Prelims Monthly Current Affairs Magazine: April 2022

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Table of Contents

 

Art And Culture

Dances:

Odissi

  • Odissi is a dance form from the state of Odisha in eastern India.
  • According to historians Odra-Magadhi style of dance, is a precursor of twentieth-century Odissi which is mentioned in Natyashastra of Bharatmuni.
  • It is one of the eight classical dance forms of India.
  • It is celebrated around the world for its lyricism, sensuality and emphasis on bhakti bhava (attitude of devotion and surrender).
  • This dance form includes themes from Vaishnavism and others associated with Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Surya, and Shakti.
  • An Odissi orchestra essentially consists of a pakhawaj(Drums) player (usually the Guru himself), a singer, a flutist, a sitar or violin player, and a manjira player(Cymbals).
  • The two most commonly used sarees for this dance are Sambalpuri saree and Bomkaisaree.
  • Another significant tradition in the history of Odissi is that of Gotipua where young boys were dedicated by their families to temples or akhadas, where they trained in acrobatics, singing and dancing.
  • One of the most predominant features of Odissi is its relation to many of the sculptures that can be found in temples around Orissa.
  • The Tribhanga combines with the Chakua, a square, half-seated pose, and forms the core posture of Odissi.
  • Related to Bharatnatyam in its basic pattern, Odissi emphasizes sinuous postures and is enlivened by a variety of elevations and jumps. It is predominantly a dance for women.

Rongali Bihu

About:

  • Rongali or Bohag Bihu is the Assamese new year and spring festival. The Rongali Bihu coincides with Sikh New Year- Baisakhi.
  • The Bohag Bihu dates are April 13 to April 21. It is a harvest or sowing festival. It marks the first day of the Hindu solar calendar and is also observed in Bengal, Manipur, Mithila, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

BIHU Festival:

  • Bihu is the main festival of Assam and folk dance. It is celebrated three times a year.
  • Rongali or Bohag Bihu is observed in April. Kongali or Kati Bihu is observed in October and Bhogali or Magh Bihu is observed in January.
  • Men and women in traditional Muga silk attires dance to the rhythm of Bihu tunes and beatings of the bihu dhol (traditional drum) across the State.
  • The traditional gamocha woven on handlooms is offered as bihuwan to one's near and dear and also to guests.

 

Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:

Malcha Mahal

Context:

  • The Delhi government is planning to restore a 14th-century monument, Malcha Mahal.

About:

  • It is located in the Chanakyapuri area in Delhi. It was built in 1325 by Firoz Shah Tughlaq and was for long used as a hunting lodge. It later became the residence of the descendants of the Nawab of Awadh.
  • It came to be known as ‘Wilayat Mahal’ after Begum Wilayat Mahal of Awadh, who claimed that she was a member of the royal family of Oudh. She was given the palace by the government in 1985.
  • When she died in 1993, it came into the ownership of her daughter Sakina Mahal, and son Prince Ali Raza (Cyrus), who died in 2017 and his sister passed away some years before that.
  • The monument is not ASI-protected and, therefore, no attention was paid to it to conserve it. Firoz Shah Tughlaq
  • Born in 1309, Firoz Shah Tughlaq was the third ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty that ruled over Delhi from 1320 to 1412 AD.
  • Firoz Shah Tughlaq was in power from 1351 to 1388 AD. The dynasty started from the rule of Ghiyasuddin
  • Tughlaq (ruled from 1320 to 1324 AD) and ended at Nasiruddin Mahmud (ruled from 1395 to 1412 AD).

Developments Under Firoz Shah:

  • Firoz Shah Tughlaq worked majorly on the development of infrastructure in his kingdom. He built schools, hospitals, river canals, reservoirs, and rest houses among other things. He also repaired the Qutub Minar which had been damaged by an earthquake.
  • He provided the principle of inheritance to the armed forces where the officers were permitted to rest and send their children in the army in their place. However, they were not paid in real money but by land.
  • He established the Diwan-i-Khairat — office for charity, established the Diwan-i-Bundagan — department of slaves and adopted the Iqtadari framework.
  • He is known to establish four new towns, Firozabad, Fatehabad, Jaunpur and Hissar.
  • He is also considered the father of the irrigation system in India for channelizing rivers to provide water through canals to a large part of the country.
  • He constructed canals from the Yamuna to the city of Hissar, Sutlej to the Ghaggar, Ghaggar to Firozabad, Mandvi and Sirmour Hills to Hansi in Haryana.

Taxes Imposed Under Firoz Shah:

  • Kharaj: land tax which was equal to one-tenth of the produce of the land
  • Zakat: two and a half per cent tax on property realized from the Muslims
  • Kham: one-fifth of the booty was captured (four-fifth was left for the soldiers)
  • Jaziya: levied on the non-Muslim subjects, particularly the Hindus. Women and children were, however, exempted from the taxes

Qutub Complex

About Qutub Complex:

  • It has a five-storeyed red sandstone tower (72.5 m high) built by Muslim conquerors in the thirteenth century to commemorate their final triumph over the Rajput rulers of Delhi (Qutub means victory) known as Qutub Minar.
  • It in includes the Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque nearby.A 7 m-high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque.
  • The Mosque was built after the destruction of Jaina and Hindu temples whose pillars are still visible.
  • Its surrounding contains the Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built-in 1311).
  • The building process of Qutub Minar took about 75 years.
  • Its construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210) in 1193 and finished by Iltutmish (1211-1236).
  • In 1368, it was repaired by the rulers of the day, Muhammad-bin-Tughluq (1325-51) and Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-88).
  • The minar (tower) is engraved with fine arabesque decorations on its surface, main verses from the Quran. Monuments were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

 

Bamiyan Buddhas

  • The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has said it would protect the ancient Buddha statues in Mes Aynak, also the site of a copper mine where the Taliban are hoping for Chinese investment.
  • The current Taliban position is in contrast to the time they ruled Afghanistan earlier, when, they brought down the centuries-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan, in March 2001, using explosives.
  • The statues were brought down as the Taliban saw them as symbols of idol worship.
  • The Bamiyan Buddha statues, created from sandstone cliffs, dated back to the 5th century AD, and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
  • In their Roman draperies and with two different mudras, the statues were great examples of the convergence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
  • The statues consisted of the male Salsal (“light shines through the universe”) and the shorter female Shamama (“Queen Mother”), as they were called by the locals.
  • After their destruction by the Taliban, UNESCO included the remains of the Bamiyan Buddhas in its list of world heritage sites in 2003.
  • To mark 20 years of their destruction, in March 2021, the statue of Salsal was “recreated” — a 3D projection was beamed where it had stood.

Bamiyan:

  • The Bamiyan valley, in the Hindu Kush mountains and along the river Bamiyan, was a key node of the early Silk Routes, emerging as a hub of both commercial and cultural exchange.
  • The rise of Bamiyan was closely connected with the spread of Buddhism across Central Asia, and that in turn was linked to the political and economic currents of that time.
  • Early in the first century AD, a semi-nomadic tribe called the Kushanas swept out of Bactria, made themselves the unavoidable middlemen between China, India and Rome, and prospered on the revenues of the Silk Road.
  • In so doing, they encouraged a syncretic (mix of) culture, in which tribal traditions from Central Asia fused with artistic conventions derived from the Hellenized Mediterranean and with the ideologies coming from Buddhist India.

Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya

Context:

  • The Prime Minister inaugurated the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya at Teen Murti Estate in New Delhi.

What is Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya?

  • Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya is a museum dedicated to showcasing the contributions of all the Prime Ministers since independence.
  • The idea of a museum dedicated to India’s Prime Ministers was first mooted in 2016. It was later approved in 2018.
  • The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library(NMML) was appointed as the nodal agency for the project.
  • The museum integrated the erstwhile Nehru museum into this new building.

What are the contributions of various Former Prime Ministers that the museum displays?

  • The museum has galleries dedicated to Former Prime Ministers. For instance:
  • The Shastri gallery highlights his role in the Green Revolution and the Indo-Pak war of 1965. 
  • The Indira gallery highlights India’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh and the nationalization of banks. 
  • The Vajpayee gallery celebrates him as a great parliamentarian and orator and highlights India’s victory in the Kargil War and the Pokhran nuclear tests. 
  • The economic reforms of the early 1990s and the civil nuclear deal with the US are highlighted among Manmohan Singh’s contributions.

Temples

Chennakesava Temple

About:

  • Chennakeshava Temple or Somnathpur Temple is in a small village called Talakad on the banks of the Kaveri.
  • The Chennakesava temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in 1268 CE and is considered to be one of the three best temples of Hoysala architecture.
  • The Hoysalas ruled large parts of present-day Karnataka between 1100 and 1320 AD.
  • This temple along with Belur and Halebid temples is the culmination of the fully evolved style of the Hoysalas.
  • Chennakesava Temple is more representative of the period's architecture as it did not suffer destruction as much as Belur and Halebid did.
  • This temple is designed as a mini cosmos with scenes carved on the walls featuring gods, goddesses, dancing girls, musicians, gurus and all kinds of animals including elephants, lions, cows and monkeys.

Hoysala Architecture:

  • It is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries, mostly concentrated in southern Karnataka.
  • These are called hybrid or vesara as their unique style seems neither completely Dravida nor Nagara.
  • It contains multiple shrines grouped around a central pillared hall and laid out in the shape of an intricately-designed star.
  • These are extremely complex with so many projecting angles emerging from the previously straightforward square temple, that the plan of these temples starts looking like a star, and is thus known as a stellate plan.
  • Sculptures are intricate as the material used is soapstone. This can be seen particularly in the jewellery of the gods that adorn their temple walls.

Lingaraj Temple

Context:

  • Recently, the Central government has questioned the legislative competence of the Odisha government to bring the 11th-century Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar under a special law. 

Ordinance by State Government:

  • The ordinance, approved by the Odisha government in 2020, aims to govern the Lingaraj Temple complex with a separate law akin to that of the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri.
  • The state government had proposed to bring the Lingaraj Temple and eight other shrines under the control and supervision of a 15-member committee with a senior Hindu IAS officer as its administrator like that of Shree Jagannath Temple. 
  • At present, the Lingaraj Temple is governed by the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951.

Centre’s Stand:

  • The Centre has also raised objections to various constructions near the shrine. It has been cited that as per the AMASR Act, new construction is prohibited within 100 metres of a protected monument and the area within 200 metres of a monument is known as a regulated zone.
  • Odisha Government accused the Centre of adopting double standards while clearing projects under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, which prohibits new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument.

Lingaraj Temple:

  • It was built during the 11th century AD.
  • The temple has been described as “One of the finest examples of purely Hindu temples in India.
  • Lingaraj is referred to as “Swayambhu” – (self-originated Shivling).
  • The temple marks the culmination of the temple architecture in Bhubaneswar, Odisha which was the cradle of the Kalinga School of Temple Architecture.
  • The sprawling temple complex has one hundred and fifty subsidiary shrines.
  • The temples are considered a masterpiece of Indian Architecture for their detailed plan, proportions, seamless joints, elegant craftsmanship and impressive dimensions.

The temple can broadly be divided into four main halls:

  • The Garbhagriha (Sanctum Sanctorum).
  •  The Yajana Mandapa (the hall for prayers)
  • The Natya Mandapa (dance and music hall)
  • The Bhoga Mandapa (where devotees can have the Prasad (offering) of the Lord).
  • The exquisite carvings depicting chores of daily life, and the activity centres, apart from being a place of worship, makes the temple a place for social and cultural gathering, somewhat like a modern community centre.

History

Famous Personalities:

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

Context:

  • Bhimsen Joshi would have turned 100 this year.

About Bhimsen Joshi:

  • Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was born in 1922 and he received the Bharat Ratna in 2008.
  • He is remembered for his famous ragas including Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan Ki Todi, Puriya Dhanashri and Multani etc.
  • He belonged to the Kirana Gharana of Hindustani classical music.
  • Hindustani classical music.
  • Hindustani Music is a distinct school of Indian Classical Music practised mainly in North India.
  • Its historical roots belong to the Bharata’s Natyasastra.
  • Hindustani Music is vocal-centric.
  • The major vocal forms associated with Hindustani classical music are the khayal, Ghazal, dhrupad, dhammar, Tarana and thumri.
  • Most of the Hindustani musicians trace their descent to Tansen.

Gharanas

  • A Gharana is a system of social organisation linking musicians or dancers by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style.
  • It Functions in guru-shishya parampara, i.e. disciples learning under a particular guru, transmitting his musical knowledge and style

Babasaheb Ambedkar

  • He was independent India's first Minister of Law and Justice.
  • He campaigned against social discrimination toward the untouchables (Dalits).
  • He was invited to testify before the Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919. At the hearing, Ambedkar argued for creating separate electorates and reservations for untouchables
  • He established the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha to promote education and socio-economic improvement of the untouchables in 1923.
  • He led the Mahad Satyagrah or Chavdar Tale Satyagraha to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town in 1927.
  • In 1930, Ambedkar launched the Kalaram Temple entry It was located in Nashik.
  • In 1932 he signed the Poona pact. This was to give away the separate electorates and accept joint electorates' demands of the congress party, which were announced at the round table conference for which Gandhiji went on a hunger strike.
  • He also founded the Independent Labor Party (1936) and Scheduled Castes Federation (1942).
  • He was appointed as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee in 1946.
  • He resigned from cabinet in 1951, when parliament stalled his draft of the Hindu Code Bill. The bill sought to enshrine gender equality in the laws of inheritance and marriage.
  • He established the Republican Party of India in 1956 to broaden the base of the Bahujan movement and include castes other than Dalits.

Guru Tegh Bahadur

Context:

  • 400th Prakash Purab of Guru Tegh Bahadur Celebrated.

About:

  • Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 – 1675) was the ninth of ten Sikh Gurus and the leader of Sikhs from 1665 until his beheading in 1675.
  • He was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India in 1621 and was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru.
  • His 115 hymns are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the main text of Sikhism.
  • He built the city of Anandpur Sahib which was his headquarters.
  • He helped Raja Ram Singh to broker a truce with the Ahom king. Gurdwara Dhubri Sahib on the banks of the Brahmaputra commemorates this peace accord.
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed on the orders of Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor, in Delhi.
  • Sikh holy premises Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi mark the places of execution and cremation of Guru Tegh Bahadur respectively.

Sikhism:

  • Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the 15th century in the Punjab province of then-undivided India and Pakistan. The development of Sikhism was influenced by the Bhakti movement and Vaishnavism.
  • Sikh means ‘learner’ in Punjabi, and people who joined the Sikh community, or Panth (path), were spiritual seekers.
  • Guru Nanak Dev is revered as the first Sikh Guru, subsequently led by a succession of nine other Gurus.
  • Guru Gobind Singh was the Tenth Guru, who founded Khalsa is the tenth Sikh Guru.
  • The Khalsa emphasises the greatest Sikh characteristics of devotion, commitment, and social awareness.
  • The Khalsa are men and women who have undergone Sikh baptism and adhere to the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions.
  • They wear the faith’s authorized physical articles (5Ks: Kara (an iron bracelet), Kesh (uncut hair), Kachera (cotton underpants), Kangha (a wooden comb) and Kirpan (an iron dagger).
  • Guru Gobind Singh declared that the lessons contained in the Guru Granth Sahib will remain the spiritual guidance of the Sikhs after his death, hence it holds the rank of a Guru.
  • Therefore, Sikhs regard Guru Granth Sahib, also known as the Adi Granth, as a living Guru.

Sri Narayan Guru

About:

  • He was born in 1856 in the Ezhava family in Thiruvananthapuram.
  • He led the Reform movement in Kerala and revolted against the caste system which transformed Kerala society.
  • He became a ‘Parivrajaka’ (one who wanders from place to place in quest of Truth)after the demise of his father and wife.

Contributions of Sri Narayan Guru:

  • He gave the famous slogan “One Caste, One Religion, One God for All”.
  • He was against the practice of religious conversion.
  • He believed in the principle of Advaita and dwelled upon it.
  • After the famous Sivalinga Prathishtta at Aruvippuramin in 1888, he consecrated idols and founded many temples all over Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.
  • In 1903, He established Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam to unite the masses through organization and make them a self-confident and self-respecting community of people.
  • He provided the impetus for Vaikom agitation in 1924, which was aimed at temple entry in Travancore for the lower castes. It drew nationwide attention and appreciation from Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The Sivagiri pilgrimage in Varkala was established in 1924 to promote the virtues of cleanliness, education, devotion, agriculture, handicrafts, and trade.

Temple Entry Movement:

  • In 1924, Vaikom Satyagraha led by K.P. Kesava was launched in Kerala demanding the throwing open of Hindu temples and roads to the untouchables. 
  • The satyagraha was reinforced by jathas from Punjab and Madurai. 
  • Gandhi undertook a tour of Kerala in support of the movement. 
  • Again in 1931 when the Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended, the temple entry movement was organized in Kerala.
  • Finally, in 1936 the Maharaja of Travancore issued a proclamation throwing open all government-controlled temples to all Hindus.
  • A similar step was taken by the C. Rajagopalachari administration in Madras in  1938. 

The Servants of India Society:

  • Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the liberal leader of the Indian National Congress,  founded the Servants of India Society in 1905. 
  • The aim of the society was to train national missionaries for the service of  India; to promote, by all constitutional means, the true interests of the  Indian people; and to prepare a cadre of selfless workers who were to devote their lives to the cause of the country in a religious spirit.

Faraizi Movement: 

  • The movement, also called the Fara'idi Movement because of its emphasis on the  Islamic pillars of faith, was founded by Haji Shariat-Allah. 
  • Its scene of action was East Bengal, and it aimed at the eradication of social , innovations current among the Muslims of the region.
  • The movement became revolutionary from 1840 onwards. 
  • The Fara'idis organized paramilitary forces armed with clubs to fight the Hindu landlords and even the police.

Radha Swami Movement:

  • Tulsi Ram, a banker from Agra, also known as Shiv Dayal Saheb, founded this movement in 1861.
  • It believed in one supreme being supremacy of the Spiritual attainment, which they believe does not call for renunciation of the worldly life. 
  • They consider all religions to be true. 
  • While the sect has no belief in temples, shrines and sacred places; it considers as necessary duties, works of faith and charity, service and prayer.

The Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Sabha (Religious Reform Association):

  • It was founded at Bombay by Furdunji Naoroji and S.S. Bengalee in 1851 for  the “regeneration of the social conditions of the Parsis and the restoration  of the Zoroastrian religion to its pristine purity”
  • They advocated the spread of women’s education. 
  • The message of reform was spread by the newspaper Rast Goftar (Truth-Teller). 
  • They also wanted to reform their marriage customs. 
  • Parsi religious rituals and practices were reformed and the Parsi creed redefined.
  • Naoroji published a monthly journal, Jagat Mithra. 
  • The momentum gathered through these reform movements went a long way in uplifting the entire community. 
  • By the middle of the twentieth century, most of them were highly placed in various capacities and had made a significant contribution to India’s development.

Kodava Takke

  • Recently a book of poems has brought the spotlight on Kodava Takke, an endangered language.
  • It belongs to the Dravidian group of languages and is the original language of the Kodagu district in Southern Karnataka.
  • Historically, it has been referred to as a dialect of Kannada. However, it has been re-analysed as a language by early 20th century academics.
  • The language does not have a script and is traditionally written in Kannada script.

The language has two dialects: Mendele and Kiggat.

Kodavas

 

  • The Kodavas are an ethno-linguistic group from the region of Kodagu (Coorg).
  • They are traditionally land-owning agriculturists and patrilineal, with martial customs.
  • They worship ancestors and weapons. They used to worship swords, bows, arrows and later guns. Hence, Kodavas are the only ones in India permitted to carry firearms without a license

Battles And Organization:

Megalithic Jars

About:

  • These jars were associated with mortuary rituals. They referred to the “practices of ancestral bone repository of tribes like Mikir, Sakchips, Hangkals, Kuki, Khasi and Synteng and evidence of cremated bone fragments placed in one of the jars.
  • These are documented as three distinct jar shapes (bulbous top with conical end; biconical; cylindrical) on spurs, hill slopes and ridgelines.
  • There are typological and morphological similarities between the jars found at three sites that is Indonesia, Laos and Assam in India.
  • This points to the fact that once upon a time a group of people having similar kinds of cultural practices occupied the same geography between Laos and Northeast India.
  • The jars of Assam were first sighted in 1929 by British civil servants James Philip Mills and John Henry Hutton, who recorded their presence in six sites in Dima Hasao.

Civil Services Day

About:

  • Every year on April 21, the Gn April 21, 2006, at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.

History of Civil Services:

  • The tradition of civil Services goes back to 1600. Then the East India company’s directors used to choose officers who were trained at Haileybury College in London.
  • In 1854, following the submission of Lord Macaulay’s report to the British parliament's select committee, the East India company’s patronage-based system was replaced by modern merit-based civil services in India.
  • The civil services commission was established and the first competitive examinations were held in 1855.
  • At first, the examinations were held only in London and the candidates were required to be at least 18 years old and the main maximum age for taking the exam was 23 years old.
  • Satyendranath Tagore, poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s brother was the first Indian successful in passing the examination in 1864.
  • Then Indians petitioned for examination to be held for the next  50 years.
  • The first Indian civil services examination in India was held in 1922 in Allahabad.
  • In 1931 Indians were assigned to 20% of the total number of Superintendent of police positions
  • In 1950 the federal Public Service Commission was renamed Union Public Service Commission after the creation of the Republic of India.

Geography

Western Disturbances

Context:

  • Lack of Western Disturbances in the months of March and April has led to the highest temperatures in last 72 years over Northern India.

About:

  • Last year, one after the other there were many western disturbances. But this year, the western disturbance activity is rare and feeble.
  • Even if it is there, it is moving northward and has not been affecting northwest India.

Western Disturbances:

  • Western Disturbances develop in the mid-latitude region (north of the Tropic of Cancer), not in the tropical region, therefore they are called as mid-latitude storms or extra-tropical storms.
  • The low pressure typically forms over the Mediterranean Sea and travels over Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan before entering India loaded with moisture.
  • Before its arrival, the weather turns unusually hot with a cloudy sky.
  • The rain brought by the system is beneficial for the rabi crops and helps in increasing food crop production, especially wheat.

