Sept. 30, 2023

Mains Article
30 Sep 2023

Global Dispute Settlement, India and Appellate Review


  • The recently concluded G-20 Declaration reiterated the need to pursue reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to improve all its functions and conduct proactive discussions.
  • While the commitment is heartening, whether it will have an appellate process or just be a one-stage panel process remains to be seen given Washington’s continued opposition to an appellate review process.

WTO (World Trade Organisation)

  • It is an international institution that oversees the rules for global trade among nations.
  • WTO has 164 member countries[with Liberia and Afghanistan the most recent members, having joined in 2016] and 25 observer countries and governments.
  • It officially began operations on January 1, 1995, in accordance with the 1994 Marrakesh Agreement, thus replacing the 1948 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
  • The major functions of WTO are:
    • Administering WTO trade agreements.
    • Forum for trade negotiations.
    • Handling trade disputes.
    • Monitoring national trade policies.
    • Technical assistance and training for developing countries.
    • Cooperation with other international organisations. 

Organisational Structure of WTO

  • The highest authority of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which is composed of all member states and usually convenes biennially (every two years) and consensus is emphasised in all its decisions.
  • The daily work is handled by three bodies (whose membership is the same) -
    • The General Council
    • The Dispute Settlement Body
    • The Trade Policy Review Body
  • The only difference is the terms of reference under which each body is constituted.

 The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB)

  • The General Council convenes as the DSB to deal with disputes between WTO members. The DSB has authority to establish dispute settlement panels.
  • DSB decides the outcome of a trade dispute on the recommendation of these panels and possibly on a report from the Appellate Body - that hear appeals from reports issued by panels.
  • Only the DSB has the authority to make these decisions, panels and the Appellate Body can only make recommendations. 

Why Dispute Settlement System (DSS) is Non-Functional?

  • Because of the United States, which has single-handedly blocked the appointment of the members of the Appellate Body.
  • Its one-time supporter, the U.S., has become the sharpest critic and seems inclined towards the de-judicialisation of international trade law -an approach whereby countries take back control from international courts and tribunals.
  • However, as with national court adjudication, the international appellate review process serves as an important check on the interpretation and implementation of law and maintains consistency. 

Alternative Available - Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

  • ISDS is a universal component of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and is the principal means to settle international investment law disputes.
  • While the future of the WTO’s appellate process is uncertain, another area of international law witnessing the formative stages for an appellate process is international investment law through ISDS.
  • Till January 1, 2023, 1,257 ISDS cases have been initiated. However, India has had a chequered history with ISDS, with five adverse awards and several pending claims.

Benefits of an Appellate Review that will Strengthen ISDS

  • Consistent and Coherent Decisions with Legal Reasonings
    • A critical structural side of the ISDS mechanism (also present in India’s BITs and a few free trade agreements) is that it operates through ad hoc arbitration tribunals without any appellate review.
    • These tribunals have reached opposite conclusions despite interpreting and applying the same treaty to the same facts.
    • This has caused instability and improbability for states and foreign investors, making the regime chaotic.
    • Therefore, an appellate review system will ensure that decisions and legal reasoning are uniform and logical across the landscape of international investment law.
  • Appellate Mechanism Allows for Rectifying Errors
    • An appellate review mechanism will allow for rectifying errors of law and harmonising diverging interpretations.
    • It will have the power to uphold, modify, or reverse the decision of a first-tier tribunal and thus bring coherence and consistency, which will infuse predictability and certainty into the ISDS system.
  • Better than Annulment Proceedings
    • An appellate mechanism will also be better than existing mechanisms such as the annulment proceedings which only apply to arbitrations administered by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes - an institution India is not a member of.
    • Further, such annulment proceedings can only address limited issues, such as the improper constitution of an arbitration tribunal or corruption but cannot correct errors in legal interpretation. 
  • Appellate Mechanism will be Superior: The appellate mechanism will also be superior to getting an ISDS award set aside on limited procedural grounds in a court at the seat of arbitration.

 Discussions on Creating an Appellate Review Mechanism in ISDS

  • Discussions on creating an appellate review mechanism are ongoing at the UN Commission on International Trade Law or UNCITRAL’s working group meetings.
  • There are several critical issues in creating an appellate review, such as
    • What form it should take;
      • an ad hoc appellate mechanism (a body constituted by the disputing parties on a case-by-case basis) or
      • a standing appellate mechanism;
    • What the standard to review the decisions of the first-tier tribunal should be; and
    • What the time frame and the effect of the decision should be.
  • Hopefully, these issues will be sorted out at UNCITRAL very soon.

India’s Stand on ISDS Reform

  • Although India has not made a formal statement on this issue, India presumably, supports the idea of an appellate review in the ISDS because Article 29 of the Indian model BIT talks of it.
  • Given India’s concerns about inconsistency and incoherence in the ISDS system, supporting the creation of an appellate review mechanism will be in India’s interest.
  • In any case, India will have to take a stand on this issue as part of the ongoing investment treaty negotiations with the European Union, which is championing the creation of an appellate review mechanism for investment disputes. 


  • India’s quest has always been to establish a rule-based global order, it should support an appellate review which will usher in greater confidence for states and investors in international investment law.
  • For those same reasons, India should also push for the restoration of the WTO appellate body towards achieving the goal of a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system at the WTO.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
30 Sep 2023

As illicit trade booms, seizure mount

Why in news?

  • Recently, a report titled ‘Hidden Streams: Linkages Between Illicit Markets, Financial Flows, Organised Crime and Terrorism’ was released by FICCI CASCADE.
    • The report has inputs from multiple sources, including government data.

What’s in today’s article?

  • News Summary


  • About
    • FICCI CASCADE stands for the Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy
    • The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) established the forum in New Delhi in 2011.
    • FICCI CASCADE's goal is to combat smuggling and counterfeiting.
  • Function
    • The platform has launched awareness campaigns and inter-school competitions.
    • It has also urged the government to launch an international campaign against smuggling.
  • Some of the findings of FICCI CASCADE
    • FICCI CASCADE has highlighted the following:
      • The government lost over 508% of tax revenue from the alcohol industry.
      • The government lost 201% of tax revenue from the FMCG packaged foods industry.
      • The government lost 113% of tax revenue from the tobacco industry.
      • Smuggling and counterfeiting could hinder India's goal of becoming a 40 trillion-dollar economy.

News Summary: As illicit trade booms, seizure mount

Key highlights of the report

  • Illegal economy in India
    • As per the report, the illegal economy in India has an overall score of 6.3 in India, which is higher than the average score of 5 of other 122 countries.
  • Illicit Financial Flows – Value Gap India (2009-2018):
    • India has faced an approximate total potential revenue loss of US $13 billion involving both mis-invoiced imports and exports.
    • The situation was worsened by a financial loss of $9 billion resulting from the practices of import mis-invoicing.
    • The uncollected value-added tax (VAT) amounted to a total of $3.4 billion.
    • For the 2009-2018 period, the total aggregate value gap of mis-invoicing was over $674.9 billion.
    • The value gaps as the percentage of the trade, however, declined marginally.
  • Terror and Crime in India: Economic Impact of Violence for India (Billions PPP)
    • Terrorism and crime have significant impact on security concerns and this has resulted in a considerable economic cost.
    • In 2021, India’s economic cost for violence was at US $1170 billion at purchasing power parity (PPP).
      • This accounts for approximately 6% of the country’s GDP.
    • Also, violence per capita impact for the same period is estimated at US $841 at PPP.
  • Organised Crime and Illegal Economy in India
    • India’s aggregate score of organised crime is low at 4.3 (on a scale of 1-10), compared to the average benchmark of 5.2 for 122 countries.
    • The criminal network, however, has a significant influence in India.
      • This is due to criminal networks having a significant role in India’s organised crime scenario.
      • They have a widespread presence across the country and they are involved in a variety of illicit activities including drug and human trafficking and the illegal trade in wildlife products.
    • This is attributable to the efficacy of criminal networks in India, which enables them to generate substantial illicit financial flows despite their small numbers.
  • Drug Economy in India
    • India’s is located near major drug-producing regions, including the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand) and the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran).
    • India’s location has been associated with activities that may involve the transportation and distribution of controlled substances.
    • There has been an increase in the illicit drug trade in India in recent years.
      • The FICCI report stated that 3,172 cases of drug seizures were recorded during 2014-2022 as against 1,257 cases in 2006-2013.
      • Total 4,888 arrests were made during the same period for these seizures involving 3.33 lakh kg of drugs worth Rs 20,000 crore.
    • Among the various kinds of drugs, Cannabis has a higher score of 7.5, compared to the benchmark average of 5.4, indicating its significant presence in India in comparison to other countries.
    • The synthetic drug trade and the heroin trade both had scores of 6.5, which exceeded the benchmark averages of 5.3 and 4.6, respectively.

The challenge of illicit trade looms larger than before

  • Around 3.5 tonnes of gold, 18 crore cigarette sticks, 140 metric tonnes of red sanders and 90 tonnes of heroin were seized along with other drugs during the last financial year.
  • The challenge of illicit trade looms larger than before and tackling issues such as counterfeiting, smuggling and tax evasion is fundamental to safeguarding India’s economic stability.



Defence & Security

Mains Article
30 Sep 2023

Law Commission against lowering age of consent under POCSO Act

Why in news?

  • The Law Commission has recommended the government to retain the existing age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
    • The current age of consent in India is 18 years.
  • The commission noted that reducing the age of consent might have damaging effects on fighting child marriage and child trafficking.

What’s in today’s article?

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act
  • What is the Issue of Minors being Booked for Consensual Act?
  • News Summary

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act:

  • About:
    • It is the first comprehensive law in the country dealing specifically with sexual abuse of children, enacted in 2012 and is administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
    • It was intended to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornographic violations, as well as to establish Special Courts for such trials.
    • In 2019, the Act was amended to strengthen the penalties for specified offences in order to deter abusers and promote a dignified upbringing.
  • Key provisions:
    • Gender-neutral legislation: The Act defines a child as "any person" under the age of 18.
    • Non-reporting is a crime: Any person in charge of an institution (excluding children) who fails to report the commission of a sexual offence involving a subordinate faces punishment.
    • No time limit for reporting abuse: A victim may report an offence at any time, even years after the abuse has occurred.
    • Keeping victim’s identity confidential: The Act forbids the disclosure of the victim's identity in any form of media unless authorised by the special courts established by the Act.
  • Concerns:
    • Such abuse is on the rise: Particularly since the Covid-19 outbreak, when new forms of cybercrime have emerged.
    • Lack of awareness or knowledge: On the part of minor girls, boys, parents and society as a whole.
    • Criminalisation of adolescent sex: The CJI D Y Chandrachud asked lawmakers to look into growing concern over criminalisation under the POCSO Act of adolescents who engage in consensual sexual activity.

What is the Issue of Minors being Booked for Minors Consensual Act?

  • Minors aged between 16 and 18 who engage in a consensual act that may come under the definition of sexual activity under the law run the risk of being booked under POCSO.
  • While these cases of adolescent sex may not necessarily result in conviction of a minor boy, the law is such that it could result in denial of bail and prolonged detention.
  • According to a study, one in every four cases under the POCSO Act in West Bengal, Assam and Maharashtra constituted “romantic cases” where the victim was found to be in a consensual relationship with the accused.

News Summary: Law Commission against lowering age of consent under POCSO Act

  • The 22nd Law Commission, headed by Justice (Retired) Ritu Raj Awasthi, submitted its report (no. 283) to the Law Ministry recently.

Key highlights of the report

  • Govt should not reduce the age of consent
    • It said that reducing the age of consent would have a direct and negative bearing on the fight against child marriage and child trafficking.
  • Tacit approval of children in the 16-18 age bracket
    • The Law panel suggested amendments in the POCSO Act, 2012 for cases where children aged 16 to 18 give tacit approval, not legal consent.
    • The panel also advised the courts to tread with caution even in cases related to adolescent love, where criminal intention may be missing.
      • This will ensure that the law is balanced, thus safeguarding the best interests of the child.

