[pib] DDT and its impact on environment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DDT

Mains level : Paper 3-Pollution and harm to ecology

India has supplied 20.60 MT of DDT to South Africa for its Malaria control program.

Try this question from CSP 2014:

With reference to ‘Global Environment Facility’, which of the following statements is/are correct?
(a) It serves as financial mechanism for ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’ and ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’
(b) It undertakes scientific research on environmental issues at global level
(c) It is an agency under OECD to facilitate the transfer of technology and funds to underdeveloped countries with specific aim to protect their environment.
(d) Both (a) and (b)

What is DDT?

  • Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane commonly known as DDT is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless crystalline chemical compound.
  • It was developed as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s.
  • It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations.

Why is it controversial?

  • DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that is readily adsorbed to soils and sediments, which can act both as sinks and as long-term sources of exposure affecting organisms.
  • Routes of loss and degradation include runoff, volatilization, photolysis and aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation.
  • Due to hydrophobic properties, in aquatic ecosystems DDT is absorbed by aquatic organisms and thus bio-accumulates in the food web.

Threats of DDT

  • The bioaccumulation of DDT has caused eggshell thinning and population declines in multiple North American and European bird of prey species.
  • DDT is an endocrine disruptor. It is considered likely to be a human carcinogen.

In use despite ban

  • A worldwide ban on agricultural use of DDT was formalized under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • But its limited and still-controversial use in disease vector control continues, because of its effectiveness in reducing malarial infections, balanced by environmental and other health concerns.

Back2Basics: Stockholm Convention on POPs

  • Stockholm Convention is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004 that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • In 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for global action to be taken on POPs.
  • POPs are defined by the UNEP as chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment.

Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification

  • Bioaccumulation and biomagnification are two different processes that often occur in tandem with one another.
  • Bioaccumulation is the process by which toxins enter the food web by building up in individual organisms.
  • Biomagnification is the process by which toxins are passed from one trophic level to the next (and thereby increase in concentration) within a food web.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

[pib] Manodarpan Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Manodarpan Initiative

Mains level : Mental health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic

The Union HRD Ministry will launch the Manodarpan Initiative, today.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.’Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan’ is a national campaign to:

(a) rehabilitate the homeless and destitute persons and provide them with suitable sources of livelihood

(b) release the sex workers from their practice and provide them with alternative sources of livelihood

(c) eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate the manual scavengers

(d) release the bonded labourers from their bondage and rehabilitate them

Manodarpan Initiative

  • ‘Manodarpan’ covers a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing during the COVID outbreak and beyond.
  • It contains advisory, practical tips, posters, videos, do’s and don’ts for psychosocial support, FAQs and online query system.
  • It aims to provide psychosocial support to students for their mental health and well-being.
  • It has been included in the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, as a part of strengthening human capital and increasing productivity and efficient reform and initiatives for the education sector.
  • A toll-free helpline will also be launched as part of the initiative for a country-wide outreach to students from schools, colleges and universities.
  • Through this helpline, tele-counselling will be provided to the students to address their mental health and psychosocial issues.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ESZs and its regulation

Mains level : Significance of ESZ

The Environment Ministry has approved the Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) for the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone.

Note the following things with respect to the ESZs:

1) Its demarcation

2) Law/Regulation providing it

3) Boundary restrictions

Bhagirathi ESZ

It covers a watershed of about  100 kilometres stretch of the river  Bhagirathi from Gaumukh to Uttarakashi covering an area of  4179.59 square km.

What are the Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

How are they demarcated?

  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be carried out or shall not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 states that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of certain considerations.
  • The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Defining its boundaries

  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.
  • Further, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around and it could be of variable width and extent.

