1. Environment: continuity and change in Prelims-2018
  2. Agriculture: continuity & change in Prelims-2018
  3. Solutions for Prelim-2018
  4. Epilogue

Environment: continuity and change in Prelims-2018

  • On 3rd June 2018, UPSC conducted Prelims exam for recruitment in IAS/IPS and other civil services.
  • Paper-I consisted of 100 MCQs from general studies. For that, I’ve already published answerkey for Science and Polity. Now, this article covers Environment & Agriculture answerkey and strategy for next year.
  • Ever since the merger of forest service prelims with Indian civil services (IAS/IPS) prelims, UPSC had been devoting about 1/5th of the Prelim paper-1 to environment, biodiversity, agriculture related topics. However, in 2017 there was sudden drop – just 14 MCQ, And the downfall has continued in 2018 as well, with just 12 MCQs coming from this part.
  • Environment section of 2018’s paper is much tougher than that of 2017, because
    • Environment and agriculture in Prelim-2017: 9 easy, 2 medium and 8 tough = 19 MCQs. Among these MCQs, five could be solved directly from Shankar’s book
    • Environment and agriculture in Prelim-2018: Only 3 easy, 2 medium and 11 tough = 16 MCQs. Among them, barely two could be solved from Shankar’s book.
    • Guessmaster-giriTM had limited utility, and even backfired in four MCQs.

Environment MCQs in UPSC Prelims 2018

  • IYB drought continues: before 2017, each year, nearly 1-2 environment MCQs would come from IYB ch.11 on Environment. But in 2017- nothing. In 2018- only one MCQ can be partially solved.
  • “About us” prem continues: In environment segment, examiner has bad habit of asking from low-profile organizations’ “about us” page. In the past he asked about Biocarbon fund, Forest carbon facility, birdlife international, TEEB, CCAC, GCCA. The same lunacy continued in 2018 as well: PAGE, GACSA etc. Whereas no direct questions from any high-profile environment summits.
  • Flora-fauna prem also continues: albeit nothing from critically endangered species or well known species like dolphin, hornbill, butterfly, tortoise, camel or ghariyal. He asked about a invasive weed plant- Prosopis juliflora.
  • Park and sanctuary prem continues– last year about Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary, this time Pakhui wildlife sanctuary. But even if you had a premonition that a sanctuary MCQ will come, still difficult to memorize them all.
  • Anti-pollution R&D se breakup– Till last year he had been asking about various anti-pollution R&D- be it fuel cell, biotoilets, bioremediation, algae fuel, carbon sequester. but nothing in 2018- but in fairness, largest number of environment MCQs are concentrated around Pollution topic only and more number of Science-tech MCQs have been asked in 2018, so can’t expect him to devote more space for Environmental R&D.

Fatalism & Cynicism inspiring Paper?

  • 2018’s Prelim is tougher than earlier years- it’s an undisputed fact.
  • Within environment, there is no single book or source from which large chunk of MCQs could be solved directly.
  • In this scenario, some failed aspirants and the arm-chair critiques of UPSC are building an atmosphere that it’s futile to prepare anything. Just throw your books and leave your chances in Prelims-2019 to fate and guessmaster-giri.
  • But, if you look at the paper with an open and dispassionate mind then MCQs which appear random Prima-facie, they could also be solved using calculated eliminations if you knew some background theory / development related to the topic. example
  • Soil – Sulfur MCQ: It was a 3 statement true / false question (3TF), and no single book contains the material to validate / reject those 3 statements. But if you knew only one fact that organic matter in the soil is beneficial for water retention, then all the wrong options could be eliminated, without knowing anything about sulfur cycle.
  • Sand Mining MCQ: whenever water table is decreased there will be saline-water ingress so salinity will rise. So, both water table and salinity can’t decrease at the same time. Mere knowledge of this inverse-relation was sufficient to solve this MCQ.
  • Critical Wildlife habitat MCQ: Another 3TF MCQ and no single book / pdf / newspaper contained material to validate / reject all 3 statements, yet if you knew only one factoid that Forest rights Act is more under the domain of Tribal ministry than under the domain of Forest ministry, and if you were willing to take risk then you could eliminate all wrong statements.
  • True, there are GK questions where no amount of smart-elimination or dumb-guessing helps: Pakhui wildlife sanctuary, 6th Mass extinction, Aral sea drying up and so on. And, yes in real examhall stress, above “Smart elimination” things are easier said than done. Wisdom which comes after attaining widowhood is both useless and irritating (“If my husband was alive, I would have cooked him good meal”, “If you had done like this, you could have cleared the prelim-cutoff”…) However, until a time comes when all serious aspirants of UPSC join in a Non-Cooperation Movement that “we shall not prepare anything for Environment, Art & Culture”- until that time, you’ll have to study – whether you like it or not. And that leads to next section of this article….

