Heap of Trouble


GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Context: With nationwide vaccination set to become more rapid, bio-medical waste management needs to keep pace with the same. Otherwise, it will further deteriorate the ailing health sector as well as the state of environment conservation in the country.


Prelims Focus

Pink Snow: It is caused by the blooms of snow-algae found in the high alpine regions.

• The algae Chlamydomonas nivalis has a pink colored pigment called astaxanthin which gives pink color to the glaciers.

• It is also known as watermelon snow or glacier blood.

• They result in rapid snow melting as the blooms absorb heat rapidly..


Prelims Focus

Bharwad Community: It is a pastoral, nomadic community usually inhabiting the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

• It owns different animals like Pachali sheep, Kamini goats and the Halari donkeys.

• The community scouts for grasslands in the Rann of Kutch region.

• It is facing issues in finding grazing lands for the animals as climate change and heavier rainfalls have led to the conversion of grasslands into forests and farmland. Similarly, many parcels of the land have been invaded by the village councils. .


Prelims Facts

Bharwad Community: It is a pastoral, nomadic community usually inhabiting the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

• As per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), approximately 46000 tonnes of biomedical waste was produced in the year ending May, 2021.

• As per the data declared to National Green Tribunal, India had the capacity to treat almost 826 tonnes of biomedical waste per day.

    o    However, later a clarification was issued stating that the actual treatment capacity in the country was 754 tonnes per day..


Bio-Medical Waste

•    Definition: As per the Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016, “Biomedical waste” means any waste which is generated during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals. It also includes waste generated in the research activities pertaining to health as well as the health camps. For e.g. syringes, bloody bandages, scalpels, biological material etc.

•    Impact of Covid on the generation of biomedical waste: Advent of Covid has led to an increase in the production of biomedical wastes like surgical masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, face shields, gloves and shoe covers.

•    Hazardous Waste: After the advent of Covid, CPCB has declared the bio-medical wastes as Hazardous Bio-Medical Waste. This classification was made under the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016

•    Ministry: The rules have been notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1998. They were amended subsequently in 2000 and 2003. The modified rules were notified in 2016.

•    Applicability: The rules are applicable to all persons who generate, collect, transport, receive, treat or handle biomedical waste in any way.

•    Occupier: The rules put the onus to handle biomedical waste on the ‘Occupier’. Occupier is the authority having administrative control over the premises of the institution like hospital, research lab etc. It is the duty of Occupier to ensure that the biomedical waste is disposed of in a manner which does not have any adverse consequences on human health and environment.

•    Standards for Treatment and Disposal: The rules enumerate the standards for the collection of biomedical waste and their proper disposal to prevent the spread of infection and any damage to the environment.

•    Colour Coded Segregation: The rules mandate segregation of biomedical waste and labelling them in specific colours to differentiate them as per the requirements for further treatment. For e.g.  Red colour is used for contaminated waste like urine bags, gloves and used syringes. Similarly, white colour is used for sharp objects like metals, needles, scalpels and blades.

Issues with Covid Waste Management

•    Under-Reporting: Multiple media reports have pointed to the under-reporting of deaths and the generation of biomedical waste in the country. Similarly, there have been incidents of under-reporting of the waste left untreated in the facilities.

•    Poor Segregation: Waste management in India suffers from poor segregation, leading to difficulties in the effective disposal of the wastes.

•    Lack of Awareness: There is a need to train the staff to make them understand the standards and the need for the segregation of biomedical wastes. It is imperative that they understand that proper waste disposal is a step in improving their own environment and safeguarding their health.

•    Increase in Waste Generation: As we face the multiple waves of Covid and the spread of other diseases like African Swine Fever, it is expected that the waste generation would increase rapidly. This is a potential disaster in making, if not nipped in the bud effectively.

Unleash Growth


GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

GS-2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

GS-3: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it..


Context: The impressive gains India had made during the decades in the area of poverty alleviation are at the risk of being erased by the COVID-19 pandemic. The study points to investment in the services sector to reduce poverty in rural areas.


Prelims Focus

Theory of Economic Growth and Structural Change: It is a theory which states that the inequality in an economy first increases and then decreases when an economy develops.

• It was given by Simon Kuznets in 1955. For advancing the hypothesis, he was awarded the Nobel in Economic Sciences (Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences) in 1971.

• As per Kuznets theory, as a nation industrializes, people migrate to urban areas for better prospects. However, the competition between the labour keeps the wages low, increasing the inequality. At a later stage, the inequality starts to decrease when the welfare state takes hold.


Prelims Facts

• Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Poverty: As per an early report by the World Bank’s Development Data Group in May last year, the pandemic may result in an increase of approximately 12 million poor in India.

    o    Similarly, a study by Azim Premzi University estimated that the pandemic might have resulted in the impoverishment of almost 15 Crore people, during the first wave itself.

• Poverty Alleviation: According to the RBI handbook of statistics on Indian State, poverty decreased from 37% in 2004-05 to 22% in 2011-12.

    o    According to the Down to Earth study, industry contributed 35% to poverty reduction in the aforementioned period. Similarly, services contributed 52% to poverty alleviation in the country.

    o    However, Agriculture did not have a significant impact on poverty. Agricultural growth had a negative correlation of -0.39 with poverty alleviation. 


Impact of Rural development on Poverty

•    Findings of the Study: As per the study conducted by Down to Earth, an improvement in rural employment has more impact on poverty alleviation than urban employment. However, this increase must result from an increase in the growth of Industry or Services, rather than Agriculture.

