India’s Vulnerability to Drought


 A United Nations report has revealed that many parts of India fall under the list of regions that are vulnerable to drought globally. The report also stated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reduced by 2 to 5% between 1998 and 2017 due to severe droughts in the country. Globally, droughts in the same period caused economic losses of approximately $124 billion.


GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Drought?
  2. What is the Drought in Numbers report?
  3. What is COP15?
  4. What does the report entail?
  5. Impact of drought
  6. What are the environmental aspects?

What is Drought?

Drought is a period when there is a shortage of water availability due to inadequate precipitation, excessive rate of evaporation and over-utilisation of water from the reservoirs and other storages, including the ground water.

Types of Droughts

  • Meteorological Drought : It is a situation when there is a prolonged period of inadequate rainfall marked with loss distribution of the rain for long time
  • Agricultural Drought  : It is also known as soil moisture drought,  it is characterised by low soil moisture which is necessary to support the crops, thereby resulting in crop failures.
  • Hydrological Drought : It results when the availability of water in different storages and reservoirs like aquifers, lakes, reservoirs, etc. falls below what the precipitation can replenish.
  • Ecological Drought : it results When the productivity of a natural ecosystem diminishes due to shortage of water and as a consequence of ecological distress, damages are induced in the ecosystem.

What is the Drought in Numbers report?

  • The Drought in Numbers report is a collection of data on the effects of droughts on our ecosystem and how they can be mitigated through efficient planning for the future.
  • The report also helps inform negotiations surrounding key decisions by the UNCCD’s 197 member parties at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15), currently underway in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Drought, land restoration, and related aspects such as land rights, gender equality and youth empowerment are among the top considerations at COP15.
  • The number and duration of droughts around the world has increased by an alarming 29% since 2000.

What is COP15?

  • UNCCD’s COP15 focuses on desertification, land degradation, and drought, with the theme for the conference being “Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity.”
  • The conference has brought together government representatives, private sector members, and civil society stakeholders to ensure that land continues to benefit present and future generations.

What does the report entail?

  • According to World Bank estimates, drought conditions can force up to 216 million people to migrate by 2050. Weather, climate and water hazards have accounted for 50% of all disasters and 45% of all reported deaths since 1970, the World Meteorological Organisation data has revealed.
    • Nine in ten of these deaths have occurred in developing countries.
  • Between 2020 and 2022, 23 countries have faced drought emergencies.
  • According to the report, climate change alone will cause 129 countries to experience an increase in drought exposure in the next few decades.
  • Africa was the worst hit, with 134 droughts, of which 70 occurred in East Africa.

Impact of drought:

  • The impact of drought is, however, not uniform across genders.
  • Research shows that women and girls in emerging and developing countries suffer more in terms of education levels, nutrition, health, sanitation, and safety as a result of droughts.
  • The burden of water collection also disproportionately falls on women (72%) and girls (9%). The report notes that they may spend up to 40% of their caloric intake fetching water.
  • In 2022, over 2.3 billion people are facing water stress. Almost 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.

What are the environmental aspects?

  • The largest increase in drought losses is projected in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic regions of Europe.
  • Australia’s megadrought in 2019-2020 contributed to “megafires” resulting in one of the most extensive losses of habitat for threatened species.
  • About three billion animals were killed or displaced in the Australian wildfires.
  • Around 12 million hectares of land are lost each year due to drought and desertification.

Supreme Court Frees Perarivalan


In ordering the release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A G Perarivalan, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai invoked the extraordinary power conferred on the court under Article 142 of the Constitution.


GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Article 142 of the Constitution?
  2. Background: Timeline of the legal battle for Perarivalan’s release
  3. President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72
  4. Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161
  5. Types of Pardon’s by the Governor
  6. Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President

What is Article 142 of the Constitution?

  • Article 142 provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court.
  • Subsection 1 of Article 142 (“Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and orders as to discovery, etc.”) says “the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.”