Reporting crime in real time

  • The Law Commission also submitted a report in which it recommended rolling out the registration of e-FIRs in a phased manner, beginning with offences that attract a jail term of up to three years.
  • The panel said that e-FIRs will tackle the persisting issue of delays in the registration of FIRs, and will allow citizens to report crimes in real time.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
30 Sep 2023

Winter Pollution for Delhi | Causes, Measures & Way Ahead

Why in News?

  • Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a 15-point action plan to deal with air pollution during winter, when the city struggles with smog, poor visibility, and a drop in air quality mainly due to meteorological factors and stubble burning.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Factors that cause air pollution
  • Measures needed to be taken
  • News Summary

Factors that cause Air Pollution in Delhi & the Indo Gangetic Plains:

  • Air pollution in Delhi and the whole of the Indo Gangetic Plains is a complex phenomenon that is dependent on a variety of factors.
  • Especially in the months of October and November every year, the region’s air quality starts to dip significantly.

Wind Direction:

  • Winds from the Bay of Bengal blow northwards, carrying smoke from the rest of the country towards the Himalayas, before hitting a block there.
  • This wind deposits particulate matter, including smoke and dust, along the northern belt of states adjoining the mountain range, with no room for dispersal away from the region.

Temperature Inversion:

  • Along with the change in wind direction, the dip in temperatures is also behind the increased pollution levels.
  • As temperature dips, the inversion height — which is the layer beyond which pollutants cannot disperse into the upper layer of the atmosphere – is lowered.
  • An inversion traps air pollution such as smog close to the ground. An inversion can also suppress convection by acting as a "cap".
  • The concentration of pollutants in the air increases when this happens.

Dry and Still Air during Winters:

  • Normally, rain and wind work to reduce air pollution. The wind disperses the pollutants while rains wash away the particulate matters which then settle on the ground.
  • But, during the winter months, both rain and strong winds are unavailable. In absence of that, the pollutants remain suspended in the air similar to a white sheet.

Stubble Burning:

  • Farm fires in Punjab and Haryana — resulting from the burning of crop residue to prepare farms for Rabi sowing and tackle pests — is one of the major factors stoking the dense smog that envelops north India every winter.
  • A 2015 study on Delhi’s air pollution conducted by IIT-Kanpur states that 17-26% of all particulate matter in Delhi in winters is because of biomass burning.
  • Over the years, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has developed a system to calculate the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s pollution.
    • SAFAR is a national initiative by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
  • In 2020, as per SAFAR, during peak stubble burning incidents, its contribution to air pollution rose to 40%.

Measures to Reduce Air Pollution in the Region:

  • While factors such as location, wind speed, temperature inversion, etc. are natural phenomenon.
  • However, man-made causes for air pollution in Delhi and the NCR region such as stubble burning, construction, etc. can be eliminated with necessary measures:

Preventing Stubble Burning:

  • Over the years, the governments of Punjab and Haryana have taken different steps to curb this practice.
  • This includes incentives for industries to use the residue (by both states), and monetary benefits for farmers (financial constraints have proved an impediment in Punjab), besides awareness campaigns.
  • Furthermore, the Central Government has subsidised machinery meant to tackle the stubble.
  • Plants that utilize paddy straw as fuel for creating energy are coming up in Punjab.
  • At the same time, collection and export of this straw would enable business opportunities for the farmers and interested parties.

Preventing Construction-related Pollution:

  • Construction is one of the leading sources of pollution in the region, with very little policies in place to maintain certain environmental standards.
  • In countries like Hong Kong, a netted mesh across the construction area can often be seen, this would reduce the amount of material, which is blown into the air.
  • While some of the developers in the National Capital Region, do follow these practices, more often than not, in an effort to save their margins these practices will be ignored unless mandated by the government to follow.

Cloud Seeding:

  • Cloud seeding is the practice of creating artificial precipitation to take place by dispersing substances like salts into the air through aircraft.
  • Precipitation would force the pollutants in the air to be brought onto the ground and hence improve the air quality.
  • This technology is already being used by China, US, Israel, South Africa and Germany for years.

News Summary:

  • Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a 15-point action plan to deal with air pollution during winter.
  • The plan includes several focus areas, including controlling stubble burning, vehicular pollution, open burning, and dust pollution.
    • It also calls for the formation of special teams to enforce some of the existing bans, such as the one on open garbage burning.
  • The government will use bio-decomposer over 5,000 acres of farmland this year.
    • The bio-decomposer is a microbial liquid spray which, when sprayed onto paddy stubble, breaks it down in a way that can be easily absorbed into the soil, whereby farmers then have no need to burn the stubble.
  • The government has identified 13 pollution hotspots and that specific action plans have been prepared for each.

Improvement in Recent Times:

  • PM2.5 and PM10 levels in Delhi had reduced by nearly 30% between 2014 and 2022, marking a significant improvement in the air quality.
    • PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter 2.5 and 10) are fine inhalable particles that can get into the lungs and bloodstream and lead to various respiratory and other diseases.
  • Also, in 2022, stubble burning had fallen by 30% compared to the previous year.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
30 Sep 2023

The Debate over the Appointment of Temple Priests in Tamil Nadu

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court ordered status quo on the appointment of archakas (priests) in Agamic temples in Tamil Nadu.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is meant by Agamas?
  • Why did the Priests of Agamic Temples Approach SC?
  • Government and Judiciary’s Attempts to Ensure Non-discrimination in the Appointment of Priests
  • The Debate over the Appointment of Temple Priests in Tamil Nadu

What is meant by Agamas?

  • The Agamas are a collection of Tantric literature (in Tamil and Sanskrit) and scriptures of Hindu schools.
    • The three main branches of Agama texts are Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Shakta.
  • The term ‘Agamas’ literally means tradition or that which has come down, and the Agama texts describe yoga, mantras, temple construction, deity worship, etc.
  • Temple worship according to Agamic rules can be said to have started during the Pallava dynasty (551-901 AD) in South India, but they were fully under establishment during the Chola dynasty (848-1279 AD).
  • The niches of following Agamic rules for building Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu continues even in the modern era.
  • Almost all the temples follow the same custom during festivals and worship methods with minor exceptions.

Why did the Priests of Agamic temples Approach SC?

  • An association of archakas had challenged reforms introduced by the present govt of Tamil Nadu, which are seen as attempting to change the hereditary system of appointing archakas in Agama temples.
  • The petitioners asked for the quashing of the state government’s order, which paved the way for individuals trained in Agama Sastra, irrespective of caste and gender, to assume priesthood.
  • The petitioners alleged the state government was unlawfully attempting to appoint non-believers as archakas, infringing upon religious rights protected under the Constitution of India.
  • They contended that knowledge of the Agamas required years of rigorous training under learned Gurus and a one-year certificate course run by the government is not sufficient to assume priesthood.

Government and Judiciary’s Attempts to Ensure Non-discrimination in the Appointment of Priests:

  • In 1971, the DMK government amended the TN Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment (HR & CE) Act to abolish the hereditary appointment of priests, and to allow individuals from all castes to be priests.
  • In 2006, the government declared all qualified persons eligible to be priests. The SC struck down this in 2015, emphasising the importance of adhering to Agama Sastras while ensuring that constitutional rights were not compromised.
  • In the N Adithayan (2002) case, the SC ruled that no custom pre-existing the Constitution could exclude non-Brahmins from performing puja in temples if they were otherwise trained and qualified.
  • In the Guruvayoor Devaswom case (2004), the SC upheld the appointment of non-believers to the temple trust board.
  • In 2009, Madras HC ruled in favour of a woman priest, who was facing opposition from male priests regarding her inherited right to conduct puja at the Arulmigu Durgai Amman temple. The court -
    • Underlined the irony of objecting to puja by a woman in a temple with a female deity,
    • Emphasised historical precedents of women conducting rituals,
    • Rejected the unwarranted application of Agama Sastras and norms in this context, and
    • Stressed on the need to eliminate gender bias from temples to realise the constitutional mandates under -
      • Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds ‘only’ of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”) and
      • Article 51A (e) (fundamental duty to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women).
  • The above efforts (of the govt and judiciary) asserted that neither caste nor family succession should dictate eligibility for performing temple rituals and the appointment of pujaris (archakas).
    • Thus, ensuring equality and non-discrimination in the appointment of priests.

The Debate over the Appointment of Temple Priests in Tamil Nadu:

  • Despite Constitutional provisions and the abolition of hereditary priest appointments in TN, the Agama tradition persists in temple administrations.
  • TN also saw a campaign for “reclamation” of temples ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections.
  • Arguments of the Hindutva groups:
    • Why only Hindu temples are under government control, and not churches or mosques?
    • The introduction of the HR & CE Act 1951 restricted the role of the government to administration and finance.
    • Rituals in temples are not just ceremonial displays but involve extensive unseen preparations.
    • Thousands of priests maintain these traditions with no expectation of financial gain, reflecting the enduring importance of these customs.
    • Priesthood should not be merely an option for a candidate who has failed to get a bank or a government job.
  • Debates over the hereditary rights of priests or the pushback against the SC’s decision to allow the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple reflect the persistent friction between modernity and tradition, which defies straightforward solutions.
Polity & Governance

Sept. 29, 2023

Mains Article
29 Sep 2023

M S Swaminathan: Man of Science and Humanity


  • Dr M.S. Swaminathan, the legendary agricultural scientist, has passed away. But his legacy remains with every student and scientist of agriculture.
  • He is most widely known for working with Norman Borlaug to usher in the Green Revolution in India in the mid-1960s when India was facing back to back droughts.

The Green Revolution

  • The Green Revolution was an endeavour initiated by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. He is known as the 'Father of Green Revolution' in world.
    • It led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in developing High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of wheat.
  • In India, the Green Revolution was mainly led by S. Swaminathan.
  • The Green Revolution resulted in a great increase in production of food grains (especially wheat and rice) due to the introduction into developing countries of new, HYV seeds. Its early dramatic successes were in Mexico and the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Green Revolution, spreading over the period from 1967-68 to 1977-78, changed India’s status from a food-deficient country to one of the world's leading agricultural nations.

The Role of Dr M S Swaminathan in India’s Green Revolution

  • Invitation to Norman Borlaug to Come to India in a Challenging Time
    • Swaminathan wrote to Borlaug and suggested to the then IARI director B P Pal to invite him to India.
    • Borlaug had agreed to send the seeds of his newly-bred material, but only after studying the growing conditions here. Borlaug finally arrived in March 1963.
  • Seed Experimentation
    • After visiting major wheat-growing areas of North India, Borlaug sent about 100 kg of seeds of the four Mexican varieties in October 1963.
    • These were sown in the 1963-64 rabi season at IARI and also trial fields in Pantnagar and Kanpur (UP), Ludhiana (Punjab) and Pusa (Bihar).
    • Encouraged by the results, Swaminathan proposed that the performance of the high-yielding strains be tested in actual farmers’ fields.
  • Persuaded the Government to Import Seeds: Swaminathan worked hard to convince the Indian political leadership to import 18,000 tonnes of seeds of high-yielding dwarf wheat varieties, Lerma Rojo and Sonora-64, from Mexico.
  • Tests in Actual Farmers’ Fields
    • In November 1964, farmers of Jaunti village in Delhi planted Sonora 64 and Lerma Rojo 64A wheat. Most of them harvested 4 tonnes and some even 4.5 tonnes per hectare.
    • The planting of those seeds by farmers led to India’s foodgrain production surging to 95 mt in 1967-68 and 108.4 mt by 1970-71.
    • Wheat output alone rose from 11.4 mt in 1966-67 to 16.5 mt in 1967-68 and 23 mt in 1970-71.
    • Borlaug acknowledged that a great deal of credit must goto Swaminathan for first recognising the potential value of the Mexican wheat dwarfs.
    • Had this not occurred, there would not have been a Green Revolution in Asia.
  • Indigenisation of Imported Seeds
    • By the late sixties, Indian scientists had also bred their own Kalyansona and Sonalika wheat varieties through selection of segregated lines from the Mexican lines.
    • These produced amber-coloured grain with better chapati-making quality than the imported red wheats.