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

[pib] ASPIRE Portal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASPIRE Portal

Mains level : Not Much

The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is developing a technology platform for the automotive industry called ASPIRE – Automotive Solutions Portal for Industry, Research and Education.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The recently launched ASPIRE Portal deals with:

a) Aspirational Districts

b) Primary Education

c) Industrial Clusters

d) Automotive Technology


  • The key objective of this portal is to facilitate the Indian Automotive Industry to become self-reliant by assisting in innovation and adoption of global technological advancements.
  • It aims to bring together the stakeholders from various associated avenues.
  • This includes bringing together the automotive OEMs, Tier 1 Tier 2 & Tier 3 companies, R&D institutions and academia (colleges & universities) on matters involving technology advancements.
  • The activities would include R&D, Product Technology Development, Technological Innovations, Technical and Quality Problem Resolution for the industry, Manufacturing and Process Technology Development etc.
  • Apart from acting as a solution and resource platform, the portal will also host grand challenges in line with the need of the industry as will be identified from time to time, for development of key automotive technologies.

About ICAT

  • International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is located at Manesar in Gurugram district of Haryana.
  • It is a govt entity owned by the Ministry of Heavy Industries.
  • It has facilities for vehicle homologation and also testing laboratories for noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and passive safety.
  • It also includes a powertrain laboratory, engine dynamometers, emission laboratory with Euro-V capability, a fatigue laboratory, passive safety laboratory, and vehicle test tracks.

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

[pib] India Energy Modeling Forum (IEMF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMEF

Mains level : Various energy related alliances and partnerships

In the joint working group meeting of the Sustainable Growth Pillar of the India-US partnership, an India Energy Modeling Forum was launched.

Note the following things about IEMF:

1. It is a bilateral forum.

2. It is not associated with any International Agency say UN, IEA, IAEA etc.

3.On March15 last year, the idea was incepted and only a formal workshop was organized on IEMF (it wasn’t launched).


UPSC can puzzle you along these 3 points in a statements-based MCQ.

India Energy Modeling Forum (IEMF)

  • The IEMF seeks to provide a platform for policy makers to study important energy and environmental issues and ensure induction of modelling and analysis in informed decision making process.
  • The Forum aims to improve cooperation and coordination between modeling teams, the GoI, knowledge partners and think-tanks, build capacity of Indian institutions, and identify issues for joint modeling activities and future areas of research.

What is Energy Modelling?

  • Energy modeling or energy system modeling is the process of building computer models of energy systems in order to analyze them.
  • There exists energy modelling forums in different parts of the World.
  • Such models often employ scenario analysis to investigate different assumptions about the technical and economic conditions at play.
  • Outputs may include the system feasibility, greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative financial costs, natural resource use, and energy efficiency of the system under investigation.
  • Governments maintain national energy models for energy policy development.

Outcomes of the forum

  • Discussions on energy modelling in India and the world explored how energy modelling can play an important role in decision-making.
  • The panelists laid focus on bridging the rural-urban divide and factoring in energy pressures from the informal economy within models.
  • Deliberations included a spotlight on how the impact of the evolving character of India’s cities, industries and especially the transport sector should be included in the any India-centric models.
  • The shift towards electric mobility, an increasing emphasis on mainstreaming of renewable energy options and overarching environmental concerns were also stated as key factors for determining India’s energy future.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] NISHTHA Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NISHTHA programme

Mains level : Various digital initiatives by HRD ministry

The first on-line NISHTHA programme for 1200 Key Resources Persons in Andhra Pradesh was launched by Union HRD Ministry.

There are various web/portals/apps with peculiar names such as YUKTI, DISHA, SWAYAM etc. Their core purpose is similar with slight differences. Pen them down on a separate sheet under the title various digital HRD initiatives.


Add one more to this list.

NISHTHA Programme

  • NISHTHA is an acronym for National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement.
  • It is the largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world.
  • The basic objective of this massive training programme ‘NISHTHA’ is to motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.
  • The initiative is first of its kind wherein standardized training modules are developed at national level for all States and UTs.
  • The States and UTs can also contextualize the training modules and use their own material and resource persons also, keeping in view the core topics and expected outcomes of NISHTHA.

Progress till date

  • Around 23,000 Key Resource Persons and 17.5 lakh teachers and school heads have been covered under this NISHTHA face to face mode till date.
  • It has been customized for online mode to be conducted through DIKSHA and NISHTHA portals by the NCERT.

Port Infrastructure and Shipping Industry – Sagarmala Project, SDC, CEZ, etc.

