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Mains Current Affairs UPSC CSE Sept Week 2

Current Affairs UPSC CSE

Mains Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 2


The country’s population can be an asset: it is not a liability

PM’s I-Day speech and population

  • In his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that rapid population growth—described as a “population explosion”—posed a formidable challenge to our future.
  • In his view, responsible citizens with small families, who contribute to their own welfare and to the good of the nation, should be seen as role models.
  • And parents should think about their capacity to provide for education and healthcare before extending their families.
  • Small families, the exhortation made clear, are in national interest.
  • He suggested that governments, at the Centre and in states, should bring supportive schemes.
  • This world-view is reminiscent of a belief system that dominated thinking 50 years ago.
  • Family planning was the buzzword. Governments provided proactive support.
  • The Emergency culminated in the compulsory sterilization programme, which led to widespread resistance and resentment among people.
  • The problem was that such thinking did not recognize the economic or demographic factors underlying rapid population growth. Since then, the thinking has changed.
  • So have India, and the world.
  • Hence, it is important to understand the population issue in a new context.

The traditional approach:

  • The traditional belief that India will remain poor because its population is growing too rapidly is based on a simple logic of arithmetic.
  • The larger the population, as a denominator, the smaller is the per capita availability of everything.
  • In other words, the economy would have to run to standstill.
  • This reasoning does not recognize that India’s population might be growing too rapidly because it is poor.
  • For the poor, children are a source of supplementing family income when parents are young, and of financial support in old age.
  • High infant mortality rates only strengthen the motivation for more children.

The demographics:

  • Population growth rates are always high in the early stages of development because of demographic factors.
  • As death rates drop because of improvements in public health systems that eliminate epidemic diseases, birth rates do not because poverty and illiteracy persist.
  • But as income levels rise, poverty is reduced and literacy (particularly among women) spreads, birth rates also come down.
  • The bulge in population growth rates slowly diminishes. As development leads to higher income levels, birth rates decline further to levels that merely replace the existing population.
  • Such demographic transitions are integral to development processes.
  • At later stages, in rich countries, birth rates might drop further so that their population declines.
  • The demographic transition in India has been much slower than elsewhere in Asia, essentially because poverty and illiteracy persist, while the public provision of education and healthcare has been grossly inadequate.
  • Even so, the average annual rate of population growth, which was 2.1% in 1951-1971 and 2.2% in 1971-1991, dropped to 1.8% in 1991-2011 and 1.3% in 2011-2016.
  • Birth rates (per 1,000 population) dropped from 37 in 1971 and 29 in 1991 to 22 in 2011 and 19 in 2016, while fertility rates (births per woman) dropped from 5.2 and 3.6 to 2.4 and 2.3, respectively.
  • Projections in the Economic Survey 2019 suggest that average annual population growth in India will slow progressively to 1.1% during 2011-2021, 0.7% in 2021-2031 and 0.5% in 2031-2041.
  • The fertility rate will drop to 1.8 in 2021 and 1.7 in 2031.
  • It is worth noting that the natural replacement level fertility rate is 2.1, which means that an Indian woman would have to give birth on an average to 2.1 children for the population size to remain constant.
  • In India, given the sex ratio, with more men than women compared to the natural level, the replacement rate would need to be higher.

What Next?

  • This future scenario is reason for hope rather than despair. India’s population will continue to grow (at progressively slower rates), because of the relatively high proportion of young people in our population.
  • Of course, our population will begin to age significantly in about a decade.
  • The silver lining is that the number of working-age people (20-59 years) and their share in total population will continue to increase for more than two decades and peak at 59% in 2041.
  • For low-income countries, where a significant proportion of the population is underemployed, a large population that is expected to increase further is a potential asset rather than a liability, if people, their most abundant yet underutilized resource, can be mobilized for development.
  • The potential is even greater in India. The high proportion of young people in the population will mean an increase in our workforce, more so, if a higher proportion of women enter the workforce.
  • It will also mean an increase in savings rates for some time, as young people save while the old do not.
  • This source of economic growth will not be available to many Asian countries for long, as their workforce contracts, so that they would have to rely on productivity increases to sustain growth.
  • However, we can harness this demographic dividend only through education that creates capabilities among our people.

