TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
ART AND CULTURE
1. ASI finds 2,300-year-old artefacts in Odisha
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. Rajasthan, Bihar join hands to eradicate child labour
B. GS2 Related
POLITY
1. Aadhaar is now passport to Nepal and Bhutan
C. GS3 Related
HEALTH AND WELFARE
1. State armed with triple-drug therapy to fight elephantiasis
ECONOMY
1. Kumbh will generate ₹1.2 lakh crore revenue
2. Soon, no e-way bills for non-filers of GST returns
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. This is not the future we want – On NITI Aayog’s “Strategy for New India@75”
GOVERNANCE
1. Fabrication and falsification - Data manipulation in the MGNREGA
F. Tidbits
1. Flamingo fete a huge draw at Pulicat Lake
G. Prelims Fact
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

Category: ART AND CULTURE

1. ASI finds 2,300-year-old artefacts in Odisha

Context: Artefacts believed to be 2,300 years old have been unearthed by archaeologists while carrying out excavation at the Asurgarh Fort in Odisha’s Kalahandi district.

Salient Features:

  • A team of the Archaeological Survey of India excavated the items dating from Mauryan to Kushan period.
  • A number of brick structures were revealed, wedge-shaped bricks were also noticed in the circular structures. Most of the structures were found having terracotta tiles with groves and hole for socketing.
  • It is believed that the people of Asurgarh during that time probably used stone rubbles and tile fragments for flooring their houses and the streets. Besides, silver punch marked coins, silver and copper toe ring and ear rings, beads of carnelian, jasper, beryl, garnet, agate and coral have also been found.
  • Some of the artefacts found were as old as 2,300 year.
  • Other discovered artefacts include, glass bangle pieces of different designs and colours, sling balls, pestle, iron equipment like small wheel, ring, and arrow head.
  • The findings of coral beads and imperial variety of silver punch mark coins indicated the long distant trade and association of hinterland people with seafaring people.

Location of the fort:

  • The fort is surrounded by moat on its northern, eastern and southern sides.
  • The river Sandul flows to the north close to the western rampart thereby forming a natural moat on the western side of the fort. On the eastern side of the fort there is an extensive lake.
  • It is believed that the fort had four wide gates in four cardinal directions and at each gate was installed one guardian deity.
  • These guardian deities were named as Ganga at the eastern gate, Kalapat at the western, Vaishnavi at the northern and Dokri at the southern gate.

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. Rajasthan, Bihar join hands to eradicate child labour

Context: The governments of Rajasthan and Bihar along with the civil society groups have come together to support a multi-stakeholder initiative, launched for eradicating child labour.

Highlights:

  • The initiative has taken a resolve to rehabilitate the rescued children and undertake collective action to promote child labour-free goods and stop trafficking of children.
  • The governments of Rajasthan and Bihar will take joint action to stop trafficking of children from various towns of Bihar to the workshops and home-based production units in Jaipur. Citizens and industries also joined hands.
  • Partners of the initiative in Bihar will work for recovery of victims, their rehabilitation, access to compensation, enrolment in schools and regular follow-up visits to prevent re-trafficking.

Data:

  • About 80% of children employed in the workshops in localities of
  • Jaipur are trafficked from Bihar.
  • Over half of them are in the age group of 10 to 14 years and they end up working in harsh conditions for 15 hours a day, for which they receive a meagre payment of ₹800 to ₹2,000 per month.
  • The initiative will also engage local communities to build resistance and raise awareness through hoardings, bus shelters, street performances and school presentations, requesting the public to call the helpline for children.

Initiatives by Government to prevent child labour:

  • In 1979, the Central Government formed the first statutory committee to analyse and research on the issue of child labour in India – the Gurupadswamy Committe.
  • Taking into the account the findings and recommendations of the Gurupadswamy Committee, the Union Government enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and & Regulation) Act in 1986.
  • The Act prohibited children from being employed in specified hazardous occupations and at the same time regulated their working condition in other non-hazardous occupations and processes.
  • The Act had a ‘Schedule’ which would enlist the hazardous occupations and processes. This Schedule was progressively expanded during the next many years on the basis of the recommendations of the Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Act.
  • In 2015, a major amendment was made to this Act which stipulated that children between 5-14 years are not to be employed in any occupation (except in the entertainment industry).

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY

1. Aadhaar is now passport to Nepal and Bhutan

Context: According to a Home Ministry communiqué, Aadhaar cards are now valid travel documents for Indians under 15 and over 65 travelling to Nepal and Bhutan.

