Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] International Hydropower Association (IHA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Hydropower Association (IHA), Teesta River

Mains level : NA

NHPC’s 510 MW Teesta-V Power Station located in the Himalayan State of Sikkim has been conferred with the prestigious Blue Planet Prize by International Hydropower Association (IHA).

Teesta-V Power Station

  • The power station has been built, owned and being operated by NHPC.
  • The award has been conferred for its sustainability assessment undertaken by Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) of IHA.

About IHA

  • IHA is a London based non-profit membership association operating in 120 countries.
  • The IHA membership includes leading hydropower owners and operators, developers, designers, suppliers and consultants.
  • The IHA Blue Planet Prize is awarded to hydropower projects that demonstrate excellence in sustainable development.
  • The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) is the leading international tool for measuring the sustainability of hydropower projects.
  • It offers a way to benchmark the performance of a hydropower project against a comprehensive range of environmental, social, technical and governance criteria.

Back2Basics: Teesta River

  • Teesta River is a 414 km long river that rises in the Pauhunri Mountain of eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • It drains an area of 12,540 sq km.
  • In India, it flows through North Sikkim, East Sikkim, Pakyong District, Kalimpong district, Darjeeling District, Jalpaiguri District, Cooch Behar districts and the cities of Rangpo, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj.
  • It joins River Brahmaputra at Fulchhari in Bangladesh. 315 km portion of the river lies in India and rest in Bangladesh.
  • Teesta is the largest river of Sikkim and the second largest river of West Bengal after Ganges.

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Coastal Zones Management and Regulations

[pib] Kovalam & Eden Beaches gets Blue Fag Certification


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Flag Certification

Mains level : NA


The international eco-label “Blue Flag”, has accorded the Blue Flag Certification for 2 new beaches this year –Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry beaches.

With this India now has 10 International Blue Flag beaches.

Which are the other 8 beaches?

  1. Shivrajpur (Dwarka-Gujarat)
  2. Ghoghla (Diu)
  3. Kasarkod (Karnataka) [NOT Kasargod which is in Kerala] and
  4. Padubidri (Karnataka)
  5. Kappad (Kerala)
  6. Rushikonda (AP)
  7. Golden Beach (Odisha) and
  8. Radhanagar (A&N Islands)

Blue Flag Beaches

  • The ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an ‘eco-tourism model’ and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, a safe and healthy environment, and sustainable development of the area.
  • The certification is accorded by the Denmark-based Foundation for Environment Education.
  • It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001 when South Africa joined.
  • It has 33 stringent criteria under four major heads for the beaches, that is, (i) Environmental Education and Information (ii) Bathing Water Quality (iii) Environment Management and Conservation and (iv) Safety and Services.

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

[pib] PLI Scheme for White Goods


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : White Goods, PLI Scheme

Mains level : Success of the PLI Scheme

A total of  52 companies have filed their application with a committed investment of Rs 5,866 crore under the PLI scheme to incentivize the domestic manufacturing of components of White Goods.

What are White Goods?

  • White goods refer to heavy consumer durables or large home appliances, which were traditionally available only in white.
  • They include appliances such as washing machines, air conditioners, stoves, refrigerators, etc. The white goods industry in India is highly concentrated.

Why PLI scheme for white goods?

  • Indian appliance and consumer electronics (ACE) market reached INR 76,400 crore (~$10.93 bn) in 2019.
  • Appliances and consumer electronics industry is expected to double to reach INR 1.48 lakh crore (~$21.18 bn) by 2025.
  • The PLI Scheme on White Goods is designed to create complete component ecosystem for Air Conditioners and LED Lights Industry in India and make India an integral part of the global supply chains.
  • Only manufacturing of components of ACs and LED Lights will be incentivized under the Scheme.

What is PLI Scheme?

  • As the name suggests, the scheme provides incentives to companies for enhancing their domestic manufacturing apart from focusing on reducing import bills and improving the cost competitiveness of local goods.
  • PLI scheme offers incentives on incremental sales for products manufactured in India.
  • The scheme for respective sectors has to be implemented by the concerned ministries and departments.

Criteria laid for the scheme

  • Eligibility criteria for businesses under the PLI scheme vary based on the sector approved under the scheme.
  • For instance, the eligibility for telecom units is subject to the achievement of a minimum threshold of cumulative incremental investment and incremental sales of manufactured goods.
  • The minimum investment threshold for MSME is Rs 10 crore and Rs 100 crores for others.
  • Under food processing, SMEs and others must hold over 50 per cent of the stock of their subsidiaries, if any.
  • On the other hand, for businesses under pharmaceuticals, the project has to be a greenfield project while the net worth of the company should not be less than 30 per cent of the total committed investment.

What are the incentives offered?

