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23rd August 2023


Not the new NAM


The brief focuses on the significance, challenges, and geopolitical implications of the BRICS forum's expansion and its role in global politics, primarily driven by China's and Russia's interests.

BRICS Expansion and Challenges:

  • Numerical Expansion Not Enough: Expanding BRICS membership may not enhance its efficiency as larger numbers can dilute coherence and amplify bilateral differences.
  • Managing Bilateral Conflicts: The presence of conflicting nations like India-Pakistan and India-China can hinder effective coordination within BRICS, similar to limitations faced by other regional forums.
  • Impact on Effectiveness: The ongoing conflict between India and China in Ladakh has cast a shadow over BRICS, limiting its ability to address global challenges collectively.

Geopolitical Motivations of China and Russia:

  • China's and Russia's Intentions: China champions BRICS expansion to mobilize the non-Western world for its rivalry with the US, while Russia also used it to balance against the West.
  • BRICS as a Bipolar Platform: China and Russia aim to transform BRICS into a platform for challenging Western dominance, turning it into a bipolar confrontation with the West.
  • Misconceptions About the Global South: Associating BRICS with the Global South overlooks its origins and evolution, as the forum is led by one of the competing power blocs - the Sino-Russian alliance.

BRICS as a Geopolitical Tool:

  • Geopolitical Significance: Many nations seek BRICS membership to enhance their bargaining power in negotiations with the US, rather than being motivated by ideological concerns.
  • Political Posturing: Post-colonial elites use the anti-Western rhetoric of BRICS to demonstrate strength, but their focus is more on asserting their interests than ideological alignment.
  • Outcome and Importance: While China and Russia may gain some ground in their geopolitical battles through BRICS, their successes are overshadowed by challenges in their own regions and globally.
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A strong case to restore Section 8(4) of the RP Act


The recent disqualification of Rahul Gandhi, based on his conviction and imprisonment in a defamation case, has brought attention to the legal complexities and implications associated with the disqualification of sitting legislators in India. The focus is on the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act 1951.

Disqualification and Legal Framework:

  • Instant Disqualification and Lily Thomas Case: The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi based on his conviction in a defamation case raised questions about the legal basis of instant disqualification for sitting legislators. The Supreme Court's judgment in Lily Thomas vs Union of India (2013) invalidated Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act 1951, removing the three-month appeal window before disqualification took effect.
  • Section 8(3) and Disqualification: With the removal of Section 8(4), only Section 8(3) remains, which stipulates that a person convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years shall be disqualified from the date of conviction. The wording does not explicitly indicate an immediate disqualification upon the court's pronouncement of guilt.
  • Disqualification Authority and Presidential Role: The authority to declare a sitting legislator disqualified might lie with the President of India under Article 103. While the Supreme Court rejected this proposition in Lily Thomas, the Consumer Education & Research ... vs Union Of India & Ors (2009) held that the President's declaration is necessary for disqualification.

Legal Implications and Challenges:

  • Staying of Sentence and Conviction: The question arises whether the stay of only sentence or the stay of conviction itself is required to lift the disqualification. Different High Courts have held differing views on this issue, adding complexity to the interpretation of disqualification.
  • Quantum of Sentence and Disqualification: Disqualification hinges on the imprisonment term being two years or more. The recent case of Rahul Gandhi emphasized this connection, highlighting that the disqualification's trigger is the sentence length, not just the conviction itself.
  • Career Impact and Urgent Attention: Instant disqualification can significantly affect legislators' careers, especially given the slow pace of appeals and legal proceedings. There's a need to address this issue urgently to ensure the stability of legislators' careers and prevent abrupt disqualifications.
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Building resilience against landslides


The Himachal Pradesh landslides highlight Himalayan ecosystem vulnerabilities. This crisis calls for a collaboration among the Himalayan states for disaster management and sustainable development.

Challenges of the Himalayan Ecosystem:

  • Fragile Ecosystem: The Himalayas, a young and dynamic mountain range, face vulnerability due to tectonic activities, erosion, weathering, and climatic events like heavy precipitation.
  • Climate-Induced Hazards: Increasing avalanches, landslides, floods, and glacial lake outbursts are worsened by freezing/thawing and heavy rain/snow, endangering the region.
  • Human Impact: Anthropogenic activities exacerbate stress on the Himalayas, necessitating resilience-building against natural and human-induced hazards.