Adverse Effects of the Green Revolution Highlighted by Dr Swaminathan

  • In January 1968, addressing the Indian Science Congress at Varanasi, he spoke about the dangers of the rapid replacement of numerous locally adapted varieties with one or two high yielding strains in large contiguous areas.
  • He further highlighted that intensive cultivation of land without conservation of soil fertility could ultimately lead to the springing up of deserts.
  • He also cautioned against indiscriminate use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and unscientific tapping of groundwater.

Impact of M S Swaminathan’s Contributions

  • India Became Self-Reliant in Food Security
    • Swaminathan’s contribution had a far-reaching impact. India experienced a wheat and rice revolution.
    • This gave the country much-needed respite and confidence to turn the tables on food security in a short time.
  • India Became Exporter of Cereals
    • At one point, it was unimaginable that one day India will emerge as a significant exporter of cereals.
    • In the last three years, 2020-21 to 2022-23, India exported 85 million tonnes of cereals contributing to global food security.

Dr Swaminathan’s Role in Establishing Minimum Support Price (MSP)

  • As the Chaiman of National Commission on Farmers (NCF) he submitted five reports. His efforts to improve productivity and profitability in agriculture went beyond technology.
  • One of NCF’s key recommendations was to have MSP for farmers based on the cost of production plus 50 per cent return.
  • The right cost later became a matter with different governments.
    • One view was interpreting it as the comprehensive cost, which includes not only out-of-pocket expenses of farmers (Cost A2).
    • But also imputed wages of family labour (FL), imputed rent on owned land and imputed interest on owned capital.
    • This is known as Swaminathan Formula.
  • The governments either did not accept the formula or went halfway and accepted at least a 50 per cent return over Cost A2+FL.

Recognitions to Dr Swaminathan’s Contributions

  • Dr Swaminathan was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987, which incidentally was set up by Norman Borlaug, who had received the Nobel Peace Prize, as there is no Nobel Prize for Agriculture.
  • Swaminathan was also conferred the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan for his outstanding contributions.
  • He also received several other awards like the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award, and the Indira Gandhi Prize.


  • Some dreams of Swaminathan remain unfulfilled regarding pricing policies and profitability of farmers.
  • Most farmers in India today know of the Swaminathan formula even if they may not know of the legendary agricultural scientist’s stellar role in ushering in the Revolution that made the country self-sufficient in foodgrains.
  • As climate change and depleting natural resources become greater challenges today, his vision of an "evergreen revolution" (productivity gains - that are sustainable without inflicting environmental or social harm) must be adopted.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
29 Sep 2023

Tobacco warnings Norms for OTT

Why in news?

  • The govt started facing a strong pushback from streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon etc., after the new rules on Tobacco warning came into force on September 1.
  • As a result, it is working to find pragmatic solutions to the OTT industry’s concerns over the practicability of the order mandating display of anti-tobacco warnings.

What’s in today’s article?

  • OTT platforms
  • India’s performance in tobacco control
  • News Summary

OTT platforms

  • About
    • OTT platforms, or Over-the-top platforms, are web-based services that deliver video and audio content directly to viewers over the internet.
    • OTT platforms bypass traditional cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms.
  • OTT platforms in India
    • OTT streaming platforms have seen rapid adoption in India on the back of growing penetration of affordable smartphones and cheap internet tariffs.
    • As a result, the country now plays host to a slew of domestic and global players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, Zee5 and the recent entrant Reliance-backed JioCinema.
    • A report estimates the homegrown OTT market to soar to a market size of $12.5 Bn by 2030.

India’s performance in tobacco control

How does India fare?

  • India has the highest level of achievement when it comes to putting health warning labels on tobacco products and providing tobacco dependence treatment.
  • With 85% of cigarette packs carrying health warnings both on the front and back, India figures among the top 10 countries in terms of the size of health warnings.
  • The cigarette packets in the country also carry a toll-free number for a quit-line.

What are the steps taken by India?

  • Warnings on OTT platform
    • One of the biggest steps is implementing warnings on OTT platform content when actors are seen using tobacco products.
    • This would make India the first country in the world to do so.
  • Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003
    • It regulates the advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products, prohibits smoking in public places, mandates prominent and graphic pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packaging, and sets rules for the sale of tobacco products to minors.
  • Tobacco Advertising and Promotion
    • Direct and indirect advertising of tobacco products, as well as tobacco sponsorship of events, are regulated to discourage tobacco consumption.
  • Tobacco Taxation:
    • The Indian government has periodically increased taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable and discourage consumption.
  • National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP)
    • India established the NTCP to implement tobacco control strategies at the national, state, and district levels.
    • The program focuses on awareness generation, capacity-building, and strengthening enforcement mechanisms.

News Summary: Anti-Tobacco Warning Norms For OTT Platforms

  • Union Health Ministry issued new rules on May 31, 2023 that require OTT platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings. The rules came into effect on September 1.
  • The rules require OTT platforms to:
    • Display anti-tobacco disclaimers at the start and in the middle of programs
    • Insert static health warnings during smoking scenes. Prominently feature an anti-tobacco health warning on-screen during any depiction of tobacco products
    • Display anti-tobacco health spots that last at least 30 seconds at the beginning and middle of programs
  • It empowers the government to enforce compliance through legal means.
  • WHO had praised India for being the first and only country to mandate such ads for OTT platforms.

Reasons of pushback from OTT platforms

  • Concerns over the practicability of the order
    • OTT platforms argued it would require millions of hours of existing content to be edited. Also, it would lead to diminished user experience and hamper creative freedom.
  • Lack of industry consultation
    • Industry consultation and leveraging existing self-regulatory mechanisms could have provided more effective solutions.
  • Mismatched adaptation
    • The rules require static warnings meant for large cinema and TV screens to be forced onto six-inch smartphone screens.
      • This can hamper the viewing experience.
    • Also, content in theatres and TV is usually watched as a group and is considered public exhibition by Courts. On the other hand, OTT platforms offer a hyper personalized and private viewing experience.
    • Owing to these distinctions, OTT platforms are regulated differently as well.
  • Binge-watching leads to repeated ads, especially disrupting short-form content
    • Binge watching is the practice of watching multiple episodes of a television show, movie, or other entertainment content in one sitting.
  • Research questions the effectiveness of such warnings
    • Repeated anti-tobacco warnings might desensitize viewers rather than prompt change.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
29 Sep 2023

Uniform 28% tax on online gaming: Centre ready to bring the tax from Oct 1, all states yet to pass laws

Why in News?

  • With all states yet to pass legal amendments for the 28% GST on face value at entry level for online gaming, casinos and horse racing, the Union government is fully prepared to implement the amended legal provisions from October 1.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What Exactly is the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?
  • What is the GST Council?
  • Decision to Levy a Uniform 28% GST on Online Gaming
  • Implementation at the Level of the States and Online Gaming Companies

What Exactly is the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?

  • It is an indirect tax (not directly paid by customers to the government), that came into effect from 1 July 2017 through the implementation of the 101st Amendment to the Constitution of India by the Indian government.
  • It has actually replaced various indirect taxes such as - service taxes, VAT, excise and others in the country.
  • It is levied on the manufacturer or seller of goods and the providers of services.
  • It is divided into five different tax slabs for collection of tax - 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.
  • Types of GST: State Goods and Services Tax (SGST), Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST, on exports and imports).

What is the GST Council?

  • Article 279A of the Indian Constitution gives power to the President of India to constitute a joint forum of the Centre and States called the GST Council, consisting of the -
    • Union Finance Minister - Chairperson
    • The Union Minister of State, in-charge of Revenue of finance - Member
    • The Minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government - Members
  • The GST Council is an apex committee to modify, reconcile or to make recommendations to the Union and the States on GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST laws, etc.
  • Decisions in the GST Council are taken by a majority of not less than three-fourth of weighted votes cast.
    • Centre has one-third weightage of the total votes cast and all the states taken together have two-third of weightage of the total votes cast.
    • All decisions taken by the GST Council have been arrived at through

Decision to Levy a Uniform 28% GST on Online Gaming:

  • The 50th GST Council in its meeting (on July 11) had decided to levy a uniform 28% on full face value for online gaming, casinos and horse racing.
  • However, after concerns raised by some states, the Council in its 51st meeting (on August 2) had decided to levy 28% tax at face value at entry level.
  • The Council gave some relief by deciding not to impose the tax levy on the amount entered into games/bets out of winnings of previous games/bets in online money gaming or on total value of each bet placed.
  • Recently, the Centre passed the required legal amendments in the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) laws in the Parliament to give effect to the Council’s decision.
  • States are also required to make the corresponding legal changes in their State GST laws to bring it into effect.

 Implementation at the Level of the States and Online Gaming Companies:

  • So far, close to a dozen states are learnt to have passed the required amendments or ordinances.
  • Some states, like Goa, MP and Maharashtra, have passed ordinances. Karnataka is reported to have deferred its decision to approve the ordinance to the next Cabinet meeting.
  • Show Cause notices have been sent to online gaming companies like Dream11, Nazara Tech and Delta Corp for non-payment of GST at 28% rate on full face value.
  • The government has been embroiled in a legal battle with online gaming companies.
  • Recently, the SC had ordered an interim stay on the Karnataka HC ruling that online games like rummy are not taxable as ‘betting’ and ‘gambling’ under the CGST Act 2017.
  • The CJI-led Bench was acting on the GST department’s plea against the Karnataka HC order, which had quashed the department’s show-cause notice to the online gaming company GamesKraft Technologies for dues worth Rs 21,000 crore.

Mains Article
29 Sep 2023

IATA, ICAO & How Airport Codes are Decided

Why in News?

  • The upcoming Noida International Airport (NIA) in Jewar was awarded its own unique international three-letter code, ‘DXN’, by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Airport Codes (Meaning, How it is Determined & Assigned)
  • About IATA & ICAO
  • News Summary

About Airport Codes:

  • Airport codes are unique identifiers assigned to each airport.
  • Airport coding first began in the 1930s, in the very early days of commercial aviation.
  • At the time, airlines and pilots typically chose their own two letter codes to identify destinations.
  • However, by the 1940s, as the number of airports grew exponentially, a system of three letter codes was devised (allowing for a far higher number of combinations) and eventually standardised in the 1960s by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
  • At present, each airport has two unique codes:
    • One code is assigned by the IATA,
    • The other is assigned by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • Both are used to accurately identify airports, but in different contexts.
  • IATA Code:
    • The three-digit codes assigned by the IATA are used for passenger facing operations — on tickets, boarding passes, signages, etc.
    • For example, the newly built Jewar airport has been assigned ‘DXN’ code.
  • ICAO Code:
    • The four-digit codes assigned by the ICAO, on the other hand, are used by industry professionals such as pilots, air traffic controllers, planners, etc.
    • For example, for the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, the IATA code is DEL whereas the ICAO code is VIDP.

How Does IATA Assign Airport Codes?

