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Daily Current affairs 17 July 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair






Long quest to get Jadhav back



Rethinking KUSUM



Farmers’ group wants drought norms revised



RS nod for changes to airports regulator Bill



Sewer death: Centre calls for quick response units 




1. Long quest to get Jadhav back (The Hindu, Page 13)     


Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations




Background to Kulbhushan Jadhav case:

Pakistan has alleged that they arrested Kulbhushan Jadhav from Balochistan province in, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran. However, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped by terrorist organizations from Iran and handed over to Pakistan. 

In 2017, Pakistan’s military announced that Kulbhushan Jadhav had been convicted and sentenced to death by a military court for “espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan.”

Subsequently, the Kulbhushan Jadhav case was presented towards the International Court of Justice whereby the Court up till now has only directed Pakistan to “take all measures to ensure Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision of the Court.


Main points in ICJ Case:

Consular Access: India has accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 by not giving India consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav. In response, Pakistan has asserted that Vienna Convention is not applicable to spies or terrorists and therefore it reserves the right to deny consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been accused of spying.

However, it is to be noted that the Vienna Convention does not make any exception for people suspected of committing espionage or terrorism-related offences and the ICJ has in the past also not interpreted the treaty to exclude offences such as espionage or terrorism.

Military Court Ruling: India has asserted that the trial of Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Military Court was not free and fair. India was supported by observations from The International Commission of Jurists which has documented how Pakistani military courts are not independent and the proceedings before them fall far short of national and international fair trial standards.

2008 Agreement:  India and Pakistan signed a bilateral agreement on consular access in 2008. The agreement does provide a provision of consular access within three months of arrest or detention however this provision can be reconsidered on the grounds of arrest, detention or sentence made on political or security grounds. Pakistan considers that the 2008 agreement provides it ability to deny access to India to Kulbhushan Jadhav and that it also overrides the obligations under the Vienna Convention. However, India has asserted that the 2008 agreement does not override the Vienna Convention.  



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2. Rethinking KUSUM (The Hindu Page 11)   


Mains: GS Paper III –Economy


New & Renewable Energy


Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyaan (KUSUM)

Administrative Ministry: Ministry of New & Renewable Energy

Implementing Agency: DISCOMs and State Nodal Agencies

The proposed scheme has three components:

Component 1) 10,000 MW of Decentralised Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants. Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2MW will be set up by individual farmers/ cooperatives/ panchayats/FPOs on their barren or cultivable lands. Power generated will be purchased by DISCOMs at Feed in tariffs determined by respective SERC. This will open a stable and continuous source of income to the rural land owners. Performance Based Incentives @0.40 per unit for five years to be provided to DISCOMs.

Component 2) Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Power Agriculture Pumps. 

Individuals farmers will be supported to install standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in HP is allowed under the scheme.  Central Financial Assistance of 30% of the benchmark cost or tender cost, whichever is lower, will be provided. State Government will give a subsidy of 30%, and the remaining 40% will be provided by the farmer. Bank Finance may be made available for meeting 30% of the cost. Remaining 10% will be provided by the farmer. CFA of 50% will be provided for North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, 

Component 3) Solarisation of 10 lakh Grid connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps. 

Individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW. The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM. This will help to create an avenue for extra income to the farmers, and for the States to meet their RPO targets. 

Component-1 and Component-3 will be implemented on pilot mode for 1000 MW capacity and one lakh grid connected agriculture pumps respectively and thereafter, will be scale-up on success of pilot run. Component-2 will be implemented in full-fledged manner. 

All the three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022. The total central financial support provided under the scheme would be Rs 34,422 crore.

 Benefits of the scheme:

  • Substantial environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions. All three components combined together are likely to result in saving of about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum. Help meet India's commitment for meeting Paris Climate Deal. 

  • Saving of Foreign Exchange: Component B of the scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.

  • Employment Generation: The scheme will boost employment in rural areas. Besides increasing self-employment the proposal is likely to generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers. 

  • Irrigation potential will rise as nearly more than half of India's net sown area remains unirrigated. Nearly 30 million landholders, especially small and marginal landholders, use expensive diesel for their irrigation needs as they have no access to electricity. 

  • Will increase power supply and access in rural areas which has been shown to have many transformational developmental gains. 

  • Can do away with burgeoning farm power subsidies in states. 