How to prepare Environment and biodiversity for Prelims – 2019?

  • NIOS Environment PDF | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध | ગુજરાતીમાં પણ ઉપલબ્ધ: Nowadays, candidates tend to think that they’ve read Shankar so their theory is finished, but In past, some MCQs were lifted verbatim from NIOS- in all three exams of UPSC – CSE, CAPF and CDS.
  • NCERT textbooks’ chapters related to environment. From geography textbooks, you will find forest types. Class11 Chemistry textbook’s chapter on environmental chemistry is important for environment related MCQs. In past, some Flora-fauna-zoology type MCQs had come from Class11-12 biology textbooks as well- So that too should be prepared.
  • ShankarIAS’s Environment Book should be used as “base-book” for advanced theories and contemporary issues on environment. Yes, relatively less MCQs came from here in 2018, but you should not base your strategy on just one year’s trend.
  • (When it is published) India Yearbook 2019 by Ministry of information and broadcasting: Ch. 11 on Environment. It is true that in latest two prelims (2017 and 2018), Nothing came from here, but you should not dump it just yet.
  • For current events: IndianExpress, and whichever PDF compilation catches your fancy.
  • My Youtube Lectures on Environmental treaties and Clean Energy.
  • For the mains exam, this topic again re-appears in GSM1 and GSM3. You can click on those links to read my observations and strategies for the same.

Agriculture: continuity & change in Prelims-2018

Ever since the merger of Forest service prelims with Civil services exam, good number of questions were devoted to agriculture. They can be classified into three categories:

  • Government Schemes: in the past years, at least one high-profile scheme would be asked- soil health card, PM Fasal Bima Yojana, e-NAM. This year very low profile scheme on organic farming was asked.
  • Cultivation & Irrigation Practice: In past, UPSC had asked about-drip irrigation, vegetative propagation, Contour bunding. This pattern continues in 2018 as well, with MCQ on Conservation Agriculture
  • R&D, Genetic engineering related: In past there were questions about Mycorrhizal biotech, biofertilizers, somatic cell transfer. But this year nothing from here – for the reasons similar to “Environment R&D se breakup”, which I pointed out in the previous section.

How to prepare Agriculture for Prelims – 2019?

  • NCERT Class 7 to 12 textbooks on science, biology, social science, economy and geography. You don’t have to read them from the first page to the last page. Do only selective study of the chapters related to agriculture. For example, Economy Class11 has content on green revolution. Biology Class12 has chapter on biotechnology. You’ll find irrigation, soil, crops related factoids from social science textbooks of 7 to 10. And so forth.
  • IYB’s Chapter 4 on agriculture is useless, no direct questions are coming from it (based on the trend so far).
  • Last year three economic surveys and NITI Ayog’s 3 year document (or my three part- summary of it) for the descriptive questions on farm distress and solutions for Mains-GSM3.
  • Government’s Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines of atleast last one calendar year. 2018’s Conservation Agriculture MCQ was given verbatim in Feb-2018’s Kurukshetra magazine. They are also useful for the descriptive questions and essay paper in Mains. Read the original magazine to cultivate vocabulary and flowery language. Then go for PDF compilations for their bulleted version / mindmaps for faster revision on the exam night.
  • In 2018, UPSC asked about a low profile scheme “National Programme for Organic Production’ (NPOP)”- therefore, some over-enthusiastic candidates will go through governments OUTPUT OUTCOME BUDGET Document, to make a ‘half-blood-prince’ note for “all the low-profile government schemes”. But, this will give a poor cost: benefit.
  • For current events, IndianExpress. And whichever PDF compilation catches your fancy. Since PDF compilation makers donot have any cost of printing- They will go on to copy paste 50 dozen crop hybrid varieties mentioned in the Hindu newspaper and monthly updates on MSP /food-inflation ups and downs. But do consider the cost:benefit of the time invested in preparing it.

