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June 2020

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

India should focus on Middle powers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Five Power Defence Arrangement

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Australia relations, IORA

Let’s play a game. India and this country are both members of Commonwealth of nations. Cricket, English language and Nuclear relations is something common to both of us. In fact, India was this nation’s eighth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest export market in 2018-19. The Indian diaspora in this country is now third largest and fastest growing diaspora. Any guesses?

What is a middle power?

In international relations, a middle power is a sovereign state that is not a great power nor a superpower, but still has large or moderate influence and international recognition. The concept of the “middle power” dates back to the origins of the European state system.

Plugging the big gap in India’s diplomatic tradition

  • India remains preoccupied with the perennial challenges in its neighbourhood, resulting in missing out on the opportunities for productive partnerships with the middle powers.
  • Thursday’s virtual summit between Prime Minister of India and the Australian premier, Scott Morrison, is an important part of Delhi’s current diplomatic effort to plug that big gap in India’s diplomatic tradition.

Let’s see what opportunities Australia holds for India

  • Economic weight: With a GDP of more than US$1.4 trillion, Australia is the 13th largest economy in the world, following closely behind Russia which stands at $1.6 trillion.
  • Australia is rich in natural resources that India’s growing economy needs.
  • It also has huge reservoirs of strength in higher education, scientific and technological research.
  •  Its armed forces, hardened by international combat, are widely respected.
  • Canberra’s intelligence establishment is valued in many parts of the world.
  • Australia has deep economic, political and security connections with the ASEAN and a strategic partnership with one of the leading non-aligned nations, Indonesia.
  • Canberra has a little “sphere of influence” of its own — in the South Pacific (now under threat from Chinese penetration).
  • All these Australian strengths should be of interest and value to India.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, believed Australia is a natural part of Asia and invited it to participate in the Asian Relations Conference in Delhi in 1947, a few months before independence.

India’s nuclear test and it’s repercussions

  • A political dust-up between Delhi and Canberra in the wake of India’s nuclear tests in 1998 complicated the possibilities that the end of the Cold War opened up.
  • But since 2000, Canberra has taken consistent political initiative to advance ties with India by resolving the nuclear difference and expanding the template of engagement.

Comparing India and China’s approach to Middle powers

  • A gap of nearly three decades between Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Australia in 1986 and Modi’s trip in 2014 only underlines how short-sighted India’s neglect of Australia has been.
  • It was exactly in these years that China transformed its relationship with Australia.
  • Delhi’s temptation to judge nations on the basis of their alignments with other powers stands in contrast to Beijing.
  • Beijing puts interests above ideology, promotes interdependence with a targeted middle power, turns it into political influence and tries to weaken its alignment with the rival powers.

Growing India-Australia relations

  •  The Indian diaspora — now estimated at nearly 7,00,000— is the fastest growing in Australia and has become an unexpected positive factor in bilateral relations.
  • Common membership of many groupings like the G-20, East Asia Summit, IORA, and the Quad has increased the possibilities for diplomatic cooperation on regional and global issues.
  • Other host of emerging issues — from reforming the World Health Organisation to 5G technology and from strengthening the international solar alliance to building resilience against climate change and disasters — can lend to intensive bilateral political and institutional engagement.

Geopolitics and Security cooperation

  • The geopolitical churn in the Indo-Pacific, growing Chinese assertiveness and the uncertain US political trajectory open space for security cooperation.
  • Over the last few years, defence engagement between the two countries has grown.
  • Defence engagement is likely to be capped by a military logistics support agreement to be unveiled at the summit.
  • For future, there is a need from both security establishments to develop strategic coordination in the various sub-regions of the Indo-Pacific littoral.

Eastern Indian Ocean: top priority

  • The eastern Indian Ocean that lies between the shores of peninsular India and the west coast of Australia ought to be the top priority.
  • This is where Delhi and Canberra can initiate a full range of joint activities.
  • Joint activities should include maritime domain awareness, development of strategically located islands and marine scientific research.

