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01 Apr, 2021

54 Min Read

World Economic Forum’s: Global Gender Gap Report 2021

GS-I : Social issues Gender issue

World Economic Forum’s: Global Gender Gap Report 2021

GS-Paper-1: Social issue and Sociology Optional – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

Context: World Economic Forum report is providing essential insight about Gender and its empowerment and status which UPSC candidates can utilize in PT for facts and in Sociology optional and ESSAY writing as a reference of Women's status.

WEF AIMS and Objective: https://www.weforum.org/

It was first published in 2006 by the WEF. It benchmarks 156 countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions:

Economic Participation and Opportunity,

Educational Attainment,

Health and Survival and

Political Empowerment.

Over the Index, the highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality).

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. It was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests. The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.

Some major reports published by WEF are:

  1. Energy Transition Index
  2. Global Competitiveness Report
  3. Global IT Report

WEF along with INSEAD, and Cornell University publishes this report.

  1. Global Gender Gap Report.
  2. Global Risk Report.
  3. Global Travel and Tourism Report.

Aim: To serve as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics. Through this annual yardstick, the stakeholders within each country are able to set priorities relevant in each specific economic, political and cultural context.

India’s Position:

India has fallen 28 places 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2021 , becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. Inspite of prog. Like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, One Stop Centre (OSC) Scheme, Ujjawala Scheme are some the initiatives launched by the government to address the issue of gender inequality. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles, even than India is scoring the poor rank in South Asia.

For the 12th time, Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world. The top 10 most gender-equal countries include Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland. According to the report, India has closed 62.5% of its gender gap to date.

Overall Ranking: India is now one of the worst performers in South Asia, it is now ranked 140 among 156 countries. In South Asia, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Pakistan 153, Afghanistan 156, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116. India had ranked 112th among 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020.

  1. Political Empowerment: India has declined on the political empowerment index as well by 13.5 percentage points, and a decline in the number of women ministers, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021. However, it has still performed relatively well compared to other countries, ranking at 51 in women’s participation in politics.
  2. Education Attainment: In the index of education attainment, India has been ranked at 114.
  3. Economic Participation: The report notes that the economic participation gender gap actually widened in India by 3% this year. The share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also is at 14.6% and only 8.9% firms in the country have top female managers. The estimated earned income of women in India is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the income of an average woman is below 16% of that of an average man, while in India it is 20.7%.
  4. Health and Survival index: On this India has fared the worst, ranking at 155. The only country to have fared worse is China. The report points to a skewed sex ratio as the major factor. It says the ratio can be attributed to norms of son preference and gender-biased prenatal sex-selective practices. China and India together account for about 90 to 95% of the estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased prenatal sex selective practices.

Region Wise Rank:

  1. South Asia incidentally is one of the worst performing regions, followed only by the Middle East and northern Africa.
  2. Largest Gender Gap in Political Empowerment: The gender gap in political empowerment remains the largest: women represent only 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide.
  3. In 81 countries, there has never been a woman head of state, as of 15th January, 2021. Bangladesh is the only country where more women have held head-of-state positions than men in the past 50 years.
  4. Economic Participation: The countries with the largest gender gaps in economic participation include Iran, India, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
  5. Timeframe to Close the Gap: It will take South Asia 195.4 years to close the gender gap, while Western Europe will take 52.1 years.

Source: WEF

China-Iran increasing ties

GS-II : International Relations China OBOR

China-Iran increasing ties

GS-Paper-2: International issue and Political science Optional – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

Context: China and Iran have signed a 25-year "strategic cooperation pact” which includes "political-economic and strategic components". The agreement comes as a major push from China to back Iran to deal with the continuing weight of sanctions reinstated by the US after its withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. In this context, it is very important for India to redesign its strategy in West Asia and the Indian Ocean.

News: It will deepen relations between Iran and China and would establish a blueprint for "reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services. It forms a part of China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase its influence overseas.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

In 2015, Iran with the P5+1 group of world powers - the USA, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany agreed on a long-term deal on its nuclear programme. The deal was named as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: JCPOA and in common parlance as Iran Nuclear Deal.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of sanctions and access to global trade. The agreement allowed Iran to accumulate small amounts of uranium for research but it banned the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.

