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22 Dec, 2022

28 Min Read

Warming up of the Arctic & India's Arctic Policy

GS-II : International Relations International issues

Warming up of the Arctic & India's Arctic Policy

  • Researchers recently conducted an annual assessment of the area and found that the Arctic Circle's temperatures have been rising much more rapidly than those of the rest of the world.
  • The Arctic Report Card, which The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has produced since 2006 and is comprised of nearly 150 experts from 11 nations, was created this year.
  • The vast region of the Arctic, covering one-sixth of the planet's landmass, is located around the North Pole.
  • Environmental, commercial, and strategic external global forces are having an increasing impact on it, and as a result, it is poised to have an increasing impact on how international affairs are shaped.
  • The most significant phenomenon that is altering the world's perception of the Arctic is unquestionably facing Climate Change threats in the form of the rapid melting of the Arctic Ice Cap.
  • Rapid change in the Arctic region has effects that extend beyond the littoral states. To address the current issues with conservation, governance, and Arctic exploration, there is a need for international cooperation.
  • Global warming has increased the evaporation and retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The climate change-induced impacts in the Arctic Ocean could be responsible for an increase in snow cover in Siberia, a new study published in the journal NPJ Climate and Atmospheric Science stated has suggested.

Facts about Arctic Region:

  • It is generally accepted to refer, to the area north of latitude 66° 34' N, as the Arctic Circle, which includes the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre.
  • The Arctic Council is made up of eight Arctic nations: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
  • Nearly four million people call the Arctic, their home, with about a tenth of them being indigenous people.
  • The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding landmass have drawn significant interest from the world's scientific community and are a top research priority for decision-makers.
  • The Arctic has an impact on the earth's ecosystem's biogeochemical, oceanographic, and atmospheric cycles.

Importance of the Arctic Region:

Economic Importance:

  • Mineral Resources and Hydrocarbons: The Arctic region has significant reserves of quartz, zinc, lead, placer gold, and gypsum in addition to abundant coal, gypsum, and diamond deposits. A quarter of the rare earth reserves in the world are found in Greenland alone.
  • There is a tonne of untapped hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic as well. equating to 30% of the undiscovered natural gas in the world.
  • India is the third-largest importer of oil in the world and the third-largest consumer of energy. These resources are more accessible and feasible to extract as ice melts more quickly.
  • Therefore, the Arctic may be able to help India with its needs for energy security and its lack of strategic and rare earth minerals.
  • The Arctic region is also particularly significant due to the many shipping routes that run through it.

Geographic Significance:

  • The Arctic aids in the circulation of global ocean currents, transporting both cold and warm water.
  • Additionally, the Arctic Sea ice serves as a massive white reflector at the top of the planet, reflecting some of the sun's rays back into space and maintaining a constant temperature on Earth.

Geopolitical Importance:

  • Arctic-based deterrence of China: As the Arctic ice melts, geopolitical tensions are rising to levels last seen during the Cold War. China, which is the only nation besides Russia to be building nuclear icebreakers, referred to trans-Arctic shipping routes as the Polar Silk Road and identified them as a third transportation corridor for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • In order to counter China's soft power moves in the Arctic and to meet its own interest, India came out with its Artic Policy.

About the Artic Expedition of India:

  • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to a century when the ‘Svalbard Treaty’ was signed in February 1920 in Paris and, today India is undertaking several scientific studies and research in the Arctic region.
  • Indian researchers are monitoring arctic glaciers for their mass balance and comparing them with glaciers in the Himalayan region.
  • Thirteen (13) nations are observers in the Arctic Council which include France, Germany, Italian Republic, Japan, The Netherlands, People’s Republic of China, Poland, India, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
  • In 2014 and 2016, India's first multi-sensor moored observatory in Kongsfjorden and the northernmost atmospheric laboratory in Gruvebadet, Ny Alesund, were launched in the Arctic region. Until 2022, India has successfully conducted thirteen expeditions to the Arctic.
  • India has a significant stake in the Arctic. It is one of thirteen nations holding Observer status in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic.
  • India also plans to study the impact of climate change in the Arctic, to improve response mechanisms across the world. It aims to offer a better analysis of the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on global shipping routes, energy security and exploitation of mineral wealth.