Indian Monsoon

Context:

  • No, El Nino expected, it will be a ‘normal’ monsoon.

About:

  • The southwest monsoon is likely to be “normal” in 2022,.
  • Normal is 98% of the historical average of 88 cm of rainfall for the four months from June to September
  • The El Nino is not expected to surface this year. Its converse, or La Nina, had helped with two years of above-normal rainfall in 2019 and 2020 and “normal” rainfall in 2021

ENSO:

  • The Southern Oscillation is a change in air pressure over the tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • When coastal waters become warmer in the eastern tropical Pacific (El Niño), the atmospheric pressure above the ocean decreases.
  • Climatologists define these linked phenomena as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). 

El Nino:

  • El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino is the “warm phase” of a larger phenomenon called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
  • El Niño events occur irregularly at two- to seven-year intervals. However, El Niño is not a regular cycle, or predictable in the sense that ocean tides are.
  • El Niño, meaning “the little boy” in Spanish.
  • It leads to less rainfall in India and can even precipitate drought-like conditions.

La Nina:

  • La Niña is a weather pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean.
  • In this pattern, strong winds blow warm water at the ocean’s surface from South America to Indonesia.
  • As the warm water moves west, cold water from the deep rises to the surface near the coast of South America.
  • This leads to normal or more than average rainfall in India.

Long Period Average

Context:

  • IMD revised the long period average for the Indian monsoon to 87 cm.

About Long Period Average (LPA):

  • Long Period Average (LPA) is the average rainfall received over a 50-year period between 1971 and 2021. This average comes to 87cm of rainfall.
  • A 50-year LPA covers for large variations in either direction caused by freak years of unusually high or low rainfall (as a result of events such as El Nino or La Nina), as well as for the periodic drought years and the increasingly common extreme weather events caused by climate change.

Revisions in LPA:

  • The Long-period average is revised every decade and it has been continually decreasing for India. It was 89 cm for the period ranging from 1951- to 2000.
  • Then it got reduced to 88 m for years 1961-2010 and the latest revision for the period 1971-2020 is 87cm.

Dry and Wet Epochs:

  • The decrease in the seasonal rainfall is due to the natural multidecadal epochal variability of wet and dry epochs of India’s rainfall.
  • Over a century, the average rainfall changes every decade with roughly 30 years of a declining trend followed by 30 years of an upswing.
  • Currently, India is at the end of a dry epoch and it seems to be entering a wet epoch.

Facts to remember:

  • The Southwest monsoon accounts for about 75 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall.
  • About 75 per cent of this occurs during June to September monsoon season.
  • July and August remain the wettest months of the year, accounting for 70 per cent of the season’s total rainfall.
  • About 78 per cent of the country’s gross cropped area is supported by monsoon rainfall.

Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

About:

  • It is an atmosphere-ocean coupled phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, characterized by a difference in sea-surface temperatures.
  • IOD is the difference between the temperature of the eastern (Bay of Bengal) and the western Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea).
  • IOD develops in the equatorial region of the Indian Ocean from April to May, peaking in October.

Phases of IOD:

  • Neutral Phase of IOD: The neutral IOD refers to both western basin and eastern basin showing almost equal temperatures.
  • Positive Phase of IOD: The positive IOD refers to the warmer western basin of the Indian Ocean as compared to the Eastern basin.
  • Negative Phase of IOD: The negative IOD refers to the cooler western basin of the Indian Ocean as compared to the Eastern basin.

Solomon Island

Context:

  • China signs a strategic pact with Solomon Island.

About Solomon Island:

  • The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
  • Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal. The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands.
  • At independence, the Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Solomon Islands is Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General.

 

Falk Land Island

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf.

  • These are also called Malvinas Islands or Spanish Islas Malvinas
  • Argentina has maintained that the Falklands were illegally taken from it in 1833 and invaded the British colony in 1982.
  • As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, and the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs.
  • That incident resulted in what later came to be known as the Falklands War which lasted a little over three months, and ending in victory for the United Kingdom.

Kuril Islands

About:

  • The Kuril Islands are stretched from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia's the Kamchatka Peninsula separating the Okhotsk Sea from the North Pacific ocean.
  • The chain is part of the belt of geologic instability circling the Pacific
  • The sovereignty of the Kuril Islands is disputed between Japan and Russia.

 

Tree City of The World

Context:

  • Mumbai has been recognised as ‘2021 Tree City of the World’ by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN) jointly with Arbor Day Foundation.
  • This is the first time Mumbai has made it to the list.
  • Hyderabad has been featured on this list for the second consecutive year.

Why Mumbai Gets The Recognition?

  • In 2018, residents of the city fought to save their mangrove forests from decomposing and their efforts saved more than 5,000 mangroves over the years.
  • Another example was to save the rich Aarey Forest. The 800-acre land area was under the Metro Car Shed project, but after protests, it was declared a reserve forest and the project was redesigned.
  • Sanjay Gandhi National Park acts as the lungs of Mumbai, providing fresh air.

About Tree City of the World tag:

  • The programme was started by the UN-FAO and Arbor Day Foundation, an American non-profit organisation.
  • The programme provides direction, assistance, and worldwide recognition for communities’ dedication to its urban forest, and provides a framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry programme in a city or a Town.

About Arbor Day Foundation:

  • It is a non-profit conservation and education organization established in 1972 in Nebraska, United States.
  • Its approach is to help others understand and use trees to address the challenges we face today, including air quality, water quality, changing climate, deforestation, poverty and hunger.

About Food and Agriculture Organization:

  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
  • It was founded in October 1945 and the headquartered is in Rome, Italy.
  • It acts as a neutral policymaking forum and develops partnerships with all concerned with food & agriculture to ensure a world free from hunger.

Pranahita River

Context:

  • Maha Harathi and other special rituals marked the grand finale of the 12-day Pranahita river festival. The mega river festival is dedicated to worshipping the Pranahita

About:

  • It is a perennial river, which flows along the border of Maharashtra and Telangana.
  • It is the largest tributary of the Godavari River.
  • The tributaries are Mamda, Nagul vagu, Wil Vagu, Pedda Vagu, Madharam, Bamar, Dongri, Patra.
  • Due to its extensive network of tributaries, the river drains a large part of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra as well as the southern slopes of the Satpura range in southeast Madhya Pradesh.
  • Its sub-basin is the seventh-largest in India

Seafloor Spreading

Context:

  • Study shows the pace of seafloor spreading has slowed down by roughly 35% globally.

Key Findings of the Study:

  • The seafloor is spreading at the rate of around 140 millimetres per year, down from around 200 millimetres per year compared to 15 million years ago in some places.
  • The speed of movements was pronounced at ridges along the eastern Pacific.
  • Certain ridges in the region were roughly 100 millimetres per year slower compared to 19 million years ago, lowering the world’s average.
  • The factor driving the slowdown could be located in subduction zones rather than the ridges.

About Seafloor Spreading:

  • The seafloor spreading hypothesis was proposed by the American geophysicist Harry H. Hess in 1960. It is a
  • geologic process in which tectonic plates large slabs of Earth's lithosphere split apart from each other.

Process of Seafloor Spreading:

  • This process is the result of mantle convection. Mantle convection is the slow, churning motion of Earth’s mantle. It occurs at divergent plate boundaries.
  • As tectonic plates slowly move away from each other, heat from the mantle’s convection currents makes the crust more plastic and less dense.
  • The less-dense material rises, often forming a mountain or elevated area of the seafloor.
  • Eventually, the crust cracks. Hot magma fuelled by mantle convection bubbles up to fill these fractures and spills onto the crust.
  • This bubbled-up magma is cooled by frigid seawater to form igneous rock. This rock (basalt) becomes a new part of Earth’s crust.

Evidences of Seafloor Spreading:

  • Molten material: The condition on the mid-oceanic ridge is substantially different from other surfaces away from the region because of the warmer temperature. The molten magma from the mantle arose due to the convection currents in the interior of the earth.
  • Seafloor drill: The samples obtained from the seafloor drill reveals that the rocks away from the mid-oceanic ridge were relatively older than the rocks near to it. The old rocks were also denser and thicker compared to the thinner and less dense rocks in the mid-oceanic ridge.
  • Radiometric age dating and fossil ages: By the use of radiometric age dating and studying fossil ages, it was also found out the rocks of the sea floorage is younger than the continental rocks. It is believed that continental rocks formed 3 billion years ago, however the sediment samples from the ocean floor are found to be not exceeding 200 million years old.
  • Magnetic stripes: By using the magnetometer, the magnetic polarity will be shown through a timescale that contains the normal and reverse polarity. The minerals contained in the rocks are oriented opposite to the magnetic field. The patterns of the magnetic field will then be compared to the rocks to determine its approximate ages.

Reasons behind the Decline of Seafloor Spreading:

  • Growing mountains on the continents might be one of the factors driving the slowdown as it causes resistance to seafloor spreading.
  • As Pangea progressively broke apart, new ocean basins formed and eventually, the widely fragmented continents started running into each other.
  • Changes in mantle convection could also be playing a role as mantle convection transports heat from the earth’s interior to the surface.

Why is the pace of Seafloor Spreading important?

  • This is important because it affects sea levels and the carbon cycle on Earth.
  • Faster movement means more volcanic activity and more new crustal formations.
  • It also injects greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which has a great impact on the Earth's atmosphere.
  • The basaltic rocks formed as a result of this process have magnetic properties. This magnetism is affected by the Earth's magnetic field.
  • It is also important from the point of view of marine life on the ocean floor.

Society

Health:

National Medical Commission (NMC)

Context:

  • Recently, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has released draft guidelines for the national register of doctors after the licentiate exam.

About:

  • The draft guidelines are on how the doctors will be registered in order to practice medicine.
  • At present, Indian students do not have to sit for a licentiate exam after MBBS to get registered in their respective state medical councils. 
  • However, foreign medical graduates have to pass the screening test conducted by National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences to be registered.

Guidelines: 

Three draft regulations:

  • License to Practice Medicine, 2022; 
  • Registration of Additional Qualifications, 2022; and 
  • Temporary Registration of Foreign Medical Practitioners to Practice Medicine in India.

Working: 

  • The guidelines provide a framework for creating a dynamic national medical register.
  • It will have a unique ID assigned to each student who qualifies NEET, with professional qualifications such as post-graduation and super-speciality training being added to the same ID.

Open to foreigners: 

  • The registration is open for foreign doctors who want to come to India to study in post-graduation courses, fellowships, clinical research, or voluntary clinical services. 

Change in Permission: 

  • Until now foreign experts were being granted “permission” by the Health Ministry. 
  • Now, the NMC will grant a temporary registration to such doctors that will end with the duration of the programme. 
  • The maximum duration of such a temporary registration will be 12 months.

Registration Process:

Indian: Indian medical graduates would be eligible for registration in the National Medical Register after:

  • Completion of MBBS degree from a recognised college, 
  • Completion of year-long mandatory internship, and Pass the National Exit Test (NExT). 
  • Foreign: Foreign medical graduates can be registered after: Completed education in a country other than India, 
  • Are registerable as doctors in the said country, 
  • Have completed a year-long internship in India, and 
  • Have passed the NExT exam.

A new portal for all documents:

  • At present, every state maintains its own medical register, which is then sent to NMC for a consolidated country-wide register.
  • After a unique ID is created, a portal will be thrown open to all recognised institutes in India who can upload all verified documents of their students to it. 

National Exit Test(NExT) Exam

NExT was introduced in the NMC Bill in 2019 with the objective of replacing PG-NEET.

Purposes:

  • It will act as a passing examination for the final MBBS examination. 
  • It will act as a qualifying examination to grant the license to practice modern medicine in India for Indian as well as foreign medical graduates. 
  • It will serve as a competitive test that will form the basis for admission to the postgraduate (PG) broad-speciality courses in the medical institutions of India.

Primary Intent:

  • To ensure uniformity in the level of training in MBBS course (more so in private medical colleges), 
  • Quality control for medical graduates from foreign medical colleges intending to practise in India, and 
  • Abolishing the need to take multiple entrance examinations and/or multiple counselling processes for admission in PG courses.

Written + practical exam: 

  • It will not be a theory paper, like MBBS finals or NEET PG test. Instead, It will be held in two parts – one written and one practical exam where the students will be judged on their clinical acumen.

Significance:

Level playing field:

  • The new entrance test for Post Graduation, NExT, will level the playing field for both Indian and foreign nationals. 

One portal: 

  • This will make the registration process easier.

Register-based on real-time: 

  • Since the register will keep getting updates as and when the doctors pursue specialisations or any other courses, it can be shared with various authorities to check the qualifications of people they wish to hire.

Open registration to foreign doctors: 

  • The guidelines open the registration to foreign doctors who want to come to India to study in post-graduation courses, fellowships, clinical research, or voluntary clinical services.

WHO and Traditional Medicine 

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, will perform the groundbreaking ceremony for the first-of-its-kind WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

What is traditional medicine?

  • The WHO describes traditional medicine as the total sum of the “knowledge, skills and practices indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness”. 
  • Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.
  • Traditional medicine in India is often defined as including practices and therapies — such as yoga, Ayurveda, and Siddha — that have been part of Indian tradition historically, as well as others — such as homoeopathy — that became part of Indian tradition over the years.

What will the GCTM be about?

  • On November 3, 2020, WHO Director-General announced the establishment of the WHO GCTM in India. 
  • The Union Cabinet in March 2022 approved its establishment in Jamnagar with the signing of a host country agreement between the Government of India and the WHO. 
  • India has committed an estimated $250 million to support the GCTM’s establishment, infrastructure and operations.
  • The GCTM will aim to focus on evidence-based research, innovation, and data analysis to optimise the contribution of traditional medicine to global health. 
  • Its main focus will to develop norms, standards and guidelines in technical areas relating to traditional medicine.
  • The GCTM will support efforts to implement the WHO’s Traditional Medicine Strategy (2014-23), which aims to support nations in developing policies & action plans to strengthen the role of traditional medicine in pursuing the goal of universal health coverage. 
  • The WHO and the central government are also aiming at using technology and innovation, such as artificial intelligence, to map traditional medicine trends, innovations and patents, linking to WHO’s Innovation Hub.
  • According to WHO estimates, 80% of the world’s population uses traditional medicine.

Why has the WHO felt the need to advance knowledge of traditional medicine?

  • First, the Jamnagar centre will serve as the hub, and focus on building a solid evidence base for policies and help countries integrate it as appropriate into their health systems.
  • The WHO says 170 of its 194 WHO Member States have reported the use of traditional medicine, and these member states have asked for its support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.
  • Second, WHO has stressed the need to conserve biodiversity and sustainability as about 40% of approved pharmaceutical products today derive from natural substances. 
  • For example, the discovery of aspirin drew on traditional medicine formulations using the bark of the willow tree.
  • The contraceptive pill was developed from the roots of wild yam plants.
  • Child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle.
  • Third, the WHO has referred to the modernisation of the ways traditional medicine is being studied. Artificial intelligence is now used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine. 
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to study brain activity and the relaxation response that is part of some traditional medicine therapies such as meditation and yoga, which are increasingly drawn on for mental health and well-being in stressful times.
  • Fourth, the WHO has said traditional medicine is also being extensively updated by mobile phone apps, online classes, and other technologies. The GCTM will serve as a hub for other countries, and build standards on traditional medicine practices and products.

Has India taken up similar collaborative efforts earlier?

  • Yes. In 2016, the Ministry of AYUSH signed a project collaboration agreement (PCA) with the WHO in the area of traditional medicine. 
  • The aim was to create benchmarks for training in yoga, Ayurveda, Unani and Panchakarma, for traditional medicine practitioners. 
  • The collaboration also aimed at promoting the quality and safety of traditional medicine and consumer protection.
  • At least 32 MoUs for undertaking collaborative research and development of traditional medicine have been signed with institutes, universities and organisations from the US, Germany, UK, Canada, Malaysia, Brazil, Australia, Austria, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Japan, Indonesia etc.
  • Also, the CSIR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have signed an MoU to identify opportunities for scientific and technological research in traditional medicine as well as beyond.

Society and Education:

Olga Tellis judgment

Context:

  • In the early hours of April 21, a fleet of bulldozers accompanied by hundreds of policemen descended on Jahangirpuri in northwest Delhi to demolish buildings, petty shops, and the entrance gate of a mosque. Soon after the demolitions started, the Supreme Court in an urgent hearing ordered that the “status quo” be maintained until further orders.
  • The demolition drive was initiated to demolish the “illegal constructions” of the rioters in Jahangirpuri. Communal violence had broken out in the area on April 16 when a Hanuman Jayanti Shobha Yatra, which did not have police permission, clashed with Muslims as it went alongside the mosque.

About:

  • Similar riot incidents, in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh and Khambhat in Gujarat, had taken place, where processions during Ram Navami led to communal flare-ups.
  • The actions of state and local authorities to bulldoze shops and homes in riot-hit Muslim neighbourhoods citing “illegal encroachment” raises major legal concerns.
  • At one level, such actions show a blatant disregard for the due process of law and established judicial precedents regarding evictions (Olga Tellis judgement).
  • At another level, it conveys the misuse of brute state power for collective punishment undermining the basic tenets of criminal law.
  • According to the Delhi Economic Survey 2008-09, only about 24% of the city lived in “planned colonies” and the rest lived in informal or unplanned areas ranging from jhuggi jhopdi clusters to unauthorised colonies.

Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, 1985:

  • By a five-judge Constitutional Bench, It is agreed that pavement dwellers do occupy public spaces unauthorised.
  • The apex court ruled that pavement dwellers live on “filthy footpaths out of sheer helplessness” and not with the object of offending, insulting, intimidating or annoying anyone.
  • They live and earn on footpaths because they have “small jobs to nurse in the city and there is nowhere else to live.”
  • Pavement dwellers, too, have a right to life and dignity. The right to life included the right to livelihood. They earn a meagre livelihood by living and working on the footpaths.
  • A person cannot be deprived of his right to livelihood except according to just and fair procedure established by law.
  • A welfare state and its authorities should not use its powers of eviction as a means to deprive pavement dwellers of their livelihood.
  • The procedure of eviction should lean in favour of procedural safeguards which follow the natural principles of justice like giving the other side an opportunity to be heard.
  • The right to be heard gives affected persons an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and also provides them with a chance to express themselves with dignity.
  • Therefore, the court maintained they should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart “before force is used to expel them.”

What led to the case?

  • Bombay Municipal Corporation decided that pavement and slum dwellers in Bombay city should be evicted and “deported to their respective places of origin or places outside the city of Bombay.”
  • The state government had also argued these people cannot claim any fundamental right to encroach and put up huts on pavements or public roads over which the public has a ‘right of way.’

Ajay Maken vs Union of India (2019)

  • Delhi High Court held that no authority shall carry out an eviction without conducting a survey,
  • consulting the population that it seeks to evict and
  • providing adequate rehabilitation for those eligible.
  • Invoking the idea of the “Right to the City” and the “Right to Adequate Housing” from international law, the court held that slum-dwellers possess the right to housing and should be protected from forced and unannounced eviction.
  • It was a case concerning the legality of the demolition of Shakur Basti of Delhi
  • Given the political & communal overtones of the recent demolition drives, rule of law cannot be saved purely through judicial intervention and would need broader political & people’s struggles

Smart Cities Mission

  • A smart city is defined as one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available to better understand and control its operations and optimise the use of limited resources.
  • Smart Cities Mission as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme was launched in 2015 under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Key features of Smart Cities mission:

  • Objective- To promote cities that provide core infrastructure, a clean and sustainable environment and give a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of smart solutions.
  • Area-based development- It includes city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development).
  • Assessment of indices- It also assesses various indices to track urban development such as the Ease of Living Index, Municipal Performance Index, City GDP framework, Climate-Smart Cities assessment framework, etc.

Fundamental principles of Smart Cities:

  • The community at the Core
  • More from less
  • Co-operative and Competitive Federalism
  • Integration, Innovation, Sustainability
  • Technology as a means
  • The Smart Cities Mission also includes setting up ICCCs for each smart city.
  • Key focus areas included waste- management, Integrated traffic management and the Construction of walkways, pedestrian crossings, cycling tracks

Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC):

  • The ICCCs are envisaged to be the brain for city operation as it will act as a decision support system for the city administration to respond to the real-time events by consuming data feeds from different data sources and by processing information out of the data sets.
  • These ICCCs are designed to enable authorities to monitor the status of various amenities (water, power supply, traffic movement, city connectivity and internet infrastructure, etc.) in real-time.
  • The ICCC acts of a smart city acts as a “nerve centre” for operations management.
  • The ICCC is the nodal point of availability of all online data and information relating to smart services included in a smart city.
  • The ICCCs are linked to the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems) network under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • During the pandemic, they also served as war-rooms for Covid-19 management.

Current Status of Smart Mission:

  • The project had an initial deadline of 2021 for the first lot of 20 smart cities out of the 100 selected.
  • On the recommendation of NITI Aayog, the timeline was extended last year until 2023 due to delays caused by the pandemic.
  •  According to Ministry data, the SCM has so far covered over 140 public-private partnerships, 340 smart roads, 78 vibrant public places, 118 smart water projects and over 63 solar projects.
  • The Ministry noted that almost 100% of these projects have been work-ordered.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has begun work to finalise its recommendation for providing ICCCs as a service to states and smaller cities.
  • The Ministry is also aiming to finalise an ICCC model and implement a pilot project across 6 states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
  • The cities were selected over a period of two years between 2016 and 2018, each with a deadline of completion within five years from the time of their selection.

Hattis In Himachal Pradesh

Context:

  • The central government is planning to take the decision on the Himachal Pradesh government's request to provide tribal status to the Hatti community in the state.

