March 31, 2024

Mains Article
31 Mar 2024

Section 43 b (h) of the Income Tax Act

Why in News?

To ensure timely payments to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, a new regulation - Section 43 b (h) of the Income Tax (IT) Act, will be implemented from April 1.

This regulation requires companies to settle their dues with MSMEs within 45 days and non-compliance will lead to a tax liability on the overdue amount.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is Section 43B(h) of the IT Act?
  • Benefits of Clause (h) of Section 43B
  • Concerns Regarding the Implementation of Section 43B(h) of the IT Act

What is Section 43B(h) of the IT Act?

  • The Finance Act 2023 introduced an amendment to the IT Act by adding clause (h) to Section 43B.
  • This clause stipulates that payments due to UDYAN-registered MSMEs would be allowed as deduction only if the actual payment was made.
    • In simpler terms, if one doesn't pay an MSME on time, they can't deduct that expense from their taxable income, potentially increasing their tax liability.
  • Section 43B(h) is applicable to transactions that involve the purchase of goods or services from enterprises registered under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act, 2006.
  • Starting from April 1, companies, sole proprietorships, partnerships or LLPs, are required to pay their suppliers registered as MSMEs
    • Within 45 days, if a MSME unit had a written agreement with a medium or large-scale industry for supply of components, spares, or any other product or service.
    • If there was no agreement, the payment should be made within 15 days.
  • The aim is to motivate larger entities to prioritise their settlements with MSME counterparts, thereby promoting a more robust economic environment for these smaller businesses.

Benefits of Clause (h) of Section 43B:

  • For MSMEs:
    • Smooth Payment Cycle: Section 43B(h) incentivises large companies or entities to settle dues with MSMEs within the specified time frame, which is important for their (MSMEs’) sustainability and growth.
    • Better Bargaining Power: The provision ensures better bargaining power for MSMEs when negotiating payment terms with larger enterprises or entities.
    • Reduced Disputes: Due to timely payments, potential disputes and legal wrangles, which may arise out of outstanding dues are minimised, saving time and resources for both MSMEs and larger businesses alike.
  • For Larger Enterprises:
    • Tax Planning: While adhering to the stipulated timelines, larger enterprises or companies can claim deductions for payments provided to MSMEs in the same year, resulting in reduced tax liabilities.
    • Compliance and Transparency: IT Section 43B(h) promotes transparent financial practices and regulation adherence, promoting a responsible business environment.
    • Strong MSME Ecosystem: Ensuring prompt payments to MSMEs incentivises a robust MSME ecosystem, benefiting larger entities through a vibrant supply chain and ease of access to various resources.

Concerns Regarding the Implementation of Section 43B(h) of the IT Act:

  • Traders' body (CAIT) have appealed to the Finance Minister for a deferral of the clause until April 2025, citing a lack of clarity on the law's applicability.
  • The retail industry typically operates on a credit day cycle of 90-120 days for payments, which can sometimes extend to 180 days.
    • It is common for even well-regarded retailers to adhere to this timeframe for settling payments.
    • Therefore, the expectation for retailers to instantly adjust their business models to comply with a 45-day payment cycle is highly unrealistic.
  • The new rule has led retailers to cancel orders with MSMEs in favour of non-MSME players.
    • As a result, MSME apparel manufacturers are anticipated to incur losses of Rs 5,000-7,000 crore in the January-March quarter due to the amendment.
    • This means the intervention is also hurting a section of the industry.
  • Additionally, a significant number of retailers are considering returning unsold merchandise to the manufacturers, thus relieving themselves of the payment obligation.

Mains Article
31 Mar 2024

Mumbai to become first tri-service common defence station

Why in news?

The Armed Forces are planning to turn Mumbai into the first tri-service common defence station in the country for the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF).

This step aimed at achieving jointness among the three services ahead of the creation of integrated theatre commands.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Theaterisation of Armed Forces
  • Theatre commands and India
  • Current command structure in India
  • Recent steps taken by India towards theaterisation

Theaterisation of Armed Forces

  • It is a concept which seeks to integrate the capabilities of the three services - army, air force and navy – in order to optimally utilise their resources for wars and operations.
  • A theatre command/unit will be created by integrating elements/assets from all the three services.
    • Simply put, a theatre command deploys elements of the three services under a single, unified command structure.
  • Each command is assigned a specific geographical region, combining resources of the three services for operational roles.
  • As of now, almost all major countries like China, Russia, the US, the UK and France work on a theatre command concept.
    • For example, China’s Western Theatre Command looks after the entire borders with India.

Theatre commands and India

  • The Kargil Review Committee, the Naresh Chandra Committee and the Group of Ministers had called for structural changes in higher defence management.
  • It was the Shekatkar committee, which had recommended the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and theatre commands.

Current command structure in India

  • At present, India has 17 single service commands and only two tri-service commands.
  • The 17 single service commands are divided as:
    • Army – 7 commands; Airforce – 7 commands; Navy – 3 commands
  • The two tri-service commands are: Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), and The Strategic Force Command (handles the nuclear weapons).
    • The Andaman and Nicobar command is a full-fledged command raised as a tri-service command in 2001.

Recent steps taken by India towards theaterisation

  • Proposal to create a national defence committee
    • There is a proposal for theatre commanders under a national defence committee likely to be headed by the Defence Minister.
  • Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control and Discipline) Act2023
    • The act empowers the commander-in-chief and the officer-in-command of inter-services organisations with disciplinary and administrative powers over personnel from the other services serving in them.
    • Limited cross-postings between the Army, Navy and IAF have already been implemented to promote jointness.
      • Restructuring of the headquarters and the subsequent postings will take place after the final approval from the govt.

Proposed common defence station

  • Key highlights
    • A common defense station would merge all Army, Navy, and Air Force facilities, like logistics and maintenance, under one leadership.
      • In Mumbai, the Navy will lead due to its largest presence.
    • At present, wings of the three services are spread across Mumbai and its suburbs and operate separately.
    • This will mean the logistics, services, and works of the individual services will be integrated so that there is a single system of delivery of supplies such as fuel and ration and common items can be repaired at one place.
  • Other proposed common defence stations
    • With Mumbai being the first common defence station being planned, Sulur (near Coimbatore) and Guwahati are likely to be chosen as locations for the second and third common defence stations.
    • While the lead service for Sulur is likely to be IAF, the Army will likely be the lead service for the Guwahati station.
Defence & Security

Mains Article
31 Mar 2024

Virtual Asset Service Providers

Why in News?

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has found that many countries are yet to fully implement its requirements aimed at preventing misuse of virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs).

The FATF plenary in February 2023 agreed on a road map to strengthen the implementation of its standards on virtual assets and VASPs. Recently, it carried out a survey on the current levels of implementation.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About VASP (Meaning)
  • About FATF (History, Objectives, Members, Types of Lists, etc.)
  • Key highlights of the study conducted by FATF

About Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs):

  • Virtual assets (crypto assets) refer to “any digital representation of value that can be digitally traded, transferred or used for payment”.
  • A Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) is defined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as a business that conducts one or more of the following actions on behalf of its clients:
    • Exchange between virtual assets and fiat currencies
    • Exchange between one or more forms of virtual assets
    • Transfer of virtual assets
    • Safekeeping and/or administration or virtual assets or instruments enabling control over virtual assets
    • Participating in and provision of financial services related to an issuer's offer and/or sale of a virtual asset
  • This definition encompasses a range of crypto businesses including exchanges, ATM operators, wallet custodians, and hedge funds.

About Financial Action Task Force (FATF):

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989.
  • It is an initiative of the G7 countries to develop policies to combat money laundering.
    • In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
    • It has also started dealing with virtual currencies.
  • It sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
  • It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in money laundering.
  • It monitors progress in implementing its recommendations through "peer reviews" ("mutual evaluations") of member countries.
  • The FATF Secretariat is located in Paris.

Members of FATF:

  • The FATF currently comprises 38 member jurisdictions and two regional organisations, representing most major financial centres in all parts of the globe.
  • India became an Observer at FATF in 2006. In 2010, India was taken in as the 34th country member of FATF.

What are FATF 'Grey List' and 'Black List'?

  • FATF has 2 types of lists:
    • Black List:
      • Countries knowns as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist.
      • These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities.
      • The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.
    • Grey List:
      • Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list.
      • This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.
  • Consequences of being in FATF Grey List:
    • Economic sanctions from IMF, World Bank, ADB
    • Problem in getting loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other countries
    • Reduction in international trade
    • International boycott

Key highlights of the study conducted by FATF

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has found that many countries are yet to fully implement its requirements aimed at preventing misuse of virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs).
  • The study found that India has already conducted a risk assessment covering virtual assets and VASPs.
  • The FATF is yet to evaluate and rate India’s performance with respect to the revised standards on virtual assets and VASPs.
  • The countries which have explicitly prohibited the use of virtual assets and VASPs are China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, while it is in progress in Seychelles and Indonesia.
  • The FATF said as virtual assets were inherently international and borderless, any failure to regulate VASPs in one jurisdiction could have serious global implications.
  • The FATF added that terrorist groups, including ISIL, Al Qaeda and their affiliates, as well as ethnically or racially motivated terrorist entities, are also known to be increasingly using virtual assets to raise and move funds globally.
International Relations

Mains Article
31 Mar 2024

Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)

Why in news?

Recently, a symposium on the rights of indigenous people was organised by the University of Arizona. It focused on how the Global Biodiversity Framework and India's Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act of 2023 will impact tribes.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)
  • Target 3 of the Kunming-Montreal GBF
  • GBF and India – status, way forward

Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)

  • About
    • This framework was adopted during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, or COP15, to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in December 2022.
    • It aims to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals and build on previous strategic plans.
    • It sets a bold path towards global harmony with nature by 2050.
    • In adopting the GBF, all parties committed to setting national targets to implement it.
  • Goals and targets
    • The GBF consists of 23 targets(set for 2030) and four global goals(set for 2050) to preserve biodiversity for current and future generations.
    • The targets address reducing threats to biodiversity, meeting people's needs through sustainable use and benefit-sharing, and tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming.
  • Legal nature
    • GBF is not an international treaty and is therefore not legally binding on Parties.
    • It also doesn't require a mandatory system that forces parties to step up their efforts at a specific time.

Target 3 of the Kunming-Montreal GBF

  • About
    • Target 3 of the GBF is to ensure that at least 30% of the world's land, waters, and seas are conserved by 2030.
      • At present, protected areas (PAs) cover about 16%.
    • This target is also known as the "30 by 30" target.
  • Controversy
    • As per analysts, this target seems harmless but often benefit corporations over indigenous communities, especially in Southeast Asia.
      • In Indonesia's Ujungkulon National Park, indigenous people lack basic rights like housing, health, and education.
      • Similarly, in Cambodia's Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, an indigenous leader, Heng Saphen, was unfairly convicted for farming on her own land.
    • Involving the private sector in forest conservation is a bad idea.
      • Analysts pointed out that India has taken a step in this direction with the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act to 2023.
      • The act includes zoos, safaris, ecotourism facilities, etc., as forest activities.
    • According to experts, protected areas were first made for leisure and hunting by colonial elites.
    • The concept has not changed much. Today, ecotourism projects still treat indigenous people like exhibits.

What would GBF mean for India?