India’s Artic Policy:

India's Arctic policy titled “India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development” lays down six pillars:

  • strengthening India's scientific research and cooperation,
  • climate and environmental protection,
  • economic and human development,
  • transportation and connectivity,
  • governance and international cooperation, and
  • national capacity building in the Arctic region.

Implementing India's Arctic policy will involve multiple stakeholders, including academia, the research community, business, and industry.

India's Arctic policy aims to promote the following agenda:

  • Strengthening national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region.
  • Institutional and human resource capacities will be strengthened within Government and academic, research and business institutions.
  • Inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India's interests in the Arctic.
  • Enhancing understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic on India's climate, economic, and energy security.
  • Contributing better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India's economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.
  • Studying linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas.
  • Deepen cooperation between India and countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
  • Increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws, and geopolitics of the region.

The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, is the nodal institution for India’s Polar research programme, which includes Arctic studies.

Artic Relevance for India:

  • Himalaya-Arctic Link: Despite their geographical separation, the Arctic and the Himalayas are connected and have similar problems.
  • The glacial melt in the Himalayas often referred to as the "third pole," which has the largest freshwater reserves after the North and South poles, is being better understood by scientists thanks to the Arctic meltdown.
  • Therefore, Arctic research is essential for Indian scientists. In keeping with tradition, India began its first research expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and subsequently established the Himadri research base in the Svalbard archipelago (Norway), where it has been conducting active research ever since.

Major Obstacles:

  • Climate Change: They discussed how the region's wildlife and Indigenous people have had to adapt as a result of hotter air temperatures, melting sea ice, shorter snowfall durations, increased wildfires, and rising precipitation levels.
  • The Greenland heat wave resulted in the island's ice sheet melting to its greatest extent for that time of year in more than 40 years of continuous satellite monitoring.
  • The first time it had rained at the top of the ice sheet was in 2021, during a heat wave in August.
  • The climate of the area is changing as a result of rising temperatures, becoming one characterised less by sea ice, snow, and permafrost and more by open water, rain, and lush landscapes.
  • Global warming raises sea levels, alters ocean heat and water circulation, and may even have an impact on extreme weather phenomena like heat waves and thunderstorms.
  • Scientists have warned that as sea ice melts, maritime ship traffic is increasing in the Arctic. The Bering Strait and the Beaufort Sea see the greatest increases in traffic from ships coming from the Pacific Ocean.

Way Forward

  • The issue is that we are unsure of exactly how quickly ice flows and, consequently, enters the ocean.
  • Studying previous sea level changes can help with the issue of not understanding the process.
  • Approximately 125,000 years ago, during the most recent interglacial, Earth was almost as warm as it is today.
  • To lessen and mitigate the effects of human-caused climate change on the glaciers, we urgently need to take action.

Source: Down To Earth

India's pension system as per Global Pension Index

GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government policies and interventions

India's pension system as per Global Pension Index

The Indian pension system was recently ranked 41st out of 44 countries in the Global Pension Index.

About the Global Pension Index:

A ranking system for pension plans around the globe is done by the Mercer CFA Institute and is known as the Global Pension Index.

What is tracked by this index?

  • The index acknowledges that comparing pension systems around the world is neither simple nor straightforward.
  • Population requirements, economic growth, government revenue, regulatory maturity, and the growth of the private market are all different.

Three factors are used to rank countries in the index:

  • Adequacy: What benefits can retirees expect to receive in the future?
  • Sustainability: Will the current systems be able to deliver despite the demographic and financial difficulties.
  • Integrity: Are private pension plans governed in a way that fosters long-term public trust?

India's position:

The pension system in India is ranked 41st out of the 44 nations the 2022 edition of this index takes into account.

Low consistently:

  • Although that is a low ranking, it is also crucial to remember that India has consistently performed poorly on this index, even in 2011, when only 16 countries were examined.

