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May 2019

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] From Idai to Fani


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cyclone Fani

Mains level : Why frequency of high intensity cyclones is increasing in Indian Ocean.


The Indian Ocean has made its mark on the global news cycle this year. In March, tropical cyclone Idai made headlines as one of the most severe storms to have made landfall in Mozambique.

  • After Idai, Eline was the strongest – though not the deadliest – cyclone to have hit the southern east African cost.
  • This ranking as the strongest was soon after challenged by tropical cyclone Kenneth, a category 4 tropical cyclone that made landfall over the border of Mozambique and Tanzania six weeks after Idai.
  • Most cyclones in the region occur from January to March.It was also unusual for the Mozambique Channel to experience two severe tropical cyclones that made landfall within one season.
  • The third major cyclone to emerge out of the Indian Ocean came a few weeks after Kenneth, when cyclone Fani, a tropical cyclone on the border of Category 5 intensity wind speeds, hit the east coast of India.
  • Category 5 tropical cyclones were only first recorded in the North Indian Ocean from 1989 so, again, this storm is unusually severe in the context of the longer historical records.

Reason for high-intensity storms

1.Warm Sea surface –

  • These high intensity storms have been tied to the very warm sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Temperatures of 30°C are occurring more often and over longer periods of time.
  • This is a result of gradual warming on a global scale, which has resulted in a net increase in ocean temperatures.

2.Formation of stronger storms and El Nino

  • Warmer ocean temperatures allow stronger storms to form.
  • These conditions are exacerbated by global forcing mechanisms including El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole, which concentrates warm ocean waters in smaller geographic areas.
  • High intensity storms have been a frequent feature along the coast of the US throughout recorded history.
  • Their increased frequency in the Indian Ocean should be raising alarm bells because countries like the US are much better equipped to help people prepare ahead of time and to handle the fallout.

Measuring intensity

  • Tropical cyclone intensity is classified according to the Saffir Simpson scale.
  • Categories are measured on the basis of the sustained wind speed and the storm’s central pressure.
  • Each category is accompanied by estimates of the likely severity of damage and possible storm surge height.
  • Tropical cyclones form and intensify due to a combination of seven primary climatological conditions. Among other things, these include warm sea surface temperatures, high humidity levels and atmospheric instability.
  • For a storm to intensify, these conditions have to be maximised while the storm remains over the ocean.

Optimal Conditions

Warming of South Africa –

  • Tropical cyclones require a sea surface temperature of 26.5°C to form, while the highest intensity storms require much warmer sea surface temperatures of 28°C-29°C.
  • This is important because it’s one of the reasons why southern Africa is experiencing more intense tropical cyclones.

Warming of the South Indian Ocean –

  • Increase in temperature ranges – The regions that previously experienced the temperatures of 26.5°C that facilitated tropical cyclone formation are now experiencing temperatures as warm as 30°C-32°C.
  • More common landfall –  This increases the range in which these storms occur, making storms like tropical cyclone Dineo, which made landfall in February 2017 in southern Mozambique, more common.

  • Lower-lying, relatively flat areas are more prone to flooding than higher elevation regions or those with rugged topography.
  • And when flooding does occur, some regions are better able to warn and evacuate people to prevent or minimise the loss of life.
  • Another factor which determines the devastation resulting from a tropical cyclone is the population density of the area of landfall.
  • The higher the population density, the more people who are at threat of losing their life, their homes and livelihoods.
  • This also means more people who would need to be evacuated in a short period, and more people who need shelter until the storm’s immediate effects have subsided.


This is why Idai and Eline resulted in far greater losses and fatalities than the stronger intensity Kenneth, and why the total damage from Fani is projected to be particularly devastating. We need to start measuring storm destructiveness in addition to climatological metrics.


Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Supreme Court pushes for ‘full’ strength of 31


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Collegium system

Mains level : Judiciary and associated issues

  • At one stroke, the Supreme Court Collegium, led by CJI has recommended two judges’ names for elevation to the apex court.
  • If the four judges are elevated without delay, the Supreme Court would reach the full sanctioned strength of 31.

Supreme Court Collegium

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the CJI and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
  • Article 124 to 147 in Part V of the Indian Constitution envisages the powers, independence and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • However there is no direct mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • This system of appointment of judges came into existence after the Third Judges Case which interpreted constitutional articles on October 28, 1998.
  • The recommendations of Collegium are binding on the government.

Size of the court

  • Initially the Constitution of India provided for a supreme court with a chief justice and 7 judges.
  • In the early years, a full bench of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them.
  • As the work of the court increased and cases began to accumulate, parliament increased the number of judges(including CJI) from the original 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009 (current strength).

