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December 2019

Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[oped of the day] A potential seedbed for private profits


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRIPS; UOPV; PPVFR

Mains level : Seed Bill


The Seeds Bill 2019 is under Parliament’s consideration. 

Seeds – Governance in India

  • In 1994, India signed the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 
  • In 2002, India also joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention. 
  • Both TRIPS and UPOV led to the introduction of some form of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) over plant varieties. 
  • Member countries introduced restrictions on the free use and exchange of seeds by farmers unless the “breeders” were remunerated.

Balancing conflicting aims

  • TRIPS and UPOV ran counter to other international conventions. 
  • In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) provided for “prior informed consent” of farmers before the use of genetic resources and “fair and equitable sharing of benefits” arising out of their use. 
  • In 2001, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognized farmers’ rights as the rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds.
  • National governments had the responsibility to protect such farmers’ rights.

India’s position

  • India was a signatory to TRIPS and UPOV as well as CBD and ITPGRFA. Any Indian legislation had to be in line with all. 
  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act of 2001 sought to achieve this delicate balance. 
  • The PPVFR Act retained the main spirit of TRIPS viz., IPRs as an incentive for technological innovation. 
  • It also had strong provisions to protect farmers’ rights. 
  • It recognized three roles for the farmer: cultivator, breeder, and conserver. 
    • As cultivators, farmers were entitled to plant-back rights. 
    • As breeders, farmers were held equivalent to plant breeders. 
    • As conservers, farmers were entitled to rewards from a National Gene Fund.

Seeds Bill

  • A new Seeds Bill is necessary to enhance seed replacement rates in Indian agriculture, specify standards for the registration of seed varieties and enforce registration from seed producers to seed retailers. 
  • Any such legislation is expected to be in alignment with the spirit of the PPVFR Act.
  • A shift from farm-saved seeds to certified seeds would raise seed replacement rates.  
  • Certified seeds have higher and more stable yields than farm-saved seeds. Such a shift should be achieved not through policing, but through an enabling atmosphere. 
  • Private seed companies prefer policing because their low-volume, high-value business model is dependent on forcing farmers to buy their seeds every season. 
  • An enabling atmosphere is generated by the strong presence of public institutions in seed research and production. 

Seed policy in India

  • From the late-1980s, Indian policy has consciously encouraged the growth of private seed companies, including companies with majority foreign equity. 
  • Today, more than 50% of India’s seed production is undertaken in the private sector. 
  • These firms have been demanding favorable changes in seed laws and deregulation of seed prices, free import, and export of germplasm, freedom to self-certify seeds and restrictions on the use by farmers of saved seeds from previous seasons. 
  • Through various versions between 2004 and 2019, private sector interests have guided the formulation of the Seeds Bill. 
  • Even desirable objectives such as raising the seed replacement rates have been mixed up to encourage and protect the business interests of private companies. 

Problematic provisions

  • Many of Bill’s provisions deviate from the spirit of the PPVFR Act and are against farmers’ interests and in favor of private seed companies.
  • The Seeds Bill insists on compulsory registration of seeds. However, the PPVFR Act was based on voluntary registration. As a result, many seeds may be registered under the Seeds Bill but may not under the PPVFR Act. 
  • Assume a seed variety developed by a breeder, but derived from a traditional variety. The breeder will get exclusive marketing rights. No gain will accrue to farmers as benefit-sharing is dealt with in the PPVFR Act.
  • As per the PPVFR Act, all applications for registrations should contain the complete passport data of the parental lines from which the seed variety was derived, including contributions made by farmers. This allows for easier identification of beneficiaries and simpler benefit-sharing processes. 
  • Seeds Bil demands no such information while registering a new variety. Thus, an important method of recording the contributions of farmers is overlooked and private companies are left free to claim a derived variety as their own.
  • The PPVFR Act is based on an IPR like breeders’ rights. It does not allow the re-registration of seeds after the validity period.
  • The Seeds Bill is not based on an IPR like breeder’s rights. Private seed companies can re-register their seeds an infinite number of times after the validity period. Due to this “ever-greening” provision, many seed varieties may never enter the open domain for free use.
  • A vague provision for the regulation of seed prices appears in the latest draft of the Seeds Bill. It appears neither sufficient nor credible. Strict control on seed prices has been an important demand raised by farmers’ organizations. 
  • They have also demanded an official body to regulate seed prices and royalties. In its absence, seed companies may be able to fix seed prices as they deem fit.
  • According to the PPVFR Act, if a registered variety fails in its promise of performance, farmers can claim compensation before a PPVFR Authority. In the Seeds Bill, disputes on compensation have to be decided as per the Consumer Protection Act 1986. Consumer courts are not the ideal and friendly institutions that farmers can approach.
  • According to the Seeds Bill, farmers become eligible for compensation if a plant variety fails to give expected results under “given conditions”. Seed companies would always claim that “given conditions” were not ensured, which will be difficult to be disputed with evidence in a consumer court.

