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December 2019

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[oped of the day] Strengthening the Asia-Europe partnership


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASEM

Mains level : ASEM - India


ASEM, or the “Asia-Europe Meeting” is a highly relevant event for our continents.


  • It brings together 53 partners made up of the 28 EU member states, Norway, Switzerland and the EU, and on the Asia side, 21 countries and the ASEAN secretariat.
  • It represents 55% of global trade, 60% of global GDP, 60% of the global population and 75% of global tourism.
  • In recent years, ASEM has become increasingly relevant and strategic.

Engaging on global issues

  • Global issues – There is a clear willingness from ASEM countries to engage on global issues – from supporting sustainable development, to rules-based global trade, to information sharing on cross-border threats, to the prevention or peaceful resolution of conflicts. 
  • Multilateralism – it is a key platform to uphold and promote rules-based, multilateral approaches. 


  • Sustainable connectivity and combating climate change are key themes.
  • Green deal – The EU made the Green Deal and the commitment to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. 
  • Need global partnership – To safeguard our planet and to promote sustainable development, cooperation with Asia is key.
  • International issues – issues on the international agenda such as the situation on the Korean peninsula and in Rakhine State, the West Asia peace process, Iran and the wider region, and efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan are a few. 
  • Other areas of cooperation – uphold multilateralism, address security challenges, promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Sense of partnership

  • Relations with other countries – the two can work together with Africa, the Western Balkans, finding a solution to the situation in Libya, or a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, on Iran etc.,
  • People to people relations – students from both the continents swap Europe for Asia to study at universities; business transactions take place between European and Asian companies, tourism, research on ground-breaking innovation.


  • There is a need to create the environment and the conditions to enhance the connections between our societies and our citizens. 
  • It’s time to translate Europe and Asia’s power into a real partnership.

Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[op-ed snap] A band-aid


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : API

Mains level : Price regulation in India


India’s drug regulator, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), used the public interest provision of the Drugs Prices Control Order 2013 to allow manufacturers to increase prices of 21 essential drugs by as much as 50%. 

Price Rise

  • Critical diseases – Most of these drugs are used to treat critical diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and leprosy and are crucial to the country’s public health program. 
  • Usually reduces – the regulatory authority is usually known to slash prices of life-saving drugs. This decision is compelled by an extraordinary situation. 
  • Costs of production – For nearly two years, drug manufacturers are claiming an inability to keep up with the country’s healthcare demands due to increasing costs of production. 
  • Immediate crisis – Easing the price ceiling could help the healthcare system. It may preempt a situation where the public is forced to switch to costlier alternatives. 

Root cause

  • The drug regulator and the Department of Pharmaceuticals need to do much more to address the root cause of the shortage of critical drugs.
  • Imports – India’s pharma industry imports more than 60% of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) or bulk drugs from China. 
  • Chinese regulators – In 2017, Chinese regulators cracked down on bulk drug manufacturing units as per the country’s environmental regulations. The Chinese API industry has raised prices. This has spin-off effects in India. 
  • Example of price rise – the cost of making Vitamin C pills has gone up by more than 250% since 2017. This has led to a 25-30% shortage of this drug in India. 
  • Leprosy drug – Pharma major, Abbot, applied to the NPPA to discontinue the production of the leprosy drug, Hansepran. It pointed out that increasing costs of API imports had made the production of Hansepran unviable in India.

Price control

  • Essential control – Making medicines more accessible to those who need them is essential. 
  • Failure – Drug price control measures in India have not always achieved this objective. 
  • Past – The ceiling on prices of 74 bulk drugs in 1995 forced many companies to opt-out of API production. 

Draft Pharmaceutical Policy 2017 

  • Indigenous API – Giving preference to drugs produced from indigenously produced APIs in government procurement and taking them out of price control for five years.
  • R&D – More importantly, the draft talked about creating research and development facilities for API production. 
  • It needs to be revisited in light of the country’s current medicine shortage.


Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients(APIs)

These are the ingredients that give medicine its therapeutic value.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Many mutinies: On protests against amended citizenship law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : CAA - analysis


Assam and the other Northeastern States erupted in revolt against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

North East

  • Diversity – The Northeast is inhabited by diverse populations, sharing borders with several neighbors. 
  • Politics of the region – Assertive ethnic politics, secessionism, and resistance to migration into the region, has been a defining character of the area. 
  • Genuine grievances – Grievances of indigenous populations are genuine. It is difficult to try to resolve them by privileging one group over another. 
  • Mindless application of religion – Applying a religious test to such an exercise is mindless and dangerous. 
  • Managing diversity – The Northeast’s ethnic divergences have been delicately managed with the collaboration of local power-brokers and grant of special property and cultural rights to communities. 
  • Invoking faultlines – CAA aggravated dormant faultlines and inflames new passions. It has wrecked the Assam Accord of 1985 and exhumed sleeping hostilities.

 Upholding diversity

  • The government announced its commitment to the cultural and linguistic rights of Northeast communities.
  • What it takes – meaningful gestures are needed to hold together diverse populations in the pursuit of common goals. 

India – superpower

  • The government has to understand that triggering numerous mutinies across the nation is an impossible route to be a superpower. 
  • Kashmir – the subterfuge on Kashmir involved responsible government functionaries lying to the public. 
  • BJP in NE –  the party is in power in all seven States. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it won a majority of the region’s 25 seats. It mistook its victories for approval of its Hindutva politics. 
  • Hindutva – it seeks to subordinate all identities to an overarching Hindu identity. But societies cannot be shoehorned into such narrow politics. 
  • CAA’s intent – The CAA seeks to provide a legal route to the politics of turning the Northeast’s ethnic faultlines into a religious one, by excluding Muslims alone. 
  • It pits Bengali-speaking Hindus who have moved around in the region against their Muslim counterparts.


The government must undo the misadventure of CAA. It must show courage and hold back, and the leadership must demonstrate statesmanship.

Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

Explained: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hydrogen- Oxygen Fuel Cells

Mains level : Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)

The Supreme Court has asked the government to look into the feasibility of hydrogen-based tech to deal with vehicular air pollution in New Delhi. India is looking closely at Japan, which has made progress in this field.

How does hydrogen fuel cell work?

  • At the heart of the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is a device that uses a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity by an electrochemical process.
  • Put simply, the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electric current, water being the only byproduct.
  • Like conventional batteries under the bonnets of automobiles, hydrogen fuel cells too convert chemical energy into electrical energy.
  • From a long-term viability perspective, FCEVs are billed as vehicles of the future, given that hydrogen is the most abundant resource in the universe.

So is an FCEV a conventional vehicle or an electric vehicle (EV)?

  • While the fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process, unlike a battery-electricity vehicle, it does not store energy and, instead, relies on a constant supply of fuel and oxygen.
  • It works in the same way that an internal combustion engine relies on a constant supply of petrol or diesel, and oxygen.
  • In that sense, it may be seen as being similar to a conventional internal combustion engine.
  • But unlike the combustion engine cars, there are no moving parts in the fuel cell, so they are more efficient and reliable by comparison. Also, there is no combustion onboard, in the conventional sense.

Classification of EVs

Globally, EVs are bracketed under three broad categories:

  • Battery electric vehicle or BEVs such as the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, which have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank, and run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.
  • Conventional hybrid electric vehicles or HEVs such as the Toyota Camry sold in the country combine a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, resulting in a hybrid vehicle drivetrain that substantially reduces fuel use. The onboard battery in a conventional hybrid is charged when the IC engine is powering the drivetrain.
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles or PHEVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt, too have a hybrid drivetrain that uses both an internal combustion engine and electric power for motive power, backed by rechargeable batteries that can be plugged into a power source.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of fuel cells?

  • Fuel cells have strong advantages over conventional combustion-based technologies currently used in many power plants and cars, given that they produce much smaller quantities of greenhouse gases and none of the air pollutants that cause health problems.
  • Also, if pure hydrogen is used, fuel cells emit only heat and water as a byproduct. Such cells are also far more energy-efficient than traditional combustion technologies.
  • Unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles do not need to be plugged in, and most models exceed 300 km of range on a full tank. They are filled up with a nozzle, just like in a petrol or diesel station.

