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March 2020

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate change and geopolitics converge to yield locust swarms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Protecting Indian agriculture against the locust attacks.


Abnormal rainfall in the Arabian desert and an effect of the Yemen war have revived a menace that could hit Indian crops

Butterfly effect- a fitting metaphor for locust attack

  • What is the butterfly effect? The butterfly effect occurs when a trivial cause, such as a butterfly fluttering its wings somewhere in an Amazon rainforest, triggers a series of events that end up having a massive impact elsewhere.
    • Edward Lorenz, the American meteorologist who coined the phrase in the early 1960s, came up with it while building a mathematical model to predict weather patterns.
    • Fitting metaphor: It is a fitting metaphor to explain a “plague” that is currently destroying vegetation and livelihoods in East Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Pakistan and India.

The impact of the locust attack in the world

  • Impact in Africa: Several countries in Africa and Asia have been dealing with “the curse of good rains”: Massive swarms—called “plagues”—of the desert locust.
    • Swarms as large as 2,400 sq. km, comprising 200 billion insects, have already damaged over 70,000 hectares of crops in Kenya and around 30,000 hectares in Ethiopia.
  • Last month, Pakistan declared a national emergency over locusts.
  • Impact in India: In India, several districts in Gujarat and Rajasthan have been affected.
    • Rajasthan has announced a compensation of ₹13,500 per hectare to affected farmers.
    • While locust swarms continue to plague African countries, for now, the outbreak has tapered down in India with swarms headed back towards Sindh and Balochistan.
  • Possibility of return of the locusts: The expectation is that the locusts will be back in June, by which time their numbers would have grown fivefold.

What are the locusts and how they form swarms?

  • Solitary creature: The brown-coloured desert locust usually lives as a solitary creature in the desert and bushlands.
  • Transformation and swarm formation: When several of them gather in close proximity, they undergo a dramatic physical transformation, change colour to black and bright yellow, become gregarious, and start moving around in swarms.
  • Contribution of moisture and temperature: Locusts lay their eggs a few inches under the soil in the presence of moisture, which hatch faster under higher temperatures.
    • Similarly, the flightless nymphs mature faster under warmer conditions and, within weeks, turn into adults that can form swarms of hundreds of millions of insects that can fly over 100km per day.
  • The scale of destruction: Each locust can eat its own body weight—around 2-3 grams—every day.
    • Which means that a swarm can consume hundreds of tonnes of vegetation that it encounters every day.

Change in the behaviour pattern

  • Limited to recession areas: Normally, desert locusts are limited to a recession area enveloping the African Sahel to the west and Rajasthan to the east.
    • After international preventive control measures started in the 1940s, the intensity and spread of these swarms reduced, resulting only in regional plagues.

What contributed to this year’s infestation?

  • Two factors contributed to this year’s infestation:
    • Abnormal weather conditions.
    • Region’s geopolitics.
  • Abnormal weather conditions: In 2018, two cyclones a few months apart delivered rain to the Rub al Khali, the remote desert called the “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian peninsula.
    • The resulting ephemeral lakes created new breeding grounds for the desert locust in a poorly monitored region.
  • Region’s geopolitics: Insecticide spraying operations were not conducted because of the war in Yemen.
    • The breeding continued before the swarms crossed the Gulf into Iran and the Red Sea to Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
    • Here, too, conflict and political unrest limited control operations, leading to further breeding.
  • Another cyclone in 2019: In December 2019, another cyclonic storm hit the Horn of Africa, creating conditions for yet more breeding.
    • Today, the situation is dire in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and is worsening in Uganda and Tanzania.

How affected countries are responding to the infestation?

  • Pakistan declared national emergency: Across the Persian Gulf, the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan and Sindh were initially affected, and when Punjab was hit, the government declared a national emergency and approached China for assistance.
  • How India is responding? Across the border, several districts in Gujarat and Rajasthan were affected and neighbouring states, including Uttar Pradesh, are now on alert.
    • Cooperation between India and Pakistan: Despite political tensions, Indian and Pakistani locust control officials met almost once a month over the second half of 2019 to exchange information, if not coordinate control efforts.
    • So far, India’s surveillance, preparedness and response have been competent and effective.
    • The national Locust Warning Organization was set up in 1939 and is well connected to international institutions created to manage locust risks.
    • It publishes weekly bulletins and even has a Twitter handle.
    • Bulletins show when locusts were detected, the location, extent and tonnage of insecticide sprayed and the risk of future infestation.
  • China’s preparedness: China is largely protected against locust plagues by geographical barriers, but is relatively vulnerable in the Xinjiang region.
    • Past similar event: Faced with a similar situation a couple of decades ago, the Chinese government had deployed hundreds of thousands of ducks that would eat the locusts in response to the blowing of a whistle.
    • Reports in the Chinese media indicate that Beijing plans to do the same this year.