Seeking trilateral cooperation with Indonesia

  • The sea lines of communication between the Indian and Pacific oceans run through the Indonesian archipelago.
  • Given the shared political commitment to the Indo-Pacific idea between Delhi, Jakarta and Canberra and the growing pressures on them to secure their shared waters, Modi and Morrison must seek trilateral maritime and naval cooperation with Indonesia.

Three other natural partners to expand cooperation

  • Besides Indonesia, three other powers present themselves as natural partners for India and Australia — Japan, France and Britain.
  • Tokyo has close ties with both Delhi and Canberra.
  • Their current trilateral dialogue can be expanded from the diplomatic level to practical maritime cooperation on the ground.
  • France is a resident power with territories in the Western Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.
  • Paris and Canberra are eager to develop a trilateral arrangement with Delhi that will supplement the bilateral cooperation among the three nations.

Engagement between India & EPDA

  • There is the less discussed role of Britain, which wants to return to the oriental seas.
  • In the east, Britain continues to lead the so-called Five Power Defence Arrangement set up back in 1971, after Britain pulled back most of its forces from the East of Suez.
  • The FPDA brings together the armed forces of the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Modi and Morrison must explore the possibilities for engagement between India and the FPDA.

Try a question:

India and Australia nuclear deal was a major breakthrough in the bilateral relation. But this bilateral partnership has so much more potential in other areas. Critically examine.


It is only by building a series of overlapping bilateral and minilateral platforms for regional security cooperation that Delhi and Canberra can limit the dangers of the growing geopolitical imbalance in the Indo-Pacific.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Dilemma for Delhi in Ladakh standoff


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India-China trade

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China border issue

Though the rest of the world is preoccupied with Covid pandemic, China is busy in raising tension over border issues with its neighbour-India. What explains such actions by China? And timing selected by China has also puzzled many. India, on its part, faces a dilemma. This article dissects the various issues related to the standoff and explains the options available with India to deal with the Chinese intimidation.

Why the latest transgression by PLA is unprecedented?

  • There are around 400 transgressions/faceoffs each year on an average along the LAC.
  • But the recent spate of territorial transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is unprecedented in its scope and manner.
  • Even as independent accounts point out that Chinese troops are yet to withdraw from the transgressed territories and restore status quo ante.
  • Those territories are traditionally considered by both sides to be on the Indian side of the LAC.
  • Chinese officials have gone ahead and stated that the “Situation in China-India border is overall stable & controllable”.

What this move by China signals?

  • The Indian government is left with two basic choices: 1) accept territorial loss as a fait accompli or 2)  force or negotiate a reversal to status quo ante, unless of course the PLA unilaterally withdraws.
  • Either way, China’s growing territorial aggression on the LAC signals the end of Beijing’s peaceful rise and its traditional desire to maintain regional status quo with India.
  • China under its President, Xi Jinping, unequivocally seeks to demonstrate that it is the preponderant power in the region. 

Let’s analyse the aggression

  • While the timing could be explained by the global political distraction caused by COVID-19.
  • And also the international pressure on China (including by India) to come clean on the origins of the novel coronavirus could have played the role.
  • But the proximate causes could be several. Consider the following-

1. Statement by India on Aksai Chin

  • For one, New Delhi’s terse statements about Aksai Chin following the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation in August last year had not gone down well with Beijing.
  • While not many in India believe that New Delhi was serious about getting back Aksai Chin from Chinese control, Beijing may have viewed it as India upping the ante.
  • More pertinently, in a clear departure from the past, New Delhi has been carrying out the construction of infrastructural projects along the LAC — a long overdue activity — which is something that seems to have made China uneasy.

2. Broader context of long-term geopolitical world view

  • The Chinese angle to the J&K conundrum deserves more attention here.
  • The aggression must also be viewed in the broader context of a long-term geopolitical world view China has for the region. Consider the following in this regard-
  • 1) China’s China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connectivity to Pakistan through the Karakoram and New Delhi’s criticism of it.
  • 2) The reported presence of PLA troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • 3) India’s new-found activism on Aksai Chin.
  • 4) The PLA’s incursions into areas in eastern Ladakh.

