CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/07/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 20/07/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/07/2023

Cong. brings in Bill promising minimum income in Rajasthan

Congress-led Ashok Gehlot government on Tuesday introduced ‘The Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Bill, 2023’ in the Assembly, in what is likely to be the last session before the State goes to polls in less than four months.

The Bill, for the first time in the country, provides legislative backing for urban employment guarantee schemes and also makes pension a legal right with the provision of a 15% annual increment.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot shot off a letter to Prime Minister demanding that such a law should be brought for the entire country.

The State Cabinet also passed a resolution to this effect on Wednesday.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Congress in its manifesto had promised NYAY — which offers ₹72,000 each annually as a minimum income to the 20% families in the poorest of the poor category. Since then, the party has rarely spoken about the scheme. This Bill comes the closest to the Congress’s 2019 promise.

Every adult person residing in rural areas of the State shall have a right to get guaranteed employment for doing permissible work of at least additional 25 days in a financial year on completion of maximum days of work as prescribed by the Union government’s MGNREGA Scheme.

Every person falling in the category of old age, specially abled, widow or single woman with eligibility shall be entitled to pension under this Act. And this pension will be increased at the rate of 15% a year.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gehlot said, “It is the ‘right’ of one and all to be able to lead their life with dignity.”

Arguing in favour of the legislation, social activist Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan said that it brings a unique approach to an undisputed need for minimum income guarantees for crores of vulnerable families across the country. “The law combines employment guarantees for those who can work [both in rural and urban areas] and minimum social security pensions for those who can’t — thereby ensuring a minimum legal income guarantee for all,” he said.

Several other States too have in recent years introduced employment guarantee schemes for the urban areas but only via executive order. This is the first time the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme will get legislative backing.

“This is also the first time that social security pensions will become a legal guarantee. Again, within that, the provision for a minimum amount of ₹1,000 with automatic increments every year of 15% is both significant in amount, and scope,” Mr. Dey said.

A job and career right the disabled cannot be denied

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is a statement often used in the context of judicial cases that have been or are pending for long in courts of law. There could be several factors responsible for such a situation to arise. These include the complex nature of cases; a lack of judicial attention as far as the aggrieved party is concerned, and even a lack of resources/power/other kinds of support available to the aggrieved side. One such issue that has become a victim of such a state of affairs is reservation in the promotion of persons with disabilities.

The Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, or the PwD Act, first recognised the right of the disabled person to be employed and promoted in government jobs on equal basis with others. In order to ensure this, it introduced 3% reservation for the disabled in employment. The reservation of seats for the disabled existed in Groups C and D prior to the introduction of the PwD Act. Now, the Act extended reservation for the disabled in Groups A and B — a progressive step towards ensuring the dignity of and equality for the disabled at all levels including career advancement in government jobs. In addition to this, it also fixed the percentage of reservation of seats at 3%, which opened the gates of recruitment to disabled people in different sectors of the government.

An integral part of reservation

Reservation for the disabled in promotion in all groups was first interpreted as an integral part of reservation by the Department of Personnel and Training, order no. 3603517195-Estt./SCT, which was passed in 1998. This Government Order was issued by the department in 1998 after the passage of the PwD Act, 1995. It happened after Parliament enacted the provision of reservation of promotion for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), reversing the Supreme Court of India verdict in Indra Sawhney Etc. vs Union Of India And Others, Etc., where reservation in promotion for SCs and STs was withdrawn. The Department of Personnel and Training interpreted the Parliament enactment to be applicable to persons with disabilities also as they are from the marginalised sections of society as well, and hence enjoy similar protection from the state of law.

Unfortunately, another Department of Personnel and Training order, i.e., no. 36035/3/2004-Estt/Res, in 2005 withdrew the reservation of the disabled in promotion in Groups A and B. The department’s reversal of its own order was not only shocking but also clearly reflected the apathetic and hostile attitudes of the administration and government towards the needs and aspirations of the disabled. The department’s order of 1998 opened the doors of opportunity to the disabled to progress in their organisations in keeping with the spirit of the PwD Act. But the department’s order of 2005 may be understood by the ruling dispensation as an expression of denial of equal space and place to the disabled at the higher level in organisations.