Is there a need to worry?

  • We should not worry that a population explosion will lead to an uneducated and unhealthy society because the causation runs in the opposite direction.
  • Instead, we should focus on providing education and healthcare.
  • This would make our large population a source of rapid economic growth, which could bring about a profound change in the well-being of people.
  • Our economy could be transformed in the next 25 years.


The Krishna Water Dispute

The Krishna river dispute took a new turn when Maharashtra and Karnataka Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and B S Yediyurappa agreed to jointly oppose Andhra Pradesh’s application seeking a relook at the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal’s 2010 order on water distribution between the riparian states.

What is the Krishna river dispute?

  • The Krishna is an east-flowing river that originates at Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and merges with the Bay of Bengal, flowing through Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Together with its tributaries, it forms a vast basin that covers 33% of the total area of the four states.
  • A dispute over the sharing of Krishna waters has been ongoing for many decades, beginning with the erstwhile Hyderabad and Mysore states, and later continuing between successors Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • In 1969, the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) was set up under the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956, and presented its report in 1973.
  • The report, which was published in 1976, divided the 2060 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of Krishna water at 75 per cent dependability into three parts: 560 TMC for Maharashtra, 700 TMC for Karnataka and 800 TMC for Andhra Pradesh.
  • At the same time, it was stipulated that the KWDT order may be reviewed or revised by a competent authority or tribunal any time after May 31, 2000.
  • Afterward, as new grievances arose between the states, the second KWDT was instituted in 2004.
  • It delivered its report in 2010, which made allocations of the Krishna water at 65 per cent dependability and for surplus flows as follows: 81 TMC for Maharashtra, 177 TMC for Karnataka, and 190 TMC for Andhra Pradesh.

Situation after the KWDT’s 2010 report

  • Soon after the 2010 report was presented, Andhra Pradesh challenged it through a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court in 2011.
  • In an order in the same year, the apex court stopped the Centre from publishing it in the official Gazette.
  • In 2013, the KWDT issued a ‘further report’, which was again challenged by Andhra Pradesh in the Supreme Court in 2014.
  • After the creation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the Water Resources Ministry has been extending the duration of the KWDT.
  • Andhra Pradesh has since asked that Telangana be included as a separate party at the KWDT and that the allocation of Krishna waters be reworked among four states, instead of three.
  • It is relying on Section 89 of The Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, 2014, which reads: “89. The term of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal shall be extended with the following terms of reference, namely:

(a) shall make project-wise specific allocation, if such allocation has not been made by a Tribunal constituted under the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956;

(b) shall determine an operational protocol for project-wise release of water in the event of deficit flows.

  • For the purposes of this section, it is clarified that the project-specific awards already made by the Tribunal on or before the appointed day shall be binding on the successor States.”
  • Maharashtra and Karnataka are now resisting this move.
  • The two states said: “Telangana was created following bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, allocation of water should be from Andhra Pradesh’s share which was approved by the tribunal.”

