Jan. 31, 2023

Mains Article
31 Jan 2023

Let Diplomacy flow: On the Indus Water Treaty


  • While Islamabad expressed the desire for a diplomatic handshake from across the border two weeks ago, it recently restated its request for third-party mediation in the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
  • This shows that the climate is not at all appropriate for the thawing of relations between the two nations, and it is still difficult to bridge the gap between words and deeds.

What is the Indus Water Treaty (IWT)?

  • It is a water-distribution agreement between India and Pakistan that was mediated by the World Bank (WB) and signed in Karachi in 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru, then the Indian PM, and Ayub Khan, then the president of Pakistan.
  • The Treaty gives control over the waters of the three eastern rivers - the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej - to India (about 20% of the total water), while control over the waters of the three western rivers - the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum - to Pakistan (80%).
  • India is granted unlimited non-consumptive usage of the western river waters for purposes like power generation and limited irrigation use.
  • The dispute redressal mechanism provided under the IWT is a graded 3-level mechanism:
    • Indus Commissioners
    • Neutral Expert
    • Court of Arbitration


 Background in which Talks of Modifying IWT Started:

  • In order to change the more than 60-year-old IWT that controls how the two nations share the waters of six rivers in the Indus system, India has sent Pakistan a notice via the Indus Commissioners.
    • Article XII (3) of the IWT states that it may occasionally be altered by a treaty that has been properly approved.
  • The notice comes as a result of Pakistan's continuous inaction in enforcing the IWT by repeatedly objecting to the development of hydroelectric projects on the Indian side.
  • Two hydroelectric power projects, one on the Kishanganga river (a tributary of the Jhelum), and the other on the Chenab (Ratle), have been the subject of a prolonged controversy.
  • In 2013, the Court of Arbitration gave a partial award on the Kishanganga Hydel Power Project (KHEP), upholding India’s right to divert water for the project.
    • The Court refused to set a bar on the release of water, as demanded by Pakistan.
    • However, it also restrained from making KHEP immune to environmental considerations.
    • After the completion of the project, Pakistan objected to it again in 2014.
  • Pakistan has also contested the Ratle project on grounds of design and violations of the IWT. The project was delayed but work resumed in 2019.
    • Meanwhile, Pakistan asked the WB to establish a Court of Arbitration to look into the project.
  • The WB in 2022 started a parallel process of simultaneously appointing a Neutral Expert and a Chair of the Court of Arbitration to resolve the dispute, which India claims presents both logistical and legal difficulties.
    • India wanted a Neutral Expert to settle the conflict, whereas Pakistan wanted a Court of Arbitration.

 Why Does India Want to Modify the IWT?

  • Under Article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of the Treaties, a party can criticise an agreement and give notice of its intention to terminate it if the other party violates its fundamental provisions.
  • India has adopted the moderate approach of not terminating but modifying the IWT.
  • New Delhi claims that Islamabad has violated the dispute settlement mechanisms, as mandated by Articles 8 and 9 of the Treaty.
    • Article 8 specifies the roles and responsibilities of the Permanent Indus Commission - a regular channel of communication for matters relating to the implementation of the Treaty.
    • Article 9 offers a graded pathway (Neutral Expert, Court of Arbitration) to address any issue related to the implementation or interpretation of the IWT.
  • As per India, Pakistan’s unilateral decision to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration, bypassed the graded pathway.

 What are the Concerns?

  • Pakistan has shown a preference for third-party mediation, suggesting that this may be the most effective way to resolve the impasse in the two countries' relations.
  • In India, Pakistan's opposition to the hydroelectric projects is viewed as a strategy to postpone them.
  • These stances resemble diplomatic hedging - meaning that by pursuing two diametrically opposed strategies toward another state, balancing (preparing for the worst) and engagement, a state distributes its risk.
  • They serve as a reminder that technically-negotiated agreements are just half of the solution and can cause transboundary rivers and their ecosystems to experience gradual strain over time.

 Way Ahead:

  • The two countries should use bilateral dispute settlement mechanisms to discuss the sustainable uses of water resources.
  • Given the broad contours of the IWT - particularly Article 7 that talks about future cooperation - discussing and broadening transboundary governance issues in holistic terms could be the starting point for any potential diplomatic handshake.


  • Any analysis of international diplomacy would be incomplete if it looks only at legal aspects.
  • The practice of diplomacy and the use of law for explaining and justifying government actions are equally important.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
31 Jan 2023

165 sentenced to Death in 2022, Highest in 2 Decades

Why in News?

  • According to the ‘Death Penalty in India: Annual Statistics’ Report for the year 2022, the Trial Courts sentenced 165 people to death in 2022.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Death Penalty in India Report (Major highlights from 2022 Report)
  • Legal Remedies for Prisoners on Death Sentence
  • Arguments in favour/against Death Penalty
  • Important Judgements on Death Penalty

Death Penalty in India Report:

  • Death Penalty in India Report is published by Project 39A.
    • Project 39A is a criminal law reforms advocacy group at the National Law University, Delhi.
  • It is inspired by Article 39A of the Constitution of India.
    • Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society and ensures justice for all.
    • The article was inserted by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976

Major Highlights of the Death Penalty in India Report 2022:

  • The trial courts across the country imposed 165 death sentences in 2022, which is the highest in a single year in the last two decades.
  • Also, 539 prisoners were on death row by the end of 2022, which was the highest since 2016.
  • The large death row population signals the continued imposition of a high number of death sentences by trial courts with a low rate of disposal by appellate courts.
  • The highest number of people on death row were in the states of Uttar Pradesh (100), Gujarat (61), Jharkhand (46), Maharashtra (39) and Madhya Pradesh (31), the report said.

Legal Remedies Available to Death Sentenced Individuals:

  • The award of the death sentence by a trial court must be reaffirmed by a High Court to make it final.
  • Article 137 of the Indian Constitution provides the power to the Supreme Court to review the orders and judgments passed by it.
    • The Review Petition can be filed under Section 114 and Order 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • After the dismissal of the review petition, the person can file Curative Petition.
    • Petitioners can file curative petitions in case of gross violation of principles of natural justice.
    • The curative petition will be sent to the three senior most judges and the bench of judges who passed the judgment.
    • If the majority of them find substance in the petition, then the matter would be sent to the same bench of judges.
  • Mercy Petition can be filed by the convicts. It is to be filed within a period of seven days from the date when the Superintendent of jail informs the convicted person of the dismissal of the petition.
  • Article 72 and Article 161 of the Constitution provides the power to pardon the petitioner to the President and the Governor, respectively.

Arguments in Favour/Against of Death Penalty:

  • Moral arguments:
    • Supporters of the death penalty believe that those who commit murder, because they have taken the life of another, have forfeited their own right to life.
    • Furthermore, they believe, capital punishment is a just form of retribution, expressing and reinforcing the moral indignation not only of the victim’s relatives but of law-abiding citizens in general.
    • Counter argument: Opponents of death penalty argue that, by legitimizing the very behaviour that the law seeks to repress—killing—capital punishment is counterproductive in the moral message it conveys.
  • Utilitarian arguments:
    • Supporters of capital punishment also claim that it has a uniquely potent deterrent effect on potentially violent offenders for whom the threat of imprisonment is not a sufficient restraint.
    • Counter argument: Opponents, however, point to research that generally has demonstrated that the death penalty is not a more effective deterrent than the alternative sanction of life or long-term imprisonment.

Important Judgements on Death Penalty:

  • Ediga Anamma v/s State of Andhra Pradesh (1974):
    • The Supreme Court laid down the principle that life imprisonment for the offence of murder is the rule and capital sentence is the exception in certain cases.
    • The Court also stated that a special reason should be given if the court decides to impose a death sentence.
  • Bachan Singh v/s State of Punjab (1980):
    • The Supreme Court held that only in rarest of rare cases that are brutal, the death penalty should be imposed.

Recent Legislative Developments:

  • In 2021, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh introduced the death penalty for causing deaths by spurious liquor.
  • Maharashtra introduced death penalty for 'heinous' offences of rape and gangrape.
  • The Union Ministry of Women & Child Development also introduced a Bill proposing the capital punishment for repeat aggravated trafficking offences involving children and women.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
31 Jan 2023

What is immune imprinting and how does it work?

Why in News?

  • Variant-specific or bivalent boosters have been made available in nations in the hope that they may offer superior protection against coronavirus infection compared to the initial vaccination.
  • However, numerous studies have revealed that immune imprinting, a mechanism in human bodies, may be rendering these new boosters much less effective than anticipated. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Immune Imprinting?
  • How does Immune Imprinting Works?
  • What are the Findings of the Recent Study?
  • How to Circumvent Immune Imprinting?

What is Immune Imprinting?

  • Immune imprinting is a tendency of the body to repeat its immune response based on the first variant it encountered (through infection or vaccination) when it comes across a newer or slightly different variant of the same pathogen.
  • The phenomenon was first observed in 1947 (then called the "original antigenic sin"), when scientists noted that people who previously had flu, and were then vaccinated against the current circulating strain, produced antibodies against the first strain they had encountered.
  • Over the years, scientists have realised that imprinting acts as a database for the immune system, helping it put up a better response to repeat infections.

How does Immune Imprinting Works?

  • After the human body is exposed to a virus for the first time, it produces memory B cells that circulate in the bloodstream and quickly produce antibodies whenever the same strain of the virus infects again.
  • When a similar (not identical) variant of the virus is encountered by the body, the immune system, rather than generating new B cells, activates memory B cells.
  • This, in turn, produces antibodies that bind to features found in both the old and new strains, known as cross-reactive antibodies.
  • Although these cross-reactive antibodies do offer some protection against the new strain, they aren’t as effective as the ones produced by the B cells when the body first came across the original virus. 

What are the Findings of the Recent Study?

  • To carry out the experiment, some participants in the research were given a booster (fourth shot) of the original vaccine while others received a booster of the new bivalent vaccine.
  • The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines include -
    • A component of the original virus strain to provide broad protection against COVID-19 and
    • A component of the omicron variant to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.
  • It was found that across all coronavirus strains tested, bivalent boosters did not produce a noticeably greater antibody response capable of neutralising the virus than did boosting with the initial monovalent (mRNA) vaccinations.
  • The study suggested immune imprinting might be posing a hurdle in the success of the bivalent or variant-specific vaccines. However, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t get the bivalent booster.
  • But now there is a need to come up with a vaccine that can overcome imprinting and stop the transmission of the virus.

