Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 02-04-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 02-04-2021


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  1. World Politics - China finally overhauls HK elections - The Chinese government led by Xi Jinping finally approved (01-04-2021) the overhauling of Hong Kong’s electoral system. It will dramatically reduce the number of directly elected seats in Hong Kong’s legislature from half to about one-fifth. The step has been taken to tighten Beijing’s control in Hong Kong. The sweeping changes allow Beijing to vet candidates for Hong Kong's legislative council and election committee, which chooses the region's chief executive. That would guarantee Beijing-aligned majorities in each body. The vetting committee responsible for selecting candidates will rely on information provided by the police's national security office, effectively blocking known pro-democracy protestors from joining. Hong Kong has never been an electoral democracy, but under the region's Basic Law — a mini-constitution adopted after the region's return to Chinese rule in 1997 — residents were given the ability to vote for local district councilors and directly elect half of the region's legislators. The changes in Hong Kong are being brought by China due to the consistent pro-democracy protests over the years.
  2. Environment and Ecology - New species of Butterfly in the Western Ghats - A new species of Lycaenid butterfly has been discovered by researchers in the Western Ghats. It belongs to the Nacaduba genus. The newly discovered species have also been added to the expanding list of butterflies in India. The new species has been added to India’s butterfly fauna. The new sub-species of the six line blue butterfly named Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii was discovered from the south Western Ghats. The species is named after Lord Rama, signifying the connection across the sea to Sri Lanka. It is also a coincidence that one of the authors whose efforts led to the discovery is named Ramasamy, an avid butterfly watcher from Tamil Nadu, whose joint efforts resulted in description of the new taxa. This Lycaenid butterfly belongs to Nacaduba genus and its common name is Ramaswami’s Six Lineblue and Ceylon Varayanneeli in its vernacular.
  3. Indian Economy - Cruise service between Surat and Diu - Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya launched a cruise service from Surat and to Diu to promote water transportation. The cruise will have a capacity to carry 300 passengers and will have 16 cabins. The Minister highlighted the significance to promote cruise tourism.  The cruise would be operated from a ferry passenger terminal in Hazira, which is developed by Essar Ports. Essar said that the new cruise would transform the coastal transportation in the western coast of the country, while also giving the coastal tourism in Gujarat a major push. This is as part of the "Maritime Vision 2030", when by 2030, the Centre hopes to have over 350 cruise ships and cruise training academies. The Centre is also hoping to have more than 3,000 annual cruise calls and 50 lakh annual cruise passengers by then. Hazira has developed as a cruise tourism hub, and with that, Gujarat tourism would also be benefitted.
  4. Defence and Military - Military farms - The Indian Army has formally closed down the Military farms, set up with sole requirement of supplying hygienic cow's milk to troops billeted in various garrisons across British India. First Military farm was raised on 01 Feb 1889 at Allahabad. After independence, these farms flourished with 30,000 heads of cattle in 130 Military Farms all over India. Military Farms were even established in Leh and Kargil in late 1990s, with the role of supply of fresh and hygienic milk to troops at their locations on daily basis. Another major task was management of large tracts of defence land, production and supply of Baled Hay to animal holding units. Military Farms are credited with pioneering the technique of Artificial Insemination of cattle and introduction of organised Dairying in India. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, they established "Project Freiswal", credited to be the world's largest cattle cross-breeding program. They also teamed up with DRDO in development of Bio-Fuel. After 132 years of glorious service to the nation, curtains were drawn on this organisation.
  5. Science and Technology - AIM PRIME programme - The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog has launched the AIM-PRIME (Program for Researchers on Innovations, Market-Readiness & Entrepreneurship), an initiative to promote and support science-based deep-tech start-ups & ventures across India. For this, the AIM has joined hands with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to launch this nationwide program which will be implemented by Venture Center - a non-profit technology business incubator. The first cohort of the program is open to technology developers (early-stage deep tech start-ups, and scientists/ engineers/ clinicians) with strong science-based deep tech business ideas. The program is also open to CEOs and Senior incubation managers of AIM Funded Atal Incubation Centers that are supporting deep tech entrepreneurs. Deep technology is an outcome of very intense research and development (R&D) with high knowledge content. The benefits of this program are aimed at addressing specific issues through training and guidance over a period of 12 months.
  6. Governance and Institutions - ECLGS 3.0 - In recognition of the continuing adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic on certain service sectors, the Government has now extended the scope of Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) through introduction of ECLGS 3.0. It will cover business enterprises in Hospitality, Travel & Tourism, Leisure & Sporting sectors which had, as on 29.02.2020, total credit outstanding not exceeding Rs. 500 crore and overdues, if any, were for 60 days or less, on that date i.e., 29th Feb 2020. ECLGS 3.0 would involve extension of credit of upto 40% of total credit outstanding across all lending institutions as on 29.02.2020. The tenor of loans granted under ECLGS 3.0 shall be 6  years including moratorium period of 2 years. Further, the validity of ECLGS i.e., ECLGS 1.0, ECLGS 2.0 & ECLGS 3.0 have been extended upto 30.06.2021 or till guarantees for an amount of Rs. 3 lakh crore are issued. Last date of disbursement under the scheme has been extended to 30.09.2021. The modifications introduced in the scheme, while providing an incentive to MLIs to enable availability of additional funding facility to the eligible beneficiaries will go a long way in contributing to economic revival. The revised operational guidelines in this regard shall be issued by National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd (NCGTC).
  7. Indian Economy - Foreign trade policy extended - The Union Commerce and Industry Ministry announced extension of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of Government of India. The present Policy which came into force on 1st April 2015, was for 5 years and was extended thereafter upto 31st March, 2021. In view of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has decided to continue benefits under various export promotion schemes by extending existing Foreign Trade Policy by another six months i.e., up to 30th September, 2021. Exemption from payment of IGST and Compensation Cess on the imports made under Advance/EPCG Authorisations and by EOUs etc. has also been extended up to 30.09.2021. Similarly, validity period of the Status Holder Certificates is also extended. This will enable the Status Holders to continue to avail the specified facilities/benefits.  
  8. World Politics - India - Mauritius CECPA - The India-Mauritius CECPA will enter into force on 01 April 2021. India and Mauritius signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) on 22 February 2021. The CECPA is the first trade Agreement signed by India with a country in Africa. The India-Mauritius CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries. The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other Areas. The CECPA between India and Mauritius covers 310 export items for India. Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products.
