Value Added Article: Covering the Last Field | Category – Agriculture | Source – The Hindu

Relevance: GS Paper III (Agriculture)


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Why has this issue cropped up?

Excess rains and floods in Kerala, deficit rainfall in eastern and north-eastern India, and associated large-scale crop losses have again highlighted the need for providing social protection to poor farmers.


  • A highly subsidised Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched in 2016 to provide insurance to farmers from all risks.
  • Aiming to reduce basis risk and premium burden of the farmers, the scheme’s total expenses today are almost ₹30,000 crore.
  • In comparison to earlier schemes, the PMFBY is more farmer friendly, with sums insured being closer to the cost of production.
  • The scheme’s linkage with parallel programmes like the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ and ‘Digital India’ makes it a truly inclusive and welfare-based scheme.
  • The scheme therefore led to increased coverage of 5.7 crore farmers in 2016 and the sum insured crossed ₹200,000 crore.
  • However, notwithstanding its ambition and intent, the scheme since its operation has been scrutinised more for its misses than its hits.
  • Some handicaps of the scheme are:
    • outmoded method of crop loss assessment;
    • inadequate and delayed claim payment;
    • high premium rates; and
    • poor execution.
  • Consequently, in 2017, the expansive coverage of the scheme suffered some setback as seen in a drop of nearly one crore farmers in enrolment (about 17%).
  • Such shortcomings have inspired recent announcements such as that of Bihar to start its own scheme, the “Bihar Rajya Fasal Sahayata Yojna”.

Giving PMFBY teeth

In order to make the PMFBY a sustained developmental action for a comprehensive climate risk protection for every Indian farmer, the following action points are suggested.

  • Faster and appropriate claim settlement:
    • Timely estimate of loss assessment is the biggest challenge before the PMFBY.
    • The Achilles heel of the PMFBY is the methodology deployed for crop loss assessment: the crop cutting experiments (CCEs).
    • They have large errors. To improve the efficacy of the PMFBY, technology use such as detailed weather data, remote sensing, modelling and big data analytics must be intensified.
  • Universal and free coverage for all smallholders:
    • Farmers’ awareness about the scheme and crop insurance literacy remain low in most States, especially among smallholders in climatically challenged areas in most need of insurance.
    • The complicated enrolment process further discourages farmers.
    • To increase insurance coverage we should think of a system whereby farmers do not need to enrol themselves and every farmer automatically gets insured by the state.
  • Improved and transparent insurance scheme design:
    • Insurance companies are supposed to calculate actuarial rates, and based on tenders, the company quoting the lowest rate is awarded the contract.
    • We have seen rates quoted by companies for the same region and for the same crop varying from 3% to more than 50%. Such large variations are irrational.
    • One reason for such inflated premiums is lack of historical time series of crop yields at the insured unit level. To minimise their risks caused by missing data and to account for other unforeseen hazards, insurance companies build several additional charges on pure premium.
    • Science has the capacity today to characterise risks and reconstruct reasonably long-time series of yields. The premium rates, and hence subsidy load on the government, can come down significantly if we make greater use of such proxies and appropriate sum insured levels.


The government today spends more than ₹50,000 crore annually on various climate risk management schemes in agriculture, including insurance. This includes drought relief, disaster response funds, and various other subsidies. Climate-risk triggered farm-loan waivers are an additional expense. All these resources can be better utilised to propel farm growth.


Value Added Article: The Curious State of Indo-US Relations | Category – International Relations | Source – The Financial Express

Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)


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On September 6, the first 2+2 dialogue between India and the US took place in Delhi.

What is ‘2+2’?

The ‘2+2’ symbolises the unique framework under which India’s external affairs minister and defence minister held talks with the US defense secretary and the US secretary of state.

Aim of ‘2+2’

It aims to combine foreign and defence policy issues and deal with them in a coherent manner, rather than look at them separately.

Significance of the first 2+2 dialogue

  • The significance of this dialogue is huge as it has been held at a time when India is increasingly showing its tilt towards the US.
  • It would boost Indo-US bilateral ties and help India avoid an uncomfortable position when the US’s second set of sanctions get kicked in against Iran in the first week of November.