How to Circumvent Immune Imprinting?

  • Several ongoing studies are now looking for a solution to imprinting.
  • Some scientists have suggested that nasal vaccines may be more effective than injection-based ones at preventing infections.
  • Even if the mucous membranes have some remnants of previous exposure, they think they would provide stronger protection.
  • Additionally, scientists are examining if giving annual intervals between coronavirus vaccinations could lessen the issue of imprinting.
  • The development of pan-sarbecovirus vaccines, which will provide protection against all COVID-causing variations, is another area of intense research. However, it would take time for those initiatives to mature.


Science & Tech

Mains Article
31 Jan 2023

Japan planning to flush Fukushima wastewater into the ocean

Why in news?

  • As part of a decommissioning project, Japan is expected to start flushing 1.25 million tonnes of wastewater from its Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean this year.
  • Experts are sceptical about this idea due to its suspected impact on the water, marine life, fishers’ livelihoods and other countries in the area.

What’s in today’s article?

  • News Summary

News Summary

What was Fukushima nuclear disaster?

  • In March 2011, after a magnitude 9 earthquake, a tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma and damaged its diesel generators.
  • The loss of power suspended coolant supply to reactors at the facility; the tsunami also disabled backup systems. This lead to Fukushima disaster.
  • Soon, radioactive materials leaked from reactor pressure vessels, exploded in the facility’s upper levels, and exposed themselves to the ambient air, water, soil, and local population.
  • Winds also carried radioactive material thrown up in the air into the Pacific.
  • Since then, the power plant and its surrounding land have been uninhabitable.

What does Japanese government want?

  • The water that the Japanese government wants to flush from the plant was used to cool the reactors, plus rainwater and groundwater.
    • It contains radioactive isotopes from the damaged reactors and is thus itself radioactive.
  • Japan has said that it will release this water into the Pacific Ocean over the next 30 years.
    • Nuclear plants around the world regularly release water containing trace amounts of radionuclides into large waterbodies.
  • For this, water is being treated to remove most radioactive isotopes. This water will be far above safety standards.

Why this move of Japanese govt is being opposed?

  • No known threshold
    • Japanese officials claim that the water will be treated before its release. However, experts claim that there is no known threshold below which radiation can be considered safe.
    • Any discharge of radioactive materials will increase the risk of cancer and other health impacts to those who are exposed.
  • Difficult to remove tritium from the water
    • Removing tritium from the water is a very difficult task.
      • Tritium, (T, or 3H), the isotope of hydrogen with atomic weight of approximately 3.
    • But removal of tritium is necessary as it is easily absorbed by the bodies of living beings and rapidly distributed via blood.
  • Impact on marine lives and livelihoods of the fisherfolk in the region
    • Experts expect the affected water to poison the fish.
    • South Korea banned seafood imported from around Fukushima, to Japan’s displeasure, from 2013.
  • Impact on Pacific Ocean
    • China, South Korea, Taiwan and Pacific Islands Forum have expressed concerns over this.
    • Researchers across the world have also called for more studies to understand the precise composition of each tank before it is flushed.

What are Japan’s other options?

  • Store the water for longer and then discharge it.
  • This is because tritium’s half-life – the time it takes for its quantity to be halved through radioactive decay – is 12-13 years.
  • The quantity of any other radioactive isotopes present in the water will also decrease in this time.
  • So, at the time of discharge, the water could be less radioactive.


International Relations

Mains Article
31 Jan 2023

Centre issues public service broadcast guidelines

Why in news?

  • The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has issued fresh advisories with respect to the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022.
  • Through the advisory, the Ministry has clarified certain points of the guidelines.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022
  • News Summary

The guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022

  • In November 2022, the Union Cabinet had approved the new ‘Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022’.
    • These were amended after a gap of 11 years.
  • As per the guidelines, all TV channels in India, including private channels, are required to broadcast at least 30 minutes of content daily on themes of national importance and of social relevance.
  • The guidelines also covered the issue of uplinking and downlinking.
    • Uplinking and downlinking shall be subject to clearance and approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • The policy mandates that channels uplinking in frequency bands other than C-band must encrypt their signals.
    • Broadcast companies will be allowed to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports.
      • This would create employment opportunities and make India a teleport hub for other countries.
        • Currently, only 30 channels are uplinked from India out of the total 897 registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).
      • At present, Singapore is considered the hub for teleport uplinking.
      • However, after the new guidelines come into effect, foreign channels are expected to show greater interest in using Indian teleports.
  • The guidelines tried to streamline the process so as to improve ease of doing business.
    • The new guidelines allow a news agency to get permission for five years instead of the current one year.
    • The penalty clauses have been rationalised, and separate sets of penalties have been proposed for different types of contraventions.
      • At present, a uniform penalty is applicable for all types of contraventions.
    • Requirement for seeking permission for the live telecast of events has been done away with.
    • Only prior registration of events to be telecast live would be necessary.

What was the Rationale behind the new guidelines?

  • The government has argued that since airwaves/ frequencies are public property they need to be used in the best interest of the society.
  • Also, the govt. wanted to improve the ease of doing and make India hub for teleport uplinking, which in turn would generate employment.
  • However, analysts criticize this move by saying the, while airwaves may be public property, broadcasters had paid hefty fees for their use.
  • Any binding guidelines that adversely impact their commercial interests may not be fair.

News Summary

  • MIB has come out with an advisory to clarify certain aspects of the “Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022”.

What are key highlights of this advisory?

  • Obligations to be followed form March 1
    • From March 1, all private television channels will be required to air national interest content for 15 hours every month.
  • Clarification regarding national interest content
    • The national interest content can be embedded in the programmes being telecast, and that the content need not be of 30 minutes at a stretch.
    • The public service broadcast can be split over smaller time slots, but can’t be done from midnight to 6 am.
  • Keeping the record of the content telecast
    • The broadcasters are also required to keep the record of the content telecast for a period of 90 days.
    • The government requires the broadcasters to submit a monthly report online on the Broadcast Seva Portal.
  • Sharing of contents between the broadcasters
    • The content can be shared between the broadcasters and a repeat telecast on one or several channels is also allowed now.
  • Eight themes of national importance and of social relevance
    • Education and literacy;
    • Agriculture and rural development;
    • Health and family welfare;
    • Science and technology;
    • Welfare of women;
    • Welfare of the weaker sections of the society;
    • Protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and
    • National integration.
  • Scope of themes expanded
    • The list of themes of national importance and of social relevance are indicative and may be expanded to include topics such as water conservation, disaster management, etc.
  • Exemptions given
    • The condition applies to all channels, except those mentioned specifically as exempt, where this may not be feasible.
    • These include wildlife channels and foreign channels, besides live telecast in case of sports channels.
    • Channels broadcasting more than 12 hours of devotional/spiritual/yoga content are exempt from furnishing monthly reports.
  • Compliance mechanism
    • The advisory sought to achieve the objective of public service broadcasting by the private TV channels through voluntary compliance and self-certification.
    • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will monitor the channels for the broadcast of this content.
    • In case non-compliance is observed in the Ministry’s view, an explanation will be sought.
    • If a channel continues to be non-compliant, more steps can be taken based on specific advisories that will be issued from time to time, and on a case-to-case basis.


Polity & Governance

Jan. 30, 2023

Mains Article
30 Jan 2023

Enforcing the Patent Bargain: IPR sensitivity should not be at the expense of public health obligations


  • In 2016, the then Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (now known as the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) under the Ministry of Commerce released the National IPR Policy.
  • The overall purpose of this policy was to spell out the government’s comprehensive vision for the IPR ecosystem in the country towards shaping a more innovative and creative Bharat.
  • The article emphasizes how excessive IPR sensitivity might harm the public interest.


Broad Objectives of the National IPR Policy:

  • Legal and Legislative Framework: The goal was to have strong and effective IPR laws, which balance the interests of right owners with larger public interest.
  • Administration and Management: The objective was to modernise and strengthen service-oriented IPR administration.
  • Enforcement and Adjudication: The focus was to strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements.

How the Policy Aided in Making Legislative and Structural Changes?

  • For instance, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was dissolved in (April) 2021 as part of tribunal reforms, and its jurisdiction was re-transferred to High Courts.
  • This was followed by the establishment of dedicated IP benches (“the IP Division”) by the Delhi HC, arguably the country’s leading court on the IPR front, for speedier disposal of IPR disputes.
  • These steps have gone hand in hand with a conscious effort to improve the infrastructure and strength of the Indian Patent Office.
  • Such measures are intended to convey to investors and innovators that Bharat is an IP-savvy and even IP-friendly jurisdiction without compromising on national interest and public health commitments.
  • This is evident from the contribution of the Indian pharmaceutical sector in enabling access to affordable medicines globally and its transformation to being the pharmacy of the world. 

Issue of Evergreening of Patents:

  • What is the evergreening of patents?
    • Provisions such as Sections 3(d), 53(4) and 107A of the Patents Act 1970 were introduced between 2002 and 2005 to prevent the mischievous practice of “evergreening” of patents.
    • The evergreening of patents is a practice of tweaking drugs in order to extend their patent term and thus their profitability.
    • India's prohibition on evergreening aids millions of people who can't afford the expensive modified drugs, as well as the development of domestic generic drug makers.
    • However, evergreening patents on drugs which relate to treatment of diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, etc., continue to be granted to pharmaceutical innovator companies by the Indian Patent Office and enforced through courts.
  • Why is patent monopoly/evergreening of patents granted?
    • The economic assumption behind the Patent Bargain (private risk is rewarded and incentivised in return for a limited private monopoly right) is to have a trickle-down impact that benefits the general population.
    • Therefore, patent monopolies are granted to innovators in the hope that they disclose something new, inventive and of industrial value to the public.
  • How is this misused by the patent owners?
    • The Patent Bargain becomes a Faustian bargain (in which a person abandons his or her moral principles in order to obtain benefits) since it results in the illegal extension of the 20-year term of the monopoly.
    • This, in turn, undermines competition in the market and enables patentees to extract more from the society than permitted.
  • What is the Supreme Court’s verdict in this regard?
    • In Novartis AG v. Union of India & Others (2013), the apex court held that the legislative intent behind the insertion of Section 3(d) in the Act is to prevent the evergreening of a patent monopoly that in no way enhances the drug’s therapeutic efficacy.
    • However, the SC’s verdict has not yielded any positive outcomes both from the Patent Office and subordinate courts, rather it delayed entry of generic versions.
    • This, in turn, adversely affects the availability of affordable medicines to patients in countries such as Bharat where most middle-class or below families are on the verge of spending their hard-earned funds after a hospital visit.


