[op-ed snap] The Delta 32 effect


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Delta 32

Mains level:  There is possibility of curing HIV and how it can be achieved.



A study published this week in Nature points out that one London HIV Patient received the bone marrow donation from a person who was born with a rare mutation, Delta 32. The transplant wiped out the immune cells vulnerable to HIV and replaced them with cells that are resistant to the virus.

History of HIV remission

  • The London Patient is the second HIV-infected to experience a long-term remission from the virus.
  • About 12 years ago, an American living in Germany — the Berlin Patient — also received a Delta 32 transplant and has remained free of the virus, ever since.
  • However, attempts to replicate the procedures undergone by the Berlin Patient in other HIV-infected people proved unsuccessful.
  • The virus returned as soon as they stopped the standard medications.

Doubts Regarding Total cure of HIV

  • There are reasons that the hopes of a total victory against HIV that have arisen after this week’s Nature study be tempered with realism.
  • Bone-marrow stem transplants are risky — they make a patient vulnerable to life-threatening diseases like acute anaemia — and are expensive procedures.
  • They are not likely to be the treatment option for a vast majority of the 37 million HIV-infected; it’s hard enough to find tissue-matched donors for so many people, let alone locate one that also has the Delta 32 mutation.

New ways to fight HIV

  • The London Patient’s recovery offers a viable pathway to combat HIV.
  • The Nature study demonstrates the potency of gene-editing as therapy for those infected with the virus, similar to the treatment for sickle-cell disease, haemophilia and certain types of cancer.
  • Researchers in different parts of the world are working on procedures to edit people’s immune cells to make them HIV resistant — they would mimic Delta 32.
  • They are also trying to develop reverse vaccination — much like for small pox — where an immune response is engineered to target the virus.
  • Currently, those affected by HIV can have near normal lifespans.
  • However, the cocktail of drugs needed to keep the virus at bay are expensive, and have serious side effects. The London Patient’s recovery portends that cure from HIV is not far away.


Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] A peace movement is needed


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Security situation in India and how to favor Peace over War



India and Pakistan must re-imagine the border as a fold of peace instead of as a threshold of hostilities.

Changing Meaning and perception of war and peace

  • Our sense of peace is desperately in need of myths and storytellers.
  • as we watch the Pulwama event and after, we sense peace has lost autonomy as a narrative.
  • Peace has been reduced to the lull between two acts of violence, an uneasy interlude.
  • Our sense of war reads peace passively as a cessation of hostilities. Peace is more holistic and comprehensive in a way our current narratives do not capture.
  • While war is anchored on the parochialism of concepts like border, security and nation state, peace has to dig deep into the unconscious of theology, philosophy and civilisation to literally create an alternative world view. India desperately needs a peace movement.

Loss of Gandhian Legacy

  • There is an irony to the Gandhian movement in India.
  • Satyagraha as an imagination has inspired exemplars abroad, including Václav Havel, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton and Desmond Tutu, but it has lost its passion and vigour in India.
  • Today the Gandhian movement has died out, while Gandhians still play a role in other battles of resistance, such as the Narmada,
  • Our ashrams are no longer pilgrimages of the imagination.
  • They need to be revived to counter the think tanks of war and a middle class which craves the machismo of militarism.

The relevance of Gandhian Ideas

  • What makes the dyingness of Gandhian ideas even more poignant is that violence and war have become technologically and strategically inventive, creating an acceptable normalcy around genocidal deaths.
  • As Gandhi pointed out, to be inventive, peace has to be both cognitive and ethical. It has to go beyond moral rhetoric and create experimental possibilities of peace, and it has to transform ethics into a political act that transforms the dullness of current democracy.
  • Second, peace has to be seen as a craft, a lived world of meaning, not as a technocratic exercise.
  • For example, food has become a source of violence both as production and consumption. One has to rethink the logic of food as part of the testament of peace. The start-ups for peace have to be more imaginative than the usual start-ups of technology.

Relevance In India Pakistan Peace process

  • Civil society must take a leaf out of Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s book and create a new vision of the soldiers of peace, the Khudai Khidmatgars.
  • Imagine peace groups working on both sides of the India-Pakistan border in a dialogue of peace.
  • Today we see people on the border as vulnerable. One needs to give them some sense of agency in creating counter-currents to war. Finally, one needs civilisational ideas on war, where a dialogue of religion creates an antidote to war.

Relevance For the survival of the nation

  • Waiting for peace is almost the everyday burden of women in war zones.
  • Normalcy is such a rare phenomenon in frontier areas where war and insurgency have become endemic.
  • Recently there was a demonstration of Naga students in Delhi. The group did not ask for rights or critique the brutality of the state. All they said was that they were tired of war, tired of waiting for peace. All they wanted was peace in their lifetime, which Indian democracy is duty bound to give.

Way Forward

  • India as a civilisation, a nation state and a democracy has a major resource to fall back on in the wisdom of our cultures and civilisations.
  • It is time India goes beyond the grammar of surgical strikes and reaches for its cultures of peace, pilgrimage and understanding.
Foreign Policy Watch: Cross-Border Terrorism

Explained: Why are fires frequent at the Bandipur reserve?


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Mains level: Prevention of forest fires


  • A five-day fire that raged through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve has reportedly burnt more than 15,400 acres of forests.
  • Between February 21 and 25, the reserve saw 127 fire counts in various ranges of the 912 sq km forest.
  • While K’taka Forest Department scrambled to put out the blaze, an Indian Air Force helicopter sprayed over 19,000 litres of water in seven sorties.

Why it matters?

