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4th May 2023

China ‘Keen’ to Recruit Gurkha Soldiers into PLA


Communist China, which has long been intrigued by the motivation behind Nepalese youth joining the Indian Army, may seek the Communist government in Nepal to allow the Gurkhas to join the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Who are Gurkhas?

  • Gurkhas are the Nepali Soldiers that form a significant part of the Indian Army’s legendary Gurkha regiment.
  • They come from four main communities of Magar, Gurung, Rai and Limbu.
  • Pre-Independence: The first battalion of the Gurkha Regiment by British India as the Nasiri regiment in 1815. 
    • The Gurkhas had served under the East India Company’s army and the British Indian Army. The Gurkhas were first recruited by East India company after suffering heavy casualties during the Anglo-Nepalese War or the Gurkha War. The peace was maintained by the signing of the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.
    • The Nepali Gurkhas played a crucial role in the consolidation of the British Empire in India. They fought during the Gurkha-Sikh War, Anglo-Sikh wars, and the Afghan wars.
  • Post-Independence: After India gained independence, a Tripartite Agreement (Britain–India–Nepal) was signed by which the regiments were split between the Indian armies and the British.
    • Currently, Gorkha regiments make up Indian Army’s 43 Battalions with soldiers from both Nepal and India in seven Gorkha regiments – 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and the 11th.

Their signature weapon of Gurkhas, Khukri, forms part of the Gurkha regimental insignia in Britain and India as well. The khukri is a traditional multipurpose knife of the Nepalese people used for regular cutting, clearing, chopping firewood, digging, slaughtering animals for food etc.

Gorkha pullout 

  • Gorkhas are some of the best fighters in the world, however, the newly introduced Agnipath Scheme threatens to break this arrangement.
  • Nepal urged India to suspend the recruitment of Gorkhas to the Indian Army under this new plan.

Agnipath is a tour of duty scheme introduced by India in June 2022 for recruitment of soldiers below the rank of commissioned officers into the three services of the armed forces. All recruits will be hired for a four-year period.

India slips to 161 on World Press Freedom Index


India’s ranking has fallen to 161 in the World Press Freedom Index-2023 in the list of 180 countries.  In 2021, India’s ranking was 150, down from a ranking of 142 on the press freedom index. 

Key Findings of the Report

  • Toppers: Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Portugal and Timor-Leste occupy the top 10 ranks in the World Press Freedom Index 2023.
  • India’s neighbours: The relative rankings of some countries -- Pakistan rose up seven ranks and was placed at 150th, and Afghanistan was ranked 152nd.
  • The World Press Freedom Index revealed that press freedom in 31 is in a “very serious situation”.
    • Two years ago, the number was 21 countries.
About the Report
  • The World Press Freedom Index Report is an annual report.
  • It is published by Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization that advocates for freedom of the press worldwide.

RSF is an international NGO whose self-proclaimed aim is to defend and promote media freedom. Headquartered in Paris, it has consultative status with the United Nations. 

  • The report ranks 180 countries based on their level of press freedom, taking into account factors such as censorship, media independence, and the safety of journalists.
  • The World Press Freedom Index is based on five different factors that are used to calculate scores and rank countries. These five sub-indicators include the: 
    • Political indicator
    • Economic indicator
    • Legislative indicator
    • Social indicator
    • Security indicator

Tele Manas counsels Kashmir’s distressed souls


Over the past six months, the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar has received 10,500 calls from people in distress across Jammu and Kashmir’s toll-free numbers 14416 and 1800-891-4416.

  • The Tele-MANAS cell at IMHANS was launched on November 4 with the support of the National Health Mission, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It aims to provide mental health support, early screening, first-aid, distress management, mental well-being, suicide prevention, and psychological crisis management in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The centre operates through a toll free-number—11416/1-800-891-4416. The crisis counsellors or the first-time responders are the first points of contact for callers at the 24*7 helpline

What is Tele-MANAS?