  • There are four stakeholders under the Patents Act - the society, government, patentees and their competitors. Each of these stakeholders has rights under the statute which makes all of them right owners.
  • The legal rights of other stakeholders are curtailed when the Act is interpreted, applied, and enforced exclusively in the patentees' favour, especially when those patentees are evergreening.
  • Thus, the IPR ecosystem must strike a fine balance to attract investment on one hand and promote public health obligations, long-term national interest on the other.


Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
30 Jan 2023

PIB fact-check plan on hold

Why in news?

  • The government has decided to put its Press Information Bureau (PIB) fact-check plan on hold.
  • The decision comes in the wake of protests by the Editors Guild of India, the Indian Newspaper Society as well as The News Broadcasters & Digital Association.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Fake News and Laws to Punish Offenders
  • PIB fact-check plan – about, concerns

Fake News and Laws to Punish Offenders

  • Meaning of Fake News: Fake news is referred to as those news stories that are false, fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources or quotes.
  • Types of Fake News: Satire or parody (no intention to cause harm), misleading content, imposter content, fabricated/false/manipulated content, etc.
  • Laws to control effect of fake news:
    • The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2008. The offence related to electronic communication shall be punished under section 66 D of IT Act.
    • The Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005. Whoever makes/circulates a false alarm/warning as to disaster/its severity/magnitude, leading to panic shall be punished under the DM Act.
    • The Indian Penal Code, 1860. Fake news creating false alarm in public, fake news creating riots and information causing defamation shall be punished under different sections of the IPC.

PIB Fact-check plan as proposed by the government

  • Recently, the government had released a modification to the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
  • This modification proposed that any piece of news that has been identified as fake by the fact-checking unit of PIB will not be allowed on online intermediaries, including social media platforms.
    • PIB is the Centre’s nodal agency to share news updates.
    • Examples of online intermediaries include social media platforms, internet service providers, web hosting providers etc.
  • The condition was added to the list of due diligence criteria that intermediaries must follow in order to enjoy legal immunity from third-party content that they host.
  • The proposal also suggested that content marked as misleading by any other agency authorised by the government for fact-checking or in respect of any business of the Centre will not be allowed on online intermediaries.
  • Hence, according to the latest proposal, there is now the possibility of content takedowns because something has been recognised as fake news by the PIB.

Concerns related to these proposals

  • Empowers government to take down any news which does not suit its agenda
    • Analysts have expressed concern that anything that contradicts government’s stand might be used to justify content takedowns.
    • The determination of fake news cannot be in the sole hands of the government as it will result in the censorship of the press.
  • Government is legislating to become a judge in its own cause
    • The government, through the proposed amendment, is taking a step to effectively muzzle criticism and even fair comment.
  • PIB, or an agency of the central government, is ill-equipped:
    • The identification of fake news requires the highest standards of fairness and due process to ensure factual accuracy of reports about government business.
    • In this context, many analysts believe that PIB, or an agency of the central government, is ill-equipped to handle such issues.
      • PIB’s fact-checking unit was set up in 2019 to verify news related to the government’s ministries, departments and schemes.
      • It routinely flags content that it believes is false or misleading, yet it rarely explains why it has flagged a specific piece of information.
      • The PIB's fact-checking unit has itself tweeted (occasionally) inaccurate information.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
30 Jan 2023

All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE)

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Union Ministry of Education released the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-21 report.

What’s in today’s article?

  • About All India Survey on Higher Education Report (Purpose, Categorization)
  • Key Highlights of AISHE 2020-21 Report

About All India Survey on Higher Education Report:

  • The AISHE report is being published by the Ministry of Education since 2011.
  • Objective – Identify & capture all the institutions of higher learning in the country.
  • For the purpose of this Survey, Higher Education is defined as the education, which is obtained after completing 12 years of schooling or equivalent.
  • For the purpose of the All-India Survey on Higher Education, all the institutions of higher learning in the country have been divided in 3 categories –
    • Category I: University & University Level Institutions
    • Category II: Colleges/ Institutions affiliated to University
    • Category III: Institutions NOT affiliated to University called Standalone Institutions
  • The survey collects detailed information on different parameters such as student enrollment, teacher’s data, infrastructural information, financial information etc.

Key Highlights of All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-21:

  • Number of Institutions –
    • The total number of Universities/University level institutions registered is 1,113, Colleges 43,796 and Standalone Institutions 11,296.
    • Since 2014-15, there has been increase of 353 Universities (46.4%).
    • The Institutes of National Importance (INIs) have almost doubled from 75 in 2014-15 to 149 in 2020-21.
    • 191 new Higher Education Institutions have been established in North Eastern States since 2014-15.
    • Highest number of universities is in Rajasthan (92), Uttar Pradesh (84) and Gujarat (83).
    • Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat are top 8 States in terms of number of colleges.
    • 43% universities and 61.4% colleges are located in Rural Areas.
  • Student Enrolment –
    • The total enrolment in higher education has increased to nearly 4.14 crore in 2020-21 from 3.85 crore in 2019-20.
    • The percentage of female enrolment to total enrolment has increased from 45% in 2014-15 to around 49% in 2020-21.
    • The survey also highlighted an increase in enrolment of Schedule Caste (SC) students to 58.9 lakh in comparison to 56.5 lakh in 2019-20 and 46 lakh in 2014-15.
    • The enrolment of students belonging to the Schedule Tribe (ST) increased to 24.1 lakh in 2020-21 from 21.6 lakh in 2019-20 and 16.4 lakh in 2014-15.
    • The total Student Enrolment in North East States is 12.06 Lakh in 2020-21 as compared to 9.36 Lakh in 2014-15.
    • As per response in AISHE 2020-21, about 79.06% of the total students are enrolled in undergraduate level courses and 11.5% are enrolled in postgraduate level courses.
    • Of the total enrolment, 55.5 Lakh students are enrolled in Science Stream, with female students (29.5 Lakh) out numbering male students (26 Lakh).
  • Faculty –
    • The total number of faculty/teachers are 15,51,070 of which about 57.1% are male and 42.9% are female.
    • The female per 100 male faculty has improved to 75 in 2020-21 from 74 in 2019-20 and 63 in 2014-15.
Social Issues

Mains Article
30 Jan 2023

Asia Has Had a Really Cold Month, Courtesy of the Polar Vortex

Why in News?

  • Mohe, China’s northernmost city, recorded a temperature of minus 53oC this week. That was the coldest in its recorded history.
  • Scientists say Asia’s extreme cold is largely the result of the Polar Vortex phenomenon.

What’s in today’s article?

  • About Polar Vortex (Meaning, how it works, Relation w.r.t. Climate Change, etc.)
  • News Summary

What is a Polar Vortex?

  • The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles.
  • It always exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter.
  • The term "vortex" refers to the anti-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles.
  • Many times, during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream.
    • Jet stream is the area of fast-moving air high in the atmosphere that surrounds the polar vortex.
  • This occurs regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States & Canada.
  • Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex.

Is it a new Climatic Phenomenon?

  • Polar vortexes are not something new.
  • The term “polar vortex” has only recently been popularized, bringing attention to a weather feature that has always been present.
  • By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold.

Relation w.r.t. Climate Change:

  • The polar vortex is held in place by the Earth’s rotation and temperature differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes.
  • Changes in temperature differences can make the polar vortex expand to more southern latitudes.
  • While this phenomenon occurs naturally, climate change is expected to impact the frequency and severity of polar vortex events.

News Summary:

  • China’s national weather agency issued daily warnings of extremely cold temperatures recently for almost the entire country.
  • On the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s state meteorological agency warned residents in the last week of “the most bitter cold wave in 23 years”. And in South Korea, hundreds of flights were grounded, and beaches were covered in ice.
  • Scientists say Asia’s extreme cold is largely the result of the Polar Vortex phenomenon.
  • The term refers to an expanse of cold air that generally circles the Arctic but occasionally shifts south from the North Pole.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
30 Jan 2023

President of 77th Session of UNGA visits India

Why in news?

  • President of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Csaba Korosi is on a three-day visit to India.
  • This is his first bilateral visit to any country since he assumed UNGA Presidency in September 2022.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • UNGA (About, Key decisions taken by UNGA, Achievements)
  • President of the General Assembly (about, election, role)
  • News Summary

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

  • It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations and is headquartered in New York City.
  • It is one of the six principal organs of the UN and serves as the main policy-making organ of the Organization.
  • It provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote.

Key decisions taken by the UNGA

  • The UNGA also makes key decisions for the UN, including:
    • appointing the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council
    • electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council
    • approving the UN budget

Important achievements of UNGA

  • Millennium Declaration, adopted in 2000
  • The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document
  • 17 Sustainable Development Goals formulated in September 2015

President of the General Assembly (PGA)

  • Any Member State can put forward a candidate for PGA.
    • He/she is not required to be, but always has been, a citizen of the Member State presenting the candidacy.
  • The PGA is elected in his/her personal capacity for a one-year term
  • The Member State of the PGA cannot at the same time hold the office of Vice-President or Chair of a Main Committee.
    • Thus, the five permanent members of the Security Council, who are always Vice-Presidents, cannot hold the office of the PGA.
  • The Presidency of the General Assembly rotates among the five regional groups, namely:
    • Group of Asian States,
    • Group of Eastern European States,
    • Group of Latin American and Caribbean States,
    • Group of African States,
    • Western European and other States Group.

Election of PGA

  • The President is elected by a simple majority vote of the General Assembly.
  • Usually, the Member States of a regional group agree on one candidate and present a clean slate.
  • The President is elected at least three months before formally assuming office, usually in mid-June.
    • This allows him/her to prepare and to assemble a team before the GA session begins in September.

