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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 10 May 2021


  1. EAC allows Great Nicobar plan to advance
  2. Indian offshore model to dominate IT sector
  3. India and EU relaunch FTA talks
  4. Rare sculptures of Rani Rudrama Devi unearthed

EAC allows Great Nicobar plan to advance


The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Infrastructure I of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has removed the first hurdle faced by the project. It has “recommended” it “for grant of terms of reference (TOR)” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies, which in the first instance will include baseline studies over three months.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation and Protection measures, Environmental Impact Assessment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Environment Impact Assessment?
  2. Stages of Environment Impact Assessment:
  3. Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)
  4. Recently in News: EIA Notification 2020
  5. Little Andaman Island
  6. About NITI Aayog’s proposal for Little Andaman
  7. Criticisms of the plan and EAC’s views

What is Environment Impact Assessment?

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
  • UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
  • It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

Stages of Environment Impact Assessment:

  • Project screening: This entails the application of EIA to those projects that may have significant environmental impacts.
  • Scoping: This step seeks to identify, at an early stage, the key, significant environmental issues from among a host of possible impacts of a project and all the available alternatives.
  • Consideration of alternatives
  • Description of the project/development action: This step seeks to clarify the purpose and rationale of the project and understand its various characteristics, including the stages of development, location and processes.
  • Description of the environmental baseline: This includes the establishment of both the present and future state of the environment, in the absence of the project, taking into account the changes resulting from natural events and from other human activities.
  • The prediction of impacts: This step aims to identify the likely magnitude of the change (i.e., impact) in the environment when the project is implemented in comparison with the situation when the project is not carried out.
  • Evaluation and assessment of significance: This seeks to assess the relative significance of the predicted impacts to allow a focus on key adverse impacts.
  • Mitigation: This involves the introduction of measures to avoid, reduce, remedy or compensate for any significant adverse impacts.
  • Public consultation and participation: This aims to assure the quality, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the EIA, as well as to ensure that the public’s views are adequately taken into consideration in the decision-making process.
  • EIS presentation: This is a vital step in the process. If done badly, much good work in the EIA may be negated.
  • Review: This involves a systematic appraisal of the quality of the EIS, as a contribution to the decision-making process.
  • Decision-making:
  • Post-decision monitoring: This involves the recording of outcomes associated with development impacts, after the decision to proceed with the project.

Importance of Environment Impact Assessment:

  • Reduced cost and time of project implementation and design,
  • Avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
  • Lays base for environmentally sound projects;
  • Greater awareness of environmental legislation;
  • Protection of Environment
  • Optimum utilization of resources (balance between development and Environmental protection)

Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

  • The EAC is a multidisciplinary sectoral appraisal committee comprising of various subject matter experts for appraisal of sector-specific projects. The EAC is the recommendatory body. Based on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee, environmental clearance is accorded or rejected to the project by MoEF&CC.
  • After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises of four stages:
    1. Screening
    2. Scoping
    3. Public hearing
    4. Appraisal
  1. Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process.
  2. Category B projects undergoes screening process and they are classified into two types.
  3. Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
  4. Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).

Thus, Category A projects and Category B, projects undergo the complete EIA process whereas Category B2 projects are excluded from complete EIA process.

Recently in News: EIA Notification 2020

  • Among the major departures from existing regulations, the most significant difference in the new Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 is the removal of several activities from the purview of public consultation.
  • A list of projects has been included under Category B2, expressly exempted from the requirement of an EIA.
  • The projects under this category include offshore and onshore oil, gas and shale exploration, hydroelectric projects up to 25 MW, irrigation projects between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares of command area, micro-small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in dye and dye intermediates, all inland waterway projects etc.
  • The projects in this list are, under existing norms, identified on the basis of screening by Expert Appraisal Committees, rather than being exempted through listing in the Schedule.
  • Also, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance or permission in the new scheme.

Little Andaman Island

  • Little Andaman Island is the fourth largest of the Andaman Islands of India lying at the southern end of the archipelago (to the south of Port Blair).
  • It belongs to the South Andaman administrative district, part of the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The low-lying island has widespread rainforest and several rare species of marine turtle.
  • The island is home to the Onge aboriginal tribe, who call the island Egu Belong, and has been a tribal reserve since 1957.
  • There are multilingual settlers of Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, and Ranchi communities in the island as well.
  • It is famous by the name of its main village and the largest settlement –Hut Bay. Hut Bay Jetty is the only harbor for ships or boats coming into this island from the capital town –Port Blair.
  • Little Andamans is less explored due to the limited mode of connection with the capital town of Port Blair.

About NITI Aayog’s proposal for Little Andaman

  • The ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, is the NITI Aayog’s proposal to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island.
  • This, the vision says, will be done by building a new greenfield coastal city there, that will be developed as a free trade zone and will compete with Singapore and Hong Kong.
  • The proposal is pivoted along three development anchors and zones.
    1. Zone 1 – spread along the east coast of Little Andaman will be the financial district and medi city and will include an aerocity, and a tourism and hospital district.
    2. Zone 2 – spread over forest and called the leisure zone, will have a film city, a residential district and a tourism (Special Economic Zone) SEZ.
    3. Zone 3 – spread out on forest as well will be a nature zone, further categorised into three districts: an exclusive forest resort, a nature healing district and a nature retreat, all on the western coast.
  • There will be ‘underwater’ resorts, casinos, golf courses, convention centres, plug-and-play office complexes, a drone port with fully automated drone delivery system, nature cure institutes and more.
  • An international airport capable of handling all types of aircraft will be central to this development vision because “all successful case studies and references” studied by the visioning team indicate that an international airport is key for development.

Criticisms of the plan and EAC’s views

  • The vision document has maps with no legends or explanations and uses inappropriate photographs plagiarised from the Internet.
  • It talks of conservation of national park/wildlife sanctuary on Little Andaman when none exist here and it has no mention of the geological vulnerability of the place, which was amongst the worst-affected in the earthquake-tsunami combination in 2004.
  • The plan has no financial details, no budgeting, or inventorisation of forests and ecological wealth and no details of any impact assessment.
  • The nature resort is planned on one of the most important nesting sites of the globally endangered Giant Leatherback sea turtle. (Galathea Bay is an iconic Giant Leatherback sea turtle nesting site in India.)
  • Forest officers raised serious concerns about this vision on grounds of ecological fragility, indigenous rights and vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Such large diversion of forest land would cause obvious environmental loss leading to irreversible damage (more than 2 million trees stand in the forest land sought for these projects), that habitats of various wild animals including endangered sea turtles would be affected, and that the impact could not even be assessed because there was no environment impact assessment report and neither were there any detailed site layout plans for the proposed diversion.
  • The committee also noted that there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.

-Source: The Hindu

Indian offshore model to dominate IT sector


Analysis said that IT markets are picking up to such a degree that both the U.S. and Europe are running out of critical skills, and with this, offshore and Indian alternatives are increasingly becoming attractive for tech buyers.


GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (IT Sector)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the attractiveness of the Indian Offshore model
  2. Service Sector boom in India
  3. Has the growth in service sector ensured adequate employment opportunities?

About the attractiveness of the Indian Offshore model

  • Typically, offshore accounts for 70-80% of a project while onshore is in the 20-30% range. In the COVID-19 era, markets are seeing a clear 50% reduction in onshore and 5-15% rise in offshore share.
  • For all IT work conducted remotely, it makes perfect sense to run it from India and the Indian model will dominate the IT service scene for at least another decade.
  • Offshore providers have ended up being ‘pandemic winners’, seeing quantum growth in revenues and substantial decline in operational cost after the WFH trend kicked in.
  • In addition to the skills shortage, the pandemic-induced work-from-home has further raised the openness of global tech buyers to working in a distributed environment, away from onshore (or the client’s location).
  • There is now some of the most aggressive pricing ever as an impact of the pandemic, with some deals priced as low as $4-6 per hour for IT and business process work.

Service Sector boom in India

  • India’s economic growth since the 1990s has largely been on account of an expansion of the services sector, in which exports are seen as having played an important role.
  • The rise in the share of services in GDP was particularly sharp after 1996-97.
  • In the event, services as a group came to dominate the Indian economy, accounting for more than half its GDP.
  • The Economic Survey 2013-14 noted that India has the second fastest growing services sector with CAGR (compound annual growth rate) at 9%, just below China’s 10.9%, during the last 11-year period from 2001 to 2012.
  • This trend has continued which is shown by gross value added (GVA) from services growing at 8.7% per annum and accounted for 58% of the increase in total GVA between 2011-12 and 2016-17.
  • This growth in services has also been accompanied by a significant increase in the exports of services.
  • India’s success in the services exports area has meant that its share of services in total exports (38%) is much higher than in countries such as China, Mexico and Brazil and close to ratios in the UK and the US.

Has the growth in service sector ensured adequate employment opportunities?

  • Despite the presence of unorganised services, the share of the services sector in total employment was relatively low.
  • Between 1999-00 and 2004-05, employment in the tertiary sector increased by only 22%, whereas GDP at constant prices contributed by the services sector expanded by 44%.
  • Tertiary sector employment in 2009-10 amounted to only 25% of the work force, despite the fact that around 55% of GDP came from this sector.
  • Also, NSSO reveals that the share of services in employment increased by far less than the huge increase in its share in GDP.
  • India is also unusual in terms of the wide divergence of the shares of the services sector in total gross value added and employment.
  • The GVA and employment shares in India were 53 and 29%, as compared with 50 and 42% in China, 60 and 61% in Mexico, and 72 and 69% in Brazil.
  • The Economic Survey 2016-17 says that among the top 15 services producer countries, India has the lowest share (28.6%) of total employment in 2016.

-Source: The Hindu

India and EU relaunch FTA talks


India and the European Union agreed to relaunch free trade negotiations by resuming talks that were suspended in 2013 for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).


GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies and development affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. European Union (EU)
  2. About the recent developments in India and EU talks
  3. Reasons of growing relationship between India and EU

European Union (EU)

  • The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
  • The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one.
  • EU policies aim to
    1. Ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;
    2. Enact legislation in justice and home affairs;
    3. Maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
  • A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

In January 2020, the United Kingdom became the first member state ever to leave the EU. Note: United Kingdom is not a part of the EU now.

About the recent developments in India and EU talks

  • The EU-India leaders meeting also discussed Covid recovery plans and vaccine cooperation, adopted a Connectivity Partnership document outlining plans to cooperate on digital and infrastructure projects, and signed the contract for the second tranche of $150 million from the EU for the Pune Metro rail project.
  • However, India failed to secure the support of the European leaders for its proposal at the World Trade Organisation at the meeting for patent waivers for Covid vaccine, and government officials they hoped to see the EU continue to debate the issue.
  • The US had recently changed its stand and now supports the idea of waiving intellectual property rights on vaccines for the duration of the pandemic, and India would therefore watch the “evolving EU position on this”. The support of a major bloc like the EU is crucial to passing the resolution at the WTO by consensus.
  • The joint statement issued after the meeting said that India and the EU agreed to work towards a “balanced, ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement which would respond to the current challenges,” as well as launch negotiations for a “stand-alone” investment protection agreement and a separate agreement on “geographical indications” pertaining to intellectual property rights.
  • The India-EU connectivity partnership signed committed the two sides to working together on digital, energy, transport, people to people connectivity that was “transparent, viable, inclusive, sustainable, comprehensive, with a rules-based approach”. The partnership is seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and comes as the EU’s negotiations with China on their Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) have run into trouble. 

Reasons of growing relationship between India and EU

  • Changing Geopolitical developments: As highlighted by EU strategy on India, released in 2018, EU sees EU-India relations in the context of broader geopolitical developments, primarily the rise of China. Impact of China in Europe and Asia (e.g. Belt and Road initiative) has pushed EU to change the nature of its partnerships in the region, particularly with India.
  • Convergence of interests in the Indian Ocean as the Indian Ocean is the main conduit for global trade and energy flows. India, EU see each other as partners in securing the Indian Ocean by strengthening institutions, rule of law, and a regional security architecture.
  • Retreat of the U.S. from global leadership and uncertainty of US policy under Trump has provided opportunities for EU- India cooperation and trilateral dialogues with countries in the Middle Fast, Central Asia and Africa.
  • Strategic rivalry between the US and China: Both EU and India have a common interest in avoiding a bipolarized world and sustaining a rules-based multilateral trading system with the United Nations and the World Trade Organization at its core.
  • Green governance: After the US exit from the Paris climate agreement, India and the EU stand to gain from a joint leadership on global governance matters such as climate change, clean energy or circular economy.
  • New emerging world order after COVID-19: As EU seeks to move away from a global supply chain that is overly dependent on China, India can emerge as its most natural ally.

-Source: The Hindu

Rare sculptures of Rani Rudrama Devi unearthed


Two rare sculptural portraits of Kakatiya queen Rudrama Devi were unearthed and identified by an archaeologist on the premises of Sangameswara Swamy Temple at Teerthala village in Khammam district recently.


Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Rudrama Devi
  2. Kakatiya dynasty

Rudrama Devi

  • Rudrama Devi was a monarch of the Kakatiya dynasty in the Deccan Plateau from 1263-1289 (or 1295).
  • She was one of the very few women to rule as monarchs in India and promoted a male image in order to do so.
  • Rudrama Devi faced challenges from the Eastern Ganga dynasty and the Yadavas soon after beginning her rule.
  • She was, however, unsuccessful in dealing with the internal dissent posed by the Kayastha chieftain Ambadeva after he became head of his line in 1273. Ambadeva objected to being subordinate to the Kakatiyas and he gained control of much of southwestern Andhra and what is now Guntur District.
  • Rudrama Devi may have died in 1289 while fighting Ambadeva, although some sources say she did not die until 1295.

Kakatiya dynasty

  • The Kakatiya dynasty was a South Indian dynasty that ruled most of eastern Deccan region comprising present day Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and parts of eastern Karnataka and southern Odisha between 12th and 14th centuries. Their capital was Orugallu, now known as Warangal.
  • Ganapati Deva (r. 1199–1262) significantly expanded Kakatiya lands during the 1230s and brought under Kakatiya control the Telugu-speaking lowland delta areas around the Godavari and Krishna rivers.
  • Ganapati Deva was succeeded by Rudrama Devi (r. 1262–1289) and is one of the few queens in Indian history. Marco Polo, who visited India sometime around 1289–1293, made note of Rudrama Devi’s rule and nature in flattering terms.
  • In 1303, Alauddin Khilji, the emperor of the Delhi Sultanate invaded the Kakatiya territory which ended up as a disaster for the Turks
  • But after the successful siege of Warangal in 1310, Prataparudra II was forced to pay annual tribute to Delhi.
  • Another attack by Ulugh Khan in 1323 saw stiff resistance by the Kakatiyan army, but they were finally defeated.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023