  • It was launched on World Mental Health Day (10 October).
  • The Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) initiative is a comprehensive mental health care service.
  • Tele-MANAS aims to provide free tele-mental health services all over the country round the clock, particularly catering to people in remote or under-served areas.
  • The Tele-MANAS programme consists of a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence, with NIMHANS as the nodal centre.
  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bengaluru and the National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHRSC) have been roped in for technical support.
  • The Tele-MANAS service can be accessed by calling the helpline numbers 14416 and 1-800-891-4416.

India’s mental health crisis

  • Lancet Report: As per a Lancet study published in 2012, India saw a 35 per cent rise in clinically significant depression and anxiety disorders due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
  • 2021 State of the World’s Children Report: One in seven youths in India, between 15 to 24 years, reported ‘feeling depressed’ during the pandemic.
  • NCRB Data: In another concerning report, there was an increase of 7.2 per cent in reported suicides in the country in 2021 as compared to the year before.
  • Top causes of suicides: Family problems, illness, drug abuse/ alcoholic addiction, marriage-related issues, love affairs, unemployment, and professional/career problem.
  • Challenges: 
    • Alarming shortage of human resources: The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that India has 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses and 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 health workers for a 1,00,000 population.
    • Lack of investment to address the issue
    • Unawareness
    • Shame

De-dollarisation: the race to attain the status of global reserve currency


Countries have tried to dethrone the dollar as the global reserve currency for many decades now for various reasons. But of late, attempts to de-dollarise have picked up pace in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

What is ‘reserve currency’?

  • A reserve currency refers to any currency that is widely used in cross-border transactions and is commonly held as reserves by central banks.
    • It is the currencies of economic superpowers that have usually ended up being used as the global reserve currency.

De-dollarisation refers to the replacement of the U.S. dollar with other currencies as the global reserve currency.

What are the advantages of reserve currency?

  • Power over transactions: Since international transactions carried out in the U.S. dollar are cleared by American banks, this gives the U.S. government significant power to oversee and control these transactions.
  • Privileges over others: The global reserve currency status gives it unfair privileges over other countries.
  • Irresponsible expansion of money: When a country’s fiat currency enjoys reserve currency status, it gives the country the power to purchase goods and other assets from the rest of the world by simply creating fresh currency out of thin air. 

What gives the US dollar the power in international trade?

  • The U.S. dollar is not forced on anyone to be accepted as a medium of exchange for cross-border transactions.
  • It is widely used in international transactions because people actually prefer to use American currency over others for various economic reasons.
  • Other currencies that have tried to compete against the U.S. dollar are not as popular as the greenback for carrying out international transactions.
  • The global acceptability of the U.S. dollar has primarily been attributed to the
    • the popularity of U.S. assets among investors
    • high level of trust of global investors in the US


  • India and Russia recently attempted to carry out trade between the two countries in Indian rupees rather than in U.S. dollars.
  • However, it hit a roadblock because the value of India’s imports from Russia far outweighs its exports to the country.
  • This left Russia with excess rupees in hand which it was unwilling to spend on Indian goods or assets, and led to Russian demands for the settlement of bilateral trade in U.S. dollars.
  • So, even Russia, a long-time friend of India and a long-time foe of the United States, preferred to carry out its trade with India using U.S. dollars since the dollar is far more widely accepted than the Indian rupee.

Why was the call for de-dollarisation renewed?

  • The profound economic disruption experienced by Iran, and more recently Russia(for invading Ukraine), after being disconnected from international dollar-trading systems like SWIFT, prompted smaller countries to look for alternatives.

Who can be the next?

  • Currently, the Chinese Yuan is seen as the primary alternative to the U.S. dollar owing to China’s rising economic power.
  • Many countries like Russia, Brazil, and Argentina are increasingly exploring the use of the CNY.
  • Beijing is now settling most of its international trade operations using the Chinese yuan. 

How would it impact (if becomes reality)?

  • The positive side
  • De-dollarization can benefit local economies in a number of ways.
  • Trading in local currencies allows exporters and importers to balance risks, have more options to invest, to have more certainty about the revenues and sales.
  • The negative side
  • De-Dollarisation could potentially undermine the economic power of the US, but it also presents challenges and potential costs for developing countries. 
  • Moving away from an established currency like the dollar will impact a country's networking effect and create substantial barriers.
    • The US dollar is the cheapest means of access to acquire nominally risk-free US Treasury instruments.

