Feb. 29, 2024

Mains Article
29 Feb 2024

What Consumption Expenditure Survey Leaves Unanswered


  • The release of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) for 2022-23 marks a significant milestone after a decade-long hiatus.
  • The factsheet offers valuable insights into present patterns of household consumption, but decisive conclusions should not be made due to changes in methodology, survey design, and item coverage.
  • Also, it is crucial to understand key takeaways from the factsheet, notable changes, challenges in comparability, and indicators such as rural-urban inequality, inter-caste differences, and shifting consumption patterns.

The HCES for 2022-23 and Difference from Earlier Rounds of Surveys

  • A New Survey Structure
    • In contrast to earlier survey rounds, the HCES adopts a segmented approach by conducting three separate surveys on food items, consumables and services, and durable goods.
    • This departure from the traditional single-questionnaire method aims to enhance the precision of responses by focusing on specific categories.
    • While this change aligns with the need to combat respondent fatigue, it raises concerns about comparability with previous rounds that followed a more unified structure.
  • Introduction of Multiple Household Visits
    • Another notable change in the methodology is the introduction of multiple separate visits to households.
    • This adjustment acknowledges the well-documented issue of respondent fatigue associated with lengthy questionnaires conducted in a single sitting.
    • Shorter, focused questionnaires are expected to yield more precise answers. However, this modification poses challenges in terms of comparability, potentially resulting in higher expenditure estimates.
    • To assess the magnitude and direction of this potential bias, a subset of households could have been subjected to the older single-visit design for comparison.
  • Imputed Values for Social Welfare Programs
    • The HCES incorporates imputed values for items received or consumed free of cost through various social welfare programs.
    • This includes essentials like rice, wheat, footwear, laptops, and motorcycles. However, the validity of these imputed values remains uncertain until unit-level price and quantity data are released.
    • Understanding the impact of such imputations on the overall consumption expenditure distribution is crucial for a comprehensive analysis.
  • Changes in Item Coverage
    • The survey covers 405 items of consumption, compared to 347 in the 2011-12 round.
    • Such revisions in item coverage are not uncommon and are reflective of evolving consumption habits over time.
    • However, these changes further contribute to the challenge of ensuring comparability across different survey rounds.

An Analysis of HCES Data for Within-Survey Indicators

  • Rural-Urban Inequality
    • Average all-India urban monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) at Rs 6,459 in 2022-23, is roughly 72 per cent higher than in rural areas (Rs 3,773).
    • The corresponding figure was 84 per cent in 2011-12. This seems to indicate a decline in rural-urban inequality over the decade.
    • However, there are two caveats. This does not account for the rural-urban price differential, which can fluctuate.
    • Additionally, a longer view reveals that the rural-urban gap tends to fluctuate. From 75.9 per cent in 1999-2000, it rose to 90.8 in 2004-05, and then declined to 83.9 in 2011-12.
    • Moreover, there is no indication of whether the ratio increased or decreased in 2017-18.
  • Distribution of Consumption Expenditure
    • In 2011-12, the ratio of the 10th percentile of the rural expenditure distribution (Rs 710) to the 90th percentile (Rs 2,296) was 0.31.
    • This ratio is 0.33 in 2022-23 (Rs 1,782/Rs 5,356). In other words, the consumption expenditure of the bottom 10 per cent of the rural distribution is roughly one-third of the top 10 per cent — a ratio that has not changed substantially over the decade.
    • For urban areas, the corresponding ratio was 0.21 in 2011-12, which has risen to 0.27 in 2022-23, indicating a reduction in urban inequality.
  • Inter-Caste Differences
    • The ratio of average rural Scheduled Caste (SC) MPCE to that of the higher-ranked castes was 0.73 in 2011-12.
    • This has remained unchanged at 0.7 in 2022-23. For rural Scheduled Tribes (ST), this ratio has improved marginally from 0.65 to 0.69 and for Other Backward Classes (OBC), from 0.83 to 0.87.
    • While rural India does not show a marked narrowing of inter-caste gaps in MPCE, the urban figures suggest a narrowing of inter-group MPCE gaps.
    • For SCs, the ratio increased from 0.63 to 0.72; for STs, from 0.68 to 0.74 and for OBCs, from 0.7 to 0.84.

Shifting Consumption Patterns Highlighted by HCES Data

  • The factsheet reveals that in rural India, the percentage share of cereals, a food staple, in average MPCE is now 4.91 per cent and 3.64 per cent in urban India, compared to 10.75 per cent and 6.66 per cent respectively in 2011-12.
  • This is accompanied by an increase in the share of processed foods and beverages.
  • Overall, HCES indicates a decline in the share of food expenditure over the decade, which stands at 46 per cent in rural and 39 per cent in urban India.
  • There have been notable shifts which include an increase in the share of medical expenses on hospitalization, conveyance, and durable goods in rural India, and paan, tobacco, intoxicants, conveyance, and durable goods in urban India.

Way Forward: Need to Follow-Up the Survey

  • The release of the HCES findings for 2022-23, while limited in scope, represents a welcome development in the pursuit of understanding India's consumption landscape.
  • The provided factsheet offers valuable insights into present consumption patterns, rural-urban disparities, and inter-caste differences.
  • However, its limited scope necessitates a prompt release of the full price and quantity unit-level data for the surveyed year, 2022-23.
  • This complete dataset is crucial for researchers, policymakers, and analysts to delve deeper into the intricacies of the survey and draw more nuanced conclusions.
  • A continuous and updated flow of data ensures a more accurate understanding of evolving consumption habits, poverty indicators, and other critical socio-economic parameters.
  • Timely follow-up surveys enable policymakers to adapt strategies based on current trends rather than historical data.


  • While the changes in HCES survey design aim to improve data collection methodologies, challenges in comparability and potential biases need careful consideration.
  • The insights into rural-urban inequality, inter-caste differences, and evolving consumption patterns highlight the complexity of India's socio-economic landscape.
  • For a comprehensive understanding, the swift release of full price and quantity unit-level data is imperative, ensuring that future analyses and policy decisions are well-informed and nuanced.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
29 Feb 2024

Law panel readies report on simultaneous polls

Why in news?

  • As per various media reports, the 22nd Law Commission is set to recommend the addition of a new chapter on simultaneous polls in the Constitution.
    • The 22nd Law Commission is headed by former Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi.
    • The commission's term has been extended until August 31, 2024.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Law Commission in India
  • Simultaneous elections in India: Meaning
  • History of Elections in India
  • News Summary

Law Commission in India:

  • The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Union government.
  • It is a commission established to ensure that the laws formed are just and fair which work towards its proper implementation.
  • It can be referred to as an ad hoc body, which is constituted for the fulfilment of a particular purpose.
    • Basically, it works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • However, it is not defined under the Indian Constitution. It is constituted as part of Article 39A.
    • Article 39A guarantees that no citizen is deprived of the opportunity to get justice due to a lack of resources or other impediments.

Simultaneous elections in India: Meaning

  • The concept of "One Nation, One Election" envisions a system in which all state and Lok Sabha elections must be held simultaneously.
  • This will entail restructuring the Indian election cycle so that elections to the states and the centre coincide.
  • This would imply that voters will vote for members of the LS and state assemblies on the same day and at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be).

History of Elections in India

  • Era of simultaneous elections
    • The first general elections of free India held simultaneously to the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States in 1951.
    • The next three cycles of elections also witnessed concurrent Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections barring a few stray cases like:
      • Kerala where a mid-term election was held in 1960 on the pre-mature dissolution of the Assembly, and
      • in Nagaland and Pondicherry where the Assembly was created only after the 1962 general elections.
    • The last occasion when we had near-simultaneous elections was in 1967.
  • Beginning of the end of simultaneous elections
    • The fourth Lok Sabha constituted in 1967 was dissolved prematurely in 1971. This was the beginning of the end of simultaneous elections.
    • Extension of the term of Lok Sabha during the National Emergency declared in 1975 and the dissolution of Assemblies of some States after the 1977 Lok Sabha election further disturbed the cycle of concurrent elections.
  • Current status
    • After the two pre-mature dissolutions of the Lok Sabha in 1998 and 1999, only four State Assemblies have been going to polls along with the Lok Sabha elections in the last two decades.
    • We now have at least two rounds of Assembly general elections every year. 

News Summary: Law panel readies report on simultaneous polls

  • The 22nd Law Commission is set to recommend the addition of a new chapter on simultaneous polls in the Constitution.
    • The law panel has not submitted its report to the government.
    • However, it has made detailed presentations of its likely recommendations before the high-level committee.

Key highlights

  • Insertion of a new chapter
    • Currently, Part XV of the Constitution deals with elections. It prescribes the role of the Election Commission and for elections to be based on adult suffrage among other aspects.
    • The Commission is likely to recommend insertion of a new chapter, Part XVA, that would make provisions for simultaneous polls.
  • Recommendations will be for 2029 elections
    • With 2024 elections round the corner, the recommendations will now be for 2029.
    • The Commission’s report is likely to suggest synchronising assembly elections in two stages in the next five years before all states can go to polls simultaneously with the next Lok Sabha elections in 2029.
      • Elections for states will have to be held collectively in two election cycles over the next five years.
      • The term of some may have to be extended while it may have to be curtailed for others through the Constitutional amendment.
      • Then 2029 can be the third election cycle where the Centre, all states, municipal and panchayat elections can be held together.
  • Tackling situations where the mandate results in a hung assembly or when a government falls midway
    • The Law Commission’s prescription is to first attempt setting up an all-party unity government if a government falls during its five-year tenure.
    • If that is not possible, then the alternative would be holding elections only for the term remaining before another cycle of simultaneous polls can be held.
      • Contesting elections only to form a government for a short term could be a disincentive for political parties to bring down a government.
    • As per the commission, a second Constitutional amendment would deal with sustainability of simultaneous polls.
  • Common voter list
    • The third Constitutional amendment to be recommended by the law panel would specifically deal with a common voter list.
    • Currently in many states, the voter list for the panchayat and municipal elections is different from the one used for Parliament and assembly elections.
      • The State Election Commissions (SECs) supervise municipal and panchayat elections.
      • On the other hand, the Election Commission conducts polls to the offices of the President and Vice President, and to Parliament, state assemblies and legislative councils.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
29 Feb 2024

Supreme Court ban Patanjali from advertising its products

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court came down heavily on Baba Ramdev’ Patanjali Ayurved for publishing misleading advertisements.
  • The apex court banned it from marketing its products until further orders are passed.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Consumer Protection Act
  • Allegations against Patanjali
  • Legal argument against Patanjali’s actions

Consumer Protection Act, 2019?

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 replaced the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.
  • The new Act recognises offences such as providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.
  • It also specifies action to be taken if goods and services are found “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe”.
  • The Act came into force in July 2020 and it will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified rules and provisions.

What is Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)?

  • About: The CCPA is a statutory body constituted under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  • Mandate: To protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers.
  • Concerned Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
  • Powers & Functions of CCPA: It is empowered to:
    • conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints / prosecution,
    • order recall of unsafe goods and services,
    • order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements,
    • impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.

Allegations against Patanjali

  • After this, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) filed a petition at the apex court.
  • The petition details other instances where Baba Ramdev called allopathy a stupid and bankrupt science, and made claims about allopathic medicine being responsible for Covid-19 deaths.
  • The IMA also accused Patanjali of contributing to vaccine-hesitancy during the pandemic by spreading false rumours.
  • The IMA claims that these attacks against modern medicine come alongside Patanjali’s own efforts to make false and unfounded claims about curing certain diseases through the use of Patanjali products.

