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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are Social Stock Exchanges?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs)

Mains level : NGOs and their funding issues


A working group constituted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs) has recommended allowing non-profit organisations to directly list on such platforms.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. What are Social Stock Exchanges? Discuss how it will help finance social enterprises in India.

What are Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs)?

  • An SSE is a platform which allows investors to buy shares in social enterprises vetted by an official exchange.
  • The Union Budget 2019 proposed setting up of first of its kind SSE in India.
  • The SSE will function as a common platform where social enterprises can raise funds from the public.
  • It will function on the lines of major stock exchanges like BSE and NSE. However, the purpose of the Social Stock Exchange will be different – not profit, but social welfare.
  • Under the regulatory ambit of SEBI, a listing of social enterprises and voluntary organizations will be undertaken so that they can raise capital as equity, debt or as units like a mutual fund.

Why SSEs?

  • India needs massive investments in the coming years to be able to meet the human development goals identified by global bodies like the UN.
  • This can’t be done through government expenditure alone. Private enterprises working in the social sector also need to step up their activities.
  • Currently, social enterprises are very active in India. However, they face challenges in raising funds.
  • One of the biggest hurdles they face is, apparently, the lack of trust from common investors.

Benefits

  • There is a great opportunity to unlock funds from donors, philanthropic foundations and CSR spenders, in the form of zero-coupon zero principal bonds. These bonds will be listed on the SSE.
  • At first, the SSE could become a repository of social enterprises and impact investors.
  • The registration could be done through a standard process.
  • The SEs could be categorized into different stages such as- Idea, growth stage and likewise, investors can also be grouped based on the type of investment.
Posted on | The Hindu
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

PM-CARES is not a public authority under RTI ActPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-CARES, Public Authority under RTI

Mains level : RTI issues


The PMO has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM-CARES Fund, telling a Right to Information applicant that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

Practice question for mains:

Q. The PM-CARES fund is an old wine in a new bottle. Discuss its feasibility and how it is different in context to the PMNRF.

About PM-CARES Fund

  • The fund will be a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’.
  • The PM is Chairman of this trust and members include the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
  • Contributions to the fund will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending that companies are mandated to make.
  • The Fund accepts micro-donations as well.

Not a public authority

  • The PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.
  • PM-CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • However, relevant information in respect of PM-CARES Fund may be seen on its website.

Then, what makes an authority, Public?

The relevant section of the RTI Act defines a “public authority” as “any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted —

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament;
  • by any other law made by State Legislature;
  • by the notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government — and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate govt.

Arguments against PM-CARES

  • The fund carries a public name, the composition of the trust, control, usage of an emblem, government domain name etc. that signifies it as a public authority.
  • PM is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees.
  • The composition of the trust is enough to show that Government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority.
Posted on | The Hindu
Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

What is the National Numbering Plan?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRAI, National numbering plan

Mains level : National numbering plan


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that a new National Numbering Plan be issued at the earliest so that a uniquely identifiable number can be provided to every subscriber in India.

The TRAI and Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal are quite often seen in the news.  Most recent was the dispute risen due to AGR dues.

TRAI has a wide range of jurisdiction over Telecoms. Keep a track on all such news.

National Numbering Plan

  • The management of numbering resources is governed by the National Numbering Plan.
  • The Department of Telecom administers the numbers for fixed and the mobile networks based on the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendations.
  • TRAI has recommended automated allocation of numbering resources be done using number management system software to speed up the process

Broadly, the TRAI has recommended:

  • switching to an 11-digit mobile number,
  • reallocation of mobile numbering resources surrendered by operators who have shut shop and
  • prefixing zero for all mobile calls made from fixed line

Issues with 11 digit number

  • TRAI said that some serious problems are anticipated with a change in the mobile number from 10 to 11 digits.
  • Migrating to 11 digits would require widespread modifications in the configuration of switches involving cost.
  • This would also cause inconvenience to the customers in the form of dialling extra digits and updating phone memory.
  • This could lead to more dialling errors, traffic, and loss of revenue to telecom operators.

Still, why need a plan as such?

  • The total number of telephone subscribers in India stands at 1,177.02 million with a teledensity of 87.45% at the end of January 2020.
  • This increasing digitization would pave the way towards the dream of digital India and mobile economy.
  • Thus, it has become necessary to review the utilization of numbering resources in the country.
  • Considering the above scenario the implementation of the TRAI’s recommendation with solutions to possible issues would help for sustainable growth of the telecommunication services.
  • Hence TRAI needs to review the utilization of the numbering resources and make some policy decisions to ensure that adequate resources are available for sustainable growth of the telecom services.

Back2Basics: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • The TRAI is a statutory body set up under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • It is the regulator of the telecommunications and its tariffs in India.
  • The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
  • TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, DTH services and mobile number portability.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

THAAD defence systemPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : THAAD defence system

Mains level : THAAD and its features to define geopolitics


China has issued a statement reiterating its long-standing objections to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?

(a) An Israeli radar system

(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme

(c) An American anti-missile system

(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

What is THAAD?

  • THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a transportable, ground-based missile defence system.
  • It is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and informs the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification.
  • THAAD is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors.
  • This anti-ballistic missile defence system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin. South Korea is not the only country with the THAAD missile defence system.
  • It has been previously deployed in the UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania.

The South Korea-China controversy over THAAD

  • In South Korea, the THAAD missile defence system is operated by the US army stationed in the country.
  • The US had previously announced that the deployment of this missile defence system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
  • In 2017, matters escalated in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test-fired a few missiles in the direction of US bases in Japan.
  • Following this incident, the US amended its plans and moved the systems to its army base in Osan, South Korea while the final deployment site was being prepared.
  • These moves by the US and by extension, South Korea, particularly angered China.

