September 2019
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Trees offer multiple benefits — don’t kill them, breed them


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Value estimate of a tree

Mains level: Importance of trees among various spheres


Defying the NCBC move

  1. Officials in Delhi wish to fell about 17,000 fully grown trees in some parts of the city to make space for building housing colonies.
  2. And to “pacify” people who object to this tree destruction, they say that for every tree that will be felled, they will plant 10 saplings.
  3. It means what we lose up today will be compensated after 20 years when the sapling is full-grown into a tree.
  4. Government and city planners in several other states do the same. This attitude shows not just ignorance but arrogance, disregard for trees and their value.
  5. It is time planners wake up and understand the value — economic, ecological, health-related and sociological — that trees offer.

Value of a Tree            

Have a look at the following estimates:

  • T.M. Das of Kolkata University in 1979
  1. He estimated that the monetary value of a tree, for a lifespan of 50 years, amounted to about $2,00,000 (at 1979 rates).
  2. This was based on the amount of oxygen it produces, the fruit or the biomass and the timber it offers when felled and so on.
  3. For every 1 gram that a tree accumulates as it grows, it generates about 2.66 grams of oxygen.
  • Dr Nancy Beckham of Australia
  1. She points out that trees and plants silently carry out their daily routine years after years, stabilizing the soil, recycling nutrients, cooling the air, modifying wind turbulence, intercepting the rain, absorbing toxins, reducing fuel costs, neutralizing sewage.
  2. It also helps by increasing property values, promoting tourism, encouraging recreation, reducing stress and improving personal health as well as providing food, medicine and accommodation for other living things.
  • Department of Environmental Conservation of New York, USA
  1. It points out that healthy trees mean healthy people: 100 trees remove 53 tons of CO2 and 430 pounds of other air pollutants per year;
  2. healthy trees mean healthy communities: tree-filled neighbourhoods lower the levels of domestic violence and are safer and move sociable;
  3. Healthy trees mean a healthy environment — 100 mature trees catch about 1,40,000 gallons of rainwater per year;
  4. Healthy trees mean home-owner savings — strategically placed trees save up to 56% of air conditioning costs; evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating;
  5. Healthy trees mean better business — in tree-lined commercial districts, shoppers report more frequent shopping and spend 12% more for goods, and
  6. Healthy trees mean higher property values.
  • Delhi Greens, an NGO, estimated in 2013 that a healthy tree is worth Rs. 24 lakh a year, just with respect to its oxygen producing capacity.

Popular Examples in India

In stark contrast to the cruel attitude towards trees stand the examples of-

  • Sunderlal Bahuguna’s “chipko” movement,
  • Saalumarada Thimmakka of Karnataka who has planted 398 banyan trees — each representing her own child, and
  • 700 years old “pillalamarri” banyan tree spanning a 4–acre canopy , near Mahabubnagar, Telangana being treated by Majid Khan and the team of biologists and horticulturists with intensive care, which is being eaten up by termites.

Ayushman Bharat: Hub-and-spoke model to help train health workers


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the ECHO Model, Ayushman Bharat Programme

Mains level: Read the attached story


Solving the Manpower Issue

  1. One of the biggest challenges in the rollout of Ayushman Bharat is manpower training for the 1,53,000 health and wellness centres.
  2. But a hub-and-spoke model developed by the University of New Mexico (UNM) has come to the rescue.

The ECHO Model for Telemedicine

  1. Developed by Indian-origin doctor Dr Sanjeev Arora in Albuquerque, ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a collaborative model of medical education and care management that empowers health workers.
  2. For the HWCs, ECHO is one of several programmes that will be used to train ASHAs as, for the first time, primary care in India moves beyond reproductive health and vaccination to include screening for non-communicable diseases, geriatric care and mental health.
  3. The ECHO model does not actually “provide” care to patients, but it dramatically increases access to specialty treatment in rural and underserved areas through the use of teleconferencing.
  4. Thegoal is to use the telemedicine platform so that healthcare performance may be enhanced by access to knowledge. This programme is to conduct the training of ASHAs.

Particulars of the training

  1. A team from UNM travelled to India to kick off the first installment of the training. The first batch of 160 officials from four states was trained in ECHO over three days at a hotel here.
  2. Participants were acclimatized with the ECHO model consisting of:
  • an essentially non-hierarchical system of knowledge sharing;
  • Zoom, the software used for teleconferencing facility;
  • the essentials for setting up their own ECHOs; and also
  • an actual ECHO session where UNM professors joined in.
  1. The participant states — Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra — also clarified their doubts during the exercise.
  2. Under Ayushman Bharat, the plan is to create eight ECHO hubs, including in AIIMS Delhi, AIIMS Bhopal, KGMU Lucknow and PHI Nagpur.


Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

4 species added to recovery programme by Wildlife Board


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read B2B

Mains level: Conservation of threatened species


4 new species added

  1. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species on the recommendation of a Standing Committee.
  • Northern River Terrapin (Sunderbans)
  • Clouded Leopard (Eastern and NE India , Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh)
  • Arabian Sea Humpback Whale
  • Red Panda (Sub-Himalayan areas of east and north east)

The progamme is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).

Difficulties in the recovery of Critically Endangered species

  1. The recovery of some of the Critically Endangered or Endangered fauna is a difficult task.
  2. Except for few cases, most of the recovery activities are restricted to study/research and monitoring.
  3. The recovery plan for the Great Indian Bustard and Wild Buffalo (Central India Population) was discussed two years ago and the plan was also sanctioned with financial allocation but it is yet to be grounded.
  4. Now, there are very less chance of recovery of these species. The planning should be done before a species reaches to a critical stage.

