Monthly Current Affairs for Prelims: November 2020

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Table of Contents


Art and Culture

Festivals & Culture:

Miyas of Assam and Char-chaporis

  • Context: 
    • A proposed museum reflecting the “culture and heritage of the people living in the char- chaporis”  in the Guwahati's Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra has stirred up controversy in Assam. 
    • Such a Museum reflecting the culture and heritage of these people was recommended by the Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Education in March 2020. 
    • The fact that the museum is proposed to be part of Kalakshetra, a product of the Assam Accord, hurts Assamese sentiments.  The Assamese feel that these claims of a distinct cultural sphere/ identity by the community may eventually lead to political or ethnic assertions in the future. 
  • Who is Miya's? 
    • The Miyas is a derogatory term used to refer to the descendants of Muslim migrants from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to Assam. 
    • They migrated in several waves — starting with the British annexation of Assam in 1826, and continuing into Partition and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War — and have resulted in changes in the demographic composition of the region. 
    • This led to the Anti-foreigner Assam agitation (1979-85)  to weed out the “illegal immigrants”  who were seen to take over the jobs, language, and culture of the natives. 
    • The community's roots in Assam are much older than in 1971 when Bangladesh was created. 
    • Over the years, the community has tried to integrate into the larger Assamese society, by speaking Assamese, sending their children to Assamese schools, and declaring Assamese as their language since the 1951 census. 
    • The community had a significant presence in Assamese literary and cultural life. It is not just made up of farmers, drivers, and laborers. There are doctors, writers, researchers, engineers. 
  • Distinct Culture of the Miya's: 
    • While identifying as Assamese, the ‘Miya’ community feels that like other ethnic groups, they too should celebrate their own culture and heritage within the larger Assamese fold. 
    • The community has a variety of songs – bhatiali geet related to the river, Magan geet or harvest songs, noi khelor geet or boat songs, etc, instruments and equipment to catch fish, as well as different kinds of boats.  The community’s cultural motifs and heritage are related to agriculture and the river. 
    • This culture and heritage is a product of a hundred years of assimilation of the chars with the Assamese society. 
  • Lathibari:
    • It is an ancient performative martial art done with wearing a white vest and dhoti, an Assamese Ghamosa on head and waist. 

  • What is Char-chaporis? 
    • A char is a floating island while chaporis are low-lying flood-prone riverbanks. They keep changing shapes — a char can become a chapori, or vice versa, depending on the push and pull of the Brahmaputra river. 
    • Apart from the Miya's, the chars are also home to other communities such as Misings, Deoris, Kocharis, Nepalis. In popular notion, however, chars have become synonymous to the Bengali speaking Muslims of dubious nationality. 
    • A population of more than 24.90 lakh people inhabits these chars. 
    • Prone to floods and erosion, these areas are marked by low development indices.  
    • 80% of the Char population lives below the poverty line. 
  • Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalaskhetra: 
    • It is a cultural complex in Guwahati named after neo-Vaishnavite reformer Srimanta Sankardev. It is a result of the Assam Accord signed in August 1985. 
    • It was set up at the culmination of the Assam agitation, to protect, preserve, and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. 
  • Srimanta Sankardev: 
    • He was a 15th–16th-century Assamese polymath: a saint-scholar, poet, playwright, social-religious reformer, and a figure of importance in the cultural and religious history of Assam. 
    • He is widely credited with building on past cultural relics and devising new forms of music (Borgeet), theatrical performance (Ankia Naat, Bhaona), dance (Sattriya), literary language (Brajavali) 
    • He inspired the Bhakti movement in Assam.

International Satavadhanam

  • Context: 
    • The Vice President of India recently launched the international Satavadhanam program virtually.
  • About:
    • He said our mother tongue is our wealth. Writers, poets, linguists, and others should put greater efforts to preserve our heritage and pass it on to future generations.
    • He appreciated holding programs to preserve and promote Indian languages and their heritage in foreign countries and expressed his delight at participating in such events. He urged the participants not to forget the roots of their mother tongue while pursuing foreign languages.
  • Avadhanam:
    • It is an exciting literary performance that involves solving tricky literary posers, improvising poems, and tests a person's capability of performing such multiple tasks simultaneously.
    • It is like a test of the poet’s literary prowess and scholarship.
    • This extraordinary feat, a historical and unique feature of only a few languages.
    • It has greatly contributed to the Telugu language’s glorious tradition.
  • Significance:
    • Events like Avadhanam preserve and nourish various languages.
    • They preserve and promote the culture and heritage of India and pass it on to future generations.

Warli painting

  • Context: 
    • Artists in Hyderabad are using traditional Warli Art (Maharashtra) form not just to beautify Hyderabad, but also to create awareness on important issues.
  • About:
    • Warli painting is one of the oldest forms of Indian folk art and has its origins in the Warli region of Maharashtra.
    • Its roots can be traced to as early as the 10th century A.D.
    • These paintings are distinctive with their vivid contrast expressions.
    • These paintings are mainly dominated by basic geometric shapes like circles, triangles, and squares.
    • These geometric shapes stand as a symbol of natural elements in our environment.
    • For example, the circles represent the sun and moon, the triangles represent the mountains and the squares are considered as the central motifs of the painting.
    • People and animals are represented by two inverted triangles joined together, where the upper triangle is the torso and the lower triangle is the pelvis.
    • The central theme of the paintings are scenes portraying hunting, fishing, farming, festival, and dances, trees and animals are used to surround the central theme.
    • Warli art form is being used by many artists to beautify cities and spread awareness through wall paintings.
    • It is also being used to beautify bags, bedsheets and many other items.
    • Warli is the vivid expression of daily and social events of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, used by them to embellish the walls of village houses.
  • Warli Tribe:
    • They are an indigenous tribe or Adivasis, living in the Mountainous as well as coastal areas of MaharashtraGujarat border and surrounding areas.
    • They speak an unwritten Varli language which belongs to the southern zone of the Indo-Aryan languages.

Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:

Ancient Hindu Temple was discovered in northwest Pakistan

  • Context:
    • An ancient Hindu temple that is believed to have been built 1300 years ago was discovered by archaeologists in the Swat district of Pakistan.
  • About:
    • The temple is of Lord Vishnu.
    • It is believed to have been built during the Hindu Shahi period. 
    • The Hindu Shahis or The Kabul Shahis (850 CE – 1026 CE) was a Hindu dynasty that ruled the Kabul Valley (Eastern Afghanistan),  Ghandhara (present-day Pakistan), and present-day northwestern India. 
    • Traces of Cantonment and watchtowers were also found near the temple site.
    • A water tank was also discovered. The experts believe that it was used by the Hindus for bathing before worship.

Kartarpur Corridor

  • Context:
    • The corridor was opened in November 2019 on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
  • About Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara:
    • Kartarpur Sahib was established by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the Sikh Guru in 1522.
    • On 22 September 1539 Gurunanak Dev Ji took the last breath in this gurudwara and spent around 18 years of his life.
    • The Gurudwara was washed away by floods of the river Ravi (Rabi) and the present Gurudwara was established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
    • Kartarpur Sahib is located in Narowal district of Pakistan.
    • It is three to four kilometers away from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India, and about 120 km from Lahore.
    • The langar was first started in Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
    • The Langar tradition is also known as ‘Guru ka langar’, the Gurus Kitchen.
    • Whoever came here, Guru Nanak Dev Ji did not allow him to go without eating.
    • At the time of the partition of India-Pakistan, gurudwara moved to Pakistan, so citizens of India need a visa to visit Kartarpur Sahib.
    • Those who are not able to go to Pakistan, they see with the help of binoculars in the GurudwaraShaheed Baba SidhSaun Randhawa located at Dera Baba Nanak at the Indian border.
    • Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara is visible from the border towards India.
    • In Pakistan, the government takes care that the grass does not accumulate around this gurudwara, so it keeps cutting and pruning around it so that it can be seen well from India and there is no problem for the devotees.

In Female hunter Burial, lessons in gender roles

  • Context:
    •  A female teenager from 9,000 years ago has been identified as the oldest hunter burial found in the Americas.
    • When researchers analyzed the remains, unearthed in 2018, they found that the hunter was a female, aged between 17 and 19 at her death.
  • Was this a one-off, or were female hunters common among hunter-gatherer societies?
    • Their finding goes against a widely held belief — that among early humans, the men hunted and the women gathered. Between 30% and 50% of the hunters in these populations were female, the researchers concluded from an analysis of burial records in the Americas.
    • During excavations at the high-altitude site Wilamaya Patjxa in Peru in 2018, archaeologists found five burial pits with six individuals. Two of the individuals were associated with hunting tools. Because many people are buried with the objects they used in life, the researchers concluded that the two were hunters.
    • One had been buried with 24 stone artifacts, including projectile points for hunting big game and scrapers for use on animal carcasses. The team confirmed that this individual was female. The other individual was male, aged 25-30.

  • Significance:
    • A new study argues that labor practices were non-gendered. The archaeological findings help understand how labour was divided among hunter-gatherer societies.
    • It now seems likely that for the vast majority of our species’ existence, which was as hunter-gatherers, both females and males had very similar labour roles and presumably status as a result. This insight underscores that many of the gender inequalities we see today do not have a biological basis.


Famous Personalities:

Birsa Munda

  • Context:  
    • The birth anniversary of Birsa Munda was observed on 15th November. He was born in 1875 in the Munda tribe.  
    • The State of Jharkhand celebrates its foundation day on this day. The state was carved out from Bihar in 2000 after the parliament passed the Bihar Reorganization Act,2000.  
  • About:  
    • Birsa Munda also known as Bhagwan Birsa, was a folk hero and a tribal freedom fighter hailing from the Munda tribe.  
    • He led the tribal movement in the Bihar and the Jharkhand belt in the 19th century against the capture of forests and land during the British raj   
    • He is popularly known as “Dharti Abba” or the father of the land.  
  • Birsait:
    • He wanted to reform the tribal society. He urged them to give up beliefs in superstitions, witchcraft, etc.
    • He stressed the importance of belief in God and prayer, temperance, and a code of conduct to regulate behavior. Birsait is a faith started by him on these principles.  
  • Munda rebellion:   
    • It is one of the great tribal movements of the 19th century.  
    • It was led by Birsa Munda in the Chotanagpur region, south of  Ranchi in 1899-1900.  
  • The Movements identified the following as the causes of the misery of the Mundas:  
    • The British feudal laws destroyed the traditional landowners of the Mundas.  
    • The Hindu landlords and the money lenders were usurping their lands.  
    • Christian missionaries were criticizing their culture and undertaking proselytizing activities.  
    • The movement which came to be known as the Ulgulan or the Great Tumult, was led by Birsa to drive away from the British and establish Munda rule.  
    • He awakened the masses and sowed seeds of revolt in them against the landlords as well as the Britishers.  
    • He organized the masses and urged them to stop paying debts/interest to money lenders and taxes to the British.  
    • He formed military units for armed struggle and propaganda against the British. He combined religion with politics and traveled across the villages giving speeches and building a politico-military organization.  
  • Significance of the rebellion:  
    • The rebellion led to the passage of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act,1908.  This Act restricted the transfer of tribal land ownership to the non-tribals.  
    • It showed that the tribal people had the capacity to protest against the injustice and express their anger against the Colonial rule.

Rani Laxmi Bai

  • Context:
    • Prime Minister paid tribute to Rani Laxmi Bai on her Birth Anniversary on 19th November.
  • About:
    • She became the ruler of Jhansi after the death of her husband Raja Gangadhar Rao. Her adopted son wasn't recognized as the heir to Jhansi by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie.
    • Laxmi Bai led a rebellion against the doctrine of lapse and refused to give up Jhansi to the British.
    • She was one of the leading figures of the revolt of 1857.
    • She held on to Jhansi till March 1858, when the East India Company sent troops under Hugh Rose to capture Jhansi.

Guru Nanak Jayanthi

  • Context:
    • Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Gurpurab or Prakash Utsav, is one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism. The day marks the birth anniversary of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak.
    • The Guru Nanak Jayanti will be celebrated on Monday, 30th November this year.
  • About:
    • He is the founder of Sikhism and the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus.
    • He advocated Nirguna(devotion to or worship of formless divine) of Bhakti.
    • He gave the basic mantra of Ek Onkar to his followers. He insisted on treating all human beings equally, without discriminating on the basis of caste, creed, and gender.

Guru Tegh Bahadhur

  • Context:
    • Every year on 24 November, Sikhs celebrate Shaheedi Diwas to remember Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of Sikhism who sacrificed his life for people who were not from his community.
  • About: 
    • Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, who was born in Amritsar, is remembered as the man who championed the rights of religious freedom. He was affectionately called the Hind di Chaadar.
    • He stood up against the religious persecution of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In 1675, he was beheaded in Delhi, when he refused to convert to Islam.
    • He is the father of the 10th and the final Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh.
    • In his lifetime, he set up community kitchens (Langars) for local people and founded the city of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.

Jainacharya Shree Vijay Vallabh Surishwer Ji Maharaj

  • Context: 
    • Prime Minister unveiled a 151-inch tall statue of peace to mark the 151st birth anniversary of Jaincharya Vijay Vallabh.
    • The statue has been made from Ahtadhatu- 8 metals, with copper being the main constituent. It was installed at Vijay Vallabh Sadhana Kendra, Jetpura, Pali in Rajasthan.
  • About: 
    • Shree Vijay Vallabh Surishwer Ji Maharaj (1870-1954) led an austere life as a Jain Saint working selflessly and dedicatedly to spread the message of Lord Mahavira
    • He also worked relentlessly for the welfare of the masses, the spread of education, eradication of social evils, wrote inspiring literature (poetry, essays, devotional hymns, and Stavans), and gave active support to the freedom movement and the cause of Swadeshi.

Rashtriya Ekta Diwas 2020

  • Context: 
    • National Unity Day or Rashtriya Ekta Diwas is observed on October 31 every year
    • The day was introduced in 2014 by the Government to mark the birth anniversary of Iron Man of India – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
    • In memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Government of India has constructed a huge statue of the Iron Man of India near the Narmada River in Gujarat.
  • Significance of National Unity Day:
    • In 2014 the Home Ministry in the official statement stated that National Unity Day “will provide an opportunity to re-affirm the inherent strength and resilience of our nation to withstand the actual and potential threats to the unity, integrity, and security of our country.
  • About Sardar Patel:
    • He united 562 princely states to build the Republic of India.
    • From 1917 to 1924 Patel served as the first Indian municipal commissioner of Ahmadabad and was its elected municipal president from 1924 to 1928.
    • Patel first made his mark in 1918, when he planned mass campaigns of peasants, farmers, and landowners of Kaira, Gujarat, against the decision of the Bombay government to collect the full annual revenue taxes despite crop failures caused by heavy rains.
    • In 1928 Patel successfully led the landowners of Bardoli in their resistance against increased taxes.
    • His efficient leadership of the Bardoli campaign earned him the title Sardar (“leader”), and henceforth he was acknowledged as a nationalist leader throughout India.
    • In the crucial debate over the objectives of the Indian National Congress during the years 1928 to 1931, Patel believed that the goal of the Indian National Congress should be dominion status within the British Commonwealth—not independence.
    • Patel was the second candidate after Gandhi to the presidency of the 1929 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress.
    • During the 1930 Salt Satyagraha (prayer and fasting movement), Patel served three months’ imprisonment.
    • In March 1931 Patel presided over the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress.
    • He was imprisoned in January 1932.
    • Released in July 1934, he marshaled the organization of the Congress Party in the 1937 elections and was the main contender for the 1937–38 Congress presidency.
    • Again, because of Gandhi’s pressure, Patel withdrew and Jawaharlal Nehru was elected.
    • Along with other Congress leaders, Patel was imprisoned in October 1940, released in August 1941, and imprisoned once more from August 1942 until June 1945.

Maharani Jindan Kaur

  • Context:
    • Maharani Jindan Kaur, the last wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is in news for the auction of some of her jewelry at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in London.
  • Who was Rani Jindan?
    • She was the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire, whose boundaries stretched from Kabul to Kashmir and the borders of Delhi.
    • She was also the mother of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the empire, who was raised by the British.
    • Born at Chachar in Gujranwala in 1817.
    • She gave birth to Duleep Singh in 1838, a year before the death of the maharaja.
  • When did she become the regent?
    • Duleep Singh was five years old when he was placed on the throne in 1843 after the death of two heirs to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
    • Since he was just a child, Maharani Jindan was made the regent.
    • Not a rubber stamp, she took an active interest in running the kingdom, introducing changes in the revenue system.
  • When did the British imprison and exile her?
    • The British declared war on the Sikh empire in December 1845.
    • After their victory in the first Anglo-Sikh war, they retained Duleep Singh as the ruler but imprisoned Jind Kaur.
    • Maharani Jind Kaur arrived at Kathmandu on April 29, 1849, where she was given asylum by Jung Bahadur, the prime minister.
    • She was given a house on the banks of the river Bhagmati.
    • She stayed in Nepal till 1860, where she continued to reach out to rebels in Punjab and Jammu Kashmir.
    • The long exile took a heavy toll on Maharani Jindan’s health.
    • She passed away in her sleep on August 1, 1863, two years after she walked into the Kensington Gardens in 1861.

Battles And Organization:

 All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)

  • Context:
    • India’s first national trade union, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), has turned 100.
  • Origin of Trade Unions Act in India:
    • 1918 – 1st Registered Organized Trade Union:
      • Madras Labour Union led by BP Wadia and V. Kalyanasundaram Mudaliar, in 1918. The strike was called by the workers of Buckingham and Carnatic Mills in Madras, against the managing company, Binny and Co.
    • 1919 – ILO (International Labour Organisation) got established.
    • 1920 – 1st Trade Union Federation – All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC):
      • Founding Presidents were Lala Lajpat Rai, N M Joshi, and Joseph Baptista.
      • AITUC was formed to secure a nominating body for representing Indian Labour at the International Labour Conference.
    • 1920 – Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association founded by Anasuya Sarabhai who was a pioneer of the women’s labour movement in India and Shankerlal Banker
    • 1922 – Central Labour Board, Bombay
    • 1922 – Bengal Trade Union Federation
    • 1922 – All India Railwaymen’s Federation ( AIRF)
    • 1923 – First ever May Day/ Labour Day in India on May 1, 1923.
      • Singaravelu [Chettiar], Madras launched the Labour-Kisan Party of Hindustan as a distinct political party of labour and for labour, with a ‘politico-economic policy for labour, free from mere reformism or opportunism.
      • Known by various names like Kamgar Din (Hindi), Kamgar Divas (Marathi), and Uzhaipalar Dinam (Tamil), the ‘Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas’.
    • 1925 – The first Provident Fund Act passed in 1925 for regulating the provident funds of some private concerns was limited in scope.
    • 1926 – Indian Trade Unions Act was formed by N M Joshi (Father of Indian Trade union movement).
    • 1928 – Fawcett Committee:
      • A big strike of textile workers at Bombay took place from April to October 1928 due to which the government of Bombay appointed Fawcett Committee to look into the standardized scheme against which the strike happened.
    • 1928 – All India Workers and Peasants Party was formed
    • 1929 – Split of AITUC, at the 10th Session of AITUC, Nagpur
    • 1930 – ITUF (Indian Trade Union Federation) was formed from the split
    • 1931 – RTUC (Red Trade Union Congress) was formed from a split
  • Note:
    • As of 1931, there were 3 central federations (AITUC, ITUF, and RTUC)
    • The first Central Trade Union Organisation was formed in India on 31 October 1920 by the Indian National Congress (INC).
    • The INC, the central organ of the Independence movement, formed the AITUC to give India representation at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the League of Nations.
    • It was in 1942, more than two decades after 64 unions came together to form the AITUC in 1920 at Mumbai, that the union organised the working class in textile mills of Bengaluru, mines in Hutti and Kolar, besides beedi and tiles industries.


Cyclone Forecasting In India

  • Context: 
    • The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) was fairly successful in predicting the trajectory and evolution of the cyclone Nivar.
    • The IMD's early warning (4-5 days in advance) helped the state governments of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh plan rescue and mitigation efforts effectively.
  • How are the cyclone's forecast? 
    • Over the years India's ability to track the formation of cyclones has improved significantly. There are 4 different tools/mechanisms that India uses at present to forecast the cyclones. Information from all these tools/mechanisms helps in accurate prediction of cyclones in India. They are:
  • Doppler Weather Radars (DWRs): 
    • Unlike the conventional radars, the DWRs can predict the trajectory and severity of cyclones in near real-time.
    • The DWRs sends pulses of radio waves to gauge the size and the speed at which water droplets are moving.
    • With DWRs it is possible to detect a potential storm at least 4-5 days in advance, giving ample time to prepare for mitigation and rescue efforts.
    • There are 27 DWRs installed in India with 12 of them along the coastline.

  • Collaboration with other agencies:
    • India has agreements with Japan and the United States of America to share meteorological information.
    • The Japanese Meteorological Agency, The US National Hurricane Center, and The US Pacific Hurricane Center. These agencies send warnings and forecasts about the change in ocean weather.
  • Ocean Buoys:
    • These are instruments that collect weather and ocean data within the world's oceans, as well as aid during emergency response to chemical spills, etc.
    • They collect the data related to the weather parameters. They can calculate the wave height, wind speed and direction, air and water temperature, and atmospheric pressure as well.

  • Satellites: The dedicated meteorological satellites of India like the SCATSAT-1, INSAT-3D help in weather forecasting, cyclone prediction services. 

Why did no cyclone hit the Indian coast in  October?

  • Context:
    • October to December period is among the favorable months for the development of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This year, however, October passed without witnessing a cyclonic storm.
  • When do the cyclones hit the Indian Coast:
    • About 80 cyclones are formed around the world annually, out of which five are formed in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, together known as the North Indian Ocean.
    • Cyclones in the North Indian Ocean are bi-modal in nature, that is, they occur during two seasons— April to June (pre-monsoon) and October to December (post-monsoon).
    • Of these, May and November remain the most conducive for the development of cyclones
  • Why were there no cyclone developments in October this year?
    • Ocean disturbances enter the Bay of Bengal from the South China sea and head towards the Indian coast. This October, however, there was no system that intensified to form a cyclone.
    • Another reason is the weak La Nina conditions along the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
    • There was also the influence of Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO).
    • Also, in November, the vertical wind shear created due to significant wind speed differences observed between higher and lower atmospheric levels prevented the low-pressure systems and depression from strengthening into a cyclone.
  • La Nina: It refers to the greater than usual cooling down of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, coupled with changes in the atmospheric circulation. Though La Nina intensifies the South West Monsoon season, it negatively impacts the retreating monsoon season.

    Madden Julian Oscillation: It is kind of an eastward-moving cyclic weather event along the tropics that influences rainfall, winds, sea surface temperatures, and cloud cover. They have a 30 to 60-day cycle.