Iran was also required to redesign a heavy-water reactor being built, whose spent fuel could contain plutonium suitable for a bomb and to allow international inspections. In 2018, the United States declared its withdrawal from JCPOA and imposed unilateral sanction on Iran.

Iran has pulled away from restrictions imposed under the deal in order to put pressure on the other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — to provide new economic incentives to offset US sanctions.

China and Middle East

Iran relies on China as its largest trading partner. Chinese foreign minister, in his recent visit to West Asian nations, proposed a five-point initiative for achieving security and stability in the Middle East, advocating "mutual respect, upholding equity and justice, achieving non-proliferation, jointly fostering collective security, and accelerating development cooperation.”

Earlier, China and Russia called for the US to unconditionally return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as soon as possible and revoke the unilateral sanctions against Iran. In this context, they proposed "the establishment of a regional security dialogue platform to converge a new consensus on resolving the security concerns of countries in the region.”

India's Concerns

  1. Military Partnership: China is also concluding a security and military partnership with Iran. China calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”. The sizable Chinese investments in Iranian ports development may eventually be turned into permanent military access arrangements with Iran.

  1. Strategic Stakes Around the Chabahar Port: With a growing Chinese presence in Iran, India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing. The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.
  2. Geopolitical Rivalry: India finds itself caught in the geopolitical rivalry between the US & China over Iran. India’s dilemma also stems from the fact that robust support from the US is essential when it is locked in a border stand-off with China.
  3. Impact on Relationship with Other Countries: Growing Chinese footsteps in Iran will have a long-lasting impact on India’s relationship with not only Iran but also on Afghanistan and Central Asian nations.

Source: TH

India’s 2021 economic output-below 2019 level: UN report

GS-II : Important reports Important reports

India’s 2021 economic output-below 2019 level: UN report

GS-Paper-3: Economic issue and Economics Optional – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

Context: India, according to the 'Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2021: Towards post-COVID-19 resilient economies', is estimated to record an economic growth of 7 per cent in 2021-22, over a contraction of 7.7 per cent witnessed in the previous fiscal on account of the pandemic's impact on normal business activity.

News: India’s 2021 economic output, however, is expected to remain below the 2019 level despite a robust reduction in new Covid-19 cases and the start of vaccine roll-out. India entered the pandemic with already subdued GDP growth and investment. Moreover, one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world caused the severe economic disruptions that the country experienced in the year 2020.

A subsequent change in lockdown policies and success in reducing infection rates supported an impressive economic turnaround in the later months of 2020.

Challenges: The report mentions two major challenges for India on its path to faster recovery

  1. Maintaining low borrowing costs, and
  2. Keeping non-performing loans in check.

Observation Regarding Asia Pacific Countries:

  1. The socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was amplified due to lack of resilience and investments in people and the planet.
  2. China’s swift and effective response to Covid-19 enabled it to become the only major economy worldwide to achieve a positive annual economic growth rate in 2020.
  3. On an average, developing Asia-Pacific economies are expected to grow 5.9% in 2021 and 5% in 2022.
  4. The prospect of a K-shaped recovery, characterized by uneven post-pandemic recovery across countries and widened inequality gaps within countries, is highlighted as a primary policy challenge.

K-Shaped Recovery

  • A K-shaped recovery occurs when, following a recession, different parts of the economy recover at different rates, times, or magnitudes. This is in contrast to an even, uniform recovery across sectors, industries, or groups of people.
  • A K-shaped recovery leads to changes in the structure of the economy or the broader society as economic outcomes and relations are fundamentally changed before and after the recession.
  • This type of recovery is called K-shaped because the path of different parts of the economy when charted together may diverge, resembling the two arms of the Roman letter "K."


  1. For a more robust and inclusive recovery, the report calls for a more synchronised Covid-19 vaccination programme across countries. There is a need to leverage regional cooperation.
  2. It recommends that fiscal and monetary support should be sustained, as premature tightening could increase long-term scars.
  3. Continuity in policy support is a must and recovery policy packages should focus on building resilience and investing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  4. To deal with various economic and non-economic shocks, a more integrated risk management approach to planning and policymaking is needed.

Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific

Produced annually since 1947, the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific is the oldest United Nations report on the region’s progress.