3. Strategic goals

  • It is equally important to appreciate the larger Chinese strategic calculations behind its recent spate of aggressions.
  • Having given up its traditional slogan of ‘peaceful rise’, China, under Mr. Xi, is beginning to assert itself as the next superpower.
  • Over the years, Beijing has perhaps realised that India is not keen on toeing the Chinese line in the region.
  • So this is Beijing sending a message to New Delhi to fall in line.
  • A message that will not go unnoticed in the smaller capitals around China — from Colombo to Kathmandu to Hanoi.

4. Political message

  • Given that China is currently engaged in what many analysts are describing as a new cold war with the United States, in the middle of a crackdown in Hong Kong along with fighting COVID-19 at home, one would not have expected the Chinese leadership to open another front.
  • And yet, by opening a limited military front with India on the LAC, China is signalling the U.S. that it can handle pressure.
  •  And telling India that it has the political and military wherewithal to put pressure on New Delhi notwithstanding its other preoccupations.

Why limited scope confrontation is cost-effective and preferred option by China?

  • China’s limited scope military expeditions on the long-contested border is cost effective for the PLA.
  • This is because the ever-growing conventional military superiority that it enjoys with India.
  • Moreover, because limited fights or smaller land grabs may not provoke an all-out confrontation or nuclear use.
  • The side with conventional superiority and more border infrastructure would likely carry the day.

India’s China dilemma

  • Picking a direct fight with India which might lead to an undesirable military escalation with India does not suit Beijing’s interests.
  • But carrying out minor military expeditions with the objective of inflicting small-scale military defeats on India is precisely what would suit the Chinese political and military leadership.
  • They are cost effective, less escalatory, and the message gets conveyed.
  • More so, India’s military response would depend a great deal on how far the regime in New Delhi is willing to acknowledge such territorial losses due to domestic political constraints.
  • If New Delhi acknowledges loss of territory, it would have to regain it, but doing so vis-à-vis a conventionally superior power would not be easy.
  • Put differently, growing conventional imbalance and domestic political calculations could prompt New Delhi to overlook minor territorial losses on the LAC.
  • But let us be clear: the more New Delhi overlooks them, the more Beijing would be tempted to repeat them.
  • These considerations lie at the heart of India’s China dilemma.

How India could respond?

  • Yet, there are limits to China’s LAC adventurism.
  • 1) There are several places along the several thousand kilometre long LAC where the PLA is militarily weak, the Indian Army has the upper hand.
  • And, therefore, a tit-for-tat military campaign could be undertaken by New Delhi.
  • 2)  While China enjoys continental superiority over India, maritime domain is China’s weak spot, in particular Beijing’s commercial and energy interest to which the maritime space is crucial.
  • 3) Finally, and most importantly, would Beijing want to seriously damage the close to $100 billion trade with India with its military adventurism on the LAC?

Way forward

  • In any case, for India, the age of pussyfooting around Chinese intimidation strategies is over.
  • The time has come to checkmate Beijing’s military aggression even as we maintain a robust economic relationship with our eastern neighbour.
  • It is also a reminder for us to get more serious about finalising a border agreement with China.
  • The bigger the power differential between India and China, the more concessions Beijing would demand from New Delhi to settle the dispute.

Consider the question-“There have been growing instances of PLA aggression on India-China border. Examine the multiple objectives China’s actions seek to achieve. What are the options available with India to deal with situation?


There is little doubt that China is our neighbour and that we have to live next to the larger and more powerful China. However, India should not accept Beijing’s attempts at land grabs, or military intimidation. That China is a rising superpower located next door to us is a reality, but how we deal with that reality is a choice we must make as a nation.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Power Subsidies in Agriculture and Related issues


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ATC losses.