Eligibility of a judge of the Supreme Court

A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age as per Article 124 of the constitution is eligible to be recommended for appointment, a judge of the Supreme Court, who has been:

  • a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • an advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • a distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the president, power conferred by clause(2) of article 124 of the Constitution of India

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

WHO for eliminating industrially produced trans fats by 2023


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Trans Fats

Mains level : Health issues over consumption of Trans Fats

  • Trans fat also called the worst form of fat in food, responsible for over 5,00,000 deaths globally from coronary heart disease each year.
  • It could be eliminated from the industrially produced global food supply by 2023 if the World Health Organization (WHO) has its way.
  • The WHO has partnered with the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) to achieve this target.

Regulatory action by WHO

  • The commitment made by the IFBA is in line with the WHO’s target to eliminate industrial trans fat from the global food supply by 2023.
  • Of particular note was the decision by IFBA members to ensure that the amount of industrial trans fat in their products does not exceed two grams per 100 grams fat/oil globally by 2023.

About Trans Fats

  • Trans fat, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats starting in the 1950s.
  • It is used in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods, and for frying fast food.
  • Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Hydrogenation Process

  • Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  • Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA spacecraft to hit an asteroid in 2022


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DART, Binary Asteroid System, Didymos

Mains level : Planetary Defence

  • NASA is planning to launch a spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will hit a small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos in September 2022.


  • The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – Nasa’s first mission to demonstrate a planetary defence technique — is scheduled to be launched in mid-2021, the US space agency said on Monday.
  • By using solar electric propulsion, DART will intercept the target when the asteroid will be within 11 million km of Earth.
  • To navigate the DART spacecraft to its intended target — a binary asteroid that consists of a small moon (Didymos B) orbiting a larger body (Didymos A) — scientists need to understand how the system behaves.
  • Scientists have been making efforts to observe Didymos from Earth since 2015 as it is too small and too far to be seen as anything more than a point of light

Earth is a binary asteroid system. How?

  • A moonlet is a small moon whereas a binary asteroid system is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common barycentre.
  • The barycentre is the centre of mass of two or more bodies that are orbiting each other which is the point around which they both orbit.
  • The spacecraft will hit a small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos in September 2022.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Home Ministry terminates ‘Black List’ of Indian-origin people


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MHA Black list

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Home Ministry has decided to discard its ‘Black Lists’ of Indian-origin people.

What is Black List?

  • The list mostly is comprised of the names of people belonging to the Sikh Community, who have taken asylum abroad under the plea of alleged persecution in India.
  • The list is maintained by Indian missions abroad.
  • The Indian-origin people who took asylum abroad under the plea of alleged persecution in India are included in the list.
  • Those who are in the Black list are denied visa services by Indian missions and posts.

Implications of the move

  • As per Home Ministry officials, all such people presently in the blacklist will be given regular visa as well as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards.
  • Indian missions and posts abroad will no longer be required to maintain any such local lists, known as ‘Black lists’.
  • All such Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and their families who are not in the main adverse list of the government will now be granted a visa and consular services at par with foreigners of that country.
  • In another decision, the MHA also delegated the Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) to grant permits to foreigners to visit protected and restricted area in the country.
  • The state governments along with FRROs will now to be able to grant permits for travel other than tourism in areas that were hitherto restricted areas.


  • Some areas in North-Eastern states, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and a few islands in Andaman and Nicobar islands are currently under restricted and protected areas.
  • Foreigners are required to take special permissions to visit such places.

Indian Navy Updates

Exercise Group Sail


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Group Sail

Mains level : Ensuring safe and open sea lanes

Exercise Group Sail

  • Two Indian naval ships joined their counterparts from the US, Japan, and The Philippines for a “Group Sail” exercise through the contested waters of the South China Sea.
  • In China, the ships took part in the International Fleet Review (IFR) as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy).
  • The ships undertook various exercises en route which included formation manoeuvering, under way replenishment runs, cross-deck flying and exchange of sea riders.
  • The group sail exercise showcased India’s commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced interoperability.

Importance of the exercise

  • The exercise comes at a time when India has been warily looking at increased Chinese activity in the northern Indian Ocean, traditionally seen as India’s backyard.
  • The presence of Chinese ships and submarines has been on the rise.
  • In 2017, China opened its first overseas military facility in Djibouti and has also been investing heavily in infrastructure along Africa’s eastern coast – in Tanzania and Kenya – as part of its ambitious OBOR initiative.
  • This move underlined India’s commitment to working with partners to ensure safe and open sea lanes.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

[op-ed snap] Endless war


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Current situation of afghanistan Peace Process


A call by Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, a grand assembly of senior politicians and tribal and religious leaders, for a ceasefire between government troops and the Taliban underscores the mood in Kabul.The U.S. must put pressure on the Taliban to heed the Afghan government’s concerns.


