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February 2020

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

The high cost of raising trade walls


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various Free Trade Agreements.

Mains level : Paper 3- Should India prefer bilateral trade agreements over multilateral agreements and what are the issues involved in this approach.


India’s international trade posture appeared to turn protectionist in the past week, with two indicators the government sent out.

What were the two indicators?

  • The first-Signal sent out in the Budget: The first indicator, which played out live on television was contained in the Union Budget.
    • Laying out the Budget for the year, the finance minister made several references to the problems with free trade and preferential trade agreements (FTAs and PTAs).
    • Raise in tariffs, changes in the act: The Budget raised tariffs on the import of more than 50 items and changed the Customs Act provisions substantially to penalise imports suspected to originate from third countries.
  • The second- India declined negotiations: The other indicator was that India declined to attend a meeting of trade negotiators in Bali that was discussing the next step in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement.

Issues with the Free Trade Agreement

  • What the FM told Parliament: It has been observed that imports under Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are on the rise.
    • Undue claims of FTA benefits have posed a threat to the domestic industry.
    • Such imports require stringent checks, adding that the government will ensure that all FTAs are aligned to the conscious direction of our policy.
  • What could be the consequences of the Govt. policy?
    • Discouragement to imports: While the Govt. motive may be to protect Indian markets from dumping-primarily by Chinese goods-
    • The consequence of the changes will be to put Indian importers on notice and discourage imports in general.
    • Even as the government reserves the right to modify or cancel preferential tariffs and ban the import or export of any goods that it deems fit.

The rise in the trade deficit and decision to walk out of FTA

  • The trade deficit with FTA partners: The government’s problem with FTAs was a key theme in its decision to walk out of the RCEP negotiations (of 16 countries) the rise in trade deficits with FTA partners.
  • Review of all agreements: The government says it will now review all those agreements and wants to “correct asymmetry” in negotiations with new partners. The agreement that would be reviewed includes-
    • TAs signed with the 10-nation ASEAN grouping (FTA).
    • Japan (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or CEPA).
    • And South Korea (CEPA).

Why it would not be easy to negotiate bilateral treaties

  • The bilateral agreement would not be a priority for other countries: If India makes a complete break with RCEP, negotiating the bilateral trade agreements (TAs) will not be a priority for the other countries until RCEP is done.
    • The process of legal scrubbing is likely to take most of the year, and any talks with India will probably only follow that.
    • Difficulty in getting better deal: It is also hard to see any of them being able to offer India a better deal bilaterally once they are bound into the multilateral RCEP agreement.

India’s pending talks on bilateral treaties

  • Negotiations of CECA with Australia: The case of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) being negotiated with Australia, will be a difficult task, not the least due to its history.
    • India and Australia began CECA talks in 2011.
    • However, talks hit a dead-end in September 2015. With the focus on RCEP, no progress has been made since then.
  • Negotiations of FTA with the UK: A similar scenario awaits the announcement of the India-United Kingdom FTA talks.
    • It is unlikely that the U.K. will actually be able to talk until next year after terms for the K.’s full withdrawal from the European Union (EU) are completed.
  • Negotiation of BTIA with the EU: Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiation are also unlikely to make headway until the UK’s complete withdrawal from the EU.
    • Both sides will have to decide how to revive from where they left off in 2013.
    • Why the negotiations are pending? Making the negotiations harder is the government’s decision to scrap all bilateral investment treaties with 57 countries including EU nations, and bringing in a new Bilateral Investment treaty (BIT) model in 2015.
    • Only Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and most recently Brazil have agreed to sign a new investment treaty based on that model.
  • The US-India trade issue: Finally, there is the much-anticipated resolution of U.S.-India trade issues ahead of the visit of U.S. President.
    • The talks in that visit could also include talks on an FTA.
    • At present, there have only been some non-paper talks on the issue.
    • And given that the U.S. has expressed deep misgivings about India’s BIT model, these talks will also take several years to come to fruition.

