommendations and their impact on the functioning of SEBI as well as investors


Regulating stock markets

  1. A panel headed by T.K. Viswanathan, a former Lok Sabha Secretary General, has now submitted recommendations to curb illegal practices in the markets and ensure fair conduct among investors
  2. Front-running, insider trading, shady accounting practices that are tantamount to window-dressing firms’ performance, and other shenanigans to manipulate share prices continue

Panel’s recommendations

  1. A key recommendation is that the stock market watchdog be granted the power to act directly against “perpetrators of financial statements fraud”
  2. This means SEBI can act not only against listed entities under its extant powers but also against those who aid or abet financial fraud — including accountants and auditors
  3. The panel has suggested that SEBI, rather than the Central government, be given the power to grant immunity to whistle-blowers who help uncover illegal activities
  4. It has mooted new ideas to address market manipulation, from a better scrutiny of price-sensitive information to the creation of processes to expedite the investigation into cases
  5. It goes to the extent of recommending that SEBI be given powers to tap phone calls

Pros & Cons of these recommendations

  • Pros
  1. Greater executive powers can help the regulator take swifter action against offenders instead of relying on government bodies such as the Ministry of Corporate Affairs
  2. This could also free SEBI from various manifestations of political influence
  • Cons
  1. Given that SEBI is now considering a cap on trading by retail investors based on their assessed ‘net worth’, the committee’s suggestion that it may consider any trading by players beyond their known ‘financial resources’ as fraud could lead to undue harassment of investors

Way Forward

  1. Granting more teeth to enable the market regulator to fulfil its primary role of protecting investors is fine
  2. A strong regulator serves as a good deterrent to truants in the market, but banking on fear too much could also scare away genuine investors
  3. It is equally critical to empower it with the right tools so that a sledgehammer is not deployed to crack a nut
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[op-ed snap] Questioning a crackdown


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: Oxytocin, Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940,  Indian Council of Medical Research, National Dairy Research Institute

Mains level: Laws regulating pharma sector in India & their occasional usage in an adverse way leading to more problems than solutions


Recent ban on Oxytocin

  1. The decision of the Ministry of Health to restrict, from September 1, the manufacture of oxytocin only to the public sector unit, Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (KAPL), has sparked fears of shortages and a disruption of supplies of this drug
  2. The restriction is because of alleged misuse of the drug by dairy farmers on milch cattle to stimulate milk production
  3. The Ministry now hopes to control distribution channels and prevent misuse

About Oxytocin

  1. Oxytocin is a hormone that acts on organs in the body (including the breast and uterus) and as a chemical messenger in the brain, controlling key aspects of the reproductive system, including childbirth and lactation, and aspects of human behaviour
  2. Oxytocin is important during childbirth and breastfeeding
  3. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus
  4. From there, it is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain

Is oxytocin really harmful?

  1. Minutes of the meetings of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) and the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) — (statutory bodies under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 cite experts from the medical and veterinary sciences who advised the DTAB that oxytocin is required in the treatment of both humans and animals
  2. Two studies by the Central government, by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Dairy Research Institute, conclude that the use of oxytocin does not have an adverse effect on either people or animals
  3. With cattle, the danger of misuse is that it may cause addiction, in which case cattle do not react to normal milk ejection stimuli

Why was production restricted to public sector company?

  1. It is due to a judgment by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by the court after it came across newspaper reports of oxytocin misuse
  2. The court passed a judgment in 2016 blaming oxytocin for a number of diseases, including breast and uterine cancers, male impotence, excessive hair growth in women and balding for men
  3. However, the court did not cite a single scientific study to support these claims
  4. Towards the end of its judgment, the court directed the State government to consider the feasibility of restricting manufacture to the public sector
  5. The Central government decided to adopt the judgment as the basis of its order restricting manufacture to the public sector
  6. The fact is that the High Court sought a study of the feasibility of restricting manufacture to the public sector; it never ordered the restriction to be imposed

What should be the basis of the ban?

