Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Global Smart City Index, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Smart City Index

Mains level : Success of the Smart City Mission

Four Indian cities -New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru – witnessed a significant drop in their rankings in the global listing of smart cities that was topped by Singapore.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is not a sub-index of the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’?

(a) Maintenance of law and order

(b) Paying taxes

(c) Registering property

(d) Dealing with construction permits

Global Smart City Index

  • The Institute for Management Development, in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design, has released the 2020 Smart City Index.
  • Its key findings rest on how technology is playing a role in the Covid-19 era.
  • The 2020 Index was topped by Singapore, followed by Helsinki and Zurich in the second and the third place respectively.
  • Others in the top 10 list include Auckland (4th), Oslo (5th), Copenhagen (6th), Geneva (7th), Taipei City (8th), Amsterdam (9th) and New York at the 10th place.

India’s performances

  • In the 2020 Smart City Index, Hyderabad was placed at the 85th position (down from 67 in 2019), New Delhi at 86th rank (down from 68 in 2019), Mumbai was at 93rd place (in 2019 it was at 78) and Bengaluru at 95th (79 in 2019).
  • This drop can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had where the technological advancement was not up to date.
  • From 15 indicators that the respondents perceive as the priority areas for their city, all four cities highlighted air pollution as one of the key areas that they felt their city needed to prioritise on.
  • For cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, this was closely followed by road congestion while for Delhi and Hyderabad it was basic amenities, the report said.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

India joins Djibouti Code of Conduct


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Agreement

Mains level : Maritime Security of India

India has joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment (DCOC/JA) as Observer, following the high-level virtual meeting.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Djibouti Code of Conduct is related to:

(a) International trade in precious stones (b) Maritime Security (c) Data sharing on Terrorism related activities (d) Data Localization

Djibouti Code of Conduct

  • DCOC/JA is a grouping on maritime matters comprising 18 member states adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East coast of Africa and Island countries in the IOR.
  • The DCOC, established in January 2009, is aimed at the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Provisions of the code

  • The Code provides a framework for capacity building in the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean to combat the threat of piracy.
  • It is a partnership of the willing and continues to both deliver against its aims as well as attract increasing membership.
  • The Code was signed on January 29 by the representatives of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen.
  • Since the meeting, further countries have signed bringing the total to 18 countries from the 21 eligible.

Significance for India

  • India joins Japan, Norway, the UK and the US as Observers to the DCOC/JA.
  • As an Observer at the DCOC/JA, India looks forward to working together with DCOC/JA member states towards coordinating and contributing to enhanced maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Delhi has been steadily increasing its strategic footprints in Western and Eastern Indian Ocean besides Eastern African coastal states.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

India becomes a member of UN Commission on Status of Women


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Commission on Status of Women, ECOSOC

Mains level : Not Much

India has been elected as a member of the United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women (UN-CSW), a body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Try this PYQ:

Q.Democracy’s superior virtue lies in the fact that it calls into activity:

(a) The intelligence and character of ordinary men and women

(b) The methods for strengthening executive leadership

(c) A superior individual with dynamism and vision

(d) A band of dedicated party workers

UN Commission on Status of Women

  • The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW or UNCSW) is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the main organs within the United Nations.
  • CSW has been described as the UN organ promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.
  • Every year, representatives gather at UN Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.
  • India will be a member of United Nation’s Commission on Status of Women for four years, 2021 to ‘25.
  • This year is the 25th anniversary of the famous Beijing World Conference on Women (1995).

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Global Biodiversity Outlook-5 Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Biodiversity Outlook, CBD

Mains level : Biodiversity and its governance

The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) 5 report was leaked before its official release. Let’s look at the highlights of the report.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Terms sometimes seen in the news- Their origin

  1. Annex-I Countries- Cartagena Protocol
  2. Certified Emissions- Nagoya Protocol Reductions
  3. Clean Development- Kyoto Protocol Mechanism

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

About GBO report

  • The GBO is the flagship publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • It is a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on the status and trends of biodiversity and draws conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention.
  • It summarizes progress made towards achieving the objectives of the Convention, such as the Aichi Targets and identifies key actions to achieve these.