How US perceives India ?

Being a superpower that wants to desperately hold on to its status, the US looks India as a reliable partner and a possible ally in South Asia, which could act as a balancing force against China in the region.

Has India taken the US side?

India, for long, has tried to refrain itself from choosing sides and has had friendly relations with most of dominant powers.

India faces a difficult situation

With India’s rising stature and power, the world expects India to play a bigger role in global affairs and thus India is finding itself in an increasingly uncomfortable position where it can’t have equally good relations with every major power.

Recent issues in India – US relations

  • Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Indo-US relations reached a standoff when India went ahead to deal with Russia for the S-400 Triumf missile system, despite threats of sanctions.
  • The other major issue between India and the US is the strengthening of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD)—at least the US wants the QUAD to take an institutional shape and thrive in the Indo-Pacific region as a counterforce to China and its allies. India, on the other hand, wouldn’t want to complicate things with China, especially after the Wuhan Summit in April where PM Modi went to recalibrate Sino-Indian ties.

Difference in nature of interests of India and US

The US is still a hegemon and India is still a middle power—the former’s self-interests are global in nature, while the latter’s are regional.

What should India do?

  • India needs to be cautious and should not put all eggs in one basket.
  • India needs to make the US understand that there is a great possibility that what the US wants from India in return of the favors which the US could grant India may not be enough for India to align completely.
  • In a multilateral framework, over-reliance towards a superpower can prove costly. An aspirational power like India, which wants to create its own influence in the international system, needs to choose a middle path and put its self-interest over anyone else’s.


Both India and the US need to make each other understand about their self-interests as well as their limitations in order to strengthen their diplomatic relations.


Value Added Article: Nutrition – Key to Development | Category – Poverty and Hunger | Source – Yojana

Relevance: GS Paper II (Poverty and Hunger)


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With a population of about 1.2 billion as per 2011 census, India is likely to be the most populous country on this planet by 2030 with 1.6 billion people. Thus, ensuring food and nutrition security is a challenge for India.

The importance of health

  • A healthy workforce is a prerequisite to any nation’s development.
  • Recognizing this fact, improvement of the health and nutritional status of the population has always been given high priority.
  • Article 47 of the Constitution of India states that “the State shall regard raising the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and improvement in public health among its primary duties”.

Efforts by the governments

  • Indian policymakers have always given priority to ensuring health and food safety.
  • Successive five-year plans have laid policies and multi-pronged strategies to improve food security and nutritional status of the population in a specified time frame while also providing requisite funds.
  • The government has been giving extensive importance to universal access to efficient and basic health services in both urban and rural areas.
  • As a result, famines and severe food insecurity are no longer a threat though seasonal food insecurity continues to raise its head in different pockets of the country.
  • There has been a substantial improvement in nutritional status of all the segments of the population with a substantial reduction in cases of under-nutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

The challenges

  • The challenge of maternal and child under-nutrition remains a national public health concern and a policy priority for the current government.
  • India is home to over 40 million stunted and 17 million wasted children (under-five years).
  • Under-nutrition is a condition resulting from inadequate intake of food or more essential nutrients resulting in deterioration of physical and mental health.
  • Regional disparities in the availability of food and varying food habits lead to the differential status of under-nutrition which is substantially higher in rural than in urban areas.
  • This demands a region-specific action plan with significant investments in human resources with critical health investments at the local levels.

The National Nutrition Mission ( NNM)

  • The announcement of the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) is a very significant development on this front.
  • It has introduced a central nodal agency with extensive financial resources to coordinate various central and state government schemes and imbue them with additional financial resources.
  • The program will cover all states and districts in a phased manner.
  • The total outlay for the nutrition mission has been set at over Rs. 9,000 crore for a period of three years.
  • The core strategy of the mission is to create decentralized governance system with flexibility given to states, districts and local level with robust monitoring, accountability and incentive frameworks that will encourage local solutions.
  • The program, through well-defined targets, strives to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight babies. More than 10 crore people are likely to be benefited by this program.
  • NNM proposes to cover all the States and districts in a phased manner i.e. 315 districts in 2017-18, 235 districts in 2018-19 and remaining districts in 2019-20.
  • The main emphasis is on creating synergy, ensuring better monitoring and encouraging States/UTs to
  • With such clear operating roadmap, the NNM is perhaps the most ambitious program of the government.