  1. A study of the degree of misuse
  2. The demand for the drug
  3. The manner in which the proposed restriction will affect the supply of the drug
  4. It’s impact on public health

Way Forward

  1. The regulation of drugs has to be rigorous and reasoned
  2. It appears that the government has gone ahead to restrict manufacture without conducting any kind of feasibility study
  3. The case for restricting the manufacture of oxytocin is neither rigorous nor reasoned
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] How India should close the financial gender gap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Findex data, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)

Mains level: Problems being faced by women in terms of financial inclusion & solutions to these


India’s efforts in financial inclusion

  1. The World Bank’s latest Global Findex data proves that India has made rapid strides in improving access to formal financial services
  2. In 2014, just 53% of adults had a formal account. Today, more than 80% do
  3. At the same time, it has cut its gender gap in financial access from 20 percentage points to six

How did this happen?

  1. The government has made financial inclusion and expanding the formal sector a top priority
  2. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) programme—launched in 2015 with a mission to provide a basic account to every adult—has enrolled more women than men

Problems that were being faced and how PMJDY resolved them

  • Millions of women were deterred from going to banks because of the long distances involved as they have a more restricted “economic geography” than men, making brick-and-mortar banks harder to access
  1. Under the PMJDY, banks went door-to-door enrolling customers and held camps in villages
  2. It also increased the number of banks’ business correspondents (BCs or bank mitras), bringing services closer to more households
  • Establishing identity
  1. Aadhaar and the India Stack’s biometric eKYC verification capability make it easier for women, who possess the required documents less often than men, to establish their identity to a bank
  2. Until recently, fulfilling know your customer (KYC) requirements was a significant barrier for many women
  • Directed benefits for women
  1. The government has also mandated that certain defined benefit schemes, such as Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY), distribute payments to accounts in a woman’s name
  2. The benefits are being deposited directly in the recipients’ Aadhaar-linked accounts

Thrust toward digital payments

  1. The government has made a major policy thrust toward digital payments since demonetization
  2. The widespread rollout of Aadhaar enabled customers to use digital BC payment points in addition to ATMs and service terminals

Closing the gender gap is still difficult

  1. PMJDY has opened more than 100 million new bank accounts, but many of them are inactive or carry a zero balance
  2. More women have been enrolled, but a larger gender gap persists in account usage
  3. In terms of credit and insurance usage, the gender gap remains high

How to reduce this gap?

  • First, we need to put smartphones into the hands of more women
  1. The mobile phone is still the most promising empowerment tool for financial inclusion, and yet, fewer than half of adult women in India own a mobile phone, compared to 73% of men
  2. One reason for this technological divide is that smartphones are not marketed as an empowerment tool, but rather as an entertainment and social media platform
  3.  In India, many women have internalized social fears that smartphones will expose them to “bad influences”, leading to sexual harassment or broken marriages
  • Second, when women gain access to digital financial services over mobile, many face a three-step learning curve at once:
  1. Becoming familiar with using a smartphone
  2. Understanding how credit, insurance, and other financial products work
  3. Using an interface that’s not even written in their native language
  4. A goal of inclusion efforts is to improve women’s financial literacy, but the second lesson is that these efforts must also improve women’s digital literacy
  • Third, financial products are often not structured, distributed, or bundled to meet the needs of women
  1. Financial responsibilities differ between men and women, who are generally tasked with back-stopping and stretching the family budget
  2. Bundled solutions of savings, credit, and insurance could be designed to be more relevant to women’s financial lives
  • Extending emergency credit
  1. In markets with high card penetration, customers often have the option of linking their checking accounts to a credit card account for extra liquidity
  2. In emerging markets, adding microcredit to accounts could help women cover unexpected expenses and emergencies in their day-to-day management of the household finances
  3. Women also go through more life transitions than men, moving in and out of the workforce more frequently, so making it easier to reactivate dormant accounts could increase usage

