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3rd March – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Safeguard Undermined
  2. Bottom or Mirage?
  3. Pushing the wrong energy buttons
  4. Return to Chaos in Afghanistan


Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The law on granting sanction for prosecution imposes a duty on the government concerned to apply its mind to the facts of each case and render a decision based on its assessment whether, prime facie, a case has been made out
  • The sanction requirement has seen criticism only in corruption cases, as the power could be used to shield corrupt public servants. 


  • Superior courts have repeatedly stressed that giving sanction is not a mechanical process, but requires application of mind.
  • The government is required to decide whether there is enough material to conclude that the speech or slogans had a tendency to create public disorder or contained incitement to violence.
  • The prior sanction norm is a vital procedural safeguard against frivolous prosecution.
  • The sanction requirement has seen criticism only in corruption cases, as the power could be used to shield corrupt public servants.
  • However, the sanction contemplated by Section 196 of the CrPC, for “offences against the state” in the Indian Penal Code, as well as “conspiracy” to commit them, is different.
  • Such sanction is also needed for Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and Section 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings).
  • The reason is that a police officer’s understanding of the offence should be subject to the government’s scrutiny so that these provisions are not unlawfully used against free speech.

Section 196 of the CrPC:  

Section 196 of the CrPC. is just a procedure wherein it says that in order to prosecute a person for offences committed under Section 153A or Section 295A of the IPC, the State Government or the District Magistrate may, before giving consent under Sub-Section (2) of Section 196 of the CrPC., order a preliminary investigation by a police officer not being below the rank of Inspector.

Section 153A of IPC?

Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the offence of promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. The offence is a cognizable offence and the punishment for the same may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. However, the punishment of the offence committed in a place of worship is enhanced up to five years and fine.

Section 295(A) of IPC?

Section 295(A) says that Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of  [citizens of India],  [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.

Issues with the section 295A:

  • The broad ambit of section 295A – which is non-bail-able and does not recognize even truth as a defence  have made it a powerful tool in the hands of the intolerant lot. 
  • IPC already has several other provisions to deal with those attempting to breach communal harmony, it may be wise to consider watering down or doing away with Section 295A altogether, particularly when unjustified invocation of the penal provision only sparks fears of aggravating communal tension. 
  • Section 295, which has been the Indian version of anti-blasphemy law since its introduction during the colonial rule, continues even after blasphemy being abolished in the UK. 
  • It has chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression.
  • Though Section 295A envisages malicious intent behind the offending act and the procedural law mandates the need for sanction from government for prosecution, the ineffectiveness of the safeguards can be gauged from the fact that they could not save even a stand-up comedian from arrest immediately after a complaint.
  • Section 295A deters even honest attempts to fight against superstition and prejudices, the broad ambit of the offence had sometimes even put the government and courts in difficult situations. 
  • The wide ambit of Section 295A has not spared even pure artistic and literary expressions and has often startled even the votaries of the provision with unintended consequences. The biggest example of which is imposition of this section on MF Hussein’s Paintings.

Constitutionality and problems in repealing the law:

  • With respect to repeal of Section 295A, however, there is a significant problem: in 1957, in, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
  • This means that, if the Supreme Court were to change its mind, it would need a bench of at least seven judges to overrule Ramji Lal Modi case, and strike down the law.
  • Procedurally, this would require the challengers to 295A to first convince a two-judge bench (before which any petition originally goes) that there are sufficient reasons for doubting the correctness of Ramji Lal Modi case.
  • If convinced, this two-judge bench would need to refer the question to a five-judge bench which, in turn (if convinced), would have to refer it to a seven-judge bench, which would finally hear the case on merits.


Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Official estimates of gross domestic product for the fiscal third quarter have pegged growth in the festival demand-filled October-November month  period at 4.7%, a distinct slowdown from the revised year-earlier and preceding quarters’ 5.6% and 5.1% paces respectively.

Growth of different sectors:

  • Manufacturing, which contributes just under a fifth to gross value added (GVA), was the biggest drag posting a 0.2% decline and extending the sector’s contraction into a second straight quarter.
  • Output at electricity and allied utility services also shrank 0.7%, reflecting lack of demand from becalmed factories.
  • And activity in construction, a generator of orders for goods from cement to steel, softened worryingly to a 0.3% expansion, prolonging the industry’s slowdown for a third consecutive quarter.
  • However, agriculture and the three largest services sectors, including public administration and defence, shored up overall GVA, with farm output expanding by 3.5% and the government-centred services growing by 9.7%, according to NSO estimates. 
  • The Centre was quick to assert that the economy appeared to have “bottomed out”, with the Economic Affairs Secretary citing an improvement in output at the eight core industries as an uptick in momentum.
  • To be sure, overall growth at the eight industries that include coal, refinery products, steel, cement and electricity averaged 2.2% in January, propelled by an 8% increase in coal production.

Note of caution: Don’t try to memorise these growth rate numbers. Just follow the growth pattern.

More about IIP

  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index that shows the growth rates in different industry groups of the economy in a fixed period of time.
  • It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • IIP is a composite indicator that measures the growth rate of industry groups classified under:
  • Broad sectors, namely, Mining, Manufacturing, and Electricity.
  • Use-based sectors, namely Basic Goods, Capital Goods, and Intermediate Goods.
  • Base Year for IIP is 2011-2012.
  • The eight core industries of India represent about 40% of the weight of items that are included in the IIP.

The Eight Core Sectors/Industries are:

  • Electricity
  • Steel
  • Refinery products
  • Crude oil
  • Coal
  • Cement
  • Natural gas
  • Fertilisers

Significance of IIP :

  • IIP is the only measure on the physical volume of production.
  • It is used by government agencies including the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India, etc., for policy-making purposes.
  • IIP remains extremely relevant for the calculation of the quarterly and advance GDP estimates.

Core industries in the IIP

The following table represents the weight of the eight core industries in the IIP.

Industry Weight
Coal 10.33
Electricity 19.85
Crude oil 8.98
Cement 5.37
Natural gas 6.88
Steel 17.92
Refinery products 28.04
Fertilisers 2.63
Total 100
Q. In the Index of Eight Core Industries, which one of the following is given the highest weight?
(a) Coal Production
(b) Electricity generation
(c) Fertilizer Production
(d) Steel Production  

Ans: B


Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure

Why in news?

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Westinghouse Electric Company have finalized the techno-commercial offer for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India at the earliest date.


  • Because of the cost and safety, the two organisations should have been told to abandon, not finalise, the proposal.
    • The estimated cost of 6 reactors is around 6 lakh crores and If India purchases these reactors, the economic burden will fall upon consumers and taxpayers
  • Electricity from American reactors would be more expensive than competing sources of energy. 
  • Nuclear reactors can undergo serious accidents, as shown by the 2011 Fukushima disaster
  •  Large areas continue to be contaminated with radioactive materials from the 1986 Chernobyl accident and thousands of square kilometres remain closed off for human inhabitation. 
  • India’s experiences with imported reactors have been poor.
  • Kudankulam 1 and 2 reactors, in Tamil Nadu, the only ones to have been imported and commissioned in the last decade, have been repeatedly shut down.
    • In 2018-19, these reactors produced just 32% and 38%, respectively, of the electricity they were designed to produce.


India’s Nuclear Energy Program:

Three Stage programme

Image result for three stage nuclear programme

Stage one – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor uses

  • Natural UO2 as fuel matrix,
  • Heavy water as moderator and coolant.
  • In the reactor, the first two plants were of boiling water reactors based on imported technology. Subsequent plants are of PHWR type through indigenous R&D efforts. India achieved complete self- reliance in this technology and this stage of the programme is in the industrial domain.
  • The future plan includes the setting up of VVER type i.e. Russian version of the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) is under progress to augment power generation.
  • MOX fuel (Mixed oxide) is developed and introduced at Tarapur to conserve fuel and to develop new fuel technology.

Second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).

Third phase of India’s Nuclear Power Generation programme is, breeder reactors using U-233 fuel.

  • India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.
Under Construction Operating Nuclear Power Plants in India NPP Maps
Planned Nuclear Power Plants in India Map

Nuclear Reactor Components

Fuel: Uranium is the basic fuel used in a nuclear reactor. 

Moderator: The material that slows down the neutrons released from fission so that they cause more fission. Most-used moderators are water, heavy water or graphite.

Control Rods: Made from neutron-absorbing material like cadmium that are inserted into or taken out of the core so as to control the rate of the reaction.

Coolant: A fluid circulating through the core so as to transfer the heat from it.

Q. Consider the following statements: In a nuclear reactor, self-sustained chain reaction is possible, because: 
1. More neutrons are released in each of the fission reactions.
2. The neutrons immediately take part in the fission process.
3. The fast neutrons are slowed down by graphite.
4. Every neutron released in the fission reaction initiates further fission.

Which of these statements are correct?
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 1 and 3
(c) 2 and 4
(d) 2, 3 and 4  

Answer: (b) 1 and 3
Q. To meet its rapidly growing energy demand, some opine that India should pursue research and development on thorium as the future fuel of nuclear energy. In this context, what advantage does thorium hold over uranium? 
1. Thorium is far more abundant in nature than uranium.
2. On the basis of per unit mass of mined mineral, thorium can generate more energy compared to natural uranium.
3. Thorium produces less harmful waste compared to uranium.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3  

Answer: (d) 1, 2 and 3


Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

Recently, the U.S. signed a deal (at Qatar’s capital-Doha) with the Taliban that could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan.

Background of the Deal

  • Inhuman violence by Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, and taliban triggered US to enter Afghanistan
  • US was joined by an international coalition and Taliban turned into an insurgent force and continued deadly attacks, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments.

Siting the loss of men and material since 2001, US president has called for phased withdrawal from Afghanistan

Salient Features of the Deal

  • Troops Withdrawal: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days
  • Taliban Commitment: That it will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
  • Sanctions Removal: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed
  • Prisoner Release: The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10.

Challenges in the Deal

  • One-Sided Deal: this deal excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban do not see the government as legitimate rulers. Also, there is no reference to the Constitution, rule of law, democracy and elections in the deal.
  • Taliban is known for strict religious shia laws, banishing women from public life, shutting down schools and unleashing systemic discrimination on religious and ethnic minorities, has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.

Issues with Intra-Afghan Dialogue:

  • President Ashraf Ghani faces a political crisis following claims of fraud in his recent re-election.
  • Fear of ethnic fissures between Taliban, Tajiks and Uzbeks
  • Thus, the lifting of the US military footprint and the return of a unilateral Taliban could set the stage for the next round of civil war that has hobbled the nation since the late 1970s.

Impact of the Deal on Other Stakeholders

  •  This deal may demonstrate progress on promises made during the election of US president Donald trump and his bid for re-election later this year.
  • Pakistan: The deal provides the strategic advantage to Pakistan, who is a long-time benefactor of the Taliban and who has meditated  the talks between US and Pakistan.
  • China: After the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China may leverage Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban, to propel its strategic projects like the Belt and Road Initiative.

Impact of this Deal on India

  • This deal alters the balance of power in favour of the Taliban, which will have strategic, security and political implications for India.
  • India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan. India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan’s development.
  • India has a major stake in the continuation of the current Afghanistan government in power, which it considers a strategic asset vis-à-vis Pakistan.
  • An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to India since the Taliban is widely believed to be a protégé of Islamabad.
  • As Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia, the deal might dampen India’s interest in Central Asia.
  • Withdrawal of US troops could result in the breeding of the fertile ground for various anti-India terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
February 2024