Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

At 75, NATO sees reasons to rejoice, facts suggest otherwise

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: International Organisation; NATO;

Mains level: Concerns about NATO;

Why in the News? 

NATO grandly commemorates its 75th anniversary on April 4, 2024.

Present Concerns about NATO:

  • Changed Objective: NATO was established to defend its member states from aggression but has engaged in offensive military actions.
  • Cause of Military conflicts worldwide: Over the last seven decades, NATO has initiated or participated in more than 200 military conflicts worldwide, including major ones. Examples of NATO’s military interventions include the bombing of Yugoslavia, invasion of Iraq, disruption of statehood in Libya, military interference in Syria, and combating terrorism in Afghanistan.
  • Role in the creation of ISIS: Critics argue that instead of bringing peace and stability, NATO’s actions have led to damage, casualties, destruction, and alienation. There is a perception that the US, NATO’s leader, played a role in the creation of ISIS.
  • Provoking Russia-Ukraine War: Its expansion since 1991, despite assurances to the contrary, and its actions in Ukraine are seen as provocative moves against Russia. Russia has shown restraint in response to NATO’s actions, but NATO’s behavior remains unchanged.
  • Maintaining Western Hegemony: In stark contrast to its professed peaceful ideals, NATO engages in warfare or issues threats of attack against any state that rejects the established liberal “rules-based order.” for example invasion of Iraq and execution of Saddam Hussein
  • Increase presence in  Indo-Pacific: The US has been actively establishing smaller multilateral arrangements, like AUKUS, the US-Japan-South Korea trio, and the Tokyo-Seoul-Canberra-Wellington quartet, to involve them in practical collaboration with NATO.

BACK2BASICS

What is NATO?

NATO, founded in 1949, is an intergovernmental military alliance initially aimed at collective defense against potential aggression, notably from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, its role has expanded over time to address various security challenges beyond its original purpose.

Membership:

  • Starting Members: In starting only 12 founding members of NATO were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Expansion: NATO has expanded since its founding, with new member countries joining in multiple rounds. The alliance currently consists of 32 member countries.

Objectives:

  • Core mission: NATO’s core mission is collective defense, as articulated in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This article specifies that an attack on any member nation will be regarded as an attack on all, triggering a collective response from the members.
  • Role in crisis management: Besides its core function of collective defense, NATO also participates in crisis management activities. These include conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and stabilization efforts in diverse regions globally.

 

Conclusion: NATO, founded in 1949 for collective defense, faces criticisms for engaging in offensive actions, causing global conflicts, and perceived roles in creating ISIS and provoking tensions with Russia. It has expanded and diversified its roles beyond its original purpose.

Mains Question for practice 

Q Examine the key concerns raised about NATO’s actions and their implications for global security. 

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Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

Govt. body hikes prices of essential medicines again, says ‘it’s minuscule’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)

Mains level: Achievement of India's Pharmaceutical Industry and challenges

Why in the News? 

Recently, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) implemented a 0.00551% increase in the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for scheduled formulations of drugs starting from the commencement of the fiscal year 2024–25.

Context:

  • The Department of Pharmaceuticals has released its yearly update of revised ceiling prices for 923 scheduled drug formulations and adjusted retail prices for 65 formulations.
  • These revised ceiling rates took effect on April 1. The Central Government attributes the price adjustments to fluctuations in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).

What is the National List of Essential Medicines? 

  • As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), Essential Medicines are those that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the population.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare hence prepared and released the first National List of Essential Medicines of India in 1996 consisting of 279 medicines.
    • Currently, India has approximately 400 molecules and 960 formulations covered under the National List of Essential Medicines.
  • The prices of non-essential drugs are also monitored by the government to ensure that the manufacturers of these drugs don’t increase MRP by more than 10% annually.

The issue of the present Current Price Increase:

  • Manufacturers are allowed to increase the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of scheduled formulations based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) without prior government approval.
  • Pharmaceutical companies argue that a rational increase in the cost of drugs is necessary for quality control.
  • Government’s Stance on Current Hike: Despite the recent increase, the government suggests that it will only marginally impact the cost of essential drugs such as antibiotics and painkillers.
    • The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) follows the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) of 2013, allowing price hikes in line with changes in the WPI index.
    • Medicine prices were raised by 12% last year and 10% in 2022.

BACK2BASICS:

  1. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA):

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority was set up as an attached office of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (now Department of Pharmaceuticals since July 2008) on 29th August 1997. It has been entrusted inter-alia, with the following functions

  • Enforce the provision: To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), 1995/2013 under the powers delegated to it and to undertake and/or sponsor relevant studies concerning the pricing of drugs/formulations.
  • Monitor Demand and supply: To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and take remedial steps. To collect/maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies, etc. for bulk drugs and formulations.
  • Manage legal matters: To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority. To render advice to the Central Government on changes/revisions in the drug policy.
  • Assist Government: To help the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to drug pricing.
  1. Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO):
  • The Drugs Prices Control Order, issued by the Government of India under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, aims to govern and regulate drug prices.
  • Provides the list of price-controlled drugs: The Order interalia provides the list of price-controlled drugs, procedures for fixation of prices of drugs, method of implementation of prices fixed by Govt., penalties for contravention of provisions, etc.
  • Regulate only listed drugs: According to the regulations outlined in DPCO 2013, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority oversees and regulates only the prices of drugs listed in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

 

Achievements of India’s Pharmaceutical Industry:

  • Advanced Industries: India boasts one of the most advanced pharmaceutical industries among developing nations, ranking third globally in terms of volume and 13th in terms of value.
  • Export Destinations: The United States serves as the largest export destination for bulk drugs from India. This is noteworthy considering the stringent regulatory standards in the US.
    • Other significant export destinations include Brazil, Bangladesh, Turkey, China, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Egypt.
  • India’s Role as a Supplier for Global South (developing countries): India ranks among the top five suppliers of bulk drugs to several developing countries, including Bangladesh, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan.
    • Despite China’s dominance as a larger supplier, India remains a substantial exporter in this regard.

The challenge is Dependency on China: Despite India’s robust pharmaceutical sector, it heavily relies on China for the supply of bulk drugs and drug intermediates. Approximately two-thirds of India’s total imports in this category originate from China.

Conclusion: The recent price increase by the NPPA aligns with fluctuations in the Wholesale Price Index, aiming to regulate drug costs. India’s pharmaceutical industry faces challenges of import dependency on China, despite its global presence.

Mains PYQ

Q What do you understand by Fixed Dose Drug Combinations (FDCs)? Discuss their merits and demerits. (UPSC IAS/2013)

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Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

Should State Governments borrow more? | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Finance Commission; State Government; FRBM Act;

Mains level: Fiscal Federalism and its challenges

Why in the News? 

Recently, the SC rejected Kerala’s plea for immediate relief in its case urging the Union government to ease borrowing constraints, allowing the state to secure extra funds in the ongoing fiscal year.