[pib] India’s first trans-shipment hub – Vallarpadam Terminal of Cochin Port


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Major ports of India

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Shipping has reviewed the development activities of the Vallarpadam Terminal of Cochin Port, envisaged as first trans-shipment port of India.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.Recently, which of the following States has explored the possibility of constructing an artificial inland port to be connected to the sea by a long navigational channel?

(a) Andhra Pradesh

(b) Chhattisgarh

(c) Karnataka

(d) Rajasthan

Vallarpadam Terminal

  • The Kochi International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT), locally known as the Vallarpadam Terminal is located strategically on the Indian coastline.
  • It is the terminal at the port which handles containers, stores them temporarily and transfers them to other ships for the onward destination.
  • It is proposed to be developed as the most preferred gateway for South India and leading transhipment hub of South Asia.

It successfully fulfils all the criteria which are needed to develop it as trans-shipment hub which include:

  • It is best positioned Indian port with regard to proximity to International sea routes;
  • It is located at least average nautical distance from all Indian feeder ports;
  • It entails connectivity which has multiple weekly feeder connections to all ports on West & East Coast of India, From Mundra to Kolkata;
  • It has proximity to key hinterland markets of India;
  • It has the infrastructure to manage large ships and capacity to scale it up as per requirement.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PRAGYATA Guidelines

Mains level : Limitations of Digital learning

Union HRD Ministry has released PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education through online medium.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the impact of the COVID induced lockdowns on the education system in India. Give some solutions for it.

PRAGYATA guidelines

  • The guidelines include eight steps of online/ digital learning that is, Plan- Review- Arrange- Guide- Yak(talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate.
  • These guidelines have been developed from the perspective of learners, with a focus on online/blended/digital education for students who are presently at home due to lockdown.
  • It provides a roadmap or pointers for carrying forward online education to enhance the quality of education.
  • The guidelines will be relevant and useful for a diverse set of stakeholders including school heads, teachers, parents, teacher educators and students.
  • It stresses upon the use of an alternative academic calendar of NCERT, for both, learners having access to digital devices and learners having limited or no access.

 Major highlights

The guidelines highlight 3 modes of online education:

The guidelines outline suggestions for administrators, school heads, teachers, parents and students in the following areas:

  • Need assessment
  • Concerns while planning online and digital education like duration, screen time, inclusiveness, balanced online and offline activities etc level-wise
  • Modalities of intervention including resource curation, level-wise delivery etc.
  • Physical, mental health and wellbeing during digital education
  • Cyber safety and ethical practices including precautions and measures for maintaining cyber safety
  • Collaboration and convergence with various initiatives

Recommended screen time

Class Recommendation
Pre Primary Not more than 30 minutes.
Classes 1 to 12 Recommended to adopt/adapt the alternative academic calendar of NCERT
Classes 1 to 8 Not more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days
Classes 9 to 12 Not more than four sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days

Guidelines for parents

  • For parents, the guideline helps to understand the need for physical, mental health and wellbeing along with the cyber safety measures for children at home.
  • Guidelines for physical health and mental wellness is stressed so that children do not get overly stretched or stressed, or get affected owing to prolonged use of digital devices.
  • Also, it provides sufficient Dos and Don’ts regarding ergonomics and cyber safety.

Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

[pib] India’s Tiger Census sets a New Guinness Record


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : All India Tiger Estimation 2018 results

Mains level : Tiger conservation

The fourth cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation 2018, results of which were declared to the nation on Global Tiger Day last year has entered the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest camera trap wildlife survey.

Before reading this newscard, try these PYQs:

Q. The term ‘M-STrIPES’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of: (CSP 2017)

(a) Captive breeding of Wild Fauna

(b) Maintenance of Tiger Reserves

(c) Indigenous Satellite Navigation System

(d) Security of National Highways

Q.Consider the following protected areas: (CSP 2012)

  1. Bandipur
  2. Bhitarkanika
  3. Manas
  4. Sunderbans

Which of the above are declared Tiger Reserves?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

About All India Tiger Estimation

  • The tiger count is prepared after every four years by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) provides details on the number of tigers in the 18 tiger reign states with 50 tiger reserves.
  • However, this time, the census also included data collected from the rough terrains of north-eastern states which were not possible due to logistic constraints before.
  • The entire exercise spanned over four years is considered to be the world’s largest wildlife survey effort in terms of coverage and intensity of sampling.
  • Over 15, 000 cameras were installed at various strategic points to capture the movement of tigers. This was supported by extensive data collected by field personnel and satellite mapping.

