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(The Gist of PIB) 4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) 4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit [MARCH-2019]

4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit

  • The Global Digital Health Partnership is an international collaboration of governments, government agencies and multinational organisations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their citizens through the best use of evidencebased digital technologies.
  • The summit will provide an opportunity to support governments and health system reformers to improve the health and well-being of their citizens through digital technologies.

Key highlights

  • o Speaking on the occasion, the Health Minister said that Government took Digital health to the world stage by introducing and adopting the World Health Assembly Resolution on Digital Health in Geneva.
  • o He also expressed hope for tangible outcomes on digital health through this Summit, impacting health care delivery models across the world.
  • o The Minister added, the entire healthcare system in India and the world is undergoing a rapid transformation.
  • o Digital Health has great potential towards improvement of delivery of healthcare services.
  • o Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad highlighted various initiatives by the government for use of technology innovations towards digital healthcare.
  • o He said that India is committed to reaching the last man in the line through digital health interventions and digital inclusion. o Health Ministry is in the process of establishing an Integrated Health Information Platform for interoperability amongst various health IT systems and a pan-India exchange of Electronic Health Records of citizens ensuring privacy, security, and confidentiality of data.

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(The Gist of PIB) Rail Drishti Dashboard [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Rail Drishti Dashboard [MARCH-2019]

Rail Drishti Dashboard

  • The government has launched Rail Drishti dashboard, encompassing all the digitisation efforts in Indian Railways and promoting transparency and accountability.
  • The dashboard brings information from various sources on a single platform and gives access to key statistics and parameters to every citizen of the country.
  • It contains information related to passenger and freight trains and links to live feeds of IRCTC kitchens.

Key highlights

  • The available information has been categorized under 15 sections on the Dashboard.
  • AT A GLANCE: Gives information on 4 main parameters of Indian Railways. This includes Passenger Reservation, Unreserved Ticketing, Freight Earnings and Freight Loading. The parameters of each element for different periods are displayed. Information on any station on Indian Railways can be viewed in this tab.
  • SERVICES: Passengers can view and avail the status of any digital service offered. Rail Drishti consists of 6 services, namely, PNR enquiry, ODC application enquiry, Complaint Enquiry, Tender Enquiry, Shramik Enquiry and Freight related enquiries. For citizen’s convenience links to eight important railway websites are available here.
  • TRAINS ON RUN: Passengers can now track any train on the Indian Railways Network. Passengers will also be able to get information about the train as well as the contact number of the housekeeping staff. Filters are available to view specific trains.
  • IRCTC KITCHENS: The Dashboard provides a facility to view live feeds from the cameras installed in various IRCTC base kitchens. Passengers can now view how the food being served to them in trains is being cooked and packed.
  • GRIEVANCES: This section shows status of Grievances reported via Complaint Management System (COMS). It displays the number of grievances resolved and pending. Zone wise and Division wise breakup as well as complaint type wise breakup can be viewed via the Dashboard.
  • ACHIEVEMENTS: Achievements of Indian Railways as a whole and achievements of Railways in various states can be viewed via the dashboard.
  • STATION IMAGES: The tab monitors the progress of some of the major initiatives launched to improve passenger experience on the Indian Railways network. It displays the images of various areas across the network before and after the work has been completed.
  • HERITAGE: The tab showcases the cultural aspect of travel on Indian Railways. There are 4 main sections in this tab, this includes, rail heritage, memorable journeys, 360 degree virtual tours of routes, trains, saloons, and the IRCTC tourism desk which provides important information and tourist services.
  • SHRAMIK KALYAN: This section provides information about the unorganized sector working with Railway contractors. The amount of wages distributed to the casual workers is available on the dashboard. The same can be seen department wise and zone wise for various time periods. This is an attempt to ensure that the laborers in the unorganized sector are paid their dues.
  • BILLS: Bills required to be paid by Indian Railways to suppliers and their duration wise pendency can be viewed on the dashboard.
  • FREIGHT EARNINGS: This section shows earnings of Freight across the Indian Railways Network. Earnings can be viewed for a day, for a week, for a month and for a year along with the zones and commodity wise breakup. Performance of nine major freight commodities has been made available.
  • FREIGHT LOADING/UNLOADING: Number of rakes and quantity of freight loaded and unloaded in a day, in a week, in a month and in a year along with their zones and commodity wise breakup is provided. Performance of nine major freight commodities has been made available.
  • PASSENGER EARNINGS: This section shows earnings of Passenger Reservations and Unreserved Ticketing. Number of passengers, tickets, and earnings can be viewed. Further, in
    Unreserved Ticketing the performance of suburban, nonsuburban, and mobile bookings can be viewed by the Indian Railways can be viewed.y, during last 7 days, during the month .
  • EXPENDITURE: Details of the expenditure and worand for the year.
  • SUGAM – Figures of four different periods are displayed – performance during the day The Freight App: This tab give access to Indian Railways freight business information. It helps customers keep track of their consignment. It provides information on various terminals and associated nodal officers, indents status, prevailing freight rates, rake allocation plans, restrictions applicable etc. Freight performance and other statististics are also available on the tab.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (NRIs to Pay Tax (Mint))

NRIs to Pay Tax (Mint)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Income Tax Act
Mains level: Proposed amendment in Income Tax Act


  • An amendment is proposed to the Income Tax Act in the Finance Bill or the Union Budget 2020.
  • It says that all Indians who are working abroad and not paying any income tax in those countries would be liable to pay tax in India.

What is the response?

  • Kerala Chief Minister wrote to Prime Minister recording his government’s disagreement with the provision.
  • He said that the proposal would hurt those who toil and bring foreign exchange to the country.

What is the existing law?

  • Two parameters determine whether India levies income tax on an individual.
  • Residential status: In India, residency requires a person to actually live in the country for a specified number of days in a year.
  • The Source of the Income: It is the country where the income is being generated.
  • For a resident Indian citizen, the income tax law applies to that person’s worldwide income and such a resident Indian is required to pay tax on all of it.
  • But for a non-resident Indian, the income tax law applies only to the income earned from within India.
  • This difference between residents being taxed on their global income and non-residents being charged only on their Indian income lies at the heart of the confusion.

What is the amendment proposed by the government?

  • The proposed amendment to the IT Act has three parts.
  • Number of Days: The number of days that an Indian citizen can stay in India without becoming a resident is cut from 182 to 120.
  • The Memorandum to the Budget said this provision was being misused.
  • NOR category: The Memorandum has carved out the “Not Ordinarily Resident (NOR)” category.
  • This status ensures that an individual who isn’t ordinarily a resident isn’t taxed as a resident, just because he spends more than specified number of days in India during a particular year.
  • The amendment states that an NOR would be someone who has not been a resident of India for seven of the past 10 years.
  • Under the existing law, it is nine out of the past 10 years.
  • The Confusion - This amendment said that an Indian citizen who isn’t liable to tax in any other country or territory shall be deemed to be resident in India.

