Daily Current Affairs

For the first time, India gets its soil moisture map



Mains Paper 3: Agriculture| Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Rabi and Kharif Season, Variable Infiltration Capacity Model

Mains level: Utility of Moisture Mapping


Moisture Mapping

  1. With the Rabi season around the corner, a countrywide forecast is prepared at the end of the monsoon season.
  2. This forecast, following a joint exercise by IIT Gandhinagar and the India Meteorological Department (IMD), for the first time, provides a country-wide soil moisture forecast at seven and 30-day lead times.
  3. Soil moisture is crucial for agriculture since it directly affects crop growth and how much irrigation is required for the area.
  4. It suggests deficit soil moisture conditions are likely in Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.

Variable Infiltration Capacity Model

  1. The experts used the ‘Variable Infiltration Capacity’ model to provide the soil moisture prediction.
  2. The product, termed ‘Experimental Forecasts Land Surface Products’, is available on the IMD website.
  3. It has been developed using the hydrological model that takes into consideration soil, vegetation, land use and land cover among other parameters.
  4. The team has been working on high-resolution soil database that is essential for soil parameters used in the modelling.
  5. However, the database is not available for the entire country currently.

Why need Moisture Map?

  1. Crucial information needed for agriculture is not revealed only through rainfall data.
  2. Even if there’s a normal rainfall, if the temperature is abnormally high, it can rapidly deplete the soil moisture.
  3. So essentially soil moisture gives us more information on what is needed for crop growth in different parts of the country.
  4. Forecasting of soil moisture holds significance for the rabi season.
  5. As per official data, the total area sown under rabi crops is around 625 lakh hectares of which wheat takes up 300 lakh hectares.
  6. Timely soil moisture forecasts will help target interventions, in terms of seed varieties for better planning in agriculture.

Leap over Kharif uncertainties

  1. In Bundelkhand, most farmers keep their land fallow or just grow some fodder crop during the kharif season since the rains are unpredictable and there could be extended dry spells after sowing.
  2. They then mainly cultivate the rabi crop using the soil moisture left behind by the monsoon rains.
  3. It is a similar trend in Bihar, in low lying areas of Seemanchal and Kosi belt, where no crop is grown during Kharif because of inundated lands.
  4. This means that if there is not enough rainfall in one or two months, these are regions which will demand heavy irrigation whether that comes from groundwater or surface water storage (reservoirs).
  5. Based on observed conditions at present, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh are deficient in terms of soil moisture right now.

Monsoon Updates

Geological Survey chooses heritage locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka for UNESCO site status




From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Geoparks Network

Mains level: Not Much



  • In a first, an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra and a hexagonal mosaic of basaltic rocks in an island off Udupi are set to become global geoparks, under a Geological Survey of India (GSI) plan.
  • Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.

Requirements of Global Geoparks

  1. An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted.
  2. The Geopark tag is akin to that of a ‘World Heritage Site’ for historical monuments that can bring India’s famed geological features to the global stage.
  3. Lonar lake is the only known meteorite crater in basaltic rock and is world famous, while St. Mary’s island is a unique phenomenon that has been preserved well.
  4. Mary’s Island, declared a national geo-heritage site in 1975, is estimated to be an 88-million-year-old formation that goes back to a time when Greater India broke away from Madagascar.


Global Geoparks Network

  1. The Global Geoparks Network (GGN) is a UNESCO assisted network established in 1998.
  2. The GGN works in close synergy with another project under UNESCO’s Ecological and Earth Sciences Division—the Man and Biosphere (MAB) World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
  3. A set of criteria as established by UNESCO must first be met for a geopark, as nominated by the corresponding government, to be included in the GGN:
  • the existence of a management plan designed to foster socio-economic development that is sustainable (most likely to be based on agritourism and geotourism);
  • demonstrate methods for conserving and enhancing geological heritage and provide means for teaching geoscientific disciplines and broader environmental issues;
  • joint-proposals submitted by public authorities, local communities and private interests acting together, which demonstrate the best practices with respect to Earth heritage conservation and its integration into sustainable development strategies.

President gives assent to India’s first good Samaritan Bill



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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the bill, Article 200, 201

Mains level: Measures to curb fatalities of Road Accidents in India



  • The Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill 2016 received the President’s assent to finally become an Act.