  • An incentive of 4-6 per cent was offered last year on mobile and electronic components manufacturers such as resistors, transistors, diodes, etc.
  • Similarly, 10 percent incentives were offered for six years (FY22-27) of the scheme for the food processing industry.
  • For white goods too, the incentive of 4-6 per cent on incremental sales of goods manufactured in India for a period of five years was offered to companies engaged in the manufacturing of air conditioners and LED lights.

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NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[pib] Reforms in Urban Planning Capacity in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NITI Aayog

Mains level : Evolving concept of urban development

NITI Aayog has launched a report titled ‘Reforms in Urban Planning Capacity in India’ on measures to ramp up urban planning capacity in India.

Reforms in Urban Planning

  • The report has been developed by NITI Aayog, in consultation with concerned ministries and eminent experts in the domain of urban and regional planning.
  • It underscores urban challenges, including town planning and emphasizes need greater policy attention in our country.

Why such report?

  • India is home to 11% of the total global urban population.
  • By 2027, India will surpass China as the most populous country in the world.
  • Unplanned urbanization, however, exerts great strain on our cities. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the dire need for the planning and management of our cities.
  • The existing urban planning and governance framework is complex, which often leads to ambiguity and lack of accountability.

Highlights of the report

The report makes several recommendations that can unblock bottlenecks in the value chain of urban planning capacity in India.  Some of them are:

Programmatic Intervention for Planning of Healthy Cities:

  • Every city must aspire to become a ‘Healthy City for All’ by 2030.
  • The report recommends a Central Sector Scheme ‘500 Healthy Cities Programme’, for a period of 5 years, wherein priority cities and towns would be selected jointly by the states and local bodies.

Programmatic Intervention for Optimum Utilization of Urban Land:

  • All the cities and towns under the proposed ‘Healthy Cities Programme’ should strengthen development control regulations based on scientific evidence to maximize the efficiency of urban land (or planning area).
  • The report recommends a sub-scheme ‘Preparation/Revision of Development Control Regulations’ for this purpose.

Ramping Up of Human Resources:

  • To combat the shortage of urban planners in the public sector, the report recommends that the states/UTs may need to a) expedite the filling up of vacant positions of town planners.
  • It asks to additionally sanction 8268 town planners’ posts as lateral entry positions.

Ensuring Qualified Professionals for Undertaking Urban Planning:

  • State town and country planning departments face an acute shortage of town planners.
  • This is compounded by the fact that in several states, ironically, a qualification in town planning is not even an essential criterion for such jobs.
  • States may need to undertake requisite amendments in their recruitment rules to ensure the entry of qualified candidates into town-planning positions.

Re-engineering of Urban Governance:

  • The report recommends the constitution of a high-powered committee to re-engineer the present urban-planning governance structure.
  • The key aspects that would need to be addressed in this effort are:
  1. clear division of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities, appropriate revision of rules and regulations, etc.,
  2. creation of a more dynamic organizational structure, standardisation of the job descriptions of town planners and other experts, and
  3. extensive adoption of technology for enabling public participation and inter-agency coordination.

Revision of Town and Country Planning Acts:

  • Most States have enacted the Town and Country Planning Acts, that enable them to prepare and notify master plans for implementation.
  • However, many need to be reviewed and upgraded.
  • Therefore, the formation of an apex committee at the state level is recommended to undertake a regular review of planning legislations (including town and country planning or urban and regional development acts or other relevant acts).

Demystifying Planning and Involving Citizens:

  • While it is important to maintain the master plans’ technical rigour, it is equally important to demystify them for enabling citizens’ participation at relevant stages.
  • Therefore, the committee strongly recommends a ‘Citizen Outreach Campaign’ for demystifying urban planning.

Steps for Enhancing the Role of Private Sector:

  • The report recommends that concerted measures must be taken at multiple levels to strengthen the role of the private sector to improve the overall planning capacity in the country.
  • These include the adoption of fair processes for procuring technical consultancy services, strengthening project structuring and management skills in the public sector, and empanelment of private sector consultancies.

Steps for Strengthening Urban Planning Education System:

  • The Central universities and technical institutions in all the other States/UTs are encouraged to offer PG degree programmes (MTech Planning) to cater to the requirement of planners in the country.
  • The committee also recommends that all such institutions may synergize with Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and respective state rural development departments.

Measures for Strengthening Human Resource and Match Demand–Supply:

  • The report recommends the constitution of a ‘National Council of Town and Country Planners’ as a statutory body.
  • Also, a ‘National Digital Platform of Town and Country Planners’ is suggested to be created within the National Urban Innovation Stack of MoHUA.
  • This portal will enable self-registration of all planners and evolve as a marketplace for potential employers and urban planners.

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) scheme for Specified Agriculture Products


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Transport and Marketing Assistance Scheme

Mains level : Export promotion schemes in India

The Centre has revised “Transport and Marketing Assistance” (TMA) scheme for Specified Agriculture Products’.

