New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Coccolithophores: The Ancient Algae


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coccolithophores

Mains level : Not Much

A study of microscopic ancient marine algae (Coccolithophores) has found that there is a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Try this question:

Q.The Coccolithophores sometimes seen in news are-

(a) Diatoms

(b) Algae

(c) Coral Polyps

(d) Sea grass


  • Coccolithophores are single-celled algae living in the upper layers of the world’s oceans.
  • They have been playing a key role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle for millions of years.
  • They calcify marine phytoplankton that produces up to 40% of open ocean calcium carbonate and responsible for 20% of the global net marine primary productivity.
  • They build exoskeletons from individual CaCO3 plates consisting of chalk and seashells building the tiny plates on their exterior.

Role as a carbon sink

  • Though carbon dioxide is produced during the formation of these plates, coccolithophores help in removing it from the atmosphere and ocean by consuming it during photosynthesis.
  • At equilibrium, they absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce, which is beneficial for the ocean ecosystem.
  • These investigations are important for future intervention to bring positive changes in the marine ecosystem and the global carbon cycle.


  • The reduction of coccolithophores is due to an increase in the presence of diatom algae, which occurs after sea ice breakdown with climate change and ocean acidification, and increases the silicate concentration in the waters of the Southern Ocean.
  • Their existence is highly dependent on time and influenced by various environmental factors such as silicate concentrations, calcium carbonate concentration, diatom abundance, light intensity and availability of macro and possibly micronutrient concentrations.

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

Learning Platform “Skills Build Reignite”


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Skills Build Reignite

Mains level : NA

MSDE-IBM Partnership has unveiled Free Digital Learning Platform “Skills Build Reignite” to reach more job seekers & provide new resources to business owners in India.

There are various web/portals/apps with Hindi acronyms 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.

Skills Build Reignite

  • The SkillsBuild Reignite tends to provide job seekers and entrepreneurs, with access to free online coursework and mentoring support designed to help them reinvent their careers and businesses.
  • It is a long term institutional training to the nation’s youth through its network of training institutes and infrastructure.
  • IBM will provide multifaceted digital skill training in the area of Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to students & trainers across the nation in the National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs) and ITIs.
  • Directorate General of Training (DGT) under the aegis of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) is responsible for implementing the program.
  • Job seekers, individual business owners, entrepreneurs and any individual with learning aspirations can now tap into host of industry-relevant content on topics including AI, Cloud, Data analytics etc.


  • Its special feature is the personalized coaching for entrepreneurs, seeking advice to help establish or restart their small businesses as they begin to focus on recovery to emerge out of the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • Courses for small business owners include, for example, financial management, business strategy, digital strategy, legal support and more.
  • Plus, IBM volunteers will serve as mentors to some of the 30,000 SkillsBuild users in 100 communities in at least five major regions worldwide to help reinvigorate local communities.

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AHIDF

Mains level : Animal husbandary sector of India

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved setting up of Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) worth Rs. 15000 crore.

Practice question for mains:

Q. In pursuit of doubling farmer’s income, development of animal husbandry has to play a crucial role. Discuss.


  • The fund is part of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus packages to help people affected by the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The AHIDF would promote infrastructure investments in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants.
  • Farmer producer organizations (FPOs), MSMEs, Section 8 companies, private companies and individual entrepreneurs would be eligible to benefit from the fund.
  • It will ensure the availability of capital to meet upfront investment required for these projects and also help enhance overall returns/ payback for investors.

Provisions of the AHIDF

  • The beneficiaries will have to contribute 10 per cent margin towards the proposed infra project and the rest 90 per cent would be a loan component to be made available to them by scheduled banks.
  • The balance 90% would be the loan component to be made available by scheduled banks.
  • Government of India will provide 3% interest subvention to eligible beneficiaries.
  • There will be 2 years moratorium period for the principal loan amount and 6 years repayment period thereafter.

Air Pollution

‘Decarbonizing Transport in India (DTI)’ Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ITF, OECD

Mains level : Policy measures for cleaner transportation

NITI Aayog in collaboration with International Transport Forum (ITF) is set to launch the “Decarbonising Transport in India” project with the intention to develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system for India.

