What's New :

9th January 2023

What is the U.S. ‘Title 42’ immigration policy, and why is it expanding?


The United States has announced that it will extend COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions, known as ‘Title 42’, to expel migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border back to Mexico that would block more nationalities from seeking asylum in the United States.


  • At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, U.S. health authorities issued Title 42 to allow border agents to rapidly send migrants crossing the S.-Mexico border back to Mexico or other countries.
  • The order was implemented under Republican former President Donald Trump, whose administration sought to greatly curtail both immigration.
  • The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has mentioned the time it was needed to stem the spread of COVID-19 in crowded detention settings.

About the ‘Title 42’ policy:
  • Title 42 is a clause of the 1944 Public Health Services Law that "allows the government to prevent the introduction of individuals during certain public health emergencies.
  • The Title 42 process has allowed the U.S. to expel upward of two million migrants from the border including a surge of Haitian asylum seekers last year, Venezuelans who have been coming in larger numbers, and Mexicans, who make up the bulk of unauthorized migrants in the Southwest.

Why it is expanded by the US government?

  • The move builds on a policy launched in October that began expelling Venezuelans but at the same time allowed thousands of migrants from that country to enter by air if they applied from abroad and could demonstrate they had a U.S. sponsor under a new “humanitarian parole” program.

Why did the Supreme Court rule on Title 42?

  • In April 2022, the court has announced that it would end Title 42, saying it was no longer needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in light of vaccines and other medical advances.
  • But a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the termination after a legal challenge brought by a group of two dozen U.S. states with Republican attorneys general who argued that increased migration would saddle their states with costs.

To ensure accountability in delivery of schemes, govt sets up audit panel


The Rajasthan government has set up a Social and Performance Audit Authority (SPAA) to ensure accountability in the delivery of government schemes and programmes.


  • Under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) which enshrined social audits in the Act, the first step is to gather all the records regarding the scheme such as muster rolls, maintained by the administration collected and pored over.
  • Based on these readings, surveys are prepared and social auditors administer the surveys across the geographical area of the audit and also conduct spot inspections.

What does social audit mean?

  • “Social Audit is the examination and assessment of a programme/scheme conducted with the active involvement of people and comparing official records with actual ground realities. Social Audit is a powerful tool for social transformation, community participation and government accountability.”
 About the Social and Performance Audit Authority (SPAA):
  • Administered by: The Secretary, Finance (Expenditure) in the state has made the Commissioner of the authority.
  • Under SPAA, audits of government schemes will be undertaken on two counts: social and performance.
  • The social audit will be undertaken along the lines of the social audit in MGNREGA. 
  • Requirements:
  • The social audit does not necessarily require high qualifications of the resource persons, who will be empanelled as per requirement and paid on a per-day basis.
  • For the performance audit, SPAA will engage personnel from Valuation Wing under the Planning Department as well as the Department of Treasuries and Accounts, with the latter reportedly having excess personnel, among others.
  • Post the social and performance audit, the auditors will file a report online.
  • The Audit Management System (AMS) under the Local Fund Audit Department (LFAD) will be customised for audit reports under SPAA.
  • Significance: It will ensure transparency, public participation, public satisfaction and quality along with accountability in public welfare schemes of the state government.

Constitutional provision regarding audit:

  • Article 148 - Comptroller and Auditor-General of India
    • The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and of the States and of any other authority or body as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • Article 151 - Audit Reports
    • The reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India relating to the accounts of the Union shall be submitted to the president, who shall cause them to be laid before each House of Parliament.
    • The reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India relating to the accounts of a State shall be submitted to the Governor of the State, who shall cause them to be laid before the Legislature of the State.

Who can conduct a social audit?

  • The Department of Rural Development in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Meghalaya has set up its Society for Social Audit and Transparency which are autonomous institutions that conduct social audits of the MGNREG Scheme.
  • This is in furtherance of the Social Audit Manual of the Ministry of Rural Development which requires every State to set up an independent Social Audit Unit consisting of resource persons from the State, District and Village as well as experts on relevant themes.
  • Social audits are conducted in partnership with civil society organisations, with auditors emerging from among scheme beneficiaries, who are trained over a period of time on how to conduct a social audit. Since awareness generation is an important component of these audits, it becomes necessary to have conduits that can be relied upon to transfer factually correct information.