  • The Survey monitors regional progress, provides cutting-edge analyses and guides policy discussion on the current and emerging socio-economic issues and policy challenges to support inclusive and sustainable development in the region.
  • Since 1957, the Survey has also contained a study or studies focusing on a significant aspect or challenge relevant to the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The Survey of 2021 studies the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and provides insights for post-Covid-19 resilient economies.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

  • The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • It has 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members from Asia-Pacific Region including India.
  • Established: 1947
  • Headquarters: Bangkok, Thailand
  • Objective: To overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by providing results-oriented projects, technical assistance and capacity building to member States.


EPF tax rules- Social Security

GS-III : Economic Issues Budget

EPF tax rules- Social Security

GS-Paper-3: Economic issue and Economics Optional – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

Context: The new EPF tax rules will come into effect from April 1, 2021 as announced in the Union Budget of 2021. Highly important for UPSC-PRELIMS and EPFO examination.

For EPFO PREPARATION: https://www.aspireias.com/upsc-epfo

Free SOCIAL SECURITY Booklet: https://www.aspireias.com/uploads/upladfile/Social_security_(2).pdf

Existing rule?

If a person contributes more than the limit prescribed under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, he cannot get a tax break on his excess contribution. The earnings on contributions rarely suffered taxation since tax laws pegged tax-free earnings to higher rates than the interest rate on the EPF.

Moreover the person will pay tax on their corpus, only if he withdrew it within 5 years from the comment of the contribution. This taxation framework incentivised employees to use the EPF as their primary retirement saving and it acted as risk-free retirement savings mode.

What is the new rule?

  • The new tax regulation will label a person as a high net worth individual if he misuses EPF by contributing more than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum to the EPF.
  • The limit is Rs 5 lakh in cases where employers do not make contributions to the provident fund.

What is the issue with new rules?

  • With the new rule coming into effect, government assumes what is adequate for an individual on retirement.
  • The decision on a common threshold of adequacy is incorrect and suffers from the flaw of one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Moreover the word ‘misuse’ that was used to justify the imposition of the tax is difficult to comprehend.
  • This is because EPF is solely a payroll deduction and cannot be contributed in any other manner.
  • The new clause of taxing the amount exceeding the limit prescribed in the act brings the EPF to the borders of double taxation.
  • 65% of EPF is invested in government securities and rest is invested in largely in PSU bonds and earnings available to the employee through interest credit mechanism.
  • Despite the stickiness of these interest rate declarations and their often being higher than market rates, it is certain that the government does not subsidise this interest rate credit.

Why it is difficult to administer?

  • In addition to these flaws, there are difficulties in administrating the new tax rule.
  • Due to the changed of threshold from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, there can be various interpretations surrounding the applicability to EPF.
  • It is also unclear if the interest on such excess contributions is taxed once during the year of contribution or throughout the term of investment in EPF.
  • The mechanism of tax communication from the EPFO to the member also remains uncertain.

Important Points

  • The EPF remains a subsidy-free, pay-what-is-earned retirement fund and typifies safety with governance.
  • Though pension funds are seen by governments in multiple policy contexts, they should remain, foremost, the retirement funds of the beneficiaries.
  • Regulations governing contributions, taxation, investments, administration and benefits should be made in the interest of the beneficiary.
  • But it seems that other imperatives dominate the agenda in pension policymaking in India.
  • Therefore, the resultant outcomes are sub-optimal from a beneficiary point of view.
  • Therefore the policy makers need to relook the new rules and the immediate rollback of it demonstrates the will of the policymakers to encourage retirement savings.

Source: TH

National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021

GS-II : Important Bills Important Bills

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to the Lok Sabha where it proposed that “government” in Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Key Provisions:

  • Delhi’s present status is a Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly - an outcome of the 69th Amendment Act.
  • The act introduced Articles 239AA and 239BB in the Constitution.
    • They have created the Union Territory of Delhi with a legislative assembly.
    • The administrator appointed under Article 239 is designated as Lieutenant Governor.
      • There shall be a council of ministers to aid and advise LG.
    • Subjects such as public order, police and land are not under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.
      • The Centre will maintain these provisions.
  • Article 239AA(4) mandates that in case of a difference of opinion between the L-G and the Council of Ministers, the L-G has to refer the issue to the President.
    • Until the decision is pending before the President, the L-G can use his discretion to take immediate action if urgency requires him/her to take an action.
  • The NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 was passed to supplement the constitutional provisions relating to the Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the national capital.
  • The act outlines few important provisions such as:
    • the powers of the Assembly
    • the discretionary powers enjoyed by the L-G
    • duties of the Chief Minister with respect to the need to furnish information to the L-G.