Highlights of the 2018 estimation

  • India has 2,967 tigers, a third more than in 2014, according to results of a tiger census.
  • India has achieved the target of doubling tiger population four years before the 2022 deadline.
  • According to the census, Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka at 524 and Uttarakhand at number 3 with 442 tigers.
  • While Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014.
  • Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in their tiger numbers while tiger numbers in Odisha remained constant. All other states witnessed a positive trend.

Back2Basics: Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 during PM Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
  • In 1970 India had only 1800 tigers and Project Tiger was launched in Jim Corbett National Park.
  • The project is administrated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • It aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction etc.
  • Under this project the govt. has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

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

[pib] ASEEM Portal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASEEM Portal

Mains level : Atmanirbhar Bharat

Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has launched Aatmanirbhar Skilled Employee-Employer Mapping (ASEEM) portal to help skilled people find sustainable livelihood opportunities.

There are various web/portals/apps with peculiar names such as YUKTI, DISHA, SWAYAM etc. Their core purpose is similar with slight differences. Pen them down on a separate sheet.

ASEEM Portal

  • ASEEM refers to all the data, trends and analytics which describe the workforce market and map demand of skilled workforce to supply.
  • It is developed and managed by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in collaboration with Bengaluru-based Company named Betterplace.
  • It is an AI-based portal which will map details of workers based on regions and local industry demands and will bridge the demand-supply gap of skilled workforce across sectors.
  • It will provide employers with a platform to assess the availability of a skilled workforce and formulate their hiring plans.
  • It will also provide real-time granular information by identifying relevant skilling requirements and employment prospects.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

[pib] Mongolian Kanjur Manuscripts


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mongolian Kanjur 

Mains level : Buddhist literature

The Ministry of Culture has taken up the project of reprinting of 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur under the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM).  The first sets of five volumes were presented to the President of India.

Try this question from CSP 2011:

Q.India maintained its early cultural contacts and trade links with Southeast Asia across the Bay of Bengal. For this preeminence of early maritime history of Bay of Bengal, which of the following could be the most convincing explanation/explanations?

(a) As compared to other countries, India had a better ship-building technology in ancient and medieval times.

(b) The rulers of southern India always patronized traders, Brahmin priests and Buddhist monks in this context.

(c) Monsoon winds across the Bay of Bengal facilitated sea voyages.

(d) Both (a) and (b) are convincing explanations in this context.

Mongolian Kanjur

  • Mongolian Kanjur, the Buddhist canonical text in 108 volumes is considered to be the most important religious text in Mongolia.
  • In the Mongolian language ‘Kanjur’ means ‘Concise Orders’- the words of Lord Buddha in particular. It has been translated from Tibetan.
  • It is held in high esteem by the Mongolian Buddhists and they worship the Kanjur at temples and recite the lines of Kanjur in daily life as a sacred ritual.
  • The Kanjur is kept almost in every monastery in Mongolia.
  • The language of the Kanjur is Classical Mongolian and it is a source of providing a cultural identity to Mongolia.

About National Mission for Manuscripts

  • The Mission was launched in February 2003 under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, with the mandate of documenting, conserving and disseminating the knowledge preserved in the manuscripts.
  • One of the objectives of the mission is to publish rare and unpublished manuscripts so that the knowledge enshrined in them is spread to researchers, scholars and the general public at large.
  • Under this scheme, reprinting of 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur has been taken up by the Mission.

