26 May 2024 CNA
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A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
1. Why COVID vaccine safety needs scrutiny
C. GS 3 Related
1. Why was Singapore flight turbulence severe?
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
F. Prelims Facts
1. Bhutan PM extols smart city project
2. Warming climate intensifies flash droughts worldwide
3. Brazil,EU urge India to give timely notices on sugar subsidies in WTO
G. Tidbits
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
FIP Magazine

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Syllabus: Government policies and interventions


Mains: COVID vaccine safety needs scrutiny



  • The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) recently criticised a study by Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on the safety of Covaxin, an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR. This controversy underscores the importance of rigorous vaccine safety scrutiny.


Key Findings of the BHU Study


The BHU study, titled “Long-term safety analysis of the BBV152 coronavirus vaccine [Covaxin] in adolescents and adults,” highlighted several adverse events among vaccine recipients:

  • Adverse Events of Special Interest (AESI): Reported by nearly a third of the participants.
  • Serious Adverse Events: Occurred in 1% of recipients, including stroke and Guillain-Barre syndrome.


Common AESIs:

  • Adolescents: Viral upper respiratory tract infections (47.9%), new onset skin and subcutaneous disorders, general disorders, and nervous system disorders.
  • Adults: Viral upper respiratory tract infections (42.6%), general disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and nervous system disorders.
  • Menstrual Abnormalities: Observed in 4.6% of female participants.
  • Ocular Abnormalities and Hypothyroidism: Reported in 2.7% and 0.6% of participants, respectively.


Criticisms by ICMR


ICMR’s objections to the BHU study were multifaceted:

    • Lack of Association: ICMR stated it was not associated with the study and had not provided support.
  • Methodological Flaws:
    • No control arm of unvaccinated individuals.
    • No background rates of observed patterns in the general population.
    • No baseline information on participants.
  • Inconsistent study tools and methods, including telephonic data collection without clinical confirmation.
  • Call for Retraction: ICMR requested the authors to remove the acknowledgment and retract the paper, claiming it made unsupported conclusions about vaccine safety.


Reactions and Fallout


The ICMR’s response has sparked significant backlash:

  • Academic Censorship: Researchers expressed shock and termed ICMR’s actions as censorship.
  • Conflict of Interest: Critics pointed out ICMR’s vested interest in the vaccine, suggesting a bias in its response.
  • Support for BHU Study: The Universal Health Organisation (UHO) and other experts supported the BHU study, emphasizing its importance in filling data gaps and urging ICMR to build upon it rather than dismiss it.


Importance of Vaccine Safety Scrutiny

  • Public Trust: Ensuring vaccine safety is crucial for maintaining public confidence in vaccination programs.
  • Scientific Integrity: Rigorous and transparent safety evaluations are essential for scientific credibility.
  • Long-term Monitoring: Continuous surveillance of vaccine effects is necessary to identify and mitigate potential risks.


Challenges in Vaccine Safety Studies

  • Methodological Rigour: Studies need robust designs, including control groups and comprehensive data collection.
  • Transparency and Independence: Research should be free from conflicts of interest to ensure unbiased results.
  • Regulatory Oversight: Effective regulation and oversight are needed to enforce high standards in vaccine safety studies.


Impact on Public Health

  • Safety Assurance: Thorough safety evaluations protect public health by identifying and addressing adverse effects.
  • Policy Decisions: Reliable safety data inform vaccination policies and strategies.
  • Vaccine Uptake: Confidence in vaccine safety can enhance vaccine acceptance and coverage, crucial for controlling pandemics.




Enhancing Vaccine Safety Studies

  • Comprehensive Design: Include control groups and detailed baseline data to enhance study reliability.
  • Transparency: Ensure clear disclosure of funding sources and potential conflicts of interest.
  • Independent Review: Conduct independent reviews of safety studies to avoid bias.
  • Regulatory Support: Strengthen regulatory frameworks to support rigorous and transparent vaccine safety research.

Nut Graf: The scrutiny of COVID-19 vaccine safety is essential for maintaining public trust and ensuring the long-term success of vaccination programs. The controversy surrounding the BHU study and ICMR’s response highlights the need for rigorous, transparent, and unbiased safety evaluations


1. Why was Singapore flight turbulence severe?

Syllabus: Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation


Mains: Causes and Impact of turbulence in Airlines



  • On May 20-21, 2023, Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London to Singapore encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea/Bay of Bengal, resulting in a tragic fatality and multiple injuries. This incident raises critical questions about the nature of turbulence, its potential increase due to climate change, and the measures airlines can take to manage such in-flight challenges.