Counter action, contempt filing

As a result, a case, no. 36035/3/2004-Estt(Res) was filed in the Supreme Court in 2008, by Rajeev Gupta against the Union of India. After deliberations and hearings for around eight years, it was adjudicated to grant reservation in promotion for the disabled in Groups A and B, which, regrettably, had been taken back by the Department of Personnel and Training order of 2005. The final judgment was made in 2016, granting reservation in promotion in Groups A and B. But the Government of India did not make any effort or give any direction to implement the judgment.

Mr. Gupta then filed a case of contempt in the Supreme Court in 2017; the hearing still continues. The government counsel filed an affidavit arguing for the stopping of the proceedings in the contempt petition by Mr. Gupta citing the presence of another case, i.e., Siddaraju vs State of Karnataka & Ors. in the Supreme Court, in 2017. This affidavit by the Government of India is an attempt to cause hindrance to the result of the contempt petition. As a result, the contempt petition is still in the process of hearing.

The Civil Appeal no. 1567 of 2017 in Siddaraju vs State of Karnataka & Ors., in its several hearings, also upheld the reservation in promotion for the disabled and made null and void the Department of Personnel and Training order of 2005.

It is important to note that in both the cases, the Court challenged the decision in the Indra Sawhney judgment by noting that Article 16(4) does not disable the Indian state from providing preferential treatment such as reservation to the backward classes of citizens under Article 16(1). However, such differential/preferential treatment should not be on the grounds of caste, or religion among other things. The Court also noted that the basis of providing reservation to the disabled is physical disability which is not forbidden under Article 16(1) that guarantees equality of opportunity in state employment or office. Therefore, the right of getting reservation in promotion for persons with disabilities could be ensured under Article 16(1) of the Constitution.

Government’s response

A miscellaneous application, no. 2171 of 2020 in Civil Appeal no. 1567 of 2017, Siddaraju vs State of Karnataka & Ors., was filed by the government, in this case for clarification on the ways and means to implement reservation in promotion for the disabled. But the miscellaneous application was actually an attempt to delay the process of implementation of reservation in promotion for the disabled. The application was subsequently dismissed in 2021.

The government came up with another order, i.e., no. 36012/1/2020-Estt.(Res.-II) through the Department of Personnel and Training on May 17, 2022. Though the order made important clarifications on the reservation of seats for the disabled in recruitment, it failed to make any mention of reservation for the disabled in promotion since 1996, which should be the case as in the PwD Act, 1995 and the department’s own order of 1998 which quite clearly provided for reservation for the disabled in promotion in Groups A and B since then. This denial by the government was another attempt to delay the process of justice to the disabled, ultimately leading to the denial of justice.

The judiciary has played a significant role in granting justice and equality to the disabled especially after the enactment of the PwD Act, 1995. There have been several court cases where persons with disabilities have had redress of their grievances and been able to gain their meaningful and dignified place in society. However, in this case, by prolonging the process of final adjudication in the pending issue of reservation in promotion, the judiciary has compounded government apathy towards the needs and the aspirations of the disabled. In doing so, it only diminishes its laudable role in achieving the lofty goals of equal opportunity and enabling a just and congenial environment for the disabled to grow in society. The denial of reservation in promotion is a major factor in denying the disabled the right to progress to a higher level in their organisation. It is a hindrance in the goal of inclusion of the disabled in society. It is also preventing them from making an active contribution to India’s development. The judiciary should proactively make a decision keeping in mind the inclusive constitutional wisdom of the Indian republic.

By prolonging the process of final adjudication in the issue of reservation in promotion, the judiciary is only compounding government apathy towards disabled persons and their rights.

Facts about the News

Definition and Classification of Disabilities

One of the major changes introduced by the Act is the expansion of the definition and classification of disabilities.

The Act recognises 21 types of disabilities, as compared to 7 types under the previous law. These are:

  • Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy cured persons,
  • Hearing impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), Locomotor disability, Dwarfism,
  • Intellectual disability, Mental illness, Autism spectrum disorder,
  • Cerebral palsy, Muscular dystrophy, Chronic neurological conditions,
  • Specific learning disabilities, Multiple sclerosis, Speech and language disability,
  • Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Sickle cell disease,
  • Multiple disabilities including deaf blindness, Acid attack victim, and Parkinson’s disease.

– It empowers the central government to notify any other category of specified disability.

It defines a person with a disability as a person with a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.

It defines a person with benchmark disability as a person with not less than 40% of a specified disability where a specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with a disability where a specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority.

It recognizes persons with disabilities have high support needs and need intensive support from others for their daily activities.