Highlights of the Report

  • GBO-5 is an overview of the state of nature. It is a final report card on the progress made by countries in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • What the world needed was a shift from business-as-usual, the report said. This transformation needed to take place in all human activities that were interlinked with natural resources.
  • This shift was crucial, the report added as natural resources would continue to decline and the world would not be able to meet the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The GBO-5 suggested some shifts that need to be implemented to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. These include:
  1. Transition within land and forests: The report called the restoration of all forests that had been degraded. It also urged restoring local ecosystems.
  2. Sustainable agriculture: Farmers would have to reduce the use of chemicals and instead focus more on agroecological farming practices, the report said.
  3. Sustainable food systems: The report urged people to eat healthier, plant-based food and less meat. It also called for a focus on the problem of food wastage within the supply chain and household.
  4. Climate action: The report called for nature-based solutions to reduce climate change
  5. One health: Agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as wildlife, should be managed in an integrated manner, it said.

Failure to meet the targets

None of the 20 ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets’ agreed on by national governments through the CBD has been met, according to the report. The world was supposed to meet these targets by 2020. Whatever little progress has been made, has to do with the following:

  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 (Creating awareness about the value of biodiversity)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, to be effectively and equitably managed)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 16 (Access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 17 (Creation, adoption and implementation of an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 19 (Improvement and dissemination of knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity).

Back2Basics: Convention on Biological Diversity

  • The CBD, known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty.
  • The Convention has three main goals including the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
  • It has two supplementary agreements:
  1. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety- An international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another
  2. Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS)
  • All UN member states—with the exception of the United States—have ratified the treaty.

International Criminal Court (ICC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Criminal Court

Mains level : Not Much

The U.S. has announced sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans against two officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

International Criminal Court

  • The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • It is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
  • It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals.
  • The ICC lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes committed within member states, crimes committed by nationals of member states, or crimes in situations referred to the Court by the UNSC.

Issues with ICC

The ICC has faced a number of criticisms from states and society, including objections about-

  • its jurisdiction, accusations of bias, questioning of the fairness of its case-selection and trial procedures, and doubts about its effectiveness

Implications of US sanction

  • The US action is perceived as a setback to the international rules-based multilateral order, and the decision to sanction anybody assisting the ICC will deter victims of violence in Afghanistan from speaking out.
  • The unilateral sanctions would encourage other regimes accused of war crimes to flout the ICC’s rulings.


Innovation Ecosystem in India

[pib] Global Innovation Index 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Innovation Index

Mains level : Innovation ecosystem in India

India has climbed 4 spots and has been ranked 48thby the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the Global Innovation Index 2020 rankings.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q.India’s ranking in the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ is sometimes seen in the news. Which of the following has declared that ranking?

a) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

b) World Economic Forum

c) World Bank

d) World Trade Organization (WTO)

About the Global Innovation Index

  • The GII is an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation. It was started in 2007 by INSEAD and World Business a British magazine.
  • It is published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the WIPO, in partnership with other organisations and institutions.
  • It is based on both subjective and objective data derived from several sources, including the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
  • The GII is commonly used by corporate and government officials to compare countries by their level of innovation.
  • The theme of the 2019 GII is Creating Healthy Lives – The Future of Medical Innovation, which aims to explore the role of medical innovation as it shapes the future of healthcare.

Components of GII

Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities under GII are:

  1. Institutions,
  2. Human capital and research,
  3. Infrastructure,
  4. Market sophistication, and
  5. Business sophistication.

Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs:

  1. Knowledge and technology outputs and
  2. Creative outputs

India’s performance this year

  • In midst of the COVID -19 pandemic, it comes as uplifting news for India and is a testament of its robust R&D Ecosystem.
  • India was at the 52nd position in 2019 and was ranked 81st in the year 2015.
  • The WIPO had also accepted India as one of the leading innovation achievers of 2019 in the central and southern Asian region, as it has shown a consistent improvement in its innovation ranking for the last 5 years.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Japan

Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCRI

Mains level : Global trade tensions with China and its repercussions

With COVID-19 and trade tensions between China and the US threatening supply chains or actually causing bottlenecks, Japan has mooted the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) as a trilateral approach to trade, with India and Australia as the other two partners.

