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In news: National Recruitment Agency (NRA)

Mains Paper 2 : Civil Service |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRA

Mains level : Need for centralised recruitment


Context

  • The Finance Ministry has approved a proposal to streamline recruitment of some posts in the government along with various equivalent recruitment in public sector banks.
  • A new National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will be set up to conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for all these competitive examinations, in which an estimated 2.5 crore candidates appear annually.

National Recruitment Agency (NRA)

  • The proposed NRA will conduct preliminary examinations for all these recruitment, which are at present conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
  • As per the proposal, the NRA will subsequently forward the list of qualifying candidates to the respective recruiting agencies to conduct the mains examinations.
  • The SSC and IBPS, it is learnt, will not be disbanded for now and will conduct the mains examinations as usual.
  • The basic idea behind this proposal is to shortlist qualifying candidates through a Common Eligibility Test before sending them for the mains examination.

Why a new agency is proposed?

  • The proposal for a new agency is meant to streamline recruitment process on subordinate-rank posts in the government.
  • The proposed NRA is expected to reduce the burden of SSC and the IBPS, among others, from holding preliminary recruitment exams, which is an extensive exercise.
  • Once up and running, NRA will work as a preliminary single-window agency to shortlist qualifying candidates from bulk of applicants and forward the list to SSC, IBPS, etc, to hold the mains.
  • According to an estimate, more than 2.5 crore candidates sit for these prelims, most of them conducted by SSC.
  • Recruitment conducted at present through the SSC and proposed to go to the new agency include the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination to enter government departments.

For clerical level

  • Similarly in line with CGL, recruitment tests for clerical-level recruitment in public sector banks are proposed to go to the NRA.
  • The proposed agency, however, will not be in charge of recruitment of Probationary Officers (PO) in banks.
Civil Services Reforms

Paraquat herbicide

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Paraquat

Mains level : Preventing farmers death due to hazardous chemicals


News

  • The use of herbicide Paraquat killed around 170 people in the last two years in Odisha’s Burla district leading to demands for its ban.

Paraquat

  • Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control.
  • It has been banned in 32 countries including Switzerland, where herbicide producing company Sygenta is based.
  • Paraquat also figures on the list of 99 pesticides and herbicides the Supreme Court to ban in an ongoing case.
  • Paraquat dichloride is being used for 25 crops in India, whereas it is approved to be used on only nine crops by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee. This is a violation of the Indian Insecticides Act.
  • So far in India, only Kerala has banned the herbicide.
  • Another violation: since farmers can’t and don’t read the label on paraquat containers, retailers sell paraquat in plastic carry bags and refill bottles.

Why lethal?

  • There is no antidote to this herbicide, the consumers of which complain of kidney, liver and lung problems.
  • They may recover from kidney problems, but die of lung- and liver-related ailments. Some also witness kidney failure.

Need for worldwide ban

  • Paraquat is yet to be listed in the prior informed consent (PIC) of Rotterdam Convention, is an international treaty on import/export of hazardous chemicals signed in 1998.
  • If a chemical figures in the PIC, the exporting country has to take the importing nation’s prior consent before exporting it.

Back2Basics

Rotterdam Convention

  • The Rotterdam Convention is formally known as the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
  • It is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals.
  • The convention promotes open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.
  • Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the treaty, and exporting countries are obliged to make sure that producers within their jurisdiction comply.
  • India is a party to the convention, with 161 other parties.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

New reports clearly confirm ‘Aryan’ migration into India

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various sites of IVC

Mains level : Theory of Aryan Origin



News

  • ‘The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia’ was released online, in March 2018 creating a sensation in India and around the world.
  • It propounded that between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE, there were significant migrations from the Central Asian Steppe that most likely brought Indo-European languages into India.
  • In other words, the paper supported the long-held idea of an ‘Arya’ migration into India.

The First Indians

  • The reference to the early hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia is a reference to the Andamanese, whom the rest of the paper abbreviates as AHG or Andamanese Hunter Gatherers.
  • This is the same as the Ancient Ancestral South Indians (AASI) that the earlier paper talked about, or First Indians, which is the term used in my book, Early Indians.
  • The hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, AHG or First Indians — they all refer to the descendants of the Out of Africa migrants who reached India around 65,000 years ago.

Evolution of Indians

  • The primary source of ancestry for today’s South Asians is a mixture of First Indians and a people related to the hunter-gatherers of Iran.
  • This mixed population created the agricultural revolution in northwestern India and built the Harappan Civilisation that followed.
  • When the Harappan Civilisation declined after 2000 BCE due to a long drought, the Harappans moved south-eastwards (from northwestern India) to mix with other First Indians to form the Ancestral South Indian (ASI) population whose descendants live in south India today.
  • Around the same time, the Harappans also mixed with Steppe pastoralists who had by then migrated to north India through Central Asia, to form the Ancestral North Indian (ANI) population.
  • The Steppe ancestry of the people of both South Asia and Eastern Europe in the Bronze Age explains how the movements of the Central Asians between the two regions caused the well-known similarities between the Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.

