Current Affair Analysis

23rd August 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Financial Action Task Force (FATF); Bavar-373; FATF blacklist and grey list; Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG); Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO); Renewable Energy Certification (REC); Potential of Tidal Energy in India; 24th Meeting of Western Zonal Council; Zonal Councils; WTO Reforms; South- South Corporation; Triangular cooperation; United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC); FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research); Henley Passport Index; Arton Passport Index; What is Oxytocin; ‘San-Sadhan’ hackathon; Statue of Unity; Mumbai's Soho House; Time’s World's greatest places 2019; Adratiklit boulahfa; Legacy tax; Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 23, 2019


Polity & Governance

  • 24th Meeting of Western Zonal Council held at Panaji

Issues related to Health & Education

  • What is Oxytocin and why does the govt want to ban its commercial use?


  • Amnesty scheme for legacy service tax, excise duty cases to open on September 1

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Power Minister approves proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy

Bilateral & International Relations

  • FATF’s Asia-Pacific Group blacklists Pakistan, downgrades financial status
  • South-South and Triangular Cooperation
  • WTO Reforms Must Be Taken Up By All Member Countries: Minister of Commerce
  • India slips 5 spots on Henley Passport Index

Science & Technology

  • Russia sends its first humanoid robot Fedor into space

Key Facts for Prelims

  • What is Adratiklit boulahfa?
  • ‘San-Sadhan’ hackathon- for Divyangjan accessible toilets
  • ‘Statue of Unity’, Mumbai’s Soho House among Time’s 100 greatest places in the world
  • Bavar-373

23rd August 2019 Current Affairs Analysis

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Polity & Governance

24th Meeting of Western Zonal Council held at Panaji

Union Minister for Home Affairs chaired the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Panaji (Goa).

24th Meeting of Western Zonal Council held at Panaji

Highlights of the meeting:

  • Action on the Master Plan submitted by Maharashtra Government for utilization of surplus Salt Pan Land for rehabilitation of slum dwellerswas discussed.
  • Coverage of all villageswhich have remained without any banking facilities within 5 km radial distance by a Bank/India Post Payments Service.
  • Enhancement of direct benefit transfer (DBT) Portalto include scheme/village-wise details by collecting real time information from respective portals of beneficiary-oriented schemes
  • Innovative solution of encrypted QR Code on Aadhaar cardfor verifying antecedents of marine fishermen.
  • Detailed monitoring mechanism to ensure that investigation and trial of sexual offences/rapeagainst girls below 12 years of age are completed within two months (POCSO Act and Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018] each.

About Western Zonal Council

  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
  • West Zonal Council has been instrumental in giving impetus to the Indian economy as the States of the Zone are contributing around 24% to the GDP and 45% to the total exports of the country.

About the Zonal Councils:


  • Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India have been grouped into six zones to foster cooperation among them. They are:
  1. Northern Zonal Council
  2. North-Central Zonal Council
  3. North-Eastern Zonal Council
  4. Eastern Zonal Council
  5. Western Zonal Council
  6. Southern Zonal Council
  • Five Zonal Councils were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
  • The North Eastern States’ special problems are addressed by another statutory body – The North Eastern Council, created by the North Eastern Council Act, 1971.
  • Northern Zonal Council consists of the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.

Functions of The Councils

  • Each Zonal Council is an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Government of each State concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.

In particular, a Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to:

  • Any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
  • Any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport;
  • Any matter connected with or arising out of, the re-organization of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.

Organisational Structure of Zonal Councils

  • Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members– Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers– One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
[Ref: PIB]


Issues related to Health & Education

What is Oxytocin and why does the govt want to ban its commercial use?

The final decision on whether the government can block private pharmaceutical companies from manufacturing and selling vital pregnancy drug oxytocin in India has been deferred, with the Supreme Court deciding the issue needs further deliberation.


 What’s the issue?


  • The Health Ministry in April 2018 notified a ban on private firms from manuacturing and selling oxytocin, stating that it wanted to restrict the responsibility of supplying the drug to a Karnataka-based public sector manufacturer to avoid its misuse in the veterinary field.
  • The Delhi high court had quashed the Centre’s December 14, 2018 notification, which had banned its sale by private manufacturers and retail chemists, saying the sale was allowed. Essentially, this meant that only KAPL could produce the drug as there is no other public sector enterprise doing so.
  • However, Delhi high court quashed the amended order too. The central government moved Supreme Court against the Delhi high court order.