Q.Discuss the efficacy of the idea of Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) initiaited by Japan.

What is Supply Chain Resilience (SCR)?

  • In the context of international trade, SCR is an approach that helps a country to ensure that it has diversified its supply risk across a clutch of supplying nations instead of being dependent on just one or a few.
  • Unanticipated events whether natural or man-made that disrupt supplies from a particular country or even intentional halts to trade, could adversely impact economic activity in the destination country.

What is Japan proposing?

  • The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the assembly lines which are heavily dependent on supplies from one country.
  • While Japan exported $135 billion worth of goods to China in 2019, it also imported $169 billion worth from the world’s second-largest economy, accounting for 24% of its total imports.
  • So, any halt to supplies could potentially impair economic activity in Japan.
  • In addition, the U.S.-China trade tensions have caused alarm in Japanese trade circles for a while now.
  • If the world’s two largest economies do not resolve their differences, it could threaten globalisation as a whole and have a major impact on Japan.
  • It is heavily reliant on international trade both for markets for its exports and for supplies of a range of primary goods from oil to iron ore.

Japan eyeing India as a partner for the SCRI

  • Japan is the fourth-largest investor in India with cumulative FDIs touching $33.5 billion in the 2000-2020 periods.
  • It accounts for 7.2% of inflows in that period, according to quasi-government agency India Invest.
  • Imports from Japan into India more than doubled over 12 years to $12.8 billion in FY19. Exports from India to the world’s third-largest economy stood at $4.9 billion that year, data from the agency showed.
  • It is a clear reflection that the two countries are unlikely to allow individual cases to cloud an otherwise long-standing and deepening trade relationship.

Where does Australia stand?

  • Australia, Japan and India are already part of another informal grouping, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, which includes the U.S.
  • Media reports indicate that China has been Australia’s largest trading partner and that it counts for 32.6% of Australia’s exports, with iron ore, coal and gas dominating the products shipped to Asia’s largest economy.
  • But relations including trade ties between the two have been deteriorating for a while now.
  • China banned beef imports from four Australian firms in May and levied import tariffs on Australian barley.

India’s stand to gain or lose

  • Following the border tensions, partners such as Japan have sensed that India may be ready for dialogue on alternative supply chains.
  • Earlier, India would have done little to overtly antagonize China. But an internal push to suddenly cut links with China would be impractical.
  • China’s share of imports into India in 2018 stood at 14.5%. It supplies dominate segments of the Indian economy.
  • Sectors that have been impacted by supply chain issues arising out of the pandemic include pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, electronics, shipping, chemicals and textiles.
  • Over time, if India enhances self-reliance or works with exporting nations other than China, it could build resilience into the economy’s supply networks.

Human Rights Issues

UN’s guidelines on Access to Social Justice for People with Disabilities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Rights of PWDs

The United Nations has released it’s first-ever guidelines on access to social justice for people with disabilities to make it easier for them to access justice systems around the world.

Note: These guidelines can be used in mains answer while substantiating their rights.

Defining a person with a disability

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2007 as the first major instrument of human rights in the 21st century.
  • It defines persons with disabilities as those “who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

Highlights of the Guidelines

The guidelines outline a set of 10 principles and detail the steps for implementation. The 10 principles are:

  • Principle 1: All persons with disabilities have the legal capacity and, therefore, no one shall be denied access to justice on the basis of disability.
  • Principle 2: Facilities and services must be universally accessible to ensure equal access to justice without discrimination of persons with disabilities.
  • Principle 3: PWDS including children with disabilities, have the right to appropriate procedural accommodations.
  • Principle 4: PWDS have the right to access legal notices and information in a timely and accessible manner on an equal basis with others.
  • Principle 5: PWDS are entitled to all substantive and procedural safeguards recognized in international law on an equal basis with others, and States must provide the necessary accommodations to guarantee due process.
  • Principle 6: PWDS have the right to free or affordable legal assistance.
  • Principle 7: PWDS have the right to participate in the administration of justice on an equal basis with others.
  • Principle 8: PWDS have the rights to report complaints and initiate legal proceedings concerning human rights violations and crimes, have their complaints investigated and be afforded effective remedies.
  • Principle 9: Effective and robust monitoring mechanisms play a critical role in supporting access to justice for persons with disabilities.
  • Principle 10: All those working in the justice system must be provided with awareness-raising and training programmes addressing the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular in the context of access to justice.

Significance for India

  • As per statistics maintained by the UN, in India 2.4 per cent of males are disabled and two per cent of females from all age groups are disabled.
  • Disabilities include psychological impairment, intellectual impairment, speaking, multiple impairments, hearing, seeing among others.
  • In comparison, the disability prevalence in the US is 12.9 per cent among females and 12.7 per cent among males.
  • Disability prevalence in the UK is at 22.7 per cent among females and 18.7 per cent among males.

BRICS Summits

BRICS Innovation Base for 5G and AI Technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRICS, AI

Mains level : 5G Technology and the Huawei issue

China has made a proposal to create what it has termed a BRICS innovation base to take forward 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) cooperation.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.With reference to communication technologies, what is/are the difference/differences between LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution)?

  1. LTE ‘is commonly marketed as 3G and VoLTE is commonly marketed as advanced 3G.
  2. LTE is data-only technology and VoLTE is voice-only technology.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

BRICS Innovation Base

  • China is considering the establishment of a BRICS innovation base in China, in order to strengthen practical cooperation with the BRICS.
  • It has urged fellow nations, including India, to boost cooperation in areas including 5G and AI in partnership with Huawei.
  • The move could pose an awkward question for India, which is the only country in the grouping that is leaning towards excluding Chinese participation in the roll-out of India’s 5G networks.

Huawei in BRICS

  • In South Africa, Huawei is providing services to three of its telecom operators in the roll-out of their 5G networks.
  • Brazil has allowed participation in trials but yet to take a final call.
  • India is unlikely to allow Chinese participation in 5G, particularly in the wake of recent moves to tighten investment from China and national security concerns.

Back2Basics: BRICS

  • BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • The BRICS Leaders Summit is convened annually. It does not exist in form of organization, but it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations.
  • On November 30, 2001, Jim O’Neill, a British economist who was then chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, coined the term ‘BRIC’ to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • The grouping was formalized during the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers on the margins of the UNGA in New York in September 2006.
  • The first BRIC Summit took place in 2009 in the Russian Federation and focused on issues such as reform of the global financial architecture.
  • South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.

Air Pollution

[pib] Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDC, TIA

Mains level : India's NDC

NITI Aayog will virtually launch the India Component of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA).

Try this PYQ:

Q.The term Intended Nationally Determined Contribution is sometimes seen in the news in the context of:

(a) Pledge made by the European countries to rehabilitate refuges from the war-affected Middle East.

(b) Plan of nation outlined by the countries of the world to combat climate changes.

(c) Capital contributed by the member countries in the establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

(d) Plain of action outlined by the countries of the regarding SDGs.

What is NDC-TIA?

  • It is a joint programme, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
  • On behalf of the GoI, NITI Aayog will be the implementing partner.
  • It aims to promote a comprehensive approach to decarbonize transport in India, Vietnam, and China.
  • It is implemented by a consortium of seven other organisations.


  • The programme has a duration of 4 years.
  • The India Component will focus on establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for decarbonizing transport in India, strengthening GHG and transport modelling capacities.
  • It would help in financing climate actions in transport, offering policy recommendations on electric vehicle (EV) demand and supply policies.

Why need TIA?

  • India has a massive and diverse transport sector that caters to the needs of billion people.
  • It has the world’s second-largest road network, which contributes to maximum GHG emissions through all means of transportation.
  • With increasing urbanisation, the fleet size i.e. the number of sales of vehicles is increasing rapidly.
  • It is projected that the total number of vehicles will be doubled by 2030.