State governments receive funds from three sources:

  • Own revenues (tax and non-tax)
  • Transfers from the Union government as shares of taxes and as grants 
  • Market borrowings

Fiscal Demands for Extra Funds: 

  • Increased Expenditure: In 2020-21, the Kerala government sharply increased its spending to 18% of its GSDP, to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aided by the relaxation in borrowing norms then
  • Central Gov transfers to Kerala declined: As ratios of GSDP, the Union government’s transfers to Kerala declined to 2.8% in 2023-24, significantly lower than previous years, even as the State’s revenues remained at around 8.0%. 
  • This meant that, in 2023-24, the State government could meet its modest budget expenditure, equivalent to 14.2% of GSDP, only by raising the borrowing to 3.4% of the GSDP

Socio-Economic for Extra Funds: 

  • Aging Population: Kerala, like many other states, faces the challenge of an aging population, which puts pressure on pension funds and healthcare systems, necessitating long-term financial planning and investment.
  • Pension Liabilities: The substantial outgo for pensions poses a financial burden on the state’s budget, requiring strategies for sustainable pension management to ensure fiscal stability.
  • Youth Outmigration: Kerala experiences significant outmigration of its youth, leading to a loss of productive workforce and potential tax revenues, highlighting the need for policies to retain skilled workers and stimulate economic growth

About Net Borrowing Ceiling (NBC):

  • The net borrowing ceiling for states in India denotes the maximum threshold set on the funds that state governments can borrow within a fiscal year.
  • Significance: Ensuring fiscal discipline and preventing states from accumulating excessive debt, the net borrowing ceiling plays a pivotal role. 
  • Factors: The criteria for setting these limits are shaped by various factors such as inputs from the Finance Commission, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, and specific directives from the central government, notably the Ministry of Finance.

 

Basis of the Net Borrowing Ceiling:

  • Fiscal Responsibility Legislation: Both the central and state governments in India adhere to the FRBM Act, which establishes fiscal deficit goals to uphold fiscal discipline. Under the FRBM, states are required to maintain a fiscal deficit limit of 3% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).
  • Central Government Guidelines: The central government, through the Department of Expenditure in the Ministry of Finance, sets the annual borrowing limits for each state based on a formula that considers the state’s GSDP, existing debt levels, fiscal discipline, and other relevant factors. These limits can be revised in response to special circumstances, such as natural disasters or significant economic downturns.
  • Finance Commission Recommendations: The Finance Commission, which is constituted every five years, recommends how the central taxes are to be divided between the centre and the states and suggests measures to maintain fiscal stability. It also provides recommendations regarding the borrowing limits of states.

Conclusion: States need to put in place an effective forecasting and monitoring mechanism for cash inflows and outflows so that a need-based approach is followed for market borrowings and the interest cost of cash surpluses is minimized.

 


Mains PYQ

Q What were the reasons for the introduction of Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, 2013? Discuss critically its salient features and their effectiveness. (UPSC IAS/2013)

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Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power is key to development, says study

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nuclear Energy;

Mains level: Sustainable Development; Energy Sector;

Why in the news? 

A recent report published by  IIM-A suggested that India must prioritize investment in Nuclear energy sector and expand related infrastructure.

Why India must prioritize investment in the Nuclear energy sector?

India aims to be a developed country by 2047 and is on track to achieve net zero — or effectively zero-carbon dioxide emissions by 2070. 

Key findings of the Report: 

  • Current Energy Mix: Solar energy constitutes 16% of India’s installed generation capacity, while coal comprises 49%. Nuclear energy currently comprises only 1.6% of India’s energy mix
  • Significant increase in nuclear power: The best-case scenario shows emissions falling to 0.55 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2070, achieving ‘net zero’. This scenario entails a significant increase in nuclear power capacity, reaching 30 GW by 2030 and 265 GW by 2050.
  • Investment Requirements for Nuclear Energy: Achieving the proposed figures for nuclear energy would necessitate a doubling of investments. India would require an estimated ₹150-200 lakh crore between 2020-2070 to finance the necessary transitions in the energy sector
  • Need technology-based solution: The authors emphasize that achieving net zero emissions requires a combination of technologies rather than a single solution.
  • Transitioning away from coal: Coal is expected to remain a significant component of India’s energy system, serving as the “backbone”. However, transitioning away from coal would require substantial investment  

What are the Challenges for India’s Goal of Net-Zero Emissions?

  • Uranium Factor: Data by the Central Electricity Authority say solar energy accounts for 16% of India’s installed generation capacity. To achieve these idealistic figures for nuclear energy would require a doubling of investments as well as the assumption that uranium, a critical fuel but restricted by international embargo, is available in necessary quantities.
  • Coal Factor: Coal accounts for 49% of India’s capacity. Coal would likely be the “backbone” of the Indian energy system and if the country has to phase down coal in the next three decades, it would need to build adequate infrastructure for alternative sources such as nuclear power, in addition to flexible grid infrastructure and storage to support the integration of renewable energy.

Suggested measures by the Report are:

  • Research and Development: Invest in research and development to improve efficiency and reduce costs of renewable energy technologies, as well as advancements in nuclear energy technology.
  • Policy Support: Implement supportive policies and regulations to encourage private sector investment in the energy sector, including streamlined approval processes, tax incentives, and renewable energy mandates.
  • International Cooperation: Engage in diplomatic efforts to secure access to nuclear fuel and address international embargoes, while also collaborating with other countries on research and development in the energy sector.

Conclusion: India’s path to development by 2047 hinges on prioritizing energy sector investment, as per an IIM-A report. Achieving net zero emissions by 2070, India would need close to ₹150-200 lakh crore between 2020-2070 to finance these transitions.


Mains PYQ

Q With growing energy needs should India keep on expanding its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy. (UPSC IAS/2018)

 

 

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Right To Privacy

Living wills implementation lags in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 21; Right to die with dignity; Right to will;

Mains level: Supreme Court;

Why in the news? 

In early March this year, 30 people in Thrissur in Kerala executed living wills.

Context:

  • The Supreme Court’s 2018 order on Passive Euthanasia, wherein it recognized the ‘Right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right and an aspect of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
  • However, the people wanting to get a “living will” registered were facing problems due to cumbersome guidelines, prompting a reconsideration by the apex court.
  • A Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in three concurring opinions, upheld that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes the ‘Right to Refuse Treatment and Die with dignity’.

What is a Living Will? 

A Living Will is a healthcare directive, in which people can state their wishes for their end-of-life care, in case they are not in a position to make that decision.

The Court’s procedure:

  • Pre-2023: Initially, the process of creating living wills was deemed overly complex by the Court, with elaborate bureaucratic procedures in place to prevent abuse by unscrupulous individuals seeking to exploit the patient’s assets.
  • Post-2023: Recognizing the impracticality of requiring judicial magistrate countersignatures on living wills, the Court streamlined the process in January 2023. Now, living will require signatures in the presence of witnesses, attestation by a notary or gazetted officer, and submission to a designated government officer acting as a custodian.

Challenges in Implementation :

  • Decision-Making Process: Even if a living will is created, its implementation is not automatic. Decisions on withholding or withdrawing treatment require certification by primary and secondary medical boards, posing logistical challenges, especially in hospitals without designated boards.
  • Ambiguities and Discomfort: Ambiguities in guidelines, discomfort with end-of-life care topics, and unclear legal definitions contribute to the hesitancy among officials to implement the Court’s directives without clear instructions from higher authorities.
  • Legal Ambiguity: Indian law lacks a clear definition of ‘next of kin’, leading to potential disputes among family members about medical decisions for terminally ill patients.
  • Barriers to End-of-Life Decisions: A survey of intensive care doctors reveals a general belief that end-of-life decisions are fraught with legal implications, serving as a significant barrier to making such decisions in the ICU.
  • Regional Disparities in India:
  • Haryana: While some states like Haryana have issued directions to follow the judgment, they have not provided essential guidance or protocols for implementation.
  • Odisha: In contrast, Odisha has taken a more thorough approach by forming a committee of experts to develop detailed draft orders for implementing the judgment, setting a potential example for other states.

Conclusion: The central government could help bridge the gap in expertise by developing and publishing model orders and protocols to provide states with confidence and guidance in effectively implementing the judgment.


Mains question for practice 

Q Discuss the challenges surrounding the implementation of living wills in India, as established by the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in 2018.