Way forward

  • Healthy eating practices are akin to behavioral change. Government interventions and large-scale participation of communities are must to motivate the people towards the right practices. achieve the targeted goals.
  • Healthy people can contribute to the nation’s growth only when supported by adequate infrastructure and facilities. Thus while taking steps to ensure healthy India, the government has also taken extensive measures to ensure the financial and social security of the citizens.


The National Nutrition Mission clubbed with moves to create strong infrastructure and missions like Swachh Bharat, skill India and digital India campaigns are sure to put India in the forefront on the world map.


Value Added Article: What Kind of Reforms Do the Civil Services Really Need? | Category – Governance | Source – EPW

Relevance: GS Paper II (Governance)


Economic and Political Weekly

Why has this article surfaced?

Recently, there has been talk of reforming the administrative services and especially, the process of recruitment.

The Reforms


    • Earlier this year the government decided to allow the recruitment of 10 experts to the joint-secretary level from outside the services.
    • This move has raised serious questions about the political inclinations that the appointed experts might have, and how the ruling party might use it to their benefit.
    • There are risks of corrupting the service with this reform, but one must hope that the process of selection is impartial.
    • The government should ensure stable tenures so that there is incentive for officers to acquire expertise in their chosen sectors.
    • Many have condemned the bypassing of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as an attempt to facilitate the backdoor entry of people committed to the present government’s ideology, or recruit employees working for those industrialists who are close to the ruling party.


    • It is not that reform in the services is not welcome. There are several structural problems that have crept up in the administrative services, such as disproportionate representation.
    • The trend in 1970s shows that ‘sarkari’ schools produced the majority of our civil servants. This trend has now changed which is undemocratic. Students appearing in the English medium now dominate the scene, though students can appear in all the languages recognised by the state.
    • The students appearing in Hindi are able to compete somehow but other linguistic groups are in a disadvantaged position.
    • Though the Indian civil service is turning into a representative organisation from caste and community point of view, at the same time it is getting confined to a small section of the society.
    • The percentage share of Muslim officers recruited by the services did not correspond with the percentage share of Muslims with regard to the total population.


    • It has been claimed that bureaucratic machinery is no longer serving its purpose because of a severe lapse in discipline and ethics.
    • Checks and balances and accountability have reduced.
    • It has been suggested that the very constitutional provision on which the civil services are based needs to be urgently reformed to make room for “a new code of ethics based on self-regulation, accountability and transparency.”
    • Under the Central Civil Services (CCS) (Conduct) Rules, 1964, fundamental rights available to citizens of country are sometimes denied to officers serving in the cadre.
    • Nearly 70 years after independence, civil servants in this country no longer want to be treated as unruly kids ignorant of their roles and responsibilities. The house of cards in which they have been made to live for so long needs to be dismantled once and for all. The dated CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964, must be consigned to the dustbin of history and replaced by a new code of ethics based on self-regulation, accountability and transparency.


Value Added Article: Urban Infrastructure Funding | Category – Urbanization | Source – The Economic Times

Relevance: GS Paper II (Urbanization)


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India has embarked upon what can be called the most ambitious and comprehensive programme of planned urbanisation undertaken anywhere in the world. This development is also a recognition of the fact that by 2030, 600 million Indians, or 40 per cent of India’s population, will live in urban spaces.

Initiatives taken by the govt towards urbanization

  • The government has allocated over Rs 4 lakh crore across five flagship urban missions:
    • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY),
    • Smart Cities Mission,
    • Swachh Bharat Mission,
    • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and
    • Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY).
  • This is over and above the three-fold increase in grants to urban local bodies under the 14th Finance Commission, amounting to Rs 87,000 crore.
  • The government recognises that to meet the urban infrastructure gap, increasing contributions will need to be made by state governments and municipalities themselves.