Note the following things about ‘Decarbonising Transport in India (DTI)’ Project:

  1. Associated international institution

  2. Whether the institution is a UN body or not

  3. If India is a member of that body

The DTI Project

  • The India project is carried out in the wider context of the International Transport Forum’s “Decarbonising Transport” initiative.
  • It is part of the “Decarbonising Transport in Emerging Economies” (DTEE) family of projects, which supports transport decarbonisation across different world regions.
  • India, Argentina, Azerbaijan, and Morocco are current participants.
  • The DTEE is a collaboration between the ITF and the Wuppertal Institute, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Objectives of the project

  • The project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.
  • It will provide the government with a detailed understanding of current and future transport activity and the related CO2 emissions as a basis for their decision-making.

About International Transport Forum (ITF)

  • The ITF is an inter-governmental organisation within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) system.
  • It is the only global body with a mandate for all modes of transport.
  • It acts as a think tank for transport policy issues and organises the annual global summit of transport ministers.
  • The ITF’s motto is “Global dialogue for better transport”.
  • India has been a member of ITF since 2008.

Back2Basics: OCED

  • The OECD is an international, intergovernmental economic organization of 36 countries.
  • OECD was founded in the year 1961 to stimulate world trade and economic progress.
  • OECD originated in 1948, as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC).
  • The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) was founded to govern the predominantly US-funded Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction on the continent.
  • The OEEC was instrumental in helping the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC has evolved into the European Union (EU) to establish a European Free Trade Area.
  • India is NOT a member of OECD.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

What is Foldscope?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Foldscope

Mains level : NA

Indian researchers have explored and validated the clinical utility of Foldscope in the diagnosis of diseases using various patient samples.

Though trivial, Foldscope is a significant invention with most crucial applications. It somehow offers an alternative to costly microscopes for some basic diagnosis.

What is Foldscope?

  • Foldscope is an affordable origami-based microscopy device composed of a series of paper clippings.
  • Upon assembly, the device can hold a specimen slide for observation, and this specimen can be viewed via a mobile phone camera attached to it.

How does it work?

  • Foldscope can be assembled using paper clips and mounted on a cell phone using coupler and glue drops.
  • To do the assessment, a patient sample like urine is smeared on a transparent glass slide and visualized under a Foldscope mounted on a cell phone.
  • Sample images can be enlarged using the zoom function of the mobile, which can be stored on the mobile memory card for later reference/patient records.
  • Foldscope visualizes calcium oxalate crystals, which are a major cause of kidney stones.

Utility of Foldscope

  • Foldscope is particularly convenient to diagnose urinary tract infection (UTI) and monitor kidney stone.
  • The study evaluated the use of Foldscope in the clinical diagnosis of oral and urinary tract infections.
  • Using this tool, one can easily monitor own-kidney stone status at home with a simple glass-slide, a Foldscope and a phone in hand.
  • Such monitoring could perhaps avoid kidney stone reaching a painful state or surgery in recurring cases.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Indian Gas Exchange (IGX): the first nationwide online delivery-based gas trading platform


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IGX

Mains level : Utility of the IGX

India’s first gas exchange — the Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) — was launched by the Ministry of Petroleum. The exchange is expected to facilitate transparent price discovery in natural gas, and facilitate the growth of the share of natural gas in India’s energy basket.

Note the following things with caution from the newscard:

  • IGX allows only imported LNG and not domestically produced natural gas.

  • India’s import of LNG

  • GAIL

  • Taxation of LNG

What is IGX?

  • The IGX is a digital trading platform that will allow buyers and sellers of natural gas to trade both in the spot market and in the forward market for imported natural gas.
  • It will allow trading across three hubs —Dahej and Hazira in Gujarat, and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) will be regassified and sold to buyers through the exchange, removing the requirement for buyers and sellers to find each other.
  • The exchange also allows much shorter contracts – for delivery on the next day, and up to a month – while ordinarily contracts for natural gas supply are as long as six months to a year.
  • This will mean that buyers do not have to contact multiple dealers to ensure they find a fair price.