Solutions for Prelim-2018

Now let’s solve the environment- agro MCQs asked in Prelims-2018

Flora Fauna

Q56. Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in news ? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.
  2. It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows.
  3. Its extract is used in the synthesis of pesticides.
  4. None of the above

Difficulty: Medium – given verbatim in Shankar’s book, but in real exam-stress, not easy to recall for everyone.

Answer: ShankarIAS’s Environment Book ch. 12 on Plant Diversity, subtopic “Some invasive alien species”: This plant is a native of Mexico, and spread throughout India. It’s an aggressive colonizer, common weed of wastelands, scrublands and degraded forests. Since it’s mention under the head of invasive alien species so it’d reduce biodiversity in the area, Hence Option B.

Q57. Consider the following statements (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Most of the world’s coral reefs are in tropical waters.
  2. More than one-third of the world’s coral reefs are located in the territories of Australia, Indonesia and Philippines.
  3. Coral reefs host far more number of animal phyla than those hosted by tropical rainforests.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only
  3. 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Tough because no single routine book contains all information.


  • From GCL to ShankarIAS’s Environment Book – all mention that Coral reefs are found in tropical and subtropical regions. However, people likely to engage in hairsplittery over whether tropical waters OR the subtropical waters have the “MOST” coral reefs? According to this Environment Ministry PDF, you can see that most of them are located between Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, so yes #1 is indeed right.
  • Same PDF also mentions that France, though located much outside the tropical belt, comes in fourth (after Indonesia, Australia and Philippines). So, collectively first three ought to occupy a large share. Still, just to be sure:
  • This UNEP page gives % of world area covered by each region: Indonesia 18%, Australia: 17% and Philippines: 9% so collectively that’ll be more than 33%. Hence #2 is right.
  • Coral reefs include a wide range of diversity with 32 of the 34 animal phyla present, in contrast to only 9 phyla represented in tropical rainforest. [Google Book#1] So, #3 is also right. मतलब की ये तो चमत्कार ही हो गया..तीनो के तीनो बच गये.
  • Thus, answer is D: 1, 2 and 3

Anti-GuessmasterTM question because GM-Rule#1 extreme worded statements are always wrong so #3 ought to be wrong, plus half-learned guess that tropical rainforests have very high net primary productivity (NPP) etc. so coral reefs can’t be better than them. But by this logic you’ll end up eliminating all options with #3 and arrive at wrong answer A.

Pollution and Clean Energy

Q7. With reference to solar power production in India, consider the following statements: (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. India is the third largest in the world in the manufacture of silicon wafers used in photovoltaic units.
  2. The solar power tariffs are determined by the Solar Energy Corporation of India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Difficulty: Medium because it boils down to your knowledge about statement #1.


  • There is no significant production of silicon wafers in India (as of 2011). So unlikely that it became 3rd largest by 2017-18. [Ref: This industrial research firm report] So, #1 is wrong.
  • Tariffs are determined under the Electricity Act. Any entity with “Corporation” word is irrelevant. so, #2 is wrong.

Guessmaster-giriTM can only help narrowing down choices: By GM-Rule#3 Parent organizations are always wrong, then statement#2 ought to be wrong, thus your choice is narrowed down between A vs D only.

