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December 2019

Indian Ocean Power Competition

A new mould for Mauritius


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AU, IORA, IOC, Vanilla Islands

Mains level : Mauritius - India bilateral for Indian Ocean


India prepares to host the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth. He returned to power in the recent general elections. India needs to change the lens through which it sees the small island republic in the western Indian Ocean.

Historical sight

    • Diaspora – For too long, Delhi has viewed Mauritius through the prism of diaspora. This was natural since communities of Indian origin constitute a significant majority on the island.
    • Strategic angle – recently, Delhi has begun to see the strategic significance of Mauritius due to the great power contestation in the Indian Ocean.
    • SAGAR – during the visit of PM to Mauritius in 2015 SAGAR (security and growth for all) policy was unveiled. It was India’s first significant policy statement on the Indian Ocean.

Challenges in dealing Mauritius

    • Not an extension – the bigger challenge for Delhi in dealing with Mauritius is the urgent need to discard deep-rooted perception that Mauritius is an extension of India. 
    • Respecting identity – Mauritius is a sovereign entity with a unique national culture and an international identity of its own. 
    • Unique location – the island enjoys a special place in the Indian Ocean as a thriving economic hub and an attractive strategic location. 

Understanding Mauritius

    • Early European explorers sailed around the African continent and ventured eastwards to India.
    • They began to call Mauritius, the “Star, and Key of the Indian Ocean”
    • The Portuguese and the Dutch were the first to gain a foothold in Mauritius.
    • The French gained effective control over the island in the early 18th century.
    • The French developed sugar plantations introduced shipbuilding and developed a naval base.
    • A French soldier and colonial official, Félix Renouard de Sainte-Croix, described the island as “a central geographical point between every other place in the world’.
    • The British gained control during the Napoleonic wars and turned it into a garrison island to help secure the sea lines of communication between Europe and India. 
    • Diego Garcia, once part of Mauritius, today hosts one of America’s largest foreign military bases in the world.
    • The island is called a “central geographic point”. It is equally true for commerce and connectivity in the Indian Ocean.
    • It is a member of the African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Commission.

What India can do

    • Strategic partnership – could look beyond sugar plantations to financial services and technological innovation.
    • Investments – new investments pour into Africa and get serviced in Mauritius. Mauritius can be the fulcrum for India’s own African economic outreach.
    • Vanilla islands of the southwestern Indian Ocean were dealt on a bilateral basis. India could think of them as a collective and make Mauritius the pivot of Delhi’s island policy.
    • Indian commercial activities in the southwestern Indian ocean – can use Mauritius as a pivot. Eg., as a banking gateway, the hub for flights to and from Indian cities and tourism.
    • Technology – India could also contribute to the evolution of Mauritius as a regional center for technological innovation. Mauritius demanded higher education facilities from India like the IIT.
    • Climate Change – climate change, sustainable development, and the blue economy are existential challenges for Mauritius and the neighboring island states. It will be the right partner in promoting Indian initiatives.
    • Security – for an integrated view of security cooperation in the southwestern Indian Ocean, Mauritius is the node.


All this and more is possible if Delhi takes a fresh and more strategic look at Mauritius.


Vanilla Islands – Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles

African Union is a continental union consisting of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa.

Indian Ocean Rim Association is an international organization consisting of 22 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean Commission it is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, and Seychelles.

President’s Rule

Administration of Oath in State Legislature


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Administration of Oath in State Legislature

  • Former Maharashtra CM has alleged that the oath-taking ceremony of the new government had violated the Constitution.
  • He was referring to the invocation of names of various personalities at the start of the oath, before reading out the text, which he alleged had altered the oath itself.

Administration of Oath

  • Article 164(3) says: “Before a Minister enters upon his office, the Governor shall administer to him the oaths of office and of secrecy according to the forms set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule.
  • The Third Schedule requires the taker of the oath to either “swear in the name of God” or to “solemnly affirm” to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution…”.
  • According to constitutional experts and those familiar with procedures and rules of swearing-in ceremonies, Art 164 makes it clear that the text of the oath is sacrosanct, and the person taking the oath has to read it out exactly as it is, in the given format.
  • If a person wanders from the text, it is the responsibility of the person administering the oath — in this instance the Governor — to interrupt and ask the person being sworn in to read it out correctly.