Wild Buffalo population increased in Chhattisgarh

  1. Once found in abundance across northeast India, northern and central India, the Wild Buffalo now has its last bastions in some pockets in northeast India and Chhattisgarh.
  2. According to a survey by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), not more than 50 individuals of the Wild Buffalo remain in three sub-populations in Indravati National Park, Pamed and Udanti Wildlife Sanctuaries in Chhattisgarh.
  3. According to the WTI, the number of wild buffalo in Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, Chhattisgarh increased from 7 to 11 under the Central India Wild Buffalo Recovery Project, a joint venture between the state forest department and WTI.


Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)

  1. The Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme launched during the 11th Plan period to provide technical and financial assistance to States/UTs for protection of wildlife habitat.
  2. The activities covered under the scheme include the staff development and capacity building, wildlife research and evaluation, anti-poaching activities, wildlife veterinary care, addressing man-animal conflicts and promoting eco-tourism.
  3. Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
  4. So far, 17 species have been identified under the recovery programme.
  5. These are the Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser

National Board for Wildlife

  1. National Board for Wild Life is a statutory body constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  2. The board is advisory in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
  3. It serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  4. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  5. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
  6. The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister.
  7. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

India to control Mattala Airport in Hambantota


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India- Sri Lanka relations


A Sri Lanka-India JV

  1. India has agreed to form a joint venture with Sri Lanka to operate the country’s loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota.
  2. The $210 million facility, 241km south-east of Colombo, is dubbed the “world’s emptiest airport” due to a lack of flights.
  3. The joint venture would see India gain a major stake of the airport.

Only India offered to help

  1. Mattala airport, named after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was one of the major infrastructure projects of Rajapaksa’s nearly a decade-long rule.
  2. The project was funded through high interest Chinese commercial loans. The airport was officially opened in March 2013.
  3. The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.
  4. The government in 2017 invited investors to turn the airport into a profit-sharing joint venture. However no proposals were received to operate, manage and maintain it.

Hambantota Seaport kneel to China to recover losses

  1. The seaport built in Hambantota, another Rajapaksa pet project, has been leased to China to set off Chinese loans as equity.
  2. The Hambantota port was a major Chinese-assisted infrastructure project in the home district of Rajapaksa, whose nearly a decade-long rule was ended by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015.
  3. However, the regime change is not attributed to disfavor India, unlike that has been the case with the Maldives.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

Supreme Court upholds Chief Justice of India as ‘Master of Roster’


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Judgement of the SC, Judges Cases

Mains level: Debate over powers of CJI to redirect cases to various benches.


CJI- the Master of Roster

  1. The ‘Chief Justice of India’ (CJI) is an individual judge and not the powerful collective of five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court called the ‘Collegium’, held the Supreme Court.
  2. And it is this exclusive authority of this individual judge, who is the “spokesperson of the court”, to allocate cases to fellow judges as the ‘Master of Roster’, a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan declared in their separate but concurring opinions.
  3. The judgment is based on a petition filed by former Union Law Minister to have a collegium of Supreme Court judges to collectively allocate cases rather than leave the entire power in the hands of the CJI in his administrative capacity as the ‘Master of Roster’.

The moral responsibility of CJI

  1. SC highlighted that the CJI owes a moral responsibility to his colleagues and the public at large while flexing his powers as ‘Master of Roster’ to allocate cases.
  2. CJI Dipak Misra and some of his predecessors were criticised by four of his senior-most judges led by Justice Chelameswar for allocating cases of national importance to select judges.
  3. They hinted that “absolute discretion” cannot be confined in just one man, the CJI.

Qualities for a CJI

  1. Justice Sikri’s opinion listed some of the qualities a CJI should possess as the Master of Roster, including balance, fortitude, moral courage and independence of mind.
  2. As the court’s spokesperson, it is the CJI’s duty to usher in and administer reform as a continuous process.
  3. Erosion of credibility of judiciary is the greatest threat.

CJI is the “ultimate authority to distribute judicial work

  1. Both Justices Sikri and Bhushan concurred that neither Article 145 (rules of court) and the Supreme Court Rules say the ‘Chief Justice of India’ as the Collegium.
  2. Unlike having the Collegium to decide the appointment and transfer of judges, a collective deciding which cases should go to which Bench would affect the day-to-day functioning of the court.
  3. The role of the CJI as the Master of Roster was qualified by the consensus from other judges.
  4. The CJI took into consideration the expertise, capacity and interest of his fellow judges while allocating cases to them.
  5. This duty should be left to his wisdom.

Defying ‘the proposal’

  1. It was argued that the authority of the CJI as the ‘Master of Roster’ to allocate cases to Benches should not be reduced to an “absolute, singular and arbitrary power”.
  2. The court rejected proposal that the CJI should only sit with two of his senior most judges.
  3. And the Constitution Bench should be either a combination of the five senior most judges or three senior most judges, including him, and two junior most judges.
  4. The court said all this should be left to the CJI to decide on.

CJI only first among equals

  1. Justice Sikri said though the Constitution is silent on the exact role of the CJI, precedents, healthy practices and conventions – engrafted in the Supreme Court Rules – have moulded the powers and duties of the office.
  2. Justice Sikri wrote that the CJI is only ‘first among equals’ in his judicial functions on the Bench.
  3. The opinion of the CJI on the Bench carries the same weight as any other member of the Bench.
  4. This way, the CJI may hold the minority view in a case while the majority opinion on the Bench becomes the law.

