Here is the list of some important case studies from April 2021 that can be quoted/used in UPSC CSE Mains answers/essays.
Table of Contents
- Geography (GS I)
- Society (GS I)
- Polity & Governance (GS II)
- Social Justice (GS II)
- International Relations (GS II)
- Science & Technology (GS III)
- Environment and Ecology (GS III)
- Internal Security (GS III)
Geography (GS I)
How Asian desert dust enhances the Indian summer monsoon?
Relevance: Important Geophysical Phenomena
- Recently, a study details how the Indian monsoon gets influenced by the atmospheric dust particles swept up by winds from the deserts in West, Central and East Asia.
What can dust do?
- Dust is a very small dry particle of earth or sand. PM10 and PM2.5 refer to dust classified by the size of particles.
- But dust has incredible power- it is known to influence monsoons, hurricanes and even fertilize rainforests.
- For example- dust rising from the Sahara travels all the way through the Atlantic to fertilize the lungs of the earth- Amazon rainforest).
How dust affects the monsoon?
- The natural erosion of soil, sand and rock is the most common source of dust which is abundant in deserts. Deserts across the globe play important roles in monsoons.
- Dust storms from the desert when lifted by strong winds can absorb solar radiation and become hot.
- This can cause heating of the atmosphere, change the air pressure, wind circulation patterns, influence moisture transport and increase precipitation and rainfall.
- The dust aerosols from deserts in West China such as the Taklamakan desert and the Gobi Desert can be transported eastward to eastern China and can influence the East Asia summer monsoon.
- In the southwest United States, we have some small deserts that influence the North African monsoon.
- Anthropogenic dust from vehicles, mining, construction activities can also influence the monsoon.
- Some studies earlier found that anthropogenic aerosols emitted from the Indian subcontinent can decrease summer monsoon precipitation, while others found that absorbing aerosols such as dust can strengthen the monsoon circulation.
- However, this recent study showed that they can strengthen Indian summer monsoon rainfall.
Effect of dust on Indian monsoon:
- Dust from the Middle East (West Asia) and also from the Iranian Plateau influences the Indian Summer Monsoon (South West Monsoon).
- When carried by strong winds into the atmosphere, the dust particles from the Middle East absorb solar radiation and become extremely hot.
- The heat from these particles raises the heat of its surrounding environment enough to change air pressure and circulation patterns of the wind.
- This phenomenon is termed an “elevated heat pump” that is responsible for driving moisture from the sea to the Indian subcontinent.
- The hot air over the Iranian Plateau can heat the atmosphere over the plateau, strengthen the circulation over the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and increase dust emission from the Middle East (West Asia).
- The researchers also explained how the Indian Summer Monsoon has a reverse effect and can increase the winds in West Asia to produce yet more dust.
- A strong monsoon can transport air to West Asia and again pick up a lot of dust. This is a positive feedback loop.
Significance of the findings:
- The dust emission scheme is extremely sensitive to climate change and understanding these mechanisms and effects of dust can help understand our monsoon systems in the face of global climate change.
Society (GS I)
Northeast citizens faced racial discrimination amid the COVID-19 outbreak, says govt. study
Relevance: Indian society, regionalism, racial discrimination etc.
- The Centre for Criminology and Victimology at the National Law University (NLU), Delhi conducted the study under the aegis of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Delhi, on the prevalence of hate crimes against the people of the region in six metropolitan cities- Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad
Findings of the study:
- Amid the COVID-19 outbreak last year, people from the region faced an increased number of acts of hate and prejudices against them.
- Northeast India seamlessly fits an Indian’s imagination of a Chinese person.
- 78% of the people from the region who were interviewed believed that physical appearance was the most important reason for prejudice against them.
- A series of attacks were reported in various parts of the country where people from the region were “harassed, abused, and traumatised” and were disparagingly called ‘coronavirus'.
- Offensive and abusive language were reported to be most common across all six cities.
- Mumbai recorded the highest offensive and abusive language related crime (74%), followed by Chennai (72%), Pune (67.3%), Delhi (64%), Hyderabad (48.7%) and Bengaluru (43.3%).
- The hate crime and racial discrimination against people from the northeast are deep-rooted even in the cosmopolitan cities.
- Most of them faced problems while renting a house, even in restaurants they faced issues forcing them to eat mostly in eateries run by people from their communities.