Mains level : Paper 3- Subsidy on electricity and problem with it

tSometimes solutions that are meant to solve one problem results in the creation of another problem. Nowhere is this more evident than in the subsidies given on urea and electricity to the farmers. This article deals with the perils of the subsidy on electricity bills of farmers. However, there is an equally substantive argument in favour of the subsidies as well. So, what is the way out? Read to know…

Replacing free power supply scheme with DBT

  • The Centre has prescribed that the free power supply scheme should be replaced with the direct benefits transfer (DBT) as a condition to allow States to increase their borrowing limit.
  • It is not the first time that the Union government has recommended DBT with regard to electricity.
  • But what is new is setting the time frame for implementing it.
  • By December this year, the DBT should be introduced at least in one district of a State and from the next financial year, a full roll-out should be made.

Resistance from the states

  • Tamil Nadu, which was the first State to introduce free power in September 1984, is strongly resisting the Centre’s stipulation.
  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has taken a categorical stand against the proposal.
  • Though Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab, where free power scheme is in vogue, are yet to express their views.
  • But it is not difficult to predict their response.
  • After all, Punjab Chief Minister who had abolished the scheme during his first innings is now a strong votary of the scheme.

Let’s get the overview of the power subsidy bill

  • In the last 15 years, Maharashtra has been the only State that scrapped the scheme within a year of introducing it.
  • Karnataka, which has been implementing it since 2008, may become the first southern State to have DBT in power supply if the hint dropped by Chief Minister in early March is any indication.
  • The power subsidy bills in the four southern States and Punjab are at least ₹33,000 crore, an amount the State governments will struggle to meet due to resource crunch in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, why the Central government want to scrap the scheme?

It is because of the following issues-

1. Wastage of water and electricity

  • The financial stress apart, the universal application of the scheme has had deleterious consequences.
  • Primarily, the scheme has led to widespread wastage of water and electricity.
  • It is inherently against incentivising even a conscientious farmer to conserve the two precious resources.
  • It may be pertinent to point out that India is the largest user of groundwater at 251 billion cubic meters, exceeding the combined withdrawal by China and the U.S., as pointed out by Bharat Ramaswami of the Indian Statistical Institute last year.

2. Worrying rate of the groundwater table depletion

  • Be it parts of the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu or Sangrur district of Punjab, the story about the groundwater table is the same — a worrying rate of depletion.
  • There is one more attendant problem.
  • To sustain their activity, farmers need to go for submersible or high-capacity pumpsets. [Consider the fact that to draw same quantity of water you have to use more power if your water table is low]

3. It encourages the installation of more pump sets

  • Third, the extension of the scheme to different States over the years has only encouraged the installation of more pumpsets. Karnataka is a classic example, The number of irrigation pumpsets, which was around 17 lakh 12 years ago, is now around 30 lakh.

4. Misuse of scheme

  • There is misuse of the scheme for which not just a section of farmers but also field officials have to be blamed.

5. AT & C losses clubbed as consumption by farmers

  • In the absence of meters for these connections or segregation of feeders or metering of distribution transformers, accurate measurement of consumption becomes tricky.
  • Those in charge of power distribution companies find it convenient to reduce their aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses by clubbing a portion of the losses with energy consumption by the farm sector.

What is the argument of the supporter of the scheme?

  • Proponents of the free power scheme have a couple of valid points in their support.
  • Apart from ensuring food security, free power provides livelihood opportunities to landless workers.
  • When farmers dependent on supplies through canals get water almost free of cost, it is but fair that those not covered by canal irrigation should be given free electricity.
  • Though there is substance in the argument, it is not difficult to arrive at a fair pricing mechanism.
  • Small and marginal farmers and those who are outside the canal supply deserve free power, albeit with restrictions.
  • But there is no justification for continuing with the scheme perpetually to other farmers.
  • However, those enjoying free power need to be told about the need for judicious use of groundwater and how to conserve it.