China’s reservations against THAAD

  • China’s opposition has little to do with the missiles itself and is more about the system’s inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.
  • The controversy also has much to do with the geopolitics and complex conflicts in East Asia, with the US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea.
  • According to some observers of East Asia, China believes the US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.
  • The US and South Korea have consistently maintained that these missiles are only to counter potential threats by North Korea.
  • South Korea also issued a statement saying the number of missiles had not increased but had only been replaced with newer versions.
Direct Benefits Transfers

How would Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of power subsidy work?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Read the attached story


Context

  • Punjab has been providing free power to the agriculture sector.
  • The new Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 has proposed providing subsidy on power to farmers through DBT, which is contrary to the prevailing ‘free power’ system in Punjab.

Free or subsidised power is being provided to millions of consumers in almost every state. Punjab is no exception but its free power scheme is. Other states can learn from the example of Punjab, here.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. Discuss the efficacy of Direct Benefit Transfer in power subsidy for farmers.

Punjab on knees

  • Before it submits suggestions regarding the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, recently drafted by the Union Power Ministry to amend the Electricity Act 2003, a big challenge lies ahead for the Punjab government.
  • Under the garb of DBT, it is a move to stop the free power supply to them.

What is the current system of power subsidy for farmers in Punjab?

  • At present, Punjab is supplying free power to 14.16 lakh electricity-run tubewells of the agriculture sector which are getting power through 5,900 Agricultural Pumpset Feeders (APFs).
  • These APFs are metered and the Punjab Power Corporation charges the state government for consumed units recorded in metered APFs.

The Free Power Scheme

  • Farmers are getting power supply for their Kharif and Rabi crops from these feeders as per the recommendations of the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana.
  • It is supplied for around eight hours every day in Kharif season and four hours on alternate days during Rabi crop season.
  • The state government pays around Rs 6,000 crore power subsidy bill to Power Corporation every year under the scheme to the farming sector.

What would change under the DBT allowed under the new Electricity Bill 2020?

  • Under DBT, farmers will have to pay the bill for the power consumed for agriculture purposes.
  • After that, they will get the subsidy in their bank accounts through DBT.
  • A meter would be installed on every individual tubewell.

Issues with Punjab farmer

  • Approximately the annual power bill will come to around Rs 46,000 to Rs 48,000, and farmers are required to pay a bill of Rs 4,000 per month.
  • In Punjab, 67 per cent of farmers come under the small and marginal categories with 1-2 hectares land.
  • Paying bills in advance is not possible for them due to debt.
  • If farmers don’t pay their bills, the department will disconnect their connection, which could lead to farmers’ agitation.

Can it work like DBT on LPG gas cylinders?

  • The bill suggests the subsidy be paid directly to consumers in cash on the pattern of LPG subsidy.
  • This proposal should be tried in a pilot project and if results are encouraging, only then it should be included in the amendment bill.
  • It is not feasible to provide meters on every pump set up across the country and then give cash subsidy every month after the consumer has paid the bill.

Punjab government’s own DBT scheme titled ‘Paani Bachao Paisa Kamao’ is also working here. How it is different from DBT under the new Bill?

  • The Punjab government’s scheme is a voluntary one.
  • The farmers who have adopted it need to get install a power meter on their tubewell but are not required to pay any power bill.
  • The main purpose of PBPK is to save groundwater by using it judiciously because, under the traditional system, several farmers are misusing the water by over-irrigating the crops due to free power available to them.

What do farmers’ organisations think of this?

  • Farmers’ organisations say that if the Punjab government agrees to this bill, they will fight it tooth and nail.
  • From where will poor farmers pay such heavy bills when they get an income after six months following the sale of their crop, they ask.
  • Anywhere in the world, the agrarian sector cannot run without the support of the government as it is the base of every human being who is dependent on farmers’ produce from his/her morning tea to dinner.

Back2Basics

[pib] Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Electoral Reforms In India

Delimitation Commission for NE states and UTsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation Commission

Mains level : Delimitation of constituencies


Lok Sabha speaker has nominated 15 MPs to assist the Delimitation Commission in redrawing the Lok Sabha and the Assembly constituencies of the northeastern states and the Union Territories.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is the Delimitation of Constituencies? Discuss its significance.

What is Delimitation? Why is it needed?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
  • The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Legal status

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
  • The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a DC made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
  • The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  • All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

Implementation

  • The draft proposals of the DC are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
  • The Commission also holds public sittings.
  • After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

How often has delimitation been done in the past?

  • The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission).
  • The Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.

Why more independence to DC?

  • Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
  • This suggestion was accepted and the DC Act was enacted in 1952.
  • DCs’ has been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why postponed till 2026?

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.

Back2Basics: History of Delimitation in J&K

  • Delimitation of J&K’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but the delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by its Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • As far as the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last DC of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.
  • As for Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K RP Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts.
  • They mandate a separate DC for J&K. In actual practice, the same central DC set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.
  • While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution.
  • Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no DC was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026.
Posted on | The Hindu
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Expansion of the Amery Ice ShelfPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ice Shelves, Amery Ice Shelf

Mains level : Impact of climate changes


 

There would be a 24% increase in the expansion of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS) boundaries in Antarctica by 2021 and another 24 per cent by 2026 from its 2016 positions, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa has predicted.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the interrelation between Cryosphere and Climate change in context to the melting ice shelves in the Antarctic region.