- The most pervasive reasons behind hate crime incidents against the northeastern people as per our data analysis were public attitude and insensitivity (44.5%).
- The incidence of non-reporting of the incidents was as high as 32.3%. As many as 34% of persons faced a common issue of refusal to file FIR by the police.
- M.P. Bezbaruah Committee in 2014 recommended amendments to the IPC by creating new offences under Section 153C and 509A to deal with comments, gestures and acts intended to insult a member of a particular racial group.
- It also suggested to make such offences as ‘gender-neutral’, ‘cognizable’ and ‘non-bailable' with imprisonment extendable up to three years or five years with fine, respectively.
- The Supreme Court in Karma Dorji & Others vs Union of India & Others (2014) made several recommendations for the prevention and monitoring of racial hatred and violence.
- Though, not much seems to have been done in this regard. These issues cannot be solved by policing alone. Govt should seriously consider the above recommendations.
Polity & Governance (GS II)
Goa's Uniform Civil Code
Relevance: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure; Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the StatesUniform civil code
- Chief Justice of India S A Bobde recently appreciated the uniform civil code (UCC) in Goa, the only state to have one. UCC in Goa applies in marriage and succession, governing all Goans irrespective of religious affiliation.
What is Uniform Civil Code?
- Uniform Civil Code seeks to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen.
- Personal law subjects like marriage, divorce, inheritance come under the Concurrent List.
- Hindu personal laws have been by and largely secularized and modernized by statutory enactments.
- The Hindu personal laws (that apply also to the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists) have been codified by the Parliament in 1956. This Code Bill has been split into four parts:
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
- The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
- The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
- However, Muslim personal laws are still primarily unmodified and traditional in their content and approach.
- Apart from it, Christians and Jews are also governed by different personal laws.
What does the constitution say?
- Article 44 of the Constitution says that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. According to this article, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
- Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.
About Goa’s UCC:
- Goa’s Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 is basically an alien code given by the Portuguese.
- Goa’s Civil Code has four parts, dealing with civil capacity, acquisition of rights, right to property, and the breach of rights and remedies.
- It begins in the name of God and Dom Luis, King of Portugal and Algarves.
- The Code has survived by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962 that permitted its continuance.
Merits of Uniform Civil Code:
- National Integration: A secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices. A unified code is imperative, both for the protection of the vulnerable sections in Indian society(women and religious minorities) and for the promotion of national unity and solidarity.
- Simplification of laws: There exist so many personal laws like the Hindu code bill, Shariat law, etc. The presence of so many laws creates confusion, complexity and inconsistencies in the adjudication of personal matters, at times leading to delayed justice or no justice. UCC will eliminate this overlapping of laws.
- Simplification of the Indian legal system: UCC will lead to a reduction in litigation emanating from multiple personal laws. Courts have also often said in their judgements that the government should move towards a uniform civil code including the judgement in the Shah Bano case.
- Establishing a secular society: UCC will de-link law from religion which is a very desirable objective to achieve in a secular and socialist pattern of society. Moreover, it fulfills constitutional mandates under Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy.
- Gender justice: The rights of women are usually limited under the patriarchal discourse through religious laws. Many practices governed by religious tradition are at odds with the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. UCC will liberate women from patriarchal domination and provide them with the right to equality and liberty. In the long term, UCC would lead to the defeat of the communal and the divisionist forces.
Arguments against UCC:
- Secularism cannot contradict the plurality prevalent in the country.
- Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for a threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.
- Freedom of religion gets into conflict with the right to equality.
- Moreover, an individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality”.
- In 2018, a report by the Law Commission of India stated that the Uniform Civil Code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
- The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a “Piecemeal” approach.
- The government could bring separate aspects such as marriage, adoption, succession and maintenance into a uniform civil code in stages.
- Government must emulate the Goan practice of a common civil code, which has been the law since 1867 when the state was under Portuguese colonial rule.
- Moreover, when the constitution espouses the cause of the Uniform civil code in its Article 44, it shouldn’t be misconstrued to be a “common law”.
- The word uniform here means that all communities must be governed by uniform principles of gender justice and human justice.
- Government has to take steps towards increasing the awareness among the public, especially minorities, about the importance of having a UCC.
- The UCC must carve a balance between the protection of fundamental rights and religious dogmas of individuals. It should be a code, which is just and proper according to a man of ordinary prudence, without any bias with regards to religious and political considerations.