The way ahead

  • Farmer-friendly pieces of seed legislation are difficult to frame and execute. 
  • Moreso as the clout of the private sector grows and technological advances shift seed research towards hybrids rather than varieties. In hybrids, the reuse of seeds is technically constrained.
  • The private sector has a natural incentive to focus on hybrids.
  •  In such a world of hybrids, even progressive seed laws become a weak defense.
  • Strong public agricultural research systems ensure that the choices between hybrids, varieties and farm-saved seeds remain open, and are not based on private profit concerns. 
  • Even if hybrids are the appropriate technological choice, seed prices can be kept affordable. 
  • For the seed sector and its laws to be truly farmer-friendly, the public sector has to recapture its lost space.


TRIPS  – It sets down minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of many forms of intellectual property.

UOPV – The objective of the Convention is the protection of new varieties of plants by an intellectual property right.

PPVFR – enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants.

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

[op-ed snap] Lessons from Ambedkar


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Dalit assertion and thier political empowerment


  • R. Ambedkar is remembered on his 63rd death anniversary on December 6, principally as the chief draftsman of the Indian Constitution.
  • But above all Ambedkar was a valiant fighter for the cause of the Dalits.
  • His strategies to achieve the goal of empowering Dalits shifted with changing contexts but the goal always remained the same: attaining equality with caste Hindus in all spheres of life.

Ambedkar’s work for Dalit Empowerment

Separate electorate

  • It was in pursuit of this goal that in the early 1930s he advocated a separate electorate for the Dalits.
  • This demand was accepted by British PM MacDonald in his Communal Award of 1932, which granted Dalits 18% of the total seats in the Central legislature and 71 seats in the Provincial legislatures to be elected exclusively by Dalits.
  • However, Ambedkar’s success was short-lived because of Mahatma Gandhi’s fast unto death against a separate electorate for Dalits, which he saw as a British ploy to divide Hindu society.

Idea that never came to being

  • Ambedkar gave up his demand in return for an increased number of seats reserved for Dalits but elected by the general Hindu population.
  • However, Ambedkar regretted his decision because he soon realized that given the disparity in the number of eligible voters between caste Hindus and Dalits was huge.
  • With disparity in their socio-economic status, very few of the elected Dalits would be able to genuinely represent Dalit interests.

Defying untouchability

  • Both Gandhi and Ambedkar abhorred untouchability, but the terms they used to describe the “untouchables” demonstrated the wide gulf in their approaches to the issue.
  • Gandhi called them “Harijan” (God’s children) in order to persuade caste Hindus to stop discriminating against them.
  • For Ambedkar, this was a appeasing term and he used the nomenclature Dalit both to describe the reality of oppression and to galvanize his people to challenge and change the status quo.

Ally with the Muslim League

  • In the second half of the 1930s Ambedkar considered the Muslim League a potential ally.
  • He concluded that if Muslims and Dalits acted jointly, they could balance the political clout of caste Hindus.
  • However, he was disillusioned after the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 1940 demanding a separate Muslim majority state.
  • He felt this undercut Dalit interests in two ways. First, if the Muslim League succeeded in gaining Pakistan, it would drastically reduce the Muslims’ heft in Indian politics and allow caste Hindus a free hand in running the country.
  • Second, even if the bid for Pakistan failed, the Muslim League’s demand for parity in representation with the Hindus effectively marginalized all other groups, especially the Dalits.

Hindu code bill

  • After Independence Ambedkar made his peace with the Congress leadership believing that he could enhance Dalits’ rights from within the power structure.
  • He became Law Minister and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.
  • He resigned from the Cabinet in 1951 when his draft of the Hindu Code Bill was stalled in Parliament because conservative Hindu members opposed it.