Arising problem with this:

  • The amendment tries to tax non-residents as residents.
  • This led to panic because, in the absence of clarifications, all non-residents working in tax-free jurisdictions concluded that all their income in there will now attract the Indian income tax rate.
  • Apart from the likely harassment, this undermined the whole point of people leaving their homes in India to work in tax-free jurisdictions.

Way ahead:

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (Bidar Sedition Case (Indian Express))

Bidar Sedition Case (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Section124A of the Indian Penal Code
Mains level: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure


  • Police are pursuing a complaint about a play performed by children of the age 9 to 12 of a private school in Bidar district of Karnataka.
  • This case is an instance of the misuse of the sedition provision under Section124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Sedition law:

  • Section 124A of the IPC which was included in 1870 deals with sedition.
  • It states that whoever brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished.
  • The punishment varies from imprisonment up to 3 years to a life term and fine. Sedition is a non-bailable offence.

What were the actions taken?

  • The police have taken action for an allegedly seditious play against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • A teacher who supervised the performance and the parent of a child who added words to the script of the play were arrested.
  • The primary school children are subjected to sustained harassment with utter disregard for child-friendly legislations.
  • These actions are clear case of misuse of the power to arrest, as it is merely a verbal offence and doesn’t require custodial interrogation.
  • The police have deemed the opposition to the amendment act as something against the state.

The observed trend:

  • A Supreme Court Bench observed that words such as ‘anti-national’ and ‘sedition’ were being bandied about loosely these days.
  • The incident in Bidar serves as an example of this trend.
  • This incident also confirms that the law is often used to silence political comment on matters deemed sensitive by the rulers.

How Sedition should be invoked?

  • The Sedition has been invoked to portray political dissent as promotion of disaffection.
  • But, it can’t be invoked without the essential ingredients for invoking the section, namely, an imminent threat to public order and incitement to take up arms or resort to violence.
  • This is a fact that is being forgotten often.
  • The section itself has an explanation that nothing that seeks to get the government to change its policy by lawful means is sedition.

Way ahead:

  • The police system believes that everyone who is suspected of committing an offence is to be arrested
  • This belief is something that needs to be changed.
  • To conduct the rules to punish the police personnel who violate the constitutional guarantees of free speech and personal liberty in an arbitrary way should be strengthened.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (Welcome Ambition on Defence Production (Indian Express))

Welcome Ambition on Defence Production (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Defense and Security
Prelims level: Defence Expo 2020
Mains level: Indigenization of technology and developing new technology in defense sector


  • The ambition to export defence kits worth Rs 35,000 crore annually in five years, declared by PM Narendra Modi at the launch of Defence Expo 2020 in Lucknow.

Upgrading the defense equipments:

  • The vast bulk of our hi-tech military hardware such as aircraft, ships, submarines and missiles are all imported, mostly from Russia, the US, European countries, and Israel.
  • India clearly needs to purposefully leverage domestic resources and skills to boost defence hardware manufactures here.
  • As a rising and stabilising global power, India cannot afford to lag behind in military technology. An innovative military industrial complex would have gainful technical, managerial and economic spillovers across the board.
  • Besides, Make-in-India for dependable defence equipment is required to nip in the bud opacity and allegations of large-scale corruption in sourcing; it is also most vital for reasons of national security.
  • Political commitment to the task must be supported by the armed forces, with clear specification of their functional requirements, something on which they have not always excelled.

Way forward:

  • The way forward is to seek joint ventures, collaboration and tie-ups with foreign vendors to step up domestic production of military hardware, and more.
  • There is the pressing need to incentivise defence research and development spending, including by the private sector, to shore up capability for design, production and systems integration.
  • The government has a rudimentary plan for an ecosystem for defence startups to fast-forward innovation.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (About Choice and Eugenics (The Hindu))

About Choice and Eugenics (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Medical Termination of Pregnancy
Mains level: Significance of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy bill 2020


  • The Union Cabinet’s approval of the amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Bill 2020 was reported on January 29.
  • This amendment was long due and has made some anticipated changes demanded by women’s groups and courts, including the Supreme Court.
  • The Act is not yet available in the public domain and the rules and procedures around it are yet to be formulated.
  • The information available in the public domain, though, raises some issues.

Why MTP Bill is significant?

  • Abortion (unsafe) accounts for almost 10 per cent of maternal deaths in India.
  • The amended Act doesn’t have any new substantial provisions to avoid unsafe abortions.
  • The right to safe abortion (at least till 12 weeks, when it is safer) would have made state responsible to provide safe abortion services.
  • The proposed amendments will definitely reduce the burden on the judiciary, especially given the plethora of cases seeking permission for abortion beyond the prescribed duration of 20 weeks.

Types of court cases:

  • The court cases are broadly of two types.

First type:

  • The first are pregnancies that extend beyond 20 weeks of gestation as a result of rape, incest or of minor women.
  • The new Act rightly addresses these by extending prescribed period abortion to 24 weeks.
  • However, such cases form a minuscule proportion of the total number.
  • For such cases, even the 24-week cap can be done away with, provided the abortions can be safely done.

Second type:

  • The second group of cases are of pregnancies that become unwanted after congenital foetal anomalies are found upon testing.
  • These foetal anomalies would involve some which are compatible with life and some which are incompatible with life.
  • With advancements in prenatal foetal screening/diagnostic technologies, more such cases are knocking at the doors of courts.
  • The most widely used non-invasive diagnostic test for this purpose is Ultrasonography (USG).
  • Currently, USG is used to detect different congenital anomalies at different stages: First at 11-13.6 weeks and then at17-20 weeks.
  • Anomalies detected at 17-20 weeks provide only a marginal interval to conduct an abortion under the current Act.
  • The extension to 24 weeks seems to give cover to these cases for abortion services, reducing the burden on courts.

Opened up the ground for abortion:

  • The amendments have opened up the possibility for any congenital anomaly to be used as grounds for abortion.
  • Anomalies which are incompatible with life provide grounds for access to abortion at any time during a pregnancy — not just 24 weeks of gestation — as long as the woman desires it and it doesn’t endanger her health.
  • But with advancements in diagnostic technologies more anomalies will be detected, including those which are compatible with life.
  • What constitutes an anomaly changes depending on what is considered socially desirable .
  • Technology-aided detection of “undesirability” could now find social support, as has been the case with female foetuses.
  • This raises concerns that raising children with disability, especially in the absence of state support and poor social attitudes, could go down a similar path.
  • Abortion beyond 12 weeks carries serious health risks and requires the expert opinion of two registered medical practitioners under the current Act.
  • This requirement has been delayed till 20 weeks, though the physiology of pregnancy and risks associated with procedures for second trimester abortions haven’t changed significantly.
  • Without the strengthening of public services, easing second trimester abortions between 12-20 weeks opens the possibilities of more complications and endangers life of the woman.


