February 2020
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Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Experts’ group to cut schoolbag weight formed, court toldPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Children’s School Bags (Limitation on Weight), Bill of 2006

Mains level: The need to regulate weight carried by students in the age of e-learning.



  1. The need for the excess weight that children carry on their backs has been debated for quite some time.
  2. Union HRD Ministry has constituted an Expert Group to formulate a draft policy on reducing the weight of school bags in proportion to the age and average weight of children.

Reducing Children’s Burden

  1. The MHRD had issued an order on October 5 to formulate a policy on schoolbags on the lines of Children School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill of 2006, which never turned into a law.
  2. Disposing of a writ petition in May 2018 the Madras HC had directed the Centre to formulate forthwith a nationwide policy on the permitted weight of backpack that could be carried by schoolchildren.
  3. The Court had ruled that “neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers.

Learning from States

  1. Maharashtra and Telangana already have a policy in place stipulating that the weight of a schoolbag should not exceed 10% of the weight of the student.
  2. Maharashtra, while deciding the weight of the schoolbag, had considered the weight of books, geometry box, stationery, lunch boxes and even water bottles.
  3. Representatives from these states are also included in experts panel


Children’s School Bags (Limitation on Weight), Bill of 2006

  1. The bill states that the weight of a school bag must not exceed more than 10% of the child’s bodyweight.
  2. It also directs respective State Governments to ensure that schools provide lockers for students, ensure that schools adhere to the standards of measurements for bags, and students use both straps for carrying bags.
  3. In addition, it states terms that require teachers to inform students of the books required a day prior, and the students should be taught how to pack bags so heavy loads can be kept close to the body.
  4. The 1993 report ‘Learning without burden’, submitted by the Yash Pal Committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development stated that young children should not be compelled to carry heavy bags to schools.
Black Money – Domestic and International Efforts

Centre notifies special courts for benami transaction casesPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Provision of special courts

Mains level:  Legal Provisions for speedy trial of Black Money cases in India



  • The central government has notified Sessions courts in 34 states and Union Territories, which will act as special courts for trial of offences under the benami transaction law.

Benami Transactions

  • Benami transaction refers transactions made in a fictitious name, or the owner is not aware of the ownership of the property, or the person paying for the property is not traceable.

Special Courts to try Benami Transactions Cases

  1. The court (s) of Session in the states and UT were notified after consultation with Chief Justices of respective High Courts under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988 (45 of 1988) for the trial of offences punishable under the provisions of the Act.
  2. In case of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Courts of Additional Sessions Judge 02 in each district have been designated as special court.
  3. The law prescribes that every trial should be conducted “as expeditiously as possible” and every endeavour should be made by the Special Court to conclude it within six months from the date of filing of the complaint.

Legislation to curb Black Money

  1. With a view to curb the menace of black money, Parliament in August 2016 had passed the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act.
  2. The rules and all the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act come into force on November 1, 2016.
  3. After coming into effect, the existing Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, was renamed as the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvencyPriority 1


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: UNCITRAL Model Law

Mains level: Policy measures to curb cross border insolvency.



  • The Insolvency Law Committee (ILC), tasked with suggesting amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India (IBC), has recommended for adopting the UN model to handle cross-border insolvency cases.

Recommendations of the ILC

  1. The ILC has recommended the adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997.
  2. The Model Law has been adopted in 44 countries and, therefore, forms part of international best practices in dealing with cross border insolvency issues.
  3. It provides for a comprehensive framework to deal with cross-border insolvency issues.
  4. The ILC has also recommended a few changes to ensure that there is no inconsistency between the domestic insolvency framework and the proposed cross border insolvency framework.

Why adopt UNCITRAL Model Law

  1. The proposed IBC will enable us to deal with Indian companies having foreign assets and vice versa.
  2. However it still does not provide for a framework for dealing with enterprise groups, which is still work in progress with UNCITRAL and other international bodies.
  3. Many Indian companies have a global footprint and many foreign companies have a presence in multiple countries, including India.
  4. The other advantages include greater confidence generation among foreign investors, adequate flexibility for seamless integration with the domestic Insolvency Law and a robust mechanism for international cooperation.


UNCITRAL Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency

  1. It is a model law issued by the secretariat of UNCITRAL in 1997 to assist states for the regulation of corporate insolvency and financial distress involving companies which have assets or creditors in more than one state.
  2. It defines a cross-border insolvency as one where the insolvent debtor has assets in more than one state, or where some of the creditors of the debtor are not from the state where the insolvency proceeding is taking place.
  3. The model law deals with four major principles of cross-border insolvency namely:
  • direct access to foreign insolvency professionals and foreign creditors to participate in or commence domestic insolvency proceedings against a defaulting debtor;
  • recognition of foreign proceedings & provision of remedies;
  • cooperation between domestic and foreign courts & domestic and foreign insolvency practioners;
  • coordination between two or more concurrent insolvency proceedings in different countries.
  1. The main proceeding is determined by the concept of centre of main interest (“COMI”).