Incident Overview

  • Flight SQ321, a Boeing 777-312ER carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew, experienced severe turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin near Myanmar. The aircraft dropped rapidly before descending from 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet. 
  • Due to the severity of the situation, the flight was diverted to Bangkok, Thailand. The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is assisting with the investigation.


Understanding Turbulence

Causes and Types

  • Thermal Turbulence: Caused by the heating of the earth’s surface, leading to rising warm air.
  • Mechanical Turbulence: Occurs when airflow is disrupted by terrain, buildings, or other structures.
  • Clear Air Turbulence (CAT): Happens around jet streams and is difficult to detect as it occurs without visual cues.
  • Cloud-Related Turbulence: Associated with cumulonimbus clouds, which have strong vertical air currents.


Climate Change and Turbulence

  • There is growing evidence that climate change is contributing to increased turbulence. Changes in atmospheric conditions, such as the jet stream’s alteration due to global warming, are linked to more frequent and severe turbulence. 
  • This trend is expected to continue, posing challenges for aviation safety and flight planning.


Managing In-Flight Turbulence

Airline Strategies

  • Predictive Technology: Advanced weather prediction models and artificial intelligence (AI) are used to forecast turbulence. The Weather Company’s high-resolution models and machine learning algorithms help predict turbulence more accurately.
  • Turbulence Aware Platform: Over 20 airlines participate in this platform by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which shares real-time turbulence data.


Litigation and Compensation

  • Injuries from turbulence can lead to litigation, as seen in the case of Magan vs Lufthansa German Airlines. 
  • Aviation attorneys work with weather experts to establish the cause of turbulence and secure compensation for affected passengers.


Safety Measures and Passenger Awareness

  • Seatbelt Usage: Ensuring passengers keep seatbelts fastened can prevent injuries during unexpected turbulence.
  • Cabin Management: Properly securing overhead bins and serving hot beverages cautiously can mitigate risks.



  • Enhanced Predictive Models: Continued development and deployment of high-resolution weather forecasting and AI tools.
  • Passenger Education: Informing passengers about the importance of seatbelt use and safety protocols.
  • Improved Communication: Strengthening the relay of turbulence information from meteorologists to pilots and dispatchers.
  • Collaborative Platforms: Encouraging more airlines to join platforms like IATA’s Turbulence Aware to share real-time data.

Nut Graf: The severe turbulence experienced by Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 underscores the evolving challenges in aviation safety due to climate change. By leveraging advanced technology, improving safety measures, and fostering greater industry collaboration, airlines can better manage turbulence and enhance passenger safety.

F. Prelims Facts

1. Bhutan PM extols smart city project

Context: Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has highlighted the significance of the Gelephu Mindfulness City project, positioning it as a unique investment opportunity for Indian investors. This carbon-negative smart city aims to boost Bhutan’s economic growth while addressing its deep-seated economic challenges.


Gelephu Mindfulness City Project

  • Project Description: The Gelephu Mindfulness City is a 2,000 square kilometre carbon-negative smart city designed to attract investments and enhance sustainable development.
  • Investment Potential: Positioned as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, particularly for Indian investors, due to its strategic location on the India-Bhutan border.
  • Airport Development: Indian Airport Authority officials have visited Gelephu to discuss the development of the airport, which is currently in the design phase.


Prime Minister’s Vision

  • Economic Catalyst: PM Tobgay envisions the project as a crucial driver for Bhutan’s economic revitalization, leveraging its geographical advantage and sustainability goals.
  • Global Attention: The project has already garnered international interest, particularly from Indian investors eager to capitalize on its potential.


Bhutan’s Economic Challenges

Current State

  • Tourism Downturn: The pandemic has significantly impacted tourism, a major revenue source for Bhutan.
  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector remains small and underdeveloped, necessitating growth and diversification.
  • Unemployment: Rising unemployment rates pose a significant challenge to economic stability.