The Smart Cities Mission

  • The Smart Cities Mission has been structured to give cities flexibility to envision their own projects and leverage the mission’s funds to raise private capital.
  • They are empowered to raise private funds through the entire gamut of instruments available — municipal bonds, public-private partnership, value capture finance and term loans — which are available to the 100 cities selected under the mission.

The municipal borrowings

  • Specifically on municipal bonds, a series of measures have been undertaken by the ministry of housing and urban affairs, ministry of finance and Sebi) to facilitate municipal bond issuances.
  • Pune, Hyderabad and Indore have issued municipal bonds cumulatively amounting to over Rs 600 crore — constituting close to 30 per cent of issuances over the last two decades.

How to increase municipal borrowings?

  • States and cities, particularly of the top 500 one lakh-plus cities covered under AMRUT, need to strengthen their own sources of revenue. This requires better financial management by both state and city governments.
  • Cities also need to better leverage land and property to gain a share of the economic growth, which can be reinvested in infrastructure.
  • Project selection and execution need to inspire confidence in potential investors, who need to be convinced that project cash flows are sufficient to meet debt service obligations, and that project timelines will be met.
  • Cities should draw up a list of ‘bankable’ projects as a subset of their Smart Cities and AMRUT projects that meet this criteria.
  • States need to design a robust fiscal responsibility and budget management framework for cities that will bring transparency and accountability to financial reporting by municipalities.
  • Drawing up five-year medium-term fiscal plans, which lay out capital investment plans and revenue sources, is a critical need.
  • States need to strengthen administrative capacities at the city level through better-quality workforce across both finance and engineering functions.
  • The need of the hour is a modern workforce and reviewed through position-specific performance indicators.
  • Creating an online marketplace for municipal financial information
  • Laying down comprehensive standards and frameworks for easy replicability and use by states and cities
  • Close engagement with the ministry of finance, regulators, and the full spectrum of market players on further policy action required to sustain and grow the municipal borrowings market


The Smart Cities Mission has created a new paradigm in facilitating large-scale access to capital markets to fund urban infrastructure within a framework of cooperative federalism, which will stand us in good stead over the next few decades.


Value Added Article: Why India Could Do With One More Time Zone | Category – Human and Economic Geography | Source – EPW

Relevance: GS Paper I (Human and Economic Geography)


Economic and Political Weekly


As the earth rotates 360 degrees every 24 hours, a longitudinal span of 15 degrees corresponds to a shift by an hour. India spans a longitudinal difference of 30 degrees from the western state of Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in the East. However, India has a single time zone, defined by mean longitude at 82.5 degrees east of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), passing through Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. This results in almost a two-hour difference in sunrise from east to west.

Daylight saving time (DST)

  • Usually, for the “surplus” in daylight in the morning hours, countries often implement measures such as daylight saving time (DST) and multiple time zones.
  • The basic objective of introducing DST is to adjust the hours of human activity to make the best use of daylight. It follows from the assumption that human activity is driven by a standardized notion of time.
  • If it were the case that individuals were following local time in a town or village, the need for introducing daylight savings would be futile.
  • Since its conception, more than 70 countries have since used some form of DST, including the United States, Russia, and most of Europe.

Time zone and economy

  • The current state of the Indian economy affords the ability to follow an informal time zone. In fact, those working on the tea plantations in the eastern state of Assam operate on their own time, often known as the “tea garden time”.
  • However, there are growing demands for a formal change in the Indian Standard Time (IST) from the eastern and north-eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • With increasing levels of urbanization and formalization of the economy, the IST is likely to play an important role in determining the activities of individuals, not just in the case of eastern India, the use of daylight saving and/or additional time zones carry multiple pan-India benefits.

Rationale for multiple time zones

In India, the rationale for considering a change in the time is largely driven by

  • Potential energy savings: As a result of an increase in daylight in the evenings, households are less likely to use artificial lighting during evenings.
  • Effects on promoting physical activity: It may encourage greater sports and recreation participation.
  • Mainstreaming the Northeast region: North-eastern states to better align economic activities with the rest of the country.
  • Meeting other social policy objectives such as reducing road accidents and improving women’s safety.