Amery Ice Shelf (AIS)

  • The Amery Ice Shelf is a broad ice shelf in Antarctica at the head of Prydz Bay between the Lars Christensen Coast and Ingrid Christensen Coast.
  • It is part of Mac. Robertson Land.
  • The name “Cape Amery” was applied to a coastal angle mapped on February 11, 1931.
  • The AIS is one of the largest glacier drainage basins in the world, located on the east coast of Antarctica, at about 70ºS Latitude, 70ºE Longitude.
  • The AIS dynamics and mass balance help in understanding the changes in the global climate scenario.

Significance of the study

  • NCPOR observations revealed a critical cooling of the sea surface temperature, resulting in an advancement of the ice shelf by 88 per cent in the past 15 years.
  • These changes would contribute in a major way to climate variability.
  • The study clearly demonstrated the future dynamism of ocean heat fluctuation and Antarctic Amery ice shelf mass shifting-extent.

Back2Basics: Ice Shelves

  • The floating sheets of ice called ‘ice shelves’ play a multi-faceted role in maintaining the stability of a glacier. Ice shelves connect a glacier to the landmass.
  • The ice sheet mass balance, sea stratification, and bottom water formation are important parameters for the balancing of a glacier. Latent and sensible heat processes do play important roles here.
  • The insulation of ice shelves from atmospheric forcing is dependent on a temperature gradient that the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelves provides.
  • It is the pressure exerted by the ice shelves upon the ocean cavity that determines this temperature gradient.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Missile Park ‘AGNEEPRASTHA’Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Missile Park ‘Agneeprastha’

Mains level : NA


Foundation Stone for a Missile Park “AGNEEPRASTHA” was recently laid at INS Kalinga, Vizag.

Caution: Agneeprastha is a missile park of the eastern naval command of the Indian Navy. It has nothing to do with the Agni missiles.

Missile Park ‘Agneeprastha’

  • ‘Agneeprastha’ aims to capture glimpses of Missile History of INS Kalinga since 1981 till date.
  • The Missile Park has been set up with a replica of missiles and Ground Support Equipment (GSE) that showcase the evolution of missiles handled by the unit.
  • The exhibits have been created from scrap / obsolete inventory which have been reconditioned in-house.
  • The main attraction is P-70 ‘Ametist’, an underwater launched anti-ship missile from the arsenal of the old ‘Chakra’ (Charlie-1 submarine) which was in service with IN during 1988-91.
  • It will also provide a one-stop arena for motivation and stimulation of inquisitive minds regarding the missiles and related technologies, from school children to naval personnel and their families.
Posted on | Custom
FDI in Indian economy

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in IndiaDOMRPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FDI

Mains level : Features of India's FDI Policy


The FDI in India grew by 13% to a record of $49.97 billion in the 2019-20 financial years, according to official data.

Get aware with the recently updated FDI norms. Key facts mentioned in this newscard can make a direct statement based MCQ in the prelims.

Ex. FDI source in decreasing order: Singapore – Mauritius – Netherland – Ceyman Islands – Japan – France

Data on FDI

  • FDI is important as the country requires major investments to overhaul its infrastructure sector to boost growth.
  • The country had received an FDI of $44.36 billion during April-March 2018-19.
  • The sectors which attracted maximum foreign inflows during 2019-20 include services ($7.85 billion), computer software and hardware ($7.67 billion), telecommunications ($4.44 billion), trading ($4.57 billion), automobile ($2.82 billion), construction ($2 billion), and chemicals ($1 billion).
  • Singapore emerged as the largest source of FDI in India during the last fiscal with $14.67 billion investments.
  • It was followed by Mauritius ($8.24 billion), the Netherlands ($6.5 billion), the U.S. ($4.22 billion), Caymen Islands ($3.7 billion), Japan ($3.22 billion), and France ($1.89 billion).

What is FDI?

  • An FDI is an investment in the form of a controlling ownership in a business in one country by an entity based in another country.
  • It is thus distinguished from a foreign portfolio investment by a notion of direct control.
  • FDI may be made either “inorganically” by buying a company in the target country or “organically” by expanding the operations of an existing business in that country.
  • Broadly, FDI includes “mergers and acquisitions, building new facilities, reinvesting profits earned from overseas operations, and intra company loans”.
  • In a narrow sense, it refers just to building a new facility, and lasting management interest.

FDI in India

  • Foreign investment was introduced in 1991 under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), driven by then FM Manmohan Singh.
  • There are two routes by which India gets FDI.

1) Automatic route: By this route, FDI is allowed without prior approval by Government or RBI.

2) Government route: Prior approval by the government is needed via this route. The application needs to be made through Foreign Investment Facilitation Portal, which will facilitate the single-window clearance of FDI application under Approval Route.

  • India imposes a cap on equity holding by foreign investors in various sectors, current FDI in aviation and insurance sectors is limited to a maximum of 49%.
  • In 2015 India overtook China and the US as the top destination for the Foreign Direct Investment.

Back2Basics

Amendment in the FDI Policy for curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

India-Pak cooperation against Locusts AttackPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Locusts invasion

Mains level : Locusts invasion and its threats


As another locust swarm comes from Pakistan, the spotlight is again on the India-Pakistan dynamic that has come into play.

Do you know?

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) believes locusts have decimated close to 70,000 hectares of crops in Kenya, 30,000 hectares in Ethiopia and 42,000 hectares of crops in the state of Rajasthan.
Just so you can perhaps assess the kind of damage we are talking about here. A large swarm can eat as much as about 35,000 people in one day 😀 !

What are Locusts?