Role and mandate of the PGA

  • The PGA is the guardian of the GA Rules of Procedure but has no say in the actual decision-making of the GA – in fact, the PGA does not have a vote in the GA.
  • Even on procedural matters, the PGA always remains under the authority of the GA.
  • Hence, PGA has very little formal power. It depends on the moral authority and convening power of the office as main instruments to keep the 193 Member States working together.

News Summary: President of 77th Session of UNGA visit to India

  • Current President of UN General Assembly, Csaba Korosi, has arrived in India on a three-day visit.
  • Ahead of his visit, he criticised UN Security Council (UNSC) for not reflecting today’s realities.

Key highlights of the speech

  • UNSC is not reflecting today’s realities
    • The UNSC was created back then, and it does not reflect today’s realities.
    • The composition of the Security Council reflects the outcome of the Second World War.
    • In the 77-year-old history of the UN, the composition of the Security Council has been altered only once.
      • In 1963 when the General Assembly decided to expand the Council from 11 to 15 members, with the addition of four non-permanent seats.
    • Since then, the world has changed. The geopolitical relations in the world altered, the economic responsibilities changed.
    • India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the UNSC, and it rightly deserved a place as a permanent member in the UN.
  • UNSC is paralysed
    • UNSC is unable to discharge its basic function of maintaining international peace and security when one of its permanent members has attacked its neighbour.
    • Russia has vetoed UNSC resolutions on Ukraine and voted against a resolution in the UNGA which called on countries not to recognise the four regions of Ukraine that Russia has claimed.
    • The veto power is used to paralyse the functioning of UNSC.
International Relations

Jan. 29, 2023

Mains Article
29 Jan 2023

e-Cigarettes: Educated youth leading users, finds study

Why in News?

  • More than three years after e-cigarettes were banned in the country (in 2019), a recent medical study found that educated youth are leading the vaping (smoking) habit. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What Exactly is an e-Cigarette?
  • How does an e-Cigarette Work?
  • Are There Any Health Risks of Using e-Cigarette?
  • What is the Ethical Dilemma of Using e-Cigarettes?
  • News Summary with respect to the Use of e-Cigarettes in India

What Exactly is an e-Cigarette?

  • E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), which are basically devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves.
  • Instead, they vaporise a solution using a battery and this vapour is then inhaled by the user.
  • The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavouring agents.
  • While a faster, deeper puff increases nicotine delivery from a conventional cigarette, it might diminish it from e-cigarettes due to cooling of the heating element.

 How does an e-Cigarette Work?


Are There Any Health Risks of Using e-Cigarette?

  • Once nicotine is used in the solution of an e-cigarette, the difference between it and a conventional cigarette blurs.
  • The use of nicotine solutions (a highly addictive substance) in e-cigarettes underlines the fact that they can be equally addictive as conventional cigarettes.
  • In terms of health risks, the power of an e-cigarette to deliver nicotine determines how dangerous its use can be.
  • Despite not being a carcinogen, nicotine has the potential to stimulate tumour growth.
  • According to WHO, some solutions in e-Cigarettes and emissions from them are considered to be "toxicants".

What is the Ethical Dilemma of Using e-Cigarettes?

  • e-Cigarettes were introduced and popularised by forwarding the argument that they are effective in helping people quit smoking tobacco.
  • However, there are no concrete large-scale studies to show their effectiveness in helping people quit smoking.

News Summary with respect to the Use of e-Cigarettes in India:

  • What is the status of e-Cigarette use in India?
    • In 2019, the central government informed Parliament that e-cigarettes worth USD 1,91,781 were imported in India between 2016-16 and 2018-19, mostly from China, US, Hong Kong and Germany.
    • Besides this, it estimates that between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use saw an increase of 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students.
    • The government of India through the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement) Ordinance 2019, banned e-Cigarettes in India.
    • Any production, manufacturing, import, etc., shall be a cognisable offence in India, punishable with an imprisonment of up to 1 year/fine up to Rs 1 lakh/both for the first offence.
    • India, where 65% of the population is under 35 years of age, is one of the few countries that has completely banned the sale of e-cigarettes.
  • Highlights of the recent study on the use of e-Cigarettes in India:
    • Despite a ban in the country, educated youth (among 840 interviewed 23% had used) are among those who most used e-cigarettes.
    • E-cigarettes are available through online stores and even some local vendors.
    • Just under two-thirds of those who were aware of e-cigarettes believed them to be harmful and to contain chemicals.
    • Among non-users, 31% were curious about using e-cigarettes, and 23% intended to use them in the following year, indicating high levels of susceptibility.
  • What needs to be done to reduce uptake of e-Cigarettes? Greater education about harms associated with vaping and more intensive monitoring and enforcement could assist in reducing uptake in relatively high-prevalence groups such as educated adults.


Social Issues

Mains Article
29 Jan 2023

States fall short of targets to improve Forest Cover, Quality

Why in News?

  • According to the data accessed via the RTI, against the target of increasing tree cover by around 53,000 hectares (between 2015-16 and 2021-22) under the Green India Mission (GIM), only around 26,000 ha has been achieved.
  • Similarly, forest quality improved in only 1.02 lakh ha against target of 1.6 lakh ha under the GIM, which is one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About National Action Plan on Climate Change (Purpose, Missions, etc.)
  • National Mission for a Green India (Purpose, Targets, Performance)
  • News Summary

National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC):

  • The Central government (MoEF&CC), in 2008, had launched the NAPCC outlining existing and future policies and programs addressing climate mitigation and adaptation.
  • Originally, there were 8 core missions under the NAPCC, and later (2022) 3 new missions were added to the list.
  • These 11 missions represent multi-pronged, long term and integrated strategies for achieving key goals in climate change.


National Mission for a Green India:

  • It is one of the eight Missions under the NAPCC (launched in 2014 for a 10-year period), and which aims at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s forest cover and responding to Climate Change.
  • The target under the Mission is 10 million ha (5 + 5) on forest and non-forest lands for increasing the forest/tree cover and to improve the quality of existing forest.
  • It envisages a holistic view of greening that extends beyond tree planting and focusses on multiple ecosystem services such as biodiversity, water, biomass, preserving mangroves, wetlands, critical habitats, etc., along with carbon sequestration.
  • GIM also aims at convergence with complementary schemes and programmes for better coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas in a sustainable way.
  • A multidisciplinary team, both from Govt. and NGOs, are mandated to facilitate planning and implementation at cluster/landscape unit level. 

News Summary:

  • India State of the Forest Report 2021:
    • As per the Report, forest and tree cover in the country increased by 2,261 square km since the last assessment in 2019.
    • India’s total forest and tree cover was 80.9 million hectares, which accounted for 24.62% of the geographical area of the country.
    • The report said 17 States and Union Territories had more than 33% of their area under forest cover.
    • Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
    • The top five States in terms of forest cover as a percentage of their total geographical area were Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.90%).
  • Status of forests in India as per the RTI:
    • From 2015-16 to 2021-22, the Central government (based on submissions from 17 States) had approved a target of increasing tree/forest cover by 53,377 hectares and improving the quality of degraded forest by 1,66,656 ha.
    • However, the tree/forest cover had increased by 26,287 hectares and forest quality improved in only 1,02,096 hectares as of December 31, 2022.
    • For executing these projects, the Central government had allocated Rs 681 crore but only Rs 525 crore had been utilised.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
29 Jan 2023

Mughal Gardens renamed as Amrit Udyan

Why in news?

  • The iconic Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House) in Delhi have been renamed as Amrit Udyan.
  • The cluster of about 15 gardens will collectively be known as Amrit Udyan.
    • Individual gardens within the sprawling Presidential Estate — Herbal Garden, Musical Garden and Spiritual Garden — will retain their names.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Mughal Gardens

What is the history of Mughal Gardens in India?

  • The Mughals were known to appreciate gardens. In Babur Nama, Babur says that his favourite kind of garden is the Persian Charbagh style (literally, four gardens).
  • Defined by its rectilinear layouts, divided in four equal sections, these gardens can be found across lands previously ruled by the Mughals.
  • From the gardens surrounding Humanyun’s Tomb in Delhi to the Nishat Bagh in Srinagar, all are built in this style – giving them the moniker of Mughal Gardens.
  • A defining feature of these gardens is the use of waterways, often to demarcate the various quadrants of the garden.
    • These were not only crucial to maintain the flora of the garden, they also were an important part of its aesthetic.
    • Fountains were often built, symbolising the cycle of life.

How did the Rashtrapati Bhavan get Mughal Gardens?

  • In 1911, the British decided to shift the Indian capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
  • About 4,000 acres of land was acquired to construct the Viceroy’s House with Sir Edwin Lutyens being given the task of designing the building on Raisina Hill.
    • Lutyens’ designs combined elements of classical European architecture with Indian styles, producing a unique aesthetic that defines Lutyens’ Delhi till date.
  • Crucial in the design of the Viceroy’s House was a large garden in its rear. The initial plans involved creating a garden with traditional British architecture.
  • However, the wife of the then Viceroy wanted something in the Mughal style and urged the planners to create a garden in that style.
    • She was inspired by the book Gardens of the Great Mughals (1913) by Constance Villiers-Stuart as well as her visits to Mughal gardens in Lahore and Srinagar.

Evolution of Mughal Garden at Rshtrapati Bhavan

  • Though the layout of the garden was in place by 1917, the planting was taken up only in 1928-29. Director of horticulture William Mustoe, who planted the garden, was especially skilled at growing roses and is said to have introduced more than 250 different varieties of hybrid roses gathered from every corner of the world.
  • The gardens have evolved over time. While roses remain the star attraction, residents of the Rashtrapati Bhavan have all added their own personal touch to the garden.
  • g., C Rajagopalachari, the last Governor General of India, made a political statement when during a period of food shortage in the country, he himself ploughed the lands and dedicated a section of the garden to foodgrains.
  • Today, the Nutrition Garden, popularly known as Dalikhana, stands in that spot, organically cultivating a variety of vegetables for consumption at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
  • President R Venkatraman added a cactus garden and APJ Abdul Kalam added many theme based gardens-from the musical garden to the spiritual garden.
History & Culture

Mains Article
29 Jan 2023

Surge in oil imports from Russia

Why in news?

  • India’s trade data for the first eight months of the current fiscal year shows that crude oil imports from Russia jumped by 24.89 million tonnes year over year to 28.13 million tonnes, a staggering seven-fold.