Why India should rethink its stand on FTA

  • First-Prospect of no dispute settlement mechanism: The decline of multilateralism, accelerated by the retrenchment of the U.S. and China’s intransigence have all meant the World Trade Organization (WTO) has lost steam as a world arbiter.
    • This leaves states that are not part of arrangements without a safety net on dispute settlement mechanisms.
  • The second-trade deficit of other countries with India: The government has invoked the massive $57-billion trade deficit with China to explain protectionist measures, but it forgets its own trade surpluses with smaller economies.
    • Particularly in the neighbourhood, where Indian exports form more than 80% of total trade with Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, respectively.
  • Third- The rise of regional agreements: It is clear that most of the world is now divided into regional FTAs, for example-
    • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for North America.
    • The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR for its Spanish initials) for South America.
    • The EU, the Eurasian Economic Union (Russia and neighbours).
    • The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
    • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) FTA in West Asia.
    • And now the biggest of them all, RCEP, which minus India, represents a third of the world’s population and just under a third of its GDP.
  • Fourth- Finally, the trend across the world does not favour trade in services the way it does in goods.
    • India’s strength in the services sector and its demand for more mobility for Indian employees, is thus becoming another sticky point in FTA negotiations.


India’s demographic might is certainly attractive for international investors, but only if that vast market has purchasing power and is not riven by social unrest and instability. India’s demographic might is certainly attractive for international investors, but only if that vast market has purchasing power and is not riven by social unrest and instability.


RBI Notifications

RBI’s growth push


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LTRO-Long Term Rero by the RBI, what is it?

Mains level : Paper 3- Novel approach adopted by the RBI to push the growth.


February signalled a new dynamic-Monetary policy is no longer driven by MPC.

What changed after December MPC review

  • Pause in the rate cut by MPC: In its December policy, the Reserve Bank of India suddenly paused on cutting rates, putting the ball in the government’s court to support growth.
  • Conservative union budget: With last week’s Union Budget belying expectations of short-term growth boosters, the ball was back in the RBI’s court.
    • The Budget opted for fiscal conservativism over activism, consolidating the fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21 from 3.8 per cent in 2019-20– bypassing any ambitious expenditure boost or significant tax cuts.
  • Rise in the inflation in Dec-Feb interval: Meanwhile, the policy arithmetic turned more complicated for the MPC.
    • At the time of the December policy meeting, CPI inflation was trending close to 5 per cent (the October reading was 4.6 per cent).
    • Since then a combination of supply-side shocks, which led for example to unseasonally high vegetable and protein prices, buoyed inflation to over 7 per cent, nearly 140 basis points above the RBI’s upper bound comfort zone of 6 per cent.
    • As a primarily inflation-targeting central bank, this effectively stopped the MPC from easing further

Key takeaways from February MPC meeting

  • The February policy meeting removed two key uncertainties in the current policy scenario.
  • First, the RBI is still very concerned about growth and the burgeoning negative gap between the current growth trajectory and potential growth.
  • Second, monetary policy is no longer strictly limited to the MPC’s decision-making.
    • Because of the risk of supply-side shocks hitting inflation, it is understandable that the RBI has summarised its outlook on inflation as “highly uncertain”.
    • Hence, of the policy measures that the RBI has at its disposal, the MPC’s “conventional” arrow of rate cuts was left unused.
    • Instead, the RBI has opted for macroprudential intervention, unveiling two other “unconventional” policy arrows.

RBI opting for macroprudential intervention in two ways

  • Policy transmission via LTRO-the first arrow: The primary macro challenge has been transmission via the credit channel — banks are not lowering their deposit rates.
    • Why? This is due to competition from the small savings rate and to protect saver, and in turn are keeping lending rates high.
    • How it impacts economy: Sectors considered higher risk (real estate, MSMEs) find themselves credit-starved.
    • In a move that seems inspired by the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing in 2011, the RBI’s announcement on long term repo operations (LTROs) has been aimed at promising banks longer-duration liquidity at the repo rate, which is cheaper relative to their current deposit rates.
    • The aim is to nudge them to kick-start the credit cycle.
    • The exemption of cash reserve ratio for incremental loans to MSMEs and the retail sector is also aimed at lowering costs for banks, which ideally should be passed onto these sectors.
  • Managing the stress in financial system-the second arrow: It is aimed at managing the looming stress in the financial system from bad loans, especially as deleveraging becomes more difficult during an economic slowdown.
    • Extension to restructuring durations: The extension of the restructuring scheme on MSME loans and projects in the commercial real estate sector is aimed at releasing capital for banks in the short term.
    • Though banks will ultimately need to recognise loans that are non-performing.
    • Easing guidelines on the classification of loans: Similarly, easing guidelines on the classification of loans for projects in the commercial real estate sector that have been delayed is essentially designed to provide some breathing space to banks.

