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March 2020

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Pieces of peace


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- US-Taliban Pact- Involvement of Pakistan and consequences for India.


“Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” between the US and Taliban signed on February 29 in Doha, is just another piece in the overall strategy of the US for Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s support to the Taliban and unchanged Afghan policy of the US

  • Continuation of the same hard-nosed policy: While rolling out the Afghan policy in August 2017, it was emphasised by the current US dispensation that it was making amends to the Afghan strategy of the previous dispensation.
    • In reality, it has been a continuation of the same hard-nosed line.
  • How Pakistan supported the Taliban? The US and allies had got a rude shock when it dawned on them that between 2001 and 2008, the Taliban had used training and recuperation centres in Pakistan to regain domination over most parts of Afghanistan.
    • Benefiting from the Coalition Support Fund: Pakistan had actively aided the Taliban and al Qaeda (AQ), while continuing to benefit from handsome Coalition Support Funds and a seat at the “high table”.
    • Support of the Pakistan Army: All failures were blamed on inadequate numbers of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which were ill-equipped to challenge the Taliban, backed by a professional Pakistan Army.
    • Misdiagnosed cause: The Obama administration diagnosed that lack of governance, corruption and fragmented polity were other key factors.

What was the comprehensive Afghanistan Strategy?

  • COIN doctrine and “troop surge”: A comprehensive Afghanistan strategy review led to replicating its “troop surge” strategy, which was believed to have succeeded in Iraq, leading to total withdrawal of US troops (December 2011).
    • At the heart of the troop surge was the Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine of the US Field Manual.
  • COIN plus CT: The military strategy in Afghanistan was split into COIN plus CT (Counter Terrorism) objectives.
    • The Taliban movement was treated as an insurgency.
    • What was involved in COIN: The COIN efforts entailed protecting population centres and highways, building numbers and capability of the ANSF to take on insurgents, with emphasis on good governance and support for reconstruction.
    • It also included reconciliation and reintegration of lower to mid-level willing Taliban.
    • The UN designations of Taliban and AQ were separated to pave the way for “peace talks” with Taliban commanders who were tired of fighting.
  • What this strategy achieved? The US-led ISAF troop surge helped create time and space to build and strengthen the ANSF over three times and succeeded in pushing the Taliban back to outlying areas.
    • Even today these territorial gains have not been reversed, except in some areas.
    • As the ANSF gained strength and depth, the US led-ISAF mission became a NATO led-Resolute Support mission.
  • How changing geopolitical circumstances increased challenges? The CT effort yielded rich dividends for the US and allies, in the Af-Pak region and even beyond.
    • The rise of ISIS: From the build-up of ISIS in 2014 to the loss of its Caliphate in 2019 and recently to the killing of General Solemani, the CT challenges of the US and allies in the Af-Pak region and periphery have become graver than ever.
    • These elements had a bearing on the Afghan strategy rolled out in August 2017.
    • Good progress was made in building up the ANSF, with a strong focus on three key elements — Special Forces, Air Force, and Afghan Intelligence (NDS).

The US withdrawal

  • Objectives of the withdrawal: Emphasising that “consequences of a rapid exit were predictable and unacceptable”, it outlined two key objectives —
    • Preventing a resurgence of safe havens that threatened the security of Afghanistan and the US interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    • Preventing terrorists from getting nukes or nuclear material which could be used against the US or elsewhere.
  • What is the recalibrated strategy: The “recalibrated” strategy envisaged following-
    • Time-bound but condition-based withdrawal.
    • Support for the Ghani government.
    • ANSF to take on the Taliban.
    • Talks with the Taliban and for Pakistan to demonstrate commitment on dismantling safe havens that threatened US objectives.
    • Overall, the strategy remained the same, except for the withdrawal of the US from a role in nation-building.
  • What are the results of the strategy? There has been a greater emphasis on the strengthening of ANSF.
    • The regular assessments by the US show an increasing role and success of the Afghan Special Forces.
    • The Air Force and the NDS in playing the lead in keeping the Taliban from running over capitals.
    • By and large, the ANSF have been successful in maintaining the balance and the Taliban-control has not slipped to 2009 levels.
    • In the meantime, US forces have dropped to 10 per cent of the peak (in 2011).
    • With the re-election of President Ghani, it is assured that the US line of thinking will prevail over the Afghan government.
    • Role of Pakistan in the process: On its part, Pakistan has demonstrated its intent by delivering top-rung Taliban, including Mullah Baradar in its custody since 2010, and Anas Haqqani released as part of the process, for the talks.
    • Even if there is no comprehensive ceasefire or full withdrawal ever, Pakistan is unlikely to be blamed.

