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May 2020

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Pathways to design a resilient economy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- India economy in the post Covid world.

The pandemic of COVID is a watershed moment in the way we look at the world. Truly, the future vocabularies will consist of ‘Pre COVID world’ and ‘Post COVID world’. Undoubtedly, the economic system shall be deeply affected by the COVID wave. The focus of this article is to redesign our economy through new 7 golden rules in the aftermath of Covid-19. As we read these ideas we also come across the faults that lie at the bottom of the present system. This is our opportunity to design a resilient and just system. So, what is the way forward to achieve this? Read to know!

  • When complex systems come to catastrophes, they re-emerge in distinctly new forms.
  • The COVID-19 global pandemic is a catastrophe, both for human lives and our complex
  • Economists cannot predict in what form the economy will emerge from it. But we can develop principles for what lies ahead.

7 Radical ideas to build back economy

The COVID-19 catastrophe has challenged the tenets of economics that have dominated public policy for the past 50 years.

Here are seven radical ideas emerging as pathways to build a more resilient economy and a more just society.

1. Time to rethink GDP as a measure of growth

  • The obsession with GDP as the measure of progress has been challenged often, but its challengers were dismissed.
  • Now, Nobel laureates in economics-Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and others-are calling upon to rethink the fundamentals of economics, especially the purpose of GDP.
  • A five-point ‘de-growth’ manifesto by 170 Dutch academics has gone viral amidst the heightened Internet buzz during the lockdown.
  • Goals for human progress must be reset.

2. Opening boundaries is not always good

  • Boundary-lessness is a mantra for hyper-globalisers. Boundaries, they say, impede flows of trade, finance, and people.
  • However, since countries are at different stages of economic development, and have different compositions of resources, they must follow different paths to progress.
  • According to systems’ theory, sub-systems within complex systems must have boundaries around them, be permeable ones, so that the sub-systems can maintain their own integrity and evolve.
  • This is the explanation from systems science for the breakdown of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • In WTO system, all countries were expected to open their borders.
  • Opening borders caused harm to countries at different stages of development.
  • Now COVID-19 has given another reason to maintain sufficient boundaries.

3. Role of the government is indispensable

  • Ronald Reagan’s dictum, “Government is not the solution… Government is the problem”, has been upended by COVID-19.
  • Even capitalist corporations who wanted governments out of the way to make it easy for them to do business are lining up for government bailouts.

4. Problems caused by marketization

  • The “market” is not the best solution.
  • Money is a convenient currency for managing markets and for conducting transactions.
  • Whenever goods and services are left to markets, those who do not have money to obtain what they need are at loss.
  • Moreover, by a process of “cumulative causation”, those who have money and power can acquire even more in markets.
  • The “marketization” of economies has contributed to the increasing inequalities in wealth over the last 50 years, which Thomas Piketty and others have documented.

5. Focus on citizen welfare, not consumer welfare

  • In economies, human beings are consumers and producers. In societies, they are citizens.
  • Citizens have a broader set of needs than consumers.
  • Citizens’ needs cannot be fulfilled merely by enabling them to consume more goods and services.
  • They value justice, dignity, and societal harmony too.
  • Economists’ evaluations of the benefits of free trade, and competition policy too, which are based on consumer welfare alone.
  • Such evaluations fail to account for negative impacts on what citizens value.

6. Competition Vs. Collaboration

  • Competition must be restrained: Collaboration is essential for progress.
  • Faith in “Darwinian competition”, with the survival of only the fittest, underlies many problems of modern societies and economies.
  • Blind faith in competition misses the reality that human capabilities have advanced more than other species’ have, by evolving institutions for collective action.
  • Further progress, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will require collaboration among scientists in different disciplines and among diverse stakeholders, and collaboration among sovereign countries.
  • Improvement in abilities to share and govern common resources have become essential for human survival in the 21st century.

7. Public ownership of technologies

  • We are living in an era of knowledge.
  • Just as those who owned more land used to have more power before, now those who own knowledge have more power and wealth than the rest.
  • Intellectual property monopolies are producing enormous wealth for their owners, though many were developed on the back of huge public investments.
  • Moreover, powerful technologies can be used for benign or malign purposes.
  • It is imperative to evolve new institutions for public ownership of technologies and for the regulation of their use.