  •  Rights and entitlements for persons with disabilities
  • Equality and non-discrimination
  • Women and children with disabilities
  • Community life
  • Protection from abuse, violence and exploitation
  • Accessibility
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Social Security

Why are tomato prices still high?

What is the size of India’s tomato cultivation? What has fuelled the current tomato inflation? Why is it being described as a seasonal issue? How does a spike in tomato prices affect the Consumer Price Index? What are the ways to control the inflation volatility of tomatoes?


The story so far:

As prices of tomatoes hover between ₹100 and ₹200 in various parts of the country, the Reserve Bank of India’s latest monthly bulletin has highlighted that the volatility of tomato prices has historically contributed to overall inflation levels in the country.

How is tomato produced in India?

Tomato production in the country is concentrated regionally in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, and Gujarat, which account for close to 50% of total production, according to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare figures. There are two major crops of tomato annually — kharif and rabi. The rabi crop hits the market between March and August annually while the kharif crop comes to markets from September. Some regions in Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh’s Solan are able to grow tomatoes during the monsoon months, while in the summer, Andhra Pradesh’s Madanapalle region alone accounts for tomato cultivation in the entire country. As for tomato production, it peaked in 2019-20 at 21.187 million tonnes (MT) and has been declining since. In 2021-22, it dropped to 20.69MT and 20.62MT in 2022-23.

What is fuelling the price rise?

There are multiple factors for the dip in overall tomato production this year, with the two key reasons being extreme weather conditions and low commercial realisation of the crop for farmers in the months before June as well as last year.

The heatwaves and high temperatures in April and May along with delayed monsoon showers in southern India and Maharashtra led to pest attacks in tomato crops. As a result, inferior-quality varieties came to markets earlier this year, fetching farmers prices ranging as low as ₹6 to ₹11 per kg between December last year and April 2023. A lot of farmers resorted to selling whatever crop they had at these prices while some abandoned their crops. This led to a crunch in supply. Later, incessant rains in tomato-growing regions further affected the new crop. The fact that July-August is a lean production period for tomato, as it falls between yields, compounded the problem. Reports show that many farmers in the Kolar district of Karnataka, which is usually responsible for sizeable tomato supplies, shifted to beans owing to the higher prices it fetched last year.

Is it a seasonal issue?

The Centre has called this sudden and sharp price rise in tomatoes a “seasonal” and temporary issue. Consumer Affairs Ministry Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh stated that there is a seasonality to tomatoes, adding that the data on tomato prices of the last five years showed that the rates had risen every year at this time.

However, policy experts over the years, and now the RBI and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), have expressed concerns over this high seasonal price volatility of tomatoes and its impact on the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI). A NABARD study from last month notes that tomato is the most volatile out of all the three TOP (tomato, onion, potato) agri-commodities. While the weightage of the food and beverages component in the combined CPI is 45.86, vegetables account for a relatively small part of this at 6.04, and the TOP commodities are even lesser at 2.20. Even with such a low weightage, the contribution of TOP to the overall CPI has been quite volatile. In June 2022, at 8.9%, tomato had the largest contribution among 299 commodities in the CPI basket. There are multiple reasons behind this starting with how it is more perishable than onion and potato. Supply chain issues in transporting the vegetable from areas where it is grown to regions where it is not compound the problem. A July 2022 study by ICRIER notes how tomato prices have been following a cyclical phenomenon, with the same situation arising every alternate year. The year 2021 also saw prices drop to as low as ₹2-₹3 per kg for farmers. This led to a lot of them cultivating tomatoes in lesser land area and shifting to other crops, which resulted in a glut.

How can volatility be controlled?

Policy experts say high volatility can be tamed by making some improvements. First, since tomato is highly perishable, improved value and supply chains can help with the problem. An organised value chain involves a market-focussed collaboration of a set of entities working in tandem to produce, process and market products and services in an effective and efficient manner. An ICRIER study suggests increasing the processing capacity for tomatoes. Building more processing units and linking tomato value chains to processing of at least 10% of tomato production into tomato paste and puree during peak seasons, and using them in the lean season when fresh tomato prices spike can be a solution. The development of integrated cold chains has also been suggested.

A 2022 study estimated that farmers’ share of what consumers pay for tomatoes is only 32%. Eliminating middlemen and encouraging Farmer Producers Organisations to sell produce directly, as well as amending rules of Agricultural Produce Market Committees to reduce commission and other fees has been suggested.


