Call Us Now

+91 9606900005 / 04

For Enquiry

Current Affairs 01 July 2024

  1. First Coal Shipment from Russia to India via INSTC
  2. NTA Under Scrutiny for Examination Irregularities
  3. Patent Filing Error by Bharat Biotech for Covaxin
  4. Proposal to Use Enemy Agents Ordinance in Jammu and Kashmir
  5. Saubhagya Scheme
  6. Interest Equalisation Scheme


Recently, Russia has sent two trains carrying coal to India through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for the first time. The consignment will travel over 7,200 km from St. Petersburg, Russia to Mumbai port via Bandar Abbas port of Iran.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)?
  2. Significance of INSTC for India
  3. Challenges Related to Full Utilization of INSTC

What is the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)?

  • Overview: The INSTC is a 7,200-kilometer multimodal transit route that links the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and extends to northern Europe through St. Petersburg in Russia.
  • Connections: It integrates shipping, rail, and road networks to facilitate cargo movement between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • Inception: Initiated on September 12, 2000, in St. Petersburg, the corridor was established by a trilateral agreement among Iran, Russia, and India during the Euro-Asian Conference on Transport in 2000 to enhance transportation cooperation.
  • Membership Expansion: Initially consisting of three countries, the INSTC has expanded to include ten more members, totaling 13: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Syria, Belarus, and Oman.
Modes of Transport in INSTC
  • Central Corridor: This route starts at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, connecting to the Bandar Abbas port in Iran on the Strait of Hormuz. It traverses Iranian territory via Nowshahr, Amirabad, and Bandar-e-Anzali, running along the Caspian Sea to reach the Olya and Astrakhan Ports in Russia.
  • Western Corridor: This pathway links the railway networks of Azerbaijan and Iran through the cross-border nodal points of Astara (Azerbaijan) and Astara (Iran), extending to the Jawaharlal Nehru port in India via sea.
  • Eastern Corridor: This route connects Russia to India through the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Significance of INSTC for India

  • Trade Security: The corridor allows India to bypass chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz and the Red Sea (Suez Canal route), enhancing trade security.
  • Alternative Routes: The Israel-Hamas conflict and the Houthi attacks on ships in the southern Red Sea underscore the importance of alternative trade routes.
  • Bypassing Pakistan and Afghanistan: INSTC enables India to circumvent Pakistan and unstable Afghanistan to access Central Asia.
  • Market Connectivity: It connects India to markets in Russia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, facilitating trade, energy cooperation, defense, counterterrorism, and cultural exchanges with Central Asian Republics through initiatives like “Connect Central Asia.”
  • Efficiency: The corridor reduces transit time by 20 days and freight costs by 30% compared to the Suez Canal route.
  • Energy Access: INSTC facilitates India’s access to energy resources in Russia and Central Asia, reducing reliance on the Middle East.
  • Increased Imports: Post the Russia-Ukraine war, imports of metallurgical coal from Russia have tripled, with expectations of further growth amid declining imports from Australia.
  • Strategic Investments: India’s investment in the Chabahar Port in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province aims to facilitate trade with Central Asian countries. This port is critical for India, Iran, and Afghanistan, offering direct sea access and trade opportunities in the region.

Challenges Related to Full Utilization of INSTC

  • Financial Funding: Unlike China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has dedicated funding institutions, INSTC lacks significant financial backing from major institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
  • Sanctions on Iran: The US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in 2018 led to harsh sanctions on Iran, causing many global companies to pull out from infrastructure projects in the country.
  • Security Threats: The presence of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (IS) in Central Asia poses a significant security threat along the corridor, deterring investment and smooth operation.
  • Regulatory Disparities: Differences in customs regulations and tariff structures across member states create complexities and delays for cargo movement.
  • Infrastructure Development: The corridor’s various transport modes (ship, rail, road) face uneven infrastructure development, particularly the underdeveloped rail networks in Iran, which create bottlenecks and hinder the seamless movement of goods.
  • Lack of Coordination: There is an absence of a joint work plan for developing the corridor and its business ecosystem.

-Source: Economic Times


With widespread allegations of cheating, paper leaks, and other irregularities impacting flagship examinations such as the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test), the National Testing Agency (NTA) has come under intense fire.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The National Testing Agency (NTA)
  2. Issues Faced by the NTA
  3. Recommendations for Reforming India’s Examination Process
  4. NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test)

The National Testing Agency (NTA)

  • Background:
    • In 2010, a committee of IIT directors proposed creating an autonomous and transparent testing body, inspired by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) of the US.
    • Before the NTA, entities like the UGC, CBSE, and central universities such as Delhi University and JNU conducted their own entrance exams.
  • About NTA:
    • Established in 2017, it operates as a specialist, self-sustaining, and autonomous organization under the Union Ministry of Education.
    • Registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 and subject to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  • Objectives:
    • Address challenges in assessing candidates’ competence, adhering to international standards, ensuring efficiency, transparency, and error-free delivery.
    • Conduct efficient and transparent tests, research and development, and expert collaboration information dissemination.
  • Conducting Exams: Administering entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.
  • Creating Question Banks: Developing a question bank using modern techniques.
  • Research and Development: Establishing a strong research and development culture.
  • Collaborations: Working with international organizations like ETS (Educational Testing Services).
  • Other Exams: Undertaking any other examination entrusted by the Ministries or Departments of Government of India/State Governments.
Examinations Conducted:
  • JEE (Main), NEET-UG, Common Management Admission Test (CMAT), Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT), and University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET).
  • The National Education Policy 2020 recommended a broader role for the NTA, suggesting it conduct entrance or aptitude tests for all universities across the country.
  • Currently, the NTA oversees more than 20 examinations.
  • The director general and governing body are appointed by the Union government.
  • The core team includes test item writers, researchers, psychometricians, and education specialists.
  • Operates six verticals, each focusing on different examinations, employing about six researchers per vertical, including internationally recognized experts.

Issues Faced by the NTA

  • Computer-Based Tests:
    • Ensures high volume processing within a short period.
    • Due to the National Informatics Centre’s (NIC) lack of capacity, third-party technical partners are engaged, which can lead to accountability issues and exploitation by unscrupulous players.
  • Outsourced Functions:
    • Initially set up with only 25 permanent staff positions, relying heavily on outsourced technical partners.
    • This setup can lead to potential malpractice at various stages, including question paper setting and encryption, selection of printing presses and exam centers, transportation, storage, distribution, and answer sheet collection and evaluation.
  • Incidents and Criticisms:
    • Faced criticism for awarding grace marks to 1,563 NEET candidates due to delays, leading to accusations of inflated marks and 67 candidates sharing the top rank.
    • Integrity issues in NEET-UG and UGC-NET exams due to alleged leaks and breaches.

Recommendations for Reforming India’s Examination Process

  • K. Radhakrishnan Committee:
    • Formed to recommend reforms in the examination process, improve data security protocols, and overhaul the NTA’s functioning.
  • Equipping for Pen-and-Paper Examinations:
    • Necessary for equitable access, particularly for students in rural and remote areas with limited technology access.
  • Decentralized Structures:
    • Needed to address the vastly differing needs of institutions.
  • Radical Reform of the Assessment System:
    • Includes periodic assessments of knowledge, concept-based understanding, and incorporating aptitude tests in the final years of school as a precursor to the admission process.

NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test):

  • Purpose: NEET is an entrance examination for students aspiring to pursue undergraduate medical courses (MBBS/BDS) and postgraduate courses (MD/MS) in government or private medical colleges.
  • Objective: To standardize the admission process for medical and dental courses across India, ensuring a uniform evaluation of candidates’ eligibility.
  • Conducted by: The NTA conducts NEET on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

-Source: The Hindu


Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), the creator of the Indian coronavirus vaccine Covaxin, admitted to an unintended mistake in its patent filings. These filings aim to protect the vaccine’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

  • Despite being one of India’s top biotechnology companies, BBIL forgot to list the scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as co-inventors in the patent documents for Covaxin.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Controversy Surrounding the Covaxin IPR
  2. Roles of BBIL and ICMR
  3. What are Patents and IPR?
  4. Conclusion

Controversy Surrounding the Covaxin IPR

  • Patent Explanation:
    • BBIL patented the vaccine-making process using virus strains from ICMR-NIV (National Institute of Virology).
    • ICMR-NIV focuses on extracting, identifying, and testing viruses from blood samples.
  • Vaccine Development:
    • Industrial-scale vaccine production requires specialized facilities.
    • Covaxin, developed by BBIL, is an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine.
    • The vaccine stimulates the body to produce protective antibodies, with an added adjuvant to boost effectiveness.
    • Vaccine manufacturers use unique methods to combine these steps, maintaining a competitive edge and preventing process copying to secure temporary monopolies and profits.
  • Patent Process:
    • Companies can apply for patents in multiple countries, but approval requires proving novelty or inventiveness.
    • Bharat Biotech has not yet received these patents.

Roles of BBIL and ICMR

  • Collaboration:
    • BBIL and ICMR-NIV collaborated on every step of Covaxin’s development, with an agreement detailing each organization’s responsibilities.
    • The agreement was made public due to ICMR being a public entity and the COVID crisis scale, partially revealed in the Rajya Sabha in July 2021.
    • Beyond providing virus strains, ICMR tested the vaccine on animals and humans to ensure efficacy.
    • ICMR funded clinical trials with ₹35 crore, incurring development costs, and was to receive 5% of royalties from Covaxin sales.
  • Intellectual Property Rights:
    • Initially, it was believed both entities would share intellectual property rights.
    • BBIL initially claimed a distinction between rights to make the vaccine and rights to clinical trial data, excluding ICMR from patent applications due to its lack of investment in production.
    • Following scrutiny, BBIL acknowledged an error and plans to file new applications listing ICMR personnel as co-inventors.

What are Patents and IPR?

  • Definition:
    • A patent is a significant Intellectual Property Right (IPR) granting an exclusive monopoly by the government to an inventor for a limited, pre-defined period.
    • It provides a legal right to prevent others from replicating the invention.
  • Types of Patents:
    • Product Patent: Protects the rights to the final product, preventing anyone other than the patent holder from manufacturing it during a specified period.
    • Process Patent: Allows others to manufacture the patented product by altering certain processes in the production exercise.
  • History in India:
    • Initially, India adopted process patenting in the 1970s, which enabled the country to become a significant producer of generic drugs on a global scale.
    • Due to obligations under the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement, product patenting is now also permitted in India.
      • TRIPS is an international legal agreement among all member nations of the World Trade Organization.


  • Complexity of IPR:
    • IPR is intricate and encompasses all facets of product invention.
  • Pharmaceutical Development:
    • Creating pharmaceutical products necessitates diverse expertise, making it challenging for individual firms to manage everything independently.
  • Licensing Agreements:
    • Companies frequently enter into multiple licensing agreements, similar to BBIL’s collaboration with Virovax for an adjuvant.
  • Collaboration and Inventorship:
    • When multiple entities collaborate on a single product, being listed as an inventor influences the distribution of IPR, royalties, and product usage.
  • Common Disputes:
    • Disputes over IPR are prevalent in all fields. In patent filings, particularly in the U.S., failing to list all inventors can lead to the rejection of patent applications.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, Jammu and Kashmir’s Director General of Police (DGP) proposed using the Enemy Agents Ordinance of 2005.

  • This ordinance includes penalties such as life imprisonment or the death penalty.
  • The proposal aims to prosecute militant supporters under this ordinance instead of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Enemy Agent Ordinance?
  2. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967
  3. Issues with UAPA

What is the Enemy Agent Ordinance?

  • Introduction and History:
    • Introduced in 1917 by the Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
    • The term ‘ordinance’ reflects the legal terminology of the Dogra era.
    • Re-enacted in 1948 by the Maharaja using his legislative powers under Section 5 of the Constitution Act of Kashmir, 1939.
    • Incorporated into the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution of 1957, specifically under Section 157.
  • Post-Abrogation of Article 370:
    • Key security legislations such as the Enemy Agents Ordinance and Public Safety Act were retained.
    • Certain laws like the Ranbir Penal Code were replaced by the Indian Penal Code.
Key Provisions of the Enemy Agent Ordinance:
  • Definition of Enemy Agent:
    • Targets agents or friends of the enemy rather than the enemy itself.
    • Defines the enemy in the context of the 1947 tribal invasion of Kashmir.
    • Anyone conspiring with another to aid the enemy is considered an enemy agent.
  • Punishment:
    • Enemy agents may face death, life imprisonment, or rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years, along with potential fines.
  • Judicial Validation and Trial:
    • In the Rehman Shagoo vs State of Jammu and Kashmir Case, 1959, the Supreme Court upheld the ordinance.
    • Trials are conducted by a special government-appointed judge in consultation with the High Court.
    • Accused individuals cannot engage a lawyer unless permitted by the court and there is no provision for appeal against the verdict.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967 is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (which lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (which was repealed in 2004).
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The National Integration Council appointed a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation to look into, the aspect of putting reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • The agenda of the NIC limited itself to communalism, casteism and regionalism and not terrorism.
  • However, the provisions of the UAPA Act contravenes the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019

  • The original Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.
  • It provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.

Key Provisions of the Amendment

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  • Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
    • commits or participates in acts of terrorism
    • prepares for terrorism
    • promotes terrorism
    • is otherwise involved in terrorism
  • The word “terror” or “terrorist” is not defined.
  • However, a “terrorist act” is defined as any act committed with the intent –
    • to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India
    • to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country
  • The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette.
  • The Bill empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Under the Act, an investigating officer can seize properties that may be connected with terrorism with prior approval of the Director General of Police.
Issues with UAPA
  • UAPA gives the state authority vague powers to detain and arrest individuals who it believes to be indulged in terrorist activities. Thus, the state gives itself more powers vis-a-vis individual liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • UAPA empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for a developing democratic society. The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).
  • UAPA can also be thought of to go against the federal structure since it neglects the authority of state police in terrorism cases, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.

-Source: The Hindu


The Meghalaya Lokayukta recently issued notifications to the former chief secretary and other former officials of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) for their alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme in the state.


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

About Saubhagya Scheme:

  • Launch:
    • The Government of India initiated the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (SAUBHAGYA) in October 2017.
  • Objective:
    • Achieving universal household electrification by providing electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural areas and all poor households in urban areas.
  • Provisions:
    • Under the Saubhagya scheme, LED bulbs, wire, holders, switches, etc., are provided to BPL families free of cost.
  • Salient Features:
    • Last-mile connectivity and electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural areas.
    • Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV)-based standalone systems for un-electrified households in remote and inaccessible villages where grid extension is not feasible or cost-effective.
    • Last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining economically poor un-electrified households in urban areas (excluding non-poor urban households).
  • Cost and Implementation:
    • In rural areas, families other than BPL families must pay Rs. 500 for the electricity connection, payable in 10 equal installments of Rs. 50. BPL families in urban areas will receive free power connections.
    • Families in rural areas, where grid supply is not possible, will receive electricity through solar energy.
  • Nodal Agency:
    • The Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is designated as the nodal agency for the Saubhagya scheme.
  • Beneficiaries Identification:
    • Beneficiaries for free electricity connections are identified using the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.

-Source: Hindustan Times


The Department of Commerce has extended the Interest Equalisation Scheme for pre- and post-shipment rupee export credit for Micro, Small and Medium-scale (MSME) exporters till August 31.


GS III: Indian Economy

About Interest Equalisation Scheme:

  • Implementation Date:
    • The scheme was first implemented on 1st April 2015 to provide pre- and post-shipment export credit to exporters in rupees.
  • Validity:
    • Initially valid for 5 years up to 31st March 2020. It has been continued thereafter, including extensions during the COVID-19 pandemic and further fund allocations.
  • Implementing Agency:
    • The scheme is implemented by the RBI through various public and non-public sector banks that provide pre- and post-shipment credit to exporters.
  • Monitoring:
    • Jointly monitored by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and the RBI through a consultative mechanism.
  • Objective:
    • The scheme aims to help identified export sectors be internationally competitive and achieve a high level of export performance.
  • Features:
    • Eligibility Certification: An eligible exporter must submit certification from an external auditor to the concerned bank to claim this benefit.
    • IES Benefits: Banks provide IES benefits to eligible exporters and claim reimbursement from the RBI based on the external auditor certification provided by the exporter.
    • Interest Equalisation Benefit: The scheme offers an interest equalisation benefit at a rate of 2% on pre- and post-shipment rupee export credit to merchant and manufacturer exporters of 410 identified tariff lines at the 4-digit level, and 3% to all MSME manufacturer exporters.
    • Fund Limitation: The scheme is now fund-limited, with the benefit to individual exporters capped at Rs 10 Crore per annum per IEC (Import Export Code).
    • Bank Rate Cap: Banks lending to exporters at an average rate of more than Repo + 4% are debarred under the scheme.

-Source: The Hindu

July 2024