India and Free Trade Pacts

  • Trade ministers of the participating countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will confer in November, when the leaders of these countries meet for the ASEAN
  • There is pressure on India from the proponents of free trade to join RCEP. However, free trade is not a black and white affair, it never was.
  • RCEP is an attempt to integrate ASEAN countries and the bloc’s FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — in a free trade zone. Initially posed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), RCEP has gained a new dimension after the US pulled out of the TPP and subsequently a initiated a trade war, largely against China.
  • China would be looking to compensate for the export loss in the US turf, and RCEP provides the country a viable platform for this purpose.
  • That is why joining the pact will be detrimental to India’s interests.
  • Even without an FTA with China, India’s trade deficit with the country has risen 13 times in the last decade.
  • China, according to a NITI Aayog paper, accounts for around 50 per cent of India’s trade deficit.
  • And the deficit is widening every year. Joining RCEP would tantamount to de facto signing an FTA with China and giving the country market access to India.
  • The NITI Aayog paper also identified India’s major imports from and exports to China.
  • While China exports finished manufactured goods like electrical machinery, telecom equipment, audio and video recorders, organic chemicals and plastic articles, Indian top exports to China predominantly consist of raw materials like ores, copper, sulphur, salt, mineral fuels, oils and bituminous substances.
  • Those who advocate joining RCEP on grounds of integration with global value chain — including your editorial — should take note of this trade composition.
  • Global or local, production value chains are not homogenous string of production process; they are value chains driven by very large multinational companies which produce the final finished goods and reap maximum benefit out of that chain.
  • The composition of Indo-Chinese trade indicates that Chinese companies are those engines of value chain.
  • India languishes at the bottom end of that chain as a raw material supplier.
  • Another fallout could be decimation of Indian industries that would be in direct competition with these big Chinese companies.
  • In recent times, India’s import of mobile handsets from China has gone down, but the flip side of it is that imports of mobile components from China has increased manifold.
  • Chinese mobile handset factories operate as assembling centres on Indian soil.
  • Fledgling handset makers like Micromaxand Karbonn in the country have been pushed out of the market and Indians do not gain enough employment opportunities.
  • This does not bode well for the economy.

India’s experience with FTA

  • India’s experience with FTAs has not been encouraging, except for the FTA with Sri Lanka.
  • Trade gaps with ASEAN, South Korea and Japan have been increasing.
  • The FTAs have resulted in the isolation of Indian companies, as Indian products on whom regular indirect taxes have been levied often face competition with goods imported from these FTA countries with lower or zero tariff rates.
  • In 2017-18, India had a trade deficit of $104 billion with all RCEP countries.
  • Much has been showcased about Mode 4 in last year’s ministerial meeting of RCEP.
  • Despite resistance from countries like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, it was claimed that progress has been made under RCEP negotiations to liberalise member countries’ services markets and allow movement of skilled professionals.
  • Though the final outcome needs to be observed, there are other reasons for scepticism.
  • Mode 4, till now, helped India in sending mainly IT professionals at cheaper wage rates to destinations where local labour is costlier.
  • But with sources of such cheap labour abundant in other countries — Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines, for example — it is doubtful whether India will have any major advantage even if the services markets of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are sufficiently opened.

Way ahead:

  • Various estimates show that RCEP’s share in the world GDP may touch 50 per cent by 2050.
  • The fear that India may be left out if it decides not to join the group is real.
  • But given the economic clout of China and other economies, India may find it very difficult to grab a significant share of this RCEP cake.
  • The country could, instead, do well to make realistic attempts to seize larger shares of smaller pies in regional trade cooperation — BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), for example.

Seventh Schedule of the Constitution

  • There are at least three reasons for a discourse on the central sector (CS) and centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs).
  • The difference between a CS and a CSS is that for the former, all expenditure is borne by the Union government.
  • For a CSS, part of the expenditure is borne by the Union government. States bear the rest.
  • The state contribution is contingent on the type of state — north east and Himalayan states versus the others.
  • The first reason for a discussion is that the present CSS basket has an expiry date of March 31, 2020 which is co-terminus with recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.
  • Therefore, from April 1, 2020, we will have a new CSS basket.
  • Indeed, we need to plan for that CSS basket in advance, since the 2020-21 Union and state budgets will need to factor in the new CSS basket.
  • Procedurally, a CS is somewhat different from a CSS.
  • One can argue that revamping a CS is the Union government’s prerogative, while revamping a CSS, without consultation with states, is not.
  • Second, the ToR (terms of reference) for the 15th Finance Commission mention a re-examination of CSSs, in a way.
  • And third, the Union government is taking a look at CSSs. Hence, all three triggers converge.