 

 

 

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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

India among countries mulling telescopes on, around the moon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PRATUSH;

Mains level: Lunar Missions;

Why in the news? 

Astronomers are looking forward to opening a new window on the universe by posting high-resolution telescopes on the moon and in orbit around it.

Why Astronomers are looking forward to opening telescopes on the moon?

  • Radio telescopes launched into orbit around Earth exacerbated the problem of receiving radio noise from the entire planet, along with signals from outer space.
  • The moon’s far side offers pristine, airless conditions ideal for optical telescopes, providing crystal-clear seeing conditions during the two-week lunar night.

Global Initiatives to Install Telescope on the Moon:

  • NASA’s LuSEE Night Project: LuSEE Night, a joint NASA-Berkeley Lab project scheduled for launch in December 2025, aims to study the Dark Ages period by landing on the far side of the moon, shielded from radio frequency noise from Earth.
  • ESA’s Projects: ESA is preparing to launch a radio telescope to the moon’s far side aboard its lunar lander, ‘Argonaut’, by 2030, along with other projects focused on gravitational wave detection and infrared observations.
  • China’s Initiatives: China is also actively involved in lunar exploration, with plans to launch a moon-orbiting radio telescope in 2026 and deploy the Queqiao-2 satellite, which includes a radio telescope payload, to serve as a communications relay between Earth and future missions.

Indian Initiative 

  • PRATUSH: Indian scientists plan to deploy the radio telescope PRATUSH on the moon’s far side, built by the Raman Research Institute (RRI) in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • Deployment Process: Initially, ISRO will place PRATUSH into orbit around the Earth, then fine-tune it before launching it towards the moon. Operating in Earth orbit will offer advantages such as free space operation and reduced ionosphere impact compared to ground-based experiments.
  • Observational Advantages: PRATUSH in lunar orbit will have ideal observing conditions, operating in free space with minimal radio frequency interference (RFI) and no ionosphere, essential for studying the signal from the Dark Ages.
  • Instrument Features: PRATUSH will carry a wideband frequency-independent antenna, a self-calibrating analog receiver, and a digital correlator to capture radio noise in the signal from the Dark Ages.

Conclusion: The global initiative to deploy telescopes on and around the moon aims to overcome Earth’s radio noise and capitalize on the lunar far side’s pristine conditions for groundbreaking astronomical observations, including studying the universe’s early Dark Ages.


Mains question for practice 

Q Discuss the global initiatives to deploy telescopes on the moon.

 

 

 

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Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

South Asia, India risk squandering demographic dividend: World Bank

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Job for Resilience Report

Mains level: Main findings in this report

Why in the News? 

Recently, the ‘Job for Resilience Report’ was published by the World Bank. The Report talks about how the South Asia region including India is not making use of its demographic dividend.

  • The pace of job creation in the region fell well short of the growth in the working-age population, even as it projected a strong 6.0-6.1% growth for 2024-25 for the region in its South Asia region.’

Main findings in this report:

The South Asia’s labor markets as Emerging markets and developing economies: 

  • Declining employment ratio: South Asia’s employment weakened from 2000–23, despite a 6% post-pandemic surge. While most EMDEs remained stable, South Asia declined by 2%, with varied changes within.
  • Low employment ratios: Except for Nepal, South Asian countries have employment ratios significantly lower than other EMDEs, with South Asia’s ratio at 59%, notably lower than the 70% average elsewhere in 2023.
  • Employment weakness for men and women: In South Asia, men’s employment ratios declined over two decades, compared with other EMDEs. Women’s ratios, persistently low and half those elsewhere, primarily contribute to South Asia’s lower overall employment rates.
  • A missing engine of growth: In the 2010s, South Asia experienced a surge in labor productivity growth, which later declined below the EMDE average from 2020–23. Unlike other EMDEs, South Asia’s output growth relied heavily on labor productivity growth and working-age population expansion. However, declining employment ratios hampered output growth.

Report on Indian Scenario:

  • Trends in employment and labor productivity: India’s employment growth in the 2010s was weak but rebounded post-pandemic. The employment ratio declined significantly until 2022 but partially recovered by 3 percentage points in 2023.
  • Migrant workers:  In India, Migrant workers returned to rural areas, and emigration from rural areas slowed, during the pandemic.5 India has the region’s second-largest share of workers in agriculture (44 per cent) after Nepal.
  • Employment composition: India’s industrial employment grows with public investments, eased labor regulations, and contract labor. The services sector, led by IT, BPO, and healthcare, thrives on a skilled workforce and digital infrastructure, limiting opportunities for unskilled labor.

Measures to address the challenges highlighted in the Report: 

  • Skill Development Programs: Implementing extensive skill development programs to equip the workforce with the necessary skills demanded by the evolving job market, focusing on both technical and soft skills.
  • Labour Market Reforms: Continuously reviewing and refining labor regulations to strike a balance between protecting workers’ rights and fostering a conducive environment for job creation and investment.
  • Promotion of Inclusive Growth: Implementing policies aimed at promoting inclusive growth, particularly focusing on increasing women’s participation in the workforce through measures like affordable childcare, flexible work arrangements, and addressing cultural barriers.
  • Investment in Infrastructure: Continued investment in infrastructure development to facilitate the growth of industries and services, creating more employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas.
  • Enhancing Productivity: Implementing measures to enhance productivity across sectors through technological advancements, innovation, and efficient resource allocation.

Conclusion: World Bank warns South Asia, including India, risks wasting demographic dividend due to declining employment ratios and low productivity growth. Urgent measures needed: skill development, labor reforms, inclusive growth promotion, infrastructure investment, and productivity enhancement.

With inputs from:

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/server/api/core/bitstreams/4ec19c2d-65fd-4523-8020-338f0cb98523/content

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RBI Notifications

Let’s make ₹ a global currency: PM to RBI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Global Currency

Mains level: Indian Trades;

Why in the news? 

PM Modi asked the RBI to prepare a 10-year strategy to make the Indian rupee a globally “accessible and acceptable” currency and to meet the credit needs of every segment of the country

What is Global Currency?

A global currency refers to a single currency that is used by every country in the world. This concept involves all nations adopting the same currency for international trade and transactions

What are the major challenges for India to make Rupeea a Global Currency?

  • Economic Stability: The Indian economy would need to demonstrate consistent stability and growth to inspire confidence among international investors and users of the currency.  
  • Liquidity in Financial Market Development:  These markets need to be deep and liquid to accommodate large volumes of international transactions denominated in INR.
  • Capital Controls: India currently has restrictions on capital flows in and out of the country. These would need to be eased to facilitate international trade and investment denominated in INR.
  • Legal and Regulatory Framework: There would need to be robust legal and regulatory frameworks in place to govern the use of the INR in international transactions, including clearing and settlement systems, as well as dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • International/ Investors Acceptance: Convincing other countries, businesses, and individuals to adopt the INR as a global currency would require concerted diplomatic efforts, as well as initiatives to promote its use in international trade and finance.
  • Currency Convertibility: Full convertibility of the INR would be necessary for it to become a global currency.

Indian Efforts to Make Rupee a Global Currency:

  • RBI’s Roadmap for Rupee Internationalization: The RBI has published a report outlining a roadmap for the internationalization of the Rupee. This roadmap recommends actions such as including the Rupee in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, promoting its use in trade invoicing and settlement, facilitating its use in offshore markets, and developing financial products denominated in Rupees.
  • Promoting Use of Local Currencies for Cross-Border Transactions: India has been engaging in agreements with countries like the UAE to promote the use of local currencies, including the Rupee, for cross-border transactions.

