Table of Contents
- Art And Culture
- Art and Architecture:
- Indian and Global Initiatives:
- Other Indian and Global Initiatives:
- Constitutional Provisions:
- International Relations
- Dialogues And Talks:
- Geopolitical Events:
- Organizations And Conventions:
- Banking And Finance:
- Species in news:
- Science And Technology
- Places in News
- Index in News
- Schemes in News
Art And Culture
- A 10-day-long 23rd edition of the Hornbill Festival 2022 was celebrated in the Naga heritage village of Kisama in Nagaland.
- Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar was the Chief Guest of the festival celebration.
What is Hornbill Festival?
- The festival is named after the bird “Indian hornbill”, which is present in the folklore of most of the state's tribes.
- It is also called the 'Festival of Festivals'.
- The first festival was held in 2000.
- All the tribes of Nagaland take part in the festival.
Highlights of the 23rd edition?
- This year's edition of the annual tourism promotional event of the Nagaland government is held at the picturesque Naga Heritage village, Kisama, some 12 kilometres from the state capital Kohima.
- The traditional Naga Morungs exhibition and the sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, song and dance shows, indigenous games etc.
- The Hornbill International Rock Festival where local and international rock bands perform.
- People can enjoy Naga food, songs, dances and customs during the festival.
- Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain, Trade Commissioner for South Asia & British Deputy High Commissioner for Western India, Alan Gemmell and Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrel Ao were the honoured guests at the inaugural function.
- Note: You don't need to remember these factual details about the guests. However, festivals in the Northeast serve as ambassadors for their distinct culture and social life. They help them to connect to the rest of India and the world.
About Great Hornbill:
- Its scientific name is Buceros bicornis.
- It common name is Great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill.
- It is found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
- The bulk of the population is found in India, where it is restricted to the Himalayan foothills, hill forests in northeast India and, disjunctly, the wet evergreen forests of west India.
- The great hornbill is the state bird of Kerala and Arunachal in India.
- It is not a state bird of Nagaland, although the hornbill festival is celebrated in Nagaland. Nagaland’s state bird is: Blyth's tragopan.
- Conservation status:
- IUCN Status: Vulnerable.
- CITES Appendix I
- Recently Sukaphaa Divas was celebrated in the state of Assam.
What is Sukaphaa Divas?
- Sukaphaa Divas is a regional public holiday in the Indian state of Assam on December 2nd each year.
- Also known as Asom Divas, this holiday commemorates the advent of the first king of the Ahom kingdom, Chaolung Sukaphaa, in Assam.
- Asom Divas is celebrated in a grand manner by singing and narrating praises of Sukapha along with the performance of various traditional forms of dances and songs.
About Ahom Kingdom:
- The Ahom dynasty was established by Chaolung Sukaphaa, a prince from the Tai state of Mong Mao, close to present-day Ruili in Yunnan, China.
- After the birth of a cousin blocked his path to the throne, he left Mong Mao. After crossing the Patkai Mountains, he arrived in Namrup, in the southeast of Assam in 1228.
- The date of his arrival is usually accepted as the founding date of the Ahom Kingdom.
- He is widely referred to as the architect of ‘Bor Asom’ or ‘greater Assam’ because of the amicable relationship he developed with the tribal communities living in Assam at the time of his arrival.
- Sukapha's reign established the Ahom Kingdom that would rule medieval Assam for the next six hundred years, famously resisting other great powers such as the Mughals.
- The period of Ahom rule is seen as a glorious chapter in the history of Assam.
- A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court reserved its judgment on a bunch of petitions seeking to strike down a Tamil Nadu law that protects Jallikattu, a popular bull-taming sport, by claiming that it is a cultural heritage of the state and protected under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.
What is Jallikattu?
- Jallikaatu could be referred to as bull taming event typically practiced in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day, third day of the four-day Pongal festival.
- The term 'jallikattu' is derived from the tamil words 'jalli' and 'kattu'. Jalli refers to gold or silver coins. Kattu means 'tied'. Therefore, combined together it refers to coins being tied to the bulls' horns, which is considered the prize for whoever tames the bull.
- The bull that wins is used to service numerous cows preserving the native breed. It is renowned as an ancient 'sport', believed to have been practised some 2500 years ago.
- Jallikattu is considered a traditional way for the peasant community to preserve their pure-breed native bulls.
- Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu are among the popular native cattle breeds used for Jallikattu.
Why is it news?
- It is controversial because the sport often results in major injuries and even deaths of both animal and humans.
- The sport was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014.
- But in 2007, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017, outlines several rules for the sport, allowed it to be played.
- In its detailed report before the apex court, animal-rights group PETA India, which is one of the petitioners, said at least 23 bulls and 86 humans have died, while 6,351 people suffered injuries, ever since Jallikattu was legalised by the Tamil Nadu government in 2017.
- Last year, the Environment Ministry amended its earlier notification, initially issued by UPA in 2011, and declared that the sport could carry on irrespective of the imposed ban.
- This was seen in direct contravention with the Supreme Court's order and was challenged by organisations such as People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Consequently, a stay order was issued by the court.
- Now a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court examining that weather the bull-taming sport is a cultural heritage of the State and is protected under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.
- It is for the first time that the apex court is considering the question of granting constitutional protection to Jallikattu as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1), a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution to protect the educational and cultural rights of citizens.
- Though commonly used to protect the interests of minorities, Article 29 (1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
- The five-judge Bench would examine whether the new Jallikattu laws are “relatable” to Article 48 of the Constitution, which says it is an endeavour of the State to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
- The 'Dhanu Yatra' festival, considered to be the world’s largest open-air theatre, celebrated in the Western Odisha town of Bargarh.
What is Dhanu Yatra?
- Dhanu Yatra is an annual drama-based open-air theatrical performance celebrated in Bargarh, Odisha.
- It is considered the largest open-air theatre in the world. Spread over five square km, the entire town of Bargarh turns into a stage for the yatra.
- The Dhanu Yatra was started after the harvesting season of the year 1947-48, just after independence of India as a reflection of joyous atmosphere in the society for the end of British misrule.
- Since then it is performed every year at the end of the harvesting of paddy, the major crop of the locality.
- The plays in the festival start with the dethroning of Emperor Ugrasen of Mathura by angry Kansa over the marriage of his sister Devaki with Vasudev. The festival will conclude with the death of demon king Kansa and restoration of the throne to Ugrasen.
- Ladakh celebrated Losar Festival to mark the Ladakhi New Year. Losar Festival is celebrated in Ladakh on 24th December 2022.
What is Losar festival?
- The Losar Festival or the Ladakhi New year is a major socio-religious festival of Ladakh celebrated during winter.
- It is one of the most significant celebrations in the Tibetan lunar calendar.
- The term ‘Losar’ means New year in the Tibetan language. ‘Lo’ means year and ‘Sar’ means new.
Where is Losar Festival is celebrated in India?
- Buddhist New year holds a lot of significance in India. For many years, places like Ladakh, Kinnaur, Spiti, Sikkim have been celebrating the Losar festival.
- Losar festival is celebrated in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
Art and Architecture:
Sri Venkateswara Temple
- President Droupadi Murmu, recently, offered prayers at Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh.
About Sri Venkateswara Temple:
- Sri Venkateswara Swami Vaari Temple is a Hindu temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh, India.
- The Temple is dedicated to Venkateswara, a form of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared on the earth to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga.
- Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntha and the Lord here is referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam.
- The temple is run by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which is under control of Andhra Pradesh Government.
- The head of TTD is appointed by Andhra Pradesh Government. The revenue from this shrine is used by Andhra Pradesh government.
- Built on the Venkata Hill, which is a part of the famous Seshachalam Hills, Tirupati Temple is considered as one of the holiest shrines by the Hindus.
History & Legends Associated with the Temple:
- Swayambhu Kshetras: The holy idol of the Lord is considered to be Swayambhu i.e. formed on its own.
- Many ancient texts, including the Rig Veda mention the existence and prominence of the temple. Written texts, which are dated back to the Mauryan and Gupta era, refer the temple as ‘Aadhi Varaha Kshetra’.
- Seshachalam Hills has seven peaks, which are said to be the representation of the heads of Adisesha.
- King Thondaiman of Tondaimandalam kingdom have said to be constructed the temple.
- Built in accordance with the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple has three entrances, which lead to the sanctum sanctorum.
- The first entrance is called as ‘Mahadwaram.’
- The temple has two circumambulation paths. While the first path houses many pillared halls, flagstaffs and a dedicated area to distribute the offertories, the second path has many sub-shrines, main kitchen, main hundi and many other important edifices.
- A gold-plated tower inside the main shrine is called ‘Ananda Nilayam’ and is the most important part of the temple.
- The inner temple of ‘Ananda Nilayam’ houses the main deity and was constructed around the 12th Century A.D.
- The temple also has a holy pond called Swami Pushkarni, located towards the northern side. Pushkarni, which covers a huge area of 1.5 acres, is one of the most sacred places of the temple.
- There are five principal deities and they are mentioned below:
- Tirumala Dhruva Bera: main deity and is considered a source of energy.
- Bhoga Srinivasa: This is a small silver idol of the Lord which is always placed near the left foot of the main deity. This idol was donated to the temple by Queen Samavai of the Pallava dynasty in 614 A.D.
- Ugra Srinivasa
- Utsava Beram
- Koluvu Srinivasa
- There are shrines of many deities within the complex of the temple. One of them is the shrine of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.
- The temple also has shrines dedicated to Lord Krishna, along with his consort Rukmini, Vishvaksena, Sugriva and Angad.
- While Sugriva and Angad are prominent figures from the Hindu epic Ramayanam, Vishvaksena is Lord Vishnu’s attendant who oversees the Lord's wealth.
- The Tirupati Temple celebrates a staggering 433 festivals in a year, practically turning every day into a festival.
- Out of all those festivals, 'Brahmotsavam' is the most famous festival of Tirupati. 'Brahmotsavam' is celebrated in a grand style over a period of nine days.
- The Sherpas of the G20 countries and invitees from countries and international organisations recently visited the famous Kumbhalgarh Fort in Udaipur, which is a UNESCO heritage site.
What is Kumbhalgarh Fort?
- Kumbhalgarh also known as the Great Wall of India is a Mewar fortress on the westerly range of Aravalli Hills, Rajasthan.
- It is located about 84 km from Udaipur.
- The massive fort is 3,600 feet tall and 36 kilometres long, and it surrounds the city of Udaipur.
- It is the second-longest wall of the world after the Great Wall of China.
- It is a World Heritage Site included in Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
- It was built during the 15th century by Rana Kumbha.
- The chief architect who built this fort was Mandan, who documented his style of work in his text, Rajvallabh.
- The massive gate of Kumbhalgarh fort, called the Ram Pol (Ram Gate).
Thousand Pillars Temple
- The restoration of the colossal mandapa of the historic Rudreshwara Temple at Hanamkonda, popularly known as Thousand Pillar Temple, Telangana is near completion.
- The restoration project of the temple mandapa is taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
What is Thousand Pillars Temple?
- The Thousand Pillar Temple or Rudreswara Swamy Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the town of Hanamakonda, Telangana State, India. (Hanumakonda hills)
- It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. The main deity is Lord Shiva.
- The temple was built in 12th century by Rudra Deva, the first independent king of the Kakatiya Dynasty.
- Its structure resembles the shape of a star and houses three major shrines of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Surya, known as Trikutalayam.
- Thousand Pillar Temple was constructed by using the sandbox technique and is known for intricately carved pillars.
- The mandapa leads to the main temple with a majestic monolith Nandi seated on the pathway.
- The mandapa was destroyed during the invasion by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, who ruled over the Delhi sultanate in 1323 AD.
- An Indian PhD student at the University of Cambridge has solved a grammatical problem that has baffled Sanskrit scholars since the 5th century BC.
- In his thesis titled 'In Panini, We Trust: Discovering the Algorithm for Rule Conflict Resolution in the Astadhyayi,', he made a breakthrough by decoding a rule taught by Panini.
- Experts are calling the discovery revolutionary, as it may allow Panini’s grammar to be taught to computers for the first time.
Who was Panini?
- Pāṇini was a Sanskrit philologist, grammarian, and revered scholar in ancient India, variously dated between the 6th and 4th century BCE.
- Since the discovery and publication of his work by European scholars in the nineteenth century, Pāṇini has been considered the “first descriptive linguist”, and even labelled as “the father of linguistics”.
- He likely lived in Salatura (Gandhara), which today would lie in north-west Pakistan, and was probably associated with the great university at Taksasila, which also produced Kautilya and Charaka, the ancient Indian masters of statecraft and medicine respectively.
- Pāṇini is known for his text Aṣṭādhyāyī, a sutra-style treatise on Sanskrit grammar.
What is Astadhyayi?
- ‘Ashtadhyayi’, or ‘Eight Chapters’, is an ancient text written by the scholar Panini towards the end of the 4th century BC.
- It is a linguistics text that set the standard for how Sanskrit was meant to be written and spoken.
- It delves deep into the language’s phonetics, syntax and grammar, and also offers a ‘language machine’, where one can feed in the root and suffix of any Sanskrit word, and get grammatically correct words and sentences in return.
- Panini’s grammar, which built on the work of many earlier grammarians, effectively stabilized the Sanskrit language.
- The Ashtadhyayi laid down more than 4,000 grammatical rules.
- Later Indian grammars such as the Mahabhasya of Patanjali (2nd century BC) and the Kasika Vritti of Jayaditya and Vamana (7th century AD), were mostly commentaries on Panini.
What exactly was the problem?
- To ensure this ‘machine’ was accurate, Panini wrote a set of 4,000 rules dictating its logic.
- But as scholars studied it, they found that two or more of the rules could apply at the same time, causing confusion.
- To resolve this, Panini had provided a ‘meta-rule’ (a rule governing rules).
- However, following this interpretation did not solve the machine’s problem. It kept producing exceptions, for which scholars had to keep writing additional rules. This is where Dr Rishi Rajpopat’s discovery came through.
- Srimukhalingam temple chief priest urged the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to get the historic Siva temple included in the UNSECO's list of World Heritage Sites in order to get international recognition for the temple.
About Srimukhalingam Temple:
- Sri Mukhalingeswara Temple is located in Mukhalingam Village of Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh.
- It is one of the oldest temples in the region. It is also known as Kalinganagaram and was the capital of the early Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
- This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is said to have been constructed during the 8th century by Kamarnava-II when the region was under the control of the East Ganga Dynasty.
- The Trinity of Madhukeswara, Someswara and Bheemeswara Temples are a testimony to the magnificent architectural skills of Kalinga Kings.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ministry of Culture is the premier organization for archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.
- It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
- Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI.
- Besides, it regulates all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
- It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
- For the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance the entire country is divided into 24 circles.
- The organization has a large workforce of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects through its circles, museums, excavation branches, prehistory branch, epigraphy branches, science branch, horticulture branch, building survey project, temple survey projects and underwater archaeology wing.
Indian and Global Initiatives:
- Baguette — the staple French bread — was inscribed into the UN’s list of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) on November 30.
