July 31, 2023

Mains Article
31 Jul 2023

Amid Debate on India’s Statistical System, National Data Beyond Surveys


  • Recently, a member of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council argued that national surveys are based on unsound frameworks and systematically underestimate India’s development.
  • The article invited criticism but amid this debate on India’s Statistical System there are some important points that warrant attention.

 Arguments by the Member of PM’s EAM: Over Dependency on Surveys of Households

  • In India, policymakers typically rely on the estimates of sample surveys of households to assess previous policies or to frame new policies.
  • For example, the National Sample Survey (NSS) of households has been conducted to determine the household consumption expenditure, including services or durables, or
    • to provide estimates of persons with disabilities, or
    • to provide estimates of expenditure related to domestic tourism, or
    • to provide estimates related to drinking water, hygiene, conditions of the house, etc.
  • For health, policymakers rely on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for questions related to employment and unemployment.
  • But there is concern over non-frequent nature of some of these surveys (in particular, the household consumption expenditure survey).
  • There is a constant demand for increasing frequency and size of surveys and there is practically a consensus on the robustness and the representativeness of the survey methodology.
  • Along with it there have been virtually no concerns or studies on these surveys’ data quality.

Issues Highlighted by the Member of PM’s EAM

  • Data quality related to NSS, NFHS, and PLFS needs a major sampling overhaul to reflect the true status of India’s real economy.
    • These surveys use outdated sampling frames and hence, are not representative. In fact, the survey mechanisms are archaic and not adapted for rapid changes.
    • As a consequence, these surveys grossly and systematically underestimate India’s progress and development and the misleading estimates from these surveys impede policy-making.
  • Framing policies based on these estimates are unlikely to yield the desired results and we will continue to see a gap between ground realities and survey estimates
  • Using projected population estimates, it is found that nearly all major surveys in India that were conducted post-2011 and used the Census 2011 for the sampling have overestimated the proportion of the rural population significantly.
  • Overestimation is one of the several problems with data quality, but it is a critical concern and appropriately highlights the problem at hand.

Response to the Arguments Raised Member of PM’s EAM

  • There are 2 main points of criticism in the member of PM’s EAM analysis of data quality.
  • The first and most important is that all of them seriously overestimate the rural population of the country, and thereby underestimate the urban.
  • Therefore, if the levels and the rates of progress of these various indicators are better in urban areas than in rural then the national averages will always be lower in the estimates as compared to the ground reality.
  • This is true; however, it crucially rests on whether there is a systematic overestimation of the rural population by these surveys or not.
  • The member’s criticism demonstrates that this is indeed the case by comparing the estimates of rural population from the surveys with those from the Census projections and showing that the discrepancy can be as high as 5 percentage points, which is substantial.
  • But the point is the comparison is not being carried out among equals.

Important Points Amidst This Debate on India’s Statistical System

  • Acceptance of the Existing Problems in the Statistical System
    • First, India should recognise that there is a problem in the statistical system that needs to be fixed. Defending the statistical system is no solution at all.
    • The National Statistical Office (NSO) has been collecting data primarily through administrative and sample surveys, both of which have their own strengths and challenges.
    • The data collection from administrative sources is economical and less time-consuming, but has several challenges in terms of representativeness.
    • Sample surveys are costlier, both in terms of money and time.
    • The updation of the Census used for most surveys needs to be digitised dynamically and made accessible to improve the quality of surveys and reduce bias in the estimates.
    • Geospatial technologies and crowd-sourced data platforms now permit such dynamic updation.
  • Need for Expansion of Resources Base of Data
    • The national statistical system needs to expand and diversify its resource base of data — it should include new and emerging sources like Big Data leverage processing through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
    • The efforts by the NSO for developing “standards” and “methodologies” for data validation of these new datasets are going to be extremely important, so they supplement conventional data sources.
    • The UN Statistics Division has come up with guidelines for using Big Data for official purposes.
    • The NSO needs to work closely with multilateral and regional agencies for enhancing the capacity of the statistical system for the use of such data available from alternative sources.
  • Enhance the Capacities of State Statistical Systems 
    • The strength of the national system is integrally dependent on the strength of the state statistical systems.
    • In this direction, the Dholakia Committee Report 2020 on sub-national accounts is crucial; it could pave the way for state governments in pursuing and adopting a bottom-up approach, thereby strengthening the data collection capacities of the state governments.
    • Several states are yet to initiate building institutional frameworks at the state and district levels.
    • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) launched the India Statistical Strengthening Project with financial support from the World Bank for enhancing the capacities of state statistical systems for data collection.
  • Learn from the experience of Improving Weather Predictions
    • A few decades ago, the weather forecast used to be the subject of various jokes.
    • The Ministry of Earth Sciences established the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in 1988 and used India’s first supercomputer to develop and evolve advanced numerical models for weather forecasting.
    • The commitment to the upgradation of observation systems has made the biggest contribution in enhancing predictability, along with an improvement in the capacity of human resources for complex data collection and the development of IT infrastructure.
  • Need for the Sustained Growth in the Resources Available
    • Economic growth occurs when there is a sustained expansion in the production possibility frontier and this happens when we develop better technologies; improve the quality of labour through education, on-the-job training, etc.
    • In the same analogy, there needs to be sustained growth in the resources available to the national statistical system for it to improve and this needs to be seen as an investment to ensure that India achieves the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy.

Way Forward

  • Parallel Efforts on Both National and State Level
    • To enhance and institutionalise inter-agency coordination covering both national and sub-national statistical systems.
    • Madhya Pradesh has taken the lead by establishing a permanent state statistical commission for improving and integrating the statistical data flow systems.
  • Finalise National Policy on Official Statistics Quickly
    • To catalyse and synergise these efforts, the National Policy on Official Statistics, announced in the Budget 2020 needs to be finalised quickly along with appropriate institutional support and resources.
    • This will ensure that we are able to track India’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals using a bottom-up approach and also ensure that no one is left behind.
  • Emphasis on Data Quality: A large part of statistical reforms should not merely focus on the availability, frequency and largeness of data, but greater emphasis should be placed on data quality.


  • The Indian economy has been incredibly dynamic in the last 30 years with significant policy reforms and subsequent major breaks in the long-term structural growth path.
  • Therefore, fast-tracking reforms and investment in the national statistical system in a mission mode is the need of the hour and cannot be delayed if India wants to play an active role once again in the international statistical fraternity.


Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
31 Jul 2023

Financial Action Task Force (FATF): How Delhi HC's recent ruling may help India during FATF review

Why in News?

  • The Delhi high court's ruling that US online gateway PayPal is a "reporting entity" under the anti-money laundering law may help India during the FATF review of its anti-black money regime.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)?
  • What is the Delhi HC’s Verdict?
  • How will the Delhi HC Verdict help India during FATF Review?

What is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)?

  • It is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 to develop policies to combat money laundering and its mandate was expanded to include terror financing in 2001.
  • It operates from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris and its plenary/ decision-making body meets three times per year.
  • It has 39 members including India (became observer in 2006 and a full-time member in 2010) and two regional organisations - the EU and GCC (Gulf cooperation council).
  • FATF’s mandate -
    • Recognises the need to continue to lead decisive, coordinated and effective global action to counter the threats of the abuse of the financial system by criminals and terrorists, and
    • Strengthens its capacity to respond to these threats that all countries face.
  • The FATF conducts peer reviews of each member on an ongoing basis to assess levels of implementation of the FATF Recommendations.
    • It provides an in-depth description and analysis of each country's system for preventing criminal abuse of the financial system.
    • India is currently under the FATF review. It last underwent a similar review in 2013 where it was found that India had reached a satisfactory level of compliance with all of the core and key recommendations of the watchdog.

What is the Delhi HC’s Verdict?

  • It had set aside a penalty of Rs 96 lakh imposed on PayPal by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) - India for alleged non-compliance with the reporting obligations under the law against money laundering.
  • However, it ruled that PayPal was liable to be viewed as a payment system operator under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and so has to comply with reporting obligations under the law.
  • The categorisation of PayPal as a reporting entity under the PMLA will ensure that -
    • All such big payment gateways and platforms are regulated and
    • They share the stipulated suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and cross-border wire transfer reports with the FIU under the PMLA.
    • The FIU disseminates these reports to various probe agencies which investigate money laundering, tax evasion, and other serious financial frauds.

How will the Delhi HC Verdict help India during FATF Review?

  • The judgement will help FIU bring operations of about a dozen more such payment gateways under the 'reporting entity' regime even as a number of payment gateways operating in the country are already reporting STRs to the FIU.
  • While the judgement may not give India additional points during the FATF review, it will surely underline that -
    • Indian anti-money laundering agencies are leaving no stone unturned.
    • The country's economic channels are clean and the risks of financial crimes are minimal.



Mains Article
31 Jul 2023

Monsoon and Food Inflation: A Status Check

Why in News?

  • Retail inflation in June hit a three-month high at 4.81 per cent, due to soaring vegetable prices.
  • Despite late arrival, the monsoon staged a recovery, leading to a surge in kharif crop plantings, which is likely impact food inflation positively.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Inflation (Meaning, Measuring Food Inflation)
  • Implications of Monsoon on Sowing
  • Role of El Nino:

What is Inflation?

  • Inflation is basically the general rise in the price of goods and services and the decline in purchasing power of people.
  • This means that when inflation rises (without an equivalent rise in income), consumers are able to buy lesser things than they could buy previously, or have to pay more money for the same stuff now. 

Measuring Food Inflation in India:

  • Any price index can in principle be calculated using producer, consumer, or wholesale prices, with each serving a different purpose.
  • The producer price index measures the average selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services.
  • This contrasts with other inflation measures, such as the consumer price index (CPI) which measures average prices from the consumer’s perspective.
  • Seller and consumer prices may differ; for example, due to taxes, subsidies, and distribution costs.
  • The wholesale price index (WPI) ideally measures average prices in the wholesale market; that is, where goods are sold in bulk.
  • These price indices are used to measure the average change over time in selling prices received by producers (producer price index inflation), or prices paid by consumers (CPI inflation), or the average price change in the wholesale market (WPI inflation).

Impact of Monsoon on Sowing this Season:

  • The bulk of kharif sowings happen from mid-June to mid-August. Rainfall in June-July decides how much area is covered.
  • August-September rain matters for yields of the crops already sown.
  • The same rain helps fill up reservoirs and ponds and recharge groundwater tables, which provide moisture for the subsequent rabi winter-spring crops.
  • For now, the monsoon and kharif sowings have both been good. The initial worries, over whether there would be adequate rain to enable farmers to plant, are over. 

Role of El Nino:

  • El Nino is a weather phenomenon in which warming of the ocean surface is caused, or above-average sea surface temperatures (SST), in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
    • It is associated with lower than normal monsoon rainfall in India.
  • In June this year, the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) touched 0.8 degrees Celsius. This was above the El Nino threshold of 0.5 degree
    • The ONI measures the average sea surface temperature deviation from the normal in the east-central equatorial Pacific region.
  • Most global weather agencies are forecasting El Nino to not only persist, but strengthen through the 2023-24 winter.
    • This would mean the monsoon entering a weak phase in August.
  • If rainfall activity becomes progressively weaker, the impact can extend to the rabi season crops.