Consider the question-“Subsidies given to farmers on electricity has become an albatross around the States neck. However, such subsidies could also be termed as a necessary evil. Critically examine.”


Making use of the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre is trying to make lasting changes in areas where such measures are long overdue. At least in the area of power sector, its attempt can yield meaningful results only if there is a change in the mindset of agriculturists and political parties towards the concept of free power.



Citizenship and Related Issues

Article 1 of the Indian Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various articles mentioned in the newsward

Mains level : Part I of the Indian Constitution

The Supreme Court has ordered that a plea to change India’s name exclusively to ‘Bharat’ be converted into a representation and forwarded to the Union government for an appropriate decision.


Whenever such articles are in news, make sure to revise entire Part. Like in this case Part I –  Articles 1, 2, 3 and 4. See the B2b section.

What is the issue?

  • The petition seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States…”
  • It wants ‘India’ to be struck off from the Article.

Article 1 of the Constitution

  • Article 1 in the Constitution states that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
  • The territory of India shall consist of: The territories of the states, The Union territories and Any territory that may be acquired in future.

The names of the States and the Unions have been described in the First Schedule. This schedule also holds that there are four Categories of State and territories – Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.

  • Part A – includes the nine provinces which were under British India
  • Part B – princely states consisted of this category
  • Part C – centrally administered five states
  • Part D – Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Abolishing of these schedules

  • In the seventh amendment of the Constitution in 1956, the distinction between Part A and Part B states was abolished.
  • Subsequently, states were reorganized on a linguistic basis.
  • As a result, several new states were formed, eg. Haryana, Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram etc. At present, there are 28 States and 8 UTs (corrected).

Debate over name change

  • Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution. India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution”.
  • The petition says that India is a name of foreign origin. The name can be traced back to the Greek term ‘Indica’.
  • The word ‘Bharat’ is closely associated with our Freedom Struggle as the cry was ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
  • Chauvinists argue that the name change will ensure citizens to get over the colonial past and instil a sense of pride in our nationality.

What 2016 ruling has to say?

  • The apex court had dismissed a similar petition in 2016.
  • Then CJI T.S. Thakur orally remarked that every Indian had the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’.
  • CJI said that the Supreme Court had no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country.


Article 2

  • Article 2 states that the parliament may, by law, admit new states into the Union of India or establish new states on terms and conditions it deems fit.
  • For e.g. the addition of the State of Sikkim by the 35th (1974) and 36th (1975) constitutional amendments.

Article 3

  • Article 3 empowers the parliament to form a new state by separation of a part of the territory of an established state or to unite two or more states or parts of states or by uniting any territory to a part of any state.
  • This article provides that area of any state can reduced or increased and alter the boundaries or change the name of a state.
  • Even though the state boundaries are subject to change, their area cannot be acquired by a foreign state.
  • There is also a saving clause in the article to protect the rights of the state.
  • The first condition is that no bill for the purpose can be introduced in either house except on the recommendation of the President of India.
  • Second, whether the proposal contains the alternation of the area, boundaries or name of the state mentioned, it has to refer by President to the Legislatures of concerned states, for expressing opinions.
  • Such opinion has to be expressed within a period specified by the President. In any case, the views expressed do not bind the decisions of either the President or the Parliament

Article 4

  • This article specifies that the laws provided in article 2 and 3, admission/establishment of new states and alteration of names, areas and boundaries etc. of established states, are not to be considered amendments of the Constitution under article 368.
  • It means these can be passed without resorting to any special procedure and by a simple majority.

Citizenship and Related Issues

What is Inner Line Permit (ILP) and what is its CAA context?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ILP, NRC, CAA

Mains level : Debate over CAA

The Supreme Court has declined to stay the operation of a Presidential order which petitioners claimed deprived Assam of the powers to implement the Inner Line system in its districts and limit the applicability of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Try this:

Q. The NRC fails to resolve the illegal immigration issue in Assam. Critically Analyse.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the fumes of protests over NRC/CAA have somewhat vanished. However, one must not forget the fundamental linkages between the NPR/NRC/CAA/ILP etc.

