09 September, 2020

  • NSO Report: Digital Divide in India (Social Justice) (NSO Report, Social Consumption of Education in India)
  • A case for down-to-earth governance - Lead Article Article (Polity & Governance) (Importance of Local Governance, Participatory Democracy)
  • The demonisation of dissent - Article - (Polity & Governance) (Hate Speech, Preventive Detention Law, Article 19(2), Subjective Satisfaction of Police)
  • What is in a NAM and India's alignment Article (International Relations) (NAM, India Foreign Policy, India and its neighbourhood)
  • Mountain that sustain millions - Article (Geography) (Vulnerability of Himalayan Ecosystem)
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz


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    UPSC Current Affairs:  Digital divide shadows post-pandemic education

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: GS Paper I –Economy Mains: GS Paper-III

    Sub theme: NSO Survey | Digital divide | NSS 75th round (July 2017- June 2018) survey on Household Social Consumption: Education| UPSC

    Digital Divide - UPSC

    Context: A recent report on the latest National Statistical Organisation (NSO) survey shows just how stark is the digital divide across States, cities and villages, and income groups. The survey on household social consumption related to education was part of the NSO’s 75th round, conducted from July 2017 to June 2018. The final report was released recently. The survey covers whole of the Indian Union except the villages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are difficult to access.  

    Objectives of survey on Household Social Consumption: Education by NSO

    • The main objective of NSS 75th round (July 2017- June 2018) survey on Household Social Consumption: Education is to build indicators on participation of the persons of age 3 to 35 years in the education system, expenditure incurred on education of the household members and various indicators of those currently not attending education (i.e., for the persons who never enrolled or ever enrolled but currently not attending education).
    • Besides, for persons of age 5 years and above, information was collected on ability to operate computer, ability to use internet and use of internet during last 30 days. In addition to this, particulars of current attendance and related expenditure in respect of the erstwhile members of age 3 to 35 years of the households were also collected.
    • This survey covered both qualitative and quantitative aspects related to educational attainment of the household members and educational services used by them.
    • Qualitative aspects includes literacy, educational level attained, type of institution, nature of institution, current attendance/enrolment, free education, reason for never enrolled/ever enrolled but currently not attending, etc.
    • Quantitative aspects includes information was collected on expenditure incurred on education of the household members by the household itself, by other households or by any institutions/organizations other than Government.

    Main Features of the Survey

    The schedule of enquiry on Household Social Consumption: Education (Schedule 25.2) in NSS 75th round (July 2017- June 2018) broadly covered the following items of information:

    • Household characteristics, including whether the household has a computer, whether the household has internet facility, etc.
    • Demographic particulars of the household members, including highest level education completed, status of enrolment, etc.
    • (Information relating to ability to operate computer, ability to use internet and use of internet by persons of age 5 years and above.
    • Level of current enrolment in basic course for persons of age 3 to 35 years.
    • Education particulars on basic course of the persons of age 3 to 35 years who are currently attending education.
    • Particulars of expenditure on education, source of finance for persons of age 3 to 35 years who are currently attending at pre-primary or above level.
    • Particulars of currently not attending persons of age 3 to 35 years.
    • Vocational/technical training and particulars of formal vocational/technical training received by household members of age 12 to 59 years.
    • Details of erstwhile household members of age 3 to 35 years who are currently attending education.

    Features of NSS 75th round (July 2017- June 2018) survey on Household Social Consumption: Education