Highlights:

  • The communiqué clarified that Indians other than those in the two age brackets will not be able to use Aadhaar to travel to the two neighbouring countries, for which no visas are needed.
  • Indian citizens going to Nepal and Bhutan don’t need a visa if they have a valid passport, a photo identity card issued by the government of India or an election ID card issued by the Election Commission.
  • Earlier, to prove their identity and visit the two countries, persons over 65 and under 15 could show their PAN card, driving licence, Central Government Health Service (CGHS) card or ration card, but not the Aadhaar.
  • According to the communiqué, a certificate of registration issued by the Embassy of India, Kathmandu, to Indian nationals is not an acceptable travel document for travelling between India and Nepal. However, the emergency certificate and identity certificate issued by the Indian Embassy in Nepal will be valid for single journey for travelling back to India.

C. GS3 Related

Category: HEALTH AND WELFARE

1. State armed with triple-drug therapy to fight elephantiasis

Context: Maharashtra is all set to roll out the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended triple-drug therapy for lymphatic filariasis to speed up the elimination of the disease.

About Lymphatic filariasis:

  • Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease.
  • According to the WHO, infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes.
  • The infection is usually acquired in childhood, causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system.

Key facts:

  • Lymphatic filariasis impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
  • 856 million people in 52 countries worldwide remain threatened by lymphatic filariasis and require preventive chemotherapy to stop the spread of this parasitic infection.
  • In 2000 over 120 million people were infected, with about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated by the disease.
  • Lymphatic filariasis can be eliminated by stopping the spread of infection through preventive chemotherapy with safe medicine combinations repeated annually for at least 5 years. More than 6.7 billion treatments have been delivered to stop the spread of infection since 2000.
  • 499 million people no longer require preventive chemotherapy due to successful implementation of WHO strategies.
  • A basic, recommended package of care can alleviate suffering and prevent further disability among people living with disease caused by lymphatic filariasis.

Causes

  • Lymphatic filariasis is caused by infection with parasites classified as nematodes (roundworms) of the family Filariodidea. There are 3 types of these thread-like filarial worms:
    • Wuchereria bancrofti, which is responsible for 90% of the cases
    • Brugia malayi, which causes most of the remainder of the cases
    • Brugia timori, which also causes the disease.
  • Adult worms lodge in the lymphatic vessels and disrupt the normal function of the lymphatic system. The worms can live for approximately 6–8 years and, during their life time, produce millions of microfilariae (immature larvae) that circulate in the blood.
  • Mosquitoes are infected with microfilariae by ingesting blood when biting an infected host. Microfilariae mature into infective larvae within the mosquito. When infected mosquitoes bite people, mature parasite larvae are deposited on the skin from where they can enter the body. The larvae then migrate to the lymphatic vessels where they develop into adult worms, thus continuing a cycle of transmission.
  • Lymphatic filariasis is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes for example by the Culex mosquito, widespread across urban and semi-urban areas, Anopheles, mainly found in rural areas, and Aedes, mainly in endemic islands in the Pacific.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Kumbh will generate ₹1.2 lakh crore revenue

Context: According to apex industry body Confederation of Indian Industry, the Kumbh Mela is expected to generate a revenue of ₹1.2 lakh crore for Uttar Pradesh.

The CII report said that although the Kumbh Mela is spiritual and religious in nature, the economic activities associated with it generate employment for over six lakh workers across various sectors.

Global festival

  • The Kumbh is a festival of the world, attracting a massive number of tourists from various countries like Australia, the U.K., Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, New Zealand, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
  • The Allahabad Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Prayag (Allahabad), India. The exact date is determined according to Hindu astrology: the Mela is held when Jupiter is in Taurus and the sun and the moon are in Capricorn.
  • The Kumbh Mela has been inscribed on the list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO in 2017.

Economic benefits:

  • A sum of ₹4,200 crore has been allotted by the Uttar Pradesh government for the 50-day Kumbh Mela this year.
  • Around 12 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela.
  • The hospitality sector aims at employing 2,50,000 people, airlines and airports around 1,50,000 and tour operators around 45,000. The employment numbers in eco-tourism and medical tourism are being estimated at 85,000,
  • Apart from this, there will be around 55,000 new jobs in the unorganised sector, comprising tour guides, taxi drivers, interpreters and volunteers. This will lead to an increase in income levels for government agencies and individual traders.
  • The Kumbh Mela 2019 is expected to generate a revenue of ₹1,200 billion for Uttar Pradesh, the State where it is being held, while neighbouring States like Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh will also benefit from the enhanced revenue generation, with a large number of national and foreign tourists expected to explore other destinations.

2. Soon, no e-way bills for non-filers of GST returns

Context: Non-filers of GST returns for six consecutive months will soon be barred from generating e-way bills for movement of goods.