Tomato production in the country is concentrated regionally in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, and Gujarat, which account for close to 50% of the total production, as per the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare figures.

The Centre has called this sudden and sharp price rise in tomatoes a “seasonal” and temporary issue.

However, policy experts over the years have expressed concerns over this high seasonal price volatility of tomatoes and its impact on the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI).

What are the takeaways from the NATO summit?

How did Ukraine’s presence influence the Vilnius summit? Why did Turkey lift its opposition against Sweden?

The story so far:

For quite a few years, many questions were asked about the relevance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, the war in Eastern Europe has upended these narratives and provided a renewed raison d’etre not just for strengthening the alliance but its expansion as well. The latest NATO summit held in Vilnius this month underscored both these strategic necessities for the NATO.

How was this summit different?

A standout of the Vilnius Summit was the attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the anticipation around the possibility of extending NATO membership to Ukraine. In this regard, the launch of the NATO-Ukraine Council as a forum for crisis consultations and decision-making indicated that NATO tried to assuage the feelings of Ukraine for not being included in the alliance by creating a mechanism for its wider engagement, support and future inclusion as a full member. From Ukraine’s perspective, the Vilnius summit did usher promise but little immediate gains. All three priorities outlined by President Zelenskyy — new weapons packages, security guarantees and an invitation to join NATO — went unfulfilled. However, the U.K. did pledge ammunition support to Ukraine. Additionally, garbed in the urgency to help Ukraine, NATO has levelled up its own defences. NATO’s new plans involve maintaining a force of 300,000 troops, with air and naval capabilities, while emphasising the importance of a strong industrial base, leading to the endorsement of a Defence Production Action Plan.

What is the significance of the entry of new members?

The inclusion of Finland and approval of Sweden as NATO members indicates a few things. First, it signals that the Alliance continues to practise Article 10 of the Washington Treaty signed in April 1949 which states that member countries can invite other European countries to become members of NATO. It rests Ukraine’s potential membership on fertile grounds and conceptually deters Russia from taking steps against members of NATO. Secondly, Turkey’s scaling back of its long-standing opposition to Sweden’s inclusion in NATO is a significant shift. While the final approval remains contingent on Turkey’s parliament, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s facilitation of Sweden’s membership prompts a desire to mend relations with the U.S. A better relationship with the U.S would cushion Ankara’s faltering economy and provide opportunities to resolve bilaterally contentious issues.

What was the U.S.’s stance?

U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech at the summit extended unwavering support to the alliance as well as Ukraine. This is seen as an important assurance as former president Donald Trump’s approach to NATO was drastically different from Mr. Biden’s. Mr. Trump had considered withdrawing the U.S. from NATO while the current President has pitched his support to Ukraine as a political legacy of his administration, not just in resurrecting trans-Atlantic solidarity but also by drawing a bipartisan consensus on Ukraine domestically.

Who are other threat actors to NATO?

The Vilnius summit minced no words on the challenges and threats emerging from China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies. It stated that NATO faces threats from China’s malicious hybrid cyber operations, as well as confrontational rhetoric and disinformation, which specifically aim at NATO allies and pose a threat to the security of the Alliance. The NATO summit emphasised that the developments in the Indo-Pacific have become increasingly consequential for Euro-Atlantic security with expanding space for Quad countries, along with other regional countries like New Zealand and South Korea.

But even as the summit was on, Russia launched a drone attack on Kyiv, depicting an undeterred approach to NATO’s potential expansion. It is this contestation that is likely to define the future of Eurasian security.

Harsh V. Pant is Vice President for Studies at the Observer Research Foundation. Vivek Mishra is a Fellow at ORF.


A standout of the Vilnius Summit was the attendance of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the anticipation around the possibility of extending NATO membership to Ukraine.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s facilitation of Sweden’s membership prompts a desire to mend relations with the U.S.

The Vilnius summit minced no words on the challenges and threats emerging from China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies.

Facts about the News

  • The 2023 NATO summit took place from 11–12 July 2023, in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.
  • The 2022 summit was held in Madrid, Spain.
  • The participating leaders discussed the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as Ukraine and Sweden’s prospective memberships into NATO.

 New forum for deepening ties with Ukraine

  • NATO leaders launched a new forum for deepening ties with Ukraine, known as the NATO-Ukraine Council.
  • This council is intended to serve as a permanent body where the alliance’s 31 members and Ukraine can hold consultations and call for meetings in emergency situations.
  • The setting is part of NATO’s effort to bring Ukraine as close as possible to the military alliance without actually joining it.