AGI’s view on the issue

  1. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who was asked to assist the court, had argued that having a Collegium of the five senior most judges to allocate cases among all judges in the court would only invite chaos.
  2. Unlike the Collegium to recommend new judges, a collegium to allocate cases would mean judges deciding for themselves which cases they should hear.
  3. Better have the CJI decide for all as the Master of Roster.

Contradicting the Third Judges Case (1998) with recent judgements

  1. The Judges case of 1998 has infers that the Supreme Court itself had interpreted the term ‘Chief Justice of India’ to collectively mean the CJI and his four senior most judges.
  2. The Bench heard the petition despite two separate judgments by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and April this year upholding the CJI ‘s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches.
  3. Both these judgments were pronounced by Benches led by CJI Dipak Misra and the verdict had called the CJI an “institution in himself”.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Govt. deploys 800 IAS officers for village outreach


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: The newscard highlights the evaluation process of central welfare schemes against the spirit of cooperative federalism


To ensure delivery of Central welfare schemes

  1. A battalion of Central Govt IAS officers has been drafted to ensure on the ground implementation as the Centre races to saturate 117 “aspirational districts” with seven flagship social welfare schemes by Independence Day.
  2. PM himself has been monitoring the implementation of these schemes by meeting various beneficiaries and has pointed to this campaign as a model for future of welfare delivery.

Details of the deployment

  1. At least 800 Deputy Secretaries, Under-Secretaries and Director-level officers, drawn from Ministries as diverse as Defence and Urban Affairs, have been assigned about 75 villages to visit, as part of the Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (EGSA) from June 1 to August 15.
  2. In total, 49,178 villages — most with a majority SC/ST population — are being targeted.
  3. Senior officials from the Ministries of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, and the Department of Personnel and Training are jointly coordinating the drive.
  4. Central officials are being absorbed into EGSA duty for at least 15 working days.

What do they do?

  1. In each village, the Central team convenes a meeting of villagers and beneficiaries along with a State government or district official, a lead bank representative and local officials from the agencies responsible for enrolling people into the schemes.
  2. They monitor the scheme, get feedback…If there are any hurdles, they can sort it out on the spot. Ex. central officers could direct the local representatives to give immediate sanction for gas cylinders, bank accounts or electricity connections.
  3. The teams can also directly input the day’s progress into a data system that can be tracked live on the EGSA dashboard “”.
  4. Senior Ministry officials also make direct daily calls to a section of District Collectors to monitor progress, while third-party observers for each district —mostly from NGOs or academia — who do random checks of villages and report back to the Ministry.

The success of such drill is limited

  1. The rate of enrolment during the duration of the scheme has been the most impressive in the Saubhagya scheme, and in the Indra Dhanush Missions.
  2. Addressing the NITI Aayog Governing Council earlier this month, PM had said the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan has emerged as a new model for implementation of schemes.

Sidelining Cooperative Federalism

  1. However, the large-scale involvement of Central officers raises questions about the viability of such drives, and about roles in a federal democracy.
  2. Dissent of the state officials due to central interference and sidelined pending workload was the most common concern raised.
  3. This is a deeply problematic way of going about welfare delivery as sought by some states.
  4. Constitutionally, while the Centre has higher powers of taxation, the bulk of the expenditure on welfare is to be done by the States.

Its not the ‘Centre’ who formulates but the ‘State’ who implements

  1. The centralizing trend in flagship welfare schemes allows the ruling party at the Centre to draw political mileage and build vote banks.
  2. Direct connections to the district administration tend to bypass State administrations, while sending out large Central teams to do the work of local officials fails to empower local human resources.
  3. The new approach is not just centralized, but also personalized.
  4. It may create a veneer of efficiency and a high-quality publicity campaign, but it undermines the logic of federalism
Rural Infrastructure Schemes

[op-ed snap] The price is right


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MSP system

Mains level: Government intervention in the agricultural sector and their overall impact


Hike in MSP

  1. The cabinet has approved MSPs for Kharif crops for the year 2018-19
  2. The MSPs are not only 50 percent higher than the cost, in some cases, they are far greater
  3. Since the beginning of the economic reforms in the early 1990s, the focus of agricultural policy has shifted towards prices
  4. Farmers are losing faith in the market and seeking direct intervention by the government, mainly at the Centre
  5. The situation has been aggravated by unanticipated increases in the domestic production of some crops like pulses and the low global prices of agricultural commodities exerting downward pressure on domestic prices

History of MSP system

  1. India started the system of MSPs in the mid-1960s for wheat
  2. It gradually brought all major cereals, oilseeds, pulses, cotton, jute and sugarcane into its ambit

MSP economics

  1. The Union government has decided to keep MSPs at least 50 per cent above the sum of cost of production (A2) and imputed wages for the time spent by the farmer and his/her family (FL) in crop production
  2. A2 is a comprehensive cost and includes paid or imputed costs of all purchased or own inputs like seed, fertilizer, manure, bullock labour and machine labour, interest on working capital, irrigation expenses, depreciation, rent paid for the leased-in land, costs of repair and miscellaneous expenses

Using C2 cost instead of A2 will not be good

  1. Cost C2 is arrived at by adding the rental value of owned land and interest on fixed capital to cost A2 plus FL
  2. On average, around 40 percent of Cost C2 (imputed rent for own land and imputed value of family labour used in crop production) is not a cost but income to the farmer
  3. If MSP is just equal to cost C2, it includes 40 percent as a net return for the farmers
  4. No principle of economics tells us to award a margin on those costs which are not actually incurred
  5. Keeping MSP at 50 percent above cost C2 involves an increase in the current MSP by 27-89 percent for kharif and up to 45 percent for rabi crops
  6. Such a price entails a 50-100 percent increase in the existing farm-level prices of some crops at one go

Impact of using the C2 methodology

  1. Demand-side factors at present do not support such a sharp increase in prices
  2. In such a situation, the private trade will not have any incentive to operate in the market
  3. The entire onus of procuring the marketable surplus will come on the government, which in turn will be required to heavily subsidize the procured produce in order to dispose of it
  4. This will make domestic prices much higher than global prices, which will strongly hit exports and make India attractive for imports
  5. It will also leave little incentive for efficiency and diversification in the crop sector
  6. Such a move involves keeping prices artificially high and cannot be sustained fiscally

Why should market intervention in terms of prices be minimum?

  1. Excessive intervention in prices can have serious implications for the functioning of the market, fiscal resources and imports and exports
  2. The best prices for farm produce can be realised from a competitive market

What can be done to ensure fair prices?

  1. Regulatory reforms
  2. Institutional changes
  3. The development of appropriate infrastructure to promote the evolution of the agricultural market system

Way forward

  1. The new MSPs announced by the government for kharif crops meet the spirit the Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent net return over Cost C2
  2. The stakeholders now need to differentiate areas for action by the Centre and the states
  3. There is a particular need to put pressure on the states to undertake the required reforms to make agricultural markets more efficient, competitive and responsive to the needs of producers and consumers
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[pib] ICAT releases First BS-VI engine certificate


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BS emission norms

Mains level: India’s policy measures to curb vehicular pollution


Volvo Eicher to receive first commercial BS VI Certificate

  1. ICAT has completed the first BS-VI certification for a heavy-duty engine model for M/s Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle Limited.
  2. The engine has been developed and manufactured indigenously by Volvo Eicher in India.
  3. The successful completion of the compliance test of the engine, much ahead of the implementation date of 1 April 2020, gives sufficient time for product stabilization in terms of making it more robust and cost competitive for the end consumers.

Why BS VI?

  1. The pro-active approach from the Government of India has made the country leapfrog from the conventional BS-IV to directly adopt BS-VI emission norms as the next level for regulatory framework in India.
  2. The BS-VI emission standards are much more elaborate in their scope and integrate substantial changes to existing emission standards ensuring cleaner products to the consumer.
  3. Besides the more stringent limits on the gaseous emission components, the particulate matter (PM) limits have also been significantly reduced along with the introduction of particle number (PN) limits.

International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT)

  1. The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is a division of NATRiP implementation society (NATIS), under the administrative control of the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Government of India.
  2. ICAT is the first of new world-class centers established under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP) with the main objective of carrying out Research & Development besides extending homologation facilities in the field of Automotive Engineering.
  3. ICAT is one of the prime testing agencies recognized by the Government of India as one of the accredited ‘Type Approval and Homologation’ agencies in India under Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR).
  4. It has also been recognized as Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), since Feb 2010, by BIS for Tyre Testing, Safety Glasses and by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for emission and noise testing of generator sets.


Bharat Emission Standards

  1. Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles
  2. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change
  3. The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000
  4. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010 and it has been enforced for entire country since April 2017
  5. In 2016, the Indian government announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020
  6. While the norms help in bringing down pollution levels, it invariably results in increased vehicle cost due to the improved technology & higher fuel prices
Bharat Emission Standards

HEFA to allot ₹1 lakh crore for education


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

Mains level: Higher educational Infrastructure development  in India


₹1 lakh crore for Educational Infrastructure

  1. The Union Cabinet permitted the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) to mobilize ₹1 lakh crore to fund research and academic infrastructure in higher educational institutions by 2022.
  2. The funding will also be available to government-run schools Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas.
  3. This will help build speedier infrastructure of new Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya
  4. Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, other Central universities and medical colleges will also get funds from the agency.

Funding till date

  1. HEFA was set up last year as a non-banking financing company for mobilizing extra-budgetary resources for building crucial infrastructure in Central higher educational institutions
  2. The Cabinet had approved the creation of the agency in September 2016.
  3. In the existing arrangement, the entire principle portion is repaid by the institution over 10 years, and the interest portion is serviced by the government by providing additional grants to the institution.
  4. So far, funding proposals worth ₹2,016 crore have been approved by the HEFA.
  5. In November 2017, the agency allocated ₹2,066 crore for six higher education institutions — the IITs in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kharagpur and Kanpur, and the National Institute of Technology, Suratkal — to improve research infrastructure there.


Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

  1. It will be formed as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) within a PSU Bank or the Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter).
  2. HEFA will have an authorized capital of 2,000 crore rupees and the government equity would be 1,000 crore rupees.
  3. The HEFA will also mobilize CSR funds from Corporates/PSUs which will, in turn, be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.
  4. The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ of the institutions earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc.
  5. All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions will be eligible to join as members of the HEFA.
  6. For joining as members, the educational institution must agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals for a period of 10 years to the HEFA.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

ISRO’s first ‘pad abort’ test, critical for future human space mission, successful

The crew module successfully lands.


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Pad Abort Test and its particulars

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view. It is also a landmark success for future manned missions of ISRO.


What is Crew Escape (Pad Abort) System?

  1. The Crew Escape System is an emergency escape measure to quickly pull the crew module — the astronaut cabin — along with astronauts out to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort.
  2. It is held for the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.