Limitations of Fuel Cells EVs

  • While FCEVs do not generate gases that contribute to global warming, the process of making hydrogen needs energy — often from fossil fuel sources.
  • That has raised questions over hydrogen’s green credentials.
  • Also, there are questions of safety — hydrogen is more explosive than petrol.
  • Opponents of the technology cite the case of the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg airship in 1937.
  • The other major hurdle is that the vehicles are expensive, and fuel dispensing pumps are scarce.

Progress in India

  • In India, so far, the definition of EV only covers BEVs; the government has lowered taxes to 12%.
  • At 43%, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen FCEVs attract the same tax as IC vehicles.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been supporting various such projects in academic institutions, research and development organisations and industry for development.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

JAGA Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : JAGA mission

Mains level : Problems of Slum Dwellers

World Habitat Mission has recognised the Odisha state government’s Jaga Mission that uses drones to survey slums. The Odisha government has become the first in the country to bag this award.

Jaga (Land) Mission

  • Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission “JAGA” is a society under Housing & Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha, headed by the Chief Secretary, Odisha as Chairman.
  • “JAGA” aims at transforming the slums into liveable habitat with all necessary civic infrastructure and services at par with the better off areas within the same urban local body (ULB).
  • It would work continuously to improve the standard of the infrastructure and services and access to livelihood opportunities.
  • It is the world’s largest slum land title project.
  • It involves the government surveying and awarding slum dwellers a legal land title.

Why land rights for slums matter

  • More often than not, slums are seen as encroachments and slum dwellers, even if they stay in slums for decades, are not provided with any legal rights over the land.
  • This illegality further condemns slums — which are an urban reality in Indian cities — to unsanitary conditions. Formal recognition of land rights allows for cleaner cities and better living conditions for slum dwellers.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Bougainville Referendum


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bougainville and its location

Mains level : Chinese assertion in the Indo-Pacific region

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a chain of islands that lie 959 kilometres northwest of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) capital, Port Moresby, has recently voted for its independence.

China’s interest in Bougainville

  • For the broader region, an independent Bougainville has a number of implications.
  • Firstly, it sends a strong signal for other self-determination movements across the Pacific, including in New Caledonia which will hold a second referendum for independence in 2020.
  • There are also geopolitical implications. The referendum has taken place during a period of heightened strategic anxiety among the Pacific’s so-called traditional partners — Australia, NZ and the US, as well as the UK, France and Japan.
  • There have long been concerns China will seek to curry influence with an independent Bougainville.
  • Beijing’s interest in Bougainville is two-fold: First, it is seeking to shore up diplomatic support in the Pacific Islands region, thereby reducing support for Taiwan which lost a further two Pacific allies this year.
  • And second, to access to resources, namely fisheries and extractive minerals.
  • The current strategic prism of China is about debt-trap diplomacy to undermine the importance of local dynamics and the resilience of Bougainville people.


Bougainville Referendum

  • The referendum marks an important part of a peace agreement signed almost 20 years ago.
  • The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement ended the deeply divisive nine year conflict (1988-1997) that lead to the deaths of approximately 20,000 people, or about 10 per cent of Bougainville’s population.
  • The referendum, however, is non-binding.
  • The ultimate outcome will be determined by a vote in Papua New Guinea’s National Parliament following negotiations between the Papua New Guinean government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Project Dolphin


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic Dolphin

Mains level : Project Dolphin

The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by PM Modi, met for the first time at Kanpur to discuss various issues.

Project Dolphin

  • The proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin was one of the agendas discussed.
  • There is an expectation that at the meeting a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” will be cleared to enhance the population of these dolphins.

About Gangetic Dolphins

  • The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves.
  • These dolphins prefer deep waters and, as per WWF, they are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.

Protection status

  • The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, a/c to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
  • In 2009, the Gangetic dolphins were declared India’s National Aquatic animal during the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • It is placed under the “endangered” category by the IUCN.
  • Additionally, the Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting.
  • They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.

In numbers

  • According to the MoEFCC, at last count, the rivers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh had 962 and 1,275 Gangetic dolphins, respectively.
  • According to the ministry, in Assam, the assessment was carried out in three rivers, with the Brahmaputra accounting for 877 of the 962 dolphins in the state.
  • In addition to the species being India’s national aquatic animal, the Gangetic dolphin has been notified by the Assam government as the state aquatic animal, too.
  • Silting and sand lifting from rivers in Assam has been stopped to maintain its population.
  • As per WWF estimates, they number somewhere between 1200-1800.