Glacial Lake outburst in Ladakh

  • Context:
    • In August 2014, a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) hit the village of Gya in Ladakh, destroying houses, fields, and bridges.
    • Researchers now have mapped the evolution of Gya glacial lake and note the cause of the flood.
  • Glacial Lake outburst flood (GLOF):
    • A GLOF is a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
    • An event similar to a GLOF, where a body of water contained by a glacier melts or overflows the glacier, is called a Jökulhlaup.
    • The dam can consist of glacier ice or a terminal moraine.
    • Failure can happen due to erosion, a buildup of water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, an earthquake, volcanic eruptions under the ice, or a glacier collapses into it.
  • What happened in Ladakh?

    • Tunneling of drainage process had caused GLOF in Gya lake.
    • Imagine a bucket full of water. It can overflow when you drop a stone, or the water can drain if there is a hole under the bucket.
    • Similarly, here the flooding did not happen due to the spillovers due to an avalanche or landslide, rather there was a thawing of the ice cores in the moraine.
  • Glacial Landforms:
    • Glaciation generally gives rise to erosional features in the highlands and depositional features on the lowlands, though these processes aren't mutually exclusive because the glaciers play the combined role of erosion, transportation, and deposition throughout their course.
    • As the glaciers expand, due to their accumulating weight of snow and ice they crush and abrade and scour surfaces such as rocks and bedrock.  The resulting erosional landforms include striations, cirques, glacial horns, arêtes, trim lines, U-shaped valleys, over-deepening, and hanging valleys.

  • Erosional landforms due to Glaciers:
    • Cirque or Corris:
      • They are deep, long, and wide troughs or basins with very steep concave to vertically dropping high walls at its head as well as sides.
      • They are simply a bowl-shaped depression formed due to the erosional activity of glaciers.
      • When these depressions are filled with water, they are called Cirque lake or Corrie Lake, or Tarn Lakes.
    •  Hanging Valleys or U-shaped Valleys:
      • The Glacier doesn’t create a new valley like a river does but deepens and widens a pre-existing valley by smoothening away the irregularities.
      • These valleys, which are formed by the glacial erosions assume the shape of the letter ‘U’ and hence are called U-shaped Valleys or Hanging Valleys.
    • Fjords:
      • A fjord is a very deep glacial trough filled with seawater and making up shorelines.
      • A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by ice segregation and abrasion of the surrounding bedrock and this valley gradually gets filled with the seawater (formed in mountains nearby the sea).
    •  Horns and Aretes:
      • Horns are sharp-pointed and steep-sided peaks. They are formed by headward erosion of the cirque wall.
      • When the divide between two cirque walls gets narrow because of progressive erosions, it results in the formation of a saw-toothed ridge called Arete.
  • Depositional Landforms due to Glaciers: Glacial deposits are of two types:
    • Moraines:
      • Moraines are long ridges of deposits of glacial till.
      • When these deposits are at the end of a glacier, they are called as Terminal moraines and when they are deposited on both sides, they are called as Lateral moraines.
      • When lateral moraines of two glaciers join together, they form Medial moraines.
      • When the lateral moraines of both sides of a glacier join together, it forms a horseshoe shape.
      • Ground moraines are deposits left behind in areas once covered by glaciers.
    •  Eskers:
      • When glaciers melt in summer, the water formed as a result of melting accumulates beneath the glacier and flows like streams in channels beneath that ice.
      • Very coarse material like boulders, blocks, and some minor fractions of rock debris are carried away by these streams.
      • They later get deposited in the valleys themselves and once the ice melts completely, they are visible to the surface as sinuous ridges.
      • These ridges are called Eskers.
    •  Drumlins:
      • They are smooth oval-shaped ridge-like structures composed mainly of glacial till.
      • It shapes like an inverted spoon with the highest part is called as Stoss End and the lowest narrow part is called as Tail End.
      • They are formed as a result of glacial movement over some minor obstructions like small surface rocks.
      • The glacial till gets deposited in those obstructions and the movement of glacier shapes these deposits like an inverted spoon.

  • Outwash Plains:
    • These are made up of fluvioglacial deposits washed out from the moraines by the streams and channels of the stagnant ice mass.

Cyclone Nivar

  • Context: 
    • The tropical cyclone Nivar made landfall near the Tamil Nadu Puducherry Coast.
  • Tropical Cyclone: 
    • A tropical cyclone is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure at the center, high winds, and heavy rain.
  • Eye:
    • It is an important feature of tropical cyclones characterized by a central region with clear skies, warm temperatures, and low atmospheric pressure.
  • Various names of tropical cyclones:
    • Storms rotate anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
  • Region Name
     North Atlantic and eastern Pacific Hurricanes
    Southeast Asia and China Typhoons
     Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean region  Tropical cyclones
     North-western Australia Willy-willies
  • Cyclone Nivar:
    • It is the fourth cyclone formed in the North Indian Ocean region this year. The first three cyclones were Cyclone Gati (made landfall in Somalia in November), Cyclone Amphan (eastern India witnessed it in May), and Cyclone Nisarga (in Maharashtra).
    • It will be the second cyclone to hit Tamil Nadu in two years after Cyclone Gaja in 2018.
    • The storm has been named Cyclone Nivar, based on the guidelines of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Nivara has been selected from the list of names given by Iran.
    • It weakened from a very severe cyclonic storm to a severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 100-110 km per hour.

North-East Monsoon 

  • Context: 
    • Rainfall over the southern peninsular region has been deficient so far, indicating that the northeast monsoon has remained subdued this year.
    • After a delayed onset followed by a subdued activity, the North-East Monsoon has finally shown some signs of revival in the southern peninsular region.
    • Two consecutive streams of easterly winds have the winter monsoon active.
  • About: 
    • India receives much of its rainfall during two seasons.
    • 75% of the rainfall is received during the southwest monsoon season which occurs between June and September.
    • The remaining is received especially by eastern parts of Peninsular India during the northeast monsoon or the retreating monsoon season which occurs in the months from October to December.
  • North-East Monsoons:
    • After the complete withdrawal of the Southwest monsoon from India takes place by mid-October, the wind direction changes rapidly from south-westerly to North-easterly when the ITCZ shifts southwards. 
    • This period from October to December is a period of peak cyclonic activities in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea, which are together called the North Indian Ocean.

  • Regions receiving rainfall:
    • The rainfall associated with the Northeast monsoon is important for Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, north interior Karnataka, Mahe, and Lakshadweep.
    • Tamil Nadu records about 48% of its annual rainfall from the retreating monsoons, making it the key for agriculture and reservoir management.
  • Reasons for Subdued North-east Monsoon:
    • La Nina conditions in the Pacific: 
      • It refers to the greater than usual cooling down of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, coupled with changes in the atmospheric circulation.
      • Though La Nina intensifies the South West Monsoon season, it negatively impacts the retreating monsoon season.
    • Position of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ): 
      • The ITCZ is a low-pressure belt around the equator. The movement of the ITCZ to the north or south of the equator with the corresponding movement of the sun affects the occurrence of rainfall in the tropics.
      • The current position of the ITCZ, which is to the north of its usual position this time of the year has negatively impacted the amount of rainfall received during the North-East monsoon season.

Seismic survey in Mahanadi onland basin

  • Context: 
    • (OIL) launched the seismic survey programme at Kakatpur in Puri District, Odisha in the Mahanadi Basin (Onland).
    • This is part of the National Seismic Programme (NSP) for appraising unappraised areas of Indian sedimentary basins.
  • About: 
    • Seismic data acquired under NSP in the state of Odisha led to an offer of five blocks by the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.
    • OIL had won all the five blocks for hydrocarbon exploration under Open Acreage Licensing Policy-II and III rounds.
    • In the petroleum industry, geophysical data play an important role in oil and gas exploration and production
    • Geophysical techniques used for petroleum exploration utilize equipment to measure such things as:
      • electrical currents, gravitational and magnetic anomalies, heat flow, geochemical relationships, and density variations from deep within the earth.
  • Seismic Surveys:
    • Sound waves are bounced off underground rock formations and the waves that reflect back to the surface are captured by recording sensors for later analysis.
    • Analysing the time the waves take to return provides valuable information about rock types and possible gases or fluids in rock formations.
    • This is similar to the use of ultrasound in medicine.
    • Onshore operations usually use specialised trucks that carry a heavy plate that is vibrated to generate a seismic signal.
    • In offshore operations, a specialised vessel tows a “seismic streamer”, or a collection of cables with seismic sources and hydrophones attached.
    • The seismic sources use compressed air to produce acoustic energy. The hydrophones capture the returning sound waves for later analysis.
  • The Four Stages of Seismic Exploration:
    • Seismic Acquisition:
      • To produce a seismic image of the subsurface, a seismic source must be generated and the resulting reflection data recorded by a field crew. In this way, land and marine seismic data are created and recorded all over the world.
    • Seismic Processing:
      • Next, the data must be processed, where the raw data is put through many complex procedures using powerful computers and finally a seismic section is produced.
    • Seismic Interpretation:
      • Making sense of the seismic image, identifying and mapping geological structures that can act as oil traps is the final stage of the seismic process.
    • Exploration Drilling:
      • If the results of the interpretation seem favorable, then an exploration borehole will be drilled. A well in a previously unexplored area is called a wildcat.



Fortified rice

  • Context:
    • Centre to extend the fortified rice scheme to 112 Aspirational districts.
  • About the news:
    • Children in anganwadis and government schools could soon be eating rice infused with iron, folic acid, and vitamin B-12.
    • In a bid to combat chronic anemia and undernutrition, the government is making plans to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meal schemes across the country from next year.

Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS)

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing this flagship programme for early childhood care and development.
  • Objective:
    • to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
    • to lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
    • to reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition, and school dropout;
    • to achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and
    • to enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.
  • Mid-day Meal Scheme:
    • Mid-day meal (MDM) is a wholesome freshly-cooked lunch served to children in government and government-aided schools in India. It aims to:
      • avoid classroom hunger
      • increase school enrolment
      • increase school attendance
      • improve socialisation among castes
      • address malnutrition
      • empower women through employment

POSHAN Abhiyaan’s Integrated Child Development Services Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS)

  • Context:
    • This nutrition portal, which is used to monitor services at anganwadis is down for nearly three months.
  • About the portal:
    • It is developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and is used by the Centre as well as most States to record and monitor the delivery of services to children and mothers across nearly seven lakh anganwadis.
    • The software was developed under the Poshan Abhiyaan approved by the Cabinet in 2017. While 50% of the amount is funded by the government budgetary support, the remaining 50% is a loan from the World Bank.
    • It is an innovative web and mobile-phone-based application to improve service delivery and programme management.
    • The application facilitates Anganwadi workers (AWWs) in their daily tasks, helps supervisors to assess and provide feedback to the workers, and helps other programme officials to track service delivery and take informed decisions.
    • The ICDS-CAS has three components:
      • a mobile-based application for AWWs,
      • a mobile-based application for supervisors and
      • a web-based dashboard for other programme officials.
    • The software also helps in calculating incentives given to workers for each task, but in its absence, these have been pending since September despite the responsibilities of Anganwadi workers increasing manifold due to the pandemic.

Fish in nutrition

  • Context:
    • Odisha to introduce fish in the nutrition scheme.
  • About the news:
    • Adolescent girls and pregnant women will be given dried small fish as part of the take-home ration.
    • Small fish like anchovy, Indian Sardine, and lesser sardine would be given to the beneficiaries in powder form or in packets after being dried.
  • Benefits:
    • Small fish, especially when eaten whole, is a rich source of nutritious animal-source food.
    • Even the skeleton of the fish is highly nutritious and can be provided in the form of powder.
    • Fish is provided to students in many nations as well and have shown promising results.

Manual Scavenging

  • Context
    • The Ministry of Urban Affairs launched the 'Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge' on the occasion of World Toilet Day.
  • About 'Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge':
    • It aims to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning'. 
    • The law prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines
    • preventing ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning. 
    • the Chief Secretaries, State Mission Directors, and other senior State/ Union Territory and city officials took a pledge on behalf of 243 cities to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021 and gave their commitment to work towards preventing any deaths from hazardous entry.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013):
    • The law makes the construction and maintenance of the insanity latrines an offence, therefore no one can be employed or engaged as the manual scavenger.
    • It provides rehabilitation of manual scavengers and alternative employment to them in a time-bound manner.  
    • This Act and various judgments of the Supreme Court expressly prohibit hazardous cleaning, i.e. manual entry into a septic tank or sewer without protective gear and observing operating procedures.
    • Despite this, recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in the cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities of society, continue to be an issue of concern.

Sanitation and Hygiene Fund

  • Context:
    • The United Nations launched the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund to provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden of diseases.
  • About:
    • The aim is to provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden of diseases stemming from lack of sanitation services and have the least ability to respond to them.
    • It also aims to raise $2 billion over the next five years for these countries.
  • Objectives :
    • Expanding household sanitation
    • Ensuring menstrual health and hygiene
    • Providing sanitation and hygiene in schools and healthcare facilities
    • Supporting innovative sanitation solutions.
  • Host:
    • The fund is hosted by the UN Office for Project Services, which provides technical advice and project implementation to the UN and its partners.
  • Progress on drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene: 2000-2017: Report:
    • It was released by UNICEF.
    • It has found that significant progress was made toward achieving universal access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene(WASH).
    • However, an estimated four billion people worldwide still do not have access to safely managed sanitation services.

Women's Issues

'Abhayam' app

  • Context:
    • Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh launched the 'Abhayam' mobile phone application.
  • About the App:
    • The app helps women and children traveling in taxis and auto-rickshaws, to raise alarm in case of any emergency.
    • It will be operated by the Transport Department.
    • It would help the women in alerting the police by pressing a panic button in the event of their landing in any trouble.
    • The policemen would be able to reach out to the women in need in just 10 minutes by virtue of the vehicle tracking facility provided by the IoT – based system.
    • The passengers have to scan QR codes displayed on the vehicles to facilitate tracking.
    • Mr. Reddy said the auto-rickshaw drivers should not consider it as viewing them with suspicion. Rather, Abhayam sends a message that taxis and auto-rickshaws in the State were as safe as the vehicles operated by multi-national cab aggregators Uber and Ola.
  • Other Women Safety initiatives:
    • Andhra Pradesh was the first state to bring out legislation (Disha Bill) for the security of women.
    • Disha police stations were set up and steps were taken for establishing special courts and posting dedicated public prosecutors to ensure speedy disposal of cases of attacks on women.
    • It also launched the Disha App with the following features:


NHRC notes a drop in women workers

  • Context:
    • A meeting of the NHRC’s core group on women, attended by representatives of the Women and Child Development and Skill Development Ministries, NGOs, lawyers and civil society members, discussed the reasons for the low participation of women in the labour force.
  • Women's participation in labour force:
    • According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey reports released by the National Statistical Office, women’s participation in the workforce “fell to its lowest points since Independence in the year 2017-18.
    • The most major decline can be seen since 2004, from 29.4% to 17.5% in 2017-18. This has marginally increased to 18.6% in the year 2018-19.” 

  • Suggestions provided by the meeting:
    • There should be an investment in the care economy as well as a regulatory mechanism. The state must come forward and private players can also participate. In Nepal, for example, there is a community care system.
    • It was suggested that an urban employment guarantee scheme should be started along the lines of the MGNREGA with a reservation for women. Many times, women want to work but the opportunities are not there.

Sex ratio

  • Context:
    • Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country while Manipur recorded the worst sex ratio, according to the 2018 report on “vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System”.
  • More about the news:
    • Top performers:
      1. Nagaland (965)
      2. Mizoram (964)
      3. Kerala (963)
      4. Karnataka (957)
    • Worst performers:
      1. Manipur (757)
      2. Lakshadweep (839)
      3. Daman & Diu (877)
      4. Punjab (896) and Gujarat (896)

  • Sex ratio in India
    • The sex ratio at birth is the number of females born per thousand males.
    • Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 1,050 males to 1,000 females or 950 females to 1,000 males.
    • The Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) estimated that the sex ratio of India declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
    • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.

Marriage Equality is a Constitutional Right

  • Context: 
    • Recently, three couples (two male, one female) have filed petitions, two in the Delhi High Court, and one in the Kerala High Court, arguing that the state’s refusal to recognise their marriages violates their constitutional rights. 
  • Marriage rights of transgenders:
    • India has finally joined the democracies that have decriminalised same-sex relationships. It is now time to join the many democracies which recognise the right of a citizen to marry anyone she chooses.
    • Special Marriage Act allows couples whose marriage may be disapproved of for any reason (inter-religion, inter-caste, different income groups) to obtain the legal rights of marriage.
  • Right to marry:
    • Supreme Court has given a verdict that “The right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.“
    • Justice Chandrachud also said, “The choice of a partner whether within or outside marriage lies within the exclusive domain of each individual. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable,” 
  • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. Its provisions are:
    • It defines a transperson as someone whose gender does not match the one assigned at birth. 
    • Recognition of identity of Transgender Persons and to confer upon them right to self-perceived gender identity.
    • Provision of the right of Residence with parents and immediate family members.
    • Provision for the formulation of welfare schemes and programmes for education, social security, and health of Transgender Persons.
    • Provision for National Council for Transgender Persons to advise, monitor, and evaluate measures for the protection of their rights.

Time Use Survey

  • Context:
    • The all India Time Use Survey, 2019 has been recently published by the Government of India. National Statistical Office (NSO) conducted the first Time Use Survey in India during January – December 2019.
  • About:
    • What is the time-use survey?
      • It provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities.
      • One distinguishing feature of the Time Use Survey from other household surveys is that it can capture time disposition on different aspects of human activities, be it paid, unpaid or other activities with such details which are not possible in other surveys.
      • The primary objective is to measure the participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
      • However, this valuation is not adequate, because it values only the labor input and leaves out the capital and technology used.
    • Data findings:
      • An average Indian woman spends 19.5% of her time engaged in either unpaid domestic work or unpaid care-giving services whereas men spend 2.5% of a 24-hour period on these activities.
      • There seems to be an inverse relationship between age and the amount of time spent by women on household chores, but a direct one between age and the time spent by men on these.
      • The proportion of males and females: 57.3% for males were engaged in employment and related activities while the proportion was 18.4% for females in the country.
    • Definition of work:
      • ILO defines work as 'any activity performed by persons of any sex and age to produce goods or provide services for use by others or own use'.
      • Work is divided into five categories:
        • employment (production of goods and services for pay, profit, or barter);
        • own use production of goods and services by households;
        • unpaid trainee work, volunteer work;
        • other work (compulsory work performed without pay to produce goods/services for others).
      • Unpaid domestic services and unpaid care are now formally recognized as work for the first time.


Violation of Tribal rights

  • Context:
    • Despite red flags, green nod for coal mining, new blocks put on auction.
  • About the news:
    • The National Commission on Scheduled Tribes(NCST) had intervened after villagers in the region approached the commission about the adverse social and ecological impact of mining in the region by Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MahaGenCo). 
    • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had also handed over a report regarding the adverse effects on the health of the tribals due to this project.
    • Despite all this, the Chhattisgarh government and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) facilitated the green clearance for a coal mine in the Gare Palma area of Tamnar tehsil in Rajgarh district.
    • The study authored by the National Institute of Research in Tribal Health for ICMR found that 42.7 percent of pre-school children were underweight. “Overall acute respiratory infection (20.9%) constituted the most common morbidity among children,” the report said, holding “nearby mining activities” responsible.
    • While the report recommended to strength in health infrastructure in the region along with looking at alcohol de-addiction, it also entailed provision for safe drinking water, that is water-free from “Fluoride, arsenic of any geogenic contamination.
  • Protection of tribal rights by law:
    • The Constitution provides autonomy to tribal areas in matters of governance under the Fifth and Sixth Schedules, which is further fortified by the Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors (1997) judgment where the Supreme Court declared that the transfer of tribal land to private parties for mining was null and void under the Fifth Schedule.
    • The framework for the protection of the rights of tribal and indigenous people is further strengthened by the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 which protects the individual and community rights of tribal people in forest areas and their right to free and prior informed consent in event of their displacement and resettlement.
  • Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana:
    • This programme meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining-related operations.
    • The PMKKKY is, therefore, very sharply focused on safeguarding the health, environment, and economic conditions of the tribals and providing them with opportunities to benefit from the vast mineral resources that are extracted from the areas where they live.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) will be implemented by the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) of the respective districts using the funds accruing to the DMF.
    • The Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, mandated the setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining-related operations.
    • At least 60% of the funds are to be utilised will be utilized for high priority areas like (i)drinking water supply; (ii) environment preservation and pollution control measures; (iii) health care (iv) education; (v) welfare of women and children; (vi) welfare of aged and disabled people; (vii) skill development; and (viii) sanitation. 
    • The rest of the funds will be utilized for the following: (i) physical infrastructure; (ii) irrigation; (iii) energy and watershed development; and (iv) any other measures for enhancing environmental quality in the mining districts.



National Crisis Management Committee

  • Context:
    • Recently, Cabinet Secretary chaired National Crisis Management Committee meeting to review the status of the cyclone.
  • About:
    • It is set up for effective coordination and implementation of relief measures and operations in the wake of natural calamities.
    • Cabinet Secretary is its Chairman.
    • Other members: Secretaries of all the concerned Ministries /Departments as well as organizations are the members of the Committee.
  • Key functions:
    • Oversee the Command, Control and Coordination of the disaster response;
    • Give direction to the Crisis Management Group (CMG) as deemed necessary.

Star campaigners

  • Context:
    • Supreme Court stayed the Election Commission's order revoking Congress leader Kamal Nath’s ‘star campaigner’ status, saying that ECI has no such power.
    • Earlier, ECI revoked his star campaigner status for model code violation during the campaign.
  • Star Campaigners:
    • They can be described as persons who are nominated by the parties to campaign in a given set of Constituencies.
    • There are no specific definitions according to law or the Election of the commission of India.
    • A recognized political party can have 40-star campaigners and an unrecognized (but registered) political party can have 20. 
  • Advantages:
    • The expenditure incurred on campaigning by such campaigners is exempt from being added to the election expenditure of a candidate.
    • However, this only applies when a star campaigner limits herself to a general campaign for the political party she represents.
    • While a political party pays for the expenditure of a star campaigner, the candidate pays for the expenditure of other campaigners.
    • Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which relates to a candidate’s election expenditure, does leave it to the political party itself to decide who its “leaders” are and allows every party to submit a list of such ‘star campaigners’ to the election authorities.

Allocation of party symbols

  • Context:
    • Upholding the decision of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Kerala High Court confirmed the allocation of “two leaves” election symbol to the Kerala Congress (M) faction.
    • The Court said it cannot, in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, interfere with the finding of the Commission.
  • About:
    • Allocation of election symbols is intended to maintain purity in elections.
  • As per the guidelines, to get a symbol allotted:
    • A party/candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers.
    • Among them, one symbol is allotted to the party/candidate on a first-come-first-serve basis.
    • When a recognised political party splits, the Election Commission decides on assigning the symbol.
  • Powers of Election Commission:
    • As there is no statutory provision regulating the allocation of symbols to political parties and candidates in elections, the duty and power to regulate the allocation of symbols vested with the ECI.
    • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols.
    • EC can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.
    • The EC is also the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger.
    • The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.
    • A decision taken by the ECI on the symbol is not tentative, but final. 

Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD)

  • Context:
    • Recently, Bombay HC said that Centre within its powers to suspend MPLAD to fight the pandemic.
    • In April this year, the central government decided to suspend all MPLADS funds for two financial years starting April 1.
    • The money from the MPLADS funds — nearly Rs 8,000 crore — will go to the Consolidated Fund of India that the government said would be used in the anti- Covid-19 effort.
  • About:
    • Under the MPLAD scheme launched in 1993, each MP gets Rs 5 crore annually for development work in his/ her constituency.
    • It is fully funded by Government of India.
    • The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme.
    • Funds are released in the form of grants-in-aid directly to the district authorities.
    • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
    • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
    • The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works, sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.
    • At least 10% of the projects under implementation in the district are to be inspected every year by the district authority.
  • Recommendation of works:
    • The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
    • The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected.
    • Nominated members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the country.

Office of Profit

  • Context:
    • The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Office of Profit headed deliberated on whether a Parliamentarian can continue to teach at University and if this draws the provisions of “Office of Profit” rules.
  • About:
    • Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the Central or State government.
    • The argument is that the lawmakers who hold the government accountable should not be susceptible to government influence by way of holding any post where they get salary or allowances from the government.
    • This law seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution — the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.
    • The Supreme Court in Pradyut Bordoloi vs Swapan Roy (2001) outlined the four broad principles for determining whether an office attracts the constitutional disqualification.
      • First, whether the government exercises control over appointment, removal and performance of the functions of the office
      • Second, whether the office has any remuneration attached to it
      • Third, whether the body in which the office is held has government powers (releasing money, allotment of land, granting licenses etc.).
      • Fourth, whether the office enables the holder to influence by way of patronage.

Settlement of Bru tribals

  • Context:
    • Parts of North Tripura have witnessed violent protests recently over the proposed resettlement of Bru tribals.
  • About:
    • In 1997, 37,000 people of the Bru (or Reang) tribe fled to Tripura from Mizoram, on account of ethnic clashes there.
    • Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram while 32,000 remain in camps in Tripura.
    • In January this year, an agreement was signed by the Centre, the two-state governments and Bru representatives to allow the remaining 32,000 to permanently settle in the state.
    • This led to protests from Bengali and Mizo groups in Tripura.
    • They claim that settling thousands of migrants permanently would lead to demographic imbalance, exert pressure on local resources and potentially lead to law and order problems.
  • Who are the Brus?
    • They are a community indigenous to the Northeast, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam.
    • In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.


Special courts to try Politicians

  • Context:
    • A three-judge committee of the Madras High Court has questioned the constitutional validity of setting up Special Courts to exclusively try MPs and MLAs for various crimes.
    • In 2017 Supreme Court order authorising the Centre to set up 12 Special Courts to exclusively try criminal politicians across the country.
  • Observations of the committee:
    • An MP/MLA, who commits an offence can only be tried by a Special Court created under the respective act and there cannot be another Special Court exclusively for the trial of an MP/MLA, who commits the offence.
    • The committee said the Special Courts should be “offence-centric” and not “offender-centric.”
    • Special Courts can only be constituted by a statute and not by the executive or judicial fiats.

National green tribunal

  • Context:
    • The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for non-utilisation of over Rs 800 crore meant towards Environment Relief Fund for victims of accidents in the process of handling hazardous substances.
  • About:
    • The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 enables the creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases of environmental issues.
    • New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting.
    • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
    • NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of the filing of the same.
    • Chairman: Is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Constitutional Provisions:

Constitution Day or Samvidhan Divas

  • Context:
    • November 26 is observed as India’s Constitution Day.
  • About:
    • On November 26, 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India, and it came into effect on January 26, 1950.
    • While January 26 is celebrated as Republic Day, since 2015, November 26 has been observed as the Constitution Day of India or Samvidhan Divas.
    • In 2015, the government formally notified November 26 as Constitution Day. Before this, the day was observed as National Law Day.
    • It is to promote constitutional values amongst citizens.
  • Timeline of events:
    • The Constituent Assembly, the body meant to draft the Constitution of India, held its first session on December 9, 1946, attended by 207 members, including nine women.
    • The assembly took over three years to draft the constitution, spending over 114 days considering the content of the draft alone.
    • On December 13, 1946, Nehru moved the “Objectives Resolution” that was later adopted as the Preamble on January 22, 1947.
    • The Drafting Committee chaired by Ambedkar was one among the over 17 committees of the Constituent Assembly. Their task was to prepare a Draft Constitution for India. 
    • The last session of the Constituent Assembly ended on November 26, 1949, when the Constitution was adopted.

Right to private property

  • Context:
    • The Urban Development Ministry and the Delhi Development Authority has accused the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, set up in 2006 to identify unauthorised structures and check misuse of residential properties in Delhi, of “expanding its territory on its own”.
  • Observation of supreme court:
    • The court had found that the committee had no authorisation to seal private residential premises not used for commercial purposes in the National Capital.
    • The Constitution mandates that a person can be deprived of property and right of residence only in the manner prescribed by law, the court had noted.
    • In another recent judgement, the court said that citizen’s right to own private property is a human right.
    • The state cannot take possession of it without following due procedure and authority of law.
  • Constitutional provisions:
    • The private property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44th Constitution Amendment in 1978.
    • Nevertheless, Article 300A required the state to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property.

Differences between the US and the Indian electoral system

  • Context:
    • After the recently concluded elections in the USA, many American citizens have raised questions on the American electoral system.
  • Electoral system of USA:
    • US voters on election day don’t select the President directly.
    • They are voting for 538 electors instead, who meet in their respective states and vote for President and Vice President.
    • Each state, no matter how populous, will get at least three electors, and the remaining are in proportion to the population of the state.
    • These electors comprise the Electoral College.
    • To win the presidency, 270 electoral votes are needed to get a majority of the Electoral College. 
    • In the electoral college system, the candidate with the highest number of votes in a state claims all of the state’s electoral votes.
    • Thus, some call the electoral college a ‘winner-takes-all' system, as small margins in the key states with large populations (and thus more electors), can tilt the US elections in one party’s favour.
  • Indian electoral system:
    • The country has been divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament.
    • 28 states and 3 Union territories have legislative assemblies/ Vidhan Sabhas.
    • Elections to the Lok Sabha and each Vidhan Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system.
    • For each constituency, the electors can cast their vote for a single candidate (of their choice), the winner being the candidate who gets the most votes.

Comparison of Indian and French model of secularism

  • Context:
    • The beheading of a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb and Knife attacks in Nice brought to light the French model of secularism.
  • Comparison:

    French Secularism Indian secularism
    Negative secularism i.e complete separation of State and religion. Positive secularism i.e there is no strict separation between state and religion. State can interfere for reform and to protect religious rights
    There is only the concept of individual rights. Both individual rights (Article 25) and community rights (Article 26) are protected by the constitution.
    Religious rights are not guaranteed, hence no remedy for their violation. Religious rights are guaranteed by the constitution (Article
    There is freedom of conscience. Indian constitution also guaranteed freedom of conscience (Article 25).
    Secularism is the core concept in the constitution. The preamble of the Indian constitution states that India is a secular state.

Comparison of pardoning powers of US and Indian presidents

  • Context:
    • Recently, US President Donald Trump exercised his pardoning powers.
  • US President’s power to pardon:
    • The President of the US has the constitutional right to pardon or commute sentences related to federal crimes.
    • The US Supreme Court has held that this power is “granted without limit” and cannot be restricted by Congress.
    • President is not answerable for his pardons and does not have to provide a reason for issuing one.
    • Limitations:
      • This power cannot be exercised in cases of impeachment.
      • The power only applies to federal crimes and not state crimes.
  • Indian President’s power to pardon:
    • Article 72 of the constitution provides the president power to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
    • The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence:
      • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial;
      • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
      • In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
    • Under Article 161, the Governor also has pardoning powers, but these do not extend to death sentences.
    • Limitations:
      • The President cannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government.
      • The President of India has to act on the advice of the Cabinet.
    • Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article 74(1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once.
    • If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.

Article 32

  • Context:
    • Recently, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde observed that it is “trying to discourage” individuals from filing petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution.
  • Article 32:
    • It is one of the fundamental rights listed in the Constitution that each citizen is entitled.
    • Article 32 deals with the ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’, or affirms the right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred in Part III of the Constitution.
    • It states that the Supreme Court “shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs like habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part”.
    • The right guaranteed by this Article “shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution”.
    • According to Dr B R Ambedkar had said, “It is the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it”.
    • He said the rights invested with the Supreme Court through this Article could not be taken away unless the Constitution itself is amended and hence it was “one of the greatest safeguards that can be provided for the safety and security of the individual”.
  • Writs:
    • Both the High Courts and the Supreme Court can be approached for violation or enactment of fundamental rights through five kinds of writs:
      • Habeas corpus (related to personal liberty in cases of illegal detentions and wrongful arrests)
      • Mandamus — directing public officials, governments, courts to perform a statutory duty;
      • Quo warranto — to show by what warrant is a person holding public office;
      • Prohibition — directing judicial or quasi-judicial authorities to stop proceedings which it has no jurisdiction for; and
      • Certiorari — a re-examination of an order given by judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative authorities.

Article 363-A

  • Context:
    • A grandson of the last Nizam Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan has complained to the Hyderabad Police seeking registration of an FIR on a few other Nizam’s heirs alleging that they have used false documents to lay claim over the £35 million Nizam’s Fund lying in a UK bank.
    • He said this move amounted to a violation of Article 363-A of the Constitution.
  • About:
    • It was inserted in the Constitution (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971.
    • It led the abolition of Privy Purse.

Acts and Bills:

Amended land laws of Jammu and Kashmir

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Home Affairs announced several amendments to land laws of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Amendments:
    • People as well as investors outside Jammu and Kashmir can now purchase land. Earlier, locals had exclusive rights over land.
    • Only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. 
    • No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector.
    • An Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs amended the FCRA rules.
  • About FCRA:
    • The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
    • The FCRA applies to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
    • All such NGOs must register themselves under the FCRA. 
    • Registered associations can receive the foreign contribution for social, educational, religious, economic and cultural purposes.
  • Who cannot receive foreign donations?
    • Members of the legislature and political parties, government officials, judges and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution.
    • However, in 2017 the MHA amended the law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.
  • Recent amendments:
    • The Home Ministry notified new rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 thereby amending the FCRA Rules, 2011.
    • The new rules make new FCRA registrations more stringent.
    • Norms relaxed for farmer, student, religious and other groups not involved in ‘active politics’.
    • Any organization that wants to register itself under FCRA “shall be in existence for three years” and should have “spent a minimum amount of ₹15 lakh on its core activities for the benefit of society during the last three financial years”.
    • The amended rules also said that office bearers of NGOs or organizations seeking registration under the FCRA must submit a specific commitment letter from the donor indicating the amount of foreign contribution and the purpose for which it was being given.

Special marriage act

  • Context:
    • In a recent judgement, Allahabad High Court said that 'Religious Conversion Just for Marriage Is Unacceptable'.
  • Special marriage act:
    • The Special Marriage Act is enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party.
    • Marriages solemnized under the Special Marriage Act are not governed by personal laws.
  • Observation of court:
    • The Allahabad HC said it is disconcerting that one should change one’s faith just for the sake of matrimony when two people professing different religions can marry under Special Marriage Act, which is ‘one of the earliest endeavours towards Uniform Civil Code’.

Anti-defection law

  • Context:
    • Recently, India’s first Member of Parliament to have been disqualified from the Lok Sabha has now been disqualified as an MLA in Mizoram.
    • He ceased to be a member of the state legislature for violating the anti-defection law by defecting to a political party after getting elected as an Independent in the 2018 assembly polls.
  • About:
    • The anti-defection law in India, technically the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act.
    • It was enacted to address the perceived problem of instability caused by democratically elected legislators in India's Parliamentary System of Government shifting allegiance from the parties they supported at the time of election or disobeying their parties' decisions at critical times such as during voting on an important resolution. 
    • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
    • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • Criteria for disqualification:
    • If a member of a house belonging to a political party:
      • Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
      • Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
      • If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
      • If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.
    • However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification when a party to merges with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.
  • Role of speaker:
    • The Anti-Defection law is clear that the question of disqualification or otherwise under the Tenth Schedule is to be decided by the Speaker.
    • In Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu, the court said that there will be judicial review of the speaker's decision.
    • However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.

Information Technology Act

  • Context:
    • Recently, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) Blocked 43 Mobile Apps Under Sec 69A Of Information Technology Act.
    • The government said that these apps were banned under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 because “they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.”
    • It is the primary law in India dealing with cybercrime and electronic commerce.
  • Section 69A of the Act:
    • Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was introduced by an amendment to the Act in 2008.
    • It gives the Central government the power to block public access to any information online — whether on websites or mobile apps.
    • The detailed procedures to do so are listed under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.

Inner line permit(ILP)

  • Context:
    • Seven Meghalaya-based organisations have renewed their movement for the implementation of the British era inner-line permit (ILP) and the scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • About:
    • It is a document required by non-natives to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system.
    • An ILP is only valid for domestic tourists.
    • The Inner Line Permit is an extension of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act 1873.
    • The ILP is in force in four northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
    • The ILP is issued by the concerned state government and can be availed both by applying online or in person.


National Digital Health Mission

  • Context:
    • Ayushman Bharat CEO said that digital health mission ready for nationwide roll-out soon.
  • About:
    • The scheme will come under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
    • The mission of the new digital health programme is to provide affordable medical health facilities to the citizens.
    • Under the Mission, every Indian will get a Health ID card that will store all medical details of the person including prescriptions, treatment, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries.
    • The National Health Authority has been given the mandate to design, build, roll-out and implement the mission in the country.

International relations

Dialogues And Talks:

G20 Summit

  • Context:
    • India is set to host the G-20 summit in 2023, instead of 2022 — the 75th year of Independence. Indonesia will assume the G-20 presidency in 2022 after a swap with India, Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said, adding that the change of plan was agreed considering that Indonesia would also chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2023.
  • G20:
    • The G20, formed in 1999, is a group of twenty of the world’s largest economies that meets regularly to coordinate global policy on trade, health, climate, and other issues. 
    • Previous summits have addressed the 2008 financial crisis, the Iranian nuclear program, and how to respond to the Syrian civil war.
    • The member countries are the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
    • Together, the nations of the G20 account for around 80 percent of global economic output, nearly 75 percent of all global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population.
  • New Global Index:
    • In the virtual summit held this year, PM calls for a new global index in the post-pandemic world.
    • The index comprises four key elements:
      1. creation of a vast talent pool;
      2. ensuring that technology reaches all segments of society;
      3. transparency in systems of governance; and
      4. dealing with Mother Earth with a spirit of trusteeship

ASEAN-India summit

  • Context:
    • Recently, India has participated in the 17th ASEAN-India Virtual Summit.
  • India-ASEAN relations:
    • ASEAN is India’s fourth-largest trading partner with about $86.9 Bn in trade between India and the ten ASEAN nations.
    • While addressing the summit, PM Modi also highlighted India’s “Indo-Pacific policy” as an area of convergence for ASEAN and India.
    • He also said that there is ample closeness between India's “Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative” and ASEAN's “Outlook on Indo Pacific”.
    • Prime Minister underlined the centrality of ASEAN in India's Act East Policy.
    • He noted that a cohesive, responsive, and prosperous ASEAN is central to India's Indo-Pacific Vision and contributes to Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)
    • He also invited the ASEAN countries to cooperate on various pillars of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).
    • The Leaders also welcomed the adoption of the new ASEAN-India Plan of Action for 2021-2025.
  • About ASEAN:
    • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten countries in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.
    • ASEAN's primary objective is to accelerate economic growth and through that social progress and cultural development
    • It also aims to promote regional peace and stability based on the rule of law and the principle of the United Nations charter.

ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus)

  • Context:
    • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attended the ADMM-Plus meeting.
  • About:
    • It is a meeting where Defence Ministers of ASEAN countries and eight other nations such as Japan, the U.S., and China would gather and discuss the way forward for security cooperation.
    • Eight Dialogue Partners are Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and the USA (collectively referred to as the “Plus Countries”).


Geopolitical Events:

India-Nepal border dispute

  • Context:
    • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Kathmandu, a move being seen as a significant outreach effort following a boundary dispute.
  • About:
    • The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand in May.
    • Days later, Nepal came out with a new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as its territories.
    • India reacted sharply, calling it a “unilateral act” and cautioning Nepal that such “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.

Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement(BECA)

  • Context:
    • Recently, India and the US inked the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement.
  • About:
    • BECA provides for the sharing of high-end military technology, classified satellite data, and critical information, during the third edition of their 2+2 ministerial dialogue.
    • Along with the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), BECA will be one of the foundational military communication agreements between the two countries.
  • Advantages:
    • BECA combined with other pacts will enable deeper defense ties between India and the US and contributes to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
    • The agreement will give India access to classified spatial data as well as critical information having significant military applications from the US.
      • These include access to a range of topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data considered key to map hostile movements and precise and real-time information on enemy positions accessed from US military satellites during any potential border conflict.
    • Will provide greater impetus for acquisitions of American military platforms by India.
    • Enhances interoperability between the US and Indian military forces and enables greater sharing of intelligence and analysis.
    • US geospatial information will help to achieve very high military accuracy for weapon systems such as cruise and ballistic missiles and advanced UAVs.
    • The US would exchange technical and procedural information about methods, specifications, and formats for the collection, processing, and production of Geo intelligence information with India.

United Nations peacekeeping

  • Context:
    • India, U.S. looking at training South East Asian nations in U.N. peacekeeping.
  • India-US joint training:
    • With China significantly scaling up its troop contribution for United Nations Peace Keeping (UNPK) missions, India and the U.S. are looking to undertake the training of military personnel for the missions from South East Asian countries on the lines of the ongoing initiative for African countries.
    • India has consistently been among the top troop-contributing nations to the U.N. 
    • The U.S., on the other hand, has never contributed ground troops but contributes 27% of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.
    • In 2016, India and the U.S. began a joint annual initiative “UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners” to build and enhance the capacity of African troop and police-contributing countries to participate in the U.N. and regional peacekeeping operations. 
  • Contribution of China and India:
    • China presently contributes 12% of the U.N. regular general budget and 15% of the peacekeeping budget.
    • India’s contribution to the regular budget is 0.83% and 0.16% of the peacekeeping budget.
    • India has so far participated in 51 of the 71 missions and contributed over 2 lakh personnel.
    • It has troop deployment in Lebanon, Golan Heights, Congo, and South Sudan in addition to staff officers in other missions. 

Bhutan establishes formal ties with Germany

  • Context:
    • Recently, Bhutan established diplomatic relations with Germany. 
  • Significance:
    • This is the kingdom’s first diplomatic foray in seven years.
    • Since 1949, when Bhutan first signed a friendship agreement with India, which kept the two countries closely engaged on all foreign policy issues, Bhutan has been historically cautious about establishing ties with other countries.
  • The reaction of India:
    • Official sources in New Delhi said the government had “noted” the development.
    • Germany is an important development partner of Bhutan. This is a further step on that path.


  • Context:
    • Recently, India, Thailand, Singapore concluded the second edition of naval exercise in the Andaman Sea hosted by the Singapore Navy.
    • Indian Navy deployed indigenous Anti-Submarine Warfare corvette INS Kamorta and missile corvette INS Karmuk for the exercise.
  • Significance:
    • It highlights growing synergy, coordination, and cooperation in the maritime domain between the three friendly navies and maritime neighbors.
    • Besides improving inter-operability between the friendly navies, the SITMEX series of exercises also aims to strengthen confidence and develop common understanding and procedures towards enhancing the overall maritime security in the region.

The killing of Iranian nuclear scientist

  • Context:
    • An Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program was killed in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran.
  • About:
    • He led Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon.
    • Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.
    • He was also sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council(UNSC) and the U.S. for his work on AMAD. 
    • The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after Iran and the U.S. stood on the brink of war when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
    • He was killed in a village called Absard, which has a view of Mount Damavand, the country’s highest peak, which is filled with vacation villas.
  • Iran nuclear deal:
    • Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, between Iran and the P5+1 together with the European Union.
    • It is to limit Iran's uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
    • President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.

Gilgit Baltistan

  • Context:
    • Recently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that his government would give the region “provisional provincial status”.
  • About:
    • The region is claimed by India as part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir as it existed in 1947 at its accession to India.
    • Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan, providing the country’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China, where it meets the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
    • The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has made the region vital for both countries.
    • To G-B’s west is Afghanistan, to its south is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and to the east J&K.

Durand line

  • Context:
    • Recently at UNSC, India called for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan.
    • It is to end terrorist safe havens ‘operating across the Durand Line’.
  • About:
    • Durand Line, boundary established in the Hindu Kush in 1893 running through the tribal lands between Afghanistan and British India, marking their respective spheres of influence.
    • In modern times it has marked the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

India-China water sharing dispute

  • Context:
    • Chinese is planning to construct the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet, marking a new phase in China’s hydropower exploitation of the river with potential ramifications for India.
  • About:
    • China operationalized four dams on the upper and middle reaches of the river.
    • This will be the first time the downstream sections of the river will be tapped.
    • The potential site is at the “Great Bend” of the Brahmaputra and at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Medog county, where the river falls spectacularly over a 2,000 meter-drop and turns sharply to flow across the border into Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Chinese hydropower groups have long campaigned to tap the “Great Bend”, but projects have so far not taken off over concerns over the technical feasibility in the steep Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon.
  • Concern for India:
    • India has expressed concerns to China over the four dams on the upper and middle reaches.
    • A dam at the Great Bend, if approved, would raise fresh concerns considering its location downstream and just across the border from Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Construction of dams poses the following challenges for India:
      1. They will eventually lead to degradation of the entire basin: Massive amounts of silt carried by the river would get blocked by dams leading to a fall in the quality of soil and eventual reduction in agricultural productivity.
      2. The threat to the ecosystem, as Brahmaputra basin is one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive zones.
      3. As the region is seismologically active, there is a danger of earthquakes and landslides. For example, the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the resultant landslides wiped out several dams and other facilities.
      4. China may change the flow rate during times of standoffs and high tensions. In fact, during the 2018 Doklam border standoff between India and China, China stopped communication of water flow levels from its dams, effectively rendering India blind to floods during the standoff.
      5. There are no bilateral or multilateral treaties on the water.
      6. China believes dam building on the Brahmaputra helps it assert a claim over Arunachal Pradesh.

West bank

  • Context:
    • Mike Pompeo recently paid the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
    • Palestinians accused Mr. Pompeo of helping Israel to cement its control over West Bank.
  • About:
    • The West Bank is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan and the Dead Sea to the east and by Israel on the remaining three sides.
    • Israel occupied it ever since the Six-Day War of 1967.
    • It has built many formal and informal settlements over the last 20-25 years.
    • The territory is still a point of contention due to a large number of Palestinians who live there and hope to see the land become a part of their future state.
    • The United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice have said that the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    • Under the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
    • India traditionally believes in the 2-state solution and supports the establishment of a sovereign independent and the viable state of Palestine.