Will domestically produced natural gas also be bought and sold on the exchange?

  • The price of domestically produced natural gas is decided by the government. It will not be sold on the gas exchange.
  • However, following appeals by domestic producers that the prices set by the government are not viable given the cost of exploration and production in India.
  • A new gas policy will include reforms in domestic gas pricing and will move towards more market-oriented pricing.

Will this make India more import-dependent?

  • Domestic production of gas has been falling over the past two fiscals as current sources of natural gas have become less productive.
  • Domestically produced natural gas currently accounts for less than half the country’s natural gas consumption; imported LNG accounts for the other half.
  • LNG imports are set to become a larger proportion of domestic gas consumption as India moves to increase the proportion of natural gas in the energy basket from 6.2% in 2018 to 15% by 2030.

What regulatory change is required?

  • Currently, the pipeline infrastructure necessary for the transportation of natural gas is controlled by the companies that own the network.
  • State-owned GAIL owns and operates India’s largest gas pipeline network, spanning over 12,000 km.
  • An independent system operator for natural gas pipelines would help ensure transparent allocation of pipeline usage, and build confidence in the minds of buyers and sellers about neutrality in the allocation of pipeline capacity.
  • Experts have also called for natural gas to be included in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime to avoid buyers having to deal with different levies such as VAT across states when purchasing natural gas from the exchange.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

AarogyaPath Platform for the Healthcare Supply Chain


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aarogyapath platform

Mains level : Not Much

AarogyaPath Platform has been recently launched to provide real-time availability of critical healthcare supplies.

Possible prelims question:

Q. The AarogyaPath platform recently seen in news is related to:

Options:  a) Tracking of COVID patients/ b) Emergency ambulances service/c)  Supply-chain solutions of healthcare facilities/ d)E-com portal for generic medicines …

Aarogyapath platform

  • The information platform named AarogyaPath with a vision of providing a path which leads one on a journey towards Aarogya (healthy life) has been developed by the CSIR.
  • During the present national health emergency arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein there is a severe disruption in the supply chain, the ability to produce and deliver the critical items may be compromised due to a variety of reasons.
  • The platform would serve manufacturers, suppliers and customers.
  • CSIR expects AarogyaPath to become the national healthcare information platform of choice in the years to come.
  • It would fill a critical gap in last-mile delivery of patient care within India through improved availability and affordability of healthcare supplies.

Its significance

  • This platform provides single-point availability of key healthcare goods that can be helpful to customers in tackling a number of routinely experienced issues.
  • These issues include dependence on limited suppliers, time-consuming processes to identify good quality products, limited access to suppliers who can supply standardized products at reasonable prices within desired timelines, lack of awareness about the latest product launches, etc.
  • It also helps manufacturers and suppliers to reach a wide network of customers efficiently, overcoming gaps in connectivity between them and potential demand centres like nearby pathological laboratories, medical stores, hospitals, etc.
  • It will also create opportunities for business expansion due to an expanded slate of buyers and visibility of new requirements for products.
  • Over time, analytics from this platform is expected to generate early signals to manufacturers on overcapacity as well as on looming shortages.

Urban Floods

I-FLOWS: Mumbai Flood Management System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IFLOWS

Mains level : Urban floods in India

Integrated Flood Warning System for Mumbai (I-FLOWS Mumbai), a state-of-the-art flood warning system has been developed for the city.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Urban floods in India are consequences of unplanned urbanization in India. Discuss with references to the frequent annual floods in Mumbai.

What is IFLOWS-Mumbai?

  • IFLOWS is a monitoring and flood warning system that will be able to relay alerts of possible flood-prone areas anywhere between six to 72 hours in advance.
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has developed the system with in-house expertise and coordination with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
  • The system can provide all information regarding possible flood-prone areas, likely height the floodwater could attain location-wise problem areas across all 24 wards and calculate the vulnerability and risk of elements exposed to flood.
  • Mumbai is only the second city in the country after Chennai to get this system. Similar systems are being developed for Bengaluru and Kolkata.