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[pib] United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) completes 50 years

Human Development Report by UNDP

[op-ed snap] We have failed our childrenop-ed snapPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Development Report, Human Capital Index (HCI)

Mains level: India’s poor performance in global indexes related to health, education, nutrition and how to improve the situation


World Development Report 2019

  1. The World Bank publishes the World Development Report every year
  2. The Human Capital Index (HCI) is part of the annual report
  3. It is a measure of “the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18”

HCI calculation & India’s position

  1. The index is measured in terms of the productivity of the next generation of workers relative to the benchmark of the complete education and full health
  2. An economy in which a child born today can expect to achieve complete education and full health will score a value of 1 on the index
  3. India’s HCI is 0.44 and rank is 115
  4. That places India in the bottom third of the world

Factors behind India’s poor performance

  1. HCI is based on six factors, each getting a score
  2. In the case of India, given the average household income, the probability of a child surviving to the age of 5 is satisfactory at 0.96
  3. The adult survival rate is reasonable at 0.83
  4. What pulls India down are the ‘Learning adjusted years of school’ and ‘Fraction of children under 5 not stunted’
  5. The score on the former is 5.8 years at school. On the latter, it is 0.62, meaning that 38 per cent of children under 5 years of age have a low height-for-age

Reasons behind this

  1. Poor design, faulty implementation and inadequate allocation of funds are the main reasons
  2. While ‘Right to Education’ vastly expanded enrolment of children, not enough attention was paid to the quality of the schools, the teachers and the instruction
  3. Likewise, anganwadis and ‘Right to Food Security’ were necessary interventions, but they have failed to provide sufficient food to pregnant and lactating mothers and to children during their first five years

Connecting HCI & Global Hunger Index

  1. The HCI must be read along with the Global Hunger Index (GHI) published by Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide
  2. One out of seven children in India is undernourished; two out of five are stunted (low height-for-age), and one out of five is wasted (low weight-for-height)
  3. The cause is undernutrition
  4. On the one hand, we have mountains of wheat and paddy and, on the other, we are unable to provide enough food to each child

Way forward

  1. MGNREGA and the Right to Food Security law were created to overcome this situation
  2. Due to the neglect of these legislations, the result is low HCI, high GHI (score 31.1, indicating ‘serious hunger’) and a low rank of 139 among 189 countries in the Human Development Index
  3. The focus should again be shifted on them to ensure that these interventions provide the expected outcomes

Bacteria to degrade toluenePrelims OnlyPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Acinetobacter Junii

Mains level: Bio-remedial measures to control oil spills



  • Using bacteria isolated from soil and effluents near an oil refinery, researchers from the University of Delhi and IIT-BHU, have successfully degraded toluene into less-toxic byproducts.

What is Toluene?

  1. Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  2. Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

Acinetobacter Junii

  1. The bacteria were isolated from the soil samples, identified and studied for their toluene-degrading abilities.
  2. Researchers isolated eight to 10 strains of bacteria and found that a particular bacteria Acinetobacter junii showed good degrading potential.
  3. About 80% of toluene (50 ppm) in a liquid medium was degraded within 72 hours.

What’s interesting about the bacteria?

  1. These bacteria changed the morphology of toluene to remove its toxicity.
  2. Most of the waste degradation studies have involved the use of bacteria that grow in an anaerobic environment.
  3. The degradation was found to be general aerobic (in presence of oxygen) biodegradation.
  4. The bacteria use up this toluene as their carbon source in the presence of oxygen.
  5. The bacterial strain for the degradation of benzene, phenol, and xylene showed effective results towards degradation of these compounds.
  6. In laboratory conditions, the bacteria were able to degrade these petrochemical wastes in both soil and water samples.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Mission Mercury: How will twin probes reach there, and why?Prelims OnlyPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO)

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives



  • The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully sent two probes on a joint mission to Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.


  1. An Ariane 5 rocket, launched from French Guyana, lifted an unmanned spacecraft, BepiColombo, which is carrying the two probes.
  2. The spacecraft separated and went into orbit for the 7-year trip to Mercury.

Details of the Mission

  1. It is the first European mission to Mercury, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its environment at the same time.
  2. The orbiters are ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO, or ‘Mio’).
  3. The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys.

Venus en route

  1. The two orbiters will be able to operate some of their instruments during the cruise phase, to try and collect data at Venus.
  2. Moreover, some of the instruments designed to study Mercury in a particular way can be used in a completely different way at Venus, which has a thicker atmosphere.

Reaching Mercury

  1. A few months before reaching Mercury, the transfer module will be jettisoned, leaving the two science orbiters to be captured by Mercury’s gravity.
  2. MPO will separate and descend to its own orbit. Together the orbiters will make measurements.

Upcoming Challenges

  1. The Sun’s enormous gravity makes it difficult to place a spacecraft into a stable orbit around Mercury.
  2. The mission will have to ensure a controlled fall.
  3. The spacecraft has been specially designed for extreme temperatures.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] India to receive University of Pennsylvania’s Top Energy Policy PrizePIBPriority 1


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: Carnot Prize

Mains level: Prices of such global recognition highlights success of India’s efforts to reform power sector.



  • Minister of Railways and Coal will receive the University of Pennsylvania’s top prize in energy policy for his leadership in reforming India’s power sector through various initiatives.

Carnot Prize

  1. The Carnot Prize is intended to honour those leading revolutions in energy policy to further progress and prosperity.
  2. The ministry is being recognised for directing a fast-track effort to electrify 18,000 villages in remote parts of India, helping bridge the country’s vast energy divide.
  3. The Carnot Prize is named in memory of French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which is recognised as the first statement of what, is now known as the second law of thermodynamics.
  4. Carnot recognised that the power of the steam engine would produce a great revolution in human development.

Recognizing Indian efforts

  1. The 2018 Carnot Prize is a recognition of India’s efforts, as the nation charts the path towards eliminating energy poverty with sustainable energy solutions.
  2. The rural electrification drive gave a significant breakthrough to the mission of ‘24×7 Affordable, Environment Friendly Power for all’, as India eliminated decades of darkness in more than 19,000 villages April, 2018.
  3. With the Saubhagya Programme, the last-mile connectivity to every household in the villages is being fast tracked, with 51% of the 3.1 crore rural households electrified.
  4. The massive thrust to green energy is reflected in India’s 175 GW target by 2022, being the world’s largest renewable expansion programme with 72 GW already achieved.
  5. As solar and wind energy market prices achieve parity in India with record low tariffs, renewables are set to become the mainstay of development in the coming years.
  6. With the vision of “one world, one sun, one grid” of PM Modi India is playing its role as a committed solar leader through steady progress on all green energy goals.
  7. In the last four years, energy efficiency has become a people’s movement in India, making the Government’s UJALA scheme the world’s largest LED distribution programme.
  8. Along with private sector participation, 130 crore LED bulbs have been distributed, making India brighter and cleaner.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

ICFRE signs two MoUs for Prakriti ProgrammeDOMRPriority 1


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: Imbibing environment conservation and SDG strategies through schooling.