A civil war in Ethiopia

  • Context: 
    • A civil war erupted in Ethiopia as conflict deepens in Tigray province.
  • About:
    • Tigray Region is the northernmost region of Ethiopia.
    • Trouble between Tigray and the central government has been brewing since Abiy Ahmad became the Prime Minister in 2018.
    • Recently, militia forces under the control of the provincial government of Tigray attacked an Ethiopian military camp.
    • Later, the central government in Addis Ababa ordered military action against the rebellious province of Tigray in the north of the country. 
    • There are reports of inter-ethnic bloodletting emerging from Tigray, with both sides hurling accusations at each other.
    • The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian disaster.

China-Bhutan border dispute

  • Context:
    • Satellite images and media reports show that China is developing the village of Pangda, on the west bank of the Torsa River, which is 2.5km (1.5 miles) inside the Bhutanese border.
  • About:
    • Chinese media released an image, which placed the Pangda village in disputed territory, a couple of kilometers inside what Bhutan sees as its territory.
    • Bhutan’s officials say there is no Chinese village inside Bhutan.
    • The area is east of the India-Bhutan-China trijunction on the Doklam plateau, which was the site of a 72-day stand-off in 2017 triggered by China’s road-building up to where it sees its border.
    • China also earlier claimed the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in Eastern Bhutan as its own territory.

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE)

  • Context:
    • Over 1.3 lakh Tibetans living in exile and settled across India and other parts of the globe shall be electing their next Parliament-in-Exile, called Central Tibetan Administration, and it’s head in May 2021.
  • Elections:
    • The 2021 elections will be held to elect the president and 45 members of the TPiE.
    • Nearly 80,000 Tibetans living outside Tibet have registered for voting so far, including roughly 56,000 living in India and 24,000 in other countries.
    • Any Tibetan aged above 18 as per one’s identity document called Tibetan Green Book is eligible to vote following registration. 
    • According to the Green Book of the Tibetan government-in-exile, over 1 lakh Tibetans are settled across India.
    • Only Tibetans living outside the subcontinent will elect their MPs based on their current geographic location.
    • Besides MPs, voters will make their choice of the President as well.
  • About Parliament:
    • The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE) has its headquarters in Dharamsala, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
    • The Speaker and a Deputy Speaker head the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. 
    • The 16th TPiE had 45 members –
      • 10 representatives from each of the traditional provinces of Tibetan;
      • 2 from each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion
      • 2 representing each of the Tibetan Communities in North America and Europe; 
      • 1 from Australasia and Asia (excluding India, Nepal, and Bhutan). 
  • Tibetan Constitution:
    • The Central Tibetan Administration called Kashag (Cabinet), exists and functions based on the Constitution of the Tibetan government called the ‘The Charter of the Tibetans in Exile’.
    • In 1991, The Constitution Redrafting Committee instituted by the Dalai Lama prepared the Charter for Tibetans in exile.
    • The Dalai Lama approved it on June 28, 1991, and amendments took place in 2001 and 2011.

Organizations And Conventions:

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

  • Context:
    • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest trade bloc of 15 countries including the 10 ASEAN members, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, was signed on November 15 without India, which was part of the long-running negotiations until it withdrew last year.
  • About:
    • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an agreement between the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its 5 free trade agreement (FTA) partners.
    • The pact aims to cover trade in goods and services, intellectual property, etc.
    • RCEP aims to create an integrated market with 15 countries, making it easier for products and services of each of these countries to be available across this region.
    • The members' make up nearly a third of the world's population and account for 29% of global gross domestic product.
  • China's role in RCEP:
    • RCEP was pushed by Beijing in 2012 to counter another FTA that was in the works at the time: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
    • The US-led TPP excluded China.
    • However, in 2016 US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the TPP.
    • Since then, the RCEP has become a major tool for China to counter the US efforts to prevent trade with Beijing.
  • Why did India decide against signing the RCEP trade deal?
    • India decided against joining Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, saying it was not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors, but it had made a strong case for an outcome that would be favorable to all countries and all sectors. 
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech at the RCEP Summit, said “the present form of the RCEP agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP. It also does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns in such a situation.”
  • Why was India cautious in its RCEP negotiations?
    • There was a fear in India that its industries would be unable to compete with China and Chinese goods would flood Indian markets.
    • India’s farmers were also worried given that they would be unable to compete on a global scale.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC)

  • Context:
    • Recently, India rejected the criticism of its Kashmir policy by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
    • India has said that OIC has “no locus standi in matters strictly internal to India, including that of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir”.
  • About:
    • It is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states, with 49 countries being Muslim-majority countries. 
    • It is the second-largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
    • It has headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
    • The organization states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”.
    • The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union. 

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum was held online this year because of the pandemic.
    • In the first joint statement since 2017, APEC leaders, including Trump, agreed on free trade.
  • About:
    • It is an inter-governmental forum for 21 member economies in the Pacific Rim that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
    • It is established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.
    • APEC members account for 60% of global GDP.
    • India is not a member of APEC.

One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance

  • Context:
    • Three UN organizations launch a new global coalition of global leaders to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance.
  • About:
    • In the wake of rising antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a global group called ‘One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance’ was launched by
      • the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
      • the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and
      • the World Health Organization (WHO).
    • This 20-member group comprises heads of states, current and former ministers of different countries, leaders from the private sector, and civil society. 
    • The heads of FAO, OIE, and WHO are ex-officio members of the group.
    • It seeks to catalyze global attention and action to preserve antimicrobial medicines and avert the disastrous consequences of antimicrobial resistance.

South Asian University

  • Context:
    • It is in news, as the institution is facing a crisis of leadership.
  • About:
    • Established in 2010, it is an international university, located in New-Delhi, India.
    • It is sponsored by the eight Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
    • Degrees and Certificates awarded by the SAU are at par with the respective Degrees and Certificates awarded by the National Universities/ Institutions.
    • India, as the host and the largest country in the SAARC group, bore the entire capital cost for setting up the university, and also pays 50% of the operational costs.

Inter-Parliamentary Union

  • Context:
    • India's CAG Murmu was elected as External Auditor of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
  • About:
    • IPU is a global inter-parliamentary institution established in 1889 by France and the UK.
    • It was the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations.
    • Initially, the organization was for individual parliamentarians but has since transformed into an international organization of the parliaments of sovereign states.
    • The IPU facilitates parliamentary diplomacy and empowers parliaments and parliamentarians to promote peace, democracy, and sustainable development around the world.
    • Composition: It has 179 Member Parliaments,13 Associate Members, and increasing numbers of parliamentarians from all over the world involved in our work.
    • Headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)

  • Context:
    • India invited Luxembourg to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
  • About:
    • It is an international coalition of countries, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and academic institutions, that aims to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure.
    • It was launched by PM Modi in September 2019 at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York, US.
    • It is a platform where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster and climate resilience of infrastructure.

Five eyes

  • Context:
    • China rejected the latest attack on its Hong Kong policy by the U.S. and several of its allies, saying they “should face up to the reality” that the former British colony has been returned to China.
    • The U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, in a joint statement, said the new Hong Kong policy was a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices.
  • About:
    • It is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
    • These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for cooperation in signals intelligence.



Infrastructure Funding

  • Context:
    • Cabinet approved up to ₹6,000-crore of equity infusion into NIIF’s debt platform by 2021-22.
    • This was one of the twelve key measures made by Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, as part of the Government of India’s stimulus to the economy, under AatmaNirbhar Bharat 3.0.
  • Impact of this move:
    • This will act as a catalyst in attracting more investments into the infrastructure sector as envisaged in the National Infrastructure Pipeline.
    • This process will also help relieve the exposure of banks to infrastructure projects and free up space for new green-field projects and will support in enhancing the liquidity of infrastructure assets and lower the risks.
    • A well-capitalized, well-funded, and well-governed NIIF debt Platform can play a major role in infrastructure financing and development of the Bond Market in India by acting as a AAA/AA-rated intermediary between the bond markets and infrastructure projects and companies.
  • National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF):
    • It was set up as a sovereign wealth fund and is registered with the(SEBI)  as a Category II Alternate Investment Fund (AIF). 
    • It provides long-term capital for infra-related projects.
    • 1st ever Sovereign Wealth Fund of India.
    • The government had set up the ₹40,000 crores NIIF in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable greenfield, brownfield, and stalled infrastructure projects.
    • The Indian government is investing 49% and the rest of the corpus is to be raised from third-party investors (including foreigners) such as sovereign wealth funds, insurance, and pension funds, endowments, etc.
    • NIIF’s mandate includes investing in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management, and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.
    • NIIF currently manages three funds each with its distinctive investment mandate. The funds are registered as Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Social Infrastructure

  • Context:
    • The viability gap funding [VGF] provided for economic infrastructure will now be extended to social infrastructure.
  • More about the news:
    • Now, under two new schemes, private sector projects in areas like wastewater treatment, solid waste management, health, water supply, and education, could get 30% of the total project cost from the Centre.
    • States could chip in with another 30% and the rest can be private sector investments. These projects should entail full recovery of operating costs to qualify for the VGF.
    • Separately, pilot projects in health and education, with at least 50% operational cost recovery, can get as much as 40% of the total project cost from the central government.
    • The Centre and States would together bear 80% of the capital cost of the project and 50% of operation and maintenance costs of such projects for the first five years.
  • What is Social Infrastructure?
    • Social infrastructure can be broadly defined as the construction and maintenance of facilities that support social services.
    • Types of social infrastructure include healthcare (hospitals), education (schools and universities), public facilities (community housing and prisons), and transportation (railways and roads).
  • What is Viability Gap Funding?
    • Means a grant one-time or deferred, provided to support infrastructure projects that are economically justified but fall short of financial viability. 
    • Government of India has notified a scheme for Viability Gap Funding to infrastructure projects that are to be undertaken through Public-Private Partnerships.
    • It will be a Plan Scheme to be administered by the Ministry of Finance with suitable budgetary provisions to be made in the Annual Plans on a year-to-year basis.
    • Support under this scheme is available only for infrastructure projects where private sector sponsors are selected through a process of competitive bidding.
    • The project agreements must also adhere to best practices that would secure value for public money and safeguard user interests. 
    • VGF is disbursed only after the private sector company has subscribed and expended the equity contribution required for the project.

Core Industries

  • Context:
    • The Office of Economic Adviser within the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade released the Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) for September 2020.
  • Index of eight Core industries:
    • The Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has released it.
    • This is an index of the eight most fundamental industrial sectors of the Indian economy and it maps the volume of production in these industries.
  • What are the core industries?
    • The Eight Core Industries comprise 40.27 percent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
    • Since these eight industries are the essential “basic” and/or “intermediate” ingredient in the functioning of the broader economy, mapping their health provides a fundamental understanding of the state of the economy.
  • Key highlights:
    • Refinery Products have the largest weight while Cement has the lowest weight. Steel and Electricity are the other heavyweights.
    • The September data shows the promise of an economy that may be extricating itself out of the Covid-induced downturn.

Manufacturing Sector

  • Context
    • India’s manufacturing sector rebounded from a 39.3% contraction in GVA (gross value added) in the April-June quarter to show a 0.6% growth in the second quarter and this has amazed many economists.
  • About the news:
    • Despite being the worst affected sector in Q1 due to the lockdown, it is quite puzzling how manufacturing turned itself around.
    • The observation is based on the study of Gross Value Added(GVA) and Index of Industrial Production(IIP).
  • What is Gross Value Added?
    • In 2015, in the wake of a comprehensive review of its approach to GDP measurement, India opted to make major changes to its compilation of national accounts and bring the whole process into conformity with the United Nations System of National Accounts (SNA) of 2008.
    • As per the SNA, gross value added, is defined as the value of output minus the value of intermediate consumption and is a measure of the contribution to GDP made by an individual producer, industry, or sector.
    • At its simplest, it gives the rupee value of goods and services produced in the economy after deducting the cost of inputs and raw materials used.
    • GVA can be described as the main entry on the income side of the nation’s accounting balance sheet, and from economics, perspective represents the supply side.
    • Prior to this, India calculated GVA at ‘factor cost’ and it was the main parameter for measuring the country’s overall economic output.
    • In the new series, in which the base year was shifted to 2011-12 from the earlier 2004-05, GVA at basic prices became the primary measure of output across the economy’s various sectors and when added to net taxes on products amounts to the GDP.
  • What is the Index of Industrial Production?
    • Index of Industrial Production data or IIP as is an index that tracks manufacturing activity in different sectors of an economy.
    • The IIP number measures the industrial production for the period under review, usually a month, as against the reference period.
    • IIP is a key economic indicator of the manufacturing sector of the economy. There is a lag of six weeks in the publication of the IIP index data after the reference month ends.
    • IIP index is currently calculated using 2011-2012 as the base year.
    • Electricity, crude oil, coal, cement, steel, refinery products, natural gas, and fertilisers are the eight core industries that comprise about 40 percent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production. Mining, manufacturing, and electricity are the three broad sectors in which IIP constituents fall.
    • IIP is used by various government agencies such as the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), private firms and analysts, among others for analytical purposes
    • It is released by Central Statistical Organisation
  • IIP vs ASI
    • While the IIP is a monthly indicator, the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) is the prime source of long-term industrial statistics. The ASI is used to track the health of the industrial activity in the economy over a longer period. The index is compiled out of a much larger sample of industries compared to IIP.

Renewable Energy

  • Context
    • India’s renewable energy deployment plans for the coming decade are likely to generate business opportunities worth $20 billion a year: PM Modi
  • India's renewable energy sector:
    • Indian renewable energy sector is the fourth most attractive renewable energy market in the world. India is ranked fourth in wind power, fifth in solar power, and fifth in renewable power installed capacity as of 2018.
  • Its contribution to economic growth:
    • Embracing renewable energy can help India achieve its target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
    • As per findings of the World Bank, low-emission and resource-efficient greening of India’s economy is possible at a very low cost in terms of GDP growth.
    • Positive impact on GDP: By attracting global and domestic investors, deploying renewable energy will have a positive effect on the GDP of our country.
    • Moreover, the sector also received a total FDI equity inflow of $7.83 billion in the last ten years (April 2000- March 2019)With the government’s aspiring targets for the green energy sector, India has become very attractive from investors’ point of view, both domestic and foreign, and would continue to generate more investment in the future.
    • Job creation: According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy industry in India accounted for almost 7,19,000 jobs in the year 2018. The further expansion of this sector would lead to the emergence of new employment opportunities in the country.
    • People who are considered ineligible for several permanent and well-paid jobs can get maintenance and operations, installation, and sales jobs in this sector.

  • Government initiatives:
    • In August 2020, the government announced plans to offer land near its ports to companies for building solar equipment factories.
    • India plans to add 30 GW of renewable energy capacity along a desert on its western borders such as Gujarat and Rajasthan.
    • Delhi Government decided to shut down a thermal power plant in Rajghat and develop it into a 5,000 KW solar park.
    • Rajasthan Government, in Budget 2019–20, exempted solar energy from electricity duty and focussed on the utilization of solar power in its agriculture and public health sectors.
    • A new Hydropower policy for 2018–28 was drafted for the growth of hydro projects in the country.
    • The Government of India has announced plans to implement a US$ 238 million National Mission on advanced ultra-supercritical technologies for cleaner coal utilisation.
    • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has decided to provide custom and excise duty benefits to the solar rooftop sector, which will lower the cost of setting up as well as generate power, thus boosting growth.
    • Indian Railways is taking increased efforts through sustained energy efficient measures and maximum use of clean fuel to cut down emission level by 33% by 2030.

Oil refineries

  • Context: 
    • PM says India set to double oil refining capacity in 5 years, earlier than expected
  • Why is this boost in capacity needed?
    • India’s current refining capacity of 249.9 million tonnes per annum exceeds domestic consumption of petroleum products which was 213.7 million tonnes in the previous fiscal.
    • However, India’s consumption of petroleum products is likely to rise to 335 million tonnes per annum by 2030 and to 472 million tonnes by 2040 according to government estimates. India needs to boost refining capacity to meet growing demand.
  • How will this be achieved?
    • The expansion in refining capacity will come from both brownfield and greenfield projects.
    • The new refinery project in Ratnagiri is one of the key projects in the planned expansion and has received investment from Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s national oil companies — Saudi Aramco and ADNOC respectively — which together own 50 percent of the project while the remaining 50 percent is owned by Indian PSUs, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
    • Other key projects include a joint venture between HPCL and the Rajasthan government for a new refinery in Barmer Rajasthan with a refining capacity of 9 million tonnes per annum as well as the major expansion projects in existing refineries in Panipat, Paradip, and Koyali.

Silver Line project

  • Context:
    • Kerala Government informs NITI Aayog that a semi high-speed rail Silverline from Kasaragod in the north to Kochuveli in the south is feasible.
  • Need for such a project:
    • Kerala’s road networks are clogged and experience dense traffic during peak hours.
    • According to data shared by experts, less than 10% of the state’s roads handle nearly 80% of the traffic.  This also gives rise to accidents and casualties; in 2018, Kerala recorded 4,259 deaths and 31,687 grievous injuries.
    • The current railway network is congested with a large number of trains, level crossings, and sharp curves. The fastest train, plying between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod, takes nearly 12 hours to cover 532 km.
  • Benefits:
    • Trains would complete the journey at four hours instead of 12, with a maximum speed of 200 km/h.
    • The semi high-speed trains will traverse through 11 of the state’s 14 districts, Alappuzha, Wayanad, and Idukki being the exceptions.
    • There are also plans to connect the corridor with the international airports at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram
  • Who will implement it?
    • The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Kerala government to execute projects on a cost-sharing basis, will be the nodal agency. 


Kochi-Mangalore pipeline  

  • Context
    • The much-delayed Kochi-Mangalore natural gas pipeline project is finally ready for commissioning any day from now.
  • Why the delay?
    • The company was working on the 540-metre river stretch since late April but got inordinately delayed as this stretch goes up to 8 metres deep in the river bed at some places and has an elevation difference of 148 metres, as the river flows down a deep valley, making it one of the rarest engineering projects for the entire pipeline network across the country.
    • The project crosses as many as 96 water-bodies south of the Chandragiri River.
    • The problem with this stretch is that the river flows down through a valley to the Arabian Sea, forcing them to drill horizontally from under the river bed.
  • Benefits of the project:
    • Today the pipeline supplies 3.8 million cubic metres of gas every day to industrial and residential customers in Kochi and is set to cross 4 million cubic metres soon in the city itself, while Mangalore has a potential of 2.5 million cubic metres per day.
    • The pipeline is a big boost to the struggling Kochi LNT Terminal of Petronet which has a capacity of 5 million tonne annually but 90 percent of capacity has been idling due to the delay in completing the Kochi-Mangalore pipeline with the commissioning the capacity utilisation of the LNG terminal will go up to 25-30 percent.
    • Apart from huge environmental gains, the state can also gain monetarily as it can get up to Rs 1,000 crore by way of taxes alone.
    • Supplying to the Kochi region alone helps the state earn over Rs 340 crore annually in tax revenue.

Health Infrastructure

  • Context:
    • Finance panel for public-private partnerships to ramp up health infrastructure.
  • Health spending in India:
    • The total spending of around 0.95% of GDP is not adequate both in relation to our peer groups and in relation to the commitments under the National Healthy Policy of 2017.

  • Recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission:
    • The Fifteenth Finance Commission has mooted a greater role for public-private partnerships to ramp up the health infrastructure and scale up public spending on health from 0.95% of GDP to 2.5% by 2024.
    • While public outlays should focus on primary health care at the panchayat and municipality level, private players should be relied on for specialty healthcare.
    • Mr. Singh recommended substantial improvements in the working conditions for doctors in government hospitals, many of whom are hired on a contract basis by States, and the creation of an Indian Medical Service cadre as envisaged in the Civil Services Act of 1951.
    • To achieve better healthcare parameters, public-private partnerships must be considered “in a holistic way” instead of the current situation where the government only turns to the private sector in times of emergency

Banking and Finance:

Criminal Finances

  • Context:
    • Over 2,000 representatives from 132 countries attended the virtual 4th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies organised by the Interpol, Europol, and the Basel Institute on Governance from November 18 to 19.
  • About the conference:
    • The conference is an initiative of the Working Group on Cryptocurrencies and Money Laundering established in 2016 by Interpol, Europol, and the Basel Institute on Governance.
    • It was launched with the objective of strengthening knowledge, expertise, and best practices for investigations into financial crimes and intelligence on virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.
    • The conference served as an opportunity to underline the need for countries and jurisdictions to increase the exchange of tactical information and best practices.
    • The conference’s agenda included trends and investigations on cryptocurrency-related offences, exploring criminal flows and operations in the dark markets, ransomware and sextortion case studies, money laundering involving virtual assets, and the transfer of drug proceeds using cryptocurrencies.
  • Basel Institute on Governance :
    • Established in 2003, the Basel Institute on Governance is a not-for-profit Swiss foundation dedicated to working with public and private partners around the world to prevent and combat corruption. The Basel Institute is an Associated Institute of the University of Basel.
  • Europol:
    • Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime, and other serious and organised forms of crime. They also work with many non-EU partner states and international organisations.
  • Interpol:
    • The word 'INTERPOL' is the radiotelegraph code for the International Criminal Police Organization which consists of 188 member countries who have agreed to “ensure and promote the widest possible assistance between all criminal police authorities in the prevention and suppression of ordinary law crimes”. The Organization's headquarters is in Lyon, France.

Corporate houses in Indian Banking

  • Context:
    • An Internal Working Group of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recommended that corporate houses be given bank licences. 
    • But, this has earned a lot of criticism from leading economists including Dr Vijay Kelkar, Arvind Subramaniam and others.
  • P.K Mohanty Committee:
    • It has said  “large corporates and industrial houses may be allowed as promoters of banks only after necessary amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949”
  • Arguments in favour:
    • It could enhance the field’s competitive intensity, spur performance and revitalize our credit market. In turn, if this step brings greater efficiency in capital allocation overall, it could do our economy a good turn over the years ahead.
    • Globally, banking appears to be on the verge of a technology-led transformation. India too needs to step-up with its share of FinTech players.
  • Why is it being criticised?
    • Committee on Financial Sector Reforms (2008) headed by Dr. Raghuram Rajan had analysed this possibility. It observed, “The Committee believes it is premature to allow industrial houses to own banks. This prohibition on the ‘banking and commerce’ combine still exists in the United States today, and is certainly necessary for India till private governance and regulatory capacity improve.
    • The main concerns are interconnected lending, the concentration of economic power, and exposure of the safety net provided to banks (through the guarantee of deposits) to commercial sectors of the economy. 
    • The Internal Working Group believes that before corporate houses are allowed to enter banking, the RBI must be equipped with a legal framework to deal with interconnected lending and a mechanism to effectively supervise conglomerates that venture into banking.
    • RBI can only react to interconnected lending ex-post, that is after substantial exposure to the entities of the corporate house has happened. It is unlikely to be able to prevent such exposure.