Declining cause of Dalits

  • There are three major problems that continue to bedevil Dalit activism.
  • First, intra-Dalit differences based on sub-castes allows forces opposed to Dalit empowerment to divide Dalits and deny them the clout that they can wield in the Indian polity.
  • Second, interpersonal rivalry among Dalit politicians leads to the same result.
  • Third, the inability of the Dalit leadership to stick with their non-Dalit allies, especially in times of political adversity, makes them appear as unreliable political partners.


  • Although he died a frustrated man, Ambedkar’s devotion to the cause of Dalit empowerment has continued to galvanise Dalits until today.
  • This Dalit awakening is represented in student activism on university campuses as well as through the emergence of Dalit-based parties.
  • The most important lesson to learn from Ambedkar’s repeated exhortations is that unless they remain united, the Dalits will be denied their due share of political power.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Explained: Personal Data Protection Bill — issues, debate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Debat over Data Localization Policy in India

  • India’s first attempt to domestically legislate on the topic, the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 has been approved by the Cabinet and is slated to be placed in Parliament this winter session.
  • The Bill has three key aspects that were not previously included in a draft version, prepared by a committee headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna.

What is Data?

  • Data is any collection of information that is stored in a way so computers can easily read them (think 011010101010 i.e. binary formats).
  • Data usually refers to information about your messages, social media posts, online transactions, and browser searches.

Data Principal

  • The individual whose data is being stored and processed is called the data principal in the PDP Bill.

Why this data matters?

  • This large collection of information user’s online habits has become an important source of profits, but also a potential avenue for invasion of privacy because it can reveal extremely personal aspects.
  • Companies, governments, and political parties find it valuable because they can use it to find the most convincing ways to advertise to you online.
  • It is now clear that much of the future’s economy and law enforcement will be predicated on the regulation of data, introducing issues of national sovereignty.

Who handles my data, and how?

  • Data is stored in a physical space similar to a file cabinet of documents, and transported across country borders in underwater cables that run as deep as Mount Everest and as long as four times the Indian Ocean.
  • To be considered useful, data has to be processed, which means analysed by computers.
  • Data is collected and handled by entities called data fiduciaries.
  • While the fiduciary controls how and why data is processed, the processing itself may be by a third party, the data processor.
  • This distinction is important to delineate responsibility as data moves from entity to entity.
  • For example, in the US, Facebook (the data controller) fell into controversy for the actions of the data processor — Cambridge Analytica.

Storage of data

  • The physical attributes of data — where data is stored, where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful — are called data flows.
  • Data localisation arguments are premised on the idea that data flows determine who has access to the data, who profits off it, who taxes and who “owns” it.
  • However, many contend that the physical location of the data is not relevant in the cyber world.

How does the PDP Bill propose to regulate data transfer?

  • To legislate on the topic the bill trifurcates personal data.
  • The umbrella group is all personal data — data from which an individual can be identified.
  • Some types of personal data are considered sensitive personal data (SPD), which the Bill defines as financial, health, sexual orientation, biometric, genetic, transgender status, caste, religious belief, and more. Another subset is critical personal data.
  • The government at any time can deem something critical, and has given examples as military or national security data.

Changes accorded in Justice B N Srikrishna Committee recommendations


  • The draft had said all fiduciaries must store a copy of all personal data in India — a provision that was criticised by foreign technology companies that store most of Indians’ data abroad and even some domestic startups that were worried about a foreign backlash.
  • The approved Bill removes this stipulation, only requiring individual consent for data transfer abroad. Similar to the draft, however, the Bill still requires sensitive personal data to be stored only in India.
  • It can be processed abroad only under certain conditions including approval of a Data Protection Agency (DPA). The final category of critical personal data must be stored and processed in India.

Non-personal data

  • The Bill mandates fiduciaries to give the government any non-personal data when demanded.
  • Non-personal data refers to anonymised data, such as traffic patterns or demographic data.
  • The previous draft did not apply to this type of data, which many companies use to fund their business model.

Data fiduciaries

  • The Bill also requires social media companies, which are deemed significant data fiduciaries based on factors such as volume and sensitivity of data as well as their turnover, to develop their own user verification mechanism.
  • While the process can be voluntary for users and can be completely designed by the company, it will decrease the anonymity of users and “prevent trolling”.

