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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

  • 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.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Importance of the Pangong Tso LakePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangong Tso Lake

Mains level : India-China border skirmishes and their impacts on bilateral relations


(Note: No higher resolution is available for the image)

The recent incidents at the Pangong Tso lake area between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the LAC involve a picturesque lake, mountains, helicopters, fighter jets, boats, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, fisticuffs and injuries.

Apart from the geo-physical significance of the Pangong Tso for prelims, other general information should be necessarily known to aspirants, particularly for Personality Tests.

The Pangong Tso Lake

  • Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh has often been in the news, most famously during the Doklam standoff, when a video of the scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers.
  • In the Ladakhi language, Pangong means extensive concavity, and Tso is a lake in Tibetan.
  • Pangong Tso is a long narrow, deep, endorheic (landlocked) lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 ft in the Ladakh Himalayas.
  • The western end of Tso lies 54 km to the southeast of Leh. The 135 km-long lake sprawls over 604 sq km in the shape of a boomerang and is 6 km wide at its broadest point.
  • The brackish water lake freezes over in winter and becomes ideal for ice skating and polo.
  • The legendary 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh is said to have trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet.

Tactical significance of the lake

  • By itself, the lake does not have major tactical significance.
  • But it lies in the path of the Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use for an offensive into Indian Territory.
  • Indian assessments show that a major Chinese offensive if it comes, will flow across both the north and south of the lake.
  • During the 1962 war, this was where China launched its main offensive — the Indian Army fought heroically at Rezang La, the mountain pass on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley, where the Ahir Company of 13 Kumaon led by Maj. Shaitan Singh made its last stand.
  • Not far away, to the north of the lake, is the Army’s Dhan Singh Thapa post, named after Major Dhan Singh Thapa who was awarded the country’s highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.
  • Major Thapa and his platoon were manning Sirijap-1 outpost which was essential for the defence of Chushul airfield.

Connectivity in the region

  • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso.
  • At the People’s Liberation Army’s Huangyangtan base at Minningzhen, southwest of Yinchuan, the capital of China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, stands a massive to-scale model of this disputed area in Aksai Chin.
  • It points to the importance accorded by the Chinese to the area.
  • Even during peacetime, the difference in perception over where the LAC lies on the northern bank of the lake makes this contested terrain.
  • In 1999, when the Army unit from the area was moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of a road inside Indian Territory along the lake’s bank.
  • From one of these roads, Chinese positions physically overlook Indian positions on the northern tip of the Pangong Tso Lake.

Fingers in the lake

  • The barren mountains on the lake’s northern bank, called the Chang Chenmo, jut forward in major spurs, which the Army calls “fingers”.
  • India claims that the LAC is coterminous with Finger 8, but it physically controls area only up to Finger 4.
  • Chinese border posts are at Finger 8, while it believes that the LAC passes through Finger 2.
  • Around six years ago, the Chinese had attempted a permanent construction at Finger 4 which was demolished after Indians strongly objected to it.
  • Chinese use light vehicles on the road to patrol up to Finger 2, which has a turning point for their vehicles.
  • If they are confronted and stopped by an Indian patrol in between, asking them to return, it leads to confusion, as the vehicles can’t turn back.
  • The Chinese have now stopped the Indian soldiers moving beyond Finger 2. This is an eyeball-to-eyeball situation which is still developing.

Confrontation on the water

  • On the water, the Chinese had a major advantage until a few years ago — their superior boats could literally run circles around the Indian boats.
  • But India purchased better Tampa boats some eight years ago, leading to a quicker and more aggressive response.
  • Although there are well-established drills for disengagement of patrol boats of both sides, the confrontations on the waters have led to tense situations in the past few years.
  • The Chinese have moved in more boats — called the LX series — in the lake after the tensions which rose in the area from last month.
  • The drill for the boats is agreed upon by the two sides, as per the Standard Operating Procedure.