Social Justice (GS II)
National Rare Disease Policy 2021
Relevance: Govt schemes and policies for vulnerable sections of the society and issues arising out of it, types of rare diseases etc.
- Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has approved the National Rare Disease Policy 2021.
Data on Rare Diseases:
- There are 6,000-8,000 classified rare diseases, but less than 5% have therapies available to treat them.
- Example: Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSD), Pompe disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, haemophilia etc.
- About 95% of rare diseases have no approved treatment and less than 1 in 10 patients receive disease-specific treatment.
- These diseases have differing definitions in various countries and range from those that are prevalent in 1 in 10,000 of the population to 6 per 10,000.
- India has close to 50-100 million people affected by rare diseases or disorders, the policy report said almost 80% of these rare condition patients are children and a leading cause for most of them not reaching adulthood is due to the high morbidity and mortality rates of these life-threatening diseases.
What is a rare disease?
Key provisions of the policy:
- The policy has categorised rare diseases into three groups:
- Group 1: Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment.
- Group 2: Those requiring long term or lifelong treatment.
- Group 3: Diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make an optimal patient selection for benefit, very high cost and lifelong therapy.
- Financial Support:
- Those who are suffering from rare diseases listed under Group 1 will have the financial support of up to Rs. 20 lakh under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi.
- Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi: The Scheme provides financial assistance to patients, living below the poverty line (BPL) and who are suffering from major life-threatening diseases, to receive medical treatment at any of the super-speciality Government hospitals/institutes.
- Beneficiaries are limited to BPL families but extended to about 40% of the population, who are eligible as per norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, for their treatment in Government tertiary hospitals only.
- Alternate Funding:
- This includes voluntary crowdfunding treatment by setting up a digital platform for voluntary individual contribution and corporate donors to voluntarily contribute to the treatment cost of patients of rare diseases.
- Centres of Excellence:
- The policy aims to strengthen tertiary health care facilities for prevention and treatment of rare diseases through designating eight health facilities as 'Centres of Excellence' and these will also be provided one-time financial support of up to Rs. 5 crores for up-gradation of diagnostics facilities.
- National Registry:
- A national hospital-based registry of rare diseases will be created to ensure adequate data and comprehensive definitions of such diseases are available for those interested in research and development.
Issues with the policy:
- Lack of Sustainable Funding:
- Unlike conditions under Group 1 and Group 2, patients with Group 3 disorders require sustainable treatment support.
- In the absence of sustainable funding support for Group 3 patients, the precious lives of all patients, mostly children, are now at risk and at the mercy of crowdfunding.
- Lack of Drug Manufacturing:
- Where drugs are available, they are prohibitively expensive, placing immense strain on resources.
- Currently, few pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing drugs for rare diseases globally and there are no domestic manufacturers in India except for those who make medical-grade food for those with metabolic disorders.
A way forward for trans persons
Relevance: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
- 13 members of the transgender community have been selected recently as constables under the Chhattisgarh police.
- This is truly historic and thrilling for a community that had no legal recognition till the Supreme Court in NALSA vs. Union of India (2014) ruled that transgender persons have the right to decide their self-identified gender.
- Earlier, a few transgenders were inducted into the Tamil Nadu police too.
About the initiative:
- Soon after the 2014 Supreme Court judgment, the Chhattisgarh government constituted the Third Gender Welfare Board to take up various welfare measures in favour of trans people.
- Instructions were issued to all departments to include ‘third gender’ as an option in official documents.
- District-level committees were constituted to identify members of the transgender community so that welfare schemes could be implemented for their benefit.
- Sensitisation workshops were organised at State and district levels by the police department.
- Police officers were apprised about the Central law and the Supreme Court’s ruling on transgenders.
- Training capsules were prepared for police training institutes with the help of transgender members of the Welfare Board.
- After the announcement of vacancies, the police not only permitted the use of their sports ground for practice but also helped them in preparing for the written examination.
- However, ultimately, it was the hard work of the transgender people themselves which ensured their success and marked their presence in the department.
- Though each of the selected persons has their own painful stories of abuse, discrimination and abandonment, their induction into the police force is a vital message to people that they are as physically and mentally competent as others.
- This is more significant in the backdrop of the fact that there was no reservation for the transgender community as a separate category.