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

[pib] Rewa Solar Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rewa Solar Plant

Mains level : Solar tariff issues in India

The PM has inaugurated the 750 MW Solar Project set up at Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q. The term ‘Domestic Content Requirement’ is sometimes seen in the news with reference to-

(a) Developing solar power production in our country

(b) Granting licences to foreign T.V. channels in our country

(c) Exporting our food products to other countries

(d) Permitting foreign educational institutions to set up their campuses in our country

Rewa Solar Project

  • This project comprises of three solar generating units of 250 MW each located on a 500-hectare plot of land situated inside a Solar Park (total area 1500 hectare).
  • The Solar Park was developed by the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL), a Joint Venture Company of Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (MPUVN), and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a PSU.
  • The Project was the first solar project in the country to break the grid parity barrier.
  • This project will reduce carbon emission equivalent to approx. 15 lakh ton of CO2 per year.

Tariff management

  • Compared to prevailing solar project tariffs of approx. Rs. 4.50/unit in early 2017, the Rewa project achieved historic results.
  • It has a first-year tariff of Rs. 2.97/unit with a tariff escalation of Rs. 0.05/unit over 15 years and a levelized rate of Rs. 3.30/unit over the term of 25 years.

Significance of the project

  • The project is also the first renewable energy project to supply to an institutional customer outside the State.
  • The Delhi Metro will get 24% of energy from the project with the remaining 76% being supplied to the State DISCOMs of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The Project also exemplifies India’s commitment to attaining the target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by the year 2022; including 100 GW of solar installed capacity.

Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

[pib] Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (AHRCs) for Urban Migrants / Poor


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), AHRC

Mains level : Housing for all

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for developing of Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (AHRCs). for urban migrants  / poor.

Try this question from CSP 2015:

“Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojna’ has been launched for

(a) Providing housing loan to poor people at cheaper interest rates

(b) Promoting women’s Self-Help Groups in backward areas

(c) Promoting financial inclusion in the country

(d) Providing financial help to the marginalized communities


  • It is a sub-scheme under PM Awas Yojana – Urban.
  • Under the scheme, existing vacant government-funded housing complexes will be converted in ARHCs through Concession Agreements for 25 years.
  • The concessionaire will make the complexes livable by repair/retrofit and maintenance of rooms and filling up infrastructure gaps like water, sewer/ septage, sanitation, road etc.
  • States/UTs will select concessionaire through transparent bidding.
  • Complexes will revert to ULB after 25 years to restart next cycle like earlier or run on their own.

Beneficiaries of the scheme

  • A large part of the workforce in manufacturing industries, service providers in hospitality, health, domestic/commercial establishments, and construction or other sectors, labourers, students etc. who come from rural areas or small towns seeking better opportunities will be the target beneficiary under ARHCs.

Benefits of AHRCs

  • Usually, these migrants live in slums, informal/ unauthorized colonies or peri-urban areas to save rental charges.
  • They spend a lot of time on roads by walking/ cycling to workplaces, risking their lives to cut on the expenses.
  • ARHCs will create a new ecosystem in urban areas making housing available at affordable rent close to the place of work.
  • Investment under ARHCs is expected to create new job opportunities.
  • ARHCs will cut down unnecessary travel, congestion and pollution.

Back2Basics: Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)


The PMAY- Urban Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022. The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:

  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource
  • Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.


  • In pursuance to the goal – Housing for all by 2022, the rural housing scheme Indira Awas Yojana has been revamped to Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin and approved during March 2016.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided for construction of a pucca house to all houseless and households living in dilapidated houses.
  • It is proposed that one crore households would be provided assistance for construction of pucca house under the project during the period from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
  • The scheme would be implemented in rural areas throughout India except for Delhi and Chandigarh. The cost of houses would be shared between the Centre and States.

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

[pib] Central Sector Scheme: Agriculture Infrastructure Fund


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSS-AIF

Mains level : AIF

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to a new pan India Central Sector Scheme-Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (CSS-AIF).

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.Increase in absolute and per capita real GNP does not connote a higher level of economic development, if:

(a) Industrial output fails to keep pace with agriculture output.

(b) Agriculture output fails to keep pace with industrial output.

(c) Poverty and unemployment increase.

(d) Imports grow faster than exports.