  • About 84% of India’s national parks (89 out of a total of 106) were established in areas inhabited by the indigenous peoples and meeting the GBF targets will threaten their existence.
  • E.g., the initiative to upgrade the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan to a tiger reserve will affect 162 tribal villages located inside and outside the sanctuary.
  • Similarly, the expansion of the Nauradehi Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is set to affect 62 villages of mostly tribal people.
  • In Assam, the June 2022, notification for the Barak Bhuban Wildlife Sanctuary will affect the Khasis, Dimasas, and other indigenous groups.
    • The gazette notification states that the sanctuary is free from encroachment as per record, there are no rights and concessions of any person in the area.
    • However, the Khasis possess documents showing they have been living in the area since 1914.

What can be done to protect the tribal lands?

  • A global agreement like the Kunming-Montreal GBF can't be changed, but India must update its policies.
  • Role of tribals as guardians
    • It should acknowledge the right to free, prior, and informed consent as per the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act.
    • Additionally, laws should be amended to make tribal communities guardians of protected areas, as they have historically protected nature due to their close ties with forests and wildlife.
  • Creation of protected areas in non-tribal areas
    • If tiger reserves can be created in areas where there are no tigers such as Sahyadri (Maharashtra), Satkosia (Odisha), Kamlang (Arunachal Pradesh), Kawal (Telangana), and Dampa (Mizoram), there is no reason why PAs cannot be created in non-tribal areas.
  • Address human rights violations in the PAs seriously
    • India ought to address human rights violations in the PAs seriously.
    • Human rights issues of these people such as access to education, healthcare, and housing cannot be left to the Wildlife or Forest Department.


Environment & Ecology

March 30, 2024

Mains Article
30 Mar 2024

Why India must put Africa at the Heart of its Global South Vision


  • During her visit to Mauritius, President Droupadi Murmu emphasised the importance of India's relations with African countries, highlighting Mauritius as a key partner in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • This visit underscores India's growing engagement with Africa, marked by collaborative efforts in community development and the inauguration of essential projects.
  • As India aims to strengthen its position within the Global South, it is crucial to understand the multifaceted relationship between India and Africa, examining the opportunities it presents and the imperatives for deeper engagement.

An Analysis of the Depth and Significance of India's Engagement with Africa

  • Investments and Trade
    • India's investments in Africa have witnessed significant growth, reaching $98 billion in 2023.
    • This substantial investment reflects India's confidence in Africa's economic potential and its commitment to fostering long-term partnerships.
    • Similarly, bilateral trade between India and Africa has surged, totalling $100 billion.
    • This trade encompasses a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, technology, and services, contributing to economic growth and diversification in both regions.
  • Developmental Projects
    • These projects cover a diverse array of areas, such as infrastructure development, healthcare, education, agriculture, and renewable energy.
    • By investing in such projects, India not only promotes economic development in Africa but also strengthens diplomatic ties and goodwill between the two regions.
  • Export of Scalable Solutions
    • India's expertise in developing and implementing cost-effective, scalable solutions has been instrumental in addressing various challenges faced by African nations.
    • Indian social enterprises, NGOs, and government agencies have exported innovative solutions ranging from eco-friendly housing to solar energy technology.
    • These initiatives not only contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable development but also enhance India's reputation as a reliable partner committed to sharing knowledge and resources for mutual benefit.
  • Mutual Prosperity and Development
    • By leveraging each other's strengths and resources, both regions stand to benefit economically and socially.
    • India's investments create employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth, and facilitate technology transfer in Africa, while African markets provide India with access to natural resources, new markets, and strategic partnerships.
    • This symbiotic relationship fosters economic resilience, innovation, and inclusive growth in both India and Africa.

The Strategic Importance of India's Advocacy for Africa's Representation in Global Forums

  • To Amplify Africa’s Representation and Voice
    • India's advocacy for Africa's representation in global governance structures underscores its commitment to amplifying the voices of developing nations.
    • With Africa housing a significant portion of the world's population and contributing a substantial share of global GDP, ensuring its representation is essential for fostering a more inclusive and equitable international order.
    • India's support for initiatives like the African Union's representation in the G20 demonstrates its recognition of Africa's importance in shaping global agendas and policies.
  • A Push for Reform and Adaptation
    • As the international landscape undergoes rapid transformation, there is a growing recognition of the need to adapt governance mechanisms to address emerging challenges and promote sustainable development.
    • India's advocacy for Africa's inclusion in global forums reflects its commitment to reforming institutions like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank to better represent the interests of developing nations.
  • To Build Strategic Partnerships
    • India's advocacy for Africa's representation in global governance is not merely altruistic but also strategic.
    • Recognising Africa's growing influence in international affairs, India seeks to cultivate strategic partnerships with African nations to advance its own interests on the global stage.
    • By supporting Africa's participation in decision-making processes, India enhances its diplomatic leverage and strengthens its position as a leading voice within the Global South.
    • This strategic alignment of interests offers mutual cooperation and solidarity between India and Africa, amplifying their collective influence in shaping global agendas.
  • Development Agenda
    • India's advocacy for Africa's representation in global governance is closely aligned with its broader development agenda, which prioritises poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and inclusive growth.
    • By advocating for Africa's interests in global forums, India seeks to address systemic inequalities and promote policies that benefit the most vulnerable populations.
    • This advocacy encompasses a wide range of issues, including trade, finance, climate change, and peace and security, reflecting India's commitment to fostering a more just and equitable world order.

Historical Ties between India and Africa and the Potential for Future Developments

  • Colonial Legacy and Liberation Movements
    • India's historical connections with Africa are rooted in its own struggle for independence from colonial rule.
    • During the colonial era, India and many African nations shared similar experiences of exploitation and oppression under European colonial powers.
    • India played a significant role in supporting African liberation movements, offering political, moral, and even material support to freedom fighters across the continent.
    • This shared history of anti-colonial struggle forms the basis of solidarity and mutual understanding between India and Africa.
  • Cultural and People-to-People Ties
    • The historical interactions between Indian traders, scholars, and missionaries with African societies have left lasting imprints on both regions' cultures, languages, and traditions.
    • Today, Indian communities thrive in various African countries, contributing to the cultural diversity and economic vibrancy of the continent.
    • These cultural connections serve as a bridge for deeper engagement and collaboration between India and Africa.
  • Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance
    • India's development cooperation with Africa traces its roots to the early days of independence, when India extended technical assistance and capacity-building support to newly independent African nations.
    • Over the years, India has continued to prioritise Africa in its foreign policy agenda, helping in diverse fields such as education, healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure development.
    • This longstanding commitment to Africa's development reflects India's recognition of the continent's potential and its desire to contribute to its progress.
  • Future Prospects and Economic Opportunities
    • As Africa emerges as a key hub of economic activity and innovation, India stands to benefit from deepening its economic ties with the continent.
    • Leveraging its historical connections and cultural affinity, India can explore new avenues for trade, investment, and technology transfer in Africa.
    • Likewise, Africa can tap into India's expertise in areas such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, and agriculture to fuel its own development trajectory.
  • Geopolitical Realignment and Strategic Partnerships
    • As traditional power centres undergo transformations, India and Africa have an opportunity to forge closer strategic alliances based on shared interests and values.
    • By aligning their diplomatic efforts and leveraging their collective strengths, India and Africa can play a more influential role in shaping the global agenda and addressing common challenges such as climate change, terrorism, and pandemics.


  • India's multifaceted relationship with Africa offers significant opportunities for economic, political, and social cooperation.
  • As India seeks to assert its leadership within the Global South, prioritising engagement with African nations is essential.
  • As the world undergoes rapid changes, the synergy between India and Africa holds the promise of a mutually beneficial and prosperous future.


Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
30 Mar 2024

Validity of FCRA registration of NGOs extended

Why in news?

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the validity of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of NGOs and associations till June 30.

The Ministry has extended the validity of NGOs at least nine times since 2020 as the applications could not be processed within the stipulated time frame.

Registrations of many NGOs are up for renewal since September 29, 2020. The registration, mandatory to receive foreign funds, is renewed every five years.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)

What is the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)?

  • Background:
    • During the Emergency in 1976, the FCRA was enacted in response to concerns that foreign powers were interfering in Indian affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
    • The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and organisations in order for them to function in accordance with the values of a sovereign democratic republic.
    • In 2010, the FCRA was amended to consolidate the law on the use of foreign funds and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules (FCRR), 2011, were notified.
      • It is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which can prohibit the use of foreign funds for any activities detrimental to national interest.
    • The law was amended again in 2020, giving the government tighter control and scrutiny over the receipt and use of foreign funds by NGOs.
  • Salient features:
    • The FCRA requires every person or NGO seeking to receive foreign donations to be:
      • Registered under the Act.
      • To open a bank account for the receipt of the foreign funds in State Bank of India, Delhi.
      • To utilise those funds only for the purpose for which they have been received and as stipulated in the Act.
      • To file annual returns and must not transfer the funds to another NGO.
    • The Act prohibits the receipt of foreign funds by
      • Candidates for elections,
      • Journalists or newspaper and media broadcast companies,
      • Judges and government servants,
      • Members of legislature and political parties or their office-bearers, and
      • Organisations of a political nature.
  • Registration under FCRA:
    • NGOs seeking foreign funding must submit an online application in a prescribed format, along with the necessary documentation.
    • Individuals or organisations with specific cultural, economic, educational, religious, or social programs are eligible for FCRA registration.
    • Following the NGO's application, the MHA conducts background checks on the applicant through the Intelligence Bureau and processes the application accordingly.
    • The MHA must approve or deny the application within 90 days.
    • FCRA registration is valid for 5 years after it is granted. NGOs are expected to apply for renewal within 6 months of their registration expiry date.
  • Cancellation of registration:
    • The government reserves the right to revoke any NGO's FCRA registration if it discovers a violation of the Act.
    • Registration can be revoked if -
      • The NGO has not engaged in any reasonable activity in its chosen field for the benefit of society for two consecutive years or if it has become defunct.
      • In the opinion of the Central Government, it is necessary in the public interest to revoke the certificate, etc.
      • An audit uncovers irregularities in an NGO's finances, such as the misutilisation of foreign funds.
    • No cancellation order can be issued unless the person or NGO involved has been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard.
    • Once an NGO's registration is cancelled, it is ineligible for re-registration for 3 years.
    • The ministry also has the authority to suspend an NGO's registration for 180 days pending an investigation and to freeze its funds.
    • All government orders can be challenged in the High Court.



Polity & Governance

Mains Article
30 Mar 2024

Great Indian Bustards

Why in news?

Recently, the Supreme Court said it will review its April 2021 order to bury underground all power lines in the habitat of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB). This was after the Centre found the order practically impossible to implement over long distances.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Great Indian Bustard (GIB) – About, habitat and status, threats, conservation measures, SC’s intervention

What is Great Indian Bustard (GIB)?