  • With congenital anomalies as a ground for abortion, the eugenic mindset of having socially desirable children could push more women into risky late abortions.
  • The approach of medical boards advising courts in cases of late abortions under this Act will be critical to balancing women’s right to choose with risk to the woman and the motives for abortion.
  • The rules framed under the Act must address this in no uncertain terms.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (Fashioning the framework of a New India (The Hindu) )

Fashioning the framework of a New India (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: GDP growth
Mains level: Requirement of inclusive growth in Indian economy


  • The Indian economy is going through a severe crisis: a slowdown as well as a structural crisis.

Situation in the sectors of the economy:

  • The rate of growth of the national GDP has declined to 5.0%.
  • The construction sector, one of the fastest growing sectors so far, is growing at 3.3% this year;
  • The agriculture is growing at 2.1% while the auto sector is declining continuously in absolute terms.
  • The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector too has declined, in turn raising the burden of non-performing assets of the banking sector as well as non-banking financial institutions.
  • Also, exports have been declining in recent years, raising the crisis of current account deficit.
  • Credit from banking and non-banking sectors has been declining in the last few years;
  • The Financial Stability Report of the Reserve Bank of India (2019) says that it is unlikely to increase in the next nine months.

Impacting the poor:

  • These developments have had an adverse impact on the bottom 30%-40% of the population.
  • The incidence of absolute poverty, which has been falling since 1972-73, has increased to 30% (4% jump).
  • As the Human Development Report (2019) has shown, more than 44% of the Indian population is under the multi-dimensional poverty line.
  • The poorest 50% population at present owns only 4.1% of the national wealth, while the richest 10% people own 73% of the total wealth in India (Suisse Credit 2019).
  • India has 15.2% population malnourished (women 15%) as against 9.3% in China. And 50% of the malnourished children in the world are in India.
  • India’s global hunger rank has gone up to 112 while Brazil is 18, China is 25 and South Africa, 59.
  • In the field of education as per a UN report (2015), overall literacy in India is 74.04% (more than the 25% are totally illiterate) against 94.3% in South Africa, 96.6% in China and 92.6% in Brazil.
  • Almost 40-45% population is either illiterate or has studied up to standard 4.
  • Given the quality of education in India, the overall population is very poorly educated, with the share of ‘educated unemployment’ rising by leaps and bounds.
  • It needs to be realised that when exports are declining, the economy will have to depend on domestic demand for growth.
  • It is no more feasible for the top 20-25% population to continue growing without depending on the demand from the bottom 40-45% population.
  • There is thus a strong reason now for the economy to increase effective demand of this bottom 40-45% population at least to continue growing — to reach a $5-trillion economy by 2024.

Sub-optimal use of labour:

  • A major reason for the crisis is that the growth process has marginalised the bottom 40-plus% of the population in the sense that they do not get a fair share of the economic growth, and are more or less deprived of productive employment with a decent income.
  • Though the bottom population depends on the government for basic health and elementary education (and also for access to higher educational opportunities), the government spends just 1.4% of GDP on health (against the norm of 4-6% of GDP) and 3% of GDP on education (against the norm of 6-8% of GDP).
  • As a result, these people are left hardly literate and sick, with poor nutrition and high morbidity.
  • They are incapable of acquiring any meaningful skills or participating actively when new technology is spreading in the rest of the economy.
  • This sub-optimal use of the labour force in the economy is not likely to enable India to achieve optimal growth with proper use of the national resources — the labour force.

All-encompassing growth:

  • One important lesson for policymakers is this: a major solution to the present crisis is to go in for inclusive growth.
  • Here, inclusive growth does not mean only including all sections of the population in the growth process as producers and beneficiaries; it also means “shared prosperity”.
  • Since India has already committed to sustainable and inclusive growth at the UN General Assembly, India is definitely obliged to implement inclusive growth.
  • This should be our “New India”.

Key requirement for the New India:

  • To start with, to improve the capabilities of the masses as well as their well-being by expanding productive employment opportunities for them.
  • The main steps to expand productive employment for all in the economy should be made up of: a process of inclusion — expanding quality of basic health for all and ensuring quality education to all, which will by itself generate large-scale employment in the government.
  • To having a well-educated and healthy labour force will ensure high employability; such people will be able to participate actively in the development process.
  • Having a well-educated labour force will help start-ups and MSMEs, in turn triggering a cycle of more productive employment in the economy.

Improving global competitiveness:

  • This will also improve the global competitiveness of our production units.
  • Employment guarantee schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will also increase employment.
  • Following the economic logic of R. Nurkse and A.O. Hirschman, assets generated under MGNREGA will expand capital formation in the economy, thereby raising the labour-absorbing capacity of the mainstream economy.

Advantages of this strategy:

  • It will raise incomes and the well-being of those who need it most urgently.
  • It will raise effective demand rapidly, which is so badly needed in the economy today to raise economic growth.
  • The growth will be equitable and sustainable.

Important implications for the Union Budget:

  • There is a need to raise expenditure on health to at least 5% of GDP and expenditure on education to at least 6% of GDP;
  • To push up infrastructural development to enhance capabilities and opportunities of the masses and not just to promote corporate units;
  • To promote agriculture by raising investment in agriculture and not just cash transfer that because, cash transfer provides relief to them no doubt, and does not raise productivity of agriculture which needs large public investment.
  • To facilitate credit flow particularly continuous working capital, to labour intensive sectors.
  • Unfortunately, these steps are missing in the recent national Budget.

Public investments

  • One major strategy is to raise direct taxes, both capital tax and wealth tax.
  • Our experience in the past has shown by following crony capitalism, i.e. providing tax cuts and extra incentives and concessions to the corporate sector, exports increased and also our national GDP no doubt.
  • But this growth does not much percolate to the poor.
  • This is because during the growth process due to special treatment to corporate sector, the political economy radically changed in favour of the rich who are never willing to be taxed to raise government revenue to a level that it is enough to promote the capabilities and the well-being of the marginalised and the excluded.

Way forward:

  • Taxing the rich has to be a major strategy to raise government revenue.
  • If the public expenditure on raising capabilities is treated as social investment rather than social welfare, policymakers will be willing to spend on this capital formation.
  • There was no sound economic reason to control fiscal deficit ratio. Sound macroeconomics never supports this.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 February 2020 (Purifying water: On draft notification on RO systems (The Hindu))

Purifying water: On draft notification on RO systems (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Total dissolved solids in water
Mains level: Describe the major highlights of the draft notification on RO systems


  • The Environment Ministry’s draft notification to regulate the use of membrane-based water purification systems primarily concerns the manufacturers of reverse osmosis (RO) water filters but effectively bars domestic users from installing RO systems.