- UNESCO, the international body which aims at promoting peace and cooperation among nations through education, arts, sciences and culture, recognized the “Artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” as a world cultural heritage.
What is Baguette?
- The baguette is a long and thin loaf made of flour, water, salt and yeast, and is consumed as a staple in France.
- In March 2021, France nominated the baguette as its candidate for consideration within the UNESCO ICH list.
- It drew attention to the steady decline in the number of bakeries in the country as around 20,000 of them have closed down since 1970.
What is UN’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)?
- UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was established in the year 2008.
- UNESCO defines “intangible” as “expressions that have been passed from one generation to another, have evolved in response to their environments and contribute to giving us a sense of identity and continuity…”
- 'Intangible cultural heritage’ includes “oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”
- It ascribes importance to “the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next,” which necessitates their preservation.
- The document states that the safeguarding of an ICH means ensuring that it “remains an active part of life for today’s generations that they can hand on to tomorrow.”
What are the criteria for the selection?
- There are three criteria for an intangible cultural heritage to be inscribed in the United Nations list.
- The entity must:
- be recognized by communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals as part of their cultural heritage,
- be transmitted from generation to generation and be constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history and
- provide them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
What are India’s intangible cultural symbols on the UNESCO list?
- Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana
- Tradition of Vedic chanting
- Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre
- 2009: Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India
- Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
- Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
- Chhau dance
- 2012: Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India
- 2013: Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
- 2014: Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab, India
- Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz
- 2017: Kumbh Mela
- 2021: Durga Puja in Kolkata
Who manages nominations to the UNESCO list in India?
- Sangeet Natak Akademi is the nodal organisation which looks after this function, and files nominations of intangible cultural entities from India, for evaluation by the international body.
- The Ministry of Culture also launches regular schemes, in an attempt to preserve, protect and promote intangible cultural heritage in the country.
- Among them, the “Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India” aims to “professionally” enhance “awareness and interest” in the safeguarding, promotion and propagation of ICH.
Divya Kala Mela
- Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Dr. Virendra Kumar inaugurated the Divya Kala Mela on the Kartavya Path of India Gate, Delhi.
What is Divya Kala Mela?
- The fair, which runs from 2 to 7 December, aims to provide a big platform for the products and craftsmanship of Divyang artisans, craftsmen and artisans from across the country.
- Around 200 Divyang artisans, artists and entrepreneurs from 22 states and union territories showcased their products and skills in the fair.
- It was organized by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
Indian Historical Records Committee (IHRC)
- The 63rd Session of the IHRC will be organized on 18-19 December 2022 at Uttar Pradesh State Archives.
What is Indian Historical Records Committee (IHRC)?
- It is an all India Forum of creators, custodians and users of records which was set up in 1919 to advice the Government of India on all issues connected with the management of records and their use for historical research.
- The National Archives of India, New Delhi is the Secretariat of Indian Historical Records Committee (re-designated Indian Historical Records Committee in 1911).
- The IHRC is headed by the Union Minister of Culture and comprises 134 members including agencies of the Government of India, nominees of the Government of India, representatives from the State/UT Archives, Universities and Learned Institutions.
Veer Baal Diwas
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took part in a programme organised to mark the 'Veer Bal Diwas' at Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in the national capital.
- The programme has been organised in the remembrance of last Sikh Guru- Guru Gobind Singh, his four sons (Sahibzade), and Mata Gujri Ji.
What is Veer Baal Diwas?
- Last year, the Prime Minister has declared that 26th December shall henceforth be marked as “Veer Baal Diwas” to pay homage to the courage of the “Sahibzades”, four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh guru.
- Thus, 26th December, 2023 is the very first edition of the Veer Baal Diwas.
Who were the Sahibzades?
- Guru Gobind Singh ji had four sons – Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh.
- All four of his sons were initiated into the Khalsa and all were executed by Mughal forces before the age of 19.
- Sikhism honors the illustrious martyred sons of Guru Gobind Singh ji in the prayer of ardas for their valor and sacrifice as ‘Char Sahibzade’, that is the four princes of the Khalsa warrior order.
Why 26th December was chosen?
- While all four were martyred, the date has been chosen as it was the day observed as the martyrdom day of the Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, who were killed at the tender age of six and nine in Sirhind (Punjab) by Mughal forces.
Who was Guru Gobind Singh?
- The last of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh was born on 22nd December 1666 in Patna, Bihar.
- The annual celebration of the Guru’s birthday is based on the Nanakshahi calendar.
- He is known for his significant contributions to the Sikh religion, including the introduction of the turban to cover hair.
- He also founded the principles of Khalsa or the Five ‘K’s.
- He is also responsible for establishing the highest order in the Sikh community.
- He fought against the Mughals later in the battle of Muktsar in 1705.
- Guru Gobind Singh was killed by a Mughal assassin in 1708, a year after the death of Aurangzeb.
Tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Three new cultural sites in India, including the iconic Sun Temple at Modhera, historic Vadnagar town in Gujarat, and rock-cut relief sculptures of Unakoti in Tripura, have been added to the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
- The UNESCO website describes a tentative list as an “inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination”.
What is the Tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
- UNESCO’s tentative list is an inventory of properties which each state party intends to consider for nomination.
- As per the Operational Guidelines, 2019 of UNESCO, it is mandatory to put any monument/site on the tentative list for one year before it is considered for the final nomination dossier.
- Once the nomination is done, it is sent to the World Heritage Centre (WHC).
- India now has now 52 sites on the tentative list.
About Modhera Sun Temple:
- The Sun Temple of Modhera is a Hindu temple dedicated to the solar deity Surya located at Modhera village of Mehsana district, Gujarat.
- It is situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati.
- It was made by King Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty in the early 11th century.
- The temple complex is divided into three parts – Gudha Mandapa (the shrine hall), Sabha Mandapa (the assembly hall) and Kunda (the reservoir).
- The temple is designed in such a way that during every equinox, the first ray of the rising sun would fall on a diamond placed on the head of the Sun God. This would also light up the shrine with a golden glow.
- No worship is offered now and is protected monument maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.
- It is located in the Mehsana district in Gujarat is a city with deep historical roots.
- It is also known as Chamatkarpur, Anandpur, Snehpur and Vimalpur.
- It finds mention in Puranas.
- Vadnagar is famous for its torans, a pair of 12th century Solanki-era columns, 40 feet tall and built in red and yellow sandstone to celebrate a war victory.
- In 640 AD, Chinese Buddhist traveller, Hiuen Tsang visited the city, and is said to have mentioned it in his travelogue.
- During excavations in 2008-09, ruins of a Buddhist monastery were also unearthed in Vadnagar.
- Vadnagar is also home to Tanariri Performing Arts College.
- Tana and Riri were two sisters who had sacrificed their lives when asked by Akbar to sing in his court, which was against their custom.
About Rock-cut Sculptures of Unakoti:
- The site of Unakoti is located in the northeastern part of Tripura, about 8 km from Kailasahar and 185 km from the State capital Agartala.
- The vertical surface of the Unakoti hills was used by the ancient people to carve various mythological scenes such as the different iconographic forms of Siva, Ganesha, Uma-Maheshwara, etc.
- Unakoti is famous for its colossal rock cut panels depicting Hindu deities. Unakoti provides evidence of ancient Saiva worship in Tripura from 8th-9th centuries CE.
- Etymologically Unakoti stands for ‘Una’ meaning one less and ‘koti’ meaning crore in Bengali, hence the name of the site ‘Unakoti’ literally translates as “one less than a crore”.
Zonal Cultural Centers
- Ministry of Culture has set up seven Zonal Cultural Centers for the development Of Arts, Culture and Craft across the country.
What are Zonal Cultural Centers (ZCCs):
- These are bodies set up to develop the cultures of various regions under the Ministry of Culture.
- They has been set up as registered autonomous bodies under the Societies Registration Act.
- There are seven Zonal Cultural Centres in India across geographic and linguistic boundaries with headquarters at Patiala, Nagpur, Udaipur, Prayagraj, Kolkata, Dimapur and Thanjavur.
- These ZCCs organize various cultural activities and programmes on regular basis in their member States throughout the year.
- For conducting various activities/ programmes, ZCCs are provided regular annual grant-in-aid by the Government. However, no State/UT-wise funds are released by the Ministry of Culture for the purpose.
- Further, for preservation and development of art, culture and crafts across the country, Ministry of Culture also organizes Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsavs (RSMs) through these ZCCs where a large number of artists from all over India are engaged to showcase their talents.
- From November, 2015 onwards, twelve (12) RSMs have been organized by Ministry of Culture across the country.
- These ZCCs also organize minimum 42 Regional Festivals for promotion of art and culture every year as per their programme calendar.
Famous Historical Events:
Battle of Wandiwash
- The site of the battle, Wandiwash, was in news due to encroachment by people.
- Wandiwash (the anglicised version of Vandavasi) is a town located about 120 km from Chennai in the present-day Tiruvannamalai district.
What is the Battle of Wandiwash?
- The Anglo-French rivalry in India, manifested in three Carnatic wars, determined once and for all that the English, rather than the French, were the better candidates to establish their rule throughout India.
- Battle of Wandiwash, (Jan. 22, 1760), was the third and last Cranatic War.
- It is fought between the French, under the Comte de Lally, and the British, under Sir Eyre Coote.
- It was the decisive battle in the Anglo-French struggle in southern India during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63).
- This battle was won by the English on January 22, 1760 at Wandiwash (or Vandavasi) in Tamil Nadu.
Results of the war:
- The third war ended with the Treaty of Peace of Paris (1763) under which Pondicherry and Chandannagar were returned to France but they could only have trading activities in them.
- Although the treaty restored to the French their factories in India, the French political influence disappeared after the war.
- Thereafter, the French, like their Portuguese and Dutch counterparts in India, confined themselves to their small enclaves and to commerce.
- The English became the supreme European power in the Indian subcontinent.
Famous Historical Personalities:
Dr Rajendra Prasad
- The President of India, Smt Droupadi Murmu, paid floral tributes to Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, on his birth anniversary at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 3rd December.
Who was Dr Rajendra Prasad:
- Rajendra Prasad (3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963) was an Indian politician, lawyer, Indian independence activist, journalist & scholar who served as the first president of Republic of India from 1950 to 1962.
- He joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian Independence Movement and became a major leader from the region of Bihar and Maharashtra.
Highlights of his life:
- He was a brilliant student; standing first in the entrance examination to the University of Calcutta, he was awarded a Rs.30/month scholarship. He joined the famed Calcutta Presidency College in 1902.
- In 1915, He passed the Masters in Law examination with honors, winning a gold medal. Subsequently, he completed his Doctorate in Law as well.
- As an accomplished lawyer, however, he realized it would be only a matter of time before he would be caught up in the turmoil of the fight for independence.
- While Gandhiji was on a fact finding mission in Chamaparan district of Bihar to address grievances of local peasants, he called on Dr. Rajendra Prasad to come to Champaran with volunteers. He rushed to Champaran.
- Gandhiji’s influence greatly altered many of his views, most importantly on caste and untouchability. Gandhiji made Dr. Rajendra Prasad realize that the nation, working for a common cause, “became of one caste, namely co-workers.”
- Whenever the people suffered, he was present to help reduce the pain. In 1935, an earthquake hit Quetta. He was not allowed to lend a hand because of Government restrictions. Nevertheless, he set up relief committees in Sind and Punjab for the homeless victims who flocked there.
- Dr. Prasad called for non cooperation in Bihar as part of Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement. He gave up his law practice and started a National College near Patna,1921.
- A salt Satyagraha was launched in Bihar under Dr. Prasad. Nakhas Pond in Patna was chosen as the site of the Satyagraha.
- He presided over the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934. Following the resignation of Subhash Chandra Bose as the President of the Congress in April 1939, He was elected President.
- In July 1946, when the Constituent Assembly was established to frame the Constitution of India, he was elected its President.
- He was elected the nation’s first President. Dr. Prasad transformed the imperial splendor of Rashtrapati Bhavan into an elegant “Indian” home.
- In 1962, after 12 years as President, Dr. Prasad retired, and was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award.
- Famous books written by him: “Satyagraha at Champaran” (1922), “India Divided” (1946), his autobiography “Atmakatha” (1946), “Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminisences” (1949), and “Bapu ke Kadmon Mein” (1954).
- A principal of a government school and a shiksha mitra have been booked in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, for “hurting religious sentiments” after a video of students reciting Muhammad Iqbal’s “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua” poem during the morning assembly went viral.
- “Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua” was penned in 1902 by Muhammad Iqbal, also known as Allama Iqbal who wrote “Saare Jahaan Se Achccha” song.
Who was Muhammad Iqbal?
- Muhammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938), widely known as Allama Iqbal was a poet-philosopher whose work promoted the philosophy of self-hood and dealt with the intellectual and cultural reconstruction of the Islamic world.
- He is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is called the “Spiritual Father of Pakistan.”
- Iqbal is considered to have given the vision for the creation of Pakistan, whereas Jinnah is considered to be the one who shaped this vision.
- In 1930, during the 25th Session of the All-India Muslim League in Allahabad, he delivered his most famous presidential speech known as the Allahabad Address in which he pushed for the creation of a Muslim state in north-west India.
His famous works:
- “Sare Jahan se Accha”, formally known as “Tarānah-e-Hindi”, is an Urdu language patriotic song for children written by poet Muhammad Iqbal in the ghazal style of Urdu poetry. The poem was published in 1904.
- His best known Urdu works are The Call of the Marching Bell, Gabriel's Wing, The Rod of Moses and a part of Gift from Hijaz.
- The Pakistan government officially named him “National Poet of Pakistan”.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya
- The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi today paid tribute to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya on his jayanti at a function at Parliament.
About Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya:
- Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya was born on December 25, 1861, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
- He is known for his contribution to India's education system and his role in the Indian Independence movement.
- He played a key role in the Indian independence struggle against British rule and founded the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1916.
- Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya was also one of the founders of Scout and Guide in India.
- In 2014, Pandit Malviya was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award.
- Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya was given the title of 'Mahamana' or great soul by Mahatma Gandhi, who considered him as an elder brother.
- One of the most famous slogans, 'Satyamev Jayate' was said by Pandia Malviya in the session of 1918 when he was the President of the Indian National Congress.
- However, the phrase originally belongs to the Mundaka Upanishad. The term now is the national motto of India.
- Pandit Malviya is known for his contributions to journalism. He was the chairman of the Hindustan Times from 1924 to 1946, and he also founded many Hindi and English newspapers, namely: The Leader, Hindustan Dainik, Maryada, etc.
- Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya was the President of the Indian National Congress for four sessions (1909, 1913, 1919, and 1932). Pandit Malviya played a big role in the Civil Disobedience and Non-cooperation movement which were led by Mahatma Gandhi.
- He helped establish the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915.
- He was a social reformer and a successful legislator, serving as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council for 11 years (1909–20).
- He worked immensely for Hindu-Muslim unity. He is known to have given famous speeches on communal harmony.
- The Maharashtra Government has asked the district administration to submit a proposal to Renaming of Ahmednagar as ‘Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Nagar’.
Where is Ahmednagar city located?
- Ahmednagar district is situated in the middle of western Maharashtra.
