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The Hindu 16 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair







Lessons after the great deluge                                                                       



Modi announces new post of Chief of Defence Staff on I-Day



Trade rhetoric                                                                                                           



CBIC seeks inputs to plug ‘gift’ loophole                           



New cure for deadly strain of Tuberculosis                                                  



Microplastics in Arctic snow point to widespread air contamination



Booming AgriTech sector aims at solving supply chain woes     



Article 371H will not be tinkered with: Khandu




1. Lessons after the great deluge                                                                       (The Hindu, Page 10)     


Mains: GS Paper III – Disaster Management




Context: The article highlights the reasons for recurring floods in Kerala. The flood situation has been mainly attributed to rampant urbanization in the ecologically fragile drainage basin of Kerala. To improve the situation a watershed-based master planning has been suggested. 


Urbanization the root cause 

  • Kerala has witnessed widespread urbanization in the last two decades. Linear development which has been along major road networks, has completely ignored the varying and ecologically sensitive landscape. 

  • Substantial portions of revenue lands in the State are wetlands and forests, which has resulted in a shortage of buildable land parcels.

  • This is creating huge pressure on these ecologically fragile areas for conversion to government-supported infrastructure projects as well as private profit-making enterprises.

  • Due to this all landslide and flood-affected areas in the State are in Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ-1), as categorised by the Madhav Gadgil report.


Issues with present approach for reducing disasters 

  • Plans and laws such as Integrated Water Resources Management or Coastal Regulation Zone Notification hold key solutions to natural disasters that are linked to water management. However most of them are not implemented or followed in letter and spirit.

  • There is lack of legislation for housing and land use in fragile zones. 

  • Lack of coordination and holistic approach in planning 


What needs to be done?

  • Building bye-laws for urban and rural areas in accordance with bettering environmental sustainability

  • Implementation of the Kerala HC ruling which talked about Inclusion of a clause in building rules, such that natural drains and streams shall not be obstructed by development/building permit. 


Master Plans 


There is a need  for watershed-based master planning and development legislated guidelines for each major river basin, especially those that impact densely populated settlements.


Master plans should include – 

  • There must be a demarcation of ecologically sensitive zones using existing village survey maps and public participation. There must be clear land use plan for these zones specifying flood plains, protected forest areas, agricultural and plantation zones, with details of the types of crops, building usages permitted and the density of buildings permitted.

  • Second, to compensate owners in non-buildable areas, there must be strategies such as Transfer of Development Rights to buildable zones in cities.

  • Third, the master plan should focus on permitting only ecologically sensitive building strategies for these areas by proposing new construction techniques. Controlled development can be proposed using building height rules, floor area ratio control, and restrictions on cutting and filling natural land.

  • Fourth, strategies to make sure that all infrastructure projects are carried out in a scientific manner with strict scrutiny must be specified. This should include roads built on difficult terrain and all public infrastructure projects in wetlands and the High Ranges.


Post disaster management 

  • The floods in 2018 brought high levels of silt from the highlands, reducing river depths and narrowing river mouths. 

  • A year later, this silt has not been cleared, reducing the carrying capacity of rivers. 

  • Strategies are required by the government and the people to reclaim groundwater percolation and flood plains. 

  • Legal processes and bye-laws need revisions. 


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2. Modi announces new post of Chief of Defence Staff on I-Day.          (The Hindu, Page 01)   


Prelims GS Paper III – Security  




Recent Context: PM Modi announced for the appointment of a Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) who will be above the three service chiefs. The modalities are expected to be finalised in the next few months.


Background to CDS:

  • The creation of a CDS to act as a single-point military adviser to the Prime Minister on strategic issues was one of the in-direct recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee on higher military reforms after the 1999 conflict. 

  • In 2012, the Naresh Chandra committee recommended the appointment of a Permanent Chairman COSC as a midway to allay apprehensions over the CDS. Currently, the senior-most of the three chiefs functions as the Chairman of the COSC.

  • D.B. Shekatkar Committee also recommended the formation of CDS.



  • The creation of the CDS will eventually lead to the formation of tri-service theatre commands intended to create vertical integration of the three forces. 

  • The CDS will be a single-point military adviser to the government and synergise long-term planning, procurements, training and logistics of the three services. 

  • A regular concept that has emerged is of standalone integrated theatre commands or unified command and is a concept mainly popularised by United States. 

  • Simply, the military would be integrated into Western, Southern and Northern command structure that would subsume all operational functions of the existing 19 predominantly single-service commands in their respective geographical areas, wherein currently Indian military structure is divided on basis of Single Service Commands such as Navy, Airforce, Army, etc. with their own Regional Commands.  

  • Based on the Kargil Review Committee and on recommendations of the Group of Ministers, the joint command came into existence on October 8, 2001, with elements of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard operating under one unified command. 



  1. The creation of Chief of the Defence Staff may lead to dilution in the operational control of the respective service chief.