Options before the policymakers

  • There are several options that are available to policymakers to make adjustments to the current time system in place. The options have trade-offs depending upon
    • whether the new system will be applicable pan-India or only regionally;
    • will it be a permanent shift or daylight saving time; and
    • what should the magnitude of the shift be.
  • Ensuring schools and offices do not extend working hours: If the state has been following its own de-facto time, sun time, or local time, then the policy measures proposed here will not yield the desired outcomes.
  • Similarly, if businesses and schools decide to alter their operating hours, it may erode the intended benefits of additional leisure time in the daylight during evenings.
  • Lack of survey data to monitor impact: Implementation of these recommendations must be supported by the ability of the government to gather data and track changes in activity patterns in order to undertake rigorous evaluation of the impact of such measures.
  • In addition, the policy intervention also presents an opportunity to assess the impact on subjective well-being, through novel techniques such as the day reconstruction method.

Centre-state cooperation

  • The Constitution grants the autonomy to states to define and set local times for their respective industrial areas under the provisions in labour laws, such as the Plantations Labour Act, 1951.
  • If requests by the states to consider DST or changes in the IST are repeatedly refused, it may lead to ad hoc measures by states.


Although such a policy could potentially reap low-hanging fruits, such a change would require centre-state and public-private cooperation to ensure nationwide adoption and that working hours for schools and businesses do not increase.


Value Added Article: Food to Nutrition Security | Category – Poverty and Hunger | Source – Yojana

Relevance: GS Paper 2 (Development & Welfare)


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Since 1947, achieving food security has been a major goal of our country. This was because the Bengal Famine created awareness of the need for paying priority attention to the elimination of hunger. Our Food Security Act 2013 specially mentions the need for nutritional security.

Meaning of nutrition security

Nutrition security can be defined as “physical economic and social access to balanced diet, clean drinking water, sanitation and primary healthcare”.

Govt’s response towards malnutrition

  • Government has approved a National Nutrition Mission with a three year budget of Rs. 9,000 crore.
  • How can National Nutrition Mission be made successful?
  • It should be designed on a mission mode with symbiotic interaction among components and with a Mission Director who has the requisite authority coupled with accountability.
  • Overcoming undernutrition through the effective use of the provisions of the Food Security Act and also taking advantage of the enlarged food basket which includes millets in addition to rice and wheat.
  • Assuring enough protein intake through increased pulses production and increased consumption of milk and poultry products.
  • Overcoming the hidden hunger caused by micronutrient malnutrition through the establishment of genetic gardens of biofortified plants.
  • Organizing National Nutrition Week and other such events to generate awareness of the implications of malnutrition.
  • Ensuring food quality and safety through steps for the adoption o f improved post – harvest management.
  • There is a need within the mission for provision of clean drinking water, sanitation, primary health care and nutrition literacy.
  • Further we must ensure that Community Hunger Fighters well versed in the methods of applying agricultural remedies to nutritional maladies are trained with the help of agriculture universities.
  • The Nutrition Mission should have proper monitoring tools so that the efficacy of the intervention can be judged.


If the above areas are attended to concurrently, we can achieve the goal of the National Nutrition Mission.


Value Added Article: Empowering Rural Women | Category – Problems of women/welfare schemes | Source – Kurukshetra

Relevance: GS Paper 1 & 2 (Development & Welfare)


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Poverty is particularly acute for women living in rural households. Women’s poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy. Goal of inclusive and sustainable development cannot be reached without addressing rural women’s diverse needs.