What is Oxytocin?


  • Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
  • It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
  • The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.
  • Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.


Why ban on its sale?

  • The drug is used by dairy owners and farmers to boost milk production and make vegetables look bigger and fresher. But, it was found that indiscriminate use of Oxytocin in milch animals and by farmers was causing irreversible hormone damage.


Other concerns:

  • Despite it being a Schedule H drug, it is impossible to prevent its manufacturing at registered private factories.
  • Implications to human health are humongous, from reproductive complications to hormonal imbalances.
  • One major reason for such blatant misuse of this drug is the absence of robust veterinary services in India.



  • In March 2016, the Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the Central government to “consider the feasibility of restricting the manufacture of Oxytocin only in public sector companies and also restricting and limiting the manufacture by companies to whom licences have already been granted.”
  • The manufacture and sale of Oxytocin without a licence is a cognisable.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]



Amnesty scheme for legacy service tax, excise duty cases to open on September 1

The finance ministry said the dispute resolution and amnesty scheme to reduce legacy service tax and central excise cases will become operational for four months beginning September 1.


What is a legacy tax?

  • A legacy tax is a tax imposed by some countries on a dead person’s estate when it is passed to beneficiaries through a will or intestate succession.
  • This type of tax is also referred to as ‘collateral inheritance tax’.
  • The idea behind legacy taxes is that the government has the ability to tax the estate of the deceased because receiving their property is a privilege, not a right. As such, it is taxable, and the tax acts much like an excise tax.

About the Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019

  • The objective of the Scheme is to free large segment of the taxpayers from the legacy taxes as possible and is especially tailored to free the large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the tax administration.

Components of the scheme

  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums.
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law.
  • The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine, penalty. There is also a complete amnesty from prosecution.


  • For cases pending in adjudication or appeal, this Scheme offers a relief of 70% from the duty demand if it is Rs.50 lakhs or less and 50% if it is more than Rs. 50 lakhs.
  • For cases of confirmed duty demand, where there is no appeal pending, the relief offered is 60% of the confirmed duty amount if the same is Rs. 50 lakhs or less and it is 40%, if the confirmed duty amount is more than Rs. 50 lakhs.
  • For cases of voluntary disclosure, the person availing the Scheme will have to pay only the full amount of disclosed duty. 
[Ref: Indian Express]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Power Minister approves proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy

In a decision that would give further boost to the ocean energy in India, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy.


About the proposal

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy declared that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion etc. will be considered as Renewable Energy and shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).

What are Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO)?

  • It is a mechanism by which the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions are obliged to purchase a certain percentage of power from renewable energy sources.
  • RPO is being implemented throughout the country to create demand for renewable energy.
  • RPO is of two categories – (a) Non Solar & (b) Solar.
  • Under the solar obligation, every State in the country has announced a solar specific percentage as part of overall RPO.
  • RPOs are enforced on three categories of consumers – (a) Distribution Licensees (power purchase agreement (PPA) with local distribution companies), (b) Open Access Consumers & (c) Captive Consumers (self-use).

Renewable Energy Certification (REC)

  • RECs are aimed at addressing the mismatch of renewable energy resources in the States and their RPO requirements.
  • Obliged entities can fulfill their RPOs by purchasing RECs.
  • RECs are traded on the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and the Power Exchange of India Ltd (PXIL).

Potential of Tidal Energy in India

  • Total identified potential of Tidal Energy is about 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.
  • The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW. This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.
  • Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MWin India subject to suitable technological evolution.

Ocean Energy Technology

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal energy from the sun’s heat, and mechanical energy from the tides and waves.

How ocean produces thermal energy?

How ocean produces thermal energy

  • Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) is a process for producing energy by harnessing the temperature differences between ocean surface waters and deep ocean waters.
  • Energy from the sun heats the surface water of the ocean. Hence, surface water can be much warmer than deep water. This temperature difference can be used to produce electricity.
  • In OTEC, Warm surface water is pumped through an evaporator containing a working fluid. The vaporized fluid drives a turbine/generator.
  • The vaporized fluid is turned back to a liquid in a condenser cooled with cold ocean water pumped from deeper in the ocean.

Electricity Conversation system

OTEC can be of three types : closed-cycle, open-cycle, and hybrid. 

