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February 2020

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Terms of transaction


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-US relations, contradictory impulses in the US policy and what future holds for India in the present scenario.


Trump administration seems supportive of India as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, while also counting gains for itself.

No substantive outcomes of the visit stated

  • Neither side has so far publicly touted any major substantive outcomes of the visit.
  • Creation of positive atmosphere: To create some positive atmospherics, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security just gave final approval to $3 billion worth of pending contracts to purchase military helicopters from US companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
    • Missile defence system sale: The US Administration, on its part, informed Congress of its willingness to authorise the sale of another $1.8 billion worth missile defence system.
    • The move is indicative of the US’s growing willingness to allow higher technology defence equipment to India.
  • Placing India at level (STA-1) similar to its closest allies: The Trump Administration has gone farther than its predecessors in the technology levels it is willing to offer.
    • Including Guardian drones in 2017, and placing India at STA-1 level, similar to its closest allies and partners.
  • The expected MoUs: The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs indicated on February 20 that five MoUs can be expected, inter alia,-
    • On intellectual property.
    • Trade facilitation and
    • Homeland security.
  • Making sense of the US’s actions in the present context: There will also be the regulation joint statement.
    • Analysing in greater details: This time, the statement will be parsed in more than usual detail for indications of future direction and intent for the partnership.
    • It is the time when the US has been talking of “Make America Great Again”, advocating for sovereignty and nationalism.
    • The US is also decrying-Alliance commitments, Readying to sign an agreement with the Taliban by month-end leading to a drawdown of US troop presence.
    • Yet, it is articulating repeatedly about India being a lynchpin of its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”.

No development on the limited trade front

  • No progress on limited trade package: The two countries have not been able to finalise even a “limited trade package”, which has been under discussion for two years.
  • Gaps between the expectations: Obviously, there is a gap between what India can accommodate, and what the US negotiators want for their own political reasons.
  • The Trump administration has taken several steps that have negatively impacted India.
    • It has imposed additional tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from India, ostensibly on national security grounds.

Contradictory impulses

  • The above action flies in the face of citing strategic partnership and convergence in Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • GSP withdrawal: It has withdrawn hitherto available GSP benefits from certain categories of labour-intensive Indian products.
  • Labelling India a ‘Developed’ country: The US has taken India out of its list of “developing” countries, lowering the threshold for countervailing trade action.
  • Against the spirit of the beneficial rise of India: These actions go against the grain of the US articulation that it sees the rise of India to be in US benefit.
    • Treating the trade deficit with China and India on equal footing: It also does not make sense when India is an overall trade deficit country.
    • Even though it has a $20 billion surplus with the US which pales compared to China’s $350 billion surplus.
  • Unprecedented actions against the closest allies: Trump has taken unprecedented action against the closest US allies.
    • He has also repeatedly publicly ridiculed Indian tariffs, claiming recently that India has not treated the US fairly.

What the future holds for the India-US relationship

  • Is the US “all-weather” partner: Given the contradictory impulses, it would be fair to ask what the future holds for the India-US relationship, and where would the Trump visit and its aftermath take us.
    • Can India consider the US a reliable and “all-weather” partner, or be constantly juggling convergences and divergences?
  • The factors that affected relationship: Historically, four factors have affected the India-US relationship at any point of time:
    • US global posture and priorities.
    • Strength of bilateral relations.
    • The role assigned to Pakistan in its global objectives.
    • The strategy towards China.