How will it work?

  • The primary source for the system is the amount of rainfall, but with Mumbai being a coastal city, the system also factors in tidal waves and storm tides for its flood assessments.
  • The system has provisions to capture the urban drainage within the city and predict the areas of flooding.
  • The system comprises seven modules- Data Assimilation, Flood, Inundation, Vulnerability, Risk, Dissemination Module and Decision Support System.

Why was this system needed in Mumbai?

  • Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has been experiencing floods with increased periodicity.
  • Floods, especially the ones in 2005 and 2017, are etched in everyone’s memory.
  • Last year, post-monsoon and unseasonal rainfall as late as October, two tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea had caught authorities off guard and left a trail of destruction.
  • The flood during 26th July 2005, when the city received a rainfall of 94 cm, a 100 year high in a span of 24 hours had paralyzed the city completely.
  • Urban flooding is common in the city from June to September, resulting in the crippling of traffic, railways and airlines.
  • As preparedness for floods before they occur, the system will help in warning the citizens so that they can be prepared in advance for flooding conditions.


  • IFLOWS-Mumbai will enhance the resilience of the city by providing early warning for flooding, especially during high rainfall events and cyclones.
  • Using this, it will be possible to have an estimate of the flood inundation three days in advance, along with immediate weather updates.
  • The Union Minister said the system was “one of the most advanced” ones and will help the city, which has been experiencing floods with increasing periodicity.
  • The hi-tech system will predict floods before they occur, therefore enabling Mumbaikars to take due precautions in advance.

J&K – The issues around the state

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) bench for the UT of J&K and Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAT

Mains level : Paper 2- Functioning and independence of CAT

The union govt. has inaugurated the 18th Bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

“The Central Administration Tribunal which was established for redressal of grievances and complaints by or against central government employees nowadays is exercising its powers as an independent judicial authority.” Explain. (10 Marks)

What is Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)?

  • The Central Administrative Tribunal had been established under Article 323 – A of the Constitution for adjudication of disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment and conditions of service.
  • It aims to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to the aggrieved public servants.
  • It adjudicates for the persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or other authorities under the control of the Government.
  • In pursuance of Article 323-A, the Parliament has passed the Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985.
  • The act authorizes the Central government to establish one Central Administrative Tribunal and the state administrative tribunals.

Composition of the CAT

  • The CAT is a specialist body consisting of Administrative Members and Judicial Members who by virtue of their specialized knowledge are better equipped to dispense speedy and effective justice.
  • A Chairman who has been a sitting or retired Judge of a High Court heads the Central Administrative Tribunal.
  • There are now 18 Benches and 21 Circuit Benches in the CAT all over India.

Its functioning

  • It exercises jurisdiction only in relation to the service matters of the parties covered by the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
  • The Tribunal is guided by the principles of natural justice in deciding cases and is not bound by the procedure, prescribed by the Civil Procedure Code.
  • Under Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985, the Tribunal has been conferred with the power to exercise the same jurisdiction and authority in respect of contempt of itself as a High Court.

Independence of working

  • The conditions of service of the Chairman and Members are the same as applicable to a Judge of High Court as per the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  • The orders of CAT are challenged by way of Writ Petition under Article 226/227 of the Constitution before respective High Court in whose territorial jurisdiction the Bench of the Tribunal is situated.

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

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MARPOL

Mains level : Maritime pollution control and its international mechanism

The Ministry of Shipping has informed about the steps taken for prevention and control of pollution arising from ships in the sea and in the inland waterways under the MARPOL Convention.