Way Forward:

  • Need for Transactions in Rupee: To be an accepted International Currency, the Indian rupee is to be freely used in transactions by residents and non-residents and as a reserve currency for global trade.
  • Need to increase the Exports: Indian Trades need to be promoted beyond the Asian region.  All export and import transactions need to be invoiced in Indian rupees.
  • Reducing the Constraints: Legal and Regulatory frameworks need to be freed to attract investors for their business profits without hampering security concerns.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/lets-make-a-global-currency-pm-to-rbi-101711996093588.html

https://theprint.in/opinion/indian-rupee-can-become-global-reserve-currency-but-modi-govt-must-bring-reforms-for-that/1738000/

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Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Why Supreme Court bar unregulated soil extraction for linear projects?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Environment Protection Act,1986; National Green Tribunal (NGT);

Mains level: Judiciary; National Green Tribunal (NGT);

Why in the News?

Recently, the SC revoked the notification given by the Environment Ministry to exempt the extraction of ordinary earth for linear projects, such as road and railway construction.

  • It was challenged before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which asked the Ministry to review it within three months. However, the Ministry did not take any action, leading the matter to reach the SC.

What are the linear projects? 

Linear projects refer to Construction or Development Projects. It includes the construction of linear structures like utility lines, pipelines, railroad tracks, highways, stormwater channels, and stream restoration activities.

What was the 2020 exemption?

  • September 2006: The Environment Ministry issued a notification under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, on activities that would require prior Environmental Clearance.
  • January 2016: A second notification was issued, exempting certain categories of projects from this requirement.
  • March 2020: It added “Extraction or sourcing or borrowing of ordinary earth for the linear projects such as roads, pipelines, etc” to the list of exempted activities.
    • The general purpose of the 2020 notification was to conform to the amendments made to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, in March 2020, allowing new lessees to continue mining for two years with the statutory clearances and licenses issued to their predecessors.

Nexus between the Judiciary and the Union Government (Ground for Challenges)

    • Judicial stand: The SC invalidated the broad and random exception, highlighting that the announcement was rushed during the COVID-19 lockdown without seeking feedback or objections through prior notification.
  • The exemption granted without incorporating safeguards was deemed arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • The court emphasized that the absence of safeguards defeats the purpose of the Environment Protection Act (EP Act).
  • An argument by the center: The Center contended that the exemption was essential “to benefit the general public” and would support “the kumhars (potters), farmers, gram panchayats, banjaras, roads of Gujarat,” and all non-mining activities recognized by the states.
    • However, the Apex court stated that the Centre had failed to provide reasons for concluding that the notification was issued in the public interest.

Similar Judicial Scrutiny in the Past:

  • January 2018: The NGT quashed an exemption offered by the Ministry’s 2016 notification from the requirement of prior EC for building and construction activities having built-up areas of more than 20,000 sq m. According to the Tribunal, there was nothing to suggest an improvement in the quality of the environment to justify the exemption.
  • July 2015: Underlining that the EP Act mandates prior approval, the NGT struck down two Office Memorandums issued by the Ministry in December 2012 and June 2013 for granting ex-post facto EC to projects under the 2006 notification.
  • July 2021: Another notification of the Ministry that sought to perpetuate an amnesty window opened for just six months in March 2017 to clear projects under the “violation category” and issued ex-post facto approval to more than 100 projects, until the SC stayed it in January this year.
  • March 2024: The Kerala HC quashed a 2014 notification that exempted educational institutions and industrial sheds with built-up areas of more than 20,000 sq m from obtaining EC.

 

Conclusion: The Supreme Court invalidated the Environment Ministry’s exemption for earth extraction in linear projects due to a lack of justification and safeguards, emphasizing compliance with Environmental Clearance to minimize environmental harm, safeguarding the Environment Protection Act’s purpose.

Mains PYQ

Q How does the draft EnvironmentImpact Assessment(EIA)Notification, 2020 differ from the existing EIA Notification, 2006? (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

Solar surge: Moving away from imported solar panels

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Environment; Solar Photovoltaic cells;

Mains level: Environment; Solar Energy;

Why in the news? 

The government is finally bringing into effect the policy of an Approved list of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) that will discourage solar power project developers from relying on imported panels. 

About Approved Models and Manufacturers of Solar Photovoltaic Modules Order, 2019:

  • Aim: To boost domestic manufacturing of solar panels by registering only those made with domestically manufactured cells, wafers, and polysilicon.
  • Compulsory Registration: The order mandates compulsory registration for solar PV module and cell manufacturers, ensuring they meet certain quality and production standards.
  • Lists: LIST-I for solar PV modules and LIST-II for solar PV cells.
    • Only listed models and manufacturers in these lists are considered approved for use in various government projects and schemes.
  • Eligibility Criteria: To be included in the lists, manufacturers must undergo inspections and meet specific criteria set by the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) to ensure the products are genuinely manufactured and not imported.
  • This order ensures the reliability of solar PV products used in installations, promotes domestic manufacturing, and aligns with the government’s initiatives for renewable energy adoption and energy security.

Efforts made by the Government to promote domestic Solar Manufacturing:

  • Import Restrictions: The creation of the Approved Models and Manufacturers list was aimed at restricting imports from China, which dominates a significant portion of the global solar supply market.
  • Ambitious Renewable Energy Targets: India aims to source about 500 GW of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, with at least 280 GW coming from solar power. This necessitates adding at least 40 GW of solar capacity annually until 2030. So there is need to focus on indegenous solar project

Challenges ahead:

  • Unrealistic Targets: Despite ambitious targets, India’s solar capacity additions have been relatively low in recent years, attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country aims to ramp up installations to between 25 GW and 40 GW annually.
  • Reliance on Imports: A significant fraction of India’s solar installations is met by imports, which affects domestic panel manufacturers who must pay for government certification but lose orders to cheaper Chinese panels. For example surge in Solar panel import in  FY 24 around $1,136.28 million  from FY23 imports $943.53 million

Conclusion: India’s ALMM policy aims to boost domestic solar manufacturing, aligning with ambitious renewable energy targets. Address challenges like meeting targets and reducing reliance on imports through strategic planning and support.

Mains PYQ 

Q Describe the benefits of deriving electric energy from sunlight in contrast to conventional energy generation. What are the initiatives offered by our government for this purpose? (UPSC IAS/2020)

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/renewables/how-india-became-a-frontrunner-in-the-global-renewable-energy-market/articleshow/100271905.cms?from=mdr

https://mnre.gov.in/approved-list-of-models-and-manufacturers-almm/

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1944075

https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/indias-solar-panel-imports-set-to-remain-higher-in-fy24/106217488#:~:text=During%20the%20initial%20six%20months,million%2C%20according%20to%20Eninrac%20Consulting

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

Two States: a comparison on access to life-saving C-sections

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Health Governance;

Why in the News?

The study released by IIT Madras highlights the concerns related to high rates of C-section deliveries among women in Tamil Nadu, particularly in private hospitals.

  • This indicates the necessity for corrective measures to address the situation.

What is a Caesarean section? 

It is also known as C-section or cesarean delivery, which is the surgical procedure by which one or more babies are delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen.

It is often performed because vaginal delivery would put the mother or child at risk.

 

Changes in the share of births delivered by C-sections in public and private sector hospitals in India, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh between 2015-16 and 2019-21.