 The immediate concern in India

  • Factors that could worsen the problem: Climate change, with higher temperatures and changes in the Indian Ocean Dipole, could worsen the locust problem for India in coming years.
  • The problem could overwhelm the capacity to control: The immediate concern is that by June 2020, there will probably be extraordinarily large swarms in India and that these could overwhelm the country’s current capacity to control them.
    • Preparedness measures by the government: The Union government is procuring additional spraying equipment and planning helicopter and drone-based control operations should the need arise.
    • Containing the swarms at India’s border states is crucial, as India’s agricultural heartland lies just beyond.


The government should take stock of its preparedness to deal with the imminent locust attack in June take necessary actions to deal with the menace as it could threaten India’s food security and economy.




Important Judgements In News

Whither tribunal independence?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Provision of constitution of tribunal, tenure and the SC directives.


The reframed Tribunal rules are in contempt of several Constitution Bench decisions of the Supreme Court.

What the SC said in Rojer Mathew case

  • Rules being unconstitutional: In November 2019, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in Rojer Mathew, declared the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 as unconstitutional.
    • Why it was declared unconstitutional? It was declared unconstitutional for being violative of principles of independence of the judiciary and contrary to earlier decisions of the Supreme Court in the Madras Bar Association 
  • Direction to the Central government: In Rojer Mathew, there was also a direction to the Central government to reformulate the rules strictly in accordance with principles delineated by the Court in its earlier decisions.
    • The reframed rules, notified by the Ministry of Finance, however, suffer from the same vices.

What were the issues in the Finance Act, 2017

  • What was prescribed in the Finance Act, 2017: The Finance Act, 2017, around 26 Central statutes were amended.
    • Excessive rule-making powers to the Centre government: The power to prescribe eligibility criteria, selection process, removal, salaries, tenure and other service conditions pertaining to various members of 19 tribunals were sub-delegated to the rule-making powers of the Central government.
  • Attempt to keep the judiciary away: Describing the search-cum-selection-committee as an attempt to keep the judiciary away from the process of selection and appointment of members, vice-chairman and chairman of tribunals.
    • Executive litigant in most cases: The Court held that the executive is a litigating party in most of the litigation and hence cannot be allowed to be a dominant participant in tribunal appointments.
    • Selection committee issue: Barring the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the selection committee for all other tribunals was made up either entirely from personnel within or nominated by the Central government or comprised a majority of personnel from the Central government.
    • While the selection committee for NCLAT consisted of two judges and two secretaries to the Government of India, all other committees comprised only one judge and three secretaries to the Government of India. Now, in the 2020 rules, by default, all committees consist of a judge, the president/chairman/chairperson of the tribunal concerned and two secretaries to the Government of India
  • 3 years tenure injurious to the efficiency: Reiterating its previous decision in Madras Bar Association (2010), the Court held that the tenure of three years for members will “preclude cultivation of adjudicatory experience and is thus injurious to the efficiency of the Tribunals”.