  • About
    • GIBs are the largest among the four-bustard species found in India.
      • The other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
    • Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
    • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc. GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
  • Habitat and Status of GIB
    • This bird, found mainly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, has been categorized as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
      • As per the 2021 report of the IUCN, they are on the verge of extinction with hardly 50 to 249 of them alive.
      • According to a report by The Corbett Foundation (TCF), less than 150 GIB are left in the wild.
    • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 per cent of it.
    • Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.
  • Threats faced by GIB
    • Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been pointing out overhead power transmission lines as the biggest threat to the GIBs.
      • WII research has concluded that in Rajasthan, 18 GIBs die every year after colliding with overhead powerlines.
    • These birds, due to their poor frontal vision, cannot detect powerlines in time and their weight make in-flight quick manoeuvres difficult.
      • Unlike some birds that have a panoramic vision around the head, species like raptors and bustards have extensive blind areas above their heads.
      • When they stretch their head forward to scan the ground below, they fly blind in the direction of travel.
    • Kutch and Thar desert are the places which have witnessed creation of huge renewable energy infrastructure over the past two decades.
      • This led to installation of windmills and construction of power lines even in core GIB areas.
    • Other threats include:
      • Free-ranging dogs
      • Widespread use of pesticides in farmlands
      • Loss of grassland, particularly nesting sites, and
      • An erosion of support from local communities
  • Conservation measures initiated for the protection of GIB
    • In 2015, the Central government launched the GIB species recovery programme.
    • Under the programme, the WII and Rajasthan Forest department have jointly set up conservation breeding centres where GIB eggs harvested from the wild are incubated artificially and hatchlings raised in controlled environment.
    • The plan is to create a population which can act as insurance against the threat of extinction and release the third generation of these captive-bred birds into the wild.
    • Bird diverters have also been installed on power lines to protect the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) from collisions.
      • The diverters act as reflectors that birds can see from about 50 meters away.
      • When birds spot the diverters, they change their flight path to avoid colliding with the power lines.

Supreme Court’s intervention

  • 2021 order of SC
    • The SC in April 2021 ordered that all overhead power transmission lines in core and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat be made underground.
    • The SC also formed a three-member committee, including Devesh Gadhvi, the member of the bustard specialist group of IUCN, to help power companies comply with the order.
  • Review in 2022
    • Again, in November 2022, the court sought reports from chief secretaries of the two states in six weeks on installation of bird diverters in priority areas.
    • It also asked them to assess the length of transmission lines need to go underground.
  • March 2024 order of SC
    • In March 2024, the Supreme Court said it will review its April 2021 order.
    • It also created a seven-member committee that will suggest steps to protect and conserve the GIB, identifying critical areas where power lines may have to go underground.

Arguments of the Centre on the issue of undergrounding all power lines

  • The Centre said taking lines of 66 KV and higher voltage underground was not feasible for the evacuation of bulk power.
  • This is due to constraints such as transmission losses, maintenance challenges, multiple cable joints, increased time requirements, and concerns of safety.
Environment & Ecology

Mains Article
30 Mar 2024

Internet Freedom in India

Why in News?

For five years in a row, India has topped the globe in imposing internet bans, accounting for over 60% of all blackouts reported between 2016 and 2022.

Though the State imposed internet shutdowns in the last decade have cited national security and threats to public order, rights groups have criticised these shutdowns.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Internet Shutdowns in India
  • Comparing India’s Position with the Global Trends
  • Laws Invoked by the Union Government to Suspend Internet
  • Criticism of the Indian Government
  • Way Ahead for the Indian Government

Internet Shutdowns in India:

  • According to data collected by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), the Indian government imposed a total of 780 shutdowns between 2014 and 2023.
    • Data shows India shut down the internet for over 7,000 hours in 2023.
  • Internet disruptions in India accounted for more than 70% of total worldwide economic losses in 2020.
  • Shutdowns increased during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019, the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, and the introduction of Farm Bills in 2020.
  • Regionally, J&K saw the highest number of shutdowns (at 433) in the last 12 years.
    • The longest blackout in 2023 took place in Manipur from May to December, amid ethnic clashes.
    • As of February 15 this year, internet shutdowns were active in Haryana amid the farmers’ protests.

Comparing India’s Position with the Global Trends:

  • According to the latest Freedom House report, global internet freedom has declined for the 13th consecutive year, and the environment for human rights online has deteriorated in 29 countries.
  • The majority of internet outages in the last decade in India were localised to specific districts, cities and villages.
  • The trends differ globally: protests are the most common reason for internet shutdowns, followed by information control and political instability.

Laws Invoked by the Union Government to Suspend Internet:

  • According to the Indian Telegraph Act, Indian States and UTs can impose an internet shutdown only in case of a “public emergency” or in the interest of “public safety”.
    • However, the law does not define what qualifies as an emergency or safety issue.
  • Between 2015 and 2022, the biggest share of content censored was done under Section 69A of the IT Act by the Ministry of Electronics and IT and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • URLs were blocked due to links to organisations banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Criticism of the Indian Government:

  • The Union government invoked powers under British-era laws to suspend mobile internet as Punjab farmers are holding protests in Delhi.
  • Activists have pointed out that India failed to meet the ‘three-part test’ in imposing blackouts in J&K and Manipur.
  • Under international law, to block any access to content or invoke coercive measures that violate people’s fundamental rights, countries should check -
    • If the action is provided for by law;
    • Pursues a legitimate aim; and
    • Follows standards of necessity and proportionality.

Way Ahead for the Indian Government:

  • The Supreme Court, in the landmark Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India case, reiterated that internet shutdowns violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression.
    • According to the apex court, shutdowns lasting indefinitely are unconstitutional.
  • Governments must make shutdown orders public, a provision poorly complied with.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
30 Mar 2024

GeM Portal: Procurement crosses Rs 4 trillion mark in FY24

Why in News?

The procurement of goods and services through the Centre’s Government e-Market (GeM) portal has crossed Rs 4 trillion so far, this fiscal year.

This testifies to the portal’s unique digital capabilities and functionalities that have facilitated greater efficiency, transparency, and seamlessness in public procurement.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About GeM Portal (Background, Objectives, Advantages, Challenges, etc.)

About GeM Portal:

  • Government e-Marketplace, shortly known as GeM, is a digital platform that enables buying and selling of goods and services.
  • It is the Public Procurement Portal for procurement of goods and services for all Central Government and State Government Ministries, Departments, Public Sector Units (PSUs) and affiliated.
  • The portal was launched in August 2016, by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorised and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
  • The sole purpose of GeM is to enhance efficiency; transparency and speed in public procurement.

Objectives of GeM Portal:

  • To increase efficiency, transparency and speed in public procurement.
  • To provide multiple modes of procurement like direct purchase; bidding with reverse e-auction; e-bidding and direct reverse auction.
  • To make ministries/ government departments to mandatorily procure goods and services from the portal.
  • To enable efficient price discovery; economies of scale and dissemination of best practices.

Advantages of GeM Portal:

  • For Buyers:
    • A higher range of product varieties is available on the portal which enhances the customer’s choice.
    • Transparency of price and listing of various products for individual categories of goods as well as services.
    • Price comparison of multiple suppliers.
    • User-friendly dashboard for buying; monitoring supplies as well as payment.
  • For Sellers:
    • Sellers gets easy access to the National Public Procurement market.
    • Direct access to various government departments and government organizations.
    • Easy access to participate in bids/ reverse auction.
    • In case of rejection of goods, the seller will be able to view the reason for said rejection.

Challenges of GeM Portal:

  • Registration/Onboarding Process:
    • The biggest challenge faced by informal sector women workers is the onboarding process.
    • These workers rarely have the requisite documentation (especially GSTIN or PAN cards) to onboard on GeM.
    • Further, the current registration process is lengthy and requires large amounts of documentation.
    • Recommendation:
      • The registration process needs to be streamlined and rationalised.
      • For example, steps taken by the MSME Ministry to streamline common registration processes for GeM, TReDS and Udyog Aadhaar through their Udyam Portal is a move in the right direction.
      • Likewise, reducing the documentation burden to a minimum and allowing the option of completing one’s registration without a PAN card or GSTIN (which can be progressively added later) could benefit more informal sector enterprises to participate on GeM.
  • Government Pricing Mandate:
    • Many product/service offerings are not feasible for our members due to low mandated prices set by various government departments.
    • The current system on GeM also mandates a compulsory minimum discount of 10%, even on small order quantities.
    • Coupled with GST and shipping charges, this makes the cost to suppliers prohibitive.
    • Most enterprises struggle to cover their overheads, let alone make a tenable profit.
    • Recommendation:
      • Procurement through GeM should be more dynamically priced taking into consideration market rates and estimates from previous orders.
      • Apart from lifting such pricing mandates, the restriction of compulsory discounts and match prices to bulk orders is another way of making the fulfilment of government orders feasible for many low-margin micro and small enterprises.
  • Location Matching:
    • The available bids are often for distant locations, which not only eliminates the limited profit margin, but also starts cutting into the cost of production.
    • Recommendation:
      • Matching government orders to local vendors is a first step towards rectifying this issue.
      • This will also reduce the time taken and distance covered by products and services due to shipping in keeping with the ideals of the Vocal For Local campaign.


By creating access to market, GeM has been exceptionally successful in breaking down the cartel of established and renowned service providers, paving way for small domestic entrepreneurs to participate in government tenders from anywhere at any time.


March 29, 2024

Mains Article
29 Mar 2024

Understanding India’s Coal Imports


  • In recent years, the spectre of electricity shortages has loomed large over India as hot weather exacerbates the demand for power.
  • While the discourse surrounding this issue often focuses on the shortage of domestic thermal coal and the necessity of imports, a closer examination reveals deeper challenges related to logistics and regulatory interpretation.
  • So, it is important to analyse these aspects highlighting the complexities of the situation and explore solutions to address the underlying issues.

Major Reason Behind the Shortage of Domestic Thermal Coal: Logistical Challenges

  • Inadequate Transportation Infrastructure
    • One of the key issues is the inadequate transportation infrastructure, particularly the railway network, which is responsible for the bulk of coal transportation in India.
    • While coal mines may produce significant quantities of coal, the capacity of the railway network to transport it to power plants in a timely manner is often constrained.
    • This results in delays and inefficiencies in coal delivery, exacerbating shortages during periods of high demand.
  • Geographical Distribution Challenges
    • Moreover, the geographical distribution of coal mines and power plants adds another layer of complexity to the logistics challenge.
    • Many power plants, especially those located in regions far from coal mines, face greater difficulties in securing a reliable supply of coal.
    • The transportation distance increases the time and cost involved in coal delivery, making these plants more vulnerable to shortages, particularly during peak demand periods.
  • Storage and Handling Infrastructure
    • Furthermore, the storage and handling infrastructure at both coal mines and power plants are often insufficient to cope with fluctuations in demand and supply.
    • Inadequate storage capacity can lead to stockpiling issues at mines or plants, further exacerbating delays in coal delivery.