  • High C-section Rate in Public Hospitals: In public sector hospitals in Tamil Nadu, nearly 40% of women underwent C-sections during 2019-21.
  • High C-section Rate in Private Hospitals: Close to 64% of women underwent C-sections in private sector hospitals in Tamil Nadu during 2019-21, which is significantly higher than both the national average of around 50% and Chhattisgarh’s rate of 59%.
  • Higher than the National Average: The rate of C-section deliveries in Tamil Nadu’s public sector hospitals is substantially higher than the national average, which is approximately 16%. Additionally, it surpasses the rate in Chhattisgarh, where it stands at 10%.

Reasons behind the increase in C-section rates despite a decrease in pregnancy complications:

  • Regional Disparities: In Chhattisgarh, the likelihood of a woman undergoing a C-section in a private hospital is ten times higher than in a public hospital. This suggests potential disparities in access to high-quality healthcare services between public and private sectors, with implications for maternal health outcomes.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: The study assumes that poorer households opt for public hospitals while richer households prefer private ones for deliveries. This socioeconomic divide may contribute to inequitable access to healthcare services at the national level.
  • Higher Likelihood in Private Health Facilities: Women delivering in private health facilities are more likely to undergo C-sections compared to those in public facilities, with a notable disparity observed in Chhattisgarh.
  • Maternal Age and Weight Status: Factors such as maternal age (35-49) and overweight status increase the likelihood of C-section delivery.
  • High gap between Poor and Rich: In India, the gap in C-section prevalence between the poor and non-poor narrowed in private facilities, but Tamil Nadu exhibited a concerning trend where a higher percentage of the poor underwent C-sections compared to the non-poor.

Recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO): Cesarean delivery rates should ideally not exceed 10-15% to achieve the lowest maternal and neonatal mortality rates. When C-section rates go beyond 10%, there is no significant decrease in maternal mortality. In 2021, global C-section rates surpassed 20%, and they are projected to increase to 30% by 2030.

Conclusion: Access to C-sections in Tamil Nadu shows disparities, with high rates in both public and private hospitals. Addressing regional, and socioeconomic factors and adhering to WHO recommendations are crucial for equitable maternal healthcare.

PYQ Mains 

Q Appropriate local community level healthcare intervention is a prerequisite to achieve ‘Health for All’ in India. Explain. (UPSC IAS/2018)

 https://www.indiatoday.in/health/story/rise-in-c-section-deliveries-despite-decrease-in-pregnancy-complications-iit-madras-study-2521773-2024-04-01

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

 Katchatheevu | What is the controversy all about?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India- Srilanka Bilateral Relations; Places in News;

Mains level: India- Srilanka Bilateral Relations; Places in News;

Why in the news? 

Katchatheevu Island, a disputed stretch in the Palk Strait, was ceded to Sri Lanka during late PM Indira Gandhi, through an agreement.

  • Fifty years later, PM Modi, has mounted an attack on the Congress and DMK for ‘callously’ giving it away to Sri Lanka.

About the Katchatheevu  Island:

  • Katchatheevu is an uninhabited area in the Palk Strait, between India and Sri Lanka.  It was created due to volcanic eruption in the 14th century and is comparatively youthful in the realm of geological chronology.
  • Historically, it was controlled by the Jaffna kingdom of Sri Lanka in the medieval period.
  • However, in the 17th century, control passed to the Ramnad zamindari based out of Ramanathapuram, about 55 km northwest of Rameswaram.
  • The Island became part of the Madras Presidency during the British Raj. But in 1921, both India and Sri Lanka, at the time were British colonies and claimed Katchatheevu to determine fishing boundaries.
  • A British delegation from India challenged this, citing ownership of the island by the Ramnad kingdom. This dispute was not settled until 1974.

Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement of 1974:

  • In 1974, the Indian government, led by Indira Gandhi at the time, endeavored to definitively resolve the maritime border between India and Sri Lanka.
  • As a component of this arrangement, termed the ‘Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement’, Katchatheevu was relinquished to Sri Lanka.
  • During this period, it was perceived that the island held minimal strategic significance, and relinquishing India’s claim over it was anticipated to foster stronger relations with its southern neighbor.
  • Limitations of the Agreement of 1974:
    • Issue of fishing rights: The 1974 agreement failed to address the issue of fishing rights. Sri Lanka interpreted the access of Indian fishermen to Katchatheevu as being restricted solely to activities such as resting, drying nets, and visiting the Catholic shrine, without the requirement of a visa.
    • The issue concerning EEZ: Further agreement was reached between the two countries, prohibiting fishing within each other’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
    • However, the proximity of Katchatheevu to the edges of both countries’ EEZs left unresolved questions regarding fishing rights, contributing to ongoing uncertainty.

 

India’s stand on the Kachchatheevu issue:

  • August 2013: The Union government informed the Supreme Court that the question of reclaiming Kachchatheevu from Sri Lanka did not arise because no Indian territory was ceded to Sri Lanka. Moreover, it was historically disputed territory between British India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and the matter was settled through agreements in 1974 and 1976.
  • December 2022: The Union government reiterated the stance, emphasizing that Katchatheevu lies on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line as per the agreements. Additionally, it mentioned that the matter was under judicial consideration in the Supreme Court.

Conclusion: The recent mention of Katchatheevu by Prime Minister Modi ahead of elections in Tamil Nadu highlights its contentious nature. To address fishermen’s issues, diplomatic dialogue and legal clarity are crucial.

Mains PYQ

Q What are the maritime security challenges in India? Discuss the organizational, technical, and procedural initiatives taken to improve maritime security. (UPSC IAS/2022)

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

The ART of India’s HIV/AIDS response

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: HIV Drugs

Mains level: Objectives of India's National AIDS Control Programme (NACP)

Why in the news? 

On April 1, 2004, the Indian government launched Free Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for Persons living with HIV (PLHIV). This decision has been one of the most successful .

Emergence of HIV drugs

  • First Antiretroviral Drug Approval: In March 1987, the US FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug, AZT (zidovudine), offering a glimmer of hope for treatment.
  • Additional Drug Approvals: Three more antiretroviral drugs were approved shortly after in 1988, expanding treatment options for HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Introduction of Protease Inhibitors: A significant milestone occurred in 1995 with the introduction of protease inhibitors, a new class of antiretroviral drugs.

The evolution to free ART

  • Millennium Summit Declaration: In 2000, world leaders at the UN General Assembly’s Millennium Summit set a goal to stop and reverse the spread of HIV.
  • Formation of the Global Fund: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was established in 2002, advocating for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services.
  • High HIV Prevalence in India: In 2004, India had an estimated 5.1 million PLHIV, with a population prevalence of 0.4%. However, very few were receiving ART, with only 7,000 PLHIV on treatment by the end of the year.
  • Free ART Initiative: The Indian government’s decision to provide free ART to all adults living with HIV in 2004 was groundbreaking. This initiative aimed to address the barriers of cost and geographical access to treatment.
  • Expansion of ART Facilities: Over two decades, the number of ART centers in India expanded significantly, from less than 10 to around 700. Additionally, 1,264 Link ART centers have provided free ART drugs to approximately 1.8 million PLHIV.
  • ART Eligibility Criteria Evolution: The criteria for initiating ART evolved over the years, starting from CD4 count less than 200 cells/mm3 in 2004, to less than 350 cells/mm3 in 2011, and less than 500 cells/mm3 in 2016. Finally, in 2017, the “Treat All” approach was adopted, initiating ART regardless of CD4 count.
  • Rapid ART Initiation Policy: In 2021, India adopted a policy of rapid ART initiation, starting individuals on treatment within seven days of HIV diagnosis, and sometimes even on the same day. This swift initiation aimed to improve treatment outcomes and prevent transmission.
  • Complementary initiatives  to stop the HIV epidemic: Provision of free diagnostic facilities; attention on prevention of parent to child transmission of HIV (PPTCT) services; prevention, diagnosis and management of opportunistic infections including management of co-infections such as tuberculosis (TB).