Evolution of India-US relationship

  • Under Democrat Presidents
  • Roosevelt Period: During the Second World War, Roosevelt pushed Britain to grant independence to India, facilitated a separate official Indian representation in Washington through an Agent-General since 1941.
    • But did not go far enough fearing disruption of the necessary wartime alliance. In the post-war period.
  • Truman Period: Truman spoke of partnering with developing countries for their industrial and scientific progress.
    • He welcomed Indian PM Nehru for an acclaimed visit in 1949.
    • But initiated the Cold War containment strategy against the Soviet Union, and the assessment of newly independent countries from that lens.
  • Kennedy Period: He was extremely supportive of democratic India’s economic assistance requirements, and for military assistance during the 1962 China conflict.
  • Carter Period: Carter, wedded to human rights issues, acclaimed India’s post Emergency elections.
    • But was critical on non- proliferation differences.
  • Clinton Period: Clinton stabilised the relationship after the dissonance and sanctions following our 1998 nuclear tests.
    • And gave full support to India’s position during the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan.
  • Obama Period: He came out in support of India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council, and declared India a Major Defence Partner, enabling higher-level technology authorisations.
  • Under Republican Presidents
  • Eisenhower Period: Eisenhower embraced and armed Pakistan in its CENTO and SEATO military alliances.
    • India as a bulwark against China: He emphasised food and economic assistance to India seeing it as a democratic bulwark against a Communist China.
    • First-ever visit to India by the US president: He made a successful first-ever visit of a serving US President to India, welcomed also by a 5 lakh crowd in Connaught Place.
  • Nixon Period: He visited India for a day in 1959, was upset with Indian criticism of his Vietnam military offensives.
    • Sided completely with Pakistan during the Bangladesh crisis of 1971.
    • He sent the US seventh fleet into the Bay of Bengal to pressurise India and sought to reorder the global balance by outreach to China through a secret Kissinger visit that year.
  • Reagan Period: He explored economic and scientific cooperation with India, but was absorbed with Pakistan’s support in pushing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.
  • George W Bush Period: George W Bush transformed the relationship with the civil nuclear cooperation agreement of 2008.
    • Perceiving again the technological, military and political challenge to the US from a rising China.


It is clear that India’s interests have been impacted a bit by party orientation on issues, but more by the overall global circumstance. Under the present circumstance, therefore, India will have to deal with a transactional administration, supportive of strengthening India as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, but also counting the gains for itself.


Tax Reforms

Making the super-rich pay their fair share


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Ending the opacity in the financial system and making the multinationals pay their fair share of tax.


It is now beyond obvious that India cannot revive its economy without increasing public spending, and so increasing its fiscal resources is essential. Among other measures, this requires urgent adoption of legislation and institutional reforms to end financial opacity.

The opacity in the data

  • Unlikely Budget estimates: The Union Budget was presented, based on numbers for revised estimates for the current year and Budget estimates for the coming year that the Finance Ministry itself knows are
  • Where else the opacity in data extends: The opacity of data also extends to cross-border movement of funds generated through a range of activities, including tax evasion, misappropriation of state assets, laundering of the proceeds of crime, and bribery.
    • Even here, India still has a lot to do, as confirmed by the recent publication of the Financial Secrecy Index by the Tax Justice Network, a U.K.-based financial advocacy group.
  • Financial Secrecy Index rank: On the surface, India has managed to reduce its contribution to global financial secrecy, with its rank falling from 32 on the 2018 index to 47 in 2020.
    • But this is partly because the new edition of the index covers more countries than it did two years ago.

Transparency Reforms by the government

  • Arrangement with Switzerland: It is true that the government has adopted and supported a few transparency reforms, such as the automatic exchange of tax and financial information with other jurisdictions, like Switzerland.
    • What the arrangement with Switzerland mean? If an Indian citizen has an account with a Swiss bank and has a balance over a certain threshold, this information will be sent to the Indian tax authorities automatically.
  • Beneficial ownership register: The government did create a beneficial ownership register- which would allow the identification of the beneficial owner of an asset regardless of whose name the title of the property is in.
    • Exemption making the law weak: The law is weak since it exempts a lot of people at the discretion of the authorities.
    • Also, this register is not accessible to the public.