 KUSUM could radically transform the irrigation economy if the government chooses as approach of equity by design and prudence over populism. Steps suggested by authors are:

 1) KUSUM should aim to reduce the existing disparity among States with regard to solar pumps deployment and irrigation access. Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan together account for half of two lakh solar pumps currently deployed in the country. On the other hand States such as Bihar, UP and West Bengal where penetration of diesel pumps is among the highest have not made not deployed any significant number of solar pumps. Thus, Centre should incentivise States through target linked financial assistance, and create avenues for peer learning. 

 2) KUSUM must address inequity within a State. For ex. Despite 90% of Bihar's farmers being small and marginal farmers, they only received 50% of the government subsidies on solar pumps. On the other hand, in Chhattisgarh, about 95% of beneficiaries are from socially disadvantaged groups. Thus, a share of central financial assistance should be appropriated for farmers with small landholdings and belonging to socially disadvantaged groups. 

3) Instead of one-size fits all approach, KUSUM should provide greater financial assistance to smaller farmers. Currently according to the scheme all farmers have to contribute 40% - 10% as down payment and 30% through loans. This unilateral financing model will exacerbate inter farmer disparity. Small and marginal farmers hence should be given a higher capital subsidy and long term loans with interest subsidies should be provided for large and medium farmers.

4) Solarising existing grid connected pumps needs a complete rethink as existing grid connected farmers who have enjoyed power subsidies for decades would receive the same financial support as that received by an off-grid farmer. In addition, they would earn regular income from the DISCOM on feeding surplus electricity furthering inequitable distribution of taxpayers resources. 

5) Solarising grid connected pumps must include replacement of the pump with more energy efficient newer age pumps. 

  • Poor efficiency levels of the existing pumps would mean unnecessary oversizing of the solar panels and lesser available energy to feed into the grid. 

6) Instead of feeding surplus energy to the grid, solar pump capacity could be used to power post-harvesting processes, which complement the seasonal irrigation load and can enhance farm incomes through local value addition.

  • Injection of solar power by farmers would require the entire agriculture electricity line to be energised throughout the day-time, including for those not having solarised pumps. This would aggravate DISCOMs losses on such feeders. 


If the scheme is designed better and implemented effectively, it holds the potential to catapult the Indian irrigation economy for an era mired in perpetual subsidy, unreliable supply and inequitable distribution of resources to a regime of affordable, reliable and equitable access to energy and water.

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3. Farmers’ group wants drought norms revised (The Hindu Page 09)   








Context: The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) on Tuesday demanded that the Centre scrap the Manual for Drought Management, 2016, which had changed the way that droughts are declared and the circumstances under which Central help can be sought by affected States. 


Latest data from the India Meteorological Department show over half the country’s land area still faces rainfall deficits of more than 20% this monsoon season



  • The Manual for Drought Management, issued by the Union Agriculture Ministry in 2016, brought in stringent new parameters.

  • States are required to assess conditions using five indicators: rainfall, agriculture, soil moisture, hydrology and crop health. 

  • The Manual allows States to request for support from the National Disaster Response Fund if a drought is declared as “severe”. 

  • This can only happen if three impact indicators (apart from rainfall) fall into the “severe” category,


Process of determination drought 


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4.  RS nod for changes to airports regulator Bill (The Hindu, Page 13)   


Mains: GS II –Polity & Governance 


Stone Age



Over the last few years, private players have started operating civilian airports.  These private airports run the risk of becoming a monopoly. This is because cities typically have one civilian airport which controls all aeronautical services in that area. To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.  

Consequently, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 (AERA Act) was passed which set up AERA.  AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services (air traffic management, landing and parking of aircraft, ground handling services) at major airports.  Major airports include civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  


The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) is a statutory body constituted under the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008. Currently, major airports with an annual capacity to handle one-and-a-half million passengers come under the purview of Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008, was enacted to provide an independent authority to protect the interests of airports, airlines and passengers, and to primarily regulate tariff for aeronautical services rendered at airports. Aeronautical services include navigation, surveillance and supportive communication for air traffic management; services for the landing, housing or parking of an aircraft; ground safety, fuel and handling services; and so on.

Exponential growth in the sector has pushed the government to propose an Amendment Bill in 2018. 


Bill Summary

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2018

  • The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2018 amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.  The Act established the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).  The AERA regulates tariffs and other charges for aeronautical services provided at civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  It also monitors the performance standard of services across these airports. 

  • Definition of major airports: The Act defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh, or any other airports as notified by the central government.  The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh.  