Q5. Which of the following statements best describes “carbon fertilization”? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Increased plant growth due to increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  2. Increased temperature of Earth due to increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  3. Increased acidity of oceans as a result of increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  4. Adaptation of all living beings on Earth to the climate change brought about by the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Difficulty: Tough, because not given in routine books / newspapers. Yes, there is vague reference in Hindu in 2016 and before- but that doesn’t count.

Answer: Studies have shown that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide increase photosynthesis, spurring plant growth…Results showed that carbon dioxide fertilization explains 70 percent of the greening effect. [NASA 2016]

Guessmaster-giriTM helps, if you go by GM-Rule#5 then word-association: “fertilizers” associates with “plant” and “growth”, then you arrive at correct option-A #WITHOUT-STUDYING-ANYTHING..

Q45. The term “sixth mass extinction/sixth extinction” is often mentioned in the news in the context of the discussion of (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Widespread monoculture practices in agriculture and large-scale commercial farming with indiscriminate use of chemicals in many parts of the world that may result in the loss of good native ecosystems.
  2. Fears of a possible collision of a meteorite with the Earth in the near future in the manner it happened 65 million years ago that caused the mass extinction of many species including those of dinosaurs. .
  3. Large scale cultivation of genetically modified crops in many parts of the world and promoting their cultivation in other parts of the world which may cause the disappearance of good native crop plants and the loss of food biodiversity.
  4. Mankind’s over-exploitation/misuse of natural resources, fragmentation/loss of natural habitats, destruction of ecosystems, pollution and global climate change.

Difficulty: Medium to Tough, depending on whether you ever came across this term or not.

Answer: D R Khullar & Rao’s book on Environment for Civil Services (McGraw-Hill Publication): Page 4.25

Scientists are, in fact, even suggesting that the sixth mass extinction is underway as there is a species loss of 100–1000 every year….The normal background extinction rate is about 10–25 species per year. Habitat loss, overpopulation of humans, pollution, over-harvesting and invasive species invasion are cited as the main reasons.

It was also in news under theHindu 2017-July.

Q51. Which of the following is/are the possible consequence/s of heavy sand mining in riverbeds ? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Decreased salinity in the river
  2. Pollution of groundwater
  3. Lowering of the water-table

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1 ,2 and 3

Difficulty: Easy, given verbatim in Shankar’s book, and can be solved even with basic understanding of geography and environment.

Answer: ShankarIAS’s Environment Book ch.7 on Environmental Issues, subtopic Sand Mining: “It wrecks the intertidal area and creates the imminent danger of saline water ingress into fresh water.” Meaning salinity will increase, so statement#1 is wrong, by elimination we’ve answer “B” 2 and 3 only.

In this question, first statement is wrong, and you’ve to identify right statements. So in real exam stress, some students may have made error of reading / ticking, and they’d have ticked the wrong option A: only 1. (you’re right that it’s wrong statement, but you’re not asked to tick the wrong one.) So, be mindful of ticking in OMR.

Anti-GuessmasterTM question because GM-rule#4: that in UPSC “3tf MCQ” (3-statement-true/false), IF each individual statement contains barely 1-2 words then all of them are correct. Yes, here more than 2 words due to articles and prepositions, so, basic skeleton is similar. So, going by fourth rule, you’ll reach the wrong answer D.

Q28. Which of the following has/have shrunk immensely/dried up in the recent past due to human activities ? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Aral Sea
  2. Black Sea
  3. Lake Baikal

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 2 only
  4. 1 and 3

Difficulty: Tough, because not covered in routine books and newspapers in last one calendar year.