Salient features of the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2021

  • The NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill aims to amend few clauses of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 (GNCTD Act 1991) mentioned below:
    • Section 21 – This section deals with the restrictions on laws passed by the Legislative Assembly concerning certain matters.
      • The Bill provides that the term “government” referred to in any law made by the Legislative Assembly will imply Lieutenant Governor (L-G).
    • Section 24 – This section deals with assent to Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly.
      • The L-G will reserve the bills for the consideration of the President in matters including bills that diminish the powers of the High Court of Delhi, the President directed the L-G to reserve a bill, etc.
        • The NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Bill requires the L-G to reserve bills for the President that incidentally cover any of the matters outside the purview of the powers of the Legislative Assembly.
    • Section 33- It mentions that the Legislative Assembly will make rules to regulate the procedure and conduct of business in the Assembly.
      • The 2021 NCT bill states that such rules must be consistent with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
    • Section 44 – It deals with the conduct of business. Accordingly, all executive decisions taken by the elected government should be under the L-G’s name.
  • The 2021 bill empowers the L-G to specify his suggestions on certain matters.
  • His opinions has to be taken before making any executive action on decisions of the Minister/ Council of Ministers.

Source: TH, IE, PIB etc

Insurance Amendment Bill, 2021

GS-III : Economic Issues FDI REFORMS

The government on introduced a bill in Rajya Sabha to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 and raise foreign direct investment cap to 74% from 49%.


  • The Act allows foreign investors to hold up to 49% of the capital in an Indian insurance company, which must be owned and controlled by an Indian entity.
  • The Bill increases the limit on foreign investment in an Indian insurance company from 49% to 74%, and removes restrictions on ownership and control.
  • However, such foreign investment may be subject to additional conditions as prescribed by the central government.
  • The Act requires insurers to hold a minimum investment in assets which would be sufficient to clear their insurance claim liabilities.
  • If the insurer is incorporated or domiciled outside India, such assets must be held in India in a trust and vested with trustees who must be residents of India.

Insurance companies are facing liquidity pressure and the higher limit would help meet the growing capital requirement.

Source: TH

Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Biodiversity & Environment

Odisha government has proposed a second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri.

  • Similipal Biosphere Reserve is Odisha’s first such reserve, which was notified in 1996.
  • The area of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve is spread over Gajapati and Ganjam districts in the Eastern Ghats and is near the Mahendragiri peak.

Soura Tribe:

  • They are a Munda ethnic group from eastern India living in southern Odisha and north coastal Andhra Pradesh.
  • They are known by various names such as Savara, Sabara, Sora, and Soura.
  • The Soras speak Sora, a Munda language
  • They practice shifting cultivation, with a few gradually taking up settled agriculture.

Biosphere Reserves

  • Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems.
  • BRs are designated to deal with the quest for economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values.
  • BRs are thus special environments for both people and nature and are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each others’ needs.

Criteria for BR

  • A site that must contain an effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation.
  • The core area should be typical of a bio-geographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels in the ecosystem.
  • The management authority to ensure the involvement/cooperation of local communities to bring variety of knowledge and experiences to link biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development while managing and containing the conflicts.
  • Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of environment.

Source: Down to Earth

Global Wind Report 2021

GS-II : Important reports Important reports

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has released the Global Wind Report, 2021.

About Global Wind Report:

  • The Global Wind Report highlights the role of wind power on the road to net zero emissions.

Key Findings of the report:

  • The world’s capacity to generate electricity from wind jumped 53% in 2020.
  • A total 93 gigawatts (GW) capacity was installed in the year.
    • However, this is not sufficient for the world to reach a ‘net zero’ emission status by 2050.
    • The world needs to install a minimum of 180 GW of new wind energy capacity every year.
  • At present, the world has a total wind energy capacity of 743 GW.
  • This has helped avoid an annual CO2 emission of over 1.1 billion tonnes which is equivalent to the volume of carbon South America emits in a year.
  • China and the United States accounted for 75% of the new installations and over half the world’s wind power capacity.

India’s Wind Power Capacity:

  • India’s total installed wind power capacity was 38GW (Feb-2021), the 4th largest installed wind power capacity in the world.