What’s in today’s article?

  • News Summary

News Summary: Surge in oil imports from Russia

  • An analysis of India’s trade data for the first eight months of the FY 2022-23 showed a staggering seven-fold increase in crude oil imports from Russia.

Key highlights

  • Top 10 supplier of crude oil
  • India’s oil imports increased
    • India’s oil imports for the period rose 6.8% year on year to 151.39 million tonnes.
  • Decline on oil import from traditional oil supplying countries
    • Nine supplying nations saw oil supplies to India fall by around 1 million tonnes or more.
    • Nigeria and the US has topped the list, with supply volumes falling by 4.88 million tonnes and 3.79 million tonnes over this period, respectively.
    • On the other hand, India’s big three West Asian oil suppliers, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, did not see their oil shipments fall significantly.
      • Of the three, only Iraq’s oil supplies declined during the period by 1.48 million tonnes, or 4.1%.
      • Oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to India increased in April-November.
  • Russia as the second-biggest source of crude for India
    • During this period, Russia displaced major suppliers like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to emerge as the second-biggest source of crude for India.

Why is India witnessing surge in import of oil from Russia?

  • Opportunity in crisis
    • The Western Countries imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion in Ukraine. As a result, many countries were forced to avoid Russian oil and gas.
    • This created an opportunity for some of the major energy importers like India who sourced Russian crude from the market at special discounts.
      • To capture the opportunity, Indian refiners started floating tenders to buy such discounted oil.
  • Policy decision supporting purchase of Russian crude oil
    • Time and again, India expressed its willingness to opt for Russian energy, being offered at a discount.
    • This policy decision is part of promoting India’s national interest by ensuring energy security as the oil and gas market continues to witness volatility.
      • India is highly dependent on energy imports as nearly 85 per cent of its crude oil requirement (5 million barrels a day) has to be imported.
  • Additional factors
    • So far Nigeria and US had been the traditional supplier. However, the recent data shows significant decline in the oil import from these two countries.
    • Nigeria has been struggling with supply disruptions in the oil and gas sector due to numerous incidents of oil theft, pipeline vandalism, crumbling infrastructure, and maintenance shutdowns.
    • US, too, saw some disruptions, particularly weather-related supply interruptions in the critical Gulf of Mexico region.
    • Besides supply disruptions, the relatively higher cost of freight and insurance is also responsible for this decline.
      • The ultimate economics of oil determines the purchases by refiners.
      • It includes price of crude, cost of freight, and gross product value or product slate of that grade of crude.
  • Challenges in energy imports
    • Geopolitical developments have posed significant challenges to Indian energy security.
    • Owing to sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, India had to stop sourcing oil from Iran and Venezuela. Alternative sources have often come at a higher cost.
    • The jump in oil prices after the Ukraine conflict further added to these challenges.
    • Hence, India has to keep focusing on competitive energy sources and found Russian oil lucrative.
International Relations

Jan. 28, 2023

Mains Article
28 Jan 2023

India’s groundwater governance is in better shape


  • Data show that India, with nearly 18% of the world’s population, occupies about 2.4% of the total geographical area and consumes 4% of total water resources.
  • A World Bank report says that India is the largest groundwater user and a rapidly growing economy and population are straining the country’s groundwater resources.

Importance of Groundwater:

  • Groundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored below the ground. The rocks in which GW is stored are called aquifers.
  • This hidden resource accounts for just 62% of the total water and 30% of the freshwater available on earth.
  • The theme of UN World Water Day 2022 was ‘Groundwater, Making the Invisible Visible’ is a reflection of the importance given to the resource across the globe.
  • Groundwater is the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas, meeting nearly 80% of the country’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs. Hence, Groundwater is pivotal to India’s water security. 

Groundwater and its Availability in India:

  • As a vast country, India has distinct and varying hydro-geological settings. For example,
    • Hard-rock aquifers of peninsular India: These represent around 65% of India’s overall aquifer surface area, mostly found in central peninsular India.
    • Alluvial aquifers of the Indo-Gangetic plains: Found in the Gangetic and Indus plains in Northern India, these have significant storage spaces.
  • GW availability in India:
    • Out of the 1,123 BCM (Billion Cubic Meter) /year usable water resources of the country, the share of GW is 433 BCM/year and setting aside 35 BCM for natural discharge, the net annual GW availability for the entire country is 398 BCM.


 Groundwater Crisis in India:

  • Given the interdependence of water, the environment and socioeconomic well-being, the challenges in Groundwater resource management are complex and multifaceted.
  • These include -
    • Unregulated extraction
    • Excessive irrigation
    • Poor knowledge of Groundwater management system
    • GW pollution
    • Climate change
  • As per the 2021 CAG report, Groundwater extraction in India increased from 58% to 63%, between 2004-17, exceeding the Groundwater recharge rate and over extraction at the current rate can threaten nearly 80% of drinking water over next two decades.
  • Climate change effects such as intermittent rainfall further alters the recharge potential, posing a huge threat to equitable, healthy and pollution-free access to Groundwater

Steps Taken by the Central Government for Sustainable Groundwater Management:

  • Collaborating with States and Union Territories: In this process, certain important deliverables have been identified that include -
    • A reduction in groundwater extraction to below 70%,
    • Increasing the network of groundwater observation wells,
    • Installing digital water level recorders for real-time monitoring,
    • Periodic monitoring of groundwater quality,
    • Aquifer mapping and data dissemination,
    • Having better regulation of groundwater extraction by industries, and
    • Promoting participatory groundwater management and even periodic groundwater resource assessment.
  • Creation of Jal Shakti Ministry in 2019: This is a much-needed policy reform that resulted in the merger of the former Ministries of Drinking Water and Sanitation with the Ministries of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • Enabling community participation: The Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched subsequently to transform Jan Shakti into Jal Shakti through asset creation, rainwater harvesting (‘Catch the Rain’ campaign) and extensive awareness campaign.
  • Initiatives for the effective management and regulation of groundwater: Examples being the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) and the National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM).
    • With the goal of “participatory groundwater management”, ABY looks to inculcate behavioural change made possible by incentivisation.
    • NAQUIM envisages the mapping of sub-surface water bearing geological formations (aquifers) to help gather authentic data and enable informed decision-making.
    • Region-wise aquifer management plans are being prepared and shared with States.
  • Dynamic groundwater assessments: It will be done annually and a groundwater estimation committee formed to revise the assessment methodology. A software, ‘India-Groundwater Resource Estimation System (IN-GRES)’, has also been developed.

How did these Efforts Fare?

  • The findings of the groundwater assessment 2022 indicate a positive inclination in the management of groundwater.
  • For example, there has been
    • A reduction in the number of ‘overexploited’ groundwater units and increase in the number of ‘safe’ category units as compared to 2017.
    • An improvement in groundwater conditions in 909 units.
    • A reduction in annual extraction (of about 9.53 BCM); the data for irrigation, industrial and domestic use, respectively, is 208.49 BCM, 3.64 BCM and 27.05 BCM.
    • Overall extraction saw a declining trend, of about 3.25% since 2017.
  • The government’s interventions reflect the spirit of cooperative federalism in managing GW.

Way Ahead:

  • Communities will have to manage their groundwater resources better with the help of various government agencies and NGOs.
  • In the context of climate change, as uncertainties will increase with connection with groundwater resources, efforts must be made to find solutions that are essential for sustainable development.
  • It is important to ensure source sustainability to provide safe drinking water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan Mission


  • As one of the fastest growing economies, India will need adequate groundwater resources to manage anthropogenic pressures.
  • This is a new beginning and steps must be taken to make India a water surplus nation, thus fulfilling the objective of a key UN Sustainable Development Goal (6) - clean water and sanitation for all.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
28 Jan 2023

India now home to 70% of world’s tigers

Why in news?

  • The Centre has told the Supreme Court that India had about 2,967 tigers (approx. 70% of global wild tiger population) in its wildlife as per the last count in 2018.
  • It was revealed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in an affidavit filed in the court.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Project Tiger
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
  • Tiger Census 2018 Report
  • News Summary

Project Tiger

  • The Govt. of India had launched Project Tiger on 1st April 1973 to promote conservation of the tiger.
    • This project has been the largest species conservation initiative of its kind in the world.
  • The Project is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • It provides funding support to tiger range States for in-situ conservation of tigers in designated tiger reserves.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is the immediate supervising agency

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • It has been constituted under the provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The authority consists of:
    • Minister in charge of MoEFCC (as Chairperson),
    • Minister of State in MoEFCC (as Vice-Chairperson),
    • three members of Parliament, Secretary, and other members.

Objectives of NTCA

  • The objectives of NTCA are:
    • Providing statutory authority to Project Tiger so that compliance of its directives become legal.
    • Fostering accountability of Center-State in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
    • Providing for an oversight by Parliament.
    • Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.

Tiger Census 2018 Report

  • On International Tiger Day July 29 (2019), a census report of tigers in India was launched.
    • It was observed for the first time in 2010 at the Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia.
    • The summit finalized Global Tiger Recovery Plan known as TX2 (doubling the tiger population by 2022).
  • As per the report, the total population of Tiger in India is 2967.
    • In 2014, the count was 2,226 which reflected an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.
  • India has achieved the target of doubling the tiger count four years ahead of the deadline of 2022.
  • The top Tiger States of India (by Tiger population) - Madhya Pradesh (526); Karnataka (524); Uttrakhand (442).
  • Top states in terms of Percentage increase in Tiger population: Madhya Pradesh (71%), Maharashtra (64%), Karnataka (29%).
  • Worst Performing States - Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population.

News Summary: India now home to 70% of world’s tigers

  • From the brink of extinction to now becoming home to 70% of the global population, the Centre told the SC that India has achieved grand success in saving tigers.
  • As per the affidavit filed in the apex court, there is an annual growth of 6% in the big cat’s population, which offset natural losses.
  • India achieved the target of doubling the tiger population in 2018, four years ahead of schedule of the St Petersburg Declaration on tiger conservation.
  • The number of tiger reserves has gone up to 53 covering around 76,000 sq km
    • A new tiger reserve – Ranipur Tiger Reserve – has been declared in UP.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
28 Jan 2023

Adani Group Stocks hammered; Investors lose Rs 4.2L crore in 2 days

Why in News?