  9. Indian Economy - PLISFPI - The Union Cabinet approved the Central Sector Scheme - "Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Food Processing Industry (PLISFPI)" - with an outlay of Rs. 10900 crore. The objectives of the Scheme are to support food manufacturing entities with stipulated minimum Sales and willing to make minimum stipulated investment for expansion of processing capacity and Branding abroad to incentivise emergence of strong Indian brands. The scheme will be rolled out on All India basis. The scheme shall be implemented through a Project Management Agency (PMA). The Scheme would be monitored at Centre by the Empowered Group of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The duration of the scheme will be six years i.e., 2021-22 to 2026-27. The incentive under the scheme would be paid for six years ending 2026-27. The scheme is "fund-limited", i.e., cost shall be restricted to the approved amount.  
  10. Indian Economy - Record GST collection in March 2021 - GST colletions hit nearly Rs 1.24 lakh crore in March 2021, helping to narrow the deficit for the full financial year to around 7%. This is based on sales in February 2021, for which returns were filed in March. It was was boosted by imports with revenue from imported goods jumping 70%, while those from domestic transactions, including services imports, were 17% higher than the corresponding period in 2020. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was first seen in February 2020. So now, GST revenues have crossed the Rs.1 lakh crore mark at a stretch for six months and a steep increasing trend over this period are clear indicators of rapid economic recovery post pandemic. Closer monitoring against fake billing, deep data analytics using data from multiple sources including GST, income-tax and customs IT systems and effective tax administration have also contributed to the steady increase in tax revenue over last few months.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
Three strokes from Indian Economy - GST, UPI and Inflation targeting
  • GST collections: In good tidings for the government, the goods and services tax (GST) revenue collections in March 2021 came it at the highest (Rs.1.24 lakh crore) since the tax system's introduction in July 2017. The collections were up 27 per cent when compared with the year-ago period. In line with the trend of recovery in the GST revenues over past five months, the revenues rose.
  1. The govt. informed that GST revenues were above Rs 1 trillion for the last six months and a steep increasing trend over this period were clear indicators of rapid economic recovery post pandemic.
  2. Closer monitoring against fake-billing, deep data analytics using data from multiple sources including GST, Income-tax and Customs IT systems and effective tax administration have also contributed to the steady increase in tax revenue over last few months.
  3. Of the total revenue collected, CGST is Rs 22,973 crore, SGST is Rs 29,329 crore, IGST is Rs 62,842 crore (including Rs 31,097 crore collected on import of goods) and Cess is Rs 8,757 crore (including Rs 935 crore collected on import of goods).
  4. The government has settled Rs 21,879 crore to CGST and Rs 17,230 crore to SGST from IGST as regular settlement. In addition, Centre has also settled Rs 28,000 crore as IGST ad-hoc settlement in the ratio of 50:50 between Centre and states.
  5. The total revenue of Centre and the states after regular and ad-hoc settlements in March is Rs 58,852 crore for CGST and Rs 60,559 crore for the SGST. Centre has also released a compensation of Rs 30,000 crore during the month of March 2021.
  6. Revenues from import of goods was 70 per cent higher and the revenues from domestic transaction (including import of services) are 17 per cent higher than the revenues from these sources during the same month in 2020.
  7. The GST revenue witnessed growth rate of (-) 41 per cent, (-) 8 per cent, 8 per cent and 14 per cent in the first, second, third and fourth quarters of financial year 2020-21, respectively, as compared to the same period in 2019-20, indicating the trend in recovery of GST revenues as well as the economy as a whole.
  • UPI rising: Transaction volumes over the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) more than doubled over a year, touching 2.73 billion in March 2021 compared to 1.25 billion in 2020. The March 2021 numbers were a 20% jump from February’s 2.29 billion. Transactions value crossed ₹5 trillion in March, up 18% from February 2020.
  1. March 2021 represents a strong growth in UPI volumes, which had slowed to 1-3% growth between November 2020 and February 2021.
  2. As the pandemic set in and consumers started opting for digital payments, UPI transactions grew in double digits through the lockdown months.
  3. The recent slowdown in growth could be attributed to rising transaction failures because of frequent technical glitches at banks, which also dethroned Google Pay as the UPI market leader.
  4. Google Pay had registered 857.8 million transactions in October and reached a peak of 960 million transactions in November, commanding close to 43% market share in UPI payments. The platform has seen a continuous drop in transactions since. It recorded 854.4 million transactions in December, 853.5 million in January, and 827.86 million in February 2021.
  5. UPI market leader PhonePe also crossed a milestone during March 2021. The total transactions on its platforms across the payment instruments of wallet, card, and UPI was 1.3 billion.
  6. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) defined its standard operating procedure on the 30% market share cap on UPI transactions for third-party app providers such as Google Pay and PhonePe. On crossing the 30% mark, apps and their partner banks will have to stop signing up new users with immediate effect. However, NPCI stated that it may grant exemptions based on justifications provided.
  7. Other payment instruments operated by NPCI also witnessed growth. Immediate Payment Service saw transactions rise to 363.14 million in March from close to 318.79 million in February. FASTag transactions also grew to 193.21 million in March from 158.96 million in February 2021.
  • Inflation targeting regime: The Government of India has decided to retain the inflation target of 4%, with a tolerance band of +/- 2 percentage points for the Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for the coming five years. The RBI in its Currency and Finance (RCF) report for the year 2020-21 also had recommended the inflation target to be kept same as 4% +/-2% for next 5 years. Points to note are -
  1. To control the price rise, the Centre in 2016 gave a mandate to the RBI to keep the retail inflation at 4% with a margin of 2% on either side for a five-year period ending 31st March, 2021.
  2. The RBI and the government agreed in 2015 on a policy framework that stipulated a primary objective of ensuring price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth. The Flexible Inflation Target (FIT) was adopted in 2016. The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 was amended to provide a statutory basis for a FTI framework.
  3. The amended Act provides for the inflation target to be set by the Government, in consultation with the RBI, once every five years.
  4. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks the change in retail prices of goods and services which households purchase for their daily consumption. The inflation target for 1st April, 2021 to 31st March, 2026 under the RBI Act 1934 will be at same level as was for previous 5 years
  5. Inflation Targeting - It is a central banking policy that revolves around adjusting monetary policy to achieve a specified annual rate of inflation. It is known to bring more stability, predictability, and transparency in deciding monetary policy.
  6. Strict Inflation Targeting - It is adopted when the central bank is only concerned about keeping inflation as close to a given inflation target as possible, and nothing else.
  7. Flexible Inflation Targeting (FIT) - It is adopted when the central bank is to some extent also concerned about other things, for instance, the stability of interest rates, exchange rates, output and employment.
  8. Monetary Policy - It is the macroeconomic policy laid down by the central bank. It involves management of money supply and interest rate and is the demand side economic policy used by the government of a country to achieve macroeconomic objectives like inflation, consumption, growth and liquidity.
  9. The RBI implements the monetary policy through open market operations, bank rate policy, reserve system, credit control policy, moral persuasion and through many other instruments.
  10. Monetary Policy Committee - It is a statutory and institutionalized framework under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth. The Governor of RBI is ex-officio Chairman of the committee. The MPC determines the policy interest rate (repo rate) required to achieve the inflation target (4%). An RBI-appointed committee led by the then deputy governor Urjit Patel in 2014 recommended the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee.


