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Daily Current affairs 1 july 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair






A thumb down to unilateralism 



Why nuclear when India has an ocean of energy  



It’s time to act, not do more research



Nine dead, 564 hospitalized in this year’s heatwave in Maharashtra, says DHS data



WHO brings in norms for self-care intervention   




A thumb down to unilateralism  (The Hindu Page 10)


Mains GS paper II: International relations


Ind0-US relations


Context: This article is related to the recent trade war between India and USA wherein the author argues that US has been unfairly targeting India for its trade policies.



  • Ideally, the trade issues between the two countries should have to be sorted out through rules based multilateral forums such as WTO dispute settlement body.

  • However, US has resorted to unilateralism to challenge India’s trade policies by weakening the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

  • For instance, it has blocked the appointment of members to the dispute settlement body and at the same time targeted India’s policies through its domestic laws. 

  • Further, investigation of India’s policies was done by vested interests who want greater market access to India.

  • This has been done by USA in spite of the fact that India’s trade policies are consistent with the WTO rules and regulations as agreed under Uruguay round negotiations.


Way Forward

India must continue to engage with USA to sort the trade issues. At the same time, India must engage with the global community so as to make the US understand the importance of a rules-based trading system.




Why nuclear when India has an ocean of energy  (The Hindu -Page.15)


Mains GS paper III: Economy - energy 


Ocean energy in India  


Context : This article highlights various issues and challenges with respect to Nuclear power generation and accordingly argues that Ocean energy can emerge as an viable and cheap alternative to nuclear energy.


Problems with the Nuclear Energy

  • Present share of Nuclear Energy: The Nuclear power plants presently generate around 6780 MW of electricity which is hardly around 3%. As other alternative sources of energy such as Wind and solar pick up, the energy mix of India could have much lower share of nuclear energy in future.

  • Poor progress in 3-stage Nuclear Cycle: Inspite of 70 years since the adoption of 3- stage nuclear cycle, India is still stuck in the first stage itself.

  • With respect to Second stage, India has set up a prototype Fast Breeder reactor (PFBR). However, it has not proved to be successful.

  • Even if the FBRs are successful in future, they need to operate for at least 30-40 years for the third cycle to start.

  • Misguided assumptions about Cost of Nuclear Energy: India has been trying to push for nuclear energy based upon the assumption that it is a low cost alternative. However, there has been escalation in the costs of new nuclear power plants due to which the cost of generating electricity has increased to at least Rs 7 per unit. 


Ocean Energy- A viable Alternative

  • According to MNRE, India has an expected potential of around 40,000 MW of wave energy and around 9,000 MW of tidal energy. The identified areas for harnessing tidal power are Gulf of Cambay and Gulf of Kutch on west coast and sunderbans on the east coast.

  • India has already taken some initiatives to harness the ocean energy. For example, India had planned to set up Tidal power plant in the Gulf of kutch. However, the plan was dropped due to higher costs.

  • Thus, in order to give fillip to generation of Ocean energy, the article has given the following recommendations: Incentivise ocean energy on the lines of solar and wind energy. 

  • Divert the allocation of funds from the nuclear energy to ocean energy.





It’s time to act, not do more research (The Hindu -Page. 11)


Mains: GS Paper II: Education 


Higher education in India       


Context: The resources spent in drafting educational policies should instead be spent in implementing solutions


Why in News ?

● Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second government in its first 100 days is trying to improve

higher education in India through

➔ the draft NEP (National Education Policy) 2019

➔ EQUIP Project (Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme)- aims to

transform higher education system in the next 5 years by

1. Improving access to higher education, especially for underserved communities

2. improve the gross enrolment ratio

3. improve teaching and learning processes

4. build educational infrastructure

5. improve the quality of research and innovation

6. use technology and online learning tools

7. work on accreditation systems, governance structures and financing.


● Before this official steps efforts include

1. The Radhakrishnan Commission of 1949

2. the National Education Policies of 1968 and 1986

3. the Yashpal Committee of 2009

4. the National Knowledge Commission in 2007


Inadequate allocation of funds

  • Higher education in India has been chronically underfunded

  • India spends less than most other BRICS countries on higher education.