What Pakistan achieved from the peace process?

  • Return of Afghan refugee: Pakistan has been rewarded in more ways than one. It managed to return lakhs of Afghans.
  • Fencing on the eastern border of Afghanistan: It builds a fence along the eastern parts of Afghanistan to prevent cross-border attacks.
  • Targeting the key TTP leaders: Pakistan got the US and Afghan forces to target key TTP leaders, starting with TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah in June 2018.
    • Since January this year, three top TTP leaders have been killed in Kabul and Kunar.
    • This has also helped build the Pakistan narrative that Afghan soil is being used to target Pakistan.
  • Changing the international narrative in its favour: Even though it is facing “calibrated” heat on FATF sanctions, Pakistan has managed to change the international narrative in its favour.
    • The 24th report (July 2019) of the UNSC monitoring committee has stated, “Al Qaeda continues to cooperate closely with LeT and the Haqqani Network”, but there is no reference to LeT or Haqqani in the 25th report (January 2020).
    • This report has also asserted that ISIL-K has established informal contact with other terrorist groups, including Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, TTP and Lashkar e-Islam.
    • Meanwhile, these groups regularly attack Pakistani posts along the Afghan border.
    • All key anti-Pakistan groups are now being categorised as ISIL-K supporters, even though Pakistan has run the so-called Daesh networks in eastern Afghanistan for years.
    • The UNSC reports also highlight the positive role of Taliban in targeting ISIL-K.


  • The election in the US has bearing on the process: In an election year, the US needs to show that it is not fighting someone else’s battles and is making “sincere efforts” at peace-making.
    • The “Agreement” demonstrates sincerity.
    • At the same time, the US has to continue steering the Afghan strategy to keep terror networks in check.
    • The peace process has already created a comfort-loving, globe-trotting leadership in the top echelons of the Taliban, who would continue to talk, even if the current Agreement falters.
  • Pakistan is again sitting on the high table: As the LeT and Haqqani networks go missing from UN reports and JeM chief Masood Azhar and pro-Pak TTP leader Ehasanullah Ehsan go conveniently “missing” from Pakistan soil, the pressure on Pakistan has eased.
    • The new non-state entities backed by Pakistan, such as the AQIS and ISKP/IS-Kashmir/IS-Hind will become more visible.
    • The rank and file of LeT, JeM, HUJI etc can easily be transferred to these new entities, while many more can be recruited under new banners.
    • Online propaganda of these entities, including in Indian languages, is already visible and likely to escalate.


Nuclear Energy

Pushing the wrong energy buttons


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Nuclear energy-issues involved.


For more than a decade, no major meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and a U.S. President has passed without a ritual reference to India’s promise made in 2008 to purchase American nuclear reactors.

Issues in the nuclear deal

  • Construction of reactors: During president Trumps visit techno-commercial offer for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India at the earliest date was considered.
  • More expensive: Indeed, it has been clear for years that electricity from American reactors would be more expensive than competing sources of energy.
  • Prone to disasters: Moreover, nuclear reactors can undergo serious accidents, as shown by the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
  • No liability for accidents: Westinghouse has insisted on a prior assurance that India would not hold it responsible for the consequences of a nuclear disaster.
    • Which is effectively an admission that it is unable to guarantee the safety of its reactors.