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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
Focus on Methane for quick climate action
  • Why just CO2: The debate in climate change is often focussed on only carbon dioxide emissions reduction. But the rich world may not truly volunteer for a cut in living standards. And the developing world may have its reservations too, now that they have a shot at getting richer. (economic growth = getting richer = more CO2 emissions)
  • Focus on the other gas: That being the case, it makes sense to concentrate on doing other things. Technological change that shifts economies away from using fossil fuels as their principal energy sources may be able to achieve this in the long term. But some sort of effective action is also needed now. One such course of action is available, for carbon dioxide is not the only cause of global warming. About a quarter of the effect is a consequence of methane. And it is far more manageable that CO2 is.
  • CO2 v CH4: Going after methane, a compound of one carbon atom with four hydrogens, makes sense, for it is a potent greenhouse agent.
  1. Over the 20 years subsequent to its emission a tonne of methane causes 86 times more warming than does a tonne of CO2.
  2. It does not hang around. It has a half-life in the atmosphere of about a decade, so what is released soon vanishes.
  3. By contrast, CO2 lingers for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.
  • The number: The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a collaboration of governments and environmental lobby groups, therefore reckons that halving anthropogenic methane emissions over the next 30 years could shave 0.18°C off the average global temperature in 2050. That may not sound much, but it is between 20% and 45% of the gap between current temperatures and the goal, agreed on in Paris in 2015 by most of the world’s countries, of stabilising temperatures between 1.5°C and 2°C above pre-industrial averages.
  • Useful methane: Moreover, in many cases the cost of stopping emissions of methane can be offset against the fact that, unlike carbon dioxide, it is a valuable commodity. The International Energy Agency (IEA, an intergovernmental organisation based in Paris) estimates that 75% of emissions from the oil and gas sector—some 16.5% of total human emissions—could be avoided with technologies available today, and that 40% (9% of total human emissions) could be eliminated at no net cost.
  • How trends happen: After a plateau which began in 1999, concentrations of methane in the atmosphere started rising again in 2007, a trend that continues to this day. Today, more than 300 m tonnes are emitted every year as a consequence of human activity, and that rate is growing. As a result, methane concentrations are now more than two-and-a-half times what they were before the Industrial Revolution, and are rising faster than allowed for in all but the most pessimistic climate projections for the 21st century. The rise after 2007 prompted a rush to understand methane’s sources and how it degrades in the atmosphere. That rise was originally seen as an anomaly, but now that it has been going on for 13 or 14 years, we see the plateau as the anomaly.
  • Leaky pipes: Studies show that leaky natural-gas pipes are one culprit. In 2018, instruments mounted on planes flying downwind of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston found that 8,50,000 tonnes of methane a year was wafting from these cities. That is roughly ten times the official estimate of the American government’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA). A bigger source of emissions, though, is further up the fossil-fuel supply chain— at the points where natural gas, oil and coal are extracted from Earth’s crust, processed and moved around the globe. Some 13m tonnes of methane escaped from these facilities each year, approximately 60% more than the EPA’s official figures.
  • Coal mines, the liberator: The IEA, meanwhile, estimates that each year the world’s coal mines liberate roughly 40m tonnes of methane that was once trapped in the coal being extracted. As coal is on its way out, there is hope, but it maintains a stronghold in Asia, and in China in particular, where it could stymie efforts to stabilise the climate. Planned new mines will emit a further 13.5 m tonnes a year.
  • The methane cycle: Researchers are trying to understand this cycle, by tracing how much CH4 makes its way into and out of the atmosphere every year  and developing a model that describes this. Besides leaky wells and pipelines, and gassy coal mines, methane is also emitted by belching cattle, rice paddies, forest fires, slash-and-burn agriculture, rubbish dumps, wastewater-treatment plants, cars and lorries, and natural ecosystems such as swamps, rivers and lakes. A perfect inventory would require knowledge of the size, nature and locations of all such sources around the globe, currently impossible.
  • The bottom-up approach: Then the best thing to do is to scrape national and international sets of data for information on all possible sources of the gas (numbers and sizes of cattle herds, sizes and locations of paddies, inventories of fossil-fuel operations and so on), and then combine this with estimates of how much methane each type of source emits. The top-down approach employs direct satellite and ground-based measurements of methane concentrations. The two are reconciled by plugging the list of sources into a computer model. It was found that between 550m and 880m tonnes of methane per year were emitted between 2008 and 2017—roughly 9% more than the average between 2000 and 2006. Between 50% and 60% of this came from human activities. Fossil fuels and agriculture each account for a third, and the remainder is from a combination of emissions from things like cars, fires, landfills and waste-water processing. The post-2007 uptick in methane levels was caused by extra human emissions, though there may also be some diminution in the atmosphere’s ability to destroy the gas. Thankfully, there was little sign of increased release of methane from Arctic tundra, which some fear may happen as the tundra warms.
  • Agri methane: The lion’s share of agricultural methane, though, comes from ruminant livestock—cows and sheep, mainly. Such husbandry generates 79% of the sector’s contribution. That amounts to 30% of all anthropogenic emissions. Asking people to eat less meat and drink less milk, while fashionable at the moment in rich countries, probably goes against the fact that middle-income world is seeing higher discretionary spending and diets improving.  Some studies suggest a diet rich in certain seaweeds can decrease an animal’s methane emissions by as much as 80%. A compound called bromoform, abundant in these algae, inhibits the chemical reactions that produce methane inside the animals’ rumens. Unfortunately, cattle fed enough seaweed to experience the 80% cut produce less meat or milk than they otherwise would. That methane emissions are a prime target for reduction is an idea which has caught on with politicians, at least in rich countries. In October, the European Commission adopted a “European methane strategy”, the implementation of which will be thrashed out this year. The previous plan had been to cut the EU’s emissions in 2030 to a level 29% below those of 2005. That target has now been increased to 35-37%.
  • IPCC and methane satellites: The Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP), a UN-led project, standardises methods for measuring and reporting methane emissions in the fossil-fuel industry. Data collected through the OGMP will be fed into a new International Methane Emissions Observatory being cooked up by the UN Environment Programme and the European Commission. This will combine them with other measurements, including from the growing number of satellites that measure methane sources from above. The best one is the MethaneSAT, scheduled for launch in 2022. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change envisages a 35% drop in methane emissions below 2010 levels by 2050. The IEA’s numbers suggest that 14% of this is possible in the oil and gas sector alone, at no net cost. 