Ukraine won new security assurances from the U.S. and its allies

  • A joint declaration issued by the G-7, issued during the summit, lays the groundwork for each nation to negotiate agreements to help Ukraine bolster its military over the long term.

No clear path for Ukraine’s membership in NATO

The summit did not provide a firm timeline for when the Ukrainians will become official members.

In their communiqué summarizing  the summit’s conclusions, the leaders said that Ukraine can join when allies agree and conditions are met.

  • Experts say that quick admittance of Ukraine to NATO could potentially increase Russian aggression and drag out the war even farther.
  • Hence, the membership of Ukraine is being delayed.

Membership of Sweden

  • Recently, Turkey withdrew its objections to Sweden joining the alliance.
  • This paves ways for Sweden to join the alliance as the new entries must be approved by all existing members.
  • NATO had formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance at Madrid summit held in 2022.
  • However, Turkey had raised objection regarding the membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO.

Turkey, which has been a member of NATO since 1952, had repeatedly opposed Finland and Sweden’s entry.

It accused the two Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish militant groups. which it deems to be terrorist organizations.

  • In March 2023, Tukey withdrew its objection to Finland and later, in April 2023, Finland became the 31st member of grouping.

Manufacturing ecosystem for Airbus C-295 aircraft taking shape in India

In September, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will receive the first C-295 transport aircraft and ahead of it, six pilots have been trained in Seville by Airbus and training of a 20-member maintenance crew is currently under way.

Ground breaking ceremony for a training centre at Air Force Station, Agra, was done in March with a full motion simulator to be delivered by the end of 2024. Work is under way for setting up the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Vadodara in partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), according to Jorge Tamarit, head of C-295 India programme, Airbus. The first aircraft manufactured in India would be delivered in September 2026.

“The FAL in Vadodara will be ready by mid-2024 and start production by November 2024,” Mr. Tamarit said speaking to a small group of visiting presspersons from India. “Next week the Main Constituent Assembly [MCA] in Hyderabad is set to start production where several major sub-assemblies for the 40 aircraft to be assembled in India would be made, beginning with the rear-end fuselage.”

The second C-295 will be delivered in May 2024 followed by seven aircraft in 2024 at the rate of one per month, said Jorge Madrid, head of C-295 India-version development programme.

In September 2021, the Defence Ministry signed a ₹22,000-crore deal with Airbus and Space S.A., Spain, for procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft to replace the Avro aircraft in service with the IAF. As per contract, 16 aircraft would come in fly away condition, manufactured at the Airbus facility in Seville, and 40 would be manufactured in India by Airbus jointly with TASL.

Eventually, IAF will become the largest operator of the C-295.

Mr. Tamarit said the contract involving ‘Make-in-India’ and offset obligations is unprecedented. Airbus has not done a full production system ever, he said stating the deal involves 30% offset obligations on top of ‘Make-in-India’ obligations.

The contract includes service support programme: spares, ground support and test equipment, tech publications, training, training devices, performance-based logistics contract. In March, the contract for Performance Based Logistics for five years was signed as per which a fleet availability rate of 85% would be ensured.

The FAL spread over 36 acres will be ready by mid-2024 and operations will start by November 2024. All parts produced in Hyderabad will be shipped to Vadodara for the final assembly. The MCA in Hyderabad is set to start production by next week beginning with the rear-end fuselage, followed by rear fuselage, centre fuselage and so on. We are doing fortnightly deliveries of tail parts to India, Mr. Tamarit said. These are for the 17th C-295 which will be the first aircraft to be manufactured in India.

Indigenous radar warning receiver and missile approach warning systems made by Bharat Electronics Limited and counter-measure dispensing system made by Bharat Dynamics Limited have been certified and installed on the first aircraft, Mr. Madrid stated.

In all, 14,000 detailed parts would be made in India and roughly around 3,500 parts will be industrialised every year, said Mr. Tamarit. The project will create 15,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs over 10 years.

(The writer was in Spain on the invitation of Airbus.)

  • The C-295 is a transport aircraft of 5-10 tonne capacity with contemporary technology.
  • Robust and reliable, it is a versatile and efficient tactical transport aircraft which can perform a number of different missions.


  • The aircraft, with a flight endurance of up to 11 hours, can carry out multi-role operations under all weather conditions.
  • It can routinely operate day as well as night combat missions from desert to maritime environments.
  • It has a rear ramp door for quick reaction and para dropping of troops and cargo. Short take-off/land from semi-prepared surfaces is another of its features.


  • It will replace the Indian Air Force’s ageing fleet of Avro-748 planes.
  • The Avro-748 planes are a British-origin twin-engine turboprop, military transport and freighter with a 6-tonne freight capacity.

India’s Image:

  • With the procurement of these aircraft, India has become the 35th C-295 operator worldwide.
  • With 285 aircraft ordered and 38 operators in 34 different countries, the aircraft has achieved more than 5,00,000 flight hours.
  • The Navy and the Coast Guard have also expressed interest in the C-295 and it can be used in civilian roles as well as exported in the future.
  • The C-295 is also a potential replacement for the AN-32 aircraft, the workhorse of the IAF with over 100 of them in service.
  • The AN-32s will be in service upto 2032 and beyond.

India supports U.N. on Black Sea initiative


India voiced support for the UN’s efforts in continuing the Black Sea Grain initiative, and expressed hope for an early resolution to the impasse.

Russia on Monday had said it was terminating the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — a UN-brokered deal that allowed food exports and fertilizers from Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

What is the Black Sea grain deal?

Ukraine is among the world’s biggest exporter of foodgrains, such as wheat and corn, and a major contributor to the UN’s food aid programmes. When Russia invaded the country and blockaded its ports, it sent food prices soaring and raised fears of food security in the poorer nations of the world. Pakistan, for instance, saw wheat prices skyrocket to crisis levels.

About Black Sea Grain Initiative:

  • It was set up to resume vital food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world.
  • It was brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey. 
  • The Initiative allowed exports of grain, other foodstuffs, and fertilizer, including ammonia, to resume through a safe maritime humanitarian corridor from three key Ukrainian ports: Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, to the rest of the world.

India climbs seven points to 80 on Passport Index; Singapore at top position

India has climbed seven places on the Henley Passport Index, 2023 to the 80th rank from 87 last year, though the number of countries allowed visa-free access to Indian passport holders remains unchanged.

The Henley Passport Index is the ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The index includes 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.

The index is brought out by Henley and Partners.

In 2014, India ranked 76 with 52 countries allowing Indian passport holders visa-free access, but its performance has not been linear. It ranked 88 in 2015 (visa-free access to 51 countries), 85 in 2016, 87 in 2017, 81 in 2018, 82 in 2019 and 2020, and 81 in 2021.

Japan, which occupied the top position on the Henley Passport Index for five years, dropped to the third place. It was replaced by Singapore, which is now officially the most powerful passport in the world, with its citizens able to visit 192 travel destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free.

Germany, Italy, and Spain occupied the second place. Alongside Japan at the third position are Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden. The U.K. climbed two places to occupy the fourth place, while the U.S. continued its decade-long slide down the index, dropping two places to the eighth spot. Both the U.K. and the U.S. jointly held the first place on the index nearly 10 years ago in 2014.

Henley & Partners also conducted an exclusive new research resulting in the Henley Openness Index which measures how many nations does a country allow visa-free access to. Here, India was ranked 94 out of a total of 97 ranks for allowing only four countries visa-free access. At the bottom of the Index were four countries for scoring zero for not permitting visa-free access for any passport — namely, Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan.

Facts about the News

India has climbed seven places on the Henley Passport Index,2023 to the 80th rabk from 87th last year,though the number of ountries allowed visa-free access to Indian passport holders remains unchanged.

 Singapore has overtaken Japan to become the world’s most powerful passport, according to the latest Henley Passport Index.

 Singapore’s passport allows visa-free entry to 192 global destinations out of 227 around the world, whereas Japan which held the top position for five years – dropped to third place as the number of visa-free destinations for its passport decreased.

World’s most powerful passports

Rank Country No. of visa-free destinations
1 Singapore 192
2 Germany 190
2 Italy 190
2 Spain 190
3 Austria 189
3 Finland 189
3 France 189
3 Japan 189
3 Luxembourg 189
3 South Korea 189
3 Sweden 189
  • The Henley Passport Index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
  • Originally created by Dr. Christian H. Kaelin (chairman of Henley & Partners), the ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information.
  • It was launched in 2006 and includes 199 different passports.
  • It is updated in real time throughout the year as and when visa policy changes come into effect.