Role of the Governor

  • The Governor’s approval is key. If the person administering the oath approves the oath, the matter is closed.
  • Immediately on taking the oath, the person who has been sworn in, must sign a register.
  • The register is attested by the Secretary to the Governor, which means it has been approved by the Governor.
  • Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Chair, the functionary administering the oath, in this case the Governor.
  • Once Governor takes it as read, and the Secretary to the Governor has attested that the oath has been administered, and the gazette notification has come out, then it is no longer an issue.
  • It cannot be legally challenged a/c to a former Rajya Sabha Secretary General.

Instances of deviation

  • The most famous case of a political leader changing the oath was in 1989, when Devi Lal inserted the words “Deputy Prime Minister” as he was being sworn in to Prime Minister V P Singh’s cabinet.
  • He was immediately corrected by President R Venkataraman.
  • The practice of invoking gods, national leaders, reformers, while administering the oath of office can be termed as immature, as it detracts from the importance of the oath.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO’s Second Spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam (TN)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PSLV, SSLV

Mains level : Launchpads and their technical pre-requisites

The ISRO has commenced land acquisition for its second launchpad in Kulasekarapattinam, a town in the Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) district of Tamil Nadu.

ISRO’s spaceport

  • ISRO’s first and only spaceport, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), is located in Sriharikota, about 100 km north of Chennai, in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The organisation launches its PSLV and GSLV rockets from here.
  • The SDSC, setup in 1971, currently has two active launchpads.
  • Its first launchpad was decommissioned once the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle programme ended in 1994.
  • The first of the two active pads mostly services the PSLV and the second, the GSLV, and which ISRO is currently modifying to accommodate crewed vehicle missions as part of its upcoming human spaceflight project, Gaganyaan.
  • The second spaceport at Kulasekarapattinam is expected to provide an important advantage to ISRO’s upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), a smaller counterpart of the PSLV.

Why need another launchpad?

  • The PSLV is designed to launch satellites into pole-to-pole, or polar, orbits around Earth.
  • However, it can’t enter into such an orbit straightaway after launch because its trajectory needs to avoid flying over Sri Lanka, protecting its popular centres from any debris from the rocket.
  • So once the rocket lifts off from Sriharikota, it flies further east to avoid Sri Lanka and then steers itself back towards the South Pole.
  • This manoeuvre requires more fuel, and for a smaller rocket like the SSLV, the addition could eat into its already limited payload capacity and reduce the rocket’s value for Antrix, ISRO’s commercial operator.
  • By setting up a spaceport in Kulasekarapattinam the SSLV will lift off over the Lakshadweep Sea and won’t have to swerve around Sri Lanka as it climbs to higher altitudes.

Why Thoothukudi?

  • Proximity to the seashore makes Thoothukudi ideal for “straight southward” launches. From Sriharikota, such southward bound launches are not possible as the rockets have to fly around Sri Lanka.
  • Nearness to the equator: Like the Sriharikota spaceport in the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Thoothukudi was selected as a spaceport due to its nearness to the equator. A rocket launch site should be on the east coast and near the equator.
  • Logistical ease: ISRO has its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district, where it assembles the second and fourth stage engines for the PSLV. Instead of transporting the second and fourth stages to Sriharikota from Mahendragiri, it would be easier to shift them to the launch pad if it is built in Kulasekarapattinam, which is around 100 km away.

Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : INSTEX

Mains level : Global financial mechanisms

Six new European countries have joined the INSTEX barter mechanism, which is designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar.

Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX)

  • The INSTEX is a European special-purpose vehicle (SPV) established in January 2019.
  • It is a barter mechanism to facilitate non-USD transactions and non-SWIFT to avoid breaking U.S. sanctions.
  • It functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.
  • The system has not yet enabled any transactions.