  2. The main apprehensions of the Indian Air Force is on how exploit its limited offensive resources and enabling equipment and platforms  such as AWACS, refuelers, electronic warfare platform, etc if they are hived off to multiple theatre commands.

  3. It would be difficult to replicate every Single Service Command to every Theatre Command, which requires a considerable large budgetary allocation to Ministry of Defence.

  4. Theatre Command structure has not been adopted by any major country in the recent past.

  5. India’s military engagements in the past such as during Kargil War has not highlighted any form of major issues of cooperation or ‘Jointness’ among the various military service commands in India.

  6. Integrated theatre commands when adopted in developing countries have shown a greater ability of political influence by the top tier Integrated military commanders on the Government.

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3. Trade rhetoric                                                                                                           (The Hindu Page 10)


Mains: GS Paper III – Economy   


World trade/ WTO 


Recent Context:

  • Now under WTO rules, a country has the power to classify themselves as developing country if no other country objects. 

  • U.S. President has claimed that this status of 'developing country' which is given WTO rules is being misused by several countries. Now, according to U.S. 

  • President, India and China classify themselves as developing countries whereby what this basically means is that they are growing economies. But according to Donald Trump, Indian and Chinese economy has already grown, and should not classified as growing economy or as developing countries under WTO rules.


Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

  • Developing countries comprise a majority of the WTO membership. They are grouped as developing countries and least developed countries.

  • There are no WTO definitions of “developed” and “developing” countries. Members announce for themselves whether they are “developed” or “developing” countries. However, other members can challenge the decision of a member to make use of provisions available to developing countries.

  • Developing country status in the WTO brings certain rights, which includes:

  • Provisions in some WTO Agreements which provide developing countries with longer transition periods before they are required to fully implement the agreement 

  • Both GATT and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) allow developing countries some preferential treatment. Developing and least-developed countries special rights or extra leniency — “special and differential treatment”. 

  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which deals with trade in goods) has a special section (Part 4) on Trade and Development which includes provisions on the concept of non-reciprocity in trade negotiations between developed and developing countries — when developed countries grant trade concessions to developing countries they should not expect the developing countries to make matching offers in return.

  • Provisions designed to increase developing countries’ trading opportunities through greater market access (e.g. in textiles, services, technical barriers to trade)

  • Provisions requiring WTO members to safeguard the interests of developing countries when adopting some domestic or international measures (e.g. in anti-dumping, safeguards, technical barriers to trade)

  • The WTO Secretariat has special legal advisers for assisting developing countries in any WTO dispute and for giving them legal counsel. 

  • TRIPS agreement allows the use of patented medicines at a cheaper rate under certain conditions.


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4. CBIC seeks inputs to plug ‘gift’ loophole                           (The Hindu , pg no - 05)                                                                                            


Mains GS Paper II – Economy 





  • According to the Foreign Trade Act, gift items of value up to ₹5,000 received from foreign countries to people residing in India are exempted from customs duty.

  • Many foreign sellers were evading customs duty by categorising their products as ‘gifts’.  Several e-commerce firms, especially from China, were delivering orders to India-resident customers by disguising their products as gifts so as to evade customs duty that would normally be applicable on the products.



  • Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs (CBIC) has asked domestic industry players to come up with a detailed and long-term solution to combat customs duty evasion by foreign sellers who are currently exploiting a loophole in the law. 

  • CBIC has clarified that they do not intend to curb the import of gifts.


Possible Solutions:

  • Indian postal channel can engage Customs officials when gift shipments arrive and raise a red flag on suspicious products

  • Products checking at ports of entry

  • Imposition of a flat rate of tax and Integrated Goods and Services Tax to be applied on all items imported from e-commerce companies. This way, gifts can be distinguished from e-commerce purchases.

  • Integrate the payment portals of e-commerce companies with the CBIC so that when a payment is made for a product that has to enter India, the CBIC has the barcode and other details it can match with the product when it arrives at a port of entry. 


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5. New cure for deadly strain of Tuberculosis                                                  (The Hindu Pg no 22)


Prelims GS paper II – health 





  • In a communication from the World Health Organization, an important change is suggested for persons who are suffering from Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

  • All injectables will be replaces with a fully oral regimen to treat MDR-TB patients. For this purpose BEDAQUILINE is recommended.


What is MDR-TB?


Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of tuberculosis (TB) infection caused by

bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB

medications (drugs), ISONIAZID AND RIFAMPIN. Some forms of TB are also resistant to second-line medications, and are called extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB


Why injectables are not the best way to treat MDR-TB?

  • Injectables cause serious adverse effects, which lead to discontinuation of treatment by


  • Success rate of treatment using injectables is close to 54%, which is less.


Interim guideline of the WHO for the treatment to MDR-TB

New guidelines for the treatment will be released next year. However, the WHO has come up with

interim guidelines for the treatment of MDR-TB.

  • According to the guideline, the drug BEDAQUILINE in the cases of MDR-TB patients should be given as a last resort. (As the Phase III of clinical trials have not been carried out for the drug).


