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On the margins: 

On the margins


India has not signed the Refugee Convention and does not have a domestic asylum law.

About refugees:

  • Refugees do not have a formal legal identity and are often wrongly perceived to be “illegal immigrants”.
  • This status has forced them to the margins and has left them wholly dependent on the parallel economy for their survival.

Impact of demonetization on refugees:

  • Its collapse in the aftermath of demonetization had a devastating impact of refugees, especially women, who lost every avenue for their sustenance.
  • The lack of documentation to open bank account rendered them without the means to convert their cash into new currency, and virtually wiped out their entire savings
  • They struggled even to buy essential provisions or avail medical services.

Illegal immigrants:

  • There are thousands of illegal Indian immigrants in Europe and the US today, but the term cannot be legally or morally applied to people fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
  • Crossed international borders without documents, looking for better economic opportunities.
  • If there was no military operation in Rakhine, and Rohingya were flooding India, arguably a case could be made out for using the term, applied usually to those who have crossed international borders without documents, looking for better economic opportunities.
  • The Rohingya have never had papers as they have been denied citizenship of the country where they lived, they fled to save their lives.

Refugees in India:

  • Refugees in India typically have a refugee card; a limited number have temporary visas.
  • Refugees who tried opening bank accounts with these documents report that bank refused to recognize these as valid documentation for proof of ID or residence.
  • Now, with Aadhaar becoming mandatory to access any financial services, it is not clear whether refugees are eligible to apply for the same.
  • Aadhaar act states that anyone residing in India for 6 of the 12 months preceding the date of the application is eligible to obtain the card, many refugees who fulfill this requirement report that they have been turned away by local Aadhaar centers.
  • It is almost impossible for refugees to open a bank account. This has forced them to remain at the mercy of local agents and touts, which is contributing to the perpetuation of the parallel economy.

Need for a formal legal identity:

  • It is critical for the government to take steps towards integrating such marginalized groups into mainstream.
  • It is necessary that the government confer a formal legal identity to refugees and issue uniform documentation to this community.
  • With regard to Aadhaar, the first step would be to clarify whether refugees are eligible to apply for the same.
  • There have been some concerns that the possession of Aadhaar would allow non-nationals to access schemes meant exclusively for citizens, this can be addressed by issuing a limited version of the Aadhaar card to refugees.
  • The government can also explore the possibility of allowing refugees to use other forms of documentation such as their refugees card and visa, to access basic financial services.
  • There is need for full financial inclusion.

Does India have a Refugee Law?

  • India has no refugee specific law
  • The matter falls under the Foreigner Act of 1946, enacted by the Central Legislative Assembly.
  • The Foreigner Act makes the undocumented physical presence of a foreigner in India a crime.
  • It also empowers the government to detail a foreigner illegally living in the country till that person is deported.
  • India is not a signatory to 1951 UN refugee convention, or its 1967 Protocol
  • The government decides asylum pleas on ad hoc and case-to-case basis
  • Asylum-seekers whose plea is accepted are given long-term visa (LTV) to be renewed annually.  Long-term visa gives them right to work in private sector and access to education and banking

What is this “customary law”?

  • The U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee has the Principle of Non-Refoulement
  • The principle of Non-Refoulement is articulated in Article 33 of the 1951 U.N. Refugee convention
  • It mandates that no state shall expel or return a refugee to “ to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality or membership to a particular social group or political opinion”
  • However, this principle has an exception. There can be exception cases when a refugee is regarded as danger to the security of the country
  • The principle of Non-refoulement is regarded as a customary international law. These are international obligations arising from established state practice.

The Legal framework for refugees in India:

  • India plays host to thousands of refugees , it has no specific legislation dedicated to refugee protection and rights
  • In the absence of specific law addressing refugees , individual refugees are essentially protected only under the Constitution of India.
  • The government decides the status of refugees only by political and administrative decisions, rather than according to a codified model of conduct that governs the status of Refugees in India.
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Plotting social progress: 

Plotting social progress


  • India needs a cohesive measure of social progress in individual States as the country has now transformed itself into one of the fastest growing major economies.
  • The economic achievements are extensive but the potential for growth remains strong despite some slackening.

How to measure the growth?

  • The societal reach of this economic growth still remains unquantified.
  • There have been efforts to track individual social outcomes such as health, education and safety.
  • The National University of Educational Planning and Administration and the Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy) have computed an Educational Development Index for primary and upper primary levels of education that compare States on different aspects on education universalization.
  • NITI Aayog has rolled out the health, education and water index.
  • There have also been efforts to look at progress through the lens of a human development index but that does not isolate the impact of economic growth.

What is required?

  • A Social Progress Index could bridge this gap.
  • States get ranked using social and environmental indicators on the basis of their capability to provide for basic needs such as shelter, water, and sanitation.
  • A foundation for well-being with education, health, and communication facilities; analyzing the prejudices that prevail in a region prohibiting people from making their personal decisions; and evaluating whether citizens have personal rights and freedom or whether they are susceptible to child labour, human trafficking, corruption, etc.
  • A study conducted (2005-2016) helps analyse whether States, especially using social and environmental indicators, are heading in the right direction. It is also essential to help adjust policies as well as public and private investments.

What are the major findings?

  • The overall social progress score for the country now stands at 57.03 (on a 0-100 scale), approximately eight points higher than in 2005.
  • The country performs better in the provision of basic human needs rather than opportunities for its citizens. Therefore, creation of a society with equal opportunities for all still remains an elusive dream. All the States have climbed the social progress ladder, with the group of States that had the worst performance in 2005 — Tripura, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Bihar — now showing improvement, suggesting that the States with a relatively low level of social progress can improve rapidly.
  • States that have achieved a threshold level of social progress, driving improvements becomes more difficult. This is backed by the fact that average improvement is the lowest among the group of States that were categorised as “Very High Social Progress” in 2005.
  • The third major finding is that the greatest improvements have been in areas where social progress most often accompanies economic prosperity.
  • Areas where performance has declined or stagnated is where the correlation with economic development is weak, suggesting that States should focus on policies that target social issues. The focus on economic parameters will result in unbalanced social development.


  • The overall findings show that while the economy is on the right track, there is an urgent need to identify and focus on social parameters.
  • The reliance on the idea that economic development will automatically transform social condition will hinder further improvements in social progress.
  • Social progress needs to be stimulated by focussing on policies directly targeting social issues.
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2017 is set to be in top three hottest years: WMO: 

2017 is set to be in top three hottest years: WMO


In its annual review, the UN says the gap between carbon cutting plans and the reductions required to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius is “alarmingly high”.


  • The new emissions gap report finds that global greenhouse emissions by 2020 “are likely to be at the high end of the range” consistent with keeping temperature rises below 2 degrees or 1.5C.
  • The UN has published an annual analysis of emissions every year since 2010.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), it will likely be the hottest year in the absence of the El Nino phenomenon.
  • On the UN Climate talk, researchers from the WMO have presented their annual state of the Global Climate report.
  • According to the WMO, this year vies with 2015 to be the second or third warmest mark yet recorded
  • This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO is based on measurements taken in 51 countries.
  • Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Highlight of the report:

  • The report suggests that signatories of the Paris accord must significantly increase their ambitions in the new and updated national plans that will have to be submitted by 2020.
  • Solar, wind, efficient appliances, efficient passenger cars, planting more trees and preventing deforestation would more than cover the emissions gap.
  • The recommended actions in these areas would have a modest or net-negative cost says the report and could shave 22 gigatonnes of carbon equivalent by 2030.
  • The scientists argue that the long-term trend of warming driven by human activities continues unabated.
  • In terms of which countries as doing their fair share, the UN report says China, the EU, India and Japan are on track to meet their 2020 pledges.

Global impact of Climate Change:

  • Two Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the same year in the US.
  • Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US.
  • There were also significant flooding events with large loss of life in Sierra Leone, in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Peru among many others.
  • Drought and heat waves affected many parts of Africa and South America. In Somalia, more than half of cropland was impacted with herds reduced by 40-60%.
  • More than 11 million people are experiencing severe food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
  • The Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, which measures the intensity and duration of these events, showed its highest ever monthly values in September this year.
  • With UN talks on climate change now underway here in Bonn, the report is likely to reinforce a sense of urgency among many delegates.
  • According to experts, the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, in the mid-Pliocene Epoch. The climate then was 2-3C warmer, and sea levels were 10-20m higher due to the melting of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets.
  • The rapid increase in methane since 2007, especially in 2014, 2015, and 2016, is different. This was not expected in the Paris agreement. Methane growth is strongest in the tropics and subtropics.
  • Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.

What is climate change?

  • Climate change is a long-term shift in the statistics of the weather (including its averages).
  • For example, it could show up as a change in climate normals (expected average values for temperature and precipitation) for a given place and time of year, from one decade to the next


  • El Niño impacts the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by causing droughts that limit the uptake of CO2 by plants and trees.
  • Warming of Pacific Ocean
  • Near Western coast of Peru and Ecuador.
  • It weakens the trade winds and changes in Southern Oscillation, thereby affects the rainfall pattern across the world.

Its impact:To India

  • Drought condition decreases the agriculture output, leads to food inflation.
  • Declined supply of cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane negatively affects the textile, edible oil and food processing industries respectively.

To World

  • Drought situation over South East Asia and Australia hurts rice and wheat cultivation respectively.
  • Warm condition over Peru coast: unsuitable for Plankton population, thus bad for fishing industry. Birds migrate in search of fishes, thus less guano dropping for Fertilizer industry in Peru and Ecuador.
  • Flood situation in South America & US Midwest lead to decline in coffee-cocoa and corn-wheat production respectively.

What are greenhouse gases?

  • Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere to keep the planet warm enough to sustain life, this process is called the greenhouse effect.
  • It is a natural process and without these gases, the Earth would be too cold for humans, plants and other creatures to live.
  • The natural greenhouse effect exists due to the balance of the major types of greenhouse gases. However, when abnormally high levels of these gases accumulate in the air, more heat starts getting trapped and leads to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect.

What are the causes of rising emissions?

  • Human-caused emissions have been increasing greenhouse levels which is raising worldwide temperatures and driving global warming.Burning coal, oil and gas produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
  • Cutting down forests (deforestation). Trees help to regulate the climate by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. So when they are cut down, that beneficial effect is lost and the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect.
  • Increasing livestock farming. Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food.
  • Fertilizers containing nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Fluorinated gases produce a very strong warming effect, up to 23 000 times greater than CO2. Thankfully these are released in smaller quantities and are being phased down by EU regulations.

What is Paris Agreement?

  • It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Accord is considered as a turning point for global climate policy.

What are the aims of the Paris agreement?

  • The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • It further aims at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • The agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • It also aims at making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
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How demonetisation affected the Indian economy, in 10 charts:

How demonetisation affected the Indian economy, in 10 charts:


  • The rural economy suffered disproportionately due to demonetization because most transactions here are cash-based.
  • What is the meaning of demonetization?
  • Demonetization is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender.
  • It occurs whenever there is a change of national currency.
  • Demonetization is necessary whenever there is a change of national currency. The old unit of currency must be retired and replaced with a new currency unit.
  • The opposite of demonetization is remonetization where a form of payment is restored as legal tender.


  • On November 8, 2016 Prime Minister announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes will become invalid.
  • The government introduced new notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 .
  • There was also no change effected in any other form of currency exchange like cheque, Demand draft (DD), payments made through credit cards and debit cards.
  • The move was taken to curb the menace of black money, fake notes and corruption by reducing the amount of cash available in the system.

Impact of demonetization on rural economy:

  • The hardest-hit were those in rural areas, where access to banking and the internet are quite low.
  • A 2016 Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report on branch authorization policy classified 93% of rural centres in the country as unbanked, with the population dependent on roving banking correspondents and on distant urban or semi-urban branches.
  • Access to the internet is equally patchy, with only 3% of households in underdeveloped rural access to internet in a 2016 consumer economy survey.
  • The liquidity squeeze led to a pile-up at wholesale markets, leading to a sharp decline in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) of perishables such as fruits and vegetables in the immediate aftermath of demonetisation.
  • By turning farm markets into buyers’ markets, demonetisation may have also contributed to the decline in prices of pulses
  • Rural consumer sentiment too took a hit, with domestic sales of two-wheelers plunging sharply.
  • New project announcements declined sharply in the wake of demonetisation, a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) analysis showed, hurting the capex cycle.

How the ground realities do are different from the stated aims of demonetization?

1-      Uncertain benefits:

  • The one big promise of demonetisation was a rapid expansion in the tax base but the actual results have been quite modest. According to the finance ministry’s estimates published in the latest Economic Survey, the tax base expansion attributable to demonetisation was Rs10,600 crore, lower than what RBI spent on interest expenses, and equivalent to only 0.1% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).

2-      On counterfeit notes:

  • Another stated aim of demonetisation was to detect and eliminate counterfeit notes. The growth in detected counterfeit notes after demonetisation has not been unusually large, shows RBI data, even as counterfeits of the freshly issued notes have already emerged in the system.

3-      On Black money:

Objective of demonetization:

  • By withdrawing the high currency notes, the government had reckoned that those holding unaccounted cash or black money would not deposit in the banking system, thereby hitting this hoard.


  • Demonetisation did provide a boost to non-cash payments in the short term but that effect may be waning, with the cash-to-GDP ratio back to double-digits.
  • The proportion of high-value notes (Rs500 and above)—often viewed as conduits of black money—has also been rising as new notes have entered the system. At the end of fiscal year 2017 (FY17), the proportion of high-value notes stood at 74%, considerably lower than that in FY16. But this figure may rise significantly by the end of FY18.

4- Digital Transactions:

Objectives of demonitisation:

  • One of the aims was to bring about a shift from a cash based economy towards more digital or electronic forms of transactions.
  • After demonetization, there was a spurt in electronic transactions through prepaid wallets, debit and credit cards, NEET(National Electronic Fund Transfer).
  • From 671.49 million transactions in November last year, it rose to 957.50 million in December at the end of the government’s deadline on cash withdrawal.
  • July data shows that the number of transactions was 862.38 million, lower than in December.

In reality:

  • There is no evidence of expansion of digitization in any major economy through demonetization.

5-   Anonymity of cash owners:

Objectives :

  • One of the arguments from government’s side has been that the anonymity about ownership of cash operating in the system has ended, with more people depositing it in the banking system.
  • The government claims that it now has details of all those who had deposited cash during demonetization period.
  • One of the objective of demonetization was to put identity on the cash holdings in the economy.

In reality:

  • The Income tax department, through its “Operation Clean Money” project launched in January, has tracked 13.33 lakh accounts with cash deposits of around Rs 2.89 lakh crore, and received over 9 lakh responses so far.
  • If the Income tax department is able to prove that a good proportion of this was not legitimate money, the outcome could meet this objective.

6-   Tax base:


  • One of the stated objective of demonetization was to increase the tax base.
  • For this, personal income tax return have increased by over 25% as those dealing in cash were compelled to deposit it in banks.

In reality:

  • The real measure would be not just increasing the number of those filling income tax, but also how it translates into higher revenues.
  • More people may be added to the returns-filling list but if significant number of these people have income below the taxable limit, the gain will be limited.
  • Mutual funds, etc
  • According to the government estimates, the savings in the form of investment in equity mutual funds, life insurance premiums and other products have risen after demonetization.
  • According to the government, assets under management of mutual funds up 54% by June-end 2017 from March 2016.

In reality:

  • The growth in mutual funds, however, has been a story over the past few years.
  • Assets under management of the Indian mutual funds industry have risen sixfold over the last decade, with the Systematic Investment Plan gaining popularity in the last couple of years.
  • In a low-inflation scenario, investors used to higher returns on safer bank deposits have shifted to mutual funds and other instruments, with deposit rates sliding.

What are the  other consequences of demonetization?

Positive consequences:

  • The growth in the direct tax base.
  • The switch in the financial holdings of households from cash to bank deposits
  • The increased use of digital payment

Negative consequences:

  • The main negative economic consequence of demonetisation has been the disruption of unorganized supply chains that are dependent on cash transactions.
  • Demonetisation leads to decline in economic growth to a three year low of 5.7 per cent.
  • RBI report had revealed that nearly 99 per cent of the scrapped currency notes had come back to the banks, and it would become 100 per cent if cash in the pipeline is accounted for.
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‘Public credit registry to speed up digitisation’

‘Public credit registry to speed up digitisation’


  • The introduction of a public credit registry will further speed up digitisation that has already changed the way banking is done in the country.

What is digitalisation?

  • Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.
  • What has been the significance of digitalization in Indian banking system?
  • Indian Government is aggressively promoting digital transactions.
  • The launch of United Payments Interface (UPI) and Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) are significant steps for innovation in the Payment Systems domain.
  • UPI is a mobile interface where people can make instant funds transfer between accounts in different banks on the basis of virtual address without mentioning the bank account.

What are the challenges in adopting digitisation?

  • Security Risks – External threats such as hacking, sniffing and spoofing expose banks to security risks. Banks are also exposed to internal risks especially frauds by employees / employees in collusion with customers
  • Financial Literacy / Customer Awareness – Lack of knowledge amongst people to use e-banking facilities is the major constraint in India.
  • Fear factor – One of the biggest hurdle in online banking is preference to conventional banking method by older generation and mostly people from the rural areas. The fear of losing money in the online transaction is a barrier to usage of e-banking.
  • Training – Lack of adequate knowledge and skills is a major deterrent for employees to deal with the innovative and changing technologies in banks. Training at all levels on the changing trends in IT is the requirement of the day for the banks.

What is the way ahead?

  • Business Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a potential to bring a major change. Robotics, enabled by AI, is expected to be the future game changer in the banks.
  • Many private banks are planning to deploy Robots for customer service, investment advisory and credit-approval process to improve the services and be cost effective in the long run.
  • Digital Banking will be the most preferred form of banking in the coming years.
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Mammals gave up night life only after dinosaur doom:

Mammals gave up night life only after dinosaur doom:


  • Research says that earliest mammals were night creatures.
  • They emerged from darkness only after the demise of the daytime dinosaurs.

What is the explanation behind the research?

  • The earliest mammal ancestor emerged between 220 million and 160 million years ago, evolving from a reptilian forebear.
  • And according to studies, it was probably nocturnal.
  • Dinosaurs, on the other hand, were likely day-dwellers seeking out sunlight to warm their bodies like reptiles today.
  • The mammals hid out in darkness for so long, possibly to avoid competition with dinosaurs for food or territory, or being eaten by them.
  • The data revealed that mammals remained nocturnal throughout the Mesozoic period, which ended about 66 million years ago when a massive calamity, possibly an asteroid strike, wiped out the dinosaurs and about three-quarters of life on Earth.
  • Mammals, then mainly small, scurrying animals, survived, and flourished.
  • Primate ancestors were thus among the first mammals to become strictly diurnal, possibly as long as 52 million years ago.

Mammals in the present day context:

  • Mammals, apart from primates, lack a part of the eye known as the fovea, which many fish, reptiles and birds have and is replete with photoreceptor “cone” cells for seeing colour in high light.
  • Instead, they tend to have more “rod” cells, which can pick up scant light in dim conditions, but provide relatively low resolution.
  • Modern-day mammals, which are active mostly by day including types of squirrel, tree-shrews, some antelope and many carnivores  also still tend to have a keen sense of smell and acute hearing, attributes required for living in the dark.
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Proxima Centauri may host planetary system:

Proxima Centauri may host planetary system:


  • Scientists have detected dust belts around Proxima Centauri, a finding that indicates the presence of an elaborate planetary system hosted by the closest star to the solar system.


  • New observations by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory in Chile revealed the glow coming from cold dust in a region between one to four times as far from Proxima Centauri as the Earth is from the Sun.
  • The data also hints at the presence of an even cooler outer dust belt and may indicate the presence of a system of planets.
  • These structures are similar to larger belts in the solar system and are also expected to be made from particles of rock and ice that failed to form planets.

About Proxima Centauri:

  • Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun.
  • It is a faint red dwarf lying just four light years away in the southern constellation of Centaurus.
  • It is orbited by the Earth-sized temperate world Proxima b, discovered in 2016 and the closest exoplanet to the solar system.
  • The new ALMA observations reveal emission from clouds of cold cosmic dust surrounding the star.
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Teaching ethics to aspiring civil servants: 

Teaching ethics to aspiring civil servants


  • The arrest of an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer for cheating during the civil services examination raises questions on future recruitments to the All India Services and the training of officers

What is the significance of civil services exams?  

  • The Civil Service is an integral and key part of the Government. It supports the Government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services.
  • Civil servants are accountable to Ministers, who in turn are accountable to Parliament.
  • A civil servant is appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and is expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Civil Services Code:

  • ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests;
  • ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open;
  • ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and
  • ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions.
  • These core values support good government and ensure the achievement of the highest possible standards in all that the Civil Service does.
  • This in turn helps the Civil Service to gain and retain the respect of Ministers, Parliament, the public and its customers.

Why are ethics important in public administration?

  • Ethics are the rules that define moral conduct according to the ideology of a specific group. Moreover, ethics in public administration are important for good business conduct based on the needs of a specific town, state or country.
  • Ethics provide accountability between the public and the administration. Adhering to a code of ethics ensures that the public receives what it needs in a fair manner.
  • It also gives the administration guidelines for integrity in their operations.
  • That integrity, in turn, helps foster the trust of the community.
  • By creating this atmosphere of trust, the administration helps the public understand that they are working with their best interests in mind.

What are the factors affecting the training of trainees?

  • Supervisors in the State Police do not play the role required of them to train IPS probationers once they are assigned for field training after finishing the course at the NPA.
  • Only a few senior officers take interest in instilling the right values in IPS trainees.
  • This is not only because of sheer indolence and the low priority accorded to responsibility of monitoring training; it is also because of the declining moral standards of senior police officers themselves
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