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Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

1. Raja Ravi Varma.

2. IMD releases new list of cyclone names.


GS Paper 2:

1. ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program.

2. What is an “immunity passport”?

3. USCIRF 2020 annual report.

4. Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

5. Global Terrorism Index (GTI).


GS Paper 4:

1. What are human challenge trials, and why are they controversial?


GS Paper  : 1


Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Raja Ravi Varma

What to study?

For Prelims: His key contributions to the society and important paintings.

For Mains: Significance and impact of his paintings on the society.

Context: April 29 is the birth anniversary of the famed Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906).

 Key contributions:

  • He is remembered for giving Indians their western, classical representations of Hindu gods and goddesses. 
  • Through his printing press, Varma’s humanised depiction of Hindu pantheon travelled beyond the surfaces of costly canvases, and into the prayer and living rooms of working-class homes.
  • He achieved this by making affordable lithographs, which were accessible even to the poor.
  • Ravi Varma first started a press in Mumbai and later shifted it to a place near Lonavala. 

Awards he won:

His 1873 painting, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, won Varma prestigious awards including Governor’s Gold Medal when it was presented in the Madras Presidency, and Certificate of Merit at an exhibition in Vienna.

In 1904, the British colonial government awarded Varma with the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal. In 2013, a crater on the planet Mercury was named in his honour.

His prominent works include:

A Family of Beggars, A Lady Playing Swarbat, Arjuna and Subhadra, Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Jatayu (a bird devotee of Lord Rama), Lady Lost in Thought, Shakuntala.


Varma is often criticized for being too showy in his paintings. His paintings are also condemned for overshadowing traditional Indian art forms, especially the ones depicting Hindu gods and goddesses. His approach is said to lack the dynamism of expression seen in the traditional paintings. Critics have also criticized him for modelling goddesses after prostitutes, saying that his representation of deities have reduced them to the level of mortals.


Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Time period of Raja Ravi Varma.
  2. Important Indian and European rulers during his time.
  3. Unique features of his paintings.
  4. Awards and titles he won.

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

IMD releases new list of cyclone names

What to study?

For Prelims: A brief overview of recent cyclones and their origins.

For Mains: Classification and naming of cyclones.

Context: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has released a new list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean including Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

The new list comprises of 169 names including 13 from India such as Gati, Tej, Aag, Neer, Vyom, Jhar, Jaladhi, Murasu, Probaho, Prabhanjan, Ghumi, Ambud and Vega. The new list starts with Nisarga (shared by Bangladesh), Gati (India), Nivar (Iran).


Any tropical cyclone that hits the region is known by a name given in the list. Since the earlier list of 2004 is left with only one name – Amphan (shared by Thailand), the IMD being one of the six RSMCs in the world to provide tropical cyclone and storm surge advisories finalised the new list of 169 names.

Why name cyclones?

Naming of tropical cyclones (TCs) helps scientific community, disaster managers, media and general masses to identify each individual cyclone; create awareness of its development; remove confusion in case of simultaneous occurrence of TCs over a region; remember a TC easily and rapidly and effectively disseminate warnings to much wider audience.

How are cyclones named?

Each Tropical Cyclone basin in the world has its own rotating list of names. For cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the naming system was agreed by eight member countries of a group called WMO/ESCAP and took effect in 2004.

Facts for prelims:

Cyclones are given many names in different regions of the world – They are known as typhoons in the China Sea and Pacific Ocean; hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean; tornados in the Guinea lands of West Africa and southern USA.; willy-willies in north-western Australia and tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. List of names given by India.
  2. What is a cyclone called in different regions?
  3. Favourable conditions for a cyclone to occur?
  4. How its intensity varies on land?
  5. Why eastern coast cyclones are more intense?

Sources: pib.


GS Paper  : 2


Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Overview and significance of the program.

 Context: The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $1.5 billion loan agreement for the ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Programme (CARES Programme).

It will be used to implement (i) COVID-19 containment plan to rapidly ramp up test-track-treatment capacity, and (ii) social protection for the poor, vulnerable, women, and disadvantaged groups to protect more than 800 million people over the next three months.

About ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program:

Started to provide immediate requirements to governments in the face of this global crisis.

The CARES Programme is provided as the first support to meet the immediate requirements of the government.

The Program will contribute directly to the improvement of access to health facilities and care, as well as social protection for more than 800 million people.

The Program is funded through the COVID-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility.

The CARES Program will be provided with a USD 2 million technical assistance grant to support the government to strengthen its operational framework and efficient targeting, delivery, and monitoring and evaluation of its pro-poor economic package, as well as its health sector and social protection interventions.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Genesis and composition of ADB.
  2. Funding and voting at ADB.
  3. Types of loans.
  4. What is countercyclical support facility?

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

What is an “immunity passport”?

What to study?

For Prelims: What are they? What are antibodies? How are they tested?

For Mains: Significance of these passports, concerns associated and alternatives Available.

Context: A few countries have started considering issuing “immunity passports” or some kind of certificates indicating a person has immunity to COVID-19. 

However, the World Health Organization has warned against idea of ‘immunity passports’.

What is an “immunity passport”?

The idea for the “immunity passport” or a “back to work” pass is this: If you’ve been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and recover, then you have immunity that will protect you from getting the disease again for some amount of time.

Why is WHO against this idea?

  1. It says there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected against a second infection.
  2. Some experts think that it may be too soon to consider it.
  3. Many have criticised the scheme as both scientifically and ethically controversial.
  4. Lack of necessary information would make categorising between immune and non-immune persons a challenging as well as potentially dangerous task.
  5. There are also logistical problems, as not enough test kits are still available around the world to be able to issue such certificates on a large scale. Also, many researchers continue to remain sceptical about entirely relying on antibody tests to issue certificates.
  6. At the same time, experts have said that issuing such certificates would create resentment among members of the community, and raise the possibility of stigmatisation.

Why such strategies are needed now?

The coronavirus pandemic has now shut down the activities and economies in many countries that are experiencing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.

  • Immunity passports would help us get out of stay-at-home orders and economic shutdown.
  • In theory, people who have an immunity passport could safely return to work because they would not get sick again and start passing the virus around. Then business and activity could slowly return to normal.

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

USCIRF 2020 annual report

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Findings, concerns for India and relevance.

Context: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2020 report.


USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

It makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief.

Highlights of the report:

India- specific:

  • India is at the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC).
  • This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in this category.
  • India is placed alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
  • India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing.

 Reasons for this downgrade:

  • Concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims.
  • Besides, national and various State governments also allowed nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities to continue with impunity, and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence against them.

Recommendations made by USCIRF to US government:

Take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).

Impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.

How effective can these recommendations be?

In 2005, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was censured by the USCIRF. The commission had recommended sanctions against Mr. Modi for the 2002 riots and the U.S. government had subsequently cancelled his visa.

How are other countries placed in the report?

  • In the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”
  • These include nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—as well as five others—India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
  • Instead of using its own “Tier 2” category, as in past reports, the 2020 Annual Report also recommends 15 countries for placement on the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL) for severe violations.
  • These include four that the State Department placed on that list in December 2019—Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Uzbekistan—as well as 11 others—Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Turkey.
  • The Report recommends six non-state actors for designation as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. These consist of five groups that the State Department designated in December 2019—al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Houthis in Yemen, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Afghanistan—plus one other—Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria.

Important Terms and definitions:

Tier 2 countries are those in which violations engaged in or tolerated by government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of systematic, ongoing, and egregious (horrible)’.

CPC is designated to a nation guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The term ‘particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ means systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. What kind of organisation is USCIRF?
  2. What are Countries of Particular Concern?
  3. What are Tier 2 countries?
  4. Countries places alongside India in the latest report.

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Petersberg Climate Dialogue

What to study?

For Prelims: The event, aim, host and features.

For Mains: Objectives, significance and achievements of the dialogue.

Context: The eleventh and first ever virtual Petersberg Climate Dialogue was held on April 28th 2020.