What is the TMA Scheme?

  • The TMA Scheme was introduced in 2019 to provide assistance for the international component of freight, to mitigate the disadvantage of higher freight costs faced by the Indian exporters of agriculture products.
  • All exporters, duly registered with relevant Export Promotion Council as per Foreign Trade Policy, of eligible agriculture products, shall be covered under this scheme.
  • The assistance, at notified rates, will be available for the export of eligible agriculture products to the permissible countries, as specified from time to time.
  • Assistance would be provided in cash through a direct bank transfer as part reimbursement of freight paid.

Following major changes have been made in the revised scheme:

  • Dairy products, which were not covered under the earlier scheme, will be eligible for assistance under the revised scheme.
  • Rates of assistance have been increased, by 50% for exports by sea and by 100% for exports by air.

List of ineligible products

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RBI Notifications

[pib] Account Aggregator Network (AAN): A financial data-sharing system


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Account Aggregator Network (AAN) and its regulation

Mains level : Account Aggregator Network (AAN)

The Account Aggregator system in banking has been started off with eight of India’s largest banks. In this newscard, we shall learn it in a FAQ manner.

What is an Account Aggregator?

  • An Account Aggregator (AA) is a type of RBI regulated entity (with an NBFC-AA license) that helps an individual securely and digitally access and share information from one financial institution they have an account with to any other regulated financial institution in the AA network.
  • Data cannot be shared without the consent of the individual.
  • There will be many Account Aggregators an individual can choose between.
  • Account Aggregator replaces the long terms and conditions form of ‘blank cheque’ acceptance with a granular, step by step permission and control for each use of your data.

How would it improve an average person’s financial life?

  • India’s financial system involves many hassles for consumers today.
  • This includes sharing of physical signed and scanned copies of bank statements, stamp documents, or having to share your personal username and password to give your financial history to a third party.
  • The AAN would replace all these with a simple, mobile-based, simple, and safe digital data access & sharing process.
  • This will create opportunities for new kinds of services — eg new types of loans.
  • The individual’s bank just needs to join the Account Aggregator network.

How is AAN different to Aadhaar eKYC data sharing?

  • Aadhaar eKYC and CKYC only allow sharing of four ‘identity’ data fields for KYC purposes (eg name, address, gender, etc).
  • Similarly, credit bureau data only shows loan history and/or a credit score.
  • The AAN allows sharing of transaction data or bank statements from savings/deposit/current accounts.

What kind of data can be shared?

  • Today, banking transaction data is available to be shared (for example, bank statements from a current or savings account) across the banks that have gone live on the network.
  • Gradually the AA framework will make all financial data available for sharing, including tax data, pensions data, securities data (mutual funds and brokerage), and insurance data will be available to consumers.
  • It will also expand beyond the financial sector to allow healthcare and telecom data to be accessible to the individual via AA.

Can AAs view or ‘aggregate’ personal data? Is the data sharing secure?

  • Account Aggregators cannot see the data; they merely take it from one financial institution to another based on an individual’s direction and consent.
  • Contrary to the name, they cannot ‘aggregate’ your data.
  • AAs are not like technology companies which aggregate your data and create detailed profiles of you.
  • The data AAs share is encrypted by the sender and can be decrypted only by the recipient.
  • The end to end encryption and use of technology like the ‘digital signature’ makes the process much more secure than sharing paper documents.

Can a consumer decide they don’t want to share data?

Yes. Registering with an AA is fully voluntary for consumers.

  • If the bank the consumer is using has joined the network, a person can choose to register on an AA, choose which accounts they want to link, and share their data.
  • A customer can reject a consent to share request at any time.
  • If a consumer has accepted to share data in a recurring manner over a period (eg during a loan period), it can also be revoked at any time later as well by the consumer.

Duration of the data shared

  • The exact time period for which the recipient institution will have access will be shown to the consumer at the time of consent for data sharing.

How can a customer get registered with an AA?

  • One can register with an AA through their app or website.
  • AA will provide a handle (like username) which can be used during the consent process.
  • Today, four apps are available for download (Finvu, OneMoney, CAMS Finserv, and NADL) with operational licenses to be AAs.
  • Three more have received in principle approval from RBI (PhonePe, Yodlee, and Perfios) and may be launching apps soon.
  • A customer can register with any AA to access data from any bank on the network.

Does a customer need to pay the AA for using this facility?

  • This will depend on the AA. Some may charge a small user fee.
  • Some AAs may be free because they are charging a service fee to financial institutions.

What new services can a customer access if their bank has joined the AA network of data sharing?

The two key services that will be improved for an individual is access to loans and access to money management.