Legal argument against Patanjali’s actions

  • The IMA claimed that the advertisement was in direct violation of the Drugs & Other Magical Remedies Act, 1954 (DOMA), and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (CPA).
    • The publishing of false and misleading advertisements is an offence under both statutes.
  • Section 4 of the DOMA
    • Under Section 4 of the DOMA, there is a prohibition against publishing misleading advertisements relating to a drug.
    • Publishing a misleading advertisement under the DOMA is punishable with up to six months imprisonment, and/or a fine for the first offence.
    • On the second offence, the period of imprisonment can extend to one year.
  • Consumer Protection Act, 2019
    • Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 deals with the ‘misleading advertisement’.
    • Section 89 of the CPA contains more stringent punishments for false or misleading advertisements.
      • First time violations may invite penalties up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.
      • Subsequent violations may attract penalties up to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years.
    • The CPA also provides the definition for a misleading advertisement.
      • It includes advertisements which:
        • give a false description of the product or service, partakes in unfair trade practices,
        • deliberately conceals important information, or is likely to mislead the consumer about the nature, substance, quantity or quality of the product or service.
  • Violation of MoU signed by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Advertising Standards Council of India
    • The IMA has also highlighted the MoU signed by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Advertising Standards Council of India in January 2017.
      • AYUSH agreed to identify misleading advertisements that may be in violation of the DOMA, and send complaints to the Council for review.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
29 Feb 2024

Irregularities in Vertical Devolution

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background (Context of the Article)
  • Divisible Pool of Taxes (Shrinking of Taxes, Reasons, Examples, etc.)
  • Way Forward


  • Agitations by different State governments in New Delhi have highlighted many disquieting issues in the practice of fiscal federalism in India.
  • In light of this, the 16th Finance Commission must take initiative to proceed innovatively to justly address complaints of increasing vertical and horizontal inequalities in devolution.
    • Vertical devolution that is the sharing of resources between the Union and States.
  • Within the domain of vertical devolution, there are two disturbing trends that need urgent redressal.
    • First, the Union government has sought to keep an increasing share of its proceeds out of the divisible pool so that they need not be shared with States.
    • Secondly, it has also not been devolving the shares of net proceeds to the States as mandated by successive FCs.

Shrinking of Divisible Pool of Taxes:

  • The net divisible pool, or net proceeds, is that part of the gross tax revenue from which a share would have to be vertically devolved by the Union to all States.
  • Such shares are assigned by each FC for a five-year period.
  • Earlier, all corporation taxes and customs duties were fully absorbed by the Union, and only income taxes and excise duties were shared with the States.
  • However, with changes over the years, culminating in a constitutional amendment in 2000, all taxes of the Union were added to the net proceeds.
    • But there was a catch — cesses and surcharges under Article 270 and Article 271 were kept out of the net proceeds.
  • In the past, such exclusion of cesses and surcharges were based on specific FC recommendations. But the amendment in 2000 provided a constitutional basis for it.
  • Presently, the net proceeds consist of the gross tax revenue after the deduction of cesses, surcharges and the cost of collection of taxes.

Cess, Surcharge & GST:

  • Over the past decade or more, several cesses and surcharges were introduced by the Union government.
  • When the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was initiated in 2017, the expectation was that many cesses and surcharges would be discarded and subsumed into the GST system.
  • On the contrary, new cesses and surcharges continued to be introduced, and many old cesses and surcharges remained outside the GST system.
    • For instance, the Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess was introduced as recent as in 2021-22.
    • Similarly, when the Health and Education Cess was introduced in 2017-18, it just replaced the Primary Education and Secondary Education cess on direct taxes.
  • The expansion of cesses and surcharges have led to the exclusion of an increasing share of the gross tax revenue from net proceeds.

Rise in Tied Transfers:

  • Cesses and surcharges have also been subjected to critical scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
  • All cesses must be transferred to a reserve fund in the Public Account of India after their collection.
  • In its reports the CAG has uncovered numerous instances of either non-transfer or short transfer of the collected amounts to the respective funds.
    • A CAG report in 2023 noted that if ₹52,732 crore was collected towards the Health and Education Cess in 2021-22, only ₹31,788 crore (or 60%) was transferred to the reserve fund of Prarambhik Shikha Kosh.
  • The Research and Development Cess must be transferred to the Fund for Technology Development and Application.
    • A CAG report in 2019 noted that the total collection of Research and Development Cess between 1996-97 and 2017-18 was ₹8,077 crore, but only ₹779 crore (or 9.6%) was transferred to the Fund.
  • The Swatchh Bharat Cess must be transferred to the Rashtriya Swachhata Kosh.
    • The extent of short transfer to the Kosh between 2015–16 and 2017–18 was ₹4,891 crore.
    • The extent of short transfer between 2010–11 and 2017–18 under the Road Cess was ₹72,726 crore and under the Clean Energy Cess was ₹44,505 crore.
  • Non-transfers and short transfers of cesses defeat the logic of their collection.
  • It also reaffirms the view that cesses and surcharges are just a ruse to divert increasing quantum of funds away from the divisible pool to meet other financial requirements of the Union government.

Way Forward:

  • Sharing of resources from the divisible pool, and the extent of cesses and surcharges, must be matters of critical importance for the 16th FC.
  • The FC must take initiative to correct historical wrongs in vertical devolution through compensations to the States.
  • It must instruct the Union government to publish accurate estimates of “net proceeds” in the budget documents.
  • It must also arrange to provide shortfalls in devolution over the last decade as a lump sum untied grant to States.
  • The Union government must legislatively act to have strict limits on the collection of cesses and surcharges.
    • Cesses and surcharges should automatically expire after a short period and must not be rechristened under another name.
  • Apart from addressing rightful complaints on the inequalities in horizontal devolution, the stance of the 16th FC on vertical devolution would be critical to the survival of fiscal federalism in India.

Mains Article
29 Feb 2024

Article 371A of the Constitution of India

Why in News?

  • Article 371A of the Constitution of India has been the major hurdle in the Nagaland government’s efforts to regulate small-scale illegal coal mining activities in the State.
  • The State government has been under pressure to regulate coal mining activities after six miners died in an explosion in a rat-hole mine in the Wokha district.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Article 371A of the Indian Constitution?
  • Significance of the Article 371A
  • Rat-hole Mining in Nagaland and Challenges in its Regulation

What is Article 371A of the Indian Constitution?

  • When Nagaland (erstwhile Naga Hills and Tuensang Area) was given the status of a State by the Constitution (13th Amendment) Act 1962 in the Indian Union, Article 371A was inserted into Part XXI of the Constitution.
  • Article 371A allows Special Constitutional Provisions to the State and thus reads:
    • Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, no Act of Parliament in respect of
      • Religious or social practices of the Nagas,
      • Naga customary law and procedure,
      • Administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,
      • Ownership and transfer of land and its resources,
    • Shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.

Significance of the Article 371A:

  • The Constitution of India is a Federation with a strong unitary bias towards the Centre.
    • However, to accommodate the large diversity of the country, its federalism is asymmetrical, and Article 371A is an example of such asymmetry.
  • The Article is not only a Constitutional right and legal mechanism but also resonates with a political process - a political barometer that represents the will of the people.
  • The Article is seen as one of the recourses that safeguard the collective rights of the Nagas.
  • However, there were concerns that Article 371(A) impedes the State’s development.
    • Article 371(A) states that land and its resources in the State belong to the people and not the government.
    • Due to this provision, the landowners usually do not allow the government to carry out any development activities on their plot.

Rat-hole Mining in Nagaland and Challenges in its Regulation:

  • Data from Nagaland’s Geology and Mining Department say the State has 492.68 million tonnes of coal reserves but dispersed erratically and inconsistently in small pockets spread over a large area.
  • Nagaland’s coal mining policy, first notified in 2006, allows rat-hole mining as the coal deposits are too scattered for large-scale and coordinated operations.
  • Small Pocket Deposit Licence may be granted only to individual landowners for undertaking rat-hole mining and shall not be granted to any company.
  • However, rat-hole mining can be undertaken only with the consent of the departments concerned, including that of Forest and Environment.
  • Officials claimed the State government awarded several rat-hole mining leases with proper forest and environment clearances and definite mining plans.
    • This has not stopped people from operating such mines illegally.
  • The unique land rights conferred under Article 371A have made regulating illegal coal mining activities more challenging.
  • Therefore, residents in coal-bearing areas depend on illegal mining for sustenance and they need to be educated on the adverse effects of such activities.


Polity & Governance

Feb. 28, 2024

Mains Article
28 Feb 2024

Stop the Dithering and Encourage Green Elections in India


  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently highlighted the environmental risks associated with traditional election materials, urging a transition to eco-friendly practices.
  • As the world's most populous democracy, India must prioritise environmental considerations in its electoral processes.
  • The government must look into overlooked environmental footprint of elections, successful eco-friendly electoral initiatives in Kerala, Sri Lanka, and Estonia, and a blueprint for a green transition involving various stakeholders.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Elections Conduct

  • Overlooked Environmental Footprint of Elections
    • The emissions from campaign flights during the 2016 US presidential elections illustrate the significant carbon footprint associated with traditional election methods.
    • Traditional election practices, including paper-based materials, energy-intensive rallies, and disposable items, contribute to environmental degradation and impact citizens' health.
    • The sheer magnitude of India's elections worsens these issues, necessitating a paradigm shift towards green elections.
  • Alarming Research Insights
    • A research from Estonia (2023) identifies transportation to and from polling booths as the primary source of carbon emissions during elections.
    • The secondary source is the operational footprint of polling booths.
    • Transitioning to digital voting systems could reduce the overall carbon footprint by up to 40%. 

Challenges and Potential Solutions in Implementing Eco-Friendly Elections

  • Technological Challenges: Infrastructure Requirements and Security Concerns
    • The transition to digital voting systems necessitates a robust technological infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas where connectivity might be limited.
    • Ensuring the security and integrity of digital voting systems is paramount.
    • Measures against hacking, fraud, and manipulation must be comprehensive to maintain public trust in the electoral process.
  • Financial Challenges: Upfront Costs and Budget Allocation
    • The adoption of eco-friendly materials and technology incurs substantial upfront costs.
    • Governments facing financial constraints may be hesitant to invest in these initiatives despite the long-term environmental benefits.
    • Elections already demand significant financial resources and allocating additional funds for environmentally friendly practices may compete with other essential priorities.
  • Behavioural Challenges: Cultural Change and Public Scepticism
    • There exists a cultural significance in valuing the physical presence of voters at polling booths as a fundamental aspect of the democratic process.
    • Convincing voters of the efficacy and security of digital methods may face resistance.
    • Public scepticism towards new approaches, fuelled by concerns about potential compromises to vote security, poses a significant challenge.
    • Building trust in the reliability and transparency of new technologies is essential.
  • Transparency and Auditing
    • The shift towards eco-friendly and digital methods should be accompanied by transparent practices.
    • Establishing mechanisms for the effective auditing of new adaptations is crucial to address concerns about accountability and fairness.
    • Creating awareness among the public about the transparency and auditability of new electoral practices is essential for overcoming scepticism and building confidence in the electoral system.
  • Logistical Challenges
    • Implementing large-scale changes in electoral practices requires meticulous planning and coordination.
    • From the procurement of eco-friendly materials to the training of officials, the logistical challenges should be addressed systematically.

The Successful Models of Eco-Friendly Electoral Initiatives

  • Kerala and Goa Model
    • During the 2019 general election, the Kerala State Election Commission urged political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials while campaigning.
    • Subsequently, the Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering and wall graffiti and paper posters emerged as alternatives.
    • Government bodies collaborated with the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram to ensure a green election and training sessions were conducted in villages for election workers.
    • In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board had eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections, using biodegradable materials crafted by local traditional artisans.
  • The Sri Lanka Model
    • In 2019, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched the world’s first carbon-sensitive environmentally friendly election campaign.
    • It measured carbon emissions from vehicles and electricity used during political campaigns and compensated for the emissions by planting trees in each district through public participation.
    • This offset the immediate carbon footprint of the campaign and drew awareness about the importance of forest cover.
  • Estonian Example
    • Estonia laid the foundations for digital voting as an online voting alternative. This method also encouraged voter participation.
    • The success of Estonia’s approach suggests that digital voting accompanied by robust security measures is both eco- and electorate-friendly.

