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4th March 2023

US, South Korea announce largest field exercises in 5 years


The South Korean and U.S. militaries announced to hold of their most extensive joint field exercises in five years, as the U.S. flew a long-range B-1B bomber to the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against North Korea.

  • The two countries last conducted Foal Eagle in 2018.
  • Recently, both countries have been expanding their joint military exercises in the face of an evolving North Korean nuclear threat.
  • The United States flew a supersonic bomber over ally South Korea as part of an enormous combined aerial exercise involving hundreds of warplanes in a show of force meant to intimidate North Korea over its barrage of ballistic missile tests.
  • The US has fired B-1B missiles to demonstrate its determination and ability to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its allies.

North Korea is highly sensitive to the deployment of B-1Bs, which are capable of carrying a large conventional weapons payload.

  • It responded to the previous flights of multiple B-1Bs by test-launching two short-range missiles.

Details of the exercise:

  • The South Korean and U.S. military will conduct the Freedom Shield exercise, a computer-simulated command post training, to strengthen their defence and response capabilities, and separate large-scale joint field training exercises called ‘Warrior Shield FTX.’
  • It is going to be conducted from March 13 to 23, 2023.

Why is such an exercise being conducted?

  • North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles in the year 2022, the most ever in a single year, and several more this year.
  • Many missiles were nuclear-capable weapons designed to strike the U.S. mainland and South Korea.
  • The Hwasong-15 is one of North Korea's three existing ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), all of which use liquid propellants that require pre-launch injections and cannot remain fueled for extended periods.
  • The North is pushing to build a solid-fueled ICBM, which would be more mobile and harder to detect before its launch.

Nuclear Diplomacy:

  • Nuclear diplomacy deals with the prevention of nuclear war and peacetime proliferation.
  • It also deals with the use of the threat of nuclear warfare to achieve diplomatic goals.

India and Nuclear Power:

  • India, one of the world’s nuclear weapon powers, should pay a lot more attention to the international nuclear discourse that is acquiring new dimensions and taking a fresh look at its own civilian and military nuclear programmes.
  • Nuclear cooperation has brought a new dimension to India’s nuclear diplomacy in the 21st India’s status as a responsible nuclear power is predicated upon the civil relationships in the nuclear domain that it has established with major powers.

Significance to possess nuclear weapons:

  • Possessing nuclear weapons can confer India increased leverage to conduct foreign policy in both regional and international contexts.
  • There are two ways in which the possession of nuclear weapons can affect a state’s conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy.
  • The first involves military and strategic signalling. This includes military-oriented functions of deterrence, coercion, and brinkmanship.
  • The second deals with non-military affairs.

BIMSTEC and Energy Security


Despite being abundant with resources and a developed energy sector, BIMSTEC countries are not much advance in generation and utilisation to provide affordable energy access to all.

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional multilateral organisation.
  • BIMSTEC countries are home to 1.7 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.7 trillion.
  • Its members lie in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • Headquarters is situated in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • Out of the 7 members, Five are from South Asia –
    • Bangladesh
    • Bhutan
    • India
    • Nepal
    • Sri Lanka
  • Two are from Southeast Asia –
    • Myanmar
    • Thailand
  • BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • It mainly aims to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development; accelerate social progress; and promote collaboration on matters of common interest in the region.
  • The ADB (Asian Development Bank) has become BIMSTEC's development partner since 2005, to undertake a study which is designed to help promote and improve transport infrastructure and logistics among the BIMSTEC countries.
  • So far, ADB has already finished the project so-called BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study (BTILS).

BIMSTEC energy Centre (BEC):

  • India hosted the first meeting of Governing Board of BIMSTEC Energy Centre on February 27, 2023.
  • BIMSTEC Energy Centre is situated in Bengaluru, India.
  • Considering the current energy scenario in the region, the meeting recommended adding the additional following areas under the specialized Wings of BEC:
    1. Cyber Security,
    2. Green Hydrogen
    3. Energy Transition.
  • In 2021, the initiative was reorganised into seven sectors.

Status of energy access in BIMSTEC countries:

  • Bhutan has achieved 100 per cent energy access through off-grid energy sources.
  • Nepal has achieved 78 per cent of energy access, while Bangladesh achieved 95 per cent of energy access.
  • Myanmar reported its access to energy at 50 per cent in 2019.

Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand have achieved 100 per cent or near 100 per cent energy access.

Old Pension Scheme for Central government employees


In a significant decision, the government has decided to give a one-time option to select Central government employees to migrate to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).

  • In 2020, the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare (DPPW) gave a one-time option to those Central government employees to opt for the OPS who were declared successful for recruitment in the results declared before December 31, 2003.
  • Recently, the department has called that in all cases where a Central government civil employee has been appointed against a post or vacancy which was advertised/notified for recruitment/appointment, prior to the date of notification for the NPS i.e. 22.12.2003 and has been covered under the NPS on joining service on or after 01.01.2004, may be given a one-time option to be covered under the CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 (now 2021).
  • This option may be exercised by the concerned government servants latest by 31 August 2023.

About the proposal:

  • The government has decided to allow the selected Central government employees, who applied for jobs advertised before December 22, 2003, the day the National Pension System (NPS) was notified but joined the service in 2004 when the NPS came into effect.

Who are eligible to apply?

  • The order will be applicable to Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel and other Central government employees who joined the services in 2004 as the recruitment process was delayed due to administrative reasons.
  • The employees’ contributions to the NPS will be credited to the General Provident Fund (GPF) of the individual.

Till January 31 2023, there were 23, 65,693 Central government employees and 60, 32,768 State government employees enrolled under the NPS. Except for West Bengal, all States had implemented the NPS.

The New Pension Scheme (NPS):

  • The New Pension System proposed by the Project OASIS report became the basis for pension reforms and what was originally conceived for unorganised sector workers, was adopted by the government for its own employees.
  • The NPS was for prospective employees; it was made mandatory for all new recruits joining government service from January 1, 2004.
  • Contributions:
    • The defined contribution comprised 10 per cent of the basic salary and dearness allowance by the employee and a matching contribution by the government this was Tier 1, with contributions being mandatory.
    • In 2019, the government increased its contribution to 14 per cent of the basic salary and dearness allowance.
  • Schemes under the NPS are offered by nine pension fund managers
    • It is sponsored by SBI, LIC, UTI, HDFC, ICICI, Kotak Mahindra, Aditya Birla, Tata, and Max.
  • It laid in its promise of an assured or ‘defined’ benefit to the retiree.
  • It was hence described as a ‘Defined Benefit Scheme’.
  • For example - if a government employee’s basic monthly salary at the time of retirement was Rs.10, 000, she would be assured of a pension of Rs.5, 000.
  • The monthly pay-outs of pensioners also increased with hikes in dearness allowance or DA announced by the government for serving employees.

What is DA?

  • It is calculated as a percentage of the basic salary.
  • It is a kind of adjustment the government offers its employees and pensioners to make up for the steady increase in the cost of living.
  • DA hikes are announced twice a year, generally in January and July.

World Bank lends for Health Sector in India


The World Bank is lending up to $1 billion to help India with preparedness for future pandemics as well as to strengthen its health infrastructure.

  • The lending will be divided into two complementary loans of $500 million each.
  • The bank will support India’s flagship Pradhan Mantri-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM), launched in October 2021, to improve the public healthcare infrastructure across the country.
  • In addition to the national-level interventions, one of the loans will prioritise health service delivery in seven States including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The $500-million Public Health Systems for Pandemic Preparedness Program (PHSPP) will support the government’s efforts to prepare India’s surveillance system to detect and report epidemics of potential international concern.
  • Another portion of funds will also be allocated for Enhanced Health Service Delivery Program (EHSDP), which will support government’s efforts to strengthen service delivery through a redesigned primary healthcare model.
    • It includes improved household access to primary healthcare facilities, stronger links between each household and its primary care facility through regular household visits and risk assessment of non-communicable diseases.

Both the PHSPP and the EHSDP utilise the Program-for-Results financing instrument that focuses on achievement of results rather than inputs.

Both the PHSPP and EHSDP loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) have a final maturity of 18.5 years including a grace period of five years.

Need of the initiative:

  • COVID-19 has underscored the need for developing capacity for core public health functions, as well as for improving the quality and comprehensiveness of health service delivery.