The Two Reports

  • Note the two earlier committees: The former Planning Commission’s 2001 B K Chaturvedi report on restructuring of CSSs and the Niti Aayog’s 2015 Sub-Group of Chief Ministers’ Report on rationalisation of CSSs.
  • One shouldn’t read too much into etymology, but “restructuring” and “rationalisation” are distinct expressions. If a mere rearrangement is done, that’s restructuring of sorts.
  • The Chaturvedi report suggested that nine flagship schemes (MGNREGA, IAY, SSA, NRHM, and so on) should remain as CSSs, while another six schemes (JNNURM, RKVY and so on) should become CSs.
  • Fifteen is a large enough number of schemes for public expenditure. Ideally, the Chaturvedi Report should have recommended scrapping of all others.
  • But, that would have been too drastic, so, it didn’t. So when implemented, all schemes were repackaged and retained.
  • It was restructuring in the sense of rearrangement.
  • The word “rationalisation” suggests more than restructuring.
  • It implies a rationale for the continuation of existing schemes, scrapping of some, and even introduction of fresh ones.
  • The sub-group of chief ministers talked about implementation and divided schemes into core and optional ones.
  • However, the core of the recommendation was the following: “The Sub-Group recommends that the existing CSS should be restructured and their number should be reduced to a maximum of 30 schemes.
  • All these schemes would be ‘Umbrella Schemes’, with every scheme having a large number of components with a uniform funding pattern.”
  • Thereafter, there are ostensibly 28 CSSs, divided into “core of the core” and “core”. But these 28 are umbrella schemes and large umbrellas at that.
  • In 1967, a sub-committee of the NDC was set up to examine CSSs.
  • Some points are evident.
    • First, given the paucity of resources, there can only be a limited number of CSs and CSSs combined, such as the Chaturvedi figure of 15.
    • Second, there is an optimal level of governance at which public goods are best provided. The Seventh Schedule was a product of historical evolution and circumstances and contemplated a certain structure of this optimal level of governance.
    • Third, a CSS restructuring/rationalisation debate requires a relook at the Seventh Schedule.
    • Fourth, this can’t be done without consultation with states at an appropriate forum.

The sedition law and its lost meaning

  • In a recent lecture, Justice Deepak Gupta, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, noted how the provision in the Indian Penal Code providing for punishment for seditious speech is misused often than not.
  • Justice Gupta wondered whether the time is ripe to have a relook at the law.
  • Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, subject only to Article 19(2) which saves any law that imposes “reasonable restrictions” on the limited grounds of interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation etc.
  • Section 124A of the IPC defines sedition and makes every speech or expression that “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India” a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • It is classified as “cognisable” — the investigation process (including the powers to arrest) can be triggered merely by filing an FIR, without a judicial authority having to take cognisance — and “non-bailable” — the accused cannot get bail as a matter of right, but is subject to the discretion of the sessions judge.
  • The illiberal sting in Section 124A is somewhat taken away by an explanation to the provision that clarifies that mere “disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section,” and a long line of judicial decisions, including the five-judge constitutional bench decision of the Supreme Court in Kedarnath v. State of Bihar (1962).
  • The apex court in Kedarnath read down Section 124A to mean that only those expressions that either intend to or have the tendency of causing violence are punishable under Section 124A.
  • The Court reiterated the Kedarnath law in 2016 in Common Cause v. Union of India, directing all authorities to scrupulously follow the Kedarnath dictum.
  • The SC has, however, not had a chance to reopen the issue of constitutionality of Section 124A since 1962.
  • The court in Kedarnath (1962) did not have the benefit of the jurisprudence of fundamental rights that was established by the 11-judge bench decision in R C Cooper v. Union of India (1969) and later, reaffirmed in Indira Gandhi Raj Narain (1975), Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007) and, more recently in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017).
  • Each of these decisions now establish that fundamental rights in the Constitution are not to be read as isolated silos or as water-tight compartments, but are to be read as if the content of each fundamental right animates the other.
  • They tell us that the entire chapter on fundamental rights has also to be read “synoptically”.
  • The court in Kedarnath merely tested the intent of the provision whether being covered under the exceptions to the freedom of speech under Article 19(2) of the Constitution; it did not, for instance, take into consideration the effect of the right to equality (Article 14) or due process (Article 21).
  • The conjoint reading of Articles 14, 19 and 21 (from Maneka Gandhi), has now evolved the jurisprudence of testing legislation curtailing fundamental rights on the anvil of substantive and procedural reasonableness, necessity and proportionality.
  • The requirement of “necessity” in part comes from India having ratified in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights in 1976, which in its Article 19 requires speech-limiting state action to be backed by a law and to be necessary on the grounds of respect for rights and reputations of others, national security etc.
  • Even otherwise, the court in 1962 was not, and could not, have been alive to the consideration of international law and international conventions in interpreting India’s fundamental rights — a practice established only since Jolly Varghese v. Bank of Cochin (1980).
  • All these developments have now led to us understanding “necessity” in the context of state action limiting fundamental freedoms as the burden being on the state to establish that such a limiting measure is “necessary in a democratic society” (Modern Dental College v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016).
  • A rough idea of “proportionality” has informed the understanding of “reasonableness” of restrictions in Article 19 since Chintaman Rao v. State of M.P (1951).
  • However, the understanding of necessity and proportionality under the Constitution to mean the burden being on the state to show that the rights-limiting measure to be the least restrictive of all available alternatives is of recent vintage (2J in Union of India v. Ganayutham, 1997 and more recently, Modern Dental, 2016).