Tuberculosis in India

  • As per the WHO Global TB Report-2017, India had an estimated 84,000 new

MDR/rifampicin-resistant-TB cases in 2016.

  • Based on the first-ever drug susceptibility testing on nearly 5,000 TB patients (new

and previously treated) carried out in India in 2014-2016, 6.19% were found to be


  • India has been getting bedaquiline drug courses (11,000 so far) for free under the

conditional access programme of USAID, which will end next year.

  • With the drug becoming cheaper, and its effectiveness and safety now proven, India

should waste little time to make the switch to treat all MDR-TB patients with



South Africa was the first country to scale up access to the bedaquiline. Johnson and Johnson has offered to supply the drug to India at a price of $400 (for a 6-month course).


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6. Microplastics in Arctic snow point to widespread air contamination.    (The Hindu Pg no 22)


Mains GS paper III – Environment  




Context: Minute microplastic particles have been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow


Key Highlights

  • Every year, several million tonnes of plastic litter course through rivers and out to the oceans, where they are gradually broken down into smaller fragments through the motion of waves and the ultraviolet light of the sun.

  • A study has found that microplastic particles can be transported tremendous distances through the atmosphere.

  • These particles, defined as shreds less than five millimeters in length, are later washed out of the air by precipitation, particularly snow.

  • The majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air,

  • The team’s hypothesis for airborne transportation builds on past research conducted on pollen, where experts confirmed that pollen from near the equator ends up in the Arctic.

  • Similarly, dust from the Sahara desert can cover thousands of kilometres and end up in northeast Europe.


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  1. Booming agritech sector aims at solving supply chain woes     (The Hindu Pg no 09)


Mains GS paper III – Economy 





Recently, NASSCOM has published a report titled as "Agritech in India: Emerging trends in 2019". 


What is Agritech?

Agritech is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability. Agritech can be products, services or applications derived from agriculture that improve various input/output processes. Examples include Mobile applications, weather forecasts, drones, Use of ICT in agriculture etc.


How does it benefit Agriculture?

Rationalisation of Employment: Agriculture sector employs 50% of India’s workforce but contributes only 18% of the GDP. Solutions that enable farm automation and aggregation will rationalize and gainfully redistribute the workforce.

Enhancing Productivity: Digital / Precision Agriculture based businesses offers innovative technology solutions for increasing crop productivity and farming process efficiency

Better Access to Inputs: Providing farmers better access to agricultural inputs at their doorsteps, it helps farmers to understand the best input product to increase the yield and productivity 

Access to Loans: Farmers in India struggle to get finance but Agritech based financing start-ups helps such under-served community of farmers to get loans quickly 

Resource Maximization: 80% of India’s fresh water is used in agriculture. Reduction in usage of water and pesticides is a significant business opportunity.

Agricultural Marketing: Mandis need digitization to bring more transparency into transactions.

Processing and Exports: Reduce post-harvest losses which presently account for Rs 93,000 crores annually.


 Important Case Studies

FASAL:  AI-powered IoT platform which works in pre-harvest value chain of food production with aim to reduce the input cost in terms of Water, Chemical usage Improve crop quality and crop yield.

BharatRohan: Provides support to the farmers from sowing to post-harvest, with periodic alerts on early diagnosis of pests infestation, disease outbreaks and supports in cultivation through IPM practices.

Jai Kisan: Provide low-cost and timely financing for agricultural equipment.

Gold Farm: Uber for farm equipment platform to help agri equipment fleet owners realise better returns on their farm equipment.

NinjaCart: Reduce post-harvest losses and create direct market linkages.


Policies promoting Agritech in India

  • Karnataka has set up an Agritech fund of USD 2.5 mn with an aim to target to at least 21 startups. Karnataka has also  partnered with IBM for tomato price forecasting using AI technologies. 

  • Maharashtra has launched ‘Agri - Tech’ scheme for digitally tracking agriculture management. 

  • NITI Aayog has started a pilot project on precision agriculture using AI in 10 districts from seven states. 


Highlights of the Report

  • India currently hosts more than 450 start-ups in the Agritech sector which is growing at the rate of 25% year-on-year. The sector has received  around $ 240 mn funding, a massive growth of 300% as compared to the previous year.

  • in the last 5 years, more than 5 global Agritech companies have ventured in India. 

  • New emerging areas like market linkage, digital agriculture, better access to inputs and financing are attracting large traction.

  • Realizing the vision of make in India, for the world, it is estimated that by 2020 the Agritech sector to be at the center-stage of innovation and will lead India's journey towards overall transformation.


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8. Article 371H will not be tinkered with: Khandu    (The Hindu Pg no 06)


Mains GS paper II – Polity 


Special provisions 


Arunachal Pradesh 


Under Article 371-H, the following special provisions are made for Arunachal Pradesh 13 : 


1. The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh shall have special responsibility for law and order in the state. In the discharge of this responsibility, the Governor, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercises his individual judgement and his decision is final. This special responsibility of the Governor shall cease when the President so directs. 


2. The Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly is to consist of not less than 30 members.