Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – December 6

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Q.1) Supreme Court has recently requested all States and Union Territories to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of pet coke and furnace oil. In the light of this statement, discuss the environment and health related hazards of pet coke and furnace oil and how is it a failure of India’s Carbon tax policy? (GS-3)

The Supreme Court recently requested all States and Union Territories to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of pet coke and furnace oil to power up industries, in a bid to fight pollution.

There are various health and environment related hazards due to the use of pet coke and furnace oil.

Health hazard

  • Petcoke is an exceptionally polluting form of carbon which is banned in several countries due to its severe toxicity.
  • Furnace oil is the thick black residue left at the bottom of the barrel when relatively cleaner fuels such as petrol, kerosene and petrol are removed from crude petroleum during the refining process.
  • Petroleum coke is a source of fine dust, which can get through the filtering process of the human airway and lodge in the lungs. They can cause serious health problems.
  • Petcoke has a deleterious effect on the respiratory system and particulate matter can get embedded in lung tissues, causing serious long term health hazards.
  • Furnace oil not only have high levels of sulphur but heavy metals which bind with sulphur and are cancer causing.
  • Environment Hazard
  • Apart from sulphur, petcoke also releases a cocktail of other toxic chemicals such as nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, hydrogen chloride and greenhouse gases (GHG) which contribute to global warming.
  • EPCA investigation has exposed extremely high sulphur level in these fuels ranging from more than 20,000 PPM to 74,000 PPM as opposed to only 50 PPM sulphur in BSIV transport fue

Loopeholes in carbon tax policy

  • Carbon tax was introduced in India in 2010 and has since its inception been fraught with complications due to its improper structuring and pervasive maladministration.
  • India’s carbon tax is myopically restricted to coal, thereby excluding other forms of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitting fuels like petcoke and furnace oil
  • Although petcoke is much more harmful than coal both from an environmental and health perspective, there is no tax or cess levied on the use or production of petcoke.
  • In order to circumvent the current carbon cess of Rs 400 per metric tonne on coal, cement and steel manufacturers have been heavily relying on petcoke, thereby increasing carbon emissions and air pollution.
  • While India witnessed a decrease in coal imports by 20 million tonnes last year, petcoke imports doubled exceeding 10 million tonnes.

Q.2)Today crypto currencies have become a global phenomenon known to most people. In this context discuss the meaning of bitcoins ? What are the pros and cons of it? (GS-3)

Today crypto currencies have become a global phenomenon known to most people. While still somehow geeky and not understood by most people, banks, governments and many companies are aware of its importance.


Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies that have gained popularity across the world.

  • A cryptocurrency is a basically a digital asset that has been created to function as a medium of exchange, like cash.
  • It uses cryptography to ensure the security of transactions — authentication and prevention of duplicate transactions — and to control the creation of new units of currency.
  • This is different from cash in that cryptocurrencies have no physical form. These blur the boundaries between fiat and non-fiat currencies. They are simply numbers on a screen and there is no central bank that issues new currency. However, bitcoin has emerged as the popular face of cryptocurrencies.

Pros and cons

It is possible to send and receive bitcoins from any part of the world irrespective of traditional hurdles like national borders and banking regulations.

  • Bitcoin does away with the need for a regulator.
  • By making everything public, bitcoin negates the need for a middleman.
  • According to, no individual or organisation can manipulate Bitcoins because it is cryptographically secure and do not contain customers’ personal information.

However, not being backed by any government entity is Bitcoin’s biggest disadvantage and affects its adoption by people.

  • With less Bitcoins in circulation and the number of businesses using Bitcoin still very small, relatively small events, can significantly affect the price.
  • One of the biggest problems that cryptocurrencies face is acceptance.

However, many businesses have started accepting Bitcoins. One of the largest PC companies in the US,  Dell, started accepting Bitcoin in 2014. Travel website Expedia allows you to pay with Bitcoins. Tech giant Microsoft   also embraced bitcoins in December 2014. In India too, the adoption has started. Bengaluru-based exchange Unocoin has a growing list of merchants on its website that includes e-commerce firms, web-hosting companies and even schools.

Q.3) The Union Cabinet recently approved the launch of National Nutrition Mission with a target to reduce malnutrition. In this context, discuss the problem of Malnutrition in India and its causes. What are its consequences? (GS-2)

ion Cabinet approved the launch of National Nutrition Mission with a target to reduce malnutrition and low weight by 2% each year.

Malnutrition in India:

  • Malnutrition refers to the situation where there is an unbalanced diet in which some nutrients are in excess, lacking or wrong proportion.
  • The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition.
  • The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world and is nearly double that of Sub Saharan Africa.
  • The 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report ranked India 97th out of 118 countries with a serious hunger situation.
  • Amongst the South Asian nations, it ranks third behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan with a GHI score of 29.0(“serious situation”).


Improper implementation

  • A major hindrance in fighting starvation in India is the lack of proper implementation of government schemes which are directed towards providing food for one and all

Corruption is the root cause

  • Corruption on the local levels or there is a disinterest among the government officials to ensure that the schemes are properly being carried out.

flawed food distribution system

  • Almost 51% of the food delivered is lost to leakages and is sold in the open market for a higher price.

Other causes :

  • Poor sanitation spread diseases that sap children’s energy and stunts their growth.
  • Poverty is also one of the causes.
  • Poor health of a child’s mother and Women’s undernourishment.
  • Lack of food, quality as well as capacity to absorb and utilize nutrients.
  • Non exclusive breastfeeding
  • Reduced appetite due to infection
  • Loopholes in the National Food Security Bill :Clear mechanisms with respect to the identification of beneficiaries have not been defined
  • Lack of awareness: Lack of awareness among people about sufficient health and nutrition is the primary reason (about wholesome, balanced and natural diets; healthy child-feeding and caring practices)


  • Children who are on stunted do less well in school, earn less, and die sooner than children who are not.
  • It affects women more than males due to specific nutrition needs of women during adolescent, pregnancy and lactation.
  • Undernourished girls grow up to become undernourished women who give birth to a new generation of undernourished children.
  • Undernourishment puts women on a greater risk of pregnancy related complications.
  • Anaemia and other deficiencies can have irreversible damage on child’s ability to learn.
  • Widespread child under nutrition greatly impedes India’s socio-economic development and potential to reduce poverty.


India has a major child malnutrition problem. Timely and effective policy, programmes and budgetary allocation is very much essential. Now it is time to combine the existing technical knowledge with the political will to change the lives of millions of children and women in India.

It is very important to invest in nutrition in India because balanced diet and healthy nutrition plays a pivotal role in overall development of women and children. The  National Nutrition Mission programme is the good initiative in this direction.

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