India, along with 30 countries, deliberated over ways and means to tackle the challenge of reinvigorating economies and societies after COVID-19, while enhancing collective resilience and catalysing climate action while also supporting in particular those most vulnerable.

About the Petersberg Climate Dialogue:

This has been hosted by Germany since 2010.

The Climate Dialogue was originally an initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is hosted by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

Aim: To provide a forum for informal high-level political discussions, focusing both on international climate negotiations and the advancement of climate action.

The Dialogue was co-chaired by Germany and the United Kingdom, the incoming Presidency of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is UNFCCC?
  2. What is Copenhagen summit?
  3. Who organises Petersberg Climate Dialogue?
  4. What is COP?

Sources: pib.


Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Global Terrorism Index (GTI)

What to study?

For Prelims: GTI- rankings, database and latest report highlights.

For Mains: Concerns expressed by India.

Context: Niti Aayog has questioned Australian institute’s terror ranking of India in its Global Terrorism Index of 2019.

It has questioned the methodology adopted to rank India as the seventh worst terrorism affected country ahead of conflict-ridden countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Palestine and Lebanon.

It also questions the opaque funding of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

What’s the issue?

India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth in the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019. The countries ahead of it are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.

  • Following this, in March, the Cabinet Secretariat asked Niti Aayog to track 32 such global indices to see how they could help drive reforms and growth.
  • It is because the positioning in the global indices impacted investments and other opportunities.

About Global Terrorism Index:

  • The GTI report issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is based primarily on the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, besides other sources.
  • The index provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism since 2000. It produces a composite score in order to provide an ordinal ranking of countries on the impact of terrorism.
  • The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.

What GTI rankings matter?

GTI scores are directly used in the Global Peace Index, the Global Slavery Report published by the Walk Free Foundation, and indirectly used in computing country scores in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness and Global Competitiveness Indices and compilation of Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Who releases GTI?
  2. Who releases GTD?
  3. How are countries ranked?
  4. India’s ranking comparison?

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper  : 4

What are human challenge trials, and why are they controversial?

Why in News?

Many people have volunteered to take part in a controversial testing method called human challenge trials. The method, which involves intentionally infecting volunteers with the novel coronavirus, is being promoted in order to “speed up” the process of preparing a vaccine.

  • As of April 27, a global initiative called 1DaySooner had registered 3,817 people in 52 countries who had signed up for such trials.


But, how are vaccines usually developed and tested?

In most regulatory regimes, vaccines take several years to develop, and their development typically proceeds through three phases of clinical trials.

  1. In Phase 1, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine.
  2. In Phase 2, the clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended.
  3. In Phase 3, the vaccine is given to several thousand people and tested for efficacy and safety. During this phase, participants either receive the vaccine or a placebo.


What are human challenge trials? How do they take place? Why is it significant?

In this, participants of the vaccine group and placebo group upon consent are deliberately exposed to the infection – thus are “challenged” by the disease organism.

  • Such trials could save valuable time in developing a vaccine, as researchers would not have to wait for participants to contract the infection under real-world conditions.
  • By replacing conventional Phase 3 testing of vaccine candidates, such trials may subtract many months from the licensure process, making efficacious vaccines available more quickly.

The ethical concerns:

While human challenge trials are not new, they are usually carried out in developing medications for diseases which are considered less lethal and have been better understood by scientists over the years, such as malaria.

Critics have questioned undertaking such trials for Covid-19, a potentially deadly disease for even those who are less at risk, and which researchers are still in the early stages of studying.

In 2016 , even WHO has observed that such research can appear to be in conflict with the guiding principle in medicine to do no harm.

Need of the hour:

Well documented historical examples of human exposure studies would be considered unethical by current standards.

  • It is essential that challenge studies be conducted within an ethical framework in which truly informed consent is given.
  • When conducted, human challenge studies should be undertaken with abundant forethought, caution, and oversight.
  • The value of the information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects. Information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects.

Sources: Indian Express.

Insights Current Affairs Analysis (ICAN) by IAS Topper