The Inner Line

  • A concept drawn by colonial rulers, the Inner Line separated the tribal-populated hill areas in the Northeast from the plains.
  • To enter and stay for any period in these areas, Indian citizens from other areas need an Inner Line Permit (ILP).
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram are protected by the Inner Line, and lately, Manipur was added.
  • The concept originates from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFR), 1873.

Its inception

  • The policy of exclusion first came about as a response to the reckless expansion of British entrepreneurs into new lands which threatened British political relations with the hill tribes.
  • The BEFR prohibits an outsider’s — “British subject or foreign citizen” — entry into the are beyond the Inner Line without a pass and his purchase of land there.
  • On the other hand, the Inner Line also protects the commercial interests of the British from the tribal communities.
  • After Independence, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”.
  • Today, the main aim of the ILP system is to prevent settlement of other Indian nationals in the States where the ILP regime is prevalent, in order to protect the indigenous/tribal population.

How is it connected to the Citizenship Amendment Act?

  • The CAA, which relaxes eligibility criteria for certain categories of migrants from three countries seeking Indian citizenship, exempts certain categories of areas, including those protected by the Inner Line system.
  • Amid protests against the Act, the Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019, issued by the President, amended the BEFR, 1873, extending it to Manipur and parts of Nagaland that were not earlier protected by ILP.

What is the petition now?

  • The petition was against the Presidential order. It said the order took away the Assam government’s permissive power to implement the ILP.
  • This could have made the CAA inapplicable in these areas, the petition said.
  • The CAA has given fresh legs to the demand.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

Debate over a homoeo drug – Arsenicum album 30


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arsenicum album 30

Mains level : Clinical trials and ethical issues involved in treating covid

A homoeopathic drug, Arsenicum album 30, has become a subject of debate after several states and AYUSH Ministry recommended it for prophylactic (preventive) use against Covid-19.

Practice question:

Q. The furore over the usage of several medicines has created an chaos in treating COVID. Critically comment.

Arsenicum album 30

  • Arsenicum album is made by heating arsenic with distilled water, a process repeated several times over three days. The drug has less than 1% arsenic.
  • A small bottle with one course costs Rs 20-30.
  • Arsenicum album is considered to correct inflammation in the body. It takes care of diarrhoea, cough and cold.
  • It is used commonly by homoeopaths to treat anxiety, restlessness, cold, ulcerations, burning pains. It is taken in powder form or as a tablet.
  • The health hazards of arsenic contamination in water are well known: long-term exposure to the metal can cause skin cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
  • It has been recommended against COVID by the state governments in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

The Covid-19 context

  • Arsenicum album 30 could be taken as prophylactic medicine against Coronavirus infections.
  • It is only “possible prevention” against flu.
  • The AYUSH Ministry recommended taking the medicine for three days on an empty stomach and repeating the dose after a month if an outbreak continues locally.

Issues with such medicines

  • The WHO neither has any guidelines nor any effective evidence on using Arsenicum album as a Covid-19 treatment.
  • The debate stems from the fact that there is no scientific evidence that the drug works against Covid-19, a fact stressed not only by medical scientists but also by some homoeopathic practitioners themselves.
  • There have been reports about people flocking to homoeopathic clinics to buy Arsenicum album, sometimes at triple the cost.
  • Even local chemists have started stocking this medicine.
  • Self-medication can prove harmful as prevention or cure for COVID-19.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Superconductivity?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Not Much

On a larger scale, electric grids, such as high power lines, lose over 5 per cent of their energy in the process of transmission.

In India, we often get to hear about the transmission losses in DISCOMS. Such losses can be zeroed with the application of superconducting cables (which is practically impossible unless we find a normal working one). The phenomena, superconductivity, however is not new to us, UPSC may end up asking some tricky statements in the prelims regarding it.

Heat losses

Waste heat is all around you. On a small scale, if your phone or laptop feels warm, that’s because some of the energy powering the device is being transformed into unwanted heat.