- The district has been a part of some prominent kingdoms, starting from 240B.C, when the vicinity is mentioned in the reference to the Mauryan Emperor Ashok.
- The Rashtrakuta Dynasty, the Western Chalukyas, and then the Delhi Sultanate ruled over the region in the medieval period.
- In 1486, Malik Ahmad Nizam Shah became the Bahmani Sultanate’s Prime Minister.
- In 1494 he laid the foundation of a city close to where he defeated the army, on the left bank of Sina River, and named it after himself: Ahmednagar.
Who was Ahilyabai Holkar?
- Born in Chondi village of Ahmednagar to the village head Mankoji Shinde, on May 31, 1725, Ahilyabai was one of the few women rulers of Medieval India.
- Her village fell in the Ahmednagar district and thus the proposal to name the city after she was made.
- While the education of girls and women was rare at that time, Mankoji insisted on it for his daughter.
- Ahilyabai took control of Malwa after her husband’s death in the Battle of Kumbher against the king of Bharatpur in 1754.
- She excelled at administrative and military strategies under the guidance of her father-in-law, who believed she should lead her people, and not die by Sati after Khande Rao passed away.
- After the death of her father-in-law and son a few years later, she petitioned the Peshwa to become the ruler, backed by the support of her army.
- Under Holkar, the city of Maheshwar became a literary, musical, artistic and industrial centre, and she helped establish a textile industry there, which is now home to the famous Maheshwari saris.
- Her role in the restoration of Hindu temples is often emphasised.
- In 1780, she had the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi rebuilt, nearly a century after Mughal king Aurangzeb ordered its destruction.
- Apart from holy sites like Badrinath, Dwarka, Omkareshwari, Gaya, and Rameswaram, Holkar also supported the construction of resting lodges for travellers, and of public ghats.
- The first Prime Minister of Democratic India, Jawaharlal Nehru described Ahilyabai Holkar’s rule, which lasted for thirty years (1765-1795) a legendary period which is a perfect exemplar of good law and order and good governance.
Important Geophysical Phenomena:
- Recently, several cities in the USA were hit by a Bomb Cyclone.
- At least 34 people have lost their lives in weather-related incidents across the United States, according to an NBC News tally as the monster storm gripped most of the nation coupled with snow, ice and howling winds, reported Reuters.
What is Bomb Cyclone?
- The term “bomb cyclone” comes from the meteorological term “bombogenesis” or “explosive cyclogenesis.”
- This happens when a storm system's central pressure drops at least 24 millibars within 24 hours.
- A low-pressure system that achieves this mark becomes known as a “bomb cyclone.” Meteorologists also use the phrase “bomb out” to describe the phenomenon.
- The rapid drop in air pressure means the storm intensifies very quickly and can create large impacts such as heavy snow, rain, high winds and coastal flooding.
- Bomb cyclones are more common in the Pacific Ocean but do happen in the Atlantic Ocean.
What is meant by a cyclone?
What are the different types of cyclones?
What are the differences between Tropical and Extratropical cyclones:
Do all bomb cyclones forms in the winter?
- Not all bomb cyclones happen in the fall and winter months. A study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology looked at 783 bomb cyclones over 15 years in the Pacific Ocean.
- The study found in 69% of cases, bomb cyclones frequently happened from December to February and early March.
- According to researchers, the frequency depends on the region of the Pacific where the storm is located, with a peak in March and the second peak in October, November and December.
Erra Matti Dibbalu
- Scientists urge Andhra Pradesh govt. to protect glacial-period coastal red sand dunes of Vizag.
What are Erra Matti Dibbalu?
- The city of Visakhapatnam is blessed with a number of sites that have geological importance. One among them is the coastal red sand dunes, popularly known as ‘Erra Matti Dibbalu’.
- Erra Matti Dibbalu is dissected and stabilized coastal red sediment mounds.
- They are formed around 12,000 years ago due to sea-land interaction.
- They comprises a mixture of sand (40-50%), silt and clay (another 50%) with oxidation imparting the unique red colour.
- The site is located along the coast and is about 20 km north-east of Visakhapatnam city and about 4 km south-west of Bheemunipatnam.
- This site was declared as a geo-heritage site by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in 2014 and the Andhra Pradesh government has listed it under the category of ‘protected sites’ in 2016.
Geological Survey of India (GSI):
Why are they important?
- They are geologically important as they represent the geological history of the late Quaternary period and carry the imprints of the fall of sea level and its subsequent rise, the impact of climate, monsoon and geological processes on the sediments.
- They are anthropologically and archeologically important as they possibly contain mesolithic and neolithic cultural materials as well.
Elaliite and Elkinstantonite
- A team of researchers in Canada say they have discovered two new minerals – and potentially a third – after analysing a slice of a 15-tonne meteorite that landed in east Africa.
- The meteorite, the ninth largest recorded at over 2 metres wide, was unearthed in Somalia in 2020, although local camel herders say it was well known to them for generations and named Nightfall in their songs and poems.
- Western scientists, however, dubbed the extraterrestrial rock El Ali because it was found near the town of El Ali, in the Hiiraan region. A 70-gram slice of the iron-based meteorite was sent to the University of Alberta’s meteorite collection for classification.
What are Elaliite and Elkinstantonite?
- These are the names given to those two new minerals.
- The minerals have been named “elaliite,” after the town where the meteorite crashed, and “elkinstantonite,” after planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
- Around 4,000 minerals are known to science, and they comprise all the rocks already on Earth. Of those minerals, only about 300 were discovered in meteorites, alien rocks that crashed on Earth.
- Scientists are building a sensor network to detect the trends in the water chemistry (acidification process) of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes of North America.
- It is the first step towards developing a system that would be capable of measuring the carbon dioxide and pH levels of the Great Lakes over several years.
What are Great Lakes?
- The Great Lakes, also called the Great Lakes of North America, are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River.
- There are five lakes, which are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and are in general on or near the Canada–United States border.
- Hydrologically, lakes Michigan and Huron are a single body joined at the Straits of Mackinac.
- The Great Lakes Waterway enables modern travel and shipping by water among the lakes.
- The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area and are second-largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world's surface fresh water by volume.
- The Great Lakes began to form at the end of the Last Glacial Period around 14,000 years ago, as retreating ice sheets exposed the basins they had carved into the land, which then filled with meltwater.
- The lakes have been a major source for transportation, migration, trade, and fishing, serving as a habitat to many aquatic species in a region with much biodiversity.
- The surrounding region is called the Great Lakes region, which includes the Great Lakes Megalopolis.
Some facts regarding Great Lakes:
- Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes that is completely within the United States.
- The other four form a natural border between Canada and the United States.
- Lake Superior is the largest and the deepest of the Great Lakes.
- Lake Ontario is the smallest.
- Lake Erie is the shallowest.
- Lake Huron has the longest shoreline.
What is meant by acidification of the water body (lake or ocean)?
- Acidification of oceans or freshwater bodies takes place when excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gets rapidly absorbed into them.
- Absorption of carbon dioxide leads to a lowering of the pH, which makes the water bodies more acidic. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being a neutral pH.
- It is known that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused the world’s oceans to turn more acidic.
- Recently, it has been observed that by 2100, even the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — might approach acidity at around the same rate as the oceans.
- That's why reaserchers are measuring CO2 in Great lakes.
- It was in news due to work related to National Waterway 16.
About Barak River:
- Barak River is the second largest river in the North Eastern Region.
- The Barak River flows 900 kilometres through the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam in India.
- It rises in the Manipur hills and enters the plains near Lakhipur, Assam.
- Further it enters Bangladesh where it bifurcates into the Surma river and the Kushiyara river which converges again to become the Meghna river before forming the Ganges Delta with the Ganga and the Brahmaputra rivers and flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
- Of its length 524 km is in India, 31 km on the Indo–Bangladesh border and the rest is in Bangladesh.
- The upper part of its navigable part is in India — 121 km (75 mi) between Lakhipur and Bhanga, declared as National Waterway 6, (NW-6) since the year 2016.
- The principal tributaries of Barak are the Jiri, the Dhaleswari, the Singla, the Longai, the Sonai and the Katakhal.
- Tipaimukh Dam is a proposed dam on the river itself.
What is National Waterway 16?
- Barak – Meghna river system has a total length of 900 km (origin to upstream Chandpur in Bangladesh).
- Out of this, 524km is in India, 31 km on Indo – Bangladesh border and the rest is in Bangladesh. Out of 524 km in India, 403 km u/s of Lakhipur is in the hilly terrain and it is not navigable.
- The navigable portion of Barak River in India is the 121km stretch between Lakhipur and Bhanga which has been declared as NW-16 in the year 2016.
- In a significant achievement, eSanjeevani, Govt. of India’s free telemedicine service, has crossed another astounding milestone by clocking 8 crore teleconsultations.
- The last 1 crore consultations were recorded in a remarkable time frame of around 5 weeks, signalling a wider adoption of telemedicine.
What is eSanjeevani Initiative?
- An e-health initiative of Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, eSanjeevani is a national telemedicine service that strives to provide an alternative to the conventional physical consultations via digital platform.
- In less than 3 years, this initiative has garnered the distinction of being the world’s largest government owned telemedicine platform.
- eSanjeevani is a cohesive part Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission (ABDM), and more than 45,000 ABHA IDs have been generated via eSanjeevani application.
- eSanjeevani is developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) Mohali.
Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC):
What are the components or verticals of eSanjeevani?
- It consists of two verticals that cater to patients across all states and UTs successfully making its presence felt in the innermost regions of the nation.
- The first vertical is eSanjeevaniAB-HW:
- It endeavors to bridge rural-urban digital health divide by providing assisted teleconsultations, and ensuring that e beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat Scheme are able to avail of the benefits they are entitled to.
- This vertical operates on a Hub-and-Spoke model wherein the ‘Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centers’ (HWCs) are set up at state level, act as spokes, which are mapped with the hub (comprising MBBS/ Specialty/Super-Specialty doctors) at zonal level.
- With the objective to provide quality health services to a patient residing in rural areas, this model has been successfully implemented in 1,09,748 Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) and 14,188 Hubs, achieving a total of 7,11,58,968 teleconsultations.
- The first vertical is eSanjeevaniOPD:
- It caters to citizens in both rural and urban alike.
- It leverages technology via smartphones, tablets, laptops enabling doctor consultations to be accessible from the patient’s residence regardless of location.
- eSanjeevaniOPD has acquired 1,144 online OPDs with 2,22,026 specialists, doctors and health workers that have been trained and onboarded.
- This platform has an impressive record of having served over 4.34 lakhs patients in one day.
- Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Mohali, which is providing holistic technical training and support to users, is augmenting the faculties of this vertical to be able to serve up to 1 million patients per day.
India's improved Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)
- In a new milestone, there has been a significant decline in the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in the country.
What is Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)?
- The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is defined as the number of maternal deaths during a given time period per 100,000 live births.
- It depicts the risk of maternal death relative to the number of live births and essentially captures the risk of death in a single pregnancy or a single live birth.
What are recent developments?
- As per the Special Bulletin on MMR released by the Registrar General of India (RGI), the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of India has improved further by a spectacular 6 points and now stands at 97/ lakh live births
- As per the statistics derived from Sample Registration System (SRS), the country has witnessed a progressive reduction in MMR from 130 in 2014-2016, 122 in 2015-17, 113 in 2016-18, 103 in 2017-19 and to 97 in 2018-20 as depicted below:
- Upon achieving this, India has accomplished the National Health Policy (NHP) target for MMR of less than 100/lakh live births and is on the right track to achieve the SDG target of MMR less than 70/ lakh live births by 2030.
- The outstanding progress made in terms of the number of states which have achieved Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target, the number has now risen from six to eight leading with Kerala (19), followed by Maharashtra (33), then Telangana (43) and Andhra Pradesh (45), subsequently Tamil Nadu (54), Jharkhand (56), Gujarat (57) and lastly Karnataka (69).
Which measures did government adopt to reduce MMR?
- Since 2014, under the National Health Mission (NHM), India has made a concerted effort to provide accessible quality maternal and newborn health services and minimize preventable maternal deaths.
- The National Health Mission has made significant investments to ensure provision of healthcare services, particularly for effective implementation of the maternal health programs to accomplish the specified MMR targets.
- Government schemes such as “Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram” and “Janani Suraksha Yojana” have been modified and upgraded to more assured and respectful service delivery initiatives like Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan’ (SUMAN).
- Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) is particularly lauded for its focus on identifying high-risk pregnancies and facilitating their appropriate management. This had a significant impact on mitigating preventable mortality.
- LaQshya and Midwifery initiatives concentrate on promoting quality care in a respectful and dignified manner ensuring choice of birthing to all pregnant women.
- India’s outstanding efforts in successfully lowering the MMR ratio provides an optimistic outlook on attaining SDG target of MMR less than 70 much before the stipulated time of 2030 and becoming known as a nation that provides respectful maternal care.
Nai Chetna-Pahal Badlav Ki Campaign
- The month-long campaign titled, “Nai Chetna-Pahal Badlav Ki” with the theme of ‘Elimination of Gender-Based Violence’ will be conducted as a 'Jan Andolan' (people's movement) in all the States/UTs of the country from 25th November to 23rd of December, 2022.
- It was launched by the Ministry of Urban Development.
- The campaign has been launched under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood
- Kerala also launched the campaign under the umbrella of the Kudumbashree Mission.
- Kudumbashree Mission is the poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala.
What is Nai Chetna-Pahal Badlav Ki Campaign?
- It is a community-led National Campaign Against Gender-Based Discrimination.
- It is a four-week campaign, aiming at equipping women to recognise and prevent violence and making them aware of their rights.
- This will be an annual campaign focussing on specific gender issues each year. The focus area of the campaign this year is gender-based violence.
Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM):
Which agencies are responsible for its implementation?
- This campaign will be implemented by all states in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) partners, and actively executed by all levels including the states, districts and blocks, engaging the community institutions along with the extended community.
Adoption Awareness Month
- As part of the ‘Adoption Awareness Month', Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) organised 10 State orientation programmes, ran 200 special social media campaigns, held interactive meets with more than 700 Prospective Adoptive Parents and Adoptive Parents in November ,2022.
- The key features of the new Adoption Regulations, 2022 notified by the Central Government on September 23, 2022 were also shared with them. CARA engaged with the adoption community by offering in-depth knowledge and resources for families.
What is Adoption Awareness Month?
- Adoption Awareness Month is about spreading adoption awareness amongst the stakeholders and the waiting families desiring to adopt.
- Adoption Awareness Month was celebrated in the States of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Daman & Diu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- Through the adoption process, CARA is dedicated to ensuring the long-term rehabilitation of children.
Adoption procedure in India:
New Adoption Regulations, 2022:
What is Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)?
- Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of the Ministry of Women and Child Development under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
- It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
- CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
- CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.
Section 10 A of the Divorce Act, 1869
- The Kerala High Court held that the fixation of the minimum period of separation of one year under Section 10A of the Divorce Act, 1869 is violative of fundamental rights and struck it down.
- The decision was made in response to a petition filed by a young couple who got married according to Christian customs earlier this year.