  • The last Budget allocated only Rs 37,461 crore for the higher education sector.

  • Inadequate funding is evident at all levels.

  • All State governments, which provide the bulk of higher education money, also fail to adequately

  • support students and institutions.

  • The Central government, responsible mostly for the top of the academic system, does not provide sufficient resources.

  • Even the Institutions of Eminence scheme falls short of requirements and is dramatically behind similar programmes in China and several European countries.

  • Funding for basic research which is largely a Central government responsibility lags behind peer countries.

  • Apart from Tata Trusts, Infosys Foundation, and Pratiksha Trust, industry provides little support.

  • Thus, India requires substantial additional resources for higher education to improve quality and build a small but important “world class” sector.

  • Massive effort is needed at both State and Central levels — and the private sector must contribute as well.

  • A key goal of EQUIP and the NEP is that India must expand the percentage of young people enrolled in post-secondary education significantly.

  • The draft NEP aims at increasing the gross enrolment ratio to at least 50% by 2035

  • EQUIP targets doubling the gross enrolment ratio to 52% by 2024.

  • At present, India’s gross enrolment ratio is 25.8%, significantly behind China’s 51% or much of Europe and North America, where 80% or more young people enrol in higher education.


Challenges of Higher Education in India

  • India’s challenge is even greater because half of the population is under 25 years of age.

  • The challenge is not only to enrol students, but to ensure that they can graduate.

  • Non-completion is a serious problem in the sector.

  • And of course, the challenge is not only to enrol students and improve graduation rates but also to ensure that they are provided with a reasonable standard of quality.

  •  It is universally recognised that much of Indian higher education is of relatively poor quality.

  •  Employers often complain that they cannot hire graduates without additional training.

  • The fact that many engineering colleges even today have to offer “finishing programmes” to their graduates underlines the pathetic state of quality imparted by these institutions.


Needs of Higher Education in India

  • India needs a differentiated academic system — institutions with different missions to serve a range of individual and societal needs.

  •  Some “world class” research-intensive universities are needed.

  • Colleges and universities that focus on quality teaching and serve large numbers of students are crucial.

  • Distance education enters the mix as well.

  • The draft NEP’s recommendations for a differentiated system of research universities, teaching universities, and colleges are in tune with this. However, the ways suggested to achieve these objectives are impractical.

  • The private sector is a key part of the equation.

  • India has the largest number of students in private higher education in the world. But much of private higher education is of poor quality and commercially oriented. Robust quality assurance is needed for all of post-secondary education, but especially for private institutions.

  •  The structure and governance of the higher education system needs major reform.

  • There is too much bureaucracy at all levels, and in some places, political and other pressures are immense.

  •  Professors have little authority and the hand of government and managements is too heavy.

  • At the same time, accountability for performance is generally lacking.



India needs:

1. dramatically increased funding from diverse sources, and the NEP’s recommendation for a new National Research Foundation is a welcome step in this direction

2. significantly increased access to post-secondary education, but with careful attention to both quality and affordability, and with better rates of degree completion longitudinal studies on student outcomes

5. to develop “world class” research-intensive universities, so that it can compete for the best brains, produce top research, and be fully engaged in the global knowledge economy; to ensure that the private higher education sector works for the public good

7. to develop a differentiated and integrated higher education system, with institutions serving manifold societal and academic needs

8. reforms in the governance of college and universities to permit autonomy and innovation at the institutional level

9. better coordination between the University Grants Commission and ministries and

departments involved in higher education, skill development, and research.


Way Ahead

The latest draft NEP and EQUIP have reiterated the importance of some of these points. There is really no need to spend money and attention on a new review. The needs are clear and have been articulated by earlier commissions and committees. The solutions are largely obvious as well. What is needed is not more research, but rather long-neglected action.




Nine dead, 564 hospitalized in this year’s heatwave in Maharashtra, says DHS data (The Hindu -Page.07)


Prelims : environment 

Mains: GS Paper III: environment 




Heat wave 

  • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India. 

  • Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July. The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.


The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has given the following criteria for Heat Waves:

  • Heat Wave need not be considered till maximum temperature of a station reaches atleast 40 0 C for Plains and atleast 30 0 C for Hilly regions

  • When normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40*C Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5 0 C to 6 0 C Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7 0 C or more.

  •  When normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40 0 C Heat Wave Departure from normal is 40 C to 50 C Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6 0 C or more

  • When actual maximum temperature remains 45 0 C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared.

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) identifies a heat wave ‘when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 50oC, the normal period being 1961-90.


Causes of Heat waves

  • High Atmospheric pressure: A heat wave occurs when a system of high atmospheric pressure moves into an area. In such a high-pressure system, air from upper levels of our atmosphere is compressed. 

  • This high concentration of pressure makes it difficult for other weather systems to move into the area, which is why a heat wave can last for several days or weeks. The high-pressure inhibits winds, also prevents clouds from entering the region, which in turn lead to heating up the area even more. 

  •  Weakening of Jet stream: Another important factor in the formation of heat waves is the location of the jet streams. Jet streams are narrow, fast flowing air currents near the tropopause formed by the earth’s rotation and atmospheric heating. During a heat wave, a jet stream lies above an affected area disallowing transported polar air mass to cool the area. Heat wave are also seasonally bound because of a slower, meandering jet stream during summertime. Jet streams are formed by change in temperature between colliding Arctic and tropical air masses, which are weaker during summer causing it to slow down. A slower jet stream causes less change in weather patterns, therefore increasing stationary weather conditions explaining why heat waves occur during summer.

  •  Weakening of monsoon: The heat waves intensities are linked to sparser pre-monsoon season rain showers in many areas, as there has been much less moisture than normal of that area, leaving large parts of India arid and dry. The sudden end of pre-monsoon rain showers, thus contribute to the heat waves. This weather pattern, coupled with the El Niño effect, which often increases temperatures in the Asia, combined to create the record high temperatures.

  • Urban heat Island: Landscapes with surfaces that hold heat can amplify the effect of a heat wave. Building materials are usually very good at insulating, or holding in heat. This insulation makes the areas around buildings warmer. Displacing trees and vegetation minimizes the natural cooling effects of shading and evaporation of water from soil and leaves (evapotranspiration). Tall buildings and narrow streets can heat air trapped between them and reduce air flow. Waste heat from vehicles, factories, and air conditioners may add warmth to their surroundings, further exacerbating the heat island effect. This exacerbate the impact of heat waves.

  •  Global Warming: Global warming boosts the probability of extreme weather events, like heat waves.


Impact of Heat waves

a) On Human Health

  • Direct health impacts include cardiac arrest, heat stroke and dehydration, while secondary impacts can include gastroenteritis and organ damage as a result of dehydration.

  •  Human bodies operate at a core temperature of 37°C. As human beings produce heat during daily activities, the heat is released through sweating to maintain a steady core body temperature. If core body temperature rises to 38°C for several hours, heat exhaustion occurs, and mental and physical capacity becomes impaired or may lead to death.

  • Heatwaves also cause specific heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat rash, heat oedema (swelling, usually in the ankles), heat syncope (dizziness and fainting due to dehydration), and heat exhaustion which can lead to potentially fatal heatstroke.


b) On Economy:

  • Increased heat and extreme heatwaves can impact on the performance of infrastructure.

  • For example, due to heatwave:

    • transport failed, particularly trains, partly because of buckling of rail lines

    • air-conditioning system may fail

    • Critical infrastructures such as drinking water and electricity systems may fail under high demand, with power cuts greatly magnifying the number of people at risk.

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) records in its 5th Assessment Report that the work output of the global economy would fall by as much as 20% by the end of the century in the event of a 4 degrees Celsius warming of the planet, with the most damaging impact being felt in the tropics, especially South Asia.