- This may help in changing the perception of people who think of them as a fearful entity with a stigma of identity, disability, criminality, or untouchability.
International conventions for Transgenders:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948,
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, and
- Yogyakarta Principles, 2006.
- A lot more needs to be done to bring about changes in the perception of people towards this marginalised community.
- The recently enacted Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 must be implemented in letter and spirit to fulfil its objective.
- At the same time, society needs to erase its biases and accept transgender people as equal human beings with humility. Sensitization workshops can be conducted for people to raise awareness.
Read more on issues faced by the Transgender Community- Click here.
Some 5.4 billion people globally couldn't obtain necessary resources in 2017: Study
Relevance: Inequality, inclusive and sustainable development.
- The study was carried out by a team of researchers from four organisations namely the Global Footprint Network, the Munasinghe Institute for Development, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Findings of the study:
- Some 57% of humanity was unable to obtain necessary resources in 1980; this figure rose to 72% in 2017.
- These people lived in countries with low biocapacity and below average incomes. ‘Biocapacity’ is the ability of an ecosystem to regenerate the resources that people use.
- In 1980, the worldwide ecological deficit was only 19%.
- In 2017, 72% people lived in low biocapacity and below-average income. The global ecological deficit rose to 73%.
- This figure may have dropped to 56% in 2020 due to lockdowns caused by the novel coronavirus disease pandemic.
- Wealthier countries tended to be rich in natural resources. Just 14% of them were found to have resource deficits.
- However, such countries used approximately 52% of the planets’ biocapacity.
- A country like Switzerland having biocapacity deficits and very high incomes might be able to maintain higher levels of consumption.
- While those such as Niger or Kenya, that had biocapacity deficits and insufficient income were fragile as slight economic downturns or extreme weather could temporarily reduce biocapacity and lead to food and energy insecurity.
- The researchers recommended that governments should use policy tools to enhance their countries’ resource security by managing both resource demand and resource availability.
Making social welfare universal
Relevance: Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, poverty and hunger; Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections and the performance of these schemes.
- Leveraging existing schemes and providing universal social security is of utmost importance for India in these times.
What's the issue?
- India being one of the largest welfare states in the world failed to provide social welfare to its vulnerable citizens during Covid-19.
- India is witnessing multiple crises: a crumbling health infrastructure, mass inter- and intra-migration and food insecurity.
- The pandemic has pushed an estimated 75 million people into poverty and brought even the middle and upper-class citizens to their knees.
- Leveraging our existing schemes and providing universal social security is of utmost importance. This will help absorb the impact of external shocks on our vulnerable populations.
What is Social Security/Welfare System?
- According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Social Security is a comprehensive approach designed to prevent deprivation, give assurance to the individual of a basic minimum income for himself and his dependents and to protect the individual from any uncertainties.
- It is also comprised of two elements, namely:
- Right to a Standard of Living adequate for the health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.
- Right to Income Security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond any person’s control.
Need For Universal Social Welfare:
- Majority of Workforce is in Unorganised Sector: The organised sector workers constitute less than 10% of all workers in India.
- Illness Is Universal, But Healthcare Is Not:
- Economic capital, in the absence of social capital, has proven to be insufficient in accessing healthcare facilities.
- Further, Out-of-pocket health expenses create barriers to seeking healthcare and can push marginal households into poverty. Covid-19 has highlighted the urgency for providing universal free health care.
- Inadequate Expenditure on Social Security:
- The overall public expenditure on social protection (excluding public healthcare) is only approx. 1.5% of the GDP, lower than many middle-income countries across the world.
- Intended Benefits:
- Having a universal system would improve the ease of application by consolidating the data of all eligible beneficiaries under one database.
Universal Social Welfare Model of Ireland:
- An example of such a social protection scheme is the Poor Law System in Ireland.
- In the 19th century, Ireland, a country that was staggering under the weight of poverty and famine, introduced the Poor Law System to provide relief that was financed by local property taxes.
- These laws were notable for not only providing timely assistance but maintaining the dignity and respectability of the poor while doing so.
- They were not designed as hand-outs but as necessary responses to a time of economic crisis.
- Today, the social welfare system in Ireland has evolved into a four-fold apparatus that promises social insurance, social assistance, universal schemes, and extra benefits/supplements.
- Govt. can build on existing systems- The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is one scheme that can be strengthened into universal social security.