Mains Article
31 Jul 2023

Constitution Benches Pendency: 29 cases, oldest one on for 31 years

Why in News?

  • At last count, the Supreme Court had 69,766 cases pending before it for adjudication.
  • Amongst these cases, there are 29 cases which are pending before the Supreme Court’s Constitution Benches and the oldest case before a five-judge constitution bench has been pending for 31 years now.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Constitution Bench (Meaning, How it is formed, etc.)
  • Pending Cases before Judiciary (Stats, Causes, Solutions, etc.)

What is a Constitution Bench of the SC?

  • A Supreme Court bench with a strength of minimum five judges is called as Constitution Bench.
  • It is set up when a significant question of law arises, necessitating interpretation of a provision or provision of the Constitution.

How a Constitution Bench is Formed?

  • Article 145(3)of the Indian Constitution says –
    • A minimum of five judges need to sit for deciding a case involving a “substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution”, or
    • For hearing any reference under Article 143, which deals with the power of the President to consult the SC.
  • The Chief Justice of India, who is also the master of the roster, decides which cases will be heard by a Constitution Bench, the number of judges on the bench and even its composition.

 Pending Cases before Constitution Benches:

  • There are 29 Constitution Bench matters pending in the Supreme Court.
  • Out of these 29 cases, 18 cases are pending before 5-Judge Bench, 6 cases pending before 7-judge Bench and 5 cases pending before 9-judge Bench for adjudication.

Pendency of cases in the Judiciary:

  • As of December 31, 2022, the total pending cases in district and subordinate courts were pegged at over 4.32 crore.
  • Amongst this, over 69,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, while there is a backlog of more than 59 lakh cases in the country's 25 high courts.
    • Out of these, 10.30 lakh cases were pending in the Allahabad High Court -- the biggest high court of the country.

What are the Causes & Solutions for this Backlog of Cases?

  • Judicial Vacancies & Productivity –
    • Many experts have suggested that the Indian government should tackle the challenge of increasing pendency in Indian courts by appointing more judges to the bench.
    • The current strength is around 20 judges per 10 lakh population which is quite low.
      • The Law Commission in its 120th report in 1987 had recommended 50 judges per 10 lakh population.
    • While this reasoning seems intuitive, it is also important to consider the productivity of the country’s judges.
    • To this end, judicial productivity is calculated as the ratio of judges to case disposals per year.
    • While empirical evidence on this metric is sparse, one 2008 study suggests that judicial productivity in Delhi district courts is about half of that in Australian courts.
    • Increasing the number of judges without finding ways to improve their productivity is, at best, a half measure.
  • Budgetary Allocations for the Judiciary –
    • According to the India Justice Report 2019, of the twenty-seven states and two union territories included in the study, twenty-one of them had judicial spending growth rates that were slower than the growth rates of their total expenditures.
  • Government being the Largest Litigant –
    • Intra and inter departmental disputes of branches of governments, states vs centre matters and issues arising and among government and public sector undertakings end up in courts.
    • This adds to workload of judiciary and thereby adds to pendency of cases.
    • The government, being the largest litigant should self-motivate itself to use alternate dispute redressal system and approach the courts only as a matter of last resort.

Steps Taken to Reduce Pendency of Cases:

  • The burden to reduce pendency is not only on the judiciary but also on the central government as 40% of the litigation is of the government.
  • At the government level:
    • The Centre has introduced a mobile application - Justice App - meant exclusively for judges across the country to help them track how many cases are pending before them.
    • The government has also upgraded the judicial infrastructure by introducing Information Communication Technology (e-Court Mission Mode Project) to more and more courts in the country.
  • At the SC level: The appointment of judges to the higher courts is frequently recommended by the SC Collegium. For example, in 2021 it recommended the appointment of 129 High Court judges, soon after the appointment of 7 judges to the SC.

Way Ahead:

  • The 112th Law Commission of India report suggested the fixation of the judge strength formula.
  • Introducing the All-India Judicial Services (AIJS), after building a consensus within the judiciary.
  • The Judiciary should curb the practice of seeking adjournments as a norm rather than an exception.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
31 Jul 2023

Mob Lynching: States’ lax response to lynching

Why in News?

  • The SC has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the governments of Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, MP and Haryana an explanation for their “consistent failure” to act against lynching and mob violence committed on Muslims by cow vigilantes.
  • This is in response to a petition filed by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), highlighting that the “rampant rise” in lynchings violates constitutional guarantees provided under following articles of the Constitution–
    • Articles 14 (equality before the law),
    • Article 15 (religious non-discrimination) and
    • Article 21 (right to life)

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Mob Lynching (SC’s Observations, Tehseen Poonawala Case, etc.)
  • 7 Remedial Directions Given by the SC
  • Contempt Petition against the Centre and States

What is Mob Lynching?

  • It is when common people take the law into their own hands and in an attempt to achieve their distorted version of justice, violate the basic human rights of others by killing them and neglecting due process.
  • It constitutes a grand failure on part of the State which must prevent the violation thereof and must further protect the fundamental rights (Article 14, 15 and 21) guaranteed to its citizens under the Constitution.
  • Its causes include intolerance, biases and vigilantism in the society; lack of speedy justice; inefficiency of police administration etc.
  • In India, communal based violence, Cow-related mob lynching, suspicion of child lifting, theft cases, etc., are some of the types of mob lynching.

What has the Supreme Court Observed?

  • It issued notice to the MHA and the police chiefs of the six States to explain the “alarming rise” in lynchings despite a SC judgment in Tehseen Poonawala versus Union of India in 2018.
  • Vigilantism cannot become the “new normal” and no citizen can assault the human dignity of another.
  • No right is higher in a secular, pluralistic and multiculturalist social order than the right to live with dignity and to be treated with humaneness.

What was Tehseen Poonawala Judgment?

  • The judgment held that it was the “sacrosanct duty” of the state to protect the lives of its citizens.
  • It said spiraling incidents of lynching, and the gruesome visuals aired through social media have compelled the court to reflect on whether the populace has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture.
  • Bystander apathy, numbness of the mute spectators, the inertia of the law enforcing machinery and grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes (including social media), aggravates the entire problem.
  • The authorities of the States have the “principal obligation” to see that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other, does not take place.
  • The judgment warned that vigilantes usher in anarchy, chaos, disorder and eventually there is an emergence of a violent society. Hence, vigilantism cannot be given room to take shape.

7 Remedial Directions Given by the SC:

  • Appointment of a designated nodal officer: Not below the rank of Superintendent of Police for taking measures to prevent prejudice-motivated crimes like mob violence and lynching.
  • The immediate lodging of an FIR: If an incident of lynching or mob violence comes to the notice of the local police.
  • Duty of the Station House Officer: Who has registered the FIR to inform the nodal officer in the district, who in turn should ensure that the families of the victims are spared of any further harassment.
  • The investigation of the crime should be personally monitored: By the nodal officer and the investigation and chargesheet are filed within the stipulated period in law.
  • There should be a scheme to compensate victims.
  • Any failure to comply with the court’s directions: By a police or district administration officer would be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct.
  • States should take disciplinary action: Against their officials if they did not did not prevent an incident of mob lynching, despite having prior knowledge of it.

Contempt Petition against the Centre and States:

  • The Centre and States are facing a separate contempt petition in the SC for non-compliance with the Tehseen Poonawala judgment.
  • In that case, the SC had directed the State governments to file a status report giving year wise data from 2018 of the -
    • Number of complaints received.
    • FIRs registered and chargesheets filed in lynching cases.
    • Steps/measures, preventive and remedial, taken by the State governments.
  • The court directed the Centre to file an affidavit stating the outcome of a proposed meeting between the MHA and the department heads of the State governments about the compliance of the Tehseen Poonawala judgment.


Polity & Governance

July 30, 2023

Mains Article
30 Jul 2023

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: Education in Mother Tongue a Key Step Towards Social Justice

Why in News?

  • Speaking at an event to mark the third anniversary of the National Education Policy (NEP), Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi pitched for education in the mother tongue.
  • He said that through the NEP, the country has started leaving behind the inferiority complex generated after portraying the country’s rich languages as “backward”. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About NEP 2020 (Major features of the policy, Challenges to implementation)
  • News Summary

About National Education Policy (NEP) 2020:

  • The National Education Policy, approved by the Union Cabinet in 2020, outlines the vision of India’s new education system.
  • The committee that drafted the NEP 2020 was headed by Shri K Kasturirangan.
  • NEP 2020 focuses on five pillars: Affordability, Accessibility, Quality, Equity, and Accountability – to ensure continual learning.
  • The new policy replaces the previous National Policy on Education, 1986 and forms a comprehensive framework to transform both elementary and higher education in India by 2040.
    • This is the 3rd such education policy since India’s independence.
    • The earlier two were launched in 1968 1986.
  • There is much emphasis upon multi-disciplinarity, digital literacy, written communication, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and vocational exposure in the document.

Major Features of the NEP 2020:

  • Schooling to begin from the age of 3 years
    • The revised policy expands the age group of mandatory schooling from 6-14 years to 3-18 years.
    • This new system will include 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling.
    • The existing 10+2 structure of school curriculum will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
  • Mother tongue as medium of instruction
    • The NEP has directed focus on students’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction even as it sticks to the ‘three language formula’ but also mandates that no language would be imposed on anyone.
    • Under the ‘three language formula’, the students must learn two Indian languages, with English not to be considered as one.
      • It also says that the freedom to choose the two Indian languages should be left to the states, regions or students.
    • The policy indicates that the medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, but preferably up till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the mother tongue/local language/ regional language in both public and private schools.
  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI)
    • The HECI will be now a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
    • The same set of norms for regulation, accreditation, and academic standards, to be applied to both public and private higher education institutions.
    • The Government aims to phase out the affiliation of colleges in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
  • Separation between subject streams to be blurred
    • As per NEP 2020, the rigid separations between subjects' stream will be done away with.
    • Students will have the liberty to choose subjects they would like to study across streams.
    • Vocational education to be introduced in schools from Class 6 and will include internships as well.
  • Return of the FYUP Programme and No More Dropouts
    • The duration of the undergraduate degree will be either 3 or 4 years.
    • Students will also be given multiple exit options within this period.
    • Colleges will have to grant –
      • a certificate to a student if they would like to leave after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas,
      • a diploma after 2 years of study, or
      • a Bachelor’s degree after completing a three-year programme.
    • An Academic Bank of Credit will be established by the Government for digitally storing academic credits earned from different Higher Educational Institutions so that these can be transferred and counted towards the final degree earned.