Conflict Between the Idea of Alternative Domestic Coal Sources,Necessity of Imports and Its Implications

  • Alternative Domestic Sources and the Idea of Imports
    • Alternative sources of coal, such as auctions conducted by Coal India Ltd., offer a domestic solution that is often overlooked in favour of imports.
    • Coal auctions provide an opportunity for power plants to procure coal domestically, albeit at potentially higher prices compared to coal obtained through other channels.
    • Despite this, auctions present a viable alternative to imports, especially for plants that do not face logistical constraints in accessing coal from auction sites.
    • However, the discourse tends to focus solely on imports as the default solution to address coal shortages.
    • This narrow perspective overlooks the potential of domestic alternatives and fails to consider the broader implications of relying heavily on imported coal.
  • Cost Implications of Imports
    • Importing coal incurs additional costs, including transportation, handling, and import duties, which ultimately increase the variable cost of coal-based electricity.
    • These costs are often passed on to consumers through higher electricity tariffs, placing a burden on households and industries alike.
  • Regulatory Misinterpretation and Mandates
    • Moreover, interpreting Ministry of Power advisories recommending coal imports as mandates further exacerbates the conflation between alternative sources and imports.
    • While the advisories may suggest importing up to a certain percentage of coal, they should not be misconstrued as mandatory requirements.
    • Rather, they should be viewed as guidelines to be carefully considered in the context of each power plant's specific circumstances.
  • Less Focus on Domestic Procurement Improvement
    • Furthermore, the emphasis on imports overlooks the potential for improving domestic coal procurement and distribution processes.
    • By addressing logistical challenges and streamlining administrative procedures, India can enhance the efficiency and reliability of its domestic coal supply chain, reducing the need for costly imports.

Regulatory Consideration in Shaping the Response to Electricity Shortages and Coal Procurement Strategies

  • Address Misinterpretation of Advisories
    • One of the challenges in regulatory considerations is the potential misinterpretation of advisories issued by government agencies, such as the Ministry of Power.
    • These advisories may provide recommendations or guidelines for addressing coal shortages, including suggestions for coal imports. However, they should not be automatically interpreted as mandates.
    • Misinterpreting advisories as mandates can lead to unnecessary costs and burdens on consumers, as power plants may feel obligated to comply with import recommendations even if domestic alternatives are available.
  • Far-sightedness in Regulatory Decision-Making
    • Regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing electricity generation and distribution must exercise forward thinking in their decision-making processes.
    • They should carefully assess the implications of regulatory measures on stakeholders, including consumers, power producers, and distribution utilities.
    • This requires thorough analysis of the costs and benefits associated with different coal procurement strategies, considering factors such as transportation costs, import duties, and environmental considerations.
  • Tailored Approaches for Different Plants
    • Furthermore, regulatory bodies should recognise that not all power plants face the same challenges when it comes to coal shortages.
    • Plants located closer to coal mines, known as pit-head plants, may have easier access to domestic coal and face fewer logistical constraints.
    • In contrast, plants located farther away from mines may rely more heavily on imported coal and face greater challenges in securing a reliable supply.
    • Regulatory measures should, therefore, be tailored to the specific circumstances of each plant, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Balancing Cost and Reliability
    • A key consideration for regulators is striking the right balance between cost and reliability in electricity supply.
    • While imports may offer a quick solution to coal shortages, they come with significant costs that ultimately impact consumers.
    • Regulators must carefully weigh the potential cost savings of domestic procurement against the reliability and security of imported coal supply.
    • This requires robust cost-benefit analysis and consultation with industry stakeholders to ensure that regulatory decisions are transparent and equitable.
  • Long-Term Planning and Sustainability
    • Finally, regulatory considerations should also take into account long-term planning and sustainability
    • While addressing immediate coal shortages is important, regulators must also consider the broader implications of coal procurement strategies on energy security, environmental sustainability, and the transition to renewable energy sources.
    • This requires a forward-looking approach that balances short-term needs with long-term sustainability goals, ensuring that regulatory decisions support India's transition to a more resilient and sustainable energy system.


  • The discourse surrounding electricity shortages in India requires a nuanced understanding of the logistical challenges and regulatory considerations at play.
  • While coal imports may seem like a quick fix, they come with significant costs and do not address the underlying issues of logistics inefficiencies.
  • By addressing the root causes of shortages and adopting targeted solutions, India can navigate the challenges of power generation more effectively in the face of changing weather patterns and growing demand.


Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
29 Mar 2024

Conflict Between States and their Governors in the Matters of Lawmaking

Why in News?

The Kerala government recently approached the SC saying the President had withheld assent to 4 Bills passed by the state (but reserved by the Governor for consideration by the President) while disclosing no reason whatsoever.

This is the newest chapter in the conflict between states ruled by opposition parties, and their Governors, who are appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Governor’s Role in Lawmaking and Where the Controversy Arise
  • President’s Role in the Lawmaking Process of the State
  • Petition of the Kerala Govt against the Governor and the President
  • Situation in Other States
  • Way Ahead to Reduce Conflict Between States and their Governors in the Lawmaking Process

Governor’s Role in Lawmaking and Where the Controversy Arise:

  • Article 200 of the Constitution states that after a Bill has been passed by the state legislature, “it shall be presented to the Governor”.
  • The Governor, then, has 3 options: give assent to the Bill, withhold assent, or reserve the Bill for consideration by the President.
  • For situations where assent is withheld, Article 200 states that the Governor may (as soon as possible) return the Bill together with a message requesting that the House or Houses will reconsider the Bill or any specified provisions thereof.
  • If the Bill is passed again by the House or Houses with or without amendment and presented to the Governor for assent, the Governor shall not withhold assent therefrom.
  • The latter part of the proviso clearly gives the state government the final say on enacting legislation.
  • But it is the part saying “as soon as possible after the presentation to him”, which has led to states approaching the SC.
    • Since the article does not provide a timeline, Governors have often withheld assent to Bills for extended periods, effectively leaving them and the state legislature in limbo.

President’s Role in the Lawmaking Process of the State:

  • This is dealt with in Article 201. In situations where a Bill is sent to the President for consideration, the President can either give or withhold assent.
  • If assent is withheld, the President requests the Governor to return the Bill to the state legislature for reconsideration.
    • The state government then has 6 months to reconsider the Bill - failing to do so results in its lapsing.
    • If the Bill is passed once again by the state legislature, it must be sent back to the President. Unlike the Governor, the President is under no obligation to give assent when assessing the reconsidered Bill.
    • This is the only situation in which state governments do not have the final say in their own lawmaking process.

Petition of the Kerala Govt against the Governor and the President:

  • The Kerala government’s petition terms the actions of Governor and President as “manifestly arbitrary”, i.e., an action that is unreasonable, irrational and which violates the right to equality.
  • The petition argues that the decision to keep Bills pending violates Article 200 by not making a decision “as soon as possible”.
  • The Governor had “subverted the functioning” of the state legislature and “rendered its existence itself ineffective”.
  • The President’s decision to withhold assent to 4 of the Bills referred to her was done without giving “any reason whatsoever”.
    • This is in violation of Article 201, which states that the President is required to return the Bill with a message containing “such amendments as he may recommend”.

Situation in Other States:

  • The SC (last year) expressed “serious concern” at Tamil Nadu Governor’s decision to withhold assent to 10 Bills that had been enacted by the state legislature, some of which were pending since 2020.
    • Three days later, all 10 Bills were returned for reconsideration, with no reasons given for the decision.
  • The SC also criticised the TN Governor for refusing to appoint K Ponmudy as the state’s Minister for Higher Education, despite the apex court staying his criminal conviction.
  • The Telangana government also approached the SC (in March 2023) over the former Governor's refusal to give assent to 10 Bills that were passed by its legislative assembly.
    • She gave her assent shortly after.
  • The Governor of Punjab had refused to give assent to four Bills passed by the Punjab Assembly, claiming that the Bills were passed in breach of law and procedure.

SC Ruling and Way Ahead to Reduce Conflict:

  • In (November) 2023, the SC held that the Governor did not have the power to “thwart the normal course of lawmaking by the State Legislatures”.
    • The phrase “as soon as possible” in Article 200 means that the Governor cannot be at liberty to keep the Bill pending indefinitely without any action whatsoever.
    • If the Governor decides to withhold assent, s/he is bound to follow the procedure provided in the Article 200.
  • Though the court spelled out the obligations of the Governor in the lawmaking process, it stopped short of providing a definitive timeline for the Governor to make the decision.
    • The Kerala government has now approached the SC to address the same issue.
Polity & Governance

Mains Article
29 Mar 2024

World Wastes 1 billion Meals a Day: UN Report

Why in News?

Households across the globe wasted over one billion meals a day in 2022, according to the Food Waste Index Report 2024.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Food Waste Index Report (Objective, Features, Key Highlights of 2024 Report)
  • About UNEP (Objectives, Areas of Cooperation, Governing Body)

About Food Waste Index Report:

  • Started in 2021, the Food Waste Index measures food waste at retail and consumer level (households and food service).
  • It is jointly authored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), a U.K.-based non-profit.
  • Objective: To catalyze essential action towards reducing food waste and achieving UN’s Sustainable Developmental Goal (SDG 12.3).
    • SDG 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”
    • Target 12.3 calls for cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030.
  • The report defines food waste as food and the associated inedible parts removed from the human food supply chain.

Key Highlights of the Food Waste Index Report 2024:

  • In 2022, the world wasted 1.05 billion tonnes of food.
    • This amounts to one fifth (19 per cent) of food available to consumers being wasted, at the retail, food service, and household level.
    • That is in addition to the 13 per cent of the world’s food lost in the supply chain, as estimated by FAO, from post-harvest up to and excluding retail.
  • Most of the world’s food waste comes from households.
    • Out of the total food wasted in 2022, households were responsible for 631 million tonnes equivalent to 60 percent, the food service sector for 290 and the retail sector for 131.
  • Households waste at least one billion meals a day.
    • On average, each person wastes 79kg of food annually.
    • The equivalent of at least one billion meals of edible food is being wasted in households worldwide every single day, using a very conservative assessment on the share of food waste that is edible.
  • Temperature and Food Waste Correlation.
    • Hotter countries appear to have more food waste per capita in households, potentially due to increased consumption of fresh foods with substantial inedible parts and lack of robust cold chain.
  • Urban-Rural Disparities.
    • Middle-income countries display variations between urban and rural populations, with rural areas generally wasting less.
    • Possible explanations include greater diversion of food scraps to pets, animal feed, and home composting in rural areas.
    • The report recommends focusing efforts to strengthen food waste reduction and circularity in cities.
  • G20 Role in Food Waste Reduction.
    • Only four G20 countries (Australia, Japan, UK, and USA) and the European Union have food waste estimates suitable for tracking progress to 2030.
    • An additional two G20 countries have suitable household estimates (Canada, Saudi Arabia), with Brazil’s estimate expected late 2024.
  • Food waste must be addressed at both individual and systemic levels, including targeted efforts in urban areas and international collaboration among countries and across supply chains.

United Nations Environment Programme:

  • The UNEP was established in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, popularly known as the Stockholm Conference, as it was held in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Objective:
    • To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
  • It uses its expertise to strengthen environmental standards and practices while helping implement environmental obligations at the country, regional and global levels.
  • Six Areas of Concentration
    • UNEP re-organised its work programme into six strategic areas as part of its move to results-based management.
      • Climate Change
      • Post-Conflict and Disaster Management
      • Ecosystem Management
      • Environmental Governance:
      • Harmful Substances - UNEP strives to minimise the impact of harmful substances and hazardous waste on the environment and human beings.
      • Resource Efficiency/Sustainable Consumption and Production:
  • Governing Body
    • The UN Environment Assembly is the governing body of the UNEP.
    • It was created in 2012 to replace the governing council.
    • It currently has 193 members and meets every two years.
    • Headquarters: Nairobi, Kenya


Social Issues

Mains Article
29 Mar 2024

H5N1 Bird Flu

Why in news?