Out of bounds for tourists

  • Indian tourists are only allowed up to Spangmik village, around 7 km into the lake. This is where a famous movie climax was shot.
  • In fact, tourists were not allowed at all at Pangong Tso until 1999, and even today, you need to obtain an Inner Line Permit from the office of the Deputy Commissioner at Leh.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

How China is seeking more control on Hong Kong?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Secessionist tendencies across the world and their handling


China has started pushing for an “improvement” in the Basic Law — the mini-constitution that defines ties between Hong Kong and Beijing — signalling a fundamental change in the way the highly autonomous city-state is run. The Chinese parliament is debating a controversial national security law for Hong Kong.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Democracy and authoritarianism cannot co-exist in the same country. Comment in context to the situation generated in Taiwan. How is the situation different from the withdrawl of special category status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Chinese authoritarian grip on Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s ‘Basic Law’

  • Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
  • It has observed a “one country, two systems” policy since Britain returned sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms, the rest of China does not have.
  • It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law — which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.
  • The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
  • Under this, China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, the system of governance, an independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.

Uproar in Hong Kong

  • China accuses that the Hong Kong SAR has not acted out its constitutional duty for national security in line with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law.
  • Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms, with the first major pro-democracy protest taking place in 2003.
  • In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.

Impact of the 2019 protests

  • The largest protests since the 1997 handover took place last year in 2019 when for months tens of thousands of Hong Kongers agitated against a proposed extradition law.
  • The protest continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.
  • These protests were seen as an affront by mainland China, which under President Xi Jinping has increasingly adopted a more hardline approach to foreign policy and internal security issues in recent years.

Rise of Taiwanese aspirations

  • The Hong Kong unrest is also believed to have left its mark on Taiwan, another prickly issue for Beijing which considers the island state as its own.
  • In this year’s presidential election, Taiwanese voters brought to power the Democratic Progressive Party, which openly opposes joining China.

The National Security Law

  • Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has to enact a national security law “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Chinese government.
  • When the Hong Kong government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue became a rallying point for the city-wide protests which occurred that year.
  • Since then, the government has steered clear of introducing the legislation again.
  • Beijing could now make the law applicable to Hong Kong by another route — by inserting the legislation in Annex III of the Basic Law.
  • The Chinese parliament is expected to vote on a resolution that will make way for the new law, which could be promulgated in Hong Kong.

What could happen if such a law takes effect?

  • The new law would ban seditious activities that target mainland Chinese rule, as well as punish external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
  • Many expect a revival of the protests that rocked the city last year.
  • China, on the other hand, has sought support and understanding of India and other countries for its controversial decision as a precautionary measure.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ CopyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OST, INF Treaty, New START policy

Mains level : US-Russia power tussle


The U.S. has given notice that it will exit the Open Skies Treaty (OST) in response to Russia who had allegedly violated the treaty.

The New START, INF and now the OST …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

Open Skies Treaty (OST)

  • OST is an agreement that allows countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each other’s territories.
  • The idea behind the OST was first proposed in the early years of the Cold War by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • It came to existence decades later and was signed in 1992, during the George H.W. Bush presidency and after the Soviet Union had collapsed.
  • The OST came into effect in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and it allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries.

Issues with the OST

  • The U.S. has used the treaty more intensively than Russia.
  • Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia (in addition to having imagery from other countries) compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia.

Significance

  • The U.S.’s exit last year from other arms deal the West had signed with Russia — the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — as well as its imminent departure from the OST has raised the strong possibility that the Trump administration may not renew the New Start Treaty.
  • The New START Treaty was signed by the Obama administration with Russia that caps Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenal. The New Start Treaty is due to expire in February 2021.
  • The Trump administration has been worried that extending New START would negatively impact an arms deal with China and Russia.
  • It is concerned that China’s nuclear stockpile could be doubled if the New Start Treaty continued as is, without including China.

Back2Basics: New START pact

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.
  • In February 2019, the US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Moscow of violating the agreement.

INF Treaty

  • Under the INF treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.
  • The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe.
  • It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] UMANG Mobile AppPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UMANG app services

Mains level : Utility of the UMANG app


To further enhance the initiatives of Digital India Programme, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) services have been brought on the “UMANG App”.