About Global Wind Energy Council(GWEC):

  • The Global Wind Energy Council (GEWC) was established in 2005 to provide a credible and representative forum for the entire wind energy sector at an international level.
  • It’s mission is to ensure that wind power is established as one of the world’s leading energy sources, providing substantial environmental and economic benefits.
  • Headquarters: Brussels,Belgium.

Source: TH

Vajra Prahaar Exercise between India & US

GS-III : Internal security Internal security

The 11th edition of Indo-US Joint Special Forces Exercise Vajra Prahar was conducted at Special Forces Training School located at Bakloh, Himachal Pradesh.

About Exercise Vajra Prahar:

  • Exercise Vajra Prahar is a Special Forces joint military training exercise.
  • It takes place alternately in India and the US since 2010.
  • The exercise enables sharing of best practices and experience in areas such as joint mission planning capabilities and operational tactics.

Other Exercises between India and US:

  • Yudh Abhyas- It is a joint military exercise between India and the US.
  • Tiger Triumph- It is a tri-service military exercise between India and the US.

What are Special Forces?

  • Special Forces of India refer to those Special forces units that are specifically organised, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations.
  • The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have separate special forces units namely:
    • Para SF: Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) is the special force of the Indian Army. This unit formed in 1966 in the aftermath of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.
    • MARCOS: Marine Commando Force also called MARCOS established in 1987. It is the special forces unit of the Indian Navy.
    • Garud Commando Force: It was established in 2004. They are the special forces of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
  • There are other special forces that are out of military control. They operate under civilian organizations such as the Home ministry’s National Security Guard.

Other Exercises India participates in :

Exercise Name

Participant Nations


India & Bangladesh

Mitra Shakti

India & Sri Lanka

Maitree Exercise

India & Thailand

Vajra Prahar

India & US

Yudh Abhyas

India & US

Nomadic Elephant

India & Mongolia

Garuda Shakti

India & Indonesia

Shakti Exercise

India & France

Dharma Guardian

India & Japan

Surya Kiran

India & Nepal

Hand in Hand Exercise

India & China

Exercise name

Country participated with India

Latest Date/Year/Edition

Held at

Al Nagah-III


  • 12th March 2019
  • 3rd Edition

Jabal AL Akhdar training camp, Oman

Bold Kurukshetra


  • 9th April 2019
  • 12th Edition

Babina Military Station in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh



  • 7th October 2019
  • 10th Edition

Pune, Maharashtra

Garuda Shakti IV


  • 19th February 2018
  • 6th Edition

Bandung, Indonesia

Hand in Hand


  • 7th December 2019
  • 8th Edition

Umroi, Meghalaya



  • 4th September 2020
  • 11th Edition

Andaman Sea

Khanjar V


  • 16th March 2019
  • 5th Edition

Vairengte in Mizoram



  • 2018
  • 8th Edition

Mahe Island in Seychelles



  • 16th September 2019
  • 14th Edition

Umroi, Meghalaya

Mitra Shakti-VII

Sri Lanka

  • 1st December 2019
  • 7th Edition

Pune, Maharashtra

Multi-national FTX/Exercise Force Eighteen

18 ASEAN Plus countries

  • 2nd March 2016

Pune, India

Nomadic Elephant


  • 5th October 2019
  • 14th Edition

Bakloh Cantonment, Himachal Pradesh

Prabal Dostyk


  • 2nd November 2017
  • Second Edition

Himachal Pradesh



  • 3rd February 2020
  • 9th Edition

Umroi, Meghalaya

Surya Kiran XIV


  • 3rd December 2019
  • 14th Edition

Saljhandi, Nepal

Source: TH

Heart of Asia Peace Conference

GS-II : International Relations South Asia

India’s Foreign Minister is attending the 9th ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

About Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process:

  • It is a regional initiative of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey.
  • It was launched in November 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • The process aims to promote economic and political cooperation for Afghanistan peace through dialogue and confidence-building measures (CBMs).
  • The platform comprises 15 participating countries, 17 supporting countries, and 12 supporting regional and international organizations.
    • India is one of the participating countries.
    • Other participating countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates
  • The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process is based on three pillars:
    • Political Consultations to resolve disputes in the region and Afghanistan.
    • Implementation of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and
    • Cooperation with Regional Organizations.
  • The Directorate-General for Regional Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan is the De facto Secretariat.
  • India co-hosted the 6th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Amritsar, Punjab in 2016.