What does this mean for the macro outlook?

  • Recovery in demand is a must: The RBI’s new macroprudential measures, its “unconventional” policy arrows, while well-meaning, are ultimately supply-side measures.
    • For the RBI to attain its goals, be it on asset quality or transmission, there eventually needs to be a recovery in demand conditions.
    • ECB’s LTRO experience: To be fair, even the ECB’s LTRO programme has had mixed success — a central bank can flood the market with liquidity, but the ultimate onus on releasing it to the real economy rests with banks.
    • So far, excess liquidity has not benefitted segments considered high risk (real estate developers, MSMEs).


The ECB introduced the LTRO programme when growth was weak and the euro area was struggling with a severe sovereign debt crisis. With the RBI embarking on something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, the niggling concern is if there is more financial instability lurking around the corner but not yet evident in the current data.


Electoral Reforms In India

A weak rebuke: It’s unfortunate EC didn’t punish hate speech in Delhi campaign


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Efficacy of Model Code of Conduct to ensure free fair and pure elections


Campaign for the Delhi Assembly election in which the development debate was overshadowed by hate-mongering and outpouring of communal vitriol underscores need to do more.

Understanding the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • Behavioural guidelines: It is a set of behavioural guidelines for political parties and candidates for-
    • The peaceful conduct of elections.
    • To prevent hate speech.
    • Malpractices.
    • Corruption and
    • Misuse of government machinery by the ruling party.
  • Not judicially enforceable: Since it is not an Act passed by Parliament, the Code is not judicially enforceable.
    • The action against a violator usually takes the form of an advice, warning or censure.
    • No punitive action can be taken.
    • No wonder, many consider the Code as toothless.
  • Moral authority: It is not toothless though. Its moral authority far outweighs its legal sanctity.
    • Political leaders worth their salt are scared of inviting a notice for a violation, as it creates negative public opinion.
    • Besides, unlike the legal processes, its impact is instant.

The legality of the MCC

  • Test of legality in the courts: The legality of the code has been judicially tested.
    • First legal acceptance: Its first judicial acceptance came in 1997 when the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave the EC the power to enforce the code.
    • “Such a code of conduct when it is seen that it does not violate any of the statutory provisions can certainly be adopted by the Election Commission for the conduct of free and fair election, which should be pure as well,” the Court said.
    • The SC has repeatedly held that this must be enforced strictly.

Parallels between the MCC and other legal provision

  • The first section of the MCC lays down that-Part 1 (1) “ No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.”
  • “…Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.”
  • Parallels with RPA: The Representation of the People Act (1951) categorically defines the above two as corrupt practices in Section 123 (3A) and Section 123 (4) respectively.
    • Section 125 of RPA provides for punishment for similar violations.
  • Parallels with IPC: It is important to note that Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code has a similar provision:
    • Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

 Refreshing change

  • Prompt action: It must be appreciated that the EC was prompt in its action against the leaders accused of hate speech in Delhi election campaign.
    • While it instantly, suo moto, deprived the two leaders of their star campaigner status, it also punished them with a gag order, using the ultimate weapon provided by Article 324.
    • The EC flexing its muscle outside the so-called “toothless” MCC and invoking Article 324 is indeed a refreshing change.
    • In earlier instances, it often had to let the culprits go with a mere “warning, caution or censure”.
    • In its notice to a leader, the EC cited Sections 123 and 125 of the RP Act.


  • Historically, the EC has always taken simultaneous action under the Model Code of Conduct and the other two provisions. While the MCC produces instant results, the penal provisions involve endless judicial processes. Not taking action under the IPC encouraged violators to commit repeat offences.


Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Explained: Regulation of Parliamentary Speech and Conduct


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Regulation of parliamentary speech and conduct of the representatives.


Two days of heated exchanges in Parliament have brought back recurring questions around “unparliamentarily” speech and conduct.

No absolute privilege

  • Article 105(2) of the Constitution lays down that “no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof”.
  • However MPs do not enjoy the freedom to say whatever they want inside the House.