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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

Trade between India and Pakistan
  • A fraught relationship: India and Pakistan have not shared the best of relations, and the connect has been fraught with distrust. News in 2021 of trade re-starting, was, hence important. (however it was later retracted by Pakistan)
  • The news: It emerged that Pakistan was to allow the import of cotton and sugar from India, partially reversing a two-year old decision to suspend all trade with India. The decision to cancel trade was taken by the Pakistan government in August, 2019, days after the Indian government amended Article 370 and reorganised Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s decision was then a fallout of the constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir.
  1. An underlying reason for suspending trade was the 200% tariff imposed by India on Pakistani imports earlier that year after India revoked Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack.
  2. Trade between the two countries suffered greatly. India’s exports to Pakistan dropped nearly 60% to USD 816.62 million, and its imports fell 97% to USD 13.97 million in 2019-20.
  • Before the ban: Over the years, India has had a trade surplus with Pakistan, with much less imports than exports and trade has always been linked to politics. India’s exports to Pakistan fell around 16% to USD 1.82 billion in 2016-17 as compared to 2015-16 after relations deteriorated in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack and the Indian Army’s surgical strikes on militant launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016. Despite continuing tensions, trade between the two countries grew marginally in subsequent years. Indian exports rose nearly 6% to USD 1.92 billion in 2017-18, and then by around 7% in 2018-19. Imports from Pakistan, though much less in volume, also increased by 7.5% to USD 488.56 million in 2017-18 as compared to 2016-17.
  • Major products traded: Pakistan was among India’s top 50 trade partners in 2018-19, but was pushed out of the list in 2019-20. It had been anticipated that a trade ban between the countries would affect Pakistan more, since it relied heavily on India for key raw materials for its textiles and pharmaceuticals industries.
  • Indian exports to Pakistan: In 2018-19, cotton and organic chemicals accounted for around half of Indian export to Pakistan. Other major items included plastic, tanning/dyeing extracts, and nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, and mechanical appliances. After the ban, imports of many items fell drastically, while cotton imports stopped altogether. The only increase has been in pharmaceutical products. Pakistan has so far imported drug products and organic chemicals to ensure sufficient supplies of medicines during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Indian imports from Pakistan: India’s major imports from Pakistan in 2018-19 were mineral fuels and oils, edible fruits and nuts, salt, sulphur, stone and plastering materials, ores, slag and ash and raw hides and leather.
  • Removal of trade ban by Pakistan: Shortage in Raw Material: Pakistan decided to lift the ban on cotton imports as there is a shortage in raw material for Pakistan’s textile sector, which has suffered due to low domestic yields of cotton. Cheaper Imports from India: Cotton and sugar imports from countries like the USA and Brazil are costlier and take longer to arrive.
  • High domestic demand and prices: The decision on sugar was dictated by high demand and high domestic prices. The decision to import from India is a measure to stabilize the market prices.
  • Implications: The decision by Pakistan to allow trade in the selected items was seen as potentially leading to restoration of normalcy in India-Pakistan trade. This might be a good time for India to explore a reduction in its 200% import duties on products that its industries can benefit from. The move by Pakistan has raised hopes for further measures besides the granting of sports related visas by India after a gap of three years, scheduling a much-delayed meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners in Delhi, peace at the Line of Control (LoC) after more than 5,000 ceasefire violations, as well as the exchange of salutary messages between Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers.
  • Yes or No: Sadly, rejecting the proposal of its Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), Pakistan Cabinet on 01-April, 2021, decided that it will not import cotton and sugar from India. In a tweet soon after the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari wrote, "Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India.”