- After realising it was a mistake, they filed a joint petition for divorce with the Family Court in May under Section 10A of the Divorce Act.
- The petition was denied by the Family Court, which stated that a one-year separation following the marriage is required to maintain a petition under Section 10A of the Act.
- The parties then filed an appeal with the Kerala High Court, challenging the order. Recognizing that the bar was created by statute, the couple filed a writ petition to declare Section 10A(1) of the Act unconstitutional.
What is Section 10 A of the Divorce Act, 1869?
- It mandated a one-year wait from the marriage date to file the plea.
- It requires the couple to be separated for at least two years. The couple needed to provide that they have not been living as husband and wife during this period.
What did HC say about it:
- The court observed that if the parties are not given the option to highlight the hardships and exceptional hardships they may encounter during the waiting period, the mandate of Section 10A(1) will become oppressive.
- The court observed, “If the right to a judicial remedy is curtailed by statutory provisions, the court will have to strike them down as they are violative of a fundamental right. The right to life encompasses judicial remedy as well.”
- According to Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to an effective remedy by competent national tribunals for acts that violate fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution or by law.
- The court suggested to the Union government that there should be a uniform marriage code in India to promote the common welfare and good of spouses in matrimonial disputes.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
- It was in news due to various reasons.
What is National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)?
- National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is a statutory body constituted under Section 3 of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 to protect the child rights and other related matters in the Country.
- The Commission is further mandated to monitor the proper and effective implementation of
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012;
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and
- Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
- In one of the functions laid down under Section 13 of the CPCR Act, 2005, the Commission has been assigned with the function to examine and review the safeguards provided by or under any law for the time being in force for the protection of child rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
- The Commission also has the powers of Civil Court trying a suit under Section 14 of CPCR Act, 2005 and Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Bangladeshi Kuki-Chin Refugees
- The ongoing conflict between Bangladeshi security forces and the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA) has resulted in an influx of Kuki-Chin refugees to the Indian state of Mizoram.
- The Mizoram government has been making consistent efforts to provide assistance to the Kuki-Chin tribals of Bangladesh.
- Recently, the Mizoram Cabinet has approved the setting up of temporary shelters and other amenities for them.
- Mizoram, which shares a 318-km-long border with Bangladesh, hosts over 30,000 refugees from Myanmar.
Who are Kuki-Chin tribes?
- People of the Kuki-Chin community share close ethnic ties with the Mizos.
- They fled to India due tocrackdown by Bangladeshi security force on the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA) which is fighting for an independent state in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in southeastern Bangladesh.
- Most of the asylum seekers are from the Bawm tribe who primarily live in CHT’s Bandarban and Rangamati districts.
- About 350000 people of Kuki-Chin-Mizo communities live in CHT.
Who are Kuki people?
- The Kuki people are an ethnic group native to the Mizo Hills (formerly Lushai), a mountainous region in the southeastern part of Mizoram and Manipur in India.
- The Kuki constitute one of several hill tribes within India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
- Some fifty tribes of Kuki peoples in India are recognised as scheduled tribes, based on the dialect spoken by that particular Kuki community as well as their region of origin.
- The Chin people of Myanmar and the Mizo people of Mizoram are kindred tribes of the Kukis. Collectively, they are termed the Zo people.
India and refugees:
- India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Nor does India have a well-defined national policy on refugees.
- All foreign undocumented nationals are governed as per the provisions of The Foreigners Act, of 1946, The Registration of Foreigners Act, of 1939, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, of 19,20, and The Citizenship Act,1955.
UN Refugee Convention 1951:
- However, India had always been compassionate and allowed refugees fleeing civil war, religious persecution or ethnic cleansing to come into the country.
Scheme for Providing Education to Madrasas/ Minorities (SPEMM)
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment recently pulled up the Union government for the delay in approving the continuation of the Scheme for Providing Education to Madrasas/Minorities (SPEMM), which provides for financial assistance to madrasas and minority institutes.
What is Scheme for Providing Education to Madrasas/ Minorities (SPEMM)?
- Department of School Education and Literacy is implementing an Umbrella Scheme for Providing Quality Education to Madrasas/Minorities (SPEMM) which comprises of two schemes namely Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) and Infrastructure Development of Minority Institutes (IDMI).
- The scheme is being implemented at the national level. Both the schemes are voluntary in nature.
- Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) seeks to bring about qualitative improvement in Madrasas to enable Muslim children attain standards of the National education system in formal education subjects.
- Infrastructure Development of Minority Institutes (IDMI) has been operationalised to augment Infrastructure in Private Aided/Unaided Minority Schools/Institutions in order to enhance the quality of education to minority children.
PM Virasat Ka Samvardhan (PM VIKAS)
- The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Ko Kaam Karyakram (PMKKK) has now been named as Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan (PM VIKAS) Scheme.
- The integrated scheme converges five erstwhile schemes of the Ministry viz. Seekho aur Kamao, USTTAD, Hamari Dharohar, Nai Roshni and Nai Manzil. The scheme has been approved by the Cabinet for the period of 15th Finance Commission.
What is the Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan (PM VIKAS) Scheme?
- It is a Central Sector Scheme.
- PM VIKAS aims to improve livelihoods of the minorities, particularly the artisan communities, using the components of skill development, education, women leadership & entrepreneurship.
- There are four components under the scheme:
- Skilling and Training,
- Leadership and Entrepreneurship,
- Education and
- Infrastructure Development.
- These components compliment each other in the ultimate objective of the scheme to increase the incomes of the beneficiaries and provide support by facilitating credit and market linkages.
Other Indian and Global Initiatives:
Social Progress Index (SPI)
- Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister (EAC-PM) released the Social Progress Index (SPI) for states and districts of India.
Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM):
What is Social Progress Index (SPI)?
- SPI is a comprehensive tool that can serve as a holistic measure of a country's social progress at the national and sub-national levels.
- The index assesses states and districts based on 12 components across three critical dimensions of social progress – Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.
- The index uses an extensive framework comprising 89 indicators at the state level and 49 at the district level.
- Basic Human Needs assess the performance of states and districts in terms of Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Personal Safety and Shelter.
- Foundations of Wellbeing evaluates the progress made by the country across the components of Access to Basic Knowledge, Access to Information and Communication, Health and Wellness, and Environmental Quality.
- Opportunity focuses on Personal Rights, Personal Freedom and Choice, Inclusiveness, and Access to Advanced Education.
- Based on the SPI scores, states and districts have been ranked under six tiers of social progress. The tiers are
- Tier 1: Very High Social Progress;
- Tier 2: High Social Progress;
- Tier 3: Upper Middle Social Progress;
- Tier 4: Lower Middle Social Progress;
- Tier 5: Low Social Progress; and
- Tier 6: Very Low Social Progress.
- Puducherry has the highest SPI score of 65.99 in the country, attributable to its remarkable performance across components like Personal Freedom and Choice, Shelter, and Water and Sanitation.
- Lakshadweep and Goa closely follow it with scores of 65.89 and 65.53, respectively.
- Jharkhand and Bihar scored the lowest, 43.95 and 44.47, respectively.
Atal New India Challenge (ANIC)
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog today launched Woman centric challenges under phase-II of the 2nd edition of the Atal New India Challenge (ANIC).
What is Atal new India Challenge (ANIC)?
- ANIC is an initiative by AIM, NITI Aayog targeted to seek, select, support and nurture technology-based innovations that solve sectoral challenges of national importance and societal relevance. through a grant-based mechanism of up to INR 1 crore.
- Keeping in mind that “a woman is an architect of society”, ANIC’s Woman centric challenges address the major issues faced by woman from all spheres of life.
- These include driving women hygiene through innovation, innovations to improve women’s safety, professional networking opportunities for women, innovations that make working mothers’ life better, and easing the life of Rural Women.
What is Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)?
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) was launched by the NITI Ayog as an innovation promotion platform involving academics, entrepreneurs, and researchers utilizing national and international experience to promote the culture of innovation, R and D in India particularly in technology oriented areas.
- Major Initiatives:
- Atal Tinkering Labs
- Atal Incubation Centers
- Atal New India Challenges
- Mentor India Campaign
- Atal Community Innovation Center
- Atal Research and Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE)
Context: e-gram swaraj and AuditOnline of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj have won the GOLD AWARD under the category “Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering for Digital Transformation” of the National Awards for e-Governance.
- e-Gram Swaraj
- To strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has launched e-GramSwaraj, a user-friendly web-based portal.
- e-GramSwaraj aims to bring in better transparency and strengthen the e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country through decentralized Profiling, Planning, Physical Progress, Reporting, and Work-Based Accounting.
- There is a seamless integration between the e-gram swaraj Portal and Local Government Directory (LGD) through Unique Codes allocated to each PRI which allows interoperability with other PES.
- AuditOnline is one of the generic and open-source applications developed as a part of Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) under the e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) initiated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR).
- AuditOnline facilitates the financial audit of accounts at all three levels of Panchayats viz District, Block and Village Panchayats, Urban Local Bodies (ULB), and Line department by Auditors (State AG/LFA).
- AuditOnline facilitates recording details for both Internal and External Audits as per the defined process.
- The software not only facilitates the online and offline audit of accounts but also serves the purpose of maintaining the past audit records of the auditee with the associated list of the auditors and audit team involved in the audit and acts as a good financial audit tool and improves transparency & accountability.
- Also, the information is available in the public domain and for usage by other PES applications.
Right to Repair
Context: Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister unveiled the ‘right to repair’ portal on National Consumer Day (December 24). The theme of National Consumer Day 2022 was “Effective disposal of cases in consumer commission”.
- When customers buy a product, they should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at a reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs.
- The ‘Right to Repair’ movement started all over the world to have effective 'right to repair' laws.
- Framework – In July 2022, the Department of Consumer Affairs set up a committee to develop a comprehensive framework on the 'Right to Repair'.
- The objective of the framework is to empower consumers, harmonize trade between the original equipment manufacturers and the third-party buyers and sellers, and reduction in e-waste.
- The Ministry of Consumer Affairs launched the ‘right to repair’ portal.
- On the portal, manufacturers would share the manual of product details with customers.
- This makes the customer either repair by self, or by third parties, rather than depend on original manufacturers.
- Initially, mobile phones, electronics, consumer durables, automobiles, and farming equipment would be covered.
Context: Exit polls are conducted for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections.
- An exit poll asks voters which political party they are supporting after they have cast their votes in an election.
- They persist as an expression of free speech.
- In this, it differs from an opinion poll, which is held before the elections.
- An exit poll is supposed to give an indication of which way the winds are blowing in an election, along with the issues, personalities, and loyalties that have influenced voters.
- Today, exit polls in India are conducted by a number of organizations, often in tie-ups with media organizations.
- The surveys can be conducted face-to-face or online.
- Historically in 1957, during the second Lok Sabha elections, the Indian Institute of Public Opinion conducted an exit poll.
Rules governing exit polls in India:
- In India, results of exit polls for a particular election cannot be published until the last vote has been cast.
- The issue of when exit polls should be allowed to be published has gone to the Supreme Court thrice in various forms.
- Currently, exit polls can’t be telecast from before voting begins till the last phase concludes.
Restrictions in India:
- The Indian Penal Code and Representation of the People Act, 1951 do contain certain restrictions against disinformation.
- While the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression, its mandate to the ECI for free and fair elections is absolute.
- The Supreme Court (SC), in a series of judgments, has emphasized this requirement.
- Free and fair elections are considered a part of the basic structure of the Constitution (PUCL vs Union of India, 2003; NOTA judgment, 2013).
Context: The Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) has got 5 seats in Gujarat but its vote share was close to 13%, which meant it is on track to be recognized as a national party by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
- The ECI has laid down the technical criterion for a party to be recognized as a national party.
- A party may gain or lose national party status from time to time, depending on the fulfilment of these laid-down conditions.
- Criteria to be recognized as National Party:
- a) It is ‘recognized’ as a state party in four or more states;
- b) if its candidates polled at least 6% of total valid votes in any four or more states in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections and have at least four MPs in the last Lok Sabha polls;
- or c) if it has won at least 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha from not less than three states.
- As of now, the ECI has recognized eight parties as national parties — the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M), CPI, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and National People’s Party(NPP) which was recognized in 2019.
Election Security Deposit
Context: The state Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have concluded. As with all elections, while there will be candidates who will rake in huge victory margins, there will also be contestants who will lose their Security Deposit.
- An election security deposit is an amount that is to be deposited with the Returning Officer when a candidate files their nomination.
- This is to be submitted either in cash, or a receipt must be enclosed with the nomination paper.
- It mentions that the said sum has been deposited on the candidate’s behalf in the Reserve Bank of India or in a Government Treasury.
- The main purpose of this practice is to ensure that only genuinely intending candidates end up filing the nomination to be a part of the electoral process.
- The amount of deposit depends on the particular election being conducted, and the Representation of the People Act of 1951 mentions different amounts depending on the level of election.
- Losing the deposits:
- As per the same Act, the deposit has to be forfeited at an election if the number of valid votes polled by the candidate is less than 1/6th of the total number of valid votes polled.
- Or, in the case of the election of more than one member, it would be 1/6th of the total number of valid votes so polled divided by the number of members to be elected.
- This refers to elections by proportional representation method, as is the case in Rajya Sabha.
- If the candidate does meet the threshold, “the deposit shall be returned as soon as practicable after the result of the election is declared.”
- If a candidate withdraws their nomination or passes away before the polls, the amount is returned.
Context: Recently, the 25th Eastern Zonal Council meeting was held in Kolkata which was presided over by the Home Minister.
- Zonal Council is a statutory body established by the State Reorganization Act of 1956.
- It is an advisory body that may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council, or the Union, and one or more of the States represented in that Council.
- The act divided the country into five zones –Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern and provided a zonal council for each zone.
- In addition to the above-mentioned Zonal Councils, a North-Eastern Council was created by a separate Act of Parliament, the North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
- The home minister is the common chairman of all the zonal councils.
- The purpose of creating zonal councils is to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.
- The concept of Zonal Councils was proposed by India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, during a discussion on the findings of the States Reorganisation Commission in 1956.
- According to Section 17(1) of the States Reorganisation Act, each Zonal Council must convene at such times as the Chairman of the Council may appoint.
- The statue has also formed the Secretariat of the Zonal Councils.
- The Secretariat of the Zonal Councils investigates center-state, inter-state, and zonal topics that will be debated by the Councils or Standing Committees.
Organizational Structure of Zonal Councils:
- Chairman -The Union Home Minister is the chairman of each committee.
- Vice Chairman- The chief minister of each state takes turns serving as vice chairman of the zonal council for that zone, each of whom serves for a term of one year.
- Members- the Chief Minister and two other ministers nominated by the governor of each state, and two members from the Union territories within that zone.
- Advisor- One person nominated by the Planning Commission (now by NITI Aayog) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries, and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.
- If necessary, the ministers of the Union are also invited to participate in the meetings of the regional committees.
- The Northern Zonal Council: It includes the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh,
- The Central Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh,
- The Eastern Zonal Council: It includes the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim, and West Bengal,
- The Western Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
- The Southern Zonal Council: It includes the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Functions of the Council:
- Any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning,
- Any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities, or inter-State transport,
- Any matter connected with or arising out of, the reorganization of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.