ISRO’s success for future “Manned Mission”

  1. The first ‘pad abort’ test critical for a future human space mission was conducted successfully by ISRO.
  2. The test was conducted at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
  3. Describing it as a major technology demonstrator the space agency said the PAT (pad abort test) is the first in a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology of a manned mission in the future.
  4. The Crew Escape System is an emergency escape measure to quickly pull the crew module — the astronaut cabin — along with astronauts out to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort.

Particulars of the test

  1. The Crew Escape System with a simulated 6-tonne crew module lifted off from its pad.
  2. It was propelled on its own seven specially made complex in-built rockets.
  3. In the next four-odd minutes, it reached a height of 2.7 km and curved down into the Bay of Bengal on parachutes.
  4. It landed in the sea at a distance of 2.9 km from the launch center.
  5. The rockets are solid-fuel powered and specially designed for quickly ejecting the crew module and astronauts to a safe distance without exceeding the safe G-levels.
  6. Nearly 300 sensors recorded various functional aspects of the mission during the test flight.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Uttarakhand HC declares animals to be ‘legal persons’


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Economics of animal-rearing

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Particulars of the Judgement

Mains level: The newscard highlights the directives issued by Judiciary to prevent cruelty against animals.



  1. The order came on a public interest lawsuit seeking restrictions on the movement of horse-drawn carts between Indian and Nepal through Banbasa.
  2. It was also prayed for in the PIL that there should be provisions for vaccination, medical checkup of the horses for suspected infections before entering into the Indian Territory from Nepal and for regulating traffic in the border areas.

To prevent cruelty against animals

  1. In a unique ruling, the Uttarakhand High Court accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in the State, saying “they have a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”
  2. A Division Bench bestowed the unique status on animal kingdom while issuing a series of directions to prevent cruelty against animals.
  3. The bench said that to protect and promote the greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person.
  4. The entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic ones, are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.

Guidelines issued by the bench

  1. The court also declared all Uttarakhand natives the guardians of animals and endowed them with the duty to ensure their welfare and protection.
  2. The Bench also gave directions ranging from the amount of load allowed to be pulled by various animals in accordance with the kind of carriage being pulled to the number of riders per carriage.
  3. Further banning the use of spike or other sharp tackle or equipment on the animal, the court also directed the State government to ensure that if the temperature exceeds 37°C or drops below 5°C, no person be permitted to keep in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles.
  4. The court also went into the aspect of animal safety, highlighting the need for fluorescent reflectors in carriages and animals, certificates of unladen weight of vehicles, compulsory shelter of suitable size for horses, bullocks and stray cattle and a direction to the veterinary doctors of Uttarakhand to treat any stray animals brought to them or by visiting them.
  5. The court said as the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, animal-drawn carriages have to be given Right of Way over other vehicles.

Two Types of Persons

  1. In common law jurisprudence, there are two types of persons — natural persons or human beings and artificial person, which are also known as juristic persons, juridical entity or a legal person other than a natural person.
  2. Legal or juristic persons are created by law and recognized as a legal entity, having a distinct identity, legal personality and besides duties and rights.
  3. They include private business firm or entity, non-governmental or government organizations, trusts and societies, besides others.


Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

  1. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  2. The Act further recognizes slaughter for food. Section 11 of the Act does not categorize slaughter of animals for food as cruelty.
  3. It makes a specific exemption for “destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.
  4. As per the provisions of the law, the government of India formed the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

[pib] Cabinet approves accession to WIPO Copyright Treaty, 1996 and WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty, 1996


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WCT, WPP, Copyright Act

Mains level: The newscard highlights importance of ratifying these treaties to strengthen our national IPR Policy.


The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal submitted by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry regarding accession to the above-mentioned treaties which extends coverage of copyright to the internet and digital environment.

Strengthening National IPR Policy

  1. The approval is a step towards the objective laid in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy adopted by the Government on 12th May 2016.
  2. It is aimed to get value for IPRs through commercialization by providing guidance and support to EPR owners about commercial opportunities of e-commerce through the Internet and mobile platforms.
  3. Both the treaties provide a framework for creators and right owners to use technical tools to protect their works and safeguard information about their use i.e. Protection of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and Rights Management Information (RMI).

Benefits of these Treaties

Meeting the demand of the copyright industries, these treaties will help India:

  1. To enable creative right-holders enjoy the fruit of their labour, through international copyright system that can be used to secure a return on the investment made in producing and distributing creative works;
  2. To facilitate international protection of domestic rights holder by providing them level-playing field in other countries as India already extends protection to foreign works through the International Copyright order and these treaties will enable Indian right holders to get reciprocal protection abroad;
  3. To instill confidence and distribute creative works in digital environment with return on investment; and
  4. To spur business growth and contribute to the development of a vibrant creative economy and cultural landscape.


Copyright Act, 1957

  1. The Copyright Act 1957(wef 21 January 1958) (as amended by the Copyright Amendment Act 2012) governs the subject of copyright law in India.
  2. The Copyright Act 1957 was the first post-independence copyright legislation in India and the law has been amended six times since 1957.
  3. The most recent amendment was in the year 2012, through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.
  4. The history of copyright law in India can be traced back to its colonial era under the British Empire.
  5. India is a member of most of the important international conventions governing the area of copyright law, including
  • the Berne Convention of 1886 (as modified at Paris in 1971),
  • the Universal Copyright Convention of 1951,
  • the Rome Convention of 1961 and
  • the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

India accessed as a member of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in July, 2018.

