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Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Zonal Councils.

2. Farm loan waiver.

3. Qassem Soleimani killing.

4. UNESCO creative cities network (UCCN).


GS Paper 3:

1. FAME-India Scheme.

2. New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST).


Facts for Prelims:

1. What is Extraocular Vision?

2. First-of-its kind turtle rehab centre comes up in Bihar.

3. ‘Cyber Safe Women’ initiative.

4. Patola Sarees.


GS Paper  : 2


Topics covered: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Zonal Councils

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Particulars and significance of Zonal Councils.

Context: The 25th meeting of the western zonal council will be held in January 2020. Maharashtra will be the lead coordinator this time.

Zonal councils:

Statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956 and not constitutional bodies. They are only deliberative and advisory bodies.

Aim:  to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.

There are five Zonal councils namely:

  1. The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
  2. The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  3. The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.
  4. The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
  5. The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Sikkim and (viii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.


Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.

Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.

Members– Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.

Advisers– One person nominated by the Planning Commission (which has been replaced by NITI Ayog now) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.

Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are:

  1. Bringing out national integration.
  2. Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
  3. Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
  4. Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. Issues related to farm subsidies.

Farm loan waiver

What to study?

For Prelims: Which states announced farm loan waivers in last one year.

For Mains: Advantages and Disadvantages of farm loan waivers, the need for viable solution to farm distress.

Context: The new Maharashtra government has announced a loan waiver for farmers who had up to Rs 2 lakh in pending loans between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2019. Maharashtra thus became possibly the only state to have offered two consecutive farm loan waivers within two-and-a-half years of each other.

Who is eligible?

  • Farmers with outstanding crop loan up to Rs 2 lakh, pending from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2019.
  • Farmers with more than Rs 2 lakh outstanding are not eligible for the scheme. Also, the scheme has no incentive for farmers who are regular in their repayments.
  • Families with more than one loan account are eligible for waiver in each one of their accounts.


To help the farm sector, state governments have time and again announced loan waiver schemes. Back in 2008-09, the then UPA government at the Centre had announced a loan waiver scheme for the entire country. States like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and others have announced similar schemes in the recent past.

Drawbacks of loan waivers:

  • Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
  • Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
  • Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loanseither from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
  • Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourerswho are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
  • Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
  • Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
  • Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.

Way ahead:

The magic wand of a waiver can offer temporary relief, but long-term solutions are needed to solve farmer woes. There are many dimensions of the present agrarian crisis in India. The search for a solution therefore needs to be comprehensive by taking into consideration all the factors that contribute to the crisis. Furthermore, both short- and long-term measures are required to address the numerous problems associated with the agrarian crisis.

What needs to be done?

Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.

Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.

Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.

Observations made by RBI:

As per RBI, loan waivers not only inhibit investment in the farm sector but put pressure on the fiscal of states which undertake farm loan waiver.

In every state election during the last five years, loan waiver promise made by one political party or other. Also, loan waivers, as the RBI has repeatedly argued, vitiate the credit culture, and stress the budgets of the waiving state or central government.

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Qassem Soleimani killing

What to study?

For Prelims: What Quds force?

For Mains: Implications of the latest event.

Context: Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, was recently killed in a US strike at Baghdad International Airport.

He was the long-serving head of Iran’s Quds (“Jerusalem”) Force and has been seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies.


What has the US said?

The US Department of Defense has stated that the US military had taken the “decisive step to protect US personnel abroad by killing Soleimani, the head of Quds Force, which is the overseas operations wing of the IRGC and a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation.”

  • According to the State Department, the regime in Tehran “is responsible for the deaths of at least 603 American service members in Iraq since 2003”. This, according to the US, “accounts for 17% of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, and is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies”.
  • In recent years, Quds Force plots have been uncovered in countries including Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, and Turkey.

BackgroundIranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC):

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set up the IRGC in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution ended to protect the Islamic order of the new Iranian government.

IRGC has contributed roughly 125,000 men to Iran’s forces and has the capability of undertaking asymmetric warfare and covert operations.

This includes the Quds Force that over the years has established links with the Hezbollah of Lebanon, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Shi’ites in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

What is the Quds Force?

Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem, and is responsible for carrying out unconventional warfare and intelligence activities.

The force is responsible for training, financing and providing assistance to some extremist groups overseas.

It also undertakes Iranian missions in other countries, including covert ones.

What does Soleimani’s death mean for US-Iran relations?

  • Soleimani’s death would result in a dramatic escalation in relations between the US and Iran.
  • The strike has left the Middle East on edge, with possible repercussions beyond the region.
  • The killing would make Iran more decisive in resisting the US, while anti-US forces would exact revenge across the Muslim world.
  • The killing could have a ripple effect in any number of countries across the Middle East where Iran and the US compete for influence.

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

UNESCO creative cities network (UCCN)

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About Creative Cities Network- features and significance.

Context: The government of Hanoi recently held a ceremony to formally announce that the Vietnamese capital city is joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

To date, the UCCN has granted membership to 246 cities around the world.

About Creative Cities Network:

What is it?

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

Objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music.

Joining the Network, cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships involving the public and private sectors as well as civil society in order to:

  1. Strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services;
  2. Develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector;
  3. Improve access to and participation in cultural life, in particular for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals;
  4. Fully integrate culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.

As of November, 2019, there are five Indian cities in UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) as follows:

  1. Jaipur-Crafts and Folk Arts(2015).
  2. Varanasi-Creative city of Music (2015).
  3. Chennai-Creative city of Music(2017).
  4. Mumbai – Film (2019).
  5. Hyderabad – Gastronomy (2019).

Sources: the hindu.


GS Paper  : 3


Topics Covered: Infrastructure

FAME-II Scheme.

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: FAME- India scheme- features, significance and potential.

Context: To give a further push to clean mobility in Road Transport Sector, the Department of Heavy Industries has sanctioned 2636 charging stations in 62 cities across 24 States/UTs under FAME India (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India) scheme phase II.

What are the salient features of FAME 2 scheme?

  • Aims to boost electric mobility and increase the number of electric vehicles in commercial fleets.
  • Target: The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme.
  • The government will offer the incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.

How will FAME 2 scheme help improve charging infrastructure?

  1. The centre will invest in setting up charging stations, with the active participation of public sector units and private players.
  2. It has also been proposed to provide one slow-charging unit for every electric bus and one fast-charging station for 10 electric buses.
  3. Projects for charging infrastructure will include those needed to extend electrification for running vehicles such as pantograph charging and flash charging.
  4. FAME 2 will also encourage interlinking of renewable energy sources with charging infrastructure.


FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.

FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

Need of the hour:

India needs auto industry’s active participation to ease electric mobility transition.

  • The auto and battery industries could collaborate to enhance customer awareness, promote domestic manufacturing, promote new business models, conduct R&D for EVs and components, consider new business models to promote EVs.
  • Government should focus on a phased manufacturing plan to promote EVs, provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for phased manufacturing of EVs and batteries.
  • Different government departments can consider a bouquet of potential policies, such as congestion pricing, ZEV credits, low emission/exclusion zones, parking policies, etc. to drive adoption of EVs.

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST)

What to study?

For Prelims: Objectives and functions of NEST.

For Mains: Need for and significance of NEST.

 Context: With India grappling with issues like the security implications of the introduction of 5G and artificial intelligence, the Indian foreign ministry has announced the setting up of a new division on New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST).

About NEST and it’s functions:

  • The division will act as the nodal point in India’s foreign ministry for all matters connected to new and emerging technologies including exchange of views with foreign governments and coordination with domestic ministries and departments.
  • It will also help assess foreign policy and international legal implications of emerging technology and technology-based resources.
  • The desk will also be involved in negotiations to safeguard Indian interests at multilateral fora like the United Nations or the G20 where rules governing the use and access to such technologies could be decided.


The new division is one of the many specialized desks created in recent years to deal with emerging challenges and scenarios.

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for Prelims:


What is Extraocular Vision?

The ability to see without eyes is known as extraocular vision. Previous researchers have defined it as the ability to resolve scenes without discrete eyes.

Why in News?

Researchers have shown that red brittle star, which are relatives of starfish, can see even though it does not have eyes. The red brittle star (Ophiocoma wendtii), which lives in the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea, becomes only the second creature, after a sea urchin species, known to have this ability (barring freak cases in other species).

How it works?

In sea urchins and brittle stars, researchers suspect that extraocular vision is facilitated by the photoreceptor cells found on their bodies.


First-of-its kind turtle rehab centre comes up in Bihar:

  • A first-of-its-kind rehabilitation centre for freshwater turtles will be inaugurated in Bihar’s Bhagalpur forest division in January 2020.
  • The rehab centre, spread over half a hectare, will be able to shelter 500 turtles at a time.
  • The need to build such a centre was felt after several turtles were found severely wounded and sick when rescued from smuggles by rescue teams.


‘Cyber Safe Women’ initiative:

  • The Maharashtra government has launched a ‘cyber safe women’ campaign across the state, on the birth anniversary of Indian social reformer, Savitribai Phule.
  • The cyber safe women initiative aims to spread awareness regarding the atrocities committed against women and children as well as the laws regarding cybercrime.
  • It will educate women about how the web is used by anti-social elements to commit various types of crimes.


Patola Sarees:

Context: Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has inaugurated a first Silk Processing Plant at Surendranagar in Gujarat.

The plant would help to reduce the cost of production of silk yarn and increase the sale and availability of raw material for Gujarati Patola Sarees locally. 

Key facts:

  • Patola, the trademark saree of Gujarat, is considered to be very costly and worn only by royals or aristocrats.
  • It is a double ikat woven sari,usually made from silk, made in Patan, Gujarat, India.
  • The reason high cost of Patola sarees is that the silk yarn used to make them is purchased from Karnataka or West Bengal, where silk processing units are situated. This increases the cost of the fabric manifolds.
  • It has received a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2013.