Other related Initiatives:

  • The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017: Meghalaya became the first state in India to operationalize a law that makes social audits of government programmes and schemes a part of government practice.

PM launches Aspirational Block Programme


The Prime Minister launched the Aspirational Block Programme (ABP) during the ‘2nd National Conference of Chief Secretaries’, which is aimed at improving the performance of blocks lagging on various development parameters.

About the Aspirational Block programme:
  • Transformed from: The aspirational district model will be taken up to the block level in the form of the Aspirational Block Programme. 
  • Objective: To enable holistic development in those areas that require added assistance. The focus area will also be more specific thus ensuring greater attention to detail.
  • The programme will cover 500 districts across 31 states and Union Territories initially.
  • Over half of these blocks are in 6 statesUttar Pradesh (68 blocks), Bihar (61), Madhya Pradesh (42), Jharkhand (34), Odisha (29) and West Bengal (29).
  • The Aspirational Blocks Programme is on the lines of the Aspirational District Programme that was launched in 2018 and covers 112 districts across the country.

The Aspirational Districts programme:

  • The Government of India launched the 'Transformation of Aspirational Districts' initiative in January 2018.
  • Implementation: NITI Aayog anchors the programme with support from Central Ministries and State Governments.
  • Aim: The ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ Programme aims to expeditiously improve the socio-economic status of 117 districts from across 28 states.
  • Principles: The three core principles of the programme are –
    • Convergence (of Central & State Schemes)
    • Collaboration(among citizens and functionaries of Central & State Governments including district teams)
    • Competition among districts.
  • Themes: The programme focuses on 5 main themes- Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure.
  • Real-time monitoring: NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh has created a dashboard ‘Champions of Change’ for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts.
  • Ranking: Districts are ranked through ‘delta ranking’ based on progress made on a real-time basis.
  • Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu achieved overall first rank.
  • Simdega (Jharkhand), Chandauli (Uttar Pradesh), Sonbhadra (Uttar Pradesh) and Rajgarh (Madhya Pradesh) were found to have progressed the most since the beginning of the programme.
  • Achievements: Under ADP previously neglected districts, including those in remote locations and those affected by Left Wing Extremism, 'have experienced more growth and development in the last three years than ever before.
  • The programme has strengthened the technical and administrative capacities of the districts.

Avoid further delay in conducting the Census


The country has experienced the last census in 2011, which is going to complete about more than a decade now. The decade has seen several changes including the socio-economic, political and health needs of people.

Need of the census:

  • The rural-urban distribution of population has been rapidly changing over the years.
  • There is high population growth in the urban areas. Some cities have been growing faster than others through in-migration.
  • The rural-urban distribution of population has been rapidly changing over the years. There is high population growth in the urban areas.
  • Some cities have been growing faster than others through in-migration.
    • For example, areas under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike grew by 49.3% during 2001-11, while the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (11.9%), the Delhi Municipal Corporation (11.7%), and Greater Chennai Corporation (7.0%) had much lower growth rates.
  • Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded a fall in population during the same period.
  • Pandemic chaos:
    • The pandemic resulted in deaths among adults and the aged relatively more than children.
    • Its impact on age distribution in severely affected areas would be of interest as it would give indirect estimates of the number of deaths.

NPR and Census:

  • The decision to collect data for the National Population Register by piggybacking on the Census operations was the most debated issue before the Census was postponed. Such controversies negatively impact the Census, which is the largest administrative exercise for collecting data.

Implications of the delay:

  • Lack of reliable data: Sample surveys can provide reliable data on social and demographic indicators only at higher geographic levels.
  • Distribution of resources: Apart from the population count, the Census has also been providing data on population characteristics, housing and amenities.
  • Delay in implementation of schemes: The improvement in literacy and educational levels, economic activity, migration, etc., or the impact of programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, one must depend on sample surveys.
  • Irregularity in public representation in parliament: The Census data are used to determine the number of seats to be reserved for SCs and STs in Parliament, State legislatures, local bodies, and government services.
  • Confusion in delimitation exercise: Delimitation of parliamentary and Assembly constituencies would continue to be based on 2001 Census till data from a Census after 2026 are published.