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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana - Gramin (PMAY - G) & Shahri (Urban) (PMAY - U)
  • PMAY - G: Due to adverse impact of Covid-19, only 5.4% of the sanctioned houses under the central government's flagship rural housing scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin, have reached completion for the year 2020-2021. It was launched with an objective to achieve “Housing for All” by 2022. The erstwhile rural housing scheme Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) was restructured to Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) w.e.f 1st April, 2016. The Ministry involved was the Ministry of Rural development.
  1. Aim - To provide a pucca house with basic amenities to all rural families, who are homeless or living in kutcha or dilapidated houses by the end of March 2022.
  2. Targeting - To help rural people Below the Poverty Line (BPL) in construction of dwelling units and upgradation of existing unserviceable kutcha houses by providing assistance in the form of a full grant.
  3. Beneficiaries - People belonging to SCs/STs, freed bonded labourers and non-SC/ST categories, widows or next-of-kin of defence personnel killed in action, ex servicemen and retired members of the paramilitary forces, disabled persons and minorities.
  4. Selection of beneficiaries - Through a three stage validation - Socio Economic Caste Census 2011, Gram Sabha, and geo-tagging.
  5. Cost sharing - The cost of unit assistance is shared between Central and State Governments in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and hilly states.
  6. Features - The minimum size of the house has been increased to 25 sq.mt (from 20sq.mt) with a hygienic cooking space. The unit assistance has been increased from Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 1.20 lakh in plain and from Rs. 75,000 to Rs. 1.30 lakh in hilly states. The assistance for construction of toilets shall be leveraged through convergence with Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G), MGNREGS or any other dedicated source of funding. Convergence for piped drinking water, electricity connection, LPG gas connection etc. different Government programmers are also to be attempted.
  7. Performance of the scheme - Only 55% of the construction target has been completed. Of the 2.28 crore houses to be built for the rural poor, less than 1.27 crore had been built by January 2021. Money has been sanctioned to almost 85% of beneficiaries. This scheme has helped in employment generation. Many states provided employment to their migrant labourers during lock down.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban: It ws launched on 25th June 2015, with the goal to provide housing for all in urban areas by year 2022.
  1. Implemented by - The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  2. Features - It addresses Urban housing shortage among the Urban Poor including the Slum Dwellers by ensuring a pucca house to eligible urban poor. The Mission covers the entire urban area consisting of Statutory Towns, Notified Planning Areas, Development Authorities, Special Area Development Authorities, Industrial Development Authorities or any such authority under State legislation which is entrusted with the functions of urban planning & regulations. All houses under PMAY(U) have basic amenities like toilet, water supply, electricity and kitchen.
  3. Ownership - The Mission promotes women empowerment by providing the ownership of houses in the name of female members or in joint name.
  4. Preference - It is also given to differently abled persons, senior citizens, SCs, STs, OBCs, Minority, single women, transgender and other weaker & vulnerable sections of the society.
  5. Divided into - It is divided into four verticals - (i) In-situ Rehabilitation of existing slum dwellers using land as a resource through private participation, (ii) Credit Linked Subsidy, (iii) Affordable Housing in Partnership, and (iv) Beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancement.