  • Following three factors determine how airports get their codes:
    • How the airport wishes to identify itself:
      • Airport authorities indulge in lobbying to receive a code that is meaningful in some way.
      • City names, airport names, and location names are some common bases for codes.
    • Availability of the said code:
      • The codes are meaningful only because they are unique.
      • This means that no two airports can have the same IATA codes.
      • This is one of the reasons why the Ranchi airport is not RAN (already taken by Ravenna, Italy).
    • Certain common conventions, which depend on the country:
      • The other reason why the Ranchi airport is IXR is due to a convention followed in India where military airports extended for civilian traffic are assigned codes beginning with ‘IX’.
      • For instance, Agartala’s airport is IXA, Chandigarh’s airport is IXC, and Leh airport is IXL.
  • The codes are published twice each year in the IATA Airline Coding Directory.

About International Air Transport Association (IATA):

  • IATA is a trade association of the world's airlines founded in 1945.
  • Objective: To support airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards.
  • It sets technical standards for airlines across the world.
  • Currently, IATA represents some 300 airlines comprising 94% of the international scheduled air traffic.
  • IATA members include the world’s leading passenger and cargo airlines.
  • Headquarters: Montreal, Canada

About International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO):

  • ICAO is an intergovernmental specialized agency associated with the United Nations (UN).
  • It was established in 1947 bythe Convention on International Civil Aviation (1944) known as Chicago Convention.
  • Headquarters: Montreal, Canada
  • Functions of ICAO:
    • ICAO is dedicated to developing safe and efficient international air transport for peaceful purposes and ensuring a reasonable opportunity for every state to operate international airlines. 
    • It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security and economic development of air transport as well as to improve the environmental performance of aviation. 
    • It also serves as a clearing house for cooperation and discussion on civil aviation issues among its 193 member states.
    • It also promotes regional and international agreements aimed at liberalizing aviation markets.
    • It helps to establish legal standards to ensure that the growth of aviation and encourages the development of other aspects of international aviation law.

News Summary:

  • The upcoming Noida International Airport (NIA) in Jewar was awarded its own unique international three-letter code, ‘DXN’, by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
    • ‘DXN' symbolises the airport's proximity to Noida, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh.
  • The code, which will become active once airport operations start, will help travellers and aviation professionals to identify and communicate destinations swiftly and accurately, avoiding any confusion and mistakes.
  • Right now, construction work is underway for the first phase of the airport.
  • The first phase is scheduled to be completed with one runway and a 12 million passenger capacity terminal building by September 2024.

Mains Article
29 Sep 2023

Gujarat bans Conocarpus plants

Why in news?

  • The Gujarat govt has banned the planting of ornamental Conocarpus trees in forest or non-forest areas, citing their adverse impacts on environment and human health.
  • Earlier, Telangana too had banned the plant species.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Conocarpus plants
  • News Summary

Conocarpus plants

  • About
    • Conocarpus is a genus of two species of flowering plants in the Combretaceae family.
    • One species is a widespread mangrove, and the other is restricted to a small area around the southern Red Sea coasts.
    • They are native to tropical regions of the world.
  • Two types
    • Conocarpus erectus, also known as buttonwood or button mangrove,
      • It is a mangrove shrub that grows on shorelines in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
      • It is widely used in gardens, parks, and indoors.
      • It is a fast-growing plant that does not shed its leaves much. If pruned with skill, it can make a natural green wall.
    • Conocarpus lancifolius
      • It is a tree that is native to coastal and riverine areas of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen.
      • It is found throughout the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and South Asia.

News Summary: Gujarat bans Conocarpus plants

  • The Gujarat government has banned the planting of ornamental Conocarpus trees in forest or non-forest areas. Conocarpus, a fast-growing exotic mangrove species, had been a popular choice for increasing the green cover in Gujarat in recent years.

Why Gujarat govt has banned the planting of ornamental Conocarpus trees?

  • Research reports have highlighted adverse impacts/ disadvantages of this species on environment and human health.
  • Trees of this species, flower in winter and spread pollen in nearby areas. It is learnt that this is causing diseases like cold, cough, asthma, allergy etc.
  • Roots of this species go deep inside the soil and develop extensively, damaging telecommunication lines, drainage lines and freshwater systems.
  • Also, the leaves of Conocarpus are unpalatable to plant-eating animals.

Other examples of plant species that have fallen out of favour after widespread use

  • Vilayati Kikar in Delhi
    • In 2018, the Delhi government agreed to clear the capital’s green lungs, the Central Ridge, of the Vilayati Kikar.
    • The Vilayati Kikar is not native to Delhi, and was brought to the city in the 1930s by the British.
    • As the tree grows fast even in arid conditions, it can quickly increase the green cover of an area, and be used as firewood.
    • However, it also kills off competition.
      • Thus, within a decade, it had taken over the Ridge, killing the native trees like acacia, dhak, kadamb, amaltas, flame-of-the-forest, etc.
      • Along with the trees disappeared the fauna — birds, butterflies, leopards, porcupines and jackals.
    • The tree also depletes the water table of the area it is planted in.
  • Eucalyptus in Kerala
    • In Kerala’s case too, it was the British who introduced the Eucalyptus tree to Munnar, so its wood could be used as fuel in tea plantation boilers.
    • The state forest department stopped the cultivation of acacia and eucalyptus in forest tracts in 2018.
    • A study had found that foreign invasive plants had reduced the availability of fodder in forests, forcing animals to foray into settlements and farmlands.
    • The quality of forest habitats had been lost due to the cultivation of alien plants such as acacia, mangium and eucalyptus in forest tracts for commercial purposes.


Environment & Ecology

Sept. 28, 2023

Mains Article
28 Sep 2023

Cancer’s Gender Problem: Nearly 69 lakh cancer deaths among Indian women were preventable


  • Recently, Lancet published a report titled ‘Women, Power and Cancer’- on gender inequity in cancer care.
  • The report highlights how societal apathy towards women’s health, lack of knowledge, awareness, and absence of quality expertise at the primary care level delayed their access to cancer prevention, detection, and care.

Key Findings of the Lancet Report

  • High Incidence and Mortality Among Women
    • The report highlighted that even though men are at a higher risk of cancers that affect both genders, cancer incidence and mortality in women remains high.
    • Globally, women account for 48% of the new cancer cases and 44% of cancer deaths.
    • This happens even though some of the cancers in women, such as breast and cervical cancers, are highly preventable and treatable.
  • Deaths Among Women Were Preventable
    • The report said around 6.9 million cancer deaths among women in India were preventable and 4.03 million were treatable.
    • Around 63% of premature deaths due to cancers in Indian women could have been prevented by reducing risk factors, screening, and diagnosis, while 37% could have been averted with timely and optimal treatment.

Reasons Behind the Poorer Outcomes for Women

  • Lack of Knowledge and Financial Constraints
    • The report said women face challenges in accessing timely and appropriate care in the absence of knowledge, decision-making and financial powers, and availability of services at the primary level closer to home.
    • Irrespective of which part of the world they live in and which sections of the society they belong to, women are more likely than men to lack the knowledge and power to make informed decisions.
    • It added that they are also much more likely to experience financial catastrophe due to cancer.
  • Underrepresentation of Women in Leadership Positions
    • When it comes to providing cancer care, the report said, women are under-represented as leaders, are likely to face gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment.
    • According to the report, the value of unpaid cancer caregiving by women amounts to around 3.66% of India's national health spending.
  • Less Health-Seeking Behaviour
    • The healthcare-seeking behaviour is very less among women, especially in the poor sections of the society.
    • While the risk of certain cancers, such as the ones related to exposure to smoke or tobacco, may be similar in men and women, treatment of women is not the priority.
    • This is the reason women are likely to be more affected than men.
  • Societal Stigma
    • The most common cancers in women are breast and cervical cancer.
    • However, women hesitate to approach male doctors with these problems or even let a female doctor check the genital area, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
  • Unavailability of Health Care Facilities Near Home: The need for travel to district hospitals, state capitals, or to big tertiary hospitals in other states for screening, diagnostic tests, and treatment also leads to delays in treatment, resulting in poorer outcomes.

The Importance of Screening

  • When it comes to the two most common cancers in women– breast and cervical – they are highly preventable and treatable.
  • Doctors say that women come in at late stages of the disease when both cancers can be caught very early through screening.
  • Doctors advise that self-examination of breasts every month, with a clinical examination by a doctor every year.
  • Women over the age of 40 should also get a mammography once a year to check for breast cancer.
  • Women who detect any lumps during self-examination must consult a doctor immediately.
  • For cervical cancer, women between the ages of 25 and 65 years should get a pap smear test to check for pre-cancerous growth on their cervix.
  • An HPV test, a test to detect the human papilloma virus that causes most cervical cancers can also be done every five or ten years. 

What Should be the Government’s Role?

  • Conduct Large Scale Awareness Programmes
    • One of the most important interventions needed is to create awareness among people, especially women, so they come forward for screening and seek care.
    • When the government carried out an information campaign to tell people that Covid-19 vaccines can prevent deaths due to the infection, people turned up in large numbers to get the shot.
    • The same is needed for cancer prevention.
  • HPV Vaccination Programme
    • HPV vaccination programme by the government, which is in the works, is likely to reduce the incidence of the common cancer in women.
    • The vaccine for HPV that causes cervical cancer is already available in the country and an indigenous one has also been developed.
    • The government is working to include the vaccine in the universal immunisation programme for young girls.
    • The vaccine has to be administered in women below the age of 25 years before sexual activity. It prevents the virus from entering the body.
  • Make Screening Available at PHC (Primary Health Cantre) Level
    • Screening programme of the government at the level of PHCs and sub-centres can also help in early diagnosis.
    • One of the challenges is that the patients are then lost for follow-up, because they have to go to higher centres for biopsy and then treatment.
  • Provide Training to Nursing Staff at PHCs for Simple Procedures
    • For cervical cancer, treatment can be provided by the nursing staff at the PHCs itself, as is done in Bangladesh.
    • Removing precancerous or cancerous lesions in the cervix can be quite easy.
    • Acetic acid which is a dilute form of vinegar can be put on the cervix of the women and the cancerous regions get highlighted in white.
    • A small probe can then be used to either freeze or burn and destroy the tissue. It is not a complex procedure and can be done by trained nurses.

Some Recommendations Made by the Lancet Report

  • Regular Collection and Monitoring of Data: The report said there is a need to regularly collect data on gender and social demographics for cancer health statistics.
  • Policies to Reduce Exposures: The report called for developing, strengthening, and enforcing laws and policies that reduce exposures to known cancer risks.
  • Promote Equal Participation of Women in Cancer Research: The report highlighted that cancer care and research is dominated by men who decide what is prioritised, funded, or studied.
    • The report suggested equitable access to cancer research resources, leadership, and funding opportunities for women.


  • There are millions of women who fail to seek early treatment due to multiple reasons, be it family responsibilities or not taking their condition seriously enough.
  • Awareness is important among women who are educationally and financially less empowered to arrest the incidence and high mortality among women.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
28 Sep 2023

US Trade Commission’s Lawsuit Against Amazon Inc.

Why in News?

  • The United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with other regulators, has filed a lawsuit against online retail giant Amazon.
  • The lawsuit alleges that the company uses punitive and coercive tactics to unlawfully maintain its monopoly.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • US FTC’s Lawsuit Against Amazon (Reasons, Amazon’s Response)
  • India’s Laws on Competition (Legislation, About CCI, etc.)

What are the Allegations Against Amazon?

  • The United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 state attorneys general have sued Amazon Inc.
    • Amazon Inc. is an American multinational technology company focusing on e-commerce, cloud computing, online advertising, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence.
  • The lawsuit alleges that the company’s actions allow it to stop rivals and sellers from lowering prices, degrade quality for shoppers, overcharge sellers, stifle innovation, and prevent rivals from fairly competing against Amazon.
  • It also alleges that the company engages in a course of “exclusionary conduct” that prevents current competitors from growing and new competitors from emerging.
  • They said that Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct occurs in two markets:
    • online superstore market that serves shoppers and
    • market for online marketplace services purchased by sellers.
  • These tactics include:
    • anti-discounting measures that punish sellers and deter other online retailers from offering prices lower than Amazon,
    • keeping prices higher for products across the internet; and
    • conditioning sellers’ ability to obtain “Prime” eligibility for their products on sellers using Amazon’s costly Fulfilment service, which has made it substantially more expensive for sellers on Amazon to also offer their products on other platforms.
  • The FTC, along with its state partners, is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that would prohibit Amazon from engaging in its “unlawful conduct and pry loose Amazon’s monopolistic control to restore competition”.