  • Afghanistan’s leaders, from its rulers to tribal chieftains, want to resolve the 17-year-long conflict.
  • Over a four-day meeting that ended on May 2, the Jirga asked the government to set up a negotiating team with members from the assembly for talks with the insurgents.
  • It also backed women’s rights, a critical issue being debated by the political class amid the Taliban’s rising clout.
  • President Ashraf Ghani has said his government would honour the assembly’s proposals, but wants the ceasefire to be mutual.
  • The Taliban, for its part, immediately shot down the proposal, vowing to continue attacks through the Ramzan month.
  • Without the Taliban’s reciprocity, no ceasefire will hold.

Current Situation

  • The group controls half of Afghanistan and has shown its capacity to strike anywhere, including in the most fortified of locations.
  • It has also been engaged in direct talks with the U.S. for months.
  • But the peace talks haven’t prevented the Taliban from carrying out its summer offensive against the government.
  • By rejecting the Loya Jirga proposal, the Taliban has once again made it clear that it is not ready yet to engage with the government in Kabul.

Us Stance

  •  The talks between Taliban representatives and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative, are primarily focussed on withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan.
  • The U.S. seeks, in return, an assurance that Afghanistan will not provide a safe haven to transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Stalemate situation

  • But for an eventual settlement of the Afghan crisis, the government and the Taliban need to talk. The war has long been in a stalemate.
  • But the government and the Taliban see different ways out.
  • The government is willing to engage the insurgents, a move which has now been endorsed by the Loya Jirga as well.
  • But the Taliban, like any other successful insurgent group, wants to prolong the conflict, hoping that it can weaken the government’s morale and reduce its military strength.
  • The Taliban will change track only if it is forced to do so militarily or through pressure.
  • The government lacks the resources to accomplish either.
  • It cannot defeat the Taliban militarily, as the 17 years of the war suggest.
  • It cannot forge peace on the Taliban’s terms as it would mean endangering whatever few freedoms the Afghans enjoy right now.
  • This resource deficit can be bridged only with the help of the international community.

Way Forward

The U.S., which is in talks with the Taliban, should not overlook the interests of Kabul. It must put pressure on the Taliban to cease hostilities and engage with Mr. Ghani’s government.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Loud and clear


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GPS

Mains level : India US trade ties are needed to be normalised by taking prudent and swift measures.


After a scathing speech by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in New Delhi this week, it is no longer possible for the government to brush under the carpet its differences with Washington.

Tensed situation

1. The accusation of restrictive barriers – Speaking to Indian and U.S. businesspersons, Mr. Ross lashed out at what he called India’s unfair trade practices and “overly restrictive market access barriers”.

His comments followed a series of measures by the U.S. that have affected India.

2.Harsh measures – These include a refusal to revoke or waive tariff increases made last year on steel and aluminium, an ultimatum that India “zero out” oil imports from Iran by May 2 even without securing comparable alternatives, and the decision to withdraw India’s GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) trade status.

3. Labeling  India as Tariff king – Mr. Ross repeated President Donald Trump’s accusation that India is a “tariff king”, and threatened India with “consequences” if it responded to U.S. tariffs with counter-tariffs, something New Delhi had threatened but not yet implemented in the hope of hammering out a comprehensive trade package.

4.Elusive solution – Despite rounds of talks, however, a package has remained elusive, and it is time for the government to articulate the problem on its hands.

Need for strategic action

Clearly, the strategy of the past year, to ignore the differences in the hope that the problems would be resolved or that the U.S.’s trade war with China would occupy the Trump administration more, has not worked.

1.Working on tariffs –

  • New Delhi and Washington need to make a more determined attempt to sort out issues, starting from scratch if required, with tariffs.
  • While the 50-60% duties on motorcycles and cars and 150% duties on American liquor that India imposes need a second look, the U.S. must see that average tariffs imposed by India (13.8%) are not much higher than those levied by economies such as South Korea and Brazil.

2.E-commerce regulation and medical devices – In addition, the government will need to revisit some of its decisions like data localisation requirements and new e-commerce regulations, which were declared suddenly, while the U.S. must show some flexibility on India’s price caps on coronary stents and other medical devices.

3.Labelling of non-vegetarian dairy products – The U.S. must understand the cultural differences over the labelling of non-vegetarian dairy products.


Building alternative financial Structures – It is unlikely that the Trump administration will temper its “my way or the highway” approach to Iranian oil sales, and New Delhi will have to work closely with other countries to build alternative financial structures to avoid U.S. sanctions.

Push back on unreasonable demands – Where a compromise is not possible, the government should be ready to push back on unreasonable demands.