  • Closed-cycle systems: It use the ocean’s warm surface water to vaporize a working fluid, which has a low-boiling point, such as ammonia. The vapor expands and turns a turbine. The turbine then activates a generator to produce electricity.
  • Open-cycle systems: It actually boil the seawater by operating at low pressures. This produces steam that passes through a turbine/generator.
  • Hybrid systems: It combine both closed-cycle and open-cycle systems.

How ocean produces mechanical energy?

  • Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, tides are driven primarily by the gravitational pull of the moon, and waves are driven primarily by the winds.
  • As a result, tides and waves are intermittent sources of energy, while ocean thermal energy is fairly constant.

Tidal Energy


  • The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon. The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy.
  • Similar to traditional hydropower generated from dams, tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide.
  • The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariff.  
  • To capture sufficient power from the tidal energy potential, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide.
  • The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where potential exists.

Wave energy

  • For wave energy conversion, there are three basic systems:

Channel systems that funnel the waves into reservoirs.

Float systems 2019 a

Float systems that drive hydraulic pumps through the movement of Hydraulic Ram joints.

Float systems 2019

Oscillating water column systems (or Overtopping Wave Power Device) that use the waves to compress air within a container (chamber).

Oscillating water column systems 2019

  • The mechanical power created from these systems either directly activates a generator or transfers to a working fluid, water, or air, which then drives a turbine/generator.

Current Energy 

Current Energy 2019

  • Marine current is ocean water moving in one direction. This ocean current is known as the Gulf Stream. Tides also create currents that flow in two directions.
  • Kinetic energy can be captured from the Gulf Stream and other tidal currents with submerged turbines that are very similar in appearance to miniature wind turbines.
  • Similar to wind turbines, the movement of the marine current moves the rotor blades to generate electric power.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu, Newsonair]


Bilateral & International Relations

FATF’s Asia-Pacific Group blacklists Pakistan, downgrades financial status 

Pakistan has suffered another setback at the international stage as the Asia-Pacific Group of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has downgraded it and placed it under the list of blacklisted countries.


What is the issue?

  • The Asia-Pacific Group, one of the nine regional affiliates of FATF, has placed Pakistan in the enhanced expedited follow-up list (also known as the blacklist) for its failure to meet its standards related to terrorism and money laundering.
  • The decision to blacklist Pakistan was taken based on a five-year mutual evaluation of Pakistan’s progress on upgrading its systems in areas of financial and insurance services and sectors.
  • In June 2019, the FATF said that Pakistan failed to complete its action plan on terror financing and warned to meet its commitment by October or face action, which could possibly lead to the Pakistan getting blacklisted. (Currently, Pakistan is only black listed by Asia Pacific group (APG) of FATF and not the main FATF).



  • Being blacklisted by APG, this can worsen Pakistan’s chances of getting loans from international credit agencies or even attract foreign investments.


  • The FATF plenary placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018. It was also grey-listed from 2008 to 2010 and then from 2012 to 2015.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • FATF is an inter‐governmental policy making body with ministerial mandate to establish international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • It was created in 1989 at the behest of the G7, and is headquartered at
  • The FATF’s decision making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year.
  • It does not address at all issues related to low tax jurisdiction or tax competition.
  • The FATF is a policy-making body and has no investigative authority.


  • The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.
  • In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.


  • A large number of international organizations participate in the FATF as observers, each of which has some involvement in anti-money laundering activities.
  • Organizations such as Interpol, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and World Bank are observers.

What is blacklist and grey list?

  • FATF maintains two different lists of countries: Grey list and Black list.
  • Those that have deficiencies in their Anti-Money Laundering /Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CTF) regimes, but they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes are put in grey list and those that do not end up doing enough are put in black list.
  • Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures, increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether.

blacklist and grey list fatf

Key facts

  • Initially, it was only dealing with developing policies to combat money laundering. But in 2001 its purpose was expanded to act against terrorism financing.
  • Currently, it comprises two regional organisations (the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council) and 35 member jurisdictions, including India, UK, US, China and the European Commission.
  • Pakistan is not a member state of FATF: instead, it is a FATF Associate Member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).
  • Although the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a full Member of the FATF, the individual Member countries of the GCC (of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) are not.

About Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG):

blacklist and grey list

  • At the Fourth symposium of FATF-Asia Secretariat in Bangkok in 1997, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) was established as an autonomous regional anti-money laundering body by agreement among 13 original founding members. 
  • A new secretariat was also established to serve as the focal point for APG activities to be located in Sydney, Australia.  
  • The APG is part of Financial Action Task Force-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs) and is the largest in terms of membership numbers and geographical size.
  • The APG, in conjunction with 8 FSRBs constitute a global network to combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The FATF’s 40 recommendations are the principal standards to combat these crimes.
  • APG has 41 member countries (including India) and 8 observer countries.

Key Roles of APG

  • Mutual evaluations:  The APG assesses the levels of compliance by its member jurisdictions with the global Anti-Money Laundering /Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards through a mutual evaluation (peer review) programme.
  • Technical assistance and training:  The APG Secretariat coordinates bi-lateral and donor-agency technical assistance and training in the Asia/Pacific region for its member jurisdictions in order to improve compliance with the global standards.
  • Typologies research:  Research into money laundering and terrorist financing methods and trends is a key function of the APG.
  • Private sector engagement: The APG actively engages with financial and non-financial institutions, NPOs, training centres and universities in the Asia-Pacific to better inform the general public and specialists about global issues relating to money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing.
[Ref: The Hindu]


South-South and Triangular Cooperation

At the international dialogue on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, Union minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways said that time has come to take on the policies of protectionism measures by some developed countries that are having an adverse effect on global free trade.


What is South- South Corporation?

  • South-South cooperation is a broad framework of collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.
  • It is the technical cooperation among developing countries in the Global South.
  • It was created from the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA)by 138 UN Member States in Argentina, on September 18, 1978.

What is Triangular cooperation?

  • Triangular cooperation involves three actors, two from the South and one from the North.
  • North party, which can also be an international organization, provides the financial resources so that the countries of the South can exchange technical assistance on a specific topic.
  • For example, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) made it possible financially for demining Cambodian experts to travel to Colombia and exchange their knowledge and experience in that field. Both Cambodia and Colombia had a major issue with anti-personnel-mines in different moments of their history.

Objectives of South-South Cooperation:

  • To foster the self-reliance of developing countries by enhancing their creative capacity to find solutions to their development problems in keeping with their own aspirations, values and specific needs;
  • To create and strengthen existing technological capacities in the developing countries in order to improve the effectiveness with which such capacities are used;
  • To increase and improve communications among developing countries, leading to a greater awareness of common problems and wider access to available knowledge and experience as well as the creation of new knowledge in tackling development problems;
  • To recognize and respond to the problems and requirements of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and the countries most seriously affected by, for example, natural disasters and other crises; and
  • To enable developing countries to achieve a greater degree of participation in international economic activities and to expand international cooperation for development.

About United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)


  • The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) was established with an objective to promote South-South and triangular cooperation across the world and within the United Nations system.
  • UNOSSC has its genesis in 1974 when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the establishment of a special unit to promote technical cooperation among developing countries within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • In 2012, the special unit was given the name United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) by the General Assembly through a resolution.
  • UNOSSC receives policy directives and guidance from the General Assembly and through its subsidiary body, the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.
  • UNOSSC submits its strategic planning frameworks to the UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS Executive Board for approval and funding.

 [Ref: Business Standard, UN]


WTO Reforms Must Be Taken Up By All Member Countries: Minister of Commerce

At the international dialogue on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, Union minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways said that time has come to take on the policies of protectionism measures by some developed countries that are having an adverse effect on global free trade.


WTO criticism by US

  • For years now, the multilateral system for the settlement of trade dispute under WTO has been under intense scrutiny and constant criticism.
  • The U.S. has blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (judges) and impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism.
  • With only four working members out of seven normally serving office in July 2018, the institution is under great stress. If no appointment is made, it will simply be destroyed by December 2019, with only one remaining member to tackle a massive number of disputes as the Appellate Body requires a core of three members to decide a dispute.
  • The main critique of the U.S. relates to overreaching or judicial activism. The WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding stresses that the dispute panels cannot add to or diminish the rights and obligations provided for by the WTO agreements.

What are the problems being faced by the WTO? 


  • The functioning of state engaging in commercial activities is interfering with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO.
  • A vibrant WTO cannot accommodate conflicting economic models of market versus state. All WTO members will have to accept the assumption of a rules-based order steered by a market economy, the private sector, and competition.