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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
The Quran Case and powers of Judicial Review
  • The story: A public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by Wasim Rizvi seeking declaration of 26 verses of the Quran as unconstitutional, non-effective and non-functional. It is interesting to observe the limits of judicial review in this regard.
  • Scope of petition: The petitioner has made the demand on the ground that those 26 verses of the Quran promote extremism and terrorism. It is also said to pose a serious threat to the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country. Naturally, the petition led to protests among a section of Muslims, and several clerics have issued fatwas against the petitioner. In 'Vishwa Lochan Madan (2014)' case, the Supreme Court has already observed that such fatwas have no validity. Shia clerics have excommunicated Rizvi from the fold of Shias.
  • Legal incongruities in petition: Mr. Rizvi had named three secretaries of the Centre and also 56 private persons as respondents. In purely legal terms, the writ jurisdiction lies against the “state.” But the persons named as respondents are certainly not ‘state’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution. Ideally he should have made Muslim God, Allah, as respondent number one as Muslims believe him to be the sole author of the Quran. Under Indian law, idols are juristic persons and recently Ram Lalla won the historic Babri Masjid case. The petition also claims the Quran promotes terrorism and therefore these 26 verses must be removed. There are a number of laws such as the IPC, UAPA, TADA, POTA, etc that already prohibit and severely punish terror activities. No terrorist can certainly defend himself by relying on his religious texts as the law of the land.
  • Court's jurisdiction: Under Indian law, only a “law” can be challenged as unconstitutional.
  1. Article 13(3) defines law, which includes any ordinance, order, by-law, rule, regulations, notification, custom or usage having in the territory the force of law.
  2. “Laws in force” on the commencement of the Constitution include laws enacted by a legislature or other competent authority. This definition certainly does not cover any religious scripture including the Quran.
  3. Similarly, neither the Vedas nor the Gita, nor the Bible, nor the Guru Granth Sahib can be said to be “law” under Article 13.
  4. To term the Quran or other religious scriptures as custom or usage, as this petition claims, is also absurd. Customs and usage are repeated practices of human beings. Words of divine characters cannot be considered as customs. The divine books can be sources of law but not law in themselves.
  • Summary: Thus Quran in itself is not “law” for the purposes of Article 13. The Quran itself abrogated several shameful customs of Arabs such as female infanticide, and therefore the Quran can never be called custom as well. If Quran is not law, it is not subject to judicial review. No court can sit in judgment on any sacred book.
Electoral Bonds Scheme
  • Not struck down: In March 2021, the Supreme Court refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds ahead of fresh Assembly elections.
  • Problem with Electoral Bond scheme: It is a promissory note which can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of SBI which can be donated to any eligible political party. In India, for the last three years, electoral bonds have become the dominant method of political party funding. It allows for limitless and anonymous donations to political party which means that well-resourced corporations can buy politicians by paying immense sums of money. Since the donations are routed through the SBI, it is possible for the government to find out who is donating to which party. It becomes a very effective way to squeeze donations to rival political parties!
  • Transparency in funding: Experts say if democracy has to thrive, the role of money in influencing politics ought to be limited. Across various democratic societies, it has been proven that money is the most effective way of buying policy and it skews the playing field towards one parties’ favour. When citizens are unable to find the source of funds for the political parties, it denies them the right to know the complete information of candidate contesting in the election.
  • Right to Know: The Supreme Court itself has held that the right to know, especially in the context of elections, is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. By keeping this knowledge from citizens and voters, the electoral bonds scheme violates core principles of the Indian Constitution. In many advanced countries, elections are funded publicly and principles of parity ensure that there is no big resource gap between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • Public funding: In countries where elections are not publicly funded, there are caps on financial contributions to political parties. This guarantees a somewhat level playing field among the political parties. But the government justifies the scheme by arguing that it prevents the flow of black money into elections.
  • Summary: Governments derive their legitimacy from elections and it is elections that grant governments the mandate to pursue their policy goals. The electoral legitimacy of the government is questionable if the electoral process has become questionable. Donor anonymity and limitless donations aids the flow of black money, does not prevent it. And since the scheme allows foreign source funding to political parties, the prospects of institutional corruption increases. Thus, the electoral bonds scheme deserves to be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.


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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
“New physics” may be arriving
  • LHC in the limelight, again: An odd result from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) cannot easily be explained away! The "standard model" of particle physics is one of the most powerful theories in science, though incomplete. It describes a suite of fundamental particles and the forces through which they interact, but it fails to include gravity and dark matter (mysterious stuff detectable at the moment only by its gravitational pull), and also cannot explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe.
  • Extending it: For these reasons, physicists have spent decades searching for ways to extend it, or at least for results that may provide a means of doing so. And on March 23rd, at a meeting called the Moriond Electroweak Physics Conference, a team from Europe’s particle-physics laboratory, CERN, in Geneva, reported that they might have some.
  • The logic: The details are tough to understand, but concern particles called beauty quarks which, themselves, form part of other particles called B-mesons.
  1. When beauty quarks decay, the daughter particles produced sometimes include a pair of what are known as charged leptons.
  2. These may be an electron and its antimatter equivalent, a positron, or two heavier leptons, a muon and an antimuon.
  3. The Standard Model predicts equal numbers of such pairs. But an analysis of results from the LHCb experiment (pictured), a purpose-built detector fitted to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), suggests electron-positron pairs are more abundant than muon pairs.
  4. If confirmed, this could be the much-sought crack into which researchers can insert a metaphorical crowbar to prise the Standard Model open and reveal what it is hiding—perhaps a fifth force of nature to go alongside gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces.
  • Summary: Scientists are being cautious with these results, due to the massive implications. But they seem to be onto something big. 