 An equal say for the judiciary

  • 2 Judges in 4 member committee: The common thread in the Madras Bar Association series and Rojer Mathew decisions is that judiciary must have an equal say in the appointment of members of the tribunals.
    • To deny the executive an upper hand in appointing members to tribunals, the court ordered to have two judges of the Supreme Court to be a part of the four-member selection committee.
    • In Madras Bar Association(2010), held that the selection committee should comprise the Chief Justice of India or his nominee (chairperson, with a casting vote), a senior judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of the High Court, and secretaries in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Law and Justice respectively.
  • Decision applicable to all tribunals: Subsequent Constitution Bench decisions in Madras Bar Association (2014), Rojer Mathew and the decision of the Madras High Court in Shamnad Basheer have repeatedly held that the principles of the Madras Bar Association (2010) are applicable to the selection process and constitution of all tribunals in India.
  • What are the provisions dealing with appointment in 2020 rules? Under the 2020 rules, the inclusion of the president/ chairman/chairperson of the tribunal as a member in the selection committee is in the teeth of previous decisions of the Supreme Court.
    • Non-judicial member can become a chairman: For instance, now, in the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT), etc. a non-judicial member can become the president/chairman/chairperson, as the case may be.
    • Therefore, when a non-judicial member becomes a member in the selection committee, the Supreme Court judge will be in minority, giving primacy to the executive, which is impermissible.
  • Only judges and advocates can be judicial members: In Madras Bar Association (2010), the Court explicitly held that only judges and advocates can be considered for appointment as a judicial member of the tribunal and that persons from the Indian Legal Service cannot be considered for appointment as judicial member.
    • Recently, in Revenue Bar Association (2019), the Madras High Court declared Section 110(1)(b)(iii) of the CGST Act, 2017 as unconstitutional for allowing members of Indian Legal Service to be judicial members in GSTAT.

Violation of the SC directives

  • What the SC said on tenure: Based on Madras Bar Association (2010), in Rojer Mathew, the Court held that the term of three years is too short, and by the time members achieve a refined knowledge, expertise and efficiency, one term will be over.
    • What are the provisions in 2020 rules? In the 2020 rules, the tenure of members has been increased from three years to four years, thereby blatantly violating the directions of the Supreme Court.
  • Since the Madras Bar Association (2010), the government has repeatedly violated the directions of the Supreme Court.
    • One by one, the traditional courts, including the High Courts, have been divested of their jurisdictions and several tribunals have been set up.


The 2020 rules are, thus, in contempt of several Constitution Bench decisions of the Supreme Court. Unless the Court comes down heavily on the Central government, we will see these encroachments over and over again.


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

Tracking the big three


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Key areas India needs to focus on to achieve good health and well being.


The article focuses on the top three Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, namely poverty elimination, zero hunger, and good health and well-being by 2030.

India’s record on extreme poverty, hunger and health

  • Decline in extreme poverty: The World Bank’s estimates of extreme poverty- measured as $1.9/per capita/per day at purchasing power parity of 2011- show a secular decline in India from 45.9 per cent to 13.4 per cent between 1993 and 2015.
  • Elimination of extreme poverty 2030: If the overall growth process continues as has been the case since, say, 2000 onwards, India may succeed in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, if not earlier.
  • Zero hunger by 2030: Given the overflowing stock of food grains with the government, and a National Food Security Act (NFSA) that subsidises grains to the tune of more than 90 per cent of its cost to 67 per cent of the population, there is no reason to believe that India can also not attain the goal of zero hunger before 2030.
  • Health- a real challenge: The real challenge for India, is to achieve the third goal of good health and well-being by 2030. India’s performance in this regard, so far, has not been satisfactory. as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2015-16)-
    • In 2015-16, almost 38.4 per cent of India’s children under the age of five years were stunted.
    • 8 per cent were underweight.
    • 21 per cent suffered from wasting (low weight for height).
    • The situation in some states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh is even worse.
  • Global Hunger Index ranking of India: No wonder, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranks India at 102 out of 117 countries in terms of the severity of hunger in 2019.

What are the various targets set on the nutrition problem?

  • Target on reducing the problems of underweight children: The National Nutrition Strategy, 2017, aims to reduce the prevalence of underweight children (0-3 years) by three percentage points every year by 2022 from NFHS 2015-16 estimates.
    • Why this is an ambitious target? This is an ambitious target given the decadal decline in underweight children from 42.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 35.8 per cent in 2015-16 amounts to less than 1 per cent decline per year.
  • Targets set in National Nutrition Mission: Similar targets have been set by the National Nutrition Mission (renamed as POSHAN Abhiyaan), 2017.
    • To reduce stunting by 2 per cent.
    • Under-nutrition by 2 per cent.
    • Anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) by 3 per cent.
    • Low birth weight by 2 per cent.