Economic Stimulus

  • Indian Support: PM Modi’s visit to Bhutan resulted in doubling the financial outlay for Bhutan’s five-year plan, from ₹5,000 crore to ₹10,000 crore.
  • 13th Five-Year Plan: ₹8,500 crore allocated to infrastructure development.
  • Economic Stimulus Programme: ₹1,500 crore dedicated to reviving small businesses and the tourism and hospitality sectors.


Ensuring Feasibility of the Gelephu Project

Strategic Planning

  • Avoiding White Elephants: Bhutan’s cautious approach ensures that large-scale projects are sustainable and economically viable.
  • Investor Confidence: The project’s success in capturing international investor interest indicates its potential viability.


Key Factors

  • Design and Planning: Careful planning and phased development to ensure feasibility and sustainability.
  • Infrastructure Development: Strategic use of funds for necessary infrastructure to support the smart city.


Broader Implications

Regional Connectivity

  • Economic Conduit: Gelephu’s location enhances connectivity with India, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, facilitating trade and economic integration.
  • Tourism Revival: The project aims to attract tourists, contributing to the recovery of the tourism sector.

India-Bhutan Collaboration

  • Airport Development: Potential collaboration between India and Bhutan on the Gelephu airport project.
  • Economic Ties: Strengthened economic ties through increased Indian investments in Bhutan.


Economic Revitalization

  • Job Creation: Potential to create jobs and reduce unemployment.
  • Sustainable Development: Promotion of carbon-negative development aligns with global sustainability goals.
  • Economic Diversification: Diversifies Bhutan’s economy beyond tourism and manufacturing.

Regional Development

  • Boost to Bilateral Relations: Enhances India-Bhutan bilateral relations through increased economic cooperation.
  • Model for Smart Cities: Sets a precedent for sustainable smart city development in the region.

2. Warming climate intensifies flash droughts worldwide

Context: The rise in global temperatures and altered precipitation patterns due to climate change are intensifying flash droughts worldwide. These sudden, severe dry spells are becoming more frequent and severe in many regions, with the notable exception of mountainous Central Asia. 

  • A new study provides a systematic, quantitative analysis of the global incidence of flash droughts, highlighting hotspots and regions experiencing rapid increases.


Key Findings of the Study


Definition and Tracking

  • Flash Drought Metrics: The study defined and tracked three critical measures of drought severity: speed of onset, duration, and geographic extent.
  • Data Analysis: Utilized 40 years of NASA’s MERRA-2 climate data (1980-2019), incorporating weather observations, satellite imagery, and modeled root-zone soil moisture.
  • Publication: The findings are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


Global Hotspots and Trends


South America

  • Regions Affected: Southern Brazil and the Amazon.
  • Drivers: High temperatures, deforestation, and reduced rainfall.
  • Drought Dimensions: Intensification in speed of onset, duration, and extent.


  • Affected Areas: Congo, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, and Madagascar.
  • Key Factors: High temperatures are more critical than declining precipitation.


Land Cover Influence

  • Vulnerability: Savannas and grasslands in humid and semi-humid climates are more susceptible to flash droughts.


Exceptions to the Trend

Central Asia

  • Regions: High mountain areas including the Himalaya, Karakoram, Tianshan, and Hindu Kush.
  • Observations: Flash drought extent has shrunk over the study period.
  • Reasons: Climate-driven changes in precipitation, melting snowpack, and a shift from snow to rain keep soils moist.
  • Consequences: Increased risk of flash floods instead of droughts.


Climate Change Impact

  • Heat and Precipitation: Warming climate alters temperature and precipitation patterns, exacerbating flash drought conditions.
  • Ecosystem Vulnerability: Different ecosystems have varying susceptibilities to flash droughts, influenced by land cover and climate type.


Agricultural and Economic Implications

  • Crop Failure: Flash droughts can lead to sudden crop failures, impacting food security.
  • Economic Stress: Regions dependent on agriculture face economic challenges due to unpredictability in water availability.


Disaster Preparedness

  • Prediction Challenges: Rapid onset of flash droughts makes prediction and preparedness difficult.
  • Resource Management: Effective management of water resources is crucial in mitigating the impacts of flash droughts.

3. Brazil,EU urge India to give timely notices on sugar subsidies in WTO

Context: At a recent meeting of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agriculture committee, a group of countries including Brazil, Canada, and the European Union (EU) urged India to submit timely notifications on sugar subsidies. These discussions highlight ongoing concerns regarding India’s support measures for sugar and their impact on global trade.