Aspirants must note the following things:

1. If the convention is a subsidiary to the United Nations/IMO,

2. Whether it is Legally binding?

3. If India is a signatory or not …..

MARPOL Convention

  • MARPOL is the main international convention aimed at the prevention of pollution from ships caused by operational or accidental causes.
  • The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a number of tanker accidents in 1976–1977.
  • It is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions.
  • It was developed by the IMO with an objective to minimize pollution of the oceans and seas, including dumping, oil and air pollution.
  • The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships – both accidental pollution and that from routine operations – and currently includes six technical Annexes.
  • India is a signatory to MARPOL.
  • It has six annexes (I to VI) and it deals with prevention of (1) Pollution from ships by Oil, (2) Noxious liquid substances, (3) Dangerous goods in packaged form, (4) Sewage, (5) Garbage and (6) Air pollution from ships respectively.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Rare-earth based Magnetocaloric materials for cancer treatment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Magnetocaloric Effect

Mains level : Magnetocaloric Effect and its application in Cancer treatment

Indian scientists have developed a rare-earth-based magnetocaloric material that can be effectively used for cancer treatment.

Magnetocaloric Effect does have other applications like in the field of medical implants but for use in energy field, it is still in nascent stage.

From exam perspective, do understand what principles lies behind this effect.

What is Magnetocaloric Effect?

  • Magnetocaloric effect (MCE) is a phenomenon where the application and removal of a magnetic field cause certain materials to get warmer and cooler, respectively.
  • This effect normally occurs near its Curie temperature where the application of the field makes the material to warm up and cools up when the field is removed.

Issue of hyperthermia in cancer treatment

  • Advancements in magnetic materials led to the development of magnetic hyperthermia to try to address the issues of side effects of cancer treatment like chemotherapy.
  • In magnetic hyperthermia, magnetic nanoparticles are subjected to alternating magnetic fields of few Gauss, which produce heat due to magnetic relaxation losses.
  • Usually, the temperature required to kill the tumour cells is between 40 and 45°C.
  • However, the drawback in magnetic hyperthermia is the lack of control of temperature, which may damage the healthy cells in the body and also have side effects like increased BP, hair losses etc.

Here comes in, Magnetocaloric materials

  • This hypothermia can be avoided by using magnetocaloric materials, as it can provide controlled heating.
  • The advantage of magnetocaloric materials which heat up or cool down with the application and removal of the magnetic field, respectively is that as soon as the magnetic field is removed, the cooling effect is generated.
  • The team at ARCI chose rare-earth-based alloy for studies as some of the rare earth materials are human body compatible.
  • The heating capacity would increase with the increase in the magnetic field.

Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

“Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EESL, MAITREE

Mains level : Energy saving and its significance in carbon emissions reduction

The Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has launched the “Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” initiative that will pioneer ways to make workplaces healthier and greener.

Possible prelims question:

Q. The MAITREE programme recently seen in news is related to: Trade/Energy Efficiency/Climate Change/ Strategic Relations

About the Initiative

  • The initiative has been launched by EESL in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) MAITREE program.
  • As part of this initiative, EESL has taken the leadership by being the first to implement this framework in its own offices.
  • This initiative addresses the challenges of retrofitting existing buildings and air conditioning systems so that they are both healthy and energy-efficient.
  • It will pave the way for other buildings to take appropriate steps to be healthy and energy-efficient.

What is the MAITREE program,?

  • The Market Integration and Transformation Program for Energy Efficiency (MAITREE) is a part of the US-India bilateral Partnership between the Ministry of Power and USAID.
  • It is aimed at accelerating the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency as a standard practice within buildings and specifically focuses on cooling.

Significance of the initiative

  • Poor air quality has been a concern in India for quite some time and has become more important in light of the COVID pandemic.
  • As people return to their offices and public spaces, maintaining good indoor air quality is essential for occupant comfort, well-being, productivity and the overall public health.
  • Most buildings in India are not equipped to establish and maintain healthy indoor air quality and need to be upgraded.
  • The EESL office pilot will address this problem by developing specifications for future use in other buildings throughout the country.
  • It will aid in evaluating the effectiveness and cost benefits of various technologies and their short and long-term impacts on air quality, comfort, and energy use.

 Back2Basics: EESL

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the administration of Ministry of Power, is working towards mainstreaming energy efficiency.
  • It is implementing the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio in the country.
  • EESL aims to create market access for efficient and future-ready transformative solutions that create a win-win situation for every stakeholder.
  • About USAID: USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results.