  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a short-horned grasshopper that is innocuous while it is in a “solitary phase” and moving about independently.
  • These winged insects differ from normal hoppers and become dangerous only when their populations build up rapidly and the close physical contact in crowded conditions triggers behavioural changes.
  • They, then, enter the “gregarious phase”, by grouping into bands and forming swarms that can travel great distances (up to 150 km daily), while eating up every bit of vegetation on the way.
  • If not controlled at the right time, these insect swarms can threaten the food security of countries.

India reaches out to Pak

  • The Ministry of External Affairs said that it has reached out to Pakistan for cooperation, and is awaiting their response.
  • Despite the ups and downs in the bilateral relationship, cooperation on the locust warning system has survived the wars, terrorist attacks, and political turmoil.

History of outbreaks in India

  • Records suggest that since the beginning of the 19th century, there have been at least eight “outbreaks” in India from 1812 to 1889, and a ninth in 1896-1897.
  • According to the history of the Locust Warning Office published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there were “serious invasions” of locusts in India every few years during the 1900s.
  • A “five-year invasion” from 1926 to 1931 is estimated to have damaged crops worth Rs 2 crore (about $100 million at today’s prices).
  • The princely states and provinces had their own structures to deal with this, but there was no coordination.

The Locust Warning Organization (LWO)

  • After the 1926-32 “invasion”, the British Indian government-sponsored a research scheme, starting in 1931, which led to the permanent Locust Warning Organization (LWO) in 1939.
  • It had its headquarters in New Delhi and a substation in Karachi.
  • In 1941, a conference of princely states in desert areas and provinces affected by locusts was held.
  • Its role was expanded in 1942, and in 1946 a bureaucratic structure was put in place.

Beginning of cooperation

  • Iran too suffered locust attacks, in 1876, and in 1926-1932.
  • Apparently the first case of collaboration between countries in the region occurred in 1942 when a delegation from India helped with locust control work in southwest Persia.
  • Over the next two years, Indian help was also provided to Oman and Persia.
  • This was followed by the first conference within the region on Desert Locust, which was held in Tehran in 1945 and involved Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • A second conference took place in 1950 also in Tehran with Pakistan participating.

Bringing in Pakistan

  • In the 1950s, India and Iran cooperated and Pakistan provided two aircraft for locust surveys in Saudi Arabia.
  • Following another attack during 1958-61, a decision was taken to group Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together and the FAO Desert Locust commission was formed in 1964.
  • The commission held annual sessions skipped in 1965 and 1999 but held in 1971.
  • Even in the last six years when the relationship between India and Pakistan has deteriorated, it has been held in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
  • The meetings are attended by locust control experts, with no diplomats.

India and Pakistan

  • In 1977, the two countries began to meet on the border.
  • From 1991 to 2003, special border surveys took place during the summer, undertaken by locust control officers in their respective countries.
  • Joint border meetings have taken place every year since 2005 till 2019, except in 2011. This has been despite every diplomatic strain; including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
  • Arrangements are made in advance and protocols are followed for crossing the border.
  • While politics and diplomacy is kept out of the technical discussions, locust control authorities feel that one of the more difficult challenges faced by the commission is that of “insecurity and sensitivities” in the region.

Also read:

Risk of Early Locusts Attacks: A new concern

Try this:

Q. Time and again normal ocean cycles got more pronounced or disrupted, resulting in all kinds of unintended consequences, like an ever-increasing domino effect of locust attacks in Asia and the Indian Sub Continent. We need to understand these links if we are to plan effectively for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Discuss. (250W)

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Instant PAN through Aadhaar based e-KYCPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PAN

Mains level : Income tax reforms in India


The Union Finance Ministry has launched the facility for instant allotment of (Permanent Account Number) PAN.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.) Consider the following gatemen.

1. Aadhaar card can be used as a proof of citizenship or domicile.

2. Once issued, the Aadhaar number cannot be deactivated or omitted by the Issuing Authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Can’t you expect a similar question based on PAN card? If not , go through this newscard.

What is a Permanent Account Number?

  • A PAN is a ten-character alphanumeric identifier, issued in the form of a laminated “PAN card”, by the Income Tax Department.
  • It is issued to any “person” who applies for it or to whom the department allots the number without an application.
  • A PAN is a unique identifier issued to all judicial entities identifiable under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • The income tax PAN and its linked card are issued under Section 139A of the Income Tax Act.
  • It is issued by the Indian Department under the supervision of the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it also serves as an important proof of identification.
  • It is also issued to foreign nationals (such as investors) subject to a valid visa, and hence a PAN card is not acceptable as proof of Indian citizenship.

Uses of PAN

  • The primary purpose of the PAN is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to prevent tax evasion by keeping track of monetary transactions.
  • The PAN is mandatory when filing income tax returns, tax deduction at source, or any other communication with the IT Department.
  • PAN is also steadily becoming a mandatory document for opening a new bank account, a new landline telephone connection / a mobile phone connection, purchase of foreign currency, bank deposits above ₹50,000, purchase and sale of immovable properties, vehicles etc.

Why it is in the news?

  • A PAN is necessary for filing income tax returns.
  • This facility is now available for those PAN applicants who possess a valid Aadhaar number and have a mobile number registered with Aadhaar.
  • The allotment process is paperless and an electronic PAN (e-PAN) is issued to the applicants free of cost.
Posted on | Custom
Foreign Policy Watch: India-South Korea

What is the Korean Armistice Agreement?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Korean Armstice Agreement

Mains level : Korean Armstice Agreement


A United Nations investigation into a recent exchange of gunfire between North Korea and South Korea inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has determined that both countries violated the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is the Korean Armstice Agreement? Discuss the concept of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)?