How to walk the talk?

  • COVID-19 has revealed structural weaknesses in the global economy. Putting more liquidity in the system as was done in case of 2008 crisis will not be sufficient.
  • The system is in the need of paradigm change.
  • 1. Coordination among experts
  • Experts need to work together with keeping in mind the larger picture.
  • The economic system cannot be redesigned by domain experts devising solutions within their silos.
  • 2. Focus on innovation
  • Innovations are required at many levels to create a more resilient and just world.
  • Innovations will be required in business models too, not just for business survival but also to move businesses out of the 20th-century paradigm that “the business of business must be only business”. 

The UPSC can ask a question based on the issues discussed here. Consider this question- “COVID has upended the global economy in such a way that it would need an overhaul. The basic tenets of the global economic order would undergo a revaluation. In light of the above statements examine the factors that contributed to the vulnerability of the Indian economy. Suggest the ways to make it more resilient and just.”


The redesign of economies, of businesses, and our lives, must begin with questions about purpose. What is the purpose of economic growth? What is the purpose of businesses and other institutions? What is the purpose of our lives? What needs, and whose needs, do institutions, and each of us, fulfil by our existence?

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Opportunity to strengthen the 73rd and 74th amendment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments

Mains level : Paper 2- Need for strengthening the panchayat raj institutions in the letter and spirit enshrined in the Constitution.

The article brings to the fore untapped potential held by the panchayats and municipalities. However, there is a need for devolution in letter and spirit by the states to tap this potential. The article explains how the panchayats and municipalities could contribute effectively in the fight against Covid-19.

Cooperative federalism amid COVID-19

  • An unintended but welcome consequence of the struggle against COVID-19 is that the “confrontational federalism” is on the decline with the revival of “cooperative federalism”.
  • There is a realisation that there is no way the COVID-19 situation can be tackled except through a measure of cooperation between the Centre and the states.
  • Consultative process: The Centre is offering flexibility to states to adopt guidelines to their respective circumstances and states are accepting guidelines from the Centre.
  • A principal reason for Kerala’s amazing performance in “flattening the curve” is their robust system of effective devolution. Such devolution helped the Kudumbashree programme to function in association with the panchayats.

The concept of 3 tier devolution: Centre-State-Panchayats

  • Article 243G provides that state legislatures “may, by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government”. 
  • This means state governments cannot and must not treat panchayats as extensions of the state government but as “institutions of (local) self-government”.
  • The logic of “cooperative federalism” is that states must function not as implementation arms of the central government but as autonomous units within the federation.
  • By the same logic panchayats too must be conceived not as an extension of state governments but as “units of self-government”. 
  • It is thus that panchayats need to be brought into the three-tier devolution system envisaged in the Constitution: Centre-State-Panchayats (and municipalities).

How could devolution help in the fight against Covid-19?

  • In line with the rising cooperation between the Centre and the states, the focus should be on further devolution in keeping with the constitutional obligations under the 73rd and 74th amendments.
  • The starting point could best be Entry 23 of the Eleventh Schedule that reads, “Health, sanitation, including hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries”
  • Entry 23 is among the list of 29 subjects illustratively set out for devolution to the panchayats, subject to conformity legislation being enacted by state legislatures.
  • All state legislation has included this subject for devolution.
  • Therefore, empowering the panchayats in this regard with functions, finances and functionaries is now a statutory obligation under state law under Article 243G.
  • With the migrant workers returning to their native villages, it is important to fully involve village panchayats and municipalities as “institutions of self-government” – 243W in the anti-COVID-19 campaign.
  • Entry 28 of the Eleventh Schedule mentions the “public distribution system” as among the subjects for devolution.
  • There are many other entries in the Schedule that are relevant to this exercise.
  • There is an army of 32 lakh elected representatives in the panchayats and about two lakh more in the municipalities to contribute in the fight against Covid-19.
  • Well over a third of them, some 10-12 lakh, are drawn from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and, therefore, in touch with the most destitute in every village and town.
  • There are some 14 lakh women who have established themselves by election as village leaders. 
  • Imagine a constructive role such women can play as “front-line workers” in the battle against the coronavirus.
  • The most important requirement is planning to receive the migrant labour influx.
  • Last-mile delivery can only be comprehensively ensured by empowered panchayats and municipalities reporting to their respective gram sabhas and ward sabhas mandated under Articles 243 A and 243 S.
  • Planning for withstanding the ingress of COVID-19 requires the full deployment of the mechanisms for district planning envisaged in Article 243 ZD.