Since 2020, a highly pathogenic type of bird flu, H5N1, has been spreading across the globe, posing an existential threat to birds and wildlife. The virus has infected birds in more than 80 countries (as of December 2023).

In January 2024, the Executive Director of Health at the Wildlife Conservation Society said that H5N1 has infected over 150 wild and domestic avian species around the globe as well as dozens of mammalian species.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Bird flu
  • H5N1 Bird Flu

Bird Flu

  • About
    • Bird flu, also known as avian flu, refers to an infectious viral illness that mainly infects and spreads among poultry and some wild birds.
    • There are different strains of bird flu virus, which have been circulating for a very long time among at least 100 bird species without much harming them.
  • Cause of concern
    • From time to time, a form of the flu virus jumps from wild birds to poultry farms, and replicates in cramped warehouses of farmed birds.
    • It then quickly evolves into a highly pathogenic flu virus that causes a larger wave of illness and death than usual among birds.

H5N1 Bird flu

  • About
    • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or "bird flu").
    • Basically, it is a subtype of the influenza A virus.
      • Influenza A viruses are classified by subtypes based on the properties of their surface proteins.
      • There are 18 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes (H1 through H18 and N1 through N11, respectively).
      • For example, A(H1N1) and A(H3N2).
    • Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
      • When people become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.
  • Origin and circulation
    • The currently circulating type of H5N1 has descended from a virus that caused an outbreak on a goose farm in Guangdong, China, in 1996.
    • The new version of H5N1 first emerged in Europe in 2020 and then rapidly reached Africa, and Asia.
    • By late 2021, it had spread to North America and in the fall of 2022, it appeared in South America.
    • In February 2024, the virus stormed through mainland Antarctica.
  • Reasons behind the large-scale spread of H5N1
    • The exact factors behind the large outbreaks of the bird flu are still largely unknown. Some scientists suggest that one reason could be climate change.
    • According to studies, soaring global temperatures impact the behaviour of birds in such a way that it exacerbates the spread of the flu.
      • These birds are forced to move into new territories and mix with species that they usually don’t interact with, which possibly boosts the chances for the virus to spread even further.
    • Higher sea surface temperatures might also be at play.
      • E.g., warmer sea temperatures near northern Chile have led to a fall in the forage fish population and that has made sea lions weaker and more susceptible to disease.
  • Spread of H5N1 to people
    • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
    • The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
  • Cause of concern
    • H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
    • If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.


Science & Tech

Mains Article
29 Mar 2024

EC rules regarding cash carrying limit during election

Why in news?

Recently, a video of Tamil Nadu police seizing Rs 69,400 from some tourists went viral on social media.

While the money was later returned to the couple in question, the incident has brought to limelight the Election Commission’s (EC’s) stringent rules for carrying cash and other items around elections.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Measures to curb money power
  • Rules for carrying cash and other items

Measures to curb money power

  • Strict vigil on the movement of cash, liquor etc.
    • Before each election, the Election Commission provides clear directions to the police, railways, airports, the Income Tax department, and other enforcement agencies.
    • They are instructed to closely monitor the movement of cash, liquor, jewellery, drugs, and gifts—anything that could be given out during the polls.
  • Appointment of expenditure observers
    • EC also appoints expenditure observers for every district, alongside static surveillance teams and flying squads.
    • The flying squads comprise a Senior Executive Magistrate as the head, a senior police officer, a videographer, and three or four armed police personnel.
    • These teams are provided with a dedicated vehicle, a mobile phone, a video camera, and necessary documents required for seizing cash or goods.
  • Role of surveillance teams
    • Surveillance teams put up check posts on roads, video graphing the entire checking process.
    • Their location is changed frequently to maintain an element of surprise.
    • While check posts are supposed to be set up from the date of announcement of polls, the final 72 hours before polling will see enhanced enforcement.

Why EC takes measures to curb money power?

  • The EC’s efforts are meant to keep an eye on campaign expenditure by candidates. This is done to provide a level playing field to the candidates contesting elections.
    • The ruling governments have an advantage before elections when it comes to publishing advertisements that disturb the level playing field.
  • Campaign expenditure by candidates is capped at:
    • For Parliamentary Constituencies
      • Rs 95 lakh per constituency in bigger states, and Rs 75 lakh per constituency in smaller ones.
    • For Assembly Constituencies
      • Rs 40 lakh per constituency in bigger states, and Rs 28 lakh per constituency in smaller ones

What are the rules for carrying cash and other items?

  • Rules for Airports
    • According to EC instructions, the CISF or police at airports must immediately inform the Income Tax Dept if anyone is carrying cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakh or more than 1 kg of bullion.
    • The Income Tax Department will then verify the situation according to tax laws and take action if a satisfactory explanation is not provided.
    • This means that cash or bullion can be seized till verification is completed, in order to ensure that it is not related to any political party or candidate.
  • At check-posts controlled by the surveillance team
    • At check-posts, if over Rs. 10 lakh cash is found in a vehicle without any suspicion, it will not be seized.
    • Instead, the Income Tax authority will be informed for necessary action.
  • Rules for vehicle carrying a candidate, or his/her agent or party worker
    • If a vehicle with a candidate, agent, or party worker has more than Rs. 50,000 cash or items like drugs, liquor, arms, or gifts worth over Rs. 10,000, they will be confiscated.
    • If any suspicion of a crime arises during checking, the seizure will follow the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and an FIR will be lodged within 24 hours.

What happens after a seizure?

  • Seized cash/items are returned
    • In case any cash or other items are seized, authorities are meant to return them if they are not related to any candidate or a crime.
      • Once seized, the money will be deposited as instructed by the Court.
      • A copy of the seizure of cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakhs will be sent to the Income Tax authority handling the matter.
  • Grievance redressal committee
    • A district-level committee will look at grievances in order to avoid inconvenience to the public and genuine persons.
    • The Committee shall suo-motu examine each case of seizure:
      • where no FIR/complaint has been filed, or
      • where the seizure is not linked with any candidate, political party or election campaign.
    • Moreover, it shall take immediate steps to return any cash seized.


Polity & Governance

March 28, 2024

Mains Article
28 Mar 2024

WTO’s Investment Facilitation Negotiations Are Not Illegal


  • The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Abu Dhabi witnessed a significant development with the non-adoption of the agreement on investment facilitation for development (IFD).
  • Despite considerable support, including from around 120 member countries, the IFD Agreement faced opposition, notably from India and South Africa.
  • Amid these developments, it is important to understand India's stance against the IFD Agreement and concerns regarding its compatibility with WTO principles, particularly regarding the nature of investment within the realm of trade and the process followed in negotiating the agreement. 

Understanding the IFD Agreement

  • Despite opposition from countries such as India, negotiations for an IFD agreement at the WTO were launched in 2017 on a plurilateral basis by 70 countries.
  • This was done through a process known as the Joint Statement Initiative. The IFD agreement was finalised in November 2023.
  • Today, around 120 of 166 WTO member countries (more than 70% of the membership) back the IFD agreement.
  • This agreement aims to create legally binding provisions to facilitate investment flows.
  • The IFD Agreement, among other things, will require states to augment regulatory transparency, and streamline administrative procedures to bolster foreign investment inflows.
  • Importantly, this agreement does not contain provisions on market access, investment protection, and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
  • ISDS, which allows foreign investors to bring treaty claims against the state admitting investment, has been a contentious issue in recent years.

Reason Behind India’s Opposition to IFD Agreement

  • Given the existing structure of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism, where only states can bring legal claims against other states, it is implausible that ISDS can be a part of it.
  • India and South Africa played a crucial role in not letting the IFD agreement become a part of the WTO rulebook.
  • India does not seem to be exceedingly concerned about the text of the IFD agreement.
  • Instead, India’s principal concerns are twofold. First, the question of whether investment can be part of the WTO. And second, the process followed to make the IFD agreement a part of the WTO rulebook.

India’s Concerns with IFD Agreement at WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13)

  • Investment and its Relationship with Trade
    • India’s Stance Challenges the Rethinking of Investment-Trade Nexus
    • India's contention regarding the relationship between investment and trade reflects a nuanced understanding of the evolving dynamics shaping international commerce.
    • While traditional economic perspectives often portray investment and trade as inherently intertwined, India's stance challenges this conventional wisdom by highlighting the diverse nature of investment activities and their implications for cross-border trade.
  • The Proposed Role of Investment in Global Economics
    • At the heart of India's argument lies the recognition that investment, though integral to global economic activities, does not always lead to the immediate facilitation of cross-border trade.
    • Unlike trade in goods and services, which involve the exchange of tangible or intangible products, investment encompasses a broader spectrum of activities, ranging from capital injections into foreign enterprises to the acquisition of assets in overseas markets.
    • These investment activities may not always result in immediate trade flows, especially in cases where investments are made for strategic or long-term purposes, rather than for the explicit purpose of engaging in trade.
  • Linkage of Global Value Chains and Investment-Trade
    • Furthermore, India points to the complexities of global value chains (GVCs) to underscore the multifaceted nature of investment-trade linkages.
    • While it is undeniable that GVCs rely on both trade and investment to facilitate the seamless movement of goods and services across borders, India argues that the relationship between the two is not always straightforward.
    • Investment in GVCs often serves to enhance production efficiencies, reduce costs, and access new markets, but may not necessarily translate into direct trade activities.
    • Particularly in cases where intermediate inputs are destined for domestic consumption or further processing within the host country.
  • Concerns with the Process of Negotiating the IFD Agreement
    • Procedural Concerns in IFD Agreement Negotiations
      • India's opposition to the IFD Agreement also encompasses procedural concerns regarding the negotiation process.
      • India asserts that there was no mandate for conducting negotiations on investment within the WTO framework.
      • This assertion is grounded in previous WTO decisions, such as the 2004 General Council decision, which excluded discussions on trade and investment from the Doha Round of negotiations.
      • India contends that this decision implicitly signalled a reluctance to engage in negotiations on investment-related matters within the WTO framework.
    • Consensus Requirement and Legitimacy of Negotiations
      • Moreover, India points to the consensus requirement for launching multilateral negotiations on new issues, as outlined in the 2015 WTO Nairobi ministerial decision.
      • This decision emphasised the necessity of unanimous agreement among WTO members to initiate negotiations on novel topics.
      • India argues that since there was no consensus among all members to launch negotiations on an IFD Agreement, the subsequent negotiations and the text that emerged are legally questionable.
    • Upholding WTO Integrity and Transparency
      • India's objection raises fundamental questions about the legitimacy of negotiating agreements outside the established framework of WTO mandates.
      • By invoking past decisions and procedural requirements, India underscores the importance of adhering to established norms and principles in shaping global trade governance.
      • This stance reflects India's commitment to upholding the integrity of the WTO's decision-making processes and ensuring that negotiations are conducted transparently and inclusively.
    • Scope and Mandate of WTO Negotiations
      • Furthermore, India's concerns extend beyond mere procedural objections to broader questions about the scope and mandate of WTO negotiations.
      • India contends that discussions on investment-related matters were explicitly excluded from previous rounds of negotiations, suggesting a reluctance among members to address such issues within the WTO framework.
      • This reluctance underscores the need for clarity regarding the scope of WTO negotiations and the parameters within which member states can engage in discussions on novel topics.