Highlights the proposal:

  • The notification is the culmination of a legal dispute before the National Green Tribunal, which had banned RO water filter use in Delhi as the purification process wastes water.
  • The association of water filter manufacturers challenged this order and the litigation led to this pan-India notification, where the intent is to conserve water and cut waste.
  • In RO, the total dissolved solids (TDS) in water — which covers trace chemicals, certain viruses, bacteria and salts — can be reduced, to meet potable water standards.

Why banning RO water filters?

  • Home filters waste nearly 80% of the water during treatment.
  • Some research has shown that the process can cut the levels of calcium and magnesium, which are vital nutrients. \
  • The resort to prohibition (to restrict home filters) may cause consumer apprehension but it is unlikely that they will be taken to task for using such water filters.

Implications from Bureau of Indian Standards:

  • The notification implies, these filters are only prohibited if the home gets water supply that conforms to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for Drinking Water.
  • Although several State and city water boards claim BIS standards, the water at homes falls short of the test parameters.
  • The BIS, last year, ranked several cities on official water supply quality.
  • Delhi was last and only Mumbai met all the standards.
  • In the 28 test parameters, Delhi failed 19, Chennai 9, and Kolkata 10.
  • The BIS norms are voluntary for public agencies which supply piped water but are mandatory for bottled water producers.

Challenges towards good water supplying:

  • Moreover, most of the country does not have the luxury of piped water.
  • The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of NITI Aayog says that 70% of water supply is contaminated.
  • India is ranked 120th among 122 countries in an NGO, WaterAid’s quality index.
  • The case for restricting people’s choices on the means they employ to ensure potable water is thus weak.
  • The notification mainly deals with rules for commercial suppliers and for integration of systems that inform consumers about TDS levels — a major determinant of water quality.
  • This is envisaged both before water enters filtration systems and after it has been filtered.

Way forward:

  • The aim is also to ensure that after 2022, no more than 25% of water being treated is wasted, and for residential complexes to reuse the residual waste water for other activities, including gardening.
  • When implemented, the notification’s primary aim should be to persuade authorities to upgrade and supply BIS-standard water at the consumer’s end.
  • This should be done without additional costs, particularly on millions who now lack access to protected supply.

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(The Gist of PIB) Exercise Sampriti – 2019 [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Exercise Sampriti – 2019 [MARCH-2019]

Exercise Sampriti – 2019

  • As part of the ongoing India Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military exercise Sampriti2019 will be conducted at Tangail, Bangladesh from 02 March to 15 March 2019.

Crucial highlights

  • Exercise Sampriti-2019 is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and this will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
  • The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counterinsurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate.
  • In addition to understanding each other in tactical level operations, emphasis will also be laid for greater cultural understanding to strengthen military trust and cooperation between the two nations.

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(The Gist of PIB) Global Leaders Adopt ‘Delhi Declaration’ on Digital Health [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) Global Leaders Adopt ‘Delhi Declaration’ on Digital Health [MARCH-2019]

Global Leaders Adopt ‘Delhi Declaration’ on Digital Health

  • Recently, as part of the high-level summit, the ministers and delegation adopted the Delhi.

Key highlights

  • Declaration on digital health for sustainable development.
  • It was adopted at the concluding session of the ‘4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit’.
  • The declaration calls for World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) leadership in digital health and for it to establish a specific mechanism to centrally coordinate digital health to assist its Member States.
  • An example of application of Digital Health for sustainable development is telemedicine, remote care and mobile health delivering care in people’s homes, instead of in hospitals and clinics.
  • The global intergovernmental meeting on digital health washosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP)

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(The Gist of PIB) SHREYAS Scheme [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) SHREYAS Scheme [MARCH-2019]


  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched the “Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS)”.

Key highlights

  • The objective of scheme is to provide industry apprenticeship opportunities to the general graduates exiting in April 2019 through the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS).
  • It aims to enhance the employability of Indian youth by providing ‘on the job work exposure’ and earning of stipend.
  • The scheme is for students in degree courses, primarily nontechnical, to introduce employable skills into their learning, promote apprenticeship as integral to education.
  • SHREYAS portal will enable educational institutions and industry to log in and provide their respective demand and supply of apprenticeship. The matching of students with apprenticeship avenues will take place as per prespecified eligibility criteria.
  • These courses will be available to them from Academic year AprilMay, 2019. More than 40 higher educational institutions have already been tied up for taking up embedded apprenticeship courses.
  • The scheme would be operationalised by coordination of Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the Ministry of Labour.\

National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)

  • National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) was launched on19th August 2016 to promote apprenticeship training and increase the engagement of apprentices.
  • NAPS has replaced Apprentice Protsahan Yojna (APY).
  • The scheme has the following two components:
  • Reimbursement of 25% of prescribed stipend subject to a maximum of Rs. 1500/- per month per apprentice by the Government of India to all employers who engage apprentices.
  • Reimbursement of cost of basic training ( upto a limit of Rs. 7500/- for a maximum of 500 hours/3 months) by the Government of India to Basic Training Providers (BTPs) in respect of apprentices who come directly for apprenticeship training without any formal training

Objectives of the Scheme

  • To improve employability of students by introducing employment relevance into the learning process of the higher education system
  • To forge a close functional link between education and industry/service sectors on a sustainable basis.
  • To provide skills which are in demand, to the students in a dynamic manner.
  • To establish an ‘earn while you learn’ system into higher education.
  • To help business/industry in securing good quality manpower.
  • To link student community with employment facilitating efforts of the Government.


  • Institutions: The higher education institutions would explain the scheme along with various options to the students who are in the final year, and elicit their interest in participation.
  • Sector Skill Councils (SSCs): SSCs would identify industries for apprenticeship, and would also conduct assessment leading to certification. Whereas the certification is not a guarantee for placement, it is expected to vastly enhance a candidate’s choice of securing employment.

Sector Skill Councils

  • Sector Skill Councils are set up as autonomous industry-led bodies by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which are responsible for the defining the skilling needs, concept, processes, certification, and accreditation of their respective industry sectors in accordance with National Skill Qualification Framework.
  • They create Occupational Standards and Qualification bodies, develop competency framework, conduct Train the Trainer Programs, conduct skill gap studies and Assess and Certify trainees on the curriculum aligned to National Occupational Standards developed by them.
  • Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE): MSDE would not only monitor the programme, progress of the apprentices, but would finance the programme by disbursing the claims from the business enterprises towards stipend reimbursement as per the NAPS.
  • The ongoing efforts of the SSCs would be monitored by MSDE, which would also periodically introduce new SSCs into the SHREYAS fold. The entire programme would progress with dynamic interface & information sharing between MHRD and MSDE.