UPSC may puzzle you by asking a question such as: Which of the following services are included under UMANG App?  It would provide some ambiguous 5-6 options.

UMANG App

  • The UMANG is an acronym for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance.
  • It is an all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app, powered by a robust back-end platform providing access to high impact services of various organizations.
  • It was in 2017 to bring major government services on a single mobile app, with a larger goal to make the government accessible on the mobile phone of our citizens.
  • About 660 services from 127 departments & 25 states and about 180 utility bill payment services are live and more are in pipeline.
  • UMANG user base has crossed 2.1 Crore including Android, iOS, Web and KaiOS.
  • Citizens can also access their Digilocker from UMANG and give their feedback after availing any service through Rapid Assessment System (RAS) which has been integrated with UMANG.

Key features

  • Unified Platform: It brings together all government departments and their services on a single platform to provide better and easier services to citizens.
  • Mobile-First Strategy: It aligns all government services with the mobile-first strategy to leverage mobile adoption trends.
  • Integration with Digital India Services: It provides seamless integration with other Digital India Services like Aadhaar, DigiLocker, and PayGov. Any new such service will automatically be integrated with the platform.
  • Uniform Experience: It is designed to enable citizens to discover, download, access, and use all government services easily.
  • Secure and Scalable: It supports Aadhaar-based and other authentication mechanisms for service access. The sensitive profile data is saved in an encrypted format and no one can view this information.

Benefits for Citizens

  • Single-Point Ubiquitous Access: All government services are available for citizens on a unified platform for easy access through multiple online and offline channels (SMS, email, app, and web).
  • More for Less: Only a single mobile app needs to be installed instead of each app of each department.
  • Convenience: Citizens do not even need to install or update the app again to avail government services if more services are added to the platform.
  • Saving of Time and Money: Citizens can anytime and anywhere avail these services through their mobile phones, desktops, and laptops without any need for visiting the department office and standing in queues.
  • Uniform Experience: All the government services including payment-based transactions provide secure and uniform experience.
Posted on | Custom
Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Explained: Contract Farming and its benefitsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Contract Farming

Mains level : Contract Farming and its feasibilty


The Odisha government has promulgated an ordinance allowing investors and farmers to enter into an agreement for contract farming in view of the continuing uncertainties due to the pandemic.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is Contract Farming? Examine its potentials and feasibility from the perspective of farmers’ interests.

Moving on with Odisha’s law

  • The Odisha ordinance is aimed at facilitating both farmers and sponsors to develop mutually beneficial and efficient contract farming system.
  • It is argued that the new system will lead to improved production and marketing of agricultural produce and livestock while promoting farmers’ interest.
  • The agreement will be entered into between the contract farming sponsor, who offers to participate in any component or entire value chain including preproduction, and the contract farming producer (farmers), who agree to produce the crop or rear the livestock.
  • Both the loans and advances given by the sponsor to the producer can be recovered from the sale proceeds of the produce.
  • And in no case realized, recovery can be through the sale or mortgage or lease of the land in respect of which the agreement has been entered into.

What is Contract Farming?

  • Contract farming (CF) can be defined as agricultural production carried out according to an agreement between a buyer and farmers, which establishes conditions for the production and marketing of a farm product or products.
  • Typically, the farmer agrees to provide agreed quantities of a specific agricultural product.
  • These should meet the quality standards of the purchaser and be supplied at the time determined by the purchaser.
  • In turn, the buyer commits to purchase the product and, in some cases, to support production through, for example, the supply of farm inputs, land preparation and the provision of technical advice.

Some business models in CF

1) Informal model – This model is the most transient and speculative of all contract farming models, with a risk of default by both the promoter and the farmer. However, this depends on the situation: interdependence of contract parties or long-term trustful relationships may reduce the risk of opportunistic behaviour.

2) Intermediary model – In this model, the buyer subcontracts an intermediary (collector, aggregator or farmer organisation) who formally or informally contracts farmers (a combination of the centralised/ informal models).