Who will be benefited from the deal?

  • The two beneficiaries: The main beneficiaries from India’s import of reactors would be Westinghouse and India’s atomic energy establishment that is struggling to retain its relevance given the rapid growth of renewables.
  • Political implications: Mr Trump has reasons to press for the sale too. His re-election campaign for the U.S. presidential election in November.
    • The election centrally involves the revival of U.S. manufacturing and he has been lobbied by several nuclear reactor vendors, including Westinghouse.
    • Finally, he also has a conflict-of-interest.

Comparisons with the renewables

  • The total cost of the reactors: The six reactors being offered to India by Westinghouse would cost almost ₹6 lakh crore.
    • If India purchases these reactors, the economic burden will fall upon consumers and taxpayers.
  • Per unit price: In 2013, it was estimated that even after reducing these prices by 30%, to account for lower construction costs in India, the first year tariff for electricity would be about ₹25 per unit.
  • Comparison with solar energy: Recent solar energy bids in India are around ₹3 per unit.
    • Lazard, the Wall Street firm, estimates that wind and solar energy costs have declined by around 70% to 90% in just the last 10 years and may decline further in the future.

Safety concern with nuclear energy

  • Long term cost in case of disasters: Nuclear power can also impose long-term costs.
    • Chernobyl accident: Large areas continue to be contaminated with radioactive materials from the 1986 Chernobyl accident and thousands of square kilometres remain closed off for human inhabitation.
    • Fukushima accident: Nearly a decade after the 2011 disaster, the Fukushima prefecture retains radioactive hotspots.
    • The cost of clean-up: the cost of clean-up has been variously estimated to range from $200-billion to over $600-billion.
  • No liability towards company: The Fukushima accident was partly caused by weaknesses in the General Electric company’s Mark I nuclear reactor design.
  • But that company paid nothing towards clean-up costs, or as compensation to the victims, due to an indemnity clause in Japanese law.
  • What are the provisions in Indian laws: Westinghouse wants a similar arrangement with India. Although the Indian liability law is heavily skewed towards manufacturers, it still does not completely indemnify them.
    • So nuclear vendors have tried to chip away at the law. Instead of resisting foreign suppliers, the Indian government has tacitly supported this process.

India’s experience with nuclear energy

  • Starting with the Tarapur 1 and 2 reactors, in Maharashtra, India’s experiences with imported reactors have been poor.
  • The Kudankulam 1 and 2 reactors, in Tamil Nadu, the only ones to have been imported and commissioned in the last decade, have been repeatedly shut down.
  • Producing less than capacity: In 2018-19, these reactors produced just 32% and 38%, respectively, of the electricity they were designed to produce.
  • These difficulties are illustrative of the dismal history of India’s nuclear establishment.
  • Electricity generation stagnant at 3%: In spite of its tall claims, the fraction of electricity generated by nuclear power in India has remained stagnant at about 3% for decades.


The above factors indicate that the government should take the rational decision on the adoption of nuclear energy given its cost and the risk involved and the better alternative available in the form of solar and other renewable energies.


International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

New forces in orbit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- What reforms are needed in space sector to leverage it for commercial purposes.


As it looks at the growing role of the private sector and the effort by nations like the UAE and Luxembourg, Delhi needs to move quickly towards a new model for India’s space activity.

Growing presence in the outer space

  • Outer space no longer a preserve of a few: When you think of outer space, you think of big powers like the United States, Russia and China.
    • You might also note the collective European effort under the European Space Agency as well as the impressive national space programmes of India and Japan.
    • Strategic or symbol of national pursuit: Space programmes have for long been viewed as either strategic or symbols of national prestige for big countries that are prepared to invest significant resources in the pursuit of a credible presence in outer space.
  • Two small countries challenging the narrative: Two small countries, the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Europe have begun to demonstrate that the outer space need not be the playing ground for big powers alone.
    • Sceptics might think it is pretentious for the UAE with its native population of barely one million and Luxembourg with 600,000 people to think of a place for themselves in space.