Moratorium on Banks

  • Context:
    • On November 17, the Centre, acting on the recommendation of the Reserve Bank of India, imposed a moratorium on Lakshmi Vilas Bank for a period of 30 days.
    • The 94-year-old bank has been struggling with losses for three years.
  • What is a moratorium?
    • The RBI has the power to ask the government to have a moratorium placed on a bank’s operations for a specified period of time.
    • Under such a moratorium, depositors will not be able to withdraw funds at will.
    • Usually, there is a ceiling that limits the amount of money that can be withdrawn by the bank’s customers.
    • In the case of Lakshmi Vilas Bank, depositors cannot withdraw more than ₹25,000 during the one-month moratorium period.
    • In most cases, the regulator allows for funds of a larger quantum to be withdrawn in case of an urgent requirement but only after the depositor provides the required proof.
    • Often, the moratorium is lifted even before the originally stipulated deadline is reached.
  • How does a moratorium prevent a bank run?
    • A moratorium primarily helps prevent what is known as a ‘run’ on a bank, by clamping down on rapid outflow of funds by depositors, who seek to take their money out in fear of the bank’s collapse.
    • A moratorium gives both the regulator and the acquirer time to first take stock of the actual financial situation at the troubled bank. It allows for a realistic estimation of assets and liabilities, and for the regulator to facilitate capital infusion if it's necessary. 
  • Protecting the interest of depositors:
    • A key objective of a moratorium is to protect the interests of depositors. Even if they are temporarily handicapped by facing restricted access to their funds, there is a high probability that the bank would soon return to normal functioning once a bailout is arranged.
    • The RBI had earlier this year bailed out Yes Bank through a scheme backed by State Bank of India and other banks.
    • One safety net for small depositors is the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), an RBI subsidiary, which gives insurance cover on up to Rs 5 lakh deposits in banks.

Four years since Demonetisation

  • Context:
    • Four years after the government announced demonetisation on November 8, 2016, the currency with the public stood at a record high of Rs 26.19 lakh crore —  45.7 percent higher than the level of Rs 17.97 lakh crore on November 4, 2016.
  • Lockdown increased the cash flow:
    • The pace of rising in currency with the public has been very sharp over the last 10 months as it has risen from Rs 21.79 lakh crore as of January 3, 2020 to Rs 26.19 lakh crore as of October 23, 2020.
    • The jump was primarily driven by a rush for cash by the public between March and May as the government announced stringent lockdown.
    • As a result, people began accumulating cash to meet their grocery and other essential needs that were being mainly catered by neighborhood grocery stores.
  • What is the currency in circulation?
    • As per the RBI definition, currency with the public is arrived at after deducting cash from banks from total currency in circulation. Currency in circulation refers to cash or currency within a country that is physically used to conduct transactions between consumers and businesses.
  • Effects of demonetisation:
    • Fall in demand
    • businesses faced a crisis
    • gross domestic product (GDP) growth declined to nearly 1.5 percent.
    • Many small units were hit hard and shut shutters after the note ban.
    • It also created a liquidity shortage.
  • Did it reduce the currency in circulation?
    • According to an RBI study on digital payments, although digital payments have been growing gradually in recent years, both in value and volume terms across countries, the data suggests that during the same time currency in circulation to GDP ratio has increased in consonance with the overall economic growth.
    • An increase in digital payments to GDP ratio over a period of time does not seem to automatically imply a fall in the currency to GDP ratio of the country.(RBI study)

Technical Recession

  • Context:
    • Latest RBI bulletin projects contraction for a second consecutive quarter, which means the economy is in a ‘technical recession’. 
    • To better understand the term “technical recession”, one must distinguish it from two other phrases — a recession and a recessionary phase of an economy.
  • What is the recessionary phase?
    • At its simplest, in any economy, a recessionary phase is the counterpart of an expansionary phase.
    • In other words, when the overall output of goods and services — typically measured by the GDP — increases from one quarter (or month) to another, the economy is said to be in an expansionary phase.
    • And when the GDP contracts from one quarter to another, the economy is said to be in a recessionary phase.
    • Together, these two phases create what is called a “business cycle” in any economy. A full business cycle could last anywhere between one year and a decade.

  • How is the recession different?
    • When a recessionary phase sustains for long enough, it is called a recession. In other words, when the GDP contracts for a long enough period, the economy is said to be in a recession.
    • There is, however, no universally accepted definition of a recession — as in, for how long should the GDP contract before an economy is said to be in a recession.
    • But most economists agree with the definition that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in the United States uses. According to NBER, “During a recession, a significant decline in economic activity spreads across the economy and can last from a few months to more than a year.
    • The NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee typically looks at various variables — employment, consumption, etc — apart from GDP growth to arrive at a decision. It also looks at the “depth, diffusion, and duration” of decline in economic activity to determine whether an economy is in a recession or not.
    • For example, in the case of the most recent dip in economic activity in the US, which started in February 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the drop in activity has been so great and so widely diffused throughout the economy that the downturn would have been classified as a recession even if it had proved to be quite brief.

  •  What is a technical recession?
    • The real quarterly GDP has come to be accepted as a measure of economic activity and a “benchmark” for ascertaining a “technical recession”.
    • By this definition, as the data in the above table shows, India entered a recession at the end of September. The UK is in its third quarter of recession. Brazil and Indonesia are also in recession while South Africa has evaded it until now, but only marginally. China, where the pandemic began, has bucked the trend.
    • Given the nature of the problem — the pandemic — as soon as the lockdown was announced in March, most economists expected the Indian economy to go into recession. In fact, most estimates expect the economy to contract for at least one more quarter — that is October to December, currently underway.
  • Recession vs Depression:
    • Typically, recessions last for a few quarters. If they continue for years, they are referred to as “depressions”. But depression is quite rare; the last one was during the 1930s in the US.

Negative yield Bonds

  • Context:
    • China’s negative yield bonds are currently in demand.
  • What are negative-yield bonds?
    • These are debt instruments that offer to pay the investor a maturity amount lower than the purchase price of the bond. These are generally issued by central banks or governments, and investors pay interest to the borrower to keep their money with them.
  • Why do investors buy them?
    • Negative-yield bonds attract investments during times of stress and uncertainty as investors look to protect their capital from significant erosion. At a time when the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic and interest rates in developed markets across Europe are much lower, investors are looking for relatively better-yielding debt instruments to safeguard their interests.
  • Why is there a huge demand?
    • The fact that the 10-year and 15-year bonds are offering positive returns. As against minus —0.15% yield on the 5-year bond issued by China, the yields offered in safe European bonds are much lower, between –0.5% and —0.75%.
    • while the majority of the large economies are facing a contraction in their GDP for 2020-21, China is one country that is set to witness positive growth in these challenging times: its GDP expanded by 4.9% in the third quarter of 2020.
    • The key factor: the massive amount of liquidity injected by the global central banks after the pandemic began that has driven up prices of various assets including equities, debt, and commodities.
    • In case the fresh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic leads to further lockdowns of economies, then there could be further negative pressure on interest rates, pushing yields down further, and leading to profits even for investors who put in money at the current juncture.

GST Compensation

  • Context:
    • After Puducherry, Congress-ruled Rajasthan last week became the latest Opposition-ruled state to opt for a special borrowing window for meeting its compensation shortfall under Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • What is the special window for borrowing?
    • The Finance Ministry had said last month that the Centre would borrow from the market and then act as an intermediary to arrange back-to-back loans to pay the GST compensation shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore to state governments. This arrangement will not reflect in the fiscal deficit of the Centre, and will appear as capital receipts for state governments.
    • In August, the Centre gave two options to the states — either borrow Rs 97,000 crore from a special window facilitated by the RBI or borrow Rs 2.35 lakh crore from the market. The options have since been revised to Rs 1.10 lakh crore and Rs 1.8 lakh crore, respectively.
  • What is GST compensation?
    • Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act,2017 was enacted to levy Compensation cess for providing compensation to the States for the loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the goods and services tax.
    • The compensation cess on goods imported into India shall be levied and collected in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.
    • Compensation Cess will not be charged on goods exported by an exporter under bond and the exporter will be eligible for a refund of an input tax credit of Compensation Cess relating to goods exported.
    • The compensation cess is a cess that will be collected on the supply of select goods and or services or both till 1st July 2022.
  • GST Council:
    • Goods & Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax.
    • It is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and other members are the Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States.
    • As per Article 279A (4), the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws, principles that govern Place of Supply, threshold limits, GST rates including the floor rates with bands, special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters, special provisions for certain States, etc.

External Sector:

Trade agreements and Economic growth

  • Context:
    • Recently the External Affairs Minister made a statement citing trade agreements as the reason for India's below-potential economic growth.
    • But some other experts have cited other reasons like strong rupee policy, low ease of doing business, and underperformance of the manufacturing sector.
  • India's Export-led growth:
    • According to EAM S. Jaishankar, trade has delivered high economic growth for the country. 
    • Between 1995 and 2018, India’s overall export growth averaged 13.4% (in dollars) annually. This is the third-best performance in the world among the top 50 exporters. 
    • Yet, this is low as compared to the actual potential, because India's share of global manufacturing exports is only 1.7%, marginally less than Vietnam’s, at 1.75%.

  • Impact of Exchange rate policy:
    • According to some experts, the 'strong rupee policy' is is among the chief causes that have been shown to have slowed down exports.
    • The real effective exchange rate has appreciated by about 20% since 2014. This is like a subsidy given by the Indian government to the exporters of other countries because Indian goods proved to be costlier than foreign goods.
      • The real effective exchange rate (REER) is the weighted average of a country's currency in relation to an index or basket of other major currencies. 
    • Also, imports — such as holidays and higher education overseas — have leaped and it is because the exchange rate has made them more affordable.

  • Ease of doing business:
    • Studies of trade agreements by NITI Aayog show that Indian exporters suffer logistics, compliance, and transaction costs twice as high in other countries. This low ease of doing business relative to other exporting countries has further eroded the competitiveness of Indian exports. 
  • The underperformance of the Manufacturing Sector:
    • Between fiscal years 2006 to 2012, manufacturing-sector GDP grew by an average of 9.5% per year. India’s trade openness was at its peak during these years of high growth.
    • But, over the next six years, manufacturing-sector GDP growth declined to 7.4%, coinciding with the phase of corruption scandals, a severe banking crisis, demonetisation, and an ill-implemented Goods and Services Tax(GST).
    • Some experts have supported India's trade high-openness and also that it is a crucial factor to remove the Indian Economy from the menace of the pandemic.

Vaccine nationalism

  • Context:
    • Various scholars have been urging international organisations like WTO, United Nations to intervene in the profit-seeking race of Covid vaccines and channelise it towards vaccine accessibility to all.
  • Mechanisms that can help:
    • COVAX:
      • COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, and France in response to this pandemic.
      • Bringing together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, the private sector, civil society, and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.
      • COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO.
      • Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
    • Treating the vaccine as a public good:
      • World Health Organization's Director-General, exhorted member countries to treat COVID-19 technologies as a “public good”. 
      • A public good is a common property of the nation and such goods are not excludable and non-rivalrous.
      •  If it is a public good, governments would have to step in to regulate its development, innovation, manufacture, sale, and supply ultimately to the public.
      • If there is public financing for technology development, there is no scope for grant of patent protection. 
  • What is Compulsory Licensing?
    • The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Doha Ministerial Conference declaration, 2001 under WTO made provisions for compulsory licensing.
    • It allows governments to license third parties (that is, parties other than the patent holders) to produce and market a patented product or process without the consent of patent owners.
    • Any time after three years from the date of sealing of a patent, application for the compulsory license can be made, provided if:
    • Reasonable requirements of the public have not been satisfied;
    • The patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price;
    • The patented invention has not worked in India.
    • The TRIPS Agreement does not specifically list the reasons that might be used to justify compulsory licensing.
    • However, the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health confirms that countries are free to determine the grounds for granting compulsory licences and to determine what constitutes a national emergency.

Government Budgeting:

Fiscal Deficit

  • Context:
    • Fiscal deficit reaches 120% of the annual target, a result of lockdown-induced sluggishness in economic activities and poor revenue collection.
    • The fiscal deficit or gap between the expenditure and revenue had breached the annual target in July this year. this gap has further widened.
  • What is a fiscal deficit?
    • The fiscal deficit is the difference between the government‘s total expenditure and its total receipts excluding borrowing. 
    • Gross fiscal deficit = Total expenditure – (Revenue receipts + Non-debt creating capital receipts)
      • Non-debt creating capital receipts are those receipts that are not borrowings and, therefore, do not give rise to the debt. Examples are the recovery of loans and the proceeds from the sale of PSUs. 
  • Impact of the fiscal deficit:
    • Crowding out private borrowing
    • manipulates capital structures and interest rates
    • decreases net exports
    • leads to either higher taxes, higher inflation, or both.
  • Measures to finance the deficit:
    • Governments could borrow money from the market and increase spending as part of a targeted fiscal policy.
    • Monetization of the fiscal deficit: RBI buys government bonds in the primary market and prints more money to finance the debt. 
  • Escape clause of FRBM Act :
    • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act “clearly mentions that direct monetization of deficit can be used by the Government in certain exceptional circumstances.
    • The escape clause refers to the situation under which the central government can flexibly follow the fiscal deficit target during special circumstances. This terminology was innovated by the NK Singh Committee on FRBM.
    • The clause allows the govt to relax the fiscal deficit target for up to 50 basis points or 0.5 percent.
    • In 2020, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman used the escape clause and revised the fiscal deficit for FY20 to 3.8 percent and pegged the target for FY21 to 3.5 percent.
    • The government can over cross the targets in the following situations:
      1. National Security / Act of War 
      2. National Calamity
      3. If agriculture output and farm incomes collapse 
      4. Fall in real output, GDP growth rate beyond a certain point
      5. Structural reforms in the economy with unanticipated fiscal implications 

Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0

  • Context:
    • Centre rolls out ₹1.19 lakh-crore stimulus package for Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0
  • Key highlights:
      • Atma Nirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana:
        • This new scheme incentivises job creation during pandemics. Under this scheme, if EPFO-registered establishments take in new employees without EPFO registration or those who lost jobs earlier, the government will provide a subsidy.
        • The subsidy to be provided by the central government for two years in respect of newly eligible employees engaged after October 1 will include employee contributions (12 percent of wages) and employer’s contributions (12 percent of wages) totaling 24 percent of wages.
            • In the case of establishments employing more than 1,000 employees, the government will provide employee’s EPF contributions (12 percent of EPF wages). The scheme will be operational till June 30, 2021.
          • Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme :
            • launched for MSMEs, businesses, MUDRA borrowers, and individuals (loans for business purposes), has been extended till March 31, 2021.
            • ECLGS 2.0 is being launched for the healthcare sector and 26 stressed sectors with credit outstanding of above Rs 50 crore and up to Rs 500 crore as on February 29, stressed due to COVID-19.
            • Entities will get additional credit up to 20 percent of outstanding credit with a tenor of five years, including a one-year moratorium on principal repayment. This scheme will be available till March 31, 2021.
          • Production Linked Incentive worth Rs 1.46 lakh crore to 10 champion sectors
            • To help boost the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing.
            • This will give a big boost to the economy, investment, exports, and job creation. A total amount of nearly Rs 1.5 lakh crore has been earmarked across sectors, for the next five years.
          • Rs 18,000 crore additional outlay for PM Awas Yojana – Urban
            • This will help around 12 lakh houses and complete 18 lakh houses, create additional 78 lakh jobs and improve production and sale of steel and cement, resulting in a multiplier effect on the economy.
          • Support for construction & infrastructure – relaxation of earnest deposit money & performance security on government tenders
            • To provide ease of doing business and relief to contractors whose money otherwise remains locked up, performance security on contracts has been reduced from 5-10 percent to 3 percent.
          • A platform for infra debt financing:
            • The government will make Rs 6,000 crore equity investment in the debt platform of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), which will help NIIF provide a debt of ₹ 1.1 Lakh Crore for infrastructure projects by 2025.
          • Support for agriculture: ₹65,000 crores for subsidised fertilisers
            • As fertilizer consumption is going up significantly, ₹65,000 crores is being provided to ensure an increased supply of fertilizers to farmers to enable timely availability of fertilizers in the upcoming crop season.
          • Boost for rural employment:
            • An additional outlay of ₹10,000 crores is being provided for PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana to provide rural employment. This will help accelerate the rural economy.
          • Boost for project exports:
            • Rs 3,000 crore boost is being provided to EXIM Bank for promoting project exports under Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme (IDEAS Scheme). This will help EXIM Bank facilitate Lines of Credit development assistance activities and promote exports from India.
          • R&D grant for COVID-19 vaccine:
            • Rs 900 crore is being provided to the Department of Biotechnology for research and development of the Indian COVID-19 vaccine.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana

  • Context:
    • The government on Thursday announced an employment incentive scheme, Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana, under which it will provide subsidy for provident fund contribution for adding new employees to establishments registered with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
  • About the scheme:
    • Under the scheme, the central government will pay PF contribution for workers with wages up to Rs 15,000.
    • The contribution of 24 percent for both employers and employees for establishments employing up to 1,000 employees will be borne by the Centre and
    • For establishments employing more than 1,000 employees, 12 percent of the employees’ share will be contributed by the government.
    • The additional eligibility condition for the scheme specifies that the subsidy will be provided for the employment of two new employees if the establishment has 50 or fewer employees and will be paid for five new employees if establishments have more than 50 employees. 
    • The reference base for employees would be September 2020. The subsidy amount under the scheme, which will be operational till June 30, 2021, will be credited upfront only in the Aadhaar-seeded EPFO accounts (UAN) of new employees.

Forecasts about Indian Economy

  • Context:
    • Various global forecasting agencies like Oxford Economics, Moody's have released forecasts about the performance of the Indian Economy in the upcoming years.
  • Oxford Economics:
    • Global forecasting firm Oxford Economics 
    • revised downwards its India growth forecast over the medium term to an average 4.5% over 2020-25, from its pre-pandemic projection of 6.5%.
    • In a research note, it said India’s post-COVID-19 scars could be among the worst in the world.
    • It said an adequate and well-designed fiscal stimulus would halve this impact by limiting deterioration in pre-COVID-19 headwinds.
    • It also noted that” It’s likely that headwinds already hampering growth prior to 2020 — such as stressed corporate balance sheets, elevated non-performing assets of banks, the fallout in non-bank financial companies (NBFCs), and labour market weakness — will worsen”
  •  Moody's:
    • Moody’s Investors Service has revised its GDP projection for India in 2020-21 to a 10.6% contraction compared with an 11.5% drop it had estimated. The rating agency also marginally raised its forecast for 2021-22 GDP growth to 10.8%, from 10.6%.
    • It termed the Centre’s November 12 package of stimulus measures ‘credit positive.’
    • It expects India’s growth to reach 10.8% in fiscal 2021 [ending March 2022], and to settle around 6% in the medium term. 

National Food Security Act

  • Context:
    • NITI Aayog had asked the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) to undertake “an exercise of ascertaining the new State/UT-specific coverage ratios for rural and urban areas”.
  • Present Coverage:
    • At present, NFSA covers up to 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population in the country. Based on this, state-wise coverage under NFSA was determined by the erstwhile Planning Commission—now NITI Aayog—by using the National Sample Survey Household Consumption Expenditure Survey data for 2011-12. Since then, the state-wise coverage ratio has not been revised.
  • Statewise coverage:
    • Currently, Manipur has the highest coverage in rural areas across the country (88.56 percent), while Andaman & Nicobar Islands have the lowest (24.94 percent).
    • Manipur is followed by Jharkhand (86.48 percent), Bihar (85.12 percent), and Chhattisgarh (84.25 percent).
  • Features of NFSA, 2013:
    • Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS): Upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute the poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, the entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.
    • State-wise coverage: Corresponding to the all India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas, State-wise coverage will be determined by the Central Government. Planning Commission has determined the State-wise coverage by using the NSS Household Consumption Survey data for 2011-12 and also provided the State-wise “inclusion ratios”.
    • Subsidised prices under TPDS and their revision: Foodgrains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat, and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. Thereafter prices will be suitably linked to Minimum Support Price (MSP).
    • Identification of Households: Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
    • Nutritional Support to women and children: Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children up to 6 years of age.
    • Maternity Benefit: Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
    • Women Empowerment: Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
    • Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up a separate mechanism.
    • Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of foodgrains and FPS Dealers' margin: Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State, its handling, and FPS dealers’ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
    • Transparency and Accountability: Provisions have been made for the disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits, and the setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
    • Food Security Allowance: Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
    • Penalty: Provision for a penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.


Agricultural exports

  • Context:
    • Commodity-wise foreign trade data from the department of commerce shows exports of farm goods from India during April-September have grown amid an overall decline.
  • Key highlights:
    • The star performer has been rice, with the value of shipments increasing by well over a third to $4.08 billion in April-September. The growth has come more from the non-basmati rather than the basmati segment.
    • Another agri-commodity that is on course to post all-time-high exports in 2020-21 is sugar.  
    • A third commodity whose exports have done well this year, and the prospects also look good, is cotton. In the 2019-20 season (October-September), India exported 50 lakh bales of the natural fiber, compared to 42 lakh bales in the preceding year.

  • What led to a boost in Indian Agri exports?
    • The recovery in global prices — courtesy a combination of demand revival from unlocks
    • continuing supply chain disruptions (including from a shortage of shipping containers),
    • Chinese stockpiling (in anticipation of a fresh corona outbreak during the winter)
    • Dry weather in producer countries such as Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, and Ukraine.
  • Broader trend:
    • The general story in most agri-commodities is that world prices, which were hardening in the months just before the pandemic and then crashed with lockdown measures imposed by most countries, have since resumed their earlier trajectory.
    • This is captured by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index which has risen every single month since June to touch 100.9 points in October.
  • FAO's Food Price Index:
    • The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.
    • It consists of the average of five commodity group price indices weighted by the average export shares of each of the groups over 2014-2016.


Species in news:

Name Of Species: Information:

Blue Macaws

  • Context:
    • Recently six blue or hyacinth macaws and two capuchin monkeys were released in the Assam State Zoo-cumBotanical Garden in Guwahati.
  • About Blue Macaws:
    • The Scientific Name is Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus.
    • It is a parrot native to central and eastern South America.
    • With a length of about one meter it is longer than any other species of parrot.
    • It is the largest macaw and the largest flying parrot species.
  • Protection status:
    • International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List: Vulnerable.
    • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I.
  • Threat:
    • Habitat loss and the trapping of wild birds for the pet trade have taken a heavy toll on their population in the wild.

Capuchin Monkeys

  • Context:
    • Recently six blue or hyacinth macaws and two capuchin monkeys were released in the Assam State Zoo-cumBotanical Garden in Guwahati.
  • About:
    • Scientific name: Cebus.
    • Capuchin Monkeys, also called sapajou, is a common Central and South American primate found in tropical forests from Nicaragua to Paraguay.
    • They are named for their “caps” of hair, which resemble the cowls of Capuchin monks.
  • Protection status:
    • International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List: Least concerned.