  • While fires are not uncommon at Bandipur, what has surprised officials is their intensity and frequency.
  • The worry now is the long-term damage to the ecosystem, which is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere that hosts the world’s largest tiger population, at more than 575 (2014 census).
  • Over 400 fire watchers were placed, but questions have arisen whether the precautions were enough, especially since Bandipur has had frequent fires.

How susceptible is it to fires?

  • Bandipur is a dry deciduous forest in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats, and is no stranger to fires. Periods of drought invariably lead to fires.
  • A study has shown that between 1974 and 2014, 67% of the Nilgiri Biosphere had seen some form of forest fire, with Bandipur having reported the most incidents.
  • The 2018 monsoon was particularly strong, but the year-end northeast monsoon has failed.
  • If the monsoon led to dense growth, the blistering heat since September has turned vegetation brittle and dry, with vast swathes becoming tinderboxes.
  • As with most forest fires, it is assumed that Bandipur’s ignition was man-made as miscreants set fire in multiple locations.
  • Compounding matters is the ubiquity of lantana camara, an invasive weed species native to South America, that has spread through nearly two-thirds of the forest area.

What is the impact?

  • India’s forest policy encourages a zero forest fire approach for its protected landscapes — whether it is Bandipur or the rainforests of the upper Western Ghats.
  • Scientific literature has shown this blanket approach may be doing harm to dry, deciduous forests where trees have evolved to co-exist with fire.
  • The trees in this landscape were closer to those in a savanna than in rainforests 100 km away. Trees have dramatically thicker barks, implying that they had evolved to be fire-resistant.
  • When fires are relatively frequent, adult tree mortality in these systems is very low.
  • Many saplings sprout shortly after the fire from underground reserves, and the system returns to its original state in a few years.
  • Conversely, when fires are suppressed — including by curbing the tribal practices of controlled fire burning — a greater biomass builds up that can lead to high intensity fires which affect the ecosystem negatively.
Forest Fires

[pib] India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ICAP and its provisions

Mains level: India’s efforts in phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances


  • India is one of the first countries in the world to develop a comprehensive Cooling Action plan.
  • It has a long term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The overarching goal of ICAP is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
  • It provides an integrated vision towards cooling across sectors encompassing inter alia reduction of cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20 year time horizon.
  • One of the major demand is to reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38 and refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38.

Why focus on cooling?

  • Cooling requirement is cross sectoral and an essential part for economic growth and is required across different sectors of the economy such as residential and commercial buildings, cold-chain, refrigeration, transport and industries
  • Cooling is also linked to human health and productivity.
  • Linkages of cooling with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well acknowledged.
  • Its cross-sectoral nature of cooling and its use in development of the economy makes provision for cooling an important developmental necessity.

Benefits of the Plan

  • Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing,
  • Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling,
  • Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of produce to farmers, less wastage of produce,
  • Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection,
  • Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s,
  • Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide push to innovation in cooling sector.
Air Pollution

Mediation in Ayodhya dispute


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Legal provisions mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Arbitration mechanism in India – pros, cons, challenges and way forward


  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has referred the Ayodhya dispute for mediation in a bid to heal minds and hearts.
  • The mediation would start in a week in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh of which the disputed area is a part  with the process conducted in-camera.

Legal provisions for Mediation

  1. Under Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, judges must ensure that all avenues to resolve a dispute outside the Court have been exhausted.
  2. The Section reads: Where it appears to the Court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the Court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations.
  3. After receiving the observations of the parties, the Court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for:
  • Arbitration (a process by which parties select an independent person, who renders a decision regarding the case)
  • Conciliation (it attempts to make parties come to an agreement, about the problem at hand)
  • Judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat or
  • Mediation
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Do forest surveys separately


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


  • A high-power committee constituted by the MoEFCC has recommended that the biennial forest surveys exercise by the government to estimate forest cover explicitly demarcate trees grown in forests from those grown outside.

Why such move?

  • Currently, the government counts both plantations and private lands towards estimating the portion of India’s geographical area covered by forest.
  • This isn’t an ecologically sound principle.
  • India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, which was made public in Feb 2018.
  • The document says that India has about 7,08,273 sq. km. of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km.).

Govt. stance

  • Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long-standing goal of the government since 1988.
  • Various editions of the SFR have over the years reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%.
  • So the government also includes substantial patches of trees outside areas designated as forests, such as plantations or greenlands, in its assessment.
  • The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 sq. km. or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 sq. km. in 2015.

Assist this newscard with:

Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

95 per cent women in India involved in unpaid labour


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the report

Mains level: Inequality of Wages for Women


  • In India, 95 per cent or around 195 million women are employed in the unorganized sector or in unpaid labour, says a report released by consultancy firm Deloitte.

About the report

  • The report titled ‘Empowering Women & Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was released during the Gender Equality Summit 2019 by UN Global Compact Network India.
  • The share of women in the workforce fell to 25 per cent and the female labour force participation rate (FLPR) stands at 26 per cent; with 195 million women work in the unorganised sector or do unpaid work says the report.
  • It adds that involving women in the workforce can help achieve future aspirations that can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent.
  • However, this will only be possible if participation of women increases in workplace to same number as men.

Highlights of the report

  • Limited access to education, information, technology, social and political participation.
  • In India, the female labour force participation has had a decadal fall from 36.7 per cent in 2005 to 26 per cent in 2018, with 95 per cent (195 million) women employed in the unorganised sector or in unpaid word.
  • In the education sector, 39.4 per cent girls aged between 15−18 dropped out of schools and colleges
  • In terms of digital literacy, only 34 per cent women in India have access to mobile technology, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education