Ongoing Debate Between OPS and NPS in India:

The Old Pension Scheme (OPS):

  • The pension for federal and state government employees was set at 50% of the last drawn basic pay.
  • The only people who can receive a pension after retiring are those who work for the government.
  • The old pension plan's income is not subject to tax.
  • Issues: The main issue was that the pension liability was still unfunded, meaning that there was no corpus created specifically for pensions that would grow over time and could be used to make payments.
  • The OPS was also unsustainable because, like existing employees' salaries, pensioners benefited from indexation, or what is known as "dearness relief," which would cause pension liabilities to continue to rise.
  • Improved medical facilities would prolong life expectancy, which would result in longer payouts.

NPS: The National Pension Scheme

  • NPS is a portable, cost-effective, flexible, and easily accessible retirement savings account.
  • Contributions: Under the NPS, a person can contribute to both his retirement account and his social security/welfare benefits with the help of his employer.
  • NPS is set up on a defined contribution basis, meaning that the subscriber makes contributions to his account and does not have any defined benefits available when the system is terminated.
  • The amount of wealth that has been accumulated depends on the contributions made and the income from investments made with that wealth.
  • Beneficiaries: Both resident and non-resident Indians between the ages of 18 and 60 (as of the date on which the NPS application was submitted) are eligible to invest.
  • Performance: The NPS has grown its subscriber base over the past eight years and increased the amount of assets it manages.
  • PFRDA is in charge of regulating NPS.
  • The Government of India established the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) through the PFRDA Act 2013
  • PFRDA was established to protect the interests of subscribers to pension fund schemes by creating, regulating, and growing pension funds with the goal of promoting old age income security.

NPS's importance compared to OPS

  • Concerns about the old pension framework's coverage, sustainability, and scalability led to the decision to switch to NPS.
  • According to research done in the early 2000s, India was facing unmanageable and unsustainable levels of implicit pension debt due to central (civil) employees, state government employees, and the funding gap of the employee pension scheme.
  • Furthermore, only a small portion of the entire labour force benefited from this framework.

Information about the pension:

  • When a person is no longer employed, a pension provides them with a monthly income.

Need for the Pension:

  • In comparison to youth, one's productivity declines with age.
  • Old age security due to the growth of the nuclear family
  • Migration of younger members of the family
  • Increase in living expenses
  • Lengthened lifespan
  • A guaranteed monthly income guarantees an honourable retirement.

Global Data recommends:

  • For the first time in human history, adults 65 and older outnumber children under the age of five, according to the World Economic Forum.
  • There is a risk associated with longevity, even though it might be lower in a nation with a relatively younger population profile like India.
  • The concept of longevity risk refers to the possibility that as life expectancies rise, insurance and pension funds may require more funding because people are living longer than expected.

Highlights of the inadequacy of India's pension system:

  • Currently employed individuals make up at least 85% of the workforce, and these individuals are likely to remain uninsured or receive only social security benefits as they age.
  • 57% of elderly people receive no income assistance from public funds, and 26% receive social pensions as a means of reducing poverty.
  • As government ex-workers (or their survivors), 11.4% of the elderly receive defined benefits, accounting for 62% of system costs.

Way Forward

  • The Indian pension system desperately needs reform, and switching back and forth between OPS and NPS is not reform.
  • Reform must address the futuristic need of India’s rising old-age population in the coming years.

Source: The Economic Times

Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Air Pollution

Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia: World Bank Report

Striking for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia is a recent report from the World Bank.

  • The report explains how continuing to implement national policies as they have been (largely since 2018) will produce results, but not at the level desired.

Major Findings

  • India: There are six significant airsheds in India, some of which are shared with Pakistan.
  • Even if Delhi National Capital Territory adopted all available air pollution control measures by 2030, other regions of South Asia would still be subject to the same regulations, which would result in pollution exposure levels above 35 g/m3.
  • South Asia: Currently, an average of 35 g/m3 of PM2.5 is inhaled annually by over 60% of South Asians.
  • It spiked to as much as 100 g/m3 in some areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), which is more than 20 times the World Health Organization's recommended upper limit of 5 g/m3.