Making multinationals and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes 

  • Need to do more: Stopping the financial haemorrhage and making multinationals and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes requires much more.
  • Capital flight and consequence for the country’s development: Capital flight out of India by Indian elites and foreigners alike has been undermining our country’s development for decades.
    • Outdated international system: An important part of these flows is the result of artificial profit shifting by multinational companies taking advantage of an outdated international tax system.
  • How the multinationals shifts profits? These multinationals may be making profits in India but can easily declare those profits in a low tax jurisdiction like Hong Kong and justify that transaction as a payment for the use of a patent.
    • The magnitude of loss-$27.5 billion: According to one estimate, this strategy represented a loss of $27.5 billion in 2014 for the Indian government, up from $142 million in 2000.

Onshore financial services and issues with it

  • Paradoxical decision: Three years ago, the government took the paradoxical decision to set up onshore international financial services in the country.
    • This is how the International Financial Services Centre in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT-City), Gandhinagar, emerged.
    • It was modelled after offshore financial centres such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the City of London and Dubai.
  • Increasing the possibility of regulatory arbitrage: While this has not created much employment, it has led to growing possibilities for regulatory arbitrage by financial firms, with potentially very problematic consequences.

The issue with the policy of tax incentives

  • Little evidence of attracting investment: The government keeps granting tax incentives on a discretionary basis, even though there is little evidence that these incentives attract investment.
  • What factors matters for investment: Recent research by International Monetary Fund, factors such as-
    • Quality of infrastructure.
    • A healthy and skilled workforce.
    • Market access and-
    • Political stability matters much more.
  • Consequences of the policy-reduction in tax revenue: The massive reduction in corporate tax rates has thus far not led to any increase in private investment.
    • But it has meant a significant reduction in tax revenues, with devastating consequences.
    • Implications for health, educations etc.: Reduction in tax revenue translates into a lack of resources for education, healthcare, food and nutrition and infrastructure.
    • Low tax-GDP ratio: India is already an outlier among similarly placed developing countries with its low tax-GDP ratio of 18%.
    • Making the budget dependent on indirect taxes: The government budget is also highly dependent on indirect taxes like the Goods and Services Tax which are regressive and hit ordinary citizens harder.

Way forward

  • Legislation to end financial opacity: Adoption of legislation and institutional reforms to end financial opacity- including, for example-
    • Opening the beneficial ownership register to the public and-
    • Stopping the creation of onshore tax havens is the need of the hour.
  • Opening the debate on how to make the multinationals pay their fair share: The Government of India must also assume a more vocal role in the international debate about how to make multinationals pay their fair share of taxes.
    • This means continuing to appeal for a United Nations tax body, which is much more legitimate than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
    • The issue with the OECD’s proposal: The OECD’s proposals, published at the end of 2019, are neither ambitious nor fair enough.
  • Explore the possibility of going alone: If the organisation continues to remain deaf to the demands of developing countries, India must be prepared to go it alone, thinking unilaterally about how to make multinationals pay what they owe.






Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

Youth can be a clear advantage for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Policy framework needed to reap the benefits of demographic dividends.


The demographic dividend is close to five-decade-long demographic opportunities that can be leveraged only with suitable policies and programmes

 The youngest population in the world

  • Median age at 28 years: By 2022, the median age in India will be 28 years.
    • In comparison, it will be 37 in China and the United States.
    • 45 in western Europe, and 49 in Japan.
  • The demographic dividend
    • The working-age population more than non-working: India’s working-age population has numerically outstripped its non-working age population.
    • An extraordinary opportunity: A demographic dividend, said to have commenced around 2004-05, is available for close to five decades.

The two caveats

  • The demographic dividend is an extraordinary opportunity. There are, however, two caveats.
  • First: Dividend available in different states at different times.
    • India’s population heterogeneity ensures that the window of demographic dividend becomes available at different times in different States.
    • Example of Kerala vs. Bihar: While Kerala’s population is already ageing, in Bihar the working-age cohort is predicted to continue increasing till 2051.
    • Decline in 11 major states by 2031: By 2031, the overall size of our vast working-age population would have declined in 11 of the 22 major States.
  • Second: Many factors that matter for harnessing the dividend
    • Factors that matter: Harnessing the demographic dividend will depend upon the-
    • Employability of the working-age population.
    • Health.
    • Education.
    • Vocational training and skill.
    • Besides appropriate land and labour policies, as well as good governance.
    • Demography is not destiny: India will gain from its demographic opportunity only if policies and programmes are aligned to this demographic shift. Demography is not destiny.