  • The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) under the Environment Ministry, signed two pacts to spread awareness about forests, and environment among the youths of the country.

Prakriti Programme

  1. The ICFRE signed MoUs with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and with Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) to launch the ‘Prakriti’ programme.
  2. The programme aims to promote awareness about forests and environment, and to stimulate interest among the students of NVS and KVS in maintaining a balanced environment.
  3. It also aims for acquiring skills that reflect care and protection towards forests, environment and society.
  4. Another objective of the programme is to provide a platform to school children to learn practical skills for judicious use of resources.
  5. It seeks to mobilise a cadre of youths for raising a peoples’ movement committed to conserve forests and the environment.

Particulars of the Programme

  1. Signed for a period of 10 years, the pact is expected to make the youth of the country sensitive towards national and global issues of environment and forests and help them become responsible citizens.
  2. Through this collaboration, knowledge will be imparted to students and teachers of NVS and KVS on environment, forests, and environmental services.
  3. They will be provided contemporary knowledge of forestry research by way of lectures and interactive sessions by scientists of ICFRE.
  4. Visits of students and teachers of NVS and KVS schools will also be arranged to the laboratories and field/experiments of ICFRE institutes for hands-on experiences.


Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE)

  1. It is an autonomous agency under the MoEFCC.
  2. Headquartered in Dehradun, its functions are to conduct forestry research; transfer the technologies developed to the states of India and other user agencies; and to impart forestry education.
  3. The council has 9 research institutes and 4 advanced centres to cater to the research needs of different bio-geographical regions.
  4. These are located at Dehradun, Shimla, Ranchi, Jorhat, Jabalpur, Jodhpur, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Allahabad, Chhindwara, Aizawl, Hyderabad and Agartala.
  5. Currently ICFRE is focusing on contemporary issues of national and international importance particularly in the areas of climate change, forest productivity, bio-diversity conservation and skill development.

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs)

  1. JNVs are fully residential and co-educational schools affiliated to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) with classes from VI to XII standard.
  2. They are run by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, New Delhi, an autonomous organization under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of HRD.
  3. JNVs are specifically tasked with finding talented children in rural areas of India and providing them with an education equivalent to the best residential school system, without regard to their families’ socio-economic condition.
  4. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti was established with the primary objective to provide modern quality education to talented children, predominantly from the rural areas, without regard to their family’s socio-economic condition.
  5. JNVs exist all over India, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, where anti Hindi movements were widespread during past times.

Kendriya Vidyalayas

  1. The Kendriya Vidyalayas are a system of central government schools in India that are instituted under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  2. The system came into being in 1963 under the name ‘Central Schools’. Later, the name was changed to Kendriya Vidyalaya.
  3. All the schools are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
  4. Its objective is to educate children of the Indian Defence Services personnel who are often posted to remote locations.
  5. With the army starting its own Army Public Schools, the service was extended (but not restricted) to all central government employees.
  6. A uniform curriculum is followed by these schools all over India.
  7. By providing a common syllabus and system of education, the KVs are intended to ensure that the children of government employees do not face education disadvantages when their parents are transferred from one location to another.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Should India have two time zones? National timekeeper adds new argumentsPriority 1


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Latitude and longitudes, IST system

Mains level: Demand of two time zones being raised by northeast India and weight behind it


Debate over 2 time zones

  1. Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones
  2. The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone
  3. Opposition to the idea is based on impracticability — particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another

New research suggests 2 time zones

  1. Now, a proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself
  2. Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), which maintains Indian Standard Time, have published a research article describing the necessity of two time zones, with the new one an hour ahead of the existing time zone

Why have 2 time zones?

  1. India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective
  2. This has led to the argument that early sunrise in the easternmost parts — the Northeast — causes the loss of many daylight hours by the time offices or educational institutions open and that early sunset, for its part, leads to higher consumption of electricity
  3. Research identifies where the two time zones can be demarcated from each other — at the “chicken neck” that connects the Northeast to the rest of India, an area that is spatially narrow and reduces the possibility of railway accidents
  4. As the railway signals have not yet been fully automated in the country, the border between the two time zones should have a very narrow spatial-width with the minimum number of train stations so that the train timings while crossing the border can be managed manually without any untoward incidents
  5. The article also puts a figure to the country’s potential savings in energy consumption — 20 million kWh a year — if it does follow two time zones
  6. Synchronising office hours — as well as biological activities — to sunrise and sunset timings is important

The new system of time zones

  1. The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h)
  2. The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal
  3. States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I). States east of the line — Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands —would follow IST-II

Global & Indian standard time

  1. The geographic “zero line” runs through Greenwich, London
  2. It identifies GMT, now known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is maintained by the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France
  3. Indian Standard Time, maintained by CSIR-NPL, is based on a line of longitude that runs through Mirzapur in UP
  4. At 82°33’E, the line is 82.5° east of Greenwich, or 5.5 hours (5 hours 30 minutes) ahead of UCT
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Data localisation: why, why notPriority 1


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: Data Mirroring and Localisation, BN Srikrishna Committee

Mains level: Rising cyber crimes and the role data protection bill would play in reducing them.


RBI pushes for Data Localisation

  1. The world weighs free global data flow against national security.
  2. Companies around the world rushed to try and meet a RBI-mandated deadline to store Indian users financial data in India, reigniting conversation about data localisation.
  3. The Govt. of India has firmed up its stance on storing data of Indian users in the country, to the discontent of international players and the delight of domestic ones.
  4. This wave again is the latest digital battleground of ongoing power wars between government and industry.

Data Localisation

  1. It is a concept that the personal data of a country’s residents should be processed and stored in that country.
  2. Some directives may restrict flow entirely, while others more leniently allow for conditional data sharing or data mirroring – in which only a copy has to be stored in the country.
  3. As of now, much of cross-border data transfer is governed by individual bilateral “mutual legal assistance treaties” (MLATs).

Why is the issue again in focus?

  1. In early April, the RBI issued a circular mandating that payment data be stored only in India by October 15.
  2. This covered everyone every global payments & technology companies and various domestic & foreign prepaid payment instruments (PPIs).
  3. RBI has not instituted any fines for those who have missed the deadline but is seeking schedules of pending data transfers to India.

Draft Law on Data Protection

  1. In July 2018, a data protection draft law by a committee headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna recommended for a copy of personal data of Indians to be in India (data mirroring).
  2. A subset of that data, labelled critical personal data, must be stored and processed only in India.
  3. The draft E-com policy recommended localisation for community data and data generated by users in India from various sources including e-commerce platforms, social media and search engines.
  4. It also discussed strategies to incentivise domestic data storage in India through facilitating data infrastructure.
  5. There could be, say a 2-year, sunset period for industry to adjust before localisation becomes mandatory a/c to the report.

Why need Data Localisation?

  1. A common argument by officials is that localisation will help Indian law enforcement access user data.
  2. Proponents also highlight the security against foreign attacks and surveillance.
  3. An RBI circular ruled that to ensure better monitoring, it is important to have supervisory access to data stored with these system providers.
  4. This especially gained prominence when incidences of lynchings across the country were linked to WhatsApp rumours whose stance on encrypted content frustrated government officials.
  5. Concerns also arose when Facebook declared that its Cambridge Analytica controversy had affected Indian users as well.

Data is the new Oil

  1. In the home of the largest open Internet market in the world, companies like PhonePe claim that national wealth creation relies on in-house data storage.
  2. The e-commerce policy took on a similar stance, championing domestic innovation, and the data protection report also mentioned harnessing India’s digital economy.

Arguments in Favor

  1. Along with government support, most domestic-born technology companies (which tend to have heavy foreign investments) support data localisation.
  2. Most of these firms store their data exclusively in India.
  3. Some Indian companies have strongly argued that data regulation for privacy and security will have little teeth without localisation, citing models in China and Russia.
  4. These domestic companies are rivals of many big US giants and condemn the large tax differences between international companies operating in India and those with a permanent establishment in the country.
  5. Many argue that localisation would lead to a larger presence in India overall, such as local offices, and increase tax liability and open more jobs.

Argument against data localisation

  1. Industry bodies, especially those with significant ties to the US, have slung heavy backlash.
  2. Many are concerned about a Fractured Internet (simply put servers go offline and out of access) due to uncertain protectionist policies.
  3. Much of this sentiment hampers to the values of a globalised, competitive internet marketplace, where costs and speeds determine information flows, rather than nationalistic borders.
  4. Opponents say that this, in turn, may backfire on India’s own young start-ups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India.
  5. Critics caution against state misuse and surveillance of personal data.
  6. They also argue that security and government access is not achieved by localisation.
  7. Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption may still remain out of the reach of national agencies due to company’s privacy concerns.

Crimes across the globe not covered

  1. The draft bill mandates local storage of data relating to Indian citizens only
  2. Localisation can provide data only for crimes that have been committed in India, where both the perpetrator and victim are situated in India
  3. Prevalent concerns around transnational terrorism, cyber crimes and money laundering will often involve individuals and accounts that are not Indian, and therefore will not be stored in India
  4. For investigations into such crimes, Indian law enforcement will have to continue relying on cooperative models

Global Scenario

  1. India’s major partner, US leave regulation up to the state and sector.
  2. US also signed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) which established data sharing with certain countries.
  3. China mandates localisation for all “important data” held by “critical information infrastructure” and any cross border personal data transfer must undergo a security assessment.
  4. Russia also has the most restrictive regulation for data flow with strict localisation and high penalties.
  5. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not mandate all data to be localised, but rather restricts flow to countries with a strong data protection framework.

Way Forward

  1. The CLOUD Act seeks to ease control over data from U.S. authorities.
  2. The law will for the first time allow tech companies to share data directly with certain foreign governments.
  3. This provides India the data not just for crimes committed within their borders but also for transnational crimes involving their national interests.
  4. A fundamental error that the Srikrishna Committee seems to have made is in its belief that the location of data should determine who has access to it.
  5. This scenario will hardly improve even after technology companies relocate Indian data to India.
Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Ancient rocks in India give clues to early lifePriority 1


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of world’s physical geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biomarkers

Mains level: Geological era’s of Earth and their important features


Cambrian Explosion

  1. It refers to the sudden appearance in the fossil record of complex animals with mineralized skeletal remains 541 million years ago.
  2. Researchers have found the oldest clue to the mystery of animal life in ancient rocks and oils dating back at least 100 million years before the famous Cambrian explosion of animal fossils.
  3. Researchers at the University of California tracked molecular signs of animal life, called biomarkers, as far back as 660-635 million years ago during the Neoproterozoic era.
  4. In ancient rocks and oils from India, Oman, Siberia, they found a steroid compound produced only by sponges, which are among the earliest forms of animal life.