About Hattis:

  • They are a community of close-knit people who got their names from their tradition of selling homegrown vegetables, crops, meat and wool etc. in small markets called ‘haat’ in towns.
  • They live in the Kamrau, Sangrah, and Shilliai areas. As it is located in topographically rough terrain, it lacks in education and employment.
  • The two clans have similar traditions, and inter-marriages are commonplace.
  • There is a rigid caste system among them -The Bhat and Khash belong to the upper castes, while the Badhois are below them.
  • Inter-caste marriages are traditionally opposed in their culture.
  • Like the khaps of Haryana, Hattis are governed by a traditional council called Khumbli

 

Midday Meal Scheme

  • Karnataka is set to provide eggs under the Midday Meal Scheme for school children. MDMS is amongst the largest initiatives in the world to enhance the nutrition levels of school-going children through hot cooked meals.
  • The Mid-Day Meal Scheme has been renamed as 'PM Poshan Shakti’.
  • From the next academic session, Karnataka is likely to become the 13th state to provide eggs under the MDM scheme.
  • The government, however, has rolled out the scheme partially in seven districts of Karnataka, which according to the National Family Health Survey were reporting high malnutrition and anaemia levels among children.
  • For students who do not consume eggs, the government has decided to distribute bananas.

Why Are Eggs Introduced?

  • Children who study at government schools hail from extremely poor families.
  • While the children of rich vegetarians can afford nutritious alternatives like paneer, dry fruits, ghee, and butter, fruits but the vegetarian food choices imposed on the poor are woefully short of nutrients and are unaffordable.
  • Considering that the majority of the children in government schools come from families who consume meat, therefore eggs can be provided to them. It will provide nutrition to children who often are victims of stunted growth, ill-health due to lack of nutritious food.

Women:

Nagaland and Women Reservation

  • Reservation for Women in representative bodies is considered as one of the tool to ensure the empowerment of women and in enabling gender-inclusive policies.
  • Reservation for women in local bodies obtained constitutional backing through 73rd & 74th constitutional amendment act of 1992 and has been the cornerstone for grassroots empowerment of women.

Nagaland and Women Reservation in Urban Local Bodies:

  • The civic body elections were first held in the state in 2004, in accordance with the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001.
  • In 2006, the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 was amended to include a 33% reservation for women in line with the 1992 Constitutional amendment.
  • Since then there have been protests as many Naga groups contend that the reservations are in contravention with Naga customary laws as enshrined in Article 371(A) of the Constitution.
  • Nagaland assembly, in 2012, adopted a resolution rejecting women’s reservation in ULBs.
  • Supreme Court in 2017 gave a directive to the state to hold the elections with 33% reservation for women.
  • The state assembly revoked its 2012 resolution and agreed to hold elections.
  • However, when the government tried to implement the directive, it was met with violent protests that led to two deaths.
  • The contention around the polls led the Nagaland government in December 2009 to indefinitely postpone municipal elections, which were due in 2010.
  • Article 371(A) accords Nagaland state special status and protects its traditional way of life.

Analysis of the issue:

  • There is a clash between the customary way of life and the value of gender equality propounded by the Constitution.
  • Women should be given equal positions and privileges. They cannot be denied their rights under the garb of traditions & Customs.
  • Frequent postponing of elections on the grounds of law & order shows the State government is not serious about implementing the SC directive
  • Further delaying would have led to contempt of the Supreme Court directive, thus leading to class between Judiciary & state government.

Democratic actions eventually yielded results:

  • Tribal women’s groups in Nagaland, formed the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) and pressed for their rights through petitions in Courts & spreading awareness.
  • Women’s groups like the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) fought a long legal battle in High Court & Supreme Court for elections to be held.
  • Finally, in March 2022, the state government convened a meeting with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, churches, tribal bodies, political parties and NGOs and “unanimously” adopted a resolution to hold ULB polls. The same was communicated to Supreme Court.
  • The Naga Hoho, the apex tribal body of the state, said that there was no more “opposition

Marital Rape

  • Even in 21st century, after multiple feminist movements, women continue to be subjected to the subordination of men. It is ironical that in India where women are worshipped as goddess, the legal system pertaining to rape has not yet recognised Marital rape.
  • Marital rape is the act of forcing your spouse into having sex without proper consent.

Legal Provision that provides an exception to Marital Rape:

  • According to Section 375 (the definition of rape) of IPC, sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife (provided she is over the age of 18) would not amount to the offence of rape. 
  • Therefore, rape by a husband on his wife is legally protected (as it is not recognised at all)

Roots of the principle:

  • The exception to marital rape in common law was due to the dictum by Chief Justice Matthew Hale of Britain in 1736
  • He states that by marriage, a woman gave up her body to the husband due to which a husband could not be guilty of raping his wife. This was therefore translated into criminal codes.
  • The government has been reluctant to recognise & criminalise marital rape because of following reasons
    • Recognising it destroys the institution of marriage. This was the government’s defence in Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017)
    • Since marriage is a sexual relationship, determining the validity of marital rape allegations would be difficult.
    • Earlier the age prescribed in Section 375 was 15 years. As a result, forced sexual intercourse by a husband with a minor wife between the ages of 15 and 18 was permitted.
    • This was rectified in Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017) where it held that forced sexual intercourse of a husband with his minor wife (below 18 years) is considered as rape.

Court’s role in recognising Marital Rape:

  • The judgment in Independent Thought v. Union of India, 2017 (recognised rape of married minor wife below 18 years) was a small step towards striking down the legalisation of marital rape.
  • In Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), SC held that the offence of adultery was unconstitutional because it was founded on the principle that a woman is her husband’s property after marriage. However, similar principle is not applied while recognising marital rape.
  • Recently, Karnataka High Court on March 23, 2022, in the case of Hrishikesh Sahoo vs State of Karnataka, pronounced the end of the marital rape exception.
  • Supreme Court is of the opinion that marital rape has to be criminalised through legislative action rather than judicial pronouncements. It had therefore put the onus on Parliament all these years. However, with rising Civic activism & women’s voices, there is increased pressure on both Parliament & judiciary to criminalise Marital rape.
  • Reasoning is given by Karnataka High Court while striking down the exception provided under Section 375 for marital rape.
  • If a man, being a husband is exempted for his acts of sexual assault, it would destroy women’s right to equality, which is the very soul of the Constitution.
  • An exception to marital rape in the IPC amounts to discrimination because a wife is treated as subordinate to the husband.
  • The Constitution considers marriage as an association of equals and does not in any sense depict women to be subordinate to men.
  • It held that Marital rape violates the fundamental rights of women. It includes rights under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 the right to live with dignity, personal liberty, bodily integrity, sexual autonomy, right to reproductive choices, right to privacy, right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • The judgement read “a man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the “husband” on the woman “wife”.
  • Section 375 (Exception) of IPC is inconsistent with and violative of these principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
  • Today, it has been impeached in more than 100 countries but, unfortunately, India is one of the only 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized
  • Rape is rape, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and the age of the survivor. A woman who is raped by a stranger lives with a memory of a horrible attack; a woman who is raped by her husband lives with her rapist. Therefore, it is high time that India recognises & criminalises Marital rape either through the Judicial or legislative route.

Polity

Executive:

Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA)

Context: 

  • The government has appointed AK Sood as the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to it.

About: 

  • In November 1999, Cabinet Secretariat established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
  • The PSA’s office aims to provide pragmatic and objective advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on matters related to science, technology, and innovation with a focus on the application of science and technology.
  • The first PSA was APJ Abdul Kalam and the current PSA is A.K Sood.
  • The 9-member Prime Minister’s Science, Technology And Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) is headed by the Government of India’s Principal Scientific Adviser to (A.K Sood).
  • The body has nine major missions: Natural Language Translation, Quantum Frontier, Artificial Intelligence, National Biodiversity Mission, Electric Vehicles, Bioscience for Human Health, Waste to Wealth, Deep Ocean Exploration, Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi).

Central Bureau of Investigation

Context:

  • The Chief Justice of India criticised the functioning of the CBI and argued for the need of reforms.

About Central Bureau of Investigation:

  • It is the main investigation agency of the central government for cases relating to corruption and major criminal probes.
  • It has its origin in the Special Police Establishment set up in 1941 to probe bribery and corruption during World War II.
  • Although DSPE Act gives legal power to CBI, CBI is not a statutory body as the word CBI is not mentioned in the act.
  • CBI was set up by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963 after the Santhanam committee recommendation.
  • The superintendence of the CBI rests with CVC in corruption cases and with the Department of personnel and training in other matters.
  • Presently it acts as an attached office under DOPT.

Electoral Bond Scheme

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to take up for hearing a pending plea challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018.

About Electoral Bond Scheme:

  • It is Introduced with the Finance Bill, 2017, and the Electoral Bond Scheme was notified on January 29, 2018.
  • An Electoral Bond is like a promissory note that may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • The bonds are like banknotes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are interest-free.
  • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 and securing one percent vote in general or state elections are eligible.

Procedure for Electoral bonds:

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorised to issue and encash Electoral Bonds.
  • The bonds are sold by the SBI in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore.
  • One can purchase these bonds only digitally or through cheques.
  • The Electoral Bonds can be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • Electoral Bonds shall be valid for only fifteen calendar days from the date of issue.

UIADI Audit by CAG

Context:

  • Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, has pulled up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for “deficient data management”.
  • UIDAI is the statutory authority established in 2016 to issue Aadhaar to all residents of the country.

Introduction:

  • As of October 31, 2021, UIDAI had issued 131.68 crore Aadhaar numbers.

Problems with UIDAI that have been identified by the CAG:

CAG in its 108-page audit report on the functioning of the UIDAI has brought out some of the following issues:

  • Data of Aadhaar cardholders have not been matched with their Aadhaar number even after 10 years in some cases.
  • There is the absence of a system to analyse the factors leading to authentication errors
  • Even though UIDAI was maintaining one of the largest biometric databases in the world, it did not have a data archiving policy, which is considered “a vital storage management best practice”.
  • CAG also noted that UIDAI provided Authentication services to banks, mobile operators and other agencies free of charge till March 2019, contrary to the provisions of their own Regulations, depriving revenue to the Government

Other concerns raised by CAG:

  • CAG has noted that the UIDAI has not prescribed any specific proof, document, or process to confirm whether a person who is applying for Aadhaar has resided in India for the period specified by the Rules.
  • Therefore, “there is no assurance that all the Aadhaar holders in the country are ‘Residents’ as defined in the Aadhaar Act”, says the report.
  • In the conclusion of its report, the CAG has said that UIDAI generated Aadhaar numbers with incomplete information, which, along with the lack of proper documentation or poor quality biometrics, have resulted in multiple or duplicate Aadhaar cards being issued to the same person.
  • CAG report notes that “UIDAI should go beyond self-declaration, and prescribe a procedure and required documentation other than self-declaration, in order to confirm and authenticate the residence status of applicants”.
  • CAG has noted that the UIDAI does not have adequate arrangements with the postal department, due to which a large number of Aadhaar cards were returned t
  • Aadhaar numbers with poor quality biometrics induce authentication errors. UIDAI takes no responsibility for it and transfers the onus of updating the biometrics to the resident and also charges fees for it.
  • The CAG has flagged that UIDAI has not ensured that the applications or devices used by agencies or companies for authentication “were not capable of storing the personal information of the residents, which put the privacy of residents at risk”.
  • The Authority had not ensured the security and safety of data in Aadhaar vaults.

Reservation in Promotion

Context: 

  • Government lays down norms for quotas in promotions.

Norms for reservation: 

  • The collection of quantifiable data on the inadequacy of representation of social groups is a prerequisite condition for providing quotas in the promotion.
  • Collection of quantifiable data regarding the inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

Application of this data to each cadre separately:

  • If a roster exists, the unit for operation of the roster would be the cadre, or which the quantifiable data would have to be collected and applied in regard to the filling up of the vacancies in the roster.
  • Legal Provisions related to Reservation in employment
  • Reservation in jobs is mentioned in the constitution under Article 16 and Article 371.
  • There were three sub-clauses dealing with job reservation in Article 16. They are, indeed.
  • 16(1): It guarantees equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to “employment or appointment” to any State office.
  • 16(2): It states that discrimination cannot be made solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any combination of these factors.

Appointment of Vice-Chancellor

Context:

  • The TN Assembly passed two bills that seek to transfer the Governor’s power in appointing VCs of 13 State Universities to the State Government.
  • States are bringing their own legislation to give power to state government to appoint VCs. Recently, WB, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana have come out with similar legislations.

About Vice-Chancellor:

  • Vice-chancellors lead the university's academic and administrative departments.
  • They may serve on several university councils, assist with policy development and academic planning,
  • prepare budgets, and maintain the institution's positive image.
  • As per the University Grants Commission (UGC) Guidelines, the Visitor/Chancellor shall appoint the Vice-Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the search-cum-selection committee.
  • The Governor of the state is the honorary chancellor of all State-owned universities.

About the Bills passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly:

  • The Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2022, substitutes the expression “chancellor” in the original Act with “government” with regards to both appointment and removal of VCs.
  • A separate bill to amend the Chennai University Act, 1923 [Chennai University (Amendment) Act, 2022], with similar intent, was passed by the House.
  • Currently, the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor of state universities, has the power to pick a VC from the shortlisted names.
  • The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed.
  • Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary

Supreme Court’s Observation:

  • In March 2022, while setting aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat’s SP University by the state government, the Supreme Court made some key observations.
  • The court said, “any appointment as a Vice-Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto”.
  • It said every subordinate legislation of the UGC, in this case, the one on minimum standards on appointments, flows from the parent UGC Act, 1956.
  • In case of any conflict between state legislation and central legislation, central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject ‘education’ is in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Under Article 254, if any legislation enacted by the state legislature is repugnant to the legislation enacted by the Parliament, then the state legislation will be declared void, and the legislation enacted by the Parliament will prevail over the former.

Role of University Grants Commission:

  • Although Education comes under the Concurrent List, entry 66 of the Union List — “coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions” — gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.
  • According to the UGC Regulations, 2018, the “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees.
  • Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.
  • These are usually followed without friction in the case of central universities but are sometimes resisted by the states in the case of state universities.
  • There is a need to uphold the constitutional provisions and principles of parliamentary democracy by limiting the Governor’s executive power exercise on discretion. The SC has said in Nabam Rebia Case 2016 that the exercise of the Governor’s discretion is limited and his choice should not be arbitrary.

Anti – Encroachment Drive in India

Context:

  • A PIL was filed in SC to stop the anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi. The SC put a stay on demolition for the time being and agreed to hear PIL.

Issues Involved In Anti- Encroachment Drives:

  • The right to life is protected under Article 21 of the constitution. The idea of the “Right to the City” and the “Right to Adequate Housing” has been recognised by international law and promoted by UN-HABITAT. The SC has also endorsed this idea.
  • Encroachment of government land and properties: Only 24% of the population of Delhi lived in planned settlements.
  • Government is regularising unauthorised settlement: The Union Govt. launched the PM-UDAY (Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojna) Scheme which confers property rights to dwellers of the unauthorised colonies.

SC Judgements On Anti-Encroachment Drives:

  • Olga Tellis vs BMC, 1985, a five-judge constitutional bench led by Justice Y. V. Chandrachud ruled that pavement dwellers who occupies public spaces in an unauthorised manner should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart before force is used to expel them. The SC further observed that the right to life includes the right to livelihood. A welfare state should not use its power of eviction as a means to deprive pavement dwellers of their livelihood.
  • In 2013, the SC in Sudama Singh Case held that prior to carrying out any eviction, it was the duty of the state to carry out a detailed survey and then a rehabilitation exercise in consultation with each one of them [persons at risk of an eviction] in a meaningful manner.
  • In Ajay Maken case (2019), the SC reiterated that very slum dweller has a right to be rehabilitated, and these orders are binding on all authorities, including the Central government.
  • The due process of law should be followed in the light of SC judgements relating removal of encroachment of public properties. The dwellers of unauthorised colonies are a vulnerable section of society. The state needs to show empathy by providing meaningful rehabilitation opportunities to them

Hindi

Context:

  • Centre’s push to make Hindi the link language for India.

Statistics about the Hindi language:

  • The 2011 linguistic census accounts for 121 mother tongues, including 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Hindi is the most widely spoken, with 52.8 crore individuals, or 43.6% of the population, declaring it as their mother tongue.
  • In terms of the number of people who know Hindi its 55% of the population as 13% use it as their second language.

Reasons for dominance of Hindi:

  • Hindi is the predominant language in some of India’s most populous states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
  • A number of languages are bracketed under Hindi by census enumerators.
  • High fertility rate and population growth among Hindi speaking regions.

Assam-Meghalaya Border Dispute Agreement

Context:

  • Assam and Meghalaya have partially resolved a 50-year-old border dispute in six of the 12 sectors.

How did the boundary dispute start?

  • Meghalaya carved out of Assam as an autonomous State in 1970, and became a full-fledged State in 1972.
  • It was based on the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969
  • The Meghalaya government refused to accept it because the Act followed the recommendations of a 1951 committee that defined the boundary of Meghalaya.
  • Based on the panel’s recommendations, areas of the present-day East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya were transferred to the districts of Assam.
  • After claims and counter-claims, the dispute was narrowed down to 12 sectors on the basis of an official claim by Meghalaya in 2011.
  • How did the two governments go about handling the issue?
  • In 1983 a joint official committee was formed to address the issue.
  • The committee suggested that the Survey of India should re-delineate the boundary with the cooperation of both the States but there was no follow-up action.
  • In 1985 an independent panel headed by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud was constituted.
  • Meghalaya rejected the report as it was allegedly pro-Assam.
  • In 1991 both the governments agreed to jointly demarcate the border with the help of the Survey of India.
  • About 100 km of the border was demarcated by the end of 1991, but Meghalaya found the exercise unconstitutional and refused to cooperate.
  • In 2011, the Meghalaya Assembly passed a resolution for central intervention and the constitution of a boundary commission.
  • The Assam Assembly retaliated with a resolution to oppose the move.
  • The Centre made the two governments appoint nodal officers to discuss the boundary dispute.
  • In 2019, the Meghalaya government petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to settle the dispute but the petition was dismissed.

What about the current agreement?

  • Both States formed three regional committees, one each for a district affected by the disputed sectors.
  • The main objective is to end the boundary dispute between the two states in six of the 12 areas along their 885-km boundary.
  • The committees, each headed by a cabinet minister, were given “five principles” for approaching the issue which include historical facts of a disputed sector ethnicity, administrative convenience, willingness of people, contiguity of land preferably with natural boundaries such as rivers, streams and rocks
  • Of the disputed territory (a little over 36 square kilometres), the two States will get a near equal share, enshrining the sharing principle by adopting a give-and-take approach.
  • The agreement was signed by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah.
  • There is a fear among non-tribal people that they could end up living in a region with no rights.

What will be the impact of the settlement on other border disputes in North-East?

  • Assam, the mother State from which other states were carved out in the northeast, currently has boundary disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
  • The agreement amplifies cooperative federalism and provides a road map for the resolution of other boundary disputes between states.
  • It is said that in the next six-seven months, the second phase of resolution would commence for the remaining sites.

Rules For Tapping A Phone

Context:

  • The phone tapping issue from Maharashtra got much attention of the Media and people. Phone tapping is a process of monitoring of telephone or internet-based conversation by a third party including law enforcement authorities, and often by covert means.

Background:

  • In PUCL vs. Union of India (1996), the SC pointed out the lack of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act 1885 and laid down certain guidelines for interception.
  • The SC’s guidelines formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007.
  • The SC’s guideline was later adopted in the rules prescribed under the IT Act. Section 69 of the IT Act and the IT (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted to further the legal framework for electronic surveillance.

Process Of Phone Tapping By-Law Enforcement Authorities In India:

  • The authorities make a request to service providers such as Airtel, Jio etc. to record conversations on the given number and provide these in real-time through a connected computer. The service providers are bound by law to provide that. This is also called ‘parallel listening’.

The phone can be tapped lawfully by:

State Police:

  • 10 Central Law Enforcement Agencies such as IB, CBI, ED, NCB, NIA, RAW, DSI, Delhi Police Commissioner, DRI and CBDT
  • Exception for the press: Press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained unless their transmission has been prohibited under this subsection.

Data:

  • On average, 6,000 to 8,000 telephones are tapped by various agencies at any given time based on authorisation by the Union home secretary.
  • Besides, around 10,000 more telephones are lawfully intercepted by state governments

Laws Related to Tapping:

  • Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act 1885: On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the phone can be tapped by the Center or States if they are satisfied that it is necessary in the interest of public safety, sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.

Rule 419A of Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2007:

  • Using as Last Resort: The law is clear that interception must be ordered only if there is no other way of getting the information.
  • Rule 419A mentions that while issuing directions under sub-rule (1) the officer shall consider the possibility of acquiring the necessary information by other means and the directions under sub-rule (1) shall be issued only when it is not possible to acquire the information by any other reasonable means
  • Competent Authority: Phone tapping shall not be issued except by an order made by Union Home Secretary, or State home secretary. The order has to be conveyed to the service provider in writing, only then can the tapping begin.
  • In unavoidable circumstances, such order may be made by an officer, not below the rank of joint secretary to the GOI and has been specially authorized by Union Home Secretary or State Home Secretary.
  • In remote areas or for operational reasons, if it is not feasible to get a prior direction, a call can be intercepted with the prior approval of the head or the second senior-most officer of the authorized law enforcement agency at the central level, and by an authorized officer, not below the rank of IG at the state level.
  • Approving Authority: The order has to be communicated within 3 days to the competent authority, who has to approve or disapprove it within 7 days. If the confirmation from the competent authority is not received within the stipulated 7 days, such interception shall cease.
  • Limited Time Period: The direction for interception remains in force for 60 days, unless revoked earlier.
  • However, it can be extended for up to 180 days.
  • Proper reason: Any order issued by competent authority has to contain reasons, and a copy is to be forwarded to a review committee within 7 working days. The review committee is expected to meet at least once in two months to review all interception requests.
  • Members of the review committee in the centre: Cabinet Secretary, Law Secretary and Telecom Secretary
  • Members of the review committee in the state: Chief Secretary, Law Secretary and Any other Secretary other than the Home Secretary.
  • The intercepted records shall be destroyed every 6 months unless these are required for functional requirements.
  • Service providers to are required to destroy records pertaining to directions for interception within two months of discontinuance of the interception.
  • The provision for tapping phones under the Telegraph Act 1885 is important during the occurrence of a public emergency in the interest of public safety but it is in conflict with the right to privacy and the right to free speech. The right to privacy is a fundamental right as ruled by the SC in Puttaswamy Case (2017). The restriction on any fundamental rights should be just, fair and reasonable. 