Way Forward

  1. As the world nears the long-held goal of universal financial access, we can see the road ahead for eliminating the gender gap in basic access and increasing usage among all customers, by making financial services more digital, flexible, and relevant to both men and women’s lives
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[op-ed snap] Huff and e-puff: On e-cigarette ban


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: e-cigarettes

Mains level: Toabcco usage in India & how to reduce it


Delhi government’s plan to ban e-cigarettes

  1. In a recent hearing on a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi government said it was planning to ban e-cigarettes
  2. If it follows through, the NCT will join States such as Karnataka and Maharashtra in the ban
  3. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a stand against e-cigarettes

Is ban justified?

  1. The controversy exists partly because it is a new and rapidly evolving technology
  2. This makes it hard for researchers to study the health effects
  3. The evidence so far indicates that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes
  4. Because they heat a liquid to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol, instead of burning tobacco, they do not produce toxic tars
  5. A ban is not the right approach to regulate this technology, given that combustible cigarettes are freely available across India
  6. Completely banning the technology, while selling normal cigarettes, could take away a promising smoking-cessation aid

Are e-cigarettes completely safe?

  1. At high temperatures, e-cigarettes produce carcinogens such as formaldehyde
  2. Even the low doses in e-cigarette aerosols can be carcinogenic if inhaled for years
  3. They also increase the odds of lung disease and myocardial infarction, but to a lesser extent than normal cigarettes do

Making users drug addicts

  1. E-cigarettes can act as a gateway drug for young people
  2. E-cigarette users were more likely to turn into regular smokers eventually

Reducing the impact of tobacco

  1. E-cigarettes must be viewed from a “harm minimisation” perspective
  2. Combustible cigarettes are more noxious than electronic ones
  3. Switching from the combustible cigarettes to the e-cigarettes can only help addicts

Way Forward

  1. Instead of the ban, a more pragmatic option would be to regulate e-cigarettes tightly, by creating standards for the aerosols and banning underage and public use
  2. This would leave smokers with a therapeutic alternative while protecting youngsters from a gateway drug
Tobacco: The Silent Killer

[op-ed snap] Keeping dry: On Kerala floods


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Flood events in various parts of country and measures that need to be taken to effectively handle them


Impact of flooding in Kerela

  1. More than three dozen people have died and an estimated ₹8,316 crore worth of economic assets have been lost in the seasonal rain in Kerela, particularly over the past week
  2. The gates of reservoirs in the Idukki system, a giant hydroelectric project, and several other dams have been opened, inundating riverside habitations downstream
  3. In the northern districts, damage to houses, roads and other structures has occurred owing to landslips caused by incessant showers

Trend of rainfall in Kerala

  1. Kerala’s unusually heavy monsoon this year is in contrast to the long-period trend of rainfall
  2. According to an analysis of data on the monsoon between 1954 and 2003 by climate researchers at the University of Cambridge, overall this part of the country had become drier in summer, but with an emerging frequency of destructive flash floods in rare events
  3. This trend is expected to become stronger

Steps that need to be taken

  1. There is the need for governments to strengthen their resilience planning
  2. It should begin with a programme to relocate people away from hazard zones along the rivers that were in spate in Kerala over the past week after the shutters of more than two dozen dams were opened
  3. The spectacular disaster this year also underscores the role of the government as the insurer of last resort for the average citizen
  4. This is because in Mumbai last year, those who had private household insurance cover against disasters discovered the limitations of such policies
  5. The companies were unwilling to pay many homeowners for a key risk such as costly displacement from homes since the houses were not structurally damaged

Way Forward

  1. The catastrophic impact of monsoon rainfall on several districts of Kerala has come as a grim reminder that the vigil against unpredictable natural disasters must never be relaxed
  2. All States naturally look to Kerala, with its record of social development, for evolving best practices to handle such natural disasters
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[op-ed snap] Refocusing on Africa