Dissenting ideas

  • The study by Pune based researchers is based on the ancient DNA of a woman who lived in the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi about 4,600 years ago.
  • It refuted Aryan migration theory.
  • However, it has always been understood that the Arya migration from the Steppe happened after 2000 BCE.
  • The absence of Steppe ancestry in a skeleton in Rakhigarhi from 2600 BCE is clear confirmation that the earlier understanding was correct, that the Arya were not present during the Harappan Civilization.
  • In other words, the Harappan Civilization was pre-Arya, and so was the language they spoke.

So what’s new?

  • A natural route for Indo-European languages to have spread into South Asia is from Eastern Europe via Central Asia in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE.
  • The fact that Steppe pastoralist ancestry in South Asia matches that in Bronze Age Eastern Europe (but not Western Europe) provides additional evidence for this theory.
  • It elegantly explains the shared distinctive features of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages.

Who were the Harappans then?

  • The Harappans who created the agricultural revolution in northwestern India and then built the Harappan civilization were a mix of First Indians and Iranians who spoke a pre-Arya language.
  • The Arya were central Asian Steppe pastoralists who arrived in India between roughly 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE, and brought Indo-European languages to the subcontinent.
  • The new study says the Iranians arrived in India before agriculture or even herding had begun anywhere in the world.
  • In other words, these migrants were likely to have been hunter-gatherers, which means they did not bring a knowledge of agriculture.

Also read

No Central Asian ancestry in Indus Valley Civilization

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LRO

Mains level : Achievements of LRO



News

  • ISRO’S attempts to figure out what happened to Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram will get a boost when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) flies over the lander’s landing site on the Moon.
  • NASA will share any before and after flyover imagery of the area around the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

  • The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite missions began on June 18, 2009.
  • It is a robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon.
  • It studies the Moon’s surface, clicks pictures, and collects data that help in figuring out the presence and possibility of water ice and other resources on the Moon, as well as plan future missions to it.
  • The primary mission of the LRO, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, was to measure the entire lunar surface to create a high-resolution 3-D map of the Moon.
  • The map with ~50-centimeter resolution images would aid in the planning of future robotic and crewed missions.
  • In addition, LRO would map the Polar Regions and search for the presence of water ice.

The mission

  • The mission has provided technical innovations and made surprising discoveries that have changed our view of the Moon.
  • The instruments on board the spacecraft return global data, such as day-night temperature maps, a global geodetic grid, high resolution color imaging and the moon’s UV albedo.
  • It is estimated that the LRO has fuel enough to stay on its mission for at least six more years.

Achievements of LRO

  • Some of LRO’s technical innovations include the first global thermal mapping of a planetary body covering a full range of local times and seasons.
  • It carries the first bi-static radar imaging measurements from Earth to a planetary orbiter.
  • It has provided more than five years of laser altimetry measurements yielding more than 8 billion topographic points, better than any other object in the Solar System.
  • On March 15, 2011, LRO provided more than 192 terabytes of data from its primary mission to its Planetary Data System, or PDS, to make the information available to researchers, students, media, and the general public.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Regulations for flying of Drones  

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Categorisation of Drones

Mains level : Security issues associated with flying of drones


News

  • Two US citizens were detained for flying a drone fitted with a camera above the high-security zone in Lutyens’s Delhi.
  • While this prohibition follows a specific security threat from terrorists, the general guidelines issued by the civil aviation regulator DGCA also lay down specific no-go areas for drones.

Types of drones

  • DGCA has identified multiple categories of drones, which can be broadly classified as ‘Nano’ (weighing up to 250 g), ‘Micro’ (more than 250 g but less than 2 kg) and ‘Small and above’ (weighing 2 kg or more).
  • Every drone that is bigger than a ‘Nano’ must obtain a unique identification number (UIN) from the aviation regulator (similar to the registration number for a car).
  • This number must be displayed on the remotely piloted aircraft. A UIN will be issued once, against a fee of Rs 1,000, and will not be issued to a foreign citizen or entity.
  • Users of bigger drones will be required to obtain a Unique Air Operator’s Permit (UAOP), similar to a driver’s licence.
  • The UIN and UAOP can be obtained from the online platform Digital Sky. The permits will be issued in less than a week.

Flying conditions

  • All drones other than those in the ‘Nano’ category must meet mandatory equipment requirements such as GPS, anti-collision light, ID plate, RFID and SIM facilities with software that ensures ‘no-permission, no-takeoff’, among other features.
  • Before flying a ‘Small’ or bigger drone, an operator has to file a flight plan, and inform the local police, so that the machine can reach a height of 400 ft or more, and use both controlled and uncontrolled airspace.
  • ‘Micro’ drones will be required to submit a flight plan only if using controlled airspace; the operator must, however, inform the local police in all cases.
  • Many drones used for amateur photography fall in this category. These aircraft will need a UIN but no UAOP, and will be allowed to climb only to a height of 200 ft.
  • ‘Nano’ drones will be able to operate freely, without any registration or permit, but their operations will be restricted to 50 ft above the ground, and to uncontrolled airspaces and enclosed premises.
  • All those requiring a UAOP must undertake a five-day training programme that will expose them to regulations, basic principles of flight, air traffic control procedures, weather and meteorology etc.
  • These operators will also have to take written tests and flight simulator tests before they are issued permits.