Amazon’s Response:

  • Amazon said that the FTC has filed a “misguided” lawsuit which, if successful, will force the company to engage in practices that “actually harm consumers and the many businesses that sell in our store”.

India’s Laws on Competition:

  • Competition Act, 2002:
    • The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
    • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
    • The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India.
  • About Competition Commission of India (CCI):
    • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a statutory body established in March 2009 under the Competition Act, 2002.
    • Objectives:
      • Eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition
      • Promote and sustain competition
      • Protect the interests of consumers
      • Ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India
    • Functions:
      • Ensure consumer interests are protected in the market
      • Implement the policies enumerated in the Competition Act, 2002
      • Advocate and educate other Government bodies about the Competition Act, 2002. Such as state governments and ministries etc.
      • To promote fair and constructive competition practices in the market
      • To prevent the realisation of anti-competitive agreements
      • To cooperate with other regulatory bodies to work more efficiently in ensuring the continuity of a free and fair market
    • Composition:
      • The Commission consists of one Chairperson and six members who shall be appointed by the Central Government.
    • Powers:
      • The Competition Commission of India has the power to inquire into a certain agreement as well as the dominant position of enterprises.
      • It has the power to inquire into any acquisition or combination if it determines that such acquisition or combination may adversely affect competition in the Indian market.
      • It has the power to regulate its own procedures.
      • It has the power to impose monetary penalties upon violation of the Competition Act, 2002.
      • It has the power to pass an interim order for any act where there has been anti-competition agreements or abuse of position by dominant parties which adversely affects the competition in the market.

Mains Article
28 Sep 2023

Commitment to good behaviour and proper conduct from MPs

Why in News?

  • As Parliament moved to a new building recently, two matters (affect MPs themselves and seek a commitment to good behaviour and proper conduct from them) have kept pending for years now in the Lok Sabha.
  • The first is the formulation of a Code of Conduct for members of Lok Sabha and second is a declaration of members’ business interests - both have long been applicable to members of Rajya Sabha.

What’s in Today's Article?

  • What is the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament (MPs)?
  • Declaration of MPs’ Business Interests

What is the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament (MPs)?

  • The Code of Conduct is a collection of rules and principles intended to assist MPs in making decisions about their conduct in relation to the business in the Parliament.
  • A code for Union ministers was adopted in 1964 and in the case of MPs the first step was the constitution of Parliamentary Standing Committees on Ethics in both the Houses. The Committee will -
    • Examine every complaint relating to unethical conduct of a member of Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha referred to it by the Speaker/Chairman and make such recommendations as it may deem fit.
    • Formulate a Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time.
  • After the Ethics Committee’s report is tabled in the House, it is taken up for discussion and once approved by the House, it goes to the Rules Committee, which drafts Rules based on the recommendation.
  • The first Ethics Committee in Rajya Sabha was inaugurated by Chairman K R Narayanan in 1997. A 14-point Code of Conduct for members of the House has been in force since 2005. These include -
    • Private interests are subordinate to the duty of the public office,
    • Members must not do anything that brings disrepute to the Parliament and affects its credibility,
    • Members must utilise their position to advance the general well-being of the people, etc.
  • In the case of Lok Sabha, the 1st Ethics Committee was constituted in 2000 and has been constituted for every newly elected Lok Sabha since 13th Lok Sabha.
    • The Ethics Committee was mandated in 2015 to formulate a code of conduct for Lok Sabha members.
    • Recently, Lok Sabha said in response to a query under the RTI Act that the matter (of the Code of Conduct) is under consideration of the Committee on Ethics.

Declaration of MPs’ Business Interests:

  • Concerns over potential conflicts of interest of MPs were first expressed almost a century ago in 1925.
  • According to the Lok Sabha Secretariat,
    • Where a member of a Committee has a personal, pecuniary or direct interest in any matter which is to be considered by the Committee, such member shall state one’s own interest to the Speaker through the Chairperson of the Committee.
    • After considering the matter, the Speaker shall give a decision which shall be final.
  • The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee had recommended in 2012 for adoption of the Rajya Sabha model of Register of Members’ Interest.
    • Rule 293 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha states that there shall be maintained a ‘Register of Member’s Interests’ in such form as may be determined by the [Ethics] Committee.
    • This shall be available to members for inspection on request and is accessible to ordinary citizens under the RTI Act.
  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat was accordingly directed to prepare a draft report on the subject. However, preparation of such a report has been pending since then.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
28 Sep 2023

India Ageing Report 2023

Why in news?

  • The India Ageing Report 2023 was released recently by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS).
    • The report used the latest data available from:
      • the Longitudinal Ageing Survey in India (LASI), 2017–18,
      • Census of India,
      • Population Projections by the Government of India (2011–2036), and
      • World Population Prospects 2022 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
    • The report projects that the number of people aged 60 and above in India will double from 149 million in 2022 to 347 million in 2050.

What’s in today’s article?

  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)
  • News Summary

What is UN Population Fund (UNFPA)?

  • It is trust fund under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
    • UNFPA was formerly (1969–87) known as United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
  • Established in 1969, the UNFPA is the largest international source of assistance for population programs.
  • It is the leading UN organization for the implementation of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
  • In other words, UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
    • Its mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

What are the functions of UNFPA?

  • UNFPA funds assistance, research, and advocacy programs in three major areas:
    • reproductive health, including family planning, safe motherhood, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases,
    • population problems of developed and developing countries and possible strategies for addressing them, and
    • issues related to the status of women, including the gender gap in education.
  • UNFPA assistance programs are undertaken only in response to government requests.

International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)

  • IIPS is a research and training centre for population studies in Mumbai, India.
  • It was established in 1956 by the Government of India, the United Nations, and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.
  • The institute is a regional centre for the Asia and Pacific region.
  • IIPS is an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • It conducts research using its own resources and external funding.

News Summary

  • UNFPA India, in collaboration with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), unveiled the India Ageing Report 2023.
  • This report sheds light on the challenges, opportunities and institutional responses surrounding elderly care in India, as India navigates a demographic shift towards an ageing population.

Key highlights of the report

  • Projection of elderly population in the country
    • The decadal growth rate of the elderly population of India currently estimated to be at 41%.
    • With this rate, the percentage of elderly population in the country projected to double to over 20% of total population by 2050.
    • By 2046, it is likely that elderly population will have surpassed the population of children (aged 0 to 15 years) in the country.
  • Population of people aged 80+
    • The report projected that the population of people aged 80+ years will grow at a rate of around 279% between 2022 and 2050 with a predominance of widowed and highly dependent very old women.
  • Vulnerabilities of elders
    • More than 40% of the elderly in India are in the poorest wealth quintile, with about 18.7% of them living without an income.
      • Such levels of poverty may affect their quality of life and healthcare utilisation.
  • Higher life expectancy of women
    • The data showed that women, on average, had higher life expectancy at the age of 60 and at the 80, when compared to men — with variations across States and Union Territories.
    • The sex ratio (females per 1,000 males) among the elderly has been climbing steadily since 1991, with the ratio in the general population stagnating.
  • Significant inter-State variation in absolute levels and growth of the elderly population
    • Most States in the southern region and some northern States such as Himachal Pradesh and Punjab reported a higher share of the elderly population than the national average in 2021.
      • This gap is expected to widen by 2036.
    • States reporting higher fertility rates and lagging in demographic transition, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, expect to see an increase in the share of the elderly population between 2021 and 2036.
    • Compared with southern and western India, central and northeastern regions have the younger group of States as indicated by the ageing index.
  • Challenges: Poverty is inherently gendered in old age
    • The report suggested that poverty in old age is not a uniform or gender-neutral phenomenon.
      • Older women are more likely to be widowed, living alone, with no income and with fewer assets of their own, and fully dependent on family for support.
    • The report pointed out that the major challenges facing India’s ageing population are the feminisation and ruralisation of this older population.
    • The report also highlighted that there is a lack of credible data on various issues related to the elderly in India.
  • Suggestions
    • Called for a special focus on older persons in disaster-preparedness plans
    • The government must:
      • work on increasing awareness about schemes for older persons,
      • bring all Old Age Homes under regulatory purview and focus on facilitating in-situ (at home) ageing to the extent possible.
        • This can be done by creating short-term care facilities like creches or day-care facilities.
      • The government should encourage the creation and running of elderly self-help groups,
      • Ensure that elderly people live in multigenerational households.
Social Issues

Mains Article
28 Sep 2023

China-Pakistan economic corridor expansion hits bumps

Why in news?

  • China has refused to further expand cooperation in the areas of energy, water management, and climate change under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • This refusal signals a strain in the ironclad friendship between the two all-weather allies.

What’s in today’s article?

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – About, different phases of CPEC, India & CPEC
  • News Summary

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

  • During an April 2015 visit to Islamabad, Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif unveiled the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
    • CPEC quickly ballooned to $62 billion in pledges—one-fifth of Pakistan’s GDP—covering dozens of envisioned high-profile projects.
  • The corridor links Xinjiang with Gwadar, and also passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) where China is investing in a number of projects.
  • Often described as a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative,the stated goal of CPEC is:
    • to transform Pakistan’s economy by modernizing its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems; and
    • to connect the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes.

Different phases of CPEC

  • First Phase
    • Various agreements such as energy, infrastructure, port development and the railway line construction have been signed i.e., first phase focused on infrastructure creation.
  • Second Phase
    • In February 2022, during the visit of Pakistani PM to China, industrial cooperation agreement was signed.
    • The second phase primarily revolves around Special Economic Zones development and industrialisation.

India & CPEC

  • CPEC and the Sovereignty of India
    • This corridor is posing a threat to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of India.
      • It passes through Gilgit-Baltistan area of Kashmir which is occupied by Pakistan.
      • The corridor enters into Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass.
      • This area is a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and claimed by India.
  • CPEC and Security threat to India
    • Ever since the construction of the corridor is started, the Chinese military presence in the area is also embarked.
    • In 2017, Chinese troops marched in the parade of Pakistan’s day in Islamabad.
      • This was the first time when Chinese military took part in any parade outside its country
    • Apart from the naval vessels deployed in Pakistan, eight submarines are also delivered to it by China.
    • China is planning to build its second a naval base in Gwadar port after Djibouti in 2017.
      • These activities of China are a serious security threat to India since China is encircling India into the Indian Ocean.

News Summary: China-Pakistan economic corridor expansion hits bumps

  • Beijing has turned down several of Islamabad’s proposals related to direct investments in multiple sectors under the CPEC, including energy, tourism, water management and climate change.
  • This was indicated by the signed minutes of the 11th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC.
    • The JCC is a strategic decision-making body of the CPEC.
  • China's disagreement to further expand cooperation in such areas under the CPEC underscores the challenges that both the sides are facing in deepening the economic ties.
International Relations

Sept. 27, 2023

Mains Article
27 Sep 2023

Why the Cauvery Water-Sharing Issue Has Flared Up Again


  • The Cauvery water-sharing issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has flared up again, despite the Supreme Court giving its verdict on the 200-year-old dispute in 2018.
  • The trigger this time is the poor rainfall in the river’s catchment area in Karnataka.