Other key features

  • The Bill includes exemptions for processing data without an individual’s consent for “reasonable purposes”.
  • These include security of the state, detection of any unlawful activity or fraud, whistle blowing, medical emergencies, credit scoring, operation of search engines and processing of publicly available data.
  • The Bill calls for the creation of an independent regulator DPA, which will oversee assessments and audits and definition making.
  • Each company will have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who will liaison with the DPA for auditing, grievance redressal, recording maintenance and more.
  • The committee’s draft had required the DPO to be based in India.

Other keywords

  • The committee’s draft had several other significant keywords that are expected to be in the Bill.
  • Purpose limitation” and “collection limitation” limit the collection of data to what is needed for “clear, specific, and lawful” purposes or for reasons that the data principal would “reasonably expect”.
  • It also grants individuals the right to data portability, and the ability to access and transfer one’s own data. Finally, it legislates on the right to be forgotten.

Debates around the Bill

  • With historical roots in European Union law, this right allows an individual to remove consent for data collection and disclosure.
  • After the Cabinet approval of the bill, an official source said this concept is still “evolving” and has not been “concretized” yet.
  • Government sources said they were open to the “widest debate on this Bill”.

Two sides of the debate

A. For data localisation

  • A common argument from government officials has been that data localisation will help law-enforcement access data for investigations and enforcement.
  • As of now, much of cross-border data transfer is governed by individual bilateral “mutual legal assistance treaties” — a process that almost all stakeholders agree is cumbersome.
  • In addition, proponents highlight security against foreign attacks and surveillance, harkening notions of data sovereignty.
  • The government doubled down on this argument after news broke that 121 Indian citizens’ WhatsApp accounts were hacked by an Israeli software called Pegasus.
  • Even before that, the argument was used prominently against WhatsApp when a spate of lynchings across the country linked to rumours that spread on the platform in the summer of 2018.

Why localize data?

  • Many domestic-born technology companies, which store most of their data exclusively in India, support localisation.
  • They have strongly argued that data regulation for privacy and security will have little teeth without localisation, calling upon models in China and Russia.
  • Many economy stakeholders say localisation will also increase the ability of the Indian government to tax Internet giants.

B. Against the Bill

  • Civil society groups have criticised the open-ended exceptions given to the government in the Bill, allowing for surveillance.
  • Moreover, some lawyers contend that security and government access are not achieved by localisation.
  • Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption keys may still be out of reach of national agencies.
  • Technology giants like Facebook and Google and their industry bodies, especially those with significant ties to the US, have slung heavy backlash.
  • Much of this sentiment harkens to the values of a globalised, competitive internet marketplace, where costs and speeds determine information flows rather than nationalistic borders.
  • Opponents say protectionism may backfire on India’s own young startups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India, such as TCS and Wipro.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Cyclone Pawan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cyclone Pawan

Mains level : Reason for increased cyclonic activities

With the formation of cyclone Pawan recently in the southwest Arabian Sea, the total number of cyclones in the North Indian Ocean region this year has reached the record eight.

Highest nos. of Cyclones this year

  • This is the highest number of cyclones in a single year since 1976, when nine cyclonic storms had formed in the region, according to data from the IMD.
  • This record might still be equalled as the IMD is tracking another depression in the east central Arabian Sea, though the system has weakened from a deep depression and is likely to de-intensify further in the coming days.
  • The Arabian Sea has seen a lot of cyclonic activity in 2019.
  • Five of the eight cyclones this year formed in this region, the highest in the past 117 years. Four of these were severe cyclones, which last occurred in 1902.
  • Only one of these cyclones, Maha, had an impact on the mainland, with heavy rainfall in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The rest of the cyclones formed, developed and dissipated in the sea.

Intense cyclones have increased

  • Six of the cyclones this year were of the ‘Severe’ or ‘Higher’ category.
  • While Cyclone Kyarr in October reached super cyclone intensity with wind speeds in excess of 250 kilometres per hour (km/hr).
  • Cyclone Fani in April-May and Cyclone Maha in October were of the ‘Extremely Severe’ category, with wind speeds greater than 200 km/hr.
  • Cyclone Vayu, Cyclone Hikaa and Cyclone Bulbul were of the ‘Very Severe’ category.
  • There were six ‘Severe’ cyclones in 2018 as well.
  • The last time there were more than five ‘Severe’ cyclones in two consecutive years was 1976-77 when seven and five ‘Severe’ cyclones formed respectively, according to IMD data.