The Golden Hour

  1. The legislation aims to give protection to good Samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within the ‘golden hour’.
  2. In medical term the ‘golden hour’ is the first hour after a traumatic injury when emergency treatment is very crucial.
  3. It encourages people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment in the hands of police and investigations.

Good Samaritan Fund

  1. Under the new law, the Karnataka government will provide financial help to good Samaritans who help victims in a timely manner.
  2. They will be exempted from repeated attendance in courts and police stations.
  3. But if in case the attendance is mandatory, expenses of such “running around to courts and police stations” will be taken care through the proposed ‘Good Samaritan Fund’.

Provisions of the Bill

  1. The legislation covers the costs of “running around to courts and police stations” and grants the “Samaritans” exemption from repeated attendance in courts.
  2. It also makes it mandatory for all government and private hospitals to give first aid to accident victims. Karnataka accounted for a significantly high number of road accident fatalities in 2016 and 2015.


Governor’s power to Reserve Bills for President’s reconsideration

  1. Under Article 200, the Governor can reserve a bill passed by the legislature for reconsideration of the President.
  2. A bill can be reserved under the following circumstances:
  • if the bill is unconstitutional,
  • if it is against the larger interest of the country,
  • if it is in direct opposition to the Directive Princi­ples of State Policy,
  • if the bill passed by the state legislature is of grave national importance,
  • if it endangers the position of the High Court and
  • if the bill, deals with the compulsory acquisition of property under Article 31(3).
  1. This reservation is an alternative to his giving or refusing assent to the Bill. Indeed, in matters where reservation is compulsory, the Governor is prohibited from giving his assent.
  2. The Constitution does not specify the time-limit within which the Governor can reserve the bill and when the bill would come back.
  3. Under Article 201, when the Governor sends a bill to the President for reconsideration, the President has to declare whether he is giving or withholding his assent.
  4. In cases of non-money bills, the President, if he is not giving his assent, can ask the Governor to send the bill back to the House or Houses as the case may be.
  5. The House or Houses will reconsider this bill, sent by the President, within a period of six months from the date of receipt of such message.
  6. If it is again passed by the House or Houses, with or without amendment, it shall be presented again to the President for his consideration.

Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

[pib] IBSAMAR-VI kicks off at Simons Town, South Africa



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IBSAMAR VI, IBSA

Mains level: Not Much



  1. The sixth edition of IBSAMAR, a joint Multi – National Maritime Exercise between the Indian, Brazilian and South African Navies, is being held at Simons Town, South Africa.
  2. The Indian Navy is represented by Guided Missile Frigate Tarkash, Guided Missile Destroyer Kolkata, Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I, Seaking and Chetak helicopters as well as a MARCOS contingent.
  3. The exercise includes both harbour and sea phases with various navigation and seamanship evolutions, surface weapons firing, force protection exercises, antipiracy exercise, anti-air and anti-submarine exercise as well as flying operations.


  1. IBSAMAR are a series of naval exercises between the navies of India, Brazil, South Africa.
  2. The aim of the exercise is to undertake collective training for participating navies, building interoperability and mutual understanding as well as sharing of best practices.
  3. The first exercise took place in 2008.

Indian Navy Updates

[op-ed snap] The new deals — on U.S.-Mexico-Canada pact



Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NAFTA, USMCA

Mains level: Protectionist approach being taken by the US and its impact on global economy


Replacing NAFTA

  1. After more than a year of intense negotiation, the U.S., Canada and Mexico managed to arrive at a revised trade agreement on Sunday to replace the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  2. The deal does not do anything new to promote the cause of free trade among the North American nations but it achieves the objective of averting any significant damage to the international trade system
  3. This is the best anyone could possibly hope for in the midst of the global trade war that began this year

Details of the new deal

  1. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) makes several changes to NAFTA
  2. There are tweaks to production quotas applied to Canada’s dairy industry
  3. Under the new deal, Canada will have to allow American dairy producers to compete against locals, a move that will favour Canadian consumers
  4. The U.S. agreed to retain Chapter 19 and Chapter 20 dispute-settlement mechanisms as a compromise
  5. This will help Canada and Mexico deal with protectionist duties imposed by the U.S.

Why the deal is not a big achievement?