Agriculture Infrastructure Fund

  • AIF aims to provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
  • Under the scheme, Rs. One Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans.
  • The beneficiaries will include Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), SHGs, Farmers etc among others.
  • The moratorium for repayment under this financing facility may vary subject to a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 2 years.

Management of AIF

  • Agri Infra fund will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) platform.
  • The National, State and District level Monitoring Committees will be set up to ensure real-time monitoring and effective feedback.
  • The duration of the Scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2029 (10 years).

Benefits of the scheme

  • The Project by way of facilitating formal credit to farm and farm processing-based activities is expected to create numerous job opportunities in rural areas.
  • It will enable all the qualified entities to apply for a loan under the fund.

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[pib] Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMGKAY

Mains level : Assurance of Food Security

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) as part of Economic Response to COVID-19, for another five months from July to November 2020.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss how the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana has helped to ensure food security to the vulnerable sections of India during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period.

PM- Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

  • Under the scheme it is proposed to distribute 9.7 Lakh MT cleaned whole Chana to States/UTs for distribution to all beneficiary households under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).
  • Thus it would 1kg per month free of cost under for the next five months -July to November 2020.
  • All expenses on the extended PMGKAY are to be borne by the Central Government.
  • About 19.4 crore households would be covered under the Scheme.

Benefits of the scheme

  • Extension of the scheme is in line with the commitments of the GOI to allow anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of non-availability of food grains due to disruption during next five months.
  • Free distribution of whole Chana will also ensure adequate availability of protein to all the above-mentioned individuals during these five months.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explaining Lithium increase in the Universe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Explaining the increase of Li in the the Universe

Mains level : Not much

In a study recently published in Nature Astronomy scientists from Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) along with their international collaborators have provided a robust observational evidence for the first time that Li production is common among low mass Sun-like stars during their He-core burning phase.

Importance of lithium in our life

  • Light inflammable, metal lithium (Li) has brought about transformation in modern communication devices and transportation.
  • A great deal of today’s technology is powered by lithium in its various shades [remember Li-ion battery!].
  • But where does the element come from?
  • The origin of much of the Li can be traced to a single event, the Big-Bang that happened about 13.7 Billion years ago, from which the present-day Universe was also born.

Why lithium was thought to be different?

  • Li content in the physical Universe has increased by about a factor of four over the life of the Universe.
  • However, the rest of the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, nickel and so on which grew about a million times over the lifetime of the Universe.
  • Li, however, understood to be an exemption!
  • Current understanding is that lithium in stars like our Sun only gets destroyed over their lifetime.
  • As a matter of fact, the composition of all the elements in the Sun and the Earth is similar.
  • But, the measured content of Li in the Sun is a factor of 100 lower than that of the Earth, though both are known to have formed together.

So, what the new finding suggests?

  • This discovery challenges the long-held idea that stars only destroy lithium during their lifetime.
  • It implies that the Sun itself will manufacture lithium in the future.
  • This is not predicted by models, indicating that there is some physical process missing in stellar theory.
  • Further, the authors identified “He flash”.
  • “He flash” is an on-set of He-ignition at the star’s core via violent eruption at the end of the star’s core hydrogen-burning phase, as the source of Li production.
  • Our Sun will reach this phase in about 6-7 billion years.

Swachh Bharat Mission

Prerak Dauur Samman


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SBM , Prerak Dauur Samman

Mains level : SBM and its success

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) announced a new category of awards titled ‘Prerak Dauur Samman’ as part of Swachh Survekshan 2021.

Try this question:

Q. The Prerak Dauur Samman recently seen in news is related to:

a) Swachh Bharat b) Literature c) Health Services d) Visual Arts

Prerak Dauur Samman

  • The Prerak Dauur Samman has a total of five additional subcategories -Divya (Platinum), Anupam (Gold), Ujjwal (Silver), Udit (Bronze), Aarohi (Aspiring) – with top three cities being recognized in each.
  • In a departure from the present criteria of evaluating cities on ‘population category’, this new category will categorize cities on the basis of six select indicator wise performance criteria which are as follows:

1) Segregation of waste into Wet, Dry and Hazard categories

2) Processing capacity against wet waste generated

3) Processing and recycling of wet and dry waste

4) Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste processing

5) Percentage of waste going to landfills

6) Sanitation status of cities

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme

Mains level : Research facilitation schemes in India

To provide a single platform for research internships, capacity building programs and workshops across the country, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has launched a new scheme called ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ (AV).