Where does this wasted heat come from?

  • These elementary particles of an atom move around and interact with other electrons and atoms.
  • Because they have an electric charge, as they move through a material — like metals, which can easily conduct electricity — they scatter off other atoms and generate heat.

Understanding Superconductivity

  • A superconductor is a material, such as a pure metal like aluminium or lead, that when cooled to ultra-low temperatures allows electricity to move through it with absolutely zero resistance.
  • Kamerlingh Onnes was the first scientist who figured out exactly how superconductor works in 1911.
  • Simply put, superconductivity occurs when two electrons bind together at low temperatures.
  • They form the building block of superconductors, the Cooper pair.
  • This holds true even for a potential superconductor like lead when it is above a certain temperature.

What are Superconductors?

  • Superconductors are materials that address this problem by allowing energy to flow efficiently through them without generating unwanted heat.
  • They have great potential and many cost-effective applications.
  • They operate magnetically levitated trains, generate magnetic fields for MRI machines and recently have been used to build quantum computers, though a fully operating one does not yet exist.

Issues with superconductors

  • They have an essential problem when it comes to other practical applications: They operate at ultra-low temperatures.
  • There are no room-temperature superconductors. That “room-temperature” part is what scientists have been working on for more than a century.
  • The amount of energy needed to cool a material down to its superconducting state is too expensive for daily applications.

Future scope

  • In a dramatic turn of events, a new kind of superconductor material was discovered in 1987 at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • The material was a kind of ceramic. These new ceramic superconductors were made of copper and oxygen mixed with other elements such as lanthanum, barium and bismuth.
  • They contradicted everything physicists thought they knew about making superconductors.
  • Since then, curiosity regarding the superconductors has been ever increasing.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Extreme weather events in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Extreme weather events in India and their mitigation

Nineteen extreme weather events in 2019 claimed 1,357 lives, with heavy rain and flood accounting for 63 per cent of these deaths, revealed Down To Earth’s State of India’s Environment 2020 report.

Extreme weather events:

  • Extreme weather events are out of the ordinary, unexpected, unusual climatic events which wreak havoc and disrupt everyday life.
  • Over the years, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased due to global warming and climate change.
  • Extreme weather events include hailstorm, heatwaves, dust storm, cloud bursts etc.

Try this question:

Q. Extreme weather events have been the biggest catastrophe in India this year. Discuss.

Data from this newscard can be used to substantiate your mains answer with relevant data.

Loss of lives

  • The most lives were lost in Bihar, with people dying from floods and heavy rain (306), thunderstorms (71) and heatwave (292) between May and October.
  • In Maharashtra, 136 people died from floods and heavy rain, 51 died from lightning and 44 died from the heatwave between June and September.
  • There was a 69 per cent increase in the number of heatwave days between 2013 and 2019 as well, the report said.
  • Over 5,300 people died from heatwaves in the past seven years.
  • Cold waves increased by 69 per cent within a year, between 2017 and 2018, with the latter year reported having an extremely cold winter, with the most casualties (279) in the past seven years.

Risks of Extreme weather events in India

  • Climate change related risks will increasingly affect the Indian subcontinent, including via sea level rise, cyclonic activity and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns.
  • Rising sea levels would submerge low-lying islands and coastal lands and contaminate coastal freshwater reserves.Climate change will increase the risks of death, injury and ill-health and disrupt livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones due to cyclones and coastal and inland flooding, storm surges and sea-level rise.
  • Melting Himalayan glaciers would reduce downstream water supply in many of India’s important rivers in the dry season, impacting millions
  • A warmer atmosphere will spread tropical diseases and pests to new areas.
  • Increased river, coastal and urban floods could cause considerable loss of life and widespread damage to property, infrastructure and settlements.
  • Erratic rainfall in parts of India could lower rice yields and lead to higher food prices and living costs, while increased drought related water and food shortages linked to rising and extreme temperatures may increase malnutrition and worsen rural poverty. Over 55% of Indian rural households depend on agriculture for a living and, with fisheries and forestry,

Systems in place to tackle extreme weather events are as follows:

1.Meteorological predictions

2.Contingency fund

3.Early warning to citizens

4.NDMA has issued an action plan for Prevention and Management of Heat Waves.