Challenges for the Implementation of the NEP: 

  • The NEP only provides a broad direction and is not mandatory to follow. Karnataka, in 2021, became the first state to implement NEP 2020.
  • Since education is a concurrent subject (both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it), the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states.
  • The Central government plans to set up subject-wise committees with members from relevant ministries at both the central and state levels to develop implementation plans for each aspect of the NEP.
  • Sufficient funding is also crucial; the 1968 NEP was hamstrung by a shortage of funds.

News Summary:

  • Citing the example of Europe, Mr. Modi said education in the mother tongue will do justice to the young population in the country.
  • The Prime Minister said many developed nations of the world have an edge owing to their local language.
  • He said even though India has an array of established languages, they were presented as a sign of backwardness, and those who could not speak English were neglected and their talents were not recognized.
Social Issues

Mains Article
30 Jul 2023

UDAN Scheme: Turbulence Hits Scheme, 50% Routes Grounded

Why in News?

  • Out of the 479 airport routes that were revived by the Union Government, under the Regional Connectivity Scheme - UDAN, 225 have ceased operations.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About UDAN Scheme (Objectives, Working, Funding Pattern, Phases, Achievements, etc.)
  • News Summary

About Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN:

  • UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) is a regional connectivity scheme launched by the Government of India, as a part of the National Civil Aviation Policy in 2016.
  • UDAN, which will be in operation for a period of 10 years (2016-26), envisages providing connectivity to un-served and underserved airports through revival of existing airports and air strips.
  • The objective of the scheme is to take flying to the masses by improving air connectivity for tier-2 and tier-3 cities, and subsidising air travel on these routes.
  • The routes are awarded after a bidding process, and the winning airlines are given certain incentives, along with viability gap funding (or a subsidy) equivalent to 50% of the seating capacity on their aircraft.
    • In return, the airlines sell 50% of their seats at a flat rate of Rs 2,500 per hour of flight, in order to make air travel affordable.
  • Implementing Agency: Airport Authority of India (AAI) 

Funding Pattern for the Scheme:

  • Concession by Central Government, State Governments/UTs and airport operators to reduce the cost of operations on regional routes; and
  • Financial Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support to meet the gap, if any, between the cost of airline operations and expected revenues on such routes.
    • VGF will be shared between Ministry of Civil Aviation and the State Government in the ratio of 80:20 whereas for the States in North-Eastern region/UTs the ratio will be 90:10.

Different Phases of the Scheme:

  • UDAN 1.0:5 airlines companies were awarded 128 flight routes to 70 airports.
  • UDAN 2.0:
    • In Phase 2, helipads were also connected.
    • In this phase, Central government awarded contracts to 15 airliners to operate in 325 routes across hilly, remote areas.
    • It involved connecting 56 new airports and helipads to 36 existing aerodromes, as per the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  • UDAN 3.0:
    • Inclusion of Tourism Routes under Phase 3 in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism.
    • Inclusion of Seaplanes for connecting Water Aerodromes.
    • Bringing in a number of routes in the North-East Region under the ambit of UDAN.
  • UDAN 4.0:Phase 4 of the scheme was launched in December 2019 with a special focus on North-Eastern Regions, Hilly States, and Islands.
  • UDAN 4.1:
    • Launched in March 2021, the UDAN 4.1 round is focused on connecting smaller airports, along with special helicopter and seaplane routes.
    • In addition to these, some new routes have been proposed under the Sagaramala Seaplane Services in consultation with the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways.
  • UDAN 5.0:
    • Launched in April 2023, the UDAN 5.0 round is focused on Category-2 (20-80 seats) and Category-3 (>80 seats) aircrafts.
    • There is no restriction on the distance between the origin and the destination of the flight.
    • Airlines would be required to commence operations within 4 months of the award of the route; earlier this deadline was 6 months.

Performance of the Scheme:

  • Since the launch of modern civil aviation in India in 1911, only 76 airports had been connected by scheduled commercial flights.
    • The number of operational airports has gone up to 141 from 76 in 2014.
  • With 479 new routes initiated, UDAN Scheme has provided air connectivity to more than 29 States/ UTs across the country.
  • More than one crore passengers have availed the benefits of this scheme.

News Summary:

  • According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, out of the 479 airport routes that were revived by the Union Government, under the Regional Connectivity Scheme, 225 have ceased operations.
  • Of the 225 routes that have ceased operations, 128 routes shut down even before completing the mandatory three-year period under the scheme.
  • Airlines found 70 of these routes to be commercially unviable despite the subsidy, while the remaining 58 have been cancelled either due to “non-compliance” by the airline operator, or the airline surrendering routes, or the airline companies shutting down.
  • As many as 97 routes shut down after completing the three-year period during which the government provides support.
  • The objective of the scheme was that after the three-year period, airlines would be able to sustain operations on their own without government support.
    • However, out of the 155 routes that have completed three years, only 58 have survived.

Mains Article
30 Jul 2023

Government e-Marketplace (GeM): Scientists Hampered by Dearth of Quality Research Equipment in GeM

Why in News?

  • While the Ministry of S&T has announced its intent to galvanise research in India through the National Research Foundation Bill 2023, scientists say that the mandatory procurement via GeM is a major stumbling block.
  • This is impeding the sourcing of equipment and materials necessary for research.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) (Features, Significance of GeM Portal)
  • News Summary (Issues Faced by the Scientific Community on GeM)

What is the Government e-Marketplace (GeM)?

  • GeM is an online platform for public procurement, launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoC&I), Government of India.
  • It was created with the objective to create an open and transparent procurement platform for government buyers to facilitate the online procurement of goods and services.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorised and made mandatory by the Ministry of Finance under the General Financial Rules, 2017.
  • The platform is owned by GeM SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) which is a 100% Government-owned, non-profit company under the MoC&I.
  • The portal features over 11,000 product categories with more than 29 lakh listed products, as well as over 270 service categories with more than 2.5 lakh service offerings.

What are the Features of GeM?

  • GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-market place that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface, thus, brings in transparency.
  • Being an open platform, GeM offers no entry barriers to bonafide suppliers who wish to do business with the Government.
  • Seamless processes and online time-bound payment has given confidence to the vendors and reduced their 'administrative' cost.

Significance of the GeM Portal:

  • The minimum savings on the platform are about 10%, which translates into a savings of over ₹ 30,000 crore worth of public money.
  • GeM gives Indian MSMEs a relative advantage over foreign suppliers of products, and promotes the government’s Make in India initiative.

News Summary:

  • While the GeM has been in force since 2017, scientific organisations were exempt from the mandate until 2019.
    • This meant they could continue to invite bids after setting out requirements, or reach out to known suppliers.
    • This often means several parts or chemicals must be available at the right time. However, this entire process can take months.
  • After 2019, products ranging in cost from ₹5 lakh to ₹200 crore must be procured via India-registered companies, which are often of substandard
    • Much of the equipment that is necessary for research falls into this price band and needs to be sourced internationally.
    • This became a problem during COVID-19, and the government exempted about 2,000 products.
  • Insistence on a centralised procurement system, only created a new ecosystem of contractors and vendors, rather than actually encouraging the desired Atmanirbharta (self-reliance).
  • An early draft of the proposed National Research Foundation Bill suggested that the GeM no longer be mandatory for scientists.
  • Scientists should be made accountable for the science they do and not be burdened with ensuring that their equipment is procured at the lowest cost.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
30 Jul 2023

International Tiger Day: How Project Tiger saved the big cat in India

Why in News?

  • July 29 is celebrated world over as the International Tiger Day in a bid to raise awareness on various issues surrounding tiger conservation.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About the International Tiger Day
  • Performance of India towards Tiger Conservation
  • What is Project Tiger?
  • Successes and Setbacks of the Project Tiger
  • Fifty years of Project Tiger

About the International Tiger Day:

  • It was first instituted in 2010 at the Tiger Summit in St Petersburg, Russia when the 13 tiger range countries came together to create Tx2, the global goal to double the number of wild tigers by the year 2022.
  • However, the designated date for achieving the goals of Tx2 saw uneven progress.

Performance of India towards Tiger Conservation:

  • As per the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while countries in Southeast Asia struggled to control population decline, India fared much better.
  • According to the Wildlife Institute of India's (WII) 5th tiger census (quadrennial), India’s tiger population increased to 3,682 in 2022 (revised from 3,167 recently), up from 1,411 in 2006.
    • In 2022, the maximum number of tigers (785) were reported to be in MP, followed by Karnataka (563), Uttarakhand (560), and Maharashtra (444).
    • Nearly a quarter of the tigers were reportedly outside protected areas.
  • This is made possible because of political commitment, which led to governments, communities, conservation organisations, etc., working together.
  • The successes in India can be attributed largely to the success of Project Tiger, which celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year (2023).

What is Project Tiger?

  • Project Tiger was launched by the Central government on April 1, 1973, at the Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand) to promote conservation of the tiger.
    • According to reports, while there were 40,000 tigers in the country at the time of the Independence, they were soon reduced to below 2,000 by 1970 due to widespread hunting and habitat destruction.
    • In 1970, the IUCN declared the tiger as an endangered
  • The programme was initially started in 9 tiger reserves of different States such as Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, MP, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, UP and West Bengal, covering over 14,000 sq km.
  • Notably, Project Tiger didn’t just focus on the conservation of the big cats. It also ensured the preservation of their natural habitat as tigers are at the top of the food chain.

Successes and Setbacks of the Project Tiger:

  • The number of tigers in India began to rise and by the 1990s, their population was estimated to be around 3,000.
  • However, the success story of Project Tiger suffered a major setback when the local extermination of tigers in Rajasthan’s Sariska made headlines in 2005.
  • This led to the setup of a task force and the government reconstituted Project Tiger and established the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in 2005.
  • The NTCA had more power to check poaching and preserve the tiger population by setting up the Tiger Protection Force and funding the relocation of villages from the protected areas.

Fifty years of Project Tiger:

  • Today, there are 54 tiger reserves across India, spanning 75,000 sq km.
  • Nearly 75% of the global tiger population (in the wild) can today be found in India.
  • The goal of Project Tiger is to have a viable and sustainable tiger population in tiger habitats based on a scientifically calculated carrying capacity.
  • This means the tiger population of the country cannot be increased at the same pace because that will result in an increase in conflict with human beings.


Environment & Ecology

July 29, 2023

Mains Article
29 Jul 2023

Charting the Path for the Sixteenth Finance Commission


  • Many critical changes have taken place since the constitution of the Fifteenth Finance Commission in November 2017 and the Sixteenth Finance Commission is due to be set up shortly.
  • The 16th FC will primarily determine how much of the Centre’s tax revenue should be given away to States (the vertical share) and how to distribute that among States (the horizontal share).