  • Tariff determination by AERA: 

  • Under the Act, the AERA is responsible for determining: (i) the tariff for aeronautical services at different airports every five years (ii) the development fees of major airports, and (iii) the passengers service fee.  It can also call for necessary information to determine tariffs and perform any other tariff-related functions, including amending the tariffs if necessary in the interim periods. 

  • The Bill provides that the AERA will not determine: (i) the tariff, (ii) tariff structures, or (iii) the development fees, in certain cases. These cases will include those where such tariff amounts were a part of the bid document on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.  The AERA will be consulted before incorporating such tariffs in the bid document, and such tariffs must be notified.  


Key Issues and Analysis

  • AERA was set up to regulate the growing competition in the airline industry, and to provide a level playing field among different categories of airports. 

 Under the Bill, AERA will now regulate tariffs at fewer airports.  It may be argued that instead of strengthening the role of the regulator, its purview is being reduced.  Further, certain objectives of the Bill could be achieved by improving AERA’s capacity.


Key Features

  • Definition of major airports: The Act defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh, or any other airports as notified by the central government.  The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh. 

  • Tariff determination by AERA: Under the Act, AERA is responsible for determining: (i) the tariff for aeronautical services every five years, (ii) the development fees, and (iii) the passengers service fee.  It can also amend the tariffs in the interim period.  The Bill adds that AERA will not determine: (i) tariff, (ii) tariff structures, or (iii) development fees, in certain cases.  These cases include those where such tariff amounts were a part of the bid document on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.  AERA will be consulted (by the concessioning authority, the Ministry of Civil Aviation) before incorporating such tariffs in the bid document, and such tariffs must be notified.




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5. Sewer death: Centre calls for quick response units (The Hindu, Page 13)   


Mains GS-I Social Issues


Manual Scavenging


In news-The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has asked all States and Union Territories to set up emergency response sanitation units (ERSU), which would include trained cleaners wearing protective gear.

  • Manual scavenging is officially banned, under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

  • Concern- incidents of private individuals, local bodies and contractors forcing people to enter sewers and tanks to clear blockages continue to be reported.

  • The district Magistrate or municipal commissioner would be designated as the Responsible Sanitation Authority, which would organise the staff for the ERSU.


Emergency response sanitation units (ERSU)

  • These will be set up on the lines of the fire service station, in capital cities of each state/UT and also in all major cities having a Municipal Corporation and/or Water & Sewerage Board

  • ERSUs will also be responsible to meet sanitation emergency requests from all smaller towns within a cluster of about 75 km radius.


Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.


This Act intends to, inter alia, achieve its objectives to: -

            i)          Eliminate the insanitary latrines.

            ii)         Prohibit:-

                        a)         Employment as Manual Scavengers 

                        b)         Hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.

            iii)        Survey of Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation, Within a time, bound manner.

  • Main features of the Act are: - 

(i)     Definitions of manual scavengers and insanitary latrines widened to cover not only dry latrines but other insanitary latrines as well.

(ii)   Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable and attract stringent penalties.

(iii) Vigilance/Monitoring Committee at sub-Division, District, State and Central Govt. levels. 

(iv) National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) would, inter alia, monitor implementation of the Act  and enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of the Act.

(v)   Provision of construction of adequate number of sanitary community latrines in urban areas, within three years from the date of commencement of this Act to eliminate the practice of open defecation.

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.


President appoints Governors


What to study?

For Prelims: Constitutional provisions related to the office of governor.

For Mains: Significance and issues associated with the office of governor- is he merely a rubber stamp, comparison of powers with the President and frequent removals.


Context: By exercising his authority under Article 156 of the constitution, President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed new Governors for Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.


Governors of States in India:

  • Governor is the nominal head of a state, unlike the Chief Minister who is the real head of a state in India.
  • According to an amendment in the Constitution of India (7th Constitutional Amendment Act), brought about in 1956, the same person can be the Governor of two or more states.


Appointment and removal: 

  • The governors and lieutenant-governors are appointed by the president for a term of 5 years.
  • The term of governor’s office is normally 5 years but it can be terminated earlier by: Dismissal by the president on the advice of the prime minister of the country, at whose pleasure the governor holds office or Resignation by the governor. Thus, the term is subject to pleasure of the president.
  • There is no provision of impeachment, as it happens for the president.
  • Article 157 and Article 158of the Constitution of India specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor.