A Blueprint for Green Elections

  • Political Initiatives and Digital Campaign Platforms
    • Political parties must take the lead by enacting legislation that mandates eco-friendly electoral practices.
    • This involves incorporating such practices into the Model Code of Conduct, outlining the rules governing election campaigns.
    • Encouraging political campaigns to utilise digital platforms for outreach or engage in door-to-door campaigning can significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with energy-intensive public rallies.
  • Incentives for Sustainable Materials and Infrastructure Support
    • Providing incentives for political parties to replace plastic and paper-based materials with sustainable alternatives(natural fabrics, recycled paper,etc) for election-related activities, to supportwaste management and local artisans.
    • Governments can invest in the necessary infrastructure for digital voting, particularly in rural areas.
    • This includes ensuring reliable internet connectivity and accessible digital devices for all voters.
  • ECI’s Role with Government Support
    • The Election Commission of India can play a pivotal role by advocating for digital voting systems.
    • This includes promoting the environmental benefits of digital voting and addressing security concerns through comprehensive measures.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns
    • Civil society organisations can spearhead public awareness campaigns highlighting the environmental impact of conventional election methods and championing eco-friendly alternatives.
    • This creates a groundswell of support for green electoral practices.
    • Civil society can actively monitor the implementation of eco-friendly initiatives and advocate for transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
  • Media's Role
    • Media organisations can play a crucial role in emphasising the environmental impact of traditional election methods.
    • Through investigative reporting and highlighting successful green initiatives, the media can encourage a broader understanding of the necessity for change.
  • Global Collaboration
    • Establishing collaborations with countries that have successfully implemented eco-friendly elections, such as Sri Lanka and Estonia, can provide valuable insights and support.
    • Creating platforms for sharing best practices on eco-friendly electoral initiatives at the international level fosters a global commitment to sustainability in democratic processes.


  • Embracing eco-conscious electoral practices is not just a necessity for India but an opportunity to set an example for democracies worldwide.
  • By integrating top-level directives with grassroots initiatives, involving political parties, Election Commissions, governments, voters, the media, and civil society, India can pave the way for green elections.
  • It will also align environmental stewardship with civic participation and democracy's fundamental principles.


Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
28 Feb 2024

10,000 human genomes sequenced in India

Why in news?

  • Recently, the ambitious Genome India initiative achieved a significant milestone as researchers completed sequencing 10,000 healthy genomes from different regions of the country, representing 99 distinct populations.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Genome sequencing
  • Genome India Project
  • News Summary

What is genome sequencing?

  • Human genome
    • The human genome is the entire set of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) residing in the nucleus of every cell of each human body.
    • It carries the complete genetic information responsible for the development and functioning of the organism.
    • The DNA consists of a double-stranded molecule built up by four bases – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).
    • Every base on one strand pairs with a complementary base on the other strand (A with T and C with G).
    • In all, the genome is made up of approximately 3.05 billion such base pairs.
  • Genome sequencing
    • While the sequence or order of base pairs is identical in all humans, there are differences in the genome of every human being that makes them unique.
    • The process of deciphering the order of base pairs, to decode the genetic fingerprint of a human is called genome sequencing.
    • In other words, Genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism's genome.
    • There are several methods of genome sequencing, but the most common is called next-generation sequencing (NGS).
    • NGS allows for rapid, accurate, and cost-effective sequencing of large amounts of DNA.
  • Human Genome Project (HGP)
    • In 1990, a group of scientists began to work on determining the whole sequence of the human genome under the Human Genome Project.
    • The project released the latest version of the complete human genome in 2023, with a 0.3% error margin.
    • The process of whole-genome sequencing, made possible by the Human Genome Project, now facilitates the reading of a person’s individual genome to identify differences from the average human genome.
    • These differences or mutations can tell us about each human’s susceptibility or future vulnerability to a disease, their reaction or sensitivity to a particular stimulus, and so on.

What are the applications of genome sequencing?

  • To evaluate rare disorder
    • Genome sequencing has been used to evaluate rare disorders, preconditions for disorders, even cancer from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than as diseases of certain organs.
    • Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis and thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.
  • Tool for prenatal screening
    • It has also been used as a tool for prenatal screening, to investigate whether the foetus has genetic disorders or anomalies.
    • Technology Crispr, which relies on sequencing, may potentially allow scientists to repair disease-causing mutations in human genomes.
  • In public health
    • Sequencing has been used to read the codes of viruses.
    • In January 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese scientist sequenced the genome of a novel pathogen causing infections in the city of Wuhan.
      • Later, genome sequencing of the virus led to the development of vaccine and the creation of diagnostic PCR machines.
    • India also put in place a sequencing framework. The Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INSACOG) was tasked with scanning coronavirus samples from patients.
  • Uses at the population level
    • Advanced analytics and AI could be applied to essential datasets created by collecting genomic profiles across the population.
    • This would allow to develop greater understanding of causative factors and potential treatments of diseases.

What is Genome India project?

  • The Genome India Project is a gene mapping project sanctioned by the Department of Biotechnology.
  • It was launched with the goal of creating a comprehensive database of genetic variations among the Indian population.
  • The project aims to sequence the genomes of over 10,000 Indians from different regions of the country and establish a reference genome for the Indian population.

What is the significance of the Genome India project?

  • To learn about genetic variants unique to the Indian population
    • This project allows researchers to learn about genetic variants unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs and therapies.
    • E.g., a mutation MYBPC3 that leads to cardiac arrest at a young age is found in 4.5% of the Indian population but is rare globally.
    • Or, another mutation called LAMB3 that causes a lethal skin condition is found in nearly 4% of the population near Madurai but it is not seen in global databases.
  • Database for 1.3 billion population
    • India’s 1.3 billion-strong population consists of over 4,600 population groups, many of which are endogamous.
    • Thus, the Indian population harbours distinct variations, with disease-causing mutations often amplified within some of these groups.
    • Findings from population-based or disease-based human genetics research from other populations of the world cannot be extrapolated to Indians.

News Summary: 10,000 human genomes sequenced in India

  • The Department of Biotechnology announced the completion of the ‘10,000 genome’ project — an attempt to create a reference database of whole-genome sequences out of India.
  • This accomplishment has culminated in the creation of a comprehensive genetic map of India, which holds immense potential for clinicians and researchers alike.
  • India is the largest genetic lab in the world. This data can help drive the biology sector in the country as well.
    • India’s bio-economy has grown 13 folds in the last 10 years from $10 billion in 2014 to over $130 billion in 2024. It will spearhead India’s future growth.
  • The entire dataset will be stored at the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) and will be made available as a digital public good or research.
    • Inaugurated in 2022, the IBDC is the country’s only databank.
    • Prior to that Indian researchers had to host their biological datasets on American or European servers.
Science & Tech

Mains Article
28 Feb 2024

PM Modi announces 4 astronauts for Gaganyaan

Why in news?

  • PM Modi has announced the names of the four astronauts, who would fly to low-Earth orbit as part of ISRO’s Gaganyaan.
  • The announcement came just days after ISRO said it had successfully tested the human readiness of the cryogenic engine.
    • This engine will be used on the LVM3 vehicles for all of the Gaganyaan missions.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Gaganyaan
  • News Summary


  • Gaganyaan project envisages demonstration of human spaceflight capability by launching a crew of 3 members to an orbit of 400 km for a 3 days mission and bring them back safely to earth.
    • It is part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme (IHSP), which was initiated (2007) by the ISRO to develop the technology needed to launch crewed orbital spacecraft into low earth orbit (LEO).
  • Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3/GSLV Mk3) rocket - the well proven and reliable heavy lift launcher of ISRO, is identified as the launch vehicle for Gaganyaan mission.
    • India’s heaviest rocket consists of solid stage, liquid stage and cryogenic stage.
  • All systems in the LVM3 launch vehicle are re-configured to meet human rating requirements and christened Human Rated LVM3/HLVM3.

News Summary: PM Modi announces 4 astronauts for Gaganyaan

  • PM Modi announced the names of the four astronauts, who would fly to low-Earth orbit as part of the ISRO’s Gaganyaan — the first crewed Indian space mission.
  • The selected astronauts are:
    • Prashanth Balakrishnan Nair, Angad Prathap, Ajit Krishnan, and Shubanshu Shukla.
    • They are all either wing commanders or group captains with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and have extensive experience working as test pilots.

Current status of Gaganyaan missions

  • The Gaganyaan missions include both manned and unmanned missions.
  • The first unmanned Gaganyaan-1 mission, a test flight to check the technology readiness for the final mission, is scheduled to take off by the end of 2024.
  • The manned mission, which will fly a three-membered crew into a low earth orbit at an altitude of 400 km for a period of three days, is scheduled later.
  • Human rating of the launch vehicle
    • ISRO will use its LVM3 rocket for all of the Gaganyaan missions.
      • LVM3, earlier called GSLV-MkIII, is the space agency’s most powerful launch vehicle and has flown seven times and never failed.
    • For the manned Gaganyaan mission, ISRO has reconfigured all the components of LVM3 to meet human rating requirements.
    • Recently, in February 2024, the space agency performed final tests on the rocket’s cryogenic engine, known as CE20, which will power LVM3 during the cryogenic stage of the lift-off.
    • The engine successfully passed and was certified for missions that would transport humans into space.
    • The ‘Vikas’ engine to be used in the liquid stage and the solid booster, a part of the solid stage, have already qualified for the missions.
  • Development of crew module and crew escape system
    • ISRO is also developing technology for the proposed human-space flight mission.
    • These include:
      • the development of life support systems to provide an earth-like environment to the crew in space,
      • crew emergency escape provision, and
      • evolving crew management aspects for training, recovery, and rehabilitation of crew.
    • In October 2023, the space agency successfully conducted the first test of a basic crew module and crew escape system (CES).
      • CES is a part of the module that ensures “the crew is taken to a safe distance in case of any emergency either at launch pad or during ascent phase.
    • The next month, the space agency began to experiment with a crew module uprighting system.
      • This system is used to ensure that the crew module, making a splashdown in the sea after a space mission, stays upright and does not get inverted in the water.
  • Training of astronauts
    • The four selected astronauts have completed their generic training at Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.
      • Their training took place after ISRO-Glavkosmos (a subsidiary of Russian space agency Roscosmos) signed an MOU in June 2019.
    • The astronauts are currently undergoing training at ISRO’s astronaut training facility in Bengaluru.
    • One of the four astronauts is also expected to be trained by the American space agency NASA.
Science & Tech

Mains Article
28 Feb 2024

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA): Rules Likely to be Notified Before Poll Code

Why in News?

  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the rules for implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) are likely to be notified before the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into force.
  • The CAA was enacted by Parliament in (December) 2019 and sparked protests around the country.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019
  • Why were CAA Rules not Notified?
  • Counterclaims in Response to the Petitions Against CAA
  • Rules for the CAA

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019:

  • About:
    • The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, Jains and Christian (but not Muslim) immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation.
    • They will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in 5 years (11 years earlier).
    • The Act (which amends the Citizenship Act 1955) also provides for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.
  • Who is eligible?
    • The CAA 2019 applies to those who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion. It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration.
    • The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014, which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.
    • The act will not apply to areas covered by the Constitution's sixth schedule, which deals with autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
    • Additionally, the act will not apply to states that have an inner-line permit regime (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram).
  • Implementation of the law: Despite its enactment four years ago, the CAA could not be implemented because the rules were not notified.

Why were CAA Rules not Notified?

  • One of the prime reasons is the vociferous opposition faced by the CAA in several states including Assam and Tripura.
  • The protests in Assam were fuelled by fears that the legislation would permanently alter the demographics of the state.
    • The CAA is seen in Assam as a violation of the 1985 Assam Accord which allows foreign migrants who came to Assam after January 1, 1966 but before March 25, 1971 to seek citizenship.
    • The cut-off date for citizenship under the CAA is December 31, 2014.
  • The protests didn’t remain confined to the North-East, but spread to other parts of the country.
    • A clutch of petitions, including by the Indian Union Muslim League, are before the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA.
    • The petitioners have contended that the law is anti-Muslim, violating Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Indian Constitution.
    • It is arbitrary as it leaves out the persecuted Rohingya of Myanmar, Tibetan Buddhists from China and Tamils from Sri Lanka.

Counterclaims in Response to the Petitions Against CAA:

  • The Centre said the basis of the “reasonable… classification” made by the 2019 Act was not religion, but “religious discrimination” in neighbouring countries which are “functioning with a state religion”.
  • The Parliament, after taking cognizance of the said issues over the course of the past 7 decades, has taken into consideration the acknowledged class of minorities and has enacted the present amendment.
  • The CAA is a specific amendment which seeks to tackle a specific problem prevalent in the specified countries.
  • The legislation was not meant to be an omnibus solution to issues across the world.
    • The Indian Parliament cannot be expected to take note of possible persecutions that may be taking place across various countries in the world.