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

The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TULIP

Mains level : Various employment measures

The govt. has launched the TULIP program for providing internship opportunities to fresh Graduates in all ULBs & Smart Cities.

Possible prelims question:

Q. The TULIP program recently seen in news is related to: HRD/Floriculture/Urban Livelihood etc.


  • TULIP is a portal jointly developed by the Ministry of HRD, Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
  • It will help reap the benefits of India’s demographic dividend as it is poised to have the largest working-age population in the world in the coming years.
  • It would help enhance the value-to-market of India’s graduates and help create a potential talent pool in diverse fields like urban planning, transport engineering, environment, municipal finance etc.
  • It will further the Government’s endeavours to boost community partnership and government- academia-industry-civil society linkages.
  • This launch is also an important stepping stone for the fulfillment of MHRD and AICTE’s goal of 1 crore successful internships by the year 2025.

Why need such a program?

  • India has a substantial pool of technical graduates for whom exposure to real-world project implementation and planning is essential for professional development.
  • General education may not reflect the depth of productive knowledge present in society.
  • Instead of approaching education as ‘doing by learning,’ our societies need to reimagine education as ‘learning by doing.’

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

SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SWADES

Mains level : Various employment measures

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

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

SWADES Initiative

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

Data on the returnees

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

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) for 1.5 crore dairy farmers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : KCC scheme

Mains level : KCC and its outreach

The Union Govt. is set to provide Kisan Credit Card (KCC) to 1.5 crore dairy farmers belonging to Milk Unions and Milk producing Companies within the next two months under a special drive.

We can expect multiple statements based prelim question here. Note the following features of the KCC from the newscard:

1. Year of its introduction (in rarest case)

2. Types of banks issuing KCC

3. Credit types extended under KCC

4. Sectors covered under KCC

What is Kisan Credit Card (KCC)?

  • KCC is a credit scheme introduced in August 1998 by banks to extend credit facilities to farmers.
  • This model scheme was prepared by the NABARD on the recommendations of R.V. GUPTA committee to provide term loans for agricultural needs
  • Participating institutions include all commercial banks, Regional Rural Banks, and state co-operative banks. The scheme has short term credit limits for crops and term loans.
  • KCC offering credit to the farmers is of two types: 1. Cash Credit 2. Term Credit (for allied activities such as pump sets, land development, plantation, drip irrigations).

Facilities under KCC

  • Credit card and passbook or credit card cum passbook provided to eligible farmers facilitate revolving cash credit facility.
  • Any number of withdrawals and repayments within a limit, which is fixed on the basis of operational land holding, cropping pattern and scale of finance can be made.
  • Each withdrawal has to be repaid within a maximum period of 12 months and the Card is valid for 3 to 5 years subject to annual review.
  • Conversion/reschedulement of loans is permissible in case of damage to crops due to natural calamities.
  • Crop loans disbursed under KCC Scheme for notified crops are covered under Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojana, to protect farmers against loss of crop yield caused by natural calamities, pest attacks etc.

What’s’ in the bucket for Dairy Farmers?

  • Under the dairy cooperative movement, approximately 1.7 crore farmers are associated with 230 Milk Unions in the country.
  • In the first phase of this campaign, the target is to cover all farmers who are members of dairy cooperative societies and associated with different Milk Unions and who do not have KCC.
  • Although the general limit for KCC credit without collateral is Rs. 1.6 lakh, but for dairy farmers, it can be upto Rs.3 lakh.
  • This will ensure more credit availability for dairy farmers associated with Milk Unions as well as assuring repayment of loans to banks.

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

CHAMPIONS Platform to empower MSMEs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CHAMPIONS Portal

Mains level : Various moves to boost MSME sector

Recently PM has launched the technology platform CHAMPIONS as a one-stop-shop solution of MSME Ministry.

At the very first sight, the name CHAMPIONS creates a delusion. It looks more of an HRD initiative. Here lies the risk! Please cautiously make a personal note here. Demarcate all such initiatives on an A4 page.