Micro-plastic Pollution in Atlantic Ocean


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microplastics

Mains level : Threats of microplastic pollution

The Atlantic Ocean contains 12-21 million tonnes of microplastics — about 10 times higher than previously determined — according to new research published in Nature Communications.

Highlights of the report

  • In the study, scientists studied pollution of the Atlantic Ocean caused by three types of plastics: polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene, which were suspended in the top 200 metres of the ocean.
  • These three types of plastic are most commonly used for packaging.
  • Scientists say that pollution caused by microplastics has been “severely” underestimated in previous assessments.
  • They also estimate that based on plastic waste generation trends from 1950-2015 and considering that the Atlantic Ocean has received 0.3-0.8 per cent of the global plastic waste for 65 years.
  • To date, a key uncertainty has been the magnitude of contamination of the ocean and our findings demonstrate that this is much higher in terms of mass than has been estimated previously.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Why is there a great concern about the ‘microbeads’ that are released into the environment? (CSP 2019)

(a) They are considered harmful to marine ecosystems.

(b) They are considered to cause skin cancer in children.

(c) They are small enough to be absorbed by crop plants in irrigated fields.

(d) They are often found to be used as food adulterants.

What are Microplastics?

  • Microplastics are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, or about the size of a sesame seed.
  • While they come from a variety of sources, one of them is when larger pieces of plastic degrade into smaller pieces, which are difficult to detect.

How does plastic reach the oceans?

  • There are multiple pathways for them to reach the oceans.
  • For instance, riverine and atmospheric transport from coastal and inland areas, illegal dumping activities and direct-at-sea littering from shipping, fishing and aquaculture activities, scientists have said.
  • According to the IUCN, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year and makes up about 80 per cent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

Why is plastic pollution especially harmful?

  • Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped.
  • Some marine species such as zooplanktons show preferential ingestion of smaller particles, making them easier to enter the food chain and their conversion to fast-sinking faecal pellets.
  • Over the past few years, various news reports have shown that marine animals such as whales, seabirds and turtles unknowingly ingest plastic and often suffocate to death.
  • While all sorts of marine species are prone to get impacted by plastic pollution, typically, bigger marine species tend to get more attention because of the amounts of debris they can hold up.

Impact on humans

  • For humans, too, marine plastic pollution is harmful if it reaches the food chain. For instance, microplastics have been found in tap water, beer and even salt.
  • One of the first studies to estimate plastic pollution in human ingestion that was published in June 2019 said that an average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic each year.
  • Consumption of plastic by humans is harmful since several chemicals that are used to produce plastics can be carcinogenic.
  • Even so, since microplastics are an emerging field of study, its exact risks on the environment and human health are not clearly known.

Digital India Initiatives

Digital Quality of Life Index, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital Quality of Life Index

Mains level : Digital divide in India

India ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of Internet quality, according to the Digital Quality of Life Report.

Note the following aspects:

1)Organisation publishing the report

2)India’s rank and its comparison with neighbors

3)Rankers at the top

Digital Quality of Life Index

  • It is global research released by online privacy solutions provider SurfShark.
  • It releases a report on the quality of digital wellbeing in 85 countries (81% of the global population), in terms of e-infrastructure.

India’s ranking: Hits and Misses

  • India occupies 79th place, ranking below countries including Guatemala and Sri Lanka.
  • India makes it into the top 10 in terms of Internet affordability. With a ranking of nine, it outperforms countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and China.
  • Additionally, when it comes to e-government, India occupies the 15th place globally, just below countries like New Zealand and Italy.
  • However, at position 78, India’s Internet quality is one of the lowest across 85 countries analysed in the research.

Global rankings

  • The report found that seven of the 10 countries with the highest digital quality of life are in Europe, with Denmark leading among 85 countries.
  • Canada stands out as a country with the highest digital quality of life in the Americas, while Japan takes the leading position in Asia.
  • Among the countries in Africa, people in South Africa enjoy the highest quality of digital lives whereas New Zealand leads in Oceania, outperforming Australia in various digital areas.