Objectives of India’s National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) phase 5 by 2025

Ambitious 95-95-95 Targets: The NACP phase 5 sets ambitious targets known as the 95-95-95 targets, aligned with global targets agreed upon by UNAIDS. These targets aim for:

  • 95% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status.
  • 95% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART).
  • 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to achieve viral suppression.
  • These targets are aligned with global targets agreed by the UNAIDS.

Challenges 

  • Delayed Enrolment to ART Facilities:  Late presentation poses challenges to timely initiation of treatment and optimal disease management.
  • Missed doses : Patients often start feeling better after initiating ART, leading to missed doses or discontinuation of treatment that lead to drug resistance

Measures  

  • Sustained Supply and Availability of ART: Ensuring consistent and uninterrupted access to ART drugs across all regions of the country
  • Private Sector Engagement: Enhancing engagement with the private sector in the care of PLHIV .
  • Training and Capacity Building: Continuous training and capacity building of healthcare staff are essential to  ensure high-quality service delivery.
  • Integration with Other Health Programs: Strengthening integration with other health programs, such as hepatitis, non-communicable diseases (NCDs

Conclusion

India’s ART initiative, launched in 2004, has been pivotal in combating HIV/AIDS. With evolving criteria, rapid initiation policies, and ambitious targets, challenges persist, but measures like sustained supply, private sector engagement, and training are being implemented.

Mains PYQ

Q What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society? ( UPSC IAS/2021) 

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Aadhaar Card Issues

Workers, not tech, should be state’s priority

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS)?

Mains level: Key challenges related to The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS)

Why in the news? 

The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) has attracted significant attention, mainly because of the many difficulties it encounters

What is Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS)?

  • The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) is a unique payment system that utilizes the Aadhaar number as a central key for electronically channelizing government payments

Aim of ABPS

  • Objective: Provide socio-economically deprived households with work security facilitated by digital technology.
  • Rooted in ideals: Inclusion in the development process, mitigation of inequality and socioeconomic distress.
  • Recognition: Internationally recognized, such as by the United Nations Development Programme, for contributing to a productive, equitable, and connected society.

Key challenges related to The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS):

  • Internet Connectivity Issues: Accessibility to stable internet connections in rural areas poses a challenge for implementing the ABPS effectively.
  • Fingerprint Recognition Problems: The ABPS relies on fingerprint recognition for authentication, but issues with fingerprint recognition can hinder the smooth functioning of the system.
  • Difficulties Faced by the Disabled: The system may not be accommodating to individuals with disabilities, leading to exclusion or difficulties in accessing benefits.
  • Unrecorded Working Days: There are instances where the system fails to record the days of work performed by individuals, leading to discrepancies in payment.
  • Name Duplication: Duplicate entries in the system can lead to confusion and errors in identifying beneficiaries and processing payments.
  • Lack of Awareness: Insufficient awareness among beneficiaries about the ABPS and its processes can result in underutilization or misuse of the system.
  • Errors in Linking and Authentication: Issues may arise during the linking of Aadhaar details with the payment system, leading to authentication errors and payment delays.

Potential of (ABPS) technology 

  • Progressive Principles: Technology has the potential to serve progressive principles globally and historically, contributing to the advancement of societies.
  • Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Technological interventions can play a crucial role in achieving the SDGs, with rural employment guarantee schemes in India serving as effective pathways towards several SDGs, both directly and indirectly.
  • Effective Utilization of Budgetary Allocation: The substantial budgetary allocation to schemes like MGNREGS should be channeled through a technologically sound system to ensure efficient utilization of funds.

Conclusion

The Aadhaar-Based Payment System faces numerous challenges, highlighting the need for prioritizing workers over technology. While technology holds potential, its alignment with socio-economic goals must ensure inclusivity, efficiency, and effective utilization of resources.

Practice Question for mains 

Examine the objectives, challenges, and potential of the Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) in India. (150 words )

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Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

The legal issues surrounding Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 Act

Mains level: Application of Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 Act

Why in the news? 

A Delhi Court on Thursday extended the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) custody of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal till April 1 in the money laundering case

Context

Mr Kejriwal was arrested on March 21, hours after his plea for interim protection from arrest was rejected by the Delhi High Court. This is the first instance of a Chief Minister in India being put behind bars while still in office.

ED’s allegations against the Chief Minister

  • Influence on Elections: The ED contends that Money  received by AAP leaders from operators of alcohol businesses were used to influence the 2022 Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa.
  • Favours to South Group: The excise policy was allegedly drafted with the intention of granting favors to the South Group

 Legal issues  

  • Potential Involvement of AAP: If Kejriwal’s vicarious liability (This principle holds a person responsible for the actions of others, based on the concept of agency) is established, AAP could be impleaded as an accused in the case. This could lead to the attachment or confiscation of the party’s assets under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
  • Application of Section 70 of the PMLA: This section is often invoked to investigate companies involved in money laundering offenses. It holds individuals responsible if they were in charge or responsible for the company at the time of the offense. However, individuals may not be prosecuted if they can prove lack of knowledge or due diligence to prevent the offense.
  • Definition of “Company”: Explanation 1 of Section 70 of the PMLA defines “company” broadly to include any body corporate, firm, or association of individuals. This could potentially encompass a political party under the definition, as per the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

What is (PML) Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 Act? 

An Act to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from, or involved in, money-laundering and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

 Reliance on approver’s testimony

  • Definition of an Approver testimony: An approver is someone who has been charged with a crime but later confesses and agrees to testify for the prosecution.
  • Potential Consequences of False Deposition: An approver who provides false testimony can be retried for the offense for which the pardon was granted, according to Section 308 of the CrPC. This provision acts as a deterrent against perjury by the approver.
  • Caution in Reliance: Courts exercise caution when relying on the testimony of an approver due to its inherently suspect nature. The testimony of an accomplice is considered tainted, and courts are wary of potential biases or falsehoods.
  • Corroboration Requirement: To ensure the reliability of the approver’s testimony, corroboration from independent evidence is typically required.
  • Judicial Precedents: The Supreme Court, in cases like Mrinal Das and Ors. v. State of Tripura (2011), has emphasized the importance of corroborative evidence in convicting the accused based on the testimony of an approver.
  • Judicial Scrutiny: Courts meticulously scrutinize the testimony of an approver and assess its credibility in light of corroborative evidence and other factors.

Conclusion 

Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest in a money laundering case raises legal complexities, including potential involvement of AAP, application of PMLA, and reliance on approver’s testimony, necessitating cautious judicial scrutiny.

Mains PYQ 

Q Money laundering poses a serious security threat to a country’s economic sovereignty. What is its significance for India and what steps are required to be taken to control this menace? (UPSC IAS/2013) 

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Archaeological Survey of India will ‘Delist’ some ‘Lost’ monuments. What’s happening, and why?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Art and Culture; Heritage Monuments in News;

Mains level: Art and Culture; Conservation of Historical Monuments; ASI;

Why in the news?

Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to delist 18 “centrally protected monuments” because according to them, they lag in National Importance.

 

What does the “Delisting” of monuments mean?

  • Delisting means that the monument will no longer be protected, conserved, or maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).  Once delisted, the restrictions on construction-related activities around the monument are lifted. 
  • Legal Mandate: Section 35 of the AMASR Act outlines the process for delisting monuments. It empowers the Central Government to declare, via official notification, that a monument no longer holds national importance, thereby removing its protected status.