Biomarkers: Clues of early life

  1. The research looked for distinctive and stable biomarkers that indicate the existence of sponges and other early animals, rather than single-celled organisms that dominated the earth for billions of years.
  2. The biomarker identified, a steroid compound named 26-methylstigmastane (26-mes), has a unique structure that is currently only known to be synthesized by certain species of modern sponges called demosponges.
  3. This is the first evidence that demosponges, and hence multicellular animals, were thriving in ancient seas at least as far back as 635 million years ago.
  4. This adds among the earliest forms of animal life existed in that period.



  1. A sponge is a member of the phylum Porifera.
  2. It is a simple marine animal with many cells, but no mouth, muscles, heart or brain.
  3. Demosponges is a class that contains most of the sponges.
  4. The sponges in this class make their skeleton from Spongin, a special protein.
Make in India: Challenges & Prospects

[op-ed snap] A flawed defence procurement policyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy| Investment models

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Offset Partnership

Mains level: The newscard discusses flaws in India’s defence procurement policy , which is indirectly hampering Make in India policy and provides scope for crony capitalism to persist.


Row over Rafale

  1. The Defence Procurement Procedure, 2016, (DPP) recognizes the need to ensure that procurement is undertaken in a manner that takes India closer to the goal of developing a world-class domestic defence and aerospace industry.
  2. However, the offset requirements under the DPP are not helping it achieve this goal.
  3. The recent Rafale controversy is the symptom of a larger underlying problem in decision-making, transparency and consistency of public policy.

Offsets guidelines in the DPP

  1. Offsets are a portion of a contracted price with a foreign supplier that must be re-invested in the Indian defence sector, or against which the government can purchase technology.
  2. Some good intentions inform the DPP and its offsets regime, such as the need for public-private partnership, encouraging startups and direct investment, and flexibility for foreign suppliers.
  3. However, when it comes to the details, things look different.

Procurement Policy of India

  1. Under Indian law, government procurement is treated as distribution of endowments by the state and, hence, must be fair, transparent and equitable.
  2. There can be no favouritism or nepotism in the award of public contracts.

Biggest Policy Loophole

  1. Offsets are financed by Indian taxpayers, but the award of contracts by foreign suppliers is not subject to public procurement safeguards.
  2. The DPP even seems to indicate that the foreign supplier has complete discretion on choice of the Indian offset partner (IOP).
  3. This would permit the Indian government to avoid public procurement rules when taxpayer money is routed through a foreign supplier towards “offsets”.

An Open to Abuse Policy?

  1. Such a policy was the government’s argument during the Rafale controversy.
  2. It is openly falsehood for the government to require foreign suppliers to have IOPs and yet not have a say in the choice of offset partner or its investments.
  3. If this were true, the offset regime would be inherently open to abuse by the foreign supplier.

DPP norms for selecting Offset

  1. The DPP provides the government with extensive control over selection of the offset partner.
  2. For instance, it has the power to bar any entity from becoming an offset partner.
  3. The government also retains the power to evaluate offset proposals received in response to procurement tenders and conclude offset contracts.
  4. The DPP also provides that all offset proposals will be approved by the Union minister of defence, regardless of their value.
  5. During the period of the contract, any change in the Indian offset partner also requires government approval.

Are the offset guidelines satisfactory?

  1. From the above norms it is unlikely that the government has nothing to do with the selection of Indian offset partners. Neither would this be desirable.
  2. The intention is to create a free, open and competitive market, and yet at the same time, ensure that Indian taxpayers money not taken for a granted.

They are not, because:


  1. Defence procurement should be subject to transparent processes that ensure that Indian companies, big and small, compete on a level playing field.
  2. The selection of a large (and failing) conglomerate with no prior experience, as is the case with Rafale, would not have been possible if the government had directly procured under a sophisticated award process.
  3. If it is not possible or desirable under a direct procurement regime, it is difficult to argue that it is desirable under an offsets regime.


  1. While the procurement policy recognizes the need for domestic private partnership, it does not mandate a fair and diverse procurement process for offsets.
  2. Given the large contract values involved, this makes it likely that foreign suppliers will partner with just one or two large industrial groups to discharge their offset obligations.


  1. The definition of IOP is flawed. IOPs are defined as Indian enterprises engaged in making eligible products and/or services.
  2. If the objective is to build a domestic defence sector, the focus should instead be on direct investments.
  3. In other sectors where India has succeeded, foreign technology and know-how has followed investments, irrespective of ownership.

More Transparency is the need of Hour

  1. Indian ownership does not necessarily contribute to the growth of a sector, as much as investments within Indian shores.
  2. Focussing on investments will ensure that companies of all sizes, including foreign companies who wish to manufacture in India, are permitted to grow and flourish.
  3. For this, regulations that restrict foreign investments in the defence sector require a dose of reform.
  4. More importantly, transparency is essential in procurement contracts.

Way Forward

  1. In the interest of fairness, foreign suppliers should be free to invest in India, yet at the same time, offset investments/procurement must be subject to safeguards.
  2. Without substantive reforms in the DPP, there are likely to be more controversies and perceptions of crony capitalism.
  3. What is worse, the substantial amount of taxpayer’s money meant for the development of an indigenous defence sector might not find its way back.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

‘Swastha Bharat Yatra’ campaign to create awareness about safe foodPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra

Mains level: Read the attached story.



  • The government has launched a national campaign ‘Swastha Bharat Yatra’ on the World Food Day under which a pan-India cycle rally is being organised to sensitize people about eating safe food and be healthy.

Swastha Bharat Yatra

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is leading this campaign where about 7,500 cyclists are expected to participate in over 18,000 km relay.
  2. The cycle rally will travel across six tracks through almost every state and UT over 100 days to propagate a powerful message ‘Eat Right India’.
  3. The cyclathon will culminate in the national capital on January 27.