  • If a customer wants to get a small business or personal loan today, there are many documents that need to be shared with the lender.
  • This is a cumbersome and manual process today, which affects the time taken to procure the loan and access to a loan.
  • Similarly, money management is difficult today because data is stored in many different locations and cannot be brought together easily for analysis.
  • Through Account Aggregator, a company can access tamper-proof secure data quickly and cheaply, and fast track the loan evaluation process so that a customer can get a loan.
  • Also, a customer may be able to access a loan without physical collateral, by sharing trusted information on a future invoice or cash flow directly from a government system like GST or GeM.

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

[pib] Bharat Series (BH-series) for Vehicles


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharat series (BH-series)

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has rolled out a new series for vehicles registration ‘BH’ to avoid re-registration of vehicles while moving to another state.

Bharat series (BH-series)

  • There was a procedure of re-registration of a vehicle while moving to another state.
  • A vehicle bearing BH registration mark shall not require assignment of a new registration mark when the owner of the vehicle shifts from one State to another.
  • Format of Bharat series (BH-series) Registration Mark –

Registration Mark Format:

  1. YY BH #### XX
  2. YY – Year of first registration
  3. BH- Code for Bharat Series
  4. ####- 0000 to 9999 (randomized)
  5. XX- Alphabets (AA to ZZ)

Why such move?

  • Station relocation occurs with both Government and private sector employees.
  • Such movements create a sense of unease in the minds of such employees with regard to transfer of registration from the parent state to another state.
  • Under section 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, a person is allowed to keep the vehicle for not more than 12 months in any state other than the state where the vehicle is registered.

Who can get this BH series?

  • BH-series will be available on voluntary basis to Defense personnel, employees of Central Government/ State Government/ Central/ State PSUs and private sector companies/organizations.
  • The motor vehicle tax will be levied for two years or in multiple of two.
  • This scheme will facilitate free movement of personal vehicles across States/UTs of India upon relocation to a new State/UT.
  • After completion of the fourteenth year, the motor vehicle tax shall be levied annually which shall be half of the amount which was charged earlier for that vehicle.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA) Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Transport Initiative for Asia

Mains level : Not Much

NITI Aayog and World Resources Institute (WRI), India, jointly launched the ‘Forum for Decarbonizing Transport’ in India as part of the NDC-Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA).

Transport Initiative for Asia

  • The NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA 2020-2023) is a joint programme that will engage China, India, and Vietnam in promoting a comprehensive approach to decarbonizing transport in their respective countries.
  • The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
  • NITI Aayog is the implementing partner for the India component of the project.
  • The project aims at bringing down the peak level of GHG emissions (transport sector) in Asia (in line with a well below 2-degree pathway), resulting in problems like congestion and air pollution.

Why need such initiative?

  • India has a massive and diverse transport sector, which is also the third most CO2 emitting sector.
  • Data suggests that within the transport sector, road transport contributes to more than 90% of the total CO2 emissions.
  • The NDC-TIA India component focuses on developing a coherent strategy of effective policies and the formation of a multi-stakeholder platform for decarbonizing transport in the country.

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

[pib] E-Shram Portal:  National Database on Unorganized Workers (NDUW)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Shram Portal

Mains level : Welfare of the unorganized workers

The Union Ministry of Labour & Employment will launch the e-Shram portal – National Database on Unorganized Workers (NDUW).

What is the E-Shram Portal?

  • The government aims to register 38 crore unorganized workers, such as construction labourers, migrant workforce, street vendors and domestic workers, among others.
  • The workers will be issued an e-Shram card containing a 12-digit unique number, which, going ahead, will help in including them in social security schemes.
  • The government had earlier missed deadlines for creating the database, inviting criticism from the Supreme Court.

How will the registration for workers happen on the portal?

  • The registration of workers on the portal will be coordinated by the Labour Ministry, state governments, trade unions and CSCs.
  • Awareness campaigns would be planned across the country to enable nationwide registration of workers.
  • Following the launch of the portal, workers from the unorganized sector can begin their registration from the same day.
  • A national toll free number — 14434 — will also be launched to assist and address the queries of workers seeking registration on the portal.
  • A worker can register on the portal using his/her Aadhaar card number and bank account details, apart from filling other necessary details like date of birth, home town, mobile number and social category.

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Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] Simhadri PV Project: Largest floating Solar Project in the country


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India's largest solar PV Project

Mains level : Renewable Energy in India

The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has commissioned the largest floating solar PV project of 25MW on the reservoir of its Simhadri thermal station in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

Simhadri PV Project

  • The 2000MW coal-based Simhadri Station is the first power project to implement an open sea intake from the Bay of Bengal which has been functional for more than 20 years.
  • This is the first solar project to be set up under the flexibilization scheme of coal-powered plant, notified in 2018.
  • The floating solar installation which has a unique anchoring design is spread over 75 acres in an RW reservoir.
  • This floating solar project has the potential to generate electricity from more than 1 lakh solar PV modules.
  • This would not only help to light around 7,000 households but also ensure at least 46,000 tons of CO2e are kept at arm’s length every year during the lifespan of this project.
  • The project is also expected to save 1,364 million litres of water per annum. This would be adequate to meet the yearly water requirements of 6,700 households.