About Digital census 2021:

  • As all previous censuses in India have been paper-based. A mobile app will be used in Census 2021. It will be a transformation from paper census to digital census.
  • The 2021 census is the 16th Indian census.
  • The government was set to spend Rs.12, 000 crore on the 2021 Census as well as for the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR).
  • This mammoth nationwide exercise will be carried out in 16 languages.
  • The census will have its reference date as March 1, 2021, but for snow-bound Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand it will be October 1, 2020.

Advantages of a Digital Census/paperless census:

  • A paperless census will drastically reduce the storage space for physical files.
  • As all data will be stored electronically, the government will save up on substantial amount of physical storage space.
  • Digital census will reduce the environmental burden by saving the trees required for paper manufacturing industries.
  • The use of technology in census will also help pave the way for other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, to take root in India.
  • It will also help cut the project cost of census.
  • As the records mentioned on pages could easily be tempered now going digitally, any tampering with the data will invite punishment under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Why the Supreme Court order on abortion is not helping women?


In a Judgment, the Supreme Court had recently put decision on abortion rights for all adult women in India to have the right to seek a safe abortion through a medical expert till up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Despite these steps, women in the country still face difficulty to avail the abortion especially for unmarried women.

About the Supreme Court’s Judgement:

There are five key aspects of this judgment that need to be shared:

  • Acknowledging the context of criminality: IPC criminalises accessing and providing an abortion except where there is an immediate necessity to save the life of the pregnant woman, and the MTP Act is an exception to this criminal offence.
  • Removal of ‘compulsory’ marital status: The judgment basically holds that what is accessible and available for a married pregnant woman should be accessible and available to any pregnant woman and that a classification based on marital status is fallacious and illegal.
  • Inclusive of the concept of Marital Rape: An acknowledgement has been put that a pregnancy can be sought to be terminated on the ground of it being a result of rape by the husband of the pregnant woman must be recognised.
  • Confidentiality: This judgment clarifies that while the need to report mandatorily remains, the identity of the pregnant person need not be disclosed in the cases of consensual sexual activity and where the minor and/or her guardian request the medical service provider to maintain confidentiality.
  • Relief to Medical Practitioners: It recognises the extra-legal requirements that medical practitioners insist upon before providing MTP services, only to safeguard themselves due to the context of criminality and the present law is non-inclusive.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment (MRTP) Act:

  • In 2021, Parliament amended the law to allow for abortions based on the advice of one doctor for pregnancies up to 20 weeks.
  • The modified law needs the opinion of two doctors for pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • Further, for pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks, rules specified seven categories of women who would be eligible for seeking termination under Section 3Bof rules prescribed under the MTP Act;
    • Survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest,
    • Minors,
    • Change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce),
    • Women with physical disabilities (major disability as per criteria laid down under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016)
    • Mentally ill women including mental retardation,
    • The foetal malformation has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped, and
    • Women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disasters or emergencies may be declared by the Government.

What are women’s reproductive rights?

Based on the multiple definitions of reproductive rights, it can be said that they include some or all of the following rights:

  • Right to safe and legal abortion.
  • Right to control one’s reproductive functions.
  • Right to access in order to make reproductive choices free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
  • Right to access education about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception.
  • Right to protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting and male genital mutilation.


  • Addressing the ‘actual’ concerns: This was a judgment keeping the pregnant person at the centre of it despite the law being provider-centric and read a judgment that beautifully encapsulates all the concerns that exist about the legal regime on abortion in India.
  • Breaking the stereotype: The judgment basically reiterates that one cannot make a distinction between a woman who is pregnant because of rape only on the grounds of her marital status.

Why do women still face difficulty to avail of abortion rights?

  • Non-compliance with Government rules in accordance with the SC judgement:
  • Rule 3(2) (b) of the MTP (Amendment) Rules, 2021 does not permit single women to abort after 20 weeks.
  • The rule is discriminatory as it only allows “special categories” including survivors of sexual assault, minors, widows or divorcees, women with disabilities, a malformed foetus or women stuck in humanitarian emergencies, to access abortion post-20 weeks
  • Discrimination for unmarried status: The government will have to step up to promote safe abortions irrespective of the fact that the woman is married or not.
  • Loopholes in the government’s current legislation: Currently, there is no mechanism under the rules to monitor the movement of abortion pills.
  • Mifepristone and Misoprostol are popular drugs used for medical abortion at clinics.
  •  Biased consultation committee: MTP amendment has created a new institution called the “medical board”. This board consists of a gynaecologist, paediatrician, radiologist and so on.
  • A gynaecologist is the only member of this board who by virtue of training, qualification and experience can take a final decision. In case a board takes a decision on basis of the majority of the votes, the opinion of one gynaecologist may go unheard.