Delisted Monuments: Kos Minar No.13 at Mujessar village in Haryana, Barakhamba Cemetery in Delhi, Gunner Burkill’s tomb in Jhansi district, a cemetery at Gaughat in Lucknow, and the Telia Nala Buddhist ruins in Varanasi.

Challenges for the Archaeological Survey of India due to “untraceable” monument:

    • Survival issue: Some monuments, especially smaller or lesser-known ones, have been lost over time due to various factors such as urbanization, encroachments, neglect, and construction activities like dams and reservoirs.  
  • Among the 50 missing monuments, 14 had been lost to rapid urbanization, 12 were submerged by reservoirs or dams, and the remaining 24 were untraceable. 
  • Difficulty in Locating Monuments:  This could be due to factors like inadequate documentation, lack of historical records, changes in the landscape, or complete disappearance of the structure.
  • Issue with Preservation and Conservation:  Without knowing the monument’s location, it cannot be regularly inspected, assessed for its condition, or protected from encroachments or other forms of damage.
    • Despite the recognized need for 7,000 security personnel, only 2,578 were deployed due to financial limitations.
  • Therefore, ASI faces challenges in fulfilling this responsibility effectively, especially when dealing with monuments that are untraceable due to historical neglect or lack of resources.

How many historical monuments have been lost in this way?

  • According to the Ministry of Culture’s submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture in December 2022, a total of 50 out of India’s 3,693 centrally protected monuments were missing.
  • In 2013, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India highlighted the issue of missing monuments. The report stated that at least 92 centrally protected monuments across the country were missing.  

Conclusion: The ASI has decided to delist 18 centrally protected monuments that are deemed to have lost national importance. This delisting means these monuments will no longer receive protection or conservation from the ASI.


Mains PYQs

Q Safeguarding the Indian art heritage is the need of the moment. Comment  (UPSC IAS/2018)

 

 

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Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

How much should developed countries pay for climate action?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG)

Mains level: money is required to ensure effective climate action?

Why in the news? 

As the climate bomb ticks, Global Climate negotiators are working on a new global climate finance budget ahead of COP29 in Baku this November.
  • In 2009, developed countries committed to paying $100 bn every year. However, they failed to do so.

Context:

  • The 2022 climate change conference (COP 28) held in Sharm el-Sheikh decided to establish a Loss and Damage Fund
  • These funds would work as a “transition away” from fossil fuels, and a promise to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
  • On March 22, a two-day meeting was concluded in Copenhagen, Denmark, the first minister-level climate meeting for this year, and a ‘New Collective Quantitative Goalwas finalized.

What is the New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG)?

  • NCQG represents the yearly sum that developed countries must gather from 2025 onward to finance climate action in developing nations.
  • It has to be higher than the $100 billion that developed countries, collectively, had promised to raise every year from 2020, but had failed to deliver.

 

Collective Funds need to ensure effective Climate Action:

  • UN Climate Change Report (2021): According to a report by UN Climate Change, developing countries would need approximately $6 trillion annually between 2021 and 2030 to implement their climate action plans.
  • Estimation in Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement: The final agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh included estimates suggesting that a global transition to a low-carbon economy could require about $4-6 trillion annually until 2050.
  • Global GDP Percentage: While these estimates vary, an approximate range of $5-7 trillion annually is suggested to effectively address climate change. This would require deploying about 5-7% of the global GDP towards climate action.
  • Renewable Energy Capacity: Meeting the target of tripling renewable energy capacity, as agreed in Dubai, is estimated to cost $30 trillion by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA).

Prospects for a Realistic New Annual Climate Finance Target:

  • Current Funding Shortfall: The UNFCCC, responsible for organizing climate meetings and facilitating the implementation of climate agreements, is facing a severe shortage of funds. Its budget is currently less than half funded, which hampers its ability to fulfill its mandate effectively.
  • Call for Increased Climate Finance: There is a call for developed countries to commit to significantly higher levels of climate finance. India, for instance, has called for the New Collective Quantitative Goal (NCQG) to be set at least at $1 trillion per year 
  • Need of Innovative Funding Sources: Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, emphasized the need for innovative funding sources to meet the substantial financial requirements for climate action.  
  • Dependence on Contributions: The UNFCCC relies heavily on contributions from countries and voluntary organizations to carry out its work. 

How will this money be used?

  • On-time Delivery: Ensuring effective delivery of the new funding is essential for achieving meaningful impact.
  • Transparent and Inclusive Monitoring: Developing countries emphasize the need for a transparent and inclusive process to monitor and measure the agreed-upon amount.  
  • Distribution Across Needs: The new funding is distributed across different climate action areas such as mitigation, adaptation, and addressing loss and damage as per need 

Conclusion: Developed countries must commit to higher climate finance, possibly $1 trillion annually, for effective action. Innovative funding sources and transparent monitoring are crucial for impactful distribution across climate action areas.


Mains PYQs

Clean energy is the order of the day.’ Describe briefly India’s changing policy towards climate change in various international fora in the context of geopolitics.(UPSC IAS/2022)

Q ‘Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (UPSC IAS/2017)

 

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Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What explains the frequent disagreements between state governments and Governors?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: law on Governor-state relations

Mains level: Reason behind the Governor-state friction

 Why in the news? 

Allegations by the regional government (Recently Kerala govt.) on the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilize state governments have been made since the 1950s. This calls for Governor-state relations.

What is the law on Governor-state relations?

  • The Governor, although meant to be apolitical and act on the advice of the council of ministers, holds significant powers granted under the Constitution. 
  • These include giving or withholding assent to bills passed by the state legislature and determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority in cases of a hung verdict in an election.
  • While the Constitution grants powers to the Governor, there are no specific provisions on how the Governor and the state government should publicly engage when there is a difference of opinion.

What have been the friction points in recent years?

  • Controversial Actions: Some actions by governors have sparked controversy, such as dissolving assemblies amidst government formation discussions (Jammu and Kashmir), and inviting leaders without public consultation (Maharashtra) this government lasted just 80 hours. And Six months later, the Governor refused to nominate CM Uddhav Thackeray.
  • Interference in State Affairs: Governors have been criticized for allegedly interfering in state affairs, including commenting on law and order situations (West Bengal), and refusing requests from state governments (Kerala) regarding legislative matters.
  • Legal Challenges: Some decisions made by governors have faced legal challenges, such as the invitation to the BJP to form the government in Karnataka, which was challenged and subsequently modified by the Supreme Court.

Dismissal after independence:

  • Dismissals in the 1950s: Allegations of the Centre using the Governor’s position to destabilize state governments date back to the 1950s. In 1959, Kerala’s E M S Namboodiripad government was dismissed based on a report by the Governor.
  • Dismissals in the Post-1960s: Several state governments were dismissed between 1965 and 1990 through President’s Rule orders issued by Governors. These dismissals included governments such as Birender Singh in Haryana (1967), M Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu (1976), and N T Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh (1984).
  • Decrease in Dismissals: The frequency of state government dismissals decreased during the coalition era at the Centre and the emergence of strong regional parties. This suggests a shift in political dynamics and possibly less direct interference by the Centre through Governors in state politics.

Causes of such Governor-State Frictions:

  • Answerable only to the Centre: The Governor is not directly accountable to the people and is answerable only to the Centre. 
  • Appointment and Tenure: The Governor is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice and holds office at the pleasure of the President. Although the tenure is typically five years 
  • Lack of Impeachment Provision: There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, further limiting mechanisms for holding them accountable.
  • Absence of Guidelines: The Constitution does not provide clear guidelines for the exercise of the Governor’s powers, including the appointment of a Chief Minister or the dissolution of the Assembly. Additionally, there are no limits set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill, raising questions about arbitrary use of power.
  • Governor as Agent of the Centre: The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution highlighted concerns that Governors may act in accordance with instructions from the Union Council of Ministers, leading to perceptions that they are “agents of the Centre.”