Source: PIB

National Award for Excellence in Forestry

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Wildlife & Fauna

National Award for Excellence in Forestry

The National Award of Excellence for Outstanding Research in Forestry for the year 2019 has been awarded to Kannan C S Warrier, a scientist at Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB). This award is conferred by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE).

The award has been awarded to Kannan C S Warrier for releasing three salt-tolerant productive clones of Casuarina that are suitable for salt-affected soils, for the first time in the country. India has 6.73 million hectares of salt affected land and is also the largest producer of Casuarina in the world which makes the production of these clones a significant achievement.

ICFRE is an apex body in the national forestry research system. ICFRE was recently declared as the Centre for Excellence in addressing issues related to land degradation by the Prime Minister.


  • Casuarina, also known as kattadi and savukku, is a plant genus with over 17 species with Casuarina equisetifolia being introduced in India in the 19th century.
  • They have a role in nitrogen fixation in symbiotic association with bacteria Frankia.
  • They provide fuel wood, pulp for paper making and of late is a preferred choice for biomass-based power generation.
  • They are also used at construction sites for scaffolding.
  • They are used as shelterbelts in coastal areas and windbreaks for protecting agricultural crops and banana plantations.
  • They also play a key role in reclaiming mined areas and afforesting nutrient-poor sites.
  • Warrier has also done extensive work on the conservation of endangered sacred groves in Alappuzha district of Kerala.

Sacred Groves

  • Sacred groves are communally protected forests which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community.
  • In India, there are over a lakh sacred groves across different states called by different names like Kaavu in Malayalam, Koyil kaadu in Tamil, Orans in Rajasthan, Devara kaadu in Karnataka, and Sernas in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Many rare and endemic species, and species having medicinal and economic value can be found here, thus making them Biodiversity Hotspots. They house gene pools of some critically endangered plant species.
  • They are often associated with religious beliefs and the felling of trees in sacred groves is considered taboo.
  • Sacred groves have been legally protected under ‘community reserves’ in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002.

Source: PIB


GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government Schemes & Programmes


DSIR-PRISM Scheme will be aligned with three National Initiatives like Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), Smart India Hackathon (SIH) and Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG), IIT Delhi. Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research - Promoting Innovations in Individuals, Startups and MSMEs (DSIR-PRISM) scheme supports individual innovators enabling inclusive development of India.

  • It aims at transforming an innovator into a technopreneur by promoting and funding implementable and commercially viable innovations created for the society.
  • PRISM extends its support to any citizen of the country through Direct Benefit Transfer for idea development, prototype development and pilot scaling, and patenting in the core technology areas.

Areas - Affordable Healthcare, Water, Sewage Management, Green Technology, Clean Energy, Industrially Utilizable Smart Materials, Waste to Wealth aligned with our National objectives. PRISM considers the Intellectual Property (IP) as a belonging to the innovators.

The grant is given in two phases: Phase I and Phase II, catering to both the initial innovation stage and the advanced enterprise setup phase through DSIR outreach-cum-cluster innovation centres across India.

Unnat Bharat Abhiyan:

It is a flagship program of the Ministry of Education. It was launched in 2014. It aims to link the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with a set of at least (5) villages, so that these institutions can contribute to the economic and social betterment of these village communities using their knowledge base.

It covers two major domains for holistic development of villages – human development and material (economic) development - in an integrated way.

The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT, Delhi) has been designated as the National Coordinating Institute (NCI) for the UBA scheme.

Main Objectives:

  1. To engage the faculty and students of HEIs in identifying development issues in rural areas and finding sustainable solutions for the same.
  2. Identify & select existing innovative technologies, enable customisation of technologies, or devise implementation methods for innovative solutions, as required by the people
  3. To allow HEIs to contribute to devising systems for smooth implementation of various Government programmes.

Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0:

It is the upgraded version of UBA 1.0. It was launched in 2018. UBA 1.0 or UBA Phase-1 was the Invitation Mode in which Participating Institutions were invited to be a part of UBA. Whereas UBA 2.0 is the Challenge Mode of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan programme where all HEIs are required to willingly adopt at least 5 villages. Currently, UBA 2.0 Mode is going on.

Source: PIB

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