WIPO Copyright Treaty

  1. It is a Special agreement under Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works).
  2. It came in force on March 6, 2002 and has been adopted by 96 contracting parties till date.
  3. It has provisions to extend the protection of copyrights contained therein to the digital environment.
  4. Further it recognises the rights specific to digital environment, of making work available, to address “on-demand” and other interactive modes of access.

WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

  1. It came in force on May 20, 2002 and has 96 contracting parties as its members.
  2. WPPT deals with rights of two kinds of beneficiaries, particularly in digital environment –
  • Performers (actors, singers, musicians etc.)
  • Producers of Phonograms (Sound recordings).

The treaty empowers right owners in the negotiations with new digital platforms and distributors.

It recognizes moral rights of the performers for the first time & provides exclusive economic rights to them.

Intellectual Property Rights in India

[pib] Cabinet approves DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DNA Profiling

Mains level: Understanding the importance of DNA Profiling in curbing crime in India.


The Union Cabinet has approved The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018


  1. The government was responding to a PIL in 2012 on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with cold cases of missing persons.
  2. The government had informed the Supreme Court that it will introduce a DNA profiling Bill in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament.

NCRB Report on Such Crimes

  1. The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is in excess of 3 lakhs per year.
  2. Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
  3. It is expected that the expanded use of this technology in these categories of cases would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 

  1. The primary intended purpose for enactment of the bill is for expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
  2. The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
  3. Other aims include Speedier justice delivery and Increased conviction rate.
  4. Bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons reported missing and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  5. By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

Benefits of DNA Profiling

Forensic DNA profiling is of proven value in solving cases involving offenses that are categorized as affecting the human body (such as murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt), and those against property (including theft, burglary, and dacoity).


DNA profiling technology

  1. DNA fingerprinting or DNA profiling is a method of isolating and identifying variable elements within the base-pair sequence of DNA.
  2. DNA fingerprinting technology is utilized by police all over the world for fool-proof identification of criminals who leave their traces at the crime scene while committing the crime.
  3. The technology plays a crucial role in solving crimes as it has potential to link a series of crimes by placing the suspects by linking them with the crime scene.
Right To Privacy

[pib] Three lakh CSC VLEs to be engaged as Banking Correspondents


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Digital India, CSC VLEs, Digi Gaon Project, Stree Swabhiman

Mains level: The newscard highlights the multi-pronged strategy of development through promoting village level entrepreneurs under Digital India Initiative.


Common Service Center (CSC), a Special Purpose Vehicle under the Ministry of Electronics & IT, has entered into an agreement with HDFC Bank to enable its three lakh Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) managing the CSCs to operate as Banking Correspondents.

Making banking services more accessible in rural areas

  1. VLEs of CSC will work as Banking Correspondent of HDFC Bank and support the govt initiative to promote financial inclusion and make banking services more accessible in rural areas.
  2. This agreement is expected to be a game changer as it would significantly contribute to Government’s objectives of enabling Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of various schemes.
  3. Women, senior citizens and persons with disability will especially get benefitted through this initiative.
  4. This will facilitate withdrawal and deposit of government entitlements such as payments under MGNREGA as well as various social welfare schemes like widow pension, handicapped and old age pension, etc.

Providing easy Credit Facility

  1. The HDFC BC (CSC) under this arrangement will also function as Business Facilitator (BF).
  2. This will help and support the citizens, especially merchants, youth, entrepreneurs, farmers and women avail loan facility from the Bank to support in their economic uplift.

 Promoting Digi Gaon Project

  1. Apart from this, HDFC Bank will support CSC SPV in converting 1000 identified villages into Digi Gaon (Digital Villages) within this financial year.
  2. CSC SPV is implementing Digi Gaon initiative in rural and remote villages of the country where citizens can avail various online services of the central and State government.
  3. The Digi Gaons are positioned to promote rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods through community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.

Promoting Stree Swabhiman

  1. Under its’ commitment to enhancing women’s health and hygiene, HDFC Bank will also support CSC SPV by funding Stree Swabhiman Sanitary Napkin Manufacturing Units.
  2. CSC SPV, through its initiative ‘Stree Swabhiman’ is striving to create a sustainable model for providing affordable and accessible sanitary products close to the homes of adolescent girls and women in rural areas
Digital India Initiatives

Thanjavur Paintings


From UPSC perspectives, following things are important.

Prelims Level: Particulars of the Thanjavur Painting

Mains Level: Not Much


Thanjavur Paintings

  1. It is a classical South Indian painting style, which was inaugurated from the town of Thanjavur and spread across the adjoining and geographically contiguous old Tamil country.
  2. The art form draws its immediate resources and inspiration from way back about 1600 AD, a period when the Nayakas of Thanjavur under the suzerainty of the Vijayanagara Rayas.
  3. It is distinguished by its famous gold coating.
  4. However, it can safely be surmised that Thanjavur painting, as we know it now, originated in the Maratha court of Thanjavur (1676 – 1855).
  5. It has been recognized as a Geographical indication by the Government of India in 2007-08.

The specialty of Thanjavur Painting

  1. Thanjavur paintings are characterised by rich, flat and vivid colors, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but extensive gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems.
  2. In Thanjavur paintings one can see the influence of Deccani, Vijayanagar, Maratha and even European or Company styles of painting.
  3. Essentially serving as devotional icons, the subjects of most paintings are Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints.
  4. Episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas and other religious texts were visualised, sketched or traced and painted with the main figure or figures placed in the central section of the picture.
  5. It is surrounded by several subsidiary figures, themes and subjects.
  6. There are also many instances when Jain, Sikh, Muslim, other religious and even secular subjects were depicted in Tanjore paintings.
Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Why Hasn’t India Endorsed the Broadcasters Treaty Yet?