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asia Africa Growth Corridor, African Union, East African Community

Mains level: India’s recent Africa focus and its strategic as well as economic importance


PM’s recent Africa tour

  1. PM Modi recently returned from a tour of Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa
  2. It included a flurry of agreements and a speech at the BRICS Summit in South Africa outlining 10 guiding principles for India’s engagement in Africa
  3. A refocused Africa strategy is emerging which builds on India’s soft power in historical, trade, and cultural links, particularly with eastern Africa — or in the new jargon, the western edge of the Indo-Pacific

Aims of the new strategy

  1. It aims to secure India’s foothold on the continent
  2. Provide secure access to resources
  3. Build markets for Indian goods and services
  4. And support India’s global ambitions
  5. The strategy is also focused on building alliances and differentiating India from China as a development partner

Indian strategy: Development partnership

  1. India’s main tool for implementing this new strategy is an increase in development partnerships
  2. Since it cannot match China’s deep-pocketed infrastructure-focused engagement in Africa, India has tried to differentiate itself by engaging with its diaspora and private sector links to build development partnerships
  3. India has a comparative advantage in English-language training and research
  4. India has also initiated a series of India-Africa forums and is working with Japan on an Asia Africa Growth Corridor

Key players in the new setup

  • The strategy was on display during Modi’s first stop in Rwanda, a country that is considered an increasingly important gateway to Africa and one with which India now has a strategic partnership
  1. Wanting to solidify this strategic relationship, Modi announced India would open a high commission in Rwanda, signed seven MoUs, including in defence, and provided two credit lines of $100 million each for irrigation works and industrial parks
  2. Rwanda is the present chair of the influential African Union, where common positions are adopted by the continent
  3. It is the third-fastest growing economy in Africa
  • Modi’s next stop was in Uganda, which currently chairs the East African Community, a grouping of six countries with a common market and free trade arrangements with other countries
  1. PM Modi, with a large business delegation in tow, addressed a business event, as well as the Indian diaspora, whose number of 50,000 belie their role in nearly two-thirds of the country’s GDP
  2. He addressed the Ugandan parliament, a first by an Indian prime minister
  3. He also extended cooperation on training between Uganda’s military and the Indian Army
  4. A commitment for two credit lines for over $200 million and several capacity-building and training programmes was also made
  • Modi’s final stop in South Africa to attend the 10th BRICS summit drove home India’s strategic engagement
  1. He said India is putting Africa at the top of its priorities and is keen to build partnerships that will liberate its potential rather than constrain its future

Implementation tools under question

  1. While India’s Africa strategy is becoming clearer, questions about the efficacy of tools for implementing it remain
  2. Only four per cent of Indian grants in 2017-18 were committed to Africa
  3. Credit lines to Africa have a 40 per cent disbursement rate
  4. India’s new concessional financing scheme, which subsidises private Indian companies bidding on African infrastructure projects, shows no signs of functioning a year after its announcement

Way Forward

  1. India seeks to implement its new strategic partnership with Africa and convince countries that it can not only commit but also deliver
  2. Focus on efficacy and timely action in terms of delivering promises will help India achieve this goal
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

[op-ed snap] Undoing a legacy of injustice


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various colonial era provisions still in force and need to remove them for better governance


Delhi HC strikes down the beggar act

  1. Last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution
  2. In its judgment in Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India, Delhi HC held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution

Inhuman provisions of the Begging Act

  1. The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories
  2. Begging Act criminalises begging
  3. It gives the police the power to arrest individuals without a warrant
  4. It gives magistrates the power to commit them to a “certified institution” (read: a detention centre) for up to three years on the commission of the first “offence”, and up to 10 years upon the second “offence”
  5. It strips the people of their privacy and dignity by compelling them to allow themselves to be fingerprinted
  6. The Act also authorises the detention of people “dependent” upon the “beggar” (read: family), and the separation of children over the age of five
  7. Certified institutions have absolute power over detainees, including the power of punishment, and the power to exact “manual work”
  8. Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail

Less help and more harassment

  1. From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic
  2. There is the definition of “begging” which has a pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale”
  3. This makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job
  4. The reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor
  5. These vague definitions not only give unchecked power to the police to harass citizens but they also reveal the prejudices underlying the law

Transforamtive Constitution

  1. The Delhi High Court order striking down the Begging Act heeds the Constitution’s transformative nature
  2. It marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism
  3. A judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi)
  4. Both Naz Foundation and Harsh Mander recognise that our Constitution is a transformative Constitution, which seeks to undo legacies of injustice and lift up all individuals and communities to the plane of equal citizenship

Way Forward

  1. It is important to remember one thing: a court can strike down an unconstitutional law, but it cannot reform society
  2. Poverty is a systemic and structural problem
  3. It is now the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] BCCI revamp: On Lodha panel recommendations


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Judicial interventions in various regulatory bodies administration and results of these interventions


SC’s final verdict on reforms

  1. The Supreme Court has now extended some concessions to those aggrieved by the rigorous rules of BCCI reforms
  2. This is two years after accepting the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations, which aimed to revamp cricket administration in the country

Cooling off period relaxed

  1. The most significant change concerns the cooling-off period prescribed for office-bearers before they are allowed to contest for a subsequent term
  2. Against the panel’s view that every office-bearer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, in the national board or in a State association, should have a three-year break after a three-year term, the court has now allowed two three-year terms — that is, a tenure of six years — before the mandatory break kicks in
  3. The logic behind a cooling-off period is that office-bearers should not be given lengthy tenures that enable them to establish personal fiefdoms
  4. The argument against it is that the experience and knowledge that office-bearer gains over three years should not be frittered away, and a second term could help consolidate such learnings
  5. Given that there is a nine-year aggregate limit as well as an age limit of 70 for any office-bearer, this change may not amount to any significant dilution of the core principle that there should be no perpetuation of power centres

One state one vote norm overruled

  1. The Lodha panel had also favoured the ‘one State, one vote’ norm
  2. This meant that an association representing a State alone should be recognised as a voting member of the BCCI, while associations representing a region within a State or entities that do not represent a territory should not have the same vote or status
  3. In this change, the court has accepted the reasoning that associations that had contributed significantly to Indian cricket need not be stripped of their full membership

Way Forward

  1. Judicial intervention has been immensely helpful in making cricket administration more efficient and professional and addressing the credibility deficit of recent times
  2. The changes adopted by the court while finalising a new constitution for the BCCI differ in significant ways from what was proposed by the Lodha committee but are pragmatic in nature and would lead to healthy governance of cricket in India
BCCI Reforms – Lodha Committee, etc.

[op-ed snap] Decoding the DNA Bill


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018

Mains level: Privacy concerns related to DNA profiling and resolving those by improvements in the proposed legislation


DNA profiling bill cleared

  1. The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 has been introduced in India’s Parliament
  2. It aims at creating a national DNA database for use by the police in solving crimes and identifying missing persons

Use of DNA samples

  1. Using DNA effectively during criminal investigations requires proper crime scene examination, trained and reliable policing, a trusted chain of custody of samples, reliable analysis, and proper use of expert evidence in court
  2. Without these prerequisites, a DNA database will exacerbate rather than solve problems in the criminal justice system
  3. Many errors occur before samples get to the laboratory
  4. False matches or misinterpretation or planting of evidence, and diverting resources could lead to miscarriages of justice

Privacy protections not given in the bill

  1. An important one is the need to restrict DNA profiling so that it uses only non-coding DNA, a commonly used international standard for one, which prevents the use of parts of the DNA which code for personal characteristics, including medical conditions
  2. Any international sharing of DNA profiles should also be covered by a privacy or data protection law, and meet international human rights standards
  3. It is a best practice to separate the databases for missing persons and for criminals set up by the Bill so that people who volunteer their DNA to help find their missing relatives are not treated as suspects for criminal offences
  4. Provisions allowing the use of these databases for civil cases, for example, to test paternity, should be deleted from the Bill
  5. Volunteers must be fully informed about future storage and uses of their genetic information before they give consent

What more needs to be done?