  1. Not all the amendments are congenial to the prospects of free trade
  2. Unlike other free trade deals entered into by governments, the present one attempts to micromanage trade in a way that benefits specific interest groups at the cost of the overall economy
  3. The new labour regulations and rules of origin will add to the cost of production of goods such as cars, thus making them uncompetitive in the global market
  4. The USMCA mandates a minimum wage that is above the market wage on labour employed in Mexico, yet another move that will make North America a tough place to do business
  5. Foreign investors may now have fewer protections from unfriendly local laws as the accord does away with resolutions through multilateral dispute panels for certain sectors

Prospects for India

  1. Announcing the USMCA, Mr Trump signalled he would now extend his ‘all or nothing’ approach to resetting trade ties with the European Union, China, Japan and India
  2. Terming India “the tariff king”, he said it had sought to start negotiations immediately
  3. India’s trade negotiators will now have their task cut out if they want to protect exporters’ access to one of the country’s largest markets for its services and merchandise

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: Get smarter on the farm



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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need for a shift in India’s agricultural policy and moving towards less subsidies


Need for change in agri policy

  1. India needs a good blend of investments and subsidies in its agriculture policy
  2. There is not a severe constraint on resources to invest in rural areas, be it roads, water (irrigation), sanitation, and even housing
  3. Including agri-research and development (R&D) and quality education in this list of rural investments would ensure handsome payoffs — reducing poverty and propelling agri-growth at a much faster pace than has been the case so far

India’s policy so far

  1. Most countries support agriculture to ensure food security and/or enhance farmers’ income, so does India
  2. The main policy instruments to support farmers in India include subsidised fertilisers, power, agri-credit and crop insurance on the input side, and minimum support prices for major crops on the output front
  3. A recent study, conducted jointly by the OECD and ICRIER, estimated that India’s trade and marketing policies have inflicted a huge negative price burden upon the country’s farmers
  4. The Producer Support Estimate (PSE) for India works out to be minus (-) 14 per cent of the gross farm receipts for the period 2000-01 to 2016-17
  5. This is primarily because of restrictive export policies (minimum export prices, export bans or export duties) and domestic marketing policies (due to the Essential Commodities Act, APMC, etc)

Return on investments low

  1. Public capital formation in agriculture has been declining from 3.9 per cent of agri-GDP in 1980-81 to 2.2 per cent in 2014-15
  2. Input subsidies on fertilisers, water, power, crop insurance and agri-credit have risen from 2.8 per cent to 8 per cent of the agricultural GDP during the same period
  3. The rapid increase in input subsidies has squeezed public investments in agriculture
  4. Therefore, India has not got the biggest bang for its buck being spent in the agriculture space
  5. The results show that expenditure incurred on Agri-R&E (Research and Education), roads or education are five to 10 times more powerful in alleviating poverty or increasing agri-GDP than a similar expenditure made on input subsidies

Impact of excessive subsidies

  1. Excessive input subsidies have caused large-scale inefficiencies in the agriculture system
  2. For example, fertiliser subsidies, especially on urea, have led to the imbalanced use of soil nutrients
  3. The subsidy on irrigation water has resulted in an inefficient use of scarce water
  4. Highly subsidised power has led to over-exploitation of groundwater
  5. Subsidy on the interest rates on crop loans has diverted substantial amounts of agri-credit to non-agricultural use

Policy suggestions

  • Investment in public irrigation is very expensive, as it involves long lags, and the gap between the potential created and potential utilised has increased over time
  1. To give higher returns, this leaky system must be fixed, it should be made more transparent and the gap between potential created and utilised bridged
  • The present system of delivering subsidies through the pricing policy needs to be shifted to an income policy, which could be well-targeted, and leakages minimised— on the lines of JAM trinity
  1. Many OECD countries, as well as emerging countries such as China, are moving in that direction
  2. Indian farms can also benefit from this move where input subsidies at least are given as DBT on a per hectare (ha) basis
  • Investments need to be prioritised towards agricultural research and development, roads and education
  1. At the global level, the private sector is leading in agri-R&D
  2. If India needs to access that technology, it needs to develop a proper IPR regime, which is in the interest of farmers as well as investors