Olive Ridley turtles

  • Context:
    • The Odisha government has requested the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to conduct a fresh study for identifying the movement of Olive Ridley sea turtles, which would help the State renew its conservation efforts along its coast.
  • About Olive Ridley turtles:
    • Scientific Name: Lepidochelys olivacea.
    • Common name: Olive Ridley, Pacific Ridley.
  • Habitat:
    • They inhabit warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. These turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean and migrate thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
  • Arribada:
    • These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada. i.e. thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
    • The coast of Odisha in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.
    • Usually, olive ridleys prefer to nest in darkness. Sometimes due to the pressure of delivery time, they may be opting to nest at daytime.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable.

Purple Frog


  • Context:
    • Recently, a senior forest officer has said that the proposal for declaring the purple frog as Kerala’s official amphibian, is in the active consideration of the state government.
  • About Purple Frog:
    • Scientific Name: Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis.
    • Common Name: It is also known as Purple Frog, Maveli frog or Pignose Frog.
    • Family: The purple frog is a frog species belonging to the family Sooglossidae.
  • Features:
    • Its body appears robust and bloated and is relatively rounded compared to other flattened frogs. Compared to other frogs, N. sahyadrensis has a small head and an unusually pointed snout.
    • Adults are typically dark purplish-grey in color.
    • It lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  • Distribution:
    • Earlier thought to be restricted to the south of the Palghat Gap in the Western Ghats, the species is now known to be quite widely distributed in the Western Ghats.
  • History:
    • Herpetologists believe that the species should be rightly called a ‘living fossil’ as it’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.
  • Conservation Status:
    • It listed as endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Bubble-nest frog

  • Context:
    • Recently a group of scientists has reported a new genus of treefrog from the Andaman Islands called Striped Bubble-nest frog.
  • About Bubble-nest frog:
    • Biological name: Rohanixalus vittatus.
    • Striped Bubble-nest frog belongs to the genus of the Old World treefrog family Rhacophoridae.
    • This is the first report of a tree frog species from the Andaman Islands.
    • Small and slender body (2-3 cm long).
    • A pair of contrastingly coloured lateral lines on either side of the body. Minute brown speckles scattered throughout the upper body.
    • They are also known as Asian Glass Frogs or see-through frogs.
    • Light green-colored eggs laid in arboreal bubble-nests.
  • The genus has several unique behavioural traits:
    • Maternal egg attendance:
      • The female (mother) attends the egg clutches until hatching and assists in release of the tadpoles into the water.
      • During the first three days after egg laying, the female sits over the eggs and produces a gelatinous secretion with which she glazes (covers) the egg mass through the clockwise movement of her legs.
      • This behaviour provides necessary moisture to the eggs laid on exposed leaf surfaces and protects them from insect predation.
    • Community egg attendance:
      • A large number of egg clutches (over 50) of different developmental stages on a single leaf or plant. Multiple females usually attend such clutches in a behaviour termed as ‘community’ egg attendance.

Willow Warbler

  • Context:
    • Recently, Willow Warbler has been sighted for the first time in the country at Punchakkari in Kerala.
  • About Willow Warbler:
    • Scientific name: Phylloscopus Trochilus.
    • It is one of the longest migrating small birds which breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and the Palearctic.
    • Vegetation: It is a bird of open woodlands with trees and ground cover for nesting, including most importantly birch, alder, and willow habitats.
    • IUCN Status: Least Concern.
  • Features:
    • It is one of the longest migrating small birds.
    • The bird weighs around 10 grams and its long wing feathers help it fly long distances.
    • Warblers are generally difficult to identify owing to the small size and change in plumage twice a year. They are also the most difficult groups of birds to identify in the field for their striking resemblance to each other.
    • Migration: They migrate to sub-Saharan Africa during early winter.


Pollution And Conservation:


  • Context:
    • Smog in Delhi due to high levels of pollution.
  • About Smog:
    • Smog is basically derived from the merging of two words; smoke and fog.
    • It is also used to describe the type of fog which has smoke or soot in it.
    • It is a yellowish or blackish fog formed mainly by a mixture of pollutants in the atmosphere which consists of fine particles and ground-level ozone.
    • It occurs mainly because of air pollution which can also be defined as a mixture of various gases with dust and water vapor.
    • It leads to hazy air that makes breathing difficult.
  • How Smog is formed?
    • The atmospheric pollutants or gases that form smog are released in the air when fuels are burnt.
    • When sunlight and its heat react with these gases and fine particles in the atmosphere, smog is formed.
    • It is purely caused by air pollution.
    • Ground level ozone and fine particles are released in the air due to complex photochemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
    • These VOC, SO2, and NOx are called precursors.
    • The main sources of these precursors are pollutants released directly into the air by gasoline and diesel-run vehicles, industrial plants and activities, and heating due to human activities.
    • Smog is often caused by heavy traffic, high temperatures, sunshine, and calm winds.
    • During the winter months when the wind speeds are low, it helps the smoke and fog to become stagnate at a place forming smog and increasing pollution levels near the ground closer to where people are respiring.
    • It hampers visibility and disturbs the environment.
    • The time that smog takes to form depends directly on the temperature.
    • Temperature inversions are situations when warm air does not rise instead stays near the ground.
    • During situations of temperature inversions, if the wind is calm, smog may get trapped and remain over a place for days.
    • But it is also true that smog is more severe when it occurs farther away from the sources of release of pollutants.
    • This is because the photochemical reactions that causes smog to take place in the air when the released pollutants from heavy traffic drift due to the wind.
    • Smog can thus affect and prove to be dangerous for suburbs, rural areas as well as urban areas or large cities.
  • Effects of Smog:
    • Heavy smog is responsible for decreasing UV radiation greatly.
    • Thus heavy smog results in low production of the crucial natural element vitamin D leading to cases of rickets among people.
    • When a city or town gets covered in smog, the effects are felt immediately. Smog can be responsible for any ailment from minor pains to deadly pulmonary diseases such as lung cancer.
    • It may also result in inflammation in the tissues of lungs; giving rise to pain in the chest.
    • Other issues or illnesses such as cold and pneumonia are also related to smog.
    • Minor exposure to smog can lead to greater threats of asthma attacks; people suffering from asthma problems must avoid exposure.
    • The ground level ozone present in the smog also inhibits plant growth and causes immense damage to crops and forests. Crops, vegetables like soybeans, wheat, tomatoes, peanuts, and cotton are subject to infection when they are exposed to smog.

Brown carbon ‘tarballs’ 

  • Context:
    • Some people refer to the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau as the “third pole” because the region has the largest reserve of glacial snow and ice outside of the north and south poles.
    • The glaciers, which are extremely sensitive to climate change and human influence, have been retreating over the past decade.
    • Now, researchers have detected light-absorbing “tarballs” in the Himalayan atmosphere, which could contribute to glacial melt.
  • About:
    • Burning biomass or fossil fuels releases light-absorbing, carbonaceous particles that can deposit on snow and ice, possibly hastening the melting of glaciers.
    • Previous research has shown that one type of particle, called black carbon, can be transported long distances by wind to the Himalayan atmosphere.
    • But much less is known about the presence of brown carbon, a particle that can form tarballs –– small, viscous spheres consisting of carbon, oxygen and small amounts of nitrogen, sulfur and potassium.
    • Using electron microscopy, the researchers unexpectedly found that about 28% of the thousands of particles in the air samples from the Himalayan research station were tarballs, and the percentage increased on days with elevated levels of pollution.
    • Analyzing wind patterns and satellite data revealed that a dense array of active fire spots, corresponding to large-scale wheat-residue burning on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, occurred along the pathways of air masses that reached the Himalayan research station during sampling.

Climate Change Knowledge Portal 

  • Context:
    • India Climate Change Knowledge Portal was recently launched
  • About Portal:
    • It is Launched by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • It will be a single point Information resource which provides information on the different climate initiatives taken by various Line Ministries enabling users to access updated status on these initiatives.
    • The Portal will help in disseminating knowledge among citizens about all the major steps the
    • Government is taking at both national and international levels to address climate change issues.
  • The eight major components included in the portal are:
    1. India’s Climate Profile;
    2. National Policy Framework;
    3. India’s NDC goals;
    4. Adaptation Actions;
    5. Mitigation Actions;
    6. Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation;
    7. International Climate Negotiations and
    8. Reports & Publications.

Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)

  • Context:
    • The central government has notified an Ordinance to constitute a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas.
  • Overarching Body:
    • CAQM will supersede all existing bodies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), as well as state governments in matters of air pollution mitigation.
  • Abolition of EPCA:
    • Through the Ordinance, the Centre has dissolved the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) for the NCR.
  • Role of NGT:
    • Only the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and not civil courts, is authorised to hear cases where the Commission is involved.
  • Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA):
    • EPCA was constituted in 1998 under section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 1998.
    • It has the power to take action suo-moto, or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organization functioning in the field of environment.
    • It takes all necessary steps for controlling vehicular pollution, ensuring compliance of fuel quality standards, monitoring and coordinating action for traffic planning and management.
  • Composition of CAQM:
    • Strength:
      • The new 18-member Commission brings together the Centre, states, and other stakeholders on one collaborative platform.
    • Chairperson:
      • It will have a full-time chairperson “who is or has been Secretary to the Government of India or Chief Secretary to the Government of a state”. The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
    • State Representatives:
      • The Commission will also have five ex officio members who are either Chief Secretaries or Secretaries in charge of the department dealing with environment protection in the States of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Experts:
      • Three full-time independent technical members with “specific scientific knowledge and experience in matters relating to air pollution”; a technical member each from the CPCB and nominated by ISRO
    • Civil Society:
      • Three representatives of NGOs with experience in combating air pollution
    • Others:
      • It will have members from Niti Aayog and several Ministries.
  • Need for CAQM:
    • Need for Single Body: The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi NCR region has so far been done piecemeal by multiple bodies including the CPCB, state pollution control boards, the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and the EPCA.
    • Holistic Approach: The problem with the air pollution in Delhi is that the source of the pollution lies elsewhere – that is why it is important to tackle the whole region, rather than piecemeal approach taken by various bodies
    • More Powers: EPCA was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court (M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988). It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states.
    • Failure of previous mechanisms: Experts say that EPCA has failed miserably in cleaning the air even after being in force for more than 20 years. CAQM’s performance will be gauged by changes in the status quo when it comes to ground implementation and strict action on polluters.
  • Merits of CAQM:
    • Effective Mechanism to tackle Pollution: The permanent Commission envisages a multi-sectoral, public participatory, multi-state dynamic body for combating pollution and with statutory status the body can deal with pollution on war footing
    • It will now be binding on state governments to follow the directions of the Commission regarding air quality management. It will also have powers to restrict the setting up of industries in vulnerable areas, and will be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.
    • The penalty for non-compliance shall be imprisonment upto five years or fine upto Rs 1 crore, or both.
    • The Centre seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various pollution-related cases.
  • Cons:
    • It has been criticised that ordinance was passed with no consultation with states and other stakeholders
    • It is unsure whether a top-down implementation approach through CAQM (without third-party monitoring and citizen-driven enforcement) will work.
    • There is also the lack of a time-bound commitment to clean the air.
    • The Commission has a large number of members from the central government, which has not gone down well with the states.
    • On the other hand, States will have just one member each.

WWF Water Risk Filter

  • Context:
    • According to the report of WWF Water Risk Filter nearly a third of the 100 cities in the world susceptible to ‘water risk’ are in India.
  • About WWF Water Risk Filter:
    • It is an online tool co-developed by the WWF that helps evaluate the severity of risk places faced by graphically illustrating various factors that can contribute to water risk.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Water Risk: 100 cities that hold importance in national as well as global economies and are home to 350 million people are set to face the greatest rise in water risks by 2050.
    • Global List: Egypt’s Alexandria tops the list and is followed by Mecca in Saudi Arabia, China’s Tangshan, Saudi Arabia’s Dammam and Riyadh. China accounts for almost half the cities.
    • Indian Cities: India has 30 cities in the list. Jaipur(45th) topped the list of Indian cities followed by Indore(75th) and Thane. Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi also featured on the list. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF):
    • It is international non-governmental organization working in the field of the wilderness preservation and reduction of human impact on the environment.
    • Founded in 1961.
    • Headquartered at Gland, Switzerland.
    • Aim: WWF aims to stop degradation of planet’s natural environment and build future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
    • The Living Planet report is published every two years by WWF since 1998. It is based on the Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.
    • WWF has launched several notable worldwide campaigns, including Earth Hour and Debt-for- Nature Swap , and its current work is organized around these six areas: food, climate, freshwater, wildlife, forests, and oceans.

Ammonia (NH3)

  • Context:
    • Water supply was affected in parts of Delhi after a spike in Ammonia levels in the river Yamuna led to a temporary closure of two water treatment plants.
  • About:
    • It is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
  • Source:
    • It occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents, contamination by sewage or through agricultural runoff.
  • Acceptable Limit:
    • The acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water as per the Bureau of Indian Standards is 0.5 ppm.
  • Effects:
    • If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes.
    • In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.
  • Treatment:
    • Mixing of freshwater with ammonia polluted water.
    • Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river.
    • Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water.
    • Maintaining a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
    • Ecological flow is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods and for self regulation.
  • Yamuna River:
    • It is the second-largest tributary river of the Ganga and the longest tributary in India.
    • It originates from the Yamunotri Glacier in Uttarakhand and merges with Ganga at Prayagraj.
    • It flows through the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
    • Important Dam: Lakhwar-Vyasi Dam (Uttarakhand), Tajewala Barrage Dam (Haryana) etc.
    • Important Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken.


  • Context:
    • The air quality in Delhi continues to remain in ‘severe’ category.
  • About SAFAR:
    • SAFAR is a system to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city. It measures the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
    • It is Developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.
    • Operationalized by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • Objective:
    • To provide Real-time air quality index on 24×7 basis with colour coding along with 72-hour advance weather forecast;
    • To issue Health advisory to prepare citizens well in advance.
  • Parameters monitored:
    • Pollutants: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, CO, NOx (NO, NO2), SO2, BC, Methane (CH4), Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), Black Carbon, VOC’s, Benzene and Mercury.
    • Meteorological Parameters: UV Radiation, Rainfall, Temperature, Humidity, Wind speed, Wind direction, solar radiation.
  • Air Quality Index (AQI):
    • The AQI classifies air quality of a day considering criteria pollutants through colour codes and air quality descriptor. Further, it also links air quality with likely human health impacts.
    • It Measures eight major pollutants like  particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia and lead.


Rare butterflies spotted across India

  • Context:
    • The Branded Royal Butterfly, rarely seen in India, made news when it fluttered through the Nilgiris after a gap of over 130 years.
    • It was last recorded in 1888 by British entomologist GF Hampson.
  • About:
    • Butterfly season usually begins with the onset of the South-West monsoon; and the buzz tends to continue post-monsoon, well into February.
    • This year, especially, many rare species have been sighted across the country.
    • The Blue Mormon, a black-coloured velvet-winged butterfly, a species endemic to the Western Ghats, showed up in Patna.
    • Another rare species, the Spotted Angle butterfly, has been sighted in the reserve forests of Chhattisgarh.
    • The Lilac Silverline, a protected species whose only known breeding population is in Bengaluru, was sighted for the first time in the Aravalli range of Rajasthan.
    • Common Onyx showed up in the Western Ghats. It hides itself under canopies of mango trees, its host plant, and is rarely seen on the ground.
    • All these sightings point towards a range extension of the habitat, or may be more people are observing unexplored habitats, home gardens and backyards especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.


  • Context:
    • Recently, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has said that a tiny tardigrade can survive intense ultraviolet radiation for an hour by glowing in the dark.
  • About Paramacrobiotus:
    • Paramacrobiotus BLR strain has a protective fluorescent shield which helps it survive harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
    • The animals with the fluorescent coat were found to survive longer than the control animals without.
    • The team writes that Paramacrobiotus could have probably evolved this fluorescence mechanism to counter the high UV radiation of tropical southern India.
    • The small fraction of non-fluorescent variants that co-exist in the same moss habitat may have other mechanisms to escape from UV radiation.
  • Tardigrades:
    • Tardigrades are colloquially known as water bears or moss piglets.
    • They are a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals.
  • Distribution:
    • They have been found everywhere, from mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes, from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic.
    • Tardigrades are among the most resilient animals known, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions. Tardigrades have survived exposure to outer space.
  • Physical description:
    • Tardigrades are usually about 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long when fully grown. They are short and plump, with four pairs of legs, each ending in claws (usually four to eight) or sucking disks.
  • Diet:
    • Tardigrades are prevalent in mosses and lichens and feed on plant cells, algae, and smallinvertebrates.
    • They are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth.

Project Lion

  • Context:
    • Wildlife Institute of India along with the Gujarat Forest Department has identified six new relocation sites apart from the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary under Project Lion.
    • About
    • The programme has been launched by Government of India for conservation of the Asiatic Lion.
    • It aims to focus on habitat development, engaging technologies in lion management, addressing the issues of disease in lions and will also be addressing the Human-Wildlife conflict.
    • The motive behind finding a relocation site for the Asiatic Lion species is because the population in Gir has low genetic diversity making it vulnerable to threats from epidemics.
  • What are the six new sites identified for relocation?
    1. Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
    2. Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan.
    3. Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan.
    4. Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh.
    5. Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan
    6. Jessore-Balaram Ambaji WLS and adjoining landscape,Gujarat.
  • Aisatic Lion
    • They are confined to Gir National Park and its surrounding environments in Gujarat’s Saurashtra district.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule-I
    • CITES: Appendix I.

Saffron cultivation

  • Context:
    • The saffron bowl, which was so far confined to Kashmir, may soon expand to the North East of India. Plants from seeds transported from Kashmir to Sikkim and acclimatized there are now flowering in Yangyang in the Southern part of the North-East state.
  • About:
    • Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around the 1st Century BCE.
    • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.
    • It is a very precious and costly product.
    • It is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Uniqueness:
    • The features which differentiates it from other saffron varieties available the world over are:
      • It is the only saffron that is grown at an altitude of 1,600 m to 1,800 m above mean sea level.
      • It has longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, high aroma, bitter flavour, chemicalfree processing.
      • It also has a high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).
  • Types:
    • There are three types of saffron available in Kashmir — Lachha Saffron, Mongra Saffron and Guchhi Saffron.
  • Uses:
    • Kashmir saffron is used globally as a spice. It also helps in revitalizing health.
    • It is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
  • Recent Development:
    • North East Centre For Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India supported a pilot project to explore the feasibility of growing saffron in North East region of India, with the same quality and higher quantity.
    • The Botany and Horticulture department of Sikkim Central University carried out tests to understand the soil and actual pH conditions of Yangyang of Sikkim and found it comparable to saffron growing places of Kashmir.

Operation Thunder 2020

  • Context:
    • India Customs intercepted an 18-tonne shipment of red sandalwood destined for the United Arab Emirates, during “Operation Thunder 2020”.
  • About:
    • It is coordinated by the INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization(WCO) involving law enforcement agencies in 103 countries.
  • Purpose:
    • The operation was organised against the environmental crime.
    • It resulted in large seizures of protected wildlife and forestry specimens and products, triggering arrests and investigations worldwide.
    • The participating countries in Operation Thunder 2020 focused mainly on the species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
    • “Operation Thunder 2020” is the fourth in a series of “Thunder” operations carried out annually since 2017.
  • World Customs Organization (WCO):
    • It is an independent intergovernmental body established in 1952 to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.
    • Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium.
  • International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL):
    • It is an intergovernmental organization established in 1923 with the aim to facilitate worldwide police cooperation and crime control in around 194 countries.
    • Headquarters: Lyon, France

TX2 programme

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) and the Uttar Pradesh Forest department won the first-ever international award TX2. The award has been given for doubling the number of tigers in 4 years against a target of 10 years.
  • About TX2 programme:
    • It is Launched by  the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) at the 2010 St Petersburg Tiger Summit, Russia.
    • Under the programme, 13 tiger range countries had agreed to double the world tiger population by 2022.
    • Tiger Range Countries include India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Aims and Objectives:
    • To drive political momentum to ensure tigers remain top priority for world leaders, professionalise wildlife protection by training rangers.
    • To develop conservation standards and smart technology to achieve zero poaching, tackle illegal wildlife trade of Tiger through partnership with TRAFFIC.
    • To focus efforts in key tiger landscapes and ensure there is space for both tigers and people in future.
  • Pilibhit Tiger Reserve:
    • Location: Pilibhit district, Lakhimpur Kheri District and Bahraich District of Uttar Pradesh.
    • Its northern edge lies along the Indo-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.

Sea sparkle

  • Context:
    • The blooms of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle” are being witnessed along the coasts of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  • About:
    • Scintillans is a bioluminescent specie that brightens the seawater during the night.
    • It grazes on other micro-organisms such as larvae, fish eggs, and diatoms. But the unicellular phytoplankton that lives inside it can photosynthesize, turning sunlight into energy.
    • They help their host cell survive even when food was scarce.
    • Thus, N. Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal.
  • Affect on Marine Life:
    • The toxic bloom of Noctiluca Scintillans was linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills and has displaced microscopic algae called diatoms which form the basis of the marine food chain.
  • Why is the species toxic?
    • The species does not produce a toxin. But it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia which is then excreted into the surrounding waters possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
  • How it affects the food chain: 
    • Sea Sparkle has displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain. This has deprived food for the planktivorous fish.
    • The toxic blooms of N. Scintillans were linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills.
    • The species does not produce a toxin, it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters, possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
    • N. Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal.
  • Bioluminescence:
    • It is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
    • Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence. A remarkable diversity of marine animals and microbes are able to produce their own light.
    • It is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish and sharks.
    • Luminescence is generally higher in deep-living and planktonic organisms than in shallow species.

Science And Technology


Space Debris

  • Context: 
    • According to the European Space Agency, the number of space debris objects in earth orbit is 6.7 lakh(debris larger than 1 cm) and over 17 crores (larger than 1 mm).
  • About:
    • Space debris: Space debris, is any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space.
      • It can refer to big objects such as dead satellites that have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission.
      • It also includes smaller things, like bits of debris or paint flecks that have fallen off a rocket.
    • Kessler syndrome:
      • If there was too much space junk in orbit, it could result in a chain reaction where more and more objects collide and create new space junk in the process, to the point where Earth's orbit became unusable.
  • Measures to decongest Space/Orbit:
    • Clearspace -1 Mission: The European Space Agency (ESA) is planning to launch a four-armed robot, Chaser, to clean up Earth’s orbit in 2025. The target is a piece of junk called Vespa.
    • Remove DEBRIS mission: It is a satellite research project intending to demonstrate various space debris removal technologies.
      • Net capture: It involves a net that will be deployed at the target CubeSat.
      • Harpoon Capture: This will be launched at a target plate made of “representative satellite panel materials”.
      • Vision-based navigation: Using cameras and LiDAR (light detection and ranging), the platform will send data about the debris back to the ground for processing.
      • De-orbiting process: As it enters Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will burn up, leaving no debris behind.