India-UAE CEPA completes one year


The historic India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which was signed on February 18, 2022 and came into force on May 1, 2022, has completed one successful year.

What is India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)?

  • The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed between India and UAE to strengthen the trade ties between the two nations. 
  • Aim The agreement aimed to increase the total value of bilateral trade in goods to over US$100 billion and trade in services to over US$ 15 billion within five years.
  • The historical India-UAE CEPA is the first bilateral trade accord concluded by the UAE and India's first bilateral trade agreement in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region.
  • India-UAE CEPA is a wide-ranging agreement, covering all aspects of India's economic engagement with the UAE including Trade, Investments, Healthcare, Digital Trade Government Procurement, IPR etc.

What are the impacts?

  • This was the Fastest Executed Bilateral Agreement where imports and exports increased between India and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The benefit to domestic markets: The agreement also boosted trade which benefited the domestic market.
  • Labour-intensive sectors also boomed as a result of this tie-up. 
  • Increased exports: India’s global export rose by 5.3 per cent and exports to UAE increased by 11.8 per cent.
    • Major commodities: While the export of commodities like jewellery, car, and beauty products rose, in particular - aircraft, spacecraft and exports of parts increased by 4859 per cent as UAE is a transit hub between Asia and Europe and the Americas.
  • Increased imports: Similarly, imports also increased from the UAE by 18.8 per cent. The nation’s non-oil imports from UAE increased by 4.1 per cent and global imports increased by 7.8 per cent.

India’s cost of adapting to climate change needs seen at $1 trillion: RBI


India needs to spend an estimated 85.6 trillion rupees ($1.05 trillion) by 2030 to adapt its various industries to be compliant with climate change norms, a report by the Reserve Bank of India.

The Report

  • Title: Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Report on Currency and Finance
  • Report theme: Towards a Greener Cleaner India
  • The report is written by contributors from the Department of Economic and Policy Research.

Key Highlights of the Report

  • India’s goal of achieving the net zero target by 2070 would require-
    • an accelerated reduction in the energy intensity of GDP by about 5% annually
    • a significant improvement in its energy mix in favour of renewables to about 80% by 2070-71
  • Financing requirement: The green financing requirements in India could be at least 5% of GDP annually to address the infrastructure gap caused by climate events.
  • Vulnerability of financial institutions: Results of a climate stress test reveal that public sector banks (PSBs) may be more vulnerable than private sector banks. Globally, however, the measurement of climate-related financial risks remains a work in progress.
  • Requirement of sector-centric approach: Different sectors of the economy have different emission intensities, so it is advisable to not have a uniform climate mitigation strategy across sectors.
  • Without any policy action, India’s carbon dioxide emission levels may rise to 3.9 gigatonnes by 2030, from 2.7 gigatonnes in 2021.

India’s Climate Finance Strategy

  • Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy(LT-LEDS): In November 2022, at COP27, India submitted its Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
    • Issue: This requires trillions of dollars of investment. Yet India currently lacks a comprehensive climate finance strategy for mobilizing the capital required to execute the LT-LEDS. 
  • Green Bonds: India’s maiden issue of green bonds, within the broader green bonds framework outlined by the government is commendable.
    • Issue: India may issue $3 billion of green bonds in the financial year 2023–2024, but still this will amount to only 1.6 per cent of its overall annual borrowing. 

EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act


Members of the European Parliament reached a preliminary deal on a new draft of the European Union’s ambitious Artificial Intelligence Act, first drafted two years ago, paving the way for the world's first set of comprehensive laws governing the technology.

  • The legislation was drafted in 2021 with the aim of bringing transparency, trust, and accountability to AI and creating a framework to mitigate risks to the safety, health, fundamental rights, and democratic values of the EU.
  • The Artificial Intelligence Act aims to “strengthen Europe's position as a global hub of excellence in AI from the lab to the market, ensure that AI in Europe respects our values and rules, and harness the potential of AI for industrial use.”
  • Similar to how the EU’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) made it an industry leader in the global data protection regime, the AI law aims to “strengthen Europe’s position as a global hub of excellence in AI from the lab to the market”.