Need for skills

  • Need for the additional jobs: The Economic Survey 2019 calls for additional jobs to keep pace with the projected annual increases in the working-age population.
  • Lack of education and skills: UNICEF 2019 reports that at least 47% of Indian youth are not on track to have the education and skills necessary for employment in 2030.
    • Possibility of demographic disaster: The projected demographic dividend would turn into a demographic disaster if an unskilled, under-utilised, and frustrated young population undermines social harmony and economic growth.
  • Poor learning outcomes: While over 95% of India’s children attend primary school, the National Family Health Surveys (completed up to 2015-16) confirm that poor infrastructure in government schools, malnutrition, and scarcity of trained teachers have ensured poor learning outcomes.

What needs to be done?

  • Adopt a uniform school system: A coordinated incentive structure prompting States to adopt a broadly uniform public school system focusing on equity and quality will yield a knowledge society faster than privatising school education can accomplish.
  • Ensure training in line with the market demand: Most districts now have excellent broadband connectivity-
    • Let geography not trump demography: Irrespective of a rural or urban setting, the public school system must ensure that every child completes high school education, and is pushed into appropriate skilling, training and vocational education in line with market demand.
  • Invest and modernise: Modernise school curricula, systematically invest in teacher training so that they grow in their jobs to assume leadership roles while moving beyond the tyranny of the syllabus.
  • Use of technology: Deploy new technology to accelerate the pace of building human capital by putting in place virtual classrooms together with massive open online courses (MOOCS) to help prepare this huge workforce for next-generation jobs.
    • Investing in open digital universities would further help yield a higher educated workforce.

Focus on women

  • Translating literacy into skill: Growing female literacy is not translating into relevant and marketable skills.
    • A comprehensive approach is needed to improve their prospects vis-à-vis gainful employment.
    • Need of the flexible policies: Flexible entry and exit policies for women into virtual classrooms, and into modules for open digital training, and vocational education would help them access contemporary vocations.
  • The need for equal pay: Equal pay for women will make it worth their while to stay longer in the workforce.
  • The deferred bonus: Economist Yogendra Alagh has written that the significance of this “deferred bonus” (women entering the workforce), could be higher than the immediate benefits of the dividend from shifts in population age structure.

Health care

  • In India, population health is caught between the rising demand for health services and competition for scarce resources.
  • Impact of economy on rural health: The National Sample Survey Office data on health (75th round, 2018), shows that a deep-rooted downturn in the rural economy is making quality health-care unaffordable.
    • People are availing of private hospitals less than they used to, and are moving towards public health systems.
    • Diverting public investment from However, central budget 2020-21 lays emphasis on private provisioning of health care which will necessarily divert public investment away from public health infrastructure.
  • The Ayushman Bharat Yojana: It links demand to tertiary in-patient care.
    • This promotes earnings of under-utilised private hospitals, instead of modernising and up-grading public health systems in each district.
  • We need to assign 70% of health sector budgets to integrate and strengthen primary and integrated public health-care services and systems up to district hospital levels.
    • Include out-patient department and diagnostic services in every health insurance model adopted, and-
    • Implement in ‘mission mode’ the Report of the High-Level Group, 2019, submitted to the XV Finance Commission.
  • The elderly population in India is projected to double from 8.6% in 2011 to 16% in 2040.
    • This will sharply reduce the per capita availability of hospital beds in India across all major States unless investments in health systems address these infirmities.


The policies that we adopt and their effective implementation will ensure that our demographic dividend, a time-limited opportunity, becomes a boon for India.




Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Explained: How to unify defence resources


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Joint Commands of the tri-services

Mains level : Need for Joint Commands

  • The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Rawat said his office is working on a tentative timeline for the establishment of joint commands among the three defence services.
  • With the creation of the CDS post on December 31, the government has set the ball rolling for bringing jointness and integration among the services.