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

One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG) Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OSOWOG Initiative

Mains level : Global collaboration for Solar Energy

The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has put calls for proposals to the One Sun, One World, and One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative on hold till further notice.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The International Solar Alliance was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015.
  2. The Alliance includes all the member countries of the United Nations.

Which of the above statements is/are correct? (CSP 2016)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

OSOWOG Initiative

  • Under the project, India envisaged having an interconnected power transmission grid across nations for the supply of clean energy.
  • The vision behind the OSOWOG mantra is ‘The Sun Never Sets’ and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time.
  • With India at the fulcrum, the solar spectrum can easily be divided into two broad zones viz. far East which would include countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia etc. and far West which would cover the Middle East and the Africa Region.


  • The OSOWOG would have three phases. In the first phase Phase I, Middle East, South Asia and South-East Asia would be interconnected.
  • In the second phase, solar and other renewable energy resources rich regions would be interconnected.
  • In the third phase would vie for global interconnection of the power transmission grid to achieve the One Sun One World One Grid vision.

Benefits of the project

  • Attracting investment: An interconnected grid would help all the participating entities in attracting investments in renewable energy sources as well as utilizing skills, technology and finances.
  • Poverty allevation: Resulting economic benefits would positively impact poverty alleviation and support in mitigating water, sanitation, food and other socio-economic challenges.
  • Reduced project cost: The proposed integration would lead to reduced project costs, higher efficiencies and increased asset utilization for all the participating entities.

Issues with project

  • It is hindered with the issues of intricate geopolitics, unfavourable economics, unwarranted globalisation and undue centralization that act against the concept.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

In news: Loya Jirga


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Loya Jirga

Mains level : Taliban

The Afghan Loya Jirga approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners.

The term seems peculiar. We may expect a prelim question on the same.

What is Loya Jirga?

  • A Loya Jirga is a special type of jirga, or legal assembly, in Pashtunwali, the traditional code of laws of the Pashtun people.
  • It is mainly organized for choosing a new head of state in case of sudden death, adopting a new constitution, or to settle national or regional issue such as war.
  • It predates modern-day written or fixed laws and is mostly favoured by the Pashtun people but to a lesser extent by other nearby groups that have been influenced by Pashtuns (historically known as Afghans).
  • In Afghanistan, Loya Jirgas have been reportedly organized since at least the early 18th century when the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties rose to power.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Back in news: Indus Water Treaty (IWT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indus River Systems

Mains level : Indus Water Treaty and its significance

India has refused a request by Pakistan to hold a meeting on issues around the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) at the Attari check post near the India-Pakistan border.

The IWT has been in existence since 1960, and reached a flash point in the aftermath of the Uri attacks in 2016 with PM declaring that “blood and water couldn’t flow together”.

About Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • The IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  • The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  • The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Talks stalled on key projects

  • Among the key points on the table was evolving a procedure to solve differences on technical aspects governing the construction of the Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) project on the Chenab in the Kishtwar district.
  • India has called for the appointment of a ‘neutral’ party while Pakistan favours a Court of Arbitration to agree upon a final resolution on the design parameters of this hydropower project.
  • According to the IWT, India has the right to build RoR projects on the three ‘western’ rivers — the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus — provided it does so without substantially impeding water flow in Pakistan downstream.
  • Pakistan believes that the project’s current design does pose a serious impediment and has told the World Bank that it wants a Court of Arbitration (CoA) set up to decide on the issue.
  • India says this is only a technical issue and mutually solvable.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Back in news: Financial Action Task Force (FATF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FATF

Mains level : Money laundering and terror financing

Ahead of the crucial FATF meetings in October, Indian agencies plan to highlight its inaction in the Pulwama, 26/11 Mumbai attack and Daniel Pearl murder cases.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What is FATF? Discuss its role in combating global financial crimes and terror financing.

What is the FATF?

  • FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
  • The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
  • It holds three Plenary meetings in the course of each of its 12-month rotating presidencies.

