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The Hindu 21 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair







Free Fall (Editorial)



AQI remains satisfactory



Odisha to implement One Nation, One Ration Card Scheme



Taking a headcount (Data Count)



Swami Vivekanand – The monk who shaped India’s secularism  




1. Free Fall (Editorial) (The Hindu Page 10)


Prelims: International Relations 

Mains: GS, paper II - International Relations 


Withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan    


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  • U.S. is currently in negotiations with the Taliban for an agreement that may allow U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and return of Taliban to Afghan politics. In addition, Taliban has promised the U.S. that it will ensure that Afghan territory is not used by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. 

  • IS had earlier on declared the province of Khorasan in Eastern Afghanistan as its controlled territory and this rise of IS in Afghanistan further destabilizes the security situation in view of the US. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In addition, Al-Qaeda seems to have alliance with the IS in Syria, Iraq and now may also in Afghanistan.       


Taliban - IS Conflict

  • Taliban is currently in conflict with IS for control of Afghan and also of the narco-trade, a major form finance for both organisations.

  • After the fall of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, it lost its ability finance its operations from trading oil of Iraq & Syria. However now, IS(K) has increased its stake in the narco-trade in-particular of opium from Afghanistan, which it now is using to finance its local and global operations.

  • IS by potentially disrupting the peace process, can ensure that both the Taliban and U.S. focus remains primarily on each other and not IS(K) and thereby giving it time to grow. 

  • Afghan. govt and Taliban are currently not talking to each other, but both share the vision that IS should not be allowed to grow in Afghan. Post-U.S. withdrawal and return of Taliban to Afghan politics, it may allow both Taliban and Afghan govt to support each other in removing IS(K). IS disrupting the peace process would prevent this situation.

  • IS claims that the Afghan govt is a puppet of U.S., Taliban of Pakistan while only IS derives legitimacy from the Caliphate. 

  • The local support in Afghan is still majorly tilted towards the Taliban, however IS(K) is undertaking similar tactics that was used in Iraq and Syria such as of forming fear in the local people through public executions, propaganda through social media, financial rewards for loyalty, among others.


Editorial Recommendation:

  • A post-U.S. withdrawal would lead to a three way conflict in Afghanistan - Afghan govt, Taliban and IS. It would therefore be upto Taliban and Afghan govt to resolve their difference and undertake operations against IS.   

  • U.S. prior to withdrawal can use this opportunity to ensure that a ceasefire is formed between Taliban and Afghan government, and resources are allocated to fighting both Al-Qaeda and IS.




2. AQI remains satisfactory (The Hindu –Page 3)


Prelims: Science and Technology, Environment 

Mains: GS Paper III - Science and Technology & Environment 


Air Quality Index (AQI)


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  • The air quality has been oscillating between “good” and “satisfactory” categories, mainly due to widespread rains last week in New Delhi as per System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR), a forecasting body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.   

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had recorded Delhi’s AQI at 49, which falls in the “good” category.

  • An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. 

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. 

  • The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. 



3. Odisha to implement One Nation, One Ration Card Scheme (The Hindu -Page 6)


Mains: GS Paper II - Issues Relating to poverty and hunger.


Public Distribution System 


In News - The Odisha government has announced that it will implement the Centre’s ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ initiative in the State starting from September 1, 2019.  As per officials, the beneficiaries under both the National Food Security Act and the State Food Security Scheme will be able to get their ration items from any public distribution shop.

The objective of National Food Security Act, 2013 is to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.

Key features:

  • The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized food grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.

  • The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of food grains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.

  • The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of food grains per household per month.

  • The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.

  • Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.

  • In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.

  • The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels.

  • Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability.

Limitation of NFSA:

  1. High fiscal burden in the form of subsidy cost 

  2. Government will have to keep large stock of food grains but FCI storage capacity is insufficient.

  3. Government may have to import food grain during drought years which would lead to additional current account deficit.(CAD)

  4. An Adult needs ~14kg food grain. While NFSA gives only 5 kg per person to Priority households- cruel joke and marketing gimmick.

  5. It focuses only on cereals. Not on pulses (protein), edible oil (fat), fruits, vegetables (for vitamin) and milk- to combat malnutrition.

  6. Malnutrition has its connections with lack of sanitation and medical facilities in rural areas. NFSA alone is insufficient.

  7. identifying households eligible for this scheme is a big challenge


The ‘One nation, one ration card’ scheme, which will allow portability of food security benefits, will be available across the country from July 1, 2020. This means poor migrant workers will be able to buy subsidized rice and wheat from any ration shop in the country if their ration cards are linked to Aadhaar. All the States have been given one more year to use point-of-sale (PoS) machines in the ration shops and implement the scheme. 