What are joint commands?

  • Simply put, it is a unified command in which the resources of all the services are unified under a single commander looking at a geographical theatre.
  • It means that a single military commander, as per the requirements, will have the resources of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to manage a security threat.
  • The commander of a joint command will have the freedom to train and equip his command as per the objective and will have logistics of all the services at his beckoning.
  • The three services will retain their independent identities as well.
  • A committee headed by Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar had earlier recommended three new commands: Northern, for China; Western, for the Pakistan border’ and Southern, for maritime security.

Present commands

  • There are two tri-services commands at the moment.
  • The joint command at the moment, the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), is a theatre command, which is headed by the chiefs of the three services in rotation.
  • It was created in 2001 after a Group of Ministers had given a report on national security following the Kargil War.
  • The Strategic Forces Command was established in 2006 and is a functional tri-services command.

What is the structure right now?

  • There are 17 commands, divided among the three services. The Army and the Air Force have seven commands each, while the Navy has three commands.
  • The commands under the Army are Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Central, Southwestern and the Army Training Command.
  • The Air Force has Eastern, Western, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Maintenance and Training commands, and the Navy is divided into Western, Eastern and Southern commands.
  • These commands report to their respective services and are headed by three-star officers.
  • Though these commands are in the same regions, they are no located together.

Advantages of  joint commands

  • One of the main advantages is that the leader of unified command has control over more varied resources, compared to the heads of the commands under the services now.
  • For instance, the head of one of the proposed commands, Air Defence Command, will have under him naval and Army resources, too, which can be used as per the threat perception.
  • And the officer commanding the Pakistan or China border will have access to the Air Force’s fighter jets and can use them if needed.
  • However, that not all naval resources will be given to the Air Defence Command, nor will all resources of the Air Force come under another proposed command, Peninsula Command, for the coasts.
  • The Peninsula Command would give the Navy Chief freedom to look at the larger perspective in the entire Indian Ocean Region in which China’s presence is steadily increasing.
  • The other key advantage is that through such integration and jointness the three forces will be able to avoid duplication of resources.
  • The resources available under each service will be available to other services too. The services will get to know one another better, strengthening cohesion in the defence establishment.

How many such commands are expected to roll out?

  • While the number of commands India needs is still being studied, the CDS has envisaged that there could be between six to nine commands. It is not certain how many land-based theatre commands on the borders will come up.
  • The CDS said it will be studied, and the study group will be given the options for creating two to five theatre commands.
  • One possibility is to have single commands looking at the China and Pakistan borders respectively, as they are the two major threats.
  • The other option is to have a separate command for the border in the J&K region, and another command looking at the rest of the western border.
  • There could be independent commands looking at the border with China which is divided by Nepal.
  • A proposed Logistics Command will bring the logistics of all the service under one person, and the CDS is also looking at a Training and Doctrine Command so that all services work under a common doctrine and have some basic common training.

Do militaries of other countries have such commands?

  • Several major militaries are divided into integrated theatre commands.
  • China’s People’s Liberation Army has five theatre commands: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central. Its Western Theatre Command is responsible for India.
  • The US Armed Forces have 11 unified commands, of which seven are geographic and four functional commands. Its geographic commands are Africa, Central, European, Indo-Pacific, Northern, Southern and Space.
  • Cyber, Special Operations, Transportation and Strategic are its functional commands.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Delhi’s ‘Happiness Class’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Happiness Curriculum

Mains level : Happiness Curriculum and its significance


On the upcoming visit to India, US President Trump will visit a Delhi government school, where they will attend a happiness curriculum class.

What is Delhi’s ‘happiness curriculum’?