What are some of the efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?

  • Some of the efforts made to preserve and increase the numbers of these dolphins include the setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020).
  • This plan has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.

Digital India Initiatives

Government Instant Messaging System (GIMS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GIMS

Mains level : Cyber Security

The government is testing a prototype of an Indian equivalent of popular messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, for secure internal use.

Government Instant Messaging System

  • Codenamed GIMS the platform is in the pilot testing stage across some states, including Odisha — and is learnt to have been released to the Indian Navy to be tried out on trial basis.
  • It is designed and developed by the Kerala unit of National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • It is being packaged for employees of Central and state government departments and organisations for intra and inter-organisation communications.
  • Besides one-to-one messaging and group messaging, there are specific provisions in GIMS for documents and media sharing in keeping with the hierarchies in the government system.

Why need GIMS?

  • It is being developed as a secure Indian alternative without the security concerns attached with apps hosted abroad or those owned by foreign entities.
  • Like WhatsApp, GIMS employs end-to-end encryption for one-to-one messaging.
  • The launch of the new app comes amid the recent controversy over the WhatsApp breach through a spyware called Pegasus.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] National Ganga Council


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Ganga Council

Mains level : National Ganga Council and its mandate

The first meeting of the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (or the National Ganga Council) was recently held in Kanpur.

 National Ganga Council

  • The National Ganga Council (NGC) is an authority created in October 2016 under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016, dissolving the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
  • In this backdrop, NGC has been established as an authority and National Mission for Clean Ganga has been also converted into an authority.
  • The Council has been given overall responsibility for the superintendence of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of River Ganga Basin, including Ganga and its tributaries.


  • The Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairperson for the NGC
  • Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation will be the ex-officio Vice-Chairperson.
  • The other ex-officio members of the council are from various ministries and CMs of the corresponding states among other stakeholders.

Jurisdiction of the NGC

  • The jurisdiction of the NGC shall extend to the States comprising River Ganga Basin, namely, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Haryana, and the NCR of Delhi and such other States, having major tributaries of the River Ganga.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[pib] Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres

Mains level : Breastfeeding and its significance


Breast Milk Banks in India are known as Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres (CLMC) and Lactation Management Unit (LMU) depending on the level of health facilities where these units are established.

Comprehensive Lactation Management Centres (CLMC)

  • CLMC works as per the National Guidelines on Establishment of Lactation Management Centres in Public Health Facilities.
  • The foremost endeavour of the health care providers in a health centre is to conserve the natural act of breastfeeding.
  • Lactation Management Centres are in no way intended to lessen the importance of mother’s own milk or the practice of breastfeeding.
  • If mother’s own milk is insufficient or not available for any unavoidable reason, Donor Human Milk (DHM) is the next best alternative to bridge the gap.
  • The Government has set a target of ensuring 70 per cent infants to have access to breast milk by the year 2025. Target will subsequently be increased to 100 per cent.

Why need such banks?

  • It is universally accepted that breast milk is the optimum exclusive source of nutrition for the first six months of life, and may remain part of the healthy infant diet for the first two years of life and beyond.
  • Despite advances in infant formulas, human breast milk provides a bioactive matrix of benefits that cannot be replicated by any other source of nutrition.
  • When the mother’s own milk is unavailable for the sick, hospitalized newborn, pasteurized human donor breast milk should be made available as an alternative feeding choice followed by commercial formula.
  • There is a limited supply of donor breast milk in India and it should be prioritized to sick, hospitalized neonates who are the most vulnerable and most likely to benefit from exclusive human milk feeding.

Related facts

  • Asia’s first milk bank was established in 1989 at Sion Hospital, Mumbai.
  • In 2017, the first public milk bank, called the Vatsalya — Maatri Amrit Kosh, was established at Lady Hardinge Medical College.
  • It was established in collaboration with the Norwegian government and the Oslo University as part of the Norway–India Partnership Initiative (NIPI).