Intensive trade negotiations

  • Industrial and agricultural subsidies that distort markets need to be addressed through a dedicated new series of intensive trade negotiations.
  • Agricultural and industrial subsidies have caused blockages in the system and prompted protectionist reactions in a number of WTO members.

Dispute settlement system

  • A credible trading system requires a dispute settlement system that is accepted by all.
  • After approximately a quarter of a century of practice, it is now clear that although all members accept the rule of law, they do not accept judicial activism, supranational interventions, or the judicial branch stepping into the breach of legislative hiatus.

Lost Balance

  • The WTO lost the critical balance between the organisation as an institution established to bind economic reform to counter damaging protectionism, on the one hand, and the organisation as an institution for litigation-based dispute settlement, on the other hand.
  • As a result, WTO became excessively litigious to the detriment of driving economic reform for growth.

Outdated Rules

  • GATT/WTO rules in a number of areas are outdated. New rules are required to keep pace with changes in the market and technology.

Current practices

  • Decision-making by WTO members requires urgent adjustment.
  • Current practices that allow for hostage-taking and blocking coalitions (majorities or minorities) are no longer workable in an age of complex interdependence and the need for cooperation for critical and practical problem-solving.

Less Focus on Africa

  • Any serious reform of the WTO, as a contributor to growth and a healthy global economy, requires a changed approach and engagement with Africa, and by Africa.
  • According to the United Nations, from 2018 to 2035, the 10 fastest growing cities in the world will be African. According to the World Bank, in 2018, six of the fastest growing economies are in Africa.
[Ref: The Hindu]


India slips 5 spots on Henley Passport Index 

According to the Henley Passport Index 2019, the strength of the Indian passport has weakened considerably in the last decade. India slipped nine places on the list, from 77 in 2010 to 86 in 2019.


What is a strength of a passport?

  • The strength of a passport is defined as the countries to which holders are eligible to travel without a visa.
  • This implies that passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, an electronic travel authority, or a visitor’s permit when entering the destination country. 

Global Highlights of Henley Passport Index 2019

  • First place: Singapore and Japan
  • Second place: Finland, Germany and South Korea
  • Third Place: Denmark, Italy and Luxembourg
  • Last Rank: Afghanistan (109th)
  • For the first time, United Arab Emirates (UAE) has entered the top 20 slot with a record-breaking 41 places over the past decade.
  • Overall, with a few exceptions, the rankings show that countries around the world increasingly view visa openness as crucial to economic and social progress.
  • In 2006, a citizen, on an average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107.


India Specific Highlights

  • India shares the 86thposition with Mauritiana and Sao Tome & Principe.
  • The India has 58 scores which points out that Indian passport holders can access 58 countries around the world without a prior visa.

Arton Passport Index india

About Henley Passport Index

  • The Henley Passport Index is published by citizenship planning firm Henley and Partners’
  • It ranked all the world’s passports according to the number of countries to which their holders can travel including visa-free and visa-on-arrival options, as opposed to having to apply for a visa before arriving in the destination country.
  • It is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) which covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.
  • It is updated in real time throughout the year as and when visa policy changes come into effect.

How are passport ranks and scores interpreted?

  • Each passport is attributed with a score and a rank. The score is the sum of the number of countries accessible by that passport holder without requiring pre-departure government approval.
  • For every country that a passport holder of a particular country is able to access through these visa-types (without pre-departure government approval), a value of 1 is attributed to it.
  • A value of 0 is attributed to a score when a passport holder has to seek pre-departure government approval for visa-types including e-visa and visa on arrival.

What assumptions does the index make?

  • Passport is valid, belongs to an adult who is a citizen of the issuing country and it is not diplomatic, emergency or temporary in nature.
  • Person travelling alone, rather than in tourist groups and meets all the basic requirements for entry such as hotel reservations.
  • Traveller is assumed to be arriving and departing from the same airport and is seeking a short stay (between three days-several months) for business and tourist purposes only.