Checks on MPs’ speech

  • Whatever an MP says is subject to the discipline of the Rules of Parliament, the “good sense” of Members, and the control of proceedings by the Speaker.
  • These checks ensure that MPs cannot use “defamatory or indecent or undignified or unparliamentary words” inside the House.
  • Rule 380 (“Expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha regulates the speech of MPs.
  • It says: “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.”
  • Rule 381 says: “The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.”

What are Unparliamentary expressions?

  • There are phrases and words, literally in thousands, both in English and in other Indian languages that are “unparliamentary”.
  • The Presiding Officers — Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairperson of Rajya Sabha — have the job of keeping these bad words out of Parliament’s records.
  • For their reference and help, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has brought out a bulky tome titled ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’, the 2004 edition of which ran into 900 pages.
  • The list contains several words and expressions that would probably be considered rude or offensive in most cultures; however, it also has stuff that is likely to be thought of as being fairly harmless or innocuous.
  • The state legislatures too are guided mainly by the same book, which also draws heavily from unparliamentarily words and phrases used in the Vidhan Sabhas and Vidhan Parishads of India.

Examples of unparliamentary

  • Among the words and phrases that have been deemed unparliamentary are “scumbag”, “shit”, “badmashi”, “bad” (as in “An MP is a bad man”), and “bandicoot”, which is unparliamentary if an MP uses it for another, but which is fine if he uses it for himself.
  • If the Presiding Officer is a “lady”, no MP can address her as “beloved Chairperson”.
  • The government or another MP cannot be accused of “bluffing”. “Bribe”, “blackmail”, “bribery”, “thief”, “thieves”, “dacoits”, “bucket of shit”, “damn”, “deceive”, “degrade”, and “darling”, are all unparliamentary.
  • MPs or Presiding Officers can’t be accused of being “double minded”, having “double standards”, being of “doubtful honesty”, being “downtrodden”, indulging in “double talk”, being “lazy”, “lousy”, a “nuisance” or a “loudmouth”.
  • No Member or Minister can be accused of having “deliberately concealed”, “concocted”, of being of a “confused mind”, or being “confused and unintelligent”.
  • An illiterate MP can’t be called “angootha chhaap”, and it is unparliamentary to suggest that a member should be sent to the “ajayabghar” (museum).

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Cancer Gene Mapping


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mutation, Gene mapping

Mains level : Rising incidences of cancer in India and its prevention


A series of new papers in the journal Nature has revealed the most comprehensive gene map ever of the genes causing cancer. It shows departures from normal behaviour i.e. mutations trigger a cascade of genetic misbehaviours that eventually lead to cancer.

What is Mutation?

  • A mutation is a change that occurs in our DNA sequence, either due to mistakes when the DNA is copied or as the result of environmental factors such as UV light and pollution etc.
  • Structural variations mean deletion, amplification or reorganization of genomic segments that range in size from just a few bases to whole chromosomes.
  • Bases are the structural units of genes.
  • Over a lifetime our DNA can undergo changes or ‘mutations’ in the sequence of bases A, C, G and T.

Why study cancer?

  • Cancer is known to be a disease of uncontrolled growth.
  • The growth process, like all other physiological processes, has genetic controls so that the growth is self-limiting. When one or more genes malfunction, the growth process can go out of hand.
  • Not just cancer, there are many other diseases with a genetic link in varying degrees.
  • Just a handful of “driver” mutations could explain the occurrence of a large number of cancers, the researchers said, raising hopes of a cancer cure being nearer than ever.

How big is the cancer burden?

  • Cancer is the second most-frequent cause of death worldwide, killing more than 8 million people every year; incidence of cancer is expected to increase by more than 50% over the coming decades.
  • 1 in 10 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in 15 Indians will die of cancer, according to the World Cancer Report by WHO.
  • The Northeastern states, UP, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh account for 44% of the cancer burden in India, says a recent analysis, published in The Lancet.

Is the genetic link to cancer well established?

  • Yes, it is. One such association, for example, is of breast cancer with the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes; the actress Angelina Jolie, who discovered that she carried the former gene, chose to undergo a preventive double mastectomy.
  • This is personalised therapeutics where, instead of traditional toxic medications like chemotherapy, drugs that specifically target the delinquent genetic mutation are already being used.
  • Such therapy, however, remains very expensive.

What is the new study that has oncologists around the world excited?