The worsening nutrient imbalance from over-application of urea and DAP


The easing of global prices has boosted fertiliser availability and cut the subsidy bill. However, asymmetry in the pricing structure has led to a worsening nutrient imbalance due to the over-application of urea and DAP.


  • The year 2022 saw global prices of fertilisers go high due to the post-Russia invasion of Ukraine in February.
  • Landed prices of urea imported into India (cost plus freight) are ruling at around $550 per tonne, as against $900-1,000 average in November-January 2021-22, when global demand for food and plant nutrients surged with the lifting of Covid lockdowns by most countries.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Food Price Index hit 159.7 points in March 2022.
    • From that all-time high, the index — which is a weighted average of global prices of a representative basket of food commodities over a base period value, taken at 100 for 2014-2016 — has fallen for nine consecutive months.
  • However, till December 2022 a number of 132.4 points was below even the year-ago value of 133.7 points and the lowest since the 129.2 points of September 2021.

India’s Fertiliser consumption:


About Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP):

  • It is a very popular fertilizer because of its excellent physical properties and nutrient content.
  • It is free-flowing, dust-free and does not normally give any storage problems.
  • DAP is almost water-soluble and ultimately leaves an acid effect on soils because of the ammonia (NH4) it contains.
  • DAP on incorporation into soil reacts with water and gets converted into HPO4 and NH4.
    • Ammonium (NH4) follows the same routes as in the case of urea.
    • Phosphorus in DAP is present in the best available form (HPO4).
  • Depending upon the soil reaction (pH), phosphorus exists in 3 forms which can be absorbed by plant roots.
  • These are HPO4, H2PO4 and PO4. Phosphorus, which is immobile in the soil, is not subjected to leaching losses.

Reasons behind increased consumption of urea and DAP:

  • High subsidy on urea: The government has fixed the maximum retail price (MRP) of urea at Rs.5,628 per tonne, while the MRPs of other fertilisers are technically decontrolled.
  • DAP – a cheaper substitute: Companies have been told not to charge more than Rs.27,000/tonne for DAP (Rs.29,000-31,000/ tonne for NPKS complexes), which has 46% P and 18% N.
    • Thus, the choice of fertilisers is primarily a function of prices and not of NPKS complexes or other macro and micronutrients in the fertilisers.

What are the impacts of global ease on the prices of fertilisers?

  • It significantly improves overall availability. No major shortage of any fertiliser, except MOP, has been reported during the ongoing Rabi cropping season.
  • Reduction in fertiliser subsidy of the government.

Challenges emerged:

  • Over-use of fertilisers: India’s fertiliser sector has been riddled with distortions from excessive use of urea. The diammonium phosphate or DAP is seeing a similar phenomenon of over-application due to underpricing. The effects of overconsumption of urea and DAP:
    • The current NPK ratio of 13:5:1, as against the ideal 4:2:1, would adversely affect crop yields
    • It will adversely affect the health of plants and humans, due to the unavailability of a balanced nutrient mix.
  • Increase in Urea consumption: Urea has 46% nitrogen (N), while DAP contains 46% phosphorus (P) plus 18% N and MOP has 60% potassium (K).
  • Neem oil supposedly also acted as a mild nitrification inhibitor, allowing a more gradual release of nitrogen. Increased nitrogen use efficiency would, in turn, bring down the number of urea bags required per acre.
  • Worsening of nutrition imbalances: The consumption of both urea and DAP has shot up, with their sales for the year ending March 2023 likely to top 350 lt and 120 lt respectively.

Suggestive measures:

  • To restrict DAP used to rice and wheat.
    • The danger is of even this well-accepted fertiliser loses out to DAP because of flawed pricing.
  • To raise SSP’s acceptance by permitting sale only in granular, not powdered, form.
    • SSP powder is prone to adulteration with gypsum or clay.
    • Farmers can be assured of quality through granules, which will also promote a slower release of P without drift during application.