Other important facts you must know

  • As of May 2021, India has 95.7 GW of renewable energy capacity, and represents ~ 25% of the overall installed power capacity.
  • The government plans to establish renewable energy capacity of 523 GW (including 73 GW from Hydro) by 2030.
  • India was the world’s 3rd largest renewable energy producer with 38% (136 GW out of 373 GW) of total installed energy capacity in 2020 from renewable sources.
  • Tamil Nadu has the highest installed solar power capacity in India. Kamuthi Solar Power Project near Madurai is the world’s second-largest solar park.

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Back2Basics: NTPC

  • NTPC is an Indian statutory corporation engaged in the generation of electricity and allied activities.
  • It is incorporated under the Companies Act 1956 and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Power.
  • NTPC’s core function is the generation and distribution of electricity to State Electricity Boards in India.
  • It is the largest power company in India with an electric power generating capacity of 62,086 MW.
  • It has also ventured into oil and gas exploration and coal mining activities.
  • In May 2010, NTPC was conferred Maharatna status by GoI, one of the only four companies to be awarded this status.

Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Exercise Malabar


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ex Malabar

Mains level : QUAD security Dialogue

Indian Naval Ships Shivalik and Kadmatt have arrived at Guam, an Island Territory of the USA to participate in the annual Exercise MALABAR-21.

Also read:

[Prelims Spotlight] Various Defence Exercises in News

Ex Malabar

  • MALABAR series of maritime exercises commenced in 1992 as a bilateral IN-USN exercise and has grown in stature over the years to include four prominent navies in the Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.
  • It is carried out between navies of Australia, India, Japan, and the USA
  • The exercise provides an opportunity for common-minded navies to enhance inter-operability, gain from best practices and develop a common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations.


  • The exercise will see the participation of all four Quad countries.
  • Indian Navy also conducted a number of Passage Exercises (PASSEX) with navies from Japan, Australia and the US.

Another Exercise in news: Ex Konkan 2021

  • Exercise Konkan 2021 was held between INS Tabar and HMS Westminster on 16 Aug 21 in the English Channel.

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Back2Basics: Quad Security Dialogue

  • QSD is a strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by talks between member countries.
  • The dialogue is paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
  • Quad is widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power.

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

[pib] HUID System in Jewellery Industry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hallmark Gold

Mains level : Not Much

Hallmarking scheme is turning out to be a grand success with more than 1 crore pieces of Jewellery hallmarked in a quick time” with more than 90000 Jewelers registered in a same time period.

What is Hallmark Gold?

  1. The process of certifying the purity and fineness of gold is called hallmarking.
  2. Bureau of Indian Standards, the National Standards Body of India, is responsible for hallmarking gold as well as silver jewellery under the BIS Act.
  3. If you see the BIS hallmark on the gold jewellery/gold coin, it means it conforms to a set of standards laid by the BIS. Hallmarking gives consumers assurance regarding the purity of the gold they bought.
  4. That is, if you are buying hallmarked 18K gold jewellery, it will actually mean that 18/24 parts are gold and the rest is alloy.
  5. At present, only 30% of Indian Gold Jewellery is hallmarked.

Here are the four components one must look at the time of buying gold (they are mentioned in the laser engraving of a hallmark seal):

  1. BIS Hallmark: Indicates that its purity is verified in one of its licensed laboratories
  2. Purity in carat and fineness (corresponding to given caratage KT)
  • 22K916 (91.6% Purity)
  • 18K750 (75% Purity)
  • 14K585 (58.5% Purity)

What is HUID?

  • HUID is a unique code that will be given to every piece of jewellery at the time of hallmarking.
  • It will be helpful in identifying the jeweller or the Assaying and Hallmarking Centres (AHCs) which had hallmarked the jewellery.
  • It will be a six-digit alphanumeric code, with which every piece of jewellery will be tagged.
  • At the hallmarking centre, the jewellery is stamped with the unique number manually.

What are the new hallmarking rules?

  • The government has made it mandatory for jewellers to hallmark gold jewellery, but with some relaxation.
  • Jewellers with an annual turnover of up to Rs 40 lakh will be exempted from mandatory hallmarking.
  • Similarly, jewellery for international exhibitions and government-approved business-to-business domestic exhibitions will also be exempted.
  • It will also allow hallmarking of additional carats — 20, 23, and 24.