- It already consolidates the public distribution system, the provision of gas cylinders, and wages for the MGNREGS.
- Urban MGNREGA can be considered.
- Providing Universal Health Coverage is important.
- International experience also emphasizes the need to move away from a one-size-fits-all model by allowing sub-national governments greater flexibility as political economy, labor markets, demographic attributes and risk profiles vary by location.
- Hence, or establishing an universal social protection architecture, India should enable local governments to design, plan and deliver a core basket of benefits within a nationally defined policy framework and budget.
International Relations (GS II)
A ceaseless plight
Relevance: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
- Hundreds of fishermen have been languishing in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight.
What's the issue?
- Fishermen from India end up in Pakistani waters and are arrested by authorities for illegally entering their territory.
- The problem is aggravated due to the failure in agreement over the maritime boundary and the dispute over Sir Creek in Kutch.
- Fishermen from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat often get arrested when they unintentionally cross over into Pakistani waters. More than 300 Indian fishermen remain in Pakistan’s custody in Malir jail.
- In an inhuman and skewed system involving both countries, even the mortal remains of prisoners are not repatriated for months.
- It highlights the issue of basic human rights.
- Ideally, prisoners should be released and repatriated the day they complete their prison sentence. But this has happened in just one case. The fishing community has ended up paying a huge price over the years.
- The confiscated boats are seldom returned. The livelihood of the fishermen is dependent on the boats. Hence, when they are captured, entire families suffer the brunt.
Agreement between India and Pakistan:
- India and Pakistan signed the Agreement on Consular Access in 2008. Though it has a few lacunae, agreement was significant.
- Section 4 of the agreement says, “Each government shall provide consular access within three months to nationals of one country, under arrest, detention or imprisonment in the other country.”
- Section 5 says, “Both governments agree to release and repatriate persons within one month of confirmation of their national status and completion of sentences.”
- Though the agreement does not state a time limit, there are numerous instances in which both countries have not confirmed nationality for as long as 18 months, during which the arrested men languish in jails.
- Consular access is an exception. Without it, the nationality of the person is not confirmed and the repatriation process cannot begin.
- The lack of clear boundaries or demarcation for the disputed territory adds to the difficulty of steering clear of the troubled area.
- Installing tracking devices in the boats can help in sending out disaster alerts or when the boat is seized by another country. Identification cards can help in verifying the identification of arrested fishermen.
- India and Pakistan should try to hold talks or even appoint retired judges for the joint judicial committee on prisoners set up in 2007 by these countries which is now inactive.
- The committee used to convene twice a year to meet prisoners and made unanimous recommendations, including on the release and repatriation of fishermen and women prisoners.
Science & Technology (GS III)
China’s Digital Currency
Relevance: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests; Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
- China in February 2021 launched the latest round of pilot trials of its new digital currency, with reported plans of a major roll-out by the end of the year, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022.
- Officially titled the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), the digital RMB (or Renminbi, China’s currency) is, as its name suggests, a digital version of China’s currency.
- It can be downloaded and exchanged via an application authorised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank. Digital currencies issued by central banks is called Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
- China is among a small group of countries that have begun pilot trials; others include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand.
How is it different from an e-wallet?
- Unlike an e-wallet such as Paytm in India, or Alipay or WeChat Pay in China, the Digital RMB does not involve a third party.
- For users, the experience may broadly feel the same. But from a legal perspective, digital currency is different. This is legal tender guaranteed by the central bank, not a payment guaranteed by a third-party operator.
- There is no third-party transaction, and hence, no transaction fee.
- Unlike e-wallets, digital currency does not require Internet connectivity. The payment is made through Near-field Communication (NFC) technology.
- Also, unlike non-bank payment platforms that require users to link bank accounts, this can be opened with a personal identification number, which means “China’s unbanked population could potentially benefit”.
Why did China opt for digital currency (or CBDC)?
There are three key dilemmas in the existing monetary systems:
- traceability (the inability to accurately monitor fund flows to the individual level),
- homogeneity (the inability to effectively target funding to particular sectors) and “real
- momentness (the inability to guarantee the timeliness of disbursal).
Benefits of CBDC:
- A programmable digital currency that can be monitored at the central level would radically alter the capacities of our existing monetary policy.
- A programmable currency could be programmed to target particular sectors, within a particular time period.