Short News


Three new species of migratory birds in Tripura’s Gomati district

New species of migratory birds from Siberia and Europe were sighted at Sukhsagar lake in Tripura’s Gomati district.

About the species:

  • The birds sighted are ruff, found in Europe, oriental pratincole, and common crane from Siberia in Russia.
  • The migratory birds visit Sipahijala wildlife sanctuary, Gomati reservoir, Gomati wildlife sanctuary, College Tilla Lake in Agartala, Rudrasagar Lake in Sipahijala district, Trishna wildlife sanctuary, and NIT College water body.
  • Every year more than 100 species of migratory birds visit Tripura from European, African and North American countries.

Migratory bird species visit the region:

  • The migratory birds which visit Tripura are — large wader, northern shoveler, greater flamingo, black-tailed godwit, little cormorant, pheasant-tailed jacana, etc.
  • Birds migrate to other places because of the scarcity of food, climatic change and habitation (nesting) problems.
  • Birds find places by sight and smell.
  • They navigate by observing the positions of the sun, stars and also the moon in a few cases.
  • Sometimes they use the magnetic waves of the earth as well can be followed by them.

Science and Technology

Nanoplastics can produce reactive oxidizing species when exposed to light

A team of researchers has analysed how light breaks down polystyrene, a non-biodegradable plastic from which packing peanuts, DVD cases and disposable utensils are made.

About the study:

  • When exposed to light, the nanoplastics derived from polystyrene unexpectedly facilitated the oxidation of aqueous manganese ions and the formation of manganese oxide solids that can affect the fate and transport of organic contaminants in natural and engineering water systems.
  • It showed how the photochemical reaction of nanoplastics through light absorption generates peroxyl and superoxide radicals on nanoplastic surfaces, and initiates oxidation of manganese into manganese oxide solids.

Concern associated:

  • There are concerns over the physical presence of Nano-plastics rather than their active roles as reactants.
  • The small plastic particles that can more easily interact with neighbouring substances, such as heavy metals and organic contaminants, and can be more reactive.
  • The smaller particle size of the polystyrene Nano-plastics may more easily decompose and release organic matter because of their larger surface area.
  • This dissolved organic matter may quickly produce reactive oxygen species in light and facilitate manganese oxidation.

Science and Technology

India & Japan to hold Maiden Air Exercise ‘Veer Guardian 2023’













India and Japan are going to commence the maiden joint air exercise ‘Veer Guardian,’ from 12 January 2023 to 26 January 2023.


  • The conduct of exercise Veer Guardian 2023 is a decision taken to step up the defence cooperation between the two nations which were taken during the second 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial meeting held in Tokyo, Japan on 08 September 2022.
  • In the meeting, India and Japan agreed to engage in more military exercises, including holding the first joint fighter jet drills.
  • About the exercise:
  • Indian Air Force (IAF) and Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) will hold the first bilateral air exercise at Hyakuri Air Base in Japan.
  • This maiden air exercise will also be the first time when an Indian Air Force woman fighter pilot would be part of the Indian contingent for aerial war games in a foreign land.


  • During the joint air exercise Veer Guardian 2023, the participating IAF contingent will include four Su-30 MKI, two C-17 & one IL-78 aircraft.
  • On the other hand, the JASDF contingent will consist of four F-2 & four F-15 aircraft.
  • The first edition of the bilateral air exercise will see the conduct of various aerial combat drills between the Air Forces of India and Japan.
  • It will also include multi-domain air combat missions in a complex environment allowing the air warriors to exchange their best practices.


Tame, not lame


  • A five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the Tamil Nadu law allowing jallikattu.

Challenging the validity of the Law:

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017: The judgement has avoided the existing legislation considering cruelty against animals, i.e. Bulls in the event.
  • Interpretation of the act: The framers of the 2017 law defined jallikattu as “an event involving bulls conducted with a view to follow tradition and culture”.
  • Preserving cultural right vs. Cruelty against animals: As per under Article 29 (1), jallikattu should be granted constitutional protection as a collective cultural right or ‘perpetuate cruelty to animals’ or were a means to ensure “the survival and well-being of the native breeds of bulls”.
You must be logged in to get greater insights.


QUIZ - 9th January 2023

Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now