Only during day

  • All categories of drones must be flown in the visual line of sight, and only during daytime.
  • While all drone operations are restricted to daylight hours, photography using drones is allowed in well-lit enclosed premises.
  • But it would still be mandatory to inform the local police before flying.

No-fly zones

  • The regulator listed 12 categories of “no-drone zones”.
  • These include the area up to 5 km from the perimeters of the high-traffic airports of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
  • For other airports, the no-drone zone extends up to 3 km.
  • Drones cannot fly closer than 25 km of international borders, including the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control.
  • The area within a 5-km radius of New Delhi’s Vijay Chowk is a no-drone zone; this, however, is subject to any additional conditions/restrictions that local law enforcement agencies.
  • A drone can’t be flown within 2 km from the perimeter of strategic locations and vital installations notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs, unless cleared by the Ministry.
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

Exclusion from NRC

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : NRC and its aftermath



Context

  • The final list of Assam’s NRC excluded names of over 19 lakh applicants. A total of 3.30 crore applicants had applied to be included in the NRC.

The “Updated” NRC

  • Witness to decades of migration from Bangladesh — formerly East Bengal and then East Pakistan — Assam already has an NRC, which was published in 1951 on the basis of that year’s Census.
  • The only state with such a document, Assam is currently updating it to identify its citizens.
  • The update, mandated and monitored by the Supreme Court is fallout of the Assam Accord of 1985, which sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff date for citizenship.
  • Those who entered Assam before that date are recognised as citizens.

But was there not an updated NRC last year itself?

  • That was a draft, published in July 2018.
  • In that list, 2.89 crore residents were included as Indian citizens, while 40 lakh were left out. After that, those who were left out were allowed to file claims for inclusion.
  • Meanwhile, citizens had the option of filing objections against anyone who they felt was wrongly included.
  • Earlier this year, NRC authorities put out an additional exclusion list, with 1 lakh individuals, who had originally been included in the NRC draft but were later found eligible.

Does this mean that the 19 lakh are illegal migrants?

  • Not necessarily. They still have the option of appealing.
  • They can approach, within a deadline, a Foreigners Tribunal with a certified copy of the rejection order from the NRC, along with the grounds for appeal.
  • In addition to the 100 existing Foreigners Tribunals, 200 more will be functional soon.
  • If the applicant loses their case before such a Tribunal, he or she can appeal in the High Court, and then the Supreme Court if necessary.
  • Someone who is not only excluded from the final NRC but also loses his or her case in a Foreigners Tribunal, however, faces possible arrest, and the prospect of being sent to a detention centre.

Claiming inclusion

  • The excluded persons will need to prove that they or their ancestors were citizens on or before March 24, 1971.
  • This is the cutoff date in the Assam Accord of 1985, agreed upon by the Centre, the state and the All Assam Students’ Union, at the end of a six-year movement against migration from Bangladesh.
  • Surviving citizens from the 1951 NRC are automatically eligible for inclusion in the updated version.
  • So are descendants of the survivors and of the deceased — provided that they can prove their lineage. Linkage to the 1951 NRC is, however, not compulsory.
  • Going by the cutoff under the Assam Accord, anyone who figured in electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971, or who are descendants of such citizens, are eligible for inclusion in the updated NRC.
  • Various other documents are admissible — such as birth certificates and land records — as long as these were issued before the cutoff date.

Will there be any Deportation?

  • Although the Assam movement was for deportation, Bangladesh has never officially acknowledged that any of its citizens migrated illegally to Assam.
  • The state also has six detention camps (with plants to build more) for illegal migrants within existing jails, and proposes to build a seventh with a capacity for 3,000.
  • These cannot, however, be expected to accommodate all the exclusions, which could finally run into lakhs.

State of Statelessness

  • The final excluded would officially be non-citizens, but what happens to them remains a grey area. India has no fixed policy for “stateless” persons, a/c to MHA.
  • The only aspect that is more or less clear is that a “stateless” person will not have voting rights.
  • As of now, nothing is clear about their rights to work, housing and government healthcare and education.
  • There have been suggestions in Assam that they be given work permits.

Excluded ultimately: Refugees or Stateless?