•    Importance of Rural areas: As per the Census 2011 data, 68% of the Indian population resides in rural areas. This means that investment in rural areas has the potential to touch more lives than in Urban areas. Also, as per the study, poverty alleviation increases with a decrease in rural unemployment.

•    Rural Demand: At the same time, rural areas have a huge impact on the economy of the country by creating demand for the industry. Therefore, a more prosperous rural population has the potential to reverse the economic slowdown India is facing in recent years.

•    Ineffectiveness of Agriculture: More than 60% of the Indian population is dependent upon agriculture for livelihood. Despite that, it contributes hardly 16% to the Gross Value Added (GVA). Therefore, it cannot be said that an increase in agricultural growth has a direct bearing on poverty in the country. Major reasons for low productivity in Agriculture:

•    Low Agricultural Productivity: As compared to Western countries or even China, the productivity of Indian Agriculture is very low. For e.g., as per the Government of India, India’s rice yield was less than 2200 kg/ ha, as compared to the global average of more than 3000 kg/ ha. Similarly, wheat productivity was 2750 kg/ ha as compared to the global average of more than 3250 kg/ ha.

•    Unscientific Agriculture: Agriculture in India is marred by unscientific agriculture like disproportionate application of fertilizers without estimating the needs of the land or choice of the crop without taking into account the irrigation potential etc.

•    Fragmentation: Another reason for the low productivity is small landholdings which discourage investment in Agriculture. For e.g., the average landholding in India is almost 1.08 hectares. Small and Marginal farmers (below two hectares) constitute 86% of the total landholdings and cultivate almost 42% of the operated land.

•    Over-dependence on Monsoon: Irrigated land in India accounts for nearly 48.8% of the total 140 million hectares of agricultural land in India. This means that the remaining 51.2% of the agricultural land is rainfed. The issue is aggravated by geographical phenomena like El Nino and La Nina, letting farmers at the mercy of monsoon.

Impact of Investment in Industry and Services

•    Better remuneration: Industrialisation in a country is an important factor in increasing the availability of employment in the country. Since industry pays much better wages than Agriculture, it leads to an increase in income generation and consequently, poverty alleviation in the country. This is in keeping with the Theory of Economic Growth and Structural Change, given by Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets in 1955 (see inset).

•    Examples: As per the study, the state of Bihar saw an increase in rural unemployment despite a decrease in the incidence of poverty, which is attributed to an increase in the wage rate.

•    Similarly, Madhya Pradesh had low rural unemployment, yet the incidence of poverty did not decrease. This is because MP lagged in industrialisation, thus, underscoring the importance of industrialization in improving income levels in the country.

•    On the other hand, Uttarakhand saw a high industrial growth rate as well as services growth rate. Also, Tamil Nadu saw growth in Services. Both states performed better in decreasing the poverty in the respective territories.

•    Issues with lack of industry in Rural Areas: The absence of industry in the rural areas contributes to the lack of gainful employment, prompting people to mass migrate to cities. Mass migration has inherent disadvantages:

•    Disturbance in Rural Social Structure: Mass migration, by its very nature, leads to a decrease in the availability of working hands in rural areas. Also, many times, the family is separated when a person migrates in search of better opportunities.

•    Feminization of Agriculture: Although not inherently negative, mass migration also increases feminization of agriculture, leading to an increased responsibility on women apart from the care of the family. This is especially problematic given the high incidence of malnourishment and anaemia in women in the country.

•    Pressures on the Urban Areas: An increase in mass migration to the urban areas is associated with:

      o   An increase in congestion in the urban areas

      o   Traffic snarls, leading to the increase in pollution levels

      o   Mushrooming of slums without adequate facilities and improper sanitation

      o   An increase in crime, if the migrant is unable to find appropriate opportunities

      o   Resource Crisis, in the form of unclean water, inadequate housing etc.


•    The consecutive waves of the Covid-19 pandemic have pointed to the fact that the pandemic is here to stay. It will lead to a rapid increase in the production of bio-medical waste, which, if not checked, might lead to the spread of infections in the population. It also has the potential to damage the environment in the form of air, water and soil pollution.

•    There is a need to invest in the capacity building of the staff in the healthcare sector to implement the Biomedical waste management rules effectively.

•    Covid has led to a global slowdown in the world economy. There is a need for appropriate interventions to prevent the slowdown from further affecting the poor negatively.

•    Therefore, it is required that the government focuses on the establishment of the services sector in the rural areas. This not only has the potential to improve poverty alleviation, but also can lead to the revival of the economy of the country as a whole.

Practice Question

  1. Elaborate on the provisions of Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 in light of the spread of Covid-19 pandemic in India.
  2. Do you think that the direct shift from Agriculture to the Services sector, while skipping manufacturing, is a favorable change for India? Critically discuss.

UPSC Previous Years Questions

  1. What are the impediments in disposing the huge quantities of discarded solid wastes which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulating in our habitable environment?          (GS-3: 2018)
  2. The nature of economic growth in India in described as jobless growth. Do you agree with this view? Give arguments in favor of your answer.  (GS-3: 2015)
  3. Account for the failure of manufacturing sector in achieving the goal of labor-intensive exports rather than capital-intensive exports. Suggest measures for more labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive exports. (GS-3: 2017)
  4. What are the salient features of ‘inclusive growth’? Has India been experiencing such a growth process? Analyze and suggest measures for inclusive growth.     (GS-3: 2017)