  • The Aral Sea, in Central Asia, used to be the fourth largest lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea, and Lakes Superior and Victoria. Now barely 10% of it is left. BBC-2014. This eliminates B and C, because they don’t contain #1. And we also need not find about Black Sea, because neither A nor D have option #2.
  • So, it all boils down to whether Lake Baikal has shrunk immensely or not?
  • Baikal might share the destiny of the Aral Sea,‘it stated. ’Construction of three hydro power stations on the Selenga River and its tributaries can cause the unique lake to dry out.’ Ref: Siberian Times 2016-March. But the words used are “might” and “can”, so it doesn’t mean “has immensely dried already”
  • Lake Baikal’s has been crippled by a series of detrimental phenomena….They include the disappearance of the omul fish, rapid growth of putrid algae and the death of endemic species of sponges across its vast 3.2 million-hectare area. [TheHindu 2017-Oct], but there is no mention of immensely drying up.
  • China wants water from Russia’s Lake Baikal to irrigate drought-hit regions . Water taken from Baikal will be a fraction for the lake, which contains 23,000 cubic kilometers or roughly 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water. Russian government has not commented on the issue, but environmentalists have expressed concerns that Lake Baikal has been drying up at an alarming pace. Also in 2015, Baikal’s water level hit a record low – five centimeters below the critical level of 456 meters. [RussiaTimes March-2017]. But this description is not ‘grave’ enough to say “has shrunk immensely / dried up in recent past”. So #3 is close but not relevant yet, until it actually happens.

Hence answer A: 1 only. (Update May-31-2019: UPSC Official Answerkey also says ‘A’ is the answer.)

National Acts, Organizations, Yearbook Type

Q19. How is the National Green Tribunal (NGT) different from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The NGT has been established by an Act whereas the CPCB has been created by an executive order of the Government.
  2. The NGT provides environmental justice and helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts whereas the CPCB promotes cleanliness of streams and wells, and aims to improve the quality of air in the country.

Which of the statements given above is/are  correct:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Difficulty: Easy because matter covered verbatim in NIOS Environment and IYB.

Answer: NIOS Environment PDF, page 175

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), is statutory organization, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. So #1 is wrong.
  • Principal functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, (i) to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas. So last part of sentence #2 is right.
  • iyb ch. 12 on Environment: National Green Tribunal (NGT) was set up in 2010 under the NGT Act, 2010, for the purpose of effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection. The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice. The Tribunal is mandated to make an endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing. So first part of sentence #2 is right.

Q83. Consider the following statements: (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The definition of “Critical Wildlife Habitat” is incorporated in the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  2. For the first time in India, Baigas have been given Habitat Rights.
  3. Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change officially decides and declares Habitat Rights for Primitive and Vulnerable Tribal Groups in any part of India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Tough. Baigas tribals getting habitat rights is an old news from 2016. इतना पुराना GK कौन याद रखता है? Some of the senior candidates may even know from IYB that Forest rights act falls under domain of Tribal Ministry (Ch.28 on Welfare) so #3 ought to be irrelevant but in real exam stress, possible to have second thoughts about that too, because MOEFCC could be responsible for vulnerable tribes!? Besides, Government had changed the term “primitive” to “particular” because the former word was disrespectful, yet UPSC has used the same here to describe those tribes.


  • Baigas are considered as a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) in the Indian Constitution and rely mostly on shifting cultivation, forest produce and fishing for sustenance, spread over forested areas of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In 2016, they became India’s first community to get habitat rights. Ref: Downtoearth-2016 So, #2 is right.
  • Same page mentions that the government of Madhya Pradesh / district collector has recognised the habitat rights so #3 is wrong. Another source is PIB page, which says district level Committees have to adjudicate the rights, whereas Tribal ministry only issues guidelines. That makes #3 wrong / irrelevant.
  • By elimination, we are left with answer A: only 1 and 2.

If you go by GM-Rule#1 extreme worded statements are always wrong and GM-Rule#3 that parent organizations are always wrong then on both rules, statement#3 ought to be wrong, and by elimination you get right answer A, #WITHOUT-STUDYING-ANYTHING..

Q79. In which one of the following States is Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary located? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Manipur
  3. Meghalaya
  4. Nagaland

Difficulty: Tough because difficult to memorize so many places. Besides, even if you vaguely remembered that it’s in North East, all four options are closely related.