UAE’s presence in the space

  • Reminder for India: The interesting path these two countries have set for themselves in outer space is a reminder that Delhi needs to adapt to the rapidly changing dynamic in outer space.
  • Hope Mars Mission: That size is not a constraint is reflected in the UAE’s plan to launch its Mars mission, “Hope”, later this year in partnership with a range of organisations across the world — including three universities in the US.
    • Japan is scheduled to launch the UAE Mars probe this year.
    • India’s own ISRO is also working with the UAE on its Mars mission.
  • Last year, the first Emirati Astronaut, Hazza al-Mansouri spent more than a week in the US-Russian space station.
  • What are the reasons for the UAE’s space strategy? It is about cornering a slice of the rapidly growing commercial space industry — part of a major effort to diversify the UAE economy away from its reliance on hydrocarbons.

How Luxembourg is increasing its presence in the outer space

  • Commercial space as a major opportunity: Over the years, Luxembourg moved away from its past reliance on the steel industry to become a centre of European banking and finance.
    • It is now looking at commercial space as a major opportunity.
  • Regulatory steps: Luxembourg has taken a number of regulatory steps to create a vibrant ecosystem for space companies ranging from satellite operations to future extraction of resources from asteroids and other space objects.
  • Expansion of the space sector: At the moment, the space sector accounts for nearly 2 per cent of Luxembourg’s GDP.
    • There are more than 50 companies and two public research organisations that are driving the expansion of space sector in Luxembourg.
    • It entered the space sector only in the middle of the last decade. It is also driven by the need for economic diversification.
  • Leveraging new ideas: UAE and Luxembourg do have a reputation for leveraging new ideas to transcend the limitations of their size in the world.
    • But their space adventure was not possible without the structural changes that are reshaping the global space activity.

How space industry underwent a change over the years

  • Preserve of national programs: Through the second half of the 20th century, outer space was the sole preserve of national space programmes driven by government-funding, direction and management.
  • The emergence of the private sector: As military uses of space and prestige projects like Moon-landing emerged, major private sector entities already in the aviation industry like Boeing and Lockheed won space contracts in the US.
    • Collaboration with government: The Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) told these companies what to do.
  • Expansion: The last decades of the 20th century saw significant expansion of satellite-based telecommunication, navigation, broadcasting and mapping, and lent a significant commercial dimension to the space sector.
    • As the digital revolution in the 21st century transformed the world economy, the commercial space sector has begun to grow in leaps and bounds.
    • The global space business is now estimated to be around $ 400 billion and is expected to easily rise to at least trillion dollars by 2040.
  • Rise of SpaceX: One example of the rise of private sector companies in the space sector is SpaceX run by the US entrepreneur Elon Musk.
    • Hired for a resupply mission for the space station, it now launches more rockets every year than NASA.
    • The entry of the private sector has begun to drive down the cost-per-launch through innovations such as reusable rockets.

Scope of the expansion of the space industry

  • Decrease in launch cost and rise in ambition: As launch costs came down, the private sector has become more ambitious.
    • Internet through space: SpaceX plans to launch hundreds of satellites into the low-earth orbit to provide internet services. Amazon has plans to build a network of more than 3,000 satellites in the low-earth orbit.
    • Space tourism: Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have plans to develop space tourism and build human settlements on the Moon and on Mars.
    • Small private companies in the fray: It is not just big companies that are aiming for the Moon. Last year, a private company in Israel sent a lunar lander to the Moon. Although the lander crashed, much like India’s Vikram, the private sector has begun to do things that were once the monopoly of national agencies.