Legislature:

Antarctic Bill

Context:

  • The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 introduced in the Lok Sabha envisages regulating visits and activities to the Antarctic.

About the Antarctic treaty and India:

  • A member country is one of the 54 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 and India joined the Treaty System in 1983.
  • The Treaty parties meet each year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
  • India has now established two standing research stations in Antarctica, Bharati and Maitri.
  • The major thrust areas of the Indian Antarctic Programme are climate processes and links to climate change, environmental processes and conservation and polar technology.
  • The Antarctic Treaty came into force on June 23, 1961 after ratification by the 12 countries then active in Antarctic science.
  • The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
  • Its key objectives are to demilitarise Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill

Context:

  • Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill has been passed by parliament and is now a act of parliament.

Features of the Act:

  • It repeals the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920.
  • It authorises law enforcement agencies to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples of convicts and other persons.
  • It authorises police to record signatures, handwriting or other behavioural attributes referred to in section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • Any state government of Union Territory administration may notify an appropriate agency to collect, preserve and share the measurements of a person of interest in their respective jurisdictions.
  • Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Define “measurements” to include finger impressions, palm-print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, etc.
  • Empower the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect, store and preserve the record of measurements and for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records.
  • Empower a Magistrate to direct any person to give measurements; a Magistrate can also direct law enforcement officials to collect fingerprints, footprint impressions and photographs in the case of a specified category of convicted and non-convicted persons.
  • Empower police or prison officers to take measurements of any person who resists or refuses to give measurements.

Office of WHIP

  • The concept of the whip was inherited from colonial British rule.
  • It is used in parliamentary parlance often for floor management by political parties in the legislature.
  • A whip is also an important office-bearer of the party in the Parliament.
  • A whip is a written order that a political party issues to its members for being present for an important vote.
  • The term is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line.
  • Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips. This member is called a Chief Whip, and he/she is assisted by additional Whips.
  • The office of ‘whip’, is mentioned neither in the Constitution of India nor in the Rules of the House nor in a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of the parliamentary government.
  • There are some cases such as Presidential elections where whips cannot direct a Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) on whom to vote.
  • If an MP violates his party’s whip, he faces expulsion from the House under the Anti Defection Act.

Types of Whips:

  • The One-line whip informs the members about a vote. It allows a member to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line.
  • The Two-line whip is issued to direct the members to be present in the House at the time of voting. No special instructions are given on the pattern of voting.
  • The Three-line whip is issued to members directing them to vote as per the party line. It is the strictest of all the whips.

Legislative Council

Context:

  • RJD (Rashtriya Janta Dal) won six seats in Bihar Legislative Council.

History of Legislative Council:

  • The Government of India Act, 1919, established the Rajya Sabha in 1921.
  • Then the Government of India Act of 1935 set up bicameral legislatures in Indian provinces.

Current Status:

  • Six States have a Legislative Council: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka.
  • In 2020, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the resolution for the abolition of the Legislative Council. This resolution is yet to be cleared by the Parliament of India to finally abolish the council.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Indian Parliament has two Houses, similarly, states have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly through Article 169 of the Constitution.
  • The Parliament can abolish a Legislative Council created it by a simple majority.
  • States Can initiate a resolution for the creation of a legislative council with a special majority of the assembly. It is the only instance when a state can initiate a constitutional amendment.
  • Under Article 171, the Legislative Council shall not have more than one-third of the total strength of the State Assembly, and not less than 40 members.
  • It is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution.
  • The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.

Composition:

  • One-third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs,
  • Another 1/3rd by local bodies
  • 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor.

Digital Services Act

  • The European Parliament and European Union (EU) Member States announced that they had reached a political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), landmark legislation to force big Internet companies to act against disinformation and illegal and harmful content and to protect internet users.
  • The proposed Act will work in conjunction with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) which was approved in March 2022.

Introduction:

The key provision of DSA:

  • Instead of letting platforms decide how to deal with abusive or illegal content, the DSA will lay down specific rules and obligations for intermediary companies to follow.
  • Faster Removal: Online platforms and intermediaries such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc will have to add “new procedures for faster removal” of content deemed illegal or harmful.
  • Informed decisions: Further, these platforms will have to clearly explain their policy on taking down content; users will be able to challenge these takedowns as well.
  • Flagging Illegal content: Platforms will need to have a clear mechanism to help users flag content that is illegal. Platforms will have to cooperate with “trusted flaggers”. 
  • Systemic Analysis: The DSA adds “an obligation for very large digital platforms and services to analyse systemic risks they create and to carry out risk reduction analysis”. This audit for platforms like Google and Facebook will need to take place every year.
  • Independent Audit: The Act proposes to allow independent vetted researchers to have access to public data from these platforms to carry out studies to understand these risks better
  • Ban on Dark Patterns: The DSA proposes to ban ‘Dark Patterns’ or “misleading interfaces” that are designed to trick users into doing something that they would not agree to otherwise. This includes forcible pop-up pages, giving greater prominence to a particular choice, etc.
  • Crisis Situation: The DSA incorporates a new crisis mechanism clause — it refers to the Russia-Ukraine conflict — which will be activated by the Commission and be in force for 3 months  where special measures will be imposed
  • Transparency: It also proposes “transparency measures for online platforms on a variety of issues, including on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users”.
  • Protection of Minors: The law proposes stronger protection for minors, and aims to ban targeted advertising for them based on their personal data.
  • Consumer convenience: Finally, it says that cancelling a subscription should be as easy as subscribing.
  • Penal Provisions: Penalties for breaching these rules could be huge — as high as 6% of the company’s global annual turnover.
  • According to the EU, DSA will apply to a “large category of online services, from simple websites to Internet infrastructure services and online platforms.” The obligations for each of these will differ according to their size and role.
  • The Crisis situation clause will make it “possible to analyse the impact of the activities of these platforms” on the crisis, and the Commission will decide the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure the fundamental rights of users are not violated.

Does this mean that social media platforms will now be liable for any unlawful content?

  • It has been clarified that the platforms and other intermediaries will not be liable for the unlawful behaviour of users. So, they still have ‘safe harbour’ in some sense.
  • However, if the platforms are “aware of illegal acts and fail to remove them,” they will be liable for this user behaviour.
  • Governance challenge includes the need for creating open environment that fosters innovation and regulating the companies to safeguard larger public interests.

Value Addition:

India’s Rules on Social Media Intermediaries:

  • India’s 2021 IT Rules make the social media intermediary and its executives liable if the company fails to carry out due diligence.
  • Social media intermediaries — such as Facebook or Google — must appoint a chief compliance officer (CCO), who could be booked if a tweet or post that violates local laws is not removed within the stipulated period.
  • India’s Rules also introduce the need to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • They include a clause on the need to trace the originator of a message — this provision has been challenged by WhatsApp in the Delhi High Court.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022

  • The bill seeks to expand the existing 2005 law of the same name, to include a ban on funding of weapons of mass destruction, and empowers the central government to freeze and seize the financial assets of people involved in such activities.
  • weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is defined as a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or another device that has the capacity to inflict death and destruction on a massive scale.
  • Examples include missiles or nuclear bombs, but as evident in the 9/11 terror attacks, even passenger jets can also be used as WMDs.

Need:

  • To provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems so as to fulfil our international obligations.
  • In recent times, regulations relating to the proliferation of WMDs and their delivery systems by international organisations have expanded.
  • United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have mandated against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • It was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which came into force on 9th November 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
  • It promotes settlements of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms in which Lokadalat is a prime measure in providing compensation to victims of crime.

Persons Eligible for Free Legal Services:

  • Women and Children
  • Persons with disability
  • Member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes
  • Industrial Workmen
  • Persons in custody
  • Victims of natural disasters, ethnic/caste violence, industrial disaster
  • Victims of Human Trafficking or Begar.

Anti Defection Law

About:

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with Anti Defection.
  • It was inserted in the Constitution in by 52nd Amendment Act, 1985.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies, also its application to both nominated and elected members.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made by the presiding officer.
  • The decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review

Criteria for Defection:

  • When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party.
  • When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
  • In the above two cases, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.
  • In the case of nominated MPs, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated. If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.

91st constitutional Amendment:

  • Earlier, a defection by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’. The amendment changed it to at least two-thirds.

Claim over Chandigarh

Context:

  • Haryana Deputy Chief Minister said it would be better if both Haryana and Punjab agreed on Chandigarh as a Union Territory.

Why this statement was made?

  • Haryana Deputy CM wants the states to make their independent capitals and Benches of High Courts.
  • On November 1, Haryana was celebrating 54 years of its formation as a separate state after it was carved out of undivided Punjab in 1966.
  • The statement once again brought into focus the long-simmering dispute between the two states over one of India’s most modern cities.
  • But Punjab has always refuted Haryana’s claims over Chandigarh.

Why was Chandigarh created?

  • Chandigarh was planned to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the Partition.
  • In March 1948, the Government of (India’s) Punjab, in consultation with the Centre, approved the area of the foothills of the Shivaliks as the site for the new capital.
  • From 1952 to 1966 (till Haryana was carved out of Punjab), Chandigarh remained the capital of Punjab.

How did it become a shared capital?

  • At the time of the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, the city assumed the unique distinction of being the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.
  • It became a capital even as it was declared a union territory and was placed under the direct control of the Centre.
  • The properties in Chandigarh were to be divided in a 60:40 ratio in favour of Punjab.

What is Punjab’s claim?

  • The-then Prime Minister had announced that Haryana, in due course, would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab.
  • The Centre had issued a formal communication is this regard on January 29, 1970, almost three years after Haryana came into being.
  • Again, in 1985, under the Rajiv-Longowal accord, Chandigarh was to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986.
  • But the Rajiv Gandhi government withdrew at the last minute.

What is Haryana’s counter-claim?

  • As per the 1970 documents, the Centre had considered various alternatives for settling the matter, including dividing the city.
  • But that wasn’t feasible since Chandigarh was built as a planned city to serve as the capital of one state.
  • Haryana was told to use the office and residential accommodation in Chandigarh only for five years till it shifts to its own new capital.
  • The Centre had offered loan to Haryana for setting up the new capital.
  • In 2018, Haryana suggested to set up a special body for the development of Chandigarh.
  • But Punjab rejected it, saying the city indisputably belonged to it.
  • Haryana, on its part, has been demanding a separate High Court.
  • It has locked horns with Punjab by passing a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha demanding 20 rooms in the Vidhan Sabha complex that have been in the possession of Punjab.

Constitutional Provisions:

Article 192

Context:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has written to the Jharkhand government, seeking documents pertaining to a mining lease granted to Chief Minister Hemant Soren, to “formulate its opinion” under Article 192 of the Constitution.
  • Decision on questions as to disqualifications of members (Article 192)
  • If any question arises as to whether a member of a House of the Legislature of a State has become subject to any of the disqualifications under article 191, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Governor and his decision shall be final.
  • Before giving any decision on any such question, the Governor shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.

Article 191: Criteria for Disqualifications for membership

  • A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State
  • If he holds any office of profit
  • If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
  • IF he is an undischarged insolvent;
  • IF he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State.
  • IF he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • A person shall be disqualified from being a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State if he is so disqualified under the Tenth Schedule

Article 344: Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language

Official Language Commission:

  • The President shall, at the expiration of five years from the commencement of this Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, by order constitute a Commission which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members.
  • The members should represent the different languages specified in the Eight Schedule as the President may appoint, and the order shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission

Duties of commission:

  • The progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union;
  • Restrictions on the use of the English language for all or any of the official purposes of the Union;
  • The language to be used for all or any of the purposes mentioned in Article 348;
  • The form of numerals to be used for anyone or more specified purposes of the Union;
  • Any other matter referred to the Commission by the President.

Official Language Committee:

  • A Committee consisting of thirty members, of whom twenty shall be members of the House of the People and ten shall be members of the Council of States to be elected respectively by the members
  • It shall be the duty of the Committee to examine the recommendations of the official language Commission constituted under the clause and to report to the President their opinion thereon.
  • It is headed by Home Minister (Not present in the constitution).

International Relations

Dialogues And Talks:

Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm Deal: India- Srilanka

Context:

  • India's prized agreement with Sri Lanka for the joint development of the Trincomalee Oil Tank farm, signed earlier this year after a 35-year wait, may take years to turn around and at least 100 million dollars.

About:

  • This is the deal: 85 decrepit oil tanks in 850 acres of dense jungle, and a strategic natural harbour.
  • The foliage is so thick that the place is now home to several species of animals and birds, and cutting down the trees needs government permission.
  • One day, it could be key to Sri Lanka’s energy security while giving India additional capacity for reserves.
  • India’s prized agreement with Sri Lanka for the joint development of the Trincomalee Oil Tank farm, signed earlier this year after a 35-year wait, may take years to turn around and at least 100 million dollars.
  • The twin economic and political crises in Sri Lanka carry their own risks.
  • The oil tank farm was built by the British during World War II as a refuelling station,
  • It is located in ‘China Bay’ in close proximity to the internationally coveted deep water natural harbour of Trincomalee.
  • The proposal of this joint development was envisaged 35 years ago, in the Indo-Lanka Accord 1987.
  • It comprises 99 storage tanks, with a capacity of 12,000 kilolitres each, spread across Lower Tank farm and Upper Tank Farm.
  • In 2003, Indian Oil Corporation set up its Sri Lankan subsidiary called Lanka IOC, to work on this oil farm.
  • Currently, Lanka IOC runs 15 tanks. The new agreement is being negotiated for the remaining tanks.

Significance of the deal:

  • The Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms have been bestowed with several favourable factors of location. For example,
  • Easily Accessible: It is located in a deepwater natural harbour of Trincomalee.
  • Strategic Location in the Indian Ocean: These oil farms are located along some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
  • Thus, a well-developed oil storage facility and refinery adjacent to the Trincomalee Port would have great economic value for both India and Sri Lanka.

Issues in India-Sri Lanka Relations:

  • China’s Intervention: China’s rapidly growing economic footprint (and political clout as a corollary) in Sri Lanka is straining India-Sri Lanka relations.
  • China is already the largest investor in Sri Lanka, accounting for 23.6% of the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during 2010-2019 as against 10.4% from India.
  • China is also one of the largest export destinations for Sri Lankan goods and holds over 10% of its external debt.
  • China is also handling Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka, the port is viewed as a part of China’s String of Pearls Strategy.
  • Katchatheevu Island Issue: India ceded the uninhabited island to its southern neighbour in 1974 under a conditional accord.
  • However, many times the fisherman issue arises more out of a domestic tussle rather than the India-Sri Lanka view on the issue.
  • 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution: Indo-Sri Lankan Accord was signed in 1987 to provide a political solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict.
  • It envisages devolution of necessary powers to the provincial councils to address the just demand of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect within a united Sri Lanka.
  • The provisions of this accord were made in the Sri Lankan constitution, by the Thirteenth Amendment.
  • However, still the provisions are not implemented on ground. Even to this day, s lot of Srilankan Tamils who evaded from Srilankan civil war (2009) are seeking refuge in Tamil Nadu.
  • Back Tracing of Sri-Lanka: Recently, Sri Lanka backed out from a tripartite partnership with India and Japan for its East Container Terminal Project at the Colombo Port, citing domestic issues.

Way Forward:

  • Nurturing the Neighbourhood First policy with Sri Lanka is important for India to preserve its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Indian foreign policy towards Sri Lanka, as part of its ‘Island Diplomacy’, will also have to evolve in tune to the emergent realities and threats.
  • Both countries can also cooperate on enhancing private sector investments to create economic resilience.

The India-UK Relationship

Context:

  • India-UK relations also known as Indian–British relations refer to international relations between India and the United Kingdom. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Bilateral Relations:

  • India and the United Kingdom share a modern partnership bound by strong historical ties
  • India’s multifaceted bilateral relationship with the UK intensified with its up-gradation to a Strategic Partnership in 2004
  • A Joint Declaration titled ‘India-UK: towards a new and dynamic partnership’ which envisages annual Summits and regular meetings between Foreign Ministers
  • Civil nuclear energy, space, defence, combating terrorism, economic ties, science & technology, education and culture are the areas of cooperative relations between India and UK
  • The UK supports India’s proposal for permanent membership of the UNSC and is also an important interlocutor for India in the European Union (EU), Group of Eight (G-8), G20 and global contexts

Political Relations :

  • India and UK are bound by strong ties of history and culture. 
  • India has a high commission in London and two consulates-general in Birmingham and Edinburgh. The United Kingdom has a high commission in New Delhi and five deputy high commissions in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
  • The United Kingdom has an Indian population of over 1.5 million
  • Both countries are also members of the World Trade Organization and the Asian Development Bank
  • Three Presidents of India have paid state visits to the United Kingdom: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in June 1963, Ramaswamy Venkataraman in October 1990, and Pratibha Patil in 2009
  • Indian Prime Ministers including Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi have also paid a visit to the country during their tenures as the PM of India
  • Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom paid state visits to India in November 1963, April 1990, and in October 1997
  • There have been regular exchanges of visits at the Prime Ministerial level since the Strategic Partnership in 2004

Economic Relations:

  • The economic and commerce matters are guided based on the institutionalised dialogues of India-UK Joint Economic & Trade Committee, Economic and Financial Dialogue and India-UK Financial Partnership
  • The growth of India’s multinational companies contributed greatly to UK’s business and economy. As of 2019, Indian companies in the UK generated over 48 billion pounds
  • In September 2017 the High Commission of India in the UK, with the support of the UK India Business Council, announced the Access India Programme, a unique scheme set up to help many more UK SMEs export to India

Trade Relations:

  • The UK is among India’s major trading partners and during the year 2016-17, the UK ranked 15th in the list of India’s top 25 trading partners
  • As per trade statistics of MoC&I, India’s trade with the UK in 2017-2018 was the US $14.497 billion

India-UK Relations Investment:

  • UK is the 4th largest inward investor in India, after Mauritius, Singapore and Japan with a cumulative equity investment of US $26.09 billion (April 2000-June 2018)
  • It accounts for about 7% of all foreign direct investment into India
  • As per the data released in 2018, India was  the third-largest investor in the UK and emerged as the second-largest international job creator with Indian companies having created over 110,000 jobs in the UK
  • As of December 2018, the total consolidated revenue of Indian companies in the UK is £47.5 billion with the technical and telecom sector accounting for 31% with the pharmaceuticals and chemicals sector mapping 24% of the India-tracker

Educational Relations between India and UK:

  • The UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) was launched in 2005 with a focus on higher education and research, schools and professional and technical skills
  • Joint Working Group on Education, Newton-Bhabha Fund and Scholarship schemes are some other educational initiatives by the two countries for maintaining the bilateral relationship
  • During the visit of the Prime Minister to the UK in November 2015, the following announcements relating to education were made:
    • 2016 was announced as the UK-India year of Education, Research and Innovation
    • Virtual partnerships would be initiated at the school level to enable young
    • People of one country to experience the school system of the other
    • Country and develop an understanding of the culture, traditions and social and family systems
    • UK’s plans for 25,000 UK students to go to India through the Generation UK- India programme by 2020, including 1000 UK interns with Tata Consultancy Services in India by 2020
    • Launch of the 3rd phase of the UK India Education and Research Initiative
  • UK also supports the Skills India Mission and announced a fresh commitment of up to £12 million

Cultural Links between India and the United Kingdom:

  • India and UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation in July 2010
  • The Nehru Centre (TNC), established in 1992 in London, is the cultural outreach of the High Commission of India in UK. It organises a wide range of cultural functions at its premises
  • There has been a gradual mainstreaming of Indian culture and absorption of Indian cuisine, cinema, languages, religion, philosophy, performing arts, etc.
  • A Midnight Freedom Run was organized in London by the High Commission of India in the midnight hours of August 14-15, 2017 to commemorate of 70 years of India’s independence

India-UK Relations – Defense :

  • Cooperation in the defence sector is another important pillar of bilateral cooperation. During Prime Minister’s visit to the UK in November 2015, the two countries agreed to elevate their Defence relationship by establishing capability partnerships in strategic areas. 
  • At all the three services level, joint exercises and wide-ranging exchanges between the three services are conducted regularly. 

Indians in the United Kingdom:

  • As of January 2013, the Parliament of UK has 8 Indian origin MPs and 24 Indian-origin Lords. In addition, there are over 180 Indian origin Councillors elected to Councils across UK.
  • The Indian Diaspora in UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country, with the 2011 census recording approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK equating to almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6% of the country’s GDP. 

Geopolitical Events:

Bucha Killings

Context:

  • India joined the international community in expressing outrage over civilian killings in Ukraine’s Bucha. 

About:

  • Bucha is a town located about 25 km to the northwest of the capital Kyiv.
  • Over the past few days, gruesome images have emerged of mass graves and dozens of bodies of civilians in the town of Bucha.
  • So far, more than 300 bodies have been found in the town. These bodies were discovered after the town was reclaimed by Russian forces.

India’s Stand on Bucha Killings:

  • India has condemned the killing of civilians at Bucha in Ukraine and backed the call for an independent investigation into the incident.
  • This is the first time New Delhi has publicly censured actions blamed on Russian forces.
  • India’s condemnation of the civilian killings stopped short of blaming Russia. However, the support for an independent probe is significant.
  • India had earlier abstained from a vote on a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council. This resolution was seeking a commission of inquiry to look into violations committed during Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

A Genocide Or War Crimes:

  • Both expressions have been used freely in outraged Ukrainian and Western descriptions of the atrocities in Bucha.
  • Since the international community has an obligation to respond to these incidents, it is necessary to analyze whether these incidents fit those definitions.

War Crime:

  • War crimes are defined as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, agreements signed after World War II. These conventions laid down international humanitarian laws during wartime.
  • Deliberately targeting civilians amounts to a war crime.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has already opened an investigation into possible war crimes by Russia. However, it will be difficult to bring Russian defendants to trial because Russia does not recognise the ICC and will likely not cooperate with the investigation.