Answer: McGraw-hill General Studies Manual 2018, page F46: “Pakhui Tiger reserve” is in Arunanchal Pradesh, so if there is a wildlife sanctuary in Pakhui, it should be in “A” for Arunanchal Pradesh.

ShankarIAS’s Environment Book has given “Pakke Tiger reserve: Arunanchal Pradesh” (Appendix Page335), but that doesn’t help, because same place is also known as Pakhuai, but this crucial fact not mention there. So, if you’ve time, you can become Harry Potter’s Half-Blood prince and note it down in your copy of Shankar’s book that Pakke = Pakhui.

International Org: “About us”

Q53. The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), a UN mechanism to assist countries transition towards greener and more inclusive economies, emerged at (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The Earth Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, Johannesburg
  2. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, Rio de Janeiro
  3. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2015, Paris
  4. The World Sustainable Development Summit 2016, New Delhi

Difficulty: Tough, because asked from “About us” page of random international body. Even if you remembered it’s associated with sustainable development, still there are three options A, B and D containing that term.

Answer: In 2012, Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) was held in Brazil….Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) was launched in 2013 as a response to the call at Rio+20 to support those countries wishing to embark on greener and more inclusive growth trajectories. [Ref: Organizations’ About US Page]

Q58. “Momentum for Change : Climate Neutral Now” is an initiative launched by (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The Intergovernmentai Panel on Climate Change
  2. The UNEP Secretariat
  3. The UNFCCC Secretariat
  4. The World Meteorological Organisation

Difficulty: Tough. This is also “about us page” type MCQ from an event that occurred in 2016.

Answer: UNFCCC secretariat launched its Climate Neutral Now initiative in 2015. The following year, the secretariat launched a new pillar under its Momentum for Change initiative focused on Climate Neutral Now, as part of larger efforts to showcase successful climate action around the world. (Their “About US Page”)

Q90. With reference to the ‘Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA)’, which of the following statements is/are correct? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. GACSA is an outcome of the Climate Summit held in Paris in 2015.
  2. Membership of GACSA does not create any binding obligations.
  3. India was instrumental in the creation of  GACSA.

Select the correct answer using the code given

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Tough. This is also an “about us page” type MCQ from a relatively unknown organization for competitive exams.


  • GACSA is an inclusive, voluntary and action-oriented multi-stakeholder platform on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA). [Ref: Their about us page] “Voluntary” means doesn’t create any biding obligation. #2 is right.
  • India is neither in memberlist nor in observer list of this entity. So #3 is wrong. By elimination we get answer B: only 2.

Anti-GuessmasterTM question. By GM-Rule#1, extreme worded statement#2 ought to be wrong then by elimination you arrive at wrong answer A.


Q44. With reference to the circumstances in Indian agriculture, the concept of “Conservation Agriculture” assumes significance. Which of the following fall under the Conservation Agriculture? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Avoiding the monoculture practices
  2. Adopting minimum tillage
  3. Avoiding the cultivation of plantation crops
  4. Using crop residues to cover soil surface
  5. Adopting spatial and temporal crop sequencing/crop rotations

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1, 3 and 4
  2. 2, 3, 4 and 5
  3. 2, 4 and 5
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 5

Difficulty: Tough. Although topic’s in-depth coverage given in Kurukshetra Feb 2018, but most candidates underestimate / ignore this magazine. And even if you had read it, it’s tough to take a call in actual exam on the validity of statement 1 and 3.

Answer: Kurukshetra February 2018 Issue on Agriculture, page 43 has given three key features of conservation agriculture viz:

Conservation Agriculture

  1. minimum soil disturbance by adopting no-tillage or minimum tillage and reduced traffic for agricultural operations. So, #2 is right. This eliminates Option-A.
  2. maximum soil cover by leaving crop residues on the soil surface. So, #4 is right. This eliminates Option-D.
  3. adopt spatial and temporal crop sequencing/crop rotation. So, #5 is verbatim right.