- Monetary policy could move away from traditionally targeting aggregate money supply and open new doors, like the precise targeting of interbank interest rates, and the establishment of dynamic sector-specific interest rates.
- Further enhanced by robust machine learning, a programmable currency could ensure that monetary policy chiefs are equipped with a significantly more potent arsenal for the future.
Lessons for India:
- There have already been significant policy nudges towards developing an Indian CBDC.
- The Draft National Blockchain Strategy tabled by the National Institute for Smart Governance earlier this year has called for India to develop a Central Bank Digital Rupee on a national permissioned blockchain, while also outlining the legal limitations faced by other cryptocurrencies in the country.
- This is a welcome step in the context of the Coronavirus, as the government looks to optimise its financing mechanisms and increase the impact of the limited funds that it has at its disposal.
- India has made several aggressive strides forward in financial technologies.
- UPI has enabled instantaneous transactions, its Aadhar integration and applicability at all levels of India’s commerce have enabled its rapid scaling.
- In such an environment, an Indian digital currency presents itself as a logical end to the ongoing transformation of cash into its digital avatar.
- India also faces all three of the dilemmas highlighted above. The opacity of our governance mechanisms only facilitates the attrition of money as it trickles down through various levels of government.
- India’s monetary leadership must seriously consider charting a path out of the analogue realm and into the digital.
Environment and Ecology (GS III)
Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier' close to a tipping point!
Relevance: Climate change, changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
- A robotic submarine has returned from the dark underbelly of one of Antarctica's largest glaciers with chilling news- it could be melting faster than we previously thought.
Findings of the research:
- Thwaites Glacier, a gigantic ice shelf in West Antarctica, has been melting fast ad is close to complete collapse.
- Also nicknamed the “Doomsday Glacier,” it has lost an estimated 595 billion tons of ice since the 1980s, contributing to a 4% rise in global sea levels since that time.
- Located more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) away from the nearest research base, Thwaites is remote even by Antarctic standards.
- The craft named Ran after the Norse goddess of the sea, measured the strength, temperature, oxygen content and salinity of the ocean currents flowing beneath the glacier.
- The first measurements ever performed in the dark waters under the 74,000 square mile chunk of ice revealed a disquieting piece of information: A previously underestimated current of warm water is flowing from the east, whittling away at several vital “pinning points” that anchor the shelf to the land.
- Observations show warm water impinging from all sides on pinning points critical to ice-shelf stability, a scenario that may lead to unpinning and retreat.
- In other words, the entire ice shelf could get detached and then flow into the ocean.
- The findings aren't the only troubling recent news to come from West Antarctica. Exposure to warmer water could also push Thwaites' neighbouring Pine Island Glacier past a tipping point.
- The Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers are currently responsible for 10% of the ongoing increase in global sea levels.
Reason behind melting of Thwaites:
- What is happening here is down to the complex interplay of climate, weather and ocean currents. The key is warm seawater, which originates on the other side of the world.
- As the Gulf Stream cools between Greenland and Iceland, the water sinks. This water is salty, which makes it relatively heavy, but is still a degree or two above freezing.
- This heavy salty water is carried by a deep ocean current called the Atlantic conveyor all the way down to the south Atlantic.
- Here it becomes part of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, flowing deep- below a layer of much colder water.
- The surface water in Antarctica is very cold, just above -2C degrees, the freezing point of saltwater.
- The deep warm circumpolar water travels all the way around the continent but has been increasingly encroaching on the icy edge of West Antarctica. This is where changing climate comes in.
- The scientists say the Pacific Ocean is warming up and that is shifting wind patterns off the coast of West Antarctica, allowing the warm deep water to well up over the continental shelf.
- The deep Antarctic circumpolar water is only a handful of degrees warmer than the water above it – a degree or two above 0C – but that's warm enough to light this glacier up
- The glacier acts like a cork in a wine bottle, stopping the rest of the ice in the region from flowing into the sea.
- So Thwaites Glacier's collapse could potentially take the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with it, causing a 10-foot (3 meters) rise in global sea levels.
Ken Betwa Link Project
Relevance: River interlinking projects and their positive and negative impacts, environment conservation, environmental impact assessment.
- Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh signed a memorandum of agreement to implement the Ken Betwa Link Project (KBLP).
What is the KBLP?
- The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers.