Fifteenth Finance Commission Recommendations (applicable from 2021 to 2026)

  • Distribution of Tax Proceeds: The Commission has recommended a fair distribution of tax proceeds between the central government and the states, ensuring a balanced fiscal sharing mechanism.
  • Impact of GST
    • The FC emphasises the need to study the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the economy.
    • This assessment aims to understand the implications of GST implementation and its effects on various sectors.
  • Performance-based Incentives: These incentives would be based on the efforts of the States to address issues such as population control, ease of doing business, and other relevant factors.
  • Grants to States
    • The FC has proposed the provision of revenue deficit grants, grants to local bodies, and disaster management grants to the states.
    • These grants aim to support the financial needs of the states and ensure effective governance.

Critical Changes Since the Constitution of 15th FC

  • The biggest challenge and change were the pandemic COVID-19 and the subsequent geopolitical challenges i.e., China’s aggression on LAC.
  • The combined government debt-GDP ratio had shot up close to 90% at the end of 2020-21.
  • Many States are facing large fiscal imbalances.

Expected Deliberations upon the Constitution of the 16th Finance Commission

  • Assessment of the Vertical and Horizontal Distribution
    • The 14th Finance Commission had raised the share of States in the divisible pool of central taxes (Vertical Distribution) to 42% from 32%.
    • This was revised to 41% when the number of States in India was reduced to 28.
    • It is likely that during the deliberation on 16th FC, states will demand that this proportion be raised, but there is not much room for stretching this further given the Centre’s expenditure needs and the constraints on its borrowing limit.
    • Therefore, much of the debate will centre on the horizontal distribution formula (Distribution among states).
  • Discussion on Cesses and Surcharges
    • During 2020-21 to 2023-24, the effective share of States in the Centre’s gross tax revenues (GTR) averaged close to 31%, which was significantly lower than the corresponding share of nearly 35% during 2015-16 to 2019-20.
    • This was due to the inordinate increase in the share of cesses and surcharges to 18.5% of the Centre’s GTR during 2020-21 to 2023-24 (BE) from 12.8% during 2015-16 to 2019-20.
    • This heavy reliance on cesses and surcharges requires scrutiny by the 16thFinance Commission. 
    • One option is to freeze the share of cesses and surcharges to some base number.
    • Under the 13th Finance Commission, this share was just 9.6%.A 10% upper limit of the share of cesses and surcharges as a percentage of Centre’s GTR may be recommended.
    • The share of States must be increased if the proportion crosses 10%.Thus, there will be one proportion, say 42%, if cesses and surcharges exceed 10%, and another share of 41% if they are 10% or below.
    • The formula may be nuanced by the 16thFinance Commission with the help of the latest data. 
  • Decline in Total Divisible Pool
    • The share of individual States in the Centre’s divisible pool of taxes is determined by a set of indicators that includes population, per capita income, area, and incentive-related factors such as forest cover and demographic change.
    • In the case of per capita income, it is the distance of a State’s per capita income from a benchmark, usually kept at the average per capita income of the top three States that is used as a determining factor.
    • This distance criterion implies relatively larger shares for relatively lower income States. At present, it has the highest weight of 45% — it had an even higher weight previously.
    • Many of the richer States have argued for a lowering of the weight given to this criterion.
    • However, due attention needs to be paid to the needs of the lower income States.
    • These States are expected to provide a relatively larger share of ‘demographic dividend’ to India in future provided attention is paid to the educational and health needs of their populations.

Possible Recommendations for the 16th FC

  • Re-examination of 2018 Amendment to the Centre’s FRBM 
    • This was also recommended by the 15thFinance Commission.
    • The debt-GDP ratio for the combined account of central and State governments had peaked at 89.8% in 2020-21, of which the Centre’s debt-GDP ratio excluding any on-lending to the States amounted to 58.7%, and that of States was 31%.
    • While these numbers have begun coming down, these are still considerably above the corresponding Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) norms of 40% and 20%, as in the 2018 amendment.
    • In 2020-21, the Centre’s fiscal deficit had shot up to 9.2% of GDP and that of States to 4.1%.
    • In view of the large departures of the debt and fiscal deficit to GDP ratios from their corresponding norms and the reduction of the States’ debt-GDP target to 20%, the 2018 amendment to the Centre’s FRBM needs to be re-examined.
  • Restraint on Freebies
    • A few State governments appear to have relatively larger debt and fiscal deficit numbers relative to their GSDPs.
    • In this context, two concerns appear: these relate to the proliferation of subsidies and the re-introduction of the old pension scheme in States without a clear identification of the sources of financing and the resultant fiscal burdens.
    • Often, such subsidies are sought to be financed by raising the fiscal deficit.
    • All political parties are guilty on this count, some more than others, but trying to apportion blame will be a wrong start.
    • In a poor country, where millions of households struggle for basic human needs, it sounds cruel to argue against safety-nets for the poor.
    • But it is precisely because India is a poor country, we need to be more cautious about freebies.
    • The next Finance Commission should issue clear guidelines in the interest of long-term fiscal sustainability and the spending on freebies. 

Reform Needed to Restrain Freebies

  • One innovation which may be relevant in this context is to set up a loan council, as recommended by the 12thFinance Commission.
  • This independent body should oversee the loan magnitudes and profiles of the central and State governments.
  • The 16thFinance Commission should examine the subject of non-merit subsidies in detail.
  • The Finance Commission should be strict about States maintaining fiscal deficit within limits.
  • It should incentivise States maintaining fiscal deficit (for example including fiscal performance as a criterion in horizontal distribution) and sticks for those that exceed fiscal deficit limits (by suitably acting on the extent of borrowing allowed). 


  • In the pre-reform period, the Finance Commission recommendations were not that critical because the Centre had other ways to compensate States.
  • But after abolition of Planning Commission, Finance Commission remains virtually the sole architect of India’s fiscal federalism. Its responsibility and influence are, therefore, much larger.
  • The recommendation made by 16thFC will be crucial as India is moving towards becoming the world’s third largest economy.




Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
29 Jul 2023

The Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2023

Why in News?

  • The Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2023, which seeks to amend the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act 2002, was passed by the Lok Sabha.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Cooperatives in India
  • What are Multi-state Co-operative Societies?
  • Shortcomings with respect to the Functioning of Co-operatives
  • Key Features of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2023
  • Significance of the Bill
  • Concerns regarding the Provisions of the Bill

Cooperatives in India:

  • Co-operatives are voluntary, democratic, and autonomous organisations controlled by their members who actively participate in its policies and decision-making.
  • After independence, the first five-year plan (1951-56), emphasised the adoption of co-operatives to cover various aspects of community development.
  • According to the Article 43B (DPSP) of the Indian Constitution inserted by the 97th Amendment (2011), states shall endeavour to promote -
    • Voluntary formation,
    • Autonomous functioning,
    • Democratic control and
    • Professional management of cooperative societies.

What are Multi-state Co-operative Societies?

  • These are societies that have operations in more than one state. For example, a farmer-producers organisation (FPO) which procures grains from farmers from multiple States.
  • The Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act 2002 provides for the formation and functioning of multi-state co-operatives.
  • According to the Supreme Court of India, Part IXB - The Co-operative Societies(also inserted by the 97th Amendment),will only be applicable to multi-state co-operative societies, as states have the jurisdiction to legislate over state co-operative societies.

Shortcomings with respect to the Functioning of Co-operatives:

  • Inadequacies in governance.
  • Politicisation and excessive role of the government.
  • Inability to ensure active membership.
  • Lack of efforts for capital formation.
  • Inability to attract and retain competent professionals.
  • There have also been cases where elections to co-operative boards have been postponed indefinitely.

Key Features of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2023:

  • Election of board members:
    • Under the Act, elections to the board of a multi-state co-operative society are conducted by its existing board.
    • The Bill amends this to specify that the central government will establish the Co-operative Election Authority to conduct such elections.
    • The Authority will consist of a chairperson, vice-chairperson, and up to three members appointed by the central government on the recommendations of a selection committee.
  • Amalgamation of co-operative societies:
    • The Act provides for the amalgamation and division of multi-state co-operative societies by passing a resolution at a general meeting with at least two-thirds of the members present and voting.
    • The Bill allows state co-operative societies to merge into an existing multi-state co-operative society, subject to the respective state laws.
  • Fund for sick co-operative societies:
    • The Bill establishes the Co-operative Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Fund for revival of sick multi-state co-operative societies.
    • Multi-state co-operative societies that are in profit for the preceding three financial years shall finance the Fund.
  • Restriction on redemption of government shareholding:
    • The Act provides that the shares held in a multi-state co-operative society by certain government authorities can be redeemed based on the bye-laws of the society.
    • The Bill amends this to provide that any shares held by the central and state governments cannot be redeemed without their prior approval.
  • Redressal of complaints:
    • As per the Bill, the central government will appoint one or more Co-operative Ombudsman with territorial jurisdiction.
    • The Ombudsman shall complete the process of inquiry and adjudication within 3 months from the receipt of the complaint.
    • Appeals against the directions of the Ombudsman may be filed with the Central Registrar (who is appointed by the central government) within a month.

Significance of the Bill:

  • It will strengthen cooperatives by making them transparent and introducing a system of regular elections.
  • The Bill seeks to align its provisions with those provided under Part IXB of the Constitution and address concerns with the functioning and governance of co-operative societies.

Concerns regarding the Provisions of the Bill:

  • Effectively imposes a cost on well-functioning societies: Sick multi-state co-operative societies will be revived by a Fund that will be financed through contributions by profitable multi-state co-operative societies.
  • Against the co-operative principles of autonomy and independence: By restricting redemption of its shareholding in multi-state co-operative societies.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
29 Jul 2023

What is a Stapled Visa?

Why in News?

  • India withdrew its 8-athlete wushu contingent from the Summer World University Games, after China issued stapled visas to 3 athletes from the team who belong to Arunachal Pradesh.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is a Stapled Visa?
  • Why does China issue Stapled Visas?
  • Way Forward

What is a Stapled Visa?

  • A stapled visa is simply an unstamped piece of paper that is attached by a pin or staples to a page of the passport and can be torn off or detached at will.
  • This is different from a regular visa that is affixed to the passport by the issuing authority and stamped.
  • China has made it a practice to issue stapled visas to Indian nationals from Arunachal Pradesh and J&K.
  • It says the visas are valid documents, but the Government of India has consistently refused to accept this position.
  • India’s long-standing and consistent position is that there should be no discrimination or differential treatment based on domicile or ethnicity in the visa regime.

Why does China issue Stapled Visas?

  • Passports, visas, and other kinds of immigration controls reiterate the idea of a nation-state and its sovereignty which is inalienable and inviolable.
  • A passport and visa entitle their holders to travel freely and under legal protection across international borders.
  • China disputes India’s unequivocal and internationally accepted sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Hence, they started the practice of issuing ‘stapled’ visas (since 2005-06) to all Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The stapled visas for J&K residents appear to have started around 2008-09.

What does China Claim?

  • It challenges the legal status of the McMahon Line, the boundary between Tibet and British India that was agreed at the Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet at the Shimla Convention of 1914.
  • It is this disagreement that lies at the heart of Chinese claims over the position of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and its repeated transgressions into Indian territory, undermining the sovereignty of India over parts of Indian territory.
  • China claims some 90,000 sq. km of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
    • It calls the area “Zangnan” in the Chinese language and makes repeated references to “South Tibet”.
    • Chinese maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China.