Note the following things about the ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme:

1) Implementing agency/ Nodal Ministry

2) Primary objective

3) Target beneficiaries

4) Its components

‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme

  • Accelerate Vigyan (AV) strives to provide a big push to high-end scientific research and prepare scientific manpower which can venture into research careers and knowledge-based economy.
  • The primary objective of this scheme is to give more thrust on encouraging high-end scientific research and preparing scientific manpower, which can lead to research careers and knowledge-based economy.
  • AV will initiate and strengthen mechanisms of identifying research potential, mentoring, training and hands-on workshop on a national scale.
  • The aim is to expand the research base in the country, with three broad goals – consolidation / aggregation of all scientific training programs, initiating High-end Orientation Workshops and creating opportunities for Research Internships.

Components of AV


  • It is an attempt to boost research and development in the country by enabling and grooming potential PG/PhD students by means of developing their research skills in selected areas across different disciplines or fields.
  • It has two components: High-End Workshops (‘KARYASHALA’) and Research Internships (‘VRITIKA’).
  • This is especially important for those researchers who have limited opportunities to access such learning capacities/facilities/infrastructure.


  • Mission ‘SAMOOHAN’ marks the beginning of Accelerate Vigyan.
  • It aims to encourage, aggregate and consolidate all scientific interactions in the country under one common roof.
  • It has been sub-divided into ‘SAYONJIKA’ and ‘SANGOSHTI’.
  • SAYONJIKA is an open-ended program to catalogue the capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies in the country.
  • SANGOSHTI is a pre-existing program of SERB.

Tax Reforms

Stamp Duty on Mutual Fund Purchases


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mutual Funds, Stamp Duty

Mains level : Regulation of capital market in India

The Amendments in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 has been brought through Finance Act 2019 for Rationalized Collection Mechanism of Stamp Duty across India with respect to Securities Market Instruments.

Up till now, we knew that stamp duties are levied on property transactions, registrations etc. With the Finance Act 2019, the stamp duties are also levied on Mutual Funds.

What is Stamp Duty?

  • Stamp duty is a legal tax payable in full and acts as evidence for any sale or purchase of a property. It is payable under Section 3 of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899.
  • The levy of stamp duty is a state subject and thus the rates of stamp duty vary from state to state.
  • The Centre levies stamp duty on specified instruments and also fixes the rates for these instruments.
  • It is usually paid by the buyer with regardless of agreement and in case of property exchange, both seller and the buyer has to share the stamp duty equally.
  • A stamp duty paid instrument/document is considered a proper and legal instrument/document and has evidentiary value and is admitted as evidence in courts.

What is the move?

  • Beginning July 1, all shares and mutual fund purchases will attract a stamp duty of 0.005 per cent and any transfer of security will attract a stamp duty of 0.015 per cent.
  • The government had introduced changes to the Stamp duty Act last year by introducing a uniform rate of stamp duty on the trading of shares and commodities.
  • All categories of mutual funds (except for ETFs) will attract stamp duty for the first time.
  • Shares purchased by individuals at stock exchanges were charged stamp duty at different rates by respective states.

Where all will it be applicable?

  • The stamp duty will be applicable on all transactions, including shares, debt instruments, commodities and all categories of mutual fund schemes.
  • As for mutual funds, it will be applicable on all fresh purchases, including the fresh monthly purchases in previously registered Systematic Investment Plans.
  • It will also be applicable if investors switch from one scheme to another and also in case of dividend reinvestment transactions.
  • Transfers of units from one Demat account to another, including market/off-market transfers, will also attract stamp duty.

How does it impact the investor?

