Air India inks Landmark Aviation Deal

In News

  • Air India of Tata Group orders the largest ever Airbus and Boeing planes deal to overhaul its flight capacity.


  • Air India has recently signed letters of intent with Airbus and Boeing for a total of 470 new aircraft, including 70 wide-body planes for long-haul flights.
  • The orders involve 40 Airbus A350, 20 Boeing 787 and 10 Boeing 777-9 wide-body aircraft, along with 210 Airbus A320 and A321neo and 190 Boeing 737 MAX single-aisle planes.
  • This deal has the potential to rank among the biggest by a single airline in terms of volume, easily topping $100 billion at list prices, including options.
  • The first new planes will enter service in late 2023, with the bulk arriving starting mid-2025.
  • The deal was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, and French President Emmanuel Macron as a symbol of deeper partnership between the countries.
  • Previously, Tata Group and Singapore Airlines had inked the Vistara deal to merge Air India and Vistara is targeted for completion by March 2024.
  • India is the world’s fastest-growing airline market, and this deal would contribute to the government’s goal of making India a $5 trillion economy.

Important features of Aviation Deals

  • This is the largest-ever pipeline of new aircraft ordered by an Indian airline.
  • The deal comes at a time when India has been facing diplomatic pressure from the West over its imports of Russian oil and there is a push to boost domestic manufacturing as part of a broader supply chain realignment after the Covid pandemic.
  • The Air India and Airbus deal is a “landmark agreement” and an “important achievement” for the India-France strategic partnership.
  • The Air India-Boeing agreement for “over 200 American-made aircraft is expected to support over one million American jobs across 44 states and reflects the strength of the US-India economic partnership.

Aviation Industry of India

  • The Indian aviation industry is still attracting investments from the government and private sectors, despite being loss-making.
  • At present, Indian Airlines market is dominated by w IndiGo with a share of 58.8% followed by Vistara (10.4%), and Air India (8.4%)
  • India is the world’s third-largest air passenger market after China and the United States.
  • In FY22 alone, India’s passenger traffic accounted for nearly 189 million, with domestic passenger traffic accounting for over 166 million and international passenger traffic accounting for 22 million.
  • The Indian aviation sector is expected to touch 400 million passengers annually in 7-10 years while the government expects the number of air travellers to grow to 40 crores by 2027.
  • Despite the pandemic, domestic airlines have continued to add new aircraft to their fleets, and the overall fleet size is expected to almost double to 1,200 in 5 years.

Major challenges

  • High operating costs: Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) prices account for almost 45% of the operational cost of an Indian airline while the fuel costs for Indian airlines are also significantly higher compared to their global peers.
  • Currency fluctuations: Almost 35-50% of Indian airlines’ operating expenses are dominated by US dollars and added to it, the depreciation in the rupee adversely impacts an airline’s bottom-line growth.
  • Competition: The Indian aviation industry is highly competitive, with several established players and new entrants vying for market share.
  • Price war: The government has removed the cap and floor on airfares for airlines, which may ignite a price war among the air titans.
  • Infrastructure constraints: The number of operational airports in India is limited, and the existing infrastructure is under strain due to the rapid growth in air traffic.
  • Debt and losses: Due to the pandemic and rising operating costs, Indian airlines have recorded significant losses in recent years with elevated debt levels and losses to several aviation companies in India.
  • Regulatory challenges: The Indian aviation sector is subject to several regulations and policies, which often impacts the growth and profitability of airlines.

Importance of Aviation sector

  • Economic growth: The aviation sector supports several other industries like tourism, hospitality, and trade, and contributes significantly to the country’s GDP creating job opportunities and stimulates economic development.
  • Connectivity: It plays a vital role in connecting the vast geographical expanse of India enabling people and goods to move quickly and efficiently across the country, which is crucial for the development of remote and rural areas.
  • Globalization: With the increasing globalization of the world, the aviation sector has become a critical enabler of international trade, investment, and cultural exchange. 
  • National security: The aviation sector facilitates the movement of military personnel and equipment, helps in disaster relief operations, and provides a platform for surveillance and intelligence gathering.

Way Ahead

  • The Indian aviation sector is essential for the country’s economic growth, social development, and national security. 
  • The deal will play a critical role in connecting India with the rest of the world, facilitating trade and cultural exchange.