  • It is a major international collaboration called the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG), in which researchers has published a series of papers after analysing some whole-cancer genomes and their matching normal tissues across 38 tumor types.
  • They concluded that on average, cancer genomes contained 4-5 driver mutations when combining coding and non-coding genomic elements.
  • This is the largest genome study ever of primary cancer.
  • Various kinds of cancers required to be studied separately because cancers of different parts of the body often behave very differently from one another; so much so that it is often said that cancer is not one disease but many.

Breakthrough achievement of the study

  • The mutations identified by the team have been catalogued. Identification and cataloguing of the genes is a very crucial step and has taken science’s understanding of cancer and its genesis ahead by several leaps.
  • The catalogue, which is already available online, allows doctors and researchers from all over the world to look things up, consult and find information about the cancer of a given patient.
  • The study has discovered causes of previously unexplained cancers, pinpointed cancer-causing events and zeroed in on mechanisms of development, opening new vistas of personalized cancer treatment to strike at the root of the problem.
  • When it comes to drug development, however, the gene mapping is but a first step.

The next step

  • The process of drug development will have to now kick in with pharmaceutical companies first identifying the compound(s) that target these gene mutations and then it being subjected to the rigours of clinical trials to prove its safety and efficacy.
  • That could take anything from a few decades to a few years to cover all the mutations identified.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[pib] Regulation of Bio-Medical Waste


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biomedical waste

Mains level : Treatment of Biomedical waste


The State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) / Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) have recently published the details of State/UT-wise quantum of bio-medical waste generation (during 2016-18) in the country.

Bio-Medical Waste

Biomedical waste/hospital waste is any kind of waste containing infectious materials.  It may also include waste associated with the generation of biomedical waste that visually appears to be of medical.

  • Hospital waste refers to all waste, biological or non‐ biological that is discarded and not intended for further use.
  • Bio-medical waste means any waste, which is generated during the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals or in research activities pertaining thereto or in the production or testing of biological and including categories mentioned in Schedule I, of the BMW rules, 2016.

Who deals with Bio-medical wastes in India?

  • Central Pollution Control Board has been following up with all SPCBs/PCCs to ensure effective management of biomedical waste in States/UTs.

Collection and disposal

  • The collection and disposal is treated and disposed as per the specified methods of disposal prescribed under Schedule I of the Rules.
  • Bio-medical waste generated from the hospitals shall be treated and disposed by Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility.
  • In case there is no common facility in the reach of a healthcare facility, then such healthcare facility should install captive treatment and disposal facility.
  • There are 200 authorized Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities (CBWTFs) in 28 States for environmentally safe disposal of biomedical waste.
  • Remaining 7 States namely Goa, Andaman Nicobar, Arunachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim do not have CBWTFs.


As informed by CPCB and as per Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016, Bio-medical waste is required to be segregated in 4 color coded waste categories.

  • Common methods of treatment and disposal of bio-medical waste are by incineration/plasma pyrolysis/deep-burial for Yellow Category waste;
  • Autoclaving/microwaving/chemical disinfection for Red Category waste;
  • Sterilization and shredding, disinfection followed by burial in concrete pit/recycling through foundry/encapsulation for White Category sharps waste; and
  • Washing, disinfection followed by recycling for Blue Category glass waste.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Ease of Living Index and Municipal Performance Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ease of Living Index and Municipal Performance Index

Mains level : Urban development

The surveys to determine the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) and Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2019 has been initiated by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs. Both these indices are designed to assess the quality of life of citizens in 100 Smart Cities and 14 other Million Plus Cities.

Municipal Performance Index

  • With the MPI 2019, the Ministry has sought to assess the performance of municipalities based on five enablers namely Service, Finance, Planning, Technology and Governance.
  • These have been further divided into 20 sectors which will be evaluated across 100 indicators.
  • This will help Municipalities in better planning and management, filling the gaps in city administration, and improving the liveability of cities for its citizens.

