10 August, 2019

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GS-I : Miscellaneous
Which country has most number of languages? Not India

GS-I: Which country has most number of languages? Not India


The Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea has the highest number of ‘living’ indigenous languages in the world (840), while India stands fourth with 453.


  1. 2019 is the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages
  2. In 2016, the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues pointed out that 40% of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing
  3. Several languages are now “endangered” 
  4. For languages like Tiniguan (Colombian origin), there is just a single native speaker left
  5. Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages worldwide when only first-languages are considered
  6. U.S. and Australia are among the countries where the highest number of languages are spoken
  7. Asia and Africa account for the highest number of indigenous languages 
  8. ‘Greenberg’s diversity index’ – the probability that any two people selected at random would have different mother tongues. It ranges from 0 to 1, where 0 indicates no diversity and 1 indicates total diversity. A higher diversity index would mean more languages spread across the country.
  9. Most Indian languages are derivatives of languages that are spoken in other parts of Asia as well.
  10. Sino-Tibetan languages are spoken across Northeast India, China, Bhutan, Nepal and other South East Asian countries.
  11. But, Andamanese language family is confined to India alone.
  12. According to UNESCO’s ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’, in India, five languages have become extinct since 1950, while 42 are critically endangered.
  13. The International Year of Indigenous Languages aims to promote native tongues in five key areas like creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices on indigenous languages.

Source: The Hindu

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Our notions of motherhood

GS-II:  Our notions of motherhood


The Lok Sabha passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019. to regulate the practice of surrogacy in India and allow only “ethical altruistic surrogacy”.


  1. Heavy reliance on criminal law for managing social issues, criminalisation of choice and prejudiced ideas of what constitutes a family.
  2. Disallows single, divorced or widowed persons, unmarried couples and homosexual couples from pursuing surrogacy to have children.
  3. It stipulates that only a man and woman married for at least five years, where either or both are proven infertile, can avail of surrogacy.

Why the provisions are discriminatory

  1. India’s jurisprudence recognises the reproductive autonomy of single persons, the rights of persons in live-in relationships and fundamental rights of transgenders.
  2. In Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India, Supreme Court decriminalised consensual same-sex between consenting adults and held that the law cannot discriminate against same-sex partnership.
  3. Single persons have the right to adopt children in India.
  4. Guidelines issued by Indian Council of Medical Research in 2002 and the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bills 2010 and 2014 had permitted commercial surrogacy
  5. Criminalisation of commercial surrogacy is a refusal by the state to actually consider the exercise of agency that leads a woman to become a surrogate mother. 
  6. A ban on commercial surrogacy stigmatises this choice and reinforces the notion of the vulnerable “poor” woman who does not understand the consequences of her decisions and needs the protection of a paternalistic State.
  7. In our patriarchal society, it can be expected that young mothers will be coerced into becoming surrogates for their relatives. The Bill moves the site of exploitation into the private and opaque sphere of the home and family.

Altruistic surrogacy

  1. The shift to altruistic-only surrogacy was made in the context of reports about cases of surrogate babies being abandoned and exploited
  2. Problems of surrogate mothers being kept in “surrogacy brothels” and rich foreigners using the bodies of poor Indian women to have children.
  3. PIL in Jayashree Wad vs Union of India sought to end commercial surrogacy in India. Based on court judgement, the government declared that it did not support commercial surrogacy and would allow only infertile Indian couples to avail of altruistic surrogacy.
  4. There is a danger of exploitation and abuse in commercial surrogacy.

Way ahead

  1. Exploitation takes place because of the unequal bargaining power between the surrogate mother and the surrogacy clinics, agents and intending parents. This can be addressed by a strong regulatory mechanism with transparency and mandating fair work and pay for the surrogate mothers.
  2. Viewing commercial surrogacy as inherently exploitative and banning it expands the potential for exploitation as it would force the business underground.
  3. The Standing Committee had recommended a model of compensated surrogacy which would cover psychological counselling of the surrogate mother and/or her children, lost wages for the duration of pregnancy, child care support, dietary supplements and medication, maternity clothing and post-delivery care.

Surrogacy is an important avenue for persons to have a child through a willing surrogate mother who can also benefit monetarily from the process.

Source: GS-II

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GS-II : International Relations U.S.A
‘Public charges’ in US immigration policy

GS-II: ‘Public charges’ in US immigration policy


  • The US signalled a major change in its green card policy, by announcing an expansion in the meaning of the term “public charge”.
  • The new rule could drastically reduce legal immigration to the US.

The ‘Public Charge’

  • The present definition, according to the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is as follows:
  • For purposes of determining inadmissibility, “public charge” means an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.
  • The programs falling under the above definition include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, state and local General Assistance programs and long-term care programs like Medicaid among others.
  • Programs generally not considered under “public charge” include “non-cash benefits” such as public schools, childcare services, Medicaid (non long-term), public assistance for vaccinations, emergency medical services, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), nutrition programs like Food Stamps, foster care and adoption assistance and job training programs.

Consequences of an immigrant becoming a ‘public charge’

  • Under the existing policy, USCIS immigration officers can deny a green card on “public charge” grounds if the applicant is “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence”.
  • This discretionary power has to be exercised only after looking into “the totality of the circumstances”, including factors such as age, health, financial status, education, and skills.
  • Inadmissibility on “public charge” grounds can only take place in green card proceedings, and not in those for citizenship (which in most cases is sought when the applicant already has a green card).