Challenges that rural women face

  • POOR EDUCATION: Major attribute of rural women is their low level of Educational attainment. Rural women often suffer from high illiteracy rates and high drop-out rates from schools. Lack of education impedes their participation in other development processes of the country.
  • DIGITAL LITERACY: Poor access to Information Technology (IT) by rural women intensifies existing inequalities between women and men and also creates new forms of inequalities in education and health. This also leads to emergence of new forms of violence against women and widen the existing gender digital divide.
  • POOR ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGIES: Access to women friendly technologies/implements and services by the government schemes/agricultural extension is poor. The studies carried out so far in the field of agriculture indicate that despite the key role of women in crop husbandry, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and post-harvest technology, those in charge of formulating packages of technologies, services and public policies for rural areas have often tended to neglect the productive role of women.
  • POOR LIVELIHOODS OPPORTUNITIES OUTSIDE AGRICULTURE: Agriculture is seen as subsistence strategy for rural women’s livelihoods. With agriculture becoming a non- profitable proposition for economic sustenance of rural households, importance of non-farm activities for income generation activities is growing. Women are rarely involved in the backward and forward production linkages with agriculture. Poor linkages between the non-farm activities and farm activities further hampers opportunities for value addition & market linkages for economic empowerment /livelihoods promotion of women.
  • LACK OF SKILLS: While rural women are involved in micro/small enterprises or manufacturing, most training programmes hardly have any female participation. There is often less involvement of women in opportunities related to construction, trade, transport, storage, and services due to lack of skills.
  • VULNERABILITY TO CLIMATE CHANGE: Rural women are affected differently, and often more severely by climate change and its associated natural disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones and storms. The effect of climate change drives rural women into dangerous situations/risks and vulnerabilities.

Government efforts

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyay Antyodaya Yojana (DAY- NRLM): Ajeevika is a major project of Ministry of Rural Development. It focuses on rural women and aims to achieve universal social mobilization by involving rural women. At least one woman member from each identified poor rural household, is to be brought under the Self Help Group (SHG) network in a time bound manner.
  • Elected Women Representative (EWRs): Ministry of Women & Child Development has launched an extensive training programme with an objective of empowering Elected Women Representative (EWRs) and to help them assume the leadership roles expected of them and guide their villages for a more prosperous future.
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK): Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), of Ministry of Women & Child Development, extends microcredit to the women in the informal sector through a client friendly, without collateral and in a hasslefree manner for income generation activities. RMK has taken a number of promotional measures to popularize the concept of micro financing, enterprise development, thrift and credit, formation and strengthening of Women-SHGs through intermediary organizations.
  • Mahila Shakti Kendra (MSK): In order to support rural women and provide them with convergent support, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India approved a new scheme namely Mahila Shakti Kendra (MSK) as a sub scheme under the Umbrella Scheme of Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women for implementation during 2017-18 upto 2019-20 to empower rural women through community participation. MSK Scheme is envisaged to provide an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building.
  • College Student Volunteers: Community engagement through College Student Volunteers is envisioned in 115 most backward districts as part of the MSK Block level initiatives. Student volunteers will play an instrumental role in awareness generation regarding various important government schemes/ programmes as well as social issue and association with NSS/NCC cadre students will also be an option.
  • National Repository of Information for Women (NARI): Ministry of Women & Child Development, has also prepared a portal namely National Repository of Information for Women (NARI) that will provide citizens easy access to information on government schemes and initiatives for women. The portal summarizes over 350 government schemes and other important information for the benefit of women.
    Roles that empowered women can play
  • Empowered rural women can play an important role in linking other women and girls to their entitlements such as
    • access to nutritious food and supplements,
    • equality in participation of women in government programs such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), PM Aawas Yojna (PMAY), and
    • crèches for women at working sites etc.
  • They can also play an important role in bringing about a mindset change towards the value of girl child by actively associating themselves with programmes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan etc.


For holistic empowerment of rural women to happen, an effective convergence of all aspects impacting a women’s life is needed – be it social, economic or political. The process of empowering rural women is a continuous process. The need of the hour is to make women realise their potential, make them aware of the bright future that awaits them, guide them and nurture them.


Value Added Article: China’s vulnerability, India’s opportunity | Category – International Relations | Source – IDSA

Relevance: GS Paper 2 (International Relations)



Why has this article surfaced?