  • Six Countries – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have recently joined INSTEX.
  • France, Germany and the UK are its founding members.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

PISA test


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PISA test

Mains level : Significance of PISA examination

Students of Chandigarh’s government schools gears up to represent India in the Programme for International Student Assessment test in 2021.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

  • The PISA is a study done to produce comparable data on education policy and outcomes across countries.
  • It is initiated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries,
  • The study, which began in the year 2000, conducts a test evaluating 15-year-olds in member and non-member countries to assess the quality and inclusivity of school systems in these countries.
  • The PISA test is held every three years and the next test will be held in 2021, in which students from government schools in Chandigarh will represent India.

Who sets the test?

  • The test is set by educational experts from across the world.
  • Until now, experts from more than eighty countries have contributed towards framing the test questions, mostly from countries that have already participated in the test.

What does the test entail?

  • Unlike conventional tests and exams, the PISA test does not assess students on their memory, but attempts to evaluate whether students can apply the knowledge they have gained through primary and secondary education.
  • Apart from subjects like math, reading comprehension and science; since 2015 the test also includes an optional section on innovative subjects such as collaborative problem-solving and financial literacy.
  • Further, it evaluates whether students can solve mathematical problems or explain phenomena through scientific thinking or interpretation of text.
  • The test is taken in the language of instruction that the students are familiar with.

Who gives the test?

  • There is no hard and fast rule on who can apply to take the test and who cannot. Countries usually volunteer to take the test.
  • In case, making all 15-year-olds in the country take the test is not feasible, regions are identified within the country where the test can be conducted.
  • Within the region, individual schools are chosen which are approved by the PISA governing board and evaluated using stringent criteria. These schools represent the country’s education system.

What is the aim of the test?

  • The aim of the test is not to rank the countries which volunteer to participate in the evaluation, but to give a comprehensive analysis of how education systems are working in terms of preparing its students for higher education and subsequent employment.
  • After collecting results from across the world, experts translate these results into data points which are evaluated to score the countries.
  • If a country scores well, it suggests that not only does it has an effective education system but an inclusive one, in which students from privileged and underprivileged backgrounds perform equally well.
  • Further, the test evaluates whether the education system in these countries teach students adequate social and community skills, which will enable the students to excel holistically as a member of the workforce.
  • OECD also hopes that the test will allow countries to learn from each other about effective education policies and improve their own systems, using others as examples.

How has India performed in the PISA test?

  • India has participated in the PISA test only once before, in 2009.
  • In this round of PISA, where students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu sat for the test, India ranked 72nd out of 73 countries, outranking only Kyrgistan.
  • Since then, India has strayed away from the test until now, for students from Chandigarh will be sitting for the test in 2021.
  • Approximately 1.75 lakh students from government schools in Chandigarh, along with 600 Navodaya Vidyalayas and 3,000 Kendra Vidyalayas will take the three-hour long PISA test in 2021.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] “Development of PVTGs” Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PVTGs

Mains level : Tribal development measures

The Union Minister of Tribal Affairs has informed about the funds released under the aforesaid scheme, to the Parliament.

Development of PVTGs Scheme

  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs is implementing the scheme of “Development of PVTGs”.
  • It covers 75 PVTGs for the activities like education, housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, etc. for the comprehensive socio-economic development of PVTGs.
  • Under the scheme, State Governments submits Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) Plans on the basis of their requirement.
  • 100% grants-in-aid are made available to States as per the provisions of the scheme.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

  • There are certain tribal communities who have declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.
  • They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.
  • These groups are among the most vulnerable section of our society as they are few in numbers, have not attained any significant level of social and economic development.
  • 75 such groups have been identified and categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Statewise list of PVTGs 