  •  Crop loss is encountered due to flower drop and higher mortality in new plantations. Kharif crops are more impactes. Within Kharif, particularly rice production is significantly affected with decreased grain yield.


c) On plants and animals

  • Heat-related mass mortality in individual animal species (e.g. flying foxes) has been recorded

  •  Plants can die following extreme heat events, with some species more vulnerable than others.

  •  The long term outcomes of such events include changes in species assemblages, extinction of the most vulnerable species and increased forest fuel levels – with the latter being a risk factor in bushfires.


Steps taken

There are two prerequisites to address the rise in temperatures and resultant casualties

  • First, limit the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, as advocated by the Paris Agreement of 2015.

  • Developing early-warning systems to anticipate and respond to such extreme weather events at national and local levels. In 2013, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation launched a Heat Action Plan for Ahmedabad, which the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) advised all states to use as a template for their own plans.

  • Key components included an extended seven-day forecast during the summer months, a colour-coded warning system for citizens, and a massive public awareness campaign. From 2015, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) started providing five-day city-specific summer forecasts in 100 cities.

  • By 2017, 11 states--Odisha, Telangana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh--and 17 cities had adopted or were developing heat action plans.




WHO brings in norms for self-care intervention   (The Hindu Page 22)


Mains GS paper II: Social Issues related to health 


Self-care intervention


Context: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched its first guidelines on self-care interventions.


Need for self-care  interventions


  • It is estimated that by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers. 

  • currently at least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services.

  • There is an urgent need to find innovative strategies that go beyond the conventional health sector response.


About the guidelines 

  • Self-care is the  “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”.

  • In its first volume, the guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

  • Some of the interventions include self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.

  • The guidelines will later expanded to include other self-care interventions, including for prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases. 

  • These guidelines talk about the health benefits of certain interventions that can be done outside the conventional sector.

  • Yet they do not replace high-quality health services nor are they a shortcut to achieving universal health coverage.


Benefits of self-care intervention

  • Self-care interventions are among the most promising and exciting new approaches to improve health and well-being, both from a health systems perspective and for people who use these interventions

  • It will provide new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-carers and caregivers.

  • It could help  expand access to health services, including for vulnerable populations. 

  • self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics, including those who are forcibly displaced, to have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as many people are unable to make decisions around sexuality and reproduction.




Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  • Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.
  • One nation-one ration card
  • What to study?

    For prelims: key features of the proposed scheme, PDS.

    For mains: Need for, significance of the scheme and challenges in its implementation.


    Context: Government all set to implement “One nation-one ration card” scheme throughout India by 30th June, 2020.


    About the scheme:

    One Nation One Ration Card (RC) will ensure all beneficiaries especially migrants can access PDS across the nation from any PDS shop of their own choice.

    Benefits: no poor person is deprived of getting subsidised foodgrains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another. It also aims to remove the chance of anyone holding more than one ration card to avail benefits from different states.

    Significance: This will provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tied to any one PDS shop and reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail instances of corruption. 



    Prone to corruption: Every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.

    The scheme will increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them.

    Tamil Nadu has opposed the proposal of the Centre, saying it would result in undesirable consequences and is against federalism.

    Paper 2:

    Topics Covered:

  • Welfare schemes for the protection of vulnerable sections of the society.

    Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY)


    What to study?

    For Prelims: Key features of RVY and about ALIMCO.

    For Mains: Significance of the programme and similar policies for the aid of old aged.


    Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana:

  • The Scheme aims at providing Senior Citizens, belonging to BPL category and suffering from any of the age-related disability/infirmity Low vision, Hearing impairment, Loss of teeth and Locomotor disability, with such assisted-living deviceswhich can restore near normalcy in their bodily functions, overcoming the disability/infirmity manifested.
  • Funding: This is a Central Sector Scheme, fully funded by the Central Government. The expenditure for implementation of the scheme will be met from the “Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund “.
  • Under the scheme, free of cost distribution of the devices, commensurate with the extent of disability/infirmity that is manifested among the eligible senior citizens will take place.
  • In case of multiple disabilities/infirmitiesmanifested in the same person, the assistive devices will be given in respect of each disability/impairment.
  • Beneficiaries in each district will be identified by the State Governments/UT Administrations through a Committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner/District Collector.
  • As far as possible, 30% of the beneficiaries in each district shall be women.