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(The Gist of PIB) India Urban Observatory and Video Wall [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of PIB) India Urban Observatory and Video Wall [MARCH-2019]

India Urban Observatory and Video Wall

  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the state-ofthe-art India Urban Observatory and Video Wall.

About the Urban Observatory

  • It is a platform that uses data from different sources to enable analysis and visualization over a geospatial platform. Such platforms churn out interesting analyses and visualizations by collating massive datasets.
  • The concept of Urban Observatories was formally initiated at the UN Habitat-II Conference in 1997 in Istanbul.

India Urban Observatory:

  • It is an important component of the recently launched DataSmart Cities strategy that envisions creating a ‘Culture of Data’ in cities, for intelligent use of data in addressing complex urban challenges.
  • It will showcase the insights gained from the Observatory and the various Missions/ offices with the idea to proactively engage with citizens/ visitors in spreading awareness about the various initiatives of the Ministry.
  • It would progressively become the chief data analysis and Management Hub of the Ministry and would enable evidence-based policy formulation, capacity building of ecosystem partners on data-driven governance, foster innovation through development of newer and better use cases thereby enabling solutions at scale and speed.


  • The Data Smart Cities Policy allows cities to open their data to public view, such as number of hospitals, gardens, people, public toilets and other city management. Making cities ‘DataSmart’ is key to realizing the full potential of technology interventions and innovation ecosystems in cities.
  • The Data Smart Cities Strategy also presents a Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF), that measures the readiness and evolution of cities in their efforts to implementing the Data strategy.


  • It is imperative for the empowerment of communities that cities work on using information available through various sources  to improve their functioning, public services, governance systems, achievements and failures in the public domain, thereby, empowering their citizens through the access to information.
  • The future of Governance is datadriven and Indian cities are beginning to adopt this change in their functioning.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 05 February 2020 (Disincentive to save (Indian Express))

Disincentive to save (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Union Budget 2020-21
Mains level: Indication of the union budget with regarding to domestic savings


  • The Union Budget 2020-21 has unveiled an alternate income tax regime hoping that it will increase household disposable income and provide the much needed fillip to consumption.
  • The government has provided taxpayers the option of shifting to the new regime with lower tax rates, provided they forego all their exemptions and deductions.


  • As tax payers tend to take advantage of exemptions and deductions to channel part of their income towards physical and financial savings.
  • This measure, while meant to incentivise consumption in the short run, may end up reducing household savings and thus the domestically available investible surplus in the economy.
  • Considering the fall in the savings rate in the economy, it is surprising that the budget has chosen not to incentivise domestic savings.

Downgrading the savings:

  • In an economy, savings form the pool of investible surplus. In India, the surplus savings of households are absorbed by the government and the private corporate sector.
  • As per the 12th Finance Commission, the total transferable savings of the household sector were around 10 per cent of GDP, which combined with a current account deficit of 1.5 per cent, would be enough to finance the government (Centre and states) fiscal deficit of 6 per cent of GDP, fulfill the funding requirement of the private corporate sector of around 4 per cent, and of non-departmental public enterprises to the tune of 1.5 per cent.
  • Over the past years, household savings in the economy have been falling, as with sluggish income growth, they have been dipped into for financing consumption, and borrowings have also increased.
  • The incremental financial liabilities of households have in fact risen from Rs 3.8 lakh crore to Rs 7.65 lakh crore in 2018-19.
  • Latest data also shows a decline in both gross and net (excluding financial liabilities) household financial savings in 2018-19.

Way forward:

  • It is surprising that the budget chose not to incentivise household savings which could have been used for financing long-term projects.
  • Perhaps the government is hopeful that the decline in domestic savings will be offset by the flow of savings from the rest of the world.
  • The budget has raised the limits for foreign investment, and has offered incentives to sovereign wealth for investing in India.
  • But the focus should have been to create a pool of domestic savings to finance long-term investments in infrastructure, especially at a time when the government has unveiled an ambitious infrastructure pipeline.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 05 February 2020 (India’s dependency on China for pharma bulk drugs must be addressed (The Hindu))

India’s dependency on China for pharma bulk drugs must be addressed (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Active pharmaceutical ingredients
Mains level: Growth in India’s pharma sector


  • As ‘Coronavirus’ or 2019 n-CoV spreads rapidly across the world, it has given rise to apprehensions over whether the epidemic will impact the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from China (the largest producer of APIs) to India and other countries.

Cautions in India’s pharma industry:

  • India’s pharma industry is already worried.
  • It has hinted that a rise in medicine costs cannot be ruled out even as inventories are comfortable for three months.
  • The 2019 n-CoV cannot travel through consignments, as the virus can survive for just four or five days in the open.
  • India imports 68-69 per cent of its API requirements from China, which amounts to $2.4 billion.
  • These imports are used to manufacture key medicines such as paracetamol, metformin, ofloxacin, metronidazole, ampicillin and amoxycillin.
  • Supply disruptions have occurred in the past — during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, for instance, these units were shut down over environmental concerns. A similar cutback took place in 2018.
  • It is noteworthy that these shocks, in fact, boost India’s API exports, which account for about a fourth of the country’s total pharma exports of $20 billion.

Self sufficiency needed in India’s pharma sector:

  • The Centre has rightly acknowledged the need for self-sufficiency in APIs, setting up an ‘inter-departmental’ task force in 2018 to look into the issue.
  • It is another matter that earlier committees have delved into the issue of boosting API output.
  • China’s cost of production is way cheaper than India’s; even so, domestic output must be regarded as a strategic prerogative.
  • It will also enhance India’s negotiating capacity in future trade engagements with China. The public sector may have to take the lead here, while raising existing R&D incentives for the private players.
  • It is unfortunate that the Budget overlooked this aspect.
  • The now-struggling Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd can be roped in for producing essential APIs.
  • Its role in ramping up the production of tetracycline during the 1994 plague epidemic is instructive in this regard.

Way forward:

  • In 2015, the ‘Katoch committee’ put out a set of recommendations on reviving API production, which include reviving PSUs for manufacturing critical drugs such as penicillin and paracetamol.
  • The setting up of mega parks with common effluent treatment plants, testing facilities and captive power plants has been mooted.
  • On the financial side, the panel has suggested setting up a professionally managed equity fund for producing APIs and duty exemptions for capital goods imports.
  • These facilities can developed to world class standards, restoring the recent damage to India’s reputation on the quality front.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 05 February 2020 (India needs a new education paradigm (The Hindu))

India needs a new education paradigm (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Right to Education Act
Mains level: Measures needed to improve India’s education sector


  • India celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Right to Education Act (RTE), which went into effect in April 2010.
  • The RTE has been censured for its limited focus on governance and learning outcomes, its achievement in improving access to schooling is undeniable.
  • It has also served as a rallying point for a wide range of stakeholders to intervene in the sector.