Name of the State Name of PVTGs
Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) 1.      Bodo Gadaba
2.      Bondo Poroja
3.      Chenchu
4.      Dongria Khond
5.      Gutob Gadaba
6.      Khond Poroja
7.      Kolam
8.      Kondareddis
9.      Konda Savaras
10.  Kutia Khond
11.  Parengi Poroja
12.  Thoti
Bihar (including Jharkhand) 13.  Asurs
14.   Birhor
15.  Birjia
16.  Hill Kharia
17.  Korwas
18.  Mal Paharia
19.  Parhaiyas
20.  Sauria Paharia
21.  Savar
Gujarat 22.  Kathodi
23.  Kotwalia
24.  Padhar
25.  Siddi
26.  Kolgha
Karnataka 27.  JenuKuruba
28.  Koraga
Kerala 29.  Cholanaikayan
30.  Kadar
31.  Kattunayakan
32.  Kurumbas
33.  Koraga
Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) 34.  Abujh Marias
35.  Baigas
36.  Bharias
37.  Hill Korbas
38.  Kamars
39.  Saharias
40.  Birhor
Maharashtra 41.  Katkaria (Kathodia)
42.  Kolam
43.  Maria Gond
Manipur 44.  Marram Nagas
Orissa 45.  Birhor
46.  Bondo
47.  Didayi
48.  Dongria-Khond
49.  Juangs
50.  Kharias
51.  Kutia Kondh
52.  Lanjia Sauras
53.  Lodhas
54.  Mankidias
55.  Paudi Bhuyans
56.  Soura
57.  Chuktia Bhunjia
Rajasthan 58.   Seharias
Tamil Nadu 59.  Kattu Nayakans
60.  Kotas
61.  Kurumbas
62.  Irulas
63.  Paniyans
64.  Todas
Tripura 65.   Reangs
Uttar Pradesh (including Uttarakhand) 66.  Buxas
67.  Rajis
West Bengal 68.  Birhor
69.   Lodhas
70.  Totos
Andaman & Nicobar Islands 71.  Great Andamanese
72.  Jarawas
73.  Onges
74.  Sentinelese
75.  Shom Pens


Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] Blue Flag Certification for beaches


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Flag Certification

Mains level : Coastal conservation in India

The MoEFCC has embarked upon a programme for ‘Blue Flag’ Certification for select beaches in the country.

Blue Flag Certification

  • This Certification is accorded by an international agency “Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark” based on 33 stringent criteria in four major heads i.e.
  1. Environmental Education and Information,
  2. Bathing Water Quality,
  3. Environment Management and Conservation and
  4. Safety and Services in the beaches.
  • It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined.
  • Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
  • Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.

Beaches identified in India

  • 13 pilot beaches that have been identified for the certification, in consultation with concerned coastal States/UTs, are Ghoghala Beach (Diu), Shivrajpur beach (Gujarat), Bhogave (Maharashtra), Padubidri and Kasarkod (Karnagaka), Kappad beach (Kerala), Kovalam beach (Tamil Nadu), Eden beach (Puducherry), Rushikonda beach (Andhra Pradesh), Miramar beach (Goa), Golden beach (Odisha), Radhanagar beach (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and Bangaram beach (Lakshadweep).
  • Rushikonda beach in Andhra Pradesh also features in the list of 13 pilot beaches, for development of facilities and infrastructure accordingly.
  • The Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha is the first in India to get the Blue Flag certification.

Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

[pib] Tiger Corridors in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tiger corridors in India

Mains level : Conservation of tigers in India

The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has informed about the Tiger corridors in Country in Lok Sabha.