The Korean Armstice Agreement

  • The Korean Armstice Agreement signed on 27 July 1953 is the armistice that brought about a complete cessation of hostilities of the Korean War.
  • It was not the end of a war, but only a cessation of hostilities in an attempt to negotiate a lasting peace.
  • Military commanders from China and North Korea signed the agreement on one side, with the US-led United Nations Command signing on behalf of the international community.

What is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)?

  • The DMZ marks where the 1950-53 Korean War — when China and North Korea battled UN forces led by the United States — ended with an armistice, not a treaty.
  • It is a 2 km-wide buffer, stretching coast to coast across the peninsula, lined by both sides with razor wire, heavy armaments and tank traps.
  • It is 60 km from Seoul and 210 km from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Inside the DMZ is a Joint Security Area (JSA).
  • The so-called ‘peace village’ of Panmunjom, where the armistice that halted the Korean War was signed in 1953, is located in the 800-metre-wide and 400-metre-long JSA zone.
  • A Military Demarcation Line (MDL) marks the boundary between the two Koreas.

Why it is significant?

  • Vast stretches of the DMZ have been no man’s land for more than 60 years, where wildlife has flourished undisturbed.
  • Last year, US President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom.
NPA Crisis

What is the doctrine of Force Majeure?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doctrine of Force Majeure

Mains level : Doctrine of Force Majeure, frustration of a contract


The recent spread of the Coronavirus has triggered a global slowdown and has rendered ongoing business operations of several organisations to almost a standstill. This has resorted them to invoking the ‘force majeure’ clause to seek some relief.

Practice question for mains:

Q) What is the doctrine of Force Majeure and Frustration of a Contract? Discuss how it can worsen the NPA crisis in India.

What is Force Majeure?

  • Force majeure is purely a contractual remedy available to an affected party under a contract and for seeking relief, the reference would be to the express terms of the contract.
  • It is a contractual provision allocating the risk of loss if performance becomes impossible or impracticable, especially as a result of an event that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled.
  • While force majeure has neither been defined nor specifically dealt with, in Indian statutes, some reference can be found in Section 32 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (the “Contract Act”).
  • It envisages that if a contract is contingent on the happening of an event which event becomes impossible, then the contract becomes void.

Where are such clauses found?

  • Force majeure clauses can usually be found in various contracts such as power purchase agreements, supply contracts, manufacturing contracts, distribution agreements, project finance agreements, agreements between real estate developers and home buyers, etc.

Circumstances qualified for force majeure

  • A force majeure clause typically spells out specific circumstances or events, which would qualify as force majeure events, conditions which would have be fulfilled for such clause to apply.
  • As such, for a force majeure clause to become applicable the occurrence of such events should be beyond the control of the parties.
  • The parties will be required to demonstrate that they have made attempts to mitigate the impact of such force majeure event.
  • If an event or circumstance qualifies, the consequence would be that parties would be relieved from performing their respective obligations to be undertaken by them under the contract.

Why it is in news, now?

  • Due to the lockdown restrictions placed by the government, the parties’ ability to perform and fulfil their contractual obligations is affected.
  • Where the contract does not specifically cover the current situation is a matter of debate.
  • The Indian Contract Act, 1872 is more than a century old and does not have any specific provisions relating to suspension of contracts or termination of contracts in cases of a pandemic.
  • The Act clearly provides that an agreement to do an act impossible in itself is void (Section 56).
  • After a contract is made, if any act becomes impossible or unlawful by reason of some event, such a contract becomes void.

What is the difference between force majeure and frustration of a contract?

  • Under the doctrine of frustration, the impossibility of a party to perform its obligations under a contract is linked to the occurrence of an event/circumstance subsequent to the execution of a contract and which was not contemplated at the time of execution of the contract.
  • However, under in case of a force majeure, parties typically identify, prior to the execution of a contract, an exhaustive list of events, which would attract the applicability of the force majeure clause.
  • The doctrine of Frustration renders the contract void and consequently, all contractual obligations of the parties cease to exist.

What did the Supreme Court say?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court observed that the doctrine of frustration as enumerated in the Act would apply only where the parties have not specified the consequences of an event which renders the performance of the contract impossible.
  • Termination of a frustrated contract would be possible only in cases where the contract becomes impossible to perform which means the damage to the contract should be of permanent nature and not something which can be performed with the passage of time.
  • Hence a temporary inability or force majeure event would not qualify under the doctrine.

What lies ahead?

  • The force majeure clause in contracts should not be misconstrued as an event of frustration covered under the Act.
  • Force majeure is purely a contractual remedy available to an affected party under a contract and for seeking relief; the reference would be to the express terms of the contract.
  • However, a party claiming frustration of contract and seeking to escape liability or other obligation under a contract will necessarily have to approach an appropriate judicial forum.
  • It is likely that ‘force majeure’ clauses in contracts need to be more heavily negotiated to include references to epidemics or pandemics, in addition to other situations.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Heatwaves and its unusualness this yearPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Heatwaves, Western Disturbances

Mains level : Heatwaves and various threats posed


For the past five days, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra have been experiencing severe to very severe heatwave conditions. Here is why this summer is slightly unusual.

Heatwaves being more frequent phenomena, the UPSC may end up asking a prelim as well as mains question about it.  It may ask Q. What are heat waves and how are they classified? What are the external factors on which it is depended?

A MCQ may be a statement based question mentioning the criteria for declaring a heatwave.

What is a heatwave and when is it declared?

Heatwaves occur over India between March and June.