  • India's opposition to the IFD Agreement at the WTO reflects broader debates surrounding the intersection of investment and trade, as well as procedural intricacies within the organisation.
  • While concerns regarding the nature of investment and the negotiation process are valid, reconciling divergent perspectives is essential for fostering consensus and advancing global trade governance.
  • As the WTO seeks to navigate evolving trade landscapes, engaging constructively with initiatives like the IFD Agreement can contribute to revitalising its legislative function and addressing contemporary trade challenges.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
28 Mar 2024

India TB Report 2024

Why in News?

According to the India TB Report 2024 released by the Union Health Ministry, the gap between the estimated number and actual cases of tuberculosis (TB) is closing.

This is an important marker (as the missing cases are assumed to not have received treatment and continue to spread the infection to others), which will contribute to India's goal of eliminating TB by 2025.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Tuberculosis (TB)
  • What is the India TB Report?
  • Highlights of the India TB Report 2024

About Tuberculosis (TB):

  • It is an infectious disease (world’s deadliest infectious killer) usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria, which generally affects the lungs (Pulmonary TB), but can also affect other parts of the body (Extrapulmonary).
  • It is spread from one person to the next through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak or sneeze.
  • Most infections show no symptoms, which is also known as latent tuberculosis. People with latent TB do not spread the disease.
  • Prevention of TB:
    • It involves screening those at high risk, early detection and treatment of cases and vaccination with the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine.
    • Treatment of TB requires the use of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time.
  • Drug resistant TB:
    • A person has drug resistant TB if the TB bacteria that the person is infected with, will not respond to (or resistant to), at least one of the main TB drugs.
    • There are two main types of drug resistant TB - MDR (multidrug-resistant) TB and XDR (extensively drug-resistant) TB.
      • MDR TB is when the bacteria that are causing it are resistant to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, two of the most effective TB drugs.
      • XDR TB is defined as strains resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (i.e., amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin).
  • WHO’s END TB Strategy:
    • It was adopted in 2014 with the aim to end the TB epidemic globally by 2035.
    • It aims at 95% reduction by 2035 in the number of TB deaths compared with 2015, 90% reduction by 2035 in the TB incidence rate compared with 2015 and Zero TB-affected families facing catastrophic costs due to TB by 2035.

What is the India TB Report?

  • The annual India TB Report is prepared and published under the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) by the Central TB Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • Published from the year 2001, it captures the policy updates, programme implementation, and state and district wise performance indicators.

Highlights of the India TB Report 2024:

  • Reporting of the cases:
    • The majority of the TB cases are still reported by the government health centres, even as there has been an uptick in notifications by the private sector.
    • Nearly 33% or 8.4 lakh of the 25.5 lakh cases reported in 2023 came from the private sector (only 1.9 lakh cases in 2015).
  • The mortality due to the infection: It remained the same at 3.2 lakh as per the data. India’s TB mortality dropped from 4.94 lakhs in 2021 to 3.31 lakhs in 2022.
  • Missing cases:
    • There were only 2.3 lakh missing cases in 2023, as compared to 3.2 lakh the year before, the report states.
    • This gap has been reducing over the years, especially with the government’s Ni-kshay portal tracking all TB patients.
  • Recommendations:
    • The report shows that India reached its 2023 target of initiating treatment in 95% of patients diagnosed with the infection.
    • It says 58% of those diagnosed were offered a test to check whether their infection was resistant to the first line drugs, an increase from 25% in 2015.
    • The report suggests drug susceptibility treatment to ensure that persons with drug-resistant TB have access to medicines from the start, rather than being treated with first-line medication immediately.


Social Issues

Mains Article
28 Mar 2024

Why are Rohingya Refugees Risking their Lives at Sea?

Last week, a wooden boat capsized off the Indonesian coast carrying Rohingya refugees. This has once again drawn attention to the plight of the refugees who are increasingly embarking on dangerous sea journeys to seek a better life.

As per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 4,500 Rohingya refugees set off on dangerous journeys across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea last year.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About Rohingya Refugees (Background, Present Status, w.r.t. India, etc.)
  • Reasons for Taking Sea Route, Death Toll, etc.

About Rohingya Refugees:

  • The Rohingya are a Muslim minority ethnic group with their roots in the Arakan kingdom in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
  • The Rohingya are culturally and religiously distinct from the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar.
  • The Rohingya claim to have lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for generations, but successive governments in the country have disputed their ties, labelling them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
  • Myanmar has refused to recognise them, denying them citizenship since 1982, thus making them the world’s largest stateless population devoid of fundamental rights and security.
  • Their largest exodus began in August 2017 when a massive wave of violence broke out in Rakhine, driving more than 7.5 lakh people to seek sanctuary in Bangladesh to escape the brutality of security forces.
  • A 2018 UN fact-finding commission claimed the Myanmar government had “genocidal” intent against the Rohingya.

Rohingyas in India:

  • As per the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are more than 40,000 Rohingya in India. Only 14,000 of them hold United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee ID cards, which offers them protection from arbitrary detention.
  • There are clusters of Rohingya population in Jammu, Hyderabad, and Delhi-NCR, besides the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
  • The UN says that India has an international legal obligation to provide Rohingya refugees with necessary protection.

Legal Provisions for ‘Refugees’ in India:

  • In India, no legislation has been passed that specifically refers to refugees.
  • Hence, Rohingya refugees are often clubbed with illegal immigrants deported by the Government under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners Order, 1948.
  • Section 3 of The Foreigners Act, 1946 gives the Central government the right to deport a foreign national.
  • The power to identify and deport foreign nationals who are in India illegally has been delegated to state governments, Union Territories and the Home Ministry’s Bureau of Immigration.
  • Illegal immigrants who are intercepted at the border while entering India unauthorizedly can be sent back then and there.

Why are Rohingyas Taking Sea Route?

  • While over one million Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the 1990s, around 6 lakh remain in the country.
  • They mostly live in camps for internally displaced people where their movements and livelihoods are restricted.
  • An estimated 9.6 lakh Rohingya, meanwhile, reside in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
  • Most live near the Myanmar border in the Cox’s Bazar, which has grown over the years to house some of the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camps.
  • These overcrowded camps lack basic human necessities, forcing the Rohingya to live in harsh conditions.
  • There is a shortage of food, access to water is inadequate, sanitation facilities are missing, healthcare is insufficient, and children are growing up without formal education.
  • Security conditions also have deteriorated over the years due to gang violence and an increase in arson attacks in camps.
  • Over 60 Rohingya were killed in Bangladeshi camp clashes in 2023.
  • With the option of returning to Myanmar virtually impossible, an increasing number of Rohingya have been undertaking dangerous journeys across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to Muslim-majority nations of Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • However, human traffickers exploit their desperation, charging exorbitant amounts to ferry them on rickety boats from Bangladesh to Indonesia.
  • The treacherous voyages with inadequate space and in the absence of basic supplies take weeks and sometimes stretch into months.
  • Horrifying accounts of abuse during the journey, including violence against women, have been recorded. Many do not survive the journey.

Rising Death Toll:

  • The UN estimates that one in eight Rohingya who take the sea route die or disappear in the attempt, making the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal among the deadliest stretches of water in the world.
  • Last year, the number of people embarking on sea journeys increased by 21%. The UNHCR reported a 63% increase in deaths or disappearances compared to 2022.


International Relations

Mains Article
28 Mar 2024

India-Pakistan trade

Why in news?

Recently, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar said that his country may seriously examine the question of resuming trade with India.

Pakistan had stopped trade after the constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan
  • Why might Pakistan be reconsidering trade with India?
  • Challenges to normalisation of India-Pakistan trade

Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan

  • Composition of India-Pakistan trade
    • Despite having MFN status since 1996, Pakistan maintained a Negative List of 1,209 products that were not allowed to be imported from India.
      • Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status is a principle in the WTO that ensures that countries treat all other members equally.
      • This means that if a country improves the benefits it gives to one trading partner, it must give the same treatment to all other WTO members.
    • Only 138 products were allowed to be imported from India through the Wagah-Attari border land route.
      • Still, India maintained a significant trade surplus over Pakistan.
    • In 2018-19, cotton and organic chemicals accounted for around half of Pakistan’s imports from India.
      • Other major Pakistani imports from India that year included plastic, tanning/dyeing extracts, and nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, and mechanical appliances.
    • Meanwhile, India’s imports from Pakistan in 2018-9 included mineral fuels and oils, edible fruits and nuts, salt, sulphur, stone and plastering materials, ores, slag and ash and raw hides and leather.
  • Why was India-Pakistan trade paused?
    • Pakistan suspended bilateral trade with India in August 2019, after the Indian government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
      • The now-scrapped article gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, following its accession with India in 1947.
    • However, experts believe an underlying reason for suspending trade was the 200 per cent tariff imposed by New Delhi on Pakistani imports earlier that year after India revoked Pakistan’s MFN status.
      • India took this step in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack in February 2019.
      • India withdrew Pakistan’s MFN status within 24 hours of the attack.

Why might Pakistan be reconsidering trade with India?

  • Change of government in Pakistan
    • There has been a change of face, if not regime, since Imran Khan following elections held earlier this year.
    • While the Pakistani military remains firmly in control, a new government indicates the possibility of a new policy.
  • Economic crisis in Pakistan
    • Devastating floods in 2022, high inflation, and political instability alongside structural issues, have led to multiple crises related to meeting the food and energy needs of the population.
  • Pakistan is approaching IMF and friendly countries for loan
    • Pakistan has had to frequently approach the IMF or friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and China for billions of dollars in loans.
    • With the pause in trade with India, importing goods from faraway countries further depletes its low foreign exchange reserves.
  • Direct trade will increase the efficiency
    • Trade between India and Pakistan is already taking place through Dubai or other countries.
    • This raises costs, and the logic of efficiency and geography demand a resumption of direct trade.
  • Pakistan’s relationships with Afghanistan and Iran have become tense
    • In fact, Pakistan’s ties with India are more stable than its western frontier with Afghanistan and Iran.

Challenges to normalisation of India-Pakistan trade

  • Role of hardliners
    • Given that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken a hard line against India in public statements over the last few years, it is not clear if his party will support trading with India.
  • Role of Pakistani Army
    • Pakistani army traditionally opposes any steps taken to normalise the relationship between these two countries.
  • Pakistan’s demand on Article 370
    • Pakistan has put preconditions on talks with India, demanding the reversal of the decision on Article 370 — which will not happen.
  • Terrorism
    • India too would not want to trade without major steps from Pakistan on curbing terrorism.
    • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has frequently said trade and terrorism cannot go together.


Today, India’s position is stronger, and the Indian government is not going to make any concessions. The ball then is in Pakistan’s court; and there is no domestic consensus on how to reset ties with India. This is the problem: trade with India makes economic sense for Pakistan. But the politics of doing the right thing are quite hard in Pakistan.

International Relations

Mains Article
28 Mar 2024

T+0, instant settlement cycle from today

Why in news?

Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) are all prepared to launch the T+0 or same-day trade settlement, from March 28, 2024.