Resilience Measures and Early Warning:

  • Technological Solutions: Implementing sensor networks, real-time monitoring, and AI/ML-based Early Warning Systems (EWS) can aid in anticipating and managing geo-hazards.
  • Climate Change Impact: Glacial changes, river systems, and biodiversity shifts due to climate change increase the susceptibility of Himalayan states to disasters.
  • Risk Assessment: Creating vulnerability maps based on slope factors, hydrology, and geological conditions can categorize regions as most, moderately, or least vulnerable, aiding targeted strategies.

Integrated Approach for Sustainable Development:

  • Subsurface Stresses: Plate convergence has led to earthquakes and rock movements, necessitating landslide warning systems using rainfall thresholds and advanced monitoring tools.
  • Collaborative Governance: Establishing a Council of Himalayan States can pool resources to assess natural processes, climate impacts, and disaster management strategies.
  • Balanced Development: Utilizing the region's resources for socioeconomic growth requires ecological sustainability, considering town planning, infrastructure, and adherence to building codes.
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Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) Launched


India’s road and car safety just received mass acceleration as the government launched the much-awaited Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (Bharat NCAP), India’s homegrown vehicle safety rating system.

What is Bharat NCAP?

  • The Bharat NCAP is India’s very own automobile safety performance assessment programme.
  • In this programme, vehicles sold in the domestic market will be tested and graded on several measures.
  • Aim:to enhance road safety by elevating vehicle safety standards for up to 3.5-tonne vehicles in India.
  • With the launch of this programme, India becomes the fifth country in the world – behind the United States, China, Japan and South Korea – to have its dedicated car crash safety program.
  • The Bharat NCAP is aligned with global crash test protocols. Incidentally, until now, India relied on Global NCAP, which performs ‘voluntary’ crash tests of cars to give them a rating out of five.

Global NCAP

  • In 2011, a UK-based charity Towards Zero Foundation formed the Global NCAP to enhance cooperation among the various NCAPs and promote vehicle crash-testing and reporting in emerging markets.

How will it work?

  • Applicability: It will be applicable to all passenger vehicles that can seat up to eight people and weigh less than 3.5 tonnes, starting from 1 October.
  • In addition to petrol and diesel vehicles, Bharat NCAP could also offer tests and safety ratings for CNG and hybrid cars.
  • As part of the programme, cars will be crash-tested and given points which in turn would translate into stars. The safest of the lot will get five stars.
  • As of now the Bharat NCAP crash test will be voluntary for now.

A series of tests

  • The car will have to go through a frontal crash test conducted at a speed of 64 kmph, as well as a side and pole-side tests occur at 50 kmph and 29 kmph respectively.
  • The ratings are based upon two main criteria (similar to the Global NCAP):
    • Adult safety for front passengers: To achieve a five-star rating for adult safety, a vehicle will have to gain a minimum of 27 out of 32 possible points.
    • Child safety for rear occupants: a score of 41 out of 49 points secures the highly acclaimed five-star rating.
  • Furthermore, vehicles can earn additional points by incorporating features like ISOFIX anchorages, which play a pivotal role in bolstering child restraint systems.

The need

  • India is one of the leading nations when it comes to road accidents and fatalities on the roads. Official data shows that in 2021, 1.54 lakh people lost their lives and 3.84 were injured in road accidents.
  • The 2020 data was also shocking – 1.31 lakh people lost lives, and 3.49 lakh were injured in road mishaps.


  • Improved road safety: The Bharat NCAP is aimed at improving road safety by raising the safety standards of motor vehicles.
  • Enhanced focus on customer safety: The programme would increase the demand for safer cars and encourage manufacturers to focus more on customer safety.
  • Export-worthiness of Indian automobiles: Additionally, with the Bharat NCAP, Indian cars are expected to compete better in the global market with high safety standards, increasing the export potential of car manufacturers in India.

Protecting the biodiversity of the northeast


The recent case of "Re: Cleanliness of Umiam Lake versus State of Meghalaya (2023)" heard by the Meghalaya High Court raises concerns about the environmental impact of construction and tourism on the entire northeast’s biodiversity.

Biodiversity of the Northeast

  • Northeast India is a green belt region due to its abundant natural resources such as oil, natural gas, minerals and fresh water.
  • The Garo-Khasi-Jaintia hills and the Brahmaputra valley are some of the most important biodiversity hotspots.

How climate change is threatening the North-East?