The Crime Of Genocide:

  • The crime of genocide is defined by the United Nations Genocide Convention of December 1948.
  • It includes acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
  • Genocide is seen as the gravest and most serious of all crimes against humanity. 
  • Examples of genocides, generally recognised as fitting the 1948 UN definition, are:
    • Holocaust in which more than 6 million Jews were exterminated
    • 1915-20 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks,
    • Killings of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994
    • Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
  • Hence, international security analysts believe that the current findings amount to Russia being guilty of war crimes.

Modi, Deuba jointly flag off cross-border train

Context:

  • This is going to be Nepal’s first broad gauge passenger train service, all of which has been hand-held by India from the start.
  • After eight years of work, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepal counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba jointly flagged off the cross-border train service between Bihar’s Jayanagar and Nepal’s Kurtha, with the Hindu pilgrimage city of Janakpur Dham — the mythical birthplace of Sita.

About:

  • Part of the 68.73-km Jaynagar-Bardibas train service from Nepal side beyond Janakpur had to be stopped due to flooding of some railway bridges in 2001, while service from Janakpur to Jaynagar continued until March 2014 when India and Nepal decided to go for converting the entire narrow gauge link into broad gauge.

Ties on track:

  • New Delhi is footing the construction bill of Rs 784 crore for the entire 68.73-km track between Bihar’s Jaynagar and Nepal’s Bardibas as a grant to the neighbouring country.
  • It’s an out-and-out India show with Railway-arm IRCON carrying out the design and construction and another PSU, the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL), slated to help the Nepal Railway Company in operations and maintenance, including training of manpower.
  • KRCL has already supplied two sets of 1,600 horsepower Diesel Electric Multiple Unit passenger trains to run at a top speed of 100 kmph.
  • The next stretch of 17 km from Kurtha to Bijalpura is also getting finishing touches. For the rest of the portion up to Bardibas, land is being handed over to IRCON.
  • The rail link line has been popular since the early 20th Century. The British had built the narrow gauge line in 1937 to ferry cargo, mainly logs, from Nepal to India. However, over time, it became a popular passenger service for people of the two countries.
  • In the first phase, Inerva, Khajuri, Mahinathpur halt, Baidehi, Careha halt, and Janakpur Dham stations have been built between the complete Jayanagar-Kurtha rail section.
  • Custom check-points have been created at Jayanagar in India and Innerva in Nepal. The Jaynagar station has a parallel station building operated by Nepal Railway Company for this line.

Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis

Context:

  • The Sri Lankan economy has been facing a crisis owing to a serious Balance of Payments (BoP) problem. Its foreign exchange reserves are depleting rapidly and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the country to import essential consumption goods.
  • The current Sri Lankan economic crisis is the product of the historical imbalances in the economic structure, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s loan-related conditionalities and the misguided policies of authoritarian rulers.

Why is Sri Lanka Suffering from Crisis?

  • Background: When Sri Lanka emerged from a 26-year long civil war in 2009, its post-war GDP growth was reasonably high at 8-9% per annum till 2012.
  • However, its average GDP growth rate almost halved after 2013 as global commodity prices fell, exports slowed down and imports rose.
  • Sri Lanka’s budget deficits were high during the war and the global financial crisis of 2008 drained its forex reserves which led to the country borrowing a loan of $2.6 billion loan from the IMF in 2009.
  • It again approached the IMF in 2016 for another US$1.5 billion loan, however the conditionalities of the IMF further deteriorated Sri Lanka’s economic health.
  • Recent Economic Shocks: The Easter bomb blasts of April 2019 in churches in Colombo resulting in 253 casualties, consequently, dropped the number of tourists sharply leading to a decline in foreign exchange reserves.
  • The newly led government by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019 promised lower tax rates and wide-ranging SoPs for farmers during their campaign.
  • The quick implementation of these ill-advised promises further exacerbated the problem.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 made the bad situation worse –
  • Exports of tea, rubber, spices and garments suffered.
  • Tourism arrivals and revenues fell further
  • Due to a rise in government expenditures, the fiscal deficit exceeded 10% in 2020-21, and the debt to GDP ratio rose from 94% in 2019 to 119% in 2021.
  • Sri Lanka’s Fertiliser Ban: In 2021, all fertiliser imports were completely banned and it was declared that Sri Lanka would become a 100% organic farming nation overnight.
  • This overnight shift to organic fertilisers heavily impacted food production.
  • Consequently, the Sri Lankan President declared an economic emergency to contain rising food prices, a depreciating currency, and rapidly depleting forex reserves.
  • The lack of foreign currency, coupled with the disastrous overnight ban on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, has sent food prices soaring. Inflation is currently over 15% and is forecast to average 17.5%, pushing millions of poorer Sri Lankans to the brink.

How has India Assisted Sri Lanka in this Crisis?

  • Beginning January 2022, India has been providing crucial economic support to the island nation in the grip of a severe dollar crisis that, many fear, might lead to a sovereign default, and a severe shortage of essentials in the import-reliant country.
  • The relief extended by India from the beginning of 2022 totals over USD 1.4 billion – a USD 400 currency swap, a USD 500 loan deferment and a USD 500 Line of Credit for fuel imports.
  • More recently, India extended a USD 1 billion short-term concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help the country as it faces an unprecedented economic crisis.

Why Helping Sri Lanka is in India’s Interests?

  • Crucially, any disillusionment in Sri Lanka with China eases India’s effort to keep the Lankan archipelago out of China’s ‘string of pearls’ game in the Indo-Pacific.
  • It is in India’s interest to contain Chinese presence and influence in this region.
  • To the extent India can extend low-cost help to alleviate the hardships of Sri Lankans, it should, however it must be done with due care keeping in mind that the optics of its aid matters too.

What Can Be the Way Forward?

  • Measures for Sri Lanka: The government should take measures for economic recovery of the country as soon as the shortage of certain essential commodities ends, which is expected before the start of the Sinhala-Tamil New Year (in mid-April).
  • The government should also join hands with the Tamil political leadership to create a roadmap for the economic development of the war-affected northern and eastern provinces, among the areas badly hit by the current crisis.
  • It would be best to raise domestic tax revenue and shrink government expenditure to limit borrowing, particularly sovereign borrowing from external sources.
  • Tough measures should be taken for restructuring the administration of concessions and subsidies.
  • India’s Assistance: It would be completely unwise for India to let the Chinese take over expanding chunks of Sri Lankan territory. India must offer Sri Lanka financial help, policy advice and investment from Indian entrepreneurs.
  • Indian businesses must build supply chains that intertwine the Indian and Sri Lankan economies in goods and services ranging from the export of tea to information technology services.
  • India, rather than any other nation, should help steer Sri Lanka towards realising its potential, to reap the rewards of a stable, friendly neighbourhood.
  • Preventing Illegal Refuge: The state of Tamil Nadu has already started feeling the impact of the crisis with the reported arrival of 16 persons from Sri Lanka through illegal means.
  • Tamil Nadu was home to nearly three lakh refugees after the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983.
  • The authorities, both in India and Sri Lanka, should ensure that the present crisis is not used to step up smuggling activities and trafficking or whip up emotions in both countries.
  • Crisis as an Opportunity: Neither Sri Lanka nor India can afford to have strained ties. As a much larger country, the onus is on India, it needs to be extremely patient and engage Sri Lanka even more regularly and closely.
  • There is also a need to step up our people-centric developmental activities while scrupulously staying clear of any interference in Colombo’s domestic affairs.
  • The crisis should be used as an opportunity for New Delhi and Colombo to thrash out a solution to the Palk Bay fisheries dispute – a longstanding irritant in bilateral ties.

Pakistan in a Crisis Anew

Context:

  • Pakistan Prime Minister locked a no-confidence vote and advised the president to order fresh elections, fueling anger among the opposition and deepening the country’s political crisis.

Political Crisis in Pakistan:

  • The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly has tabled a no-confidence motion against Pakistan’s Prime Minister, kicking off the process in the lower house to remove him.
  • The opposition accuses Pakistan’s Prime Minister of failing to revive the economy and combat corruption.
  • Pakistan’s inflation is high, its foreign reserves are depleting, and the country’s budget deficit is growing. It is also part of a difficult bailout programme run by the International Monetary Fund.
  • A motion of no confidence in the government was blocked by the deputy speaker of parliament.
  • After dissolving parliament, Pakistan’s Prime Minister called for new elections.
  • Since Pakistan’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, no prime minister has completed a full five-year term.

Global Implications of Pakistan’s Political Crisis:

Afghanistan:

  • In Afghanistan, the Taliban have retaken power and are facing an economic and humanitarian crisis as a result of a lack of funds and international isolation.
  • In recent years, ties between Pakistan’s military intelligence agency and the Taliban have loosened.
  • Pakistan wants the Taliban to do more to combat extremist groups, fearing that they will infect the country with violence.
  • Tensions between the Taliban and Pakistan’s military have risen as the latter has lost several soldiers in attacks near their shared border.

China:

  • Pakistan has consistently emphasized China’s positive impact on the country and the world.
  • Pakistan’s political crisis will have an impact on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects the two countries.

United States:

  • Pakistan’s political crisis is unlikely to be a top priority for the US, which is preoccupied with the Ukraine conflict, unless it results in widespread unrest or increased tensions with India.
  • But, this could harm the United States’ efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic governance institutions.
  • The Pakistani PM has blamed the US for the current political crisis, claiming that Washington wanted him removed as a result of his recent trip to Moscow.

Implications of Pakistan’s Political Crisis on India:

  • Pakistan’s current political unrest may have an impact on its relations with India, as the Pakistan army has more control over the country’s foreign policy than it has ever had.
  • It could also pose new obstacles to improving India-Pakistan relations, as well as stifle hopes for effective regional cooperation and trade in South Asia.
  • Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of which were fought over Kashmir’s territory. Tensions along the de facto border issues will rise as a result of Pakistan’s political crisis.
  • The Pakistani military may exert pressure on a new civilian government in Islamabad to build on the success of the Kashmir ceasefire.

Black Sea and Russia

Context:

  • Recently, the sinking of the warship Moskva, flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet — whether due to a Ukrainian missile strike or, as Russia claims, a fire on board — is a serious setback for Russia in the War against Ukraine.

About Black Sea:

  • The famed water body is bound by Ukraine to the north and northwest, Russia and Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west.
  • It links to the Sea of Marmara through the Bosphorus and then to the Aegean through the Dardanelles.

Significance of Black Sea for Russia:

  • Domination of the Black Sea region is a geostrategic imperative for Moscow.
  • Black Sea has traditionally been Russia’s warm water gateway to Europe.
  • For Russia, the Black Sea is both a stepping stone to the Mediterranean.
  • It acts as a strategic buffer between NATO and itself.
  • It showcases the Russian power in the Mediterranean and to secure the economic gateway to key markets in southern Europe.
  • The Rhine-Main-Danube canal connects the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea and the port of Odessa serves as a vital link between Ukraine and the outside world.

Black Sea in the Ukraine war:

  • Russia has been making efforts to gain complete control over the Black Sea since the Crimean crisis of 2014.
  • During the ongoing invasion, the domination of the Black Sea has been a major Russian objective, along with the land bridge to connect Russia and Crimea.
  • As such, there have been intense efforts to capture Mariupol, the Sea of Azov port in the breakaway eastern Ukrainian oblast of Donetsk.
  • Mariupol appeared close to falling to the Russians.

Sinking of the Moskva:

  • The sinking of the Moskva is believed to be the worst loss in the history of naval warfare.
  • It was sunk by shore-based anti-ship cruise missiles which took advantage of bad weather and used decoy UAV attacks to defeat the ship’s air defence systems.
  • It demonstrates the success of outside-the-box measures adopted by Ukraine in the war.

United Kingdom and Rwanda deal for asylum seekers

Context:

  • The United Kingdom has signed a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to the East African nation — a move that PM Boris Johnson said will “save countless lives” from human trafficking.

Immigrants crisis in UK:

  • Since 2018, there has been a marked rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers that undertake dangerous crossings between Calais in France and Dover in England.
  • Most such migrants and asylum seekers hail from war-torn countries like Sudan, Afghanistan, and Yemen, or developing countries like Iran and Iraq.
  • The Britain that has adopted a hardline stance on illegal immigration, these crossings constitute an immigration crisis.
  • The Nationality and Borders Bill, 2021, which is still under consideration in the UK, allows the British government to strip anyone’s citizenship without notice under “exceptional circumstances”.
  • The Rwanda deal is the operationalization of one objective in the Bill which is to deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom.

What is the Rwanda Deal?

  • The UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership or the Rwanda Deal is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two governments.
  • Under this deal, Rwanda will commit to taking in asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on or after January 1, 2022, using illegally facilitated and unlawful cross border migration.
  • Rwanda will function as the holding centre where asylum applicants will wait while the Rwandan government makes decisions about their asylum and resettlement petitions in Rwanda.
  • Rwanda will, on its part, accommodate anyone who is not a minor and does not have a criminal record.

Rationale of the deal:

  • The deal aims to combat “people smugglers”, who often charge exorbitant prices from vulnerable migrants to put them on unseaworthy boats from France to England that often lead to mass drownings.
  • The UK contends that this solution to the migrant issue is humane and meant to target the gangs that run these illegal crossings.

What will the scheme cost the UK?

  • The UK will pay Rwanda £120 million as part of an “economic transformation and integration fund” and will also bear the operational costs along with an, as yet undetermined, amount for each migrant.
  • Currently, the UK pays £4.7 million per day to accommodate approximately 25,000 asylum seekers.
  • At the end of 2021, this amounted to £430 million annually with a projected increase of £100 million in 2022.
  • The Rwanda Deal is predicted to reduce these costs by outsourcing the hosting of such migrants to a third country.

Will the Rwanda Deal solve the problem of illegal immigration?

  • This deal will be implemented in a matter of weeks unless it is challenged and stayed by British courts.
  • While Boris Johnson’s government is undoubtedly bracing for such legal challenges, it remains unclear if the Rwanda Deal will solve the problem of unlawful crossings.
  • Evidence from similar experiences indicates that such policies do not fully combat “people smuggling”.

Criticisms of the deal:

  • Several activists, refugee and human rights organizations have strongly opposed the new scheme.
  • There are dangers of transferring refugees and asylum seekers to third countries without sufficient safeguards.
  • The refugees are traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
  • Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.
  • Rwanda also has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents.

Do any other countries send asylum seekers overseas?

  • Yes, several other countries — including Australia, Israel and Denmark — have been sending asylum seekers overseas.
  • Australia has been making full use of offshore detention centres since 2001.
  • Israel, too, chose to deal with a growing influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants from places like Sudan and Eritrea by striking deals with third countries.
  • Those rejected for asylum were given the choice of returning to their home country or accepting $3,500 and a plane ticket to one of the third countries.
  • They faced the threat of arrest if they chose to remain in Israel.

Fifth BIMSTEC Summit

Context:

  • Recently, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) grouping’s fifth summit took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka (Host for the Fifth Summit).

Key Highlights of the Summit:

  • BIMSTEC Charter: The signing of the BIMSTEC Charter was the main outcome of this summit.
  • Under this Charter, the members were expected to meet once every two years.
  • With the Charter, the BIMSTEC now has an international personality. It has an emblem, it has a flag.
  • It has a formally listed purpose and principles that it is going to adhere to.
  • In line with the development of the organisation into a formal structure, the leaders of the member-countries have agreed to divide the working of the grouping into seven segments, with India providing leadership to the security pillar.

  • Master Plan for Transport Connectivity: The summit saw the declaration of the Master Plan for Transport Connectivity that would provide a framework for regional and domestic connectivity.
  • Other Agreements: Member countries also signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.
  • A Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility (TTF) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • India will provide the (BIMSTEC) secretariat USD 1 million US dollars to increase its operational budget.

Way Forward:

  • BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement: There is a need for finalisation of the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement among the member countries.
  • As the region is facing challenges of health and economic security and stressed the need for solidarity and cooperation, the FTA will make the Bay of Bengal a bridge of connectivity, a bridge of prosperity, a bridge of security.
  • Apart from this, there is a necessity for coastal shipping ecosystem and electricity grid interconnectivity, as two of the necessary components of the evolving shape of BIMSTEC.
  • Gujral Doctrine: India would have to counter the impression that BIMSTEC is an India-dominated bloc, in that context India can follow the Gujral doctrine that intends to chalk out the effect of transactional motive in bilateral relations.
  • The Gujral Doctrine is a set of five principles to guide the conduct of foreign relations with India’s immediate neighbours.
  • These principles are:
    • With neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.
    • No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
    • No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.
    • All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
    • They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.

Roubles for fuel, defence deals with Russia

Context:

  • This article discusses the ways Russia and India are looking to “bypass” the sanctions imposed by the Western Countries.

Background:

  • Recently the Russian Foreign came to India making it the first high-level visit since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs of India said that the two leaders discussed India’s concerns over the impact of the Ukraine crisis on its economy and said that it is critical to ensure that the economic and technological contacts remain “stable and predictable”.
  • India and Russia have been working on streamlining payments through the rupee-rouble mechanism bypassing the SWIFT system and the dollar route.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. said that there will be “consequences” for any country, including India, that conduct local currency transactions with Russia’s central bank against its sanctions.

Developments in India-Russia Relations:

  • Russia is intensifying the use of national currencies against the dollar payments with India and China.
  • India has imported about 13 million barrels of Russian oil since the start of the Ukraine war in February.
  • This is a significant move as India had imported only about 16 million barrels of Russian oil in all of 2021.
  • India and Russia are further looking at ways to bypass the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other European Countries and the leaders of both countries feel the measures will also be extended to the area of military and technical cooperation.
  • Officials from Russia’s central bank met the officials of the Reserve Bank of India to identify and resolve issues in trade that have arised due to Western sanctions
  • The Indian government has set up a multi-ministerial group which is led by the Finance Ministry to formulate plans to tackle challenges in trade with Russia, including managing payments for exporters and importers.

Defence Deals:

  • The Defence Ministry has assessed and monitored the impacts of the sanctions on the deliveries and supplies from Russia.
  • Experts opine that only some shipping delays were possible, there would not be any impact on the forces’ preparedness along the borders.
  • The forces have made crucial emergency procurements in the last two years since the standoff in eastern Ladakh and have stocked up defence equipment. So, there won’t be any shortages of equipment.
  • Even in the past, both the countries in the $5.43 billion deal for S-400 air defence systems had agreed for the payments through the rupee-rouble exchange, in the background of the U.S.’s CAATSA sanctions.
  • Also, many other deals are in the pipeline such as the procurement of 12 Su-30MKI aircraft and 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

Pakistan’s Constitutional Crisis and Implications for India

Context:

  • On 10th April 2022, Imran Khan’s term as Pakistan’s Prime Minister ended after days of constitutional chaos in Pakistan that left him with no choice but to be voted out of the office or to resign.

Overview:

  • The lower house of the Pakistani parliament will be meeting on 11th April 2022 to vote for a new acting prime minister of the country.
  • In Pakistan, this is the first time that a no-confidence motion against a prime minister of the country has been successful.
  • In 2018, Imran Khan was elected as the Prime Minister of the country.
  • Since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, no prime minister of the country has been able to complete a five-year term in office.

What is the cause of the no-confidence motion?

  • The opposition is challenging the latest moves by Khan, who came to power in 2018, contending that they are his plans of him to stay in power.
  • The opposition has also accused him of economic mismanagement.
  • Khan’s ally and Pakistan’s deputy parliament speaker dismissed the motion to sidestep a no-confidence vote that Khan appeared certain to lose.
  • Clause (1) of Article 5 was quoted to argue that the no-confidence motion submitted to the Speaker went against the provisions of the Article.
  • Imran Khan advised the President to dissolve the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies and call for fresh elections.
  • Until then, a caretaker government under him would be in charge.
  • The opposition claims the deputy speaker had no constitutional authority to throw out the no-confidence vote.
  • The developments marked the latest in an escalating dispute between Khan and the opposition.

What is Article 5 of Pakistan’s Constitution?

  • Article 5 titled ‘Loyalty to the State and Obedience to the Constitution’ has two clauses.
  • Clause (1) states that loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.
  • Clause 2 states that obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and every other person for the time being within Pakistan.
  • It was said that the no-confidence motion was a conspiracy hatched by a “powerful country” that did not want Pakistan to have an independent foreign policy.
  • During another address to the nation, Khan had named the United States as the country behind the conspiracy.

What was the different opinions regarding the recent developments in Pakistan?

 

  • Opposition- The decision to cancel the no-confidence vote angered opposition parties and they have appealed the decision in court.
  • Army- Pakistan Army countered Imran Khan's allegations of a “foreign conspiracy” involving the US.
  • The Army has said that a wrong impression was given about the military leadership endorsing the view of the government.
  • Election commission– Pakistan's election commission has expressed its inability to hold general elections within three months due to legal, constitutional and logistical challenges.
  • UN Secretary-General– Antonio Guterres underscores the utmost importance of respecting democratic processes and resolving differences in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan.
  • Pakistan Chief Justice- He held that the speaker cannot reject the no-confidence motion even if he refers to Article 5 of the constitution.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan however is yet to deliver a verdict.