India not in synch with the global changes

  • Not adapting to the change: India, however, is quite some distance away from adapting to the unfolding changes in the global space business.
    • In its early years, India’s space programme that was constrained by lack of resources found innovative ways of getting ahead in space.
  • Space sector dominated by the government: Although the ISRO encourages private sector participation in the national space programme, its model is still very 20th century — in terms of governmental domination.


As it looks at the growing role of the private sector and the effort by nations like the UAE and Luxembourg, India needs to move quickly towards a new model for India’s space activity. It needs a regulatory environment that encourages a more dynamic role for the private sector and promotes innovation.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Department-related Standing Committees (DRSCs)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Standing Committees

Mains level : Parliamentary procedures and functioning

Fewer sittings of Parliament are compensated by the working of department-related standing committees (DRSCs) praised Rajya Sabha Chairman.

What are Standing Committees?

  • Standing Committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament.
  • It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.
  • The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a good deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary Committees.
  • Standing Committees are of the following kinds :
  1. Financial Standing Committees (FSC)
  2. Department Related Standing Committees (DRSC)
  3. Others Standing Committees (OSC)

About DRSCs

  • There are 24 Department-related Standing Committees (DRSCs). Each of these committees have 31 members – 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  • The 17 Departmentally Related Standing Committees were formally constituted with effect from April, 1993.
  • After experiencing the working of the DRSC system for over a decade, the system was restructured in July,2004 wherein the number of DRSCs was increased from 17 to 24.
  • These members are to be nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha respectively. The term of office of these committees does not exceed one year.
  • These committees are serviced either by Lok Sabha secretariat or the Rajya Sabha secretariat depending on who has appointed the chairman of that committee.

Equal to 10 House sittings

  • During a usual sitting of Parliament, the Houses are convened for six hours. Calculating it accordingly, the meeting of these committees amount to 10 sittings of Parliament.
  • Proportionately, the work done by the 16 Committees of Lok Sabha amounts to another 20 sittings of the Parliament.
  • In all, the work put in by the total 24 DRSCs in examining the Demands for Grants of all the ministries equals 30 days of functioning of the Parliament, which is quite significant.
  • If the working of the committees is taken into account for the entire year, it will amount to significantly higher number of days.

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

Hazards of using fertilizers in Punjab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Phosphatic fertilizers

Mains level : Health hazards of indirect fertilizers poisoning


Studies have pegged consumption of phosphatic fertilizers in Punjab at ten times higher than the national average. Thence media has consistently reported on cancer deaths in the Malwa region of Punjab.

What are phosphatic fertilizers?

  • Phosphatic fertilizers are chemical substances that contain the nutrient phosphorus in an absorbable form (Phosphate anions) or that yield after conversion in the soil.
  • Phosphates help plants store energy, root well, flower and produce fruit.
  • The DAP or Diammonium Phosphate is the widely used phosphatic fertilizer in our country.
  • The total fertilizer consumption in India is 27 million tones, out of which about 20-25 per cent of phosphorous and nitrogen-based nutrients are dependent on imports from the United States, Jordan, Iran, Oman, China, Russia, Morocco, Israel, Lithuania and Egypt.

Hazards of phosphatic fertilizers

  • Pursuant to the disquieting reports from the area, BARC in 2013 analysed fertilizer and soil samples from the Malwa region and discovered heavy concentration of Uranium.
  • According to the report, Uranium concentration in DAP was around 91.77 parts per million (ppm), which was way beyond the permissible limit.
  • It is also a fact that the fertiliser industry in India does not follow all procedures and protocols essential for decontamination of imported phosphatic rock associated with traces of Uranium.
  • There is yet another theory which does not support the fertiliser route for Uranium ingestion through food chain, but emphasises on the geogenic factors for the possible presence of Uranium in the groundwater samples.
  • Higher concentrations of Uranium are present in certain types of soils and rocks, especially granite.
  • All the three isotopes of Uranium (U-234, U-235, U-238) have a half-life period ranging from 0.25 million years to 4.47 billion years, indicating their relative stability.