Kepler Spacecraft

  • Context:
    • A new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft increases the number of habitable exoplanets thought to exist in this galaxy.
    • Before the spacecraft finally gave out in 2018, it had discovered more than 4,000 candidate worlds among those stars. So far, none have shown any sign of life or habitation.
  • About:
    • Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-sized and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.
    • Kepler’s formal goal was to measure a number called eta-Earth: the fraction of sunlike stars that have an Earth-size object orbiting them in the “goldilocks” or habitable zone, where it is warm enough for the surface to retain liquid water.
    • According to NASA estimates there are at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, of which about 4 billion are sunlike. If only 7 percent of those stars have habitable planets — a seriously conservative estimate — there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable Earth out there in the whole Milky Way alone.


Spiral galaxy bars may prevent new stars

  • Context: 
    • The recent work studies found that barred galaxies three out of four on which the studies have been conducted, appear to prevent stars from forming at their central region covered by the length of the bar.
  • About: 
    • Stars are fundamental building blocks of galaxies. Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy.
    • Galaxies themselves are of different types: star-forming spiral galaxies and non-starforming lenticular and elliptical galaxies.
    • In some spiral galaxies, the stars move in elongated orbits near the center so that, from far, this portion appears like an illuminated bar hence the name Spiral galaxy bar.
    • Nearly two-thirds of the disc galaxies in the local universe are found to have this bar structure.
    • In three of the four observed galaxies, they find that the region covered by the length of the bar does not have enough gas (Hydrogen in the atomic form and molecular hydrogen, which is believed to condense and form stars).

 Anomalous Localised Magnetism on Moon

  • Context: 
    • Recently, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions have found a possible answer for the long-standing mystery of the origin of the localized magnetic fields on the Moon.
  • About:
    • The lunar magnetic anomalies are locally strong magnetic fields near the Moon caused by permanently magnetized material in its upper crust.
    • Major applications of lunar magnetic anomalies include investigating:
      • the existence and history of a former lunar core dynamo;
      • the magnetic effects of large-scale impacts on the Moon; and
      • the role of the solar wind ion bombardment in producing space weathering or optical maturation (darkening with time) of airless silicate bodies in the solar system.

Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)

  • Context: 
    • Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) indigenously developed by TIFR, a grant-in-aid institution of DAE, and located at Narayangaon, Pune, has been accorded the prestigious IEEE Milestone status.
  • About: 
    • Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT): 
      • GMRT, consisting of 30 antennas of 45 m diameter each, spanning 25 km near Pune, India, is one of the largest and most sensitive low frequency (110–1460 MHz) radio telescopes in the world.
      • GMRT has produced important discoveries in domains such as pulsars, supernovae, galaxies, quasars, and cosmology, greatly enhancing our understanding of the Universe.
    • About IEEE and the IEEE Milestone:
      • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), headquartered in New Jersey, United States, is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology in all areas related to electrical and electronics engineering.
      • IEEE Milestones program honors significant technical achievements and excellence for the benefit of humanity found in unique products.

China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission

  • Context: 
    • China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission will become the first probe in over four decades to bring back samples of lunar rock from a previously unexplored portion of the Moon.
    • Successful launch of Change-5 mission through long march-5 carrier rocket.
  • About:
    • The goal of the mission is to land in the Mons Rumker region of the moon, where it will operate for one lunar day, which is two weeks long, and return a 2 kg sample of the lunar rock possibly by digging about 2 meters deep into the surface of the Moon.
    • The mission comprises a lunar orbiter, a lander, and an ascent probe that will lift the lunar samples back into orbit and return them back to Earth.
    • Chang’e-5 comprises a robotic arm, a coring drill, a sample chamber and is also equipped with a camera, penetrating radar, and a spectrometer.
  • Importance of Lunar Samples:
    • Lunar samples can help to unravel some important questions in lunar science and astronomy, including the Moon’s age, the formation of the Moon.
    • To understand the similarities and differences between the Earth and the Moon’s geologic features.
    • As per the Lunar and Planetary Institute, rocks found on the Moon are older than any that have been found on Earth and therefore they are valuable in providing information about the solar system and also about Earth and the Moon’s shared history.


  • Context:
    • India successfully launches the earth observation satellite EOS-01.
    • This is the ISRO's first mission in 2020 amidst pandemic.
    • Launch of earth observation satellite EOS-01 along with nine international customer satellites on board launch vehicle PSLV-C49.
  • About EOS-01:
    • EOS-01 is nothing but another radar imaging satellite (RISAT) that will work together with RISAT-2B and RISAT-2BR1 launched last year.
    • EOS-01 is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry, and disaster management support.
  • Earth Observation Satellite:
    • An EOS or remote sensing satellite is a satellite used or designed for Earth observation (EO) from orbit, including spy satellites and similar ones intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology, cartography, and others.
    • The data from these satellites are used for several applications covering agriculture, water resources, urban planning, rural development, mineral prospecting, environment, forestry, ocean resources, and disaster management.

Crew 1 Mission

  • Context:
    • SpaceX resilience lifts four astronauts into the new era of spaceflight.
    • As part of NASA’s first commercial human spacecraft system in history, lifts the crew of four astronauts is now en route to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • About:
    • Crew-1 is the first of six crewed missions that NASA and SpaceX will operate as part of the Commercial Crew Program, whose objective is to make access to space easier in terms of cost.
    • The program is a way to reduce the cost of going to space for agencies such as NASA and also makes it possible for any individual to buy a ticket on a commercial rocket.
    • The spacecraft will also deliver over 500 pounds of cargo, science hardware and experiments to the ISS. 


98.6°F vs new normal

  • Context: 
    • After trends observed in studies in the US and UK, new research has found that body temperatures are declining also among a rural indigenous group in Bolivia. 
  • About:  
    • The new study made 18,000 observations of body temperature in 5,500 individuals among the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon, and observed Tsimane's average temperature fallen by 0.09°F per year. 
    • In recent years, different studies have found the human body temperature averaging out differently, including at 97.7°, 97.9°, and 98.2°F which is different from the normal 98.6F.
  • Reasons as cited by the studies published in Science Advances for the decrease of temperature:
    • BETTER HEALTHCARE: One hypothesis is that improved hygiene and healthcare in high-income population groups have led to fewer infections over time and, in turn, to lower body temperature.
    • LOWER INFLAMMATION: People use anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen more frequently than earlier.
    • BRIEFER ILLNESS: Since people have greater access to treatment, has it reduced the duration of infection Ex: The findings among the Tsimane, indeed, were consistent with this argument.
    • BODIES WORKING LESS: Another hypothesis is that people are healthier, so their bodies might be working less to fight infection.

Sero Survey

  • Context: 
    • Sero surveys to detect antibodies against COVID underestimate the building of herd immunity.
    • A new study in Pune has revealed that nearly 85% of the people who had been found infected with novel coronavirus in a serosurvey, conducted earlier, had developed neutralizing antibodies. 
  • About
    • Sero Surveys:
      • A serological survey is conducted to assess the prevalence of a disease in a population.
      • It is done by detecting the presence of specific antibodies that are produced against the virus.
      • Four antigens are selected to detect antibodies for the survey they are Spike proteins(S1 & S2), receptor-binding domains, and nucleocapsid.
    • Antibodies:
      • Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight external organisms like viruses that try to enter the body(i.e Antigens).
      • These are produced only after the infection has happened, and are specific to the attacking virus or bacterium.
      • The presence of antibodies is an indication that a person is infected with a virus or bacterium.
    • Neutralizing antibodies or protective antibodies:
      • Neutralizing antibodies, like other antibodies that are created to fight the disease, are nothing but proteins.
      • These are a small subset of the disease-specific antibodies that are generated once an infection has occurred.
      • The neutralizing antibodies become special because they have the ability to thwart the entry of the same virus inside human bodies in the future.
      • Lack of these antibodies would mean that they are at risk of reinfection.

Gavi COVAX Facility

  • Context: 
    • With 11 COVID-19 vaccines having entered Phase-3 trials and six vaccines already approved for limited use, the next challenge is to support manufacturing and ensure that vaccines are accessible, affordable, and available to all people. 
  • About: 
    • COVAX: 
      • COVAX is an effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to Covid-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.
      • It is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, and France.
      • Co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers.
    • Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance:
      • Created in 2000, Gavi is an international organization – a global Vaccine Alliance, bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.
      • Core partners include the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
    • Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations:
      • CEPI is a global partnership launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.
      • Founded by governments of Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum.

D614G mutation in coronavirus

  • Context: 
    • D614G, a mutated form of the virus was first identified in China and then in Europe. Later it spread to other countries like the U.S. and Canada and was eventually reported in India.
  • About:
    • Mutation: When the virus enters an individual’s body, it aims at creating copies of itself. When it makes an error in this copying process, we get a mutation.
    • D614G mutation: In this case, the virus replaced the aspartic acid (D) in the 614th position of the amino acid with glycine (G). Hence the mutation is called the D614G.
  • Consequences:
    • It aids the virus in attaching more efficiently with the ACE2 receptor in the human host.
    • D614G show increased infectivity but it also displayed a greater ability at attaching itself to the cell walls inside an individual’s nose and throat, increasing the viral load.


  • Context:
    • A new study has now found that the rotavirus vaccine Rotavac, produced in India, was not associated with intussusception in Indian infants.
  • About:
    • Rotavac is an oral, live attenuated vaccine that contains a naturally occurring strain of rotavirus. It is administered in a three-dose series at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. 
    • In India, Rotavac was developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology.
    • It was introduced in phases in the National Immunisation Programme started in 2016.
    • In a number of countries, studies have associated vaccination against rotavirus with a small risk of an intestinal disorder, called intussusception.
    • Intussusception is a sliding of one part of the intestine into another and is common in children (1 in 300 in Vietnam; 1 in 2,000 in the US) without a cause.
  • Rotavirus:
    • Rotavirus is a contagious disease that spreads easily from child to child.
    • Rotavirus spreads when a person comes in contact with the feces of someone who has rotavirus and then touches their own mouth. For example, rotavirus can spread when a child with rotavirus doesn’t wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches food or other objects
    • Rotavirus can cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration (not having enough water in the body).


  • Context:
    • India among 6 countries with highest tally of infants who didn’t get measles vaccine.
    • A total of 1.2 million children did not receive the first dose of measles-containing-vaccine (MCV1) in 2019 in India, accounting for nearly half of the world’s total along with the remaining five countries.
    • Progress Towards Regional Measles Elimination Worldwide 2000-2019, a report by WHO.
  • About:
    • Measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.
    • The disease spreads through the air by respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.
    • Measles vaccine is also part of National Immunisation Program.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

  • Context:
    • Pune based diagnostics firm GenePath Diagnostics said that it has won a United States–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) grant of Rs 2.5 Crores to develop a cost-effective and highly sensitive mass-scale processing platform for the detection of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).
  • About:
    • United States–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF): 
      • Governments of the USA and India have established fund for the promotion of joint activities that would lead to innovation and entrepreneurship through the application of science and technology.
      • The aim of the Fund is to support and foster joint applied R&D to generate public good through the commercialization of technology developed through sustained partnerships between U.S. and Indian researchers and entrepreneurs.
    • HPV -Human Papilloma Virus:
      • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)’ causes penile cancer in men and cervical, vaginal, anal & vulvar cancer in women.
      • The virus is transmitted through intimate contact like – sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex.
      • It is the second-largest killer of women from cancer impacting more than 5,70,000 women globally and India has the most number of cases.

Covid-19 diagnostic tools and test

  • Context:
    • Dry swab RT-PCR test gets nod from ICMR.
    • Agappe Diagnostics has developed the new technology RT-LAMP for detecting covid-19
Test/Diagnosis Functioning or procedure
Dry Swab RT-PCR
  • Dry swab technique does not require VTM(Viral Transport Medium) and RNA extraction process, and can be directly used for RT-PCR testing.
  • It has the potential of bringing the costs and time of testing by 40-50% and the screening can also be enhanced several-fold with immediate effect while, at the same time, making the whole process safer.
  • It is easy to implement with no requirement of new kits and existing manpower can perform this with no additional training.
  • RT-LAMP stands for Reverse Transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology.
  • RT-LAMP technology is a one-step nucleic acid amplification method to multiply specific sequences of RNA of the coronavirus.
  • The RNA is first made into cDNA (copy DNA) by the usual reverse transcription. Then, the DNA is amplified by the LAMP technique(isothermal amplification).
  • The LAMP technology does not need laborious preparation as in the case of RT-PCR. LAMP is cost-effective and does not need complex expensive equipment.
  • Turnaround time is about 10 hours so that the result will be available only by the next day
RT-PCR(Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction)
  • Under this, copies of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are created using an enzyme called Polymerase.
  • Coronavirus is made of RNA (ribonucleic acid), therefore to detect coronavirus, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called reverse transcription.
  • A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA.


Parliamentary panel bats for laws to counter bioterrorism

  • Context: 
    • In the report “The Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 And its Management” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has said that formulating effective laws to counter bioterrorism is one of the important lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • About:
    • Bioterrorism:
      • Bioterrorism is the use of bacteria, viruses, or germs to purposely harm large quantities of people or communities. 
      • These “weapons” are spread through the air, water, or food sources. Bioterrorism is rare and is used to threaten people, governments, and countries.
      • For example in World War I, German and French agents used glanders and anthrax.
      • Further, modern agribusiness is vulnerable to anti-agricultural attacks by terrorists, and such attacks can seriously damage the economy as well as consumer confidence.
    • Recommendations by the committee:
      • Strategic partnerships: There is a need for strategic partnerships among different nations for controlling biological agents and counter bioterrorism.
      • Action plan: The Department of Health and Family Welfare submitted a seven-point action plan for ensuring security against biological weapons. 
      • More research: The Health Ministry should engage with agencies and actively participate in ongoing international treaties. 
      • Need for better partnership between the government and private hospitals in wake of the pandemic and shortage of state-run healthcare facilities.


  • Context:
    • Kala-azar was eliminated from a highly endemic district, Vaishali in Bihar.
    • Their integrated control strategy helped reduce the number of cases from 664 in 2014 to 163 in 2016.
  • About:
    • Kala-azar or visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a tropical disease characterized by irregular fever, weight loss, anemia, and swelling of the spleen and liver.
    • It is caused by a protozoan Leishmania parasite and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected female sandflies.
    • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally, about 7 to 10 lakh new cases occur annually.
    • India accounts for about two-thirds of the total global cases, and the disease is endemic to Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
    • We call a disease eliminated when the annual incidence is reduced to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district or block level. Eradication would mean there are zero cases. We were able to achieve the target in all 16 blocks of the District,” explains Pradeep Das, Director of the Institute and corresponding author of the paper.
  • What Bihar's Vaishali district did?
    • Mapping of the case distribution, early case detection, and chemical-based vector control.
    • Carried out community awareness campaigns.
    • Hospital staff and medical doctors along with ASHA workers in these regions were trained.
    • Once a person is diagnosed with VL, indoor residual spraying was done at his house and at the neighboring houses within 500 meters.
  • WHO initiatives:
    • An initiative was launched by WHO to eliminate VL as a public health problem from the South East Asia region by 2020, which is extended to 2023.

Lung fibrosis

  • Context:
    • An article published in Lung India indicates that pulmonary fibrosis is reported in a vast number of post-Covid-19 survivors.
    • Severe scarring of the lungs may occur in perhaps 5-10 percent of patients. But given the large numbers of the infected, doctors have warned of a tsunami.
  • About:
    • Pulmonary fibrosis or Lung fibrosis: It is the inflammation of the tissue around the air sacs of the lungs leading to fatigue and shortness of breath. The lungs become stiff and the ability of oxygen to enter the blood circulation diminishes.
    • It usually occurs in elderly people but it is now common among Covid-19 patients.
    • Anti-fibrotic drugs are believed to be useful in patients with acute severity of interstitial lung disease (ILD).
    • It is essential that post-Covid recovery clinics must extensively follow up on patients up to a total duration of 36 months to better understand the natural course of the disease.

Cord blood banking

  • Context:
    • Community Cord Blood Banking, a stem cell banking initiative introduced by LifeCell in 2017, has helped save the life of a seven-year-old girl from Nashik in Maharashtra who was suffering from aplastic anemia.
  • About:
    • Cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery. It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.
    • Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the cord blood and extracting and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other cells of the immune system for potential future medical use.
    • Globally, cord blood banking is recommended as a source of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for hematological cancers and disorders where its use is recommended. For all other conditions, the use of cord blood as a source of stem cells is not yet established.
  • Benefits:
    • Umbilical cord fluid is loaded with stem cells which can be used to treat cancer, blood diseases like anemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body’s ability to defend itself.
    • Has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow.
    • Community Cord Blood Banking allows the sharing of preserved umbilical cord stem cells from a common pool amongst the members of the community.
  • Aplastic anemia:
    • Also called Bone marrow aplasia.
    • A rare condition in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells.
    • Aplastic anemia develops as a result of bone marrow damage. The damage may be present at birth or occur after exposure to radiation, chemotherapy, toxic chemicals, some drugs, or infection.

Genome Survey for SARS-Cov2

  • Context:
    • Kerala to commission a genome survey for SARS-CoV-2.
    • To better understand the genomic variation in the strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the State, the Kerala government has tied up with the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) for a survey.
    • The study, commissioned on November 11, will collect 100 samples from 14 districts every month, for three months.
  • About:
    • The genome sequencing uses an approach called ‘NextGen’ sequencing, in which 1000s of individual genomes can be simultaneously analyzed, rare variations picked up, and occasionally, SARS-CoV-2 missed by the gold standard RT-PCR test, detected.
    • This could demonstrate the utility in identifying apparently unconnected outbreaks and evidence to design or validate policy interventions—like strict quarantine of foreign travelers.
  • Next-Gen Sequencing:
    • DNA sequencing is the process of determining the nucleic acid sequence – the order of nucleotides in DNA. It includes any method or technology that is used to determine the order of the four bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine.
    • Next-generation sequencing (NGS), also known as high-throughput sequencing, is the catch-all term used to describe a number of different modern sequencing technologies.
    • These technologies allow for the sequencing of DNA and RNA much more quickly and cheaply than the previously used Sanger sequencing, and as such revolutionized the study of genomics and molecular biology.

Traditional Medicine

  • Context:
    • The World Health Organisation announced on Friday that it will set up a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India.
    • PM Modi also announced the establishment of two new Ayurveda institutions in Jaipur and Jamnagar.
  • About:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that just like the country has emerged as the pharmacy of the world, the WHO institution will become the center for global wellness.
    • Traditional Medicine (TM): The sum-total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement, or treatment of physical and mental illness.
    • Different Types Of Alternative and Traditional Medicine System:
      • Ayurveda
      • Unani Medicine – treats a patient with diet, pharmacotherapy, exercise, massages, and surgery.
      • Homeopathy – uses highly individualized remedies selected to address specific symptoms or symptom profiles.
      • Siddha – It takes into account the patient, his/her surroundings, age, sex, race, habitat, diet, appetite, physical condition, etc. to arrive at the diagnosis.
      • Sowa-Ripa – It is considered one of the oldest living and well-documented medical traditions of the world.
      • Yoga & Naturopathy

New Technology:

Pusa Decomposer

  • Context:
    • Year after year, farmers in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi have been burning agricultural waste, particularly the stubble left after harvesting wheat, leading to environmental hazards, such as smoke and particle-rich air, making the air we breathe extremely poisonous
    • The Government of Delhi has recently come up with a viable solution to handle this problem of stubble burning, thanks to its collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at Pusa, in the city
    • Field trials of the Pusa decomposer in the Delhi, Haryana region show promised results.
  • About:
    • Pusa Decomposer, a set of capsules, which are dissolved in water containing jaggery, chickpea flour, and a set of about eight types of microorganisms (fungi), essential to quicken the decomposition of the stubble.
    • This is then fermented for three-to-four days, and the liquid so obtained is ready to be sprayed in the farmers’ field in order to decompose the leftover biomass.
    • By using Pusa Decomposer the stubble gets converted into manure in the field.
    • It is interesting to note that food grains produced using the Pusa Decomposer qualify as organic farming since it involves no growth hormones, antibiotics, no genetically modified organisms, and no leaching of surface water or groundwater.
    •  Pusa Decomposer should be tried in areas of Northeast India where 'slash and burn' (locally called 'jhum') is still followed (in Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, for instance).


Exercise And Operation:

Exercise Name Operation  
Malabar Excercise
  • Context:
    • Phase I of the Malabar 2020 naval exercise by India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. began off the coast of Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal.
  • About:
    • It is an annual exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the U.S. held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
    • It began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S. It got permanently expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
    • The four Navies would conduct a range of high-end training, including air-defense and anti-submarine exercises, aviation, communications, and at-sea replenishment between ships, a statement from the Australian Defence Ministry.
Exercise SITMAX-2020
  • Context:
    • Recently, the second edition of the India, Thailand, and Singapore trilateral Naval exercise SITMEX-20 concluded in the Andaman Sea.
  • About:
    • The SITMEX series of exercises are conducted to enhance mutual interoperability and imbibing best practices between the Indian Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), and Royal Thai Navy (RTN).
    • It also aims to strengthen mutual confidence and develop a common understanding and procedures towards enhancing the overall maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region.
    • The exercise is in line with India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision.
    • The genesis of SITMEX is seen in the Prime Minister of India's keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018 announced the conduct of a trilateral naval exercise between India, Singapore, and Thailand.
    • In the 2020 edition, The Indian Navy deployed indigenous Anti-Submarine Warfare corvette INS Kamorta and missile corvette INS Karmuk for the exercise.


Exercise CORPAT
  • Context:
    • Navy conducted a coordinated patrol with Thailand in the Andaman Sea.
    • Simultaneously it also provided food aid to South Sudan in the western Indian Ocean Region under Mission Sagar II.
  • About:
    • To develop interoperability and joint operational skills through the conduct of a wide spectrum of maritime exercises and operations.
    • Naval ships from both countries along with the maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters will be participating in the exercise.
    • It will be followed by the 3rd edition of India-Bangladesh Coordinated Patrol (IN-BN CORPAT), wherein both countries will undertake joint patrolling along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
    • CORPATs have strengthened understanding between both the navies and instituted measures to stop the conduct of unlawful activities.



  • Context:
    • China's first domestically made nuclear reactor, the Hualong One, goes online.
    • Nuclear plants supplied less than five percent of China's annual electricity needs in 2019, according to the National Energy Administration, but this share is expected to grow as Beijing attempts to become carbon neutral by 2060.
  • About:
    • Hualong One – a significant step in Beijing's attempts to become less dependent on Western allies for energy security and critical technology.
    • The reactor, which was connected to the national grid on Friday, can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons.
    • Reducing its dependence on Western allies in critical high-tech sectors such as power generation is a key goal in Beijing's “Made in China 2025” plan.
    • China has 47 nuclear plants with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts — the world's third-highest after the United States and France.

 Dual-use of facilities

  • Context:
    • Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat said, calling for integrating civil and military ecosystems to optimize resource utilization.
  • About:
    • Gen. Rawat said the feasibility of integrating civil, military airports to strengthen aviation safety, air space management, and combat support capabilities must be examined.
    • The existing segregated nature of defense and commercial industry ecosystems restricts our capabilities and capacities in making defense equipment. Integrating civil and military technology efforts is the way forward towards self-reliance.
    • Stating that a nation’s aspirations of becoming a regional power cannot rely on borrowed strengths, Gen. Rawat said Indian wars have to be won with Indian solutions.
  • Chief of Defence Staff:
    • CDS acts as the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which will also have three service chiefs as members.
    • His core function will be to foster greater operational synergy between the three service branches of the Indian military and keep inter-service frictions to a minimum.
    • He will also head the newly created Department of Military Affairs(DoMA) in the Ministry of Defence.
    • The CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister.
    • He will also perform an advisory role in the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).

Extreme weather habitats by Army in Ladakh

  • Context: 
    • Army builds extreme weather habitats for troops in Ladakh Due to a stand-off with China, more personnel will be stationed through the winter
    • As India and China continue deliberations on a proposed disengagement and de-escalation plan to end the stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the Army has completed building extreme weather habitats for thousands of additional troops to remain deployed through the harsh winter.
  • About:
    • Apart from the smart camps with integrated facilities, which have been built over the years, additional state of the art habitats with integrated arrangements for electricity, water, heating facilities, health, and hygiene have been recently created. 
    • The Army recently procured 15,000 extreme weather clothing from the U.S. under the bilateral logistics pact, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding, for the additional troops in Ladakh.


  • Context:
    • India Successfully test-fired the Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile System.
  • About:
    • Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile System (QRSAM) is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile system.
    • QRSAM is designed to protect moving armored columns from aerial attacks.
    • The entire weapon system is configured on highly mobile platforms and is capable of providing air defense on the move.
    • QRSAM Weapon Systems is being inducted into the Indian Army.
    • The missile is propelled by a single-stage solid-propellant rocket motor and uses all indigenous subsystems.


Bengaluru Tech Summit

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Prime Minister has inaugurated the Bengaluru Tech Summit via video conference which was also attended by the Prime Minister of Australia.
    • Deliberated on the key challenges emerging in the post-pandemic world with a focus on the impact of prominent technologies.
    • Digital India has now become a way of life.
    • We are in the middle of the information era and change was ‘disruptive and big.
  • About:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it at the Bengaluru Tech Summit. The true measure of digital nations is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy. 
    • With the increasing use of technology in governance and other areas, data protection and cybersecurity become significant.
  • Tech and COVID-19:
    • At the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown, it was a technology that ensured that the poor received proper and quick assistance(said by PM Modi).
    • It is the technology that gave confidence that we could vaccinate our large population in a short period of time.
    • Technology has also played a vital role in the success of the world’s largest healthcare scheme, Ayushman Bharat.
    • With the Swamitva scheme, Mr. Modi observed that giving land titles to millions of people in rural areas was an ambitious scheme and it would be achieved through technology like drones.
  • Industrial era vs Information era:
    • In the information era, the first mover did not matter, the best mover did.
    • Anyone can make a product any time that disrupts all existing equations of the market.
    • In the industrial era, boundaries mattered, but the information era is all about going beyond boundaries.
  • Outcomes of Summit:
    • Both countries India and Australia highlighted the unlimited possibilities of working together in space research, critical minerals, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, etc.
    • They are also planning to launch Australia-India cyber and critical technologies partnership grant program and are also working together for an open, free, safe, and secure Internet.
  • Government Initiatives to Promote Technology:
    • Digital India Mission: Launched in 2015 to realise IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow).
    • Unified Payments Interface (UPI): It is a payment system that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
    • Connect Lawyers to LitigantsTele-law scheme:  Launched in 2017 to address cases at the pre-litigation stage and to connect Lawyers to Litigants.
    • National Digital Health Mission: It is a complete digital health ecosystem. It is a platform launched with four key features viz. health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor, and health facility registry.
    • And many more such as DBT, Swamitva Scheme, PM-KISAN Mobile App, etc.

Regulations on OTT and Digital Content

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Government has brought Over The Top (OTT) platforms, or digital video streaming service providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • About:
    • In January 2019, eight video streaming services had signed a self-regulatory code that laid down a set of guiding principles for content on these platforms which prohibited five types of content:
      • Content that deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag.
      • Any visual or storyline that promotes child pornography.
      • Any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments.
      • Content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism.
      • Any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court.
    • OTT lacked independent third-party monitoring, did not have a well-defined code of ethics, and did not clearly enunciate prohibited content.
    • Current Order Digital/Online Media, including films and audio-visual programs made available by online content providers and news and current affairs content on online platforms. It will give the government control over these platforms, which were unregulated till now as there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.
    • Online content providers come under the legal framework of the Information Technology Act 2000 but, unlike print and broadcast media, were not directly under any Ministry.
  • Rules and Regulatory Bodies for Other Platforms:
    • Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995.
    • Draft Registration of Press and Periodicals (RPP) Bill, which sought to replace the 150-year-old Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.
    • Press Council of India (a statutory, quasi-judicial authority).
    • Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Places in News


Place in News Why In News, And Some Information About the Place

Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR)

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  • Context:
    • The Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Tiger Reserve is slowly starting to witness tourist footfalls as the COVID-19 restrictions are being relaxed.
  • About KNPTR:
    • It is a national park in Assam.
    • Formed in 1908 on the recommendation of Mary Curzon, the park is located in the edge of the Eastern
    • Himalayan biodiversity hotspots- Golaghat and Nagaon district.
    • It hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses.
    • It is a World Heritage Site.
    • It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species.
    • Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the 'big four' species- Rhino,Elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
    • Kaziranga is crisscrossed by four main rivers-Brahmaputra, Diphlu, Mora Diphlu and Mora Dhansiri.

Luhri Hydropower Project

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  • Context:
    • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved funding for the 210 megawatt (MW) Luhri hydropower project 
  • About:
    • Located on the Satluj river in Himachal Pradesh.
    • The project is located in Shimla and Kullu districts
  • Significance:
    • This project will generate 758.20 million units of electricity annually, which will help in providing grid stability and improve the power supply position.
    • Besides adding valuable renewable energy to the grid, the project would also lead to a reduction of 6.1 lakh tons of carbon dioxide from the environment annually, thus contributing to an improvement in air quality and less air pollution.
  • Protest by locals:
    • After severe opposition of the last five years from the local communities and environmental groups the project proponents are now re-designed by dropping the tunnel component.
Haiderpur Wetland
  • Context:
    • Recently a large group of Swamp Deer, which have been included in the IUCN’s Threatened species Red List, were spotted in the wetland.
    • Due to the extensive biodiversity of the wetland, UP state authorities are taking efforts and have developed a formal proposal to convert the wetland into a Ramsar site. 
  • About:
    • Located at Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh within the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Fed by the Ganga and Solani rivers.
    • The wetland came into existence in 1984 after the construction of the Madhya Ganga Barrage on the Ganga.
    • It is spread over 1,214 hectares.
    • The Haiderpur wetland has been identified as a model wetland along the Ganga under Namami Gange programme launched by Government of India in 2014.
    • In February 2020, World Wide Fund for Nature, India (WWF India) organized the Haiderpur Bird Festival in association with National Mission for clean Ganga (NMCG).


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  • Context:
    • China has begun work on a strategically significant railway line that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.
  • Strategic importance:
    • This lies near the border with India’s Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Like the Qinghai-Tibet railway line, which in 2006 connected Lhasa to the hinterland, this will be the second such route linking the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the hinterland.

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Shahtoot Dam

  • Context:
    • India set to build Shahtoot Dam in Afghanistan.
  • Location:
    • The dam would come upon the Maidan river tributary of Kabul river.
  • Significance:
    • It will provide drinking water for 2 million residents of Kabul.

Mount Ili Lewotolok

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  • Context:
    • Mount Ili Lewotolok erupted recently.
  • Location:
    • It is located on Lembata island of East Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia.
    • The 5,423-meter (17,790-foot) mountain is one of the three currently erupting in Indonesia along with Merapi on Java Island and Sinabung on Sumatra Island.
    • Mount Ili Lewotolok has been erupting on and off since October 2017.

Puerto Rico

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  • Context:
    • For the third time in ten years, the United States territory of Puerto Rico has voted in favour of statehood.
  • More about Puerto Rico
    • Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking island located in the Caribbean Sea.
    • It includes the eponymous main island and several smaller islands, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques.
    • Since its discovery by the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1493, Puerto
    • Rico was a part of the Spanish Empire for over 4 centuries until 1898, when it was annexed by the United States.
    • In 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship, but the island itself was never made a full state, and continues to remain a “US territory”, along with Guam, North Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands.

Tristan da Cunha

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  • Context:
    • Tristan da Cunha was declared the largest fully protected marine reserves in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • About:
    • Tristan da Cunha is inhabited by less than 300 humans.
    • It is a small chain of islands over 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic and the water around the islands are considered to be the richest in the world.
    • It is an UK Overseas Territory.
    • It has its own constitution.
    • It is also home to tens of millions of seabirds and several unique land birds.
    • It is also home to the World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands, which is one of the most important seabird islands in the world.
Dobra Chanti bridge 
  • Context:
    • Recently, India's longest motorable single lane suspension bridge named Dobra Chanti in Uttarakhand's Pratapnagar inaugurated by Uttarakhand Chief Minister.
  • Details:
    • The 440-metre long Dobra Chanti bridge is India's longest motorable single lane suspension bridge.
    • The designing of this bridge was done by a Korean company.
    • Built over Tehri Lake, it will cut travel time between Tehri and Pratapnagar districts from 5.5 to 1.5 hours.
  • Significance:
    • Better connectivity within the region.
    • Boost tourism potential.
    • Gateway to development in the region.
    • Local employment promotion.


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  • Context:
    • The Federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office announced that the Red Rock Country monolith had been removed “by an unknown party” on November 27, with rocks left to mark the place where it had stood.
  • About:
    • The US state’s wildlife agency discovered a 10-12 ft tall, three-sided metal monolith at the base of a canyon. 
    • There were no indications of how or when it appeared there or who had installed it so firmly into the canyon’s rocky floor.
    • There were reports of a similar monolith being spotted in the Batca Doamnei Hill in Romania. 
    • The surface of the Romanian monolith, however, is covered in looping scrawls, unlike the Utah monolith.
    • Another theory that has found a lot of support is that this is a hoax along the lines of the crop circles that began to mysteriously appear in fields in Wiltshire, England in the 1970s and which gained international notoriety as signs of extraterrestrial activity on earth. 
    • While scientists sought explanations in wind patterns for the geometrical designs which would suddenly appear in fields, conspiracy theorists sought to decode the patterns of the circles in order to extract what they believed were alien communications. 

Panna Biosphere Reserve

  • Context:
    • UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme has included Panna Biosphere Reserve to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
  • About Panna Biosphere Reserve:
    • It is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
    • Panna is characterized by forests and marshy vegetation, with an abundance of rare medicinal plants as well as other non-timber forestry products such as Kattha, gum and resins.
    • It is a critical tiger habitat area and hosts the Panna Tiger Reserve, as well as the World Heritage site of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.
    • Ken river (a tributary of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve.
    • The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.

Pakke Tiger Reserve

  • Context:
    • Indian Prime Minister will inaugurate the Ro-Pax terminal at Hazira and flag off Ro-Pax service between Hazira and Ghogha in Gujarat on Sunday.
  • About:
    • Pakke Tiger Reserve, also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve, is a Project Tiger reserve.
    • It is located in the East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It falls within the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot.
  • Neighbouring areas and rivers:
    • Towards the south and south-east, the sanctuary adjoins Nameri National Park of Assam. To the east lies the Pakke River and to the west, the park is bounded by the Bhareli or Kameng River.
    • It is home to over 2000 species of plants, 300 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, etc. Many species of the flora and fauna are globally threatened, and PTR is one of the last remaining strongholds left for these species.
    • It is known for its amazing sightings of four resident hornbill species.
    • The great hornbill is the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh and it is ‘vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List.

Aegean Sea

  • Context:
    • Recently, a strong earthquake of magnitude 7.0 strikes Aegean Sea, shaking Turkey and Greece.
  • About:
    • It is known as Greek Aigaíon Pélagos or Turkish Ege Deniz, which is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea.
    • It is located between the Greek peninsula on the west and Asia Minor on the east.
    • The Aegean is connected through the straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus to the Black Sea, while the island of Crete can be taken as marking its boundary on the south.
    • The rocks making up the floor of the Aegean are mainly limestone.
    • It is positioned between Greece and Turkey and also includes the Sea of Crete and Thracian Sea.

Mansar Lake

  • Context:
    • Union Minister of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has inaugurated the Comprehensive Mansar Lake Rejuvenation/Development Plan.
  • About:
    • It is a comprehensive plan that aims to holistically develop the sacred Lake of Manser as the second biggest tourist destination in Jammu region and also to preserve the lake, its ecology and heritage.
  • Mansar Lake:
    • It is situated 62 km from Jammu.
    • Surinsar Lake and Mansar Lake are considered to be twin lakes.
    • Surinsar is rain-fed without permanent discharge, and Mansar is primarily fed by surface runoff and partially by mineralized water through paddy fields, with inflow increasing in the rainy season.
    • Mansar is of immense importance from Pilgrimage as well Heritage point of view beyond being the most scenic attraction due to vast Mansar Lake and its flora and fauna.
    • It is one of the 26 Ramsar Sites designated as Wetlands of International importance located in Jammu & Kashmir.
    • The Surinsar Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary is nestled in the midst of both the lakes.
    • The site is socially and culturally very important with many temples around owing to its mythical origin from the Mahabharata period.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region

  • Context:
    • Recently, the United Nations has warned that nine million people risk displacement from an escalating conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
  • About:
    • Tigray is the northernmost of the nine regions (kililat) of Ethiopia.
    • Tigray is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama people.
    • Tigray is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, the Amhara Region to the south and the Afar Region to the east and south east.
    • According to observers of the Horn of Africa, the Tigray region is wealthier than other parts of the country and has a well-trained army.
    • The structure of Ethiopia’s federal system allows the country’s ten regions significant autonomy and these regions also have their own parliaments, their own security forces, and the right to a referendum for independent rule.

Port of Jingtang 

  • Context:
    • China has cited COVID-19 regulations for denying departure to a stranded Indian merchant ship loaded with Australian coal. The ship named Jag Anand been awaiting anchorage at the Chinese port Jingtang near Tangshan in China's Hebei province since June this year.
  • About:
    • The Port of Jingtang is an artificial deep-water international seaport on the coast of Tangshan Municipality, Hebei, in Northern China.
    • It is part of the Tangshan port complex, which consists of Jingtang, Caofedian and Fengnan ports. Combined, they constitute the 9th largest port in China.
    • Jingtang port is located in Bohai bay (Bohai sea) close to the port of Tianjin.

Lonar Lake

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Meteor lake at Lonar in Buldhana district of Maharashtra and the Soor Sarovar at Agra have been declared Ramsar sites.
  • About Lonar Lake:
    • The Lonar lake, situated in the Deccan Plateau’s volcanic basalt rock, was created by the impact of a meteor 35,000 to 50,000 years ago.
    • The lake is part of Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary which falls under the unified control of the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR).
    • It is also known as Lonar crater and is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument. Geo-heritage refers to the geological features which are inherently or culturally significant offering insight to earth’s evolution or history to earth science or that can be utilized for education.
    • It is the second Ramsar site in Maharashtra after Nandur Madhmeshwar Bird Sanctuary in Nashik district.
    • The water in the lake is highly saline and alkaline, containing special microorganisms like anaerobes, Cyanobacteria and phytoplankton.

Soor Sarovar Lake

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Meteor lake at Lonar in Buldhana district of Maharashtra and the Soor Sarovar at Agra have been declared Ramsar sites.
    • It is also known as Keetham lake situated within the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, which was declared as a bird sanctuary in the year 1991.
  • Location:
    • This lake is situated alongside river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
    • The Soor Sarovar bird sanctuary covered an area of 7.97 sq km.
    • It is today home to more than 165 species of migratory and resident birds.
    • It also has a Bear Rescue centre for rescued dancing bears.



Index in News


International Index
Academic Freedom Index
  • Context:
    • India has scored considerably low in the international Academic Freedom Index (AFI) with a score of 0.352.
  • About:
    • It has been published by Global Public Policy Institute as a part of a global time-series dataset (1900-2019) in close cooperation with Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Scholars at Risk and the V‑Dem Institute.
    • It compares levels of academic freedom worldwide and enhances the understanding of its curtailments.
    • The AFI used eight components to evaluate the scores: freedom to research and teach, freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, institutional autonomy, campus integrity, freedom of academic and cultural expression, constitutional protection of academic freedom, international legal commitment to academic freedom under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and existence of universities.
  • Top Performers:
    • Uruguay and Portugal top the AFI, with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia (0.964) and Germany (0.960).
  • India’s performance:
    • India with a score of 0.352, is closely followed by Saudi Arabia (0.278) and Libya (0.238).
    • In the last five years, the AFI of India has dipped by 0.1 points.
    • India has not fared well in components like institutional autonomy, campus integrity, freedom of academic and cultural expression and constitutional protection of academic freedom.
    • According to the Report, political tensions in India have led to violent altercations between students, security forces, and off-campus groups, and have driven legal actions and disciplinary measures against scholars critical of those in power
National Index
Public Affairs Index-2020
  • Context:
    • In the recently released Public Affairs Index-2020, Kerala was adjudged the best governed State in the large States category, while Uttar Pradesh ended at the bottom.
  • Details:
    • The index is released by the Public Affairs Centre.
    • Public Affairs Centre is a not-for-profit organisation, headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan.
    • The index ranks States based on governance performance giving a composite index in the context of sustainable development. 
  • Performance of different States:
    • Large State category 
      • Top performer: Four southern States – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka stood in the first four ranks in terms of governance.
      • Bottom performer: Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar were at the bottom of the ranking.
    • Small State category 
      • Top performer: Goa ranked first, followed by Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh. 
      • Bottom performer: Manipur, Delhi and Uttarakhand.
    • Union Territories
      • Chandigarh emerged at the top in the category of Union Territories followed by Puducherry and Lakshadweep. 
      • Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Andaman, Jammu and Kashmir and Nicobar were the worst performers.
  • Significance:
    • The governance performance is analysed in the context of sustainable development defined by the three pillars of equity, growth and sustainability.
    • The index must compel to reflect on the economic and social transition that is under way in India.
Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report
  • Context:
    • Released annually by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC).
  • Report's Highlights:
    • India has achieved the global target of 90% coverage for three of the five vaccines whose coverage is monitored in the report.
    • These vaccines are Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine, Measles-containing-vaccine first dose, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and rotavirus vaccine.
    • India has made significant progress in its vaccination coverage to prevent child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths.
    • India’s coverage of rotavirus vaccine increased by 18% points (53% in 2019) and the coverage against pneumococcal pneumonia increased by 9% points (15% in 2019).
    • In 2019, India completed the “100-day agenda” which was an unprecedented national scale-up of rotavirus vaccine.
    • This landmark vaccine expansion will help protect 26 million children born each year against life-threatening cases of rotavirus diarrhoea.
    • However, India failed to reach all four targets for treatment- breastfeeding, immunisation, care-seeking and antibiotics, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and zinc supplementation.
Interstate Migrant Policy Index
  • Context:
    • The Interstate Migrant Policy Index (IMPEX) has been released.
  • About IMPEX:
    • It is Developed by the It has been developed by Mumbai-based research non-profit India Migration Now(IMN).
    • Purpose: It ranks and compares all the states of India on a total value of 100 based on their migrant integration policies.
    • Parameters: The index examines eight policy areas–child rights, education, health and sanitation, housing, identity and registration, labour market, social benefits and political inclusion.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Kerala has topped the index with a score of 57 followed by Goa (51) and Rajasthan (51).
    • The seven states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala attract 51% of India’s inter-state migrants.


Schemes in News


Scheme Concerned Ministry Features
Poshan Abhiyaan Ministry of Women and Child Development
  • Context:
    • NITI Aayog has released a review report on Poshan Abhiyaan.
  • NITI Aayog Suggestion:
    • The programme must be stepped up to meet the targets set by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting and anaemia by 2022.
    • Graduate to a POSHAN-plus strategy which apart from continued strengthening the four pillars of the Abhiyaan also requires renewed focus on other social determinants in addition to addressing the governance challenges of NHM/ICDS delivery mechanisms.
    • Lay as much emphasis on complementary feeding as it does on breastfeeding. This can help avert 60% of the total stunting cases in India.
  • About Poshan Abhiyaan:
    • The programme seeks to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • Launched in 2018 with specific targets to be achieved by 2022.
  • Aim:
    • Stunting and wasting by 2% a year (total 6% until 2022) among children.
    • Anaemia by 3% a year (total 9%) among children, adolescent girls and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.
Laadli Scheme Government of NCT of Delhi
  • Context:
    • Recently, the Delhi government has given information that its Laadli Scheme is reeling under the effect of the Covid lockdown, with a significant slowdown in the number of enrollments in 2020.
  • About Laadli Scheme:
    • It is a scheme launched by the Government of NCT of Delhi in the year 2008.
    • It aims at enhancing the social status of girl child in the society as well in the family; ensuring proper education to make the girls self-reliant; ensuring her economic security and protecting them from discrimination and deprivation.
    • Under the scheme, financial assistance is sanctioned for beneficiary girls starting at their birth and then at various stages of their education up until the senior secondary level.
    • The new babies who can benefit from the first stage of financial assistance, they have to be registered within a year of their birth, and they have to renew it at their schools at various stages of their education journey.
    • Under the scheme, financial aid is provided through Rs 11,000 if born in hospital or Rs 10,000 if born at home, and Rs 5,000 each in further five milestones i.e. Class I, VI, IX, XI and XII.
  • Eligibility under the Laadli Scheme
    • The applicant, i.e., the child’s parent must be a bonafide resident of the National Capital Territory of Delhi for at least 3 years preceding the date of birth.
    • The girl child must be born in Delhi.
    • The annual family income of the parents of the child must not be more than Rs 1 Lakh.
    • The Laadli Yojana of Delhi is limited to 2 surviving girls per family.
Scheme on Fortification of Rice  
  • Context:
    • 15 States have been identified for implementing Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System.
  • What is Rice Fortification?
    • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Need:
    • Rice is the world’s most important staple food. An estimated 2 billion people eat rice every day, forming the mainstay of diets across large of Asia and Africa.
    • Regular milled rice is low in micronutrients and serves primarily as a source of carbohydrate only.
    • The fortification of rice is a major opportunity to improve nutrition.
    • Fortified rice are contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.


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