  • CHAMPIONS stand for Creation and Harmonious Application of Modern Processes for Increasing the Output and National Strength.
  • The portal is basically for making the smaller units big by solving their grievances, encouraging, supporting, helping and handholding.
  • It is a technology-packed control room-cum-management information system.
  • It is also fully integrated on a real-time basis with GOI’s main grievances portal CPGRAMS and MSME Ministry’s own other web-based mechanisms.
  • This ICT based system is set up to help the MSMEs in a present difficult situation and also to handhold them to become national and international champions.

Detailed objectives

  • Grievance Redressal: To resolve the problems of MSMEs including those of finance, raw materials, labour, regulatory permissions etc particularly in the COVID created a difficult situation;
  • To help them capture new opportunities: including manufacturing of medical equipment and accessories like PPEs, masks, etc and supply them in National and International markets;
  • To identify and encourage the sparks:e. the potential MSMEs who are able to withstand the current situation and can become national and international champions.

Tourism Sector

Char Dham Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Char Dham Project

Mains level : Not Much

The Chamba Tunnel constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under Chardham Project was recently inaugurated.

Make a note of all projects and circuits under Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD Scheme.

What is the Char Dham Project?

  • The Char Dham project consists of widening and repairing 889-kilometres of national highways leading to revered shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
  • It is a proposed two-lane expresses National Highway with a minimum width of 10 metres in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • The project includes 900 km national highways will connect whole of Uttarakhand state.

Chamba Tunnel

  • The Chamba tunnel is 440 m long and is a Horseshoe type tunnel with 10-metre carriageway width and 5.5m vertical clearance.
  • The BRO achieved this major milestone by digging up a 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).

Back2Basics: Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

  • The BRO develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighbouring countries and functions under the Ministry of Defence.
  • It is entrusted for construction of Roads, Bridges, Tunnels, Causeways, Helipads and Airfields along the borders.
  • Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service (BRES) and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  • It is also staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers on extra regimental employment.
  • The BRO operates and maintains over 32,885 kilometres of roads and about 12,200 meters of permanent bridges in the country.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

[pib] Kangra Tea and its medicinal properties against the coronavirus


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kangra Tea

Mains level : Not Much

The chemicals in Kangra tea are found to be effective in boosting immunity as they can block coronavirus activity better than anti-HIV drugs.

It would be no surprise to expect a question based on worldwide tea production:

Q. Among the following, which one is the largest exporter of rice in the world in the last five years? (CSP 2019)

(a) China

(b) India

(c) Myanmar

(d) Vietnam

Kangra Tea

  • Kangra tea is a tea from the Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • Both black tea and green tea have been produced in the Kangra Valley since the mid-19th century.
  • After a feasibility survey in 1848 showed the area of being suitable for tea plantation, a Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis was planted across the region.
  • Kangra tea is known for its unique colour and flavour.
  • The unique characteristics of the tea are attributed to the geographical properties of the region.
  • Kangra tea was given the Geographical Indication status in 2005. Tea was first grown in the Kangra region in the mid-19th century.

Benefits of Kangra Tea

  • Using computer-based models, the scientists screened 65 bioactive chemicals or polyphenols that could bind to a specific viral protein more efficiently than commercially available anti-HIV drugs approved for treating COVID-19 patients.
  • These chemicals might block the activity of the viral protein that helps the virus to thrive inside human cells.

Back2Basics: Lopinavir/ Ritonavir

  • Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r), sold under the brand name Kaletra among others, is a fixed-dose combination medication for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
  • It combines lopinavir with a low dose of ritonavir.
  • It is generally recommended for use with other antiretrovirals.

Bharat Emission Standards

[pib] L7 Quadricycle category for BS VI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS norms

Mains level : Vehicular pollution and PM 2.5

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a notification regarding the emission norms for L7 (Quadricycle) category for BS-VI.

Practice question for Mains:

Q. What are Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES)? Discuss how the early implementation of BS-VI norms will help curb vehicular pollution in India.

What is Quadricycle Vehicle verification?