Mains Paper 3: issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Broadcasters Treaty (BT), WIPO

Mains level: India’s interests attached to BT & IPR scenario in India


Non-endorsement of Broadcasters treaty

  1. Nearly 21 years after the commencement of the negotiations on the Broadcasters Treaty (BT), it seems India is still not ready to endorse it
  2. Until recently, the negotiations were stalled primarily due to a political stalemate on key provisions

Recent negotiations

  1. At the recently concluded meeting of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), for the first time in several years, a recommendation to finalise the text of the Broadcasters Treaty was made
  2. The proposal was supported by all major countries, except the US, Japan and South Korea
  3. India did not oppose the recommendation, but it did not actively support it too

Why is this treaty important for India?

  1. India was the biggest loser due to broadcast piracy in the Asia-Pacific region
  2. The proposed treaty on limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives, limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with disabilities is of utmost importance to India and other developing countries
  3. These proposed treaties are extremely important for ensuring unhindered access to information which is a hallmark of every enlightened society

Way forward

  1. India has one of the most advanced laws as far as the rights of broadcasting organizations are concerned
  2. It is the only country which protects catch-up service of broadcasting organizations – the moot point of the BT
  3. India is either disinterested in the BT or is perhaps still contemplating its position
  4. There is complete harmony between the rights of broadcasting organizations as contemplated under the Copyright Act, 1957 and the provisions of the BT
  5. It is in India’s own interest that it vocally endorses the recommendation to finalise the text of the BT at the upcoming WIPO General Assembly
Intellectual Property Rights in India

[op-ed snap] Why rumours love WhatsApp


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of messaging technology, Metadata, Verificado

Mains level: The long-standing debate of Social Media being a boon or a bane


Mob lynchings & role of social media

  1. It was social media that spread most of the rumours leading to a recent spate of lynchings in various parts of the country
  2. All social media platforms struggle with rumours and misinformation. These are spread through posts as well as direct messages
  3. Of all social media platforms, WhatsApp is proving the most challenging for investigators trying to track the source of such rumours and formulate a response

Why are messages difficult to track?

  1. Messaging services by nature do not leave a trail for specific messages
  2. It is very difficult to track where a message originated if has been forwarded many times
  3. With most of these services, the information is with the parent server and police can request the company for access to information, such as IP address, for investigation
  4. With WhatsApp, it is more complex. Everything on the platform is encrypted end-to-end at the device level — all data is stored on the device and not on servers
  5. WhatsApp does not know what is being discussed

Use of metadata

  1. Metadata is defined as data about other data and includes information such as username, device info and log-in time
  2. Each file has a certain amount of metadata, which is embedded when the file is created
  3. WhatsApp removes this, too, when it compresses a video or photo. This is called stripping
  4. Due to the stripping of metadata, it is next to impossible to identify the source on WhatsApp

What is Whatsapp’s approach to stopping this menace?

  1. WhatsApp is working on a mix of in-platform fixes and off-platform intervention
  2. Within the platform it is offering more control for group administrators, flagging forwarded content and offering resources like fact-checking websites for verifying the content
  3. Off-platform, it is expected to initiate measures to educate people about the perils of misinformation and ways to identify them
  4. A new app update allows administrators to choose a setting that only gives the administrators permission to publish in a specific group

International response

  1. WhatsApp was disrupted in 12 of 65 countries — Turkey, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, Qatar, UAE, Bangladesh, China, Morroco, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia — in 2016 and 2017
  2. Uganda has introduced a social media tax to check online gossip, among other objectives, and recently it made social media inaccessible to those who have not paid the tax
  3. In Mexico, private groups collaborated to set up Verificado 2018, a fact-checking initiative, that tries to intervene in the spread of fake news on WhatsApp, particularly during the recent elections
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[pib] Behdienkhlam Festival, Meghalaya


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of Behdienkhlam Festival

Mains level: Not Much 


The famous 4-day Meghalaya Annual Cultural Festival, “Behdienkhlam”, held every year at the small peripheral town of Jowai, Meghalaya.

Behdienkhlam Festival

  1. Behdienkhlam Festival is the most celebrated religious festival among the Pnars Tribals. It is popular at Jowai the District headquarters of Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya.
  2. “Khlam” means plague or pestilence’and “beh dien” means to drive away with sticks.
  3. The festival is also known as the festival for chasing away the Demon of Cholera.
  4. It is celebrated mid-July every year after the sowing is over.
  5. The festival reaches its conclusion with the Dad-lawakor ceremony in which groups of men jostle for the possession of a wooden ball, a game which is remotely similar to football.
  6. The festival ends with a final salutation to the divine powers when the women of the tribe offer sacrificial food to their almighty.
History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] NITI Aayog to organise India’s First Global Mobility Summit


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MOVE Summit, NITI Talks,

Mains level:  The newscard highlights the importance of clean energy options in manufacture of electric vehicles that gives various benefits.


India’s MOVE for vehicles electrification

  1. Steeply falling technology costs and business – model innovation are driving the world’s transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles.
  2. Against this background, NITI Aayog, in collaboration with various ministries and industry partners, is organising ‘MOVE: Global Mobility Summit’.
  3. This Summit will help drive Government’s goals for vehicle electrification, renewable energy integration and job growth and also speed up India’s transition to a clean energy economy.