Consider the question asked by the UPSC in 2018-“Assess the importance of the Panchayat system in India as a part of local government. Apart from government grants, what sources the Panchayat can look out for financing developmental projects?”


As the cooperative federalism underlines India’s fight against Covid-19, devolution to the third tier –panchayats and municipalities would give a much needed fillip to the fight against Covid-19.

Back2Basics: 73rd and 74th Amendments

  • 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed by Parliament in December, 1992.
  • Through these amendments local self-governance was introduced in rural and urban India.
  • The Acts came into force as the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 on April 24, 1993 and the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 on June 1, 1993.
  • These amendments added two new parts to the Constitution, namely, 73rd Amendment added Part IX titled “The Panchayats” and 74th Amendment added Part IXA titled “The Municipalities”.
  • The Local bodies–‘Panchayats’ and ‘Municipalities’ came under Part IX and IXA of the Constitution after 43 years of India becoming a republic.

Salient Features

  • Basic units of democratic system-Gram Sabhas (villages) and Ward Committees (Municipalities) comprising all the adult members registered as voters.
  • Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels except in States with population is below 20 lakhs (Article 243B).
  • Seats at all levels to be filled by direct elections [Article 243C (2)].
  • Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.
  • One-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women. Onethird of the seats reserved for SCs and STs also reserved for women. One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women (Article 243D)
  • Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term. In the event of dissolution, elections compulsorily within six months (Article 243E).

Biofuel Policy

The evergreen debate of Food versus Fuel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provision of biofuels policy 2018

Mains level : Paper 3- Trade offs involved in making fuels from food grains.

The article discusses the recent decision of the government to make alcohol from rice. The move was bound to trigger the debate over food security of the country with a population ravaged by hunger and poverty. While the 2009 biofuel policy had stressed the use of non-food resources, the 2018 updated policy allowed using excess grains. We all want to make a shift towards a green economy but is this the right time? Let’s find out.

What decisions did the government take?

  • The National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC) chaired by the Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas decided to use “surplus” rice available with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for conversion to ethanol.
  • The objective is to make alcohol-based hand-sanitisers and for the blending of ethanol with petrol. 
  • This decision is not only audacious but also an affront to the millions of people who are deeply affected by food insecurity.

The food question

  • In 2009, the National Policy on Biofuels stressed on the use of non-food resources to avoid a possible conflict between food and fuel.
  • Take the US’s example: In 2018-19, an astounding 37.6 per cent of the corn produced in the US is used for making ethanol.

  • In addition to cereals, oilseed crops like rapeseed, soybean and sunflower were used for biofuel production.
  • Rise in food prices: Such diversion of food crops to produce biofuel was considered one of the reasons for the rise in food prices globally.

What should be India’s strategy in this debate?

  • There is rampant poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in India.
  • India’s position in the Global Hunger Index has slipped nine places, ranking 102 among the 117 countries in 2019.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16, found that 38.4 per cent of children under five years are “stunted” (height for age) and 21 per cent are “wasted” (low weight for height).
  • In fact, over a period of 10 years, wasting has increased from 19.8 per cent in NFHS-3 to 21 per cent in NFHS-4.