  • The quadricycle is a European Union vehicle category for four-wheeled microcars, which allows these vehicles to be designed to less stringent requirements when compared to regular cars.
  • Quadricycles are defined by limitations in terms of weight, engine power and speed.
  • There are two categories of quadricycles: light quadricycles (L6e) and heavy quadricycles (L7e)

What are the new notified norms?

  • These norms are applicable from the date of notification.
  • This notification completes the process of BS-VI for all L, M and N category vehicles in India.
  • The emission norms are in line with EU with WMTC cycle.
  • The procedure for testing is laid down in Automotive Industry Standard (AIS) 137-Part 9.

What is the WMTC cycle?

  • The World Motorcycle Test Cycle (WMTC) is a system of driving cycles used to measure fuel consumption and emissions in motorcycles.
  • The methods are stipulated as part of the Global Technical Regulation established under the UN World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, also known as WP.29.

Back2Basics:  Bharat Stage Norms

Standard Reference Date of Implementation
Bharat Stage II Euro 2 1 April 2005
Bharat Stage III Euro 3 1 April 2010
Bharat Stage IV Euro 4 1 April 2017
Bharat Stage VI Euro 6 April 2020 with a mandate (proposed)

Minutes of BS-VI

  • Carmakers would have to put three pieces of equipment — a DPF (diesel particulate filter), an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system, and an LNT (Lean NOx trap) — to meet stringent BS-VI norms, all at the same time.
  • This is vital to curb both PM (particulate matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions as mandated under the BS-VI norms.

How is BS-VI Different from BS-IV?

  • The major difference between the existing BS-IV and forthcoming BS-VI norms is the presence of sulphur in the fuel.
  • While the BS-IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, the BS-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur content.
  • Also, the harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars can be brought down by nearly 70%.
  • In the petrol cars, they can be reduced by 25%.
  • However, when we talk about air pollution, particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the most harmful components and the BS-VI will bring the cancer-causing particulate matter in diesel cars by a phenomenal 80%.

Tribes in News

[pib] Shahapur’s Katkari Tribe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Katkari Tribe, Van Dhan Yojana

Mains level : Various initiaitves for Tribal uplift

The newscard is based on the PIB news which discusses the success story of Katkari Tribe, a PVTG in Maharashtra regarding the implementation of Van Dhan Yojana.

Try this:

Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India:

1) PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory.

2) A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.

3) There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.

4) Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.

Which of the statements given above are correct? (CSP 2019)

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 2, 3 and 4

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 1, 3 and 4

Katkari Tribe

  • The Katkari is an Scheduled Tribe mostly belonging to the state of Maharashtra.
  • They are bilingual, speaking the Katkari language, a dialect of the Marathi-Konkani languages, with each other; they speak Marathi with the Marathi speakers, who are a majority in the populace where they live.
  • In Maharashtra, the Katkari has been designated a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), along with two other groups included in this sub-category: the Madia Gond and the Kolam.
  • In the case of the Katkari this vulnerability derives from their history as a nomadic, forest-dwelling people listed by the British Raj under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, a stigma that continues to this day.

What are PVTGs?

  • There are certain tribal communities who have declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.
  • They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.
  • These groups are among the most vulnerable section of our society as they are few in numbers, have not attained any significant level of social and economic development.
  • 75 such groups have been identified and categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Back2Basics: Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY)

  • It is a retail marketing-led value addition plan for Minor Forest Produce (MFP), meant for forest-based tribes to optimize the tribal income, locally.
  • Under the program, MFP-based tribal groups/enterprises of around 300 members are formed for collection, value addition, packaging & marketing of Minor Forest Produces (MFPs).
  • These tribal enterprises will be in the form of Van Dhan SHGs which will be a group of 15-20 members and such 15 SHG groups will further be federated into a larger group of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKS) of around 300 members.
  • TRIFED will support the VDVKs through providing them with model business plans, processing plans & tentative list of equipment for carrying out the value-added work of MFPs.

Also read:

[pib] “Development of PVTGs” Scheme