Lack of quality education:

  • India’s learning outcomes remain stubbornly low.
  • Quality concerns around education are seldom viewed as a political priority. But these concerns cannot be ignored for much longer, especially in light of India’s human capital crisis, reflected in unemployment statistics.
  • The 2030 Skills Scorecard by the Global Business Coalition for Education reinforces these concerns — in 2030.
  • India will have the highest number of secondary school graduates in South Asia, but nearly half of them will lack the skills to enter the job-market.
  • India’s education sector must focus on both scale and substance, addressing the learning problem at a system-wide level, while also recalibrating the raison d’etre of the education system itself.

Strengthening administration:

  • In the past, even the most sophisticated education policies and curriculum frameworks have failed to live up to their promise, owing to weak administration.
  • Strengthening the pillars of governance in the education sector is of undeniable importance.
  • Over the past few years, several States, including Haryana, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh, have taken ownership to drive large-scale changes in how education is administered.
  • In many of these States, the starting point has been the integration of schools.
  • Historically, government schools have emerged organically without a coherent strategy, sometimes serving just a handful of students, causing a large, unwieldy school network.
  • The state’s capacity to manage such a system, however, is limited with inadequate frontline administration, information gaps, and large vacancies among faculty.
  • Optimising for the number of schools is complemented with interventions directed at infrastructure improvements, adequate staffing of teachers, school leaders, and frontline officials, and developing the capacity of these staff.
  • Alongside is a strong focus on ‘remediation’ to enable all students to achieve grade-level competency.
  • In terms of administration, programmes across States appear to share some common elements: management information systems to improve review and monitoring; communications across all levels of government, leveraging technology such as video conferences and WhatsApp; and project management protocols at the State, district, and block levels.

Various initiatives taken by different state governments:

  • In Rajasthan, where the International Innovation Corps worked with the Department of Education alongside other players, the State focussed on developing approximately 10,000 “model” secondary schools — one in every gram panchayat — with quality infrastructure and prioritised staffing under the Adarsh programme.
  • Headmasters of these schools were subsequently designated Panchayat Education Officers and trained to mentor other schools.
  • Such efforts reduced teacher vacancies from 50 per cent to 19 per cent over four years, and created a cadre of frontline administration that regularly monitors schools.
  • The State has defied national trends to witness a reverse migration of students from private to government schools, and both the National Achievement Survey and Board results point to improvements in secondary school outcomes.
  • Other States have similarly seen positive results.
  • For instance, in Haryana, an evaluation by Gray Matters India estimates that students in 94 of the 119 blocks are now “grade-level competent.”
  • This has been attributed to the Saksham Haryana Programme.
  • The programme has instituted new mechanisms for data collection and analysis, and a restructuring of planning, coordination, mentoring, and monitoring at the district- and block-levels.
  • Building on such successes, the NITI Aayog and three States — Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand — are in the process of scaling such efforts through the SATH-E programme.
  • Additionally, 14 of the 30 indicators for the NITI Aayog’s new School Education Quality Index are concerned with governance processes, including availability of teachers, training, and accountability and transparency.

Revaluation of outcomes:

  • This focus on building the capability of the state to better manage the education system is an important shift in the sector, and the aforementioned examples demonstrate how to go about it.
  • But despite their successes, these should be viewed as starting points. These efforts remain focussed on the public school system.
  • For more meaningful change, it is imperative to transition from seeing the government as just a provider to a regulator and facilitator.
  • There has recently been an increasing sense of competition, with governments claiming how their schools are out-performing private schools.
  • This may induce a positive pressure to perform, the reality is that apart from an elite few, the bulk of private schools are under-resourced and have little regulation of quality, safety, or outcomes.

Way ahead:

  • Fixing administration is an important but belated response to the state capacity problems.
  • A new policy must capitalise on this energised administrative apparatus to redefine the broader objectives of the education system. \
  • This will require a fundamental reengineering of assessments mechanisms, a mass behavioural change to facilitate a shift in focus from high-stakes examinations, and new partnerships between stakeholders — parents, students, teachers, frontline administrators, and NGOs.


  • An “outcomes-focus” is undoubtedly critical, but should be underpinned by an overarching human capital strategy.
  • In a few years, a generation of students, who would otherwise not have access to an education, will have completed a full cycle of schooling thanks to the RTE.
  • But over the next decade, the key priority that education policy must seek to address is to make sure that schooling isn’t just an end for students, but a ladder to opportunity.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 05 February 2020 (A case of a maritime presence adrift (The Hindu))

A case of a maritime presence adrift (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: International
Prelims level: International Maritime Organization
Mains level: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests


  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency tasked with regulating shipping, had mandated that merchant ships should not burn fuel with sulphur content greater than 0.5% beginning January 1.
  • Before the ban, fuel had a comfortable sulphur content limit of 3.5%, which was applicable to most parts of the world.
  • Despite the industry gradually gearing up to introduce the new fuel, many industry professionals feared that the new very-low-sulphur fuel would be incompatible with the engines and other vessel equipment.


  • Past mandates on sulphur limits in American waters had led to many technical problems.
  • There have been instances of ships having been stranded after fine particles separated out from the fuel, damaging equipment and clogging up devices.
  • The global sulphur cap is only one of the many environment-related regulations that have been shaking up the shipping industry;
  • The industry is generally risk-averse and slow to accept changes. For instance, efforts are ongoing to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone-depleting gases.
  • The IMO has announced an ambitious project to decarbonise shipping in order to reduce carbon emissions.
  • These regulations are triggering massive technological, operational and structural changes; they come at a price which will have to be borne to a large extent by developing countries such as India.
  • The IMO currently lists India as among the 10 states with the “largest interest in international seaborne trade”.
  • But India’s participation in the IMO to advance its national interests has been desultory and woefully inadequate.

Global regulator:

  • Shipping, which accounts for over 90% by volume and about 80% by value of global trade, is a highly regulated industry with a range of legislation promulgated by the IMO.
  • The IMO currently has 174 member states and three associate members; there are also scores of non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations.
  • The IMO’s policies or conventions have a serious impact on every aspect of shipping including the cost of maritime trade.
  • The sulphur cap, for instance, will reduce emissions and reduce the health impact on coastal populations but ship operational costs are going up since the new fuel product is more expensive.
  • As refineries including those in India struggle to meet the demand, freight costs have started moving up, with a cascading effect on retail prices.