Way Forward:

  • Diplomatic engagement: To prevent misconceptions or a rise in strain in relations, it is essential to keep lines of communication open.
  • India should underline its strength and power: Asserting its position at the negotiating table and emphasising that India is ready to protect its interests.
  • Development of border infrastructure: Construction of border infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, can enable both nations access isolated areas and lessen the likelihood of confusion or conflicts.


International Relations

Mains Article
29 Jul 2023

India, Japan will work to strengthen ‘Peacetime Cooperation: Jaishankar

Why in News?

  • Speaking at an event recently, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that India and Japan would rather work to strengthen their “peacetime cooperation”.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • India-Japan Relationship (History, Current times, Economic, Defense, Cultural, etc.)
  • News Summary

About India-Japan Relationship:

  • History –
    • Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations in April, 1952.
    • This treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after World War II.
  • Recent engagements –
    • PM Yoshiro Mori’s visit to India in August 2000 provided the momentum to strengthen the Japan-India relationship.
    • Mori and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided the establishment of "Global Partnership between Japan and India".
    • When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan in December 2006, Japan-India relationship was elevated to the "Global and Strategic Partnership".
    • In September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Japan and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
    • They concurred to upgrade the bilateral relationship to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”.
  • Cooperation in Security Fields –
    • During Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Japan in October 2008, two leaders issued " Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India".
    • There are also various frameworks of security and defense dialogue between Japan and India including –
      • Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2” meeting),
      • Annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue and
      • Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard dialogue
    • In 2020, both signed the Agreement Concerning Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian Armed Forces (so-called ACSA).
  • Economic Relations –
    • India was the 18th largest trading partner for Japan, and Japan was the 13th largest trading partner for India in 2021.
    • Japan was the 5th largest investor for India in FY2021.
    • Japan's bilateral trade with India, totalled US$ 17.63 billion in FY 2018-19.
  • Economic Assistance –
    • India has been the largest recipient of Japanese ODA Loan for the past decades.
    • Delhi Metro is one of the most successful examples of Japanese cooperation through the utilization of ODA.
    • Besides, Japan and India had committed to build High-Speed Railway in India.
    • Japan continues to cooperate in supporting strategic connectivity linking India to Southeast Asia through the synergy between ''Act East'' policy and ''Partnership for Quality Infrastructure''.
  • Indian Diaspora in Japan: More than 40,000 Indians are residing in Japan.

News Summary:

  • In his address to the two-day India-Japan Forum organised by the Ananta Centre and the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Jaishankar praised Japan for being an “exemplar moderniser” that is a role model for India.
  • He also credited Japan with several industrial “revolutions” in India including the introduction of the Maruti-Suzuki collaboration for a passenger car, Metro rail services in various Indian cities, etc.
  • He added the both countries are already doing some cooperation in the security sphere, referring to India-Japan military and maritime exercises that included the first-ever joint fighter exercise in January this year.
  • He was asked about what kind of “wartime cooperation” could be expected from India to Japan in case of a war in the Taiwan straits.
  • He said that by strengthening “peace, stability and security” in the region, India and Japan could ensure that “many of the worst fears” would not be realised.
International Relations

Mains Article
29 Jul 2023

PM Modi says India can become hub of Chip-making Industry

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the 2nd edition of the SemiconIndia Conference 2023, held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Semiconductors and ICs
  • Need for domestic manufacturing of semiconductors (Challenges Faced by the Industry)
  • Major incentives by the Government (Nodal agency, fiscal support, etc.)
  • News Summary

About Semiconductors and ICs:

  • Semiconductors and displays are the foundation of modern electronics industry.
    • Semiconductors are critical components that power electronics from computers and smartphones to the brake sensors in cars.
  • Semiconductors and display manufacturing is a very complex and technology-intensive sector.
  • It involves huge capital investments, high risk, long gestation and payback periods, and rapid changes in technology, which require significant and sustained investments.

Need for Domestic Manufacturing of Semiconductors:

  • As India does not produce any semiconductors, the country’s demands are met with imports.
  • The demand for semiconductors in India will reportedly reach around USD 100 billion by 2025, up from the current demand of USD 24 billion.
  • Also, absence of local manufacturing affected India the most during the lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • During this period, there was a global surge in the demand for electronics.
  • In the current geopolitical scenario, trusted sources of semiconductors and displays hold strategic importance and are key to the security of critical information infrastructure. 

Challenges Faced by the Semiconductor Industry:

  • Supply Chain Disruptions –
    • This is caused by a combination of factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing geopolitical tensions and significant trade disputes which exacerbate the severe chip shortage globally.
    • Dependence should be reduced on the limited number of manufacturing hubs by strengthening domestic capabilities and production at home.
  • Technological Complexity & Miniaturization –
    • It’s not a race to the bottom but more of a race to the smallest.
    • The industry is on a relentless pursuit of miniaturization which is considered to be the main driving force behind the industry’s remarkable progress and growth.
    • Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip double approximately every two years highlights the pressure to constantly innovate and ensure quality control, yield improvement, and time-to-market.
    • This of course has to be delicately balanced between pushing technological boundaries and ensuring cost-effective and reliable production.
  • Talent Shortage & Skill Gap –
    • Another major challenge for the industry is the widening gap between demand for skilled professionals and the availability of qualified individuals.
    • Advancements of semiconductor technologies have come at sometimes breakneck speed and there is serious competition to attract the right talent within the semiconductor industry.

Major Incentives approved by the Cabinet for the Sector:

  • In December 2021, the Central government had approved the comprehensive program for the development of sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in the country. This includes:
  • India Semiconductor Mission –
    • The Mission will be led by global experts in semiconductor and display industry to drive the long-term strategies for developing a sustainable semiconductors and display ecosystem.
    • It will act as the nodal agency for efficient and smooth implementation of the schemes on Semiconductors and Display ecosystem.
  • Semiconductor Design Companies –
    • Support will be provided to 100 domestic companies of semiconductor design for Integrated Circuits (ICs), Chipsets, System on Chips (SoCs), etc.
    • The scheme intends to facilitate the growth of not less than 20 such companies which can achieve turnover of more than Rs. 1500 crore in the coming five years.
  • Semiconductor Fabs and Display Fabs –
    • The Scheme for Setting up of Semiconductor Fabs and Display Fabs in India shall extend fiscal support of up to 50% of project cost.
    • Central Government will work closely with State Governments to approve applications for setting up at least two greenfield semiconductor fabs and two display fabs in the country.
  • Compound Semiconductors and Semiconductor Packaging –
    • The Scheme for setting up of Compound Semiconductors / Silicon Photonics / Sensors Fabs in India shall extend fiscal support of 30% of capital expenditure to approved units.
    • At least 15 such units of Compound Semiconductors and Semiconductor Packaging are expected to be established with Government support under this scheme.
  • Fiscal Support –
    • The Central Government has announced incentives for every part of supply chain including electronic components, sub-assemblies, and finished goods.
    • The Government has committed support of Rs. 2,30,000 crore (USD 30 billion) to position India as global hub for electronics manufacturing with semiconductors as the foundational building block.

Progress so far:

  • So far, three applicants — a Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture, international consortium ISMC and Singapore-based IGSS Ventures — have been approved for setting up semiconductor fabs.
  • The Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture recently signed an agreement with the Gujarat government for setting up a USD 20 billion semiconductor and display manufacturing plant in the state.
    • However, recently, Foxconn announced that it is no longer a part of the joint venture.

News Summary:

  • The SemiconIndia Conference 2023 is being organized by the India Semiconductor Mission in partnership with industry.
  • The aim of the conference is to make India a global hub for Semiconductor Design, Manufacturing and Technology Development which will help propel the vision of India’s Semiconductor Mission.

July 28, 2023

Mains Article
28 Jul 2023

The Hornets’ Nests (troublesome situation) in the Forest Amendment Bill


  • The Lok Sabha passed the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, with no substantive changes from the original version.
  • As the bill received both positive and negative feedbacks, it is important to understand the bill in its entirety and evaluate the issues accordingly.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Forest Conservation Act 1980 – a legislation enacted to protect India’s forest.
  • The 1980 Act empowers the Central government to regulate the extraction of forest resources — from timber and bamboo to coal and minerals — by industries as well as forest-dwelling communities. 
  • The key changes to the Act include inserting a ‘preamble’ that underlines –
    • India’s commitment to preserving forests, their biodiversity and tackling challenges from climate change and
    • Amending the name of the Act to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam (translated as Forest Conservation and Augmentation) from the existing Forest (Conservation) Act.
  • The amendments also say that the Act would only apply to lands notified in, any government record, as ‘forest’ on or after 1980.

 Key Features of Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • Land under the Purview of the Act
    • Land declared/notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, or
    • Land not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after October 25, 1980 in a government record.
  • Exempted Categories of Land
    • The Bill exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the Act, such as forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government.
    • Forest land situated 100 km away from international borders and to be used for “strategic projects of national importance” or land ranging from 5-10 hectares for security and defence projects would also be exempted from the Act’s stipulations.
  • Assignment/Leasing of Foreign Land
    • Under the Act, a state government requires prior approval of the central government to assign forest land to any entity not owned or controlled by government.  
    • In the Bill, this condition is extended to all entities, including those owned and controlled by government. 
    • It also requires that prior approval be subject to terms and conditions prescribed by the central government.
  • Permitted Activities in Forest Land
    • The Act restricts the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. 
    • Such restrictions may be lifted with the prior approval of the central government.
    • Non-forest purposes include use of land for cultivating horticultural crops or for any purpose other than re-afforestation.
    • The Act specifies certain activities that will be excluded from non-forest purposes, meaning that restrictions on the use of forest land for non-forest purposes will not apply.
    • The Bill adds more activities to this list such as –
      • zoos and safaris under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 owned by the government or any authority, in forest areas other than protected areas,
      • ecotourism facilities,
      • silvicultural operations (enhancing forest growth), and
      • any other purpose specified by the central government.
  • Power to Issue Directions: The Bill adds that the central government may issue directions for the implementation of the Act to any authority/organisation under or recognized by the centre, state, or union territory (UT).