  • Like the President of India, the Governor of any state in India is vested with certain executive, legislative and judicial powers.
  • He or she also possesses certain discretionary or emergency powers.
  • But one major difference in the powers enjoyed by the President and those enjoyed by the Governor is, the Governor does not have any diplomatic or military powers.


Some discretionary powers are as follows:

  1. Governor can dissolve the legislative assemblyif the chief minister advices him to do following a vote of no confidence. Following which, it is up to the Governor what he/ she would like to do.
  2. Governor, on his/ her discretion can recommend the president about the failure of the constitutional machinery in the state.
  3. On his/ her discretion, the Governor can reserve a bill passed by the state legislature for president’s assent.
  4. If there is no political party with a clear-cut majority in the assembly, Governor on his/ her discretion can appoint anybody as chief minister.
  5. Governor determines the amount payable by the Government of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to an autonomous Tribal District Council as royalty accruing from licenses for mineral exploration.
  6. Governor can seek information from the chief minister with regard to the administrative and legislative matters of the state.
  7. Governor has discretion to refuse to sign to an ordinary bill passed by the state legislature.


Problem with constitutional design:

The governor is merely appointed by the president on the advice of the Central government.

Unlike the president, a governor does not have a fixed term. He/she holds office at the pleasure of the ruling party in the centre. Both the manner of the appointment and the uncertainty of tenure conspire to make the incumbent an object of the Central government in politically charged circumstances.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019


What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features, significance and the need for the bill.


The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to provide for road safety.  


Key highlights: 

  1. Compensation for road accident victims: The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour. The central government may also make a scheme for providing interim relief to claimants seeking compensation under third party insurance. 
  2. Compulsory insurance: The Bill requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India. 
  3. The fund will be utilised for: (i) treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme, (ii) compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident, (iii) compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and (iv) compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government. 
  4. This Fund will be credited through: (i) payment of a nature notified by the central government, (ii) a grant or loan made by the central government, (iii) balance of the Solatium Fund (existing fund under the Act to provide compensation for hit and run accidents), or (iv) any other source as prescribed the central government.
  5. Good samaritans: The Bill defines a good samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.  The assistance must have been (i) in good faith, (ii) voluntary, and (iii) without the expectation of any reward.  Such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in providing assistance to the victim
  6. Recall of vehicles:The Bill allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users. 
  7. The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to: (i) reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or (ii) replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.
  8. National Transportation Policy:The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments.  The Policy will: (i) establish a planning framework for road transport, (ii) develop a framework for grant of permits, and (iii) specify priorities for the transport system, among other things. 
  9. Road Safety Board:The Bill provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification.  The Board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management including.
  10. Offences and penalties:The Bill increases penalties for several offences under the Act. 
  11. Taxi aggregators:The Bill defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services). These aggregators will be issued licenses by state. Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Swadesh Darshan Scheme


What to study?

For Prelims: First tribal circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme, Key features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

For Mains: Significance of the scheme.


Context: The Ministry of Tourism, under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, has identified tribal circuit as one of the fifteen thematic circuits for development of tourism infrastructure in the country with the objective of showcasing tribal culture, art, handicrafts and providing livelihood and enhance employment opportunities for tribal populations in the country.


About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

Tourism Ministry launched the scheme.

Objective: to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.


Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  1. The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding.
  2. To leverage the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.
  3. Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).
  4. National Steering Committee (NSC)will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.
  5. Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.
  6. PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Cyber security related issues.


Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS)


What to study?

For Prelims: CCTNS, difference between CCTNS and NATGRID.

For Mains: CCTNS- need and benefits, smart policing, police reforms.


Context: Against a target of covering 14306 police stations, a total of 14874 police stations (excluding police stations in Bihar) have been covered under the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), which includes new police stations.


What is CCTNS project?

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) is a project initiated in June 2009 which aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the Police Station level. This will be done through adoption of principles of e-Governance, and creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for evolution of IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system around “investigation of crime and detection of criminals”. CCTNS is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan of Govt. of India.


What it does?

  • The Project will interconnect about 15000 Police Stations and additional 5000 offices of supervisory police officers across the country and digitize data related to FIR registration, investigation and charge sheets in all Police Stations.
  • It will not only automate Police functions at Police station and higher levels but will also create facilities and mechanism to provide public services like registration of online complaints, ascertaining the status of case registered at the police station, verification of persons etc.
  • In 2015, an additional objective of establishing a basic platform for an Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) was added to the Project.