Reform suggested by the ARC of 1968 to the Sarkaria Commission of 1988:

  • Selection Process: Establishing a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, and Chief Minister to select Governors. 
  • Fixed Tenure: Recommendations advocate for fixing the Governor’s tenure for five years. 
  • Impeachment Provision: Suggestions include introducing a provision to impeach the Governor by the State Assembly. 

Conclusion: Governors often side with the central government and aren’t accountable enough. Kerala’s case shows a problem with the law. Proposed changes aim to make things clearer and fairer.


Mains PYQs

Discuss the essential conditions for exercise of the legislative powers by the Governor. Discuss the legality of re-promulgation of ordinances by the Governor without placing them before the Legislature. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Q Whether the Supreme Court Judgement (July 2018) can settle the political tussle between the Lt. Governor and elected government of Delhi? Examine. (UPSC IAS/2018)

 https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/state-government-governors-powers-disagreements-9240141/

 

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Advisory boards under preventive detention laws are not rubber stamps for the government: Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About Advisory Board

Mains level: distinction between 'Public order' and 'Law and Order', and the Preventive Detention

Why in the news? 

Recently  SCt said that advisory boards should act like a safety net, protecting people’s freedom from the government’s arbitrary use of power. 

  • They need to make sure there’s a balance between the government’s actions and people’s right to be free.

About Advisory Board:

  • Article 22 of the Constitution makes it mandatory for preventive detention laws to form advisory boards consisting of persons qualified to be High Court judges.
  • Objective: It must consider whether the detention is necessary not just in the eyes of the detaining authority but also in the eyes of the law.
  • Case Background: The judgment came in an appeal filed by a man ordered by the Telangana police to be detained as a ‘goonda’ under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, 1986.
  • The claim by Telangana police: The man was a threat to “public order”. He was a cause of panic and fear among women. The appellant was accused of making a habit of snatching the ‘mangalsutras’ of his victims in broad daylight.

SC on the Appeal filed under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, 1986:

  • Qualifications of Advisory Board Members: Justice Pardiwala emphasized that having qualified individuals, potentially fit to become High Court judges, on advisory boards was crucial. This ensures robust scrutiny of government detention orders.
  • Responsibilities of Advisory Boards: These boards, mandated by various laws, are required to review detention orders every three months. 
  • Substantial Evidence to justify detention: Justice Pardiwala highlighted the unfairness of depriving someone of their Personal Liberty based merely on the assumption that they might commit a crime in the future. He stressed the importance of substantial evidence to justify detention.
  • Absence of Evidence of Threat to Public Order: The Supreme Court observed that the state failed to provide sufficient material indicating that the detained individual posed a genuine threat to public order. Specifically, there was no substantial evidence linking him to activities that could disrupt public order.

The distinction between ‘Public order’ and ‘Law and Order’, and the Preventive Detention 

  • Differentiating ‘Public Order’ and ‘Law and Order’: Justice Pardiwala highlighted the distinction between ‘law and order’ issues, which affect only a few individuals, and ‘public order’ concerns, which have a broader impact on the community or even the entire country.
  • Limitations on Preventive Detention: The SC emphasized that preventive detention should only be utilized in exceptional circumstances.  
  • Quashing of Detention Order: Justice Pardiwala ordered the quashing of the detention order against the appellant based on the absence of his direct involvement in any of the First Information Reports (FIRs).  

Conclusion: The Supreme Court emphasizes advisory boards in preventive detention laws aren’t mere rubber stamps for the government but safeguards for personal liberty. They must ensure the necessity of detention, backed by substantial evidence, and limit preventive detention to exceptional circumstances.


Mains question for practice

Q Discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling emphasizing the role of advisory boards in preventive detention laws ( 150 words ) 

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Tech giants facing EU scrutiny

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DMA's Objective:

Mains level: Present Challenges with Tech-giants

Why in the news? 

The European Commission has initiated investigations into major tech companies like Apple, Meta, Google’s parent Alphabet, and Amazon to enforce fair and competitive markets in the digital industry, following the regulations of the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

 

What is the European Commission? 

The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union responsible for proposing and enforcing legislation, managing EU policies and spending programs, ensuring the proper application of EU laws, and representing the EU internationally.

About Gatekeepers: It refers to significant market players in the digital sector who hold considerable market power and provide core platform services. In September 2023, several tech companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company), and Microsoft, were designated as ‘gatekeepers,’ expected to comply fully with DMA obligations by March 7 of the following year.

DMA’s Objective: The investigations align with the Digital Markets Act’s (DMA) goal to regulate ‘gatekeepers’ in the digital market and ensure fair competition and consumer access.

 

Where is the context of these non-compliance investigations?

  • Investigations into Tech Giants: Alphabet (Google), Apple, and Meta (formerly Facebook) are facing investigations over alleged violations related to unfair competitive practices.
  • Specific Allegations: Alphabet is being investigated for steering customers towards its in-house services, Apple for similar practices in its App Store and Safari browser, Meta for its “pay or consent model.”

Steering rules are Non-Compliant:

  • DMA Provisions: The Digital Markets Act (DMA) allows app developers to direct consumers to offers and services outside the gatekeeper’s app store without any charge.
  • Commission’s Concerns: The European Commission expressed concerns about Alphabet (Google) and Apple’s noncompliance with DMA provisions, citing various restrictions and limitations imposed by these companies.
  • Apple’s Defense: Apple defended its tight integration with the App Store, claiming it’s necessary for a secure and seamless user experience 

Present Challenges with Tech-giants:

  • Alphabet engaging in self-preferencing:
    • Investigation on Google search: The Commission is investigating whether Google’s search results are discriminatory, particularly whether Google favors its own verticals over rival services, a practice known as self-preferencing 
    • U.S. Department of Justice’s Accusation: In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) accused Google of unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the search and search advertising markets through anti-competitive and exclusionary practices. 
  • Apple enabling choice:
    • European Commission’s Investigation on IOS: The Commission is assessing whether Apple allows users to uninstall pre-installed or default software applications on iOS easily.  
    • Concerns Over User Choice: The investigation stems from concerns that Apple’s measures may prevent users from effectively exercising their choice of services within the Apple ecosystem.  
  • Concerns about Meta’s model:
    • Meta’s Subscription Model: Meta (formerly Facebook) introduced a subscription model in the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland. This model offered users the choice to use Facebook and Instagram without ads by subscribing to a paid service.
    • Commission’s Concerns:  It expressed concerns that the binary choice offered by the model may not provide a real alternative for users who do not consent to personalized advertising. Consequently, the Commission doubted whether the model effectively prevented the accumulation of personal data by gatekeepers, as intended.

How will non-compliant companies be penalized?

  • Potential Penalties: The companies under investigation face significant fines of up to 10% of their global turnover or 20% in the case of repeated infringements.
  • Consequences of Systematic Infringement: If the investigation uncovers systematic infringement, the companies may be required to divest certain business units or sell parts of their business. Additionally, they could face a ban from acquiring related additional services.

Conclusion 

EU investigates tech giants like Apple, Meta, Alphabet, and Amazon for unfair practices under the Digital Markets Act. Concerns arise over violations, including self-preferencing and restricting user choice. Penalties may include hefty fines and divestments for non-compliance.


Mains PYQ

Q Elucidate the relationship between globalization and new technology in a world of scarce resources, with special reference to India. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Examine the impact of liberalization on companies owned by Indians. Are they competing with the MNCs satisfactorily? Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2013)

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