Way Forward

  1. India needs to make moves to give its farmers access to the best technologies in the world
  2. This, in turn, can augment their productivity and incomes and give the nation long-term food security

Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] A flight path with obstacles



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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s new drone policy and how it will have an adverse impact on industry


New drone policy

  1. While the rest of the world has been soaring ahead in making the futuristic promise of unmanned flying vehicles a more immediate reality, India has largely been dragging its feet
  2. Up until the end of August, flying a drone was mostly illegal here
  3. With the publication of the drone regulations in late August, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has attempted to give some structure to the development of drone infrastructure in India

Long list of regulations

  1. Flying a drone is a task wrapped tightly in immense paperwork
  2. India’s regulations separate drones into five categories — nano, micro, small, medium and large
  3. The paranoia kicks in from the micro category, starting with the application for a unique identification number (UIN) for each drone, with a long list of documentation including security clearances from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in several cases
  4. Once the UIN is obtained, operators get to move to the next step — of having to apply for an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), implying more forms, more annexures and more submissions
  5. Even to fly a micro drone below 200 ft, users have to intimate the local police station 24 hours prior

Impact on industry

  1. Manufacturers of drones as well as technologists and researchers making applications using drones have to test fly these frequently, often several times a day
  2. With so many government authorities involved in allowing permission and keeping an eye, it is inevitable that operators could be slapped easily with real and perceived violations
  3. The structure of these regulations makes the possibility of a red tape-free flight very slim

Prospects of drones

  1. The real impact of drones will be in the many applications they will be put to
  2. They are likely to be the disaster prevention systems, rescue operation leaders, and even public transport providers in the not too distant future
  3. Missing out on working on these applications early enough will likely have serious repercussions to India’s future competitiveness in the field

Way Forward

  1. China’s drone economy — manufacturing and development — will be worth $9 billion in 2020, while the U.S’s commercial drone market is expected to be $2.05 billion by 2023 (Global Market Insights)
  2. For India to compete against these giants, it already has a lot of catching up to do
  3. Filing a series of applications in multiple copies and waiting for various government departments to respond is not the best way to get started

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

[pib] PM inaugurates first assembly of the International Solar Alliance



Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Solar Alliance, IORA, RE-INVEST

Mains level: India’s initiatives for transition towards Renewable Energy



  • The PM today inaugurated the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance.
  • The same event also marked the inauguration of the second IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting, and the 2nd Global RE-Invest (Renewable Energy Investors’ Meet and Expo).

Highlights of the ISA Assembly

  1. The target is to generate 40 percent of India’s total energy requirements in 2030, by non fossil fuel based sources.
  2. PM Modi emphasized that if the dream of “One World, One Sun and One Grid” is followed, uninterrupted power supply can be ensured.
  3. He announced plans to launch a National Energy Storage Mission that will look at manufacturing, deployment, technology development and policy framework.
  4. The first Assembly will lay the foundation for global Solar Agenda.
  5. The Assembly will adjudicate upon various administrative, financial and programme related issues.


  1. The Indian Ocean Rim Association was set up with the objective of strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean Region with 21 Member States and 7 Dialogue Partners.
  2. India is hosting 2nd IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial meet.
  3. In this meeting, Ministers from 9 member countries and delegates from all 21 member countries are expected to participate.
  4. India, Australia, Iran, Indonesia Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, Madagascar, UAE, Yemen, Seychelles, Somalia, Comoros and Oman are members of IORA.


  1. RE-Invest is a global platform to explore strategies for development and deployment of renewables.
  2. It showcases India’s green energy market and the Government’s efforts to scale up capacity to meet the national energy demand in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways.
  3. The 2nd RE-INVEST aims at accelerating the worldwide effort to scale up renewable energy and connect the global investment community with Indian energy stakeholders.
  4. The 2nd RE-INVEST will provide a great opportunity to various countries, states, business houses & organisations to showcase their business strategies, achievements and expectations.
  5. It would facilitate collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in India, which has today emerged as one of the world’s largest renewable energy markets.

RE Status of India

  1. Globally, India stands 5th in renewable power, 4th in wind power and 5th in solar power installed capacity.
  2. Renewable energy development and deployment has received proactive policy support, including 100% foreign investment.
  3. The Government of India is aiming to exceed the set target of 175 GW renewable energy capacity by 2022.