 Issues Related to the Bill

  • Deviation from the Original Law (Forest Conservation Act 1980)
    • TheAct of 1980adopted a protectionist stance which made forest clearances time consuming and costly to obtain.
    • While current development needs and priorities must be recognised, this Bill deviates in a significant manner from the spirit of the original law.
    • Three points that emerge from the Bill have caused considerable anxiety among environmental experts:
      • The narrowed definition of forests under its scope.
      • The exclusion of significant tracts of forest areas.
      • The granting of sanction to additional activities that were regulated earlier.
  • The Bill can Restrict the Application of the Godavarman Judgment, 1996 
    • The judgement had extended the scope of the 1980 Act to the dictionary meaning of ‘forest’ — that is, areas with trees rather than just areas legally notified as forest.
    • The present Amendment restricts to only legally notified forests and forests recorded in government records on or after October 25, 1980.
    • This change could potentially impact around 28% of India’s forest cover, encompassing almost 2,00,000 square kilometres. 
    • For instance, the category of Unclassed Forests in Nagaland, that have so far not been officially recorded or deemed forests despite centuries of protection and use by autonomous clans.
  • Exclusion of Most Fragile Ecosystem
    • The Bill excludes some of India’s most fragile ecosystems as it removes the need for forest clearances for security-related infrastructure up to 100 km of the international borders.
    • These include globally recognised biodiversity hotspots such as the forests of northeastern India and high-altitude Himalayan forests and meadows.
  • Exemption for Construction Projects
    • The Bill introduces exemptions for construction projects such as zoos, safari parks, and eco-tourism facilities.
    • Artificially created green areas and animal enclosures are very different from natural ecosystems which provide a bouquet of ecosystem services that contribute significantly to human well-being.
  • Unrestricted Power to the Union Government
    • The Bill also grants unrestricted powers to the Union government to specify ‘any desired use’ beyond those specified in the original or amended Act.
    • Such provisions raise legitimate concerns about the potential exploitation of forest resources without adequate environmental scrutiny.
  • Fear of Disenfranchising Forest People
    • The Bill makes no reference to other relevant forest laws. For instance, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 finds no mention.
    • Instead, the exclusion and ease of diversion of forest areas will mean that forest people’s institutions no longer need to be consulted.

Way Forward

  • Increase Participation of Forest People
    • In Nepal, the handing over of forests to local community forest user groups is credited to have helped the country increase its forest cover from 26% to 45% over just three decades.
    • If India is to meet its net zero carbon commitments and increase forest cover (as the Bill envisages in its Preamble), it would be wise to further the participation of forest people, rather than disenfranchise them.
  • Need For a Balanced Approach
    • The system of forest clearances under the FCA (1980) may have been flawedand exceptions were needed.
    • The objective of fast-tracking strategic and security related projects is a fair ask.
    • Environmental clearance delays can and should be avoided by accelerating administrative procedures.
    • However, giving blanket exemptions from regulatory laws is not the answer.


  • The importance of India’s natural ecosystems must be valued. Forests and other natural ecosystems cannot be considered a luxury. They are an absolute necessity.
  • The existing systems provided an essential check to assess the impact of projects which change land use and to mitigate the impacts resulting from environmental destruction.
  • If there were fault lines, it would have been better to fix them than to dismantle them. 
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
28 Jul 2023

The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2023

Why in News?

  • Among the Bills set to be taken up during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, is the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2023.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About the Jan Vishwas Bill 2023 (Proposal, Key Provisions, Need, Significance, Concerns, etc.)

About the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2023:

  • It seeks to redefine the regulatory landscape of the country with decriminalisation of minor offences under 42 Acts to reduce compliance burden and promote ease of living and doing business in the country.
  • It was tabled in Parliament by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry last year and later referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for review.
  • The JPC presented its report with recommendations to Parliament during the Budget Session.
  • As per reports, most recommendations of the JPC have been approved by the Union Cabinet, clearing the way for its passing.

What does the Bill Propose?

  • Decriminalising of 180 offences across 42 laws governing environment, agriculture, media, industry and trade, publication, etc.
  • It seeks to completely remove or replace imprisonment clauses with monetary fines, to provide a boost to the business ecosystem and improve the well-being of the public.
  • The Bill also proposes compounding of offences in some provisions.
  • The Bill removes all offences and penalties under the Indian Post Office Act, 1898.
  • Changes in grievance redressal mechanisms and the appointment of one or more Adjudicating Officers for determining penalties.
  • A periodic revision of fines and penalties (an increase of 10% of the minimum amount every 3 years) for various offences in the specified Acts.

Some Key Laws Covered in the Draft Legislation:

  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • The Copyright Act, 1957
  • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
  • The Railways Act, 1989
  • The Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • The Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking) Act, 1937
  • The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
  • The High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonetisation) Act, 1978, etc.

What is the Need for such a Law?

  • MSMEs are the backbone of the Indian economy and contribute significantly to the GDP.
  • For these enterprises to make a shift to the formal sector and generate jobs and income, there must be effective and efficient business regulations in place that eliminate unnecessary red tape.
  • Currently, there are 1,536 laws which translate into around 70,000 compliances that govern doing business in India.
  • A 2022 report by the ORF on imprisonment clauses in business laws revealed that among the 69,233 unique compliances that regulate business in India, 26,134 have imprisonment clauses as a penalty for non-compliance.
  • These excessive compliances have proved onerous for business enterprises, especially MSMEs, creating barriers to the smooth flow of ideas and the creation of jobs, wealth and GDP.
  • Moreover, the lengthy processing times for the needed approvals can escalate costs and dampen the entrepreneurial spirit.

Significance of the Bill:

  • Reducing compliance burden gives impetus to business process reengineering and improves ease of living of people.
  • It would accelerate investment decisions due to smoother processes and attracting more investment.
  • The Bill is also aimed at reducing judicial burden. As per the National Judicial Data Grid, out of a total of 4.4 crore pending cases, 3.3 crore cases are criminal proceedings.
    • Settlement of a large number of issues, by compounding method, adjudication and administrative mechanism, without involving courts, will save time, energy and resources.
  • To summarise, the Bill seeks to bolster ‘trust-based governance’.

Are There any Concerns w.r.t. the Bill?

  • The monetary fines or penalties are not a good enough attempt at ‘decriminalisation’. Hence, the Bill undertakes ‘quasi-decriminalisation.
  • The blanket removal of imprisonment provision might also remove the deterrence effect of the environmental legislation, especially for large corporations profiteering from the offence.
  • Adjudicating Officers may lack the technical competence necessary to decide all penalties under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
  • Many offences proposed to be removed in the Bill have nothing to do with its objective of decriminalisation to promote ease of doing business - like theft or misappropriation of postal articles.



Polity & Governance

Mains Article
28 Jul 2023

The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023

Why in News?

  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023 that introduces stringent anti-piracy provisions, expanding the scope of the law from censorship to also cover copyright. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023
  • Salient Provisions of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023
  • Significance of the Bill
  • Concerns Regarding the Bill

About the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023:

  • The Bill (introduced by the Ministry of I&B) seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act 1952, which authorises the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to require cuts in films and clear them for exhibition in cinemas and on television.
  • The Board may also refuse the exhibition of a film.

Salient Provisions of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023:

  • Additional certificate categories: The Bill adds certain additional certificate categories based on age.
    • Under the Act, film may be certified for exhibition:
      • without restriction (‘U’),
      • without restriction, but subject to guidance of parents or guardians for children below 12 years of age (‘UA’),
      • only to adults (‘A’), or
      • only to members of any profession or class of persons (‘S’).
    • The Bill substitutes the UA category with the following three categories to also indicate age-appropriateness [in line with the Shyam Benegal committee (2017)]: UA 7+, UA 13+ or UA 16+.
  • Separate certificate for television/other media: Films with an ‘A’ or ‘S’ certificate will require a separate certificate for exhibition on television, or any other media prescribed by the central government.
    • The Board may direct the applicant to carry appropriate deletions or modifications for the separate certificate.
  • Unauthorised recording and exhibition to be punishable: The Bill prohibits carrying out or abetting - the unauthorised recording and unauthorised exhibition of films - in order to stop piracy.
    • Certain exemptions (use of copyrighted content without owner’s authorisation in case of reporting of current affairs, etc) under the Copyright Act 1957 will also apply to the above offences.
    • The above offences will be punishable with: imprisonment between 3 months and 3 years, and a fine between 3 lakh rupees and 5% of the audited gross production cost.
  • Certificates to be always valid: Under the Act, the certificate issued by the Board is valid for 10 years.  The Bill provides that the certificates will be perpetually/always valid.
  • Revisional powers of the central government:
    • The Act empowers the central government to examine and make orders in relation to films that have been certified or are pending certification.
    • The Board is required to dispose of matters in conformance to the order.
    • The Bill removes this power of the central government.

Significance of the Bill:

  • The proposed amendments would make the certification process more effective, in tune with the present times.
  • It will comprehensively curb the menace of film piracy, and thus help in faster growth of the film industry and boost job creation in the sector. 

Concerns Regarding the Bill:

  • Content on OTT platforms not covered: What if an uncensored film is put on OTT.
  • The age-based categories are self-regulatory: It lays the responsibility on the society (parents and guardians) to decide whether the content is suitable for viewing for a certain age group.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
28 Jul 2023

39 MNCs come together for Circular Economy Coalition

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change launched the Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Industry Coalition (RECEIC).
  • As part of this, ~39 multinational corporations (MNCs) from various sectors came together to pledge to adopt resource efficiency and circular economy principles. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About RECEIC (Mission, Objectives, etc.)
  • About Circular Economy (Meaning, How it Works, Benefits, etc.)
  • News Summary 

About Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Industry Coalition (RECEIC):

  • The Coalition, conceptualised by India’s G20 Presidency, is envisaged to be industry driven and a self-sustaining initiative continuing to function even beyond India’s G20 Presidency.
  • The mission of RECEIC is to –
    • facilitate and foster greater company-to-company collaboration,
    • build advanced capabilities across sectors and value chains,
    • bring learnings from diverse and global experiences of the coalition members,
    • unlock on-ground private sector action to enhance resource efficiency and
    • accelerate circular economy transition.
  • The coalition is structured around the three guiding pillars of partnerships for impact, technology cooperation and finance for scale.
  • The RECEIC will also aim to contribute towards progress on key global goals and priorities set by the G20 and other international fora.

What is Circular Economy?

  • The circular economy is one of the models of production and consumption.
  • Circular economy model involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.
  • In this way, the life cycle of products is extended and reducing waste to a minimum.
  • When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible thanks to recycling.
    • These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.
  • On the other hand, Linear Economy model is based on a take-make-consume-throw away pattern. This model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.

What are the Benefits of the Circular Economy Model?

  • To Protect the Environment –
    • Reusing and recycling products would slow down the use of natural resources, reduce landscape and habitat disruption and help to limit biodiversity loss.
    • Another benefit from the circular economy is a reduction in total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
    • A shift to more reliable products that can be reused, upgraded and repaired would reduce the amount of waste.
  • Reduce Raw Material Dependence –
    • The world's population is growing and with it the demand for raw materials. However, the supply of crucial raw materials is limited.
    • Finite supplies also means India is dependent on other countries for to meet the need of raw materials.
    • Recycling raw materials mitigates the risks associated with supply, such as price volatility, availability and import dependency.
  • Create Jobs & Save Consumers Money –
    • Moving towards a more circular economy could increase competitiveness, stimulate innovation, boost economic growth and create jobs.
    • Redesigning materials and products for circular use would also boost innovation across different sectors of the economy.
    • Consumers will be provided with more durable and innovative products that will increase the quality of life and save them money in the long term.
    • The transition to a circular economy could result in an additional US$ 4.5 trillion in global economic output by 2030.
  • Benefits for India’s Economy –
    • By 2030, India is expected to be the world's third-largest economy, accounting for approximately 8.5% of the global GDP.
    • The circular economy has the potential to fuel India's growth while also providing significant environmental benefits, making a sustainable and resilient framework.
    • Thus, there are enormous opportunities for a circular economy in India.