  • The curriculum calls for schools in India to promote development in cognition, language, literacy, numeracy and the arts along with addressing the well-being and happiness of students.
  • It further says that future citizens need to be “mindful, aware, awakened, empathetic, firmly rooted in their identity…” based on the premise that education has a larger purpose, which cannot be in isolation from the “dire needs” of today’s society.
  • For the evaluation, no examinations are conducted, neither will marks be awarded.
  • The assessment under this curriculum is qualitative, focusing on the “process rather than the outcome” and noting that each student’s journey is unique and different.

Objectives of the curriculum

The objectives of this curriculum include:

  • developing self-awareness and mindfulness,
  • inculcating skills of critical thinking and inquiry,
  • enabling learners to communicate effectively and
  • helping learners to apply life skills to deal with stressful and conflicting situations around them

Learning outcomes of this curriculum

The learning outcomes of this curriculum are spread across four categories:

  • becoming mindful and attentive (developing increased levels of self-awareness, developing active listening, remaining in the present);
  • developing critical thinking and reflection (developing strong abilities to reflect on one’s own thoughts and behaviours, thinking beyond stereotypes and assumptions);
  • developing social-emotional skills (demonstrating empathy, coping with anxiety and stress, developing better communication skills) and
  • developing a confident and pleasant personality (developing a balanced outlook on daily life reflecting self-confidence, becoming responsible and reflecting awareness towards cleanliness, health and hygiene).

How is the curriculum implemented?

  • The curriculum is designed for students of classes nursery through the eighth standard.
  • Group 1 consists of students in nursery and KG, who have bi-weekly classes (45 minutes each for one session, which is supervised by a teacher) involving mindfulness activities and exercise.
  • Children between classes 1-2 attend classes on weekdays, which involves mindfulness activities and exercises along with taking up reflective questions.
  • The second group comprises students from classes 3-5 and the third group is comprised of students from classes 6-8 who apart from the aforementioned activities, take part in self-expression and reflect on their behavioural changes.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan

Mains level : Various schemes for drought management


Jalyukta Shivar, the flagship water conservation project launched by the earlier government has been officially scrapped by the present Maha government.

What is Jalyukta Shivar?

  • Launched in December 2014 after Maharashtra experienced consecutive droughts, the project aimed at rolling out measures that could potentially mitigate water scarcity in the most drought-prone villages in a systematic manner.
  • Nearly 52 per cent of the state’s geographical area is prone to drought, either naturally or due to poor rainfall.
  • This includes Marathwada and adjoining areas of Madhya Maharashtra and large parts of Vidarbha.
  • The project targeted strengthening and streamlining existing water resources like canals, bunds and ponds by arresting maximum run-off rainwater during monsoon.
  • Tasks to widen and deepen natural water streams and connect them to nearby water storage facilities like earthen or concrete check-dams were proposed.
  • In the first phase, planned during 2015 – 2019, Jalyukta Shivar envisaged making 5,000 villages drought-free, every year.
  • During its proposed tenure, the government eyed at making 25,000 drought-prone villages water-sufficient.

Was Jalyukta Shivar beneficial?

  • While the exact number of villages that were declared drought-free remains unknown, the programme attempted to bring water stress down in a majority of the most water-scarce villages in the state.
  • In January last year, then CM had announced that the scheme had transformed 16,000 drought-prone villages of Maharashtra.

What is the future of water conservation in the state?

  • Geologists and hydrologists, who worked on implementing the project, shared similar views and hailed Jalyukta Shivar.
  • This was mainly due to the interventions undertaken in the existing water reserves, planned de-silting activities, among many others.
  • However, experts agreed that the scheme was not appropriately implemented.
  • Now with Jalyukta Shivar no longer in existence, focused efforts of the past five years, in most likelihood, will go down the drain unless a similar scheme is introduced.
  • With rainfall variations getting more pronounced, in addition to depleting groundwater reserves, the state will need concrete interventions to tackle future water requirements.

Biofuel Policy

Biojet fuel that powered the IAF aircraft


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : An-32, Biojet Fuel

Mains level : Biojet Fuel and its feasiblity


In his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address, PM hailed the use of biofuel in an Indian Air Force transport aircraft.

What did PM cite?