Highlights:

  • The Goods and Services Tax Network is developing an IT system such that businesses that have not filed returns for two straight returns filing cycles, which is six months, would be barred from generating e-way bills.
  • It is expected that the move would help check Goods and Services Tax evasion. Many GST evasion taxes have been detected in the April-December period.

E- way Bill:

  • E-way bill or Electronic-way bill is a document introduced under the GST regime that needs to be generated before transporting or shipping goods worth more than INR 50,000 within state or inter-state.
  • The physical copy of e-way bill must be present with the transporter or the person in charge of the conveyance and should include information such as goods, recipient, consignor and transporter.
  • The e-way bill was rolled out nationwide on 1st April 2018.

Way forward:

  • It is felt that to shore up revenue and raise compliance, strict anti-evasion measures must be adopted.
  • The revenue department is working towards integrating the e-way bill system with NHAI’s FASTag mechanism to help track movement of goods.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. This is not the future we want – On NITI Aayog’s “Strategy for New India@75”

Context:

NITI Aayog recently released the document “Strategy for New India@75” with the purpose of defining clear objectives for 2022-23 in a diverse range of 41 different areas. This aspirational strategy aims to achieve a ‘New India’ by 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence.

“Strategy for New India@75”:

  • ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ has identified 41 different areas that require either a sharper focus on implementing the flagship schemes already in place or a new design and initiative to achieve India’s true potential.
  • Each chapter summarizes the current status of the sector, takes full cognizance of the progress made thus far and spells out the objectives.
  • It then identifies the binding constraints and proposes measures to address these constraints.
  • The approach is believed to provide an inventory of readily implementable measures for the government departments and agencies both in the central and state governments.
  • The focus of the strategy is to further improve the policy environment in which private investors and other stakeholders can contribute their fullest towards achieving the goals set out for New India 2022.

Issue:

There are serious doubts if the strategy envisaged in the document relating to ecological and livelihood concerns, will be any different from the crisis-ridden society we live in today.

Editorial Analysis:

  • In the chapter focusing on ecological and related livelihood concerns, there are positive directions vis-à-vis the environment, such as a major focus on renewable energy, organic farming (with the zero budget natural farming model developed by Maharashtrian farmer Subhash Palekar being singled out for national application), increasing forest cover, and reducing pollution and waste.
  • A chapter titled ‘Sustainable environment’ states: “The objective is to maintain a clean, green and healthy environment with peoples’ participation to support higher and inclusive economic growth through sustainable utilization of available natural resources.”
  • It focus is primarily on air pollution, solid waste management, water pollution, and forestry.
  • The strategy has many progressive objectives. It follows the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Inclusion, sustainability, participation, gender equality and other buzzwords find mention.

What are the missing issues?

For more than three decades, governments have been promising that with environmental safeguards, growth can be made sustainable. There is no indication that this is anywhere near achievable, much less achieved. In 2008, the Confederation of Indian Industry indicated that India was already using twice of what its natural resources could sustain, and that more than half its biocapacity had already been eroded. Things are likely only worse now. No party in power has shown what magic wand it can use to suddenly make growth sustainable. Indeed, no country in the world has been able to do this.

  • From amongst the much larger number of environmental issues India faces, air pollution, solid waste management, water pollution, and forestry are only given much spotlight.
  • Some other issues such as arresting land degradation and soil erosion, and water conservation are also mentioned elsewhere.
  • But issues that need urgent attention such as increasing presence of toxic chemicals around us, the need to conserve a range of non-forest ecosystems do not find mention.
  • Since colonial times, forests have remained predominant in the minds of decision-makers, as indicated by the fact that India still has only a Forest Department and no dedicated entity for grassland, marine and coastal, wetland, mountain, and desert conservation.
  • An integrated, comprehensive view on how ecological issues can be integrated into all sectors is absent indicating that these issues are still not core to the mindset of the planners.
  • There is total absence of an understanding that the current form and goal of economic growth is inherently unsustainable.

Alarming features:

Examples of the internal contradictions in the document.