Already, more than 85% of people covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) have their cards linked to Aadhaar. While Aadhaar linkage is not necessary to access the NFSA benefits in a beneficiary’s local ration shop closest to her home address, it will be necessary to access the portability scheme. In a bid to reduce nutrition deficiencies among beneficiaries, the Centre would roll out a pilot project in 15 districts to fortify rice with iron, folic acid and vitamins A and B12. It would be available in ration shops from November.  



4. Taking a headcount (Data Count) (The Hindu –Page 11 )


Prelims: Social Issues

Mains: GS Paper II – Social Issues 


Total Fertility Rate


Data Point

  • In his independent day speech, Prime Minister of India highlighted upon the issue of population explosion. 

  • However, this data point highlights that India’s population growth has been falling since 1971 after it peaked between 1961 and 1971. Even Total Fertility Rate in various states has been falling.  

  • It further highlights that between 2001 & 2011, increase in population in Bihar was highest whereas it was lowest in Kerala.  (see the table)

About Total Fertility Rate (TFR)

  • The fertility rate isn’t a measure of how many children each woman in a specific area has. Instead, it’s based on the average number that a woman could potentially have. This is also known as “total fertility rate.”

  • Total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her life time if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population. 

  • It is calculated by totalling the age-specific fertility rates as defined over five-year intervals. Assuming no net migration and unchanged mortality, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population. 

  • TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called Replacement-level fertility as per UN, Population Division. 

  • This value of 2.1 represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age.   

  • The highest fertility rates are found in countries located in Africa. Based on World Bank data from 2017, the highest fertility rate can be found in Niger, where the rate is 7.2. Somalia has the next highest fertility rate of 6.2. The Democratic Republic of Congo comes in third place with a fertility rate of 6.0.  

  • If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.  

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5. Swami Vivekanand – The monk who shaped India’s secularism (The Hindu –Page 11)


Prelims: History & Culture

Mains: GS Paper I - History & Culture 


Swami Vivekanand  & Indian Secularism    


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Indian Secularism

 India is the nation with the third-highest number of Muslims in the world. Its ability to consolidate democracy amidst unprecedented diversity could teach a lesson or two even to advanced industrial economies that have operated along the lines of a classic mono-cultural nation. The country’s secular ideals have their roots in its Constitution, promulgated by its people, a majority of whom are Hindus. 

Indian secularism has always attempted, however imperfectly, to respect the credo of sarva dharma sama bhava (all religions lead to the same goal), which translates to an equal respect for all religions also reflected by Indian Constitution. 

Swami Vivekanand & his ideas and inspirations 

  • In this backdrop, it is necessary to understand what Vivekananda’s life and world view said about Indian nationalism. His Chicago lectures (1893) marked the beginning of a mission that would interpret India’s millennial tradition. 

  • He travelled widely across Europe and engaged Indologists such as Max Mueller and Paul Deussen. He even debated with eminent scientists such as Nicola Tesla before embarking on his reformist mission in India. One of the key elements of his message, based on the experiments of his spiritual mentor Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, was that all religions lead to the same goal.    

  • While in Chicago, Vivekananda stressed three important and novel facets of Hindu life. First, he said that Indian tradition believed “not only in toleration” but in acceptance of “all religions as true”. 

  • Second, he stressed in no uncertain terms that Hinduism was incomplete without Buddhism, and vice versa. 

  • Finally, at the last meeting he proclaimed: “If anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: ‘Help and not fight’; ‘Assimilation and not destruction’, and ‘Harmony and peace and not dissension’.  

  • Vivekananda emphasised that India needed to trade Indian spirituality for the West’s material and modern culture and was firmly behind India’s scientific modernisation. He supported Jagadish Chandra Bose’s scientific projects. 

  • In fact, Vivekananda’s American disciple Sara Bull helped patent Bose’s discoveries in the U.S. He also invited Irish teacher Margaret Noble, whom he rechristened ‘Sister Nivedita’, to help uplift the condition of Indian women. When she inaugurated a girls’ school in Calcutta, Vivekananda even requested his friends to send their girls to this school.  

  • Vivekananda also inspired Jamsetji Tata to establish the Indian Institute of Science and the Tata Iron and Steel Company. India needed a secular monastery from where scientific and technological development would uplift India’s material conditions, for which his ideals provided a source of inspiration.  

  • He used the term ‘Daridra Narayan’ to imply that ‘service to the poor is service to god’, many years before Gandhiji addressed the socially oppressed as ‘Harijan’ (children of god). The Mahatma in fact opined that his love for India grew thousandfold after reading Vivekananda. 

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