Issues with HUID

  • Jewellers say the HUID process has increased the time required to get the hallmarking on jewels and this has created huge backlogs at AHCs.
  • Since the process is being done manually, there are also chances of a mismatch of the code, he adds.
  • The inventory pile-up at the centres is also raising concerns about the security of the jewellery.
  • Several industry stakeholders point out the limited number of AHCs, which will not be enough to hallmark the large number of pieces that are sold in India every year.

Answer this PYQ from CSP 2017

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Standard Mark of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is mandatory for automotive tyres and tubes.
  2. AGMARK is a quality Certification Mark issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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


Post your answers here.

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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

[pib] International Bullion Exchange


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Bullion Exchange

Mains level : Not Much

The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has inaugurated the pilot run/soft launch of the International Bullion Exchange scheduled to go live on October 1, 2021.

What is Bullion?

  • Bullion is gold and silver that is officially recognized as being at least 99.5% and 99.9% pure and is in the form of bars or ingots.
  • Bullion is often kept as a reserve asset by governments and central banks.
  • To create bullion, gold first must be discovered by mining companies and removed from the earth in the form of gold ore, a combination of gold and mineralized rock.
  • The gold is then extracted from the ore with the use of chemicals or extreme heat.
  • The resulting pure bullion is also called “parted bullion.” Bullion that contains more than one type of metal, is called “unparted bullion.”

The Bullion Market

  • Bullion can sometimes be considered legal tender, most often held in reserves by central banks or used by institutional investors to hedge against inflationary effects on their portfolios.
  • Approximately 20% of mined gold is held by central banks worldwide.
  • This gold is held as bullions in reserves, which the bank uses to settle the international debt or stimulate the economy through gold lending.
  • The central bank lends gold from their bullion reserves to bullion banks at a rate of approximately 1% to help raise money.
  • Bullion banks are involved in one activity or another in the precious metals markets.
  • Some of these activities include clearing, risk management, hedging, trading, vaulting, and acting as intermediaries between lenders and borrowers.

What is International Bullion Exchange?

  • This shall be the “Gateway for Bullion Imports into India”, wherein all the bullion imports for domestic consumption shall be channelized through the exchange.
  • The exchange ecosystem is expected to bring all the market participants to a common transparent platform for bullion trading.
  • It would provide efficient price discovery, assurance in the quality of gold, enable greater integration with other segments of financial markets and help establish India’s position as a dominant trading hub in the World.

Answer this PYQ:

What is/are the purpose/purposes of the Government’s ‘Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme’ and ‘Gold Monetization Scheme’?

  1. To bring the idle gold lying with India households into the economy
  2. To promote FDI in the gold and jewellery sector
  3. To reduce India’s dependence on gold imports

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Post your answers here.

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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Revamped National Gene Bank


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Gene Bank

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Agriculture Minister has inaugurated the world’s second-largest refurbished gene bank at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

National Gene Bank

  • The National Gene Bank was established in the year 1996 to preserve the seeds of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) for future generations.
  • It has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.
  • Presently it is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other countries.
  • National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources is meeting the need of in-situ and ex-situ germplasm conservation through Delhi Headquarters and 10 regional stations in the country.

Key facilities provided

  • The NGB has four kinds of facilities to cater to long-term as well as medium-term conservation namely:
  1. Seed Gene bank (- 18°C),
  2. Cryo gene bank (-170°C to -196°C),
  3. In-vitro Gene bank (25°C), and
  4. Field Gene bank
  • It stores different crop groups such as cereals, millets, medicinal and aromatic plants, and narcotics, etc.

What is the latest update?

  • This is the world’s second-largest gene bank located in the national capital.
  • It has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.
  • Presently, it is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other countries.

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Also read:

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] Income Limit of OBCs and Creamy Layer


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Creamy Layer

Mains level : Reservations for OBCs

A proposal for revision of the income criteria for determining the Creamy Layer amongst the OBCs is under consideration of the Government.

What is the Creamy Layer?

  • Creamy Layer is a concept that sets a threshold within which OBC reservation benefits are applicable.
  • While there is a 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and higher educational institutions, those falling within the “creamy layer” cannot get the benefits of this quota.

Basis of Creamy Layer

  • It is based on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission).
  • The government in 1990 had notified 27% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in vacancies in civil posts and services that are to be filled on direct recruitment.
  • After this was challenged, the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case (1992) upheld 27% reservation for OBCs, subject to exclusion of the creamy layer.

How is it determined?

  • Following the order in Indra Sawhney, an expert committee headed by Justice (retired) R N Prasad was constituted for fixing the criteria for determining the creamy layer.
  • In 1993, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) listed out various categories of people of certain rank/status/income whose children cannot avail the benefit of OBC reservation.
  1. For those not in government, the current threshold is an income of Rs 8 lakh per year.
  2. For children of government employees, the threshold is based on their parents’ rank and not income.
  3. For instance, an individual is considered to fall within the creamy layer if either of his or her parents is in a constitutional post; if either parent has been directly recruited in Group-A; or if both parents are in Group-B services.
  4. If the parents enter Group-A through promotion before the age of 40, their children will be in the creamy layer.
  5. Children of a Colonel or higher-ranked officer in the Army, and children of officers of similar ranks in the Navy and Air Force, too, come under the creamy layer.
  6. Income from salaries or agricultural land is not clubbed while determining the creamy layer (2004).