  1. The requirement for laboratory accreditation in the Bill should include quality assurance for crime scene examination
  2. Consideration should be given to an independent forensic science regulator to ensure oversight of both laboratory quality assurance and crime scene examination
  3. There is also a need for elimination databases for police, crime scene examiners and laboratory workers, whose DNA may contaminate the evidence they touch
  4. Provisions which give the government or the DNA Profiling Board the power to amend aspects of the safeguards in the Bill, and to avoid accountability in court, should be deleted

Way Forward

  1. Important safeguards and a cost-benefit analysis are still lacking for this Bill
  2. The Bill needs further improvement, and full parliamentary scrutiny should be utilised to achieve that end
Right To Privacy

[op-ed snap] A climate for green funds


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s renewable energy push and finance required to accomplish the targets


Climate change impact

  1. The impact of climate change are no longer risks that exist in the distant future
  2. A recent HSBC Global Research report found India to be the most vulnerable of the 67 countries assessed for their vulnerability to and preparedness for climate change risks

Huge investments required to combat climate change

  1. The government aims to source 175 GW of power from renewables by 2022 and for nearly 57 per cent of total electricity capacity to come from non-fossil fuels by 2027
  2. It has been estimated that approximately $100 trillion of additional investment will be required between 2016 and 2030 to sync the imperatives of global development with that of addressing the challenge of climate change
  3. Financing clean energy infrastructure, sustainable transport, energy efficiency and waste management are among the key imperatives today

Green finance gaining traction

  1. Globally, green finance is gaining prominence as a medium to raise funds for environment-friendly and climate-resilient projects
  2. Investors are keen to put more of their cash into low-carbon, sustainable projects and those requiring capital

India needs more green finance

  1. In India the concept of green financing is nascent
  2. Measures to encourage green-bonds could help raise finances needed to “green” India’s economy
  3. Some of these can be:
  • Reduce some of the regulatory constraints that currently hamper international investments as well as local pools of capital
  • Guidelines asking provident funds, pension funds and insurance companies to invest a portion of their assets under management in green bonds
  • The government could offer tax incentives to encourage mutual fund and other onshore investors to invest in local green bonds
  • India could also look at issuing a sovereign green bond, like France did to great effect last year
  • Diversifying the green bond market beyond project finance assets into corporate loans, and working more with mid-sized companies (mid-cap market), will go a long way towards building up the green financing ecosystem
  • Allowing banks to claim “priority sector benefits” on their green investments would also help

Way Forward

  1. Amid all the issues that concern us — poverty, education, employment, health — it is easy to forget that global warming is one of the most critical challenges we face
  2. We need to do a lot more and a lot sooner or risk an environmental crisis
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[op-ed snap] Let China pay for India’s solar push


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: Not much

Mains level: Restrcictions on the import of products from China & its impacts on overall economy


Tariffs on Chinese solar panels

  1. The government has imposed a safeguard duty (SGD) on solar cells and modules from China and Malaysia, effective 30 July
  2. About 85% of India’s solar cells come from both countries
  3. The argument for such a trade intervention is the rising “dependency” on China on one hand and economic and employment loss on the other

Tariffs counterproductive

  1. From an environmental, economic as well as (energy) security standpoint, such tariffs are unfortunately counterproductive
  2. India’s current production of solar cells and modules is much less sophisticated and not competitive enough to replace the Chinese product
  3. Catching up with China would require tremendous capital investment—with no promise of return as the decreasing prices further reduce profit margins
  4. China can offer low prices due to economies of scale