Tiger corridors in India

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India has mapped out 32 major corridors across the country.
  • These are operationalised through a Tiger Conservation Plan, mandated under section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The list of macro/landscape level tiger corridors are as under:
Sl. No. Landscape Corridor States/ Country
1. Shivalik Hills & Gangetic Plains (i) Rajaji-Corbett Uttarakhand
(ii) Corbett-Dudhwa Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal
(iii) Dudhwa-Kishanpur Katerniaghat Uttar Pradesh, Nepal
2. Central India & Eastern Ghats (i) Ranthambhore-Kuno-Madhav Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
(ii) Bandhavgarh-Achanakmar Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
(iii) Bandhavgarh-Sanjay Dubri-Guru Ghasidas Madhya Pradesh
(iv) Guru Ghasidas-Palamau-Lawalong Chhattisgarh & Jharkhand
(v) Kanha-Achanakmar Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
(vi) Kanha-Pench Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra
(vii) Pench-Satpura-Melghat Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra
(viii) Kanha-Navegaon Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh
(ix) Indravati-Udanti Sitanadi-Sunabeda Chhattisgarh, Odisha
(x) Similipal-Satkosia Odisha
(xi) Nagarjunasagar-Sri Venkateshwara National Park Andhra Pradesh
3. Western Ghats (i) Sahyadri-Radhanagari-Goa Maharashtra, Goa
(ii) Dandeli Anshi-Shravathi Valley Karnataka
(iii) Kudremukh-Bhadra Karnataka
(iv) Nagarahole-Pusphagiri-Talakavery Karnataka
(v) Nagarahole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
(vi) Nagarahole-Mudumalai-Wayanad Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
(vii) Parambikulam-Eranikulam-Indira Gandhi Kerala, Tamil Nadu
(viii) Kalakad Mundanthurai-Periyar Kerala, Tamil Nadu
4. North East (i) Kaziranga-Itanagar WLS Assam, Arunachal Pradesh
(ii) Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Assam
(iii) Kaziranga-Nameri Assam
(iv) Kaziranga-Orang Assam
(v) Kaziranga-Papum Pane Assam
(vi) Manas-Buxa Assam, West Bengal, Bhutan
(vii) Pakke-Nameri-Sonai Rupai-Manas Arunachal Pradesh, Assam
(viii) Dibru Saikhowa-D’Ering-Mehaong Assam, Arunachal Pradesh
(ix) Kamlang-Kane-Tale Valley Arunachal Pradesh
(x) Buxa-Jaldapara West Bengal



Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 by during PM Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
  • It is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the distribution of tigers in the country.
  • The project’s task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests.
  • The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[pib] Exercise Hand-in-Hand-2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Hand-in-Hand-2019

Mains level : India-China military cooperation

The 8th India-China joint training exercise ‘HAND-IN-HAND 2019’ with the theme counter terrorism under UN mandate is scheduled to be conducted in Meghalaya next week.

Exercise Hand-in-Hand-2019

  • Exercise Hand-in-Hand is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between armies of India and China.
  • The exercise involves tactical level operations in an International Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorist environment under UN mandate.
  • The aim of the exercise is to practice joint planning and conduct of counter terrorist operations in semi urban terrain.
  • Two tactical exercises are scheduled during the training; one on counter terrorism scenario and the other on Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

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

[op-ed snap] Taking stock of the anti-AIDS fight


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNAIDS

Mains level : AIDS - tackling it


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted by the member countries of the United Nations in 2015, set a target of ending the epidemics of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by 2030 (SDG 3.3). 


  • The indicator to track progress in achieving the target for HIV-AIDS is “the number of new HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected population, by sex, age and key populations”. 
  • “Key populations” refers to men who have sex with men; people who use injected drugs; people in prisons and other closed settings; sex workers and their clients, and transgender persons.

Bridging gaps

  • To complement the prevention target set by the SDGs, an ambitious treatment target was adopted through UNAIDS.
  • “90-90-90” target – it stated that by 2020, 90% of those living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people on such therapy will have viral suppression.
  • The gaps in detection, initiation of drug therapy and effective viral control were to be bridged to reduce infectivity, severe morbidity and deaths from undetected and inadequately treated persons already infected with HIV.
  • Prevention of new infections was targeted by SDG 3.3.


  • Much success has been achieved in the past 20 years in the global battle against AIDS.
  • There has been a slowdown in progress of late. 
  • There has to be a fresh surge of high-level political commitment, financial support, health system thrust, public education, civil society engagement and advocacy by affected groups.

High and low points

  • World achieved a reduction in new HIV infections by 37% between 2000 and 2018. 
  • HIV-related deaths fell by 45%, with 13.6 million lives saved due to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
  • Effective drugs developed to combat a disease earlier viewed as an inescapable agent of death. They also became widely available due to generic versions generously made available by Indian generic manufacturers.
  • Ignorance and stigma were vigorously combated by coalitions of HIV-affected persons. They were supported by enlightened sections of civil society and the media. 
  • According to a recent report by UNAIDS, of the 38 million persons now living with HIV, 24 million are receiving ART, as compared to only 7 million nine years ago.