5.Remote sensing satellites.

Problems with accurate meteorological predictions are as follows:

1.Meteorological predictions are considered for broad geographical areas and timeframes. It is not yet possible to predict a thunderstorm or lightning at a village or a part of a city.

2.The exact times these events will hit, too, cannot be predicted.

3.Alerts and warnings are in the nature of a general advisory, telling the people to expect these events, and to take precautions

Steps taken by the State government are as follows:


  • storm has been included in the category of natural disasters for the first time in the State and funds to the tune of ₹2.55 crore have been sanctioned to the affected districts.
  • The next of kin of each deceased in Rajasthan will get financial assistance of ₹4 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
  • Power discoms have launched action on a war-footing to restore electricity supply in the affected areas, while the administration has ordered a survey of damaged properties.
  • In Dholpur district, relief camps have been opened for the villagers whose houses were destroyed.

2.Uttar Pradesh:

  • The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has announced a compensation of up to Rs 400,000 to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for each of the injured in the heavy rainfall and storm across the state.
  • contingency funds have been released to the respective district administration.

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

SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SWADES

Mains level : Various employment measures

The Union Govt. has launched a new initiative SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission.

In the first go, one may get reminded of the SWADESH Darshan Scheme… Please beware! This SWADES initiative has nothing to do with the tourism sector!

SWADES Initiative

  • SWADES is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • MSDE’s implementation arm National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) is supporting the implementation of the project.
  • It aims to create a database of qualified citizens based on their skillsets and experience to tap into and fulfil the demand of Indian and foreign companies.
  • The collected information will be shared with the companies for suitable placement opportunities in the country.
  • The returning citizens are required to fill up an online SWADES Skills Card.
  • The card will facilitate a strategic framework to provide the returning citizens with suitable employment opportunities through discussions with key stakeholders including.

Data on the returnees

  • Amongst the data gathered so far, the top countries from where the citizens are returning are UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
  • As per the skill mapping, these citizens had been primarily employed in sectors such as oil & gas, construction, tourism & hospitality, Automotive and Aviation.
  • The data also suggests that the States which have shown highest returning labour are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Global Economic Prospects (GEP) 2020 report by World Bank


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GER

Mains level : Not Much

The World Bank has released its Global Economic Prospects (GEP) 2020 report.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019

Q.) The Global Competitiveness Report is published by the-

(a) International Monetary Fund

(b) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

(c) World Economic Forum

(d) World Bank

Global Economic Prospects (GEP)

  • GEP is a World Bank Group flagship report that examines global economic developments and prospects, with a special focus on emerging market and developing economies.
  • It is issued twice a year, in January and June.
  • The January edition includes in-depth analyses of topical policy challenges while the June edition contains shorter analytical pieces.

Summary of the report

In a nutshell, the outlook for the global economy for 2020 has darkened, amid slowing activity and heightened downside risks.

1) On poverty

  • The scope and speed with which the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdowns have devastated the poor around the world are unprecedented in modern times.
  • Current estimates show that 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020.

2) Policy choices

  • Policy choices made today — include greater debt transparency to invite new investment, foster advances in digital connectivity, and a major expansion of cash safety nets for the poor.
  • The financing and building of productive infrastructure are among the hardest-to-solve development challenges in the post-pandemic recovery.

3) Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs)

  • EMDEs face health crises, restrictions and external shocks like falling trade, tourism and commodity prices, as well as capital outflows.
  • These countries are expected to have a 3-8% output loss in the short term, based on studies of previous pandemics, as per the analysis.
  • Growth is likely to slow more in commodity-exporting EMDEs than in commodity-importing ones.