The six significant airsheds in South Asia where the quality of the air varied from one to the next were:

  • West/Central IGP that included Punjab (Pakistan), Punjab (India), Haryana, part of Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Central/Eastern IGP: Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bangladesh;
  • Middle India: Odisha/Chhattisgarh;
  • Middle India: Eastern Gujarat/Western Maharashtra;
  • Northern/Central Indus River Plain: Pakistan, part of Afghanistan; and
  • Southern Indus Plain and further west: South Pakistan, Western Afghanistan extending into Eastern Iran.

More Facts:

  • In South Asia, dangerously high levels of air pollution have led to a serious public health crisis that necessitates immediate action.
  • Bhutan: Bhutan is not immune to the air pollution that is present in the IGP, and the situation is getting worse in Thimphu.
  • As a result, no one in the area is untouched and we are now seeing pollutants from other parts of the world. If there is particulate pollution in the mountains, it will come down when the glaciers melt and then go into the oceans.
  • Nine of the ten cities in the world with the worst air pollution are located in South Asia, and the region as a whole suffers from an estimated 2 million premature deaths each year as well as significant economic costs.

Contingent Matter:

  • Some of the poorest and most densely populated areas in the region have PM 2.5 concentrations that are up to 20 times higher than what the WHO considers healthy (5 g/m3). These concentrations include soot and small dust.

Air pollution causes:

  • Around the world, big industries, power plants, and automobiles are the main contributors to air pollution, but in South Asia, other sources add significantly more.
  • Burning of municipal and agricultural waste, cremation, emissions from small industries like brick kilns, and the use of solid fuels for cooking and heating are a few of these.

Pollution and wind direction:

  • When the wind was primarily from the northwest to the southeast, Pakistan's Punjab Province was responsible for 30% of the air pollution in Indian Punjab.
  • Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna, Bangladesh's three largest cities, each had 30% of their air pollution come from India.
  • In some years, a significant amount of pollution crossed international boundaries.

Airshed strategy:

  • This is how the issue has been handled in other regions, such as ASEAN, the Nordic countries, and China as a whole.
  • If states want to lower air pollution for their citizens, they must stop pointing the finger and adopt a cooperative strategy.


  • Governmental actions can lower particulate matter, but significant airshed-wide reductions require coordinated policies.
  • The Delhi National Capital Territory will not be able to reduce a pollution exposure below 35 g/m3 even if all air pollution control measures are not fully implemented by 2030 in other parts of South Asia too.
  • However, pollution would drop below that level if other regions of South Asia followed suit and implemented all practical measures.
  • Changing Approach: To enhance air quality and lower pollutants to levels deemed acceptable by the WHO, South Asian nations including India must change their approaches to the "Airshed approach".

Close Coordination Is Necessary:

  • In order to effectively reduce air pollution, local and national jurisdictional boundaries must work closely together in addition to addressing the problem's specific sources.
  • Regional collaboration can assist with the implementation of affordable joint strategies that capitalise on the interdependence of air quality.
  • The most cost-effective option, which calls for complete coordination between airsheds, would reduce South Asia's average PM 2.5 exposure to 30 g/m3 at a cost of USD 278 million per g/m of reduced exposure and save more than 7,50,000 lives yearly.

Way Forward

  • While the government has already taken steps to reduce particulate matter, the significant reduction will only be possible if the regions spanning the airsheds adopt coordinated policies.
  • A modelling strategy should be used to examine various scenarios for South Asia as a whole.
  • When weighing different avenues for pollution control, it is important to take into account the interdependence of air quality within South Asian airsheds.
  • In order to combat air pollution with a "airshed approach," scientists from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other South Asian nations must have a dialogue about the issue.

Source: The Hindu

Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan Scheme

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

Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan Scheme

What are the Scheme's Key Elements?

  • It is a central-sector programme that concentrates on the leadership, entrepreneurship, and skill-building needs of the nation's minority and artisan communities.
  • This integrated programme brings together five former programmes of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, including Seekho aur Kamao.
  • This programme for minorities aims to improve the skills of minority youth in a variety of modern and traditional skills depending on their educational background, current economic trends, and market potential.
  • Aiming to promote and protect the rich heritage of the traditional arts & crafts of the minority communities, USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) trains people in traditional arts & crafts.
  • Hamari Dharohar: It was created to protect the rich heritage of India's minority communities.
  • It is a leadership development programme for women from minority communities who are between the ages of 18 and 65, according to Nai Roshni. It began in 2012–2013.
  • Nai Manzil: The programme is intended to help youth (both men and women) from six notified minority communities who are between the ages of 17 and 35 and do not have a formal high school diploma.
  • The Cabinet has given the plan its blessing for the duration of the 15th Finance Commission.