 News Summary:

  • At the Environment and Climate Ministers’ meeting in Chennai, Union Minister launched the Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Industry Coalition (RECEIC).
  • The minister in his speech emphasised that the Coalition would play a pivotal role in promoting alliances, encouraging technological cooperation and knowledge transfer, fostering innovation, and facilitating the exchange of insights to enhance access to finance.
  • As many as 39 multinational corporations (MNCs) from various sectors came together to pledge to adopt resource efficiency and circular economy principles.
    • Some of the founding members include companies like Maruti Suzuki, Coca Cola, Unilever, Nestle, Aditya Birla Group, Tata Power and Mahindra & Mahindra.
  • Union Minster acknowledged the commitment of the 39 founding members of RECEIC for stepping forward to join this coalition.

Mains Article
28 Jul 2023

No Accurate Count of Population of Persons with Disabilities, says Parliamentary Panel

Why in News?

  • Union government was pulled up by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment for failing to accurately estimate the current population of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the country.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Disabilities in India (Statistics, RPwD Act 2016, National Policy on Disability 2016)
  • News Summary

Disabilities in India:

  • According to an estimate by the World Health Organisation, globally, 15 percent of the population live with some form of disability, while over 80 percent of that share live in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.
  • In India, over 2.2 percent of the total population endures some form of severe mental or physical disability.
  • Conceptually, since the condition of disability is rather transient than static, there is no one universal definition of what comprises a disability or who is considered disabled.
  • In India, the list of criteria that categorizes people as disabled was revamped in 2016 and came into effect with the Rights of People with Disabilities Act.

Salient Features of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016:

  • It came into force to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
  • The Act has categorized person with disability into three:
    • Person with benchmark disability;
    • Person with disability;
    • People with disabilities having high support needs.
  • The Act increases type of disability from 7 to 21 types and the Central Government has the power to add more to the list.
  • These 21 types of disabilities include: Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy Cured persons, Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), Locomotor Disability, Dwarfism, Intellectual Disability, Mental Illness, etc.
  • The Act has increased the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
  • A separate National and State Fund be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities.

National Policy for PwD, 2006:

  • The existing National Policy for Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006.
  • Implementing Agency: Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal agency to coordinate all matters relating to the implementation of the Policy.
  • The policy seeks to recognize that PwDs are valuable human resource for the country and seeks to create an environment that provides them equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society.
  • The focus areas of the policy include:
    • Prevention of Disabilities: The policy calls for programme for prevention of diseases, which result in disability and the creation of awareness regarding measures to be taken for prevention of disabilities.
    • Rehabilitation Measures: Rehabilitation measures includes physical rehabilitation, educational rehabilitation, and economic rehabilitation.
    • Women with disabilities: Special programmes will be developed for education, employment and providing of other rehabilitation services to women with disabilities keeping in view their special needs.
    • Children with Disabilities: The Government would strive to Ensure right to care, protection and security for children with disabilities;
    • Barrier-free environment: The goal of barrier free design is to provide an environment that supports the independent functioning of individuals so that they can participate without assistance, in everyday activities.

News Summary:

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee said that at least until the results of Census 2021 were made available, which might take “considerable time”, the government ought to use every resource it has to correctly estimate the population of PwDs.
    • This may include collaborating with State governments, using data from surveys they are conducting, consulting experts, and sensitising surveyors of the Ministry of Statistics.
  • Identity Cards for PwD –
    • The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities said that the government had introduced a measure to provide Unique Disability ID (UDID) cards to all those covered under schemes meant for them.
    • It said anyone could sign up to get the certificate and based on that policies can be designed and delivered.
  • The committee said that this measure is not enough as the department has issued 94.09 lakh UDID cards so far whereas the PwD population even 10 years ago was more than double that number.
  • Further, the Opposition and rights activists had cornered the government over dropping of the disability-related questions from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-6) last month.
    • The Health Ministry said that most of this data were already available through the 76th Round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) conducted in 2018.
  • The committee said that there is an urgent requirement to explore innovative solutions to this issue.
Social Issues

July 27, 2023

Mains Article
27 Jul 2023

The SCO Success Story and Ways to Make it Better


  • Recently, India successfully hosted the 23rd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
  • Though the world witnessed another “SCO moment,” challenges from Indian perspective remain and the organisation can get better. 

About the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental political, economic, international security and defence organisation, created in June 2001 (HQ – Beijing, China).
  • The founding members of SCO - Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan - had come together (as the Shanghai Five) to work on regional security, reduction of border troops, and terrorism in the post-Soviet era in 1996.
  • In 2001, the Shanghai Five inducted Uzbekistan into the group and named it the SCO outlining its principles in a charter that promoted what was called the Shanghai spirit of cooperation.
  • India and Pakistan became full members at the Heads of State Council meet in Astana in 2017.
  • Iran is inducted as the newest member (9th) of the SCO in 2023 under the chairmanship of India.
  • It is the world's largest regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population.
  • As of 2021, its combined GDP was around 20% of global GDP.

Highlights of the Recently Held SCO Summit

  • Leaders of the SCO member-states signed the New Delhi Declaration, and issued the statements on countering radicalisation and exploring cooperation in digital transformation.
  • The summit granted Iran full SCO membership, signed the memorandum of obligations of Belarus to join the SCO as a member-state, and adopted the SCO’s economic development strategy for the period until 2030.
  • India refused to join other members on paragraphs relating to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the joint statement, and stayed out of a joint statement on SCO Economic Development Strategy 2030, indicating a lack of consensus in the grouping.
  • The Indian PM also took sharp aim at Pakistan for cross-border terrorism, and at China for connectivity projects that do not respect sovereign boundaries.
  • SCO members also agreed to explore the use of “national currencies” for payments within the grouping, which would circumvent international dollar-based payments. 

The Role of SCO in a Changing World and Geo Politics

  • Over the years, the SCO has been committed to becoming a community with a shared future for mankind, firmly supporting each other in upholding their core interests, and synergising their national development strategies and regional cooperation initiatives.
  • Member-states have carried forward the spirit of good neighbourliness and friendship, and built partnerships featuring dialogue instead of confrontation, and cooperation instead of alliance.
  • The SCO has been a guardian of and contributor to regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
  • These achievements manifest the common aspirations of all countries so that there is peace, development and win-win cooperation.
  • The SCO’s leading and exemplary role can help strengthen unity and cooperation, seize development opportunities, and address risks and challenges.

The Significance of SCO for India

  • India’s security, geopolitical, strategic, and economic interests are closely intertwined with developments in the region.
  • The Central Asian region is richly endowed with natural resources and vital minerals and SCO provides a platform for India’s efforts to connect with Central Asia.
  • The Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) of SCO specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.
  • SCO is a platform which can play an important role in Afghanistan and stable Afghanistan is in India’s interest.

Challenges faced by India as a SCO Member

  • SCO as a platform is seen by the West as an organization to forward Chinese interests.
  • Growing convergence with China and Russia will be another challenge for India.
  • Differences between India and Pakistan might hamper the functioning of the SCO.
  • All members of SCO have supported One Belt One Road (OBOR) except India. It might lead to isolation of India on this platform.
  • It would be difficult for India to overcome the burden of geography and make tangible gains in terms of trans-regional connectivity.
  • Biggest challenge of India is State-sponsored terrorism and to sensitise the influential members of SCO on Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism.

Suggestions to Make SCO a Better Organisation

  • Need to Strengthen Strategic Communication: The SCO member-states should strengthen strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation, and support each other’s development and rejuvenation.
  • Enhance Solidarity and Mutual Trust for Common Security
    • Emerging developments like a new cold war and bloc confrontation must be addressed with high vigilance and firm rejection.
    • SCO member-states need to upgrade security cooperation, and crackdown in a decisive manner on terrorism, separatism and extremism, and transnational organised crimes.
  • Enhanced Cooperation in Digital, Space and Technology: The SCO member states should pursue cooperation in digital, biological, and outer space security, and facilitate political settlement when it comes to international and regional hot-spot issues.
  • Embrace Win-win Cooperation
    • Protectionism, unilateral sanctions, and decoupling undermine people’s well-being all over the world.
    • It is imperative for the SCO to generate stronger momentum for collaboration in trade, investment, technology, climate actions, infrastructure, and people-to-people engagement.
    • To contribute to high-quality and resilient economic growth of the region, there need to be collective efforts.
    • This will help in scaling up local currency settlement between members, expand cooperation on sovereign digital currency, and promote the establishment of an SCO development bank.
  • Advocate Multilateralism
    • Multilateralism is imperative to shape the common destiny.
    • The SCO needs more engagements with its observer states, dialogue partners and other regional and international organisations such as the UN, to uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law.
  • China Should Work on its Commitments
    • China has made several commitments with respect to the Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative, to contribute to world peace, security, and prosperity.
    • But China’s Debt trap model is not hidden anymore. Moreover, China continues its military aggression on LAC and in South China Sea.
    • To pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security China must respect each country’s independent choice of the path to development and social system, and abide by the purpose and principles of the UN Charter. 
    • China must deescalate on every front where it is engaged in border skirmishes.
    • The reasonable security interests of all countries deserve consideration and China must uphold this principle.


  • The SCO’s success story is part of the broader global partnership of emerging economies and developing countries.
  • However, challenges remain and only after overcoming these challenges the SCO will lead by example in safeguarding the development rights and legitimate interests of the developing world.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
27 Jul 2023

Manual Scavenging in India: 530 Districts Reported as Free of the Practice

Why in News?

  • According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E), a total of 530 districts (out of total 766) across the country had so far reported themselves to be free of manual scavenging.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Manual Scavenging in India
  • Attempts to Abolish Manual Scavenging in India
  • Salient Features of the PEMSR Act 2013
  • Other Efforts to Abolish Manual Scavenging in India
  • Concerns Regarding the Implementation of above Measures
  • New Summary

Manual Scavenging in India:

  • As per International Labor Organisation (ILO), manual scavenging includes mainly the disposal of human excreta from dry latrines, public streets and the maintenance and sweeping of septic tanks, sewers and gutters.
  • Though found in other regions of the world, the practice is most popular in India, where people from lower castes (over 90% are SC) are typically involved in carrying out manual scavenging, which is considered the worst remaining evidence of being an untouchable.
  • In India, ~58,098 people worked as manual scavengers as of 2018 and 941 people have died (since 1993) due to accidents while undertaking hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.