  • Mining:
    • One of the biggest ecological and social disasters in India is mining, especially the large-scale open-cast type.
    • NITI Aayog ignores this when it proposes a doubling of the extent of mining.
    • The only concession is the suggestion to bring in “cutting-edge” technology to “limit environmental damage”, which will most likely not solve the fundamental need to deforest areas.
  • Tourism:
    • Another major sector with horrendous environmental impacts is tourism, as witnessed by the hill stations and the ruin that areas like Ladakh, Kutch and the island regions are facing.
    • Yet, NITI Aayog recommends doubling the number of domestic tourist visits to over 3,200 million from 1,614 million in 2016.
  • River Valley Projects:
    • It also urges prompt completion of a host of mega river valley projects that have proved to be ecological nightmares, including Pancheshwar in the fragile Himalaya, the Ken-Betwa link in Madhya Pradesh, and dozens in the Northeast that are going to choke up rivers and are being pushed ahead despite strong local opposition.
  • Agriculture:
    • The agriculture chapters are in fact full of fault lines.
    • For all the mention of organic farming, there is no clear direction to phase out chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
    • The objective of sustainable farming is undermined by the following: “Phase out old varieties of seeds and replace them with hybrid and improved seeds”. This is the kind of Green Revolution approach that has caused huge loss of agricultural biodiversity and resilience amongst small farmers.
    • There is also no focus on dryland farming though most farmers are engaged in this.
    • There is positive mention of organic farming models for replication, but nothing on the amazing work of dryland farmers (such as the Dalit women of the Deccan Development Society in Telangana) showing productive, sustainable, biodiverse agriculture with millets and women as the fulcrum.
  • Infrastructure Projects:
    • One of the most alarming features of the document is its stress on rapid, single-window clearance of infrastructure and other projects.
    • Any decent ecological assessment of a project needs a year of study (over all seasons), so the 180 days limit it suggests will mean short-cuts.
    • This rush also means compromising on crucial processes of social assessment, public hearings, and participatory decision-making, as already seen in the last few years.
    • There is nothing on the need to seek consent from local communities, though this is mandated under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
    • Governments in the last few years have a dismal record of safeguarding the environment and the livelihoods of Adivasis and other communities.
    • They have found ways to bypass constitutional and policy safeguards these vulnerable sections are supposed to enjoy.

Conclusion:

  • NITI Aayog’s strategy for 2022 is replete with environmental and livelihood related contradictions.
  • It is alarming that the most important “driver” for the lofty goals of the strategy is economic growth.
  • While there is great focus on forest conservation, there is an urgent need to conserve non-forest ecosystems such as grasslands, wetlands, mountains, and deserts.
  • Without a strong, unambiguous commitment to upholding these protections, and putting communities at the centre of decision-making, India @ 75 is going to be an even more unequal, unjust, and conflict-ridden society than India @ 50.
  • We need to learn from the many alternative initiatives for food, water, energy, housing, education and health existing across India, which show the way to more just and sustainable livelihoods and ways of living.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Fabrication and falsification – Data manipulation in the MGNREGA

Context:

In recent years, there have been at least 74 reported starvation deaths, with 60 cases having occurred in the last two years across parts of India; a lot of them have been in Jharkhand. Based on a directive by the Union Ministry of Rural Development, the Jharkhand government has issued a report on 18 deaths.

Issue:

Earlier this month, MGNREGA got additional Rs 6,000 crore; highest ever total allocation in a fiscal. But, data manipulation in the scheme is leading to gross violations in its implementation.

Details:

  • Crores of people in India struggling to navigate a host of vulnerabilities to scrape out a living. A lack of dignified employment, non-payment of adequate wages on time and insufficient food mean that the families are in a dicey situation and staring at starvation.
  • The report issued by the Jharkhand government on 18 deaths is hastily produced and in insensitive language.
  • It concludes that none of these deaths was due to starvation or connected to MGNREGA.
  • If implemented the proper way, MGNREGA, among other measures, can go a long way in improving the life and the livelihoods people.
  • Not only is the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the State and Centre demonstrating alarming indifference in this matter but is also covering up realities by curating information to suit its false narrative. Such curation starts from suppressing information at the source, to deliberately manipulating and obfuscating data to perpetrate falsehoods.

Examples that illustrate how the manipulation of information is leading to ethical and legal violations:

  • Under –provision of employment:
    • To estimate the extent of under-provision, an ongoing study (for , work demand and employment generated for over 5,700 panchayats across 20 States for 2017-18 and the first three quarters of 2018-19) was analysed.
    • The employment generated was about 33% lower than the registered work demand, and last year, about 30% lower.
  • Information suppression at source:
    • Numerous ground reports across the country suggest that because of a funds crunch, field functionaries do not even enter the work demanded by labourers in the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS).
    • Lack of offline alternatives to capture work demand from labourers means that data on the MIS are being treated as the gospel truth.
    • Besides, the under-registered demand is being dishonoured by the government.
    • Although work demand data (in person days) and employment-generated data are available at a panchayat level, aggregate data at the national level are only presented for employment generated.
    • Thus, under-registered national demand is captured but intentionally not reported. By doing this, violation of the extent of under-provision of work is being hidden.
  • Non- implementation of Unemployment Allowance report
    • The MGNREGA is a demand-driven programme, i.e., work must be provided within 15 days of demanding work failing which the Centre must pay an unemployment allowance (UA).
    • A UA report is generated but rarely implemented.
  • Avoiding delay compensation:
    • The Central government alone was causing an average delay of over 50 days in the disbursement of wages to labourers. The mandate is to pay wages within 15 days else workers are entitled to a delay compensation.
    • While this delay by the Central government (called stage 2 delays) is captured in the system, it is intentionally suppressed to avoid paying delay compensation —violation of the Act.
  • Lack of funds:
    • Despite Centre’s revised allocations, there is a continued lack of funds.
    • Contrary to the Central government’s claims of there being more than 90% payments on time, we found in a recent study of more than 9 million transactions that only 21% payments were made on time in 2016-17. The trend continued in 2017-18.