Source: IE

Exercise ‘Dharma Guardian’

In News 

  • Exercise ‘DHARMA Guardian-2023’ was held between India and Japan at Belgaum, Karnataka.


  • The exercise was held to share experiences gained during operations, in order to enhance interoperability in the planning and execution of various operations in jungle & semi-urban/ urban terrain.
  • The Year 2022 also marks 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

India-Japan Defence Relations

  • India-Japan Defense and Security partnership forms a central pillar of bilateral ties. It has gained strength in recent years due to growing convergence on strategic matters and the increasing significance of a common outlook on issues of peace, security and stability.
  • Exercises:
    • India-Japan participates in comprehensive  Tri-Service Exchanges resulting in regular armed forces staff talks between the two countries.
    • Indian Navy and JMSDF participate frequently in
      • Bilateral exercises such as JIMEX, Bilateral Maritime Exercises and Passage Exercises.
      • Multilateral exercises such as MILAN, MALABAR 
    • Indian Army – JGSDF participates in the bilateral exercise Dharma Guardian annually.
    • 2023 saw the inaugural  ‘Veer Guardian’ involving precise planning and skilful execution by the air forces of India and Japan.

Significance of Japan

  • Japan’s manufacturing strength can help in the growth of the Indian indigenous defence industry.
  • India can utilize Japanese experience in building border infrastructure.
  • India receives large developmental assistance from Japan for special projects. Example: Bullet Train Project.
  • Convergent Factors :
    • Open  Indo-Pacific: An open and thriving Indo-Pacific is important for the development and welfare of both countries.
    • Hegemonic China: China’s growing military capabilities and assertiveness on territorial disputes are concerns for India and Japan.
    • US role in Asia: Growing uncertainty over America’s future role in Asia calls the two nations into action to protect and preserve the rules-based order in their neighbourhood.

Way forward 

  • By building on common interests,the Indo-Japanese relationship can reshape the Asian landscape and help in securing an open and secure Indo-Pacific.

Source: TH

Unique Ring found around a Dwarf Planet

In News

  • Astronomers discover a ring around the dwarf planet Quaoar in the Kuiper Belt.


  • In a recent study done by Bruno Morgado of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Bruno Sicardy of the Paris Observatory, a ring was founded positioned much further away from the planet than is usual.
  • The ring lies far away from the Roche limit, a mathematically determined distance beyond which rings aren’t supposed to exist.
  • The finding defies theoretical explanations and may force astronomers to rethink the laws governing planetary rings.
  • With an estimated radius of 555 km, Quaoar is roughly half the size of Pluto and orbits beyond Neptune.
  • The dwarf planet passed in front of four stars, allowing researchers to observe the shadow of the eclipses and the dimming of the starlight before and after the star blinked out, indicating a ring obscuring part of the light

How was the ring discovered?

  • Researchers detected the ring using a phenomenon called stellar occultation, which occurs when a bright star passes behind a planet.
  • Quaoar is located about 4 billion miles from the Sun and is roughly half the size of Pluto.
  • It has a moon called Weywot and is too small and distant to be observed directly.
  • Quaoar was observed for three years (2018-2021) using Earth-based and space-based telescopes

What is the Roche limit?

  • It is the mathematically determined distance beyond which rings around a celestial body are not supposed to exist.
  • It is named after Édouard Roche, a French astronomer who discovered the limit in 1848.
  • The Roche limit is applicable to any planet and the celestial bodies around it
  • It is the minimum distance at which a celestial body disintegrates and turns into a ring.

What is the Kuiper Belt?

  • It is a region in the outer solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune that is home to many small, icy objects.
  • It is named after Gerard Kuiper, who first proposed the existence of this region in 1951.
  • The Kuiper Belt is believed to be the source of many comets that periodically enter the inner solar system.
  • Some of the most famous objects in the Kuiper Belt include Pluto, Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and several others.
  • The study of the Kuiper Belt and its objects provides valuable information about the early history and formation of the solar system.

Why is Quaoar’s ring unusual?

  • The ring is located 2,500 miles away from Quaoar, which is 1,400 miles further away from the Roche limit than expected.
  • According to the researchers, particles of the ring should have come together to form a moon at such a distance.
  • The distance between Quaoar and its ring raises questions about how the ring has managed to remain stable.