Rules for the CAA:

  • The rules will specify the evidence needed for applicants to prove their credentials and eligibility for citizenship under the new law. For example,
    • If someone enrolled his children in a government school, he would have declared the religion.
    • If someone acquired Aadhaar before December 31, 2014 and declared his or her religion as one among the six mentioned in the Act, it will be acceptable.
    • Likewise, any form of government document declaring religion will be accepted.
  • The MHA may also accept a demand from Assam that an application for citizenship under the CAA is time-bound.
    • Assam had asked the MHA to limit the time period for applying under CAA to 3 months as keeping it open-ended could accentuate anxieties over the CAA in the state.
  • The rules are not likely to ask for evidence of religious persecution but will presume that all those who came to India did so because they either faced persecution or had fear of being persecuted.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
28 Feb 2024

Why Sustainable Funding matters for India’s ‘Science Power’ Ambition

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Background (Context of the Article)
  • India’s R&D Spending (Statistics, Ways to Improve, Role of Pvt Sector, Sustainable Funding)


  • The 2024 theme for National Science Day, which India celebrates every year on February 28, is “Science for Sustainable Development”.
  • Science and technological developments are key drivers of India’s journey towards becoming a developed country by 2047.
  • India is committed to making this progress through sustainable means, as evidenced by its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • The role of science in driving sustainable development doesn’t need emphasis.
  • However, any conversation on science is incomplete without setting one key expectation: for science to transform India, it has to be sustainably and consistently funded.

How Much is India Spending on R&D?

  • Funding for fundamental research in India is amongst the world’s lowest, particularly for a country with high science and technology ambitions.
  • In the recent past, India’s R&D expense has dropped to the current 0.64% of GDP from 0.8% in 2008-2009 and 0.7% in 2017-2018.
  • This reduced expenditure is worrying considering government agencies themselves have issued several calls to double this spending.
  • The 2013 Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy noted that “Increasing Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) to 2% GDP has been a national goal for some time”.
    • The 2017-2018 Economic Survey reiterated this in its chapter on science and technology transformation.
  • The reasons for the reduction in R&D spending despite the government being cognisant of the need to increase it are not clear.
  • However, it may stem from a lack of coordination between government agencies and a need for stronger political will to prioritise R&D expenses.
  • Most developed countries spend between 2% and 4% of their respective GDPs on R&D.
  • In 2021, member-countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on average spent 2.7% of GDP on R&D.
  • The U.S. and the U.K. have consistently spent more than 2% of their GDPs on R&D for the past decade.
  • So, many experts have called for India to spend at least 1%, but ideally 3%, of its GDP every year until 2047 on R&D for science to have a meaningful impact on development.

How Can India Improve its R&D Spending?

  • For India to reach ‘developed nation’ status, it needs to spend more to scale R&D than developed countries spend to maintain that status.
  • This is the foundation of the demand to spend at least 3% of the GDP on R&D annually until 2047.
  • And beyond the current spending being inadequate, its primary dependence on public money signals an immature financing system and weak domestic market.
  • In 2020-2021, private sector industry contributed 36.4% of the GERD whereas the Union government’s share was 43.7%.
  • State governments (6.7%), higher education (8.8%), and public sector industry (4.4%) were the other major contributors.

Hesitance of the Private Sector:

  • In economically developed countries, a major share – 70% on average – of R&D investment comes from the private sector.
  • The hesitancy of private-sector funding may be because of:
    • poor capacity to evaluate R&D in India,
    • ambiguous regulatory roadmaps that can deter investors,
    • lack of clear exit options for investors in sectors such as biotechnology, and
    • fears of intellectual property rights theft.

How is the R&D Budget Utilised?

  • While the need for India to at least double its R&D investment has been expressed several times, the question of how effectively the allocated money is spent is explored less often.
  • The Union Ministry of Science and Technology has consistently under-utilised its budget.
  • In 2022-2023, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), used only 72% of its estimated budget allocation on Centrally Sponsored Schemes/Projects.
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) used only 61%.
  • The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), which receives the lowest allocation for Centrally Sponsored Schemes, spent 69% of its allocation.

Sustainable Funding for R&D is the Way Forward:

  • In the latest budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman provided many indications that the government would like R&D expenditure to include more contributions from the private sector.
  • Against this backdrop, mitigating the under-spending and under-utilisation of funds earmarked for R&D stand out as obvious first steps.
  • This in turn requires the political prioritisation of R&D spending and recognition of it as a core, irreplaceable element of India’s growth journey.
  • This prioritisation has to happen not only within the concerned Ministries but also at the Ministry of Finance, which disburses the funds.
  • Incentives for private investment, including relaxation of foreign direct investments, tax rebates, and clear regulatory roadmaps for products will help build investor confidence.
  • Finally, India also needs the bureaucratic capacity to evaluate science projects and, after allocations, monitor utilisation.
    • Building such capacity is a prerequisite for India becoming a science power by 2047.

Feb. 27, 2024

Mains Article
27 Feb 2024

What Each District Says About India’s Progress, And How It Can Help Frame Better Policies


  • India, known for its rich diversity, displays its complexities at the district level and crafting effective policies for the nation requires a nuanced understanding of the varied socio-economic landscapes across districts.
  • Therefore, by examining socio-economic indicators and case studies, it is important to delve into the challenges and successes, emphasising the need for tailored responses to leverage the potential presented by each district.

An Analysis of Progress and Development and Diverse Realities Present at the District Level

  • Education as an Indicator
    • A recent study examining intergenerational developments in education at the district level, provides insight into the evolving educational landscape.
    • Utilising NFHS-5 data, the study highlights a remarkable shift, with the average level of the mother's education equalling or exceeding that of the father's in 195 out of 707 districts studied.
    • This points towards a notable intergenerational mobility, reflective of the evolving educational priorities at the district level.
  • Metrics of Achievement
    • Beyond education, various metrics of achievement underscore the evolving socio-economic landscape at the district level.
    • In terms of financial access, over 15% of districts boast more than 90% of women owning and operating savings accounts, showcasing strides in economic inclusivity.
    • Similarly, health metrics exhibit visible improvements, with more than 91% of districts reporting over 70% of births in the last five years occurring in health facilities.
    • These positive trends, however, coexist with the need for a nuanced understanding of the spatial distribution of progress across different districts.

Disparities Present at the State Level

  • Clusters of Development and Disparities
    • At the state level, the presence of clusters of districts with similar performance indicators signifies the impact of top-down policies shaping development trajectories.
    • These clusters highlight the influence of overarching state-level strategies on socio-economic outcomes.
    • Simultaneously, the identification of isolated islands within states signals the need for specific, bottom-up interventions to address localised challenges and opportunities.
    • For instance, while certain districts in states like Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, and Telangana demonstrate commendable educational outcomes, others within the same state lag, emphasising the importance of targeted policies.
  • Income Concentration
    • An important dimension of state-level disparities emerges through the lens of income concentration.
    • The 'Competitiveness Roadmap for India,' led by Harvard Business School, underscores substantial differences in income distribution across districts.
    • Urban districts, constituting 30% of all districts in India, contribute more than 55% of total wages and nearly 45% of all jobs.
    • This stark contrast between urban and rural districts unveils a clear economic divide, emphasising the need for nuanced policies that address the diverse economic landscapes existing within states.

Government’s Top-Down and Bottom-Up Policies and Their Impact on Diverse Aspects of Development

  • Top-Down Policies Addressing Socio-Economic Issues
    • Top-down policies serve as predominant frameworks that address socio-economic challenges on a broader scale.
    • Initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, Ayushman Bharat, POSHAN Abhiyaan, and MGNREGS exemplify how national programs can effectively target and ameliorate critical issues.
    • For instance, the Swachh Bharat Mission has resulted in 75% of villages achieving defecation-free status, showcasing the transformative potential of well-designed top-down strategies in areas like sanitation and hygiene.
  • The Aspirational Districts Programme as a Bottom-Up Approach
    • Contrastingly, the Aspirational Districts Programme, launched in 2018, represents a bottom-up approach that acknowledges the unique challenges faced by specific regions.
    • By encouraging collaboration and addressing critical gaps in health, nutrition, education, agriculture, and water resources, this program exemplifies the efficacy of targeted, grassroots interventions.
    • The success of the program in transforming lives in 112 districts underscores the importance of a bottom-up approach in achieving meaningful and sustainable development.
    • For example, the percentage of pregnant women registered for ante-natal care within the first trimester rose from 68 per cent in 2018 to 89 per cent in 2023.
    • And the percentage of underweight children below the age of six years declined from 20.6 per cent in 2018 to 9.2 per cent in 2023.
    • Similar progress has been observed in the education sector, where transition rates of school children have improved significantly, and basic infrastructure is nearing saturation.

Challenges Faced in Formulation and Implementation of Effective District-Level Development

  • Limited Availability of Timely and High-Quality Data
    • The success of any intervention depends on a nuanced understanding of local needs and challenges but the absence of comprehensive and up-to-date data poses a significant barrier.
    • This limitation hinders the ability to identify specific segments of the population that urgently require government assistance and constrains the formulation of targeted and impactful policies.
  • Lack of Tailored Responses
    • India, with its diverse and varied districts, necessitates policies that are tailored to the specific needs of each region.
    • However, the challenge lies in crafting responses that are not only localised but also responsive to the unique cultural, economic, and developmental nuances of each district.
    • A one-size-fits-all approach is inadequate and may fail to address the intricacies that define the diverse realities across the nation.

Way Forward

  • Moving Beyond Conventional Economic Centres
    • Traditionally, national value creation in India has been concentrated in a small share of leading districts.
    • However, initiatives like ODOP signify a departure from this trend, aiming to decentralise economic activities and promote distributed growth.
    • Since its launch in 2020, the programme has seen the development and promotion of 1,000-plus unique products, across 767 districts, encompassing sectors such as textiles, agriculture, food processing and handicrafts.
    • By recognising and harnessing the latent potential within each district, policymakers can unlock new avenues of economic prosperity and job creation beyond the conventional economic centres.
    • According to academic Michael Porter’s theory of clusters, district-level productivity and value-creation can be catalysed by creating linked industries and institutions in proximity.
  • Tailored Responses to Regional Specificities
    • A critical element in positioning districts as drivers of growth lies in acknowledging and addressing the regional specificities that characterise India's diverse landscape.
    • Healthcare and education priorities in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu may significantly differ from those in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
    • Effective administration demands tailored responses that consider the unique cultural, economic, and developmental nuances of each district.
    • Empowering Districts through Data and Accountability
    • A significant challenge in transforming districts into drivers of growth has been the limited availability of timely and high-quality data at the district level.
    • Initiatives like the District Development Index for Maharashtra, by providing transparency and ensuring accountability, play a crucial role in addressing this gap.
    • Accessible and accurate data enables policymakers to make informed decisions and design interventions that resonate with the specific needs of each district.


  • As India charts its course towards economic prosperity, the paradigm shift from viewing districts as passive entities to active contributors is pivotal.
  • Initiatives like ODOP, guided by the principles of regional strengths and clusters, empower districts to play a central role in shaping their economic destinies.
  • By nurturing the unique potential within each district, India not only diversifies its economic landscape but also establishes a foundation for inclusive growth and shared prosperity across the nation.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
27 Feb 2024

What is the new FPI Fraud SEBI has Warned Investors Against?

Why in the News?

  • The markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has warned individuals against fraudulent trading platforms.
  • The SEBI has warned that certain trading platforms are falsely claiming or suggesting affiliation with its registered Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About FPI (Basics, Benefits, Comparison with FDI, etc.)
  • News Summary

What is Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI)?

  • Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) involves an investor buying foreign financial assets. It involves an array of financial assets like fixed deposits, stocks, and mutual funds.
  • All the investments are passively held by the investors. Investors who invest in foreign portfolios are known as Foreign Portfolio Investors.
  • Foreign Portfolios increase the volatility. As a result, it leads to increased risk.
    • The intent of investing in foreign markets is to diversify the portfolio and get good return on investments.
    • Investors expect to receive high returns owing to the risk they’re willing to take.
  • Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) operates the FPIs.
  • Recently, SEBI has introduced the Foreign Portfolio Investors Regulations, 2019.
  • FPIs also need to follow the Income-tax Act, 1961 and Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

Benefits of FPI:

  • Investment Diversity:
    • FPI provides investors an opportunity to diversify their portfolio.
    • As an investor, you can diversify your portfolio to achieve high returns.
    • Suppose if you incur major losses in investment assets of a Country X, you can accrue profits in investment assets of a country Y.
    • In this way, you can experience less volatility in your investments and increase chances of profits.
  • International Credit:
    • Investors can get access to increased amounts of credit in foreign countries.
    • They can broaden their credit base. By expanding their credit base, investors can secure their line of credit.
    • In case the domestic credit score is unfavorable, having an international credit score can be beneficial.
    • This allows the investor to utilize more leverage and get high returns on equity investment.
  • Access to a Bigger Market:
    • Sometimes, foreign market can be less competitive than the domestic market.
    • Hence, FPI gives you an exposure to a wider market.
    • The foreign markets are comparatively less saturated and hence, they may offer higher returns and more diversity as well.
  • High Liquidity:
    • Foreign Portfolio Investments provides high liquidity.
    • An investor can buy and sell foreign portfolios seamlessly.
    • This offers buying power for investors to act when good buy opportunities arise.
    • Investors can buy and sell trades in a quick and seamless manner.
  • Exchange Rate Benefit:
    • An investor can leverage the dynamic nature of international currencies.
    • Some currencies can drastically rise or fall, and a strong currency can be used in investor's favour.

Difference Between FPI and FDI:


News Summary:

  • The markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has warned individuals against fraudulent trading platforms falsely claiming or suggesting affiliation with its registered Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs).
  • These platforms are misleading individuals by claiming to offer them trading opportunities through FPI or Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) sub-accounts or institutional accounts with special privileges.
  • The SEBI said it has received many complaints where fraudsters are enticing victims through online trading courses, seminars, and mentorship programmes in the stock market.
    • They are leveraging social media platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram, as well as live broadcasts.
  • These scamsters are posing as employees or affiliates of SEBI-registered FPIs, and coaxing individuals into downloading applications.
    • These applications purportedly allow them to purchase shares, subscribe to IPOs, and enjoy ‘institutional account benefits’—all without the need for an official trading or Demat account.
  • These operations often use mobile numbers registered under false names to orchestrate the fraudulent schemes, SEBI, said.

SEBI’s Clarification:

  • The market regulator clarified that the FPI investment route is unavailable to resident Indians, with limited exceptions as outlined in the SEBI (Foreign Portfolio Investors) Regulations, 2019.
  • SEBI has not granted any relaxations to FPIs regarding securities market investments by Indian investors.

Mains Article
27 Feb 2024

Impact of High Duties to Curb Imports from China

Why in News?

  • Multiple wings of the government have begun to criticise the Centre's moves to gradually raise customs tariffs, particularly the more recent targeting imports of Chinese components and inputs.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • India’s Import from China and Blockade Targeting Chinese Imports
  • Comparing India’s Tariffs with Other Countries and Adverse Impact of High Tariffs
  • Indian Government’s Response to Allegations of High Tariffs
  • Need to Gradually Reduce Duties on Imports from China

India’s Import from China and Blockade Targeting Chinese Imports:

  • India accounts for negligible share in China’s total trade (India is home to barely 3% of Chinese exports), but still accounts for 14% of India’s imports with -
    • Not just inputs for the domestic industry in sectors ranging from electronics to pharmaceuticals and textiles to leather,
    • But also, capital goods, being sourced from China.
  • The blockade targeting Chinese imports had gained traction across Central ministries and departments in the aftermath of the Galwan border clash in 2020.
  • There is an increase in the average tariffs to 18.1% in 2022 from 13% in 2014.
    • Moreover, to check cheap quality imports from China, India imposed Quality Control Orders (QCOs) that restrict MSMEs from getting necessary input material.
  • Tariff hikes have been undertaken multiple times covering well over 500 major item categories since 2016.
    • Analysts caution that in some cases where customs duty hikes have been proposed, duties are close to or have effectively crossed the WTO-mandated “bound rates”.
    • These are the customs duty rates that a country commits to all other members under the most favoured nation (MFN) principle.

Comparing India’s Tariffs with Other Countries and Adverse Impact of High Tariffs:

  • Globally there is no country where tariffs are so high (as in India). India’s tariffs are higher than countries in South East Asia and even Africa.
  • India is currently negotiating FTAs with developed countries which have maximum tariffs at 60% that too on products such as tobacco. India’s highest tariffs go up to 150%.
  • These restrictions are now seen to be impacting sectors such as electronics and pharmaceuticals leading to either a loss of
    • Domestic output or
    • Competitive advantage (high production cost rendering India’s exports uncompetitive) for Indian manufacturing.
  • Industries have warned of the detrimental impact of higher tariffs being used as a protectionism tool.
    • India’s high tariffs pose a disincentive to de-risking supply chains beyond China.
    • As a result, countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Mexico are offering lower tariffs on components to grab the space vacated by China.

Indian Government’s Response to Allegations of High Tariffs:

  • The Ministry of Commerce denies these duty increases as “protectionist” in nature.
  • India’s stance on hiking tariffs mirrored the broader trend globally, and that New Delhi had shown a renewed interest in signing bilateral FTAs over the last 24 months.
  • India has chosen to stay out of important mega regional trading arrangements, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Need to Gradually Reduce Duties on Imports from China:

  • From the perspective of development economics, it makes sense to gradually decrease duties and integrate better with global markets and then negotiate Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
  • Protectionism is not nationalism. It only brings inefficiency (at the cost of hurting consumers).
  • Nearly 8 years of protectionism have not increased India's manufacturing share of GDP (~15%), despite several sops, including extraordinary tax advantages.
  • Therefore, an advanced strategy to use tariffs as a diplomatic tool is the need of the hour; otherwise, the achievements of India's manufacturing-focused thrust (including from schemes like PLI) may be in danger.
  • The MeitY had pushed for a lowering of duties of about 20% on parts including circuit boards, chargers and fully assembled phones, by at least 5% points.
    • This was partly agreed to and the government reduced duty on several IT goods ahead of the Interim Budget 2024.
  • These calibrated changes in duty rates will -
    • Help the domestic industry in capacity creation,
    • Provide a level playing field,
    • Easing the raw material supply side constraints and
    • Enhance ease of doing business.


International Relations

Mains Article
27 Feb 2024

WTO MC13 -Agenda for India

Why in news?

  • The four-day 13th ministerial conference (MC13) started on February 26 in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The Indian delegation is led by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

What’s in today’s article?

  • WTO
  • 13th ministerial conference (MC13) of WTO
  • News Summary

About World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
  • The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.
  • WTO is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It is also a place for them to settle trade disputes.
  • It was created by Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94) and is headquartered in Geneva.

Functions of WTO

  • Administering trade agreements
  • Acting as a forum for trade negotiations
  • Settling trade disputes
  • Reviewing national trade policies
  • Building the trade capacity of developing economies

Structure of WTO

  • The WTO has 164 members, accounting for 98% of world trade.
    • Accession processes for Comoros and Timor-Leste are nearing completion, paving the way for their WTO entry.
  • Decisions are made by the entire membership. This is typically by consensus.
  • The WTO’s top-level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets usually every two years.

13th ministerial conference (MC13) of WTO

  • MC13 of WTO will take place from February 26–29, 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
  • The conference will bring together trade ministers from around the world to:
    • Review the functioning of the multilateral trading system
    • Take action on the future work of the WTO
    • Chart the future course of the WTO

News Summary: WTO MC13 - Agenda for India

India's agenda at the meeting

  • Food security issues
    • Under the public stockholding (PSH) programme, the Government procures crops like rice and wheat from farmers at a minimum support price (MSP), and stores and distributes foodgrains to the poor.
    • India stresses the need for PSH for its large, vulnerable population and wants a permanent solution from the MC13.
      • Food procurement, stockholding, and distribution are crucial to India's food security strategy.
    • MSP is normally higher than the prevailing market rates and sells these at a low price to ensure food security for over 800 million beneficiaries.
    • However, the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture limits the ability of a government to purchase food at MSP.
      • Under global trade norms, a WTO member country's food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.
    • As part of the solution, India has asked for measures like amendments in the formula to calculate the food subsidy cap.
    • However, developed nations are of the view that such programmes distort global trade prices of food grains.
  • Joint Support Initiatives (JSIs) or plurilateral agreements
    • India opposes this move being pushed for certain nations.
      • E.g., India is strongly opposing the efforts of a group of countries led by China to push a proposal on investment facilitation for development agreement at the WTO.
    • India has maintained that this agenda falls outside the mandate of the global trade body.
  • Agricultural reforms
    • India's stance is to protect farmer livelihoods and ensure equitable market access.
    • However, developed nations are pushing to reduce domestic support and increase market openness irrespective of the fact that they provide large subsidies to their rich farmers.
  • WTO reforms
    • India supports fair reforms that take into account the needs of developing countries.
    • This is in response to proposals from developed nations for easier negotiation processes, moving away from unanimous decision-making, and adding non-trade issues to the WTO without agreement from everyone.
    • India supports efforts to improve the working of the WTO but its key pillars to be retained. These pillars are:
      • special and differential treatment for less developed and developing nations,
      • equal voice and
      • dispute settlement mechanism.
    • India also seeks a revamp of the Appellate Body to ensure fairness.
  • Fisheries subsidies
    • The members have already reached the first part of the agreement in 2022 under which subsidies will be prohibited for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
    • Now they are negotiating to curb subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity to promote sustainable fishing.
    • India champions a balanced approach on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
      • India, being a low fisheries subsidizer, emphasizes that advanced fishing nations have historically provided substantial subsidies and contributed to fish stock depletion.
      • Hence, they should bear more responsibility based on the 'polluter pay principle'.
    • India has proposed that:
      • developing countries be allowed to give subsidies to their poor fishermen to catch fish till EEZs or up to 200 nautical miles from the shore;
      • rich countries engaged in fishing beyond this zone should stop providing any kind of subsidies for the next 25 years.
  • Extension of customs duties moratorium on e-commerce trade
    • The ongoing moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions, in place since 1998, is a contentious issue facing the WTO.
    • India, alongside several other developing nations, has historically called for the termination of the moratorium.
      • India has specific demands at MC13 to achieve this goal.
    • Developed nations, however, are pushing for the permanent adoption of a duty-free flow of digital transmission.
  • Barriers to trade
    • India would maintain its stand that issues like labour, and environment are non-trade issues and they should not be discussed at the WTO.
    • It also emphasised that trade barriers like the EU's carbon tax and deforestation regulation should not be erected under the guise of sustainable development.
      • As per India, there are different multilateral forums like in the United Nations where these issues can be discussed.
    • Developed countries are also pushing to include women economic empowerment issues in the WTO talks.
International Relations

Mains Article
27 Feb 2024

Mission Utkarsh - Initiative for Anaemia Control among adolescent girls using Ayurveda interventions

Why in news?

  • Ministry of Ayush and Ministry of Women and Child Development have signed a MoU for the nutritional improvement in adolescent girls through Ayurveda Interventions.
  • It will be a Joint Public Health Initiative for Anaemia Control among adolescent girls using Ayurveda interventions in the five districts under Mission Utkarsh.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Anaemia
  • News Summary

What is Anaemia?

  • About
    • According to the WHO, anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal.
    • Haemoglobin is needed to carry oxygen.
    • If there are too few red blood cells, or not enough haemoglobin, there will be a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
    • This results in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness and shortness of breath among others.
  • Factors
    • The most common nutritional cause of anaemia is iron deficiency although deficiencies in folate, vitamins B12 and A are also important causes.
    • Certain chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, or autoimmune disorders, can interfere with the production of red blood cells.
    • Inherited conditions, such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, affect the structure or function of red blood cells, leading to chronic anemia.
  • Why should there be focus on Anaemia?
    • Impact on morbidity and morality
      • Anaemia is related to morbidity and mortality in the population groups usually considered to be the most vulnerable — pregnant women and children under five.
    • Effect on reproductive health
      • A prevalence study on anaemia is useful to monitor the progress of reproductive health.
    • Impact on economy
      • Iron-deficiency anaemia reduces the work capacity of individuals and entire populations.