Structure of IMO:

  • The IMO, like any other UN agency, is primarily a secretariat, which facilitates decision-making processes on all maritime matters through meetings of member states.
  • The binding instruments are brought in through the conventions — to which member states sign on to for compliance — as well as amendments to the same and related codes.
  • Structurally, maritime matters are dealt by the committees of the IMO — the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), Technical Cooperation Committee, Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee. Each committee is designated a separate aspect of shipping and supported by sub-committees. Working groups and correspondence groups support the subcommittees.
  • The subcommittees are the main working organs, where the proposals from a member state are parsed before they are forwarded to one of the main committees.
  • The main committees, thereafter, with the nod of the Assembly, put the approved proposal for enactment through the Convention, amendments, and codes or circulars.

A feeble voice:

  • To ensure that their maritime interests are protected, the European countries move their proposals in unison and voting or support are given en bloc.
  • China, Japan, Singapore, Korea and a few others represent their interests through their permanent representative as well as ensuring that a large delegation takes part and intervenes in the meetings.
  • While these countries have fiercely protected their interests, India has not. For example, its permanent representative post at London has remained vacant for the last 25 years. Representation at meetings is often through a skeletal delegation, approved by the Ministry. Participation in IMO meetings is seen more as a junket. A review of IMO documents shows that the number of submissions made by India in the recent past has been measly and not in proportion to India’s stakes in global shipping.
  • There have also been obstacles in pushing issues which are of importance to India.
  • A classic case was the promulgation of “High Risk Areas” when piracy was at its peak and dominated media headlines.
  • The IMO’s demarcation resulted in half the Arabian Sea and virtually the entire south-west coast of India being seen as piracy-infested, despite the presence of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.

The “Enrica Lexie” shooting incident of 2012, off the coast of Kerala was a direct fallout of the demarcation.

High Risk Area:

  • The “High Risk Area” formulation led to a ballooning of insurance costs;
  • It affected goods coming into or out of India.
  • It took great efforts to revoke the promulgation and negate the financial burden.
  • The episode highlighted India’s apathy and inadequate representation at the IMO.
  • There was also great difficulty in introducing the indigenously designed NavIC (NAVigation with Indian Constellation) in the worldwide maritime navigation system.


THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 05 February 2020 (Continuity and fiscal follow-through (The Hindu))

Continuity and fiscal follow-through (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Finance Commission
Mains level: Key objective of the 15th finance commission


  • The appointment of the Fifteenth Finance Commission by the President of India under Article 280 of the Constitution was notified on November 27, 2017.
  • The first report submitted by the Commission was placed in Parliament by the Union Finance Minister before presenting the Union Budget on February 1, 2019.

Basis for extension:

  • There were good reasons for extending the tenure of the Finance Commission as making medium-term projections in the current scenario would have entailed serious risks.
  • The abolition of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir required the Commission to make an estimation excluding the Union Territory.
  • The deceleration in growth and low inflation has substantially slowed down the nominal GDP growth which is the main tax base proxy; making projections of tax revenues and expenditures based on this for the medium term could have posed serious risks.
  • The poor revenue performance of tax collection and more particularly Goods and Services Tax combined with the fact that the compensation agreement to the loss of revenue to the States was effective only two years of the period covered by the Commission’s recommendations posed uncertainties.

On projections:

  • The Commission has continued with the approach and methodology adopted by the previous Commissions for tax devolution and revenue-gap grants.
  • It has made projections of revenues and revenue expenditures of the Union and individual States, applied selective norms to the latter, recommended devolution of taxes to the States from the divisible pool, and recommended revenue deficit grants for the States which had post-devolution gaps.
  • Although there were apprehensions that it may deviate from past practice as the terms of reference of the Commission had indicated, “The Commission may also examine whether revenue deficit grants be provided at all”, it continued with the past practice.

Addressing States’ concerns:

  • In addition to income distance, population and area and forest cover, it has used two additional factors — demographic performance and tax effort.
  • It has assigned 15% weight to the 2011 population, reduced the weight of income distance to 45%, increased the weight to forest cover and ecology to 10% and 12.5% weight to demographic performance and 2.5 weight to tax effort.
  • There was considerable controversy over the terms of reference of the Commission requiring it to use 2011 population in its formula by the States that had taken initiatives to arrest population growth.
  • By keeping the weight of 2011 population at 15% and giving an additional 12.5% to demographic performance which is the inverse of fertility rate, the Commission has shown sensitivity to the concerns of these States.

Local body grants:

  • The recommended grants for local bodies amount to ₹90,000 crore comprising ₹60,750 crore for panchayats and the remaining ₹29,250 crore for municipal bodies.
  • All the three layers of panchayats will receive the grant and 50% of the grant is tied to improving sanitation and supply of drinking water; the remaining is untied.
  • In the case of municipal bodies, ₹9,229 crore is allocated to cities with a million-plus population and the remaining ₹20,021 is allocated to other towns. \
  • In the case of disaster relief, the Commission has recommended the creation of disaster mitigation fund at the Central and State levels.
  • For disaster management, a total of ₹28,183 crore has been determined of which the Central contribution will be ₹22,184 crore. \
  • Inter-State allocation is made based on past expenditures, area and population and disaster risk index.
  • The Commission has worked out a framework for giving some sectoral grants as well. For 2020-21, it has recommended ₹7,735 crore for improving nutrition based on the numbers of children in the 0-6 age group and lactating mothers.
  • In the main report, it has proposed to give grants for police training, modernisation and housing, railway projects in States taken on a cost-sharing basis, maintenance of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana roads, strengthening the judicial system, and improving the statistical system.

Way forward:

  • The States are required to prepare the necessary grounds.
  • It has also presented a broad framework for recommending monitorable performance grants for agricultural reform, development of aspirational districts and blocks, power sector reform, and incentives to enhance trade including exports and pre-primary education.
  • The challenge, however, will be to design and dovetail sectoral and performance grants with the existing plethora of central sector and centrally sponsored schemes.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Government Initiatives to Save Marine Ecosystem [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Government Initiatives to Save Marine Ecosystem [MARCH-2019]