  • IAF’s An-32 aircraft successfully used a 10% blend of Indian biojet fuel and took off from Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport on January 31.
  • This was the first time that this mix was used in both engines of an aircraft.
  • Leh is at an altitude of 10,682 ft above mean sea level and is among the world’s highest and most difficult operational airfields.
  • Even during clear weather, operating an aircraft at Leh is a challenge, given the reduced power output of the engines in the rarefied atmosphere, turbulent winds, and proximity of the mountains.

What is Biojet fuel?

  • Biojet fuel is prepared from “non-edible tree borne oil” and is procured from various tribal areas of India.
  • This fuel is made from Jatropha oil sourced from Chattisgarh Biodiesel Development Authority (CBDA) and then processed at CSIR-IIP, Dehradun.
  • Generally, it is made from vegetable oils, sugars, animal fats and even waste biomass, and can be used in existing aviation jet engines without modification.
  • Jatropha oil is suitable for conversion to jet fuel. This biojet fuel has received wide acceptance from the airline industry.

Why it matters?

  • Evaluating the performance of biojet fuel under conditions prevalent in Leh was considered extremely important from an operational perspective.
  • The success of the flight validated the capability of the aircraft’s engines to operate smoothly with biojet fuel at the extremities of the operational envelope.
  • The tests were conducted by a team comprising test pilots from the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), Bengaluru and pilots from the operational squadrons.
  • The successful test flight also demonstrated the IAF’s capability to absorb newer technology, while sponsoring indigenization.

Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Future for the World’s Children Report 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Future for the World’s Children Report 2020 and indices mentioned

Mains level : Ensuring sustainable development worldwide

The Future for the World’s Children Report 2020 was recently released.

About the report

  • The report was released by a commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world after assessing 180 countries.
  • It was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal.

What is Flourishing Index?

  • Flourishing is the geometric mean of Surviving and Thriving.
  • For Surviving, the authors selected maternal survival, survival in children younger than 5 years old, suicide, access to maternal and child health services, basic hygiene and sanitation, and lack of extreme poverty.
  • For Thriving, the domains were educational achievement, growth and nutrition, reproductive freedom, and protection from violence.

Threats to Children

  • The report highlights the distinct threat posed to children from harmful marketing.
  • Evidence suggests that children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, while youth exposure to vaping (e-cigarettes) advertisements increased by more than 250% in the U.S. over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.
  • Studies in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.S. — among many others — have shown that self-regulation has not hampered commercial ability to advertise to children.
  • Children’s exposure to commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages is associated with the purchase of unhealthy foods and overweight and obesity, linking predatory marketing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity.
  • The number of obese children and adolescents increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 — an 11-fold increase, with dire individual and societal costs, the report said.

What is Sustainability Index?

  • Under the Sustainability Index, the authors noted that promoting today’s national conditions for children to survive and thrive must not come at the cost of eroding future global conditions for children’s ability to flourish.
  • It ranks countries on excess carbon emissions compared with the 2030 target.
  • This provides a convenient and available proxy for a country’s contribution to sustainability in future.

Highlights of the SI

  • The report noted that under realistic assumptions about possible trajectories towards sustainable greenhouse gas emissions, models predict that global carbon emissions need to be reduced from 39·7 gigatonnes to 22·8 gigatonnes per year by 2030 to maintain even a 66% chance of keeping global warming below 1·5degrees C.
  • No country in the world is currently providing the conditions we need to support every child to grow up and have a healthy future alarmed the report.

India’s performance

India ranked 77th on a sustainability index that takes into account per capita carbon emissions and ability of children in a nation to live healthy lives and secures 131st spot on a flourishing ranking that measures the best chance at survival and well-being for children.