Concerns remaining

  • At the end of 2018, while 79% of all persons identified as being infected by HIV were aware of the fact, 62% were on treatment and only 53% had achieved viral suppression. 
  • Due to gaps in service provision, 770,000 HIV-affected persons died in 2018 and 1.7 million persons were newly affected. 
  • There are worryingly high rates of new infection in several parts of the world, especially among young persons. 
  • Only 19 countries are on track to reach the 2030 target. 
  • Central Asia and Eastern Europe have had a setback, with more than 95% of the new infections in those regions occurring among the ‘key populations’. 
  • Risk of acquiring HIV infection is 22 times higher in homosexual men and intravenous drug users, 21 times higher in sex workers and 12 times more in transgender persons.

Complacency, new factors

  • The expanded health agenda in the SDGs stretched the resources of national health systems.
  • Global funding streams started identifying other priorities. 
  • Improved survival rates reduced the fear of what was seen earlier as dreaded death and pushed the disease out of the headlines. 
  • The information dissemination blitz did not continue to pass on the risk-related knowledge and strong messaging on prevention-oriented behaviours to a new generation of young persons. 
  • The vulnerability of adolescent girls to sexual exploitation by older men and domineering male behaviours inflicting HIV infection on unprotected women have been seen as factors contributing to new infections in Africa.


  • Even the improved survival rates in persons with HIV bring forth other health problems that demand attention. 
  • Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are high among survivors as they age, with anti-retroviral drugs increase the risk of atherosclerosis. 
  • Other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis can co-exist and cannot be addressed by a siloed programme. 
  • Mental health disorders are a challenge in persons who are on lifelong therapy for a serious disease that requires constant monitoring and often carries a stigma.

Need for a vigil in India

  • HIV-related deaths declined by 71% between 2005 and 2017. 
  • HIV infection now affects 22 out of 10,000 Indians, compared to 38 out of 10,000 in 2001-03. 
  • India has an estimated 2.14 million persons living with HIV and records 87,000 estimated new infections and 69,000 AIDS-related deaths annually. 
  • Nine states have rated higher than the national prevalence figure. Mizoram leads with 204 out of 10,000 persons affected. 
  • The total number of persons affected in India is estimated to be 21.40 lakh, with females accounting for 8.79 lakh. Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand showed an increase in numbers of annual new infections. 
  • The strength of India’s well established National AIDS Control Programme and a combination of prevention and case management strategies must be preserved.

Drug treatment

  • Drug treatment of HIV is now well-founded with an array of established and new anti-viral drugs. 
  • The success of drug treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and male circumcision is well-documented. 
  • Development of a vaccine has been highly challenging but a couple of candidates are in early-stage trials. 

Way ahead

  • Mere technical innovations will not win the battle against HIV-AIDS. 
  • Success in our efforts to reach the 2030 target calls for resurrecting the combination of political will, professional skill and wide-ranging pan-society partnerships. 
  • The theme of the World AIDS Day this year – “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community, is a timely reminder for community-wide coalitions.
  • Highly vulnerable sections of the community must be targeted for protection in the next phase of the global response.


UNAIDS – the lead UN agency that coordinates the battle against HIV.

Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Terror in London: on London Bridge knife attack


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Tackling terrorism comprehensively


The knife attack near London Bridge that killed two and injured three others is another reminder of the threat lone-wolf assaults pose to public security. 


    • The attacker was born in the U.K. to immigrants from Pakistan-held Kashmir. He was a convicted terrorist. 
    • He was released in December 2018 with conditions after serving half his jail term. 
    • He was attending a prisoner rehabilitation program. Wearing a fake explosive vest, he first threatened to blow up the building and then went on a killing spree. 
    • This is the latest in a series of terror attacks the U.K has seen in recent years. 
    • In 2017, terrorists had rammed a van into pedestrians on the Bridge and stabbed people in nearby bars and restaurants. 
    • In the same year, a van ran into pedestrians outside a London mosque and a suicide bomber killed 22 concert-goers in Manchester. 
    • Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this attack.