  • Being “stateless” is not the same as being a refugee.
  • India has refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka (Tamils) and West Pakistan. Among them, only the last group has the right to vote — in Lok Sabha elections but not in Assembly polls.
  • For Tibetans, the government allows Indian citizenship with a rider that they move out of Tibetan settlements and forgo refugee benefits.
  • Under the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, 2014, adopted in part by a few states, refugees are eligible for certain benefits under government schemes for labour, rations, housing and loans.

Back2Basics

[Burning Issue] Assam NRC

Citizenship and Related Issues

Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy

Mains Paper 2 : NGO, SHG & Civil Society |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SSR

Mains level : Need for SSR Policy


News

  • A draft of the new Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy has been made available by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on its website for public comments.
  • India is going to be possibly the first country in the world to implement a SSR Policy on the lines of CSR.

Defining SSR

  • The draft defines SSR as “the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity”.

SSR Policy

  • The policy aims to harness latent potential of the scientific community for strengthening linkages between science and society, and for making S&T ecosystem vibrant.
  • This is in a move to encourage S&T institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society.
  • It is aimed at developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.

Why such move?

  • When most research is being done by using taxpayers’ money, the scientific establishment has an ethical obligation of “giving back” to the society.
  • SSR is not only about scientific impact upon society but also about the social impact upon science.
  • SSR would therefore strengthen the knowledge ecosystem and bring efficiencies in harnessing science for the benefit of society,” says the draft policy.

Premise for the Policy

  • This draft policy builds upon traditions of earlier policies (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, S&T Policy 2003 and Sci-Tech and Innovation Policy 2013).
  • The new policy is proposing more pragmatic provisions to make institutions and individual scientists socially responsible.

Key propositions

  • Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
  • It also recognizes the need to provide incentives for outreach activities with necessary budgetary support.
  • It has also been proposed to give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
  • No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.

Implementation

  • For implementation of the policy, a national portal will be developed up to capture societal needs requiring scientific interventions and as a platform for implementers and for reporting SSR activities.
  • A central agency will be established at DST to implement the SSR.
  • Other ministries would also be encouraged to make their own plans to implement SSR as per their mandate.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

Uniform Civil Code

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UCC

Mains level : Need for UCC



News

  • The Supreme Court said the nation has still not endeavored to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The government has till date taken no action, said the Court.

A Case for Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • UCC is the ongoing point of debate in Indian mandate to replace personal laws which are based on the scriptures and customs of religious community in India.
  • It aims for a common set of rules governing the individuals of their religion.
  • Personal laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Goa has a common family law, thus being the only Indian state to have a UCC.
  • Personal laws were first framed during the British Raj, mainly for Hindu and Muslim citizens.
  • The British feared opposition from community leaders and refrained from further interfering within this domestic sphere.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits any citizen to have a civil marriage outside the realm of any specific religious personal law.

Hopes of founders

  • The founders had penned their hope that a uniform set of rules would replace the distinct personal laws of marriage, divorce, etc. based on customs of each religion.
  • Whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the DPSP had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a UCC.
  • The court said that the Hindu laws were codified in the year 1956, there has been no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code applicable to all citizens of the country.
  • Despite exhortations of this Court in the case of Shah Bano in 1985, the government has done nothing to bring the UCC.

Goa: Leading by example

  • The Supreme Court hailed the State of Goa as a “shining example” where “uniform civil code applicable to all, regardless of religion except while protecting certain limited rights”.
  • Under this Code practised in Goa, a Muslim man whose marriage is registered in the State cannot practice polygamy.
  • A married couple share property equally, pre-nuptial agreements are the order of the day and assets are divided equally between the man and woman on divorce.
  • The judgment came in a case concerning the question whether succession and inheritance of a Goan domicile is governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 or the Indian Succession Act of 1925.
  • Goa was once a Portuguese colony until it was made part of India.

Law panel’s stand

  • In 2018, a Law Commission of India consultation paper had however said the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
  • The Commission said secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

K2-18b

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : K2-18b

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • K2-18b is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System known to have both water and temperatures that could be potentially habitable.

K2-18b

  • About 110 light years from Earth, an exoplanet eight times the mass of Earth orbits a star. Called K2-18b, it was discovered in 2015 by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.
  • The researchers used 2016-17 data from the Hubble Space Telescope and developed algorithms to analyse the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere.
  • The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapour, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • It resides in a habitable zone — the region around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet.
  • Scientists have found signatures of water vapour in the atmosphere of K2-18b. The discovery of water vapour is not the final word on the possibility of life.
  • That makes it the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System that is known to have both water and temperatures that could support life.

Not ‘Earth 2.0’

  • K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition.
  • For one thing, K2-18b’s size and surface gravity are much larger than Earth’s. Its radiation environment may be hostile.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Pangong Tso Lake: the theatre of India-China LAC scuffles

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangong Tso Lake

Mains level : India-China Border Issues



News

  • Indian and Chinese soldiers had a heated exchange in Ladakh near the Pangong Tso Lake few days back. However, the issue has now been resolved, the report said.
  • The incident recalls a similar incident almost exactly two years ago, in the same area in Eastern Ladakh.
  • Differing perceptions of where exactly the LAC lies has often been the reason for such incidents.