- Under this project, water from the Ken river will be transferred to the Betwa river. Both these rivers are tributaries of the river Yamuna.
- The Ken-Betwa Link Project has two phases. Under Phase-I, one of the components- Daudhan dam complex and its appurtenances like Low-Level Tunnel, High-Level Tunnel, Ken-Betwa link canal and Powerhouses- will be completed. While in Phase-II, three components- Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project and Kotha barrage- will be constructed.
- Project cost: According to the Comprehensive Detailed Project Report, the cost of the Ken-Betwa Link Project is estimated at Rs 35,111.24 crore at 2017-18 prices.
- Ken-Betwa is one of the 30 river interlinking projects conceived across the country.
- The project has been delayed due to political and environmental issues.
What are the benefits of KBLP?
- Reducing drought:
- The project lies in Bundelkhand, a drought-prone region, which spreads across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The project lies in Bundelkhand, a drought-prone region, which spreads across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- Farmers' welfare:
- It will curb the rate of farmers suicide and will ensure them stable livelihood by providing sustainable means of irrigation and reducing excessive dependence on groundwater.
- Electricity production:
- It will not only accelerate the water conservation by the construction of a multipurpose dam but will also produce 103 MW of hydropower and will supply drinking water to 62 lakh people.
- According to the Jal Shakti Ministry, the project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved region of Bundelkhand, especially in the districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh.
- Biodiversity rejunivation:
- Few are of the view that the introduction of dams inside the water-scarce regions of Panna tiger reserve (MP), will rejuvenate the forests of the reserve that in turn will pave the way for Rich Biodiversity in the region.
- For future projects:
- It will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects to ensure that scarcity of water does not become an inhibitor for development in the country.
What are the concerns associated?
- Environmental: Out of the 6,017 ha of forest area coming under the submergence of Daudhan dam of this project, 4,206 ha of area lies within the core tiger habitat of Panna Tiger Reserve. The project is stuck in for the approval from National Green Tribunal, and other higher authorities.
- Economic: There is a huge economic cost attached to the project implementation and maintenance, which has been rising due to delays in project implementation.
- Social: Reconstruction and rehabilitation caused due to displacement resulting from the implementation of the project will involve social cost as well.
Clearances required for a river-linking project:
- Generally, 4-5 types of clearances are required for the interlinking of river projects. These are:
- Techno-economic (given by the Central Water Commission);
- Forest Clearance and Environmental clearance (Ministry of Environment & Forests);
- Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) Plan of Tribal Population (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) and
- Wildlife clearance (Central Empowered Committee).
National Perspective Plan
Internal Security (GS III)
Meth, gold and arms- How Assam Rifles is trying to stop them from entering Mizoram?
Relevance: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security; Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism; Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
- Currently, 200 women soldiers serving with the Assam Rifles in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir are posted in Mizoram. Training in Assam Rifles for women began in 2013 and formal induction took place in 2014.
About Assam Rifles:
- Assam Rifles is a Central Paramilitary Force under the Central Armed Police Forces.
- It came into being in 1835, as a militia called the ‘Cachar Levy’, to primarily protect British Tea estates and their settlements against tribal raids.
- It significantly contributed to the opening of the Assam region to administration and commerce and over time it came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.
- It is administratively under the Ministry of Home Affairs and operationally under the Army.
Role of riflewomen:
- Riflewomen have played a stellar role in the short time since they were inducted into the force.
- Recoveries of narcotics and contraband have gone up significantly since riflewomen have been deployed.
- The women perform all tasks and work equally with their male counterparts. Most importantly, they can check women carrying contraband.
Challenges for Assam Rifles:
- The Assam Rifles faces the twin challenges of checking smuggling and preventing illegal crossings into the State which has a porous border and also a Free Movement Regime up to 16 km for residents on both sides.
- It also has to oversee the much-delayed and ambitious Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which seeks to ease India’s access to Southeast Asia and also provide an alternate route between the landlocked Northeast and the rest of India. The project is finally nearing completion.
- India is a prime market for illicit opiates originating in Asia (Golden triangle).
- A major anti-drug drive was launched by Assam Rifles in cooperation with the State government and local NGOs.
- Apart from drugs, other major items smuggled include gold, wildlife, weapons, Indian currency and foreign cigarettes. Mizoram is one of the fastest-growing hubs of gold smuggling from China.