Economy

Banking And Finance:

India Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement

 

  • Context:
    • The India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement(Ind- Aus ECTA) was recently signed by India and Australia. India and Australia stated their intention to sign such an agreement in February 2022. The India-Australia ECTA negotiations were formally re-launched in September 2021 and concluded on a fast-track basis by the end of March 2022.
  • What is meant by the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement?
    • It is India's first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a major developed country in over a decade.
    • India signed an FTA with the UAE in February and is currently working on FTA's with Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
    • The agreement involves cooperation in all sectors of bilateral economic and commercial relations between the two friendly countries, including:
      • Trade-in Goods
      • Rules of Origin
      • Trade-in Services
      • Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures
      • Technical Barriers to Trade(TBT)
      • Telecom and Customs Procedures
      • Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons
      • Pharmaceutical products, as well as cooperation in other areas.
    • The ECTA establishes an institutional system to promote and improve trade between the two countries.
    • The ECTA between India and Australia covers practically all tariff lines dealt by India and Australia.
    • Australia would grant India preferential market access on all of its tariff lines.
    • This encompasses all labor-intensive export sectors of interest to India, such as gems and jewelry, leather, textiles, footwear, furniture, and so on.
    • On the other hand, India will provide preferential access to Australia on more than 70% of its tariff lines, including lines of export interest to Australia that are mostly raw materials and intermediaries such as coal, mineral ores, and wines, among others.
    • Indian STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates will be granted extended post-study work visas under the agreement.
    • Australia will also establish a program to provide visas to young Indians interested in working holidays in Australia.
  • What is the Agreement's Importance?
    • It will provide zero-duty access to 96 percent of Indian exports to Australia, including shipments from key industries such as engineering goods, gems and jewelry, textiles, apparel, and leather.
    • According to the government, it would increase bilateral trade in goods and services to USD 45-50 billion over the next five years, up from roughly USD 27 billion, and create over one million jobs in India.
    • It will also grant zero-free access to the Indian market to around 85 percent of Australian exports, including coal, sheep meat, and wool, as well as lower-duty access to Australian wines, almonds, lentils, and some fruits.
  • How has the trade relationship between India and Australia been so far?
    • India and Australia have good bilateral relations that have experienced transformational evolution in recent years, developing into a friendly partnership.
    • This is a special partnership defined by shared values such as pluralistic, parliamentary democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanded economic engagement, long-standing people-to-people ties, and more high-level interaction.
    • The India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which was launched during the India-Australia Leaders' Virtual Summit in June 2020, is the foundation of India-multifaceted Australia's bilateral relations.
    • Growing India-Australia economic and commercial ties contribute to the stability and strength of the two nations' rapidly diverse and deepening bilateral relationship.
    • India and Australia have been key trading partners for each other.
    • India's 17th largest trading partner in Australia and Australia's 9th largest trading partner in India.
    • In 2021, India-Australia's bilateral trade in merchandise and services is expected to be worth USD 27.5 billion.
    • Between 2019 and 2021, India's merchandise exports to Australia increased by 135 percent. India's exports, which totaled USD 6.9 billion in 2021, are mostly made up of a diverse basket of finished goods.
    • In 2021, India's merchandise imports from Australia were USD 15.1 billion, primarily consisting of raw materials, minerals, and intermediate goods.
    • Along with Japan, India and Australia are partners in the trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), which aims to improve the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region.
    • Furthermore, India and Australia are members of the QUAD grouping (India, the United States, Australia, and Japan), which also includes the United States and Japan, to strengthen cooperation and develop partnerships on several issues of common concerns.

Agriculture:

Indonesia’s palm oil crisis

  • Context:
    • It’s rare for any country that is the largest producer and exporter of a product to experience domestic shortages of the same product — so much so as to force its government to introduce price controls and curbs on shipments.
  • Indonesia & Palm Oil sector
    • It has been estimated that Indonesia’s palm oil production for 2021-22 (October-September) at 45.5 million tonnes (mt).
    • That’s almost 60% of the total global output and way ahead of the next bigger producer:
    • Malaysia (18.7 mt). It is also the world’s No. 1 exporter of the commodity, at 29 mt, followed by Malaysia (16.22 mt).
  • Recent Crisis in Indonesia:
    • The country has seen domestic prices of branded cooking oil spiral, from around 14,000 Indonesian rupiah (IDR) to 22,000 IDR per litre between March 2021 and March 2022.
    • On February 1, the Indonesian government imposed a ceiling on retail prices.
    • The price caps, however, led to the product disappearing from supermarket shelves, amid reports of hoarding and consumers standing in long queues for hours to get a pack or two (14,000 IDR is less than $1 or Rs 74).
    • Besides domestic price controls, the government also made it compulsory for exporters to sell 20% of their planned shipments in the domestic market at pre-determined prices.
  • How does one explain this conundrum — consumers unable to access or paying through the nose for a commodity in which their country is the preeminent producer and exporter?
    • There are two possible reasons.
    • The first has to do supply disruptions — manmade and natural — in other cooking oils, especially sunflower and soyabean.
    • Ukraine and Russia together account for nearly 80% of the global trade in sunflower oil, quite comparable to the 90% share of Indonesia and Malaysia in palm.
    • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which is ongoing, has resulted in port closures and exporters avoiding Black Sea shipping routes.
    • Sanctions against Russia have further curtailed trade in sunflower oil, the world’s third most exported vegetable oil (12.17 mt, according to USDA estimates for 2021-22) after palm (49.63 mt) and soyabean (12.39 mt).
    • Supply tightness in sunflower and soyabean — from war and drought, respectively — has, in turn, transmitted to palm oil
    • The second factor is linked to petroleum, more specifically the use of palm oil as a bio-fuel.
    • The Indonesian government has, since 2020, made 30% blending of diesel with palm oil mandatory as part of a plan to slash fossil fuel imports.
    • Palm oil getting increasingly diverted for bio-diesel is leaving less quantity available, both for the domestic cooking oil and export market.
    • Such diversion has become all the more attractive with Brent crude prices hardening post the Ukrainian war — to a closing high of $127.98 per barrel on March 8 and staying elevated at $100-plus levels.
  • What is the impact on India?
    • India is the world’s biggest vegetable oils importer. Out of its annual imports of 14-15 mt, the lion’s share is of palm oil (8-9 mt), followed by soyabean (3-3.5 mt) and sunflower (2.5).
    • Indonesia has been India’s top supplier of palm oil, though it was overtaken by Malaysia in 2021-22.
    • India will have to get used to lower supplies from Indonesia.

Why lemons are so costly now

 

  • Context:
    • Over the last few weeks, the price of lemon has touched unprecedented highs, with a single lemon selling between Rs 10 and Rs 15 in most markets. 
  • What is Lemon(Nimbu)?
    • In India, Nimbu comes under two broad categories: lemon and lime. The small, round and thin-skinned kaagzi is the most commonly grown variety in the country. On the other hand, Lime refers to the dark green fruits that are grown commercially in North India and the Northeast.
    • Suitable Climate: A warm, moderately dry and moist climate is the most suitable for the lemon.
    • The method used for planting: Plants are grown through grafting, with the Nagpur-headquartered ICAR Central Citrus Research Institute(CCRI) and various state agricultural institutes maintaining quality rootstocks.
    •  Note: Grafting is the act of placing a portion of one plant (bud or scion) into or on a stem, root, or branch of another (stock) in such a way that a union will be formed, and the partners will continue to grow. 
    • Lemon Production in India: Annually, India produces over 37 lakh tonnes of lemon which is consumed domestically. The fruit is neither exported nor imported.
    • Lemon Growing State: Andhra Pradesh is the largest lemon-growing state, with 45,000 hectares under the fruit. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are the other major lemon-growing states.
    • Lemon Fruit Cycle: Farmers supply the fruit round the year by inducing flowering through what is known as the ‘bahar treatment’.
    • – In bahar treatment, farmers withhold irrigation and spray chemicals, prune the orchards and then resume fertilizer treatment and irrigation which subsequently leads to flowering and thus to fruit formation.
    • – Lemon growers take three bahars in a year — known as Ambe, Mrig and Hasta and named based on the season when the flowering is induced. These bahars overlap, and thus farmers have fruit around the year to market.
  • Why are Lemon prices high currently?
    • Soaring Temperatures: Since the end of February, soaring temperatures have hit the crop, causing the younger fruits to drop off.
    • Exceptionally Heavy Rains: There was exceptionally heavy rain during the months of September and October. Lemon orchards are extremely sensitive to excess moisture and thus, due to the heavy rainfall, the bahar treatment failed and flowering did not happen. 
    • High Demand: In the summer months, lemons are already in high demand, owing to which there is already a rise in prices.
    • Hike in Petrol and Diesel prices: The hike in petrol, diesel and CNG prices has resulted in increased transportation costs which have been one of the main factors for price rise.

Marginal Cost of Funds-based Lending Rates (MCLR)

  • Context:
    • State Bank of India has raised the marginal cost of funds-based lending rates (MCLR) for the first time in three years. SBI raised the MCLR by 10 basis points (bps) across tenures to 7.1% (from 7% earlier). Other public sectors and private banks are set to raise MCLRs in the coming days. It signals that the soft rates regime that has prevailed since 2019 may be over. As a result, borrowers who have taken home, vehicle, and personal loans will find their equated monthly instalments (EMIs) rising in the coming months.
  • What is MCLR?
    • It is the minimum interest rate that a bank can lend at. The final rate of lending also includes risk premium and spread charged by banks.
    • MCLR is a tenor-linked internal benchmark, which means the rate is determined internally by the bank depending on the period left for the repayment of a loan.
    • MCLR is closely linked to the actual deposit rates and calculated based on four components: (a) The marginal cost of funds; (b) Negative carry on account of cash reserve ratio; (c) Operating costs; (d) Tenor premium.
    • Under the MCLR regime, banks are free to offer all categories of loans at fixed or floating interest rates.
    • Fixed-rate loans with tenors of up to three years are also priced according to MCLR. Banks review and publish MCLR of different maturities, every month. 
    • Certain loan rates, like that fixed-rate loans with tenors above three years and special loan schemes offered by the government, are not linked to MCLR.
  • What is the background of MCLR?
    • The Reserve Bank of India introduced the MCLR methodology for fixing interest rates on 1 April 2016. It replaced the base rate structure, which had been in place since July 2010.
  • What is the difference between MCLR and Base Rate?
    • MCLR is an advanced version of the base rate.
    • The base rate uses the average finance cost, but MCLR is based on the marginal or incremental cost of money.
    • When calculating the base rate, a minimum rate of return/profit margin is used, whereas, for MCLR, banks are required to include a tenor premium into the calculation. Tenor is the amount of time left for repayment of the loan. The higher the duration of the loan, the higher will be the risk. Thus banks charge a higher rate of interest for long-term loans.

Inflation in Rural India

  • Context:
    • The retail inflation rate surged to 6.95% in March 2022— its highest level in nearly one and a half years, with six successive months of accelerating prices for consumers. 
  • Official data pegs rural inflation in March at 7.66%, with several States reporting even higher inflation, including West Bengal (8.85%), Uttar Pradesh and Assam (8.19%) as well as Madhya Pradesh (7.89%). 
  • With incremental fuel price hikes only kicking in during the latter half of March, the full impact of higher global oil prices being passed on to consumers will only begin reflected in April. 
  • Economists expect inflation to go past 7% and stay around that level till as far as September. 
  • How have urban and rural inflation trends differed over the past year? 
    • Urban inflation has usually tended to be higher than rural inflation by an average of about 0.8 percentage points through most of 2021.
    • In December 2021, urban inflation was 5.9%, while rural inflation was 5.4%. In contrast, March 2022 marked the third consecutive month that the pace of price rise in the rural areas outstripped urban India, and the gap has been widening rapidly. 
    • From a minor 0.2 percentage points higher inflation rate over urban India in January, rural inflation hit a nine-month high of 6.38% in February even as urban inflation declined to 5.75%. 
    • In March, the gap between the two has surpassed 1.5% with urban inflation at 6.12% and rural areas clocking 7.66%. 
  • What are the key drivers of higher inflation in the hinterland? 
    • While food inflation was the key driver for the headline inflation rate jump in March, with the overall consumer food price index racing to 7.68% from 5.85% in February, the spike was far more pronounced in rural India where food inflation hit 8.04%. 
    • Food inflation in urban India was a full percentage point lower. 
    • Higher inflation in food, which has a higher weight in the Consumer Price Index, along with inflation in fuel and light and clothing, were the key factors driving up rural prices. 
    • Consider the inflation rates for some items faced by rural consumers vis-à-vis their urban peers — 
      • oils and fats (20.75% v. 15.15%)
      • Clothing (9.9% v. 7.74%)
      • Footwear (12.2% v. 9.9%)
      • Fuel and light (8.3% v. 6.3%)
      • Personal care and effects (9.3% v. 7.7%) 
    • Last but not the least, persistently higher inflation in education costs of about 1 to 1.5 percentage points. 
    • Interestingly, while vegetable prices declined in the urban areas between February and March 2022, they inched up sharply in rural India. Vegetable price trends have been most intriguing — rural inflation was 1.4% in January, 3.7% in February and a whopping 10.6% in March. 
    • The pent-up demand appears to be higher in rural India, so clothing is seeing higher inflation as demand picks up. 
    • Moreover, fuel prices are higher in rural areas due to connectivity issues, while prices of traditional fuels like firewood have also risen in tandem. 
    • Part of this trend could also be explained by the shift of labour between urban and rural areas in the last two years, which has also injected volatility into demand dynamics.

Why is India looking to boost wheat exports?

  • Context:
    • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent Western sanctions on Russia have affected wheat exports from the Black Sea region and impacted food security in several countries, especially in Africa and West Asia.
    • The disruption to global wheat supplies in turn has thrown open opportunities that India’s grain exporters are eyeing, especially given the domestic surplus availability of the cereal.
  • India’s wheat production and consumption:
    • India expects to produce 112 million tonnes of wheat in the current season. The government requires 24-26 million tonnes a year for its food security programmes.
  • Status of India’s wheat exports:
    • Wheat exports in the 2021-2022 financial year were estimated at 7.85 million tonnes, a quadrupling from 2.1 million tonnes in the previous year.
    • Exports this fiscal are expected to be almost 10 million tonnes worth $3 billion.
  • Why India?
    • More countries are turning to India because of the competitive price, acceptable quality, availability of surplus wheat and geopolitical reasons.
  • Which new markets are expected to buy from India?
    • Egypt, Jordan and countries in East Africa are also likely to source the foodgrain from India.
  • What is being done to facilitate exports?
    • The Commerce Ministry has put in place an internal mechanism to facilitate it and get the paperwork ready for the related sanitary and phytosanitary applications to help facilitate shipments.
    • The railways are providing rakes on priority to move the wheat.
    • The railways, ports, and testing laboratories are all geared up to meet the requirements.

Infrastructure:

BharatNet Project

 

  • Context:
    • The implementation of BharatNet has slowed and is likely to miss the 2025 completion deadline owing to a number of factors.
  • Progress made so far:
    • As of February 2022, only about 1.72 lakh of the initially targeted 2.5 lakh gram panchayats had been connected to the central grid under BharatNet.
  • About BharatNet Project:
    • It is a project envisioned by the Government of India to digitally connect all the Gram  Panchayats (GPs) and Villages of India. 
    • It originally aimed to provide broadband services at 100 Mbps to around 2.5 lakh gram panchayats of the country.
    • It is a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis.
    • It is the world’s largest rural connectivity scheme to be connected by the Optical Fibre network.
    • Aim: To provide on-demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households of India, especially in rural areas.
    • Implementing Agency: The project is being implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).
    • Funding: The entire project is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), which was set up for improving telecom services in rural and remote areas of the country.
    • The scope of work under the BharatNet PPP Project includes:
    • Connecting the remaining unconnected GPs under the BharatNet project (Phase 1 & Phase 2) and all the inhabited Villages beyond the GPs.
    • Upgradation of the existing BharatNet Network from Linear to a Ring topology.
    • Operation and Maintenance (O&M) and Utilisation of the existing as well as the newly deployed network.
    • Support: Central Public Sector in Undertakings (CPSUs) BSNL, RailTel, and PGCIL are providing the optical fibre network for broadband connections for the BharatNet project.
  • Benefits:
    • It would reduce the cost of broadband services in India.
    • It would have advantages like easy maintenance, faster implementation, and utilisation of the present power line infrastructure.
    • It would provide internet connectivity to citizens especially in rural areas via Wi-Fi Hotspots.
    • It would provide a boost to the economy and would generate around 10 crore man-days of employment during the rollout of the project.
    • It will help in the expedition of government’s initiatives such as Make In India, Start-up India, Stand-up India etc
    • It is considered to be the backbone of ‘Digital India’ aiming to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural India.
  • Of these, 1.5 lakh gram panchayats had been connected by 2017, within the first three years of the project being re-christened ‘BharatNet’.

States vs Centre on Fuel Taxes

  • Context:
    • The Centre and the states are at loggerheads over taxes and duties on petrol and diesel.
  • What is the issue?
    • As fuel prices soared in November 2021, the Centre, for the first time in over three years, cut central excise duties on petrol by Rs 5 per litre and diesel by Rs 10 per litre.
    • 21 states then cut VAT in the range of Rs 1.80-10 per litre for petrol and Rs 2-7 per litre for diesel.
    • As per the RBI’s State Finances report for 2021-22, the revenue loss to states due to this is estimated at 0.08% of GDP.
    • The global oil prices have been at elevated levels since the time Russia invaded Ukraine due to which global oil supply halted.
    • So, the relief measures that were provided were outweighed by a series of 14 price hikes in 16 days.
    • The Centre feels that the states are not reducing VAT in line with the Centre’s cut in excise duty.
    • But the states have expressed concerns over their fiscal cushion, especially with the GST compensation regime due to end in June.
    • Value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax on goods and services that is levied at each stage of the supply chain where value is added, from initial production to the point of sale.
  • How significant is fuel taxes?
    • Excise duty and VAT on fuel constitute an important source of revenue for both the Centre and the states.
    • Excise duty on fuel makes up about 18.4% of the Centre’s gross tax revenues.
    • Petroleum taxes with states are shared out of basic excise duty.
    • The Centre also levies additional excise duties and cesses on petroleum products.
    • Of the revenue receipts of states, central tax transfers comprise 25-29% and own tax revenues 45-50%.
    • Central and state taxes currently account for about 43% and 37% of the retail price of petrol and diesel respectively in Delhi.
  • How fuel is taxed?
    • The tax on fuel does not fall under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
    • Taxes on petrol and diesel are split into multiple components at the state and central levels.
    • States apply an ad valorem VAT or sales tax on the base price, freight charges, excise duty and dealer commission on petrol and diesel.
    • While state VAT collections have risen along with higher fuel prices and previous hikes in excise duties, the states’ share of excise duties on fuel was reduced in the FY2022 Budget.
  • Changes introduced:
    • The  Basic Excise Duty (BED) on petrol and diesel was cut by Rs 1.6 and Rs 3 per litre respectively
    • The special additional excise duty was cut on both by Rs 1 per litre
    • An Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 on diesel was introduced
    • It reduced the states’ share as collections from cesses are not part of the shareable pool.
    • The Latin phrase ad valorem means “according to value.” All ad valorem taxes are based on the assessed value of the item being taxed.
  • What is the reason for the variation in fuel prices?
    • External factors- Since the retail prices of petrol and diesel in India are linked to the international prices of crude oil, global crude oil prices play a key role.
    • Internal factors- Taxes and dealers’ commissions also impact the price of domestic petrol.
    • Inter-regional variation- This difference in fuel retail prices is due to the different tax rates levied by the respective state governments on the same products.
    • Freight charges depend upon the distance between the refining plant and the petrol pump; the farther is the petrol pump from the oil refining unit, the more is the freight charge.
    • Because of this, the prices may vary from region to region.

BharatNet PPP: As an incentive, DoT to assume revenue risk

  • Context:
    • In the first round of requests for proposals (RFP) for the implementation of BharatNet in the public-private partnership (PPP) model, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) did not receive any bid.
    • Hence, the DoT has decided to assume the revenue risk for the second round of bidding.
  • About BharatNet Project:
    • BharatNet is the world's largest optical fibre-based rural broadband connectivity project.
    • It is executed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), a special purpose vehicle under the Telecom Ministry.
    • It is an ambitious rural internet access programme. An initiative by the Union government under its Digital India
    • National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in October 2011 was renamed Bharat Net Project in 2015.
    • NOFN was envisaged as an information superhighway through the creation of a robust middle-mile infrastructure for reaching broadband connectivity to Gram Panchayats.
    • In 2019, the Ministry of Communications also launched the ‘National Broadband Mission’ to facilitate universal and equitable access to broadband services across the country.
  • Features & Benefits of BharatNet:
    • Using optical fibre, the programme is intended to bring broadband internet connectivity to each of the more than 2.5 lakh gram panchayats(GPs) across the country.
    • The government intends to provide a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth at each Gram Panchayat through BharatNet so that everyone, especially those in rural India, can access online services.
    • As part of the BharatNet project, the Centre will also provide last-mile connectivity through Wi-Fi and other means and is setting up Wi-Fi hotspots in all gram panchayats.
    • This covers services such as e-governance, e-learning, e-banking, e-commerce, and e-health.
    • The penetration and proliferation of broadband are also expected to increase direct and indirect employment and income generation.
  • PPP Mode of Implementation:
    • The Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model for implementation of BharatNet, which was approved by the Union Cabinet in June 2021, is yet to take off.
    • The first request for proposal (RFP) for implementation of the project, which was floated in July 2021, failed to get any response from private companies.
    • The industry had highlighted that some of the terms and conditions of the tender were too onerous for the private players while the revenue sharing model proposed by the government was also unfavourable to them.
    • The Government will come out with a revised PPP model for the BharatNet project in a couple of months.
    • As part of the revised plan, the government is likely to either provide a minimum revenue per month per state to the bidders who successfully complete their project or subsidise some of their operational expenditure.