Pangong Tso

  • In the Ladakhi language, Pangong means extensive concavity, and Tso is lake in Tibetan.
  • Pangong Tso is a long narrow, deep, endorheic (landlocked) lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 ft in the Ladakh Himalayas.
  • The western end of Pangong Tso lies 54 km to the southeast of Leh.
  • The 135 km-long lake sprawls over 604 sq km in the shape of a boomerang, and is 6 km wide at its broadest point.
  • The brackish water lake freezes over in winter, and becomes ideal for ice skating and polo.
  • The legendary 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh is said to have trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet.

The 2017 incident

  • On August 19, 2017, a video was posted online that appeared to be visual confirmation of reports of an alleged scuffle that had taken place a few days earlier between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the banks of Pangong lake.
  • The video showed the two sides kicking and punching, throwing stones, using sticks and rods against each other.
  • In the normal course, the two patrols, after coming face to face, would have been expected to engage in what is called a “banner drill”, displaying a banner asking the other side to vacate its territory.
  • Such a drill might last a few minutes to an hour — but barring some occasional jostling, the two sides would disengage quietly.

Strategic significance

  • The LAC cuts through the lake, but India and China do not agree on its exact location.
  • As things stand, a 45 km-long western portion of the lake is in Indian control, while the rest is under China’s control.
  • Most of the clashes between the two armies occur in the disputed portion of the lake.By itself, the lake does not have major tactical significance.
  • But it lies in the path of the Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use for an offensive into Indian-held territory.
  • Indian assessments show that a major Chinese offensive, if it comes, will flow across both the north and south of the lake.

Significance

  • During the 1962 war, this was where China launched its main offensive — the Indian Army fought heroically at Rezang La, the mountain pass on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley.
  • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso.
  • At the PLA’s Huangyangtan base at Minningzhen, southwest of Yinchuan, the capital of China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, stands a massive to-scale model of this disputed area in Aksai Chin.
  • It points to the importance accorded by the Chinese to the area.

The dispute in the area

  • The difference in perception over where the LAC lies on the northern bank of the lake, makes this contested terrain.
  • In 1999, when the Army unit from the area was moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of road inside Indian territory along the lake’s bank.
  • The August 2017 skirmish took place in this area.
  • The 1999 road added to the extensive network of roads built by the Chinese in the area, which connect with each other and to the G219 Karakoram Highway.
  • From one of these roads, Chinese positions physically overlook Indian positions on the northern tip of the Pangong lake.
  • The mountains on the lake’s northern bank jut forward in major spurs, which the Army calls “fingers”. India claims that the LAC is coterminous with Finger 8.

Why Chinese aggression?

  • On the water, the Chinese had a major advantage until a few years ago, but India purchased better boats some seven years ago, leading to a quicker and more aggressive response.
  • Although there are well-established drills for disengagement of patrol boats of both sides, the confrontations on the waters have led to tense situations in the past few years.
  • The induction of high-speed boats has ostensibly provoked the Chinese, who have responded by increasing the number of transgressions in this area in recent years.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Jeevan Kaushal Programme

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jeevan Kaushal Programme

Mains level : Importance of life skills


News

Jeevan Kaushal Programme

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched a “life skills” (Jeevan Kaushal) programme in the curriculum for under-graduate courses across the country.
  • The new programme, which for 8 credit points, can be accommodated in any semester and is aimed at inculcating emotional and intellectual competencies in students develop verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • The programme will comprise four courses – communication, professional, leadership and universal human values and skills.
  • The programme will focus on team work, problem-solving and decision-making.
  • It will be effective tools in helping students develop practical knowledge that helps them when they start their careers and become responsible citizens.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Eurasian Economic Forum

Mains Paper 2 : Important International Institutions |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eurasian Economic Forum

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

India skips the summit

  • India has skipped a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which was organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Xi’an in China.
  • Since the BRI’s launch in 2017, India has remained firm on not singing it off at the SCO’s annual summits in 2018 and 2019.
  • The summit’s declarations of both years reflected the endorsement of the controversial project by all members but India.
  • India has been a member of the SCO since 2017.

The EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative

  • In November 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev met in Beijing for the 23rd annual meeting between heads of government, and the two sides agreed to enhance trade and economic ties.
  • China would aims to synergize the Belt BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • Both sides expressed willingness to dovetail the China-proposed BRI and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

The BRI and India’s opposition

  • The BRI is a mammoth infrastructure project unveiled by China in 2017, which plans to connect the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • The ‘Belt’ part refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, consisting of three overland routes.
  • First, a link between China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. Second, a link through Central Asia and West Asia linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. And third, a connection from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean.
  • The ‘Road’ part refers to the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, creating maritime trade channels from China through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific.
  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an important part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • In May 2017, India strongly opposed the BRI as it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Back2Basics

SCO

  • The SCO, an intergovernmental body for security and economic cooperation in the Eurasian region, was formed in 2001 by the ‘Shanghai Five’ (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan).
  • It was formed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
  • Uzbekistan joined the SCO in 2001, with India and Pakistan following suit in 2017.
  • The SCO has traditionally prioritised on counter-terrorism, listing terrorism, separatism and extremism as “the three evils.
  • However, since its formation, the SCO’s domain has expanded to include subjects such as culture and economics.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

Mains level : Smart Cities Mission



News

  • Starting with an open data platform for the 100 cities of the Smart Cities Mission by 2020, the government is planning to make a wide range of data — from health, education to finances, public by 2024.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

  • IUDX is a research project under smart cities mission being implemented by Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
  • The India Urban Data Exchange set up by the MoHUA for its Smart Cities would be expanded, eventually leading to a “marketplace”.
  • IUDX will be an open source software platform for cities, industry and researchers to share Smart City data with each other that could be monetised in the future, similar to the UPI for bank accounts and digital payments.

Facilities provided

  • MoHUA said that the open data platform for the 100 cities would be expanded to cover 500 cities by 2022 and all urban centres in the country by 2024.
  • It will facilitate secure, authenticated and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, third-party authenticated and authorized applications and other data sources, data producers and consumers, both within a city to begin with and scaled up across cities eventually at a national level, in a uniform and seamless way.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Air pollution in Delhi drops 25% in four years

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5, PM 10

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi


News

  • Pollution levels in Delhi, primarily the concentration of particulate matter has reduced by 25% over a period of four years.
  • Five years ago, in 2014, a global study on air quality trends by the WHO had declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Since then, the Centre, states and courts have taken several steps to arrest pollution in the city.

Delhi air pollution

  • Delhi, through its pollution control committee, started monitoring air quality in real time only in 2010.
  • It was in 2012 that Delhi saw its worst air quality due to full force of crop-residue burning that year, especially in October and November.
  • It was the first time that this burning was seriously flagged.
  • But since 2012, the average annual concentration of particulate matter — the primary cause of pollution in the city — has been falling.
  • In Delhi’s air, the primary pollutants are PM2.5 (inhalable particles of diameter 2.5 micrometres and smaller) and PM10 (10 micrometers and smaller).
  • Particulate matter, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in air.
  • Some particles can be seen with the naked eye; others can only be detected under a microscope.

What data show?

PM2.5

  • DPCC data from 2012 to 2019 show 2018 saw the lowest average concentration of PM2.5.
  • In 2012, the annual average was 160 micrograms per cubic metre; it came down 20% to 128 micrograms/cubic m in 2018.
  • The most polluted months of the year are November, December and January, with pollution peaking in November, monthly averages between 2012 and 2018 show.
  • It is in November that the highest volume of crop residue is burnt in Haryana, Punjab and UP.
  • It is also when temperatures fall and humidity rises, aiding the increase in concentration of pollutants in the air. Locally, the burning of leaves picks up in November.
  • However, as the chart shows, PM2.5 concentrations have fallen over the years — in November as well as in the ‘cleaner’ months of July, August and September.

PM10

  • Between 2012 and 2018, the concentration of PM10 reduced by 21% from an average 351 micrograms/cubic m to 277 micrograms/cubic m.
  • PM10 is more prominent in the air in winter, primarily because of open burning and road and construction dust.
  • Until August this year, Delhi’s performance in terms of PM10 concentration has been encouraging.
  • In August, the average concentration fell to double digits for the first time since 2012; in 2013, this figure was as high as 288 micrograms/cubic m.

Seasonal variation, weather

  • Over the past five years, several studies have pointed to the fact that weather and seasons are among the biggest determinants of Delhi’s air quality.
  • No matter how much authorities try, air quality in winter will be worse than in summer.
  • Localised weather conditions also have a major role in determining air quality.
  • On a sunny and windy winter day, air quality can improve several notches within hours.
  • Weather conditions are also the reason why winters are more polluted than summers. Cold, foggy, windless days help in the accumulation of pollutants.

What has worked in Delhi

  • Between 2014 and 2017, the Delhi government has implemented orders passed by NGT to curb air pollution, including the implementation of the odd-even road rationing scheme.
  • The biggest push came in 2017, when the Centre notified the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which provided state governments in Delhi and the NCR with a roadmap for action.
  • If the air was severely polluted for more than 48 hours, for example, the entry of trucks would be stopped, and all construction work halted. The GRAP also set roles for each agency, fixing accountability.
  • Shutting of the two thermal power plants in Delhi, completion of the eastern and western peripheral expressways for vehicles not destined for Delhi, a ban on PET Coke as industrial fuel, and the introduction of BS VI fuel have, experts believe, made a big difference.
Air Pollution

National Genomic Grid

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Genomic Grid

Mains level : Need for such grid


News

National Genomic Grid

  • In a move to take cancer research to the next level and make treatment viable for people of different economic classes, the government has plans to set up a National Genomic Grid.
  • It will study genomic data of cancer patients from India.
  • The grid to be formed will be in line with the National Cancer Tissue Biobank (NCTB) set up at the IIT Madras.
  • It will collect samples from cancer patients to study genomic factors influencing cancer and identifying the right treatment modalities for the Indian population.
  • The grid will have four parts, with the country divided into east, west, north and south. The genomic samples will help researches to have India-specific studies on cancers.
  • The government plans to set up the National Genomic Grid in the same style with pan-India collection centres by bringing all cancer treatment institutions on board.