Government Initiatives to Save Marine Ecosystem

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; Provides protection to a wide number of animals against protection.
  • Environmental Protection Act, 1986: Prohibits use of any parts of selected marine faunal com against construction and other purposes.
  • Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991: Regulates onshore development activities top environments.
  • Indian Fisheries Act: The fisheries act deals with penalties for the destruction of fish by explosives in inland and coastal waters, the destruction of fish by poisoning of waters and the protection of fish in selected waters by rules of state Government.
  • National Policy on Marine Fisheries: In April 2017, Government of India notified the National Policy Marine Fisheries, 2017' (NPMF) which provides guidance for promoting ’Blue Growth initiatives' which focus on ushering 'Blue Revolution 1 (Neeli Kranti) by sustainable utilisation of fisheries wealth from the marine and other aquatic resources of the country for improving the lives and livelihoods of fishermen and their families.
  • National Oil-spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP): In 1993, NOSOCP allocated functional responsibilities to various ministries and departments for oilspill response in the Maritime Zones of India. The ports are responsible for oil-spill clean-up within port limits, and oil-handling agencies are responsible for oil-spill cleanup up to 500 metres around the oil-handling  installations. The Coastal States and Union Territories are responsible for shoreline clean-up, whenever the oil -spill reaches the shore and threatens the shoreline.
  • Coast Guard Act, 1978: States that the preservation and protection of marine environment and control of marine pollution is the function of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The ICG has been accordingly nominated in 1986 as the Central Coordinating Authority for oil-spill response in the Maritime Zones of India and Coast Guard officers have been empowered under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, for taking necessary actions against polluters.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Pangolin Facts [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Pangolin Facts [MARCH-2019]

Pangolin Facts

  • The name Pangolin is derived from the Malay word “pengguling’, which means “rolling up’. This refers to the animal’s defence mechanism of rolling up into a tight little hardened ball when threatened.
  • Like a skunk, pangolins can release a noxious-smelling acid to deter predators.
  • Pangolins have a long sticky tongue that grows from deep inside their chest cavity and can extend to over 40cm, which is longer than its own body! This tongue is a perfect tool for catching insects. One pangolin is estimated to catch a massive 70 million a year.
  • With no teeth, and unable to chew, the insects are broken up by stones and keratin spines located inside their stomach.
  • It is unknown how long pangolins live because captivity is traumatic for pangolins resulting in stress, depression and early death. However, the oldest recorded pangolin in captivity died at 19 years old.
  • They are nocturnal, solitary animals with very poor eyesight. Their sense of smell and sound is supreme and is used to hunt out termite mounds and ant hills.
  • Cute pangolin pups hitch a ride on their mother's tails for three months and remain in their mother's care for five months before braving life solo.
  • Pangolins are increasingly becoming victims of illegal wildlife crime due to their meat and scales.
  • Eight species of pangolins are found on two continents. They range from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.
  • Four species live in Africa: Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), Whitebellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smuts/o gigantea) and Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii).
  • The four species found in Asia: Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
  • All eight pangolin species are protected under national and international laws, and two are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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(The Gist of Science Reporter) Naming Animals [MARCH-2019]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) Naming Animals [MARCH-2019]

Naming Animals

  • Giving scientific animals or plants is known as binomial nomenclature. A taxon named specifically honouring a person or persons is known as patronym. Following the rules of Latin grammar, species or subspecies names derived from a man’s name often end in ‘I’ or ii’ and ‘orum’ if named for a group of men or mixed sex group.
  • Similarly those named for a woman often end in ‘ae’ or ‘arum’ for two or more women. The international Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is the widely accepted convention in Zoology. Animals or plants are named by the scientists who discover them. They can name them after the place they were discovered or name them in honour of a person. The problem of naming of animals was solved in 1753 by Carolus
  • Linnaeus, the Swedish biologist. He gave each species two word names made tip of genus name and species name. This method is still used by scientists today. Giving specific name to an animal to commemorate a significant person is also common. Let’s take a look at some animals that have been given names of presidents or the rulers of a country.
  • Neopalpa donaldtrumpi: A Canadian scientist Vazrick Nazari described a moth occurring in Southern California and northern Mexico, in the year 2017, and chose to name it after the latest US president Donald Trump as the moth’s head cover resembled the president's hair. The fore wings' upper surface of the moth is orange yellow except tor dark brown patches on the fringe and anterior portions of die wing.
  • Aptostichus barackobamai: It is a species of spider named after former US President Barack Obama. This species was first reported by Professor Jason Bond of Auburn University in December 2012. This species is endemic to California.
  • Agathidium bushi: Two former Cornell University embryologists Miller and Wheeler in the year 2005 named three species of slime mould beetles in the genus Agathidium that are new to science. One of the species is named after the then US president George Bush. This species is known from Southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia.
  • Pheidole roosevelti: An ant species endemic to the montane forests of Fiji islands prefers cooler, undisturbed wet forest of higher elevation mountains. Mann, an entomologist, in 1921 had the opportunity to give homage to the then President of US, Theodore Roosevelt who was an environmental activist also.
  • Anelosimus nelson: It is a species of spider found only in South Africa. It is named after the South African anti apartheid revolutionary politician and philanthropist Nelson Mandela who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Agnarsson and Kutner in the year 2005 described this species and named it after the president.
  • Anophthalmus hitleri: It is a species of blind cave beetle, found only in the humid eaves in Slovenia. This species was made a dedication to Adolf Hitler, former Chancellor of Germany. The genus name denotes that this form has no eyes. Hitler was delighted for the honour of having a species named after him and he thanked Oscar Scheibel, the scientist who described the species in the year 1937.
  • Hyloscirtus prince charles: It is a species of tree-frog found in Ecuador, It is considered as an endangered species due to habitat loss. This species was described as new to science by Luis A. Coloma et al
    in the year 2012 and named in honour of Prince Charles, recognizing the prince's work in advocating rain forest conservation. The prince used frogs as a symbol of his campaign to protect rainforests, particularly in Brazil and Indonesia.
  • Horaglanis abdulkalami: It is a blind cat fish with narrow elongated body. A research team including K.K.S, Babu of Jumma University, Ethiopia, were studying the organisms in the old wells in Irinjalakuda, in Thrissur, the southern Indian state of Kerala. They discovered a blind fish living in a deep well. This fish was named in honor of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam whose contribution to science had inspired the scientists. This fish is bright red in colour with no eyes and measures about 3.5 cm in length.
  • Pundamilia nyererei: It is a colourful cichlid fish, endemic to lake Victoria of Africa. This fish was described by WitteMaas and Witte in 1985 and to honour the Tanzanian leader Julius Kambarage Nyerere, his last name was given as species name of this fish.
  • Ornithoptera alexandrae: The largest butterfly in the world with females reaching a wingspan of ten inches. This species is restricted to the forests of Eastern Papua New Guinea. This species was named by Walter Rothschild in 1907 in honour of Alexander of Denmark. She was the Queen of UK and Empress of India as die wife of King Emperor Edward VII.
  • Acanthosquilla sirindhorn: This species is commonly known as Tiger Mantis Shrimp. It was described by Naiyanetri in 1995. The species name was given to honour the Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand. This species is known only from the type locality, the southern part of Gulf of Thailand.
  • Rota Ovula hirohito: It is a marine molluscdescribed by Cate and Azuma in the year 1973. The species was named after the emperor of Japan and a marine biologist, Michinomiya Hirohito.

Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains


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