  • IMD declares a heatwave event when the maximum (day) temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

Following criteria are used to declare heatwave:

To declare heatwave, the below criteria should be met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days and it will be declared on the second day.

a) Based on Departure from Normal

  • Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C

b) Based on Actual Maximum Temperature (for plains only)

  • Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C

How long can a heatwave spell last?

  • A heatwave spell generally lasts for a minimum of four days. On some occasions, it can extend up to seven or ten days.
  • The longest recorded heatwave spell, in recent years, was between 18 – 31 May 2015.
  • This spell had severely affected parts of West Bengal along with Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
  • Heatwave conditions occurring in May have been observed to last longer, as the season reaches its peak this month.
  • Whereas those reported in June often die down sooner, often due to the onset of Southwest monsoon over the location or in its neighbourhood.

Does all of India experience heatwave conditions?

  • Heatwaves are common over the Core Heatwave Zone (CHZ) — Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, West Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Vidarbha in Maharashtra.
  • The CHZ also includes parts of Gangetic West Bengal, Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, as categorised by IMD.
  • Several recent studies indicate that CHZ experience more than six heatwave days per year during these four months.
  • Many places in the northwest and cities along southeastern coast report eight heatwave days per season.
  • However, the regions in the extreme north, northeast and southwestern India are lesser prone to heatwaves.

Whats’ so unusual this year?

  • Summer season reaches its peak by May 15 in India when the day temperatures across north, west, and central India cross 40 degrees and hover close to 45 degrees then on.
  • This year, north India did not experience such temperatures till May 21.
  • It was mainly because of the continuous inflow of Western Disturbances that influenced the weather in the north till as late as April.
  • Since last winter, there was frequent passing of Western Disturbances over the north, appearing after every five to seven days.

What are these Western Disturbances?

  • Originating in the Mediterranean Sea, Western Disturbances are eastward-moving winds that blow in lower atmospheric levels.
  • They affect the local weather of a region during its onward journey.
  • Between January and March this year, there were about 20 Western Disturbances, a record of sorts.
  • When Western Disturbances interact with weather systems heading from the two southern seas, that is, warm winds blowing in from the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea, they cause snowfall or rainfall over the north.
  • A significant influence of Western Disturbances is experienced from December to February. However, this year, its influence persisted until early May.
  • The recent Western Disturbances got support from easterly winds blowing over from the Bay of Bengal.

Has cyclone Amphan influenced the current heatwave?

  • Since the event of severe heat has emerged immediately after the passing of Cyclone Amphan, experts confirm its role in leading to the present heatwave spell.
  • Cyclone Amphan, which was a massive Super Storm covering 700 km, managed to drag maximum moisture from over the Bay of Bengal to entire Peninsula.
  • All the moisture that was otherwise built during the thunderstorm and rainfall got gradually depleted from over vast areas as the storm advanced towards West Bengal and Bangladesh between May 16 and 20.
  • It has now triggered dry north-westerly winds to blow over Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra causing severe heatwave.
Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is the FAITH’ Trial?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FAITH and Solidarity Trials

Mains level : Clinical trials and ethical issues involved


With the number of COVID-19 patients rising in India, a pharma company has announced a new randomized study to test the combined efficacy of two antiviral drugs under the ‘FAITH Trials’.

Misleading names: One may get confused over the names given to these clinical trials. The name ‘FAITH’ and ‘Solidarity’ appear more like a judicial trial or some Human Rights violation related trials. UPSC can knock such areas in prelims.

FAITH Trials

  • The two drugs: Favipiravir and Umifenovir will be tried as a potential COVID-19 treatment strategy.
  • This new combination clinical trial will be called FAITH – (FA vipiravir plus Um I fenovir (efficacy and safety) Trial in Indian Hospital setting).
  • The two antiviral drugs have different mechanisms of action, and their combination may demonstrate improved treatment efficacy by effectively tackling high viral loads in patients during the early stages of the disease.
  • This trial offers a comprehensive antiviral cover on pre-entry and post-entry life-cycle of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Dosages under the trial

  • Patients taking the drug will receive Faviprivir 1800 mg bid and Umifenovir 800 mg bid on Day 1.
  • Thereafter, they will receive Faviprivir 800mg bid and Unifenovir 800mg bid for the remaining course of treatment.
  • Duration of treatment will be 14 days and patients will be discharged after clinical cure and two consecutive negative tests.
  • While one group will be receiving Favipiravir and Umifenovir (with standard supportive care), the other group will receive Favipiravir along with standard supportive care.

Other trials in news: The Solidarity Trial

  • “Solidarity” is an international initiative for clinical trials launched by the WHO, along with partners, to help find an effective treatment for Covid-19.
  • It was originally supposed to look at four drugs or drug combinations: Remdesivir, HCQ, Ritonavir/Lopinavir and Lopinavir/Ritonavir/Interferon beta 1a.
  • Now with HCQ trial enrolment stalled for at least the next few weeks, the Solidarity trial will proceed with the other three arms.
Posted on | The Hindu
Global Geological And Climatic Events

What is South Atlantic Anomaly?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Van Allen Radiation Belt, South Atlantic Anomaly

Mains level : South Atlantic Anomaly and its impact


New data obtained by the European Space Agency (ESA) Swarm satellites has revealed the existence of a mysterious anomaly weakening the Earth’s magnetic field. Termed as ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’, it extends all the way from South America to southwest Africa.

The term ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’ at its first sight looks similar to any climate/oceanic current related phenomena. But it’s not! This is where you can end up losing 2.66 marks in the prelims!

What is South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA)?

  • The SAA is referred to the behaviour of Earth’s Geo-Magnetic field in an area between Africa and South America.
  • The SAA is an area where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to the Earth’s surface, dipping down to an altitude of 200 kilometres.
  • This leads to an increased flux of energetic particles in this region and exposes orbiting satellites to higher-than-usual levels of radiation.
  • The effect is caused by the non-concentricity of the Earth and its magnetic dipole.
  • The SAA is the near-Earth region where the Earth’s magnetic field is weakest relative to an idealized Earth-centered dipole field.

Weakening of the magnetic field

  • Over the last 200 years, the magnetic field has lost around 9% of its strength on a global average.
  • A large and rapid shrink has been observed in the SAA region over the past 50 years just as the area itself has grown and moved westward.
  • The weakening of the magnetic field is also causing technical difficulties for the satellites and spacecraft orbiting the planet.
  • The study conducted between 1970 and 2020, said that the magnetic field weakened considerably in a large region stretching from Africa to South America, known as the ‘SAA’.
  • This area has grown and moved westward at a rate of around 20 km per year.

Its impact

  • The magnetic shield has an important role to play in keeping unwanted radiation away as well as helping determine the location of magnetic poles.
  • Even though unlike global warming or any weather change, this anomaly doesn’t directly impact human lives, it could actually bring on a change in the way we access technology.
  • The reversal and apparent shift, which could keep extending could actually impact satellite and telecommunication system, which means that some of the internet and mobile phone functioning which depend on satellite signals can possibly get disrupted.
  • It could also affect the mapping and navigation systems in smartphones.
  • The weakening of earth’s magnetic field could also impact migratory movement.
  • Birds, animals- all those who migrate with the change in season depend on the earth’s mapping to move about can find it a little difficult.
  • This is only a possibility, but we don’t know the extent of the damage till now.

About the Van Allen Radiation Belt

  • A Van Allen radiation belt is a zone of energetic charged particles, most of which originate from the solar wind, that are captured by and held around a planet by that planet’s magnetic field.
  • The belts are located in the inner region of Earth’s magnetosphere. The belts trap energetic electrons and protons.
  • Earth has two such belts and sometimes others may be temporarily created.
  • Most of the particles that form the belts are thought to come from solar wind and other particles by cosmic rays.
  • By trapping the solar wind, the magnetic field deflects those energetic particles and protects the atmosphere from destruction.

Also read:

Shifting north magnetic pole forces urgent navigation fix


Back2Basics: Swarm  Constellation

  • Swarm is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • It is ESA’s first constellation of satellites for Earth observation.
  • The Swarm constellation consists of three satellites (Alpha, Bravo and Charlie) placed in two different polar orbits, two flying side by side at an altitude of 450 km and a third at an altitude of 530 km.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China’s Mars Mission: Tianwen-1Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various missions mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Quest for Mars and its possibility to host life


China’s space program is now slated to achieve a new milestone. In July, the country will launch its first Mars mission, the ‘Tianwen-1’, which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021.

UPSC may ask an MCQ asking: Which of the following is/are the space missions related to Mars? It may throw up 4-5 options (which we all get confused at after few months) like Cassini , InSight , Messanger, Voyager etc.

Tianwen-1 Mission

  • The mission is named after the ancient Chinese poem ‘Questions to Heaven’, the Tianwen-1.
  • It is an all-in-one orbiter; lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among completing other objectives.
  • It will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet.
  • It will be the first to place ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
  • China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

Why all are curious about Mars exploration?

  • After the Moon, the most number of space missions in the Solar System has been to Mars.
  • Despite being starkly different in many ways, the Red Planet has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
  • For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life.
  • In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
  • This has made space explorers more curious about whether the planet can sustain life.
  • Newer NASA missions have since transitioned from their earlier strategy of “Follow the Water” to “Seek Signs of Life”.

Back2Basics: Various missions on Mars

  • The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing.
  • The country made it’s second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.
  • The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the most number of Mars landings.
  • Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
  • India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit.
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Chinese mission now is expected to take off around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission– the ambitious ‘Perseverance’ which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them back.
Right To Privacy

Aarogya Setu app is now open sourcePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AarogyaSetu App

Mains level : Privacy concerns with AarogyaSetu App


Amid concerns over privacy of data being collected by its COVID-19 contact tracing app, the union government has open-sourced the Aarogya Setu app.

Right to Privacy is an important topic for GS. The Aarogya Setu app which has a lot more to offer is under the radar due to the underlying vacuum of Privacy Law in India. To tackle this, the government has launched a bug bounty programme (a sort of hackathon).

About  AarogyaSetu App

  • The App enables people to assess themselves the risk of their catching the Corona Virus infection.
  • It is designed to keep track of other AarogyaSetu users that a person came in contact with and alert him or her if any of the contacts tests positive for COVID-19.
  • It achieves this using the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities.
  • Once installed in a smartphone through an easy and user-friendly process, the app detects other devices with AarogyaSetu installed that come in the proximity of that phone.
  • The app can then calculate the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters if any of these contacts have tested positive.
  • The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone until it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.

Issues with the app

  • The AarogyaSetu app faces the same issue as every other contact tracing technology that has come up during the pandemic period — it is people dependent.
  • It needs widespread usage and self-reporting to be effective.
  • Given that any number of total users will be a subset of smartphone owners in India, and there are bound to be variations in the levels of self-reporting, the efficacy is not bulletproof.
  • The terms of use of the app also say as much, distancing the government from any failure on the part of the app incorrectly identifying COVID-19 patients.

1) Privacy concerns

  • First of all, the app exists in the privacy law vacuum that is India.
  • With no legislation that spells out in detail how the online privacy of Indians is to be protected, AarogyaSetu users have little choice but to accept the privacy policy provided by the government.
  • The policy goes into some detail on where and how long the data will be retained, but it leaves the language around who will have access to it vague.
  • As per the policy persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19” will have access to the data.
  • This suggests interdepartmental exchanges of people’s personal information and is more excessive than countries like Singapore and even Israel.