The dictums of 2018 Policy

  • The 2018 National Policy on Biofuels had a target of 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol and 5 per cent blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030.
  • This was to be achieved by increasing production using second-generation bio-refineries and developing new feedstock for biofuels.
  • It allowed the production of ethanol from damaged food grains like wheat and broken rice, which are unfit for human consumption.
  • The new policy allowed the use of excess food grain for ethanol in a bounty crop year, if endorsed by the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Possible dangers

  • The quantity of rice from which ethanol will be produced has not been announced, nor do we know the price at which such rice will be sold by the FCI.
  • About 85 per cent of rice is Kharif crop, heavily dependent on monsoon.
  • Despite the prediction of a normal monsoon, What happens if the monsoon predictions go wrong? Will we be able to import grain?
  • Less damaged grains: Despite the commonly held belief of a lakh of tonnes of rotting grains, the FCI’s storage practices are actually quite good.
  • Damaged grains as a percentage of total quantity issued by the FCI has been just about 0.01 per cent to 0.04 per cent in the last five years.
  • Hardly any ethanol can be made from such a small amount of damaged grains.
  • Making ethanol from sound quality grains deprives food to humans as well as livestock.
  • At the time when uncertainties are looming large, it is imperative that food security and food price stability be given the highest priority.

Way forward

  • Ethanol can be produced from other ingredients such as B and C heavy molasses, sugar, sugar syrup, and sugarcane juice.
  • Ethanol has also been blessed with a low GST and enjoys relaxed conditions for inter-state movement if used for blending with petrol.
  • Since the economy faces a bleak prospect due to the impact of COVID-19, the government should first use the food grains to meet the requirement of about 10 to 20 crore people without ration cards.

The UPSC could ask a question on the following lines “Diverting food grains for making fuels has always been a contentious issue from the food security angle. At the same time reducing India’s dependence on import for fuels is as much a serious concern. The National Policy on Biofuels-2018 sought to strike the balance between the two. Critically analyse the various provisions of National Policy on Biofuels-2018 which were different from 2009 policy.”


The government must ensure the food safety of the country first and if it still has surplus rice, it must facilitate export to friendly countries which are suffering an adverse impact of COVID-19 on their economies.

Back2Basics: Generations of biofuels

  • There are three types of biofuels: 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels.
  • They are characterized by their sources of biomass, their limitations as a renewable source of energy, and their technological progress.
  • The main drawback of 1st generation biofuels is that they come from biomass that is also a food source.
  • This presents a problem when there is not enough food to feed everyone.
  • 2nd generation biofuels come from non-food biomass, but still compete with food production for land use.
  • Finally, 3rd generation biofuels present the best possibility for alternative fuel because they don’t compete with food.
  • However, there are still some challenges in making them economically feasible.

Important Provision of ‘National Policy on Biofuels, 2018

  • The government aims at increasing the utilization of biofuels in the energy and transportation sectors of the country by promoting the production of biofuels from domestic feedstock in the coming decade through this policy.
  • Larger goals such as the adoption of green fuels, national energy security, fighting climate change, generating employment, etc. would be facilitated through this policy. Along with that, technological advancements in the field of biofuels will also be encouraged.
  • MNRE has set an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel to be achieved by 2030.
  • The percentage of the same currently stands at around 2% for petrol and less than 0.1% for diesel.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

What makes MSMEs, most vulnerable to Covid-19 disruptions?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MSME Sector and its definition

Mains level : MSME sector of India and various inherent issues

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has left its impact on all sectors of the economy but nowhere is the hurt as much as the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) of India.
  • All anecdotal evidence available, such as the hundreds of thousands of stranded migrant workers across the country, suggests that MSMEs have been the worst casualty of lockdown.
  • A closer look at the anatomy of the MSME sector explains why MSMEs are so vulnerable to economic stress.

Possible mains question:

Q. Discuss how the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak has led to the resurfacing of inherent bottlenecks in India’s MSME Sector.

What are MSMEs? How are they defined?

  • Formally, MSMEs are defined in terms of investment in plant and machinery.
  • But this criterion for the definition was long criticised because credible and precise details of investments were not easily available by authorities.
  • That is why in February 2018, the Union Cabinet decided to change the criterion to “annual turnover”, which was more in line with the imposition of GST.
  • According to the proposed definition, which is yet to be formally accepted, a micro-enterprise will be one with an annual turnover less than Rs 5 crore; a small enterprise with turnover between Rs 5 crore and Rs 75 crore; and a medium enterprise with turnover less than Rs 250 crore.

How many MSMEs does India have, who owns them, and where are they situated?