  • Changed rainfall pattern: Rainfall patterns over the region in the last century have considerably changed, resulting in its overall drying up. 
  • Variation in temperature: From rice to tea, crop cultivation across the board has been affected by variations in temperature and rainfall, causing distress to agricultural workers.
  • Fluctuations in water flow and erratic flooding have exacerbated riverine erosion, which hinders the lives and livelihoods of communities residing near the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
  • Desertification: Six states in northeastern India were among the top 10 places in the country with the highest rates of desertification between 2003 and 2018. These are Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. 

Climate refugees

A large fraction of settlements on forest reserve areas and grazing lands are communities that have been previously displaced by riverbank erosion. These communities fall within the category of climate refugees, a term coined to describe the increasing number of people displaced due to environmental disruptions.

Major threats to the environment

  • Though the northeast is industrially backward, deforestation, floods, and existing industries are causing serious problems to the environment in the region.
  • An environmental assessment of the North East Rural Livelihood Project undertaken by the Ministry of Development of the North-eastern Region lays out that “Northeast India lies within ecologically fragile, biologically rich region, highly prone to climatic changes, located in trans boundary river basins. Both flora and fauna of the areas are under threat due to deforestation, mining, quarrying, shifting cultivation.”

Environmental Laws

  • Development of Environmental Laws and Offences: During the 1980s, India established numerous environmental laws and policies. Offences against the environment were framed under Sections 268 to 290 of the Indian Penal Code, classifying them as "public nuisance."
  • Challenges with Autonomy and District Councils: The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution grants autonomy to District Councils. This autonomy limits State authority, including land use, within the jurisdiction of District Councils.
    • In cases like Umiam Lake, District Councils often lack regulations for land preservation, especially near waterbodies.
  • Environmental Litigation and PILs: Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution fostered public interest litigation (PILs) and judicial activism. Environmental litigation surged, with instances like the National Green Tribunal imposing fines on state governments.
    • In 2019, Meghalaya faced a ?100 crore fine for failing to curb illegal mining.
    • Manipur encountered a ?200 crore fine for improper waste management in 2022.
  • Role of Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Organs: Judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, like the National Green Tribunal, play a vital role. Stringent guidelines and heavy penalties imposed by these bodies protect ecologically sensitive flora and fauna.

What measures can be adopted to protect the north-east?

  • Balancing Development and Sustainability: Central and State governments must ensure infrastructure, revenue, and employment growth through sustainable strategies.
  • North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) and Environment: The NEIDS, 2017's 'Negative List' is a positive step. Entities not adhering to environmental standards, clearances, or pollution board consent won't receive NEIDS incentives. The 'Negative List' aligns incentives with environmental compliance.
  • Comprehensive Approach in 'Act Fast for Northeast' Policy: The 'Act Fast for Northeast' policy should encompass more than "trade and commerce."
    • Prioritizing environment and ecology preservation is crucial.
    • Striving for a 10 trillion-dollar economy without environmental protection lacks value.
  • Uniform Environmental Legislation for Comprehensive Governance: Central and State governments should consider uniform and comprehensive environmental laws.
    • Addressing environmental issues across governance levels is essential for effective protection.

Soft-landing on the Moon & the Challenges


India is eagerly anticipating the successful soft landing of Chandrayaan-3's spacecraft on the Moon's south pole, aiming to become the first country to achieve this feat. The recent crash of Russia's Luna-25 highlights the challenges of safe lunar landings, with only a few nations, including the United States, Soviet Union, and China, having successfully soft-landed on the Moon.

What is soft landing?

  • A soft landing entails a successful landing by a spacecraft without sustaining any significant damage to itself or its payloads.
  • Whereas, in a hard landing, the probe suffers damage which may result in the failure of the mission.

The South Pole

  • The region has a difficult terrain, full of craters and deep trenches. It is also far from the equatorial region explored by previous lunar missions.
  • Some areas on the south pole are shrouded in darkness and have never received sunlight.
  • Temperatures are so cold there that they can plummet to as low as -230 degree Celsius. This rocky terrain, complete darkness and extremely cold weather make it more difficult for electronic instruments to function properly.
  • Situated on the edge of the Aitken basin, the largest impact basin on the Moon, the lunar south pole offers a unique opportunity to study materials from the Moon's deep crust and mantle. 
  • Before Russia, countries such as Japan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have tried and failed to land on the Moon’s south pole.

Why is landing on Moon challenging?