Increasing Uranium contamination

  • Presence of Uranium is widespread, and according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, its normal concentration in soil is between 300 microgram per kg (ug/kg) and 11.7 milligram per kg (mg/kg).
  • In the Indian context, contamination of Uranium in Punjab’s groundwater has been a problem since the early 2000s.
  • High levels of uranium found in the fertile Malwa region along with industrial effluents leads to a bigger problem as it contaminates the groundwater.
  • The presence of bicarbonates, nitrate, chloride anions and soil is calcareous since the carbonic acid created in the process enhances leaching efficiency of uranium from soils and sediments.

Matter of urgent importance

  • With no guidelines or acceptable standards by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regarding the amount of uranium in fertilizers produced in India, we are on a dead track.
  • Authorities’ concerned need to take cognizance and invest in less expensive R&D of the decontamination process.
  • At the same time, it is also necessary to specify the acceptable limit of Uranium in groundwater.


Complete details of fertilizers

The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the bill

Mains level : Read the attached story



The Union Minister of HRD has introduced The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha.

Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019

The Bill is intended to convert India’s three deemed-to-be Sanskrit universities — (i) Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, (ii) Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, and (iii) Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati — into Central Sanskrit Universities.

The following are the salient features of the Bill:

What the universities will do

The proposed central universities will:

  1. disseminate and advance knowledge for the promotion of Sanskrit,
  2. make special provisions for integrated courses in humanities, social sciences, and science, and
  3. train manpower for the overall development and preservation of Sanskrit and allied subjects.

Powers and functions

These include:

  1. prescribing courses of study and conducting training programmes,
  2. granting degrees, diplomas, and certificates,
  3. providing facilities through a distance education system,
  4. conferring autonomous status on a college or an institution,
  5. providing instructions for education in Sanskrit and allied subjects.

University authorities

Some of the authorities that the universities will have:

  • A court, which will review the policies of the university and suggest measures for its development.
  • An Executive Council, which will be the principal executive body. The 15-member council will include the Vice-Chancellor appointed by the Centre, who will be the chairperson; a joint secretary of the Ministry of HRD, and two eminent academics from the field of Sanskrit or allied subjects.
  • The council will, among other functions, create teaching and academic posts and their appointment, and manage the revenue and property of the university.
  • An Academic and Activity Council, which will supervise academic policies.
  • A Board of Studies, which will approve the subjects for research and recommend measures to improve standards of teaching.

Visitor of the universities

  • Like at all central universities, the President of India will be the Visitor of the central Sanskrit universities.
  • He may appoint persons to review and inspect the functioning of the University.
  • The Executive Council may take action based on the findings of the inspection.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

[pib] CHITRA Flow Diverter Stents


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CHITRA stents

Mains level : Affordable medical devices and implants in India

The Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Science and Tech. Thiruvanthapuram an Institute of National Importance under the Department of Science and Technology has developed an innovative intracranial flow diverter stent for the treatment of aneurysms of the blood  vessels of the brain.

What is Aneurysms?

  • Intracranial aneurysm is a localized ballooning, bulging or dilation of arteries in the brain caused by progressive weakening of the inner muscles of the wall of the blood vessels.
  • Spontaneous rupture of the aneurysm can result in bleeding into the space around the brain resulting condition called a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) which can lead to paralysis, coma or death.
  • Most often a ruptured brain aneurysm occurs in the space between the brain and the thin tissues covering the brain.

How to avert risks of Brain Aneurysms?

  • Flow diverters stents when deployed in the artery in the brain bearing the aneurysms, diverts blood flow away from the aneurysm.
  • This reduces the chances of its rupture from the pressure of blood flow.
  • The Surgical treatment of an aneurysm involves opening the skull and a clip on the neck of aneurysm, so that it is cut off from the path of blood flow.
  • There are three non surgical, minimally invasive endovascular treatments of aneurysms of the brain.
  • In two of these procedures, the aneurismal sacis filled with platinum coils or occluded using high viscosity liquid polymer which solidifies when released into the sac thus sealing the sac.
  • All these techniques have some limitation or the other.