About National Cancer Tissue Biobank

  • The NCTB is functioning in close association with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
  • NCTB, which has the capacity to stock 50,000 genomic samples from cancer patients, already has samples from 3,000 patients.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Madhya Pradesh’s Happiness Dept. to open Time Bank

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Time Banks

Mains level : Concept of Time Bank and its benefits


News

Time Bank in MP

  • The Madhya Pradesh government’s Happiness Department plans to set up a Time Bank that would lend currency to an hour, which could be exchanged to learn a new skill without the need for any paper money.
  • Whenever a bank member needs a service or wants to acquire a skill, say gardening or playing a guitar, she could exchange a credit, worth an hour, with another member knowing the skill.
  • It is a new way to link untapped social capacity to unmet social needs.
  • At the start, the 50,000 volunteers registered with the department through local networks will form community-level banks and list skills they could impart or services they could offer.
  • An experienced volunteer will induct new members and keep a record of all the transactions.
  • Whether one need someone to drive you to a supermarket, tend to an ailing grandmother or simply a jogging partner, it could all be sought at the bank.

Benefits

  • In Madhya Pradesh, time banks will enable person-to-person, person-to-agency and agency-to-agency transactions.
  • Members will start with zero credits, which they could gradually acquire by imparting skills. Credits can even go in negative.
  • And in case a skill becomes popular over time benefiting only a few members, other members will be compelled to do their mite with vigour to collect more credits.

About the concept

  • Conceived at the Cincinnati Time Store in 1827, the concept gained currency with the setting up of the first Time Bank in Japan in 1973, and later when Edgar Cahn, CEO of TimeBanks USA, popularised ‘Time Dollars’.
  • Today, there are more than 500 such communities across 32 countries.

Criticizing executive, judiciary and bureaucracy cannot be called sedition: SC Judge

Mains Paper 2 : Executive & Judiciary |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Sedition Law and issues


News

  • Justice Deepak Gupta, judge of Supreme Court, opined about the chilling effect caused by sedition law on legitimate criticism on the organs of state.
  • As citizens, Indians have the right to criticize the government, and criticism cannot be construed as sedition, he said, adding that stifling such criticism will make us a police state.

Sedition and Right to dissent

  • Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the armed forces cannot be termed sedition.
  • If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”
  • There is a very important right which is not spelt out in the Constitution… the right of freedom of opinion, the right of freedom of conscience, by themselves, include the most important right — the right to dissent.

Why is dissent important?

  • Every society has its own rules, and over a period of time, when people stick to only age-old rules and conventions, the society degenerates; it doesn’t develop.
  • New thinkers are born when they disagree with well-accepted norms of the society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created and no new vistas of the mind will be found.
  • If a person doesn’t ask questions and raise issues questioning age-old systems, no new systems will develop and horizons of the mind will not expand.
  • New thoughts and religious practices have developed only when they have questioned the old.

A right to expression

  • He said that in a secular country such as India, a non-believer, an atheist, an agnostic, ritualistic or a spiritualist person all has the right to expression.
  • When we talk of dissent, it reminds of Justice H R Khanna in the habeas corpus case.
  • That dissent is more important than any decision that may have come before or after it. Today, it is the rule of law.
  • In a case, a five-member bench was adjudicating on the matter of those detained during the Emergency in 1975, and Justice Khanna was the lone dissenter, while the four other judges in the bench allowed unrestricted powers of detention during the Emergency

Judiciary not above criticism

  • The judge emphasized that allowing a climate for free expression of thoughts and ideas without fear of criminal prosecution is essential for growth of civilization.
  • The judiciary is not above criticism. If Judges of the superior courts were to take note of all the contemptuous communications received by them, there would be no work other than the contempt proceedings.
  • Not only should there be criticism but there must be introspection. When we introspect, we will find that many decisions taken by Judiciary need to be corrected.

(Note: All these are personal opinion of the apex court Judge.)

Judiciary Institutional Issues

Pollution Under Control (PUC) Test

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUC Test

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution



News

  • Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force, long queues of vehicles are commonly being seen at pollution control centres in Delhi.
  • After undergoing pollution under control (PUC) test, a vehicle is certified for a certain period of time.

What is a PUC certificate?