Aim of the Summit

  1. MOVE Summit aims to bring together and engage with key stakeholders within the rapidly transforming global mobility landscape and to evolve a public interest framework for a shared, connected, zero emission and inclusive mobility agenda for the future.
  2. The Summit, hence, aims to encourage synergies between indigenous industries such as Automobile Manufacturing, Information Technology, Electronics, Telecommunications and others, to integrate with global supply chains and cement India’s position as a progressive, forwarding looking nation.

Participants in the Summit

This summit will be the first Global Mobility Summit of its kind, with over 1,200 expected participants from across the world including Government leadership, Industry leaders, Research Organizations, Academia ,Think Tanks and Civil Society Organisations.

Focus areas

  1. The Summit will constitute three designated components – The Conclave, the Expo and the Featured Events.
  2. The Summit has been organised along key ‘tracks’ to anchor debate and deliberations on towards preparing a collective mobility agenda. The six tracks or themes for the Summit will focus on:
  • Asset Utilization and Services;
  • Comprehensive Electrification ;
  • Alternative Energy;
  • Reinventing Public Transit;
  • Logistics and Goods Transport;
  • Data Analytics and Mobility.

 ‘MOVEMENTUM’, the Expo

  1. It will feature exciting future technologies and cutting edge innovations which will shape the mobility paradigm, showcasing India’s push towards transformative mobility solutions.
  2. The exhibition will offer a first-hand perspective on automotive solutions, upcoming trends in the logistics sector and will see participation from major global players as well as the Indian industry.
  3. The exhibition will have sector-specific focus, showcasing global strengths in various dimensions looking to cater the growing demands of the world.

NITI Talks

  1. NITI Aayog has additionally planned ‘NITI Talks’, for showcasing successful entrepreneurs from across the country from the field of mobility, sustainable development, climate change and multimodal transport.
  2. The global innovation agenda has expanded the creative limits of what future mobility would constitute and India has the potential to be a leader in the ‘global mobility movement’.

National Strategy for Transforming Mobility

  1. NITI Aayog has also been working towards evolving a National Strategy for Transforming Mobility, in the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism.
  2. It is urging all States and Union territories to formulate state-specific comprehensive strategies by constituting respective State Task Forces.
  3. Inputs received from the various States will be integrated with global best practices to come up with a National Strategy, will also be launched.

Way Forward

  1. The Summit envisages mobility as a key driver for generating employment, accelerating economic growth & providing innovative solutions to improve efficiency and efficacy of transport sector.
  2. New pathways are emerging to provide clean, cost effective mobility services that create new jobs, reduce dependence on oil imports and achieve efficient land usage in cities.
  3. Nowhere in the world is there greater potential to accelerate the transition to a shared, connected and zero emission society than India.  India has a leapfrog opportunity.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

[op-ed snap] What India must do to be a free trade champion


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: World Trade Organization, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Mains level: Various constraints affecting India’s exports and how to reduce them to boost exports


Trade war across the globe

  1. The tariffs and counter-tariffs levied by the US and its allies and rivals alike are mounting
  2. The World Trade Organization has warned that growth in global trade is contingent on escalating trade tensions not acting as a spoiler

India’s position on liberalization

  1. It has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of a liberal trade regime at international forums in the recent past
  2. But rhetoric and reality don’t always match up as can be seen by its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) dilemma

What does India want in RCEP?

  1. India has been making efforts to fold services trade liberalization into the pact
  2. Why? As of 2016-17, India’s share of world merchandise exports stood at 1.65% while its share of world service exports was twice that at 3.35%
  3. This essentially means that India is more efficient and in a better position to export services rather than goods
  4. But the political sensitivity of the factors affecting services trade— the cross-border movement of professionals and the behind-the-border nature of regulation among them—makes it difficult to make headway

India’s goods trade and associated issues

  1. Indian goods exports are currently dominated by petroleum products, chemical products, textiles and garments, and engineering goods
  2. But quality matters more than quantity
  3. Exports with higher productivity and sophistication will contribute more to economic growth
  4. India’s basket of export continues to be dominated by goods of relatively low sophistication
  5. It skews substantially more towards low-tech manufacturing than the median of peer emerging economies

What does this lead to?

This hamstrings India on two fronts

  1. It limits the domestic productivity and income-boosting effects of exports
  2. It also makes it harder for India to gain the comparative advantage needed to take full advantage of bilateral and regional free trade pacts

Factors affecting exports

  1. The current poor performance of Indian exports undoubtedly has something to do with the demonetization shock, the goods and services tax (GST) snafu when it comes to refund payments for exporters and the twin balance sheet problem
  2. Indian exports are more sensitive to demand than the price
  3. India’s exports are also driven by domestic supply-side constraints
  4. Power shortages and poor reliability also affect export growth significantly
  5. There are the multiple factors, ranging from onerous labour laws to regulatory costs, that keep companies small
  6. Such companies have neither the capital and scale to move to more sophisticated goods, nor the worker skills to be part of such value chains
  7. Poor innovation capital—due to the lack of quality higher education, low public and private expenditure on research and development and a lacking legislative framework

Findings in Economic Survey 2017-18

  1. Improved logistics have huge implications on increasing exports, as a 10% decrease in indirect logistics cost can contribute to around 5-8% of extra exports
  2. India has logistics costs around double of those in developed economies

Way forward

  1. Free trade, for all the distributional issues that have rightly come into sharp focus over the past few years, is a net good
  2. India needs to sort out its goods versus services dilemma & the gap between theory and practice
  3. This won’t be bridged without a structural transformation in Indian exports
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.