August 2023 Current Affairs

Table of contents

1   Monthly Editorial Analysis


Growth with Indian characteristics


Can AI be ethical and moral?


Caste has no Place in a Modern Democracy


Nuh clashes


India’s hunger challenge


Big concerns over big cats


Net zero lessons from Bhutan


Climate change and women in agriculture


Himalayan blunders


Perils of Unplanned Urbanization


Rural poverty declines, but lifestyle issues emerge


Seeds for growth


Geo-economics in a new age of geopolitics


Consumption-based poverty estimates


Minimum Support Price Hike


Infrastructure investments slowing job creation


South Asia, now open to business




India’s G-20 opportunity for an African Renaissance


Manipur internet shutdowns


Pathways for digital inclusion


The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023

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Monthly Editorial Analysis

Growth with Indian characteristics

Exam View: Status of the Indian Economy; People’s welfare and their quality of life; Raising per capita incomes. 

Context: India has registered the highest growth rate amongst G20 countries, surpassing China’s for two successive years. The real challenge for the government is to raise per capita incomes and for politics to jettison competitive populism. 

Decoding the editorial: Status of the Indian Economy 

  • India has ascended from being the 10th largest economy in the world in 2014 to the 5th largest in 2023.  
  • As per the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India is currently the fifth largest economy with a GDP of $3.7 trillion  
    • The IMF also projects that India will be the third-largest economy by 2027 
    • By 2027, India’s GDP is likely to be $5.2 trillion, while the US will be at $31.1 trillion and China at $25.7 trillion. 
    • IMF’s historical data shows that India took six decades (1947 to 2007) to cross the one trillion-dollar GDP mark in 2007 ($1.2 trillion).  
      • But thereafter, it took India just seven years to become a $2 trillion economy in 2014 
      • It added another $1.2 trillion by 2021.  
      • If India hits the IMF’s projected figure of $5.2 trillion by 2027, it would be adding a whopping $2 trillion in just six years. 
  • India has registered the highest growth rate amongst G20 countries, surpassing China’s for two successive years.  

  • Measuring GDP on a PPP basis shows that India already has the third highest with a GDP of $13 trillion (PPP), with China at the top and the US is second. 

People’s welfare and their quality of life 

  • It can be inferred from the per capita GDP in PPP terms.  
    • PPP conversion ratios can vary widely across countries, as price levels of goods and services could differ significantly.  
    • India’s conversion ratio from dollar to PPP is 3.5, which is almost twice that of China at 1.7.  
    • For example: If a US dollar can buy a burger in its home country, the currency can buy 3.5 burgers in India and 1.7 burgers in China.  
  • India’s per capita income is the lowest in G20 countries in both dollar ($2,601) and PPP terms ($9,073).  

    • China’s one-child family policy from 1981 to 2016 has given our neighbour the dividend of raising per capita GDP to $23,382 PPP, while the US sits at the top with a per capita GDP of $80,035.  

Raising per capita incomes  

  • India needs to raise agri-productivity and give farmers access to the best agri-markets. 
    • This would help raise their incomes and help fulfil the vision of doubling farmers’ incomes.  
    • This would require doubling investments in agri-R&D, irrigation, rural infrastructure, and liberalising agri-markets, both domestic and foreign.  
    • The resources to do all this can be generated by rationalising various subsidies, especially food and fertiliser subsidies at the central level, and power subsidy at the state level.  
  • People have to move from low-productivity jobs to high-productivity jobs 
  • India needs to invest heavily in the education and skill development of rural people to build new cities and undertake massive construction activities like homes, hotels, hospitals and schools.  
    • Urbanisation experts remind us that almost 75 percent of New India is yet to be built.  
    • It will require new skills and millions of people will have to move from rural areas to build New India.  
    • It will be accompanied by high-productivity jobs in manufacturing and services.  
    • China followed this developmental pathway. If India has to grow on a sustainable basis, it may have to follow a similar path with Indian characteristics.  

The only visible challenge to this seems to be our competitive populism in politics in the run-up to elections. The promised freebies are nothing short of a “bribe for votes”. The Supreme Court and/or Election Commission need to check these freebie promises to ensure meaningful democracy. 



Keywords: GS Paper-3: Monetary Policy; Fiscal Policy.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Can AI be ethical and moral?

Exam View: Use of AI in governance; Ethical challenges; Categories of machine agents. 

Context: Programming ethics into machines is complex, and the world must proceed cautiously with Artificial Intelligence 

Decoding the editorial: Use of AI in governance 

  • Increasingly, machines and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are assisting humans in decision-making, particularly in governance 
  • Several countries are introducing AI regulations 
  • Government agencies and policymakers are leveraging AI-powered tools to analyse complex patterns, forecast future scenarios, and provide more informed recommendations. 
  • In some countries, decision-making algorithms are even being used to determine the beneficiaries of social sector schemes


  • Programming ethics into a machine and AI is even more complex. 

Ethical challenges 

  • Inherent challenges in translating human moral complexity into algorithmic form: 
    • Isaac Asimov’s ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ were designed to govern robotic behaviour, aiming for ethical actions, but within Asimov’s fictional world, the laws lead to unexpected and often paradoxical outcomes.  
    • The attempts to codify ethics into rules, whether for robots or complex AI-driven governmental decision-making, reveal the inherent challenges in translating human moral complexity into algorithmic form.  
  • Threat to the capacity for moral reasoning:  
    • Immanuel Kant’s ethical philosophy emphasises autonomy, rationality, and the moral duty of individuals.  
    • Applying Kantian ethics to the use of AI in decision-making within governance could lead to serious concerns.  
    • If decisions that were once the purview of humans are delegated to algorithms, it could threaten the capacity for moral reasoning.  
    • The person or institution using AI could be considered to be abdicating their moral responsibility.  
  • Skewed or unjust outcomes: 
    • The biases inherent in AI are often a reflection of the biases in the data they are trained on or the perspectives of their developers.  
    • It can represent a significant challenge in the integration of AI into governance.  

Despite this, it is inevitable that AI would be used in governance decisions.  

Categories of machine agents 

  • In Moore’s 2006 classification, four categories of machine agents relating to ethics are defined.  
    • Ethical impact agents: machines with ethical consequences, like robot jockeys, which don’t make ethical decisions but pose ethical considerations, such as altering the sport’s dynamics.  
    • Implicit ethical agents: machines with embedded safety or ethical guidelines, such as a safe autopilot system in planes, which follow set rules without actively deciding what is ethical.  
    • Explicit ethical agents: machines which go beyond set rules, using formal methods to estimate the ethical value of options, like systems that balance financial investments with social responsibility.  
    • Full ethical agents: machines which are capable of making and justifying ethical judgments, including reasonable explanations. An adult human is a full ethical agent, and so would be an advanced AI with a similar understanding of ethics. 
  • A wide body of literature suggests that machines can, in some sense, be ethical agents responsible for their actions, or autonomous moral agents (AMAs) 
  • It is not that easy to create AMAs, especially the third and fourth because: 
    • A peer-reviewed paper published in Science and Engineering Ethics found that from a technological standpoint, artificial agents are still far from being able to replace human judgement in complex, unpredictable, or unclear ethical scenarios.  
    • Bounded ethicality:  
      • Hagendorf and Danks (2022) fed prompts to Delphi, a research prototype designed to model people’s moral judgments. 
      • They found that similar to humans, machines like Delphi may also engage in immoral behaviour if framed in a way that detaches ethical principles from the act itself.  
      • This suggests that human patterns of moral disengagement could translate into machine-bounded ethicality.  
      • Moral disengagement is a key aspect of bounded ethical decision-making, allowing people to act against their ethics without guilt through techniques like moral justifications. 

Eventually, governments would delegate a few rudimentary decisions to the machines. But there are several challenges that still need to be considered like who would be responsible for immoral or unethical decision making or the notion of punishing the AI system becomes problematic, as it lacks the ability to experience suffering or bear guilt.  



Keywords: GS Paper-3: Robotics, IT & Computers. GS Paper-4.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Caste has no Place in a Modern Democracy

Exam View: Caste-Based Discrimination; Safeguards against Caste-based discrimination; Relevant data. 

 Context: Political dispensation has little impact on crime rates, highlighting the need for effective prosecution to combat caste crimes. 

Decoding the editorial: Caste-Based Discrimination 

  • An enduring paradox of independent India has been crimes against Dalit communities. 
  • Despite the rising economic and political heft of caste-marginalized groups, violence against them spans the length and breadth of India. 
  • Regional specificities exist, as do differences in the strategies employed by various states to fight them.  
  • Any reboot of a national strategy to curb such cases will need to learn from these nuances.  

Safeguards against Caste-based Discrimination 

  • Constitutional Provisions: 
    • Article 15: The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. 
    • Article 16: No citizen shall be disqualified for any office under the State on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them. 
    • Article 335: Provides that the claims of the members of the SCs/STs shall be taken into account, along with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State. 
    • Article 330 and Article 332: Reservation of seats for SCs/STs in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies. 
  • Constitutional Bodies: 
    • National Commission for Scheduled Castes. 
    • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. 
  • Statutory Provision: 
    • Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018. 

Relevant data 

  • Madhya Pradesh (MP) had the highest crime rate against people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) in 2021.  
    • The state also had the highest crime rate against SCs in 2020, and was ranked second (behind Rajasthan) in 2019.  

    • The rate at which charge sheets were filed was higher in MP than in most Indian states. Its neighbour, Rajasthan, was far lower on this aspect, highlighting that state police needed to do a lot more. 
  • The data holds two takeaways.  
    • When it comes to crimes against Dalits, the political dispensation in power appears to have little impact 
      • MP was ruled by two different regimes in the past four years, but this appears to have had little impact on crime rates.  
      • There is no obvious correlation between administrations run by the BJP or the Congress, and a rise or dip in caste crimes.  
    • While states should strive to prevent such crimes, the least they can do is to effectively prosecute them (as MP has sought to).  