Rule 267 of RS Rule Book
Context: Rule 267 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook, which allows for the suspension of a day’s business to debate the issue suggested by a Member, has become a bone of contention in the Upper House.
- The Rule gives special power to a Rajya Sabha member to suspend the pre-decided agenda of the House, with the approval of the Chairman.
- The Rajya Sabha Rule Book says, “Any member, may, with the consent of the Chairman, move that any rule may be suspended in its application to a motion related to the business listed before the Council of that day.
- If the motion is carried, the rule in question shall be suspended for the time being: provided further that this rule shall not apply where specific provision already exists for suspension of a rule under a particular chapter of the Rules”.
- Any discussion under Rule 267 assumes great significance in Parliament simply because all other businesses would be put on hold to discuss the issue of national importance.
- No other form of discussion entails suspension of other business.
- If an issue is admitted under Rule 267, it signifies it’s the most important national issue of the day.
- Also, the government will have to respond to the matter by replying during the discussions under Rule 267.
Context: Recently, the Election Commission of India said that it has begun the process of delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Assam.
- Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
- In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number of seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
- The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.
- The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.
- In the history of the Indian republic, Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times:1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002.
Process of Delimitation:
- Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner, and the respective State Election Commissioners.
- The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
- All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned, and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
- The Commission also holds public sittings.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
Ranganath Mishra Commission
Context: In the Supreme Court, the Central government informed that it had taken a decision to not accept Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission's report.
- The Government rejected the Ranganath Mishra Commission's recommendation of including Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the SC list because the report was written within the “four walls of a house” without any field research or consultation, in opposition to a petition to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims within the ambit of Scheduled Castes to grant them reservation.
- The Center informed the court that Dalits who converted to Christianity and Islam could not be granted SC status to receive the benefits of reservation because there was no oppression or backwardness in those religions.
- The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950, according to the ministry of social justice and empowerment, is legal and valid and does not suffer from any constitutional problems.“In fact, one of the reasons for which people from Scheduled Castes have been converting to religions like Islam or Christianity is that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not prevalent at all in Christianity or Islam,” it said.
- Since at least 2004, the Supreme Court has been debating whether to grant Dalits who over time converted to Christianity or Islam SC status. The Union government had opposed granting SC status to converts of these religions after the court asked the Centre to clarify its position on the matter this year. It had nonetheless informed the supreme court that, “given its importance, sensitivity, and potential impact,” it had appointed a Commission of Inquiry to look into the matter.
- The Centre has appointed a new three-member commission, headed by the former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, to examine whether SC status could be granted to new individuals who claim to have historically belonged to the SC community but converted to other religions, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S Oka, and Vikram Nath. Former IAS officer Ravinder Kumar Jain and University Grants Commission member Sushma Yadav are the other members of the commission.
Who is included in the Constitution Order of 1950?
- The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950, which was enacted to address the social disadvantage caused by the practice of untouchability, initially only allowed Hindus to be recognized as belonging to the SCs.
- Dalits who converted to Sikhism were included in the Order in 1956, and Dalits who converted to Buddhism were included in the Order once more in 1990.
- The Kaka Kalelkar Commission report from 1955 and the High-Powered Panel (HPP) on Minorities, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes report from 1983 provided support for both amendments.
- In 2019, the Union government rejected the idea that Dalit Christians could join SCs, citing a 1936 Imperial Order issued by the colonial government, which had first categorized a list of the Depressed Classes and specifically left out “Indian Christians”.
Context: The State of Punjab has furthered the cause of the right to life and personal liberty of prisoners by allowing conjugal visits for inmates.
- Broadly speaking, conjugal rights are rights created by marriage, that is, the right of the husband or the wife to the company of their spouse.
- In the context of prisons, however, conjugal visits refer to the concept of allowing a prisoner to spend some time in privacy with his spouse within the precincts of a jail.
- It is often argued that conjugal visits can have positive impacts in the form of psychological health benefits for prisoners, preservation of marital ties, and, reduction in the rates of homosexuality and sexual aggression within prisons.
- Aside from the above, it is also argued that conjugal visits are a fundamental right of the spouses of the prisoners.
- Prisoner rights are internationally recognized through the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, etc.
- Through such instruments, prisoners are guaranteed the right to life and inherent dignity.
- The right to maintain family relations including conjugal visits are included in these treaties.
- Most prison Acts and Rules across the country accept the importance of maintenance of continuity in family and social relations.
- The State guidelines clarify that conjugal visits are a matter of privilege rather than a right.
- It has been notified that the average time for conjugal visits shall be two hours, allowed once every two months.
- The visiting spouse will have to furnish proof of marriage and medical certificates declaring that he or she is free from HIV, any other sexually transmitted disease, COVID-19, or any other infectious disease.
- Moreover, such a facility will not be extended to high-risk prisoners, terrorists, child abuse and sexual offenders, death row convicts, prisoners who suffer from HIV, etc.
Context: The Delhi High Court has passed an interim order to prevent the unlawful use of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, and voice. The court through its order restrained persons at large from infringing the personality rights of the actor.
- Personality rights are interpreted as the personal property of a well-known celebrity to guarantee his/her enjoyment of his own sense of existence.
- Personality rights are a celebrity's personal rights to use and control the use of their physical attributes in promotions and at any other place for which the celebrity's consent is required.
Does the use of a name on the internet affect personality rights?
- The Delhi High Court in 2011 made an observation in the case of Arun Jaitley vs Network Solutions Private Limited and Ors.
- In this case, the former finance minister filed a suit seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants for misuse and immediate transfer of the domain name www.arunjaitley.com.
- The Court stated that the popularity or fame of an individual will be no different on the internet than in reality.
Right to vote for undertrials
Context: Supreme Court (SC) has decided to examine the law depriving under trials the right to vote.
- The decision to examine came on a petition challenging Section 62 (5) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 which deprives prisoners of their right to vote.
- This restriction does not apply to a person under preventive detention.
- According to the latest National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) report, there are around 5.5 lakh prisoners in various jails across the country.
- The people who support prisoners' right to vote call this provision discriminatory as even the convicted persons are allowed the right to vote if they are on bail while even the undertrials are denied the same if they are in prison.
Triple Test Survey
Context: After the Allahabad High Court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to hold urban local body elections without reservation for OBCs because the ‘triple test’ requirement for the quota had not been fulfilled, the state recently set up a commission for this purpose.
- The triple test requires the government to complete three tasks for the finalization of reservations to OBCs in the local bodies.
- These include:
- To set up a dedicated commission to conduct a rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness in local bodies;
- To specify the proportion of reservation required in local bodies in light of recommendations of the commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth;
- To ensure reservation for SCs/STs/OBCs taken together does not exceed an aggregate of 50 percent of the total seats.
- These triple tests/conditions were outlined by the Supreme Court in the case of Vikas Kishanrao Gawali vs. the State of Maharashtra and others, decided on March 4, 2021.
- This is the first time that the triple test exercise will be carried out in Uttar Pradesh.
Context: Recently, the Union Finance Minister moved the Appropriation (No.5) Bill, 2022, and Appropriation (No.4) Bill, 2022, in the Rajya Sabha.
- The Appropriation Bill gives power to the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet the expenditure during the financial year.
- As per Article 114 of the Constitution, the government can withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund only after receiving approval from Parliament.
- The amount withdrawn meets the current expenditure during the financial year.
- The Appropriation Bill is introduced in the Lok Sabha after discussions on Budget proposals and Voting on Demand for Grants.
- The defeat of an Appropriation Bill in a parliamentary vote would lead to the resignation of a government or a general election.
- Once it is passed by the Lok Sabha it is sent to the Rajya Sabha.
- Rajya Sabha has the power to recommend any amendments to this Bill. However, it is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha to either accept or reject the recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha.
- After the bill receives assent from the president it becomes an Appropriation act.
- The unique feature of the Appropriation Bill is its automatic repeal clause, whereby the Act gets repealed by itself after it meets its statutory purpose.
- The government cannot withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund of India till the enactment of the appropriation bill.
- However, this takes time and the government needs money to carry on its normal activities.
- To meet the immediate expenses the Constitution has authorized the Lok Sabha to make any grant in advance for a part of the financial year. This provision is known as the ‘Vote on Account’.
- A vote on account is defined in Article 116 of the Indian Constitution.
- During an election year the Government either opts for an ‘interim Budget’ or for a ‘Vote on Account’ as after the election the Ruling Government may change and so the policies.
Article 200 – Assent to Bills
Context: The Governors of various Opposition-ruled States take advantage of Article 200 of the Indian Constitution.
- Article 200 of the Indian Constitution is an important provision that gives the Governor of a State the power to reserve certain Bills passed by the Legislature of a State for the consideration of the President of India.
- The President can then either give their assent to the bill or return it for reconsideration by the state legislature, with or without recommendations.
- This article plays a crucial role in the lawmaking process in India, as it provides a mechanism for the President to review and consider bills that may have significant implications for the country as a whole, or that may raise important constitutional or legal issues.
- The Governors of various Opposition-ruled States take advantage of Article 200 of the Indian Constitution to give assent to the bills.
Dialogues And Talks:
Context: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted a declaration that urges countries to ensure labor protection.
- The 17th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) set ten-point priorities of national action under the Singapore Declaration.
- It seeks to draw the attention of the member countries to deal with the issue of dwindling wages of workers, inflation, and unemployment.
- It was adopted by the delegates representing governments, employers and workers governments, employers and workers in the regions.
- Members agreed that social dialogue is essential to address labor market challenges and find solutions in crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and economic uncertainty.
- Key points of the declaration include:
- Ensure labor protection for all through the promotion of freedom of association.
- Recognition of the right to collective bargaining, including for workers in vulnerable situations and workers in the informal economy, as enabling rights for decent work.
- Closing gender gaps, increasing women’s labor force participation, promoting equal pay for work of equal value, balancing work, and responsibilities, and promoting women’s leadership.
- Develop and implement inclusive labor market programs and policies that support life transitions and demographic shifts.
- Pursue collective and determined efforts to promote and accelerate a smooth and sustained transition from the informal to formal economy.
- Strengthen governance frameworks and respect for freedom of association for migrant workers.
- Strengthen the foundation for social and employment protection and resilience.
- Expanding social protection to all workers, guaranteeing universal access to comprehensive, adequate, and sustainable social protection for all.
Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP)
Context: Global efforts to bring India on board the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with G7 nations have failed to move forward.
- JETP is an initiative of the rich nations to accelerate the phasing out of coal and reduce emissions.
- The JETP initiative is modeled for South Africa, to support South Africa’s decarbonization efforts.
- It aims to reduce emissions in the energy sector and accelerate the coal phase-out process.
- JETP makes various funding options available for this purpose in identified developing countries.
- The JETP was launched at the COP26 in Glasgow with the support of the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), France, Germany, and the European Union (EU)
- Following that G7 announced a similar partnership in India, Indonesia, Senegal, and Vietnam.
- India’s stand – India didn't sign the JETP and argues that coal cannot be singled out as a polluting fuel, and energy transition talks need to take place on equal terms.
India holds the Presidency of UNSC for December 2022
Context: The UK, France, and UAE have extended their support for India's permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). India is holding the presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of December 2022.
- On December 1, 2022, India assumed the rotating Presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
- This is the second time after 2021 that India will preside over the Council during its two-year tenure of UNSC as an elected member.
- On December 31, 2022, India’s 2021-22 term in the UNSC will end.
- With respect to India’s priorities while holding the UNSC Presidency, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj remarked, “For us, in the December Presidency, our priorities will be countering terrorism for which we have very successfully built a good narrative in these past few months as well as a focus on reformed multilateralism”.
- The Ambassador also said that during India’s December Presidency of the UN Security Council, two high-level signature events would take place on December 14 and December 15 on ‘Reformed Multilateralism and Counter-Terrorism’ and it will be chaired by the Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar.
- The UNs Charter established six main organs of the UN, including the UNSC. Article 23 of the UN Charter concerns the composition of the UNSC.
- The other 5 organs of the UN are—the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.
- The UNSC has been given primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and may meet whenever peace is threatened.
- While other organs of the UN make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.
- The council is headquartered in New York.
- The UNSC is composed of 15 members, 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent.
- Five permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Ten non-permanent members: Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
- Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
- The council's presidency is a capacity that rotates every month among its 15 members.
- Each member of the Security Council has one vote.
- Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members.
- A “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
- Any member of the UN who is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are especially affected.
- India as a Permanent Member:
- India has been advocating a permanent seat in UNSC.
- India has the following objective criteria, such as population, territorial size, Gross Domestic Product, economic potential, civilizational legacy, cultural diversity, political system, and past and ongoing contributions to UN activities, especially to UN peacekeeping operations.
China-Indian Ocean Region Forum
Context: On November 21, China’s top development aid agency convened the first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.
- China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) which is Beijing’s new development aid agency organized the forum.
- “High-level representatives” from 19 countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia participated in the forum.
- Australia and Maldives did not participate in it.
- No representative from India was invited.
- The forum issued a “Joint Press Statement” that noted China’s proposal to establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region.
- All parties agreed to strengthen policy coordination, deepen development cooperation, increase resilience to shocks and disasters, and enhance relevant countries’ capacity to obtain economic benefits through the use of marine resources such as fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and shipping in a sustainable way.
The Lusophone world
Context: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in partnership with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Government of Goa is organizing the International Lusophone Festival in Goa.
- Lusophones are peoples that speak Portuguese as a native or as a common second language and nations where Portuguese features prominently in society.
- The Lusophone world is spread over nine countries across four continents and Portuguese is the most widely-spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Goa has had historical linkages with the Lusophone world.
- This has been nurtured through the presence of Portuguese cultural institutions like the Orient Foundation and the Camoes Institute which promote the Portuguese language and culture in India.
- As part of the festival, workshops on Lusophone music for artists and volunteers, as various workshops and exhibitions of unique Goan architecture, Goan handicrafts, and Goan furniture are being organized.
- The Lusophone Food and Spirits Festival will also showcase the culinary links between India and the Lusophone world.
Youth Co: Lab
Context: The 5th edition of Youth Co: Lab was jointly launched by the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog, and UNDP India.
- Youth Co: Lab was co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation.
- Its aim is to establish a common agenda for Asia-Pacific countries to invest in and empower youth to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship.
- The Youth Co: Lab initiative has till now been implemented in 28 countries and territories.
- It is Asia Pacific’s largest youth innovation movement.
- Youth Co: Lab was launched in India in 2019 by UNDP India in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog.
- The fifth edition of Youth Co: Lab India will focus on identifying and supporting youth-led early-stage social enterprises or innovations working in the domains of:
- Gender Equality and Women Economic Empowerment,
- Digital and Financial Literacy for Youth,
- Developing FinTech Solutions focused on Biodiversity Conservation,
- Promoting Biodiversity-friendly Lifestyles through Technological Solutions in Finance,
- Accelerating Circular Economy through Upcycling Innovations and
- Behavioral Nudges for LiFE ( Lifestyle For Environment).