Time to act is now

  1. Germany’s solar industry has already experienced this conundrum
  2. Once prosperous and driven by subsidies, it could not keep up with China’s low-cost production
  3. It has the same problem with another technology too
  4. Today, nine out of 10 batteries are produced in China, South Korea or Japan

Impact on employment

  1. Import tariffs will raise the general price levels for solar cells and solar photovoltaic power plants, the number of installations will drop and employment will be affected
  2. Solar cell and module production is a highly automated process, which requires high-end precision machines rather than headcount
  3. The real job potential is in installation and maintenance
  4. It is this field which will be negatively affected

Consumers will also suffer

  1. Ultimately, the consumer will pay the premium
  2. Higher energy prices drive costs while lower energy prices drive the economy
  3. A growing economy increases energy demand—and prices if energy supply does not grow accordingly
  4. An import tax on solar cells ironically undermines India’s own magic formula for the energy transition
  5. India wants an effective carbon emissions reduction along with economic development and electrification of the country

Imports can continue from China

  1. Instead of a threat to India’s security and economy, China’s subsidized solar sector can be seen as a gift
  2. China practically pays for India’s energy transition, which will help to end the dependency on fossil fuels and will reduce the effects on climate and public health in the long run
  3. Given the chance to get the transition subsidized by another country, the Indian government’s introduction of the SGD seems irrational
  4. It will increase solar power rates to around ₹3 per unit, diminish employment potential, reduce power supply, and drive up energy prices

Way Forward

  1. The ambitious target of 175GW renewable energy capacity by 2022—now raised to 227GW—could lead to a price drop in energy prices if realized
  2. Coal, often pushed as the perfect energy source for India, will further lose its significance
  3. This is why the energy transition is inevitable
Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

[op-ed snap] Time for economic policy vigilance


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Growth

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues being faced by Indian economy and what can be done to maintain growth momentum


Growth in economy picking up

  1. The Indian economy is gaining momentum
  2. The annual assessment recently released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed that it expects the Indian economy to grow at 7.3% in the current, and 7.5% in the next, fiscal
  3. India is contributing 15% to global growth
  4. Some of the recent structural reforms, such as the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), along with liberalization of foreign direct investment and improvement in the ease of doing business, will help improve economic activity

Risks being faced by the economy

1. External Sector

  • On the external front, there are risks such as high crude prices and the tightening of global financial conditions
  • India’s current account deficit widened to 1.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017-18 and is expected to go up to 2.6% of GDP in the current year
  • The widening of the current account deficit is getting reflected in the depreciation of the rupee, which has fallen over 7% since the beginning of the year
  • External sector risks are getting amplified by the tightening of financial conditions in global markets

2. Domestic front

  • On the domestic front, there are risks such as the delay in addressing the twin balance sheet issue and possible revenue shortfall owing to GST implementation issues
  • The resolution of the twin balance sheet problem is a real challenge
  • Resolution or liquidation of distressed assets could result in large haircuts for banks
  • This will possibly increase the capital requirement of public sector banks and the government, with fiscal constraints, may find it difficult to spare resources
  • While the collection from GST is improving, it is still running below the desired rate of ₹1 trillion per month
  • Any compression in capital expenditure as a result of revenue shortfall will affect growth

Further measures required

  1. Even as important reforms have been implemented, more will be needed in areas like land and labour
  2. Labour market reforms could complement the GST in terms of promoting the formal economy and creating fiscal space for needed social and infrastructure spending
  3. Factor market reforms and greater formalization of the economy will push growth and generate higher tax revenue
  4. For now, the government should work on smoothening the IBC and GST and not allow electoral compulsions to affect fiscal management
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

[op-ed snap] The anti-trafficking Bill is necessary


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Slavery Index

Mains level: Various laws against trafficking and their effectiveness in curbing it


Human trafficking in India

  1. According to the Global Slavery Index, India has more than seven million victims of modern slavery
  2. It is an alarmingly high number, even for a large country like India

Why increase in trafficking?