Possible explanations for Quaoar’s far-out ring

  • The researchers suggest that Quaoar’s moon, Weywot, or some other unseen moon contributes gravity that somehow holds the ring stable
  • Another potential explanation is that the particles of the ring are colliding with each other in such a way that they are avoiding coalescing into a moon.

Way Ahead

  • The discovery of Quaoar’s ring raises the possibility of discovering more rings around smaller planets in the outer solar system
  • The findings may prompt a rethinking of planetary ring laws and expand our understanding of planetary ring systems

Source: IE

Raising ITBP Strength & Vibrant Village Programme


  • Recentlythe Union Cabinet approved the following decisions:
    • Raising seven new ITBP battalions thus inducting an additional 9000 troops.
    • Allocated ?4,800 crores under the Vibrant Village Programme (VVP) to stop migration and boost tourism in villages bordering China.
    • Cleared a proposal for a 4.1 km Shinku-La tunnel on the Manali Darcha-Padum-Nimmu axis to allow all-weather connectivity to Ladakh.


  • The decision will increase the strength of the ITBP from the current 88,000 to 97,000, making it the fourth-largest Central Armed Police Force (CAPF). The step aimed at strengthening the security grid on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The decision to raise additional battalions was taken keeping an eye on the need for effective monitoring in the border areas.

What are the challenges along the China border?

  • Territorial Disputes: India and China have several territorial disputes along their border, which has led to frequent stand-offs and tensions. 
  • Infrastructure Challenges:  The Border region is rugged, steep, and inhospitable, which makes it difficult to build and maintain infrastructure. This includes roads, railways, airports, and other necessary infrastructure for both civilian and military purposes.
  • Military Build-up: China is aggressively increasing its military presence as seen in Doklam and Galwan valley
  • Lack of Development: Areas along the border are underdeveloped, with poor infrastructure for basic amenities like electricity, water, and healthcare. 
  • Modern Warfare tactics used by China like Cyberthreats, drone attacks, use of malware to infiltrate security networks.
  • Economic Imbalance: China has a trade surplus of $69 billion creating a significant economic imbalance that has led to political pressures influencing India’s foreign policy.

What is the Vibrant Village Programme?

  • The centrally sponsored village development scheme was first announced in the 2022 Budget.
  • It will cover the border areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh.
  • It will cover 2,963 villages with 663 of them to be covered in the first phase. The total outlay is for financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26.
  • There will not be an overlap with the Border Area Development Programme.
  • The scheme aids to identify and develop the economic drivers based on local natural human and other resources of the border villages on the northern border and the development of growth centres on the “Hub and Spoke Model” through promotion of social entrepreneurship, empowerment of youth and women through skill development and entrepreneurship, leveraging the tourism potential through the promotion of local cultural, traditional knowledge and heritage and development of sustainable eco-agribusinesses on the concept of “One village-One product” through community-based organisations, Cooperatives, SHGs, NGOs etc.

Shinku-La tunnel 

  • The Shinku La Tunnel will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,681 crore to provide all-weather connectivity in Ladakh.
  • The tunnel will be completed by December 2025.
  • The Shinku-la that connects Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul valley with the Zanskar valley in the Union Territory of Ladakh takes the route across Darcha-Shinkula-Padum-Nimu and is an alternative that connects Leh Ladakh with the state of Himachal Pradesh.
                           Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) ForceITBP was raised in 1962, for reorganizing the frontier intelligence and security setup along the Indo-Tibetan border.In 1992, parliament enacted the ITBPF Act, and in the year 2004, the entire stretch of the India-China Border comprising 3488 Km was assigned to the ITBP for Border Guarding duty.With additional tasks entrusted to ITBP from time to time on border guarding, counter-insurgency, and internal security roles, the number of ITBP Battalions increased gradually

Moderating Current Account Deficit (CAD)

In News

  • The recent data indicated that the current account deficit (CAD) will moderate despite the global slowdown triggered by rising inflation and interest rates.