What is happening now?

  • MPs have raised questions about the pending proposal for revising the criteria.
  • They have asked whether the provision of a creamy layer for government services only for OBC candidates is rational and justified.

Has it ever been revised?

  • Other than the income limit, the current definition of the creamy layer remains the same as the DoPT had spelled out in 1993 and 2004.
  • The income limit has been revised over the years.
  • No other orders for the definition of the creamy layer have been issued.
  • While the DoPT had stipulated that it would be revised every three years, the first revision since 1993 (Rs 1 lakh per year) happened only in 2004 (Rs 2.50 lakh), 2008 (Rs 4.50 lakh), 2013 (Rs 6 lakh), and 2017 (Rs 8 lakh).
  • It is now more than three years since the last revision.

What does the government propose to do about the revision?

  • A draft Cabinet note has stated that the creamy layer will be determined on all income, including salary calculated for income tax, but not agriculture income.
  • The government is considering a consensus on Rs 12 lakh but salary and agriculture income are also being added to the gross annual income.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[pib] Forum of the Election Management Bodies of South Asia (FEMBoSA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FEMBoSA

Mains level : Not Much

The Election Commission of India has handed over the Chair of FEMBoSA to the Election Commission of Bhutan for 2021-22.

What is FEMBoSA?

  • Forum of the Election Management Bodies of South Asia (FEMBoSA) was established at the 3rd Conference of Heads of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of SAARC Countries in 2012.
  • The forum aims to increase mutual cooperation with respect to the common interests of the SAARC’s EMBs.
  • The Forum has eight Member Election Management Bodies from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • The Election Commission of India was the latest Chair of the Forum (now Bhutan).

Its establishment

  • The first meeting of the representatives of Election Management Bodies of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in the year 2010.
  • It was then decided at the conclusion that an organization representing those countries should be established.
  • Consequently, annual meets were held in the member countries and the charter for the organization also was adopted with the aim of fulfilling the objectives of the organization.
  • Since the creation of FEMBoSA, Annual Meetings were held in Pakistan (2011), in India (2012), in Bhutan (2013), in Nepal (2014),  in Sri Lanka (2015), in Maldives (2016), in Afghanistan (2017) and in Bangladesh(2018).

Objectives of FEMBOSA

  • Promote contact among the Election Management Bodies of SAARC countries
  • Facilitate the appropriate exchange of experience and expertise among members
  • Share experiences with a view to learning from each other
  • Foster efficiency and effectiveness in conducting the free, fair, transparent, and participative election

Significant activities under FEMBoSA

  • Member organizations celebrate National Voter’s Day in a calendar year in their respective countries
  • An initiative of establishing South Asia Institute for Democracy and Electoral Studies (SAIDES) in Nepal
  • In order to increase knowledge related to elections, take initiatives to include voter education in the school-level textbooks of their respective countries
  • Implementation of recommendations of South Asian Disabilities Organizations for the inclusion of disabled people in the electoral system and the creation of a suitable election environment

Back2Basics: SAARC

  •  In 1985, at the height of the Cold War, leaders of South Asian nations — namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka — created a regional forum.
  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the goal of contributing “to mutual trust, understanding, and appreciation of one another’s problems.”
  • Afghanistan was admitted as a member in 2007.

Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

[pib] Operation Greens Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Operation Greens Scheme

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Minister of Food Processing Industries has provided useful information regarding the Op Greens Scheme.

Operation Greens Scheme

  • Ministry of Food Processing Industries launched the Operation Greens scheme in November, 2018.
  • The scheme aims for integrated development of the Tomato, Onion, and Potato (TOP) value chain.
  • It aims to promote Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), agri-logistics, processing facilities and value addition etc. in identified production clusters.
  • Under the scheme, state-wise funds are not allocated as the scheme is demand-driven and projects are approved as per scheme guidelines on the basis of applications received for setting up of projects in eligible production clusters.


  • To enhance value realization of TOP farmers
  • Reduction in post-harvest losses
  • Price stabilization for producers and consumers and
  • Increase in food processing capacities and value addition etc.

Key provisions

  • Short term intervention by way of providing transportation and storage subsidy @ 50% and
  • long term intervention through value addition projects in identified production clusters with Grant-in-aid @ 35% to 70% of eligible project cost subject to maximum of Rs. 50 crore per project

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

[pib] PM-DAKSH Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-DAKSH Scheme

Mains level : Various initiaitves for Skilling India

Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the ‘PM-DAKSH’ Portal and ‘PM-DAKSH’ Mobile App.