  • Recently, a US-based investment research firm, Hindenburg Research, published a research report on the Adani Group.
  • The report claims that the Adani Group is holding a short position on the Adani stocks, signalling that the shares of Adani Group are overpriced and will dip in value soon.

What’s in today’s article?

  • About Adani Group
  • About Hindenburg Research (Purpose)
  • Report on Adani Group (Key Highlights of the Report, Market Impact) 

About Adani Group:

  • It is one of the largest group of companies in India which specialises in infrastructure projects in coal, ports, cement, green energy and even edible oil.
  • It has made the news in India lately because of its rapid expansion in the cement industry (buying majority stake in Ambuja Cement and ACC Ltd.) as well as news media (buying around 30% shares of NDTV).
  • Its owner, Mr Gautam Adani has been one of the top 4 richest persons in the world for some time now.

About Hindenburg Research:

  • Hindenburg Research is a US-based research team that offers services in forensic financial research, with a focus on equity, credit and derivatives analysis.
  • Their fundamental research often includes studying and reporting on companies with accounting irregularities, unethical practices in business/related-party transactions, bad management etc.
  • Its primary method for investment is said to be short-selling.
    • Short selling basically involves borrowing an asset now in order to sell it, only to buy it back at a lower price and then return the borrowed asset.
    • The view taken basically is bearish one.

Hindenburg’s Report on Adani Group:

  • The report claimed that the Adani Group were pulling the “largest con in corporate history”.
  • They also revealed that they were holding a short position on the Adani stocks, signalling their belief that the shares are overpriced and will dip in value soon.

Key points in the Hindenburg Research report on Adani Group:

  • Overvalued Shares –
    • The report cites data from FactSet and Hindenburg’s own analysis to claim that the Adani shares are highly overvalued by conventional metrics.
  • Debt-Fuelled Business –
    • 5 out of the 7 key listed companies mentioned have reported a current ratio of less than 1.
    • This means that the total amount of current assets is less than the total amount of current liabilities in those companies.
    • This is not a healthy financial practice as this means that the companies are unlikely to have adequate assets to pay off their liabilities in the short run.
  • Promoters Pledging their Stocks –
    • This means that the promoters of the company have taken on additional debt on the basis of the shares that they own.
    • As seen above, the share prices are claimed to be already high and so is the debt – therefore, promoters pledging stocks to take on more debt is not a healthy financial practice in such a context.
  • Doubts regarding the Management team –
    • The report claims that some members of the management have a questionable past which includes allegations of fraud, duty evasions, scams etc.
  • Excess Promoter Control of Shares –
    • In addition to the already high proportion of promoter holding in shares (close to 74% in multiple cases), significant portions of the remaining public shares are also controlled by shell companies that have ties with the Adani group.
    • Many of these companies have a large majority of their shares invested solely in firms under the Adani Group.
  • Pumped up Demand –
    • The preceding point also hints at deliberate pumping of the Adani stock prices through excessive buying pressure from companies that seem to be biased towards (or perhaps connected with) the Adani Group itself.
    • It is claimed that the delivery volume of Adani stocks may have been high because of possible wash trading.
      • Wash trading is the practice of buying/selling of a share by the same or related entities to pump up the trading volume numbers.
  • Inadequate Compliance –
    • The report claims that one of the firms hired to book run the Adani Green Energy has had past problems with the SEBI.
    • Moreover, one of the independent auditors hired to audit Adani Enterprise and Adani Total gas seems to be too small a company.
      • It comprises of professionals too young to be able to handle the auditing of such a large array of companies.

Impact of this report

  • Impact on the Adani Group
    • Seven listed companies in the Adani Group lost over $10.73 billion dollars in market capitalisation on 25th January i.e., after the release of the Hindenburg report.
    • It also wiped off over $25 billion of the personal net worth of Mr Gautam Adani to below $100 billion and relegated him to 7th richest in the world, from 3rd earlier this week.
  • Systemic risk
    • No Adani Group company has ever defaulted on their debt repayments so far.
    • Moreover, the bank debt component in the total debt of the Adani group has only fallen (from 86% in FY16 to less than 40% in FY22).
      • This means any potential issue in the repayment is less likely to have any impact on the banking system.
    • But the experts believe that liberal investments were made by state entities like LIC, SBI and other public sector banks in the Adani Group.
    • Since, share prices have fallen, these entities may have exposed the county’s financial system to heavy risks.
  • Reinforces distrust around corporate governance practices in India
    • The current report may reinforce distrust around corporate governance practices in India Inc.
      • If one of India’s largest companies is facing this crisis of governance, people may become suspicious and raise questions.

Mains Article
28 Jan 2023

Cheetah Reintroduction Plan: India-South Africa sign pact, 12 cheetahs to be brought to Kuno

Why in News?

  • An MoU on cooperation in reintroduction of cheetahs to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh next month, has been signed between India and South Africa. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Cheetah
  • What was the Historical Range of Cheetahs in India?
  • What were the Causes of Extinction of Cheetahs in India?
  • What is the Cheetah Reintroduction Plan?
  • Why are Cheetahs Coming from Southern Africa?
  • News Summary with respect to the Cheetah Reintroduction from South Africa

About the Species (Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus):

  • The Cheetah (a carnivore) is the world’s fastest land animal historically ranging throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa and extending eastward to India.
  • It plays an important part in the ecosystem by maintaining prey species healthy (by killing the weak and old) and control the population of prey, thus, helping plants-life by preventing overgrazing.
  • Today, Cheetahs are found in only 9% of their historic range, occurring in a variety of habitats such as savannahs in the Serengeti, arid mountain ranges in the Sahara and hilly desert terrain in Iran.
  • Namibia has the largest population of Cheetahs in the world, earning it the title "The Cheetah Capital of the World."
  • Currently, Cheetahs (African) are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, as there are fewer than 7,100 adult and adolescent Cheetahs in the wild.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists them as an Appendix 1 species.

What was the Historical Range of Cheetahs in India?

  • Historically, Asiatic Cheetahs had a very wide distribution in India, occurring from as far north as Punjab to Tirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu, from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west to Bengal in the east.
  • Thus, the Cheetah’s habitat was very diverse - scrub forests, dry grasslands, savannas and other arid and semi-arid open habitats.

What were the Causes of Extinction of Cheetahs in India?

  • The big cat population got completely wiped out in the early 1950s, mainly due to over-hunting and habitat loss.
  • Records of Cheetahs being hunted (sport hunting, capturing during Mughal period) go back to the 1550s.
  • However, the final phase of its extinction coincided with British colonial rule (the British declared a bounty for killing it in 1871).

What is the Cheetah Reintroduction Plan?

  • Discussions to bring the Cheetah back to India were initiated in 2009 by the Wildlife Trust of India.
  • Under the ‘Action Plan for Reintroduction of Cheetah in India’, 50 cheetahs will be brought from African countries to various national parks over 5 years.
  • Recommended sites:
    • Kuno Palpur National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh: Amongst the surveyed sites of the central Indian states, KNP has been rated the highest, because of its suitable habitat and adequate prey base.
      • It is assessed to be capable of supporting 21 Cheetahs and is likely the only wildlife site in the country where villages have been completely relocated from within the park.
      • Kuno also provides the possibility of harbouring four of India's big cats - tiger, lion, leopard and Cheetah, enabling them to coexist as they have in the past.
    • The other sites recommended are - Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh; Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary - Bhainsrorgarh Wildlife Sanctuary complex, Madhya Pradesh; Shahgarh bulge in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan; Mukundara Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan.

Why are Cheetahs Coming from Southern Africa?

  • Reasons behind re-introducing cheetah from southern Africa:
    • The locally extinct Cheetah-subspecies of India is found in Iran and is categorised as critically endangered.
    • Since it is not possible to source the critically endangered Asiatic Cheetah from Iran, India decided to source Cheetahs from Southern Africa.
    • Southern African Cheetahs have the highest observed genetic variety among extant Cheetah lineages, which is critical for a founding population stock.
    • Furthermore, Southern African Cheetahs have been determined to be the ancestors of all other Cheetah lineages, making them suitable for India's reintroduction programme.
  • Challenges of bringing back Cheetahs:
    • Based on the evidence available, it is impossible to conclude that the choice to bring the African Cheetah into India is scientifically sound.
    • As a result, the Supreme Court of India (in 2020) permitted an experimental release of Cheetahs in a suitable habitat.

News Summary with respect to the Cheetah Reintroduction from South Africa:

  • In terms of the agreement, an initial batch of 12 cheetahs (7 male and 5 female) are to be flown in from South Africa to India during February 2023.
  • The cats will join eight cheetahs introduced to India from Namibia during 2022.
  • Some improvements have been made to the existing bomas (wildlife enclosures built usually for the treatment or quarantine of animals) based on the observations of the last few months.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
28 Jan 2023

India sends notice to Pakistan to amend Indus Water Treaty

Why in news?

  • India has sent a notice to Pakistan for the modification of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
  • This was after Pakistan unilaterally tried to change the process of resolving disputes between the two sides.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) – About, dispute redressal mechanism under the treaty
  • News Summary

Indus Water Treaty (IWT)

  • About
    • The Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank.
    • IWT was signed by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistani President Mohammed Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960, after nine years of negotiations between the two countries.
    • According to this treaty, three rivers: Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India and the other three: Sindh, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan.
  • Rights & obligations under this treaty
    • India is under obligation to let the waters of the western rivers flow, except for certain consumptive use.
    • The treaty allocates Pakistan approx. 80% of the entire water of the six-river Indus system and reserved for India just remaining 19.48% of the total waters.
    • India can construct storage facilities on western rivers of up to 3.6-million-acre feet, which it has not done so far.
    • The IWT permits run of the river projects and require India to provide Pakistan with prior notification, including design information, of any new project.

Dispute redressal mechanism under the Treaty

  • Article IX of the Treaty is a dispute resolution mechanism - graded at three levels to resolve a difference or a dispute related to projects on the Indus waters.
  • First level
    • Either party has to inform the other side if they are planning projects on the Indus river with all the information that is required or asked for by the other party.
    • This process is done at the level of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), created to implement and manage the goals of the IWT.
    • If PIC is unable to solve the question in contention, the question becomes difference and goes to second level.
  • Second level
    • The second grade is the World Bank appointing a neutral expert to resolve the differences.
    • If a neutral expert cannot resolve the issue, the difference becomes a dispute and goes to third level.
  • Third level
    • At this level, the matter goes to a Court of Arbitration (CoA) whose chair is appointed by the World Bank.