India’s Health sector:

  • In India, the Health care sector is one of the largest sectors in terms of both revenue and employment.
  • In India, the health care sector can be categorized into public and private.
  • Public health care hospitals comprise secondary and tertiary care institutions in urban areas while primary basic facilities are focused in rural areas.
  • Private health care sectors provide secondary, tertiary, and quaternary services in metro cities.
  • India’s performance in health has improved over time.
  • According to World Bank estimates, India’s life expectancy has increased from 58 in 1990 to 69.8 in 2020.
  • This is higher than average for the country’s income level.
  • Other indicators:
    • The under-five mortality rate (36 per 1,000 live births),
    • Infant mortality rate (30 per 1,000 live births), and
    • Maternal mortality ratio (103 per 100,000 live births) is all close to the average for India’s income level.

Pradhan Mantri-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission:

Key features:

  • Free diagnostics at district level: Under PMASBY, 134 different types of testing will be done free at district level, which will not only save costs but also reduce unnecessary inconvenience to poor people.
  • Mobile Hospitals: For the first time in Asia, two container-based hospitals with complete medical facilities will be maintained at all times under PMASBY.
  • One mobile unit will have 22 containers with 100 beds each.
  • The mobile hospitals will be set up in New Delhi and Chennai. These hospitals can be quickly assembled by train or air to respond to any disaster or disaster in the country.
  • Strengthening NCDC: The existing National Centres for Disease Control (NCDC), which has the mandate to stop outbreaks, will be strengthened under PMASBY by adding three new phases.
  • This will be the Climate Change Unit, the Occupational Health Unit, and the Disaster Management Unit. Five branches of the NCDC region - one north, south, east, west, and central - will be established. General diagnostic services will also be improved.


Index on life cycle of working women


The World Bank has released India’s score for the index on the life cycle of a working woman obtained down to 74.4 out of a possible 100.

A score of 100 on the Index means that women are in equal standing with men on all the eight indicators being measured.

Highlights of the index:

  • Title of the report: The index was developed based on a report named ‘Women, Business and the Law 2023’.
  • India scored higher than the 63.7 average for the South Asian region, though lower than Nepal which had the region’s highest score of 80.6.
  • Out of the 190 economies covered in the Index, only 14 scored a perfect 100: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
  • For India, the Index used data on the laws and regulations applicable in Mumbai.

India’s Women workforce:

  • Unemployment trends for women in India:
    • Only a quarter of the females in the country are either working or seeking jobs. Female LFPR is 23.3%.
    • Fall in LFPR was more for females than males.
    • The decline in LFPR for females was steeper in rural areas than in urban.
    • The considerable wage gap between men and women; is highest in Asia.
  • OECD Economic Survey of India: The OECD survey found that India has the largest difference between employment rates of women and men among OECD nations at 52 percentage points.
    • Unemployment among young, educated women in urban areas is quite higher.
    • The employment gap between women and men is highest in the 15 to 29 years bracket.
    • Underemployment and poor job quality remain important issues.
  • Status in other countries: In China, 43.5% of women are in the workforce, in Sri Lanka 34.5%, Bangladesh 29.5% and in India 24.3%, according to World Bank data.
  • Women in politics: India ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament. Only 9% of MPs or MLAs are women. The 17th Lok Sabha has 14% women representation.


India lags behind when it comes to laws affecting women’s pay, laws affecting women’s work after having children, constraints on women starting and running a business, gender differences in property and inheritance, and laws affecting the size of a woman’s pension.

Reasons for Low Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP):

  • Structural, social and cultural factors contribute to low FLFP.
  • There is growing feminisation of agriculture tying women in this field due to socio-cultural restrictions, lack of alternate skills, and movement of men to cities away from agriculture.
  • Unpaid care and domestic work hours of Women in India are second highest in the world.
  • Women in India do almost 10 times as much unpaid work as men.
  • Social barriers to women’s mobility


India’s green certification


In India, the forest certification industry is growing at 8 to 10 per cent every year, mainly catering to exporters wanting to tap the US and European markets that have strict regulations to ensure the legality of wood products coming in.

  • Just 5 per cent of India’s natural forests are currently certified, all in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Forest certification is a sunrise industry, driven by a growing preference to avoid any product that can be linked to deforestation or illegal logging.
  • Only processed wood is allowed to be exported from India, not raw wood.