    Need of hour:

    With more than 70% of the 104 million elderly living in the rural hinterland, any serious initiative to improve the lot of senior citizens must incorporate adequate budgetary support for social welfare spending on the relevant programmes.

    With the number of the elderly in India set to surge by 2050 to almost 300 million, or about a fifth of the population, governments need to make more comprehensive efforts to address the problems of elderly.

    Paper 3:

    Topics covered:

  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

    Statistics Day

    What to study?

    For Prelims: Statistics day, ISI.

    For Mains: Important contributions of PC Mahalanobis.


    National Statistics Day:

    In recognition of the notable contributions made by Late Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in the fields of statistics, statistical system and economic planning, Government of India in 2007, has designated 29th June as the “Statistics Day” in the category of Special Days to be celebrated every year at the National level.

    The objective of celebration of this Day is to create public awareness about the importance of statistics in socio-economic planning and policy formulation, to acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Mahalanobis, and to pay homage to him.

    Theme: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) keeping in view India’s commitment towards achieving these goals.


    Other contributions:

    PC Mahalanobis became 1st Indian statistician to receive world recognition and is called as Father of Indian Statistics.

    The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) at Kolkata, set up by Prof. Mahalanobis in 1931, and was declared an autonomous “Institute of National Importance” through an act of Parliament in 1959.

    ISI celebrates 29th June as the “Worker Day”.

    In 1936 he introduced statistical measure called Mahalanobis distance, widely used in cluster analysis and classification techniques for which he is widely known.


    Relevant articles from various news sources:

    Paper 2:

    Topics Covered:

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

    Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue


    What to study?

    For Prelims: Overview of regions and countries in Indo- pacific region, important straits.

    For Mains: Significance and potential of the region, need for international cooperation to main peace and order in the region.


    Context: The term Indo-Pacific has been gaining traction in Indian policy circles for some time now, it achieved operational clarity after the Indian vision was presented by Prime Minister in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.


    What is it?

    Geographically, the Indo-Pacific refers to the Indian and the Pacific Oceans between the east coast of Africa and the American west coast and their several littoral countries. As a term to denote an economic and strategic community, it has been in use among scholars of international relations and geopolitics since the first decade of this century, around the same time as China’s rise.


    Mechanisms for India to integrate with Indo-Pacific Policy:

  • India’s Act East policyremains the bedrock of the national Indo-Pacific vision and the centrality of ASEAN is embedded in the Indian narrative.
  • India has been an active participant in mechanisms like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
  • India has also been convening the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, in which the navies of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) participate.
  • India has boosted its engagements with Australia and New Zealand and has deepened its cooperation with the Republic of Korea.
  • Through the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation, India is stepping up its interactions with the Pacific Island countries.
  • India views the Indo-Pacific as a geographic and strategic expanse, with the 10 ASEAN countries connecting the two great oceans.

    Challenges ahead for Indo-Pacific regional policy:

  • The integration of the IORA means that attention will continue to be focused on the IOR. This can be a result of the growing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean and Chinese diplomacy in the region.
  • There are still challenges for India, especially how it will integrate the Quadrilateral initiativewhich got revived in 2017 with its larger Indo-Pacific approach.
  • There are differences between India’s vision and the U.S.’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific even as countries like China and Russia view the Indo-Pacific with suspicion.

    Efforts by the US:

    The renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as well as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act in December 2018 showcase Washington’s more serious engagement with the Indo-Pacific.

    Related facts- About IPRD- Indo- Pacific Regional Dialogue:

  • The idea of an Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) was first conceptualised and conducted in 2018, as the apex level conference of the Indian Navy, organised by the National Maritime Foundation as the Navy’s Knowledge Partner.
  • The permanent theme of this annual dialogue is a review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The aim is to focus attention on the Indo-Pacific, as a maritime geographical-entity, while deliberating aspects of great relevance to regional geopolitics.
  • Sources: Indian Express.