Issues Raised by WTO Members


Concerns of Major Sugar Exporters

  • Countries Involved: Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Paraguay, New Zealand, the EU, and Guatemala.
  • Allegations: These countries allege that India’s support measures for sugar distort global sugar trade by creating an uneven playing field.


India’s Position

  • Government’s Role: India contends that neither the central nor state governments purchase sugarcane from farmers; rather, private sugar mills handle all purchases.
  • Notification of Support: Due to the nature of these transactions, India argues that this information was not included in its notifications of domestic support to the WTO.


WTO Dispute and Appeal

WTO Panel Ruling

  • Ruling: In 2022, a WTO trade dispute settlement panel ruled that India’s domestic support measures for sugar and sugarcane were inconsistent with global trade norms.
  • Appeal: India appealed against this ruling to the WTO’s Appellate Body, which is currently not functioning, leaving the dispute unresolved.


Countries Filing Cases

  • Complainants: Brazil, Australia, and Guatemala filed cases against India, challenging its support measures.


Impact on Global Sugar Trade

Distortion of Trade

  • Market Effects: The subsidies are perceived to distort global sugar prices and trade dynamics, disadvantageous to other major sugar-exporting countries.
  • Trade Fairness: Ensuring timely and accurate notifications of subsidies is crucial for maintaining fair trade practices and transparency in the global market.




Global Trade Norms

  • Compliance: Timely notifications of subsidies are essential for compliance with WTO rules and maintaining trust among member countries.
  • Transparency: Accurate reporting helps in assessing the true impact of domestic support measures on global trade.


Bilateral and Multilateral Relations

  • Diplomatic Relations: The issue affects India’s trade relations with major sugar-exporting countries, potentially influencing bilateral and multilateral negotiations and agreements.


Economic Implications

  • Domestic Industry: India’s sugar industry relies on support measures to remain competitive, impacting the livelihood of millions of farmers and workers.
  • Global Market: Disputes over subsidies can affect global sugar prices and market stability, influencing economies of sugar-exporting and importing countries.

G. Tidbits

Nothing here for today!!!

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1.Consider the following statements with respect to Cumulonimbus Clouds:
  1. They appear like huge mountains and have an anvil-shaped top portion.
  2. These clouds are grey in colour and are responsible for fair and pleasant weather.
  3. These clouds are also called ‘Fairweather clouds’.How many of these statements is/are correct? (a) One only

    (b) ⁠Two only 

    (c) Three only

    (d) ⁠All four


Answer: a

Explanation:Statement 2 and 3 are incorrect. Cumulonimbus Clouds are dark-coloured clouds which cause thunder and lightning. These clouds are also known as ‘Thunderheads

Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to
 Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) :
  1. It is an apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  2. It is neither a statutory body nor a regulatory body.Which of these statements is/are correct?(a) 1 only

    (b) 2 only

    (c) Both 1 and 2

    (d) Neither 1 nor 2


Answer: c

Explanation: Both the statements are correct

Q3. The ‘Gelephu Smart Cities Project’ recently seen in news has been announced by:

(a) China

(b) India

(c) Bhutan

(d) Indonesia



Answer: c

Explanation:Bhutan’s King has announced plans to build a massive “international city” in an area of over 1,000 sq. km. on its border with Assam. This project is known as the Gelephu Smart Cities Project

Q4. Consider the following statements with respect to Jet Streams:
  1. They extend from 20 degrees latitude to the poles in both hemispheres.
  2. They develop where air masses of differing temperatures meet.  
  3. Greater the difference in temperature, slower the wind velocity inside the jet stream.

How many of these statements is/are incorrect? 

(a) One only

(b) ⁠Two only 

(c) Three only

(d) ⁠All four


Answer: a

Explanation:Statement 3 is incorrect. Greater the difference in temperature, the faster the wind velocity inside the jet stream.

Q5.Which among the following are the categories of WTO’s agricultural 
trade and commodity subsidies as included in the Agreement on Agriculture:
  1. Blue box
  2. Green Box
  3. Red Box
  4. Amber Box

Choose the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 4 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Answer: a

Explanation: Blue box, Green box, Amber box are the categories of WTO’s agricultural trade and commodity subsidies as included in the Agreement on Agriculture.


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