  • Leadership and entrepreneurship education, skills
  • Objectives: PM VIKAS uses the elements of skill development, education, women's leadership, and entrepreneurship to improve the livelihoods of minorities, particularly the artisan communities.
  • In order to achieve the scheme's ultimate goal of raising beneficiaries' incomes and providing support by facilitating credit and market links, these components work best together.

What are the other programmes involving minorities?

Pradhanmantri Jan Vikas Karykram:

  • The program's goal is to provide minority communities with socioeconomic and basic amenities like schools, colleges, polytechnics, girls' hostels, ITIs, skill development centres, etc.
  • Scholarships for girls from the six designated minority communities who are economically disadvantaged through the Begum Hazrat Mahal Girls Scholarship programme.

Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme:

  • It was developed so that young people from underrepresented groups might get short-term, career-focused skill development courses, preparing them for skill-based jobs.
  • Hunar Haat was established to give traditional chefs, master craftsmen, and artisans market and employment prospects.

Source: PIB

Agni-V ballistic Missile

GS-III : S&T Missile system

Agni-V ballistic Missile

The nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-V was successfully tested by India.

Characteristics of the ballistic missile Agni-V

  • A sophisticated surface-to-surface ballistic missile with clever construction was created as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
  • The missile's three-stage solid-fuel engine allows it to travel up to 5,000 kilometres and strike targets with extreme precision. Agni-5 has a range of up to 8000 kilometres.
  • The missile boasts a remarkable Mach 24 top speed and extremely high target-hitting precision.


  • The Agni-V programme aims to increase India's nuclear deterrence against China, which is reported to possess missiles with ranges between 12,000 and 15,000 kilometres like the Dongfeng-41.
  • Nearly all of Asia, including the far north of China, as well as some areas of Europe, are within the striking range of Agni-V.

No First Use

  • The Indian Defense Ministry claims that the Agni-5 test was successful and that this is in line with India's doctrine of "credible minimum deterrence," which supports the commitment to "No First Use."
  • This comes after days of fighting between Indian and Chinese forces in the Arunachal Pradesh district of Tawang, which sparked a contentious debate in the Indian Parliament.

Missiles of the Agni Class:

  • They are the mainstay of India’s nuclear launch capability.
  • The term Agni means "fire" in Sanskrit, and its meaning is understood in the context of Agni being one of the Pancha Mahabhutas, the five basic elements. Others are Prithvi (Earth), Aapa (Water), Wayu (Air), Akash (Space).


  • Agni I: Range of 700-800 km.
  • Agni II: Range more than 2000 km.
  • Agni III: Range of more than 2,500 Km
  • Agni IV: Range is more than 3,500 km and can fire from a road-mobile launcher.
  • Agni-V: The longest of the Agni series, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km.
  • Agni-P (Prime): It is a canisterised missile with a range capability between 1,000 and 2,000 km. It will replace the Agni I missile.
  • Very few countries, including the US, China, Russia, France and North Korea, have InterContinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM).

Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP)

  • Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, a prominent scientist, created the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) to help India become self-sufficient in the field of missile technology.

The programme produced the following missiles:

  • Prithvi (Short range surface to surface missile)
  • Trishul (short range surface to air missile)
  • Aakash (Medium range surface to air missile)
  • Nag (Third generation anti-tank missile)
  • Agni-I (Intermediate range surface-to-surface ballistic missile).

The Nuclear Triad of India:

  • Strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are the main components of the nuclear triad, which is designed to deliver a nuclear weapon.

  • By having three branches, the state is substantially less likely to risk having its whole nuclear infrastructure destroyed by the enemy during its initial nuclear strike.
  • The triad gives the nation that has been subject to a nuclear strike the ability to quickly respond using nuclear means.

Source: The Hindu

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