2) Technical issue

  • Beyond the legal loopholes, there are technical loopholes as well.
  • The unique digital identity in AarogyaSetu is a static number, which increases the probability of identity breaches.
  • The abundance of data collected is also potentially problematic.
  • AarogyaSetu uses both Bluetooth as well as GPS reference points, which could be seen as overkill whereas other apps such as TraceTogether make do with Bluetooth.

3) Other issues

  • Experts emphasise that automated contact tracing is not a panacea.
  • They caution against an over-reliance on technology where a competent human-in-the-loop system with sufficient capacity exists.

Back2Basics: What is Open Source?

  • The term open source refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.
  • The term originated in the context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs.
  • Today, however, “open source” designates a broader set of values—what we call “the open source way.”
  • Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

The source code

  • “Source code” is the part of the software that most computer users don’t ever see; it’s the code computer programmers can manipulate to change how a piece of software—a “program” or “application”—works.
  • Programmers who have access to a computer program’s source code can improve that program by adding features to it or fixing parts that don’t always work correctly.

What is Open Source Software?

  • At the simplest level, open-source programming is merely writing code that other people can freely use and modify.
  • Open source is a term that originally referred to open source software (OSS).
  • OSS is a code that is designed to be publicly accessible—anyone can see, modify, and distribute the code as they see fit.
  • An open-source development model is a process used by an open-source community project to develop open-source software.
  • The software is then released under an open-source license, so anyone can view or modify the source code.
Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

CoAST India (Collaboration/Covid Action Support Group) PlatformPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CoAST India

Mains level : Not Much


India Observatory has come up with a GIS-enabled dashboard called CoAST India to monitor migrants in India.

Here, UPSC may create an illusion on:

India Observatory – open-source database (misleading name): It may be asked in relation to some ISRO project.

CoAST India – COVID related info (again misleading): UPSC may ask it in context to Cyclone Warning Systems.

CoAST India

  • The platform is a map reflecting the movement of migrants in real-time on their long journeys, often on foot, along with facilities and relief organisations on their routes.
  • It is a collaboration with Anand-based Forest Ecological Security (FES) as its main nodal point.
  • It draws information from 55 organisations on the ground, mostly in villages, and aims to make such data available so that it would enable governments and small local civil society groups to be of assistance.
  • The map matches time and spatial data, on administrative facilities in the area, transportation and healthcare facilities of an area and summaries, on the fly, in real-time of people passing by.

Features of the portal

Four elements are sought to be brought together in this portal:

  • Location of migrants and vulnerable people, their specific needs,
  • Location of key infrastructure on the way which can double up as a rest-centre, or
  • Quarantine space and location of relief and
  • Rehabilitation providing NGOs and civil society organisations

About India Observatory

  • The Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), an NGO working on conserving natural resources at the grassroots, has brought together a unique ecosystem of tools – open data platform India Observatory – to help understand the status of local-level resources and facilitate the action plans for conserving them.
  • The data made available on India Observatory platform has been pooled from various sources and dates as far back as the 1960s.
  • India Observatory was set up in December 2019, with FES focused on ecological issues about forests, water bodies, conservation, etc. that needed “a bird’s eye view or a satellite’s vision”.
  • It is a research unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

What is a Parallel Universe?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parallel Universe, ANITA experiment

Mains level : Parallel Universe and the validity of such concepts


Twitter and other social media platforms are abuzz with the so-called ‘parallel universe’ that NASA has discovered. According to the claims, NASA has detected a parallel universe in Antarctica, where time runs backwards.

 

ANITA experiment is significant for prelims. It can be asked in prelims in such match the pair questions-

Q. Consider the following pairs :

Terms sometimes seen in news                                Context / Topic

1. Belle 2 experiment –                                        Artificial Intelligence

2. Blockchain technology –                               Digital Cryptocurrency

3. CRISPR – Cas9 –                                               Particle Physics

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched? (CSP 2018)

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What is a Parallel Universe?

  • In quantum mechanics, a parallel universe is theorized as existing alongside our own, although undetectable.
  • The recent reports claiming that there is evidence of a parallel universe appear to be based on ANITA findings that are at least a couple of years old.
  • A science magazine had published a feature, discussing some anomalous results coming from neutrino detection experiments in Antarctica.
  • It discussed a speculative cosmological model that posits there’s an antimatter universe extending backwards from the BigBang.
  • This theorem was also proposed by famous scientist Stephens Hawking.

What were the anomalous detections in Antarctica?

The ANITA experiment

  • Four years ago an experiment had spotted a handful of instances of what seemed to be highly energetic neutrinos coming through the Earth.
  • It was named Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment — a high-altitude helium balloon with an array of radio antennas, partially funded by NASA.
  • The telescope could spot these neutrinos coming from the space and hitting the ice sheet in Antarctica.
  • ANITA detected these particles, but instead of coming from the space, the neutrinos were found to be coming from the Earth’s surface without any source.
  • These detections happened in 2016, then again in 2018, but there was no credible explanation.
  • Physicists have been working to figure out if these results can be explained with our current models of physics or have something to do with the experimental set-up itself, or if something like the parallel universe does exist.

Back2Basics: Neutrinos

  • A neutrino is a subatomic particle very similar to an electron.
  • But it has no electrical charge and a very small mass, which might even be zero.
  • Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe.
  • Because they have very little interaction with matter, they are incredibly difficult to detect.