Performance of nations in SI

  •  Norway leads the table for survival, health, education and nutrition rates – followed by South Korea and the Netherlands.
  • The central African Republic, Chad and Somalia come at the bottom.
  • However, when taking into account per capita CO2 emissions, these top countries trail behind, with Norway 156th, the Republic of Korea 166th and the Netherlands 160th.
  • Each of the three emits 210 per cent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target, the data shows, while the U.S., Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters.
  • The lowest emitters are Burundi, Chad and Somalia.
  • According to the report, the only countries on track to beat CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly — within the top 70 — on child flourishing measures are Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Bay of Bengal Offshore Sailing Expedition (BBSE)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bay of Bengal Offshore Sailing Expedition (BBSE)

Mains level : Not Much


Indian Naval Sailing Vessels Mhadei and Tarini set sail for the Bay of Bengal Offshore Sailing Expedition from the Indian Naval Ocean Sailing Node at Goa.


  • This would be the maiden major mixed crew sailing expedition of the Indian Navy with crew composition of five naval officers including two women officers in each boat.
  • It would be covering a total distance of 6,100 Nautical miles each and will be at sea for 55 days.
  • The prolonged voyage of nearly three months during this expedition would showcase harnessing of renewal energy namely wind energy to propel the boats.
  • The expedition is also in pursuance of the GOI mission of ‘Nari Shakti’ providing opportunity to women officers at par with men.
  • The sailing vessels as part of the expedition would make replenishment halts at ports of Phuket, Yangon, Chittagong and Colombo.

About the vessels

  • Mhadei and Tarini inducted in the Indian Navy on 08 February 2009 and 18 February 2017 respectively have been the vessels of choice for the naval expeditions in various sailing expeditions, including three circumnavigations and thus have thousands of miles tucked under their belt.
  • Mhadei has successfully completed two circumnavigations, three Cape to Rio trans-Atlantic races and several other expeditions around various continents.
  • The vessel has covered in excess of 1,36,000 nautical miles.
  • Tarini created history in 2017-18 when six Indian Naval women officers sailed the vessel on maiden circumnavigation voyage titled Navika Sagar Parikrama.
  • She thereafter also participated in mixed crew Kochi to Seychelles sail training expedition during the 10th-anniversary celebration of the IONS.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Why do we have Leap Years?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Leap Year and the science behind it

Mains level : Not Much


The year 2020 is a ‘leap year’, meaning the month of February will have 29 days instead of 28, and the total number of days will be 366 instead of 365. This was also the case in 2016, and 2024 will again be a leap year.

Leap Years

  • A calendar is meant to correspond to the Earth’s seasons.
  • For this, the number of days in a calendar needs to match the time required by the Earth to orbit the Sun.
  • The time required by the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun is approximately 365.242 days. But years are usually only 365 days.
  • To adjust for the extra 0.242 days in the orbital period, which becomes almost one full day in four years, the calendar adds an extra day once every four years.
  • This approximates the time to 365.25 days, which is close to the actual 365.242 days.

But is that not inaccurate?

  • Yes, it is. And further adjustments are made to the Gregorian calendar, the calendar we follow today.
  • The Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582. Before that, the calendar followed was the Julian calendar, introduced in 45 BC.
  • The calendars were different in their treatment of leap years.
  • The Julian calendar had leap days every four years, but since it still did not accurately conform to the Earth’s precise orbit time, it kept falling behind with respect to natural seasons over the centuries.
  • By the 16th century, the Julian calendar had fallen out of tune with the natural seasons by almost 10 days.
  • To correct this discrepancy, Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 decreed that the day of October 4 that year would be followed directly by October 15 – thus covering up the error.
  • The Pope also modified the leap year system in the Julian calendar. That new system came to be known as the Gregorian calendar.

What is the new system?

  • In the Gregorian calendar, a century year (a year ending with 00) is not a leap year, even though it is a multiple of 4. Thus, the year 2100 will not be a leap year.
  • But even this does not provide total accuracy. To ensure that, some century years remain leap years. In the Gregorian calendar, leap years include those century years which are exactly divisible by 400.
  • Thus, 2000 remained a leap year even though it ended with 00.
  • The Gregorian calendar reduces the margin of error under the Julian calendar, thus keeping days more in tune with seasons.