Group of Friends
Context: India has launched the ‘Group of Friends’ to promote accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.
- The ‘Group of friends’ was launched during India’s current presidency of the U.N. Security Council.
- Co-chairs of the ‘Group of Friends’ – India, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Morocco, and Nepal.
- Its aim is to Promote Accountability for Crimes against Peacekeepers and seek facilitation of capacity building and technical assistance to the host state authorities.
- Its main functions include:
- Actively engage and share information with the Secretary-General.
- Assist the member states hosting or have hosted peacekeeping operations, in bringing to justice the perpetrators of such acts.
- For this, India will soon launch a database that will record all crimes against the Blue Helmets.
- The Group of Friends will convene 2 meetings of its members per year, and organize and host one event per year involving Permanent Missions and other stakeholders.
- The Group will be convened and moderated by the co-chairs (Permanent Missions).
India abstains on UN ECOSOC resolution
Context: India has abstained from the U.N. Economic and Social Council on a draft resolution to oust Iran from its principal global intergovernmental body (Commission on the Status of Women) dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment.
- The Economic and Social Council adopted the draft resolution, introduced by the US, on the removal of Iran from the membership of the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022-2026 terms, citing its oppression of women and girls in the Islamic Republic.
- It said Iran continuously undermined and increasingly suppressed the “human rights of women and girls, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion, often with the use of excessive force, by administering policies flagrantly contrary to the human rights of women and girls and to the mandate of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as through the use of lethal force resulting in the deaths of peaceful protestors, including women and girls.”
About the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) :
- The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
- A functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it was established by the ECOSOC resolution of June 1946. The Commission comprises 45 Member States of the United Nations.
- The commission consists of one representative from each of the 45 member states elected by the Economic and Social Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution.
- Members are elected for a period of four years.
Organizations And Conventions:
Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)
Context: Prasar Bharati, India’s Public Service Broadcaster, is hosting the 59th Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) General Assembly 2022.
- ABU was established in 1964 as a not-for-profit, non-government, non-political, professional association.
- It is the biggest broadcasting union in the world.
- It covers around 70 countries and 5 continents and has 250 members
- It covers eight regions: the Pacific, Asia(SE, North, South, Central), the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and North America.
- Indian members:
- All India Radio / Prasar Bharati (AIR)
- Doordarshan / Prasar Bharati (DD).
- ABU aims to:
- Assist the development of broadcasting in the region.
- Promotes the collective interests of television and radio broadcasters as well as key industry players and facilitates regional and international media cooperation.
- The main functions of the ABU include:
- ABU organizes key industries, regional and global conferences, and summits as platforms for exchanging ideas, experiences, and practices.
- The ABU Media Academy is a center of excellence and learning, providing hundreds of courses and capacity-building activities annually.
- It provides rights-free content acquisition for developing countries, negotiates rights for major sports events, and organizes coverage for the region.
- It trains and equips media practitioners on the role of media in times of crisis.
- It also discovers the latest trends and challenges, bringing together members of the journalistic community and academia from this vast region and engaging them in intense learning, discussions, exchange of ideas, and networking.
Context: Paris Club creditor nations are proposing a 10-year moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and another 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the Sri Lankan debt crisis.
- Earlier this year, Sri Lanka had defaulted on its 51 billion dollars external debt in the midst of a spiraling political and economic crisis.
- India has provided emergency aid to the tune of four billion dollars.
- The Paris club has also called upon the Global north and south to take a similar haircut in the restructuring of Sri Lankan debt.
- It is an informal group of official creditors from 22 wealthy countries who find sustainable solutions for challenges faced by debtor countries.
- It provides a platform for governments facing financial difficulties to reduce and renegotiate their debt repayments.
- Formed in 1956, it has signed more than 400 agreements to date, worth more than half a trillion dollars to about 100 countries.
- The “G20 Common Framework” is an initiative endorsed by the G20 together with the Paris Club.
- Other creditor nations are allowed to participate in negotiation meetings on a case-by-case basis if they meet certain conditions.
- The members meet in Paris once a month except for February and August.
- Each meeting includes a one-day ‘Tour horizon, during which creditors talk about the external debt situation of debtor nations, or issues regarding how those countries are managing their debts.
- The Paris Club invites debtor nations to a meeting with its creditors after it has concluded an appropriate program with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) that shows that the country cannot meet its external debt obligations, and therefore requires a new payment arrangement with its foreign creditors.
- Representatives of the World Bank, the IMF, and other international institutions, plus the relevant regional development bank, may also attend the meeting as observers.
- The debtor country’s representative is usually its Minister of Finance, who heads a team comprising officials from his or her ministry and the central bank.
Context: Urban-20 (U20) event being organized under the G20 presidency of India.
- The event is being organized by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs from December 01, 2022, to November 30, 2023
- Provides a platform for cities from G20 countries to facilitate discussions on various important issues of urban development including climate change, social inclusion, sustainable mobility, affordable housing, and financing of urban infrastructure, and propose collective solutions.
- Bearing in mind the importance of cities as growth centers of development, the U20 strives to enhance the profile of cities on the global stage.
- This city diplomacy initiative facilitates a productive dialogue between the national and local governments and helps promote the importance of urban development issues in the G20 agenda.
G20 Digital Innovation Alliance (G20-DIA)
Context: Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw launches the ‘Stay Safe Online’ Campaign and ‘G20 Digital Innovation Alliance’ as part of India’s G20 presidency.
About Stay Safe Online Campaign:
- The objective of the ‘Stay Safe Online Campaign’ is to raise awareness among citizens to stay safe in the online world due to the widespread use of social media platforms and the rapid adoption of digital payments.
- The exponential increase in the number of internet users in India and the rapidly evolving technology landscape have brought unique challenges.
- This campaign will make citizens of all age groups, especially children, students, women, senior citizens, specially-abled, teachers, faculty, officials of Central/State Governments, etc. aware of the cyber risk and ways to deal with it.
- The campaign will be carried out in English, Hindi, and local languages to reach a wider audience.
- The campaign involves the dissemination of multilingual awareness content in the form of infographics, cartoon stories, puzzles, short videos, etc., and amplifying the same through extensive use of the MyGov website ( https://www.mygov.in/staysafeonline ) and prominent social media platforms.
- Besides this, various publicity, promotion, and outreach activities would be carried out throughout the year through print, electronics & social media to reinforce the stay safe online message.
- In addition, collaboration and involvement of key stakeholders viz. Union Ministries / Departments, industry associations/partners, NGOs, civil society organizations, etc. would be sought for wider outreach of the campaign.
About G20 Digital Innovation Alliance (G20-DIA):
- The objective of the G20 Digital Innovation Alliance (G20-DIA) is to identify, recognize, and enable the adoption of innovative and impactful digital technologies developed by startups, from G20 nations as well as the invited non-member nations, which can address the needs of humanity in the critically important sectors of Agri-tech, Health-tech, Ed-tech, Fin-tech, Secured Digital Infrastructure, and Circular Economy.
- Startup products in the aforementioned six themes enabled through Digital Public Goods Infrastructure can create a global population-scale impact and reduce the digital divide and enable sustainable, and inclusive techno-socio-economic development.
- The G20 Digital Innovation Alliance (G20–DIA) summit which will be held in Bangalore on the sidelines of the Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG) meeting will be a multi-day program where top nominated startups from each of the theme areas from all of the G20 countries and the non-member invited countries will showcase their solutions to the global community of investors, mentors, corporates, and other government stakeholders.
- The engagement of innovators, entrepreneurs, startups, corporations, investors, mentors, and other ecosystem stakeholders will lead to the speedy acceptance of the platform that India plans to offer through the G20 Digital Innovation Alliance (G20-DIA).
- The G20-DIA Summit will bring together the key players in the innovation ecosystem from both G20 member countries and the invited non-member countries in order to recognize and support startups creating cutting-edge digital solutions in the six themes that bridge the digital divide between different segments of humanity and advance the world economy.
Banking And Finance:
GDP and GVA
Context: Recently, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) released India’s economic growth data for the second quarter of the current financial year (2022-23 or FY23).
- India’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the July-September quarter (Q2) of the ongoing financial year 2022-23 slowed to 6.3 percent, as per provisional estimates released by National Statistical Office (NSO) recently.
- The GDP growth was dragged down mainly by the poor performance of the manufacturing and mining sectors.
- While the GDP had expanded by 8.4 percent in the corresponding quarter of 2021-22, it saw a growth of 13.5 percent in the preceding April-June quarter of 2022-23.
- The Reserve Bank of India in its report earlier this month projected a growth rate between 6.1-6.3 percent in Q2.
- Notably, India remained the fastest-growing major economy as China registered an economic growth of 3.9 percent in July-September 2022.
- As per the government data, the gross value added (GVA) at basic price at constant terms during the September quarter rose 5.6 percent. The GVA at basic price at current prices rose 16.2 percent in Q2 2022-23.
- As per the data by the NSO, the GVA of trade, hotels, transport, communication & services related to broadcasting witnessed a rise of 14.7 percent while that of financial, real estate & professional services climbed 7.2 percent.
- The construction segment grew by 6.6 percent while Electricity, gas, water supply & other utility services climbed 5.6 percent, and the agriculture, forestry & fishing segment witnessed a 4.6 percent rise in GVA, the data showed.
- The GVA in the manufacturing sector contracted 4.3 percent during the quarter from 5.6 percent growth during the year-ago period. GVA in mining also declined by 2.8 percent in the quarter compared to 14.5 percent growth. The GVA growth in the construction sector also decelerated to 6.6 percent in the quarter from 8.1 percent.
- Reflecting on the GDP numbers, Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran said the Indian economy is on track to achieve a 6.8-7 percent GDP growth in the current fiscal.
- He said the economic recovery momentum is continuing and the GDP is averaging the 2019-20 level.
- “In 2022-23, the economy is on track to reach a 6.8-7 percent growth in the current fiscal,” he said, adding festival sales, PMI, bank credit growth, and auto sales data show that the economy has maintained momentum despite global headwinds.
About GDP and GVA:
- The GDP measures the monetary measure of all “final” goods and services— those that are bought by the final user— produced in a country in a given period.
- The GVA calculates the same national income from the supply side.
- It does so by adding up all the value added across different sectors.
- According to the RBI, the GVA of a sector is defined as the value of output minus the value of its intermediary inputs.
- This “value added” is shared among the primary factors of production, labor, and capital.
First Loss Default Guarantee(FLDG) system
Context: Two months after the Reserve Bank issued guidelines on digital lending, banks, non-banking financial companies, and fintech players are still awaiting clarity on many aspects including the First Loss Default Guarantee(FLDG) system.
- FLDG is a lending model between a fintech and a regulated entity in which a third party guarantees to compensate up to a certain percentage of default in a loan portfolio of the regulated entities (RE).
- Under these agreements, the fintech originates a loan and promises to compensate the partners up to a pre-decided percentage in case customers fail to repay.
- The bank/NBFC partners lend through the fintech but from their own books. FLDG helps expand the customer base of traditional lenders but relies on the fintech's underwriting capabilities.
- A report by an RBI-constituted working group on digital lending has laid down the risks of FLDG agreements with unregulated entities. The other concern is that FLDG costs are often passed on to customers.
Context: A survey shows emotional labor falls to women in the workplace and at home more than men.
- Invisible unpaid labor, like doing the office tea rounds, falls disproportionately on women — who then have to manage their emotional response to carrying out unwanted tasks.
- Women are expected to do more non-work office tasks, such as organizing staff away days and cards and gifts for colleagues, than men. Even if a woman says no to a task like this, it’s likely that another woman will be asked in her place.
- Women are fearful of being seen as difficult and more likely to agree to take on the invisible and unpaid labor that detracts from their other responsibilities.
- They may think, “If I don’t do it, another woman will.” And women have to hide their displeasure or discomfort and pretend to be accommodating even at the cost of their own mental health.
- This process of managing, modulating, and suppressing one’s emotions to fulfill expectations from others or to achieve professional goals is called “emotional labor”.
- American sociologist Arlie Hochschild first introduced the concept of emotional labor in 1983 to mean that emotions have a market and exchange value in our capitalist society.
- People are required to regulate their emotions to fit in with the emotional norm and manage their emotions to ensure the smooth flow of business necessary to get a wage.
- Emotional labor was never intended to be a gendered term. But invisible unpaid labor, like doing the office tea round, falls disproportionately on women — who then have to manage their emotional response to carrying out unwanted tasks.
Public Financial Management System
Context: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in its report, found that the tasks related to the implementation of the PFMS appeared to have been dealt with with a casual approach and there was no proper financial planning.
- The Public Financial Management System (PFMS) is a web-based online software application developed and implemented by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
- PFMS started in 2009 with the objective of tracking funds released under all Plan schemes of the Government of India, and real-time reporting of expenditure at all levels of Programme implementation.
- Subsequently, the scope was enlarged to cover direct payment to beneficiaries under all Schemes.
- Gradually, it has been envisaged that digitization of accounts shall be achieved through PFMS, and beginning with Pay & Accounts Offices payments, the O/o CGA did further value addition by bringing in more financial activities of the Government of India into the ambit of PFMS.
- The outputs/deliverables for the various modes/functions of PFMS include (but are not limited to):
- Payment & Exchequer Control
- Accounting of Receipts (Tax & Non-Tax)
- Compilation of Accounts and Preparation of Fiscal Reports
- Integration with Financial Management Systems of States.
- The primary function of PFMS today is to facilitate a sound Public Financial Management System for the Government of India by establishing an efficient fund flow system as well as a payment cum accounting network.
- PFMS provides various stakeholders with a real-time, reliable, and meaningful management information system and an effective decision support system, as part of the Digital India initiative of the Government of India.
Surety Bond Insurance
Context: Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways recently launched one of India’s first-ever Surety Bond Insurance products.
- A surety bond can be defined in its simplest form as a written agreement to guarantee compliance, payment, or performance of an act.
- A surety is a unique type of insurance because it involves a three-party agreement. The three parties in a surety agreement are:
- Principal -The party that purchases the bond and undertakes an obligation to perform an act as promised.
- Surety – The insurance company or surety company that guarantees the obligation will be performed. If the principal fails to perform the act as promised, the surety is contractually liable for losses sustained.
- Obligee – The party who requires, and often receives the benefit of the surety bond. For most surety bonds, the obligee is a local, state, or federal government organization.
- It will act as a security arrangement for infrastructure projects and will insulate the contractor as well as the principal.
- The product will cater to the requirements of a diversified group of contractors, many of whom are operating in today’s increasingly volatile environment.
- The product gives the principal a contract of guarantee that contractual terms and other business deals will be concluded in accordance with the mutually agreed terms.
- In case the contractor doesn’t fulfill the contractual terms, the Principal can raise a claim on the surety bond and recover the losses they have incurred.
- Unlike a bank guarantee, Surety Bond Insurance does not require large collateral from the contractor thus freeing up significant funds for the contractor, which they can utilize for the growth of the business.
- The product will also help in reducing the contractors’ debts to a large extent thus addressing their financial worries.
Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS)
Context: The Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry recently said that 656 Startups are Supported by Approved Incubators under Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS).