Caste crimes are a result of impunity and deep prejudice. If social attitudes are sedimented, governments have a duty to spur change by effectively prosecuting such crimes, underlining that in a democracy, caste bias has no space.  

Keywords: GS Paper – 1: Diversity of India; Poverty and Developmental Issues. GS Paper – 2: Welfare Schemes; Issues Relating to Development; Human Resource.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Nuh clashes

Exam View: Communal tension in the region; Classic pattern in the ways of the administration; Nuh: A study in unprofessional law enforcement. 

Context: Law enforcement agencies mishandled communal violence in Nuh, Haryana, showing bias and inadequate response. After the communal violence, Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been deployed in sector-57 near Tigra Village to maintain law & order, in Gurugram, India 

Decoding the editorial: Communal tensions in the region  

  • The protests against cow vigilantism only mounted after the brutal killing of Junaid and Nasir in Rajasthan’s Bhiwani district earlier this year.  
  • Many first information reports (FIRs) of mob violence against cow vigilante groups were registered. 
  • Most of the victims in these cases were Muslims; but the police inactivity in many of these cases fuelled a general impression that administrative action in these cases was not only inadequate but full of communal prejudice. 

Classic pattern in the ways of the administration  

  • The violence always initially begins as a clash between communities, but over time, morphs into a fight between the groups and the police.  
  • The riots break out in an apparently spontaneous moment, but, later, it transpires that preparations were going on for quite some time. 
  • Finally, at the end of the day, minority communities are left with the perception that the State did not do what it was supposed to do, or in some cases, did what was constitutionally inappropriate. 

Nuh: A study in unprofessional law enforcement 

  • The response and reaction in Nuh of Haryana’s police force, which is supposed to be better equipped than most other state forces in the country and is responsible for safeguarding law and order in regions of rapid economic growth, was found wanting.  
    • The first response of the administration was poorly planned and inadequate, and its subsequent inaction smacked of bias. 
  • Pre-planning failure: 
    • The usual police practice is to discourage any religious procession, especially in communally sensitive areas. Here, it was allowed 
    • For any procession, the timing, route, number of participants, slogans to be raised, or weapons to be carried, are meticulously documented. 

    • On occasions such as this, leaders of communities reach a certain understanding in the presence of police officers and magistrates and assure the local authorities to abide by it in writing.  
    • It is unclear if any such steps were taken in Nuh, where the police appeared to have been taken by surprise by the widespread use of firearms late into the night on the first day of violence. 
    • Also, provocative videos were in circulation for many days, without any response from the local authorities. 
  • Botched response 
    • Certain visuals appeared in which policemen were seen hurling stones. This is not unusual in the situation they were in.  
    • A large hostile mob was roughly 100 yards away from them and was pelting stones and other projectiles; with the police were two useless weapons, a cane and a gun.  
    • The hail of stones didn’t allow them to move closer, making their canes ineffective, and guns couldn’t be used against supposedly unarmed citizens.  
    • So, they responded by throwing back the stones, to keep the hooligans away.  
    • But there were other civilians seen in these visuals, standing next to the police and also throwing stones. Other videos showed both sides with guns. 
    • Many instances of mob violence of a communal nature start as a fight between Hindus and Muslims, but soon transform into a conflict between the police and Muslims. 
    • Some sections of the police, which should have played the role of neutral referees, instead become part of a warring group.  
    • Similarly, the role of the administration is also suspect. 

The violence in Nuh holds a lesson that we must learn urgently because such instances can throw a spanner in the works of making India into a $5 trillion economy.  



Keywords: GS Paper-1: Secularism; Communalism; Salient features of Indian Society.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

India’s hunger challenge

Exam View: India’s growth story; Way forward: Gender-led development. 

Context: Accelerating economic growth and making it more inclusive, coupled with an increase in farm productivity, can help end malnutrition 

Decoding the editorial: India’s growth story 

  • Reduction in poverty 
    • When India got freedom more than 80 percent of people were in extreme poverty, which today hovers around 15 percent as per MDPI and about 11 percent based on income criterion ($2.15 PPP). 
    • But the pace of reduction has been much faster since 2005-06 than at any time in the past. 
    • India seems to be on track to almost abolish poverty in the next five to 10 years. 
    • As per the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MDPI) by NITI Aayog, in the last five years, from 2015-16 to 2019-21, the government has lifted 135 million people out of poverty.  
    • As per the UNDP, India lifted 415 million people out of poverty (MDPI) over the period 2005-06 to 2019-21. 
  • Green Revolution  
    • It turned India from a “ship to mouth” economy to the largest exporter of rice.  
    • It has also enabled India to give free rice or wheat (5kg/month/person) to more than 800 million people under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, thus improving their economic access to basic staples.  
  • White Revolution  
    • It helped India emerge as the largest producer of milk (222 MT), with the US coming at number two with just 102 MT of milk production.  
  • Gene revolution in cotton 
    • It was triggered by the then PM’s decision in 2002 to introduce Bt cotton, making India the largest producer of cotton (39 million bales in 2013-14, up from just 13 million bales in 2002-03).  
  • Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation post-1991  
    • Its biggest achievement that can be seen today is in foreign exchange reserves that hover around $600 billion, up from a meagre $ 1.4 billion in July 1991.  
    • This has made the Indian economy much more resilient to any external shocks.  
    • In the absence of this, India could have been in a similar crisis as some of our neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 
  • Malnutrition is still on the table 
    • Although India made reasonably good progress in reducing infant mortality from 57 per 1,000 in 2005-06 to 35 per 1,000 in 2019-21, the progress on other indicators of malnutrition is not very satisfactory. 

    • On top of this, climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, from heat waves to flash floods, pose a big challenge not only to India’s food system but also poverty alleviation gains could reverse with these shocks. 

Way forward: Gender-led development  

  • Providing necessary skills to women. 
    • India is giving training to women in 15,000 self-help groups, and these women will fly drones for agriculture use.  
    • If implemented, India could be at the top rank in women-driven drones. 
  • Increasing women’s participation rate in our labour force (age group 15-59 years). 
    • It is pitiably low at about 30 percent (2021-22).  
  • Incentivise and improve the access and quality of education for women. 
    • This can be done through liberal scholarships, especially after 10th grade to Master’s level.  
    • This can give high returns, limiting family size and contributing significantly to the nation’s growth story.  
    • Research has found that women’s education beyond 12th grade is a key determinant of nutrition amongst children, as is access to better sanitation and more nutritious food. 
  • Improve productivity in agriculture while making food more nutritious and the food system more climate resilient 
    • This will require doubling or even tripling R&D expenditures in agriculture to make abundant food available at reasonably competitive prices.  
    • Putting export controls and stocking limits to push prices down is no solution.  
    • The Punjab Agriculture University which played a yeoman’s role in spreading the Green Revolution, and still ranks at the top, can be roped in to usher in a new revolution of sustainable growth and more nutritious food in agriculture. 



Keywords: GS Paper-2: Issues related to women; Social empowerment; Gender; Government policies and interventions.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Big concerns over big cats

Exam View: Tiger Survey; Karnataka’s tiger population; The growth is skewed; Challenges in Karnataka. 

Context: Tiger numbers and density are high in Bandipur and Nagarahole in Karnataka. An increase in the tiger population could escalate the man-animal conflict. 

Background: Tiger Survey 

  • The latest survey on tiger population have been published by  
    • the Karnataka Forest Department, based on camera trap images, and  
    • the all-India figures published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), based on direct and indirect evidence apart from camera trap images.  
  • These figures indicate that the number of big cats has grown in Karnataka.  

  • According to the NTCA status report, Karnataka has the second highest number of tigers (563) after Madhya Pradesh (785).  

Decoding the editorial: Karnataka’s tiger population 

The growth is skewed 

  • The Bandipur and Nagarahole reserves together account for 290 out of the 563 tigers in the State. 
  • In the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, tigers have been protected ever since the inception of Project Tiger 50 years ago. 
  • Bandipur was brought under protection by the maharajas as early as in 1941 when 800 sq km of forest was designated as the Venugopal Wildlife Park.  
  • Nagarahole, too, has enjoyed such protection since the 1950s.  

Challenges in Karnataka 

  • High prey base: Some argue that a high prey base will reduce the range of the resident tigers and their propensity to stray into human habitats.  
    • Experts have cautioned against artificial intervention or habitat manipulation in order to augment the population of tiger prey 
    • They say that an increase in tiger density beyond the carrying capacity of the habitat could adversely impact the population of other co-predators such as leopards and dholes, which are equally important to conserve. 
  • Man-animal conflict: Any further increase in the tiger population may escalate the man-animal conflict, which is especially high in habitats with elephants.  
    • Local communities in these habitats suffer crop damages (by elephants) and human deaths (due to tiger and elephant attacks). 
  • Threat to livestock: There are 136 villages in a radius of 1 km around Bandipur and nearly as many villages around Nagarahole with a large livestock population.  
    • Livestock are easy prey for tigers lurking in the forest fringes.  
  • Strengthening corridor: This is another long-term challenge in Karnataka.  
    • Protecting potential tiger habitats with low densities and strengthening corridor connectivity will facilitate the dispersal of tigers in ranges where the forests are contiguous.  
    • Case in point: The Malai Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuary 
      • It is spread over 906.18 sq km and is said to be ideal as a sink to absorb the surplus tiger population.  
      • This sanctuary was mooted as a tiger reserve.  
      • The Malai Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is linked to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka to its north and east, the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu to its south, and the BRT Tiger Reserve in Karnataka to its west. 
      • It is therefore considered vital for securing the future of tigers in the State.  
      • The NTCA supported the proposal on the grounds that additional inviolate space could be created for the dispersal of both tigers and prey.  
      • But political compulsions before the Karnataka Assembly elections forced the Bharatiya Janata Party government to put the proposal on hold. 

Providing a viable wildlife habitat and creating additional space for tigers calls for ensuring strict implementation of Eco Sensitive Zone rules, reducing anthropogenic pressure on existing habitats, taking the local populace into confidence and allaying their fears of displacement. All of this requires both political and administrative will.  


Keywords: GS Paper-3: Conservation
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Net zero lessons from Bhutan

Exam view: Net Zero Emissions; UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France; Stupendous achievements of tiny countries; Case study of Bhutan. 

Context: Forests are part of Bhutan’s sacred cultural heritage, and the government follows a climate-smart forest economy. 

Decoding the editorial: Net Zero Emissions 

  • The World Economic Forum reported in December last year that eight countries, Bhutan, Comoros, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Niue, Panama, and Suriname, had reached net zero emissions, as per collated research from Energy Monitor.  
  • This meant that these eight countries had become carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than they emitted. 
  • Bhutan’s forests may be small, but they are in no way insignificant.  

UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in France  

  • In 2015, 196 Parties entered into the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.  
  • The goal of the agreement was to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  

  • Yet, according to research, by 2030, the world will still be emitting 50 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions growing rapidly. 

Stupendous achievements of tiny countries 

All these countries are committed to sustainability and have strict environmental protection policies in place.  

  • Comoros, in the Indian Ocean, is a poor and densely populated country, yet it has low emissions from agriculture, fishing, and rearing livestock and follows strict environmental protection policies.  
  • Madagascar’s economy, too, is that of agriculture and fishing.  
    • However, large-scale deforestation might change all this.  
  • Gabon, in Central Africa, is fortunate to be blessed with the Congo rainforests, which act as a carbon sink.  
    • It is committed to non-deforestation and sustainable management of its natural resources.  
    • The UN has even called Gabon a model of environmental conservation.  
  • Guyana, on the northern coast of South America, is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, another carbon sink. And so is the small Amazon nation of Suriname 
  • Niue, in the South Pacific Ocean, has a small population, and fishing, agriculture, and tourism are its main economies.  
  • Panama, another net zero emitter, is blessed with rainforests and has a low population.  
    • The government here plans to reforest 50,000 hectares of land by 2050. 

Case study of Bhutan 

  • According to media reports, Bhutan charges a $200 sustainable development fee per day to tourists, doubling the cost for visitors.  
    • A small price to pay for eco-tourism and protecting the environment.  
  • It has protected natural parks and runs on hydropower, and tourism is its main economic activity.  
  • With a population of 800,000 and 70 percent of its land covered by forests, Bhutan practises sustainable organic farming and forestry 
  • It is the first nation in the world to reach net zero emissions 
  • Forests are part of Bhutan’s sacred cultural heritage, and the government follows a climate-smart forest economy.  
  • Smart forest management helps minimise GHG emissions, encourage wildlife, limit forest fires, and sustainably manage forest produce for wood, fruit, and rubber, thus creating a circular economy.  
  • Bhutan’s forests had shrunk to 60% in 1990 due to excessive logging, but with strict laws and a systemic crackdown on illegal timber operations, forest coverage grew to 71% in just a decade.  
    • The country has launched a few pilot projects as a testbed for sustainable timber construction solutions. 
  • There are challenges of maintaining a climate-smart forest economy, especially when demand outstrips supply.  
    • There’s a danger of degradation and deforestation, as has happened to some of the rainforest nations earlier.  

In India, Sikkim aims to become carbon negative with the initiative of planting 100 saplings for every newborn. A Forest Department study stated that 112 government schools in Chandigarh had become carbon negative as part of an effort to make Chandigarh carbon neutral by 2030. 



Keywords: GS Paper-3: Environmental pollution & degradation.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Climate change and women in agriculture

Exam View: Climate Change; Women’s role in agriculture; Climate Change’s impacts on women; Way forward. 

Context: Women constitute a significant force in global agriculture, accounting for around 43 percent of agricultural labourers. Changing weather patterns and extreme events deeply impact women’s roles in agriculture 

Decoding the editorial:  

Climate Change 

  • Its roots lie in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from activities such as fossil fuel combustion and deforestation.  
  • Its far-reaching effects disrupt ecosystems, with agriculture being especially vulnerable.  

  • Altered precipitation patterns, shifting growing seasons, and increased extreme weather events challenge established farming practices and livelihoods. 

Women’s role in agriculture 

  • In countries like India, where subsistence farming is prominent, women constitute 33 percent of the workforce and nearly half of self-employed farmers.  
  • Their roles span from crop cultivation and livestock rearing to food processing and marketing.  
  • Despite these vital contributions, women grapple with barriers such as cultural norms, limited resource access, and unequal decision-making power. 
  • Changing weather patterns and extreme events deeply impact women’s roles in agriculture.  

Climate Change’s impacts on women 

  • Decreased productivity: 
    • Variability in rainfall and prolonged droughts lead to reduced crop yields, jeopardising food security for farming-dependent households.  
    • Floods and extreme weather events can devastate crops and infrastructure, compelling women to prioritise family care and alternative income generation.  
    • This potential shift away from farming can contribute to decreased agricultural productivity, as women have traditionally been integral to on-farm operations. 
  • Reduced incomes: 
    • The economic implications of climate change for women in agriculture are substantial.  
    • Diminished crop yields translate to reduced incomes. 
  • Increasing gender inequalities: 
    • Diminished incomes exacerbate existing gender inequalities.  
  • Discriminatory cultural dynamics: 
    • Climate change also influences cultural dynamics and gender roles within agricultural communities. 
    • Cultural norms and discriminatory practices hinder women’s access to land ownership, a critical asset in agriculture.  
    • Women’s lack of control over assets restricts their access to credit, loans, and insurance, rendering them vulnerable to climate-induced losses. 
  • Disproportionate effects of water scarcity:


    • Water scarcity, a climate change consequence, disproportionately affects women who often bear the responsibility of water collection. 

 Way forward 

Women’s expanded responsibilities can challenge traditional norms, leading to shifts in perceptions of their roles.  

    • Women farmers need to adopt adaptive strategies, including income diversification and cultivating climate-resilient crops.  
    • These strategies enhance their resilience in the face of the evolving agricultural landscape. 
    • Recognising women’s unique challenges in agriculture, gender-responsive policies are pivotal for effective adaptation.  
    • Governments and organisations must ensure equal resource access, credit availability, and decision-making power for women.  
    • Land tenure reforms that prioritise women’s rights and insurance mechanisms tailored to their needs can bolster resilience against climate-induced risks. 

In conclusion, the intricate relationship between climate change and women in agriculture demands a comprehensive approach to adaptation. Women’s vulnerabilities underscore the need to address their specific challenges.  



Keywords: GS Paper-2: Issues related to women; Gender. GS Paper-3: Environmental pollution and degradation.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Himalayan blunders

Exam View: Incidents of disaster in the Himalayas; The Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna of 2016; Unanswered questions, violations; Saving the Gangotri, need for regulation. 

Context: India’s Himalayan region is being destroyed by greed outstripping the need along with manipulative political, bureaucratic and real estate lobbies. 

Decoding the editorial: Incidents of disaster in the Himalayas 

  • Blocked roads after a landslide at Chamoli 
  • Sinking in Joshimath in Uttarakhand,  
  • Road caving in Chamba in Himachal,  
  • Accidents on the Char Dham routes, and  
  • Deaths on the all-weather road

The Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna of 2016 

  • It has destroyed natural resources. 
    • The project has claimed lakhs of trees and acres of forest land, many human and animal lives, and also the fertile topsoil of the fragile Himalaya.  
    • The tons of muck generated have choked water sources. 
    • The dense forests around Chamba, Agrakhal Maletha, Shivpuri, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Agustmuni, Karnaprayag and Kund (all Uttarakhand) and other such lush green sites are vanishing.  
      • Only one pristine patch, i.e., the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone (BESZ), remains. 
  • A massive infrastructure project of road widening to double-laning with a paved shoulder (DLPS) design. 
  • It has become infamous for bypassing the rules. 
    • By law, a project of more than 100 km needs environmental clearance.  
    • But ambitious projects for tourism and plans that are the result of election agendas are time bound.  
    • The mandatory and detailed EIA was not done. 
      • This massive project was broken up into 53 small projects, each less than 100 km long, thus by-passing environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements. 
      • BESZ has the only natural free flow that is left of the Ganga river and was declared a protected site in December 2012 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.  
      • This stretch of approximately 100 km could not be touched by the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna project without an approved zonal master plan (ZMP) and a detailed EIA. 
    • To facilitate the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna, the ZMP was given hasty approval, negating the directions of even the Supreme Court of India.  
    • The BESZ monitoring committee’s approval was overseen by most of the State officials on the committee without any discussion or suggestions being made. 
    • Before the monsoons, the Uttarakhand government increased the carrying capacity of all the Char Dhams. 
      • The carrying capacity for the Gangotri shrine (i.e., BESZ) was increased to 9,000 passenger carrying units per day even though the BESZ notification calls for a “regulation of vehicular traffic”.  
      • Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the Chardham shrines of Uttarakhand are already overburdened. 

Unanswered questions, violations 

  • By widening hill roads to DLPS alignment, the Ministry of Road Transport is only contradicting its own notification.  
    • It states the challenges that come to the fore in adhering to the DLPS standards in the context of national highways and roads in hilly and mountainous terrains.  
    • These challenges arise on account of destabilisation of hill slopes and progressive damaging effects on road alignments and structures.  
    • It goes on to recommend the carriageway width shall be of intermediate lane configurations.  
  • The Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice R. Nariman reprimanded the Ministry and directed implementation of its own notification “prospectively and retrospectively” in September 2020.  
    • The government produced the reason of “national security” even though when the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna was announced, only the core reason of “faster” movement of vehicular traffic was stated. 
  • Eventually, a Bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in December 2021 permitted the government to do whatever it desired. 

Saving the Gangotri, need for regulation 

  • Conservation of the Gangotri glacier  
    • It is one of the most challenging issues for the Ganga’s rejuvenation  
    • The Gangotri glacier is the fastest receding glacier.  
    • With an increase in vehicular movement and episodes of forest fires, black carbon deposits are rising on the glacier, escalating its melting.  
  • Tailored fit approach 
    • For such sensitive regions, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change has pointed out to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that a one size fits all approach to environment clearance should not be followed. 
    • Ecologically sensitive areas of the country require a more meticulous approach with the only aim of furthering the environmental interests rather than economic interest.


Keywords: GS Paper-3: Conservation; environmental pollution and degradation; environmental impact assessment.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Perils of Unplanned Urbanization

Exam View: Urban Flooding; Loss of water bodies; Way forward; Case study: Mangalore; Case study: Kaikondrahalli Lake in Bengaluru. 

Context: In the past few weeks, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai have been flooded. Other major cities like Hyderabad (in 2000), Srinagar (in 2014), Chennai (in 2021) and Bengaluru (in 2022) have also seen some areas being submerged during heavy rainfall.  

Decoding the editorial: Urban Flooding 

Loss of water bodies 

  • Most Indian cities are situated beside a river, with extensive floodplains and wetlands. In an ideal world, such areas would have been left untouched.  
  • Instead, India has lost 40 percent of its wetlands in the past 30 years.  
  • Delhi had 1,000 waterbodies in 1997, but now has just 700. With such a loss of natural “blue infrastructure”, flooding risks have increased.  

Way forward 

Cities must take lead on climate change, rather than simply reacting to untoward events.  

  • Urban planning has to improve. 
    • In Delhi, a range of civic agencies manage the city’s drains, leading to coordination challenges.  
    • The DDA, Delhi Jal Board, Public Works Department, and municipal corporations, all regulate water bodies in Delhi. 
    • Coordination between agencies must improve.  
  • Revamping and expanding drainage and stormwater networks across cities is needed. 
    • Existing pipelines need to be surveyed (whether drain or stormwater), and water-logging locations identified.  
  • Investments in city-wide databases that enable the provision of immediate relief in the event of a flooding-related disaster. 
  • Investments needs to be done in early warning systems (including Doppler radar). 
    • Local rainfall data can be integrated with the Central Water Commission and regional flood control efforts. 
  • Short, medium and long-term measures to rejuvenate water bodies  
    • Studies must be conducted in all cities to understand the catchment area and flooding risk associated with urban water bodies and land use.  
    • Lake and river management plans should be defined and include the participation of the local citizenry in upkeep and a push to remove encroachments. 
    • Geographic information systems (GIS) may be used to tag local water bodies, to help keep track of encroachments and understand their seasonality. 
  • Awareness about wetland/water body conservation must be improved.  
    • The Wetland Authority of Delhi recently received requests to delist waterbodies from institutions like the Delhi Development Authority, highlighting limited awareness.  
  • A well-defined urban water policy must be prepared.  
  • Regulatory bodies like the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority can be granted statutory powers, while participation of local communities is welcome. 
  • Civic participation must be encouraged. 

Case study: Mangalore 

  • Until the mid-2000s, in Mangalore, wastewater from urban consumption would flow through open drains and into the city’s water bodies, polluting the freshwater sources.  
  • The Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) established wastewater treatment plants and offered to supply treated effluent to Mangalore Special Economic Zone Ltd (MSEZL) to meet its industrial need, with MSEZL-based private players pitching in with sourcing for 70 percent of operations and maintenance costs of the pumps and the sewage treatment plant.  

Case study: Kaikondrahalli Lake in Bengaluru  

  • It suffered from severe sewage inflow, with silting and land formation due to eutrophication.  
  • Meanwhile, encroachment on the lake bed was a cause for concern, along with the dumping of debris and waste.  
  • BBMP sought to adopt a community-driven approach to reviving the lake in a phased manner as funds came by. 
  • Encroachers were served eviction notices, and the lake was secured.  
  • Sewage inflow was diverted away via a tapping pipeline.  
  • De-silting of the lake was conducted. 
  • Further restoration was carried out by developing inlets and outlets for the lake and creating embankments and a pathway around the waterbody.  
  • The original DPR was rather engineering-focused, pushing for creating gardens and fencing off the lake from the local underprivileged communities.  
  • Citizen engagement ensured that the DPR was modified, with a push for improving the local ecology, instead of mere aesthetics.  


Keywords: GS Paper-3: Disaster Management.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Rural poverty declines, but lifestyle issues emerge

Exam View: NITI Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI); Points of concern. 

Context: The rural economy is looking up, but substance abuse, addiction to social media and waste disposal have become areas of concern. 

NITI Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 

  • It captures the progress of the country in three equally weighted dimensions 
    • health,  
    • education and  
    • standard of living.  
  • The Progress Review 2023 reveals a steep decline in the proportion of population in multidimensional poverty, from 24.85 percent to 14.96 percent between 2015-16 and 2019-21.  
    • This means that about 135.5 million persons have exited poverty between 2015-16 and 2019-21. 
  • The Intensity of Poverty (extreme poverty in common parlance) has also reduced from 47.14 percent to 44.39 percent.  
  • Scenes from aspirational villages of Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh  

    • In rural areas, the number of ‘pucca’ or semi-pucca houses has increased manifold.  
    • Almost everyone has a cellphone, mostly smart ones.  
    • Motorbike, and not the bicycle, is the most common means of transport.  
    • Village shops are well stocked with consumer goods of various brands.  
    • Girls are going to schools, and no marriage happens without DJ systems and videography.  
  • These changes are welcome and corroborate the facts pointed out in the Review, that the incidence of poverty fell from 32.59 percent to 19.28 percent in rural areas between 2015-16 and 2019-21.  
  • However, there are certain concerns which need deliberations. 

Points of concern 

  • Addiction to tobacco/gutka/liquor is on rise.  
    • Unfortunately, there are hardly any villages where liquor is not available, legally or illegally.  
    • This is having an adverse impact on people’s ability to work. 
  • Acute shortage of labour.  
    • Large scale migration from rural areas to urban or semi-urban areas is creating ghost villages. 
    • Farming, especially vegetable cultivation, takes a hit because of labour shortage.  
    • Farmers seem to be losing interest in agriculture and more and more land is coming under ‘lease’ arrangement, which often results in lesser investment and hence, lesser productivity.  
  • Addiction to the ‘phone’.  
    • People of all ages are spending a huge part of their day on various social media apps.  
    • It is taking a serious toll on physical and mental health of the rural populace, damaging the social fabric in villages and resulting in crimes against women and Scheduled Castes.  
    • This is also leading to various misinformation campaigns and spreading of ‘afwaah’ at times. 
  • Cleanliness and hygiene.  
    • The Swacch Bharat Mission has resulted in the building of toilets in homes, but filth and squalor in common areas of villages continue to be an issue.  
    • Disposal of waste is still at a nascent stage in villages. 

More employment opportunities near villages, curbing the availability of tobacco products and liquor, awareness campaigns on the ill-effects of spending too much time on the Internet, and launching of Swachh Abhiyan 2.0 with focus on waste management at the village level could be the way forward. It is time to move forward on the social front also and work on personal lifestyle aspects of the people to make economic upliftment more wholesome and meaningful. 



Keywords: GS Paper-2: Human Resource. GS Paper-3: Poverty; Growth & Development; Inclusive growth.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Seeds for growth

Exam View: Indian agriculture; Challenges; The Indian seed industry; Seed Technology. 

Context: New seed technologies supported by scientific validation and enabling regulatory mechanisms offer significant advantages for sustainable agriculture at little additional cost. 

Decoding the editorial: Indian agriculture  


  • Coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds, and vegetables  
    • The demand for these has not fully been met. 
    • They are not affordable for a large part of the population. 
    • All this has led to a high proportion of the under or malnourished population, with a sizable percentage of child wasting (19.3 percent). 
  • Increasing profitability in agriculture. 
  • Increasing share of exports in the world market. 
  • Closing the gap between potential and achievable productivity in most grain crops and vegetables. 
  • Reducing the cost of production. 
  • Promoting cultivation and consumption of nutritionally-rich crops like millets 
  • Focusing on the quality of the agricultural produce. 
  • Depleting natural resources, a burgeoning population, extreme weather conditions and natural disasters because of climate change. 

The Indian seed industry  

  • The focus of the seed industry should be: 
    • To promote varieties and technologies to combat the serious threats posed by climate change.  
    • To effectively utilise every available technology including traditional knowledge in agriculture. 

Seed Technology 

  • R&D efforts of the public and private sectors can complement each other in developing environment-friendly, better-performing seeds at affordable costs. 
    • The cost of seed is typically ~3 to 6 percent of the total cost of production, though it can contribute up to 15-20 percent yield advantage over and above the genetic potential under different cultivation conditions.  
    • The use of farm-saved seed, which was estimated to be >60 percent even a decade ago, is reducing considerably.  
    • An encouraging trend of public-private partnership (through licensing agreements) has emerged in the last 10 to 15 years 
    • This has improved both Variety Replacement Rates (VRR) and Seed Replacement Rates (SRR) in field crops and vegetables (ISC, 2023).  
    • In this scenario, sustainable seed technologies, available with the private sector can further boost the planting value of seeds.  
  • Crop variety development will become faster and more precise in the coming years by using technologies. These technologies would comprise:  
    • Genetic manipulation in variety development, subject to regulatory compliances. 
    • Priming or physiological advancement protocols 
      • These are especially beneficial in agro-eco-regions that frequently experience moisture, temperature, and other abiotic stressors, or are prone to diseases and pest damages. 
      • Such treatments can work independently or complement the genotype of the seed in a manner that enhances its overall performance. 
    • Film coating, pelleting with or without active formulations 
      • Incorporation of pesticide formulations through film coating on seed can reduce the amount and cost substantially and provide better protection during germination and vegetative growth stages. 
    • Seed treatments with biologicals, or chemical pesticides having contact or systemic mode of action. 
    • Bio-stimulants and nutrients for higher germination and faster seedling establishment. 
    • Incorporation of AI responsive sensors/substances in seed to help modulate plant responses to external stimuli; and  
    • Production of “clean and green” planting materials in horticultural crops. 
  • Supportive regulatory guidelines will go a long way in the adoption and popularisation of seed technologies.  
    • “Next Gen” technologies may also introduce AI-based responses from seeds, which will require appropriate guidelines for application. 
    • The Fertiliser (Inorganic, Organic or Mixed) (Control Order, 1985, has been amended to Fertiliser (Inorganic, Organic or Mixed) (Control) Amendment Order, 2021 now includes bio-stimulants, which is an important component in seed-enhancement technology. 
    • Modifications are needed to include coated/pellet seed under the Certified Seed (CS) category. 
      • At present coated seeds can be sold only as Truthfully labelled (TL) seed. 
    • New seed technologies supported by scientific validation and enabling regulatory mechanisms offer significant advantages for sustainable agriculture at little additional cost. 
    • A robust regulatory mechanism covering quality seedlings and planting materials is needed under the newly proposed “Clean Green Mission” by the Government of India as part of its G20 commitment to “Green Development” 

The Indian government, quite rightly, is promoting technology-enabled sustainable farming, including natural, regenerative and organic systems, during its G20 presidency. 



Keywords: GS Paper-2: Government policies & interventions. GS Paper-3: Food security; E-technology in the aid of farmers.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Geo-economics in a new age of geopolitics

Exam view: Use of rupee for international payments; Challenges; Agreements in the past; A new financial architecture. 

Context: Currencies of the South are ready to replace the hegemonic order enjoyed by currencies of the North. That India is a favoured trading partner, has been quite evident, since March 2018 when 23 advanced and developing countries agreed to have currency swap arrangements with India. 

Decoding the editorial:  

Use of rupee for international payments 

  • Russia-India agreement 
    • When it comes to the modalities, payments from either India or Russia now go to the Rupee Vostro accounts, opened in Russian banks by the authorised dealer banks in India, which take care of settling payments between the two countries.  
    • An alternative route was chosen to settle payments between India and Russia by using the Indian rupee in transactions related to trade between the two countries. 

    • The Ukraine-Russia war began in early 2022 led to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Russia.  
  • Rupee-Dirham agreement  
    • It is meant to cover transactions in trade, remittances and capital flows.  
    • The process will help to avoid exchange risks for both trade partners and save, for India, dollar payments for its imports of crude oil and minerals from the UAE.  
    • In addition the agreement provides for interlinking their payment and messaging systems 
    • It makes for quick and cost-effective transfers of money for an estimated 3.5 million Indian community in the UAE, an 18% share in terms of the total remittance flows into India.  
  • Negotiations are on with Indonesia to launch a similar agreement using the rupiah for transactions with India. 


  • Russia continuing with a trade surplus 
    • The sum in 2020-21 amounted to $3.42 billion, followed by similar surpluses in the following years.  
    • Russia is reluctant to hold more of the Indian rupee as an asset in the Vostro account. 
    • The sanctions prevent some Russian banks from making or receiving international payments using SWIFT. 
  • The rupee has a low rank in the global currency hierarchy 
    • It may be subject to depreciation. 
  • Arranging for payments on Russia’s reluctance 
    • The options were few, with the dollar or the Euro not permissible or by purchasing the rouble at an exchange rate which is too volatile in the market.  
    • Indian refiners for instance have settled some payments for Russian oil imports using the Chinese yuan, which seems to be acceptable to Russia.


      • This is in the backdrop of Russia selling oil to China and accepting yuan payments. 

Agreements in the past  

  • India had initiated similar bilateral trade and clearing arrangements in the 1950s.  
  • This was a major tool used in conducting trade with the former Soviet Union and countries in the Soviet bloc.  
  • It began in the 1950s, with the Soviet Union setting up a steel plant in Bhilai, defying the opposition from western nations.  
  • Problems similar to concerns now  
    • The choice of a suitable currency to settle trade surpluses when the Soviet Union began having trade surpluses on a consistent basis.  
    • The floating of the dollar in 1971 led to a turmoil in the currency market.  
    • The Balkanisation of the former Soviet Union left Russia standing separate.  
  • The India-Soviet Agreement had a natural ending at that stage. 

A new financial architecture 

  • Problems in the past, in settling payments on trade surpluses relate to a different geopolitical scenario if one compares the situation prevalent now.  
    • While the purchase of the yuan to settle Russian surpluses in the prevailing rupee account is currently approved as a convenient step by Russia, there is a history of opposition, in the context of BRICS, to similar use of the Chinese currency by the non-Chinese members of BRICS. 
  • The Indian rupee, the Russian rouble, China’s yuan, the UAE’s dirham and even Indonesia’s rupiah share the common goal of local currency transactions. 
  • There is a visible geo-economic and political turn with countries in the South getting ready to trade and settle their payments with one another without the use of the hegemonic currencies from the advanced economies in the North. 
  • The set up will also avoid seeking the help of institutions in the advanced countries, which include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as private capital.  



Keywords: GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions; Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests. GS Paper – 3: Inclusive Growth; Role of External State & Non-State Actors
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Consumption-based poverty estimates

Exam view: Status of poverty in India; The estimates of poverty based on multidimensional indicators; The estimates of poverty based on consumer expenditure. 

Context: A recent report by NITI Aayog on multidimensional poverty shows that the percentage of the poor has gone down but these estimates are not substitutes for National Sample Survey consumption-based poverty ratios. 

Decoding the editorial: Status of poverty in India 

  • The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report of 2018 by UNDP and OPHI 
    • The incidence of multidimensional poverty was almost halved between 2005/06 and 2015/16, climbing down to 27.5 percent.  
    • Thus, within ten years, the number of poor people in India fell by more than 271 million. 
  • The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index report of 2023


    • The incidence of the multidimensional poverty index declined from 27.5% in 2015-16 to 16.2% in 2019-21. 

The estimates of poverty based on multidimensional indicators 

  • Aggregation 
    • In principle, indicators should be independent.  
      • For example: Access to safe drinking water, cannot be aggregated with indicators such as child mortality.  
    • Even in respect of independent indicators, analytically appropriate rules of aggregation require that all of them relate to the same household. This requirement poses data constraints. 
      • For example, there is a problem with the child mortality indicator as it is for population groups and not for households. 
  • The search for non-income dimensions of poverty stems from a view that in terms of the capabilities approach to the concept and measurement of poverty, some of these ‘capabilities’ may not be tightly linked to the privately purchased consumption basket in terms of which the poverty lines are currently drawn.  
  • As per the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Measuring Poverty (2014), these measures raise several issues regarding their  
    • measurability,  
    • aggregation across indicators, and 
    • databases that provide the requisite information at reasonably short intervals. 
  • Converting all of them into an index poses several problems.  
    • The Human Development Index pioneered by the United Nations Development Programme is an example of an arbitrarily weighted sum of non-commensurate indexes.  
  • The non-income indicators of poverty are reflections of inadequate income.  
    • Defining poverty in terms of income or in the absence of such data in terms of expenditure seems most appropriate, and it is this method which is followed in most countries. 

The estimates of poverty based on consumer expenditure  

  • The Tendulkar committee methodology: The number of poor came down by 137 million over a seven-year period between 2004-05 and 2011-12, despite an increase in population. 
  • The Rangarajan Committee methodology: The decline between 2009-10 and 2011-12 is 92 million, which is 46 million per annum. 


    • In absolute terms, the poverty ratios based on the Tendulkar and Rangarajan Committee methodologies are lower than as estimated by global MPI. 
  • Issues 
    • There is no official data on consumer expenditure after 2011-12 to make a comparison with trends in the multidimensional poverty index.  
    • The survey data on consumption expenditures done in 2017-18 have not been released officially.  
    • In the absence of such data, there have been several studies on poverty using indirect methods and using the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) data sources, and they have come up with differing conclusions. 
    • The widening differences in aggregate consumption estimates between National Accounts Statistics (NAS) and NSS data 
      • These two estimates of consumption (NSS and NAS) do not match in any country.  
      • However, the difference in India between the NSS and the NAS consumption has widened from less than 10% in the late 1970s, to 53.1% in 2011-12, i.e., the Survey Estimate is only 46.9% of NAS estimates.  
      • The National Statistical Office must study the problem and come out with possible suggestions to improve the collection of data through both routes. 
    • There is a need to supplement the results of consumption surveys with a study of the impact of public expenditure on health and education of different expenditure classes. 



Keywords: GS Paper-3: Poverty
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Minimum Support Price Hike

Exam View: NITI Aayog’s stand; Stand of various departments; Agriculture Ministry’s rationale. 

Context: The Cabinet approved the increase in MSP ranging from 6 percent to 10 percent by stating that the increase was in line with the Union Budget 2018-19 announcement of fixing MSP at a level of at least 1.5 times the cost of production. 

Decoding the editorial:  

NITI Aayog’s stand 

  • The cabinet note, in most cases, keeps prices at 1.5 times the projected cost for kharif season 2023-24.  
  • Niti Aayog stated that if this much increase is given to MSP, it will be very difficult to keep food inflation in the stipulated range of 4-6 percent, which is very important for macro-economic stability. 
  • It implies that a 6 to 10 percent increase in MSP is based on the same percent increase in cost of production. 
  • According to Niti Aayog, actual data on some of the cost items shows that  
    • The real wages in agriculture are not rising. 
    • The increase in price of urea has been absorbed by the Government of India by increasing subsidies. 
    • The increase in price of diesel is also expected to be small between 2022-23 and 2023-24.  
  • Therefore, there is a need for close examination of projected cost which has necessitated 6 to 10 percent increase in MSP. 
  • It also said that the Ministry and CACP should collaborate to verify the on-ground situation at the state level regarding the effects of both price and non-price recommendations. 

 Stand of various departments 

  • The Department of Commerce highlighted the need to adhere to the World Trade Organisation’s clause that subsidies should not go beyond the prescribed limit.  
    • As per WTO’s AoA (Agreement on Agriculture), Market Price Support (MSP, in case of India) is required to be notified to the WTO.  
    • Further, it needs to be ensured that product and non-product specific support is within the de-minimis limit, that is, 10% of the value of the production. 
    • Procurement under MSP should not be open-ended and predetermined targets should be specified simultaneously. 
  • The Investment and Price Support division of the Ministry of Agriculture stated that there will be a financial implication of Rs 126.99 crore due to higher MSP. 
  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution supported the proposal. 
    • However, it also said that the additional financial burden as a result of increase in MSP of paddy for kharif marketing season (KMS) 2023-24 will be Rs 13,819.80 crore and total implication will be Rs 2,12,907.60 crore. 
  • The Department of Expenditure supported the CACP recommendations, but said the price increase in crops should be accompanied by implementation of key non-price recommendations. 
  • According to CACP, labour shortage and rising wages are key concerns in Indian agriculture. Key strategy: 
    • Farm mechanisation could overcome labour shortages.  
    • Collective ownership of machinery through self-help groups, cooperative societies, custom hiring centres, etc could make high-cost farm machinery and implements affordable.  
    • Supply side bottlenecks such as storage, warehouse infrastructure and transportation should be addressed in a mission mode. 

Agriculture Ministry’s rationale 

  • Response to the department of expenditure:  
    • For promotion of agricultural mechanisation in the country, a centrally sponsored scheme, ‘Sub-mission on Agricultural Mechanisation’, is being implemented.  
    • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) also has this component. 
  • Response to Niti Aayog:  
    • Increase in MSP is in the range of 5.3% to 10.4%. Increase in estimated cost of production over previous year varies from 6.13% and 10.52%. 
    • It is essential to ensure remunerative prices for farmers, encouraging them to invest more in production and to ensure food security in the country.  
    • Higher MSP for crops such as oilseeds, pulses and Shree Anna aims to promote crop diversification. 
    • All India weighted average cost of production is one of the important factors in the determination of MSP.  
    • While recommending MSP, CACP considers the cost of production and overall demand-supply situations of various crops in domestic and world markets. 
    • The Composite Input Price Index (CIPI) is based on the latest prices of major inputs like human labour, machine labour, fertilisers and manures, seeds, pesticides and irrigation.  
  • For WTO commitments:  
    • While calculating the aggregate support, ‘inflation’ since 1986 has not been factored in.  
    • This leads to an understated External Reference Price (ERP) making the aggregate support overstated.” 



Keywords: GS Paper – 3: Agricultural Pricing. GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Infrastructure investments slowing job creation

Exam View: The coexistence of high economic growth and high unemployment; Physical infrastructure vs Human infrastructure; Challenges to education; Way forward. 

Context: For a young country like India, high growth and unemployment is not a reflection of automation or artificial intelligence, but lopsided development policies that have resulted in fewer jobs being created for millions who join the labour force every year. 

Background: The coexistence of high economic growth and high unemployment 

  • As the fastest-growing large economy in the world, India’s high growth has attracted headlines.  
  • But, with nearly a quarter of the youth being unemployed, India’s youth unemployment has also attracted attention.  
    • India has the largest concentration of illiterate people in the world.  
    • More than one-third of India’s adult population remains illiterate.  
  • More than 50 percent of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65 percent is below the age of 35.  

    • India’s young demographic is an asset in an ageing world, and changes in the trajectory of globalisation have opened new doors for India. 

Decoding the editorial: Physical infrastructure vs Human infrastructure 

  • Physical infrastructure investments are focused on urban areas, but the manufacturing sector is de-urbanising to remain cost-competitive.  
    • In the early 1990s, India’s manufacturing sector walked hand in hand with urbanisation.  
    • This process has reversed from 2000 onwards, with the pace of de-urbanisation of manufacturing gathering momentum.  
    • However, poor physical and human infrastructure in rural areas has constrained the growth drivers and limited the size of the manufacturing sector in India. 
  • Physical infrastructure in the absence of good human infrastructure has slowed the pace of job growth. 
    • India needs good infrastructure, both physical and human, to create more jobs.  
  • Most of the jobs are created by new enterprises, and enterprises, both domestic and foreign, look for both skilled workers and a good physical infrastructure.  
    • Education and skills are becoming more important as new enterprises make their location decisions based on the education and skills of the local workforce. 
  • There are well-understood limits to the pace with which India can accumulate physical infrastructure.  
    • But there are no limits to the pace at which India can accelerate human capital. 
  • Returns to investment in education are much higher than the returns to investment in physical investment.  
    • The average social rate of returns to primary education is nearly 20 percent and returns to higher education are increasing rapidly.  

Challenges to education 

  • They are multidimensional — access, quality, relevance, finance and governance. 
    • The challenges are enormous in rural areas.  
  • There are a few excellent public and private universities in India 
    • Concerns have been raised about the quality of education due to a huge variation in the quality of graduates from both the public and private systems.  
  • Effective systems of quality assurance do not exist, either for the public or the private sector.  
  • There is a shortage of qualified faculty due to  
    • poor compensation, 
    • rigidities in the number of places allocated to different disciplines in the public system, 
    • outdated curricula and 
    • pedagogical methods that still rely too much on rote learning rather than creative thinking and problem-solving and teamwork that is needed by the market. 

Way forward 

  • The governance of the education system needs to be improved as the education system becomes more complex with multiple players and multiple pathways. 
    • It needs better incentives, monitoring, performance assessment, and accountability both for the internal processes of the education process as well as for students.  
  • Scaling up tertiary education will increase the cadres of professionals who can create new enterprises and maximise job creation.  
    • Tertiary education increases the dissemination of knowledge beyond universities, through interactions between firms and the rest of society. 
  • The future of economic growth will be in tier II cities. 
    • It will not be in tier I cities, which are already dense with India’s best and brightest.  
    • New cities have the potential to generate 70 percent of the country’s new jobs and GDP over the next 20 years, a process that could drive a four-fold increase in per capita incomes.  
  • India needs a broader focus on rural structural transformation to accelerate job creation.  



Keywords: GS Paper – 3: Employment; Growth & Development; Education; Skill Development; Human Resource.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

South Asia, now open to business

Exam View: South Asian regionalism; History of South Asian regionalism; New factors accelerating regional economic integration. 

Context: South Asia’s new economic openness, Delhi’s vigorous neighbourhood policies, and Western support for an India-centred regionalism in South Asia could transform the Subcontinent's economic landscape. 

Decoding the editorial: South Asian regionalism  

The pessimistic discourse on South Asian regionalism is trapped in two old propositions:  

  • South Asia is the least integrated region and insufficiently connected to the world. 


  • The road to regional integration in the Subcontinent must necessarily run through the SAARC. 

History of South Asian regionalism 

  • The 1990s saw liberalisation and globalisation of the South Asian economies. 
    • It saw the injection of the language of regionalism in the sub-continent and a new interest in trade and connectivity.  
    • Economic reform, however, was uneven across the region and tentative even in the capitals, with some support for change.  
    • And it was hard to mobilise support for cross-border connectivity projects amidst the region’s security challenges. 
  • The post-colonial and partitioned sub-continent chose economic autarky. 
    • It devalued regional integration.  
    • Endless conflict reinforced the lack of political appetite for cross-border commercial engagement.  
    • The trans-regional connectivity inherited from the British Raj steadily withered as the newly-independent countries focused on import substitution. 
  • The 21st century has seen considerable improvement within the Subcontinent.  
    • The share of intra-regional trade in the Subcontinent’s trade with the world has grown from about 2 percent in 1990 to about 6 percent today, but is nowhere near the potential or the achievements of other parts of Asia.  
  • SAARC is moribund.

    • Its last summit was held in 2014.  
    • Pakistan’s priority for the last three decades has been to wrest concessions from India on Kashmir.  
    • However, the rest of the region has moved forward through bilateral, sub-regional, and trans-regional mechanisms outside of SAARC. A successful SAARC is not a precondition for thriving economic regionalism. 

New factors accelerating regional economic integration 

  • The renewed pressure to undertake economic reform.  
    • The recent economic crises in Sri Lanka and Pakistan are compelling the elites in Colombo and Rawalpindi to embark on serious and painful economic change.  
    • Nepal and Sri Lanka are today more open to trade, investment and connectivity with India.  
    • Pakistan is turning to the Gulf to end its dependence on loans and bailouts.  
  • The region is looming larger in India’s economic calculus.  
    • As India’s relative economic weight in the world has grown, its commercial ties with neighbours have increased.  
    • Bangladesh, for example, is the fourth-largest destination for Indian exports, valued at about $16 billion in 2022.  
    • India’s exports to Sri Lanka at about $6 billion are comparable with India’s exports to Japan. 
    • Trans-border projects to promote rail, road, energy, power, financial, and digital connectivity have all gained new impetus in India’s engagement with its neighbours. 

  • Renewed rivalry between the US and China and deepening conflict between Delhi and Beijing, have altered the Subcontinent’s geo-economic template.  
    • In de-risking their commercial ties with China, the US and its allies now actively promote economic and technological engagement with India. 
    • They are also promoting economic integration between India and its smaller neighbours.  
    • The US, for example, helped Nepal’s energy and road connectivity with India with the $500 million Millennium Challenge Grant.  
      • Kathmandu approved it last year despite considerable opposition from China.  
    • Japan is now promoting sub-regional connectivity between India and Bangladesh that can potentially transform the economic map of the eastern subcontinent and the Bay of Bengal.
    • Tokyo and Paris also joined hands with Delhi to help Colombo navigate its economic crisis. 
      • Macron’s visit to Sri Lanka, the first by a French President, is an attempt to integrate Colombo into Paris’s Indo-Pacific outreach. 
    • India, which was complacent about China’s growing economic presence in the region a few years ago, has offered a measure of competition in the Subcontinent with its own bouquet of regional infrastructure projects.  



Keywords: GS Paper-2: India & its Neighbourhood; Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Monthly Editorial Analysis


Exam View: The story of BRICS expansion; BRICS vs NAM. 

Context: The leaders from BRICS are beginning a three-day summit in Johannesburg, where they are discussing expanding the club that harbours ambitions of becoming a geopolitical alternative to Western-led forums such as the Group of 7. 

Decoding the editorial: The story of BRICS expansion  

  • Bigger numbers are more likely to undermine the coherence of any group.  
    • The widespread interest in joining BRICS reveals its greater relevance to world affairs.  
    • However, the larger the membership, the smaller the least common political denominator.  
    • The tensions between India and Pakistan, for example, have long limited the effectiveness of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.  
    • The SCO has struggled to manage India-Pak and India-China differences.  
    • The conflict between India and China has already cast a shadow over BRICS. 
  • China and Russia’s “alliance without limits” could have boosted BRICS to the forefront. 
    • In February 2022, China and Russia announced their “alliance without limits”.  
      • They appeared well-placed to deliver the final blow against the Western dominance of the world.  
      • Since then, Russia has been locked in a prolonged and unwinnable war against Ukraine, is isolated from its natural partners in Western Europe, and faces heavy international sanctions.  
      • China has disappointed the world with its sputtering economy. 
    • The international focus is instead on the several structural challenges, including debt, demographic decline, and decoupling from the West.  
    • Meanwhile, the US, which was supposed to be in terminal decline, has bounced back on economic and geopolitical fronts. 
      • The talk of China overtaking the US economy has now been relegated to the distant future.  
  • Washington has mounted relentless pressure against Beijing with its economic and technological measures.  
    • It has put together new strategic coalitions on China’s periphery, including the Quad (with Australia, India and Japan), the AUKUS (Australia and the UK), and the trilateral coalition with Japan and South Korea. 
    • Thanks to Washington’s added support, Manila, which has been long at the receiving end of Beijing’s bullying, is standing up. 


  • Bipolar confrontation vs avoiding polarisation 
    • Beijing and Moscow began BRICS to limit the “unipolar world” and promote a “multipolar world”, but have forced it into a bipolar confrontation with the West. 
    • If NAM was about avoiding East-West rivalry, the Global South addressed the contradictions between developing countries and the developed world, or the Global North.  
    • But today, China is the world’s second-largest economy, and its capital has made great strides in penetrating the Global South.  
    • Some in the developing world argue that China’s rough and ready “neocolonialism” is worse than Western “imperialism” tempered over the centuries. 
  • The political intentions  
    • Beijing sees BRICS as a political platform to mobilise the non-Western world in its rivalry with the US.  
      • Balancing the US was also the original motivation for Moscow in promoting the BRICS.  
    • The interests of the “Global South” are confused with Sino-Russian geopolitical games. 
      • The presence of many African special invitees does not make Johannesburg comparable to the gathering of the Afro-Asian leaders in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955.  
    • One of the principal objectives of the Bandung movement that morphed into NAM eventually was to stay away from rivalrous power blocks, the US-dominated Western one and the Eastern one led by Soviet Russia.  
      • The BRICS, in contrast, is led by one of the competing power blocs, the Sino-Russian alliance. 
  • Membership race 
    • Countries want membership of BRICS to enhance their bargaining power with the US.  
      • On top of it, posturing against the West plays well at home for most political elites.  
    • Unlike in Bandung, the post-colonial elites are not today animated by ideology. 




Keywords: GS Paper-2: Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

India’s G-20 opportunity for an African Renaissance

Tag: GS Paper – 2: Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India's Interests; Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests. 

Exam View: Representation of Africa; Challenges and disruptors for Africa; India’s robust ties; India’s G20 opportunity. 

Context: Africa is flagging its demands nowadays on multilateral fora such as BRICS, the G-20 and the United Nations General Assembly. India is well placed to leverage its comprehensive profile with Africa to help the continent either bilaterally or through multilateral forums. 

 Decoding the editorial: Representation of Africa 

  • For a continent with 54 countries, over a quarter of the “Global South”, Africa is populated at BRICS and the G-20 by South Africa, an atypical representative of the Black continent. 
  • The 15th BRICS summit took place in South Africa on August 23-24 with the theme “BRICS and Africa”. 

  • It would be followed up early in September in the 18th G-20 Summit hosted by India where several issues of the “global south” with Africa as a focus would come up. 

Challenges and disruptors for Africa 

Africa, in general, and the Sahel region in particular, are passing through several existential challenges that have strained the traditional socio-political fabric. 

  • Dictatorship: 
    • Past military interventions by France, the United States and Russia’s Wagner Group to curb the militancy have shown that they frequently become part of the problem.  
      • These interventions have costs of keeping dictatorships in power to protect their economic interests, such as uranium in Niger, gold in the Central African Republic and oil in Libya. 
    • Due to the socio-political disorders, the past decade has seen the generals coming back in Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.  
      • The reasons for the return of generals are complex and often specific to the national situation. 
    • Their earlier regional and continental prescription of delegitimization and containment of the putschists is becoming increasingly less effective as such regimes have proliferated.  
      • When the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently threatened to act militarily against Niger’s junta, two member-States, Mali and Burkina Faso, both run by military governments, opposed the idea.  
  • New disruptors:  
    • Islamic terror,  
    • Changing climate,  
    • Inter-tribal scrimmage, 
    • Runaway food inflation,  
    • Urbanisation, and  
    • Youth unemployment. 
  • Traditional: 
    • Mis-governance, 
    • Unplanned development, 
    • The dominance of ruling tribes,  
    • Bonapartism, and 
    • Corruption. 
  • Eroding international support 
    • China has been Africa’s largest trading partner and investor, but a slowing economy and trade have reduced its appetite for Africa’s commodities.  
      • Its Belt and Roads Initiative has raised the debts of some African countries to unsustainable levels, in turn causing them to cede control of some of their assets to China. 
    • Russia previously promoted the Wagner Group in Africa as a shortcut for security, but after the militia’s mutiny against the Kremlin, the situation is unclear.  
      • Russia, which is under western economic sanctions, hosted an African summit in July that saw tepid participation.  
    • France, the United Kingdom and other colonial powers as well as the United States have continued to exploit mineral wealth in Africa, but their economic downturn has limited their outreach.  
      • Europe’s main concern is limited to stopping illegal migration from African shores. 

India’s robust ties 

India’s ties with Africa are deep, diverse and harmonious that range from Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha against the apartheid to the UN peacekeeping role.  

  • Trade: Although India now imports less oil from Africa and sells fewer agricultural products, India-Africa trade reached $98 billion in 2022-23.  
  • Socio-economic engagements: India’s engagement is robust in sectors such as education, health care, telecom, IT, appropriate technology and agriculture.  
    • It has provided 42,000 scholarships since 2015.  
    • Approximately three million people of Indian origin live in Africa, many for centuries. They are Africa’s largest non-native ethnicity. 
  • Investment: India was the fifth largest investor in Africa and has extended over $12.37 billion in concessional loans.  

India’s G20 opportunity  

  • India could consult like-minded G-20 partners and multilateral institutions for a comprehensive semi-permanent platform to resolve the stalemated security and socio-economic situations in several parts of Africa.  
    • It should deliver political stability and economic development by combining peacekeeping with socio-political institution building.  
  • India can offer force multipliers such as targeted investments and transfer of relevant and appropriate Indian innovations, such as the JAM trinity, DBT, UPI, and Aspirational Districts Programme.  

By offering a more participative and less exploitative alternative, New Delhi can make the India-Africa ecosystem an exemplary win-win paradigm for the 21st century.  

Keywords: GS Paper – 2: Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India's Interests; Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Manipur internet shutdowns

Exam View: Internet shutdowns deepen digital divide; Internet shutdowns affect fundamental rights; Internet shutdowns have real economic costs; Accountability for shutdowns; Lessons from the past. 

Context: Nearly three months after an internet shutdown was first imposed across Manipur, people in the state still do not have unhampered access. 

Decoding the editorial:  

Internet shutdowns deepen digital divide 

  • Mobile internet services in Manipur remain suspended. These services 
    • have far greater penetration than broadband and wi-fi, particularly in rural areas, and  
    • are used by the majority of internet subscribers (more than 90 percent).  
  • On July 25, the Manipur government permitted certain types of limited and conditional access following some of the recommendations of an expert committee.  
  • Permitted Internet Lease Line or Fibre to the home connections is limited to a small section (less than five per cent), and largely urban institutional users.  
  • As a result, this disproportionately hurts those with fewer resources and only deepens the digital divide. It contradicts the government’s vision of a Digital India. 

Internet shutdowns affect fundamental rights 

Ban on social media continues in Manipur. Internet access is also conditional on MAC Address binding, static IPs, and a ban on Virtual Private Networks.  

  • Unreasonable restrictions 
    • Fundamental rights can only be limited in a reasonable and proportionate manner.  
    • Restricting people’s ability to connect, and then effectively bringing all the ways in which they can connect under surveillance, is neither reasonable nor proportionate. 
  • Right to carry out one’s trade or profession through the internet  
    • It is a fundamental right as per the Supreme Court, which has become affected.  
  • Rights to free expression, freedom of assembly and privacy  
    • Greater monitoring of all online activities, and tracing of the user’s location impedes the exercise of fundamental rights amid a crisis when people’s need for them is even more pressing.  
  • Right to information 
    • Lack of access to an open and secure internet and social media affects the flow of information from and to the state, weakens reporting, and therefore the ability to bring those responsible for the ongoing violence to account. 
    • People’s ability to share and verify information, and access online civic spaces has also become limited.  

Internet shutdowns have real economic costs 

  • These impact individuals as well as the country at large. 
  • The six-month communication blockade in Kashmir in 2019 left more than five lakh people unemployed, and Rajasthan saw losses of Rs 800 crore due to shutdowns over one month in 2021.  
  • In 2016, a Brookings paper estimated that India suffered a loss of Rs 7,932 crores due to shutdowns between July 2015 and June 2016.  
  • These figures understate the problem, not just because all shutdowns are not reported, but also since they do not include the unorganised sector 

Accountability for shutdowns 

  • Shutdowns are often imposed by state authorities. 
  • The responsibility to reform the legal framework authorising the imposition of shutdowns through the Telegraph Act and its rules, and implement rights-respecting changes, rests with the central government. 
  • Impunity and lack of answers from authorities remain an issue.  
  • On July 26, the central government was asked in the Lok Sabha about the number of shutdowns in the last three years, estimated losses, and whether it intended to do anything to minimise these, eliciting recrimination and no concrete answers. 

Lessons from the past 

  • The Manipur government needs to recall the lessons from the Jammu and Kashmir communications blockade of 2019-2020.  
  • The Union government had initially imposed a complete internet shutdown for six months, and gradually lifted suspensions after a court intervention, starting with painfully ineffective 2G connections, blocking VPNs and social media.  
  • However, the government is simultaneously ignoring the law that resulted from the Kashmir shutdown. The Government of India revoked the special status, or autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. 

Supreme Court in the Anuradha Bhasin judgment held that shutdowns violate fundamental rights, and may be imposed only when it is proportional, reasonable, necessary, and the least restrictive measure. It continues to be ignored. 


Keywords: GS Paper-2: Indian Constitution; Government Policies and interventions.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

Pathways for digital inclusion

Exam View: India Stack; Pathways for digital inclusion. 

Context: The Indian DPI ecosystem envisioned as “India Stack” has been pivotal in unlocking the power of identity, payments, and data sharing to drive economic growth and foster a more inclusive digital economy.  

Decoding the editorial: India Stack 

  • The India Stack can be imagined as an interconnected yet independent “blocks of a stack”.  
    • Each block serves as a vehicle for inclusion across sectors, ultimately catering to our diverse population.  
  • Transformative ability: This ability of India Stack gives it the potential to drive innovation, inclusion and competition in the digital realm through its modular layers. 
  • Social and financial inclusion: The Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile trinity has played a pivotal role in transparent direct benefit transfers of welfare subsidies to bank accounts of the underserved.  
  • Digital inclusion: On the payments front, Unified Payments Interface has empowered us to conveniently transfer money from one bank account to another bank account digitally and in real-time. 
  • Bridging the wealth gap: Indian DPIs hold the promise to bridge the wealth gaps and build an efficient and resilient digital economy that supports citizens and organisations.  
  • The next decade of India’s DPI journey will witness sector-specific DPIs such as  
    • Account aggregators,  
    • Open Network for Digital Commerce,  
    • Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and  
    • Agristack.  

Way Forward 

As India leads the conversation on DPIs and digital transformation at the G20, it is an opportune moment to steer the wheel towards inclusive DPIs, both globally and locally.  

  • The importance of placing users at the forefront.  
    • India must prioritise user-centric design to reduce inequalities amongst rural and urban populations, genders or economic groups.  
    • Enabling compatible protocols for feature phones, assisted-tech models and Interactive Voice Response System should be explored and implemented. 
    • Offering handholding support to consumers with limited smartphone access or low digital literacy should be looked into.  
    • The RBI’s launch of UPI123Pay is a notable step towards inclusivity, which gives feature phone owners an app that enables them with most UPI features.  
    • The RBI has even enabled card-less cash withdrawals at ATMs through the UPI app. 
  • Inclusion should be a key policy objective.  
    • By prioritising inclusion from the outset, DPIs can create an ecosystem that benefits all individuals, regardless of their digital literacy, thereby cultivating a more equitable and accessible digital economy. 
    • Estonia’s information policy emphasises avoiding information disparities between regions or communities.  
    • Several jurisdictions, including Nigeria, the UK and Brazil, have embraced open banking with the aim of financial inclusion within the regulatory framework itself.  
  • Underserved target segments must be identified and use cases proactively developed, tailored to their needs.  
    • For instance, for the MSMEs, who have limited access to formal sources of credit, the account aggregator ecosystem holds immense potential to enable access to low-cost, low-ticket-size, collateral-free sources of credit. 
      • This can be done by utilising the digital trail of all consented transactional data, including cash flows generated by the enterprise.  
    • Moreover, monitoring the impact of DPIs on vulnerable consumers through disaggregated data collection is essential to prevent the deepening of gaps for underserved customers and foster equitable growth. 
  • Build engagement with the DPI.  
    • Digital connectivity and literacy pose obstacles in India. 
    • Offline channels must be considered, alongside building institutional capacity to generate trust and awareness.  
    • It would not only ensure last-mile access but also foster digital comfort among vulnerable consumers, empowering them to leverage these tools for their benefit.  
    • Business correspondents are a vital cog on which banks rely to increase access to and usage of financial products. 


Keywords: GS Paper-2: Government Policies and Interventions; e-Governance. GS Paper-3: Inclusive Growth; Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology.
Monthly Editorial Analysis

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023

Exam View: The right to privacy; The right to information; Complementary or competing rights; Problems with the Bill. 

Context: The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 makes the government less transparent to the people and ends up making them transparent to both the government and private interests. 

Decoding the editorial:  

The right to privacy  

  • It was reaffirmed by a nine-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in 2017.  
  • It set an international benchmark and illustrated the new challenges to the right to privacy posed by the digital age.  

The right to information  

  • It provides us access to government documents to ensure transparency and accountability of the government.  
  • Enacted as a law, the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 has played a critical role in deepening democratic practices.  

Complementary or competing rights 

  • In a crucial way, the two rights complement each other 
    • The right to information seeks to make the government transparent to us, while the right to privacy is meant to protect us from government and private intrusions into our lives. 
  • Yet, there are some tensions between the right to information and the right to privacy.  
    • For example, under MGNREGA, mandatory disclosure provisions are meant to ensure that workers can monitor expenditure and also facilitate public scrutiny through social audits.  
    • Everyone has access to data about individuals registered under the Act, including when and how much was paid to each worker.  
    • Unscrupulous operators can monitor, even scrape this data systematically to swindle workers of their hard-earned wages (for example, showing up at their doorstep with offers of lucrative ‘savings’ or ‘insurance’). 

Problems with the Bill 

  • Data mining can continue: Section 4(2) defines “lawful purposes” in the broadest possible manner as “any purpose which is not expressly forbidden by the law”.  
    • As scraping information on wages/pensions paid to workers/pensioners or mobile numbers of government scheme beneficiaries from government portals is “not expressly forbidden”, data mining can merrily continue 
    • Section 36 allows the central government to ask the Board, data fiduciary or others to “furnish such information as it may call for”.  
    • Sections 4(2) and 36 together make our data fair game for both government and private entities. 
  • Undermines our rights: Our right to information is undermined without doing much to protect our right to privacy. 
    • Section 8(1)(j) of RTI, grants exemption from disclosure if the information which relates to personal information sought “has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual”, unless a public information officer feels that larger public interest justifies disclosure.  
    • It set a high benchmark for exemption, “information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”  
    • The DPDP Bill 2023 suggests replacing Section 8(1)(j) with just “information which relates to personal information”.  
  • Makes the government less transparent: The undermining of rights also makes us increasingly transparent to both the government and private interests. 
    • The current requirement for public servants (including judges, and Indian Administrative Service officers) to disclose their immovable assets will likely be off limits.  
    • This is indeed “information related to personal information”, but it serves a larger public interest (for example, to identify public servants with disproportionate assets).  
  • Lame-duck as a watchdog: The Data Protection Board, an oversight body will be under the boot of the government as the chairperson and members are to be appointed by the central government (Section 19).  
  • Ignoring social, political and legal context: In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a strong watchdog that operates in a society with universal literacy.  
    • Yet, Edward Snowden warned of that the problem isn’t data protection, the problem is data collection. 
    • Restricting data collection is not even being discussed in India. 

A weak board combined with the lack of universal literacy and poor digital and financial literacy, as well as an overburdened legal system, mean that the chances that citizens will be able to seek legal recourse when privacy harms are inflicted on them are slim. 





Keywords: GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions. GS Paper – 3: Cyber Security; IT & Computers.
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