Forest Certifications:

  • Forest certification, a global movement initiated in the 1990s after Rio Earth Summit, is a market-based non-regulatory conservation tool designed to promote sustainable management of forests and trees outside forests by an independent third party.
  • As several developed countries have put trade restrictions on the import of non-certified timber, non-timber forest products and wood-based goods into their countries, getting sustainable forest management certificates has become mandatory for exports.

Significance and the need for forest certification:

  • Forest certification has been accepted as an efficient tool for forest management the world over.
  • Given that forests of India serve important ecological, economic and social functions that also provide a livelihood to over 275 million forest-dependent people of this country, there is a need for certification for sustaining and enhancing these roles of forests.

Forest certification in India:

  • The council of the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) has decided to recognise the forest-certification scheme developed specifically for Indian forests by the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), an Indian non-profit.

Key features:

  • The Certification Standard for Sustainable Forest Management developed by NCCF is the first forest-certification scheme from India to get global recognition.
  • The Standards evolved were India-specific and were based on key elements of existing models in India such as the Bhopal India Process of the IIFM, the National Working Plan Code and the provisions contained in the National Forest Policy for the promotion of afforestation, sustainable utilization of forest products and growth of the forest-based industries.

Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF):

NCCF is a non-profit organisation that came into existence in January 2015 as a Society to have a globally aligned certification program developed within India and address the concerns for sustainable management of forests and plantations, while at the same time making the Indian wood and forest fibre-based industry competent globally.

Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification:

  • Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is the world’s largest forest certification system which seeks to transform the way forests are managed globally and locally to ensure that all of us can enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits that forests offer.

Short News Article







Land mafias damage rampart of ancient fortified city of Sisupalgarh.


  • Sisupalgarh is thought to have been built around the 7th to 6th century BCE.
  • It served as the capital of the Kalinga kingdom.
  • It was an important centre of trade and commerce during ancient times.
  • Fortified city was architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient India.
  • The urban core was 1.2 km by 1 km in size and was moated all around. The city has a special water management system.
  • This is the only fortified site in India having eight gateways.
  • When King Kharavela began to restore the city 2,100 years ago, in the fourth to third century BCE, the fortress was completed.
  • The excavation of the Sisupalgarh site was first taken up in 1948, when it was declared a Centrally Protected Monument under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, celebrating its 151st anniversary contains large biodiversity.


  • American national park Yellowstone NP is situated in the western part of the country, primarily in Wyoming's northwest corner and spreading into Montana and Idaho.
  • In addition to being the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone is considered to be the first national park of the world.
  • The park is renowned for both its abundant wildlife and geothermal features, with Old Faithful geyser being one of its most well-known.
  • Even though it represents a variety of biomes, the subalpine forest is the most prevalent.
  • It corresponds to the South Central Rockies forests ecoregion.
  • Moreover, the region serves as the unique location where the western United States' three largest river basins merge.
  • The rivers of the Snake-Columbia basin, Green-Colorado basin, and Missouri River Basin all begin as snow on the Continental Divide as it weaves across Yellowstone’s peaks and plateaus.
  • It is home to multiple mega fauna like grizzly bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of the endangered bison and elk.


Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog (Uperodon montanus)

Jerdon’s narrow-mouthed frog (Uperodon montanus) has been re-spotted in western ghats.

  • Since it was last studied in 1934 by a British scientist, the species faded into oblivion.


  • It is a species of narrow-mouthed frog (family Microhylidae) endemic to the Western Ghats of India.
  • This frog is considered a montane species and is restricted to higher altitude ranges of 800-1,700 metres,
  • They are distributed from near Wayanad south across the Palghat and the Shencottah gaps to the Agasthyamalai hills.
  • It is classified as ‘Near Threatened’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Its tadpoles are which means they feed on other species.
  • Rain-water filled tree holes are the favoured microhabitat of these frogs.


Picking the Watchdog


  • Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that the appointments of the Chief Election commissioner and the Election Commissioners are to done by the CJI, and legislators rather than executive.

Supreme Court’s verdict:

  • The main clause of the verdict: The Court has ruled that a three-member committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, or the leader of the single largest Opposition party, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI), to choose Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC) until a law is passed.
  • Diminishing President’s role: It has been the practice that the President appoints the CEC and ECs on the advice of the Prime Minister, but the original intent of the Constitution makers was that the manner of appointment should be laid down in parliamentary law.
  • Article 324: It says that the President should appoint the CEC and Commissioners, subject to any law made on that behalf by Parliament.
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