  • According to the latest available (2018-19) Annual Report of Department of MSMEs, there are 6.34 crore MSMEs in the country.
  • Around 51 per cent of these are situated in rural India.
  • Together, they employ a little over 11 crore people (Chart 3) but 55 per cent of the employment happens in the urban MSMEs.
  • These numbers suggest that, on average, less than two people are employed per MSME.
  • At one level that gives a picture of how small these really are. But a breakup of all MSMEs into micro, small and medium categories is even more revealing.

Distributions of MSMEs

  • In terms of geographical distribution, seven Indian states alone account for 50 per cent of all MSMEs.
  • These are Uttar Pradesh (14%), West Bengal (14%), Tamil Nadu (8%), Maharashtra (8%), Karnataka (6%), Bihar (5%) and Andhra Pradesh (5%).
  • This breakup provides a sense of where the pain of the MSME crisis would be felt the most.
  • Chart 4 shows, 99.5 per cent of all MSMEs fall in the micro category.
  • The medium and small enterprises — that is, the remaining 0.5% of all MSMEs — employ the remaining 5 crore-odd employees.
  • While micro-enterprises are equally distributed over rural and urban India, small and medium ones are predominantly in urban India.

What kind of problems do MSMEs in India face?

  • No/Low Formal registration: To begin with, most of them are not registered anywhere. A big reason for this is that they are just too small. But, as it is clear in a time of crisis, it also constrains a government’s ability to help them.
  • Away from Tax norms: GST has its threshold and most micro enterprises do not qualify. Being out of the formal network, they do not have to maintain accounts, pay taxes or adhere to regulatory norms etc. This brings down their costs.
  • Lack of Financial buffer: According to a 2018 report by the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), the formal banking system supplies less than one-third (or about Rs 11 lakh crore) of the credit MSME credit need that it can potentially fund (Chart 5). They don’t have the buffers of the bigger firms or access to cheap capital to help them tide over this period.

  • Bad credit history: The other big issue plaguing the sector is the delays in payments to MSMEs — be it from their buyers or things likes GST refunds etc. A key reason why banks dither from extending loans to MSMEs is the high ratio of bad loans (Chart 6).

How has Covid-19 made things worse?

  • The MSMEs were already struggling — in terms of declining revenues and capacity utilization — in the lead-up to the Covid-19 crisis.
  • The total lockdown has raised a question mark on workers payment primarily because these firms mostly transact on cash. That explains the job losses.
  • According to a recent survey he did for “small and medium” firms in manufacturing, only 7% said they will be able to survive for more than three months with their cash in hand if their business remains closed.
  • A big hurdle to restarting now is the lack of labour availability.

What can be done?

  • The RBI has been trying to pump money into the MSME sector but given the structural constraints, it has had limited impact.
  • There are no easy answers for the MSMEs’ sufferings.
  • However, the government can provide tax relief (GST and corporate tax), give swifter refunds, and provide liquidity to rural India (say, through PM-Kisan) to boost demand for MSME products.

What about credit guarantees?

  • Loans to MSMEs are mostly given against property (as collateral) — because often there isn’t a robust cash flow analysis available — but in times of crisis, property values fall and that inhibits the extension of new loans.
  • A credit guarantee by the government helps as it assures the bank that its loan will be repaid by the government in case the MSME falters.
  • To the extent such defaults happen, credit guarantees are shown as a departmental expense in the Budget.

Urgent attention required

  • Governments across the world have announced various measures ranging from wage support to direct subsidies to help these businesses tide over these difficult times.
  • But, in India, more than a month after the national lockdown was announced; there is still no blueprint of how the government intends to support these businesses during this period.

Way forward

  • There is a strong case for urgent government intervention — the costs of intervening early on will be much less than the price of delayed action.
  • To begin with, all dues owned by governments and public sector undertakings to MSMEs can be immediately cleared. This will help ease their immediate cash flow woes.
  • Second, with banks turning risk-averse, credit flow to MSMEs is likely to be depressed as solvency concerns will dominate.
  • In such a situation, the government could step in. It could set up a credit guarantee fund that backstops loans to MSMEs.