    Paper 2:

    Topic covered:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Maratha Reservation issue


    What to study?

    For prelims and mains: provisions in regard to reservations in India, issues present, need for revamping the policy.

    Context: The Bombay High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, but directed that it be slashed from the present 16 per cent to 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.



    The Marathas who are almost one-third of Maharashtra’s population are not a homogeneous community. Historically, they evolved from the farming caste of Kunbis who took to military service in medieval times and started assuming a separate identity for themselves. Even then they claimed hierarchy of 96 clans.

    But the real differentiation has come through the post-independence development process, creating classes within the caste:

  • A tiny but powerful section of elites that came to have control over cooperatives of sugar, banks, educational institutions, factories and politics, called gadhivarcha (topmost strata) Maratha.
  • The next section comprising owners of land, distribution agencies, transporters, contracting firms, and those controlling secondary cooperative societies, is the wadyavarcha (well-off strata) Maratha.
  • The rest of the population of Marathas comprising small farmers is the wadivarcha (lower strata) Maratha.

    Need for reservations:

  • Reservation in India is the process of facilitating people in education, scholarship, jobs etc that were faced historical injustice.
  • Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations.
  • The system of reservation in India comprises a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.
  • The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality and discriminationfaced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The primary objective of the reservation system in India is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives.

    Why there is a need to reexamine reservation policy?

  • Unlike in the late Sixties and again in the late Eighties, when the reservation discourse originated in a deep sense of unfairness of the social system, today’s reservation discourse draws its strength from unfair development policies.
  • Reservation is increasingly seen as a remedy for the adverse effects of ill-thought out development policies.
  • Reservation is also called ‘Discrimination in Reverse’ or Reverse Discrimination. This terminology connotes that reservation, which works as a protection to the reserved categories i.e. scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, acts as a reverse discrimination against the upper castes.
  • For political parties reservation discourse is convenient because it allows them to keep subscribing to the consensus over economic policies, avoiding a critical approach to the root causes of the problem.

    What needs to be done?

  • The government will have to expand the economic aspect and create fresh opportunities so that people, especially young people, who leave agriculture are absorbed in non-farm sectors.
  • It is time that India made a critical assessment of its affirmative action programmes.
  • The government should consider the economic, political and social wellbeing of the community and make a balanced decision.
  • Problems of these castes should be addressed through government schemes and programmes.
  • Progressive steps should be taken to ensure that poorer section among the backward communities get the benefit of reservation system.
  • The policy of reservation should be gradually phased out after it serves its purpose.

    Sources: the Hindu.

    Paper 2:

    Topics covered:

    Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.


    UN resolution on torture


    What to study?

    For prelims: key features of the resolution.

    For mains: Why India abstained from voting, concerns, issues and what needs to be done?


    Context: India joined ranks with Russia and 42 other nations to abstain from voting on a General Assembly resolution aimed at examining options to end trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture.

    The resolution was introduced by Romania.


    India’s arguments:

  • Incorporating capital punishment into the scope of this resolution “raises concerns that it may be an attempt to place it on par with torture.” 
  • India has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law in India. The death penalty is exercised in ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society.
  • Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair trial by an independent Court, presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for defence, and the right to review by a higher court.


    The 193-member UN General Assembly recently adopted the resolution Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards’ by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 20 against, with 44 abstentions. 


    What is the resolution all about?

  • The resolution requests the secretary-general to seek the views of member states on the feasibility and possible scope of a range of options to establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of goods used for capital punishment and for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • It asks the secretary-general to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its 2019-20 session.
  • It also requests the secretary-general to establish a group of governmental experts to examine, beginning in 2020, the feasibility and scope of the goods to be included, and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards on the matter.
  • It asks for the transmission of the report of the group of experts to the General Assembly for consideration at its 2020-21 session.

    What is capital punishment?

    Capital punishment also called as death penalty is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law.


    Problems with death penalty:

  • The death penalty is error-ridden. For Instance, Between January 1, 2000 and June 31, 2015, the Supreme Court imposed 60 death sentences. It subsequently admitted that it had erred in 15 of them (25%).
  • The landmark SC judgment in 2009 in the Santosh Bariyar casein which Justice Sinha went to the extent of admitting the undue influence of public opinion in awarding death. The Bariyar verdict pointed to” the danger of capital sentencing becoming a spectacle in the media”.
  • The death penalty unfairly targets the poor and marginalised.

    Arguments in favour:

  • The punishment is not arbitrary because, it comes out of a judicial process.
  • It is being implemented in the “rarest of the rare” cases and the fact is during the last 13 years, only four people have been executed.
  • Its constitutionality is upheld, even in liberal democracies like U.S. It is not reflection of uncivilised society.
  • India’s neighbourhood is not peaceful, unlike Scandinavia. India has got troubled borders. Several forces are trying to destabilise the very idea of our Nation from across the Border.
  • The sacredness of life can only be seen to be protected, if those who take it away are proportionately punished.

    Way ahead:

    Two-thirds of countries in the world has abolished it. India certainly does not need it as it serves no purpose. The evidence is all to the contrary. For deterrence to work, the severity of the punishment has to coexist with the certainty and swiftness of the punishment.


    Sources: the Hindu.


    Mains Question: Does the death penalty stop crime? Do you think India abolish capital punishment? Critically analyze.

    Paper 2:

    Topic covered:

    Issues related to health.


    WHO guidelines on self-care interventions for health


    What to study?

    For prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the guidelines.


    Context: The WHO has launched its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health.


    Need for self- care interventions:

    As per an estimate by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workersCurrently at least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services.


    What is Self-Care?

    It is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.



    Self-care interventions represent a significant push towards new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-careers and caregivers.

    Self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics, including those who are forcibly displaced, to have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as many people are unable to make decisions around sexuality and reproduction.


    Key guidelines:

  • The guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Some of the interventions include self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.
  • These guidelines look at the scientific evidence for health benefits of certain interventions that can be done outside the conventional sector, although sometimes with the support of a health-care provider.
  • They do not replace high-quality health services nor are they a shortcut to achieving universal health coverage.
  • Sources: the Hindu.

    PUNCH mission


    Context: NASA has selected an US based Indian researcher to lead its PUNCH mission which will image the Sun.

    About PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere):

    It  is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.

    It will consist of a constellation of four microsatellites that through continuous 3D deep-field imaging, will observe the corona and heliosphere as elements of a single, connected system.

    The mission is expected to be launched in 2022.


    Sources: the Hindu.



    Facts for Prelims:


    Demilitarized Zone:

    Context: US President Donald Trump recently met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone.

    What is it? The DMZ, which runs across the Korean Peninsula, is 248 kilometres long and the 4 kilometres wide. Created as a buffer at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, it’s jointly overseen by the American-led UN Command and North Korea.


    Strum Ataka:

    India has signed a deal with Russia for acquiring Strum Ataka anti-tank missile for its fleet of Mi-35 attack choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF).


    NASA to send Dragonfly robot to search for life on Saturn’s moon Titan:

  • Context: NASA has planned to return to Saturn’s moon Titan with a nuclear-powered drone, Dragonfly.
    Dragonfly aims to search for signs of microbial alien life on Saturn’s moon Titan, while navigating its earth-like gravity and aerodynamics in the process. The mission will succeed NASA’s Cassini probe, which ended its 13-year mission orbiting Saturn in September 2017 by diving into Saturn’s atmosphere. 
    Dragonfly mission is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which includes a series of space exploration missions, which are being conducted with the purpose of researching several of the Solar System bodies, including the dwarf planet Pluto.
  • The New Frontiers programme also includes Pluto probe New Horizons, Jupiter probe Juno and OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission.
  • The Dragonfly mission replaces a previously discontinued concept project called Titan Saturn System Mission (TSSM), which required a balloon probe to circumnavigate Titan. 
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