Background: Timeline of the legal battle for Perarivalan’s release

  • A pardon plea was filed by Perarivalan before the Tamil Nadu Governor in 2015.
  • In 2018, the SC asked the Governor to decide the pardon plea as he “deemed fit”.
  • The Tamil Nadu Cabinet had recommended to the Governor to release Perarivalan and six others in 2018 itself.
  • The cabinet decision to remit sentences of all seven convicts, including Perarivalan, was welcomed by all political parties in the state.
  • But the Governor chose to take time and hence the cabinet’s decision is pending.
  • In 2020, the Madras High Court said that Tamil Nadu Governor cannot sit on the state government’s recommendation for so long and reminded that there is no time limit prescribed for the constitutional authority (Governor) to decide on such issues only “because of the faith and trust attached to the constitutional post”.

President’s Pardoning Power: Article 72

  • Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.
Important Points regarding Pardoning power of the President of India
  • The President cannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government.
  • In several cases, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers while deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994.
  • Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article74 (1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once. If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.

Governor’s Pardoning Power: Article 161

Similar to the Pardoning Power of the President, pardoning power of the Governor grants the following:

  • Pardon
  • Respite
  • Remission
  • Reprieve
  • Commute

Article 161:

The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

Types of Pardon’s by the Governor


  • When the Governor pardons, both the sentence and the conviction of the convict completely absolve the sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the punishment by court-martial.
  • The Governor cannot pardon the death sentence which only the Indian President can do.


  • When the Governor uses his pardoning power of ‘Respite’, he chooses to award a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded to the convict.
  • For example, due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender, the President can use this power.


  • When the Governor chooses the pardoning power of ‘Reprieve’; he stays the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period.
  • By doing this, he enables the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from him.


  • When the President chooses the pardoning power of Remit, he acts to reduce the period of the sentence but the character of the sentence remains the same.
  • For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year but the imprisonment remains rigorous.


  • Governor can commute the punishment or sentence of any person convicted of any offence against a state law or he can commute a death sentence.

Difference between Pardoning Powers of Governor and the President

He can pardon a sentence of the convict given by the court-martial or the military courtGovernor does not have the power to pardon the sentence inflicted by the court-martial on the convict
The President can also pardon the death sentence through commutation or in its entirety.Governor cannot pardon the death sentence even if the said sentence has been prescribed under the state law. However, he can suspend, remit or commute the death sentence by using these pardoning powers.
His pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a Union lawHis pardoning powers are granted for the cases where the convict has committed an offence against a state law

Hence, the scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161

National Policy on Biofuels


The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, to advance the date by which fuel companies have to increase the percentage of ethanol in petrol to 20%, from 2030 to 2025.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Policy on Biofuels
  2. What is Ethanol fuel?
  3. Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)
  4. Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025
  5. Advantages of Ethanol Blending 

National Policy on Biofuels

  • In order to promote biofuels in the country, first National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.
  • National Policy on Biofuels -2018 builds on the achievements of the earlier National Policy on Biofuels setting new agenda consistent with the redefined role of emerging developments in the renewable sector aiming to bring in renewed focus taking into context the international perspectives and National scenario.
  • The policy envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of bio-diesel in diesel by 2030.
  • The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee – so that farmers get appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
The following are the main amendments approved to the National Policy on Biofuels:
  • to allow more feedstocks for production of biofuels,
  • to advance the ethanol blending target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol to ESY 2025-26 from 2030,
  • to promote the production of biofuels in the country, under the Make in India program, by units located in Special Economic Zones (SEZ)/ Export Oriented Units (EoUs),
  • to add new members to the NBCC.
  • to grant permission for export of biofuels in specific cases, and
  • to delete/amend certain phrases in the Policy in line with decisions taken during the meetings of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
What is the present status of ethanol blending in India?
  • India achieved 9.45% ethanol blending as on March 13, 2022, according to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
  • The Centre projects that this will reach 10% by the end of financial year 2022.
  • The government first announced its plans of advancing the 20% blending target in December 2020.

What is Ethanol fuel?

  • Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
  • It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
  • Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
  • Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks.
  • It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
  • There has been considerable debate about how useful bioethanol is in replacing gasoline.
  • Concerns about its production and use relate to increased food prices due to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production, especially from corn.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • Although the Government of India decided to launch EBP programme in 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol, it later scaled up blending targets from 5% to 10% under the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).
  • The Government of India has also advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025

  • The central government has released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025 that proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.
  • The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) had instituted an Expert Group to study the issues such as pricing of ethanol, matching pace of the automobile industry to manufacture vehicles with new engines with the supply of ethanol, pricing of such vehicles, fuel efficiency of different engines etc.

Advantages of Ethanol Blending

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were, however, higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. However, these emissions were relatively lower.
  • Increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at USD 551 billion in 2020-21. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • The oil companies procure ethanol from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  • Further, the government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


A team of scientists from Australia have found that babies at risk of the mysterious Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, generally have low levels of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) in their blood.


GS II- Polity and Governance (Health and Education)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
  2. What is the BChE enzyme responsible for?

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome  refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise healthy infant under the age of one, generally while they are sleeping.
  • Most SIDS-related deaths occur in infants between the age of 1-4 months.
  • According to the NHS website, parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born and ensuring that the baby is placed on their back when they sleep.
  • SIDS, also known as ‘cot death’, has claimed the lives of thousands of children across the West.
  • In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year.
  • Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reports about 200 such deaths annually, according to NHS data.
  • The illness, however, is shrouded in mystery — experts have been unable to identify what causes the deadly disease.
  • While the Australian study could potentially pave the way for early intervention and diagnosis, health experts warn there is still a long way to go before the true cause of SIDS is identified.

What is the BChE enzyme responsible for?

  • These enzymes are responsible for sending out signals that make a baby wake up, turn her head, or gasp for breath.
  • It is part of the autonomic system, and controls functions like blood pressure and breathing.
  • The study refers to earlier research, which showed that animals in contact with second-hand smoke tend to exhibit lower BChE levels.
  • It notes that several other factors and changes in the first six month of an infant’s life can also contribute to low levels of these enzymes.

Sela Tunnel


The strategically-significant Sela Tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh is nearing completion.


GS III- Indian Economy (Infrastructure)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Sela Pass Tunnel Project
  2. Why is the project important?
  3. Significance of the tunnel

About Sela Pass Tunnel Project

  • The Sela Tunnel Project is located West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, the tunnel project will provide an alternate axis to the Sela pass, which is at 13,700 feet. It will be on the BCT Road – the Balipara, Charduar and Tawang axis, which is more than 300 km long. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 700 crore.
  • The project, being executed by the Border Roads Organisation, includes two tunnels and a link road.
  • While Tunnel 1 will be 980 metres long single-tube, Tunnel 2 will be 1,555 metres with one bi-lane tube for traffic and one escape tube for emergencies running alongside.
  • The link road between the two tunnels will be 1,200 metres.
  • Tunnel 2 will be one of the longest tunnels to have been constructed above an altitude of over 13,000 feet.
  • The project also involves construction of an approach road of 7 km to Tunnel 1, which takes off from BCT Road, and a link road of 1.3 km, which connects Tunnel 1 to Tunnel 2.
  • The total length of the project, including the tunnels, the approach and the link roads, will be around 12 km.

Why is the project important?

  • All-weather connectivity to Tawang and other forward areas in the sector will be the most important advantage that the project promises.
  • The project will provide a new alignment on the axis towards the LAC, and allow movement of military and civil vehicles all through the year.
  • ime that will be saved during travel, it is the ability to cross the area during winters that matters the most.

Significance of the tunnel

  • China is undertaking massive infrastructure development and troop build-up in the Rest of Arunachal Pradesh (RALP) area.
  • In military parlance, the RALP is an area in Arunachal Pradesh other than the Kameng area.
  • Other than the Kameng area consisting of East and West Kameng districts, the rest of the State is referred to by the Army as the RALP.


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