    • Age group for collection of information on different aspects like enrolment, attendance: In NSS 75th round, for collection of information on current enrolment/ attendance, education particulars of basic course and expenditure on education, persons of age 3 to 35 years were considered.
    • Details of erstwhile household members of age 3 to 35 years currently attending education: In NSS 75th round, details of erstwhile household members of age 3 to 35 years currently attending education were collected. These included present place of residence of the erstwhile household member, level of current enrolment, amount of expenditure incurred by the household for such erstwhile household members, etc.
    • Years in formal education: To obtain the number of years in formal education information on class/grade/year completed was collected in NSS 75th round.
    • Vocational/technical training: In NSS 75th round, for persons of age 12 to 59 years, information was collected on whether receiving/ received any vocational/technical training. Particulars of formal vocational/technical training received by household members of age 12 to 59 years were also recorded. This included, field of training, duration of training, source of funding, etc.
    • Persons with disability: To identify persons with disability, information was collected on whether having a certificate of disability.
    • Reason for attending current private institution: In 71st Round, information on ‘reason for preferring private institution’ was collected. In NSS 75th round, the question was revised to collect data on ‘reason for attending current private institution’.
    • Extended coverage of expenditure: Besides collecting details of expenditure on education on the basic course, in NSS 75th round, aggregate expenditure on education on courses other than basic course was also recorded to have information on total expenditure on education.
    • Source of funding: In NSS 75th round, source of funding (at most two sources) the expenditure of the basic course was collected.
    • Expenditure on preparation for higher/additional studies for the persons of age 3 to 35 years currently attending education: Some students spend a significant amount of money to attend coaching classes in preparation for admission in higher/additional studies. To capture this expenditure, provision was made in NSS 75th round to record total expenditure incurred during last 365 days on preparation for pursuing higher/additional studies for the persons of age 3 to 35 years currently attending education at pre-primary and above level.
    • Engagement in economic activities: For persons of age 15 to 35 years currently attending education, information was recorded on their status of engagement in economic activities.
    • Expenditure incurred for preparation for higher/additional studies for persons of age 3 to 35 years who ever enrolled but currently not attending: For the persons of age 3 to 35 years who ever enrolled but currently not attending, information was collected on whether prepared/preparing for higher/additional studies during last 365 days and expenditure on preparation for higher/additional studies during last 365 days.
    • Information on access and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT): At the household level, information on availability of computer and internet facility was collected. Additionally, for persons of age 5 years and above, information on ability to use computer and internet and whether they have used internet during the last 30 days was also collected.

    Key Findings of the Report

    • Most of these Internet-enabled homes are located in cities, where 42% have Internet access. In rural India, however, only 15% are connected to the Internet.
    • The national capital has the highest Internet access, with 55% of homes having such facilities. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are the only other States where more than half of all households have Internet.
    • At the other end of the spectrum is Odisha, where only one in 10 homes have Internet. There are 10 other States with less than 20% Internet penetration, including States with software hubs such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
    • The biggest divide is by economic status, which the NSO marks by dividing the population into five equal groups, or quintiles, based on their usual monthly per capita expenditure. Even in Odisha, almost 63% of homes in the top urban quintile have Internet facilities. In the poorest quintile of rural Odisha, however, that figure drops to an abysmal 2.4%.
    • Kerala shows the least inequality: more than 39% of the poorest rural homes have Internet, in comparison to 67% of the richest urban homes. Himachal Pradesh also fares well, with 40% of the lowest rural quintile having Internet.
    • Assam shows the most stark inequality, with almost 80% of the richest urban homes having the Internet access denied to 94% of those in the poorest rural homes in the State.
    • The Centre has directed State Education Departments to map the online access available to all their students in order to adequately plan curriculum and teaching methods that can reach such students. Although much of the focus has been on digital platforms, television and radio are also being used to deliver lessons.
    • Of course, having Internet access is no guarantee that one can use it. The NSO report shows that 20% of Indians above the age of 5 years had basic digital literacy, doubling to just 40% in the critical age group of 15 to 29 years, which includes all high school and college students as well as young parents responsible for teaching younger children.
    • Even as digital literacy is likely to grow during this pandemic, concerns remain about basic literacy, with September 8 celebrated as International Literacy Day. More than one in five Indians above 7 years still cannot read and write in any language. Over the last decade, literacy rates have increased from 71.7% to 77.7%, with the highest gains coming among rural women.
    • A State-wise split of literacy rates also throws up some unexpected results. Andhra Pradesh has the country’s lowest literacy rate, at just 66.4%, significantly lower than less developed States such as Chhattisgarh (77.3%), Jharkhand (74.3%), Uttar Pradesh (73%), and Bihar (70.9%). Kerala remains at the top of the pile with 96.2% literacy, followed by three northern States: Delhi (88.7%), Uttarakhand (87.6%) and Himachal Pradesh (86.6%).