Activities under the Yatra

  1. Along with a bicycle convoy, there will be ‘Eat Right Mobile Unit’ and ‘Mobile Food Testing Unit’ to build awareness around food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.
  2. In all, over 7,500 volunteer cyclists would stop at 2,000+ locations and conduct in-city and en-route activities and ‘Prabhat Pheris’ to propagate the message of Eat Right India.
History- Important places, persons in news

How Satyagraha still drives change globallyPriority 1


Mains Paper 1: World History | Political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global non-violence movements

Mains level: Success of non-violent struggle across the globe


Gandhi: A leader with a Global Cause

  1. Gandhi is a global figure who is rarely studied and analysed from a global perspective.
  2. As a global thinker with a trans-historical influence, Gandhi applied his experiments with truth and practice of non-violence, not only at an individual level but also in the process of the global affairs.
  3. Therefore, as in the case of means and ends, truth and non-violence were interchangeable entities beyond cultural borders and mental ghettos for Gandhi.

Gandhi’s Relevance in Global Politics

  1. According to Gandhi, non-violence in international politics was a matter of non-violent organization of the world bringing peace and inter-connectedness among cultures and civilizations.
  2. Gandhi was always concerned with cooperation among nations in terms of mutual understanding, empathetic friendship and non-violent partnership.

Cultural Harmony and Peaceful Co-existence

  1. The heart of Gandhi’s ethics of inter-connectedness and mutuality was to look within oneself, change oneself and then change the world.
  2. That is to say, at a more fundamental level, for Gandhi, cultures and nations were not isolated entities, because they all played a special role in the making of human history.
  3. Therefore, Gandhi rarely spoke in terms of a linear world history. His goal for every culture (including his own) was the same as his goal for every individual: to find the truth and establish peace.
  4. This was a way for him to open up the world to a harmonic exchange and a transformative dialogue among nations.
  5. Therefore, at a more philosophical level, Gandhi believed that every culture should learn from others.

Democratization of Cultural Pluralism

  1. Gandhi’s conception of “enlarged pluralism” took on the task of fostering togetherness and solidarity among cultures and traditions.
  2. It was in the interest of democratizing modernity and bringing about a more just global order.

Global success of Satyagraha

  1. Satyagraha turned into a global instrument of non-violent dissent against authoritarianism and a pragmatic tool of the powerless against the powerful.
  2. There have been several successful experiences of Satyagraha in the past 50 years.
  3. Many of Gandhi’s followers successfully launched their own Satyagraha against racial, religious and economic injustice and struggled for human rights.
  4. One could mention names like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Benigno Aquino, Jr. and many others.

[I] Defying Religion and Ethnicity: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

  1. Gandhian non-violence was already invoked during his lifetime by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the “Frontier Gandhi”.
  2. Few people know about Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan as a Muslim proponent of non-violence, who stressed the compatibility of Islam and Satyagraha.
  3. The recent history of non-violent action around the world has shown us clearly that Satyagraha is a seed that can grow and flourish in other cultures and religions rather than only in the Hindu society.

 [II] Defying Racism: Martin Luther King, Jr

  1. Often labelled as the “American Gandhi”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence for the effectiveness of his own campaigns in areas such as integration and voting rights.
  2. He embraced Gandhi’s Satyagraha as a method of struggle for the emancipation of blacks in the US.
  3. Non-violent action was related to a permanent struggle in human nature between good and evil as per King.
  4. King adopted two principal tactics of non-cooperation and civil disobedience against racist laws in the US.
  5. For him, the practical consequence of the belief in Gandhian Satyagraha was an active application of the two concepts of love and community in terms of the concrete realities of black experience in America.

[III] Democratic Deliberations and Civic Participation: Nelson Mandela

  1. The Gandhian experience of non-violent action found its most authentic exemplification in the African continent with Nelson Mandela.
  2. Undoubtedly, Mandela’s imprint and influence on our world and times as a non-violent leader remain as powerful as that of Gandhi.
  3. His release after having served twenty-seven years in prison was celebrated as the triumph of empathetic truth and non-violence over injustice and repression.
  4. By practicing Gandhian non-violence in South African politics, Mandela became one of the key models for global Gandhism in the 21st century.

Mandela: the unparalleled Gandhi

  1. Mandel opined that in order to make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes your partner.
  2. This is the clue to Mandela’s Gandhian moment, which puzzled thoughts in the black and in the white communities within South Africa
  3. Mandela strengthened the institutional bases of the Gandhian moment by engaging his moral capital in the direction of civic participation and democratic deliberation in South Africa.

[IV] Against Autocratic State: Arab Spring

  1. In the past 30 years, the world witnessed non-violent campaigns and movements in places such as Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Myanmar, Iran, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, and Tunisia.
  2. The non-violent democratic awakenings in West Asia from 2009 to 2012 demonstrated once again that Gandhian non-violence could help to provide the disobedient space that is needed.
  3. What united Tunisian and Egyptian citizens in their democratic uprisings was freedom from interference and a struggle against the concentration of arbitrary power.
  4. Their freedom meant putting an end to the unjust accumulation of power and to demand their governments to be based on public accountability and popular sovereignty.
  5. Though these non-violent social movements were not homogeneous, they provided the West Asian societies with a new Gandhian tool of struggle beyond the rule of political parties.