Top of Form

  • Less gravity than Earth: The Moon has much less gravity than the Earth. Its thin and tenuous atmosphere, along with lunar dust, also makes it tough for spacecraft to land.
  • Dust: The presence of dust, even in very small quantities, can have a significant effect on temperature control and optical performance of hardware on the lunar surface.
  • Deep space communication also poses a challenge as the “large distance from the Earth and the limited on-board and radio signals are weak with heavy background noises that need to be picked up by large antennas”.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Japan to release treated water


Japan is gearing up to release the treated radioactive water from the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, despite opposition.

  • In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake flooded three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  • The event is regarded as the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
  • Shortly after, authorities set up an exclusion zone which continued to be expanded as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area.


  • Some 1.34 million tonnes of water - enough to fill 500 Olympic-size pools - have accumulated since the 2011 tsunami destroyed the plant.
  • The water will be released over 30 years after being filtered and diluted.
  • As per Japan, the water is a necessary step in the lengthy and costly process of decommissioning the plant, which sits on the country's east coast, about 220km (137 miles) north-east of the capital Tokyo.
  • The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog has endorsed the move.

Where is the plant?

  • The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is in the town of Okuma, in Fukushima Prefecture.
  • It sits on the country's east coast, about 220km (137 miles) north-east of the capital Tokyo.

How safe is the water?

  • The water has been filtered to remove more than 60 radioactive substances.
  • But the water will not be entirely radiation-free as it will still contain tritium and carbon-14- radioactive isotopes of hydrogen and carbon that cannot be easily removed from water.

China enters into ‘Deflation’


China's economy has now entered a period of deflation.

What is deflation?

  • Deflation is a general decline in prices for goods and services, typically associated with a contraction in the supply of money and credit in the economy.
  • During deflation, the purchasing power of currency rises over time.
  • Impact:
    • Deflation benefits consumers because they can purchase more goods and services with the same nominal income over time.
    • However, economists are often concerned about the consequences of falling prices on various sectors of the economy, especially in financial matters.
      • For instance, deflation can harm borrowers, who can be bound to pay their debts in money that is worth more than the money they borrowed, as well as any financial market participants who invest or speculate on the prospect of rising prices.

How does this scenario impact India?

Core inflation refers to the price changes of goods and services excluding the volatile food and energy sectors.

  • The impact of China's export deflation is extending to India, resulting in a moderation of core inflation.
  • Benefits: This scenario benefits India due to its robust export pricing and the deflationary environment in China.
    • This dual effect not only curbs global disinflation in traded goods but also exerts downward pressure on core inflation within India.
  • Flip-side: China is one of the biggest importers of iron ore from India. It imports almost 70 percent of iron-ore from India and hence, a slower economy for China would mean the amount of import into China from India could fall.

Short News Article

International Relations
ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA)

India and the ASEAN countries reached an agreement to review their free trade pact for goods and set a 2025 goalpost for concluding the review aimed at addressing the “asymmetry” in bilateral trade.


  • The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) was signed in 2009.
  • AITIGA is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India, aimed at promoting trade and economic cooperation between the two regions.
  • ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries, while India is a South Asian country.
  • AITIGA aims to reduce or eliminate tariffs on a wide range of goods traded between ASEAN member states and India.

International Relations
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)

The Ninth Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) India Region Conference, concluded recently.

What is CPA?

  • Founded in: 1911
  • The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is one of the oldest established organisations in the Commonwealth.
  • It is a membership association which brings together Members, irrespective of gender, race, religion or culture, who are united by community of interest, respect for the rule of law and individual rights and freedoms, and by the pursuit of the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy.
  • The Association is made up of over 180 Legislatures (or Branches) divided up between nine geographic regions of the Commonwealth.
  • The nine Regions of the CPA are: Africa; Asia; Australia; British Islands and Mediterranean (BIM); Canada; Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic (CAA); India; Pacific; and South-East Asia.
  • The CPA India Regional Secretariat is based within the Lok Sabha at the Parliament of India.

Species in news
Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu)

After two years, the unique Kashmir stag, vernacularly known as Hangul, has again shown a marginal increase in its population.


  • The Kashmir stag (Cervus hanglu hanglu), also called hangul, is a subspecies of Central Asian red deer endemic to Kashmir and surrounding areas.
  • It is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It is found in dense riverine forests in the high valleys and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir and northern Himachal Pradesh.
  • Hangul Cervus hanglu is the only red deer species in India.
  • Hangul is a critically-endangered species as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List.
  • It is listed as a Schedule I Species in Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • The species is under threat based on the vulnerability of population with regard to viability and structure, dwindling population, and habitat vulnerability.


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