What enhanced cyclonic activity?

  • The reason could be the active phases of both, the Indian Ocean Dipole and Madden Julian Oscillation phenomena.
  • The second could be global warming, which has led to warmer-than-usual temperatures on the surface of seas and oceans.
  • This provides the perfect conditions for the formation of low pressure areas which can intensify into depressions and further into cyclones.
  • In September, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had said that the world will be witness to warmer-than-usual surface and sea temperatures in the latter part of 2019.
  • It had also said that this was a clear sign of global warming in the absence of the El Nino phenomenon, which had ended in August.
  • Also according to the WMO, the leaning towards above normal temperatures was particularly strong in tropical and sub-tropical regions like India.
  • This could mean favourable conditions for the formation of cyclones in the Indian Ocean region as this is also the usual cyclone period.


Explained: Naming of cyclones

Indian Navy Updates

Blue Water Force


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Color classification in Navy

Mains level : Indian naval arsenal and its significance

On the Navy Day, Raksha Mantri has greeted all naval personnel and called itself a formidable blue water force.

Blue Water Navy

  • A Blue Water Navy is one that has the capacity to project itself over a much bigger maritime area than its maritime borders.
  • Simply put, it is a Navy that can go into the vast, deep oceans of the world.
  • However, while most navies have the capacity to send ships into the deep oceans, a Blue Water Force is able to carry out operations far from its borders, without being required to return to its home port to refuel or re-stock.
  • While it is evident that Blue Water navies belong to the most powerful nations, there is no one internationally agreed upon definition.
  • Owning one or more aircraft carriers is sometimes seen as a marker.

Color classification in Navy

  • Navies are classified in terms of colours.
  • A navy whose operations are restricted close to the shore, where the water is muddy, is called a Brown Water Force.
  • A navy that can go farther out is called a Green Water Force. And then there is a Blue Water Force.

Defining Blue Water Navy

  • According to the Indian Maritime Doctrine, 2015 the ability to undertake distant operations distinguish a blue-water navy from a brown-water force.
  • It requires strong integral capacity, including logistics, surveillance, networked operations, etc., and enabling capability, including equipment design, training, doctrine and organisation.
  • It states distant operations rely upon the attributes of access, mobility, sustenance and reach in order to show presence, project power and/or accomplish other national objectives in the area of interest.
  • As the Indian Navy has the capacity to carry distant operations “at or from the sea, up to considerable distance from national shore bases”, it qualifies as a Blue Water Force.

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

[pib] ‘Going Online as Leaders’ Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GOAL Programme

Mains level : Tribal development measures

Ministry of Tribal Affairs has informed that it was not associated with the pilot project GOAL implemented by the Facebook.

GOAL Programme

  • GOAL is a digitally-enabled mentorship initiative of Facebook for empowering tribal youth to become leaders for tomorrow in the respective fields.
  • It is stated to aim at identifying and mobilizing renowned policy makers and influencers, known for their leadership skills or roles, to digitally empower and personally mentor tribal youth from tribal communities across multiple locations of India.
  • The initiative has been designed to identify and attach 1 Mentor who is expert in their respective fields, to four tribal youth, who will be trained and mentored.
  • Facebook had started a pilot project on its own in March 2019 in 5 states of India i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, wherein they have identified 100 Tribal Mentees and 25 Mentors.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Ports of Call


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ports of Call, BIMSTEC

Mains level : PIWT and T

The Minister of State for Shipping has informed that under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) between India and Bangladesh.

What are Ports of Call?

  • Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for cargo operation or taking on supplies or fuel.
  • The following are existing Ports of Call in the two countries on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route:
India Kolkata Haldia Pandu Karimganj Silghat Dhubri
Bangladesh Narayanganj




Mongla Sirajganj Ashuganj



About the ports

  • Port of Mongla is declared as Port of Call under PIWT&T and Chattogram port is not part of PIWT&T.
  • Mongla and Chattogram are declared as Ports of Call under the “Coastal Shipping Agreement” between India and Bangladesh.


BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement

  • It aims to facilitate coastal shipping (instead of deep-sea shipping) in the region boosting trade between the member countries.
  • It applies to coastal shipping- shipping within 20 nautical miles of the coastline. Coastal shipping requires smaller vessels compared to deep sea shipping.
  • The agreement could help make movement of cargo between member countries faster, less costly, and more environments friendly.

Indian Army Updates

[pib] Exercise INDRA 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise INDRA

Mains level : India-Russia defence relations

Exercise INDRA 2019 will be conducted in India from 10 — 19 December 2019 simultaneously at Babina (near Jhansi), Pune, and Goa.

Exercise INDRA

  • It is a joint, tri services exercise between India and Russia
  • This series of exercise began in 2003 and the First joint Tri Services Exercise was conducted in 2017.
  • Company sized mechanised contingents, fighter and transport aircraft as well as ships of respective Army, Air Force and Navy wiil participate in this exercise of ten days duration.
  • The exercise will consist of a five day training phase consisting of a comprehensive training curriculum.

BRICS Summits

[pib] BRICS remote Sensing Satellite Constellation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Remote sensing constellation

Mains level : Space cooperation amongst BRICS nations

The space agencies of BRICS nations have been negotiating a Framework Agreement to formalize the cooperation on building a ‘virtual constellation of remote sensing satellites’.

About the constellation

  • The purpose of the proposed virtual constellation is to get access to satellite remote sensing data, which could be used by the individual BRICS nations for various applications including natural resources management and disaster management.
  • There are two phases proposed for the Constellation: phase one, comprising a virtual constellation of existing satellites; and phase two, a new satellite constellation.
  • It will create a system for the sharing of remote sensing data, meaning the data from each of the member countries’ existing Earth observation satellites will be made available to all the other members.

Why need such constellation?

  • The BRICS represents 43 percent of the world’s population, 30 percent of gross domestic product and 17 percent of global trade and they have been trying to enhance co-operation in different fields, including space.
  • Currently, only Brazil, Russia, India and China have remote-sensing satellites in the sun-synchronous orbit, and they will provide data to South Africa, which does not have a satellite of its own.

History- Important places, persons in news

Persons in news: Maharaja Duleep Singh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Maharaja Duleep Singh

Mains level : Subsidiary Alliance

A member of parliament has made a demand in the Rajya Sabha to exhume the remains of Maharaja Duleep Singh from his grave in England, and have them brought to Amritsar.

Maharaja Duleep Singh

  • Singh was the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the last ruler of Punjab. He was declared Maharaja of Punjab in 1843 at the age of five.
  • In 1849, after the second Anglo-Sikh war, Singh was forced to give up claims of sovereignty in exchange for a pension of £40,000 a year. He was 10 years old at that time.
  • In 1853, he converted to Christianity, and settled in the UK in 1854.
  • According to the Royal Collection Trust, in July of 1854, Singh was received by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.
  • He is believed to have become a close friend of the royal family and during the summer of 1854, visited them frequently at Osborne.

Kohinoor connection

  • Significantly, in 1849, after the British defeated the Sikhs in the war, Singh was forced to sign a legal document that amended the Treaty of Lahore.
  • It required him to not only give up claims of sovereignty over the region, but also the Koh-i-noor diamond.
  • The diamond eventually made its way to England, where the British East India Company presented it to the Queen.
  • The diamond is now a part of the British Crown Jewels kept in the Tower of London.

Why are his remains in England?

  • In 1864, Singh married Bamba Müller in Cairo and then moved to Elveden in England.
  • Queen Victoria became the godmother of their eldest son, who was named Victor Duleep Singh after the Queen’s eldest grandson Prince Albert Victor.
  • In 1886, he is said to have tried to return to India. He also re-converted to Sikhism.
  • He was refused permission to visit India by the British Secretary of State, and the reconversion ceremony was performed in Aden, Yemen.


  • After this, Singh lived in Paris and is believed to have sought the help of Irish revolutionaries and Russians to launch a revolt against the British in Punjab.
  • He planned to launch the revolt from Pondicherry, which was a French territory then.
  • Ultimately, however, Singh was unsuccessful in doing so. While he died in Paris in 1893 at the age of 55, his body was brought to England, where he was buried.