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This pdf file can be downloaded from in the Current Affairs section


12 MARCH 2019

Daily Current Affairs based on 'The Hindu' newspaper as per the syllabus of UPSC Civil Services
Examination (Prelims and Mains) Compiled by Mrs. BilqueesKhatri.

Sr. No. Topic News

1. GS II: SOCIAL - SC may send plea challenging quota Bill to
RESERVATION Constitution Bench
2. GS III: SECURITY Pulwama attack conspirator killed
3. GS III: DISASTER DGCA issues advisory for Boeing 737 MAX 8
MANAGEMEN post-crash
4. GS III: ENVIRONMENT - Wood snake, last seen in 1878, rediscovered by
5. GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS Why four-phase polls in Odisha, questions
6. GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS Why 7 phase poll in Bengal, asks Mamata
7. GS I: CULTURE Excavations shed light on early Harappan
8. GS III: DEFENCE India is world’s 2nd largest arms importer
9. GS III: SECURITY China still reluctant on listing Azhar
10. GS III: ENERGY Uncertain govt. policies clouded developer
sentiment, hit solar capacity addition: Crisil
11. GS III: ECONOMY - ‘India ranks 11th in gold holding’
12. GS III: ENVIRONMENT - Plastic in focus at UN environment forum
13. GS II: SOCIAL - HEALTH WHO strategy to fight flu pandemics


SC may send plea challenging quota Bill to Constitution Bench

• The Supreme Court decided to consider the question of whether the challenge to the 10%
economic reservation law should be heard by a Constitution Bench.
• A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, scheduled the hearing for March
• The issue arose when senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that the 50% quota limit was part
of the Basic Structure of the Constitution, and the new amendment tinkered with it.
• The court, however, refused to pass any interim order to stay or hamper the implementation of
the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act that provides for 10% reservation in government
jobs and educational institutions to the economically backward in the unreserved category.
• The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, adding clauses empowering the
government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.

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• The Supreme Court, in a nine-judge Bench judgment in the Indra Sawhney case, had settled
the law that economic backwardness could not be the sole basis for reservation.
• The petition argued that the Act was “vulnerable” and negated a binding judgment of the Supreme
• The petitioners contended that the amendments excluded the OBCs and the SCs/STs from the
scope of the reservation.
• It said the high creamy layer limit of Rs. 8 lakh a year meant the elite would capture the
• Further, the petitioners contended that the court had already settled the law that the “state’s
reservation policy cannot be imposed on unaided educational institutions, and as they are not
receiving any aid from the State, they can have their own admission if they are fair, transparent, non-
exploitative and based on merit.”
• “While the impugned amendment attempts to overcome the applicability of Articles 19(1)(g) and
29(2), it remains silent on Article 14, which protects the citizens from manifestly arbitrary State
action,” the petition said.

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Pulwama attack conspirator killed

• Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) ‘commander’ Mudasir Ahmad Khan, a “key conspirator” in the

Pulwama attack that left 40 CRPF jawans dead on February 14, was among two militants
killed in an encounter at Tral in Pulwama.


DGCA issues advisory for Boeing 737 MAX 8 post-crash

• The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued an advisory for Boeing 737 MAX 8
aircraft, stipulating the minimum flying hours for pilots of this aircraft, a day after an
Ethiopian airliner crashed near Addis Ababa killing all 157 persons on board.
• A pilot-in-command would be required to have 1,000 hours of flying time on a Boeing 737 Next
Generation aircraft and a first officer would need at least 500 hours.

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• Experts say such criterion is not normally stipulated for a first officer after he or she gets a
commercial pilot’s licence.
• The DGCA also mandated that no Boeing 737 MAX be released if there was a fault with three
equipments — dual auto pilot; yaw damper, which prevents oscillation of a plane; and spoiler system
or air brakes that control its rate of descent and reduce speed
• The DGCA statement came on a day when Ethiopia, Indonesia and China announced the
grounding of the aircraft.
• The aircraft’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS–B) data showed the
Ethiopian airliner was airborne in less than 18 seconds from takeoff roll. “This is very short for
an aircraft with a high elevation and 157 passengers.
• The ADS-B is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite
navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked.
• This is the second Boeing Max plane to have crashed in a span of a few months.
• On October 29, 2018, a Lion Air Boeing737 Max 800 plane with 189 people on board crashed
soon after take off in Indonesia.


Wood snake, last seen in 1878, rediscovered by scientists

• A species of wood snake that wasn’t seen for 140 years has resurfaced in a survey conducted by
scientists in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.
• The species, endemic to the Meghamalai forests and the Periyar Tiger Reserve landscape, was
recently rediscovered by R. Chaitanya, a herpetologist, and Varad Giri, director, Foundation for
Biodiversity Conservation.
• “The snake is a ‘point endemic’ (found only in Meghamalai). It was found in the same region that
Colonel Beddome alluded to, and the morphological characters match with his specimen,” said Dr.
Chaitanya, who found a female specimen.
• The snake he discovered was 235 mm long and uniformly dark brown.

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Why four-phase polls in Odisha, questions BJD

• Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal questioned the Election Commission of India’s decision to
conduct elections in the State in four phases.
• Previously, the polls were being held in the State in two phases.
• Addressing a press conference here, party spokesperson Amar Patnaik alleged that the ECI had
been influenced by the BJP which is trying to occupy the non-BJP States.
• While polling will be held in one phase in several other States, including Gujarat, having more
number of seats than Odisha, the ECI prepared the poll schedule in multiple phases in the States
where the BJP is weak, Mr. Patnaik said.
• Not only Odisha, but several non-BJP ruled States have been made a victim of the Centre’s
conspiracy, he charged.
• The protesters targeted the Centre over lack of political will to grant special category status to the
State, to solve the Mahanadi water-sharing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh, non-revision of
coal royalty and poor service by banks and the BSNL.

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Why 7 phase poll in Bengal, asks Mamata

• Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said the seven-phase polling announced for
West Bengal was “a BJP game plan to disturb the State.”
• “What is the logic in holding just two elections in the same area the same day? But I am happy — our
workload will be less. Politically, we are not bothered with seven phases, but it must be remembered
that voters will be inconvenienced. The weather will also not be favourable for such a long-
drawn-out election ... there is heat, there is Nor'westers. These will inconvenience voters,” Ms.
Banerjee said.

Excavations shed light on early Harappan ritual

• Archaeological excavations undertaken by a group of researchers and students of the

University of Kerala in Kutch, Gujarat, have shed light on the custom and burial rituals that
were prevalent during the early Harappan phase.
• The 47-member team, which camped in Khatiya village of Kutch for a month-and-a-half,
unearthed several skeletal remains from a cemetery-like burial site where 26 graves out of the
nearly 300-odd ones were excavated.
• The rectangular graves, each of varying dimensions and assembled using stones, contained skeletons
that were placed in a specific manner.
• They were oriented east-west with the heads positioned on the eastern side. Next to the legs on
the western side, the archaeologists found earthen pots and pottery shards and other artefacts,
including conch-shell bangles, beads made of stones and terracotta, numerous lithic tools and
grinding stones.

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• “While the burial of belongings next to the corpse could possibly suggest the prevalence of the
concept of afterlife, much study was required before we could arrive at any such conclusions,” says
a researcher involved.
• Of the 26 graves that were excavated, the biggest was 6.9 metres long and the smallest 1.2
metres long.
• The presence of animal skeletons along with those of humans were also recorded in a few
• Interestingly, the researchers found the mode of burial to be non-uniform.
• Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are
exhumed and moved to another grave) were found.
• The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.
• The excavation team managed to recover a complete human skeleton, which was later placed in a
box structure made of plaster of Paris.

India is world’s 2nd largest arms importer
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• India was the world’s second largest arms importer from 2014-18, ceding the long-held tag as
largest importer to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 12% of the total imports during the
• “India was the world’s second largest importer of major arms in 2014–18 and accounted for 9.5%
of the global total,” according to the latest report published by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI).
• However, Indian imports decreased by 24% between 2009-13 and 2014-18, partly due to delays
in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft
ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008, the report stated.
• Russia accounted for 58% of Indian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 76% in 2009-13.
• Israel, the U.S. and France all increased their arms exports to India in 2014-18.
• However, the Russian share in Indian imports is likely to sharply go up for the next five-year
period as India signed several big-ticket deals recently, and more are in the pipeline. These include
S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, a second nuclear attack
submarine on lease, and deals for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-
range air defence systems.
• Pakistan stood at the 11th position accounting for 2.7% of all global imports.
• Its biggest source was China, from which 70% of arms were sourced, followed by the U.S. at
8.9% and, interestingly, Russia at 6%.
• The five largest exporters in 2014-18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and
China together accounting for 75% of the total volume of arms exports in 2014-18.
• China, which has emerged as a major arms exporter, has increased its share by 2.7% for 2014-18
compared to 2009-13. Its biggest customers are Pakistan and Bangladesh.

China still reluctant on listing Azhar

• China gave no indication that it is likely to change its stand on Masood Azhar in the UN
Security Council’s 1267 committee that meets to vote on designating head of the Jaish-e-
Mohammed (JeM) group as an international terrorist.
• China has on three occasions placed a “technical hold” on Azhar’s designation as a global
terrorist in the 1267 committee.
• Yet another attempt on the JeM chief’s designation, led by the United States, France and Britain, has
begun following the February 14 Pulwama attack.

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Uncertain govt. policies clouded developer sentiment, hit solar capacity addition: Crisil

• Inconsistent government actions have cast a shadow over developer sentiment in the solar
sector and slowed down capacity addition momentum, Crisil said in a report.
• This will result in the government achieving only 60% of its 100 GW target by 2022, it added.
• “Developer sentiment has been negatively impacted by the lack of clarity on several policy
issues and arbitrary bid cancellations, which is contrary to a supportive policy stance from the
• India’s solar sector installed capacity is expected to touch 60 GW by 2022 and 70 GW by 2023.
• The report said the two main factors increasing cost pressures for the solar sector included the
imposition of the safeguard duty on solar component imports and the uncertainty over the
Goods and Services Tax treatment of the sector.
• “Clarification on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) procedures and its implementation for solar was
not forthcoming for over a year, impacting commissioning schedules and project costs across
developers,” the report said.
• The report said that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had issued a clarification on the
issue, saying that entirely solar projects would be taxable at 5%, but it also said that if an
engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract included both supply and services, it
would be adjudged on a case-to-case basis.
• “This created further concern, as most projects were set up on an EPC basis, whether in-house or
outsourced,” the report said.
• “The issue lacked clarity for over a year, until the GST Council in December 2018 clarified with
regard to EPC contracts by setting a ratio of 70:30 of the entire value of the EPC contract,
where 70% will be taxed at 5%, and 30% at 18%, to factor in both the supply and service
• However, this clarification has meant an increased tax incidence, of about 8-9%, which is
higher than the 5% expected by the industry, leading to an increase in final capital costs.
• Further, the imposition of the safeguard duty has resulted in an increase in capital costs by 10-
15%, which resulted in bid tariffs moving in the range of Rs. 2.7-2.9 per unit.

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‘India ranks 11th in gold holding’

• India, which is the world’s largest consumer of gold, has the 11th largest gold reserve, with the
current holding pegged at 607 tonnes, as per the latest report by the World Gold Council
• India’s overall position in terms of total gold holding would have been tenth had the list included
only countries.
• Whereas, International Monetary Fund (IMF) is included and is third on the list with total gold
reserves of 2,814 tonnes.
• The numero uno slot is occupied by the U.S., which boasts of gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes,
followed by Germany with 3,369.7 tonnes.
• Italy and France complete the top five list with reserves of a little over 2,400 tonnes each.
• Meanwhile, among Asian countries, China and Japan have more reserves of the precious metal
when compared to India.

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Plastic in focus at UN environment forum

• Countries from around the world set their sights on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste, a
source of long-term pollution and worsening contamination of the ocean’s food chain.
• Thousands of delegates, business leaders and campaigners are in Nairobi for the five-day UN
Environment Assembly, the top annual forum on the planet’s environmental crisis.
• The UN wants individual countries to sign up to “significantly” reduce plastic production, including a
phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030 — a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on
voluntary reductions of carbon emissions.
• The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least
five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans.
• Microplastics have been found in the deepest sea trenches and high up the earth’s tallest peaks,
and plastic consumption is growing year-on-year.
• “Plastic is a very good material, it’s durable, flexible and light. This means we should make the
best out of it for as long as possible instead of disposing of it”, a delegate said.
• “These things are all linked: climate, the environment, waste,” a delegate said.
• One briefing said the cost of ecosystems loss through agriculture, deforestation and pollution was as
much as $20 trillion since 1995.
• The One Planet Summit on 14 March 2019 will bring together heads of State, including French
President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta to lend political clout to the

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WHO strategy to fight flu pandemics

• The World Health Organization launched a strategy to protect people worldwide over the next
decade against the threat of influenza, warning that new pandemics are “inevitable”.
• Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, affect around one billion people and kill hundreds of
thousands annually, according to WHO, which describes it as one of the world’s greatest public
health challenges.
• WHO’s new strategy, for 2019 through 2030, aims to prevent seasonal influenza, control the
virus’s spread from animals to humans and prepare for the next pandemic, WHO said.
• The new strategy called for every country to strengthen routine health programmes and to
develop tailor-made influenza programmes that strengthen disease surveillance, response,
prevention, control, and preparedness.

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• WHO recommends annual flu vaccines as the most effective way to prevent the spread of the
disease, especially for healthcare workers and people at higher risk of influenza complications.
• It also called for the development of more effective and more accessible vaccines and antiviral
• Due to its mutating strains, vaccine formulas must be regularly updated and only offer limited
protection currently.

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12 MARCH 2019

A promise to live by

All political parties must be mindful of the core values that invigorate Indian democracy

As the countdown for elections to the 17th Lok Sabha begins, the world’s largest democracy has a
chance to re-imagine itself. Over the last 16 general elections and numerous elections at lower levels,
the resolute trust that the founding fathers of the Republic put in the parliamentary democratic
system has been substantially proven wise. India did make some dangerous turns and show signs of
fragility, especially during the Emergency in the 1970s, but in the long term it expanded the scope of its
democracy through widening representation, devolution of power and redistribution of resources. This is
not to overlook the various maladies that have afflicted the country’s democracy, such as
disinformation campaigns, corruption, disenfranchisement of the weaker sections of the society,
the corroding influence of money and muscle power in elections, and divisive majoritarian
tendencies. While the representative character of institutions has in general improved, women and
religious minorities are alarmingly underrepresented. The exercise of elections itself is a matter of
great pride for all Indians. The Election Commission of India has over the decades evolved itself into a
fine institution and plays a critical role in the sustenance of democracy. Its efforts to increase voter
participation through a series of small steps over the years, including the use of the Electronic Voting
Machines, have been praiseworthy.

The vulnerabilities of Indian democracy have been pronounced in the last five years, and some of its
long-term gains have been undermined. Therefore, this election is more than an exercise to elect a new
government. This should also be an occasion to reiterate and reinforce Indian democracy’s core
values, its representative character and its promise of a constant rejuvenation of the collective
spirit. The ECI has announced a series of fresh measures to strengthen the integrity of the electoral
process and curb some rapidly growing hazards such as the spread of falsehoods aimed at creating
social polarisation for consolidation of votes. Measures such as better monitoring of social media
campaigns, while steps in the right direction, are not in themselves adequate to deal with the challenges
of these times. The stakes are high for all contenders this year, and Indian politics has reached a level of
competitiveness where ground rules of engagement are routinely disregarded. Prime Minister Narendra
Modi, who rode to power in 2014 on the agenda of material progress through Hindutva, has to defend his
reign to seek a second term. His opponents sense an existential danger from him and are trying to
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mobilise those left behind or who feel disempowered by his governance. While furthering individual
interests, all parties must realise that democracy itself is at stake if the campaign is aimed at
communal polarisation. Though the promise of Indian democracy has not been fully realised, voters
have remained committed to it. They turn up in large numbers to vote, and consider the very act of voting
as empowerment. That trust should be upheld.

Avoiding a slowdown

Central banks are reversing the direction of their policies in a seemingly coordinated bid

Over the last few days, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has been trying to allay
fears that it will continue to raise interest rates notwithstanding conditions in the economy. Many,
including President Donald Trump, have been quite critical of the Fed raising rates despite a
slowing economy and inflation staying well below its official target of 2%. In fact, many have
argued that the gradual but persistent raising of rates may be the reason behind the slowdown in
U.S. growth and the lacklustre inflation numbers. The American economy created a mere 20,000 jobs
in February, the slowest growth in jobs in well over a year, and GDP growth in the coming quarters is
expected to slow considerably from the rate of 3.4% in the third quarter last year. On Sunday, however,
Mr. Powell termed the current interest rate level as “appropriate”, and noted that the Fed does “not feel
any hurry” to raise rates further. The Fed Chairman’s remarks come around the tenth anniversary of the
historic bull market in U.S. stocks, which began in March 2009 after policy rates were cut
aggressively in order to fight the recession. This marks a significant change from Mr. Powell’s
hawkish policy stance since taking over last year.

But right now it is not just the Fed that has put the brakes on the normalisation of monetary policy
through a gradual tightening of short-term interest rates. As economic conditions in Europe and
Asia begin to deteriorate, central banks have been quick to turn more dovish. European Central
Bank President Mario Draghi last week announced that rates in Europe will be kept low until next
year and offered to lend cheaply to European banks. The People’s Bank of China has promised
further monetary stimulus measures to stem the fall in growth, and the Reserve Bank of India has
started to cut interest rates as growth has slowed down each successive quarter this fiscal ahead of
the general election. It should thus be obvious by now that central banks around the world are reversing
the direction of their policies in what seems to be a coordinated effort to avoid a global growth
slowdown. The brakes applied to the raising of interest rates by the Fed allows other central banks to
lower their own policy rates and boost growth without the fear that disruptive capital flows could
wreak havoc on their economies. While such coordinated monetary policy can certainly prevent
slowdowns, it also raises the risk of extended periods of low interest rates leading to more
destructive bubbles.

12th MARCH 2019

(1 Question)

Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than
its length.

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Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and
strengthen your answers.
Q1. Discuss the need to indigenously develop aero-engines in India.
• On February 20,2019 the Indian Air Force and the aviation community heaved a collective sigh
of relief after the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark 1, received its long-awaited Final
Operational Clearance; this means it is combat-ready and can be exploited to the limits of its
approved ‘envelope’. A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
announcement at the show of its decision to shelve the Kaveri turbo-jet engine project.
While one waits for this report to be confirmed or denied, given the criticality of this engine
for India’s aeronautical industry, the issue deserves a close look.
• Historically, all major aerospace powers have possessed the capability to design airframes as well
as power-plants. Until India can design and produce its own aero-engines, the performance and
capabilities of any indigenously designed/built aircraft will be seriously limited by the technology
that we are permitted to import. India has already had two bitter experiences in this regard. The
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s sleek and elegant HF-24 Marut fighter, of the 1960s and 1970s,
failed to achieve its huge potential as a supersonic fighter for want of a suitable engine.
• Similarly, many of the problems the Tejas faced emanate from lack of engine thrust. Even as the
Kaveri has failed to make an appearance, U.S.-made alternatives such as the General Electric F-
404 engine, or even the more powerful F-414, do not deliver adequate thrust for the Tejas Mk 1,
to meet all its missions. For the Tejas Mk IA, Mk II, the LCA Navy, and other aircraft
programmes such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, India will need turbo-jet engines of
even greater thrust. Thus, it is vital for India to develop a family of homegrown jet engines to
power indigenous combat aircraft as well as re-engine imported ones.
• In this context, it is necessary to recognise that both the Tejas and Kaveri projects— form
key components of India’s technological aspirations. Unless carefully guided, protected and
nurtured, their failure could spell the end of India’s aeronautical industry, or condemn it
forever to licensed production. A long production run of, say, 250-300 aircraft for the Tejas and
its advanced derivatives is essential if the industry is to hone its design and production skills.
• The same holds good for the Kaveri, except that the design and production of a functional
turbojet engine are even more challenging.
• Since 1996, the Kaveri has made sporadic progress and the GTRE has been struggling with
serious design and performance issues which it has been unable to resolve. As the Kaveri missed
successive deadlines, the U.S. import option was mindlessly and gleefully resorted to.
• Given the DRDO’s penchant for secrecy and misplaced optimism, the true story of the Kaveri’s
halting progress has never been revealed to Parliament or the taxpayer. However, two details,
available on the Internet, are revelatory of the organisation’s ‘modus operandi’. It has, at least, on
two occasions, approached French and British aero-engine manufacturers for advice and
consultancy in operationalising the Kaveri. Despite reportedly attractive offers of performance-
enhancement and technology-transfer, the negotiations stalled reportedly on cost considerations.
It is also interesting to note that in 2014, this project — of national importance — was
arbitrarily shut down by the DRDO only to be revived subsequently for reasons unknown.

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• It is still not too late to declare both these projects as ‘national missions’ and initiate urgent
remedial actions. The success of both the Kaveri and Tejas programmes will transform the
aerospace scene, and put India in the front ranks of aeronautical nations, perhaps even
ahead of China, if the desired degree of resolve and professional rigour can be brought to
the fore. If we miss this opportunity, we will remain abjectly import-dependent forever in this
vital area.

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