Environment

Species in news:

  • Kangaroo:
    • Kangaroos are marsupials, meaning that they give birth to undeveloped babies after approximately 30 days.
    • They are very social and live in mobs of up to 50 individuals.
    • They have very powerful hind legs, helping them to hop at high speeds. They also use their strong tail to help them balance. 
    • These species are native to Australia and listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
  • Ganoderma lucidum
    • The mushroom is shiny red-brown in colour and naturally grows on wood.
    • It is a medicinal mushroom in use for centuries to heal diseases like diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and ulcer as well as bacterial and skin infections. 
    • They have earned nicknames such as mushroom of immortality, celestial herb and auspicious herb. It is also known globally as the red reishi mushroom.
  • Indian Tent Turtle
    • This species is native to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Its habitats include stagnant water pools along the river and slow-flowing water along the river.
    • Due to the attractive appearance of the species, they are traded illegally in the pet market.
    • It is listed as the least concern in the IUCN Red List and Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

 

  • Mugger Crocodile 
    • It is a medium-sized broad-snouted crocodile, also known as mugger and marsh crocodile. 
    • It is native to freshwater habitats from southern Iran to the Indian subcontinent.
    • It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List and Schedules I in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
    • Major threats are habitat destruction, fragmentation, fishing activities and the use of crocodile parts for medicinal purposes

Environment:

Warmest March in 122 Years

  • Context:
    • India recorded its warmest March with a severe heatwave scorching several parts of the country. 
    • The average maximum temperature of 33.10 degrees Celsius recorded in March 2022 is the highest ever in the last 122 years.
  • Reasons For This Unusual Heat:
    • The main reason for this unusually hot month is an active Western Disturbance over North India and the absence of any major eastern system over South India.
    • It leads to less rainfall and very few thunderstorm activities over most parts of the country.
    • The rainfall recorded last month in the country as a whole was 8.9 mm, which was 71% less than its long period average rainfall of 30.4 mm. 
    • Also, the sky was cloudless due to which the earth was directly exposed to the sun's rays, which increased the temperature.
  • About Heat Wave:
    • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season.
    • It typically occurs between March and June, and in some rare cases even extends till July.
    •  According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), heatwaves need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
    • Without a concomitant increase in rainfall, heatwaves, especially in arid regions, can lead to water scarcity and increased stress for plants.

IPCC: Part Three of Sixth Assessment Report

  • Context:
    • Recently, the United Nations’ climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the third part of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
  • Key Findings of the Report?
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
      • In 2019, global net anthropogenic Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were at 59 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), 54% higher than in 1990.
      • Net emissions refer to emissions accounted for after deducting emissions soaked up by the world’s forests and oceans.
      • Anthropogenic emissions refer to emissions that originate from human-driven activities like the burning of coal for energy or cutting of forests.
      • This emissions growth has been driven mainly by CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the industrial sector, as well as methane emissions.
      • But the average annual rate of growth slowed to 1.3% per year in the period 2010-19, compared to 2.1% per year in the period 2000-09.
      • At least 18 countries have reduced GHG emissions for longer than 10 years on a continuous basis due to decarbonisation of their energy system, energy efficiency measures and reduced energy demand.
    • Emission by the Least Developed Countries:
      • Carbon inequality remains pervasive as ever with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) emitting only 3.3% of global emissions in 2019.
      • Their average per capita emissions in the period 1990-2019 were only 1.7 tonnes CO2e, compared to the global average of 6.9 tCO2e.
      • LDCs contributed less than 0.4% of total historical CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry in the period 1850-2019.
      • Globally, 41% of the world’s population lived in countries emitting less than 3 tCO2e per capita in 2019.
    • Pledges to the Paris Agreement:
      • Upon adding up the NDCs announced by countries till October 2021, the IPCC finds that it is likely that warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) in this century, thereby failing the Paris Agreement’s mandate.
      • Current pledges made by countries who have signed the Paris Agreement are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
      • The CO2 emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure — coal, oil, and gas — contribute greatly to this projected failure.
      • In its best-case scenario, known as the C1 pathway, the IPCC outlines what the world needs to do to limit temperatures to 1.5°C, with limited or no ‘overshoot’.
      • Overshoot refers to global temperatures crossing the 1.5°C thresholds temporarily, but then being brought back down using technologies that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere.
      • To achieve the C1 pathway, global GHG emissions must fall by 43% by 2030.
    • Low Emissions Technologies:
      • Widespread ‘system transformations’ are required across the energy, buildings, transport, land and other sectors, to achieve the 1.5°C targets and this will involve adopting low-emission or zero-carbon pathways of development in each sector. And solutions are available at affordable costs.
      • The costs of low emissions technologies have fallen continuously since 2010. On a unit costs basis, solar energy has dropped 85%, wind by 55 %, and lithium-ion batteries by 85%.
      • Their deployment, or usage, has increased multiple folds since 2010 — 10 times for solar and 100 times for electric vehicles.
      • Reducing fossil fuel use in the energy sector, demand management and energy efficiency in the industrial sector and adopting the principles of ‘sufficiency’ and efficiency in the construction of buildings are among the plethora of solutions.
      • Demand-side Mitigation:
      • It also adds that demand-side mitigation, ie, behavioural changes such as adopting plant-based diets or shifting to walking and cycling “can reduce global GHG emissions in end-use sectors by 40-70% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios” and improve wellbeing.
      • Most of the potential for demand-side mitigation currently lies in developed countries.
    • Impact on GDP:
      • The IPCC states that low-cost climate mitigation options could halve global GHG emissions by 2030. In fact, the long-term benefits of limiting warming far outweigh the costs.
      • Investing in decarbonisation would have a minimal impact on global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
      • Short Fall of Finances:
      • Financial flows fall short of the levels needed to achieve the ambitious mitigation goals, however.
      • The gaps are the widest for the agriculture, forestry, and other land uses (AFOLU) sector and for developing countries.
      • But the global financial system is large enough and “sufficient global capital and liquidity” exist to close these gaps.
      • For developing countries, it recommends scaled-up public grants, as well as “increased levels of public finance and publicly mobilised private finance flows from developed to developing countries in the context of the USD 100 billion-a-year goal; increase the use of public guarantees to reduce risks and leverage private flows at a lower cost; local capital markets development and building greater trust in international cooperation processes”.

Tree City of The World 

  • Context:
    • Mumbai has been recognised as ‘2021 Tree City of the World’ by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN) jointly with Arbor Day Foundation.
    • This is the first time Mumbai has made it to the list.
    • Hyderabad has been featured on this list for the second consecutive year.
  • Why does Mumbai Gets The Recognition?
    • In 2018, residents of the city fought to save their mangrove forests from decomposing and their efforts saved more than 5,000 mangroves over the years.
    • Another example was to save the rich Aarey Forest. The 800-acre land area was under the Metro Car Shed project, but after protests, it was declared a reserve forest and the project was redesigned.
    • Sanjay Gandhi National Park acts as the lungs of Mumbai, providing fresh air.
  • About Tree City of the World tag
    • The programme was started by the UN-FAO and Arbor Day Foundation, an American non-profit organisation. 
    • The programme provides direction, assistance, and worldwide recognition for communities’ dedication to their urban forest, and provides a framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry programme in a city or a town.

Declining Nitrogen Levels

  • Context:
    • According to a new Report, Nitrogen levels are on a decline in the ‘nitrogen-rich world’ and plants and animals may face consequences.
  • Key Findings:
    • Imbalance in Availability: 
      • An imbalance in nitrogen availability has been reported across the globe, with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element. 
    • Shrinking Locations: 
      • Nitrogen availability has been shrinking in grasslands in central North America for a hundred years. 
      • Many forests in North America and Europe have also suffered from nutritional declines for several decades or longer due to the same reason.
      • Tropical and boreal forests may be particularly vulnerable.
    • Factors responsible for Nitrogen decline:
      • CO2 and nitrogen: Plants grow quickly when exposed to high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. Thus, their demand for nitrogen also goes up.
      • High CO2 levels dilute plant nitrogen, triggering a cascade of effects that lower the availability of nitrogen. 
      • Warming and disturbances, including wildfire.
    • Eutrophication:
      • When excessive nitrogen accumulates in the streams, inland lakes and coastal bodies of water, it could sometimes result in eutrophication
    • Negative effects: 
      • Imbalance of nitrogen has been hurting aquatic and terrestrial life that feed on it. 
      • Cattle grazing these areas have had less protein in their diets over time.
      • Slower and smaller growth: Without nitrogen, an essential nutrient, plants grow slowly and produce smaller flowers and fruits. Their leaves turn yellowish and are less nutritious to insects, birds and animals.
    • Insect apocalypse:
      • Plants with low nitrogen levels can encourage swarming in some species of locusts.
      • Low nitrogen availability could limit plants’ ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. 
      • Eutrophication leads to harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills.
  • Production by Human:
    • Human production of nitrogen is now five times higher than it was 60 years, according to a 2017 study.
    • Effects in Human: In humans, high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater are linked to intestinal cancers and miscarriages and can be fatal for infants.
  • Declining nitrogen in natural ecosystems:
    • Nitrogen (N) availability is key to the functioning of ecosystems and the cycling of nutrients and energy through the biosphere. 
    • The productivity of ecosystems and their capacity to support life depends on access to reactive nitrogen. 
    • Over the past century, humans have more than doubled the global supply of reactive N through industrial and agricultural activities. 
    • However, long-term records demonstrate that N availability is declining in many regions of the world. 
    • Reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed, and global changes—including elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and rising temperatures—are affecting ecosystem N supply relative to demand. 

Nitrogen Cycle

  • It is the circulation of nitrogen in various forms through nature. 
  • Nitrogen, a component of proteins and nucleic acids, is essential to life on Earth. Although 78 percent by volume of the atmosphere is nitrogen gas, this abundant reservoir exists in a form unusable by most organisms. 
  • Through a series of microbial transformations, however, nitrogen is made available to plants, which in turn ultimately sustain all animal life. 
  • The steps, which are not altogether sequential, fall into the following classifications: 
    • nitrogen fixation, 
    • nitrogen assimilation, 
    • ammonification, 
    • nitrification, and 
    • denitrification.

State Energy and Climate Index

  • Context:
    • Recently, the NITI Aayog launched the State Energy and Climate Index (SECI).
    • It is the first index that aims to track the efforts made by states and UTs in the climate and energy sector.
  • State Energy and Climate Index:
    • The States have been categorized based on size and geographical differences as larger and smaller States and UTs.
    • The index is based on 2019-20 data.
    • The states and UTs are categorized into three groups: Front Runners, Achievers, and Aspirants.
  • The objectives of the index are:
    • Ranking the States based on their efforts towards improving energy access, energy consumption, energy efficiency, and safeguarding the environment.
    • Helping drive the agenda of the affordable, accessible, efficient and clean energy transition at the State level.
    • Encouraging healthy competition among the states on different dimensions of energy and climate.
  • It ranks the states’ performance on 6 parameters, namely:
    • DISCOM’s Performance.
    • Access, Affordability and Reliability of Energy.
    • Clean Energy Initiatives.
    • Energy Efficiency.
    • Environmental Sustainability.
    • New Initiatives.
    • The parameters are further divided into 27 indicators.
  • Performance of various states:
    • Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab have been ranked as the top three performers in the category of larger States, while Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were the bottom three States.
    • Goa emerged as the top performer in the smaller States category followed by Tripura and Manipur.
    • Among UTs, Chandigarh, Delhi and Daman & Diu/Dadra & Nagar Haveli are the top performers.
    • Punjab was the best performer in discom performance, while Kerala topped in access, affordability and reliability category.
    • Haryana was the best performer in clean energy initiative among larger States and Tamil Nadu in the energy efficiency category.

Science And Technology

Health:

Human Genome

Context:

  • Scientists had published the map of the human genome for the first time nearly two decades ago which was hailed as a breakthrough.
  • In 2003, scientists got a breakthrough, but it was incomplete as about 8% of the human DNA was left unsequenced.
  • Now for the first time, a large team has accounted for completing the 8% picture of the human genome.
  • In 2020, the Ministry of Science and Technology approved an ambitious gene-mapping project called the Genome India Project (GIP).

Developments for the First time:

  • The genetic sequence was made available in 2003 by the Human Genome Project.
  • Human Genome Project is an international collaboration between 1990 and 2003, containing information from a region of the human genome known as the euchromatin.
  • Here, the chromosome is rich in genes, and the DNA encodes for protein.
  • The 8% that was left out was in the area called heterochromatin, which is a smaller portion of the genome and does not produce protein.
  • There were at least two key reasons why heterochromatin was given lower priority.
  • First: This part of the genome was thought to be “junk DNA” because it had no clear function.
  • Second: The euchromatin contained more genes that were simpler to sequence with the tools available at the time.
  • Now, the fully sequenced genome is the result of the efforts of a global collaboration called the Telomere-2-Telomere (T2T) project.
  • The invention of new methods of DNA sequencing and computational analysis helped complete the reading of the remaining 8% of the genome.

What is in the 8%?

  • The new reference genome, called T2T-CHM13, includes highly repetitive DNA sequences found in and around the telomeres (structures at the ends of chromosomes) and the centromeres (at the middle section of each chromosome).
  • The new sequence also reveals long stretches of DNA that are duplicated in the genome and are known to play important roles in evolution and disease.
  • The findings have revealed a large number of genetic variations, and these variations appear in large part within these repeated sequences.
  • Many of the newly revealed regions have important functions in the genome even if they do not include active genes.

Significance of the Development:

  1. Make Easier the Study of Genetic Variation:
    • A complete human genome makes it easier to study genetic variation between individuals or between populations
  2. Reference for studying Genome:
    • By constructing a complete human genome, scientists can use it for reference while studying the genome of various individuals.
    • It would help them understand which variations, if any, might be responsible for disease.
  3. Study Provide More Accurate Information:
    • The T2T consortium used the now-complete genome sequence as a reference to discover more than 2 million additional variants in the human genome.
  4. Complement the Standard Human Reference Genome:
    • The new T2T reference genome will complement the standard human reference genome, known as Genome Reference Consortium build 38 (GRCh38), which originated from the Human Genome Project and has been updated since.

WHO suspended Covaxin

Context:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that it has suspended the supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies and recommended to countries that received the vaccine take actions as “appropriate”.

Why has the WHO taken this step now?

  • Covaxin, India’s first indigenous vaccine for Covid-19, had got emergency use listing (EUL) from the WHO in November last year.
  • At the time the EUL for Covaxin was granted, however, the WHO had not done an inspection. The inspection of the Bharat Biotech facility was done between March 14 and 22, based on which the WHO has announced the suspension of supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies and recommending to countries that received the vaccine “to take actions as appropriate”.

What did the WHO inspection find?

  • The WHO has said that the data available to it indicate that Covaxin is effective and there is no safety concern.
  • It has, however, asked the company to address deficiencies in good manufacturing practice (GMP).
  • In other words, the WHO has asked Bharat Biotech to upgrade and make specific changes in its manufacturing facilities for Covaxin.

Upgrades:

  • The facilities used to manufacture Covaxin were not specifically designed for a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • When the company received emergency use authorisation from India’s drug regulator, it repurposed its existing facilities, some of which were used for producing a polio virus vaccine, some for a vaccine rabies and some for a Japanese encephalitis vaccine.

Why did the company not upgrade its facility specifically for Covaxin earlier?

  • Company sources said that when a facility needs to be upgraded for a specific vaccine, it has to completely shut down. 
  • As such, when the company is engaged in active production, it cannot undertake extensive maintenance and upgrade.
  • During the peak of the pandemic, procurement and supply of new equipment required for an upgrade would have taken 15-18 months.
  • The manufacture of a batch of Covaxin takes 120 days from start to finish. Shutdown and upgrade of the facility could have resulted in the loss of almost 6 months. The company could not have shut down its facility only for upgrade because of the urgency to vaccinate the population.

How will the upgrade take place?

  • Some of the equipment has to be sourced from domestic suppliers and some of it has to be imported. Once you make a change to the facility, it is not as simple as just buying the equipment, installing and starting using it.

 Impact on the supply of Covaxin:

  • It does not impact the supply of Covaxin. In the first place, the company has not received any orders from UN agencies, including the GAVI-COVAX facility, to supply Covaxin.
  • In some 25 countries, Covaxin has been given emergency use authorisation (EUA). In these countries, the company has already fulfilled its supply commitments. Sources said it has not received any fresh orders from these countries.

Why are vaccines administered to the upper arm?

Context:

  • Almost everyone vaccinated for Covid-19 over the last 16 months will remember that he or she received a quick prick in the upper arm.

Why vaccines are generally administered into muscle?

  • This is because most vaccines, including those for Covid-19, are most effective when administered through the intramuscular route into the upper arm muscle, known as the deltoid.
  • There are several reasons, but the most important one is that the muscles have a rich blood supply network.
  • This means whenever a vaccine carrying an antigen is injected into it, the muscle releases the antigen, which gets dispersed by the muscular vasculature, or the arrangement of blood vessels in the muscle.
  • The antigen then gets picked up by a type of immune cells called dendritic cells, which function by showing antigens on their surface to other cells of the immune system.
  • The dendritic cells carry the antigen through the lymphatic fluid to the lymph node.

Role of T Cells:

  • T Cells also called T lymphocytes, type of leukocyte (white blood cell) that is an essential part of the immune system.
  • T cells are one of two primary types of lymphocytes—B cells being the second type—that determine the specificity of the immune response to antigens (foreign substances) in the body.
  • Through the course of research over the years, it is understood that the lymph nodes have T cells and B cells — the body’s primary protector cells.
  • Once this antigen gets flagged and is given to the T cells and B cells that is how we start developing an immune response against a particular virus.
  • It could be any of the new viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, or the previous viruses which we have been running vaccination programs for.

Which vaccines are administered through other routes?

 

  • One of the oldest vaccines for smallpox was given by scarification of the skin.
  • However, with time, doctors realized there are better ways to vaccinate beneficiaries.
  • These included the intradermal route, the subcutaneous route, the intramuscular route, oral, and nasal routes.
  • There are only two exceptions that continue to be administered through the intradermal route.
  • These are the vaccines for BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) and for tuberculosis because these two vaccines continue to work empirically well when administered through the intradermal route.

XE Variant of the Coronavirus

Context:

  • Recently, a 50-year-old woman in Mumbai may have been infected with the newly-discovered ‘XE’ variant of the coronavirus.
  • XE is a sub-variant of Omicron, which caused the third wave of Covid-19, which had not been found in India until now.
  • So far, there is no indication that it is more dangerous than other variants.

About:

  • The Omicron variant, which is responsible for over 90% of the infections detected in 2022, has two prominent sub-variants, called BA.1 and BA.2.
  • The XE variant is what is called a ‘recombinant’. This means it contains the mutations found in BA.1 as well as BA.2 varieties of Omicron.
  • Recombinant variants are not uncommon.
  • For example, variants that contain the characteristic mutations of Delta and Omicron have also been identified.
  • This was first discovered in the United Kingdom in January 2022, and so far more than 600 samples of XE have been found in different countries.
  • In fact, variants that contain the characteristic mutations of Delta and Omicron have also been identified.

Threat from XE:

  • As of now, there is no evidence to show that the XE variant is significantly different from the other varieties of Omicron.
  • However, this variant is noticed to be about 10% more transmissible than the dominant BA.2 variant.
  • In India, it was the BA.2 that was the most dominant during the third wave.
  • Nevertheless, a fresh wave of infections in India can never be ruled out, considering that the virus has not been eliminated, and is also undergoing mutations.

Formation of New Variants:

  • When a virus multiplies it doesn’t always manage to produce an exact copy of itself.
  • This means that, over time, the virus may start to differ slightly in terms of its genetic sequence.
  • Any changes to the viral genetic sequence during this process is known as a Mutation.
  • Viruses with new mutations are sometimes called Variants. Variants can differ by one or multiple mutations.
  • When a new variant has different functional properties to the original virus and becomes established in a population, it is sometimes referred to as a New Strain of the virus.
  • All strains are variants, but not all variants are strains.

New Technology:

Types Of Electric Vehicle Batteries

Context:

  • An EV battery explosion has claimed one life and left two others injured in Hyderabad. Police have registered an FIR against the e-scooter manufacturer Pure EV.
  • E-scooters from Okinawa Scooters, Ola Electric, Pure EV, and Jitendra Electric Vehicles have gone up in flames in recent weeks, putting the electric vehicle industry under pressure.

Electric vehicle battery:

  • An electric vehicle battery (EVB, also known as a traction battery) is a rechargeable battery used to power the electric motors of a battery electric vehicle (BEV) or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).
  • Typically lithium-ion batteries, are specifically designed for high electric charge (or energy) capacity.

Battery

  • A battery is a device for storing chemical energy and converting that chemical energy into electricity.
  • A battery is made up of one or more electrochemical cells, each of which consists of two half-cells or electrodes.
  • One half-cell, called the negative electrode, has an overabundance of the tiny, negatively charged subatomic particles called electrons. The other, called the positive electrode, has a deficit of electrons.
  • When the two halves are connected by a wire or an electrical cable, electrons will flow from the negative electrode to the positive electrode. We call this flow of electrons electricity.
  • The energy of these moving electrons can be harnessed to do work — running a motor, for instance.
  • The electrons are generated by chemical reactions, and there are many different chemical reactions that are used in commercially available batteries. For example, the familiar alkaline batteries commonly used in flashlights and television remote controls generate electricity through a chemical reaction involving zinc and manganese oxide. Most alkaline batteries are considered to be a disposable battery. Once they go dead, they're useless and should be recycled.
  • Automobile batteries, on the other hand, need to be rechargeable, so they don't require constant replacement. In a rechargeable battery, electrical energy is used to reverse the negative and positive halves of the electrochemical cells, restarting the electron flow.

Types of Batteries used in automobiles:

  • Automobile manufacturers have identified three types of rechargeable battery as suitable for electric car use.
  • Those types are lead-acid batteries, nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Lead-acid batteries:

  • Lead-acid batteries were invented in 1859 and are the oldest form of rechargeable battery still in use.
  • Lead-acid batteries are a kind of wet cell battery and usually contain a mild solution of sulfuric acid in an open container.
  • The name comes from the combination of lead electrodes and acid used to generate electricity in these batteries.
  • Lead-acid batteries are only currently being used in electric vehicles to supplement other battery loads.
  • These batteries are high-powered, inexpensive, safe, and reliable, but their short calendar life and poor cold-temperature performance make them difficult to use in electric vehicles.
  • There are high-power lead-acid batteries in development, but the batteries now are only used in commercial vehicles as secondary storage.