Why is Pakistan under its scanner?

  • Pakistan has been under the FATF’s scanner since June 2018, when it was put on the Grey List for terror financing and money laundering risks.
  • FATF and its partners such as the Asia Pacific Group (APG) are reviewing Pakistan’s processes, systems, and weaknesses on the basis of a standard matrix for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) regime.
  • In June 2018, Pakistan gave a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime, and to address its strategic counter-terrorism financing-related deficiencies.
  • Pakistan and the FATF then agreed on the monitoring of 27 indicators under a 10-point action plan, with specific deadlines.
  • The understanding was that the successful implementation of the action plan, and its physical verification by the APG, would lead the FATF to move Pakistan out of the Grey List.
  • However, Islamabad managed to satisfy the global watchdog over just five of them.

Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNFAO

Mains level : Assurance of Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has unveiled a new platform to help accelerate the global reduction in food loss and waste.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q. The FAO accords the status of ‘Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS)’ to traditional agricultural systems. What is the overall goal of this initiative?

  1. To provide modern technology, training in modern farming methods and financial support to local communities of identified GIAHS so as to greatly enhance their agricultural productivity.
  2. To identify and safeguard eco-friendly traditional farm practices and their associated landscapers, agricultural biodiversity and knowledge systems of the local communities.
  3. To provide Geographical Indication status to all the varieties of agricultural produce in such identified GIAHS.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

About the Platform

  • The Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste brings together information on measurement, reduction, policies, alliances, actions and examples of successful models applied to reduce food loss and waste across the globe.
  • The platform will contain information on measurement, reduction policies, alliances, actions and examples of successful models applied to reduce food loss and waste.
  • The platform will be officially launched on the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September 2020.

How will it work?

  • The platform is as a gateway to information on food loss and waste from various resources, including the largest online collection of data on what food is lost and wasted.
  • Links to related portals from development partners are also provided.

Why need such a portal?

  • Food loss and waste is a sign of food systems in distress. Nutritious foods are the most perishable, and hence, the most vulnerable to lose.
  • Not only food is being lost, but food safety and nutrition are being compromised as well.
  • At least 14 per cent of food is lost (food wastage and food loss together), valued at $400 billion annually.
  • In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the food that is lost is associated with around 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • Major losses are seen in roots tubers and oil-bearing crops (25 per cent), fruits and vegetables (22 per cent), and meat and animal products (12 per cent).
  • Reducing food loss and waste can bring about many benefits: more food available for the most vulnerable; a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; less pressure on land and water resources; and increased productivity and economic growth.

Food loss vs food wastage

  • There is a difference between food wastage and food losses.
  • Food is wasted when it is discarded by consumers or is disposed of in retail due to its inability to meet quality standards.
  • Food loss, on the other hand, occurs when it is spoilt or spilt before reaching the final product or retail stage.
  • For example, dairy, meat, and fish can go bad in transit because of inadequate refrigerated transport and cold storage facilities.

Back2Basics: Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Objective: Lead international efforts to defeat hunger

Members: FAO has 194 Member Nations, two associate members and one member organization, the European Union

Headquarters: Rome, Italy

Year Founded: Established in 1945

Human Rights Issues

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Commonwealth of Nations

Mains level : Abolition of modern slavery

The CHRI has released a report on “Eradicating Modern Slavery: An assessment of Commonwealth government progress”.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2012:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Commonwealth has no charter, treaty or constitution
  2. All the territories/countries once under the British Empire (jurisdiction/rule/mandate) automatically joined the Commonwealth as its members

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

About the report

The report was released on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and an international anti-slavery organisation Walk Free.

Highlights of the report

  • The report assessed the progress made by Commonwealth countries on the promises made in 2018 to end modern slavery by 2030 and achieve the SDGs of ending forced labour, human trafficking and child labour.
  • The report found that one-third of the Commonwealth countries had criminalised forced marriage, while 23 had not criminalised commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  • Commonwealth countries have made little progress towards their commitment to eradicate modern slavery by 2030.
  • One in every 150 people in the Commonwealth is living in conditions of modern slavery.
  • Out of 54 countries, only four engage with business to investigate supply chains, and all countries report gaps in victim assistance programs
  • None of the Asian countries in the group had implemented laws against forced labour in supply chains.