  • The impact on long-term investments by a retail investor is nominal.
  • Since the stamp duty will be charged a one-time charge, if an investor invests Rs 1 lakh in a mutual fund scheme or in stock and holds it for two years, he will have to pay a duty of only Rs 5.
  • In fact, it will be marginally lower as the stamp duty is applicable on the net investment value i.e gross investment amount less than any other deduction like transaction charge.
  • There is no duty at the time of redemption.

What about big investors?

  • The impact is higher for investors with short-term investment horizons such as banks and corporates who invest in liquid and overnight schemes of mutual funds.

How much revenue can it generate for the government?

  • In the financial year 2019-20, the mutual fund industry mobilized aggregate funds of over Rs 188 lakh crore.
  • A high portion of that was in overnight funds or liquid funds.
  • A 0.005 per cent stamp duty on this amount works out to Rs 940 crore.
  • If the industry continues to mobilise funds to the tune of Rs 190 lakh crore or higher, it will generate revenues of nearly Rs 1,000 crore for the government from mutual fund transactions itself.

Back2Basics: Mutual Funds

  • MF is a trust that collects money from a number of investors who share a common investment objective.
  • Then, it invests the money in equities, bonds, money market instruments and/or other securities.
  • Each investor owns units, which represent a portion of the holdings of the fund.
  • The income/gains generated from this collective investment are distributed proportionately amongst the investors after deducting certain expenses, by calculating a scheme’s “Net Asset Value or NAV.
  • It is one of the most viable investment options for the common man as it offers an opportunity to invest in a diversified, professionally managed basket of securities at a relatively low cost.
  • All funds carry some level of risk. With mutual funds, one may lose some or all of the money invested because the securities held by a fund can go down in value.

Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

PM Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PM FME) Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-FME scheme

Mains level : Food processing industry and the required reforms

The Ministry for Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) has launched the PM Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PM FME) as a part of “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What is the PM FME Scheme? Discuss its potential to neutralize various challenges faced by India’s unorganized food industries.

PM FME Scheme

  • It aims to provide financial, technical and business support for upgradation of existing micro food processing enterprises.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme to be implemented over a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 10,000 crore.
  • The expenditure under the scheme would to be shared in 60:40 ratios between Central and State Governments, in 90:10 ratios with NE and the Himalayan States, 60:40 ratio with UTs with the legislature and 100% by Centre for other UTs.

Features of the scheme

  • The Scheme adopts One District One Product (ODODP) approach to reap the benefit of scale in terms of procurement of inputs, availing common services and marketing of products.
  • The States would identify food product for a district keeping in view the existing clusters and availability of raw material.
  • The ODOP product could be a perishable produce based product or cereal-based products or a food product widely produced in a district and their allied sectors.
  • An illustrative list of such products includes mango, potato, litchi, tomato, tapioca, kinnu, bhujia, petha, papad, pickle, millet-based products, fisheries, poultry, meat as well as animal feed among others.
  • The Scheme also place focus on waste to wealth products, minor forest products and Aspirational Districts.

Credit facility provided

  • Existing Individual micro food processing units desirous of upgradation of their unit can avail credit-linked capital subsidy @35% of the eligible project cost with a maximum ceiling of Rs.10 lakh per unit.
  • Seed capital @ Rs. 40,000/- per SHG member would be provided for working capital and purchase of small tools.
  • FPOs/ SHGs/ producer cooperatives would be provided a credit-linked grant of 35% for capital investment along the value chain.
  • Support for marketing & branding would be provided to develop brands for micro-units and groups with 50% grant at State or regional level which could benefit a large number of micro-units in clusters.

Why need such a scheme?

  • The unorganized food processing sector comprising nearly 25 lakh units contribute to 74% of employment in the food processing sector.
  • Nearly 66% of these units are located in rural areas and about 80% of them are family-based enterprises supporting livelihood rural household and minimizing their migration to urban areas.

Challenges faced

  • The unorganised food processing sector faces a number of challenges which limit their performance and their growth.
  • These challenges include lack of access to modern technology & equipment, training, access institutional credit, lack of basic awareness on quality control of products; and lack of branding & marketing skills etc.
  • Owing to these challenges; the unorganised food processing sector contributes much less in terms of value addition and output despite its huge potential.