India’s anaemia burden

  • India’s anaemia burden has grown alarmingly with NFHS-5 (2019-21) finding that:
    • 57% of women in the age group 15-49 and 67% children between six months and 59 months are anaemic (from the corresponding 53% and 58.6% respectively in NFHS-4 (2015-16)).
  • The Health Ministry has noted that anaemia is a public health challenge.

News Summary: Mission Utkarsh - Initiative for Anaemia Control among adolescent girls using Ayurveda interventions

  • The Centre launched an initiative to improve nutrition in adolescent girls (14-18 years) using Ayurveda.

Key highlights of Mission Utkarsh

  • 15 central ministries or departments to work together
    • To elevate districts at the bottom, to state and national averages.
  • To be launched in five aspirational districts
    • Initially, it would be launched in five aspirational districts (of five states) first as a pilot project.
      • Aspirational Districts are a part of a developmental initiative introduced by the Government of India.
      • The program aims to transform the most underdeveloped districts of the country by focusing on improving their socio-economic indicators.
      • These districts, often characterized by high poverty rates, lack of basic infrastructure, and limited access to essential services.
    • These are:
      • Assam (Dhubri), Chhattisgarh (Bastar), Jharkhand (Paschimi Singhbhum), Maharashtra (Gadchiroli), and Rajasthan (Dhaulpur)
  • Target group
    • The aim is nutritional improvement among approximately 95,000 adolescent girls in anaemia prone districts.



Social Issues

Feb. 26, 2024

Mains Article
26 Feb 2024

Protecting People’s Privacy is Essential to Maintaining Democracy


  • The advent of the big data economy has reshaped the dynamics of elections and individual voting behaviours, presenting both advantages and drawbacks.
  • With general elections due in two months, it is important to look into the transformative impact of massive datasets on political landscapes.
  • It is equally crucial to understand the implications for privacy, and the urgent need for robust data protection measures, particularly in the context of upcoming elections in India.

Concerns Surrounding Big Data Influence on Elections

  • Micro-Targeting and Customisation
    • Big data empowers political campaigns to engage in micro-targeting, a strategy that involves tailoring messages and campaign content to specific demographics or even individual voters.
    • Through the analysis of vast datasets, candidates gain insights into voters' preferences, behaviours, and opinions, allowing for highly customised outreach efforts.
    • This level of personalisation extends across various communication channels, including bulk SMS, audio calls, and social media platforms.
  • Opacity and Lack of Informed Consent
    • A significant concern arising from the use of big data in elections is the lack of transparency regarding the collection, processing, and utilisation of personal information.
    • Voters often remain in the dark about the existence of databases containing detailed personal information, and the extent to which their data is utilised for political purposes.
    • The notion of informed consent becomes elusive, as individuals are typically unaware of how their data is being harnessed and are consequently unable to exercise control over its usage.
  • Amplification of Power Dynamics and Political Influence
    • The abundance of data amplifies the power of political entities to influence voters through targeted messaging and strategic communication.
    • Candidates can craft narratives that resonate with specific groups, addressing issues and concerns tailored to the demographics discerned from data analysis.
    • This sophisticated targeting extends beyond surface-level attributes like age and location, delving into nuanced aspects such as personal likes, dislikes, ideological leanings, and habits.
  • Potential for Manipulation and Exploitation
    • While big data offers undeniable benefits in terms of campaign efficiency and targeted communication, the dark side lies in the potential for manipulation and exploitation.
    • Unscrupulous practices, such as the strategic dissemination of misinformation tailored to exploit specific voter sentiments, can undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
    • The asymmetry of information between political entities and voters exacerbates the potential for undue influence, raising ethical concerns surrounding privacy invasion and democratic principles.

Understanding the Social Media and Network Effect and Its Implications

  • The Network Effect
    • The network effect, a concept central to social media platforms, refers to the increasing value and utility of a network as more users join it.
    • Individuals are drawn to platforms with larger user bases due to the enhanced potential for connectivity, content creation, and interaction.
  • Enhanced Data Collection and User Profiling
    • Social media platforms thrive on the collection of personal data, creating detailed profiles that extend beyond apparent attributes like age and location.
    • Users generate a wealth of information through their interactions, allowing platforms to collect insights into individual preferences, behaviours, and affiliations.
    • This extensive data collection is a cornerstone of the business models of social media platforms, facilitating targeted advertising and personalized content delivery.
  • Opaqueness of Data Collection Practices
    • Users are often uninformed about the extent and granularity of data collected, raising concerns about the invasion of privacy and the potential misuse of personal information.
    • The lack of transparency contributes to a scenario where individuals have little control over how their data is utilised.
  • Algorithmic Decision-Making and Personalisation
    • The algorithms that underpin social media platforms play a crucial role in shaping users' experiences.
    • Algorithms use collected data to determine what content is presented to users, creating personalised feeds that cater to individual preferences.
    • While personalisation enhances user satisfaction, it also raises concerns about the potential for algorithmic biases and the selective presentation of information.
  • Monetisation and Commercial Exploitation
    • Social media platforms leverage the data collected from users for monetisation purposes, either by selling the data directly or by using it to offer personalized ads.
    • The extensive profiling of users enables advertisers to precisely target their audience, maximizing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.
    • This commercial exploitation of personal data has economic benefits for the platforms but raises ethical concerns about the commodification of user information.

Scrutiny and Awareness Post 2016 US Presidential Election

  • The revelations surrounding the misuse of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica after the 2016 U.S. presidential election heightened public awareness about the implications of social media data exploitation.
  • Users became more cognizant of the potential risks associated with extensive data sharing on these platforms, leading to calls for increased transparency and privacy safeguards.
  • Governments and regulatory bodies also intensified their scrutiny of social media companies and their data practices.

Critical Flaws in Indian Data Protection Act

  • Absence of Clear Limitations on the Govt's Powers to Access Data: This raises concerns about potential misuse and undermines the fundamental principle of protecting citizens from unwarranted surveillance.
  • Lack of Independence for Data Protection Board
    • Without proper checks and balances, the effectiveness of the board is compromised, and it may become susceptible to external pressures.
    • Reports of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Information Commissioner withholding information under the pretext of the Data Protection Act, which is not yet in force, highlight the confusion and potential misuse during this transitional phase.
    • The absence of a functional Data Protection Board worsens the challenges, as individuals lack a proper channel for seeking redressal for privacy violations.
  • Absence of Important Actionable Rights
    • Individual rights are not adequately addressed, with a notable absence of essential rights such as the right to compensation.
    • This limitation diminishes the ability of individuals to seek redress for privacy violations.

Way Forward

  • Opportunity for Mitigation and Meaningful Privacy Protection
    • The imminent rules that are set to guide the implementation of the Data Protection Act present an opportunity to mitigate the identified flaws and meaningfully protect privacy.
    • Stakeholder engagement, including multi-stakeholder consultations, must be prioritised to ensure a diverse range of perspectives is considered.
  • Prioritise Impact on Individuals
    • The rules must prioritise the impact on individuals, placing their rights and privacy at the forefront of the regulatory framework.
    • Consultation processes should be sustained, inclusive, and receptive to feedback, ensuring that the concerns of various stakeholders are addressed.
  • Necessity for Legislative Changes
    • While the rules can serve as corrective measures, the necessity for legislative changes to address foundational flaws, including government powers and Data Protection Board independence, cannot be overlooked.
    • Striking a balance between feasibility and inclusivity is crucial to avoiding rushed amendments that may compromise the integrity of the data protection framework.


  • As India braces for elections, there is a necessity of a people-centric data protection regime that balances the benefits of digitization with safeguarding privacy and democratic principles.
  • The importance of inclusive and rights-based models to navigate the challenges posed by the big data landscape, ensuring a resilient and equitable digital future can not be overlooked.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
26 Feb 2024

Newly amended Electricity Rules and rooftop solar power

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Ministry of Power has notified amendments to the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020.
  • In order to accelerate the installation of rooftop solar projects and empower consumers, the amendment contains provisions on connections in residential societies and solving complaints on meter readings.
  • The amendments came a week after PM Modi launched PM Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana earlier this month.
    • This scheme will provide households with a subsidy of up to 40% to install rooftop solar panels.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Key highlights of the amendment

Key highlights of the amendment

  • Installing rooftop solar made easier and faster
    • Earlier, DISCOMs were required to conduct a feasibility study for rooftop solar projects within 20 days of an application being filed, and then intimate the outcome to the applicant.
    • A technical feasibility study determines whether a property is physically and financially suitable for the installation of solar panels.
    • The latest amendments have reduced that period to 15 days. Moreover, if the study is not completed by then, it shall be presumed that the proposal is technically feasible.
      • In other words, DISCOMs are no longer required to complete a technical feasibility study before accepting an application to begin the installation of solar panels.
    • The rules also note that solar PV systems up to a capacity of 10 kilowatts shall be deemed accepted without requiring a study.
    • DISCOMs can also include expenditure on strengthening distribution infrastructure for rooftop solar projects (with a capacity of up to 5 kilowatts or higher) in its revenue requirement.
      • The exact maximum capacity shall be prescribed by each state electricity regulatory commission.
      • In other words, the costs of strengthening distribution infrastructure for rooftop solar projects with a capacity of up to 5 kilowatts will be borne by DISCOMs, and this can be covered through its operations.
  • Empowering consumers in residential societies
    • The new rules that allow people living in residential societies to choose between having separate connections for each household or having one connection for the entire society.
      • This choice will be made through a fair voting process organized by the distribution company.
    • If the owners opt for a single-point connection for the whole premises, then the association overseeing a residential society will be responsible for metering, billing, and collection of the amount due on a no-profit-no-loss basis.
      • In the case of individual connections, the DISCOM will be responsible for those tasks.
    • The amendments also require DISCOMs to install an additional meter in case a consumer complains of meter readings not reflecting actual consumption.
      • If the meter is found to be inaccurate, the excess or deficit charges shall be adjusted in the subsequent bills, as per existing rules.
  • New electricity connections to be provided more quickly
    • The amended rules have reduced the period for obtaining a new electricity connection or modifying an existing one in metropolitan areas from seven to three days.
    • In other municipal areas, this has reduced from 15 to seven days, and in rural areas from 30 to 15 days.
    • In rural areas with hilly terrain, however, the period will continue to remain 30 days.
  • Electric Vehicles mentioned for the first time in the rules
    • DISCOMs are required to provide a separate connection for the supply of electricity to an EV charging point if requested by a consumer and within the revised period as mentioned above.
    • In other words, EV owners in New Delhi, Bangalore, or other metropolitan cities can now get a new electricity connection to charge their cars in three days.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
26 Feb 2024

Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Report - Analysis

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, released data on household consumption expenditure for the year 2022-23.
  • The data shows per capita monthly household expenditure more than doubled in 2022-23 as compared to 2011-12.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Key takeaways from the 2022-23 survey