What is the need to regulate AI?

  • Omnipresence: Artificial intelligence technologies have become omnipresent and their algorithms more advanced.
  • Associated risks: They are capable of performing a wide variety of tasks including voice assistance, recommending music, driving cars, detecting cancer, and even deciding on chances of getting shortlisted for a job— the risks and uncertainties associated with them have also ballooned.
  • Complex and unexplainable AI tools: Many AI tools are essentially black boxes, meaning even those who design them cannot explain what goes on inside them to generate a particular output.

What is in the Act?

  • Definition: The Act broadly defines AI as “software that is developed with one or more of the techniques that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, generate outputs such as content, predictions, recommendations, or decisions influencing the environments they interact with”.
    • Under the definition, it identifies AI tools based on machine learning and deep learning, knowledge and logic-based approaches and statistical approaches.
  • Classification (on risk basis): The Act’s central approach is the classification of AI tech based on the level of risk they pose to the “health and safety or fundamental rights” of a person.
    • Risk category: There are four risk categories in the Act— unacceptable, high, limited and minimal.
      • Unacceptable: The Act prohibits using technologies in the unacceptable risk category with little

Companies deploying generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT or image generator Midjourney, will have to disclose whether copyrighted material was used to develop their systems.

  • High risk: The Act lays substantial focus on AI in the high-risk category, prescribing a number of pre-and post-market requirements for developers and users of such systems. The Act envisages establishing an EU-wide database of high-risk AI systems and setting parameters so that future technologies or those under development can be included if they meet the high-risk criteria.
  • Limited and minimal risks: AI systems in the limited and minimal risk category such as spam filters or video games can be used with a few requirements like transparency obligations.
  • Non-compliance penalties: The Act proposes steep non-compliance penalties. For companies, fines can reach up to €30 million or 6% of global income. Submitting false or misleading documentation to regulators can result in fines, too.

Short News Article


ADB announces IF-CAP

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced the Innovative Finance Facility for Climate in Asia and the Pacific (IF-CAP).

About IF-CAP

  • It is a landmark programme which could significantly ramp up support for the region in the battle against climate change.
  • IF-CAP's initial partners are Denmark, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • IF-CAP financing will contribute to ADB’s ambition for $100 billion from its resources for combating climate change for 2019–2030.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

  • ADB is committed to achieving inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. 
  • Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.


International Leopard Day

May 3 is observed as the International Leopard Day to make people aware of the nocturnal big cat.


  • The leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the five extant species in the genus Panthera, a member of the cat family, Felidae. 
  • The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet, strength, and its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas. 
  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
  • Distribution: Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Russia, and the Indian subcontinent.
  • It can run at speeds of up to 58 km/h (36 mph). 


Guaranteed pension is not bad economics


With multiple State governments announcing reversion to the old pension scheme (OPS) and some more speculating to do the same, the debate on pensions is hotting up.

Issues with Old Pension Scheme

  • Fiscally unsustainable: Since the State has to bear full burden of pensions, it will become fiscally unsustainable in the medium to long run.
  • Compromising other welfare schemes: Unsustainable rise in pension allocation in the Budget can only come at the cost of other more pressing welfare expenditures allocated to the poor and marginalised sections.
  • Catering Elite section: The OPS is a case of elite workers gaining at the cost of their brethren lower on the income ladder.

Benefits of OPS

  • Definite formula and pension: Employees were entitled to a pension that was calculated in advance and was equal to fifty percent of their most recent salary under the old plan.
  • Guaranteed pension sum: OPS is a post-retirement benefit for government area representatives that guaranteed a sum to be paid to the worker after his superannuation.
  • Fully government payable: The government paid for the Old Pension in its entirety. Every year, the budget for pensions was announced during the Budget announcement. The annual DA increase in the pension was also the responsibility of the federal and state governments.

Way forward

  • Rationalizing Taxes: The government should rationalise taxes, say by implementing inheritance and wealth taxes, which are either negligible or non-existent in India.
  • Contributory guaranteed pension Scheme: Employees’ contribution can be deducted towards pension during the working life, but can give them a guaranteed pension after they retire.
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