    UPSC Current Affairs:  A case for down-to-earth governance - Page 6

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-II, Essay

    Sub theme: Political reforms | Democracy | Electoral Reforms | Local Governance

    Electoral Reforms - UPSC

    “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” – James Madison wrote in The Federalist paper No.55. James Madison in another paper while defending the US Constitution explored majority rule v minority rights. He countered that it was exactly the great number of factions and diversity that would avoid tyranny. Groups would be forced to negotiate and compromise among themselves, arriving at solutions that would respect the rights of minorities. Further, he argued that the large size of the country would actually make it more difficult for factions to gain control over others. “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.” Based on these ideas, the author in this Article has highlighted the importance of governance at lower level of administrative stratification and further need to strengthen governance at local level as mandated by Constitution 73rd and 74th Amendment.

    What are the Contradictions among political party which hamper governance - UPSC

    • The author highlights that in a large democracy having multiparty system, it becomes very difficult for all political parties to find a common national narrative as politics in India is based on respective constituencies and demand of each constituency differ across the country.
    • Further, when there are too many political parties within a government, then it leads to multiple view points at times leading to breakdown of governance due to contradictions within.
    • Another problem is that political parties seldom follow inner party democracy. So, in representative democracies of large countries or states, it becomes difficult to arrive at good and fair decisions for its overall governance.
    • Even direct democracy where people decide each and every aspect of administration and governance does not serve the purpose (BREXIT is the best example of decisions taken in haste and on emotional lines) as all voters may not understand what they are voting for or what could be the repercussions of vote on any specific issue.
    • It is here where the author says that Complex issues, where many interests collide, must be resolved by reason, not settled by the numbers. Hence there is no alternative to good local governance, wherein citizens manage their local affairs democratically.

    What are the benefits of Solving Problems at Local Level-UPSC

    • Locals know best how to balance the preservation of their water sources while making it easier for local enterprises to do business, and how to make their local schools and health facilities accessible to all citizens.
    • It becomes easier to address complaints as it be solved by the local people who know the problems first hand.
    • One-size solutions devised by experts at the centre cannot fit all: therefore, local systems solutions are essential to solve global systemic problems of environmental sustainability and inclusive growth.
    • Citizens must learn to listen to each other’s perspectives in their villages and in their urban neighbourhoods. Those with the most needs in the community must be enabled to participate, alongside the most endowed, in finding solutions for all. 
    • Citizens must appreciate that they have to be the source of solutions, and not become only the source of problems for governments and experts to solve for them.


    • No doubt, electoral funding must be cleaned up, and democracy within political parties improved to make representative democracy work better. This will require big changes to entrenched systems, yet will not be sufficient for good, democratic governance.
    • Since India’s Independence 73 years ago when the power of government was transferred from a centre in London to a centre in Delhi, strong local governance remains the unfinished agenda to make India’s democracy strong and deep.

    UPSC Current Affairs: The demonization of dissent - Page 7

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GSII, Polity and Governance

    Sub theme: Preventive Detention | Article 22 | National Security Act | UAPA 1967 | UPSC

    Analysis of National Security Act-UPSC

    Context: With respect to incarceration of Dr. Kafeel Khan under National Security Act and Ms. Kalita, who is an accused in four cases connected to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act/National Register of Citizens (CAA/NRC) protests and the riots in north-east Delhi and is also charged under UAPA, the author has highlighted three important points with respect to freedom of speech and incarceration both people under UAPA and NSA. Both THE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) ACT, 1967 and THE NATIONAL SECURITY ACT, 1980 is a preventive detention law as per Article 22(3)(b) of the Indian Constitution and during the judicial processes in such cases of preventive detention law, rights of the accused get virtually suspended in the case of detenues under the UAPA and the NSA. The author highlights that the despite different court rulings in these two cases, there are three stark similarities:   

    1. Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence quoted out of context – In both cases, statements made by the accused were quoted out of context. Allahabad High Court stated that the entire speech of Dr. Kafeel Khan does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence and also does not threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh. Allahabad High Court indicted the administration for “selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent.” In the case of Ms. Kalita, Delhi High Court stated in its ruling that the Delhi Police “failed to produce any material that she in her speech instigated women of [a] particular community or gave hatred speech due to which precious life of a young man has been sacrificed and property damaged.”

    Views of the Author

    • Number of activists who speak against the policies of the government in power are vilified and their speech are designated hate speech by the police. They are subjected to harassment and humiliation on “selective readings” which seem to be accepted by some courts as “ serious charges”. 
    1. The second issue is of the “subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority” - In most of the cases filed against anti-CAA/NRC activists, the assessment of the authorities that law and order would be affected if the accused are released and that they are part of an ‘anti-national’ conspiracy are used as arguments to deny bail pleas. The “subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority” is all that is required. This subjective authority grants arbitrary power to the members of police to detain people who air views which are sensitive for the government. On subjective satisfaction, the Allahabad High Court held that the expression “subjective satisfaction” means the satisfaction of a reasonable man that can be arrived at on the basis of some material which satisfies a rational man. It does not refer to whim or caprice of the authority concerned.
    1. The Third issue is of Calling Witness by the Police - In Delhi, there are examples of how even those who attended solidarity meetings during the anti-CAA/NRC protests between December 2019 and February 2020 are being called in for questioning by the Special Branch and are being asked to specifically name activists on the police target list.


    UPSC Current Affairs: What is in a NAM and India’s alignment Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS II: International Relations

    Sub theme: India-USA Relations | Non-Aligned Movement | NAM |

    Relevance of NAM-UPSC

    Context - India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, said recently that non-alignment was a concept of relevance in a specific era and a particular context, though the independence of action enshrined in it remains a factor of continuity in India’s foreign policy. This was a clear indication that non-alignment, as a foreign policy concept, is dead.

    Non-alignment was a policy during the Cold War, to retain an autonomy of policy (not equidistance) between two politico-military blocs. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) provided a platform for newly independent developing nations to join together to protect their strategic autonomy. It was a disparate group from many continents, with varying degrees of proximity to, and dependence on, one or the other bloc; and broadly united around NAM’s flagship campaigns for –

    1. de-colonisation
    2. universal nuclear disarmament and against apartheid.

    Loss of purpose of NAM-UPSC

    After the cold war –

    • One of the blocs was disbanded at the end of the Cold War.
    • De-colonisation was largely complete by then
    • the apartheid regime in South Africa was being dismantled and
    • the campaign for universal nuclear disarmament was going nowhere.

    Non-alignment lost its relevance, and NAM its original purpose of existence.

    No successor of NAM in India’s foreign policy-UPSC

    For a few years now, non-alignment has not been projected by our policymakers as a tenet of India’s foreign policy. However, we have not yet found a universally accepted successor  for our foreign policy. Successive formulations have been coined and rejected.

    • Strategic autonomy was one, which soon acquired a connotation similar to non-alignment, with an anti-U.S. tint.
    • Multi-alignment has not found universal favour, since it may convey the impression of opportunism, whereas we seek strategic convergences.
    • Seeking issue-based partnerships or coalitions has not stuck.
    • “Advancing prosperity and influence” was a description Dr. Jaishankar settled for, to describe the aspirations that our network of international partnerships seeks to further.

    Should India align with U.S-UPSC

    In the wake of the current stand-off with China, there have been calls for India’s foreign policy to shed its inhibitions and make a decisive shift towards the United States, as the only viable option to counter China. However the External Affairs Minister has clarified that a rejection of non-alignment does not mean a rush to alignment: India will not join an alliance system.

    During the Cold War, the glue that held countries of an alliance together was composed (in varying proportions) of ideological convergence and an existential military threat. With the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Warsaw Pact, this glue dissolved. The strategic interests of alliance partners are no longer congruent.

    • S. President Donald Trump’s words and deeds have highlighted divergences within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
    • strains have periodically surfaced even earlier — over the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, or on policy towards Russia or West Asia.
    • Turkey is constantly exploring the limits of NATO discipline.

    Alliances in the Asia-Pacific face a bigger dilemma. They were originally forged to deter the USSR. The threat to the alliance partners today is from an assertive China, which they are reluctant to define as a strategic adversary, because of their economic engagement with it and the huge military asymmetry.

    What is the importance of geography in foreign policy-UPSC

    It is often overlooked that geostrategy derives from both geography and politics. While politics is dynamic, geography is immutable.

    • In the immediate-term, Indian and U.S. perspectives are less convergent in India’s continental neighbourhood.
    • Connectivity and cooperation with Afghanistan and Central Asia need engagement with Iran and Russia, as well as with the Russia-China dynamics in the region.
    • Russia bestrides the Eurasian landmass bordering India’s near and extended neighbourhood. Seemingly paradoxically, a close Russia-China partnership should move India to broad-base relations with Russia (beyond the traditional defence and energy pillars). A strong stake in relations with India could reinforce Russia’s reluctance (which still persists) to be a junior partner of China.

    What are the reasons to cooperate with Russia and Iran-UPSC

    As the U.S. confronts the challenge to its dominance from China, classical balance of power considerations would dictate a modicum of accommodation with Russia. There was an analogous logic in the Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger outreach to China in 1971, when the Soviet Union was the more formidable rival. The political lessons from the current pandemic could help reawaken that historical memory.

    Equally, the U.S. could acknowledge that India’s development of trade routes through Iran would also serve its strategic interest of finding routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan and Russia, respectively.

    India will acquire a larger global profile next year, when it commences a two-year term on the UN Security Council. The strategic choices that it makes in its bilateral partnerships will be closely watched.


    UPSC Current Affairs: Mountains that sustain millions Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS III: Environment

    Sub theme: Mountains | Himalayas | Ecosystem


    • Vulnerabilities of natural ecosystems as well as the people who live in those regions have been very important from the perspective of UPSC examination.
    • For example, in 2019 mains, UPSC asked:

    So, this article becomes very important as it

    • Highlights the vulnerabilities of Mountain ecosystem
    • What is the role of the government, policymakers, locals and outsiders

    Vulnerability of Mountain dwellers are increasing in recent times because of:

    • Drastically reducing natural resources,
    • unsustainable agricultural practices,
    • lack of basic amenities and so on create a challenge for local sustenance.
    • Demographic shifts, weak institutional capacity, poor infrastructure,
    • Lack of adequate information on mountain-specific climate change
    • Low food availability and decreased self-sufficiency due to the combined pressures of increasing wildlife attacks on crops and livestock and persistent youth out-migration.
    • An increase in male out-migration has put the brunt of household responsibility on the women and the elderly, who tend to focus more labour on livestock production, often to the neglect of crop agriculture, further rendering the land unproductive and prone to wildlife foraging.
    • Lack of irrigation sources and drying up of local gadhera (small river tributaries), dhara (spring), naula (aquifer) etc. amidst uneven precipitation and erratic rainfall have added to the water woes of the hills.
    • With traditional crops being replaced by cash crops, agro-biodiversity of the region has declined and dietary patterns have altered. This has increased nutritional insecurity, and undermined long-term agricultural sustainability in the region.

    In the light of such events, what is the way out? 

    • Mountain-specific policies
      • which will strengthen livelihood opportunities based on both farm and non-farm activities should be developed.
    • Encouraging Organic farmingmethods 
      • like use of biopesticides and botanicals and bio-composting should be promoted. Local food systems need to be revived and niche products of the mountain need to be developed.
    • Marketing systems and infrastructure need to be strengthened.
      • Healthy livestock management practices should be explored and the potential of medicinal plants harnessed.
    • Region-specific water security and cleaner energy solutionsshould be sought by bringing key stakeholders in a synergistic partnership. 
    • Involvement of local population 
      • In all this, people’s role, especially that of the women, should not be ignored.
      • As custodians of important traditional knowledge on preparation of seeds, harvesting, the medicinal use of plant species, etc., their inclusion in policymaking and the decision-making process becomes all the more crucial.