3) Multipartite model – This model can develop from the centralised or nucleus estate models. It involves various organisations such as governmental statutory bodies alongside private companies and sometimes financial institutions.

4) Centralized model – In this model, the buyers’ involvement may vary from minimal input provision (e.g. specific varieties) to control of most production aspects (e.g. from land preparation to harvesting). This is the most common CF model.

Advantages of Contract Farming:

To the farmers:

  • It helps in skilling of farmers as they learn to use various resources efficiently like fertilizer, pesticides and get in touch with new technology in some cases.
  • Farmers get the opportunity for diversification of crops.
  • Price risk is drastically reduced as many contracts specify prices in advance.
  • Contract farming can open up new markets which would otherwise have been unavailable to small farmers. The farmers can also get easy credit from the Bank under contractual agreements.
  • In the case of agri-processing level, it ensures a consistent supply of agricultural produce with quality, at the right time and lesser cost.

To the Client:

  • They get uninterrupted & regular flow of raw material of high quality which helps in protection from fluctuation in market pricing.
  • Long term planning of business is possible as they have a dedicated supplier base of raw material.
  • Concept of contract farming can be extended to other crops also which helps to generate goodwill for the organisation.

Limitations

  • Contract farming arrangements are often criticized for being biased in favour of firms or large farmers while exploiting the poor bargaining power of small farmers.
  • Problems faced by growers like an undue quality cut on produce by firms delayed deliveries at the factory, delayed payments, low price and pest attack on the contract crop which raised the cost of production.
  • Contracting agreements are often verbal or informal in nature, and even written contracts often do not provide legal protection in India that may be observed in other countries. Lack of enforceability of contractual provisions can result in a breach of contracts by either party.
  • Single Buyer – Multiple Sellers (Monopsony).
  • Adverse gender effects – Women have less access to contract farming than men.

Also read

What is contract farming? Critically analyze the features of the draft “Model Contract Farming Act – 2018”. (150 W)

With inputs from Vikaspedia

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Rising incidences of Chinese TransgressionsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : India-China border disputes


As tensions remain high between Indian and Chinese soldiers, the number of recorded Chinese transgressions across the disputed India-China border surged by 75 per cent in Ladakh in 2019, and the Chinese forays into Indian Territory in the first four months of the current year have also witnessed an increase compared to the same period last year.

Chinese Transgression:

    • The border between India and China is not fully demarcated and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries.
    • This leads to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides while soldiers from either side try to patrol the area.
    • Observation Methods: Use of surveillance equipment, face-offs by patrols, reliable indications by locals, or evidence left by the Chinese in the form of wrappers, biscuit packets etc. in an unmanned area.
    • Official data shows that 80% of Chinese transgressions across the LAC since 2015 have taken place in four locations of which three are in eastern Ladakh in the western sector.
      • These areas of eastern Ladakh are Pangong Tso, Trig Heights and Burtse.
      • The fourth area is the Dichu Area/Madan Ridge area (Arunachal Pradesh) of the Eastern sector.
  •  Implications of Increased Number of Transgressions:

    • It is an indicator of increased Chinese assertiveness.
    • Even if there are no major incidents, it should not be taken lightly.
    • So far, there has been no major standoff between the two sides after the 73-day Doklam standoff on Sikkim-Bhutan border in 2017.

Concerns

  • India is worried about the tensions at Naku La in Sikkim and at Galwan river and Pangong Tso in Ladakh.
  • The increased transgressions lead to more tensions between both countries which are already struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Nepal’s recent behaviour on the Mansarovar Link Road raising the border map issue also raises Indian concerns.
  • The constant accusations on each other also cause tensions and disrupt the peace on borders.
    • Recently, Chinese media accused India of building defence facilities in the Galwan Valley region of the contested Aksai Chin area.
  • India and China are both nuclear-armed countries with strong militaries and the constant border conflicts are not a desirable thing.