Four areas India needs to focus to achieve the set targets

  • India has to focus on four key areas:  If India has to make a significant dent on malnutrition by 2030.
  • First- Mother’s education.
    • Multiplier effect: It is one of the most important factors that have a positive multiplier effect on child care and access to healthcare facilities.
    • Increases awareness: It also increases awareness about the nutrient-rich diet, personal hygiene, etc. This can also help contain the family size in poor, malnourished families.
    • Thus, a high priority to female literacy, in a mission mode through liberal scholarships for the girl child, would go a long way towards tackling this problem.
  • Second- Access to improved sanitation and safe drinking water.
    • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Jal Jeevan Mission would have positive outcomes in the coming years.
  • Third-shift in dietary pattern
    • Shift from cereals to more nutritious food: There is a need to shift dietary patterns from cereal dominance to the consumption of nutritious foods such as livestock products, fruits and vegetables, pulses, etc.
    • But they are generally costly and their consumption increases only by higher incomes and better education.
    • Diverting the food subsidy to nutritious foods: Diverting a part of the food subsidy on wheat and rice to more nutritious foods can help.
  • Fourth- Adoption of new agricultural technology
    • Adopt bio-fortifying cereals: India must adopt new agricultural technologies of bio-fortifying cereals, such as zinc-rich rice, wheat, iron-rich pearl millet, and so on.
    • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has to work closely with the Harvest Plus programme of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to make it a win-win situation for curtailing malnutrition in Indian children at a much faster pace — and, at a much lower cost than would be achieved under a business as usual scenario.

Examples from the world

  • Right public policies make the difference: Global experience shows that with the right public policies focusing on agriculture, improved sanitation, and women’s education, one can have much better health and well-being for its citizens, especially children.
  • China’s example: In China, it was agriculture and economic growth that significantly reduced the rates of stunting and wasting among the population and lifted millions of people out of hunger, poverty and malnutrition.
  • Brazil and Ethiopia example: According to FAO, Brazil and Ethiopia have transformed their food systems: They have targeted their investments in agricultural R&D and social protection programmes to reduce hunger in the country.


Despite India’s improvement in child nutrition rates since 2005-06, it is way behind the progress experienced by China and many other countries. According to the Global Nutrition Report, 2016, at the present rates of decline, India will achieve the current stunting rates of China by 2055. India can certainly do better, but only if it focuses on this issue.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Explained: US-Taliban Pact


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : US-Taliban pact and its implications on India-Afghanistan relationship



  • The US and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months.
  • The pact is between the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban” and the US.
  • The four-page pact was signed between Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political head of the Taliban.

Key elements of the deal

Troops Withdrawal

  • The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
  • And all troops will be out within 14 months — “all” would include “non-diplomatic civilian personnel” (could be interpreted to mean “intelligence” personnel).

Taliban Commitment

  • The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that “It will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US and its allies”.
  • While Miller said the reference to al-Qaeda is important, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • Again, India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.

Sanctions Removal

  • UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29) and US sanctions by August 27.
  • The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Prisoner’s release

  • This is a possible trouble spot because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ, and it is not clear whether the Ashraf Ghani-led government is on board with this big up-front concession to Taliban.
  • The joint declaration says the US will facilitate discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.
  • While there are no numbers or deadlines in the joint declaration, the US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March.
  • The intra-Afghan negotiations are supposed to start in Oslo.


  • This is identified as another potential “trouble spot”.
  • The agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicate actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.

Implications of the Deal

An adieu to democracy in Afghanistan

  • The Taliban have got what they wanted: troops withdrawal, removal of sanctions, release of prisoners.
  • This has also strengthened Pakistan, Taliban’s benefactor, and the Pakistan Army and the ISI’s influence appears to be on the rise.
  • It has made it unambiguous that it wants an Islamic regime.
  • The Afghan government has been completely sidelined during the talks between the US and Taliban.
  • The future for the people of Afghanistan is uncertain and will depend on how Taliban honours its commitments and whether it goes back to the mediaeval practices of its 1996-2001 regimes.

Implications for India

  • India has been backing the Ghani-led government and was among very few countries to congratulate Ghani on his victory.
  • India’s proximity to Ghani also drew from their shared view of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
  • There has not been formal contact with top Taliban leaders, the Indian mission has a fair amount of access to the Pashtun community throughout Afghanistan through community development projects of about $3 billion.
  • Due to So, although Pakistan military and its ally Taliban have become dominant players in Kabul’s power circles, South Block insiders insist that it is not all that grim for New Delhi.
  • these high-impact projects, diplomats feel India has gained goodwill among ordinary Afghans, the majority of whom are Pashtuns and some may be aligned with the Taliban as well.