Ease of Living Index

  • EOLI is aimed at providing a holistic view of Indian cities – beginning from the services provided by local bodies, the effectiveness of the administration, the outcomes generated through these services in terms of the liveability within cities and, finally, the citizen perception of these outcomes.
  • The key objectives of the EOL Index are four-folds, viz.
  1. Generate information to guide evidence-based policy making;
  2. Catalyse action to achieve broader developmental outcomes including the SDG;
  3. Assess and compare the outcomes achieved from various urban policies and schemes; and
  4. Obtain the perception of citizens about their view of the services provided by the city administration.
  • For the first time, as part of the EOLI Assessment, a Citizen Perception Survey is being conducted on behalf of the Ministry (which carries 30% of the marks of the Ease of Living Index).
  • This is a very important component of the assessment exercise as it will help in directly capturing perception of citizens with respect to quality of life in their cities.
  • This survey, which is being administered both online and offline, has commenced from 1st February 2020 and will continue till 29th February 2020.
  • The offline version involving face-to-face interviews will commence on the 1st of February and will run parallel to the on-line versions.

Coal and Mining Sector

[pib] SARAS Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SARAS Initiative

Mains level : Not Much

Coal India’s flagship subsidiary NCL (Northern Coalfields Limited) has set up a centre named SARAS.

SARAS Initiative

  • SARAS stands for Science and Applied Research Alliance and Support.
  • It aims to promote innovation, R&D and skill development along with improving company’s operational efficiency and utilize resources at optimum level.
  • SARAS will help and enable the company in Integration of Innovation and Research for enhancing coal production, productivity, and safety in mines.
  • Besides, the SARAS would also help establish centres of excellence to ensure technical support to R&D along with thrust on quality skill development and employment to local youths in and around company’s operational area.

About NCL

  • NCL accounts for 15 per cent of India’s coal production and 10 per cent of thermal power generation of the country is met by the coal produced by this Miniratna Company of Govt. of India.
  • The company produces more than 100 million tonnes of coal every year.
  • It has planned to produce 107 million tonnes of coal in the current fiscal.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

Remdesivir: Under-trail vaccine against Coronavirus


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Remdesivir

Mains level : Coronovirus outbreak

The Wuhan Institute of Virology at Wuhan, China has filed for a patent on Remdesivir, an antiviral experimental drug from the US which may help treat the novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019).


  • It is an experimental drug and has not yet been licensed or approved anywhere globally. It has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use.
  • It is currently being developed for the treatment of Ebola virus infection.
  • Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro.
  • Chloroquine is a “widely used” anti-malarial and autoimmune disease medicine that has recently come to light as a potential antiviral drug.

Can Remdesivir treat coronavirus?

  • Significantly, Remdesivir has demonstrated in vivo (experimentation using a whole living organism) and in vitro (activity performed in a controlled environment) activity in animal models against viral pathogens that cause MERS and SARS.
  • Even so, the use of the experimental drug has been allowed only as an emergency treatment, which can be administered in the absence of any other approved treatment options.
  • These two diseases are also caused by coronaviruses structurally similar to the nCoV-2019.
  • Additionally, limited clinical data is available from the emergency administration of Remdesivir in patients with Ebola.
  • Even so, it is yet to be seen if Remdesivir and chloroquine can be effective against the novel coronavirus in humans.

How can the novel coronavirus infection be treated?

  • As of now, there is no known treatment for the novel coronavirus, and an appropriate antiviral drug is required for this.
  • Ideally, a vaccine against the infection can also prove to be effective, but such a development does not seem to be in the offing for at least three-four months.

Indian Army Updates

Sharang Artillery Gun


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sharang

Mains level : Modernisation measures of the Indian Army


The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has handed over Sharang, the first 130mm M-46 artillery gun upgraded to 155mm to the Indian Army.

About Sharang

  • Sharang is the 130mm artillery gun ‘up-gunned’ to 155mm, 45 calibre up-gunning based on the Army’s tender.
  • The gun’s range has now gone from 27km to over 36km with the upgrade.
  • It also has more explosive capability and hence and more damage potential.
  • This step will reduce the logistic trail of the Army as it does away with the need to carry 130mm shells and support equipment as the mainstay of the Army’s long range artillery is 155mm guns.

Other artilleries of Indian Army

  • After close to three decades, the Army inducted its first modern artillery guns system in November 2018.
  • These include M-777 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) from the U.S. and K9 Vajra-T self-propelled artillery guns from South Korea.
  • The Army has the older, battle-proven Bofors 155mm guns in service. The 155mm Dhanush towed gun system, developed based on the Bofors guns by OFB, is under induction.
  • In October last year, the Army procured and inducted 155mm Excalibur precision guided ammunition from the U.S. which gives its 155mm artillery guns extended range and also the ability to hit targets with very high accuracy.