The Chilling Effect:

  • The Kedarnath court in 1962 also did not examine the provision for “chilling effect” on speech it causes — that is, probability of state action causing psychological barriers in the free exercise of the right to free speech.
  • The doctrine of chilling effect gets established even in the US only in 1967, starting with Justice Brennan’s dissenting opinion in Walker v. Birmingham.
  • Indian judgments didn’t use that expression until late 1980s.
  • The court in Kedarnath also could not have examined Section 124A shedding the presumption as to its constitutionality. It is only as recently as in 2018 (Navtej Johar v. Union of India), that the court found that pre-constitutional legislations have no legal presumption of constitutionality.
  • Incidentally, that was the case in which the court re-examined the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which, among other things, criminalised consensual same-sex acts, despite an earlier judgment having examined and upheld the provision.
  • If there is a challenge to the provision today, the court will have to keep in mind all of these developments!
  • The court may also need to examine the classification of the offence of sedition as cognisable and non-bailable and whether that aggravates the chilling effect.


Success of Bt Cotton in India

  • Genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton has failed in India and claims of its success is based on wrong data, claimed environmental experts.
  • The government has wrongly submitted to the Supreme Court and the Union Ministry of Agriculture have erroneously claimed in Parliament that Bt cotton is an ‘outstanding success’.
  • While yield in terms of kilogram/hectare is the true performance evaluator for Bt Cotton, the government has taken wrong data — the total national cotton production data.
  • According to datafrom the Union Ministry of Agriculture, the adoption of Bt cotton in India has increased the production of cotton to 34.89 million bales in 2017-18 from 8.62 million bales in 2002-03.
  • Its sucess was also due to better irrigation and extra attention by farmers who spent more money on expensive Bt cotton seeds.
  • This wrong narrative is likely going to be replicated in other food crops, such as brinjal, rice, okra, which could be disastrous for farmers, food safety, and the biosecurity of India.
  • The time has come to set the record straight; the consequences of flawed conclusions based on a flawed understanding of the problems in cotton, and we are constrained to add, the intentional use of the wrong data, will be catastrophic for India.


  • Bt cotton was officially commercialised in India in 2002 to control its illegal saleand repel two main species of bollworms that attack cotton: the American BW (ABW) and the Pink Bollworm (PBW).
  • The aim was to ‘protect’ performance, while decreasing the use of insecticides.
  • Besides failing in their objectives, Bt cotton also induced new pests that can greatly disrupt the ecological balance.
  • PBW was native to India and was the target of insecticide use prior to 2002, but the extensive insecticide use induced ABW — a secondary pest.
  • Resistance to Bt has increased and now the Bt toxins are not toxic to sap-sucking insect species such as jassids, aphids, whiteflies, thrips, mealybugs, mirid bugs etc. These can cause crop failures.
  • Moreover, Bt cotton has disallowed farmers from saving cotton seed, instead they are forced to buy new expensive hybrid seeds each year.


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