Currently, Indian markets operate on a T+1 settlement cycle for all stocks.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Trade Settlement
  • T+1 settlement cycle
  • T+0 settlement cycle
  • Working of T+0 settlement
  • Benefits of instant settlement mechanism

Trade Settlement

  • About
    • Settlement is a two-way process which involves the transfer of funds and securities on the settlement date.
    • A trade settlement is said to be complete once purchased securities of a listed company are delivered to the buyer and the seller gets the money.
  • Current cycle of trade settlement
    • SEBI has shortened the settlement cycle to T+3 from T+5 in 2002 and subsequently to T+2 in 2003.
    • Currently, Indian stock market follows the cycle of T+1.
      • The migration to the T+1 cycle came into effect in January 2023.
      • India became the second country in the world to start the T+1 settlement cycle in top-listed securities after China.

T+1 settlement cycle

  • The T+1 settlement cycle means that trade-related settlements must be done within a day, or 24 hours, of the completion of a transaction.
  • For example, under T+1, if a customer bought shares on Wednesday, they would be credited to the customer’s demat account on Thursday.

T+0, Instant settlement cycle

  • Proposal of SEBI
    • In December 2023, SEBI, in addition to the existing T+1 settlement cycle, proposed the introduction of a shorter settlement cycle as an option.
    • It proposed to implement it in two phases:
      • Phase 1: T+0 Settlement Cycle and
      • Phase 2: Instant Settlement Cycle.
  • Phase 1 - T+0 settlement cycle
    • In Phase 1, an optional T+0 settlement cycle (for trades till 1:30 PM) is envisaged, with settlement of funds and securities to be completed on the same day by 4:30 PM.
    • This was proposed to be introduced on an optional basis starting on 28th March, 2024.
  • Phase 2: Instant Settlement Cycle
    • In Phase 2, an optional immediate trade-by-trade settlement (funds and securities) may be carried out.
    • In this phase, trading will be carried out till 3.30 pm.

Working of T+0 settlement

  • The T 0 settlement will be optional for 25 stocks and will be applicable only for trades executed between 9:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • Trading in the T+0 cycle will be subject to a price band of 100 basis points above or below prices under the T+1 cycle.
    • To avoid market distortions due to price discrepancies for shares trading in both settlement cycles.

Benefits of instant settlement mechanism

  • Eliminate the risk of settlement shortages
    • An instant settlement mechanism would enable instant receipt of funds and securities, vis-a-vis existing pay-out on T+1 day.
    • It would eliminate the risk of settlement shortages since both funds and securities will be required to be available before placing the order.
  • Enhanced Liquidity
    • Faster settlement can improve liquidity in the market, as investors can access their funds sooner after selling securities.
  • Lower Margin Requirements
    • Traders may require lower margin or collateral when they know that settlement will occur rapidly, potentially reducing the cost of trading.
  • Reduced Market Risk
    • Shorter settlement cycles can help minimize market risk, as the market price of the security is less likely to change significantly between the trade execution and settlement.
  • Strengthened investor protection: By enhancing the control of the investor over the securities and funds.
    • This is because as funds and securities would be credited into the client’s account directly for those who are trading through blocked amounts using the UPI facility (UPI Clients).
  • Will help establish Indian equities as an asset class with the features of resilience, low cost and time for transaction, superior in all ways to emerging claimants of alternative asset classes.

March 27, 2024

Mains Article
27 Mar 2024

A Cry for Students’ Help, A Call for Reflection and Action


  • The current socio-academic landscape in India is facing challenges, particularly concerning the well-being of its students.
  • The amalgamation of socio-economic shifts and academic pressures has led to a distressing trend of student suicides, notably highlighted in instances such as the tragic fate of a teenager in Kota, Rajasthan.
  • As a result, the multifaceted issues plaguing India's education system, factors contributing to student stress, institutional responses, societal expectations, and the urgent need for reform need to be explored and implemented.

Factors Contributing to Pressure in Academic Pursuit and Students Suicide in Kota

  • High-Stakes Examinations
    • Entrance examinations like the JEE and NEET are pivotal events in a student's academic journey, with success or failure carrying significant consequences.
    • The intense competition and pressure to perform well in these exams often result in heightened levels of stress and anxiety among students.
    • The fear of not meeting societal expectations or failing to secure admission to prestigious institutions can drive students to extreme measures, including suicide.
  • Parental and Societal Expectations
    • India's education system is characterised by a culture of academic achievement, where success is often equated with social status and financial stability.
    • Parents, influenced by societal norms, place immense pressure on their children to excel academically, sometimes at the expense of their mental health and well-being.
    • The relentless pursuit of academic excellence, coupled with the fear of disappointing parents or society, can weigh heavily on students, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
  • Limited Opportunities and High Competition
    • The scarcity of seats in top-tier educational institutions and the highly competitive nature of the job market further compound the challenges faced by students.
    • With a vast pool of aspirants vying for a limited number of opportunities, the fear of failure looms large, intensifying the pressure to succeed.
    • Students from marginalised backgrounds, lacking access to resources and support systems, are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of this competitive environment.
  • Cultural Stigma Surrounding Failure
    • In Indian society, there exists a pervasive stigma associated with failure, particularly in academic endeavours.
    • Students who struggle academically or fail to meet parental expectations may face ridicule, shame, or ostracization from their families and communities.
    • This fear of judgment and social exclusion can deter students from seeking help or expressing their struggles, leading to feelings of isolation and despair.
  • Lack of Emotional Support and Mental Health Resources
    • Despite the growing awareness of mental health issues, there remains a significant gap in access to emotional support and mental health resources for students in India.
    • Many educational institutions lack adequate counselling services or trained professionals to address the psychological needs of students.
    • The stigma surrounding mental health further complicates matters, as students may hesitate to seek help for fear of being labelled as weak or unstable.
  • Inequities in Access to Education
    • Socio-economic disparities exacerbate the challenges faced by students, with marginalised communities disproportionately affected by the lack of access to quality education and resources.
    • Students from lower-income backgrounds may face additional stressors, such as financial insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, and limited educational opportunities, further increasing their vulnerability to mental health issues and suicide.

Response Measures Undertaken by Institutions in Kota

  • Anti-Suicide Features in Hostels
    • Coaching institutes and hostels in Kota have installed "anti-suicide features" to prevent self-harm incidents among students.
    • These features may include devices attached to ceiling fans to prevent hanging attempts, as well as iron grills across balconies and passageways to restrict access to potentially dangerous areas.
    • These physical interventions aim to provide a safer living environment for students and minimise the risk of suicide attempts.
  • Training Programs for Hostel Staff
    • Recognising the crucial role of hostel staff in supporting student welfare, institutions in Kota have initiated training programs to equip staff members with the necessary skills and resources to address the mental health needs of students.
    • Training may include workshops on identifying signs of distress, providing psychological support, and intervening in crisis situations effectively.
  • Temporary Suspension of Routine Testing
    • In a proactive measure to alleviate academic stress, the local government in Kota has temporarily suspended routine testing in coaching institutes for over two months.
    • This temporary pause allows students to focus on their well-being without the added pressure of constant assessments and exams, providing a much-needed respite from academic demands.
  • Specialised Training for Staff
    • In addition to addressing immediate safety concerns, institutions in Kota are prioritising the holistic well-being of students through specialised training programs for staff members.
    • This training may encompass various aspects of student welfare, including mess administration, psychological support, behavioural counselling, and overall student supervision.
    • By equipping staff with the necessary skills and knowledge, institutions aim to create a supportive and nurturing environment conducive to academic success and personal growth.
  • Community Engagement and Awareness Campaigns
    • The Kota police have actively engaged with hostel wardens and kitchen staff to promote awareness of student welfare issues and encourage proactive intervention.
    • Campaigns such as "darwazepe dastak (knock on the door)" emphasise the importance of vigilant monitoring and timely intervention to prevent potential crises.
    • By creating a sense of community responsibility, these initiatives aim to create a culture of support and collaboration in safeguarding student well-being.

Ways Ahead to Ease Pressure and Safeguard the Future of Younger Generation

  • Comprehensive Reform
    • Addressing the systemic issues within the education system requires comprehensive reform efforts that encompass academic, social, and institutional dimensions.
    • Policies and initiatives should prioritize mental health support, promote holistic learning experiences, and mitigate the pressures associated with high-stakes examinations.
  • Community Engagement
    • Collaboration between educational institutions, government agencies, community organisations, and families is essential in creating a supportive ecosystem that nurtures the well-being of students.
    • Community engagement initiatives, awareness campaigns, and advocacy efforts can help destigmatize mental health issues and foster a culture of support and empathy.
  • Emphasis on Student Welfare
    • Institutions must prioritise student welfare and implement proactive measures to address mental health challenges effectively.
    • This includes investing in specialised training for staff, implementing safety protocols, providing access to counselling services, and fostering a supportive peer network within educational settings.
  • Promotion of Holistic Development
    • Beyond academic achievement, the education system should prioritise the holistic development of students, including their social, emotional, and physical well-being.
    • Encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, promoting work-life balance, and fostering a culture of creativity and self-expression are integral to nurturing well-rounded individuals.
  • Empowerment and Inclusivity
    • Efforts to reform the education system must prioritise the empowerment and inclusion of marginalised communities, ensuring equitable access to educational resources and opportunities.
    • Addressing socio-economic disparities, promoting diversity, and fostering a culture of inclusivity are essential for creating a more equitable and just society.


  • The prevailing challenges in India's education system necessitate urgent reform to address the mental health and well-being of its students.
  • Efforts must be directed towards creating a supportive and inclusive academic environment that prioritises holistic development over narrow academic pursuits.
  • Only through concerted efforts at both institutional and societal levels can India ensure the nurturing of its students and safeguard their future.
Editorial Analysis

Mains Article
27 Mar 2024

India’s Employment Conditions Continue to be Poor: Report

Why in News?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD) have jointly published a report titled “India Employment Report 2024”.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • About ILO (Background, Objectives, etc.)
  • About IHD (Background, Objectives, etc.)
  • India Employment Report (Key Highlights of the 2024 edition)

About International Labour Organisation:

  • The ILO was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.
  • In 1946, the ILO became a specialized agency of the United Nations.
  • The ILO is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Objectives of ILO:

  • The ILO has four strategic objectives:
    • Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work,
    • Create greater opportunities for women and men to decent employment and income,
    • Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all, and
    • Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue.

Membership of ILO:

  • The ILO has 187 state members.
  • India is a founding member of the ILO and it has been a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body since 1922.
  • The ILO constitution permits any member of the UN to become a member of the ILO.
  • To gain membership, a nation must inform the director-general that it accepts all the obligations of the ILO constitution.

About Institute of Human Development (IHD):

  • The Institute for Human Development (IHD) was established in the year 1998 under the aegis of the Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE).
  • It aims to contribute towards building a society that fosters and values an inclusive social, economic and political system that is free from poverty and deprivations.
  • It undertakes research in the areas of labour and employment, livelihood, gender, health, education and other aspects of human development.