Way Forward

  • The joint declaration is a symbolic commitment to the Afghanistan government that the US is not abandoning it.
  • Much will depend on whether the US and the Taliban are able to keep their ends of the bargain, and every step forward will be negotiated, and how the Afghan government and the political spectrum are involved.
  • Like in 1989, 1992, 1996, and in 2001, Pakistan has the opportunity to play a constructive role. It frittered away the opportunities in the past.


India and the Taliban

  • India and the Taliban have had a bitter past.
  • New Delhi nurses bitter memories from the IC-814 hijack in 1999, when it had to release terrorists — including Masood Azhar who founded Jaish-e-Mohammed that went on to carry out terror attacks as such on Parliament, Pathankot and in Pulwama.
  • Quite predictably, Mullah Baradar did not name India among the countries that supported the peace process, but specially thanked Pakistan for the “support, work and assistance” provided.
  • The Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
  • India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001.
  • But its foreign policy establishment has shied away from engaging with the Taliban directly.

J&K – The issues around the state

Delimitation in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation

Mains level : Read the attached story

The newly created UT of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will be the only one in the country to undergo a delimitation exercise based on the population figures recorded in the 2011 census.

Delimitation in J&K

  • The latest readjustment of boundaries of constituencies in other States and UTs has been done on the basis of 2001 census and in future it will be carried out according to the 2031 census.
  • As per 2011 Census, the population in Kashmir region is 68,88,475, Jammu has a population of 53,78,538 and Ladakh has 2,74,289.
  • Delimitation was last done in J&K in the year 1995.

The legal basis for delimitation

  • Section 63 was introduced in the J&K Reorganisation Act so that delimitation exercise can be conducted smoothly without overlapping with other provisions of Delimitation Commission Act, 2002.
  • It is a saving clause and since J&K is a UT, it now has constitutional safeguards.
  • The provision did not require any separate legislation as it was incorporated in the primary Act.
  • It says that “until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published,” it shall not be necessary to readjust the constituencies.
  • And any reference to the “latest census figures” in shall be construed as a reference to the 2011 census figures.
  • The delimitation will be done for 90 seats as 24 seats fall in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).


Explained: Delimitation of Constituencies

Citizenship and Related Issues

Defining Anti-national Activities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various FRs not available to Foreigners

Mains level : Read the attached story

Ever since the anti-CAA protests erupted across the country, the MHA has been quite active in filtering out foreigners among the protesters and serving them with ‘Leave India’ notices’.

What contributes to ‘Anti-government’ activities?

  • According to visa guidelines laid out by the MHA, Foreign nationals shall be required to strictly adhere to the purpose of visit declared while submitting the visa application.
  • However, a foreign national (other than a Pakistani national) coming to India on any type of visa will be allowed to avail activities permitted under tourist visa.
  • However, there are no provisions specified under “anti-government” activities subhead.
  • The absence of any such provision in visa laws or Foreigner’s Act makes it necessary for the government to define “anti-government” activities under a statute.
  • Visa laws are not in any derogation with any other law, so inferences can be drawn — which means a court can rule that whatever are defined as “anti-government” activities for Indian national is “anti-government” for foreign national too.”

What do ‘anti-government’ activities mean for an Indian national?

  • According to the lawyers, anti-government activities are those which are listed as punishable under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section 124A IPC deals with attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India.
  • Such offences shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.

Does a foreigner on Indian visa have a right to protest?

  • Right to protest peacefully is enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
  • Article (19)(b) guarantees the citizens of the country the right to assemble peacefully and without arms.
  • Since Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality to any person before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, foreigners also have the right to protest peacefully, argue proponents.
  • However, the act done by the foreigner must not be anything in contravention to the existing laws of India.
  • Being a part of a peaceful protest isn’t illegal and thus, being a part of it isn’t anything wrong even if that is against the Indian government, critic says.

Bharat Emission Standards

Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission norms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS VI compliant fuels

Mains level : BS norms

Oil marketing companies have informed that there will definitely be a marginal increase in retail prices of the fuels from April 1. Starting April 1, Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission norms come into force. This will be an upgrade on the currently prevalent BS-IV and BS-III norms.

Why rise in Oil prices?