Decoding genome of million-year-old mammoths
  • The ancient story: A more accurate picture of Earth’s earlier inhabitants is now being revealed slowly. In research published in 'Nature', a team of scientists led by Anders Gotherstrom, at the University of Stockholm, and Love Dalen at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, also in Sweden, describe sequencing DNA samples from mammoths that lived and died in north-eastern Siberia around a million years ago.
  • DNA from earlier era: The team’s work represents a new record, for their mammoth DNA is, by some half a million years, the oldest ever successfully reconstituted. Extracted from horses, bears and even Neanderthals and Denisovans, two close cousins of modern humans, such ancient DNA has proved an invaluable tool for investigating the past. Although fossils preserve the gross physical features of extinct animals, they are silent about many crucial details that even an incomplete genome can help to fill in.
  • Problem: The trouble with DNA is that it breaks down post mortem. The more broken-down it is, the harder it is to sequence. Scientists think that, after about 6m years, all that would be left would be individual base pairs, the equivalent of trying to reconstruct a book from a heap of its constituent letters. Under the right conditions, however, such as the extreme cold of Arctic permafrost, this decay can be slowed.
  • The process: Dr Dalen and his colleagues were interested in three mammoth molars extracted in the 1970s from Siberian geological layers that suggested great age. Samples from each were sent to Dr Dalen’s laboratory in 2017. Having checked they had not been unduly contaminated by bacteria or the shaking hands of awe-struck palaeontologists, strands of DNA were extracted, sequenced, and dated. Whereas DNA samples from a living animal can run to several hundreds of thousands of letters, the time-worn mammoth samples yielded strands mere dozens of letters long. This is close to the limit of what is scientifically usable, says Ludovic Orlando, a biologist at the Centre for Anthropobiology and Genomics of Toulouse.
  1. To date a specimen, fragments of its DNA are compared to corresponding chunks from known descendants. Armed with a few evolutionary rules-of-thumb, scientists can calculate how long it would have taken for the observed mutations to arise.
  2. Analysis of this sort revealed that the youngest molar, found near a village called Chukochya, was between 500,000 and 800,000 years old. A tooth found near the Adycha river was from an animal that had died between 1m and 1.2m years ago. A third, found near another village called Krestovka, was dated at between 1.1m and 1.2m years. The previous record had been held by a set of horse DNA thought to be as much as 780,000 years old.
  3. The teeth held other surprises. The Krestovka mammoth belongs to a previously unknown branch of the mammoth family tree, an ancestor of the Columbian mammoth which roamed North America 1.5m years ago. The Adycha mammoth was an ancestor of the iconic woolly mammoth. It appeared to possess many of its descendant’s features half a million years earlier, suggesting the woolly mammoth’s distinctive physiology evolved more slowly than had been thought.
  • Summary: These are the sorts of insights into the slow workings of evolution that very ancient DNA can offer. And, it seems, prospects for collecting more such ultra-old samples are good. Permafrost has existed on Earth for the past 2.6m years. That puts an upper limit on the age of sequenceable DNA, but one that still leaves a million years more headroom. “I’m sure that in the permafrost there are going to be samples that have survived longer,” says Patricia Pecnerova of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and a co-author on the study. Records, after all, are made to be broken. 

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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
Human Rights Report 2020: USA
  • The story: The US State Department, in its 2020 Human Rights Report, pointed out several Human Rights Issues in India. The report, which is submitted each year to the US Congress, is retrospective and contains a country wise discussion of the state of human rights. Earlier in March 2021, Freedom in the World 2021 report had downgraded India’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’. India has also been classified as an “electoral autocracy” in the annual report named Autocratisation Goes Viral of Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute.
  • Points to note:
  1. Harassment of journalists - The harassment and detention of journalists critical of the (Indian) government in their reporting and on social media, has continued, although the government generally respected the freedom of expression. It mentioned restrictions on the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists.
  2. Accessing private data - Government’s requests for user data from Internet companies had increased dramatically. The government made 49,382 user data requests in 2019 from Facebook, a 32% increase from 2018. Over the same period, Google requests increased by 69%, while Twitter requests saw a 68% increase.
  3. Unreasonable detentions - The report takes note of the April 2020 detention of protesters against the citizenship laws and various other incidents under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967. Detention of politicians under the Jammu & Kashmir’s Public Safety Act 1978, was also mentioned.
  4. Arbitrary beprivation of Life - The report highlighted the case of custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu.
  5. Improvement in Human Rights Situation in Jammu & Kashmir - The government continued taking steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions. The government partially restored internet access, however, high-speed 4G mobile internet remained restricted in most parts of Jammu & Kashmir for the year 2020.
  6. Restrictive rules and lack of investigation - Overly restrictive rules on non-governmental organisations, restrictions on political participation, widespread corruption at all levels in the government, lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women, and forced and compulsory child labour, as well as bonded labour.
  7. Religious freedom - Tolerance of violations of religious freedom; crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups including women based on religious affiliation or social status.
  • Human Rights provisions in India:
  1. Fundamental Rights - Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution. These include the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Cultural & Educational Rights, Saving of Certain Laws and Right to Constitutional Remedies.
  2. Directive Principles of State Policy - Article 36 to 51 of the Constitution. These include 'right to social security, right to work, to free choice of employment, and protection against unemployment, right to equal pay for equal work, right to existence worthy of human dignity, right to free & compulsory education, equal justice & free legal aid and the principles of policy to be followed by the State.'
  3. Statutory provisions - Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 (as amended in 2019) provided for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission at the Union level, which steers State Human Rights Commission in States and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights as the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
  • UDHR: India took active part in drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These 30 rights and freedoms include civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy and economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security, health and education, etc.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. UDHR - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. The UDHR is widely recognized as having inspired, and paved the way for, the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, applied today on a permanent basis at global and regional levels (all containing references to it in their preambles).
  2. Convention against torture - The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Convention”) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1984 (resolution 39/46). The Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987 after it had been ratified by 20 States. The Torture Convention was the result of many years’ work, initiated soon after the adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Declaration”) by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)).

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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

New Rates on PPF, Small Savings Schemes
  • The story: Government withdrew its a day before the order of reduction of 40-110 basis points in interest rates of small savings schemes including Public Provident Fund (PPF) and National Savings Certificate (NSC).
  • The original announcement: As per an announcement on March 31, the government announced a sharp cut in the interest rate of PPF, NSC, and others. As per the order, PPF would have fetched an interest rate of 6.4 percent and NSC 5.9 percent. But, the order has been withdrawn on April 1. The present interest rates of the schemes are given below.
  • Public Provident Fund (PPF): A Public Provident Fund or PPF will give an interest rate of 7.1 percent (compounded annually). PPF is a long-term tax-saving instrument that provides a fixed rate of interest annually on the amount that you invested during the year. PPF has a lock-in period of 15 years. The interest earned in a PPF account is tax-free. The amount that is deposited during the fiscal year can be claimed under Section 80C.
  • National Savings Certificate (NSC): A National Savings Certificate or NSC gives an interest rate of 6.8 percent which is compounded annually but payable at maturity. NSC has a tenure of five years and comes with a fixed rate of interest.
  • Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme: This will provide an interest of 7.6 percent compounded annually. It is also known as Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana and was launched in the year 2015 as part of the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” initiative of the government. It can only be opened by the natural or legal guardian of a girl child aged below 10 years. The account matures after 21 years from the date of opening. If the marriage of the account holder takes place before 21 years, then the operation of the account is not permitted beyond the date of her marriage.
  • Kisan Vikas Patra: It is a savings scheme available at the India Post Offices in the form of certificates. The scheme provides a fixed rate and doubles the investment after a predetermined period of time. At present, the interest rate is 6.9% and the time period is 124 months.
  • Senior Citizen Savings Scheme: It, at present, offers an interest rate of 7.4 percent (compounded quarterly). The scheme is available for those over 60 years of age.


Article 244(A) of Constitution
  • The story: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a video message promised to implement Article 244 (A) of the Constitution in order to safeguard the interests of the people in tribal-majority districts of Assam.
  • What is Article 244(A): It allows the creation of an ‘autonomous state’ within Assam in certain tribal areas. It was inserted into the Constitution by the Congress government in the year 1969. It also includes a provision for a Legislature and a Council of Ministers.
  • How Sixth Schedule is different from Article 244(A): The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — Articles 244(2) and 275(1) — is a special provision that allows decentralized governance and greater political autonomy in certain tribal areas of the Northeast through autonomous councils that are administered by elected representatives. If we talk about Assam, the hill districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi, Dima Hasao, and the Bodo Territorial Region are under the provision of the 6th schedule. On the other hand, Article 244(A) provides more autonomous powers to tribal areas.
  • Demand for implementing Article 244(A) in Assam: Initially, a demand for a separate hill state came up in certain sections of the tribal population of undivided Assam in the 1950s. In the year 1960, several political parties of the hill areas came together to form the All Party Hill Leaders Conference and put forward the demand for a separate state. As a result of these prolonged agitations, Meghalaya was formed in the year 1972. At that time, the leaders of the North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong were also part of this movement. They were given an option to stay in Assam or join Meghalaya. They stayed in Assam on the promise of the Congress government of providing greater powers, including Article 244 (A). Since then, there has been a demand for implementing Article 244 (A) in the state. In the 1980s, a violent movement also took place for the demand.
  • Latest: Recently in February 2021, around 1,040 militants of five militant groups of Karbi Anglong district laid down arms at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.


Mahendragiri: Odisha’s Second Biosphere Reserve
  • The story: The Odisha state government has proposed a second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri. It is a mountain in the Gajapati district of the state. It is at an altitude of 1,501 metres. Mahendragiri is also the second-highest peak in the state.
  • Points to note: The area of the proposed 2nd biosphere reserve of the state- Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve is approximately 470,955 hectares. As per a feasibility report prepared by the Biosphere Reserve Committee for the proposed project, the hill ecosystem is acting as a transitional zone between the flora and fauna of southern India and the Himalayas. This makes the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversity. The feasibility report has been submitted to the government which will now be taken up by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Recently, at a workshop titled Integrated Development of Mahendragiri Hill Complex, many environmentalists also urged the state government to send a proposal to centre for declaring Mahendragiri a biosphere reserve.
  • Details: At some time, the protected archeological remains of Mahendragiri were listed in the tentative list of Unesco World Heritage Sites, thus, it is easy to declare it as a biosphere reserve. Soura people are the inhabitants at Mahendragiri. Soura is a particularly vulnerable tribal group as well as the Kandha tribe. As per the report of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve, Mahendragiri has diverse vegetation. The rich flora in Mahendragiri represents 40 percent of the reported flora of Odisha, with around 1,358 species of plants. Also, out of the 41 species of threatened medicinal plants found in Odisha (as per the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), 29 are found in the biosphere reserve area. The faunal diversity of the hills consists of 388 species of animals, including 165 species of birds, 27 species of mammals, 23 species of snakes, three species of turtles, 15 species of amphibians, and 19 lizards.
  • Similipal Biosphere Reserve: It is the first biosphere reserve of Odisha. It was notified on May 20, 1996. It has an area of a 5,569-square kilometre.


9.1 Today's best editorials to read
  • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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    • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

Solve the online quiz given, right now. Check scores, and relative performance!



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PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 02-04-2021
Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 02-04-2021
Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 02-04-2021
PT's IAS Academy
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