About the recent trend of moderation

  • About:
    • According to the RBI, the CAD, which was at $36.4 billion for the quarter ending September 2022, is expected to moderate in the second half of 2022-23 and remain eminently manageable and within the parameters of viability. 
  • The moderation in CAD, expected to be aided by 
    • The fall in commodity prices, 
    • Rising worker’s remittances and services exports, and 
    • Abatement of selling pressure by foreign investors, is set to boost sentiment on the investment front, as it will also bring the pressure off the currency.
More about CADMeaning:When the value of the goods and services that a country imports exceed the value of the products it exports, it is called the current account deficit. Twin deficits:CAD and the fiscal deficit together make up the twin deficits – the enemies of the stock market and investors. Difference with the Balance of Trade:It is slightly different from the Balance of Trade, which measures only the gap in earnings and expenditure on exports and imports of goods and services. Whereas, the current account also factors in the payments from domestic capital deployed overseas. For example, rental income from an Indian owning a house in the UK would be computed in the Current Account, but not in the Balance of Trade.Significance:If the current account – the country’s trade and transactions with other countries – shows surplus, that indicates money is flowing into the country, boosting the foreign exchange reserves and the value of rupee against the dollar. These are factors that will have ramifications on the economy and the stock markets as well as on returns on investments by people.Indicator of Economy:CAD may be a positive or negative indicator for an economy depending upon why it is running a deficit. Foreign capital is seen to have been used to finance investments in many economies. It may help a debtor nation in the short-term, but it may worry in the long-term as investors begin raising concerns over adequate return on their investments.India’s position:India’s current account position is largely on the deficit side because of the country’s dependence on oil imports. Ways of reducing CAD:The Current Account Deficit can be reduced by boosting exports and curbing non-essential imports such as gold, mobiles, and electronics.About the “Current Account”A nation’s Current Account maintains a record of the country’s transactions with other nations. It comprises the following components:trade of goods and services,net earnings on overseas investments and net transfer of payments over a period of time, such as remittancesThis account goes into a deficit when money sent outward exceeds that coming inward.Calculation:It is measured as a percentage of GDP.Trade gap = Exports – Imports.Current Account = Trade gap + Net current transfers + Net income abroad.

Reasons for narrowing trade deficit

  • The trade deficit (for Jan 2023) narrowed to $17.7 billion, led by a sharp fall in imports, while exports fell by a smaller amount
  • The sharp drop in imports was due to: 
    • Non-oil imports falling, mainly due to a price impact (softening in coal prices from mid-December), 
    • Likely softening in domestic demand post the festive season (such as lower imports of transport equipment), and 
    • Seasonal impact of the Chinese New Year holidays
  • Other factors:
    • On the other hand, after the Rs26,000 crore sell-off by foreign portfolio investors in January, FPI outflows have come down to Rs4,400 crore in February so far. 
    • At the same time, gold imports fell to $20 billion from $23.9 billion a year ago.

Impact of moderating CAD on market

  • While rising CAD raises concerns among investors as it hurts the currency and thereby the inflow of funds into the markets, a notable decline in CAD in January has improved market sentiments.
  • Experts believe that CAD is very important for the currency. The value of an economy hinges a lot on the value of its currency and thereby, it also supports the equity markets by keeping the fund flow intact.

Source: IE

Aadi Mahotsav

In News

  • The Prime Minister inaugurated Aadi Mahotsav, the mega National Tribal Festival in Delhi.

About Aadi Mahotsav

  • It is an attempt to showcase tribal culture on the national stage and it celebrates the spirit of tribal culture, crafts, cuisine, commerce, and traditional art.
  • It is an annual initiative of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation Limited (TRIFED) under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

The Event Showcased

  • Gift items presented to PM: Pashmina Wool from Ladakh, Patchitra paintingDhokara Sculpture from Chattisgarh, and  Shree Anna basket
  • Dance Performances: 
    • Bagurumba of Assam
    • Panthi Dance of Chhattisgarh 
    • Gusadi of Telangana
    • Baiga Pardhauni of Madhya Pradesh 
    • Tamang Selo of Sikkim
    • Siddhi Dhamal of Gujarat
    • Purulia Chhau of West Bengal
    • Harul dance of Uttarakhand


  • The PM emphasized that the Aadi Mahotsav is giving strength to the unity in diversity of India while giving impetus to the idea of development with heritage..
  • The special focus will be on showcasing Shree Anna, a recent government nomenclature for millets grown by tribals since 2023 is being celebrated as the International Year of Millets.
                                                                TRIFEDIt is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. It acts as a facilitator and service provider for tribes to sell their productIt aims to empower tribal people with knowledge, tools, and a pool of information so that they can undertake their operations in a more systematic and scientific manner.Its objective is the socio-economic development of tribal people in the country by way of marketing development of the tribal products such as metal craft, tribal textiles, pottery, tribal paintings, and pottery on which the tribals depend heavily for a major portion of their income.