  • The PUC certificate is a document that any person driving a motor vehicle can be asked to produce by a police officer in uniform authorised by the state government.
  • These issue certificates if a vehicle is found complying with the prescribed emission norms.
  • The fine for PUC violations has now gone up to Rs 10,000; it used to be Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for subsequent violations before the amendments came into force.
  • The test costs between Rs 60 and Rs 100.
  • The validity of the test is one year for BS IV vehicles and three months for others.
  • A PUC certificate contains information such as the vehicle’s license plate number, PUC test reading, date on which the PUC test was conducted and the expiry date.

How is a pollution control check carried out?

  • The computerised model for pollution check was developed by the Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers.
  • A gas analyser is connected to a computer, to which a camera and a printer are attached.
  • The gas analyser records the emission value and sends it to the computer directly, while the camera captures the license plate of the vehicle.
  • Subsequently, a certificate may be issued if the emission values are within the limits.

Why PUC?

  • According to the Transport Department, Delhi, 217.7 tonnes of carbon monoxide is emitted every day by vehicles in the city.
  • Vehicular pollution estimates include 84.1 tonnes of nitrogen oxides and 66.7 tonnes of hydrocarbons per day.
Air Pollution

External Benchmark-based Lending

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various terms mentioned in the news

Mains level : Not Much


News

External Benchmark

  • The RBI has made it mandatory for all banks to link floating rate loans — to retail customers and loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) — to an external benchmark.
  • Some banks have already started to link home and auto loan rates to the repo rate, which is an external benchmark.
  • Banks can choose from one of the four external benchmarks — repo rate, three-month treasury bill yield, six-month treasury bill yield or any other benchmark interest rate.
  • The interest rate under external benchmark shall be reset at least once in three months.

Why such move?

  • At present, interest rates on loans are linked to a bank’s marginal cost of fund-based interest rate (MCLR).
  • It has been observed that due to various reasons, the transmission of policy rate changes to the lending rate of banks under the current MCLR framework has not been satisfactory.
  • The RBI, therefore, has issued a circular making it mandatory for banks to link all new floating rate personal or retail loans and floating rate loans to MSMEs to an external benchmark effective October 1, 2019.
  • The move is aimed at faster transmission of monetary policy rates.

Repo wasn’t useful

  • Even before RBI had made it mandatory, several banks had launched repo-linked lending rate products.
  • This was done in an effort to ensure faster transmission of policy rate cuts to borrowers.
  • The repo (or repurchase) rate is the rate at which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lends money to other banks.
  • Hence, cuts in the repo rate are meant to lead to cuts in home loan and other lending rates as banks get to borrow money cheaply from the RBI.
  • By pegging the rate to an external benchmark RBI is hoping for a faster transmission of rate cuts than has happened so far under the MCLR system.

About MCLR

  • MCLR (Marginal Cost of funds based Lending Rate) replaced the earlier base rate system to determine the lending rates for commercial banks.
  • RBI implemented MCLR on 1 April 2016 to determine rates of interests for loans.
  • It is the minimum interest rate that a bank can lend at.
  • MCLR is a tenor-linked internal benchmark, which means the rate is determined internally by the bank depending on the period left for the repayment of a loan.
  • MCLR is closely linked to the actual deposit rates and is calculated based on four components: the marginal cost of funds, negative carry on account of cash reserve ratio, operating costs and tenor premium.

Back2Basics

Base Rate

  • Base rate is the minimum rate set by the RBI below which banks are not allowed to lend to its customers.
  • It is decided in order to enhance transparency in the credit market and ensure that banks pass on the lower cost of fund to their customers.
  • Loan pricing will be done by adding base rate and a suitable spread depending on the credit risk premium.

Fixed Interest Rate

  • The fixed interest rate on loan means repayment of loans in fixed equal installments over the entire period of the loan.
  • In this case, the interest rate doesn’t change with market fluctuations.

Floating Interest Rate

  • Floating interest rate by name implies that the rate of interest varies with market conditions.
  • The drawback with floating interest rates is the uneven nature of monthly installments.
RBI Notifications

India declared free of Avian Influenza

Mains Paper 3 : Economics Of Animal-Rearing |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avian flu

Mains level : Zoonotic diseases and their prevention


News

  • India has been declared free of Avian Influenza (H5N1).
  • The status will last only till another outbreak is reported. India was last declared free of the disease in 2017.

How H5N1 affects humans?

  • Avian Influenza was first reported from Hongkong in 1997. Since then, there have been many outbreaks across the world. India too has had multiple outbreaks since 2005.
  • The symptoms of an H5N1 infection in humans include mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough), early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia.
  • It can lead to sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death.

Significance of the declaration

  • This declaration is important not just from the poultry industry standpoint, but also because humans can contact the disease from animals though the pathogen is not capable of sustained human-to-human transmission.
  • Humans can be infected with avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza viruses, such as avian influenza virus subtypes A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2) and swine influenza virus subtypes A(H1N1), A(H1N2) and A(H3N2),” says WHO.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc