Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 8, 2018


Q.1) ‘At present, India’s connect with its South Asian neighbours is weaker than it has been for a very long time.’ What do you think are the reasons for India’s sinking relationship with its South Asian neighbors? Give some suggestive measures to be taken to renew and strengthen the relationship. (GS–2)


  • In the present time, India’s connect with its South Asian neighbours is weaker than it has been for a very long time.

What are the reasons for which India’s present state of relation with its South Asian neighbors is weaker than it has been?

The reasons for which India’s present state of relation with its South Asian neighbors is weaker than it has been are as follows:

SAARC not in ideal terms with India:

  • The first problem is that for various reasons, other governments in the SAARC region are either not on ideal terms with India, or facing political turbulence.
  • For example: In the Maldives, President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has gone out of his way to challenge the India, whether it is on his crackdown on the opposition, invitations to China, or even breaking with India’s effort to isolate Pakistan at SAARC.
  • In Nepal, the K.P. Sharma Oli government is certainly not India’s first choice.
  • In other parts of the neighbourhood, where relations have been comparatively better for the past few years, upcoming elections could turn the tables on India.

China’s unprecedented attacks:

  • The next problem is the impact of China’s unprecedented attacks into each of these countries.
  • For example: Instead of telling the Nepal government to sort out issues with India, as it had in the past, China opened up an array of alternative trade and connectivity options after the 2015 India-Nepal border blockade: from the highway to Lhasa, cross-border railway lines to the development of dry ports.

India’s hard power tactics in the neighborhood:

  • The third issue is that the Modi government’s decision to use hard power tactics in the neighbourhood has had a boomerang effect.
  • For example: The “surgical strikes” on Pakistan of 2016 have been followed by a greater number of ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration on the Line of Control.
  • While many of these factors are hard to reverse, the fundamental facts of geography and shared cultures in South Asia are also undeniable, and India must focus its efforts to return to a more comfortable peace, and to “Making the Neighbourhood First Again”.

What are the measures to be taken to renew the relationship with its South Asian neighbors?

The measures to be taken to renew the relationship with its South Asian neighbors are as follows:

  • Firstly, India’s most potent tool is its soft power.
  • For example, its successes in Bhutan and Afghanistan, have much more to do with its development assistance than its defence assistance.
  • Also, after the Doklam crisis was defused in 2017, India also moved swiftly to resolve differences with Bhutan on hydropower pricing.
  • Secondly, instead of opposing every project by China in the region, the government must attempt a three-pronged approach.
  • (a) Wherever possible, India should collaborate with China in the manner it has over the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic corridor.
  • (b) Whenever it feels a project is a threat to its interests, India should make a counter-offer to the project, if necessary in collaboration with its Quadrilateral partners, Japan, the U.S. and Australia.
  • (c) India should coexist with projects that do not necessitate intervention, while formulating a set of South Asian principles for sustainable development assistance that can be used across the region.
  • It is possible if India and China reset bilateral ties, which have seen a marked slide over the past few years.
  • Thirdly, it will also be impossible to renew the compact with the neighbours without reviving the SAARC process.
  • Fourthly, it is suggested that leaders of SAARC countries should meet more often informally, they should interfere less in the internal workings of each other’s governments, and there should be more interaction at every level of government.
  • Fifthly, just as Indonesia, the biggest economy in the ASEAN, allowed smaller countries such as Singapore to take the lead, India too must take a back seat in decision-making, enabling others to build a more harmonious SAARC process.

Q.2) ‘Special Category Status is the right of Andhra Pradesh that no one could deny.’ Do you agree with the statement? What are the criteria involved and assistance received by Special Category Status (SCS) States? (GS-2)


  • Following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the state lost a large volume of its revenue due to Hyderabad remaining the capital of Telangana.
  • 2014: Thus, ‘Special Category Status’ (SCS) was promised to the state by the Congress Government during the state bifurcation and by the BJP during the 2014 Election campaign at Tirupati.
  • 2017: But after forming the government by the BJP-led NDA, when the promise was not honored because of “technical issues”, protests for Special Status for Andhra Pradeshstarted throughout the state on Jan 26, 2017 demanding for the ‘Special Category Status’ (SCS).
  • To pacify the protest, the Centre instead announced a package to grant special assistance to Andhra Pradesh, wherein an amount equivalent to what the state might have got as a special category state will be compensated by Centre through externally aided projects for five years.(Important for Prelims).
  • The special package offered meets most of the reasonable expectations of a State struggling to recover from bifurcation and dealing with the imminent loss of the capital city and its revenues.
  • Also, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) would issue two specific notifications on tax concessions being extended to A.P.

What are the criteria for a state to get it Special Category Status (SCS)?

The National Development Council (NDC) granted the status of Special-category based on a number of features of the States which included:

  • hilly and difficult terrain,
  • low population density or the presence of sizeable tribal population,
  • strategic location along international borders,
  • economic and infrastructural backwardness and
  • non-viable nature of State finances.

What kind of assistance do Special Category Status (SCS) States receive?

The Planning Commission allocates funds to states through central assistance for state plans. Central assistance can be broadly split into three components: Normal Central Assistance (NCA), Additional Central Assistance (ACA) and Special Central Assistance.

  • The Special Category Status (SCS) States used to receive block grants based on the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula.
  • It effectively allowed for nearly 30 per cent of the Total Central Assistance to be transferred to SCS States as late as 2009-10.
  • Following the constitution of the NITI Aayog (after the dissolution of the Planning Commission) and the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC), Central plan assistance to SCS States has been increased from 32% in the 13th FC recommendations to 42% and do not any longer appear in plan expenditure.
  • The FFC also recommended variables such as “forest cover” to be included in devolution, with a weightage of 7.5 in the criteria and which could benefit north-eastern States that were previously given SCS assistance.
  • Besides, assistance to Centrally Sponsored Schemes for SCS States was given with 90% Central share and 10% State share.

Q.3)What do you mean by microfiber pollution? What are its sources and its extent on Coastal Ecosystem? (GS-3)


  • Once clothes reach a washing machine, the synthetic fabrics release tiny strands: so-called microfibers.
  • Hundreds of thousands of microfibers are flushed down the drain.
  • Many reach beaches and oceans where they can remain for hundreds of years.

Source of Microfibers:

The sources of Microfibers are as follows:

  • Microfibers found in oceans can originate from a wide variety of textiles (such as nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic or spandex)
  • Apparel products are not the only source of microplastic particles that are entering the oceans.
  • Other industries are also contributing to this problem, as are things like fishing nets, bottle caps, packaging and plastics bags that break down in the ocean.

Extent of Microfiber Pollution on Coastal Ecosystem

The Extent of Microfiber Pollution on Coastal Ecosystem is as follows:

  • A 2011 study, led by Australian ecotoxicologist Mark Browne, found that microfibres made up 85% of man-caused shoreline debris.
  • The UN has identified microfibre pollution as a key outgrowth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually
  • A 2016 study in the Environmental Science & Technology found that more than a gram of microfibres is released every time synthetic jackets are washed and that as much as 40% of those microfibres eventually enter waterways.
  • According to a new IUCN report, between 15% to 31% of marine plastic pollution could be from tiny particles released by household and industrial products, rather than larger plastic items that degrade once they reach the sea.
  • The IUCN calculates that 35% of this microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic textiles.
  • Europe and Central Asia alone dump the equivalent of 54 plastic bags worth of microplastics per person per week into the oceans.
  • Microfibers eventually pass through sewage plants, wash out to waterways, and can be eaten or absorbed by marine animals, some of which are later served as seafood.  
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