India is the worst performer

  • India had fared the worst in terms of coordination with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place.
  • India, like all other Commonwealth countries in Asia, had not ratified the International Labour Organization’s 2011 Domestic Workers Convention or the 2014 Forced Labour Protocol.
  • The report said India accounted for one-third of all child brides in the world.
  • Despite being the largest country in the region, India has the weakest response on national coordination, with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place.

Back2Basics: Commonwealth of Nations

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
  • It dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories.
  • It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nation through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalized by the UK through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
  • The current body was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernized the community, and established the member states as “free and equal”.
  • The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
  • The Queen is head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
  • Member has no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

  • It is an independent, non-partisan & nonprofit international NGO which works towards the practical realization of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.
  • It was founded in 1987 and is headquartered at New Delhi.
  • CHRI’s objectives are to promote awareness and adherence to the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to other internationally recognised human rights instruments.
  • The organisation specializes in transparency and accountability issues, with a focus on access to justice and access to information.
  • The organisation mainly works in South Asia, East Africa, and Ghana region.

Human Rights Issues

Protesting is a fundamental right: UN


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCAT, ICCPR, Art. 21

Mains level : Right to peaceful assembly

As authorities worldwide grapple with demonstrations over issues like political rights and racial justice, a UN committee has reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.

Practice question for mains:

Q.There is an urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system in India in light of rising cases of custodial torture and killings. Comment.

What is the news?

  • The independent experts on the Human Rights Committee published a fresh interpretation of the right of peaceful assembly.
  • It offered comprehensive legal guidance about where and how it applies and also outlining governments’ obligations.
  • The committee is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under Article 21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.


  • The ICCPR is a multilateral treaty adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976.
  • The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.
  • As of September 2019, the Covenant has 173 parties and six more signatories without ratification.
  • It is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  • It is monitored by the UN Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the UN Human Rights Council).

Back2Basics: Article 21

  • Article 21 is the protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
  • The Article prohibits the deprivation of the above rights except according to a procedure established by law.
  • Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right.
  • It, however, does not entitle a foreigner the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Article 19 (1) (e).

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GFRA

Mains level : Forest conservation in India

India has ranked third among the top 10 countries that have gained in forest areas in the last decade a/c to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA).

Possible prelim question:

Q.The Global Forest Resources Assessment Report recently seen in news is published by-


b) UN Forum on Forests

c) International Union of Forest Research Organizations

d) None of these

India gains in forest cover

  • The top 10 countries that have recorded the maximum average annual net gains in a forest area during 2010-2020 are China, Australia, India, Chile, Vietnam, Turkey, the US, France, Italy and Romania.
  • India accounts for two per cent of total global forest area.
  • Globally, 12.5 million people were employed in the forestry sector. Out of this, India accounted for 6.23 million, or nearly 50 per cent.

Global prospects

  • The Asian continent reported the highest net gain in a forest area in 2010-2020, according to the report.
  • It recorded a 1.17 million hectares (ha) per year net increase in forests in the last decade.
  • However, the South Asia sub-region reported net forest losses during 1990-2020.
  • But, this decline would have been much higher without the net gain in India’s forest during this period, according to FRA 2020.

How did India gain?

  • The FRA 2020 has credited the government’s Joint Forest Management programme for the significant increase in community-managed forest areas in the Asian continent.
  • The forest area managed by local, tribal and indigenous communities in India increased from zero in 1990 to about 25 million ha in 2015, the assessment said.
  • India has been taking up massive afforestation and plantation schemes.

About Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
  • It reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), forest conservation, and sustainable use.

Back2Basics: Defining forests as per FRA

  • The definition excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems, such as fruit tree plantations, oil palm plantations, olive orchards, and agroforestry systems when crops are grown under tree cover.

The FAO definition of a forest includes:

  • land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ
  • does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use