India accounts for 52% of world’s new leprosy patients

In Context

  • The Union Health Ministry has formulated the National Strategic Plan and Roadmap for Leprosy 2023-2027 for achieving zero cases of leprosy infection by 2030.


  • According to the Union Health Ministry, despite India being declared “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005, the country still accounts for about 52% of the world’s new leprosy patients.
  • It is noted that earlier gains made in the leprosy programme in India were reversed during the COVID-19 pandemic as case detection dropped significantly and the decline in detection has led to an increase in patients with grade 2 disabilities.
  • States such as Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu have either one or more districts (total 82 districts) which are yet to achieve leprosy elimination target and account for over 90% of cases in the country.


  • About:
    • Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection, which affects the skin, nerves, lungs and eyes.
    • Also known as Hansen’s disease, it is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria. 
  • Symptoms:
    • It can be recognized by the appearance of patches of skin that may look lighter or darker than the normal skin.
    • Sometimes the affected skin areas may be reddish. Loss of feeling in these skin patches is common.
  • Transmission:
    • It  is a communicable infection, which means it may spread from person to person. The most common route of transmission is. however, through nasal secretions
  • Treatment:
    • It is easily treated with a combination of antibiotics like Dapsone, Clofazimine, and Rifampicin.

National Leprosy Eradication Programme 

  • The National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) is a Centrally Sponsored Health Scheme.
  • It has been implemented with the major objective of reducing the disease burden, preventing disability and improving awareness among the mass about Leprosy and its curability.
  • “Leprosy-free India” is the vision of the NLEP.
World Leprosy DayWorld Leprosy Day is observed globally on the last Sunday of January each year.The World Health Organization (WHO) announced “Act Now. End Leprosy.” as its theme for World Leprosy Day 2023.The theme stresses three main points: one, that elimination of leprosy is possible; two: that immediate action is required, that includes resources and commitment; and third that leprosy is preventable and treatable

International Centre of Excellence for Dams (ICED)

In News

  • The Central Water Commission signs an agreement with IIT Roorkee for the development of an international centre of excellence for dams under the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project.


  • ICED, Roorkee will provide specialized technical support services to the Indian and overseas dam owners
  • It will also carry out applied research, education, and technology transfer in dam safety management at local, regional, national, and international levels.

Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP)

  • It was launched by the Central Water Commission (CWC) with assistance from the World Bank in 2012 to improve the safety and operational performance of existing dams in a sustainable manner.
  • It aims to bridge the funding gap and provide urgent finance to States for the repair and maintenance of Dams
  • Water Resources Departments and State Electricity Boards in the participating States and Central Water Commission at Central Level are the implementing agencies.

Source: PIB

Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR)

In News

  • Recently, the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Indian Overseas Bank raised their marginal cost of fund-based lending rates (MCLR) by up to 15 basis points.

Marginal Cost of Funds-Based Lending Rate

  • It was instituted by RBI with effect from April 1, 2016. It replaced the base rate structure, which had been in place since July 2010.
  • It is the lowest interest rate that a bank or lender can offer. The final rate of lending also includes risk premium and spreads charged by banks.
  • It is applicable to fresh corporate loans and floating rate loans taken before October 2019.
    • RBI had then switched to the external benchmark linked lending rate (EBLR) system where the lending rate is linked to benchmark rates like repo or Treasury Bill rates.
  • Aims and objectives
    • To improve the transmission of policy rates into the lending rates of banks.
    • To bring transparency in the methodology followed by banks for determining interest rates on advances.
    • To ensure the availability of bank credit at interest rates which are fair to borrowers as well as banks.
    • To enable banks to become more competitive and enhance their long-run value and contribution to economic growth.


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