A Background of Cauvery Water Dispute

  • Pre-Independence Dispute
    • The dispute originated for the first-time way back in 1892 at the time of Britishers between the Presidency of Madras and Princely state of Mysore.
    • In 1924 Mysore and Madras reached an agreement which will be valid for 50 years.
  • Post-Independence Dispute
    • The agreement signed between Presidency of Madras and Princely state of Mysore ended in 1974.
    • Since 1974, Karnataka started diverting water into its four newly made reservoirs, without the consent of Tamil Nadu. This resulted in dispute in post independent India.

SC Verdict on Cauvery Water Dispute

  • Clear Division of the Quantity of Water Between TN and Karnataka
    • The SC in 2018 granted an additional share of 14.75 TMC of water to Karnataka and reduced the Tamil Nadu share by the same amount.
    • The additional share given to Karnataka was for drinking water in south Karnataka.
    • This means, out of the 740 TMC of Cauvery water to be shared every year, the SC awarded 404.25 TMC to Tamil Nadu, 284.75 TMC to Karnataka, 30 TMC to Kerala.
    • The court awarded 7 TMC to Puducherry and 14 TMC for environment protection and wastage into the sea.
  • Formation of CWMA (Cauvery Water Management Authority)
    • The SC also ordered the creation of the CWMA and the Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee (CWRC) to adjudicate disputes between the states within the framework of the final court orders.
    • The CWMA is a largely apolitical authority created under the aegis of the Union water resources ministry.
    • It is the central agency that now regulates the dispute between the two states.

Reason Behind the Current Dispute

  • The contention of political parties in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is that the SC order of 2018 has spelt out the water-sharing norms only for a normal monsoon year and not a distress year.
  • Monsson situation in the current season is turning out to be deficient with rainfall over 30 per cent below normal.
  • The rainfall in August and September, out of the four months of monsoon that began in June, has been the lowest in the last 123 years for Karnataka.

 How Has the Current Crisis Evolved?

  • Karnataka’s Decision to Release Less Water
    • Under the 2018 SC verdict, Karnataka is supposed to release 123.14 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu between June and September.
    • Karnataka should release a total of 45.95 TMC of water in August and 36.76 TMC in September in a normal monsoon season.
    • This year, Karnataka had released only 40 TMC of water till September 23, citing a distress situation in the state.
  • Tamil Nadu’s Approach to CWMA
    • In August, Tamil Nadu approached the CWMA to ensure normal supplies.
    • The CWRC, a recommendatory mechanism under the CWMA, then observed that the rainfall in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka was deficient by 26 per cent (by early August).
    • The committee also observed that Karnataka had only released 30.252 TMC of water from June 1 to August 28, as opposed to the stipulated 80.451 TMC in a normal year.
  • CWMA Order
    • Based on the committee’s recommendations, the CWMA initially ordered the release of about 13 TMC of water for 15 days at the rate of 12,000 cusecs per day even as Tamil Nadu sought 25,000 cusecs per day.
    • The CWRC and the CWMA reviewed the monsoon situation again and reduced the quantum of release from Karnataka to 5,000 cusecs per day, while Tamil Nadu sought 12,000 cusecs.
  • SC Order on CWMA’s Decision
    • Both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also approached the SC to challenge the CWMA orders, but it upheld the release of 5,000 cusecs until September 26.
    • The Karnataka government has said it will adhere to the SC order till September 26 and then reconsider the situation.

What are Karnataka’s Contentions?

  • Dependency on South West Monsoon
    • Karnataka has argued that Tamil Nadu will receive a large chunk of its rainfall in the retreating northeast monsoon between October and November, whereas Karnataka receives its main rainfall in the southwest monsoon months from June to September.
    • The protesters argue that water is being released to Tamil Nadu even as the southwest monsoon draws to a close and storage levels are very low in the Cauvery basin reservoirs in Karnataka.
    • The Cauvery is the main source of drinking water for the city of Bengaluru and for the irrigation of farmland in the Mandya region of the state.
  • Implementation of the Mekedatu Check Dam Project:
    • The Karnataka government is also seeking implementation of the Mekedatu check dam project on the Cauvery.
    • This will facilitate drinking water storage for Bengaluru and for release of excess water to Tamil Nadu in crisis situations like the present one.

The Storage Situation in the Cauvery Basin Reservoirs in Karnataka

  • The four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin; Krishna Raja Sagar, Kabini, Hemavathy, and Harangi were at half their storage levels as of September 23.
  • There was a total of 51.1 TMC of water in these reservoirs, as against a total storage capacity of 104.5 TMC.
  • According to the Karnataka government, the state will need a total of 112 TMC of water (79 TMC for irrigating standing crops and 33 TMC to supply drinking water to Bengaluru) till June 2024.
  • With the southwest monsoon winding up in Karnataka, the remaining water in the Cauvery basin reservoirs must be conserved for drinking water and irrigation purposes, the Karnataka government has argued.

Is the Current Crisis Unprecedented?

  • The current Cauvery water crisis is like the crises seen in 1991, 2002, 2012, and 2016.
  • The difference is that this one has come after the final resolution of the dispute by the SC in 2018.
  • Also, in the past, protests over the Cauvery issue have resulted in violence, on account of mainstream political parties trying to gain currency among the electorate by taking up chauvinistic positions.
  • In recent years, however, politicians in Karnataka have struck a more conciliatory note.
  • As farmers in Mandya cultivating less water-intensive crops and new generations moving away from agriculture, the Cauvery issue is not considered as emotive as it was three decades ago.


  • Cauvery, also known as the ‘Dakshina Ganga’ has been considered as the economic backbone of the states through which it flows, making its impact felt most strongly in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • While the contest for Cauvery can be traced back to the 11th century AD, modern-day Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been at loggerheads over the Cauvery water sharing mechanism.
  • The emphasis on regional strategy must be abandoned by the states since cooperation and coordination are true solutions, not the conflict.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
27 Sep 2023

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 | Provisions, Use & Implications

Why in News?

  • The Union Home Ministry extended for another six months the disturbed area status in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958
  • News Summary

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958:

  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of India that grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in "disturbed areas".
    • The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
  • The Act in its original form was promulgated by the British in response to the Quit India Movement in 1942.
    • It was then titled the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance, 1942.
  • After Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided to retain the Act, which was first brought in as an ordnance and then notified as an Act in 1958.

In What Type of Situation AFSPA can be Invoked?

  • Section 3 of the Act says special powers can be granted to the Indian Armed Forces when a part of a state/UT or even the whole state/UT "is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary".

What Special Powers does the AFSPA confer on the Armed Forces?

  • Once an area has been designated as a 'disturbed area', the Act provides the armed forces with the following special powers:
    • To open fire or use force, even causing death, against any person in contravention to the law for the time being or carrying arms and ammunition;
    • To arrest any person without a warrant, on the basis of "reasonable suspicion" that they have committed or are about to commit a cognizable offence;
    • To enter and search any premises without a warrant;
    • To destroy fortified positions, shelters, structures used as hide-outs, training camps or as a place from which attacks are or likely to be launched.
  • These powers are augmented under Section 6 of the Act, which grants the personnel involved in such operations immunity from prosecution without sanction.
    • Section 6 notes, "no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding can be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government".

Currently AFSPA is Imposed in Which States?

  • Assam was the first state to come under the AFSPA in 1958.
  • Currently, AFSPA is in place in entire UT of Jammu & Kashmir, eight districts of Assam, certain areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh Nagaland.

Why is AFSPA Controversial?

  • With special powers accorded to the armed forces, there have been multiple allegations of "fake encounters" and other human rights violations by the security forces in 'disturbed' areas.
  • A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court claimed that at least 1,528 extra-judicial killings took place in Manipur between 2000 and 2012.
    • The petition alleged that a majority of these killings were carried out in cold blood while the victims were in custody and were allegedly tortured.
  • Activists such as Irom Sharmila have protested the existence of the AFSPA. She undertook a 16-year-long hunger strike against the law.
  • In July 2016, the Supreme Court directed the armed forces and police not to use "excessive or retaliatory force" in even areas declared 'disturbed' where the AFSPA is applicable.

Recommendations of Various Committees on AFSPA:

  • In November 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north-eastern states.
  • The committee recommended that AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.
  • On the other hand, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA in Naga People's Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India case (1998).


News Summary:

  • The Union Home Ministry extended for another six months the disturbed area status in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
  • According to two separate notifications, the decisions have been taken after review of the law-and-order situation in both the states.
Defence & Security

Mains Article
27 Sep 2023

UNGA 78 - EAM S Jaishankar highlights India's pursuit in global well-being

Why in news?

  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar addressed the 78th UN General Assembly.
  • In his opening remark, Jaishankar said, Namaste from Bharat! Our fullest support to this UNGA's theme of rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity.

What’s in today’s article?

  • UNGA (About, Key decisions taken by UNGA, Achievements, General debate)
  • Key highlights of the speech

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

  • About
    • 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 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote.
  • key decisions
    • 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
  • Some of the important achievements of UNGA
    • Millennium Declaration, adopted in 2000
    • The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document
    • 17 Sustainable Development Goals formulated in September 2015

General debate of UNGA

  • The Assembly’s annual general debate provides Member States the opportunity to express their views on major international issues.
  • On this occasion, the Secretary-General presents on the opening day of the debate his report on the work of the Organization.

78th UNGA

  • About
    • UNGA held its 78th annual gathering from September 18–26, 2023.
    • S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation at the assembly.
  • President
    • Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago was elected by acclamation.
    • In accordance with the established regional rotation, the President of the 78thsession of the UNGA was to be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean States.
  • Theme of the 78th UNGA
    • “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”

News Summary: Key highlights of the speech delivered by EAM Jaishankar

  • Veiled attack at Canada
    • He underlined that political convenience cannot determine responses to terrorism, extremism and violence.
  • Highlighted various forms of injustices
    • We must never again allow an injustice like vaccine apartheid to recur.
    • Climate action too cannot continue to witness an evasion of historical responsibilities.
    • The power of markets should not be utilized to steer food and energy from the needy to the wealthy.
  • Respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry picking.
    • When reality departs from rhetoric, we must have the courage to call it out.
  • Raised the issue of UN reform
    • At India’s initiative, the African Union was admitted as a permanent member of the G20.
      • By doing so, India gave voice to an entire continent that has long been denied its due.
    • This significant step in reform should inspire the United Nations, a much older organization, to also make the Security Council contemporary.
      • Broad representation is a pre-requisite for both effectiveness and credibility.
  • India’s G20 Presidency
    • It was with a sense of exceptional responsibility India took up the presidency of G20.
    • Our vision of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ sought to focus on the key concerns of the many and not just the narrow interests of the few.
    • This vision sought to bridge divides and sow seeds of collaboration.
    • At a time when North-South divide is deep–the Delhi Summit affirms that diplomacy and dialogue is the only way forward, and those days, when a few nations used to set agenda are over.
  • Cooperation with diverse partners
    • India also seeks to promote cooperation with diverse partners.
    • From the era of non-alignment, we have now evolved to that of ‘Vishwa Mitra – a friend to the world.
    • This is reflected in our ability and willingness to engage with a broad range of nations and where necessary harmonise interests.
    • It is visible in the rapid growth of the QUAD; it is equally apparent in the expansion of the BRICS grouping or emergence of I2U2.
  • India, that is Bharat - civilisational polity embracing modernity
    • I speak for a society where ancient traditions of democracy have struck deep modern roots. As a result, our thinking, approaches and actions are now more grounded and authentic.
    • As a civilisational polity that embraces modernity, we bring both tradition and technology equally confidently to the table.
    • It is this fusion that today defines India, that is Bharat.
International Relations

Mains Article
27 Sep 2023

31st Northern Zonal conference

Why in news?