News Summary: India sends notice to Pakistan to amend Indus Water Treaty

  • India has issued a notice to Pakistan for modification of the IWT — a treaty that survived three wars, the Kargil conflict, and the terror attacks in Mumbai and Kashmir.

What is India’s notice about?

  • The notice, sent through the Commissioner of Indus Water, has invoked Article XII (3) of the treaty which says:
    • The provisions of this Treaty may from time to time be modified by a duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two Governments.
  • The notice gives Pakistan 90 days to consider entering into intergovernmental negotiations to rectify the material breach of the treaty.
  • This process would also update the IWT to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years.

Why has this notice been sent to Pakistan?

  • Background:
    • The notice appears to be a fallout of a longstanding dispute over two hydroelectric power projects that India is constructing:
      • one on the Kishanganga river, a tributary of Jhelum, and
      • the other on the Chenab - Ratle Hydro Electric Projects.
    • In 2015, Pakistan requested the appointment of a Neutral Expert to examine its technical objections to these projects.
    • In 2016, Pakistan unilaterally retracted its request to appoint a Neutral Expert and proposed that a Court of Arbitration adjudicate on its objections.
    • On the other hand, in 2016, India requested a Neutral Expert to be appointed as this was an important part of the process which Pakistan was trying to skip.
    • As a result, the World Bank paused the process since two separate requests had been made by the two sides.
    • It asked India and Pakistan to resolve it through the PIC level of Indus commissioners.
  • Actions on both the Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration processes initiated
    • Despite the directive from World Bank, Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during the meetings of the PIC
      • Five meetings of the PIC were held from 2017 to 2022.
    • In March 2022, at Pakistan’s continuing insistence, the World Bank initiated actions on both the Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration processes.
      • The World Bank resumed the concurrent process and went ahead and appointed a Neutral Expert and chair of the Court of Arbitration.
  • India not satisfied with the initiation of two concurrent processes
    • India insisted that there cannot be two processes for the same dispute.
    • If the two give different outcomes, then the workability of the IWT comes into question.
    • Such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of the IWT.
  • Notice of modification to Pakistan
    • India sticked to the graded dispute solving mechanism of IWT.
      • It kept attending the Neutral Expert meetings, but it did not send any representative for the Court of Arbitration meetings.
    • Later, Pakistan took unilateral decision to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitrage at The Hague in the Netherlands.
      • The first hearing of the Pakistani case at the Permanent Court of Arbitrage began on 27th January 2023.
      • India has boycotted this court process.
    • With no choice left, India was compelled to issue a notice of modification.

Why is this notice significant?

  • This notice opens the possibility of India proposing major changes to the treaty and even the idea of altering it completely.
  • India has not spelled out exactly what it wants to be modified in the Treaty.
  • But over the last few years, especially since the Uri attack, there has been a growing demand in India to use the Indus Waters Treaty as a strategic tool.
    • After Uri attack, the Indian PM had said that blood and water could not flow together.
    • Also, India had suspended routine bi-annual talks between the Indus Commissioners of the two countries.
International Relations

Jan. 27, 2023

Mains Article
27 Jan 2023

India's censorship machine: There has been an increased use of emergency powers on questionable grounds


  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) recently issued orders to Twitter and YouTube to block access to the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, within India.
  • These orders were made using emergency powers granted under the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 and Section 69A (empowers the government to restrict access to any content in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of the country) of the IT Act 2000.
  • There are concerns regarding natural justice, and how the IT Rules are always being revised.

What are the Emergency Provisions?

  • Under the IT Rules 2021, the MIB has powers to issue content takedown notices to social media intermediaries like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in emergency situations for which no delay is acceptable.
  • These emergency notices can be issued if the MIB believes that the content can impact the sovereignty, integrity, defence or security of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or to prevent incitement to any cognisable offence.
  • Although the IT Rules 2021 outline user recourse options, these are only applicable to “actions” taken by social media companies.
  • For instance, if a platform has on its own taken down some content, the user can approach the grievance officer of the platform to raise a dispute, which they are to redress within 15 days.
  • However, if a platform has taken down content on the basis of the emergency provisions in the Rules, the legislation does not offer any direct recourse.
  • The only option users have in this case is to approach courts. However, by their very nature, the blocking orders are confidential, which means that users do not know the provisions under which their content was flagged.

Frequent Use of Emergency Provisions by the Government:

  • The term “emergency” is not legislatively defined, and its application has been challenged in courts earlier.
  • For example, the Bombay HC (in 2021) suspended rules that establish a code of ethics for online news platforms and a three-tier grievance redress mechanism headed by the central government.
    • The court said “it is healthy to invite criticism of all those who are in public service for the nation to have structured growth.”
  • The Madras HC held that Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution may be infringed if the Section 69A is coercively applied.
  • Despite these rulings, an increased use of emergency powers have been witnessed. For instance, the BBC documentary has been described by public authorities as “propaganda” reflecting “a colonial mindset”.

How the Government Ensured Frequent Use of Censorship Provisions?

  • The IT Rules first notified in 2011 by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) have undergone a radical change.
  • This can be attributed to a centralisation of executive power and the rapid changes in the subject matter for regulation.
  • In 2021, the rules were amended drastically to increase government control over online platforms and news publishers.
  • Other changes included the creation of grievance officers for social media companies and traceability requirements to increase censorship and break privacy-protecting technologies such as encryption.
  • It also required news publishers to follow a vague moral code of self-censorship.
  • In 2022, rather than addressing such constitutional concerns, another set of amendments created a government censorship body sitting in appeal of the content moderated by social media companies.
  • This year started with more proposed changes. For example, MeitY wanted to create a self-regulatory system for online gaming and gambling companies, which is illegal on several grounds, including federalism, given that legislation on it is a State subject.
  • Another draft gave the Press Information Bureau a general mandate to fact-check and take down any online content without defining the term “fake”.

How the Government’s Recent Decision Violates Natural Justice Principle?

  • Natural justice is a fundamental principle in public law, which simply means to make a sensible and reasonable decision-making procedure on a particular issue.
  • For example, a decision which affects fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech violates the principle of natural justice.
  • The Supreme Court of India is of the view that the right to receive and impart information is implicit in free speech.
  • Therefore, any restriction must issue a show cause notice, provide the opportunity of defence and record reasons in an order that is made publicly.
  • Providing reasons allows for the author/ publisher/ the recipient of the information, to seek judicial remedies and act as a check for constitutionally permitted censorship.
  • In the above case, none of the procedures of natural justice were followed. Also, such practice is contrary to the directions of the SC in the Shreya Singhal vs Union of India case.
    • In the case, it was upheld that blocking orders issued under Section 69A must include a written record of the reasons so that the blocking order can be challenged in a writ petition.
    • However, the blocking orders in the above case are communicated directly to service providers and tagged as "secret" or "confidential," making it difficult for the authors to defend. 


  • Fundamental rights are violated by giving the appearance of a process that permits extensive censorship powers.
  • Hence, there is the need to prioritise free speech and expression in a digital and democratic India.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
27 Jan 2023

Aditya-L1 mission: India’s first mission to study the Sun will be launched by June-July

Why in News?

  • According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman S. Somanath, the country's first solar mission - Aditya-L1 mission, is likely to be launched by June-July this year.
  • He was speaking at the handover ceremony of the Visible Line Emission Coronagraph (VELC) payload - one of seven payloads (instruments) on board Aditya – L1. 

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the Aditya-L1 Mission?
  • News Summary with respect to the Aditya-L1 Mission

What is the Aditya-L1 Mission?

  • Aditya (in Sanskrit means Sun) is a planned coronagraphy spacecraft to study solar atmosphere (solar corona - outermost part).
  • It is currently being designed and developed by ISRO and various other Indian research institutes.
  • First dedicated Indian mission to observe the Sun, it is planned to be launched in June-July 2023 aboard a PSLV-XL launch vehicle.
    • It was conceptualised in 2008 and was initially envisaged as a small 400 kg satellite.
  • The mission's objectives have subsequently been broadened and it is now intended to be a comprehensive observatory of the sun and space environment.
  • It will be placed in an orbit around the Lagrange (L1) point (L1 is about 1.5 million kms from Earth) between Earth and the sun (so renamed - "Aditya-L1").
    • Lagrange points are positions in space where objects sent tend to stay there, as the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them.
    • These points in space can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position.
    • The first Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system, L1 orbit, allows Aditya-L1 to look at the Sun continuously.
  • The spacecraft will study coronal heating, solar wind acceleration, coronal magnetometry, origin and monitoring of near-UV solar radiation.
    • It will continuously observe photosphere, chromosphere and corona, solar energetic particles and magnetic field of the Sun.

News Summary with respect to the Aditya-L1 Mission:

  • In total Aditya-L1 has seven payloads, of which the primary payload - the VELC, is designed and fabricated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA, Bengaluru).
    • The payload will be taken to the R. Rao Satellite Centre (Bengaluru), where it will be integrated with the Aditya-L1 satellite and will undergo further testing, evaluation and finally launched using the PSLV.
    • The VELC payload will observe the corona continuously and the data provided by it is expected to answer many outstanding problems in the field of solar astronomy.
    • No other solar coronagraph in space has the ability to image the solar corona as close to the solar disk as VELC can (can image it as close as 1.05 times the solar radius).
    • It can also do imaging, spectroscopy, and polarimetry at the same time, and can take observations at a very high resolution.
  • The other six payloads are being developed by the ISRO and other scientific institutions.
  • Understanding the effect of the Sun on the Earth and its surroundings has become very important now and Aditya-L1 aims to shed light on this topic.
Science & Tech

Mains Article
27 Jan 2023

Sovereign Green Bonds Auctioned

Why in news?

  • RBI auctioned maiden Sovereign Green Bonds (SGrBs) worth Rs 8,000 crore on January 25.
  • This is part of the Rs 16,000 crore Sovereign Green Bond auction that the RBI will conduct in the current financial year.
    • The second green bond auction will be conducted on February 9.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Green Bonds – about, importance, benefits for investors, India’s journey etc.
  • News Summary

What are Green Bonds?