India has reportedly decided not to join the US–led counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The US initiative, which is a trilateral one involving Japan and Australia seeks to fund infrastructure projects in the region. India has opted to stay out of this initiative and thus maintain a fine balance between the US and China.

How just is India’ move?

  • Such an attempt to maintain a balance between China and the United States needs to be jettisoned since it is a confusing strategy that involves sitting on the fence and, at times, even appeasing the Chinese.
  • India could take advantage of the vulnerabilities in the Chinese system and gain an upper hand in the asymmetric power equation that has developed vis-a-vis China.

Vulnerabilities of China

  • Any mention of China’s vulnerability, whose economy is USD 11 trillion-strong, is sure to raise eyebrows. But the fact remains that China is not all that strong.
  • Geopolitically, President Trump’s outreach to North Korea and advocacy of an Indo-Pacific strategy are eroding China’s geopolitical manoeuvrability.
  • Economically, the ongoing trade war between the US and China is expected to hurt China’s growth, and that could very well mean the erosion of the Communist Party’s credibility given that it draws its legitimacy from continued good economic performance.
  • Internally, one-party rule might appear resilient and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) most powerful. But it is quite baffling to see the Chinese Premier visiting Tibet in July and declaring it an inseparable part of China’s “sacred” territory as well as urging religious figures to promote national unity and ethnic harmony.
  • Further, the fate of Muslims in Xinjiang is dire as China has detained a million ethnic Uighurs and sent some two million Uighurs and other ethnic Muslims to secret camps for indoctrination to Chinese nationalism.
  • Clearly, all is not well inside China. It is spending an enormous amount of money on the People’s Armed Police (PAP), deployed to curb internal rebellion and dissent. China’s expenditure on internal security is reportedly USD 196 billion, larger than the PLA’s official budget. This suggests internal destabilization is a greater worry for the Communist Party than external threats.
  • Indeed, internal vulnerabilities have only exacerbated with President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft effort. More than a million people, including high-ranking military and party officials have been indicted for corruption so far. Xi might confront some kind of a rebellion from within his party ranks and society at large.

China’s efforts to woo India

  • The rising internal vulnerabilities and external pressures have caused China to woo India, with the statement made by Foreign Minister Wang “if China and India are united, one plus one will become eleven instead of two.”
  • The subsequent Wuhan informal summit in April between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi should also be seen in this context.
  • Again, during the 10th BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg between in July, Xi held the view that the five countries of the BRICS represented the five fingers, and that “when the BRICS come together, we form a fist that can punch.” Obviously, it is meant to punch the US.
  • Keeping up the momentum, the Chinese defence minister visited New Delhi in the third week of August to seemingly re-establish military relations between the two Asian giants.
  • Vulnerability not only explains China’s courting of India at this juncture, but it also defines China’s broad foreign policy shifts.
  • Can India-China be good friends?
  • China’s current vulnerability emanates from Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which challenges Xi’s dream project, the BRI, with an estimated cost of USD 8 trillion. And to deal with this vulnerability, China is wooing India.
  • However, there is no real bonhomie between India and China, and there can never be, because according to Confucian thought, there cannot be two tigers residing on a single mountain.

Way forward for India

  • In dealing with China, India should thus be aware of the former’s deep insecurities and vulnerabilities.
  • It should shape its China policy from such ‘knowing’ and not from a superficial analysis of the immediate global circumstances.
  • India should reconsider joining the US-led counter to the BRI, albeit after scrupulous negotiations that both uphold its foreign policy interests and shield it from the dragon’s wrath.


Value Added Article: Can Lateral Entry in the IAS Ensure Good Governance? | Category – Governance | Source – EPW

Relevance: GS Paper 2 (Polity & Governance)


Economic and Political Weekly

Why has this article surfaced?

The recent decision of the central government to allow lateral entry for joint secretary-level posts comes in the wake of a long-pending need for administrative reform.

The need of lateral entry

The advertised positions for LE are presented as a “magic bullet” for fixing the system in terms of policy formulation, implementation, and administration of various programmes and schemes in the government.