  1. The cases of trafficking that enter the criminal justice system are just the tip of the iceberg
  2. The number of victims is increasing each year, while the conviction rate of perpetrators continues to be abysmally low
  3. Traffickers are not scared of being penalized for the brutality and violence they subject their victims to
  4. The natural outcome of all this is that trafficking is one of the lowest risk crimes, not just in India, but all over the world

India’s steps towards curbing trafficking

  1. The Lok Sabha has recently passed a new Bill for countering human trafficking
  2. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code defines trafficking and penalizes offenders
  3. There exists the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, which deals with cases of sex trafficking, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, which deals with offences of forced labour

Problems with current provisions

  1. Except for certain provisions of the ITPA, no law has provided any relief or rehabilitation to the victims of the offence
  2. With no witness/victim protection mechanism and no rehabilitation schemes, prosecutions suffer for lack of evidence
  3. This handicaps the criminal justice system’s efforts to secure convictions

Changes in the new bill

  1. The new Bill has been drafted with a victim-centric approach
  2. The new law focuses solely on the trafficked persons
  3. The focus is on the protection and rehabilitation of the victims
  4. It does not encourage the institutionalization of victims. Rather, it encourages reintegration, with provisions to ensure the protection of vulnerable survivors and that they are not re-trafficked
  5. The new Bill has a robust framework in place to ensure the human agency of trafficking survivors is not snatched away; their dignity has been given prime importance
  6. The Bill also calls for the creation of specialized units within the criminal justice system
  7. This is a proven method worldwide when it comes to increasing the efficiency of efforts to combat crimes like human trafficking

Socioeconomic causes behind crimes

  1. Most crimes have their roots in socioeconomic problems
  2. Poverty and unemployment make people vulnerable to being trafficked

Way forward

  1. Human trafficking is an extremely serious offence
  2. Its enormity calls for a stringent mechanism to counter it
  3. New Anti-trafficking law is not a perfect law, but it certainly is a better law than before
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Perils of historical amnesia: on Article 35A


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: Article 35A

Mains level: Special status being enjoyed by J&K and efforts to remove it


Article 35A challenged in Supreme Court

  1. The controversial Article 35A of the Constitution is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court
  2. Its critics have argued that the Article affords Jammu and Kashmir undue powers, particularly by preventing non-State residents to own land in the State
  3. In reality, the fundamental purpose of Article 35A was the exact opposite: instead of giving the state a “special status”, it was designed to take autonomy away from it

History of Article 35A

  1. The Article was introduced in May 1954 as part of a larger Presidential Order package, which made several additions to the Constitution (not just Article 35A)
  2. The overall gist of this Order was to give the Government of India enormously more powers over the State than it had enjoyed before
  3. For the first time, India’s fundamental rights and directive principles were applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and the State’s finances were integrated with India
  4. The Order also extended the Indian Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over certain aspects of Jammu and Kashmir

Delhi Agreement

  1. In 1952, after the international clamour for an immediate plebiscite had somewhat subsided, Jawaharlal Nehru invited Sheikh Abdullah (then PM of Kashmir) to discuss how India and Jammu and Kashmir could be more closely integrated
  2. The result was the 1952 Delhi Agreement but it could not come into force

J&K is less autonomous than before

  1. It took 70 years for successive governments to steadily chip away at Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy to bring it to today when the only meaningful “special status” that it enjoys is Article 35A
  2. Almost all of State’s other autonomous powers have been subsumed by New Delhi
  3. Abolition of Article 35A should be seen as part of this larger decades-long process of the State’s integration into India, sometimes through legal means and sometimes through outright fiat

Way Forward

  1. The whole project of federal nation-building requires constant negotiation between the nation-state and its components
  2. Such efforts need to have an underpinning of at least some kind of transparent democratic process
  3. If Article 35A is to be removed, it must be removed as an expression of the will of the people, through a political process which includes the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the discussion
J&K – The issues around the state