  • While chairing 31st Northern Zonal conference in Amritsar, Union Home Minister said anti-drone system will be deployed along the international border for strengthening security.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Zonal Council
  • News Summary

Zonal Council

  • The idea of creation of Zonal Councils was mooted by the first PM Nehru in 1956.
  • This was suggested during the course of debate on the report of the States Re-organisation Commission
  • It was suggested that a high-level advisory forum should be set up:
    • to minimise the impact of linguistic hostilities prevailed at that time;
    • to create healthy inter-State and Centre-State environment.


  • In the light of the idea promoted by the then PM Nehru, five Zonal Councils were set up under the States Re-organisation Act, 1956.
    • Zonal Councils are the statutory and not the constitutional bodies.
  • The five councils are:
    • The Northern Zonal Council; The Central Zonal Council;The Eastern Zonal Council;The Western Zonal Council;The Southern Zonal Council.
  • The North Eastern States are not included in the Zonal Councils.
    • Their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.


  • The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under:
    • Bringing out national integration;
    • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguistic and particularistic tendencies;
    • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
    • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Organisational structure of the zonal councils

  • Chairman
    • The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman
    • The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members
    • Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers
    • One person nominated by the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayoga) for each of the Zonal Councils,
    • Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.


  • Each Zonal Council is an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council have a common interest.
  • It may advise the Central Government and the Government of each State concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.
  • In particular, a Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to any matter:
    • of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
    • concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport;
    • connected with or arising out of the States Reorganisation Act.

How this council is different from other platforms promoting cooperative federalism?

  • There are a large number of other platforms which works on the principle of promoting cooperative federalism.
    • E.g. Inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conferences and other periodical high-level conferences.
  • However, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character. They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally.
  • Being compact high-level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.

News Summary: 31st Northern Zonal conference

Key highlights of speech delivered by Union Home Minister at 31st Northern Zonal conference

  • Anti-drone measures along international borders
    • Dedicated teams who specialise in drone technology and anti-drone measures would be soon be deployed all across border states.
    • This will be done to keep a check on drugs and weapons which are being smuggled to India from Pakistan.
  • Major challenges on borders
    • Smuggling of arms, ammunition and narcotics from across the international border to Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir has been a major problem confronting the border guarding forces.
  • Highlighted importance of Northern Zonal Council
    • The Northern Zonal Council has an important place from the point of view of development and security of India, being home to 21% of the country’s land and 13% of the population.
    • More than 35% of the food grains are produced in the Northern region.
  • Urged member states to pay special attention to collective priority issues such as cooperative movement in the country, dropout rate of schoolchildren and malnutrition.
    • He also urged all member states and UTs to adopt natural and organic farming, as it will be hugely beneficial for the farmers of the country.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
27 Sep 2023

What is copyright infringement and when does it apply?

Why in News?

  • The Delhi High Court has issued summons to an Instagram account called People of India (POI), in a copyright infringement suit filed by the storytelling platform Humans of Bombay (HOB).
  • Besides copyright infringement, HOB’s plea said that the similarities between the infringing content and its own amounted to “passing off and unfair competition”.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Copyright and its Infringement?
  • What is Passing Off?
  • The Delhi HC’s Observation in the HOB vs POI Case
  • What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

What is Copyright and its Infringement?

  • “Copyright” refers to the right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings.
  • It is a bundle of rights that includes rights of reproduction, communication to the public, adaptation, and translation of a work.
  • The Copyright Act 1957 aims to safeguard creative works, which are considered to be the creator’s intellectual property (IP).
  • A copyrighted work will be considered “infringed” only if a substantial part is made use of without authorisation.
  • In cases of infringement, the copyright owner can take legal action against any person who infringes on or violates their copyright and is entitled to remedies such as injunctions, damages, etc.
    • An injunction is an official order given by a law court, usually to stop someone from doing something.
    • In HOB Stories Pvt. Ltd. vs. POI social media, the HOB was seeking an injunction restraining infringement of the copyright of its copyrighted content.
    • However, an injunction only acts as a deterrent and does not mean that all alleged instances of misuse will be corrected immediately.
    • This is because even when a court grants it, it is not easy to track all such cases and act on them.

What is Passing Off?

  • Suppose a brand logo is misspelt in a way that is not easy for the consumer to discern. In such cases, the infringing products need not be identical.
  • But the similarity in the nature, character, and performance of the goods of the rival traders has to be established, as laid down by the SC in Cadila Healthcare Limited vs. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited (2001).
    • The court also said that passing-off is a species of unfair trade competition or of actionable unfair trading.
    • By passing-off one person, through deception, attempts to obtain an economic benefit of the reputation which another has established for himself in a particular trade or business.
  • Therefore, to make a claim of ‘passing off’, some form of deception, misrepresentation, or harm to the goodwill and reputation of the owner of a mark has to be established.

The Delhi HC’s Observation in the HOB vs POI Case:

  • While acting on HOB’s plea, which stated that POI had created a portal or service identical to theirs, the court found “substantial imitation” between the two.
  • The term ‘substantial’ varies from case to case, as it is a matter of quality rather than quantity.
    • For example, if a lyricist copies the catchiest part or phrase from another’s song, this will be considered infringement, even if that phrase is short.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

  • IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
  • IP is protected in law enabling people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
  • By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.
  • Types of IP: Copyright, Patents, Trademarks, Industrial designs, Geographical indications (GI) and Trade secrets.
  • Governing regulations:
    • The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS): It is an international legal agreement, which establishes minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of different forms of IP.
    • IP rights in India are governed under the: The Trade Marks Act 1999, The Patents Act 1970 (amended in 2005), The Copyright Act 1957, The Designs Act 2000, The GI of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999, etc.

Sept. 26, 2023

Mains Article
26 Sep 2023

Children, A Key Yet Missed Demographic in AI Regulation


  • As Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacts our everyday lives, there has been a lot of discussion about how this exciting yet powerful and potentially problematic technology should be regulated.
  • One area where India can assume leadership is how regulators address children and adolescents who are a critical (yet less understood) demographic in this context.

What is AI?

  • AI is an emerging technology that facilitates intelligence and human capabilities of sense, comprehend, and act with the use of machines.
    • For example, Siri is a human-like reasoning displayed by computer systems. 
  • Applications of AI include natural language processing, speech recognition, machine vision and expert systems. Examples include manufacturing robots, self-driving cars, marketing chat bots, etc.

Strategic Importance of AI for India

  • AI Events and Their Economic Impact
    • India is to host the first-ever global summit on AI this October. Additionally, as the Chair of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), India will also be hosting the GPAI global summit in December.
    • These events suggest the strategic importance of AI, as it is projected to add $500 billion to India’s economy by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s target GDP.
  • Opportunity to Set a Regulatory Policy Example
    • Indian PM recently called for a global framework on the ethical expansion of AI.
    • Given the sheer volume of data that India can generate, it has an opportunity to set a policy example for the Global South.
    • Observers and practitioners will track India’s approach to regulation and how it balances AI’s developmental potential against its concomitant risks.
    • One area where India can assume leadership is how regulators address children and adolescents who are a critical (yet less understood) demographic in this context.
    • The nature of digital services means that many cutting-edge AI deployments are not designed specifically for children but are nevertheless accessed by them.

The Governance Challenges in Regulating AI for Children

  • Regulation Must Align with Children Centric Issues
    • Regulation will have to align incentives to reduce issues of addiction, mental health, and overall safety.
    • In absence of that, data hungry AI-based digital services can readily deploy opaque algorithms and dark patterns to exploit young people.
    • Threats emerging from AI include misinformation, radicalisation, cyberbullying, sexual grooming, and doxxing.
  • Regulation Must Equip Young People to Face Unintended Consequence
    • The next generation of digital nagriks must also grapple with the indirect effects of their families’ online activities.
    • Enthusiastic parents regularly post photos and videos about their children online to document their journeys through parenthood.
    • While moving into adolescence the regulation must equip young people with tools to manage the unintended consequences.
    • For instance, AI-powered deep fake capabilities can be misused to target young people wherein morphed sexually explicit depictions can be created and distributed online.
  • Regulation Must Tackle Biases and Inequalities Against Children
    • India is a melting pot of intersectional identities across gender, caste, tribal identity, religion, and linguistic heritage.
    • Internationally, AI is known to transpose real world biases and inequities into the digital world.
    • Such issues of bias and discrimination can impact children and adolescents who belong to marginalised communities.
  • AI Regulation Misaligned with Realities
    • The data protection framework, under India’s newly minted data protection law, is misaligned with India’s digital realities in terms of its current approach to children.
    • It transfers an inordinate burden on parents to protect their children’s interests and does not facilitate safe platform operations and/or platform design.
    • It also bans tracking of children’s data by default, which can potentially cut them away from the benefits of personalisation that we experience online.

Suggestion For the Government to Formulate an Effective, Successful AI Regulation for Children

  • Cue From International Best Practices
    • International best practices can assist Indian regulation to identify standards and principles that facilitate safer AI deployments.
    • UNICEF’s guidance for policymakers on AI and children identifies nine requirements for child-centred AI which draws from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (India is a signatory).
    • The guidance aims to create an enabling environment which promotes children’s well-being, inclusion, fairness, non-discrimination, safety, transparency, explainability, and accountability.
  • Ability to Adapt to the Varying Developmental Stages of Children 
    • Another key feature of successful regulation will be the ability to adapt to the varying developmental stages of children from different age groups.
    • California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act serves as an interesting template.
    • It pushes for transparency to ensure that digital services configure default privacy settings; assess whether algorithms, data collection, or targeted advertising systems harm children; and use clear, age-appropriate language for user-facing information.
  • Need Extensive Research in Age-Appropriate Design Code for AI
    • Indian authorities should encourage research which collects evidence on the benefits and risks of AI for India’s children and adolescents.
    • This should serve as a baseline to work towards an Indian Age-Appropriate Design Code for AI.
  • Better Mechanism and Institutions
    • Better institutions will help shift regulation away from top-down safety protocols which place undue burdens on parents.
    • Mechanisms of regular dialogue with children will help incorporate their inputs on the benefits and the threats they face when interacting with AI-based digital services.
    • An institution like Australia’s Online Safety Youth Advisory Council which comprises people between the ages of 13-24 years could be an interesting approach.
    • Such institutions will assist regulation to become more responsive to the threats young people face when interacting with AI systems, while preserving the benefits that they derive from digital services.


  • The fast-evolving nature of AI means that regulation should avoid prescriptions and instead embrace standards, strong institutions, and best practices which imbibe openness, trust, and accountability.
  • As India moves towards a new law to regulate harms on the Internet, and look to establish country’s leadership on global AI regulation, the interests of country’s young citizens must be front and centre.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
26 Sep 2023

Aadhaar biometrics not reliable in India’s climate

Why in news?

  • According to a report by global rating major Moody's Investors Service, the biometric technology used by India's Aadhaar program is unreliable in hot and humid climates.
  • The report also raised concerns about security and privacy vulnerabilities in centralized identification systems.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Unique Identification Authority of India
  • News Summary

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)

  • About
    • The UIDAI is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (“Aadhaar Act 2016”).
    • It issues a unique 12-digit identification number to each individual in India.
    • It serves as proof of identity and proof of address for residents of India.
  • Nodal Ministry : The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)
  • Function
    • UIDAI is responsible for Aadhaar enrolment and authentication.
    • This includes:
      • operation and management of all stages of Aadhaar life cycle,
      • developing the policy, procedure, and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to individuals
      • perform authentication and the security of identity information and authentication records of individuals.

News Summary: Aadhaar biometrics not reliable in India’s climate

  • The concerns come a year after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had pulled up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar’s deficient data management.

What Moody’s has said about Aadhaar?

  • Aadhar integrates marginalised groups and expands welfare benefits access
    • Moody’s has noted that Aadhaar is the world’s largest digital ID program.
    • It enables access to public and private services, with verification via fingerprint or iris scans, and alternatives like One-Time Pass-codes.
  • The system faces hurdles
    • Including the burden of establishing authorisation and concerns about biometric reliability.
    • The system often results in service denials, and the reliability of biometric technologies, especially for manual labourers in hot, humid climates, is questionable.