New Public Management

  • The New Public Management (NPM) is a paradigm of hybrid administration that calls for the integration of diverse actors in governance. These actors include the state, market, and civil society where the government is strengthening the political line of command through the privatisation of bureaucracy.
  • The LE decision is being presented as a mini-reform considering the government’s disenchantment with the old public administration.

Issues with the lateral entry (LE)

  • Without addressing the fundamental problems, the LE system cannot be expected to bring about desired solutions.
  • It overlooks the need to assist the respective ministries in developing their team of experts and could prove to be detrimental in the long run.
  • LE appointees will find difficult to navigate institutional inertia and learn the practicalities of governance within the few years of the contract period.
  • Generally, these experts represent the ideals of the ivory tower. The ecosystem of governance involves multiple layers of stakeholders and interest groups.
  • Given the systemic constraints, the eligibility criteria for candidates in the advertisement for LE are vague.
  • Even if these entries are being justified solely on the rationale of lack of workforce, it is surprising to note that the number of vacancies in the UPSC is increasingly declining over the years.
  • LE leads to the government’s circumvention of constitutional provisions.
  • How the lateral “change-agents” would ensure good governance is unclear. The precedents of patronage signal that there is a higher chance that the government might use plum postings in the bureaucracy as backdoor entry for its political gains.
  • The potential interaction orders between the “parachute babus” and the “know-it-all” generalists would bring in more complications.
  • Also, the work culture and environment may be unconducive for outsiders as one often requires patience to survive in the archaic system.
  • Regarding the procedural labyrinth, there is a higher chance that the lateral entrants could even become generalists in their struggles to fit into the system.
  • Furthermore, the system of LE may create a new ivory tower within the administration bypassing the established procedures of governance.
  • Since most of the LEs would come from non-state domains only for a period of five years, it is not clear how the Official Secrets Act would be applicable to them and how the government would prevent them from using system-related information after their stint as joint secretary is over.
  • It is unclear how the instant preference for specialisation can replace the decades-long experience that a bureaucrat brings to the position.
  • How will the state ensure that a lateral entrant does not use the position as a revolving door between public and private institutions and go against the state exchequer?
  • How will the government ensure disciplinary controls? As these are essential aspects considering the constrained legal system in India, one can notice the absence of institutional mechanisms to monitor the potential conflict of interests.

LE and Privatization

  • In the initial years of liberalisation, the need for profit maximisation paved the way for public–private–partnership (PPP). This has been gradually bridging the dichotomies of state and market in India.
  • Though this bridging is on the principles of PPP, LE signals changes in the very conception of the public.
  • Given that ideals of privatisation already seem to have the patronage of the state and the public, the LEs will go one step further in legitimising the privatised ideals of citizenship in governance.
  • Moreover, in a globalising world, the development deficits of market capitalism are overlooked and there is a higher chance that LEs will have a pro-market bias if they come from a corporate background.
  • In a possible extrapolation, one can even expect that the state governments will also take a similar route in creating wholesale openings for contractual hiring.

Effect on Serving Officers

  • The LE process will not ensure a level-playing field for serving officers.
  • The seniority list-in-waiting could be disturbed as the LEs will slow down the cadre progression.
  • It would unjustly deprive the serving officers of those coveted posts at the culmination of their respective careers.
  • While politics often prevents the generalists from specialising like domain experts even if they want to, it is an open secret that the closeness to political leaders is the determining factor for plum postings. There is no correlation between the postings and their area of specialisation because appointments and transfers are almost random (Ghate 1998).
  • The LE process, in effect, may enfeeble the ailing bureaucracy as well as demotivate new entrants.
  • Additionally, there could be collateral exits from the career bureaucrats to the corporate sector. In consequence, this would mean a death knell for governance.

Way forward

  • If the intention is to enhance administrative reform, the specialists must be recruited from within the system. This could be done through systemic coordination with the UPSC.
  • The government must spell out a clear road map for holistic governance reforms. For instance, the annual confidential reports shall also concentrate on the appraisal along with the periodic retraining of the bureaucrats.


Though these normative prescriptions would address the memorable slogans of transformational governance, the quality of administration will mostly depend on the expertise of the ministers.