Way Forward

  • In the Wuhan and Mahabalipuram summits, both China and India had reaffirmed that they will make efforts to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.
  • On 1st April, 2020 India and China completed their 70 years of diplomatic relations.
  • Both countries have resolved border issues peacefully in the past four decades which gives the hope that the tensions will subside soon.
  • Establishment of peace between the two big powers of such an important geopolitical region is essential for their own growth and development as well as for maintenance of global peace.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Clear demarcation of the national borders is the need of the hour. Discuss.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Demo-2 Mission by SpaceXPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demo 2 Mission

Mains level : Commercial crew programme by NASA


NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight will lift off for International Space Station (ISS) becoming the first crewed flight to launch from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.

We can get a match the pair type question in prelims asking various space missions and their purposes. Make note of similar space missions from here.

Try this:

Q. Which of the following pair is/are correctly matched? (CSP 2014)

Spacecraft Purpose
1. Cassini-Huygens Orbiting the Venus and transmitting data to the Earth
2. Messenger Mapping and investigating the Mercury
3. Voyager 1 and 2 Exploring the outer solar system

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

a) 1 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Demo-2: What is the mission?

  • The Demo-2 mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with the aim of developing reliable and cost-effective access to and from the ISS.
  • Essentially, the lift-off is a flight test to certify if SpaceX’s crew transportation system can be used to ferry crew to and from the space station regularly.
  • After its launch, the Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing manoeuvres to gradually approach and autonomously dock with the ISS.
  • After docking, the two astronauts will go aboard the ISS. They will perform tests of the Crew Dragon and conduct research with Expedition 63, the space station crew currently in residence at ISS.

About the Commercial Crew Program

  • The main objective of this program is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
  • Secondly, by encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation NASA wants to focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.
  • Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA in September 2014 to develop transportation systems meant to transfer crew from the US to the ISS.

Back2Basics: SpaceX

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation Services Company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
  • It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
  • SpaceX has developed several launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

What is Solar Minimum?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solar minima and maxima

Mains level : Solar minima and maxima, its impact on space weather and earth


The sun is said to have gone into a state called the ‘solar minimum’ and is about to enter the deepest period of ‘sunshine recession’ as sunspots are virtually not visibly at all.

Practice question for Mains:

Q. What are Solar minima and maxima? Discuss its impact on space weather and the Earth.

What is a solar minimum and why is it happening now?

  • Sun has a cycle that lasts on average 11 years, and right now we are at the peak of that cycle.
  • Every 11 years or so, sunspots fade away, bringing a period of relative calm.
  • This is called the solar minimum. And it’s a regular part of the sunspot cycle.
  • While intense activity such as sunspots and solar flares subside during solar minimum, that doesn’t mean the sun becomes dull. Solar activity simply changes form.

What about Solar Maximum?

  • Solar minima and maxima are the two extremes of the Sun’s 11-year and 400-year activity cycle.
  • At a maximum, the Sun is peppered with sunspots, solar flares erupt, and the Sun hurls billion-ton clouds of electrified gas into space.
  • Sky watchers may see more auroras, and space agencies must monitor radiation storms for astronaut protection.
  • Power outages, satellite malfunctions, communication disruptions, and GPS receiver malfunctions are just a few of the things that can happen during a solar maximum.

What are its effects on Earth?

a) On space weather

  • The Solar wind from coronal holes will temporarily create disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere, called geomagnetic storms, auroras, and disruptions to communications and navigation systems.
  • The space weather during solar minimum will also affect Earth’s upper atmosphere on satellites in low Earth orbit changes.
  • This means that the Earth’s upper atmosphere will cool down which is generally heated and puffed up by ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • However, the heat at the upper atmosphere of our planet helps Earth to drag debris and keep the low Earth orbit clear of manmade space junk.
  • Apart from this, the solar minimum will change the space weather significantly which will lead to an increase in the number of galactic cosmic rays that reach Earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • These Galactic cosmic rays are high energy particles which are a result of distant supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy.

b) On astronauts

  • According to NASA the sun’s magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays during a solar minimum which will directly increase the threat to astronauts travelling through space.
  • This may cause health risks to astronauts travelling through space as the sun’s magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays.
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