Why are flow diverter stent preferable?

  • A more attractive third minimally invasive option is deploying a flow diverter stent to bypass the segment of the blood vessel which has the aneurysm.
  • Flow diverters have the advantages of being flexible and adaptable to the shape and course of the vessel.
  • Also flow diverters promote healing of the vessel wall by removing the constant stress of blood flow on it.

What is CHITRA flow diverter?

  • The Chitra flow diverter is designed to have better grip on the walls of arteries of complex shapes in order to reduce the risk of migration of the device.
  • The unique design is in its weave also makes this stent resistant to kinking or twisting, when it is placed in tortuous arteries and those with complex shapes. Even a 180 degrees bend does not occlude the lumen of the stent.
  • Portion of the wires is made radio opaque for better visibility in X –Rays and fluoroscopy thus aiding accurate delivery of the diverter in the blood vessel.
  • Nitinol, a super elastic alloy with shape memory was acquired from National Aero Space Laboratories, Bengaluru (CSIR-NAL).
  • When the device is deployed at the site, it is released from its crimped locked position and assumes the desired and originally designed shape because of the shape memory property of Nitinol.

Benefits of CHITRA

  • The imported Flow diverter stents costs Rs 7-8 lakhs and is not manufactured in India.
  • With the availability of the indigenous CHITRA, a well established industry would be able to manufacture and sell at a much lower price.

Agmark, Hallmark, ISI, BIS, BEE and Other Ratings

[pib] Star Labelling Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Voluntary star labelling program, BEE, UDIT


The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has included Deep Freezer and Light Commercial Air Conditioners (LCAC) under its Star Rating Programme on a voluntary basis.

What is the news?

  • The program will be initially launched in voluntary mode from 2ndMarch, 2020 to 31st December, 2021.
  • Thereafter, it will be made mandatory after reviewing the degree of market transformation in this particular segment of appliances.
  • In order to cover split ACs beyond the scope of existing BEE star labeling program upto a cooling capacity of 18kW, BEE has prepared a star labeling program for split ACs having cooling capacities in excess of 10.5kW and upto 18.0 kW.
  • This category of Air conditioners is termed as LCAC primarily due to their application in commercial air conditioning.
  • Through this initiative, it is expected to save around 2.8 Billion Units by FY2030, which is equivalent to GHG reduction of 2.4-million-ton Carbon Dioxide.

Why such move?

  • Energy Efficiency has the maximum GHG abatement potential of around 51% followed by renewables (32%), biofuels (1%), nuclear (8%), carbon capture and storage (8%) as per the World Energy Outlook (WEO 2010).
  • India can avoid building 300 GW of new power generation up to 2040 with the implementation of ambitious energy efficiency policies (IEA – India 2020).
  • Successful implementation of Energy Efficiency Measures contributed to electricity savings of 86.60 BUs i.e. 7.14% of total electricity consumption of the country and emission reduction of 108.28 million tonnes of CO2 during 2017-18.

About Star Labeling Programme

  • The programme has been formulated by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, as part of its mandate, under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • Under this Programme, BEE has covered 24 appliances till date wherein 10 appliances are under the mandatory regime.
  • The existing BEE star labelling program for Air Conditioners is based on Indian Standard IS 1391 part 1, part 2 and covers AC with cooling capacities up to 10.5kW.

Other facts: UDIT

  • Urja Dakshata Information Tool (UDIT) (, a first-ever initiative taken by BEE with the World Resources Institute (WRI), to facilitate a database on energy e­fficiency was also launched.
  • UDIT is a user-friendly platform that explains the energy efficiency landscape of India across industry, appliances, building, transport, municipal and agriculture sectors.
  • UDIT will also showcase the capacity building and new initiatives taken up by the Government across the sectors in the increasing energy efficiency domain.