Nickel metal hydride batteries:

  • Nickel metal hydride batteries came into commercial use in the late 1980s. They have a high energy density — that is, a great deal of energy can be packed into a relatively small battery — and don't contain any toxic metals, so they're easy to recycle.
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries are more widely used in hybrid-electric vehicles, but are also used successfully in some all-electric vehicles.
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries have a longer life-cycle than lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries.
  • The biggest issues with nickel-metal hydride batteries are their high cost, high self-discharge rate, and the fact that they generate significant heat at high temperatures.
  • These issues make these batteries less effective for rechargeable electric vehicles, which is why they are primarily used in hybrid electric vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries:

 

  • Lithium-ion batteries, which came into commercial use in the early 1990s, have a very high energy density and are less likely than most batteries to lose their charge when not being used — a property called self discharge.
  • Because of their light weight and low maintenance requirements, lithium-ion batteries are widely used in electronic devices such as laptop computers.
  • Some experts believe that lithium-ion batteries are about as close as science has yet come to developing a perfect rechargeable battery, and this type of battery is the best candidate for powering the electric cars of the near future. These batteries are also used in most portable electronics, including cell phones and computers.
  • Lithium-ion batteries have a high power-to-weight ratio, high energy efficiency and good high-temperature performance.
  • In practice, this means that the batteries hold a lot of energy for their weight, which is vital for electric cars – less weight means the car can travel further on a single charge.
  • Lithium-ion batteries also have a low “self-discharge” rate, which means that they are better than other batteries at maintaining the ability to hold a full charge over time.
  • Additionally, most lithium-ion battery parts are recyclable making these batteries a good choice for the environmentally conscious.
  • The major advantage of lead-acid batteries is that they are cheap to produce. However, they do produce dangerous gases while being used and if the battery is overcharged there's a risk of explosion.

Miscellaneous

CALM Systems

Context:

  • Recently, the Indian Army has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition (CALM) System of its mechanised forces.
  • Earlier, the Indian Army had issued an RFI for the supply of Articulated All-Terrain Vehicles to be deployed in Ladakh and Kutch.

About:

  • The CALM System is a pre-loaded canister with loitering ammunition or a drone. Loiter munitions are a mix of a surface-to-surface missile and a drone.
  • Once fired it can remain aloft for a period of time over the area of operation, and when a target is sighted it can be guided down to destroy the target with the explosive payload that it carries.
  • Usually, loiter ammunition carries a camera which is nose-mounted and which can be used by the operator to see the area of operation and choose targets.
  • These munitions also have variants which can be recovered and reused in case they are not used for any strike.
  • The top-down attack capability of the loiter ammunition gives it a big advantage over targets such as tanks which are vulnerable to any attack on the top where the armour protection is weak.
  • Loiter munitions are smaller, cheaper and less complex systems than combat or armed drones.

Previous instances where it is used:

  • The CALM System had been very effectively used in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in 2021 where the Azerbaijan forces made extensive use of Israeli systems to wreak havoc on Armenian tanks, radar systems, communication hubs and other military targets.
  • The Russian military is also using their ZALA KYB loiter ammunition in Ukraine while some reports say that the US has also provided Ukraine with its Switchblade loiter munitions that could target Russian armour 10 km away.

Where will the Army use CALM Systems?

  • The CALM Systems will be used in the plains and deserts of the Western parts of the country as well as the Northern high altitude areas of heights up to 5,000 metres.
  • It will be employed by the Mechanised Infantry units of the Army for surveillance of beyond line of sight targets by day and night in real-time and beyond visual range engagement of enemy armoured fighting vehicles and other ground-based weapon platforms over extended ranges.

Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Scheme

Context:

  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has provisionally attached assets worth Rs 757.77 crore belonging to M/s Amway India Enterprises Private Limited in connection with a money laundering case. 

About:

  • Amway is a US-based company founded in 1959. It is a direct seller of FMCG products in the health, nutrition, beauty and home products.
  • The company has been accused of running a pyramid fraud in the name of direct selling multi-level marketing network.
  • According to ED, Amway lured people into joining the company and buying their products at unreasonably high prices. People used to buy these expensive products, not for use, but to become a member of the company.
  • Hence, the main aim of Amway was to add more and more members to the company and not to sell products.

Pyramid Scheme:

  • A pyramid scheme is a sketchy and unsustainable business model where a few top-level members recruit newer members. 
  • Those members pay upfront costs up the chain to those who enrolled them. As newer members in turn recruit underlings of their own, a portion of the subsequent fees they receive is also kicked up the chain. 
  • In a pyramid scheme, the major profit comes from the recruitment fees rather than the sale of the actual products.
  • Multi-Level Marketing operations(MLMs) are similar to pyramid schemes with one difference: they involve the sale of tangible goods.

Is Pyramid Scheme allowed in India?

  • As per the Consumer Protection (Direct Selling) Rules, 2021, the government bars direct selling companies from promoting pyramid schemes.

Submarine Vagsheer

Context:

  • Recently, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders launched the sixth Scorpene Submarine 'Vagsheer' of Project-75.

Scorpene-Class Submarine:

  • The submarines in the Project-75 Scorpene-Class are powered by diesel-electric propulsion systems.
  • Scorpene is one of the most sophisticated submarines, capable of undertaking multifarious missions including anti-surface ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying, and area surveillance.
  • The Scorpene-class is the Navy’s first modern conventional submarine series in almost two decades since INS Sindhushastra, procured from Russia in July 2000.

Submarine Vagsheer:

  • Vagsheer is named after the sandfish, a deep-sea predator of the Indian Ocean.
  • The first submarine Vagsheer, from Russia, was commissioned into the Indian Navy in December 1974, and was decommissioned in April 1997.
  • It is the last of the Scorpene-class submarines made under the P75 project and can join the Navy fleet within 12-18 months after sea trials.

Features:

  • Vagsheer is a diesel attack submarine, designed to perform sea denial as well as access denial warfare against the adversary.
  • It is enabled with a C303 anti-torpedo countermeasure system.
  • It can carry up to 18 torpedoes or Exocet anti-ship missiles, or 30 mines in place of torpedoes.
  • Its superior stealth features include advanced acoustic absorption techniques, low radiated noise levels, and hydro-dynamically optimized shape, and it can launch a crippling attack using precision-guided weapons, underwater or on the surface.

Project-75:

  • P 75 is one of two lines of submarines, the other being P75I, as part of a plan approved in 1999 for indigenous submarine construction with technology taken from overseas firms.
  • The contract for six submarines under P75 was given to Mazgaon dock in October 2005 and delivery was to start in 2012, but the project has faced delays.
  • The programme has been undertaken with the transfer of technology from the French company Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL).
  • Under P75, INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi, INS Karanj and INS Vela have been commissioned.
  • Sea trials are on for Vagir.
  • Vagsheer is the sixth; its production was delayed due to the pandemic.

RS-28 Sarmat (Satan-II)

Context:

  • Recently, Russia tested its new Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Sarmat amidst stiff resistance from Ukraine in the ongoing war.

About Sarmat :

  • This was the first test launch of the ICMB Sarmat after having been delayed earlier in 2021. 
  • It was launched from Plesetsk in North-West Russia with the intended target in the Kamchatka peninsula almost 6,000 km away. 
  • It is a liquid-fuelled missile as compared to US ICBMs which have moved on to solid fuel systems. 

Development :

  • It was widely known that Russia was developing a new ICBM to replace its older ones and an announcement in this regard had been made by President Vladimir Putin in 2018.
  • The actual development schedule is believed to have been further back from 2009 to 2011.
  • The deteriorating relations between Russia and the Western Powers are said to have given an impetus to its development.
  • Naming: The Sarmat is named after nomadic tribes that roamed the steppes of present-day Southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in the early mediaeval period. 
  • According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Sarmatians were highly developed in horsemanship and warfare.”
  • The administrative capabilities and political expertise of Sarmatians contributed to their gaining widespread influence and by the 5th century BC they held control of the land between the Urals and the Don River. 

Advancement and Capability:

  • The RS-28 Sarmat (NATO name Satan-II) is reported to be able to carry ten or more warheads and decoys.
  • It has the capability of firing over either of the earth’s poles with a range of 11,000 to 18,000 km. 
  • It will be the first Russian missile which can carry smaller hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. 
  • These are manoeuvrable and hard to intercept.

European Union Digital Services Act 

Context:

  • Recently, the European Parliament and European Union (EU) Member States announced that they had reached a political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), 2022.
  • It is landmark legislation to force big Internet companies to act against disinformation and illegal and harmful content, and to “provide better protection for Internet users and their fundamental rights”.
  • The proposed Act seeks to end the era of self-regulation by tech companies and give ‘practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online.
  • In India, a bill (Data Protection Bill 2019) on the similar issue is pending in Parliament.

What is the DSA, and to whom will it Apply?

  • About: As defined by the EU Commission, the DSA is “a set of common rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market”, and ensures higher protection to all EU users, irrespective of their country.
  • Objective: The DSA will tightly regulate the way intermediaries, especially large platforms such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube, function when it comes to moderating user content.
  • Self Regulation Era is Over: Instead of letting platforms decide how to deal with abusive or illegal content, the DSA will lay down specific rules and obligations for these companies to follow.
  • Applicability: According to the EU, DSA will apply to a “large category of online services, from simple websites to Internet infrastructure services and online platforms.”
  • The obligations for each of these will differ according to their size and role.
  • The legislation brings in its ambit platforms that provide Internet access, domain name registrars, hosting services such as cloud computing and web-hosting services.
  • However, more importantly, Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) will face “more stringent requirements.”
  • For example, any service with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU will fall into this category.
  • Those with under 45 million monthly active users in the EU will be exempt from certain new obligations.
  • Implementation: Once the DSA becomes law, each EU Member State will have the primary role in enforcing these, along with a new “European Board for Digital Services.”
  • The EU Commission will carry out “enhanced supervision and enforcement” for the VLOPs and VLOSEs.
  • Penalties for breaching these rules could be huge — as high as 6% of the company’s global annual turnover.

What do the new Rules State?

  • New Procedures for Faster Removal: Online platforms and intermediaries such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc. will have to add “new procedures for faster removal” of content deemed illegal or harmful.
  • Impose a Duty of Care: Marketplaces such as Amazon will have to “impose a duty of care” on sellers who are using their platform to sell products online.
  • They will have to collect and display information on the products and services sold in order to ensure that consumers are properly informed.
  • Auditing Mechanism: The DSA adds “an obligation for very large digital platforms and services to analyze systemic risks they create and to carry out risk reduction analysis”.
  • This audit for platforms like Google and Facebook will need to take place every year.
  • Independent Researchers: The Act proposes allowing independent vetted researchers to have access to public data from these platforms to carry out studies to understand these risks better.
  • Ban Misleading Interfaces: The DSA proposes to ban ‘Dark Patterns’ or “misleading interfaces” that are designed to trick users into doing something that they would not agree to otherwise.
  • Crisis Mechanism: The DSA incorporates a new crisis mechanism clause — it refers to the Russia-Ukraine conflict — which will be “activated by the Commission on the recommendation of the board of national Digital Services Coordinators”.
  • However, these special measures will only be in place for three months.
  • Transparency Measures: It also proposes “transparency measures for online platforms on a variety of issues, including on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users”.

Musk's Free Speech Idea

Context:

  • A day after Elon Musk's Twitter takeover deal was confirmed, the billionaire tech entrepreneur explained what he meant by “free speech”, which has figured several times in his plans for the social media company.

What does Elon Musk's new tweet on free speech mean?

  • Twitter will not go against the law of the land to promote free speech. It will respect what people want and if people want less free speech and their government has laws to that effect, Twitter will not go beyond the law.
  • Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

Places in News

 

Place in News Why In News, And Some Information About the Place

Nanar Oil Refinery 

 

  • Context:
    • Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has indicated that the Nanar oil refinery project in the Konkan region may be revived as the Maharashtra government was reconsidering its decision about stalling the project.
  • About:
    • The project, Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Limited was going to be Asia’s ‘biggest oil refinery and was proposed to be built at Nanar village in Ratnagiri district in the coastal Konkan region.
    • It was supposed to be a joint venture between Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, Saudi Arabia-owned Aramco and United Arab Emirates’ National Oil Company.

Ecuador

  • Context:
    • Ecuador, a South American country has become the first country in the world to give legal rights to wild animals.
  • About:
    • Ecuador is a country in the northwestern part of South America.
    • It is bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
    • Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific which is about 1,000 kilometres west of the mainland.
    • Ecuador is a part of the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire” region. It has eight volcanoes in its territory.
    • Capital: Quito.

Bucha

 

  • Context:
    • India condemned the killing of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), calling for an independent U.N. inquiry.
  • About:
    • Bucha is a city in Ukraine's Kyiv Oblast.
    • During World War II, before the liberation of Kyiv from Nazi forces in December 1943, Bucha was the location of the headquarters of the 1st Ukrainian Front commanded by General Vatutin.

Shinku-La Tunnel


  • Context:
    • India will soon be home to the world’s longest highway tunnel beneath Shinku-La Pass.
  • About:
    • It was built by Border Roads Organization(BRO) under Project Yojak by 2025.
    • The Shinku-La tunnel will be built at Shinku La Pass at an altitude of 16,580ft.
    • The tunnel will be 4.25 km in length. It will provide all-weather connectivity between Ladakh and Himachal.
    • Once constructed, it will be the world’s longest and highest tunnel at this altitude.
  • Shinku-La Pass:
    • Shinku-La Pass is a mountain pass between Zanskar Valley in Ladakh and Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
    • This pass may be considered an entry point to Lugnak Valley in Zanskar.

Falkland islands

  • Context:
    • “The Commission for Dialogue” with the United Kingdom on the Falkland Islands was recently inaugurated by India and Argentina.
  • About:
    • The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom located in the southwest Atlantic Ocean at the southernmost point of South America.
    • Positioned both in the southern and western hemispheres of the Earth.
    • They are also called Malvinas Islands.
    • The capital and major town are Stanley, on East Falkland, there are also several scattered small settlements as well as a Royal Air Force base that is located at Mount Pleasant.
    • The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, and about 200 smaller islands.

East Timor

  • Context:
    • On March 21, 2022, the tribals in Gujarat will hold a public meeting in Kaprada in Valsad district to protest against the Centre’s Par Tapi Narmada river-linking project.
  • About:
    • East Timor is bounded by the Timor Sea to the southeast, the Wetar Strait to the north, the Ombai Strait to the northwest, and western Timor (part of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara) to the southwest.
    • East Timor comprises the eastern half of Timor island, the western half of which is part of Indonesia.
    • It spans a 15,000 square km land area – slightly smaller than Israel – and it’s 1.3 million people are predominantly Roman Catholic.

Kuril Islands/ Northern Territories

  • Context:
    • Japan has recently described the Kuril Islands (which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia as the South Kurils) as being under Russia’s “illegal occupation”.
  • About:
    • These are a set of four islands situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean near the north of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido.
    • Both Moscow and Tokyo claim sovereignty over them though the islands have been under Russian control since the end of World War II.
    • The Soviet Union had seized the islands at the end of World War II and by 1949 had expelled its Japanese residents.
    • Tokyo claims that the disputed islands have been part of Japan since the early 19th century.

Gulf of Gabes

  • Context:
    • A Fuel Ship with 750 tons of diesel sinks off the Gulf Of Gabes in Tunisia.
  • About:
    • The Gulf of Gabes also known as Lesser Syrtis contrasting with the Greater Syrtis in Libya, is a gulf on Tunisia’s east coast in the Mediterranean Sea, off North Africa.
    • The gulf roughly spans the coast from Sfax to Djerba.
    • At the head of the gulf is the city of Gabès (Ghannouche) where the tides have a large range of up to 2.1 m at spring tides.
    • Both Gabès and Sfax are major ports on the gulf, supporting sponge and tuna fisheries, with Gabès being the economic and administrative centre.
    • It is 60 miles (100 km) long and 60 miles wide and is bounded by the Qarqannah (Kerkena) Islands in the northeast and by Jarbah (Djerba) Island in the southeast.

Black Sea

  • Context:
    • The sinking of the warship Moskva, the 600-foot, 12,500-tonne flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet — whether due to a Ukrainian missile strike or, as Russia claims, a fire onboard — is a serious setback for Russia.
  • About:
    • The Black Sea, also known as the Euxine Sea, is one of the major water bodies and a famous inland sea in the world.
    • This marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean is located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
    • It is surrounded by the Pontic, Caucasus, and Crimean Mountains in the south, east and north respectively.
    • The Turkish straits system – the Dardanelles, Bosporus and Marmara Sea – forms a transitional zone between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
    • The Black Sea is also connected to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch.
    • The bordering countries of the Black Sea are Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

Chile

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet of India approved the signing of the MoU between India and Chile for cooperation in the Disability Sector.
  • About:
    • Chile is a country in the western part of South America.
    • It occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
    • It shares land borders with Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south.
    • It is the world's southernmost country, the closest to Antarctica, that is geographically on the mainland. The country's capital and largest city are Santiago.

 

Index in News

 

National/International Index

State Energy and Climate Index

 

  • Context:
    • Recently, the NITI Aayog launched the State Energy and Climate Index (SECI).
    • It is the first index that aims to track the efforts made by states and UTs in the climate and energy sector.
  • State Energy and Climate Index:
    • The States have been categorized based on size and geographical differences as larger and smaller States and UTs.
    • The index is based on 2019-20 data.
    • The states and UTs are categorized into three groups: Front Runners, Achievers, and Aspirants.
  • Performance of various states:
    1. Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab have been ranked as the top three performers in the category of larger States, while Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were the bottom three States.
    2. Goa emerged as the top performer in the smaller States category followed by Tripura and Manipur.
    3. Among UTs, Chandigarh, Delhi and Daman & Diu/Dadra & Nagar Haveli are the top performers.
    4. Punjab was the best performer in discom performance, while Kerala topped in the access, affordability and reliability category.
    5. Haryana was the best performer in clean energy initiatives among larger States and Tamil Nadu in the energy efficiency category.
  • The objectives of the index are:
    • Ranking the States based on their efforts towards improving energy access, energy consumption, energy efficiency, and safeguarding the environment.
    • Helping drive the agenda of the affordable, accessible, efficient and clean energy transition at the State level.
    • Encouraging healthy competition among the states on different dimensions of energy and climate.

 

Schemes in News

 

Scheme Concerned Ministry Features
UDAN scheme  Ministry of Civil Aviation   

  • Context:
    • The UDAN scheme, the Ministry of Civil Aviation's flagship initiative to provide air connectivity in non-metro tier II and III cities, has been selected for the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration 2020.
  • About UDAN scheme (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme:
    • Launched in 2016, the scheme is aimed at enhancing connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country and making air travel affordable.
    • It is a key component of the Centre’s National Civil Aviation Policy led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched in June 2017.
    • It is also known as the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) as it seeks to improve air connectivity to tier-2 and tier-3 cities through the revival of unused and underused airports.
    • Under the scheme, nearly half of the seats in Udan flights are offered at subsidised fares, and the participating carriers are provided with a certain amount of viability gap funding (VGF) – an amount shared between the Centre and the concerned states.
    • The scheme will be jointly funded by the central government and state governments.
    • The scheme will run for 10 years and can be extended thereafter.
  • Key features of the scheme:
    1. Airlines are awarded routes under the programme through a bidding process and are required to offer airfares at the rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight.
    2. At least 50% of the total seats on an aircraft have to be offered at cheaper rates.
    3. In order to enable airlines to offer affordable fares, they are given a subsidy from the Government for a period of three years.
    4. The Government had also earmarked ₹4,500 crores for the revival of 50 airports in the first three years.
  • UDAN 4.0:
    • The 4th round of UDAN was launched in December 2019 with a special focus on North-Eastern Regions, Hilly States, and Islands.
    • The airports that had already been developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) are given higher priority for the award of VGF (Viability Gap Funding) under the Scheme.
    • Under UDAN 4, the operation of helicopters and seaplanes is also been incorporated.
PLI scheme for textiles
Ministry of Textiles
  • Context:
    • 61 applications, for projects involving a total investment of Rs 19,077 crore, have been approved under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for textiles.
    • These projects are expected to result in a projected turnover is Rs. 1.85 lakh crore over a period of 5 years with proposed direct employment of 2.4 lakh persons.
  • About the Scheme:
    • The Government had launched the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the textiles sector worth Rs 10,683 crore.
    • This is part of a larger PLI scheme for 13 sectors, with a total budgetary outlay of 1.97 lakh crore.
  • Focus areas?
    • The PLI scheme for textiles aims to promote the production of high-value Man-Made Fibre (MMF) fabrics, garments and technical textiles.
  • Eligibility:
    • 1. Any person or company willing to invest a minimum of Rs 300 crore in the plant, machinery, equipment and civil works (excluding land and administrative building cost) to produce products of MMF fabrics, garments and products of technical textiles will be eligible to participate in the first part of the scheme.
    • 2. Investors willing to spend a minimum of Rs 100 crore under the same conditions shall be eligible to apply in the second part of the scheme.
  • Incentives:
    1. Under PLI, the Centre will subsidise eligible manufacturers by paying incentives on incremental production.
    2. Companies investing over Rs 300 crore in plant, machinery, equipment and civil works to produce the identified products will get an incentive of 15 percent of their turnover, which needs to be Rs 600 crore in the third year.
    3. The companies investing between Rs 100 crore and Rs 300 crore will also be eligible to receive duty refunds and incentives (lower than 15 percent of their turnover).
    4. The government expects to achieve “fresh investment of over Rs 19,000 crore and a cumulative turnover of more than Rs 3 lakh crore”.
Telangana Dalit Bandhu scheme
Telangana Government 
  • Context:
    • Dalit activists from across India have appreciated the Dalit Bandhu scheme.
    • It is a scheme to uplift Dalits on all fronts and therefore activists have demanded the scheme be extended at the national level.
  • What is the Telangana Dalit Bandhu scheme?
    • Dalit Bandhu enables entrepreneurship among Dalits through a direct benefit transfer of Rs 10 lakh per family.
    • This is going to be the biggest cash transfer scheme in the country.
    • To promote Dalit entrepreneurship, the government has decided to start a system of reservations for Dalits in sectors where the government issues licences. This includes wine shops, medical shops, fertiliser shops, rice mills, etc.
  • Dalit Security Fund:
    • Apart from monetary assistance, the government plans to create a corpus called the Dalit Security Fund permanently to support the beneficiary in the event of any adversities.
    • This fund will be managed by the district collector concerned, along with a committee of beneficiaries.

 



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