Key takeaways from the 2022-23 survey

  • Share of spending on food in India changed over the last 20-odd years
    • Between 1999-2000 and 2022-23, the share of expenditure on food has gradually declined for both urban and rural households.
    • However, it is for the first time that expenditure on food has fallen to less than 50 per cent of the total consumption expenditure in rural India, and to less than 40 per cent in urban India.
  • Within foods, what are we eating?
    • The share of cereals and pulses within overall food consumption expenditure has reduced, both in rural and urban areas.
    • The share of spending on milk has increased, so much so as to overtake that on cereals and pulses combined — i.e. foodgrains — in 2022-23.
    • The average rural as well as urban Indian has, for the first time in 2022-23, spent more on fruits and vegetables than on foodgrains.
      • The spending on vegetables alone exceeded that on cereals, and likewise for fruits vis-a-vis pulses.
    • A growing share of the consumer rupee is also going to eggs, fish and meat.
      • When combined with the rising and falling shares of milk and pulses respectively, it suggests a clear preference among Indian consumers for animal proteins over plant proteins.
    • Indians are spending more, as a percentage of their total expenditure, on processed foods, beverages and purchased cooked meals.
  • Spending on food and the items consumed supports Engel Curve hypothesis
    • Named after the 19th century German statistician Ernst Engel, it broadly states that as incomes grow, households spend a smaller proportion of that on food.
    • Even within food, they would buy more of “superior” and less of “inferior” items.
      • In the present case, cereals, sugar and pulses are inferior, while milk, egg, fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, beverages and processed foods are superior.
  • Narrowing rural-urban gap
    • The data shows consumption in rural areas is growing faster than in urban areas, thereby narrowing the gap.
    • If the trend continues, it is possible that urban and rural incomes and consumption will be the same in the coming years.
  • The average monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) of agricultural households
    • For the first time, MPCE of agricultural households has fallen below the overall average of rural households.
    • The average MPCE of families self-employed in agriculture was Rs 3,702 in 2022-23, while the overall average of rural households was Rs 3,773.
    • The gap between the MPCE of agricultural families and the overall average of rural households has been narrowing over the years.
    • The MPCE of casual labourers and regular wage earners engaged in agriculture was also lower than the rural average
  • Need to review the inflation basket
    • Inflation is calculated based on the changes in the price levels of items in a large basket. These items must ideally reflect what Indians are consuming.
    • The Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based inflation, also called retail inflation, is currently based on a basket that was decided in 2012.
    • However, over the last 11 years, as the latest Household Consumption Expenditure (HCE) Survey 2022-23 shows, a lot has changed.
    • For example, the CPI (Rural) basket assigns a weightage of 12.35 per cent to ‘cereals and products’.
    • But as discussed above, the latest HCE Survey shows rural households spend just 4.91 per cent on cereals (and cereal substitutes).
  • On poverty
    • As per NITI Aayog CEO B V R Subrahmanyam, the latest consumer expenditure survey indicates that poverty has come down to five per cent in the country.
      • People are becoming prosperous both in rural and urban areas.
    • The data showed that the average per capita monthly expenditure for all categories stood at Rs 3,773 in rural areas and Rs 6,459 in urban areas.
    • The average per capita monthly expenditure of 0-5% fractile (bottom 5%) class is pegged at Rs 1,373 in rural areas and Rs 2,001 in urban areas.
  • Demand for a legal guarantee to MSP and the survey data
    • The demand for a legal guarantee to MSP is mainly from farmers of 23 crops, including foodgrains and sugarcane.
    • But farm sector’s growth is being led by livestock, fisheries and horticulture crops outside MSP purview.
    • However, the survey data shows that their growth is largely market demand-driven.
    • Hence, it raises an important question:
      • if consumption of milk, fish, poultry products, and fruits and vegetables is rising much more than cereals and sugar, shouldn’t the focus be on promoting production of the former as opposed to the latter?

Mains Article
26 Feb 2024

Do Political Parties have to Pay Income Tax

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Congress party alleged that the Income Tax (IT) Department instructed banks to transfer over Rs. 65 crores from the accounts of the Congress, the Youth Congress (IYC) and the NSUI.
  • Terming it “economic terrorism”, Congress treasurer (Ajay Maken) said the move came even as the party has its challenge of a Rs. 210 crore tax demand pending before the IT Appellate Tribunal (ITAT).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Are Political Parties Required to Pay Income Tax?
  • Are Political Parties Required to File IT Returns?
  • What is the Present Case of the Congress?

Are Political Parties Required to Pay Income Tax?

  • The Income Tax Act 1961 exempts political parties registered by the Election Commission (EC) under the Representation of the People Act 1951 from paying income tax, with some conditions.
  • Section 13-A of the Act (special provision relating to incomes of political parties): It says that any income under the heads of
    • Income from house property,
    • Income from other sources,
    • Capital gains and
    • Income from voluntary contributions shall not be included in the total income of the previous year of the party.
  • The above exemption is valid as long as -
    • The political party maintains books of account that would enable the Assessing Officer to “properly deduce its income”;
    • Maintains a record of all contributions above 20,000 each;
    • Has its accounts audited by an accountant and does not accept any donation above 2,000 each in cash; and
    • The treasurer of the party or any other person authorised by the party submits a declaration of its donations to the EC before the due date of filing IT returns.

Are Political Parties Required to File IT Returns?

  • Parties are required to file their returns if their total income, before taking into account the exemptions under Section 13A, is higher than the IT exemption limit.
  • Section 139 (4B) says that the chief executive officer of every political party furnishes a return of such income of the previous year in the prescribed form, if,
    • The total income exceeds the maximum amount which is not chargeable to IT. 

What is the Present Case of the Congress?

  • The Congress’ treasurer said that the IT Department had told the banks where the Congress, IYC and NSUI had their accounts to transfer Rs 65 crore.
    • This was even as the ITAT was hearing the Congress’ challenge against a Rs 210 crore tax demand.
  • The IT demand pertains to the financial year 2018-2019.
    • The party had received Rs. 142.83 crore in donations that year and of this amount, Rs. 14.49 lakh was received in cash.
    • This was collected from Congress MLAs and MPs, who contributed one month’s salary each.
  • According to the Congress’ treasurer,
    • The party submitted its account details later on February 2, 2019, instead of the deadline of December 31, 2018.
    • The IT Department had raised a demand of Rs.210 crore over just Rs. 14 lakhs in cash donations, just before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
  • The matter now rests with the ITAT, which completed its hearing and reserved its order.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
26 Feb 2024

India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)

Why in the News?

  • Houthi (terrorist group) attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea continue unabated.
  • It has once again brought to the fore the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, highlighting the need to revisit alternate routes for global trade.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Red Sea (Location, Significance, How the Conflict has Affected India, etc.)
  • About IMEC (Purpose, Significance, How It Can be Made Viable, etc.)

About Red Sea:

  • The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia.
  • The Red Sea owes its strategic importance for global trade to the Bab el-Mandab Strait which lies between Yemen and Djibouti.
  • It is one of the world’s busiest cargo and oil transit points with almost 12% of international merchandise trade passing through it.
  • An immediate consequence of the Red Sea conflict has been that major container and oil carriers have been forced to re-route shipments via the Cape of Good Hope.
  • The re-routing has led to rising ocean freight, inflated insurance costs, and longer voyage times leading to delays and shortage of products.
  • It has also driven up transportation costs. The higher shipping costs will be passed onto consumers in the form of increased commodity prices.

How Has it Affected India?

  • India’s trade with European and North African countries flows entirely through the Red Sea route which is almost 24% of its exports and 14% of its imports.
  • In the year 2022-23, India’s bilateral trade with Europe and North Africa stood at $189 billion and $15 billion respectively.
  • The rising fears among traders have already seen a drop in Indian shipments. As per the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), rising threats have prompted Indian exporters to hold back around 25% of their cargo ships transitioning through the Red Sea.
  • As global supply chains are battling delayed shipments and rising costs, China is actively projecting China-Europe freight trains, which are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as an alternate route.
  • The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), which was announced during the G-20 summit in 2023, is another alternative which is not receiving much attention.

About India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC):

  • At the sidelines of the G20 Summit held in New Delhi in September 2023, an MoU was signed to develop a rail and shipping corridor connecting India to Europe via the Middle East between India, United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union.
  • The proposed IMEC will involve:
    • Rail connectivity,
    • Shipping lines,
    • High-speed data cables, and
    • Energy pipelines.
  • These will complement the existing maritime and road networks that will enhance movement of trade and services “to transit to, from, and between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.”

Significance of IMEC Project:

  • IMEC is significant from an infrastructure and connectivity perspective as well as from a geopolitical angle.
  • The project involves two separate corridors –
    • East Corridor: connects India to the Arabian Gulf, and
    • Northern Corridor: connects the Arabian Gulf to Europe.
  • According to the MoU, IMEC is “expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.”
  • The new corridor has other important dimensions, including reliable and secure regional supply chains, better trade accessibility, and trade facilitation.
  • In geopolitical terms, IMEC is touted as a counter to China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
    • India, from very early days, had objected to it because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key component of the BRI, runs through territories claimed by India.

Impact of Israel-Palestine Conflict on IMEC Project:

  • With the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict intensifying, there is a growing realization that the calculations on the kind of diplomatic cooperation that the project of the scale of the IMEC would have warranted as a prerequisite, is far more complicated now.
  • The Saudi Arabia – Israel peace deal might not be a possibility in the near future now as mounting anger in the Arab world about the scale of Israel’s offensive in northern Gaza.
  • US President Joe Biden’s planned visit in Jordan this week had to be cancelled after an attack on a Gaza hospital.
  • A rocket launched near Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport added to a rising number of attacks targeting US forces in the Middle East.
  • While the war's direct impact remains regional, the geopolitical consequences reverberate far beyond, with potential consequences for the proposed IMEC corridor.

How Can the IMEC Project be Made Viable?

  • Despite such challenges, the economic logic of the corridor holds, which should encourage stakeholders to keep working towards it.
  • First, an empirical study on the economic benefits of the corridor needs to be conducted.
    • The corridor is estimated to cut the journey time from India to Europe by 40% and slash transit costs by 30%.
    • However, there are speculations that multiple handling of cargo and multi-nation transit would increase carriage and compliance costs.
    • Therefore, it is critical to quantify the economic advantages of the corridor to attract more stakeholders.
  • Secondly, a robust financial framework needs to be in place.
    • Since there are no binding financial commitments on any of the signatories of the corridor, investments will have to be attracted from governments, international organisations, and private sector entities.
  • Lastly, a comprehensive multi-nation operational framework is needed.
    • As the corridor involves facilitating trade across different legal systems, a multi-national framework is necessary.
    • A forum for the corridor needs to be constituted to undertake the aforementioned activities.
International Relations

Feb. 25, 2024

Mains Article
25 Feb 2024

Countries Should be Aware of Degrees of Terrorist Financing: FATF

Why in the News?

  • At the plenary that concluded recently, delegates from the Financial Action Task Force participated in the discussions on key money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing issues at the FATF headquarters in Paris.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About FATF (History, Objectives, Members, Types of Lists, Significance, FATF & India, etc.)
  • News Summary

About Financial Action Task Force (FATF):

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF)is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989.
  • It is an initiative of the G7 countries to develop policies to combat money laundering.
    • In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
    • It has also started dealing with virtual currencies.
  • It sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
  • It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in money laundering.
  • It monitors progress in implementing its recommendations through "peer reviews" ("mutual evaluations") of member countries.
  • The FATF Secretariat is located in Paris.

Objectives of FATF:

  • FATF sets standards and promotes effective implementation of:
    • legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering.
    • The FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.

Members of FATF:

  • The FATF currently comprises 38 member jurisdictions and two regional organisations, representing most major financial centres in all parts of the globe.
  • India became an Observer at FATF in 2006. In 2010, India was taken in as the 34th country member of FATF.

What are FATF 'Grey List' and 'Black List'?

  • FATF has 2 types of lists:
    • Black List:
      • Countries knowns as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist.
      • These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities.
      • The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.
    • Grey List:
      • Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list.
      • This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.
    • Consequences of being in FATF Grey List:
      • Economic sanctions from IMF, World Bank, ADB
      • Problem in getting loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other countries
      • Reduction in international trade
      • International boycott

Significance of the FATF:

  • The FATF Recommendations provide a comprehensive framework of measures to help countries tackle illicit financial flows.
  • These include a robust framework of laws, regulations and operational measures to ensure national authorities can take effective action to detect and disrupt financial flows that fuel crime and terrorism, and punish those responsible for illegal activity.
  • The cornerstone of the FATF Recommendations is the risk-based approach which emphasizes the need for countries to identify and understand the money laundering and terrorist financing risks they are exposed to.
  • This ensures they can prioritise their resources to mitigate risks in the highest risk areas.
  • The FATF continuously monitors new and evolving threats to the financial system and regularly updates and refines its Recommendations so that countries have up-to-date tools to go after criminals.
  • To help countries implement its Standards, the FATF also creates guidance and best practice papers on range of issues.

FATF and India’s Legal and Institutional Frameworks:

  • Money laundering has evolved as a serious concern in India considering the fact that the country is one of the largest growing economies in the world.
  • Illegal activities committed within and outside the country, like drug trafficking; fraud, counterfeiting of Indian currency; transnational organised crime; human trafficking; and corruption are the sources of money laundering in India.
  • As far as the legislative framework in the country is concerned, the first parliamentary law provided for the prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for matters connected therewith.
    • It was known as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) which was amended in 2004 to criminalise terrorist financing.
  • The Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 was introduced to prevent smuggling.
  • The Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act, 1976 provided for the forfeiture of illegally acquired properties of smugglers and foreign exchange manipulators.
  • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 dealt with regulating the acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution and foreign hospitality by persons and associations working in the important areas of national life.
  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 made stringent provisions for the control and regulations of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and
  • The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 was enforced to regulate the development and maintenance of foreign exchange market.
  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) which came into force in 2005 and amended in 2009 and 2012 was introduced to counter the trend of money laundering.