J&K – The issues around the state

What is Darbar Move?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Darbar Move

Mains level : Cases of two working capitals in Indian states and issues with them

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court asked the Centre and the Union Territory (UT) administration to take a final call on the continuation of the 148-year-old practice Darbar Move i.e. shifting of capitals between Jammu and Srinagar.

Possible mains question:

Discuss the feasibility, benefits and constraints caused by multiple administrative capitals in Indian states with special context to Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Andhra Pradesh. (250W)

Darbar Move

  • Darbar Move is the name given to the bi-annual shift of the secretariat and all other government offices of Jammu and Kashmir from one capital city to another.
  • From May to October, governmental offices are housed in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, and the other six months in its winter capital, Jammu.
  • The tradition was started during Dogra rule in 1872 by Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
  • It involved shifting of the Maharaja’s government to Jammu to escape the harsh winters of the Kashmir Valley, which, in the 19th century, used to result in the Valley being cut off from outside the world.
  • It is advocated that the continuation of the practice helped in the emotional integration between two diverse linguistic and cultural regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

A costly practice

  • Ahead of the Darbar Move, Srinagar usually receives a facelift every year. Over 10,000 employees shift capital annually.
  • Roads around and leading to the Civil Secretariat, the seat of the government, are being renovated now.
  • Besides, the government offices and quarters have been renovated and the streetlights restored.
  • Hundreds of trucks are usually plied to carry furniture, office files, computers, and other records to the capital.
  • Over the years, there have been voices raised against the century-old practice which involves heavy funding towards ensuring the smooth conduct of the move.

Why scrap Darbar Move?

  • If this practice is rationalized, the amount of money, resources and time which could be saved, could be utilized towards the welfare and development of the Union Territory.
  • It could be utilized for the protection and propagation of culture and heritage of the communities.
  • No reason or justification at all is available for requiring the judiciary to shift with the ‘Darbar Move’. The same negatively impact justice dispensation and impedes judicial administration.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Vande Bharat and Samudra Setu Missions to repatriate Indian nationals


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vande Bharat and Samudra Setu Missions

Mains level : Indian migrants and associated issues

India is all geared to operate flights and naval vessels to repatriate Indian nationals stranded abroad.

The name Samudra Setu typically sound like a combatant naval exercise whereas Vande Bharat reminds us of Train-18. Both ideas have opposite context and meaning. One must keep this in mind.

What is the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ mission about?

  • ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ will see the operation of 64 flights from May 7 to May 13 to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad.
  • Once completed, it may turn out to be the largest evacuation operation ever since the 1990 airlift of 1.7 lakh people from Kuwait.
  • Approximately, 2,000 people from abroad will fly back to India daily.

What is Indian Navy’s ‘Operation Samudra Setu’?

  • The Indian Navy launched ‘Operation Samudra Setu’ (Sea Bridge) as a part of national effort to repatriate Indian citizens from overseas.
  • Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Magar are presently enroute to the port of Malè, Republic of Maldives to commence evacuation operations from 08 May 2020 as part of Phase-1.
  • INS Jalashwa is the largest amphibious platform in the Navy and is based at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Visakhapatnam.
  • It can normally accommodate 1,000 people but will take about 800.

Microfinance Story of India

[pib] Saras Collection on Government e-Marketplace


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Saras Collection, GeM

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Ministry for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has launched “The Saras Collection” on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal.

Possible prelim question:

‘The Saras Collection’ recently seen in news is a:

a) Subsidy on beekeeping and apiculture projects

b) Indigenous light transport aircraft

c) Database on wetland birds

d) Collection of products made by SHGs

 The Saras Collection

  • It is a unique initiative by the GeM, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) and Ministry of Rural Development.
  • The collection showcases daily utility products made by rural Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and aims to provide SHGs in rural areas with market access to Central and State Government buyers.
  • The on-boarding of the SHGs has been initially piloted in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • SHGs from all the states and Union Territories (UTs) will be covered rapidly in the upcoming phases.

It’s functioning

  • For Functionaries: They will be provided dashboards at the national, state, district and block level for real-time information about the number of products uploaded, their value and volume of orders received and fulfilled.
  • Government buyers: They will be sensitized through system-generated messages/ alerts in the Marketplace about the availability of SHG products on the portal.