  • These are bonds issued by any sovereign entity, inter-governmental groups or alliances and corporates.
  • These bonds are launched with the aim that the proceeds of the bonds are utilised for projects classified as environmentally sustainable.
    • Sovereign green bonds are issued by governments to raise resources for such projects.
  • In India, the framework for the sovereign green bond was issued by the government on November 9, 2022.

Why are these bonds important?

  • Over the last few years, Green Bonds have emerged as an important financial instrument to deal with the threats of climate change and related challenges.
  • According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) climate change poses risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies.
  • Hence, it is critical to connect environmental projects with capital markets and investors and channel capital towards sustainable development.
  • Green Bonds are a way to make that connection.

How beneficial are Green Bonds for investors?

  • Green Bonds offer investors a platform to engage in good practices, influencing the business strategy of bond issuers.
  • They provide a means to hedge against climate change risks while achieving at least similar, if not better, returns on their investment.
  • In this way, the growth in Green Bonds and green finance also indirectly works to disincentivise high carbon-emitting projects.

India’s journey towards issuance of Sovereign Green Bond

  • The Union Budget 2022-23 made an announcement to issue Sovereign Green Bonds.
  • In November 2022, Finance Ministry approved the final Sovereign Green Bonds framework of India.
    • As per the provisions of the framework, Green Finance Working Committee (GFWC) was constituted to validate key decisions on issuance of Sovereign Green Bonds.

How will be bonds’ proceeds be used?

  • The proceeds from the green bonds issuance will be deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), and then funds from the CFI will be made available for the eligible green projects.
  • The government said the bonds’ proceeds will be used for green projects that:
    • Encourage energy efficiency;
    • Reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases;
    • Promote climate resilience and/or adaptation;
    • Improve natural ecosystems and biodiversity, especially in accordance with the principles of SDGs
  • The framework listed investments in solar, wind, biomass, hydro energy projects, urban mass transportation projects (e.g. metro rail), green buildings, pollution prevention and control projects.
  • The government excluded projects such as fossil fuels, nuclear power generation, and direct waste incineration.

News Summary

  • The maiden SGrB auction of Rs 8,000 crore, held on January 25, got oversubscribed owing to robust demand from various market participants, primarily banks.
    • A sovereign bond is a specific debt instrument issued by the government.
    • Just like other bonds, these also promise to pay the buyer a certain amount of interest for a stipulated number of years and repay the face value on maturity.
    • These bonds are a source of government financing alongside tax revenue.
  • The 5-year and 10-year green bonds were issued at a premium compared to the similar existing maturity sovereign regular bonds.
  • Green premium, or greenium refers to the negative difference in spreads between green and non-green bonds with the same financial characteristics (currency, tenor issued by the same issuer. The green premium suggests that green bonds have a pricing advantage to the issuer over conventional bonds.



Mains Article
27 Jan 2023

India to move to T+1 Settlement System

Why in News?

  • After China, India will become the second country in the world to start the ‘trade-plus-one’ (T+1) settlement cycle in top listed securities from January 27.
  • This will help in bringing operational efficiency, faster fund remittances, share delivery, and ease for stock market participants.

What’s in today’s article?

  • About T+1 Settlement Plan (Meaning, how it works, Benefits, Criticism, etc.) 

What’s the T+1 Settlement Plan?

  • The T+1 settlement cycle means that trade-related settlements must be done within a day, or 24 hours, of the completion of a transaction.
    • For example, under T+1, if a customer bought shares on Wednesday, they would be credited to the customer’s demat account on Thursday.
    • This is different from T+2, where they will be settled on Friday.
  • As many as 256 large cap and top mid-cap stocks, including Nifty and Sensex stocks, will come under the T+1 settlement from January 27.
  • The United States, United Kingdom and Eurozone markets are yet to move to the T+1 system.

What was the existing system in India?

  • Until 2001, stock markets had a weekly settlement system.
  • The markets then moved to a rolling settlement system of T+3, and then to T+2 in 2003.

What are the Benefits of T+1?

  • In the T+1 format, if an investor sells a share, she will get the money within a day, and the buyer will get the shares in her demat account also within a day.
  • This shorter trade settlement cycle augurs well for the Indian equity markets from a liquidity perspective, and it shows how well we have grown on the digital journey to ensure seamless settlements within 24 hours.
  • This will also help investors in reducing the overall capital requirements with the margins getting released on T+1 day, and in getting the funds in the bank account within 24 hours of the sale of shares.
  • The shift will boost operational efficiency as the rolling of funds and stocks will be faster.

Will T+1 Format make Markets Safer?

  • According to a paper published by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), a T+1 settlement cycle not only reduces the timeframe but also reduces and frees up capital required to collateralize that risk.
  • A shortened settlement cycle also reduces the number of outstanding unsettled trades at any point of time, and thus decreases the unsettled exposure to Clearing Corporation by 50 per cent.
  • The narrower the settlement cycle, the narrower is the time window for a counterparty insolvency/ bankruptcy to impact the settlement of a trade.
  • Further, the capital blocked in the system to cover the risk of trades will get proportionately reduced with the number of outstanding unsettled trades at any point of time.

Why are foreign investors opposed?

  • Foreign investors were against the SEBI’s T+1 proposal, and had written to the regulator and the Finance Ministry about the operational issues faced by them.
  • Among the issues raised by them were –
    • Time zone difference,
    • Information flow process, and
    • Foreign exchange problems.
  • Foreign investors said they would also find it difficult to hedge their net India exposure in dollar terms at the end of the day under the T+1 system.
  • In 2020, SEBI had deferred the plan to halve the trade settlement cycle to one day (T+1) following opposition from foreign investors.

Mains Article
27 Jan 2023

India, Egypt declare ‘strategic partnership’

Why in news?

  • President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, is on a State Visit to India from 24-27 January 2023.
  • President Sisi, who is on his second State Visit to India, was also the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day 2023.
  • During this visit, President Sisi and PM Modi held bilateral talks.

What’s in today’s article?

  • India-Egypt Bilateral Relations
  • News Summary

India-Egypt Bilateral Relations

  • India and Egypt, two of the world’s oldest civilizations, have enjoyed a history of close contact from ancient times.
    • Ashoka’s edicts refer to his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy-II.
  • Close friendship between President Nasser and PM Nehru led to a Friendship Treaty between the two countries in 1955.

Political Relations

  • Both countries have cooperated closely in multilateral fora and were the founding members of Non-Aligned Movement.
  • The year 2022 is of particular significance since it marks the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relation between India and Egypt.
  • Egypt has been invited as a Guest Country during India’s Presidency of G-20.

Economic Relations

  • Bilateral trade has expanded rapidly in 2021-22, amounting to 7.26 billion registering a 75% increase compared to FY 2020-21.
    • India’s exports to Egypt during this period amounted to US$ 3.74 billion and Egypt’s exports to India reached US$ 3.52 billion.
    • In FY 2021-22, the top Indian imports from Egypt were Mineral Oil/Petroleum, Fertilizers, Inorganic Chemicals and Cotton.
    • Main items of export to Egypt from India were Buffalo Meat, Iron & Steel, Engineering Products, Light Vehicles and Cotton Yarn.
  • India was the 6th most important trading partner for Egypt in FY2021-22.
  • Around 50 Indian companies have invested in various sectors in Egypt with a combined investment exceeding US$ 3.15 billion.
    • Egyptian investments in India are to the tune of US$ 37 million.
  • Wheat export from India
    • Russia-Ukraine conflict has threatened Egypt with a shortage for wheat, 80% of which is imported from Russia and Ukraine.
    • In April 2022, Egypt announced inclusion of India in the list of accredited countries which can supply wheat to Egypt, thus ending a long pending Non-Tariff Barrier.
    • India — which had put a ban on export of wheat — allowed export of 61,500 tonnes to Egypt.

Development cooperation

  • The grants-in-aid projects include:
    • Pan Africa Tele-medicine and Tele-education project in Alexandria University, Solar electrification project in Agaween village and Vocational Training Centre for textile technology in Shoubra, Cairo, which have been completed.
  • Technical cooperation and assistance
    • Since 2000, over 1300 Egyptian officials have benefited from ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) and other programs like ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) and IAFS (India Africa Forum Summit) scholarships.

Defence Relations

  • Exercises
    • The first ever IAF-EAF Joint Tactical Air Exercise, Dessert Warrior, was held in Egypt in October 2021.
    • For the first time, Indian Air Force (IAF) participated in Tactical Leadership Programme of Egyptian Air Force (EAF) Weapons School in 2022.
    • Cyclone Exercise between two countries held in Jan 2023 in India.
  • Transits:
    • Indian Navy Ships undertake port calls at Egyptian ports.
    • Egypt regularly provides transit facilities to IAF and Indian Navy aircraft ferrying to/ from Russia, Europe and the USA.

Cultural relation

  • The Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) has been promoting cultural cooperation between the two countries.
  • The iconic Cairo Tower (which is the tallest tower in North Africa) was illuminated with Indian National Flag in the evening of 15th August 2021.

Indian Community

  • At present, the Indian community in Egypt numbers at around 3200, most of whom are concentrated in Cairo.
  • There are also a small number of families in Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailia.
  • About 400 Indian students are studying in Egypt, mainly in Al Azhar University.

News Summary: Outcomes of the State visit of President of Egypt to India

  • Relationship upgraded to Strategic Partnership
    • Both sides decided to elevate the relationship to Strategic Partnership covering political, security, defence, energy and economic areas.
  • 75 years of establishment of India-Egypt relationship
    • Both sides exchanged the Commemorative Postal Stamps to mark 75 years of establishment of India-Egypt relationship.
  • MoUs signed in areas of Cyber Security, IT, Culture, Cooperation in Youth Matters
  • The issue of terrorism
    • Both countries agreed that concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism. And for this, they decided that together both the countries will continue to try to alert the international community.
    • They condemned the use of terrorism as a foreign policy tool and called for zero tolerance towards terrorism.
  • Bilateral trade
    • Both sides have decided to take the bilateral trade to 12 billion dollars in the next five years.
  • Proposal to create permanent channels
    • Egyptian President requested PM Modi to create permanent channels to enhance digital connections between small and medium scale industries.
    • This will help in improving life of common people.
International Relations
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