Attempts to Abolish Manual Scavenging in India:

  • The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
    • It covered only dry latrines and the definition of manual scavenging was restricted to a person employed for manually carrying human excreta.
    • Also, there was no stress laid upon the rehabilitation of these workers and the lenient penal punishment could not create deterrence in society.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act 2013 replaced the Act of 1993.
    • Unlike the previous act, which was drafted with cleanliness in mind, the current legislation emphasises the human dignity, rights and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
  • Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India (2014): The SC highlighted the importance of rehabilitation, to prevent present as well as future generations from working as a manual scavenger.

Salient Features of the PEMSR Act 2013:

  • It bans manual scavenging and widened the definition of manual scavengers - to include all forms of manual removal of human excreta like an open drain, pit latrine, septic tanks, manholes and removal of excreta on the railway tracks.
  • It calls for a survey of manual scavenging in urban and rural areas and the conversion of insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines.
  • It makes it obligatory for employers to provide protective tools to the workers.
  • It lays key focus on rehabilitating the manual scavengers by providing them with ready-built houses, financial assistance and loans for taking up alternate occupation on a sustainable basis.
  • The offence of manual scavenging has been made cognizable and non-bailable.

Other Efforts to Abolish Manual Scavenging in India:

  • Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS): It was revised in 2013, with the:
    • Provision of One Time Cash Assistance of Rs. 40,000/- to one identified manual scavenger in the family.
    • Capital subsidy upto Rs. 3.25 lakh to identified manual scavengers and their dependents for self-employment projects upto Rs. 10.00 lakh.
    • Skill Development Training upto two years to identified manual scavengers and their dependents with stipend @ Rs. 3,000/- per month during the training period.
  • NAMASTE scheme: The National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem(NAMASTE) scheme was launched in 202223 for 100% mechanisation of sewer work by 2025-26. The SRMS has now been merged with the NAMASTE scheme.
  • Launch of the Swachata Mobile App in 2016: To complain for possible signs of ongoing manual scavenging.

Concerns Regarding the Implementation of above Measures:

  • Non-compliance: With mandated safety measures and standard operating procedures (SOP) still causes fatal accidents in sewers and septic tanks.
    • 330 people have died while being engaged in cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last five years.
  • Lack of financial assistance: For example, the Union Budget 2023-24 showed an allocation of only ₹100 crore for the NAMASTE scheme.
  • Low conviction rate: In cases either under the Prohibition of Manual Scavenging Act or under the SC/ST Act.

New Summary:

  • According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E), a total of 530 districts (out of total 766) across the country had so far reported themselves to be free of manual scavenging.
  • While 100% of districts in States like Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and a few others have declared themselves free of manual scavenging, in several States and UTs, only about 15% to 20% of the districts have reported so.
  • For instance, in Manipur, just two of the 16 districts have reported as being manual-scavenging free.
  • Similarly, in J&K, just 30% of the districts have declared themselves free of the practice with a similar number in Telangana. In Odisha and West Bengal too, over 60% districts are yet to report their respective status.
  • However, UP, which had the highest number of manual scavengers (32,473) in two surveys conducted till 2018, has nearly 90% districts reporting that they had been made free of manual scavenging.



Social Issues

Mains Article
27 Jul 2023

What is a No Confidence Motion?

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has admitted a no-confidence motion against the ruling government.
  • The motion was proposed by Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi, on behalf of opposition parties of I.N.D.I.A alliance. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About No-Confidence Motion (Meaning, Working, Who can Move, Instances, etc.)

What is a No-Confidence Motion?

  • In a parliamentary democracy, a government can be in power only if it commands a majority in the directly elected House.
  • Article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution embodies this rule by specifying that the Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
  • For testing this collective responsibility, the rules of Lok Sabha provide a particular mechanism – a motion of no-confidence.
    • The procedure is specified under Rule 198 of the Lok Sabha.
    • The Constitution does not mention either a Confidence or a No Confidence Motion.

Who can move a No-Confidence Motion?

  • Any Lok Sabha MP, who can garner the support of 50 colleagues, can, at any point of time, introduce a motion of no-confidence against the Council of Ministers.
  • A no-confidence motion can be moved only in the Lok Sabha. It cannot be moved in the Rajya Sabha.

How is a No-Confidence Motion Debated and Voted?

  • The motion is moved by the member who submitted it, and the government will then respond to the motion.
  • The opposition parties will then have the opportunity to speak on the motion.
  • After the debate, the Lok Sabha will vote on the no-confidence motion.
  • The motion will be passed if it is supported by a majority of the members of the House.
  • If a no-confidence motion is passed, the government must resign.
  • If the government wins the vote on the no-confidence motion, the motion is defeated and the government remains in power.

How many No-Confidence Motions have been introduced since Independence?

  • There have been 27 no-confidence motions introduced in the Lok Sabha since independence
  • The first no-confidence motion against the administration of the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru was presented in the Lok Sabha in August 1963.
  • The motion obtained only 62 votes in favor and 347 votes against it.
  • The last no-confidence motion was moved in 2018 against the then NDA government.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
27 Jul 2023

Panel asks Labour Ministry to Implement Welfare Schemes for Gig Workers

Why in News?

  • Taking note of absence of any specific welfare scheme by the government for gig and platform workers, a parliamentary panel has asked the Ministry of Labour and Employment to formulate and implement welfare schemes for such workers at the earliest.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Gig Economy (Meaning, Gig Workers, Size of Economy, Average Income, Challenges, etc.)
  • News Summary

What is Gig Economy?

  • A gig economy is a free market system in which organisations hire or contract workers for a short span of time.
  • Simply put, the positions are temporary to meet the company’s requirements by having short-term engagements.
  • Startups like Ola, Uber, Zomato, and Swiggy have established themselves as the main source of the gig economy in India.

Who is a Gig Worker?

  • According to the Code on Social Security, 2020 (India), “A gig worker is a person who performs work or participates in work arrangements and earns from such activities, outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship.”
  • They are independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary workers.
  • Participation in the gig economy is higher in developing countries(5-12 percent) versus developed economies(1-4 percent).
    • Most of these jobs are in lower-income job-types such as deliveries, ridesharing, microtasks, care and wellness.

What is the size of Gig Economy in India?

  • In 2020-21, ~77 lakh workers were engaged in the gig economy. The gig workforce is expected to expand to 2.35 crore workers by 2029-30.
  • The median age of Indian gig workers is 27 and their average monthly income is Rs 18,000.
  • Of these, about 71 per cent are the sole breadwinners of their families. Additionally, gig workers operate with an average household size of 4.4.
  • These figures clearly indicate the importance of the gig working community in the Indian economy.
  • Ensuring the comfort and security of this community is investing in a more progressive and prosperous future.

Challenges Faced by Gig Workers:

  • While platform companies have created avenues of employment, it has often been marred by low wages, unequal gender participation, and a lack of possibility for upward mobility within an organisation.
  • This has triggered protests from workers at companies like Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Uber, and Urban Company, among others.
  • Gig workers are typically hired by companies on a contractual basis and are not considered their employees.
  • As a result, they do not receive some of the benefits that an on-roll employee of the company may have.
    • This means they often do not receive benefits like paid sick and casual leaves, travel and housing allowances, and provident fund savings, etc.

What needs to be done in order to improve the Living Standards of these Gig Workers?

  • Fiscal Incentives –
    • NITI Aayog’s “India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy” report highlights that fiscal incentives such as tax-breaks or startup grants may be provided for businesses that provide livelihood opportunities to women.
  • Retirement Benefits –
    • The report also recommended firms adopt policies that offer old age or retirement plans and benefits, and other insurance cover for contingencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Such plans and policies may be envisaged under the Code on Social Security, 2020.
  • The Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Act 2023 –
    • Under the Act, a board will be established to ensure gig workers’ registration and welfare, addressing their vulnerabilities and providing a platform for collective bargaining and negotiations.
    • The board can serve as an independent grievance redress mechanism.
    • The Act also has a provision of establishing a social security fund funded through a fee on every transaction.

News Summary:

  • Standing Committee on Labour, Textiles, Skill Development has asked the Ministry of Labour and Employment to formulate and implement welfare schemes for gig workers at the earliest.
  • The committee had noted that since gig and platform workers do not come under the purview of Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, appropriate welfare schemes for unorganised sector workers and gig and platform workers are needed.
  • The Ministry in its reply had said that a MoU has been signed with the National Law School of India University, Bangalore for assistance in framing of a new scheme for the gig and platform workers as well as workers in the unorganised sector.

Mains Article
27 Jul 2023

13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution: What is it, why does India care?

Why in News?

  • Sri Lanka President is set to hold an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of Tamil reconciliation and welfare.
  • This comes days after his visit to India, during which the Indian PM expressed the hope to implement the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background in which the 13th Amendment came up
  • What is the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution?
  • Other Clauses of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord
  • Implementation of the 13th Amendment
  • Implementation in the Tamil-dominated North and Eastern provinces 

Background in which the 13th Amendment came up:

  • Under the 1978 constitution, Sri Lanka had a unitary government, with all powers in the hands of the Centre.
  • The Tamil minority in Sri Lanka was concentrated in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
    • The struggle for rights and greater autonomy here had led to a civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government.

What is the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution?

  • It was made after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J R Jayewardene in 1987 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • The Accord aimed at amending the constitution to transfer some powers, such as on agriculture, health, etc., to the country’s nine provinces, and find a constitutional solution to the civil war.
  • For this, the 13th Amendment was made to allow devolution of power through the Sri Lankan constitution.

 Other Clauses of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord:

  • Apart from the devolution of power, the Accord had other clauses, such as -
    • Tamil and English being adopted as official languages along with Sinhala
    • Lifting of emergency on the “Eastern and Northern Provinces by August 15, 1987”
    • Surrender of arms by militant groups, and
    • General amnesty to political and other prisoners now held in custody under the emergency laws.
  • The Accord also says that the Government of India will underwrite and guarantee the resolutions and co-operate in the implementation of these proposals.
  • Thus, Tamil groups in Sri Lanka have appealed to India multiple times (including recently) to make sure the Accord is implemented fully.

Implementation of the 13th Amendment:

  • Provinces across Sri Lanka were given greater autonomy after the amendment.
  • The Central government retains land and police powers, while the elected provincial councils (similar to state Assemblies in India) can legislate on subjects like agriculture, housing, road transport, education, health, etc.
  • While some are unhappy over too little devolution, the hardline nationalists raise alarms over the weakening of the Central government’s authority.
  • The Sinhala nationalists oppose the 13th Amendment as they see it as imposed by India.

Implementation in the Tamil-dominated North and Eastern provinces:

  • The regions for whom devolution was largely intended never really benefited from it.
  • While the Sinhala provinces saw regular elections and the political parties here benefited from the experience of grassroots politics, the North and Eastern regions stayed under the central government’s control for long.
  • Since 2014, provincial elections are pending across Sri Lanka.
    • This is because Parliament is yet to amend a 2017 Act for reforming the election process by introducing a hybrid system of first past the post and proportional representation from the current system of proportional representation.
International Relations
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