News Summary:

  • The second Plenary of the FATF under the Presidency of T. Raja Kumar of Singapore concluded today.
  • Delegates from over 200 jurisdictions of the Global Network participated in these discussions at the FATF headquarters in Paris.
  • One of the key highlights of the FATF Plenary is that it has suspended the membership of the Russian Federation.
  • In a major milestone, the FATF agreed on revisions of transparency and beneficial ownership of legal arrangements.
  • Delegates also agreed on new guidance which will help countries and the private sector implement FATF’s strengthened requirements on transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons.
  • Delegates further agreed on an action plan to drive timely global implementation of FATF standards relating to virtual assets (also termed crypto assets) globally.

Mains Article
25 Feb 2024

Operation AMRITH (Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention for Total Health)

Why in News?

  • Despite a decade since the H1 rule’s announcement, no State government had adopted it until Kerala recently initiated Operation AMRITH (Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention for Total Health).
  • The programme - Operation AMRITH - enforces the original H1 rule, mandating a doctor’s prescription for acquiring any class of antibiotics.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
  • What Needs to be Done to Curb AMR?
  • What are the H1 Rules and Their Implementation?
  • What is AMRITH and What Facilitates its Implementation in Kerala?

What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

  • About AMR:
    • Antimicrobials - including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and anti-parasitics - are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.
    • AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines (develops drug resistance).
    • This makes infections increasingly difficult or impossible to treat, increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
    • They can spread from person to person or between people and animals, including from food of animal origin.
    • The rapid global spread of multi and pan-drug resistant bacteria - "superbugs," is particularly concerning.
    • As a result, WHO recently identified AMR as a major public health threat.
  • The main drivers of AMR include:
    • The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials;
    • Lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals;
    • Poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms;
    • Poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics;
    • Lack of awareness and knowledge; and
    • Lack of enforcement of legislation.
  • Issue of antibiotic prescriptions by doctors in India:
    • It is critical to acknowledge that over 50-70% of antibiotic prescriptions by doctors are deemed unnecessary and irrational.
    • One of the main reasons for unnecessary antibiotic usage is the unavailability of laboratory facilities to make a correct diagnosis of bacterial infections.
    • The other main reason for unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions by doctors is the pressure from patients to receive antibiotics.
      • Patients wrongly believe that a course of antibiotics is a quick remedy for a fever episode of any cause.

What Needs to be Done to Curb AMR?

  • AMR is a socioeconomic problem and combating it requires a multipronged approach.
  • The measures include -
    • Improving public health infrastructure, sanitation facilities, and governance in order to decrease the transmission of infections and, therefore, the dependence on antibiotics.
    • Reformations to physicians’ prescribing practices and mandating that hospitals report healthcare-associated infection rates.
  • In order to reduce the spread of these infections, healthcare facilities must follow the correct standards for infection prevention.
  • There must be a system where all hospitals report rates of hospital-acquired infections to the State governments and the data should be made public.
    • Currently, all NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare) hospitals in India collect this data every month and take measures to reduce hospital-acquired infections.
    • But it is crucial that all hospitals follow suit and share the data with the States.
  • Other essential measures, including rationalising antibiotic use in hospitals, banning the growth-promotional use of antibiotics in poultry farms, fish farms, and agriculture based on the already existing rules, are of paramount importance.
  • Educating patients about the limitations of antibiotics and discouraging them from pressuring doctors for unnecessary prescriptions is vital.

What are the H1 Rules and Their Implementation?

  • In 2011, the Indian government introduced the H1 rule to prohibit the over-the-counter (OTC) sales of antibiotics without a prescription, responding to the growing concern over AMR.
  • However, due to the healthcare system’s heterogeneity across the country, the implementation of this rule faced significant challenges.
  • In 2013, following the Chennai Declaration document and initiative by medical societies in India, the Indian government modified the rule to limit the OTC restriction to second-and third-line antibiotics.
  • This modification was aimed to ensure that life-saving antibiotics remained accessible to the public, especially in remote areas of the country where doctors might not be readily available.
  • However, strictly enforcing the OTC regulation without addressing the other issues, which are major drivers of antimicrobial resistance, may not help the cause.

What is AMRITH and What Facilitates its Implementation in Kerala?

  • Kerala’s high doctor-patient ratio (even in villages), high literacy rate facilitates the enforcement of this rule.
  • An informed populace is more likely to understand the importance of regulations and adhere to them, facilitating smoother execution and compliance.
  • Kerala will do well if
    • It demands hospitals to disclose the incidence of hospital-acquired infections.
    • It supports and promotes the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics, and vaccines by entrepreneurs.
    • Karnataka and Maharashtra-based startups have achieved remarkable progress in this domain.
  • While it is highly commendable that Kerala is implementing the H1 rule to rein in AMR, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on drug-resistant infections in the immediate future.
  • The effects of this initiative may take several years to manifest. However, it will foster a culture of respecting antibiotics and encourage further actions to combat AMR.


Science & Tech

Mains Article
25 Feb 2024

Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23

Why in news?

  • For the first time in about 11 years, the government released the data of the All-India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey.
    • The survey was carried out between August 2022 and July 2023.
  • The data will play a key role in reviewing critical economic indicators, including the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), poverty levels, and the Consumer Price Inflation (CPI).

What’s in today’s article?

  • Consumer Expenditure Survey - About, Significance
  • Background
  • News Summary

Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES)

  • The CES is traditionally a quinquennial (recurring every five years) survey conducted by the government’s National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • It is designed to collect information on the consumption spending patterns of households across the country, both urban and rural.
  • The data gathered in this exercise reveals the average expenditure on goods (food and non-food) and services.
  • It helps generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) as well as the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.

Significance of Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES)

  • Vital in gauging the demand dynamics
    • The estimates of monthly per capita consumption spending are important in measuring the demand dynamics of the economy.
    • It is also useful for understanding the shifting priorities in terms of baskets of goods and services.
  • Assessment of growth trends across different strata
    • It is helpful in assessing living standards and growth trends across multiple strata.
  • Invaluable analytic and forecasting tool
    • The CES is an invaluable analytical as well as forecasting tool.
      • It helps policymakers spot and address possible structural anomalies that may cause demand to shift in a particular manner.
      • It provides pointers to producers of goods and providers of services.
    • It isused by the government in rebasing the GDP and other macro-economic indicators.


  • The last survey on consumer expenditure was conducted in the 68th round (July 2011 to June 2012).
    • This is because the government had junked the findings of the last Survey, conducted in 2017–18, citing data quality issues.
  • In November 2019, the Statistics and Programme Implementation Ministry said it was examining the feasibility of conducting the next Survey in 2020–2021 and 2021–22.
    • This was to be done after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process, as recommended by an expert panel.
    • The expert panel had vetted the discrepancies in the 2017–18 results and recommended certain changes.
  • However, the Survey could not be launched in the last two years due to the pandemic.
  • Finally, a decision has been taken to conduct the Survey from July 2022.

News Summary: Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23

  • Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has conducted Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) during August 2022 to July 2023.

Key findings: Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23

  • Average monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE)
    • As per the latest Survey, the average MPCE in Indian households rose by 33.5% since 2011-12 in urban households to ₹3,510.
    • Rural India’s MPCE saw a 40.42% increase over the same period to hit ₹2,008.
    • The MPCE numbers mentioned above donot include the estimated values of things people get for free through social welfare programs like the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) or state-run schemes.
    • It, however, included a few non-food items received through such schemes, including computers, mobile phones, bicycles, and clothing.
      • By adding the imputed cost of free items, the average monthly consumption expenditure stood at Rs 3,860 in rural areas and Rs 6,521 in urban areas.
  • Difference in average MPCE between rural and urban households
    • The difference in average MPCE between rural and urban households has narrowed to 71.2 per cent in 2022-23 compared with 83.9 per cent in 2011-12.
    • This suggests rural consumption spending has risen more than urban consumption spending during the 11-year period.
  • Average MPCE of the bottom 5 per cent of rural population and of urban population
    • The bottom 5 per cent of rural population has an average MPCE of Rs 1,373, while it is Rs 2,001 for the bottom 5 per cent of urban population.
    • The top 5 per cent of the rural and urban population has an average MPCE of Rs 10,501 and Rs 20,824, respectively.
    • In other words, while the MPCE of top 5 per cent of rural population is 7.65 times more than its bottom 5 per cent, the MPCE of top 5 per cent of urban population has an MPCE of over 10 times its bottom 5 per cent.
  • Share of expenditure on food
    • In 2022-23, the share of expenditure on food in rural India was 46 per cent (Rs 1,750), and in urban India was 39 per cent (Rs 2,530).
    • In 2011-12, it was 52.90 per cent in rural India and 42.62 per cent in urban India. This has implications for consumer price index-based inflation.
  • Consumption expenditure on non-food items
    • Consumption expenditure on non-food items in both rural India (54%) and urban India (61%) was mainly driven by a rise in share of spending on conveyance, consumer services, durable goods in 2022-23 as against 2011-12.
    • The share of expenditure on cereals, pulses and vegetables moderated during the same period.
  • Comparison among states
    • Among the States, the MPCE is the highest in Sikkim for both rural (₹7,731) and urban areas (₹12,105).
    • It is the lowest in Chhattisgarh, where it was ₹2,466 for rural households and ₹4,483 for urban household members.

Mains Article
25 Feb 2024

BharatGPT group unveils ‘Hanooman’

Why in news?

  • The BharatGPT group — led by IIT Bombay along with seven other elite Indian engineering institutes — announced that it would launch its first ChatGPT-like service next month.
  • The group built the ‘Hanooman’ series of Indic language models in collaboration with Seetha Mahalaxmi Healthcare (SML).
    • It is backed by Reliance Industries Ltd and the Department of Science and Technology.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs)
  • ChatGPT
  • Hanooman
  • Large Language Model (LLM)

Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs)

  • GPTs are a type of large language model (LLM) that use transformer neural networks to generate human-like text.
  • GPTs are trained on large amounts of unlabelled text data from the internet, enabling them to understand and generate coherent and contextually relevant text.
  • They can be fine-tuned for specific tasks like: Language generation, Sentiment analysis, Language modelling, Machine translation, Text classification.
  • GPTs use self-attention mechanisms to focus on different parts of the input text during each processing step.
  • This allows GPT models to capture more context and improve performance on natural language processing (NLP) tasks.
    • NLP is the ability of a computer program to understand human language as it is spoken and written -- referred to as natural language.

Large Language Models (LLMs)

  • Large language models use deep learning techniques to process large amounts of text.
  • They work by processing vast amounts of text, understanding the structure and meaning, and learning from it.
  • LLMs are trained to identify meanings and relationships between words.
  • The greater the amount of training data a model is fed, the smarter it gets at understanding and producing text.
    • The training data is usually large datasets, such as Wikipedia, OpenWebText, and the Common Crawl Corpus.
    • These contain large amounts of text data, which the models use to understand and generate natural language.

What is ChatGPT?

  • ChatGPT is a state-of-the-art natural language processing (NLP) model developed by OpenAI.
  • It is a variant of the popular GPT-3 (Generative Pertained Transformer 3) model, which has been trained on a massive amount of text data to generate human-like responses to a given input.
  • The answers provided by this chatbot are intended to be technical and free of jargon.
  • It can provide responses that sound like human speech, enabling natural dialogue between the user and the virtual assistant.


  • About
    • Hanooman is a series of large language models (LLMs) that can respond in 11 Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, and Marathi.
      • However, there are plans to expand to more than 20 languages.
    • It has been designed to work in four fields, including health care, governance, financial services, and education.
  • Not just a chatbot
    • Notably, the series is not just a chatbot. It is a multimodal AI tool, which can generate text, speech, videos and more in multiple Indian languages.
    • One of the first customised versions is VizzhyGPT, an AI model fine-tuned for healthcare using reams of medical data.
    • The size of these AI models ranges from 1.5 billion to a whopping 40 billion parameters.
Science & Tech
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