What has the Trump administration changed?

  • The new rule expands the ambit of the term “public charge”, by introducing additional conditions that could preclude an immigrant from obtaining a green card.
  • Major changes include: More welfare programs being included in the “public charge” list, the taking into consideration of even past use of benefits, and a significant increase in the family and individual income criteria.

Impact of the move

  • The rule is also criticised for its possible long term impact on the US, as legal immigrants already residing in the country would now be fearful of availing essential services.
  • Critics have alleged a racial bias, saying that the move targets immigrants from developing countries, while prioritizing more affluent applicants from the global North.

Source: Inidian Express

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Household Air Pollution in India

GS-II: Household Air Pollution in India


  • A study published by the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre states that the single greatest contributor to air pollution in India is the burning of solid fuels in households.
  • The burning of such solid fuels, like firewood, impacts the health of household members accounts for somewhere between 22% to 52% of all ambient air pollution in India.
  • The study postulates that based on this evidence, switching to cleaner fuels such as LPG for household use will have a dramatic impact on pollution levels and health problems due to pollution.

What is Household Air Pollution and how dangerous is it?

  • Fine particulate matter refers to particles or droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (0.000001 metres) or less, and is also known as PM2.5.
  • The emissions of PM 2.5 generated by the burning of solid fuels in households is termed Household Air Pollution (HAP).
  • The study claims that approximately 800,000 premature deaths occur in India every year as a result of exposure to HAP indoors.
  • Moreover, the HAP produced indoors travels outdoors, and becomes a contributor to ambient air pollution, with around 300,000 more premature deaths per year attributable to exposure to outdoor HAP.
  • The full impact of HAP is thus composed of the exposures to HAP 1) inside and around a given house and 2) from the household contribution to ambient air pollution states the study.
  • The median estimate for the contribution of HAP is, according to the study, around 30%, far greater than that of industries (2%-10%), power plants (8%-15%), and transportation (8%-11%).
  • The contribution of HAP to premature mortality is, as per the median across all studies, 58% higher than premature mortality due to coal use, 303% higher than that due to open burning, and 1,056% higher than that due to transportation.

Why should solid fuels used in India?

  • In states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Assam, around 72.1% of the population regularly uses solid fuels.
  • The median annual ambient is 125.3µg/m^3, a level that is rated “unhealthy” as per the Air Quality Index, and can lead to serious health concerns with prolonged exposure.

What are the study’s recommendations?

  • The study asserts that immediate action is required to rectify the harm caused by HAP(Household Air Pollution).
  • It points to initiatives undertaken by the government of India to promote LPG for use in households as opposed to the traditionally used solid fuels, such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • However, the study claims that more effort is required, in particular, increasing the use of electricity as a substitute in these scenarios, and ensuring that the use of LPG is sustained.

Source: Indian Express

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World Biofuel Day

GS-III: World Biofuel Day


 World Biofuel Day is observed every year on 10th August.


 To create awareness about the importance of non-fossil fuels as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels and to highlight the various efforts made by the Government in the biofuel sector.

Theme 2019: ‘Production of Biodiesel from Used Cooking Oil (UCO)’.

Why August 10?

On this day in 1893, Sir Rudolph Diesel (inventor of the diesel engine) for the first time successfully ran mechanical engine with Peanut Oil.

His research experiment had predicted that vegetable oil is going to replace the fossil fuels in the next century to fuel different mechanical engines. Thus to mark this extraordinary achievement, World Biofuel Day is observed every year on 10th August.

Government of India initiatives to promote the use of Biofuels:

Since 2014, the Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to increase blending of biofuels.

The major interventions include administrative price mechanism for ethanol, simplifying the procurement procedures of OMCs, amending the provisions of Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and enabling lignocellulosic route for ethanol procurement.

The Government approved the National Policy on Biofuels-2018 in June 2018. The policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.

Among other things, the policy expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.

The Government has also increased the price of C-heavy molasses-based ethanol.


These interventions of the Government of India have shown positive results.

Ethanol blending in petrol has increased from 38 crore litres in the ethanol supply year 2013-14 to an estimated 141 crore litres in the ethanol supply year 2017-18.

Bio-diesel blending in the country started from 10th August, 2015 and in the year 2018-19, Oil Marketing Companies have allocated 7.6 crore litres of biodiesel.

Oil PSUs are also planning to set up 12 Second Generation (2G) Bio-refineries to augment ethanol supply and address environmental issues arising out of burning of agricultural biomass.

 Classification of Biofuels:

1st generation biofuels are also called conventional biofuels. They are made from things like sugar, starch, or vegetable oil. Note that these are all food products. Any biofuel made from a feedstock that can also be consumed as a human food is considered a first generation biofuel.

2nd generation biofuels are produced from sustainable feedstock. The sustainability of a feedstock is defined by its availability, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, its impact on land use, and by its potential to threaten the food supply. No second generation biofuel is also a food crop, though certain food products can become second generation fuels when they are no longer useful for consumption. Second generation biofuels are often called “advanced biofuels.”

3rd generation biofuels are biofuel derived from algae. These biofuels are given their own separate class because of their unique production mechanism and their potential to mitigate most of the drawbacks of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.


Source: The Hindu

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