Issues underlying the attack

    • Radicalization is the primary problem.
    • It also points to security, intelligence, and systemic failures. 
    • The British intelligence is often credited for foiling dozens of terrorist attacks since the 2005 London train bombings that killed 56.
    • But less sophisticated, less coordinated, often lone-wolf attacks are on the rise. 
    • The attacker who was convicted in 2012 for being part of an al-Qaeda-linked plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange was sentenced under the imprisonment for public protection (IPP) program. It allowed the authorities to keep him, or convicts considered a threat to the public, in prison indefinitely. 
    • Under the automatic early release scheme, he was freed in 2018 with an electronic tag and supposed to be monitored. But the police still could not prevent the knife attack.

Way ahead

    • This demands to make policing more efficient and reviewing the early release scheme. 
    • What is needed is a good counter-terror plan to tackle both extremisms among youth and prevent lone-wolf attacks that often go undetected. 
    • State agencies need to work with civil society groups as well as community leaders and have deradicalization programs.

Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] The dubious legal case for an NRIC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NRC for the country


The government is proposing an NRC for the country. The Union Home Minister said that the Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) is governed under several laws.

Legal provisions

    • Citizenship Act – It is said to be governed by the provisions of Section 14A of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.
    • Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the maintenance of NRIC. 
    • Citizenship Rules – The procedure to prepare and maintain NRIC is specified in The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

Problems with the argument

    • It suggests that a nationwide NRIC is mandated by law. 
    • “May” – Section 14A in the Citizenship Act of 1955 provides in sub-section (1) that “The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him”. 
    • Discretion vs mandate – The word “may” implies a discretion contingent on other factors. It is at odds with the “compulsory” nature envisaged.
    • From the past – this section was introduced in 2004 in the last days of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Rules that authorize an NRIC

    • The 2003 Rules are cited by the Home Minister. Three Rules are of particular interest, Rules 11, 6 and 4 seem to grant some sort of authority for a nationwide NRIC.
    • Rule 11 – “Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall cause to maintain the National Register of Indian Citizen in electronic or some other form .. continuous updating .. from various registers under Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 and the Citizenship Act 1955.” 
    • Registrar General’s responsibility is only to do a periodic revision of the National Register. There is no duty upon the citizens to apply for their citizenship afresh.
    • Rule 4 – it places the responsibility to carry out a census-like exercise on the Central government and not on citizens. It deals with “Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens”. 
    • It says that the Central Government shall carry out a “house-to-house enumeration for collection for particulars related to each family and Individual including the citizenship status”. 
    • This is a passive process compared to the grueling exercise that was forced upon citizens in Assam. 
    • Assam exercise of making “residents” register vis-à-vis a specific cut-off date was an explicit exception, inserted by amendment through Rule 4A in 2009.
    • Rule 6 – every individual must get himself/herself registered with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registrations during the period of initialization. This rule is circumscribed by the other clauses in the Act.
    • Contradiction in rules:
      • Rule 11 says that updating the NRIC entails updating the information available with ‘Registrar of Births and Deaths’. 
      • Rule 4 says that a census-like exercise shall be carried out and, if the Central government wants to exclude a citizen, it will give him/her a hearing. 
      • Rule 6 says that a citizen shall have to get himself/herself registered once a start period is specified. 
      • These Rules are in direct contradiction with one another, and smack of non-application of mind and arbitrariness.

Not mandatory

    • The rules, as currently drafted, do envisage other less destructive scenarios to register “citizens” which are redundant in the wake of the Aadhaar Act and not mandatory. 
    • Under the Act, the Centre continues to enjoy rule-making powers and could issue rules which could make it mandatory in the Assam format.
    • Under the Foreigners Act of 1946, the burden of proving whether an individual is a citizen or not lies upon the individual applicant and not on the state (Section 9). 

Projects & constitutionality

    • Identity enrolment was made mandatory under the Aadhaar project and this was struck down as excessive. 
    • The NRIC scheme would be directly in violation of the K.S. Puttaswamy judgment. 
    • Not acquiring an Aadhaar number does not subject a citizen to the serious penal consequences envisaged in the case of an NRIC.
    • The NRIC exercise promises to inflict a long period of insecurity on over a billion people. 
    • The individuals most likely to suffer are those at the very margins of poverty, who risk being rendered stateless and being incarcerated in detention camps which are truly a blot on our democracy. 
    • Such a register (NRC) has existed since 1951 only in Assam, as a special case.