About India Employment Report 2024:

  • The India Employment Report 2024 is the third in the series of regular publications by the Institute for Human Development on labour and employment issues.
  • It is undertaken in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
  • The report examines the challenge of youth employment in the context of the emerging economic, labour market, educational and skills scenarios in India and the changes witnessed over the past two decades
  • The report highlights recent trends in the Indian labour market, which indicate improvements in some outcomes along with persisting and new challenges, including those generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Highlights of the India Employment Report 2024:

  • The report is primarily based on analysis of data from the National Sample Surveys and the Periodic Labour Force Surveys between 2000 and 2022.
  • Employment Trends & Current Scenario:
    • The female labour market participation rate, after declining significantly in the earlier years, took to a faster upward trend as of 2019, particularly in rural areas.
    • One of the most significant features of the Indian labour market is a slow and steady transition of the workforce away from agriculture and into the non-farm sectors.
    • Employment in India is predominantly self-employment and casual employment.
    • Nearly 82 per cent of the workforce engages in the informal sector, and nearly 90 per cent is informally employed.
    • While wages of casual labourers maintained a modest upward trend during 2012–22, real wages of regular workers either remained stagnant or declined.
    • The migration levels in India are not adequately captured through official surveys.
    • The rates of urbanization and migration are expected to considerably increase in the future.
    • India is expected to have a migration rate of around 40 per cent in 2030 and will have an urban population of around 607 million.
  • Challenges of Youth Employment:
    • A large proportion of the population is of working age, and India is expected to be in the potential demographic dividend zone for at least another decade.
    • But the country is at an inflexion point because the youth population, at 27 per cent of the total population in 2021, is expected to decline to 23 per cent by 2036.
    • Each year, around 7–8 million youths are added to the labour force whose productive utilization could lead to India reaping a demographic dividend.
    • Youth participation in the labour market has been much lower than among adults and was on a long-term (2000–19) declining trend, primarily due to greater participation in education.
    • Youth unemployment increased nearly threefold, from 5.7 per cent in 2000 to 17.5 per cent in 2019 but declined to 12.1 per cent in 2022.
    • After the lockdowns, the youth labour market indicators recovered quite quickly.
    • But this movement was accompanied by additions to the labour force and workforce, primarily in poor-quality work.
  • Suggestions:
    • The report highlights five key policy areas for further action, which apply more generally and also specifically for youth in India:
      • promoting job creation;
      • improving employment quality;
      • addressing labour market inequalities;
      • strengthening skills and active labour market policies; and
      • bridging the knowledge deficits on labour market patterns and youth employment.

Mains Article
27 Mar 2024

Krishi Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC)

Why in News?

Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare (MoA&FW) inaugurated a Krishi Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) set up at Krishi Bhavan in New Delhi.

A big-screen dashboard of all digital innovations in the sector, the ICCC marks a “significant leap forward” in leveraging technology for the advancement of agricultural practices.

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • What is the Krishi ICCC?
  • How will the Krishi ICCC Work?
  • What Information will the Krishi ICCC Provide?
  • What is the Significance of the ICCC?

What is the Krishi ICCC?

  • The ICCC is a tech-based solution involving multiple IT applications and platforms, which is designed to help in making informed decisions.
  • The centre is housed in the MoA&FW, which is responsible for legislation, policy formation, and implementation of initiatives in the agriculture sector.
  • The ICCC uses state of the art technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect and process large amounts of granular data.
  • The ICCC uses platforms including the Krishi Decision Support System (DSS) to collect micro-level data, process it, and present the macro picture.

How will the Krishi ICCC Work?

  • The AI-/ machine learning-based system will identify a farmer through his/ her mobile number or Aadhaar.
  • Then, the system will match it with the farmer’s field information obtained through land records, historical crop sowing information from the crop registry, weather data from IMD, etc.
  • It will then generate a customised advisory in the local language of the farmer. For this, the system will use the Bhashini platform that allows translation into several Indian languages.

What Information will the Krishi ICCC Provide?

  • On 8 large, 55-inch LED screens installed at the ICCC, one can see information on -
    • Temperatures, rainfall, wind speed, crop yields, production, drought situation, cropping patterns (geographic region-wise and year-wise) and production estimations.
    • In graphical/ map, timeline, and drill-down format.
  • One can also see -
    • The relevant trends (periodic and non-periodic), outliers, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and
    • Receive insights, alerts, and feedback on agriculture schemes, programmes, projects, and initiatives.
  • If needed, farmer beneficiaries can interact directly with officials or the Minister through video conferencing facilities.

What is the Significance of the ICCC?

  • The ICCC will enable comprehensive monitoring of the farm sector by making available at one place geospatial information received from multiple sources, including -
    • Remote sensing;
    • Plot-level data received through soil survey;
    • Weather data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD);
    • Sowing data from Digital Crop Survey;
    • Farmer-and farm-related data from Krishi MApper (an application for geo-fencing and geo-tagging of land);
    • Market intelligence information from the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg); and
    • Yield estimation data from the General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).
  • The integrated visualisation of the data will enable quick and efficient decision-making.
  • Going forward,
    • The ICCC ecosystem can be linked with the Kisan e-mitra, a chatbot developed for PM-Kisan beneficiaries and
    • Can create an ecosystem based on which individual farmer-level advisories can be generated.


Polity & Governance

Mains Article
27 Mar 2024

Archaeological Survey of India will delist some lost monuments

Why in news?

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to delist 18 centrally protected monuments because it has assessed that they do not have national importance.

These 18 monuments are part of an earlier list of monuments that the ASI had said were untraceable.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
  • Delisting of monuments
  • Untraceable monuments

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):

  • It was established in the year 1861 by Alexander Cunningham.
  • After independence, it was established as a statutory body under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958(AMASR Act).
  • ASI is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • Its activities include carrying out surveys of antiquarian remains, exploration and excavation of archaeological sites, conservation and maintenance of protected monuments etc.
  • Concerned Ministry: Ministry of Culture.

What does the delisting of monuments mean?

  • Background
    • Among the monuments that face delisting now are:
      • a medieval highway milestone recorded as Kos Minar No.13 at Mujessar village in Haryana,
      • Barakhamba Cemetery in Delhi,
      • Gunner Burkill’s tomb in Jhansi district,
      • a cemetery at Gaughat in Lucknow, and
      • Telia Nala Buddhist ruins in Varanasi.
    • The precise location of these monuments, or their current physical state, is not known.
  • Delisting of monuments – meaning
    • Delisting of a monument effectively means it will no longer be conserved, protected, and maintained by the ASI.
    • Under the AMASR Act, any kind of construction-related activity is not allowed around a protected site.
    • Once the monument is delisted, activities related to construction and urbanisation in the area can be carried out in a regular manner.
  • List of protected monuments - status
    • The list of protected monuments can grow longer or shorter with new listings and delistings.
    • ASI currently has 3,693 monuments under its purview, which will fall to 3,675 once the current delisting exercise is completed in the next few weeks.
    • This is the first such large-scale delisting exercise in several decades.
  • Can Monuments be Dropped from the Protected List?
    • List of Protected Monuments is regulated by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules, 1959.
    • The Act protects monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old, including temples, cemeteries, inscriptions, tombs, forts, palaces, step-wells, rock-cut canes, and even objects like cannons and mile pillars that may be of historical significance.
    • The government can remove certain monuments from the protected list by notification in the Official Gazette.
      • Through a notification in the Official Gazette, the govt can declare that the ancient and historical monument or archaeological site and remains, as the case may be, has ceased to be of national importance for the purposes of the AMASR Act (Section 35 of AMASR Act).

Untraceable monuments

  • Meaning
    • AMASR Act protects monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old.
    • However, over the decades, some, especially the smaller or lesser-known ones, have been lost to activities such as urbanisation, encroachments, the construction of dams and reservoirs, or sheer neglect.
    • In some cases, there is no surviving public memory of these monuments, making it difficult to ascertain their physical location.
  • How many historical monuments have been lost in this way?
    • In December 2022, the Ministry of Culture submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, that 50 of India’s 3,693 centrally protected monuments were missing.
    • Fourteen of these monuments had been lost to rapid urbanisation, 12 were submerged by reservoirs/ dams, and the remaining 24 were untraceable.
      • The Committee found that the government could only give 2,578 security guards to 248 historical sites out of the needed 7,000 guards due to budgetary constraints.
    • In 2013, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had said that at least 92 centrally protected monuments across the country had gone missing.
History & Culture

Mains Article
27 Mar 2024

New Collective Quantitative Goal

Why in news?

Climate experts believe that the focus of this year’s climate change conference in Baku, Azerbaijan (COP 29 scheduled for November 11-24) will be on finance.

As per them, the expression that is likely to be heard most frequently at COP29 is NCQG — or New Collective Quantitative Goal (on finance).

What’s in today’s article?

  • Background
  • New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG)
  • Amount of money required to ensure effective climate action
  • Challenges in climate financing
  • India’s stand on climate financing
  • Conclusion


  • 2022 Climate change conference (COP 27)
    • The 2022 climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh decided to set up a Loss and Damage Fund to help developing countries recover from climate disasters.
  • Dubai conference 2023 (COP 28)
    • The last year conference was all about Global Stocktake (GST), a review of ongoing climate action.
    • This resulted in the first ever explicit acknowledgment of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, and a promise to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
  • COP29 at Baku, Azerbaijan
    • Experts believe this year’s focus will be on climate finance.

New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG)

  • About
    • NCQG is a term for the extra money that rich countries need to gather each year starting from 2025. This money is meant to support actions against climate change in poorer countries.
    • It has to be more than the $100 billion that rich countries promised to collect each year starting from 2020, but didn't manage to do.
  • Status of NCQG
    • NCQG is extremely important for developing countries, and discussions on this new amount have been ongoing for a couple of years at least.
    • At a recently concluded two-day meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark— the first minister-level climate meeting for this year — some technical work to arrive at the NCQG was finalised.

How much money is required to ensure effective climate action?

  • Assessments of current financial requirements run into several trillions of dollars every year.
  • Estimates by the secretariat of the UNFCCC
    • In 2021, the secretariat of the UNFCCC said in a report that developing countries would require a total of about $6 trillion annually between then and 2030 just to implement their climate action plans.
    • An updated version of that report is supposed to come out later this year, and is expected to raise this figure much higher.
  • Final agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh (COP 27)
    • It estimated that a global transition to a low-carbon economy would likely require about $4-6 trillion every year until 2050.

Challenges in climate financing

  • The biggest hurdle to a significant scale-up in global climate action is the unavailability of adequate finance, especially in developing countries.
  • The scale of annual climate finance flows has always been considerably less than the $100 billion.
    • $100 billion is the amount that the developed countries had promised to mobilise every year from 2020 onward.
  • But even if that amount were being made available, it would be only a small fraction of the money that is required to enable actions that would keep the world on the 1.5 degree Celsius pathway at least until 2030.
  • Climate finance flows are currently heavily skewed in favour of mitigation actions.
  • However, developing countries have been demanding that more money be made available for adaptation and other activities.

India’s stand on climate financing

  • India has called for developed countries to provide at least $1 trillion per year in climate finance to developing countries from 2025, primarily in the form of grants and concessional finance.
  • G-20 New Delhi Leader's Declaration also recognizes the substantial financial requirements essential for the world's successful transition to a renewable energy-driven economy.
  • The Declaration notes the need for $ 5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period.


Unlike the $100 billion figure, which was offered without any consultations, the NCQG will be the result of negotiations, and countries will have better control over compliance.

The way the new sum is distributed across different kinds of needs — mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and several others — will be a deciding factor in the fight against climate change.

Environment & Ecology
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