  • In effect, as India moves up the BS scale, automobiles become cleaner and greener but fuel will go costly.
  • Oil refiners have invested heavily to upgrade their refineries to produce the cleaner, BS-VI compliant fuel.
  • The increase in the pump price of fuel will partially offset this cost that the oil marketing companies have paid.
  • In effect, consumers will have to pay a little extra for auto fuel that is cleaner, and which, ultimately, is expected to lead to cleaner air.

The BS norms

  • The BS emission standards are norms instituted by the Indian government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, although with a time lag.
  • The more stringent the BS norm, lower is the tolerance for pollutants in automobile tailpipe emissions. Lower tailpipe emissions are the function of both more efficient engines, and cleaner fuels.

How is BS-VI fuel different from BS-IV fuel?

  • The main difference between BS-IV and BS-VI (which is comparable to Euro 6) is in the amount of sulphur in the fuel.
  • The lower the sulphur, the cleaner the fuel, so BS-VI fuel is essentially low-sulphur diesel and petrol.
  • BS-VI fuel is estimated to bring around an 80% reduction in sulphur content — from 50 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm.
  • Also NOx emissions from diesel cars are expected to come down by nearly 70% and, from cars with petrol engines, by 25%.

How will things change with the new fuels?

  • Cleaner fuel alone will not make a dramatic difference to air pollution.
  • For the full benefits to be experienced, the introduction of the higher grade fuel must go hand in hand with the rollout of BS-VI compliant vehicles as well.
  • While automakers will sell only BS-VI vehicles from April 1, all BS-IV vehicles sold before that date will stay on the road for as long as their registration is valid.
  • This, however, could be a concern because using BS-VI fuel in the current BS-IV engines (or conversely, running BS-VI engines on the current-grade fuel), may be both ineffective in curbing vehicular pollution, as well as damage the engine in the long run.


History of BS norms in India

  • India introduced emission norms first in 1991, and tightened them in 1996, when most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades such as catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel specifications based on environmental considerations were notified first in April 1996, to be implemented by 2000, and incorporated in BIS 2000 standards.
  • Following the landmark Supreme Court order of April 1999, the Centre notified Bharat Stage-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • BS-II was for the National Capital Region and other metros; BS-I for the rest of India.
  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.
  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • But in November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Migratory species in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Not Much



With new additions to the wildlife list put out by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), scientists say that the total number of migratory fauna from India comes to 457 species.

Migratory species in India

  • Globally, more than 650 species are listed under the CMS appendices and India, with over 450 species, plays a very important role in their conservation.
  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) had for the first time compiled the list of migratory species of India under the CMS before the Conference of Parties (COP 13) held in Gujarat recently.
  • It had put the number at 451. They are the Asian elephant, great Indian bustard, Bengal florican, oceanic white-tip shark, urial and smooth hammerhead shark.
  • Birds comprise 83% (380 species) of this figure.

Various species mentioned

  • India has three flyways (flight paths used by birds): the Central Asian flyway, East Asian flyway and East Asian–Australasian flyway.
  • In India, their migratory species number 41, followed by ducks (38) belonging to the family Anatidae.
  • The estimate of 44 migratory mammal species in India has risen to 46 after COP 13.
  • The largest group of mammals is definitely bats belonging to the family Vespertilionidae. Dolphins are the second highest group of mammals with nine migratory species of dolphins listed.
  • Fishes make up another important group of migratory species. Before COP 13, the ZSI had compiled 22 species, including 12 sharks and 10 ray fish.
  • Seven reptiles, which include five species of turtles and the Indian gharial and salt water crocodile, are among the CMS species found in India. There was no addition to the reptiles list.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Eurasian Otters


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eurasian Otters

Mains level : NA



Researchers conducting a study in Odisha’s Chilika Lake have found the presence of a viable, breeding population of Eurasian Otters, a fishing cat in the brackish water lagoon.

Eurasian Otters

  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  • Species in India: Smooth-coated, Asian small-clawed and Eurasian Otters
  • Habitat: Smooth-coated — all over India; Asian small-clawed — only in the Himalayan foothills, parts of the Eastern and southern Western Ghats; Eurasian — Western Ghats and Himalayas.
  • Diet comprises several small animals, mainly crabs and small fishes.
  • Lives in small packs, is mostly nocturnal, but can be diurnal in areas which are less disturbed.