There are two options- B and C where 2, 4 and 5 are together. So it all boils down to validity of #3. Same magazine, page 31 even says Conservation Agriculture approach also involves Diversified Crop Rotation involving cereal-pulse system. Then we can infer that if we’ve to do avoid monoculture and plantation crop. Then #1 and #3 are also right ‘indirectly’. But there is no option where all five statements are together. Considering this unique situation, I’ll lend more weight to page 43 over page 31, and go for Answer C: 2, 4 and 5.

Q52. With reference to agricultural soils, consider the following statements : (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. A high content of organic matter in soil drastically reduces its water holding capacity.
  2. Soil does not play any role in the Sulphur cycle.
  3. Irrigation over a period of time can contribute to the salinization of some agricultural lands.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Easy, covered in NCERT.


  • Organic matter helps improving water retention capacity. This is indirectly implied in NCERT Class7 Ch9 Soil. But since people engage in hairsplittery so here is exact proof- NIOS Geography Page 35: The process of decay, added by bacterial action, transforms organic matter into humus. Humus enhances water retention capacity of the soil. So, #1 is wrong. By elimination we are left with Answer B: 3 only.
  • ShankarIAS’s Environment Book Ch2 Functions of Ecosystem, Page 18: Sulphur Cycle: The Sulphur reservoir is in the soil and sediments where it is locked in organic and inorganic deposits….. Sulphur bound in living organisms is carried back to the soil, through excretion and decomposition. So, soil does play a role in this cycle. #2 is wrong. This eliminates A and D. In the remaining options B and C, statement#3 is common, so you must accept without any proof that irrigation can contribute to salinization.

Guessmaster-giriTM is possible, if you go by GM-Rule#1 that extreme worded statements are always wrong, then #1 and #2 have to be wrong, by elimination, you arrive at correct answer B #WITHOUT-STUDYING-ANYTHING..

Q85. With reference to organic farming in India, consider the following statements: (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The National Programme for Organic Production’ (NPOP) is operated under the guidelines and directions of the Union Ministry of Rural Development.
  2. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’ (APEDA) functions as the Secretariat for the implementation of NPOP.
  3. Sikkim has become India’s first fully organic State.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Tough because although Sikkim=Organic state is a widely covered factoid but this scheme was not a very hot topic of agriculture, and not covered in routine material.

Answer: According to the PDF notification at APEDA

  • This scheme is under Commerce ministry, but Secretariat assistance by APEDA so #1 is wrong, #2 is right.
  • Sikkim indeed India’s first fully organic state: My 2016’s Lecture series BES164/P2 So, #3 is right.

Anti-GuessmasterTM question. By GM-Rule#1, extreme worded statement#3 ought to be wrong then by elimination you arrive at wrong answer A. Similarly, by GM-Rule#3 Parent organizations are always wrong then #1 and #2 ought to be wrong, then also by elimination you arrive at wrong answer C.


  • So, in Prelims-2018, whether Guessmaster-giriTM was helpful or not? Till now, I’ve solved total 44 MCQs from Science, Polity and Environment. Out of them 10 could be solved blindly by GM-rules #WITHOUT-STUDYING-ANYTHING., whereas same rules will backfire in total 7 Anti-GuessmasterTM MCQs. Therefore net Gain = 10 x 2 – 7 x 0.66 = + 15.4 marks
  • However, serious players would have solved Easy MCQs from their knowledge, so if we filter out those MCQs, then the ‘REAL-advantage’ gained by a Serious-player-cum-Guessmaster was 6 x 2 – 5 x 0.66 = +8.7 marks
  • Complete picture will emerge once I’m done solving remaining portions of the paper.
  • As mentioned in an earlier article, the motive behind this activity is not to encourage an atmosphere of ‘cheats / hacks’ but to accomplish two objectives (1) UPSC examiner should take cognizance of this flaw and (2) until that happens, everyone should benefit from this dark-art.