Cross-border mobility restrictions as function of ease of doing business

  • The Henley Passport Index gives a fair estimate of cross border flows of people.
  • A graph between the strength of a country’s passport and its rank on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index shows that countries whose citizens can travel unhindered to across borders have more vibrant economies.
  • Singapore which is second on the Ease of Doing Business has the strongest passport. New Zealand, which tops the Ease of Doing Business index is among the top ten on the Henley Passport Index.
  • Moreover, Countries which do not have visa-free-access to a large part of the globe find themselves beyond the ambit of global capital flows. I
  • India is 77th on the Ease of Doing Business Index and 86th on the Henley Passport Index. 
  • However, few countries do not follow this trend owing to factors such as favourable tax rates, bounty of natural resources, or sops for large corporations.
  • Georgia and North Macedonia fare exceptionally well in attracting investment, while their passports are relatively weak on the Henley Index.

About Arton Passport Index

  • This index uses a three-tier approach to rank passports, attributing scores and using the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2018 in its methodology.
  • It is published by Arton Capital, a global financial advisory.
  • It ranks United Arab Emirates’s passport at rank 1 as per its most recent rankings.
  • As per this index, India has a mobility score (MS) of 67, with visa required for 131 destinations and 26 Visa-free destinations.
[Ref: Economic Times, Indian Express]


Science & Technology

Russia sends its first humanoid robot Fedor into space

Russia launched an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).


About the Robot

  • The robot is named FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research), which is the first ever robot sent up by
  • The robot’s main purpose it to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans on board spacecraft and in outer space such as space walks.
  • It can copy human movement and can help people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton (a wearable mobile machine  powered by electric motors that allow for limb movement with increased strength and endurance).

Key Facts

  • FEDOR is not the first robot to go into space.
  • In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot. It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.
  • In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS’s first Japanese space commander.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Key Facts for Prelims

What is Adratiklit boulahfa?

Scientists have described a new species of stegosaurus and dated it to 168 million years ago, which makes it the oldest known member of that group of dinosaurs ever known.


About Adratiklit boulahfa

  • It is the oldest known member of stegosaurus group of dinosaurs ever known. It is also the first stegosaurus to be found in North Africa.
  • The name is derived from the words used by the Berber (an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa) for mountains (Adras), lizard (tiklit) and the area where the specimen was found. (Boulahfa).
  • Its remains were discovered in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
  • It was herbivorous and lived on the ancient continent of Gondwana, which later split into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica.

Key Facts

  • Stegosauruswas a large, plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic Period primarily in western North America.
  • Most stegosaurus remains so far have been found in the northern hemisphere
[Ref: Indian Express]


‘San-Sadhan’ hackathon- for Divyangjan accessible toilets

The government calls for applications for its latest initiative called the ‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon.


About the San-Sadhan’ Hackathon

  • This initiative is being organized jointly by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 91springboard.
  • It’s objective is to ease lives of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) by making toilets smarter, more accessible, and easier to use.
  • It is an initiative under Swachh Bharat Mission.

Key Facts

  • India’s rural sanitation coverage has increased from 39% in 2014 to over 99% as of August 2019.
[Ref: PIB]


‘Statue of Unity’, Mumbai’s Soho House among Time’s 100 greatest places in the world

 The 597-ft tall ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat and Mumbai’s Soho House have been featured by the Time magazine in its second annual list of the 2019 World’s greatest places, a compilation of 100 new and newly “noteworthy destinations to experience right now”.


About the Statue of Unity

  • Statue of Unity is the world’s tallest statue.
  • The statue is of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, independent India’s first home minister as well as deputy prime minister.  He, popularly known as the ‘Iron man of India’, was responsible for the integration of several princely states into modern India.
  • It is located on an island in the Narmada River (Sardar Sarovaar Dam) in Gujarat.


About Mumbai’s Soho House

  • Soho House is a members’ club and hotel in Mumbai.


Other places in Time’s World’s greatest places 2019

  • Zakouma National Park in Chad
  • Red Sea Mountain Trail in Egypt
  • Newseum (museum of news) in Washington
  • The Shed (cultural center) in New York City
  • the Geosea Geothermal Sea Baths in Iceland
  • Leopard Hill in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Kenya
  • The Pohoiki in Isaac Hale Beach Park in Hawaii
[Ref: Livemint]




  • Iran unveiled its new home-grown air defence system – ‘Bavar-373’ at a time of increased tensions with the United States.

About the New Missile system

  • The air defence system is the Iran’s first domestically produced long-range missile defence system.
  • Iran began making Bavar (which means believe) after the purchase of Russia’s S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions.
  • This system competes with Russian and American systems such as S-300 and MIM-104 Patriot.
[Ref: The Hindu]


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