- The Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS) was implemented with eﬀect from 1st April 2021 with a corpus of Rs. 945 crores.
- The Scheme aims to provide ﬁnancial assistance to startups for proof of concept, prototype development, product trials, market-entry, and commercialization.
- As per provisions under SISFS, the Government has constituted an Experts Advisory Committee (EAC) which is responsible for the overall execution and monitoring of the SISFS.
- The EAC evaluates and selects incubators for funds under the Scheme.
- These incubators thereon select the startups based on certain parameters outlined in Scheme guidelines.
- 126 incubators have been approved and these incubators have selected 656 startups under the Scheme as of 30th November 2022.
Goods Trade Barometer
Context: Latest World Trade Organization (WTO) Goods Trade Barometer hints toward slowing of trade growth in the rest of 2022 and into 2023.
- The Goods Trade Barometer, formerly the World Trade Outlook Indicator, is a leading indicator that signals changes in world trade growth two to three months ahead of merchandise trade volume statistics.
- The Services Trade Barometer is a coincident indicator that illustrates the current state of services trades slightly ahead of official statistics.
- Both barometers are intended to complement conventional trade statistics and forecasts.
- Its baseline value is 100. A value greater than 100 suggests above-trend growth while a value below 100 indicates below-trend growth.
- The current Goods Trade Barometer Index reading is 96.2.
Agriculture Investment Portal
Context: The Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has inaugurated the Agriculture Investment Portal (Krishi Nivesh Portal).
- Agri Invest is the investment portal under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, India.
- The portal is a one-stop solution for all investors who are looking to invest in India in the Department Of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare.
- The portal highlights the steps for ease of doing business in India, the market entry strategies, and the regulatory frameworks that are involved in setting up the operations.
- This portal enacts as the dedicated Investor Facilitation Cell of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has been supporting the ministry across different aspects.
- The aim of the Agri Invest:
- Boost investments in the agriculture sector of India.
- To ease the handholding process for the investors.
- Tap the potential of all the sub-sectors in Agriculture.
- To guide and assist the investors with the major infrastructure available in India.
- Support investors and companies with the schemes, policies, and incentives given by the State and the Central Government.
GI Status for Kerala’s Five Agricultural Products
Context: Five agricultural products of Kerala- Attappady Attukombu Avara, Attappady Thuvara, Onattukara Ellu, KanthalloorVattavada Veluthulli, and Kodungalloor Pottuvellari have been granted Geographical Indication (GI) status.
- Attappady Attukombu Avara:
- It is a bean cultivated in the Attappady region of Palakkad.
- It is curved like a goat’s horn as its name indicates.
- Its higher anthocyanin content compared to other dolichos beans imparts violet color in the stem and fruits.
- Anthocyanin is helpful against cardiovascular diseases along with its anti-diabetic properties.
- Other than this, calcium, protein, and fiber content are also high.
- The higher phenolic content also imparts resistance against pests and diseases making the crop suitable for organic cultivation.
- Attappady Thuvara:
- It is a red gram having seeds with a white coat.
- Compared to other red grams, its seeds are bigger and have higher seed weights.
- It is used as a vegetable and dal.
- It is rich in protein, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, and magnesium.
- Kanthalloor-Vattavada Veluthulli:
- It is garlic.
- It is produced in areas from the Kanthalloor-Vattavada area of Devikulam block panchayat in Idukki.
- It contains a higher amount of sulfides, flavonoids, and proteins.
- It is rich in allicin, which is effective against microbial infections, blood sugar, cancer, cholesterol, heart diseases, and damage to blood vessels.
- The garlic cultivated in this area is also rich in essential oil.
- Onattukara Ellu:
- It is a sesame oil famous for its unique health benefits.
- It has a relatively higher antioxidant content which helps in fighting the free radicals that destroy the body cells.
- Also, the high content of unsaturated fat makes it beneficial for heart patients.
- Kodungalloor Pottuvellari :
- It is a snap melon cultivated in Kodungalloor and parts of Ernakulam.
- It is consumed as juice and in other forms.
- It is harvested in summer and is excellent for quenching thirst.
- It contains high amounts of Vitamin C.
- Compared to other cucurbits, nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, fiber, and fat content are also high in this.
Tandur Red Gram
Context: The Tandur red gram of Telangana has got geographical indication (GI) tag. With this, the total number of GI registrations in the country has reached 432.
- Tandur red gram is a local variety of pigeon pea which is mainly grown in the rainfed tract of the Tandur and the nearby region of Telangana.
- The specific quality traits of Tandur Red Gram have been attributed to the fertile deep black soil with huge deposits of Attapulgite clay mineral specifically in the Tandur region along with huge limestone deposits.
- It contains about 22-24% protein, which is almost three times that of the protein content in cereals.
- It has good taste, better cooking quality as well as enhanced storage quality.
- Now with the GI tag and registration, individual farmers and dal mill owners of Tandur will have to register themselves as authorized users and start branding Tandur red gram with GI tag to get better prices as the tag is an assured symbol of quality.
Context: Ministry of Power has announced a Scheme for the Procurement of Aggregate Power of 4500 MW on a competitive basis for five years on a Finance, Own, and Operate (FOO) basis under B (v) of SHAKTI Policy.
- Ministry of Power has launched a scheme for procurement of aggregate power of 4500 MW for 5 years under SHAKTI Policy to help states that are facing power shortages and help generation plants increase their capacities.
- SHAKTI is an acronym for Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala Transparently in India.
- It was launched in 2018 to provide coal to stressed power units that lack the coal supply.
- It seeks to provide coal linkages to power plants that lack fuel supply agreements (FSAs) through coal auctions.
- Need for such policy:
- SHAKTI is a policy designated by the government for the allocation of coal among thermal power plants in a transparent and objective manner.
- It aims to transfer the benefits of linkage coal to the end consumers.
- The scheme is supposed to be beneficial not just for the infrastructure sector, but also for the public sector banks which have huge loans unpaid at the end of the power companies.
- The companies, which did not have coal linkages before the introduction of the Shakti Scheme, would benefit when they would get domestic fuel supplies through auction at competitive rates.
- The scheme also aims to reduce the dependence on imported coal and promote domestic industries.
Wet Leasing of Aircraft
Context: In efforts to boost international air traffic, the civil aviation ministry has allowed Indian airlines to take wide-body planes on wet leases for up to one year.
- Wet leasing means renting the plane along with the operating crew and engineers, while dry leasing refers to taking only the aircraft on rent.
- The technical term for wet leasing is ACMI which stands for aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance.
- These are the aspects of the operation that the wet lease airline takes care of, while the airline client will still be responsible for paying for direct operating costs such as catering and fuel as well as fees such as airport fees, ground handling charges, and navigation fees.
- Operations of an aircraft on wet lease are not encouraged by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as the crew is often not approved by Indian authorities. Also, wet leasing is generally a short-term arrangement, as it is more expensive than a dry lease.
Context: Union Minister for Civil Aviation Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia recently launched Digi Yatra from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi for three airports in the country, namely New Delhi, Varanasi, and Bengaluru.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation is adding a Digital experience for Air Travellers through the DigiYatra Platform.
- The 'DigiYatra' is an industry-led initiative coordinated by the Ministry in line with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's Digital India vision to transform the nation into a digitally empowered society.
- Digi Yatra – Digital processing of passengers at the airports.
- Passengers will be automatically processed based on the facial recognition system at checkpoints like; Entry point checks, Entry into Security checks, and Aircraft Boarding.
- Additionally, this will also facilitate self-Bag Drop and Check-in, using facial recognition to identify pax and data recall.
- Digi Yatra will facilitate paperless travel and avoid identity check at multiple points.
PM Adi Adarsh Gram Yojana
Context: Ministry Of Tribal Affairs has revamped the existing Scheme of ‘Special Central Assistance to Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsha Gram Yojana.
- Ministry of Tribal Affairs has revamped the existing Scheme of ‘Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub-Scheme (SCA to TSS) with the nomenclature ‘Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsh Gram Yojna (PMAAGY)’, for implementation during 2021-22 to 2025-26, which aims at transforming villages with significant tribal population into the model village (Adarsh Gram)covering the population of about 4.22 crore (About 40% of the total Tribal Population).
- It is envisaged to cover 36,428 villages having at least 50% tribal population and 500 STs across States / UTs with notified STs.
- The main objective of this scheme is to achieve integrated socio-economic development of selected villages through a convergence approach.
- It includes preparing Village Development Plan based on the needs, potential, and aspirations.
- It also includes maximizing the coverage of individual/family benefit schemes of the Central / State Governments and improving the infrastructure in vital sectors like health, education, connectivity, and livelihood.
- The scheme envisions mitigating gaps prominently in 8 sectors of development viz. Road connectivity (Internal and Intervillage /block), Telecom connectivity (Mobile /internet), Schools, Anganwadi Centres, Health Sub-Centre, Drinking water facilities, Drainage, and solid waste management.
- A sum of ₹20.38 lakh per village as ‘Gap-filling’ has been provisioned for approved activities including administrative expenses under PMAAGY.
- Besides States / UTs are encouraged for convergence of resources as Central / State Scheduled Tribe Component (STC) funds and other financial resources available with them for saturation of gaps in the villages identified under PMAAGY.
India Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
Context: The India Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a multi-stakeholder platform, conducted a three-day hybrid event from December 9 to December 11, 2022.
- The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multistakeholder platform bringing together representatives from various groups, considering all to be at par to discuss public policy issues related to the Internet.
- India, with more than 1.4 billion citizens, 1.2 billion mobile users, and 800 million Internet users, demonstrates the growing Internet culture in the country.
- E-Governance and National Security becomes of paramount importance in India, especially with enhanced cyberspace.
- India IGF (IIGF) will provide the ability to facilitate discussions between intergovernmental organizations, private companies, technical communities, academic communities, and civil society organizations that are involved in Internet governance-related public policy issues.
- This policy dialogue is carried out on a co-equal basis through open and inclusive processes.
- This mode of engagement is referred to as the multistakeholder model of Internet Governance, which has been one of the key reasons for the Internet’s success.
Amrit Bharat Station scheme
Context: Ministry of Railways has formulated a new policy for the modernization of stations named the “Amrit Bharat Station” scheme.
- Amrit Bharat Station scheme envisages the development of stations on a continuous basis with a long-term vision.
- It is based on Master Planning for the long term and implementation of the elements of the Master Plan as per the needs and patronage of the station.
- Broad objectives:
- The scheme aims at the preparation of Master Plans of the Railway stations and the implementation of the Master Plan in phases to enhance the facilities including and beyond the Minimum Essential Amenities (MEA) and aiming for the creation of Roof Plazas and city centers at the station in the long run.
- The scheme shall aim to meet the needs of the stakeholders, and station usage studies as far as possible based on the availability of funds and inter-se priority.
- The scheme shall cater to the introduction of new amenities as well as the upgradation and replacement of existing amenities.
- This scheme will also cover the stations where detailed techno-economic feasibility studies have been conducted or are being conducted but the work for construction of Roof Plazas has not been taken up yet, ensuring the phasing of the Master Plan being suitably implemented and relocation of structures and utilities being given more emphasis in the phasing plans.
City Finance Rankings
Context: Recently, The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched two key initiatives – City Finance Rankings, 2022, and City Beauty Competition.
City Finance Rankings 2022:
- To evaluate, recognize and reward urban local bodies (ULBs) on basis of their strength across 15 indicators and 3 financial parameters: resource mobilization, expenditure performance, and fiscal governance systems.
- Evaluation will be done on the basis of the quality of current financial health and improvement with time in financial performance.
- Cities will be ranked at the national level on the basis of their scores under the following four population categories:
- Above 4 million.
- Between 1-4 million.
- 100K to 1 million.
- Less than 100,000.
- The top 3 cities in each population category will be rewarded.
- It will help ULBs to identify areas in their financial performance where they can make improvements and able to deliver quality infrastructure and services to its citizens.
- Rankings will motivate city/state officials and decision-makers, to implement municipal finance reforms.
City Beauty Competition:
- To encourage and recognize transformational efforts made by cities and wards in India to create beautiful, innovative, and inclusive public spaces.
- Wards and public places of cities would be judged against five pillars:
- Aesthetics and
- Most beautiful public places in cities would be awarded first at the State level and then will be shortlisted for an award at the National level.
- It will encourage urban local bodies to improve their basic infrastructure and make urban spaces beautiful, sustainable and inclusive.
- Participation in the City Beauty Competition is voluntary.
Species in news:
- The police and forest officials in Manipur's Ukhrul town have been scanning “gambling dens” following reports of wild animals (dead or alive) such as Binturong being offered as prizes for raffle draws (a lottery in which the prizes are goods rather than money).
- Different types of birds such as the grey-sided thrush and tragopans (often called horned pheasants) have also been spotted.
- Blyth’s tragopan is the State bird of Nagaland.
- What are the Key Facts about Binturong?
- Binturong, (Arctictis binturong), also called bear cat or cat bear, catlike omnivore of the civet family (Viverridae), found in dense forests of Southeast Asia.
- It has long shaggy hair, tufted ears, and a long, bushy, prehensile tail. The colour generally is black with a sprinkling of whitish hairs.
- The binturong is principally nocturnal and crepuscular (that is, active during twilight).
- It is found most often among trees, using its prehensile tail as an aid in climbing. It feeds mainly on fruit, such as figs, but it also takes eggs and small animals.
- In some areas, binturongs are tamed and have been reported as being affectionate pets.
- Its range extends from Nepal, India, and Bhutan southward to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java and eastward to Borneo.
- IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
- CITES listing: Appendix III
- Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
- Bhutan, China, India, Myanma.
- IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
- CITES listing: Appendix I
- Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
Kanger Valley National Park
- Around 200 bird species were documented during the Kanger Valley Bird Survey in state’s first-ever systematic inter-state bird survey.
- It is located in the state of Chhattisgarh. The name of Kanger Ghati National Park is derived from the Kangar river, which flows in its length.
- Kanger Valley got the status of a national park in the year 1982.
- Kanger Valley National Park is a typical mixed humid deciduous type of forest, in which the Sal, Saugaun, teak and bamboo trees are available in abundance.
- The most popular species in this area is Bastar Maina (The state bird of Chattisgarh).
- This National Park is home to three exceptional caves – famous for their amazing geological structures of Kutumbasar, Kailash and Dandak- Stellagmites and Stalactites.
- Tirathgarh Waterfall is located in Kanger Valley National Park.
Koundinya wildlife sanctuary
- An 18-member herd of all female elephants from the forests of Gudiyattam and Pernambattu of Tamil Nadu are currently on the prowl in the Koundinya wildlife sanctuary zone in Chittoor district, apparently “in search of mates”
- About Koundinya wildlife sanctuary
- It is located in Palamner – Kuppam forest ranges of Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, on the Andhra Pradesh – Chittoor road.
- This Sanctuary comes under Project elephant – a Countrywide Elephant Conservation Project taken up by the Government of India.
- Uniqueness: The only home for Asiatic elephants in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
- Forest Type: Southern tropical dry deciduous forest, with patches of thorn, scrub, and grassy plains.