Why the reliability concerns are alarming?

  • Aadhar is the primary identity document
    • Aadhar is linked to a number of the government’s welfare schemes.
    • So, if the technology is not reliable, it might result in people not receiving various subsidies from the government that they are entitled to.
    • There are documented cases in Jharkhand of starvation deaths linked to Aadhar biometrics failing.
  • Widespread use of Aadhar - Statistics
    • As of July 31, 2023, 765.30 million Indians had linked Aadhaar with ration card to avail ration through Public Distribution System(PDS).
    • Over 280 million residents linked Aadhaar with cooking gas connection for LPG subsidy through PAHAL.
    • Over 788 million Aadhaar have been uniquely linked with the Bank Accounts on NPCI Mapper.
    • And almost 100 per cent of farmer-beneficiaries under PM Kisan Yojna are connected via Aadhaar.

Aadhaar’s recurring concerns

  • Observations made by CAG
    • Last year, in a report, the CAG said that there are issues of data-matching, errors in authentication, and shortfall in archiving in Aadhaar.
    • It added that the data of Aadhaar card holders have not been matched with their Aadhaar number even after 10 years in some cases.
  • Lack of data archiving policy
    • CAG has also criticised the absence of a system to analyse the factors leading to authentication errors.
    • CAG further said that even though UIDAI was maintaining one of the largest biometric databases in the world, it did not have a data archiving policy.
      • Data archiving policy is considered as a vital storage management best practice.
  • Deprived revenue to the Government
    • UIDAI provided Authentication services to banks, mobile operators and other agencies free of charge till March 2019.
    • This is contrary to the provisions of their own Regulations and it deprived revenue to the Government.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
26 Sep 2023

Philippines removes South China Sea ‘floating barrier’ installed by China

Why in news?

  • The Philippines has removed a floating barrier installed by China to block Philippine fishing boats entering a contested area in the South China Sea.
  • Manila says China violated its fishing rights with the 300m (1,000ft) barrier in the Scarborough Shoal.
    • China claims more than 90% of the South China Sea and seized the shoal in 2012.

What’s in today’s article?

  • South China Sea Dispute
  • News Summary

South China Sea Dispute

  • The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan.

The dispute

  • It is over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas in south China sea. This also includes the two islands namely – The Parcel and the Spratly.
  • China often invokes the so called nine-dash line to justify its apparent historic rights over most of the South China Sea.
  • Parts of this sea is also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam.
  • China has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its assertion as without basis.
    • In 2016, Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded a verdict refuting Chinese claim over South China Sea.

Geopolitical significance of South China Sea:

  • For China
    • China declared its right to the islands of this region in an official address to the UN Secretary General back in May 2009.
    • With its growing economy and increasing energy and raw material exports shipped through the Malacca Strait, Beijing needs to create strongholds in the sea to insure against possible risks. 
  • For ASEAN
    • Many ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei etc. claim their sovereign rights over this region and hence are parties to the dispute.
    • After the verdict, government of these countries would get more leverage in their own disputes with Beijing over South China Sea.
  • For USA
    • USA is aggressively pursuing its rebalancing strategy and hence it is wary of Chinese domination in this region.
    • After the verdict, there are chances of more confrontation between USA and China in this region.
  • For India
    • India’s presence in Pacific is increasing making it an important player in the Indo-Pacific region.
      • For this freedom of navigation through South China Sea is very important.
    • India is also pursuing its economic interest in this region. It has collaborated with Vietnam to explore the petroleum resources in South China Sea.
      • This has been opposed by China
    • Also, large volume of Indian trade happens through the Strait of Malacca.
  • Resource availability
    • The region has huge amount of oil and natural gas reserve.
    • It holds one third of the entire world's marine biodiversity
  • For Multilateralism
    • South China Sea region has become a litmus test for multilateralism especially after the verdict of PCA which China is not willing to accept.
      • It has potential to affect the credibility of PCA.
    • World community fears that aggressive posture of China may lead to defying of United Nation Convention on Law Of Sea (UNCLOS) which ensures freedom of navigation in high seas.

News Summary: Philippines removes South China Sea ‘floating barrier’ installed by China

  • The Philippine coastguard has removed a floating barrier installed by China in a disputed area in the South China Sea. As per the Philippines, barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law.


  • Barrier installed by China near Shoal
    • Earlier, the Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau personnel discovered the floating barrier, on a routine patrol near the shoal.
    • According to Filipino fishermen, the Chinese coastguard usually installs such barriers when it monitors a large number of fishermen in the area and then removes it later.
  • Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines
    • The Philippines described the shoal as an integral part of the Philippine national territory.
    • Scarborough Shoal is within the 200-nautical-mile EEZ of the Philippines as defined by international maritime law.
    • It was affirmed by a ruling of The Hague’s International Court of Arbitration.
  • Claim of China
    • Beijing claims the area as part of its territory and refers to Scarborough Shoal as Huangyan Island.
    • In 2012, Beijing seized control of Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and forced Filipino fishermen to travel farther for smaller catches.
International Relations

Mains Article
26 Sep 2023

New Project to Reconstruct an Ancient ‘stitched ship’

Why in News?

  • In another move among the series of steps taken by the government to reclaim India’s long-lost heritage in different sectors, the Centre now plans to revive the ancient maritime heritage.
  • The Ministry of Culture has recently joined hands with the Indian Navy and Goa-based Hodi Innovations to reconstruct an ancient stitched ship - that traversed India's ancient maritime trade routes around 2,000 years ago.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Ancient Maritime Trade Routes on the Indian Ocean
  • What is the ‘Stitched Ship’ Technique?
  • About the Project to Reconstruct an Ancient ‘Stitched Ship’
  • The Voyage and its Significance
  • What is Project Mausam?

Ancient Maritime Trade Routes on the Indian Ocean:

  • According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), naval trade on the Indian Ocean dates back to the 3rd century BC.
  • During this time, residents of the Indus Valley opened maritime trading with Mesopotamia, Egypt, East Africa, and the Roman Empire.
  • Through these maritime trade networks, many goods were exchanged, including medicine, aromatics, spices, wood, grain, gems, textiles, metal and stones.
  • The trade, in turn, facilitated the exchange of religions, cultures and technologies, contributing to the expansion of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.

What is the ‘Stitched Ship’ Technique?

  • This age-old technique involves shaping the wooden planks using the traditional steaming method to conform to the shape of the hull.
  • Each plank will then be stitched to another using cords/ ropes, sealed with a combination of coconut fibre, resin, and fish oil - similar to the ancient Indian shipbuilding practice.
  • The ancient stitching technique almost became extinct after the Britishers came to India, where the wooden planks were attached to support the recoil of canons.
  • Sewn boat construction techniques were used prior to the development of metal fasteners, and continued to be used for small boats to reduce construction costs where metal fasteners were too expensive.

About the Project to Reconstruct an Ancient ‘Stitched Ship’:

  • The project was approved by the National Implementation Committee, chaired by the Union Home Minister, in (December) 2022.
  • While the Indian Navy is overseeing the ship’s design and construction and would also be sailing the ship along ancient maritime trade routes, the Ministry of Culture has fully funded the project.
  • The project is set to cost Rs 9 crore and is expected to take around 22 months to complete and will be in synergy with the Ministry of Culture’s Project Mausam.
  • The ministries of Shipping and External Affairs will be supporting the project in its execution stage.
  • The stitching work will be undertaken by a team of traditional shipwrights led by Babu Sankaran, considered an expert in the stitched ship technique.

The Voyage and its Significance:

  • Once the ship is ready, the voyage with a seam of 13 Indian Navy crew from Odisha’s Cuttack will be sent to Bali in Indonesia, in (November) 2025.
  • The navigation techniques used for the voyage will also be in consonance with old times, also aiming to show the sophistication India had achieved in this field at the time.
  • The voyage will be a part of the initiative to revive and honour India’s old maritime trade routes.
  • This is also in line with the larger decolonisation project undertaken, in the run-up to 2047, when independent India turns 100.

What is Project Mausam?

  • Launched in 2014 (at the 38th World Heritage Session at Doha), Project Mausam is led by the Ministry of Culture and implemented by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi.
  • Project Mausam aims -
    • To reconnect and re-establish maritime cultural connections with the 39 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
    • To create an understanding of cultural values and concerns.
  • Project Mausam is said to be India’s answer to the Maritime Silk Road of China, and India plans to move UNESCO to award transnational heritage status to Project Mausam.
  • Several countries including the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Myanmar, and Vietnam have expressed great interest in this multifaceted cultural project.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
26 Sep 2023

Key Findings of the Parliament Panel on the New Education Policy

Why in News?

  • The Parliament Standing Committee on Education tabled a report during the special session of Parliament on the “Implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 in Higher Education.”

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About NEP 2020
  • News Summary (Key Findings of Parliamentary Committee)

About National Education Policy (NEP) 2020:

  • The National Education Policy, approved by the Union Cabinet in July 2020, outlines the vision of India’s new education system.
  • The committee that drafted the NEP 2020 was headed by Shri K Kasturirangan.
  • NEP 2020 focuses on five pillars: Affordability, Accessibility, Quality, Equity, and Accountability – to ensure continual learning.
  • The new policy replaces the previous National Policy on Education, 1986 and forms a comprehensive framework to transform both elementary and higher education in India by 2040.
    • This is the 3rd such education policy since India’s independence.
    • The earlier two were launched in 1968 &1986.
  • There is much emphasis upon multi-disciplinarity, digital literacy, written communication, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and vocational exposure in the document.

News Summary: Key Findings of the Parliament Panel on the New Education Policy

  • Parliament Standing Committee on Education, headed by MP Vivek Thakur, tabled a report during the special session of Parliament on the “Implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 in Higher Education.”
  • The report looked at the salient features of the NEP’s implementation in the higher education sector and the progress made so far.
  • Issues Discussed by the Committee:
    • rigid separation of disciplines,
    • limited access to higher education in socio-economically disadvantaged areas,
    • lack of higher education institutes (HEIs) that teach in local languages,
    • limited number of faculty,
    • lack of institutional autonomy,
    • lesser emphasis on research,
    • ineffective regulatory system and
    • low standards of undergraduate education.
  • Key Findings/Recommendations of the Committee:
    • The report noted that of the 1,043 universities functioning in the country 70% are under the State Act and that 94% of students are in State or private institutions with just 6% of students in Central higher educational institutions.
      • This highlights the importance of States in providing higher education.
    • The panel said that by 2030, every district in the country should have at least one multidisciplinary HEI and that the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, should be increased from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035.
    • The panel asked the Union Government and the State Governments to take actions such as:
      • earmarking suitable funds for the education of Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs),
      • setting clear targets for higher Gross Enrolment Ratio for SEDGs,
      • enhancing gender balance in admissions to HEIs,
      • providing more financial assistance and scholarships to SEDGs in both public and private HEIs,
      • making admission processes and curriculum more inclusive,
      • increasing employability potential of higher education programmes and for developing more degree courses taught in regional languages and bilingually.
    • The panel also recommended specific infrastructural steps to help physically challenged students and a strict enforcement of all no-discrimination and anti-harassment rules.
    • The Committee appreciated the manner in which the NEP was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • It said that the Union Territory was among the first in the country to implement NEP from the academic session 2022 in all its higher educational institutions.
  • The Committee suggested improving the effectiveness and impact of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) in funding HEIs.
    • It asked the HEFA to diversify its funding sources beyond government allocations.
  • The panel said that Indian institutions were likely to face several issues in implementing the multiple entry and multiple exit (MEME) system.
  • The panel said while the MEME looked like a flexible system, which was being operated by Western educational institutions effectively, it might not work well in the country.
Social Issues
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