  • The Full implementation of the Project with all the new components would lead to a Central citizen portal having linkages with State level citizen portals that will provide a number of citizen friendly services like Police Verification for various purposes including passport verification, reporting a crime including cyber-crime and online tracking of the case progress etc.
  • The project will enable National level crime analytics to be published at increased frequency, which will help the policy makers as well as lawmakers in taking appropriate and timely action, it will also enable Pan-India criminal/accused name search in the regional language for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement. This would lead to development of a national database of crimes and criminals.

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Broadband Readiness Index for states


What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features, need for and significance of the index.


Context: DoT and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) for Indian states and Union Territories (UT). 

The index will include indicators such as percentage of households using computers/ laptops with internet connection, percentage of households with fixed broadband connection, internet users as a percentage of the population, smartphones density, percentage of households with at least one digitally literate member, etc.



  1. Appraise the condition of the underlying digital infrastructure and related factors at state/UT levels.
  2. Provide useful insights into strategic choices made by states for investment allocations in ICT programmes, the statement said.
  3. Encourage states to cross learn and jointly participate in achieving the overall objective of digital inclusion and development in India. 



The framework will not only evaluate a state’s relative development but also allow for better understanding of a state’s strengths and weaknesses that can feed into evidence-based policy making.



The National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) 2018 acknowledged the need for building a robust digital communications infrastructure leveraging existing assets of the broadcasting and power sectors including collaborative models involving state, local bodies and the private sector. The policy recommended that an index for states and UTs be developed to attract investments and address Right of Way (RoW) challenges across India.


Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

Russia Launches Spektr-RG


What to study?

For prelims and mains: Objectives, launch and significance of the mission.


ContextSpektr-RG is a Russian–German high-energy astrophysics space observatory launched recently. It follows on from the Spektr-R satellite telescope launched in 2011.


About Spektr- RG:

The Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma mission, also known as Spektr-RG, is a joint project between the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and the German space agency, DLR

Position: Spektr-RG will be placed in a stable orbit in space called a Lagrange point (specifically, L2), where the gravitational forces of two large objects — in this case, the sun and the Earth — balance each other out.

This location will allow Spektr-RG to perform its observations while using a minimal amount of fuel.

Objectives: The spacecraft is expected to detect 100,000 galaxy clusters, 3 million supermassive black holes, tens of thousands of star-forming galaxies, the presence of plasma (superheated gas) and many more types of objects.

The observatory includes two X-ray mirror telescopes, called ART-XC and eROSITA.

A key goal of Spektr-RG will be to investigate the mysterious cosmic components referred to as “dark matter” and “dark energy”.


Sources: the Hindu.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.


Open Acreage Licensing Policy


What to study?

For Prelims: OALP, HELP.

For Mains: Need for HELP and its significance.


Context: Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas signs contracts for 32 blocks awarded under Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) Bid Rounds – II & III.


What is Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP)?

The OALP, a critical part of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, provides uniform licences for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbons, enabling contractors to explore conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources.

Fields are offered under a revenue-sharing model and throw up marketing and pricing freedom for crude oil and natural gas produced.

  • Under the OALP, once an explorer selects areas after evaluating the National Data Repository (NDR) and submits the EoI, it is to be put up for competitive bidding and the entity offering the maximum share of oil and gas to the government is awarded the block.
  • NDR has been created to provide explorers’ data on the country’s repositories, allowing them to choose fields according to their capabilities. Data received through the National Seismic Programme, an in-depth study of 26 sedimentary basins, are continuously being added to the NDR.



The Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) replacing the erstwhile New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) was approved in March 2016 and the Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) along with the National Data Repository (NDR) were launched in June 2017 as the key drivers to accelerate the Exploration and Production (E&P) activities in India.

The main features of HELP are Revenue Sharing Contract, single Licence for exploration and production of conventional as well as unconventional Hydrocarbon resources, marketing & pricing freedom, etc.


What was the need for the new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)?

  • In 2015-2016, India’s crude oil import dependence rose to 81% from 78.5%. In last five years, India has seen overall decline in exploration and production of conventional resources.
  • New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) created in 1997 ended the state dominance and created a competitive environment leading to liberalization of oil and gas exploration and production industry. However, it failed to keep the momentum of production growth and attracting the foreign investment.
  • Bureaucratic hurdles like multiple approvals and sanctions, cost overruns, and disputes led to some oil majors leaving their awarded blocks and exit from the space.


Sources: the Hindu.