  1. In many countries, non-violent civic pressure has been used to fight colonialism and foreign occupation, advance women’s and minority rights, and improve transparency and good governance.
  2. Gandhian non-violence has been instrumental in political transitions from authoritarian or oppressive rule for many decades.
  3. Indeed, non-violent revolutions, characterized by civil society organization, mass mobilization, and negotiation, have revolutionized the very concept of revolution.
  4. Long gone are the days when the very concept of revolution was synonymous with violent struggle from below and armed efforts at state capture or overthrow.
Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

UPI to facilitate interoperability among prepaid payment instrumentsPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources, Banking

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Benefits of using prepaid payment instruments


RBI to allow interoperability of payments

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has released the guidelines for interoperability between prepaid payment instruments (PPIs) such as wallets and cards.
  2. This will effectively allow users of popular payment wallets such as Paytm, Freecharge, Mobikwik, PhonePe and PayZapp to transfer money from one wallet to another.
  3. These wallets could implement interoperability through the Unified Payment Interface (UPI).

PPI’s to issue cards

  1. The RBI has allowed PPIs to issue cards using authorised card networks such as Mastercard, Visa or Rupay.
  2. PPI issuers shall adhere to all the requirements of card networks/UPI, including membership type and criteria, merchant on-boarding.
  3. It has mandated for adherence to various standards, rules and regulations applicable to the specific payment system such as technical requirements, certifications and audit requirements, governance, etc.

Benefits of the move

  1. The RBI guidelines while boosting the e-wallet segment, would also ensure the safety and accuracy of the transfer of money by individuals from one wallet to another.
  2. The transaction from one e-wallet app to another need to be speedy and accurate for the interoperability to be effective and efficient.
  3. It is a progressive move for non-bank players and would lay the foundation to reach the under-banked and unbanked segment with a powerful payment product.
Indian Navy Updates

Indian Navy acquires deep submarine rescue capabilitiesPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DSRV

Mains level: Modernising Indian Navy



  1. Enhancing its operational capabilities, Indian Navy has inducted its first deep submergence rescue vehicle.
  2. It can be deployed to rescue downed or disaster-struck submarines at high sea.

Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV)

  1. DSRVs are used for rescue of personnel in downed submarines.
  2. They are also deployed for various other missions including to lay cables on the sea bed.
  3. Some DSRV vessels are air transportable in very large military cargo.
  4. The DSRV which was inducted can be mobilized from the naval base in Mumbai to nearest mounting port by air, land and sea.
  5. The second DSRV is expected to be inducted at Visakhapatnam in 2019.

Importance of DSRV Deployment

  1. With induction of the DSRV, India has joined a select group of countries that have the capability to locate and rescue distressed submarines.
  2. At present, the US, China, Russia and a few other countries have the capabilities to deploy DSRVs.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

[op-ed snap] From food security to nutrition securityop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Public Distribution System – objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks & food security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biofortification, HarvestPlus programme

Mains level: Need for nutritional security in India


World food day

  1. October 16 is observed as the World Food Day to mark the creation of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1945
  2. The world body envisions a “zero hunger world” by 2030
  3. It’s important to understand the role of science and technology in ushering the Green Revolution, which ensured food security in India
  4. Today, similar innovations in biotechnology hold the promise to provide nutrition security

Impact of Green Revolution

  1. While the country’s population has grown by more than four times, from 330 million in 1947 to 1.35 billion in 2018, India’s wheat production has increased by over 15 times in roughly the same period — from about 6.5 MMT in 1950-51 to 99.7 MMT in 2017-18
  2. India contributes about 13 per cent of the world wheat production, next only to China whose share is about 17 per cent
  3. Rice production has shot up by about 5.5 times — from 20.6 MMT in 1950-51 to 112.9 MMT in 2017-18
  4. India has a 23 per cent share in world rice production, next only to China whose share is about 29 per cent
  5. India is also the largest exporter of rice in the world

Challenge of nutritional security

  1. Notwithstanding its foodgrain surpluses, the country faces a complex challenge of nutritional security
  2. FAO’s recent publication, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018 estimates that about 15 per cent of the Indian population is undernourished
  3. More than 38 per cent of Indian children aged below five years are stunted and 21 per cent suffer from wasting

Factors behind malnutirition

  1. Poor diet
  2. Unsafe drinking water
  3. Poor hygiene and sanitation
  4. Low levels of immunisation and education, especially that of women

Solutions for reducing malnutrition

  1. Latest innovations in biotechnology that fortify major staples with micronutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron can be game changers
  2. Globally, the HarvestPlus programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is doing a lot of work in this direction
  3. In India, the group has released the iron-rich pearl millet
  4. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has independently released zinc and iron-rich wheat, rice, and pearl millet in 2016-17
  5. This could possibly lead to the next breakthrough in staples, making them more nutritious

Way forward

  1. This seems to be the beginning of a new journey, from food security to nutritional security
  2. Innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies
  3. This would require increasing expenditure on agri-R&D and incentivising farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets
Land Reforms

The land challenge underlying India’s farm crisisPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stats mentioned in the newscard about land holdings

Mains level: Analysing the challenges for “Doubling Farmers Income”


Lack of Land

  1. From farm subsidies to farm loan waivers, the Indian government spends crores on farmer welfare, but these efforts will be inadequate unless they can tackle an increasingly daunting barrier: lack of land.
  2. The provisional figures from the latest agriculture census reveals how land—the most critical input for agriculture is getting more fragmented.

Declining Land Holdings in India

  1. Since the first agriculture census over 45 years ago, the number of farms in India has more than doubled from 71 million in 1970-71 to 145 million in 2015-16,
  2. However the average farm size more than halved from 2.28 hectares (ha) to 1.08ha.

  • Smaller, more numerous farms have been driven by rural population growth.
  • This relationship is a reflection of India’s inheritance pattern, which leads to farms divided between multiple heirs.
  • Between 1970-71 and 2010-11, the number of farms increased by 194%, almost exactly in line with rural population, which increased by 189%.

Regional Variations in Land Holding

  1. Within India though, there is significant variation in farm sizes. With an average size of 5ha, Nagaland is home to India’s largest farms.
  2. Punjab and Haryana, two states known for their agricultural output, also have larger farm sizes (3.6ha in Punjab and 2.2ha in Haryana).