About PM-DAKSH Scheme

  • The PM-DAKSH stands for Pradhan Mantri Dakshta Aur Kushalta Sampann Hitgrahi (PM-DAKSH) Yojana.
  • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment from the year 2020-21.
  • Under this scheme, eligible target group are being provided skill development training programmes on (i) Up-skilling/Re-skilling (ii) Short Term Training Programme (iii) Long Term Training Programme and (iv) Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP).
  • These training programs are being implemented through Government Training Institutes, Sector Skill Councils constituted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and other credible institutions.

PM-DAKSH Portal/App

  • Any person can get all the information related to skill development training at one place by visiting the ‘PM-DAKSH’ Portal.
  • Also, with just one click, one can get information about skill development trainings happening near him/her and he/she can easily register himself/herself for skill training.

Some of the features of this portal are as follows:

  • Availability of all information related to skill development at one place for Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and Safai Karamcharis.
  • Facility to register for the training institute and program of their interest.
  • Facility to upload desired documents related to personal information.
  • Facility to register the attendance of the trainees through face and eye scanning during the training period.
  • Monitoring facility through photo and video clip during training etc.

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

[pib] Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Rural Development has taken several measures for the successful implementation of the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) Gram Panchayats.

Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY)

  • SAGY is a village development project launched in October 2014, under which each Member of Parliament will take the responsibility of developing physical and institutional infrastructure in three villages by 2019.
  • SAGY aims at instilling certain values in the villages and their people so that they get transformed into models for others.

These values include:

  • Adopting people’s participation as an end in itself – ensuring the involvement of all sections of society in all aspects related to the life of village, especially in decision- making related to governance
  • Adhering to Antyodaya – enabling the “poorest and the weakest person” in the village to achieve well being
  • Affirming gender equality and ensuring respect for women
  • Guaranteeing social justice
  • Instilling dignity of labour and the spirit of community service and voluntarism
  • Promoting a culture of cleanliness
  • Living in consonance with nature – ensuring a balance between development and ecology
  • Preserving and promoting local cultural heritage
  • Inculcating mutual cooperation, self-help and self-reliance
  • Fostering peace and harmony in the village community
  • Bringing about transparency, accountability and probity in public life
  • Nurturing local self-governance
  • Adhering to the values enshrined in the Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties of the Indian Constitution

Identification of an Adarsh Gram

  • A Gram Panchayat would be the basic unit.
  • It will have a population of 3000-5000 in plain areas and 1000-3000 in hilly, tribal and difficult areas.
  • In districts where this unit size is not available, Gram Panchayats approximating the desirable population size may be chosen.
  • The MP would be free to identify a suitable Gram Panchayat for being developed as Adarsh Gram, other than his/her own village or that of his/her spouse.
  • Lok Sabha MP has to choose a Gram Panchayat from within his/her constituency and Rajya Sabha MP a from the rural area of a district of his/her choice in the State from which he/she is elected.
  • Nominated MPs may choose a Gram Panchayat from the rural area of any district in the country.
  • In the case of urban constituencies, (where there are no Gram Panchayats), the MP will identify a Gram Panchayat from a nearby rural constituency.
  • The newly elected MPs will have the option to select the GP of their choice.

Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

[pib] Definition of Minority


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Definition of Minority

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Minority Affairs has provided some useful information about various initiatives for minorities.

A very interesting fact found in the article is that Minorities are identified by the States and not the Centre!

Defining a minority community

  • The Central has notified minority communities at the national level in consultation with various stakeholders under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Act,
  • The six communities notified as minority communities under Section 2(c) of the NCM Act, 1992 are Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Parsis, and Jains.
  • Notification of any community-specific to a State as a minority community within a State comes under the purview of the State
  • Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution provide for the protection of interest of minorities which includes linguistic minorities also.

Who are linguistic minorities?

  • Linguistic Minorities are group or collectivities of individuals residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language or script of their own.
  • The language of the minority group need not be one of the twenty-two languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • In other words, linguistic minorities at the State level mean any group or groups of people whose mother tongues are different from the principal language of the State, and at the district and taluka/tehsil levels, different from the principal language of the district or taluka/tehsil concerned.
  • The linguistic minorities are therefore identified by the respective States/UTs.
  • The State/UT wise, broad linguistic profile is available in the 52nd Report of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities(CLM).

National Commission for Minorities

  • The Government has already enacted the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 to constitute a National Commission for Minorities.
  • The NCM receives petitions/grievances from the aggrieved persons and the said petitions/grievances being received by Commission.
  • They are dealt with by calling for reports from the concerned authorities under the Union and State Governments.
  • On receipt of the reports, the Commission makes appropriate recommendations to the respective authorities for redressal of the grievances.