 

A case of insensitivity:

  • In an internal memorandum dated August 21, 2017, the Union Ministry of Finance acknowledged the accuracy of the study’s findings and stated that delays in payments were directly linked to lack of availability of funds.
  • This glaring gap was argued in the Supreme Court in a recent PIL (Swaraj Abhiyan vs. Union of India) where the judgement categorically stated: “The wages due to the worker in terms of Stage 2 above must be transferred immediately and the payment made to the worker forthwith failing which the prescribed compensation would have to be paid.
  • In court, the Central government, agreed to calculate Stage 2 delays, and pay compensation, but has still not been implemented. This not only reflects contempt of court by the Central government.

Conclusion:

The claims of the “highest ever allocation” become meaningless if the allocation does not honour work demand, as is the case, it is a violation of the Act. If quick and prompt action is not taken and information on realities, starvation and agrarian distress is falsified, the slow death of the MGNREGA will continue.

F. Tidbits

1. Flamingo fete a huge draw at Pulicat Lake

Context: The Flamingo Festival started with tourists, both domestic and foreign, making a beeline for the picturesque Pulicat Lake, a safe haven for migratory birds.

Highlights:

  • Over 90,000 birds have come from faraway places to the lake this year, though belated in view of the late arrival of the northeast monsoon and the failure of the southwest monsoon.
  • The lake is the second largest brackish water ecosystem in the country after the Chilika Lake in Odisha.
  • Pulicat Lagoon is considered to be the second largest brackish water body in India measuring around 759 square km. The Lagoon is one of the three important wetlands to attract North-East Monsoon rain clouds during October to December season in Tamil Nadu.

G. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following about E-way bills:
  1. E-way bill or Electronic-way bill is a document introduced under the GST regime that needs to be generated after transporting or shipping goods.
  2. The worth of goods must be more than INR 50,000 within state or inter-state.
  3. The physical copy of e-way bill must be present with the transporter or the person in charge of the conveyance.
  4. The E-way bill should include information such as goods, recipient, consignor and transporter.

Which of these is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 3 and 4 only
  4. 2, 3 and 4 only

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following about Lymphatic filariasis:
  1. Lymphatic filariasis is caused by infection with parasites.
  2. Lymphatic filariasis is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes for example by the Culex mosquito, widespread across urban and semi-urban areas, Anopheles, mainly found in rural areas, and Aedes, mainly in endemic islands in the Pacific.
  3. The infection is usually acquired in childhood, causing hidden damage to the lymphatic system.

Which of these is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Only 2 and 3
  4. All of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. In which of the following states/Union territory is Pulicat Lake situated?
  1. Tamil Nadu
  2. Andhra Pradesh
  3. Telangana

Which of the codes is correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Only 1 and 2
  4. 1, 2 and 3

See

Answer
Question 4. Consider the following about the recently excavated Asurgarh Fort:
  1. It is situated in Odisha’s Kalahandi district.
  2. It is believed that the people of Asurgarh during that time probably used stone rubbles and tile fragments for flooring their houses and the streets.
  3. Glass bangle pieces of different designs and colours, sling balls, pestle, iron equipment like small wheel, ring, and arrow head were also found.
  4. The findings of coral beads and imperial variety of silver punch mark coins indicated the long distant trade and association of hinterland people with seafaring people.

Which of the following is /are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4

See

Answer
Question 5. Which of the following is not inscribed in the UNESCO intangible heritage site?
  1. Kuttiyattam
  2. Mudiyettu
  3. Navroz
  4. Ottamthullal

See

Answer

 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Child labour impedes the growth of a thriving economy. Discuss in the context of child labour in India.
  2. Although the Kumbh Mela is spiritual and religious in nature, the economic benefits associated with it is huge. Elucidate.

See previous CNA

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