  • The majority of India’s farms (86%) are less than 2ha. The bulk of which are located in the poorer states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Paradox of better Cultivation

  1. The Indian experience shows that small farmers are more productive than large farmers.
  2. Small farmers use more inputs (such as fertilizers), use their land more intensely (planting more crops) and adopt more technology.
  3. Yet, despite this efficiency, farm incomes remain poor.
  4. It is the poor returns to farming—despite intensive efforts put in by farmers—that lie at the root of India’s farm crisis, and the recent farm angst.

Income- Farm size Proportionality

  1. Given household sizes in rural India, small farms struggle to generate enough income for everyone in a household and often lack alternative sources of income.
  2. A 2016 study which uses the NSSO 2003 and 2013 surveys of farmers to show how farm size is an important determinant of income.
  3. It found that in 2013, for marginal farmers(less than a hectare of land), household consumption exceeded net monthly income of less than ₹ 5,500 from both farming and non-farming activities.

  • Using the 2015-16 census data, this would mean nearly 100 million farming households would struggle to make ends meet.
  • Examining farmer incomes between 2003 and 2013, they find that incomes grew the least for marginal farmers and growth of incomes was proportional to the size of a farm.

Land Consolidation: Is it a Feasible Solution?

  1. One obvious solution to small farm sizes will be consolidating land into larger farms by enabling land leasing.
  2. However, this can be a complex and costly process, made more difficult by the lack of accurate land records.
  3. As a report by PRS Legislative Research has highlighted, land records in India are poorly maintained and do not reflect ground realities.
  4. It pointed out that, despite most states computerizing and digitizing land records, as of 2017, spatial data had only been verified in 39% of villages.
  5. This is particularly problematic for small farmers who, without accurate land records, cannot access credit or secure insurance.
  6. Economists agree that improving land records, investing in research and development, providing local rural non-farm employment opportunities and building better rural infrastructure are policies that can help small farmers.

Way Forward

  1. India’s farmers are not alone in these struggles.
  2. A 2016 study estimated that around 84% of the world’s farms are less than 2ha.
  3. While many of these small farms face the same challenges, some small farmers, such as those in China, have been more successful in securing sustainable livelihoods.
  4. In all such light, doubling farmer’s incomes is a reality only for the largest land-owning group.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India, China join hands to train Afghan diplomatsPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level:  India-China convergence of opinions over Afghanistan.



  1. India and China has jointly launched a training programme for Afghan diplomats in New Delhi.
  2. The move implies the India-China cooperation going more regional.

Increasing Chinese Footprints

  1. Chinese envoy has suggested extending cooperation to other countries such as Iran, Nepal and Myanmar.
  2. India has been concerned by what it sees as China’s increasing footprint on India’s traditional sphere of influence in South Asia viz. Nepal, Maldives etc.
  3. New Delhi has opposed suggestions by countries such as the Maldives and Nepal to include China in SAARC.

Sustained efforts post Doklam Standoff

  1. That meet was aimed at a reset in ties after the 73-day military standoff between the two countries on Bhutan’s Doklam plateau last year.
  2. The joint cooperation for Afghanistan is seen as a step to reduce tensions between the neighbours whose ties are mired in mutual suspicion because of an unsettled border dispute.
  3. This marks the beginning of a long term trilateral partnership for the benefit of Afghanistan.

Significance of the Initiative

  1. The joint efforts reflect closer coordination and cooperation between our two countries on regional affairs and represent a positive development in China-India relations.
  2. It is a testament to the joint aspiration and endeavour to contribute to regional peace and stability.
  3. India and China share similar views on the war- torn country, including the need to support an Afghan-led and -owned peace and reconciliation process and fight terrorism.
Air Pollution

Emergency Action Plan for Delhi to kick inPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various measures at different AQIs

Mains level: Measures undertaken to curb air pollution in the national capital.



  1. Burning of paddy straw every year during October and November and wheat straw during April in Punjab and Haryana are the major contributors of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, as the smoke travels towards the Capital.
  2. Satellite images from the NASA showed rampant stubble burning activity in Punjab and Haryana.
  3. NASA has stated that burning of crop residue in Punjab and Haryana has increased significantly over the past 10 days in and near Amritsar, Ambala, Karnal, Sirsa and Hisar.

Measure to counter Deteriorating Air Quality

  1. An emergency action plan will be implemented to combat air pollution that has begun to show a trend towards very poor category, a/c to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  2. Under the emergency plan called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), stringent actions are implemented based on the air quality of the city.

GRAP measures based on air quality

[I]  Moderate to Poor category ( AQI: 101-300): 

  • Stopping garbage burning in landfills and other places, and enforcing all pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries would be implemented.

[II] Very Poor category ( AQI: 301-400 ):

  • Stopping use of diesel generator sets, enhancing parking fees 3-4 times and increasing frequency of metro and buses would be implemented.

[III] Severe category ( AQI: 401-500):

  • increasing frequency of mechanized cleaning of roads, sprinkling of water on roads and identifying road stretches with high dust generation.

[IV] Severe Plus Emergency category (AQI above 500):

  •  Stopping entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities), stopping construction activities and appointment of task force to take decision on any additional steps, including shutting of schools will be implemented.


Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  1. The plan was prepared by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
  2. The job of ensuring implementation of the action plan will be EPCA’s under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments.
  3. The plan puts governments under the lens and holds out the promise of improvement in air quality.
  4. The plan lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants, in this case particulate matter, reaches a certain level.
  5. It suggests various measures to be undertaken at different AQIs.
  6. The graded action plan will be implemented if PM2.5 levels stay over 300 micrograms per cubic metre and PM10 levels stay above 500 micrograms per cubic metre.