Benefits offered

  • The Saras Collection will provide SHGs with direct access to Government buyers which will do away with intermediaries in the supply chain.
  • Thus it would ensure better prices for SHGs and spurring employment opportunities at the local level.

Back2Basics: Government e-Marketplace

  • The GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • It was launched in 2016 to bring transparency and efficiency in the government buying process.
  • GEM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  • It is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-marketplace that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users to achieve the best value for their money.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by the Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
  • It has been developed by Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (Ministry of Commerce and Industry) with technical support of National e-governance Division (MEITy).

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

‘The Long March 5B’ rocket


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Long March 5B

Mains level : Not Much

China has successfully launched a new rocket and prototype spacecraft in a major test of the country’s ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.

Can you recall the historical link between the name “The Long March” and China’s History.

The Long March 5B

  • Long March 5 or Chang Zheng 5 is a Chinese heavy-lift launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).
  • It is the first Chinese launch vehicle designed from the ground up to focus on non-hypergolic liquid rocket propellants.
  • The maximum payload capacities of the base variant are ~25,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit and ~14,000 kilograms to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
  • The spaceship is expected to transport astronauts to a space station that China plans to complete by 2022 — and eventually to the Moon. It will have a capacity for a crew of six.

Back2Basics: Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit


  • About 35,786 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, satellites are in geostationary orbit. From the center of the Earth, this is approximately 42,164 kilometers. This distance puts it in the high Earth orbit category.
  • At any inclination, a geosynchronous orbit synchronizes with the rotation of the Earth.
  • While geosynchronous satellites can have any inclination, the key difference to geostationary orbit is the fact that they lie on the same plane as the equator.
  • GTO is a an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radiuses in the same plane—used to reach geosynchronous or  geostationary orbit using high-thrust chemical engines.

History- Important places, persons in news

What is Cinco de Mayo and why is it celebrated?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cinco de Mayo , Battle of Puebla

Mains level : World History - Napoleonic assertion in Europe

Cinco de Mayo, or fifth of May in Spanish, also called Battle of Puebla Day, is an annual celebration observed in Mexico and the US that marks the former’s military victory on its soil over French forces in 1862.

Possible mains question:

Q. The French colonization attempts went beyond India and had a global reach. Comment.

French advent in Mexico

  • In the 1860s, Mexico had been severely weakened by lengthy wars over the previous two decades – the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and the internal Reform War (1858-61).
  • As a result, in 1861, the then President Benito Juárez announced a temporary moratorium of two years on repaying Mexico’s foreign debts.
  • In response, troops from Britain, Spain, and France invaded Mexico, demanding reimbursement.
  • By April 1862, Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew.
  • France, which at the time was led by Emperor Napoleon III, decided to establish an empire in Mexican territories with the support of the local landowning classes.
  • France also intended to curb US power in North America.

The Battle of Puebla

  • In late 1861, a French fleet attacked the Mexican port of Veracruz on the country’s eastern coast and landed a large army that drove the Juárez government into retreat.
  • As they moved from Veracruz to capital Mexico City, the French encountered stiff resistance from Mexican forces.
  • At Puebla, over 100 km ahead of Mexico City, a poorly equipped and outnumbered Mexican force decisively defeated the advancing French troops on May 5, 1862, killing over a thousand.
  • The event marked a significant political victory of Mexican republicans and President Juárez and helped establish a sense of national unity in the country.

Cinco de Mayo: Present-day significance

  • In Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated annually with speeches, parades, and by reenacting episodes of the 1862 battle.
  • The city today houses a museum dedicated to the battle, and the actual battlefield is maintained as a park.
  • In the US, in the mid-20th century, the celebration became a way for immigrants from Mexico to express pride in their heritage.
  • Later, Cinco de Mayo also became popular with other demographics in the country when the festivities were linked with Mexican alcoholic beverages.
  • As the celebration assumed greater importance in the country, many have criticised the negative stereotypes of Mexicans that were perpetuated as a result, as well as the promotion of excessive drinking.