31 October, 2020

  • Takeaways from the discussion
  • Impact of Protectionist Policies (Economy)
  • Urban Floods (Environment)
  • MALABAR Naval Exercise (International relations)
  • Monsoon Prediction (Geography)
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz


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    UPSC Current Affairs: ‘Import barriers will not be perpetual | Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Indian Economy and related issues

    Sub Theme: Protectionism |UPSC

    Context: Recently, the NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar has stated that increase in the customs duty to promote local manufacturing would not be permanent. In this regard, let us discuss as to what are the challenges with the Protectionist policies and why there is a need to dismantle such policies in long run.


    Recently, Prime Minister Modi gave a call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat or Self-Reliant India movement in response to economic hardship created by COVID-19 pandemic. As part of such a movement, he coined the slogan “Vocal for Local”. The slogan broadly encompasses the following:

    1. Boost local Manufacturing of Goods: This has to be done by both domestic companies and foreign companies in India. This is same as ‘ Make in India’ wherein we need to boost manufacturing sector.
    1. Boost Local Supply Chain: The entire supply chain for the manufacture of Goods should be set up in India to give further thrust to manufacturing sector and make India self-reliant.
    1. Boost demand for Goods manufactured in India: The Indian Consumers need to be vocal about the Indian Goods. They must not only buy such Goods but must also promote them.

    Present Strategies adopted by Government to promote Local Goods

    • Nationalistic Sentiments: Appeal to the Nationalistic sentiments of the Indians to buy and promote Indian Goods.
    • Withdrawing from FTAs: Decided to withdraw from RCEP to protect its domestic Industry; Also called for review of all existing FTAs to make them more India friendly.
    • Increasing Customs duty/ Safeguard Duty: Decided to impose Safeguard Duty on some of the goods such as Solar Panel Cells to promote domestic Manufacturing.

    These inward-oriented strategies highlight that the Government sees trade as a problem and not as a solution to economic revival. Let us look at some of the problems which may arise on account of these strategies:

    1. Set-Back to Make in India and Assemble in India: Some of the Industries such as Pharma, Automobile, Electronics etc. are heavily dependent on raw materials from countries such as China. The increase in customs duty due to protectionist policies would lead to increase in raw materials for these Industries and hence could affect domestic manufacturing.
    2. Against Well-Established Theory: According to the theory of comparative advantage, countries must focus on production of those goods which can be manufactured cheaply in comparison to other countries. Those goods which cannot be manufactured cheaply in comparison to other countries or if a country does not has competitive advantage in production of a particular commodity, then it should import such goods from other countries. Hence, theory of comparative advantage states that bilateral trade benefits both the Countries since it enables them to import those goods which otherwise, cannot be

    manufactured economically as compared to its trading partner.

    1. Hinders Innovation: Shield domestic companies from foreign competition leading to complacency and decline in quality of Goods.
    2. Historical Insights: Policy of import-substitution which started in 2nd five year plan has failed.
    3. International Experience: Countries such as China and smaller economies such as Vietnam, Malaysia etc. have achieved higher GDP growth rates through free and open trade.
    4. Retaliatory Actions: As evident in US-China Trade war, protectionist policies invite retaliatory actions from other countries and hence makes everyone worse-off.
    5. Discourage Foreign Investment: Higher preference to domestic companies leads to lack to level-playing field.
    6. Set back to Export-led Growth: If India starts imposing higher customs duty or following protectionist policies, then other countries would also take retaliatory action by increasing the customs duty.

    Hence, Government must realize that path to self-sufficiency is through export promotion and global economic integration rather than through protectionism and import- substitution.


    UPSC Current Affairs: Time for a ‘sponge cities’ mission in India |Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: | Mains: GS Paper I – urbanisation and related problems  

    Sub Theme: Urban floods  | UPSC        


    • Unpredictable nature, unbridled avarice and untrammelled urbanisation are back in currency, this time, in the wake of torrential rains in the third week of October in Hyderabad. Over 50 people died. Hundreds of riverbed hutments were flushed away. Thousands of homes remain submerged two weeks after the flood. The scale of destruction has been unprecedented.
    • This experience is not unique to the city of Hyderabad but something that cities across India have been experiencing in recent years. Barely five years ago, it was Chennai that saw a massive flood costing much damage and lives; Gurugram over the past few years comes to a complete standstill during the monsoon months, and for Mumbai, the monsoon has become synonymous with flooding and enormous damages.

    Urban Flood:

    • Flood is defined as “an overflow of a large body of water over areas not usually inundated”. Thus, flooding in urban areas is caused by intense and/or prolonged rainfall, which overwhelms the capacity of the drainage system.
    • The coastal urban flooding is a complex phenomenon which may occur in various forms such as: urban flooding due to high intensity rainfall; due to inadequate drainage and flooding caused by overtopping in the channels or rivers; flooding due to high tides, etc.
    • For effective coastal urban flood management and mitigation plans, the possible flooding scenario is to be simulated for extreme rainfall events, or various return periods of rainfall and other design scenarios.

    Reasons for Urban Flooding:

    Urban flooding is caused by three main factors – meteorological, hydrological and human factors.

    1. Meteorological factors include heavy rainfall, cyclonic storms and thunderstorms. On September 21, 2016, breaking a 16-year record, Hyderabad received 16 cm of rain in a single day; in September 2017, the city witnessed a 450% increase compared to the average rainfall it receives during this month; in September 2019, the rainfall was the highest in 100 years, while in October it was in 62% in excess.
    1. Hydrological factors include presence or absence of overbank flow channel networks and occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage in coastal cities.
    1. Human factors include land use changes, surface sealing due to urbanization (which increases run-off), occupation of flood plains and obstruction of flood flows, urban heat island effect (which has increased the rainfall in and around urban areas), etc.


    • Rapid urbanization combined with a lack of efficient waste disposal systems have left several water bodies in the cities in poor condition. 
    • Blocked waterways and reduced width and depth of canals, while the speed and scale of construction reduces the permeability of the ground.

     Improper Drainage:

    • In Indian cities and towns, large habitations are coming up in low-lying areas, often encroaching over drainage channels
    • Encroachment in the immediate upper catchments of hilly urban area has also caused serious flooding in the flood plains of cities surrounded by hills.
    • Hyderabad’s century-old drainage system (developed in the 1920s) covered only a small part of the core city. In the last 20 years, the city has grown at least four times its original built-up area.

    Population Growth:

    • Most of our cities have now reached a saturation point in terms of population growth and accommodation, and the developmental activities have now shifted to low-lying areas and areas next to the riverbanks. So, whenever a city experiences a large amount of rainfall within a short time, there are chances it gets flooded

    Major threats that Urban Floods poses:

    • Economic: Urban areas are also centres of economic activities with vital infrastructure which needs to be protected 24x7. In most of the cities, damage to vital infrastructure has a bearing not only for the state and the country but it could even have global implications. Therefore, management of urban flooding has to be accorded top priority.
    • Urban Planning: Increasing trend of urban flooding is a universal phenomenon and poses a great challenge to urban planners the world over. Problems associated with urban floods range from relatively localized incidents to major incidents, resulting in cities being inundated from hours to several days.

    So how to resolve the situation?

    1. Participation of all the stake holders:
    • Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone. Nor can they be dealt with by the State government. They cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources. Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale. In Hyderabad, this can be done by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority, but all metropolitan areas have similar organisations with constitutional mandates via the metropolitan planning committee. So what should the mission objectives be?
    1. We need a mission that mitigates flood risk and provides a pathway to water security:
    • The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it. Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
    • This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells. This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
    • In built form, this implies contiguous open green spaces, interconnected waterways, and channels and ponds across neighbourhoods that can naturally detain and filter water. It implies support for urban ecosystems, bio-diversity and newer cultural and recreational opportunities.
    1. Government Programs:
    • These can all be delivered effectively through an urban mission along the lines of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Smart Cities Mission. On a top priority, such a mission should address the following.
    1. Framing a wetland Policy:
    • The first subject is wetland policy. In most of our lakes, the shallow ends, which often lie beyond the full tank level, have disappeared. These shallow ends are best characterised as wetlands; sometimes owned by private individuals, other times existing as ecological commons. Regardless of ownership, land use on even this small scale needs to be regulated by development control.
    1. Terrain Management
    • Ban against terrain alteration is third. Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering drainage routes.

    We must not allow nature, human conduct, and urbanisation to be mystified and rendered as trans- historic villains. We can learn to live with nature, we can regulate human conduct through the state and we can strategically design where we build. We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water without causing so much misery and so much damage to the most vulnerable of our citizens, as we have seen.


    UPSC Current Affairs: Malabar naval exercise to kick off  next week| Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of national Importance | Mains: GS Paper-II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Malabar exercise | UPSC   

    Context: The first phase of the Malabar Naval exercise with Australia, Japan and the U.S. is scheduled to be held next week off the Visakhapatnam coast. This is the first time Australia will be joining the exercise after 2007 and it will bring all four countries of the Quadrilateral grouping together for military games.

    About the Malabar exercise

    • The Malabar exercises were first established in 1992 between India and the United States, but due to tensions arising from India’s nuclearization in 1998, it became an annual feature only in 2002.
    • In 2007, the scope of Malabar was enhanced and a five-nation multilateral naval exercise taking on board three other nations Japan, Australia and Singapore was organised. 
    • However, this display of multilateral naval cooperation heightened China’s anxiety. Both India and the US sought to allay Chinese concerns and the Malabar exercise was made bilateral.
    • After 2007 Australia ceased to participate. Japan joined the Malabar exercises as a permanent member in 2015.
    • With China’s growing military strength and its increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, Malabar exercise has assumed greater importance. 
    • The Malabar exercise enhances India’s credibility in the maritime domain and prioritizes collective effort to secure the first of the three global commons (oceans, space, and cyberspace).


    • China sees this maritime quadrilateral grouping as an Asian-NATO that seeks only to contain China’s rise.
    • Following the stand-off in Ladakh, many Indian analysts believe the time is right for India to shed its traditional defensiveness in the maritime domain.
    • However, some of the policy makers have warned that it could open a new front in the India-China conflict.

    Challenges for India

    • India aims at countering the Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
    • To this end India has acquired airborne surveillance assets from the U.S., however the Indian Navy is yet to develop the undersea capability to deter Chinese submarines.
    • Another issue is that US companies which are partnering with India are reluctant in transferring technology.
    • This is one of the hurdles in exploiting full potential of the military cooperation 


    UPSC Current Affairs:Science of monsoons| Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Physical Geography  | Mains – GS Paper I – Geography     

    Sub Theme: Monsoons |UPSC                

    Context: Recently the IMD had announced the withdrawal of Monsoons. The amount of rainfall had surpassed the IMD's estimates. For past few years India has been receiving more rainfall than what has been predicted by the IMD. Due to this it has been difficult for the authorities to properly align their Disaster management plans for the monsoon related disasters. In this backdrop let us understand the Difficulties faced in Monsoon prediction.

    It is difficult to predict the exact amount rainfall since IMD relies on probabilistic forecast. It does not come up with any definitive number for its forecast. For this probabilistic exercise, the IMD has

    classified monsoon rainfall in five categories:

    • Deficient (less than 90 per cent of the LPA (Long period average- a 50 year average))
    • Below Normal (90-96 per cent)
    • Near Normal (96-104 per cent of the LPA)
    • Above Normal (104-110 per cent of the LPA) 
    • Excess (above 110 per cent of the LPA)

    Probabilistic forecast assigns probability to the above different categories of monsoon rainfall. For example in for the year 2018, it has forecasted that there was a 42 per cent probability of rainfall being normal this year, and a 30 per cent probability of it being below normal.

    Prediction of monsoon is also the biggest headache for IMD, because it is very difficult to predict the exact behaviour of monsoon. This is due to a variety of reasons .

    • Firstly ,The topography of Indian subcontinent makes the monsoon system very complex.
    • Secondly, Tropical weather is difficult to predict because weather systems in the tropics aren’t understood very well.
    • One reason for this is that weather systems destabilise faster in the tropics than they do in the extra-tropics, where they persist for longer durations.
    • In dynamical model a lot data is required to be fed about current weather conditions. Presently, the lack of enough and quality data is one of the biggest challenge. The IMD collects weather data like temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation through 679 automatic weather stations, 550 surface observatories, 43 radiosonde or weather balloons, 24 radars and three satellites. However this data is not enough given the size of India .More data is required to make the predictions accurate. Then, there are major data gaps, like those involving dust, aerosols, soil moisture and maritime conditions.
    • Further the automatic weather stations are of substandard quality. The upkeep of instruments is a major problem. They need to be calibrated and cleaned regularly, which doesn’t happen often. That affects the quality of data.
    • The models that are brought from the west have been developed by western scientists to forecast in their region. These models need to be fine-tuned for Indian conditions. However this fine-tuning is not an easy task under tropical conditions, where weather is fairly unstable as compared to the extra tropical systems.
    • Another issue is that dynamical models require huge amount of computations, for which supercomputers are required. As such increase in number of supercomputers remains a challenge for India. Also qualified software professionals are required who can put the data collected to good use. Their availability remains a challenge in quality monsoon forecast.

    National Monsoon Mission

    Government launched the National Monsoon Mission to set up a state-of-the-art coupled ocean-atmospheric climate model for:

    (a) Improved prediction of monsoon rainfall on extended range to seasonal time scale (16 days to one season)

    (b) Improved prediction of temperature, rainfall and extreme weather events on short to medium range time scale (up to 15 days) so that forecast skill gets quantitatively improved further for operational services of India Meteorological Department (IMD).

    Targets were to develop a state of the art dynamical prediction system for monsoon rainfall (over Indian region) on different time scales (e.g., short range, medium range, extended range and seasonal time scales) with reasonably good prediction skill. Due to these government efforts statistical model along with dynamical model is improving the monsoon predictions.

    Thus only if the monsoon forecast is improved drastically, India will be better prepared to face the uncertainties of monsoon and climate change. Also it will help in effectively managing the disasters. 


    Md Ayaz Ahmed 2 months ago

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