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Conservation related issues.


The wheels to a low-carbon transport system


What to study?

For prelims and mains: Impact of road transport system on climate change and measures needed to reverse this trend.


Context: Studies show that India’s road transport emissions are small in global comparison but increasing exponentially. In fact, the Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast as the global rise in 2018.



Globally, the transport sector accounts for a quarter of total emissions, out of which three quarters are from road transport.



Why reduce CO2 emissions from road transport?

Reducing CO2 emissions of road transport leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban areas.


What needs to be done?

  1. The action requires an understanding of how emissions vary with spatial context. In India, income and urbanisation are the key determinants of travel distance and travel mode choice and, therefore, commuting emissions.
  2. Mayors and town planners should organise cities around public transport and cycling, thereby improving mobility for many, while limiting car use.
  3. India should double down in its strategy to transition to electric two and three-wheelers. India is the third-largest market for automobiles; about 25 million internal combustion engines were sold in 2017, including about 20 million two-wheelers.
  4. Compact cities improve accessibility and reduce emissions from transport and even the building sector. City managers should ensure that existing urban areas provide short routes and fast access to schools, hospitals and jobs, otherwise, residents would be required to travel long distances.


Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for Prelims:


Upliftment of Women of Backward Communities:

National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC), an organization under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has the following two women specific schemes for targeted women whose annual family income is less than Rs. 3.00 lakh per annum:

  1. Mahila Samriddhi Yojana: To provide Micro Finance to women entrepreneurs of Backward Classes.
  2. New Swarnima Scheme for Women: Term Loan to inculcate the spirit of self-dependence among the women of Backward Classes.


What is Demands for Grants?

  • Article 113 of the Constitution of India mandates that estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India are included in the Annual Financial Statement, which are required to be voted by the Lok Sabha, and submitted in the form of demand for grants.
    The demands for grants are presented to the Lok Sabha along with the Annual Financial StatementMore than one Demand may be presented for a Ministry or Department depending on the nature of expenditure.
  • Regarding Union Territories without Legislature, a separate demand is presented for each of such Union Territories.
    Each demand initially gives separately the totals of (i) ‘voted’ and ‘charged’ expenditure; (ii) the ‘revenue’ and the ‘capital’ expenditure and (iii) the grand total on gross basis of the amount of expenditure for which the demand is presented.
    This is followed by the estimates of expenditure under different major heads of account. The breakup of the expenditure under each major head between ‘Plan’ and ‘Non-Plan’ is also given. The amounts of recoveries are also shown.

Why in News? Lok Sabha approves the demands for grants under Road Transport and Highways for 2019-20. 


Jan Jagrukta Abhiyaan:

It is a campaign to be launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Delhi to sensitize and mobilise the community on measures for prevention and control of Vector Borne Diseases (VBDs) like Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya.


Markandeshwar temple in Maharashtra:

Context: Restoration work of Markandeshwar temple in Maharashtra by Archaeological Survey of India is in full swing.

About the temple:

  • Known as the “Khajuraho of Vidarbha”,the temple of Markandadeo is situated on the bank of River Wainganga in district Gadchiroli of Maharashtra.
  • The temples belong to the Nagara group of temples of North India
  • On stylistic grounds, their date ranges in between 9-12th centuries CE.
  • The temples belong to saiva, vaishnava and sakta faithMost of the temples have a simple plan, with ardhamandapa, mandapa, antaralaand garbhagriha forming the component of the entire set up.

About Sangeet Natak Akademi:

The Sangeet Natak Akademi – India’s national academy for music, dance and drama – is the first National Academy of the arts set-up by the Republic of India. It was created by a resolution of Government of India.

  • It was set up in 1952.
  • The academy functions as the apex body of the performing arts in the country to preserve and promote the vast cultural heritage of India expressed in music, dance and drama.
  • It also works with governments and art academies in states and territories of the country.
  • The academy Renders advice and assistance to the government of India in the task of formulating and implementing policies and programmes in the field. It carries a part of the responsibilities of the state for fostering cultural contacts between regions in the country, as well as between India and the world.
  • The Akademi Awards are the highest national recognition conferred on eminent artistes. Each year the Academy awards Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships, Ratna Sadsya, to distinguished individuals for their contribution to the field of arts, music, dance and theatre. Ustad Bismillah Khan award is given to young artists for their talent in the fields of music, dance and drama.
  • The Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar is conferred upon artists below the age of 40 years.