[pib] Various schemes implemented by Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various initiaitives mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Schemes for cultural promotion

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has informed about its various schemes in the Lok Sabha.

Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs)

  • To preserve & promote various forms of folk art and culture of the tribals throughout the country including West Bengal, the govt. has set up seven Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs).
  • These are headquartered at Patiala, Nagpur, Udaipur, Prayagraj, Kolkata, Dimapur and Thanjavur.
  • These ZCCs organize various cultural activities and programmes all over the country on regular basis.

These ZCCs under Ministry of Culture are also implementing a number of schemes for promoting the folk/tribal art and culture, details of which are as below –

1) Award to Young Talented Artists:

  • The Scheme “Young Talented Artists” is carried out to encourage and recognize the young talents especially in the field of rare art forms.
  • Talented youngsters of the age group of 18-30 years are selected and given a one-time  cash award of Rs. 10,000/-.

2) Guru Shishya Parampara:

  • This scheme envisages transmitting our valued traditions to the coming generations. Disciples are trained under veterans in art forms which are rare and vanishing.
  • Rare and vanishing art forms of the region are identified and eminent exponents are selected to carry out the training programmes in ‘Gurukula’ tradition.
  • The monthly remuneration for Guru – Rs. 7,500/-, Accompanist – Rs. 3,750/- and        Pupils – Rs. 1,500/- each for the period of six month to maximum 1 year for one scheme.
  • The names of the Gurus are recommended by the State Cultural Affairs Departments.

3) National Cultural Exchange Programme (NCEP):

  • It can be termed as the lifeline of the Zonal Cultural Centers. Under this scheme, various festivals of performing arts, exhibitions, yatras etc are organized in member States.
  • Artists from other zones/states are invited to participate in these programmes. Participation of artists from the Zone in festivals held in other parts of the country are also facilitated.
  • Zonal centres also participate in Major festivals happening in member States by arranging performances during these festivals where large number of audience get chance to enjoy and understand art forms of other regions.
  • These festivals provide opportunity to taste and understand various cultures of our country.

4) Preservation of Languages

  • Sahitya Akademi, an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, encourages the preservation and promotion of languages, especially the unrecognized and tribal languages.
  • The Akademi periodically organizes language conventions throughout the country in this regard.

5) Theatre Rejuvenation:

  • To promote theatre activities including stage shows and Production oriented workshops, etc. Honorarium Up to Rs. 30,000/- per show excluding TA & DA is paid.
  • The groups finalized on the basis their credentials as well as the merit of project submitted by them.

6) Research & Documentation:

  • To preserve promote and propagate vanishing visual and performing art forms including folk, tribal and classical in the field of music, dance, theatre, literature, fine arts etc. in print/ audio – visual media.
  • The art form is finalized in consultation with state Cultural Department.

7) Shilpgram:  To promote folk and tribal art and crafts of the zone by organizing seminar, workshops, exhibitions, craft fairs, design development and marketing support to the artisans living in the rural areas.

8) Octave:  To promote and propagate the rich cultural heritage of North East region comprising of eight States namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura to the rest of India.

History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] India’s nominations for 2020 World Heritage List


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : World Heritage Sites

Mains level : Not Much

Government of India has submitted two nomination dossiers namely ‘Dholavira: A Harappan City’ and ‘Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate’ for inclusion in the World Heritage List for the year 2020.  Govt. of Madhya Pradesh has submitted the proposal of ‘Group of Monuments at Mandu’ in the year 2019.

What are World Heritage Sites?

  • A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area, selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance, which is legally protected by international treaties.
  • The sites are judged to be important for the collective and preservative interests of humanity.
  • To be selected, a WHS must be an already-classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area).
  • It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
  • The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 “states parties” that are elected by their General Assembly.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.
  • Recently, its 42nd meeting in 2018 was held in Manama Bahrain.

Also read:


Read more about the Tentative lists from India at: