Pandemic and Endemic


People with Covid-19 will no longer legally need to isolate in United Kingdom and the tests are likely to be scaled back as part of a plan to live with Covid-19. California too has announced a shift to an endemic approach to Covid-19 that will focus on watching out for new variants and reacting quickly to outbreaks rather than issuing mandates for masking indoors.


GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?
  2. Does it mean we are safer?
  3. Way Forward

What does endemic stage mean, and are we there yet?

  • An infection becomes endemic when the rates become static in a given geographical location, meaning that the pathogen causing the disease — SARS-CoV-2 in this case — is likely to remain in circulation without causing large outbreaks as witnessed over the last two years.
  • Although the number of infections in India is consistently declining, experts say they cannot give a deadline on when the disease will become endemic.
  • It will depend on the number of susceptible people in the population, vaccination rates, and emergence of new variants that are able to evade the immune response.
    • For example, flu which goes up in the winters and when the season is changing because of lower immunity in people or dengue which goes up after monsoons because of the availability of vectors. Covid-19 also may become seasonal and cause disease in the vulnerable
  • An important determinant for whether we can “technically” say that the disease is endemic would be a representative sero-survey (population-level survey of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2) and laboratory susceptibility studies
  • The disease is endemic only after we see that a majority of the people have immunity against the infection either through previous exposure or vaccination.

Does it mean we are safer?

  • A disease becoming endemic does not mean it is harmless. A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly.
    • For Example: Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020. Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year and 1.5 million died.
  • Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to normal.

Way Forward

  • There is no real benefit in declaring that the disease is now endemic
  • If we live with the new normal, we will be protecting the economy as well.
  • We don’t know when a new variant might emerge. If we look at omicron, it did not cause severe disease in India but in the US it led to high rates of hospitalisations and deaths.
  • US is a smaller country, it is a richer country. We cannot afford to do what they did. We have all suffered, let us not fall into the ditch of a new variant. Precautions should remain in place.
  • Another concern with officially declaring Covid-19 endemic would be fewer resources being made available for measures such as vaccination.

Non Fungible Tokens


NFTs are gaining massive popularity now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to showcase and sell digital artwork.


GS III- Indian Economy (Money and Banking)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What are Non fungible tokens( NFTs)?
  2. How do NFTs work?
  3. Difference between NFT and cryptocurrency
  4. Risks associated with buying NFTs

What are Non fungible tokens( NFTs)?

  • Anything that can be converted into a digital form can be an NFT.
  • Everything from your drawings, photos, videos, GIF, music, in-game items, selfies, and even a tweet can be turned into an NFT, which can then be traded online using cryptocurrency.
  • But what makes NFTs unique from other digital forms is that it is backed by Blockchain technology.
    • For the uninitiated, Blockchain is a distributed ledger where all transactions are recorded. It is like your bank passbook, except all your transactions are transparent and can be seen by anyone and cannot be changed or modified once recorded.
  • NFTs are gaining massive popularity now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to showcase and sell your digital artwork.
  • Billions of dollars have been spent on NFTs since its inception—which date backs to 2015
    • Terra Nulius was the first NFT on Ethereum Blockchain, although this project was merely an idea which only allowed to customise a short message which was then recorded on blockchain.
    • Then came Curio Cards, CryptoPunks and CryptoCats in 2017, before NFTS slowly moved into public awareness, then expanding into mainstream adoption in early 2021.
Who can buy NFTs?
  • Anyone who holds a cryptocurrency wallet can buy an NFT. That is the only prerequisite to purchase an NFT.
  • There is no need of any KYC documents to purchase an art.
  • All you need is a cryptocurrency wallet powered by Metamask, and an NFT marketplace where you can buy and sell NFTs.

How do NFTs work?

  • NFT works on blockchain as it gives users complete ownership of a digital asset.
    • For instance, if you’re a sketch artist, and if you convert your digital asset to an NFT, what you get is proof of ownership, powered by Blockchain.
  • In simple words, when you list your NFT on a marketplace, you pay something called a gas fee (transaction fee) for using the Blockchain, following which your digital art is then recorded on Blockchain, mentioning that you (your address) own the particular NFT.
  • This gives you full ownership—which cannot be edited or modified by anyone, including the marketplace owner.
  • An NFT is thus created, or as crypto enthusiasts say it is “minted”, to get exclusive ownership rights.
  • NFTs can have only one owner at a time.
  • Apart from exclusive ownership, NFT owners can also digitally sign their artwork and store specific information in their NFTs metadata. This will be only viewable to the individual who bought the NFT.

Difference between NFT and cryptocurrency

NFTs and cryptocurrencies are very different from each other. While both are built on Blockchain, that is where the similarity ends.

  • It is a currency and is fungible, meaning that it is interchangeable.
  • For instance, if you hold one crypto token, say one Ethereum, the next Ethereum that you hold will also be of the same value.
  • These are non-fungible, that means the value of one NFT is not equal to another.
  • Every art is different from other, making it non fungible, and unique.

Risks associated with buying NFTs:

  • Emergence of fake marketplaces,
  • Unverified sellers often impersonating real artists and selling copies of their artworks for half prices.
    • Recently, pop culture icon Ozzy Osbournes NFT collection CryptoBatz went live. People complained about a potential phishing link shared by the artist that was draining their crypto wallets. At least 1,330 people had visited the fake NFT project. An Ethereum wallet address linked to the scammers had received a series of incoming transactions totaling 14.6 ETH ($40,895) on January 20.
  • In order to validate transactions, crypto mining is done, which requires high powered computers that run at a very high capacity, affecting the environment ultimately.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery Swapping Policy


NITI Aayog is holding a consultation on the upcoming electric vehicle (EV) battery swapping policy.


GS III- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is battery swapping?
  2. How will the Battery Swapping Policy work?
  3. Advantages of Battery Swapping
  4. Barriers  to Battery Swapping
  5. About Electric Vehicles:
  6. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020

What is battery swapping?

  • Battery swapping or battery-as-a-service allows EV owners to replace the discharged batteries with charged ones at the swap stations.
  • When the battery is discharged, the owner can change it with a fully charged one. 

How will the Battery Swapping Policy work?

  • The policy is likely to focus on battery swap services for three-wheeled auto rickshaws and two-wheelers such as electric scooters and motorcycles. 
  • Under the policy, EV owners may get incentives of up to 20% on the subscription or lease cost of the battery. 

Advantages of Battery Swapping

  • It will address the problem of setting up charging stations and also reduce range anxiety of drivers.
  • It can help EV owners save the cost of purchasing a battery. 
  • It is less time consuming and takes only a few minutes compared to charging at a battery station which could take hours. 
  • It also requires minimum infrastructure.

Barriers  to Battery Swapping

  • High Cost of Battery (Batteries account for close to 60% of the cost for an e-two-wheeler)
  • Lack of standardization among batteries
  • Unsuitable battery pack design
  • Higher GST on separate batteries (18% versus 5% for EVs) 

About Electric Vehicles:

  • The earlier guidelines and standards were issued by the Ministry of Power in December 2018 and will be superseded by the new guidelines.
  • Lack of charging infrastructure is one of the main reasons behind poor adoption of electric mobility in India.
  • According to a survey by the Economic Times in May 2019, with appropriate infrastructure is in place, 90% car owners in India are willing to switch to EVs.
  • Under the NEMMP 2020, there is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles by the year 2020.
  • At present, EV market penetration is only 1% of total vehicle sales in India, and of that, 95% of sales are electric two-wheelers.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020:

  • It is a National Mission document by Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises providing the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing in the country.
  • As part of the NEMMP 2020, Scheme named Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) was launched in the year 2015 to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure sustainable growth of the same.
  • The Phase-I of this Scheme (FAME I) was initially launched for a period of 2 years and was implemented through four focus areas:
    • Demand Creation,
    • Technology Platform,
    • Pilot Project
    • Charging Infrastructure.
    • It was launched in March 2019 for a period of 3 years.
    • The main objective of the scheme is to encourage faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront incentive on purchase of electric vehicles and also by establishing the necessary charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Norms


The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) inspected a bungalow owned by a Union Minister for alleged violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.


GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article
  1. What are CRZ norms?
  2. Salient Features of CRZ Rules:

What are CRZ norms?

  • In India, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
  • They restrict certain kinds of activities — like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, reclamation and bunding — within a certain distance from the coastline.
  • After the passing of the Environment Protection Act in 1986, CRZ Rules were first framed in 1991.
  • After these were found to be restrictive, the Centre notified new Rules in 2011, which also included exemptions for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport and for projects of the Department of Atomic Energy.
  • In 2018, fresh Rules were issued, which aimed to remove certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.
  • In all Rules, the regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line.
  • While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union environment ministry, implementation is to be ensured by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities.

Salient Features of CRZ Rules 2018:

  • Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas: As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, for CRZ-II (Urban) areas, Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels. In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permit FSI for construction projects, as prevailing on the date of the new Notification. This will enable redevelopment of these areas to meet the emerging needs.
  • Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development: For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have now been stipulated as below:
    • CRZ-III A – These are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the High-tide level (HTL) as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011 since such areas have similar characteristics as urban areas.
    • CRZ-III B – Rural areas with population density of below 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200 meters from the High-tide level (HTL).
  •  Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted: Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the “No Development Zone” (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification. However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities.
  • CRZ Clearances streamlined: The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance.
  •  A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands: For islands close to the main land coast and for all Backwater Islands in the main land, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated.
  •  All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance: Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification.
  •  Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus: In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.
  •  Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.

EU-India Partnership in the Indo-Pacific


Europe and its key Indo-Pacific partners are joining forces to deliver a positive agenda for the region at the ministerial Forum to be held in Paris.


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

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. European Union (EU)
  2. What is the Indo-Pacific Region?
  3. Importance of Indo-Pacific for EU
  4. 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
    • Ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;
    • Enact legislation in justice and home affairs;
    • 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.

What is the Indo-Pacific Region?

  • The “Indo-Pacific” idea was originally conceived in 2006- 07. The term ‘IndoPacific’ combines the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Western Pacific Region (WP) – inclusive of the contiguous seas off East Asia and Southeast Asia – into a singular regional construct.
  • The idea has gained eminence in recent times due to:
    • Increasing geopolitical connect between the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific in both the geo-economics
    • Eastward shift of the world’s economic “centre of gravity” towards the Asian continent .
    • Growing Eminence of India
    • Politico-military aggressiveness of China.
  • Indo Pacific is an inclusive and representative term that reflects the contemporary interconnectedness of trade, technology and supply chains in a wider region.
  • Moreover, the Indo-Pacific is being redefined, ironically, by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), debt-trap diplomacy, fictional territorial claims and a divide-and-rule strategy.
  • Indo Pacific is wider than the “Asia-Pacific” which represented the trans-Pacific strategic and economic impulses after World War II, and was confined to East and South-east Asia.

Importance of Indo-Pacific for EU

  • The issues at stake in this crucial region, including security challenges, are of concern to all EU countries.
  • EU unveiled EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,  in September 2021.
  •  Europe can offer the countries of the region a sustainable, transparent model for preserving their sovereignty, and an alternative to other models, such as China’s.
  • Addressing the connectivity and infrastructure need: There are immense connectivity and infrastructure needs in the Indo-Pacific.
  • But these needs should not force the countries of the region into unsustainable dependencies.
  • The EU’s Global Gateway initiative unveiled in December 2021 hopes to address this by pooling the resources of the EU’s institutions and its 27 member states to raise 300 billion euros to build sustainable links.
  • India’s role: The EU and India have already concluded a Connectivity Partnership (last May in Porto), which can be a pillar of this wider initiative.
  • The Indo-Pacific is a crucial region for tackling global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity protection and health resilience. 
  • At the Forum, the EU will present the support it can provide to countries of the region, including in terms of green finance, to achieve their ecological transitions in a just manner.
  • The ministers will also discuss concrete steps to strengthen health sovereignty and promote the “One Health” approach to the pandemic response.

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.


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