Tal Chhapar Sanctuary
- Recently, the famous Tal Chhapar Blackbuck Sanctuary in Churu, Rajasthan received a protective cover against a proposed move of the State government to reduce the size of its Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
- The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has also taken up a major project for the conservation of raptors in the sanctuary, spread in an area measuring 7.19 sq. Km.
- What are the Key Facts about Tal Chhapar Sanctuary?
- The Tal Chhapar Sanctuary is situated on the border of the Great Indian Thar Desert.
- Tal Chhapar is a distinctive shelter of the most graceful Antelope seen in India, “the Blackbuck”.
- It was given the status of a sanctuary in 1966.
- Tal Chhapar was a hunting reserve of the erstwhile royal family of Bikaner.
- The “Tal” word is Rajasthani word means plane land.
- This Sanctuary has nearly flat territory and combined thin low-lying region. It has got open and wide grasslands with spread Acacia and Prosopis plants that offer it a look of a characteristic Savanna.
- Tal Chhapar is an ideal place to see Blackbucks which are more than a thousand in number here. It is a good place to see the desert animals and reptile species.
- The sanctuary is host to about 4,000 blackbucks, over 40 species of raptors and more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds.
- Migratory birds in the sanctuary are harriers, eastern imperial eagle, tawny eagle, short-toed eagle, sparrow, and little green bee-eaters, black ibis and demoiselle cranes. Other than that, skylarks, crested larks, ring doves, and brown doves can be seen throughout the year.
- What are Blackbucks?
- The Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), or the Indian Antelope, is a species of antelope native to India and Nepal.
- It is widespread in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, and other areas throughout peninsular India.
- It is considered as the epitome of grassland.
- The blackbuck is a diurnal antelope (active mainly during the day).
- It has been declared as the State Animal of Punjab, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh.
- Cultural Importance: It is a symbol of purity for Hinduism as its skin and horns are regarded as a sacred object. For Buddhism, it is a symbol of good luck.
- Protection Status:
- Wildlife Protection Act 1972: Schedule I
- IUCN Status: Least Concern
- CITES: Appendix III
- Habitat Fragmentation, Deforestation, Natural Calamities, Illegal Hunting.
- Related Protected Areas:
- Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary – Gujarat
- Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary – Tamil Nadu
- In 2017, the Uttar Pradesh State Government approved the plan of setting up the Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in the trans-Yamuna belt near Prayagraj. It would be the first conservation reserve dedicated to the blackbuck.
Lion @ 47: Vision for Amrutkal
- Recently, the Project Lion document titled “Lion @ 47: Vision for Amrutkal” has been launched by the Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- More in news:
- Gujarat's Barda Wildlife Sanctuary: It has been identified as a potential second home for Asiatic lions.
- It is located near Porbandar which is 100 kilometres from the Gir National Park.
- Project Lion:
- It envisages landscape ecology-based conservation of the Asiatic Lion in Gujarat by integrating conservation and eco-development.
- The Project is being implemented in the Gir landscape in Gujarat which is the last home of the Asiatic lion.
- To secure & restore lions' habitats for managing its growing population.
- Scale up livelihood generation and participation of local communities.
- Become a global hub of knowledge on big cat disease diagnostics and treatment.
- Create inclusive biodiversity conservation through project lion initiative.
- They are now distributed in nine districts of Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Botad, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Surendranagar, covering around 30,000 square kilometres, which is termed the Asiatic Lion Landscape.
- Vulnerable to extinction: Efforts were being made since the 1990s to find a relocation site for the Asiatic lions within Gujarat and outside the state, considering that the species is vulnerable to extinction threats from epidemics because of low genetic diversity.
- Geographic separation is the primary objective of translocation to establish a second free-ranging population of lions to mitigate conservation risks.
Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage
- NITI Aayog has recently released a study report on Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) Policy Framework and its Deployment Mechanism in India.
- About the Framework
- The report explores the importance of Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage as an emission reduction strategy.
- The report outlines broad-level policy interventions needed across various sectors for its application.
- India’s per capita CO2 emissions were about 1.9 tonnes per annum which is less than 40% of the global average and about one-fourth of that of China.
- What is Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS)?
- It aims to reduce carbon emissions by either storing or reusing it so that captured carbon dioxide does not enter the atmosphere.
- It’s a three-step process involving: capturing the carbon dioxide produced by power generation or industrial activity, such as steel or cement making; transporting it; and then storing it deep underground.
- It is the technology for decarbonising carbon dioxide (CO2) from high polluting sectors such as steel, cement, oil, gas, petrochemicals, chemicals and fertilisers.
- Possible storage sites for carbon emissions include saline aquifers or depleted oil and gas reservoirs.
- It would help in promoting the low carbon-hydrogen economy and in removal of the CO2 stock from the atmosphere.
- Major Challenges
- High Cost: the key challenge would be to reduce the cost of the mechanisms to implement the technology.
- The private sector is unlikely to invest in CCUS unless there are sufficient incentives or unless it can benefit from the sale of CO2 or gain credits for emissions avoided under carbon pricing regimes.
- CO2 Transport and Storage Sites Could Be Dangerous: While accident rates during the transport of CO2 are relatively low, the potential for a dangerous leak still exists.
- Security concerns: Because the gas is highly toxic and leakages in high quantity at such sites would render the air largely unbreathable.
- Significance of the move
- Production of Clean products: CCUS can enable the production of clean products while still utilising our rich endowments of coal and reducing imports and thus leading to an Atmanirbhar Indian economy.
- Decarbonising various sectors: Implementation of CCUS technology is certainly an important step to decarbonise the hard-to-abate sector.
- The projects will also lead to a significant employment generation.
- It estimates that about 750 mtpa of carbon capture by 2050 can create employment opportunities of about 8-10 million on full time equivalent (FTE) basis in a phased manner.
- It can Reduce the Social Cost of Carbon: The social cost of carbon is a value of the estimated costs and benefits to society from climate change caused by one additional metric ton of CO2 released into the atmosphere in a year.
- Circular economy: It can provide a wide variety of opportunities to convert the captured CO2 to different value-added products like:
- Green urea
- Food and beverage form application
- Building materials (concrete and aggregates)
- Chemicals (methanol and ethanol)
- Polymers (including bioplastics)
- Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) with wide market opportunities in India, thus contributing substantially to a circular economy.
- Sunrise sectors: It has an important role to play in enabling sunrise sectors such as coal gasification and the nascent hydrogen economy in India.
- Enrich concrete: Captured CO2 could be used to strengthen concrete, leading to increased infrastructure durability.
- Way forward
- There will be a positive impact on the economy if we are able to get value-added products such as green methanol, green ammonia that can be produced from this captured CO2.
- India’s dependency on fossil-based Energy Resources is likely to continue in future and hence CCUS policy in Indian Context is the need of the hour.
- Key to a successful CCUS implementation in India is to enact a policy framework that supports the creation of sustainable and viable markets for CCUS projects.
- The policy should be carbon credits or incentives based to seed and promote the CCUS sector in India through tax and cash credits.
- The policy should establish early-stage financing and funding mechanisms for CCUS projects.
The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022
- Recently, The Rajya Sabha passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
- The Bill seeks to amend the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
- The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill mandates non-fossil sources of energy and establishes a domestic carbon market in India.
- The bill was also amended in 2010.
- Key provisions of the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill:
- The bill seeks to mandate the use of non-fossil sources, including Green hydrogen, green ammonia, biomass, and Ethanol for energy and feedstock;
- Establish Carbon Markets;
- Bring large residential buildings within the fold of the Energy Conservation regime;
- Enhance the scope of the Energy Conservation Building Code;
- Amend penalty provisions;
- Increase members in the governing council of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE);
- Empower the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions to make regulations for smooth discharge of its functions
- To put in place enabling provisions to make the use of clean energy, including green hydrogen, mandatory and to establish carbon markets.
- Details of the Bill
- Carbon Credits:
- Issuing credits:
- According to Global Energy Monitor, the government will issue carbon credits to businesses or other institutions interested in the scheme.
- Industries could sell and buy credits to meet their carbon budget.
- Selling Carbon Credits to other countries:
- Carbon credits will not be sold to other countries. When we sell credits to other countries, we cannot add them to our NDCs.
- However, there is a provision to sell them to other countries when there is a surplus or a need to finance some cutting-edge technology.
- Issuing credits:
- Carbon Credits:
- Scope for Energy Conservation Building Code:
- The amended bill aims to bring large residential buildings under the Energy Conservation regime which enhances the scope of the Energy Conservation Building Code.
- Meaning of Energy Conservation Building Code:
- According to the draft, “energy conservation building codes” means the norms and standards of energy consumption expressed per square metre of the area where energy is used.
- It also includes the location of the building.
- Carbon Market:
- The Bill empowers the central government to specify a carbon credit trading scheme.
- The proposed amendments aims to encourage the development of a carbon market by laying the framework for issuance of carbon credits against deployment of clean technology.
- Investment in clean technology will help corporations in greening their business profiles and the attached carbon credits will provide an additional revenue stream.
- Hence, the proposed amendments seek to address a prominent gap in the climate change narrative with respect to involvement of the private sector.
- Reducing the connected loads of states:
- Bill aimed to bring large residential buildings, with a minimum connected load of 100 kilowatt (kW) or contract demand of 120 Kilovolt Ampere (kVA), within the fold of the Energy Conservation regime.
- States, if they wished, could bring down the connected load and contract demand.
- Ultra vires of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001:
- While the Energy Conservation Act, of 2001 deals with saving energy, the present Bill deals with saving the environment and conserving climate change due to the usage of fossil and non-fossil fuels while generating electricity.
- The scope and objective of the principal Act do not take in the purpose and object of the present Bill.
- The Bill relates to monitoring and controlling of carbon emission and climate change which is an aspect of the environmental laws
- Lack of coordinated approach:
- There is the Central Government discharging one set of roles, there are the State Governments which have been authorised under the Act to discharge a different set of roles.
- What is missing is a coordinated approach between the Central Government and the State Government.
- Inadequate opinion in BEE:
- The Bill proposes only five representatives of the States and it means that a majority of the States would not be able to register their opinion in the Bureau of Energy Efficiency.
- Legal infirmities:
- It is being criticised that the Bill has a lot of legal infirmities which required re-consideration and re-introduction.
- Ultra vires of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001:
- Way Ahead
- India is currently marching towards its target of reducing its carbon intensity by 45 per cent by 2030. This goal is a part of India’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).
- India needs to align public financial flows with announced targets on energy transition, to leverage private finance. This includes
- Shifting subsidies to clean energy,
- Mandating SOE (state-owned enterprises) investments in clean energy and Increasing targets on public finance for clean energy.
Environment Education, Awareness & Training (EEAT) Scheme
- Environment Education, Awareness, and Training (EEAT) is a central sector scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) that was launched in 1983-84. Its goal is to raise environmental awareness among all segments of society and to mobilise people's participation in environmental conservation.
- What is Environment Education, Awareness & Training (EEAT) Scheme?
- EEAT is a Central Scheme that was established during the Sixth Five Year Plan in 1983-84.
- The program's main goal is:
- To increase environmental consciousness among all societal groups
- Promote environmental education
- To encourage student involvement in environmental protection
- The Ministry has continued the programme since 2017 in light of the enormous potential of the scheme and the success attained in its implementation since its implementation.
- The three programmes that make up the EEAT scheme are:
- The National Green Corps “Eco-club” programme.
- The National Nature Camping Program
- Activities for building capacity
- Various organisations are given financial support through these programmes to carry out activities and raise awareness of the need to protect the environment in the nation.
- Recently, the NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) has signed a non-binding MOU with Tecnimont (Italy) to explore production of green methanol.
- The green methanol project involves capturing carbon from NTPC power plants and converting it into green fuel.
- NTPC comes under the ministry of power.
- Green methanol is a low-carbon fuel that can be made from either biomass gasification or renewable electricity and captured carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Green methanol has a wide range of applications:
- Serving as a base material for the chemical industry
- Storing renewable electricity
- Transportation fuel.
- Maritime fuel: It is also considered a substitute fuel for maritime fuel applications.
- Automotive industry: Methanol can be blended with gasoline in low-quantities and used in existing road vehicles, or it can be used in high-proportion blends such as M85 in flex-fuel vehicles or M100 in dedicated methanol-fuelled vehicles as a substitute for gasoline or diesel.
- Key benefits:
- Low-emission fuel can be made from a variety of sources which will help reduce imports.
- It will significantly contribute to India’s energy transition.
Science And Technology
SpaceTech Innovation Network: ISRO
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed an MoU with Social Alpha, a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform to launch SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN).
- What is SpIN?
- SpIN is India’s first dedicated platform for innovation, curation, and venture development for the burgeoning space entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- The SPIN platform would create a level playing field for various stakeholders to collaborate and contribute to the space ecosystem in the country.
- SpIN will primarily focus on facilitating space tech entrepreneurs in three distinct innovation categories:
- Geospatial Technologies and Downstream Applications
- Enabling Technologies for Space & Mobility
- Aerospace Materials, Sensors, and Avionics.
- Innovative technologies are expected to bring a paradigm shift in utilising the space applications to maximise the economic, social, and environmental benefits for the larger society.
- Innovation Challenge:
- SpIN has launched its first innovation challenge for developing solutions in areas of maritime and land transportation, urbanization, mapping, and surveying.
- The selected start-ups and innovators will be able to access both Social Alpha’s and ISRO’s infrastructure and resources as per the prevailing guidelines.
- They will be provided active hand-holding in critical areas, including access to product design, testing and validation infrastructure, and intellectual property management.
Geminids Meteor Shower
- This year, the Geminids will peak around December 13-14, when, with a clear sky and away from bright city lights, you can watch scores of meteors streak across the sky.
- This year however, the moon is bright, and so only 30-40 meteors per hour will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
- What are meteor showers:
- Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids
- Meteors are usually fragments of comets.
- As they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, they burn up, creating a spectacular “shower”.
- When these objects come around the Sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them.
- Every year Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky
- About Geminids:
- One of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers
- With new moon and clear weather, the Geminids can produce approximately 100-150 meteors per hour for viewing.
- The Geminids are unique because unlike most meteor showers, they originate not from a comet, but from an asteroid –3200 Phaethon.
- As the 3200 Phaethon moves close to the Sun while orbiting it, the rocks on its surface heat up and break off.
- When the Earth passes through the trail of this debris, the Geminids are caused.
- The name Geminids – from constellation Gemini, from whose location in the sky the meteor shower appears to originate.
- It serves to aid viewers in determining which shower they are viewing on a given night.
- The constellation is not the source of Geminids.
- Geminids are visible throughout the night sky, not just in Gemini constellation
- How to watch:
- Chances of a successful viewing are higher from locations far away from the lights of cities.
- Generally, pollution makes viewing meteor showers from India difficult.
- But in areas where there is no light or air pollution, viewers do not need to use any special equipment to view the showers.
- Make sure to give your eyes enough time to adjust to the darkness, which can take about 30 minutes.
- Additionally, viewers should try to stay away from their phones, as looking at bright screens affects night vision.
- Asteroid 3200 Phaethon:
- Discovered on October 11, 1983.
- Named after the Greek mythology character Phaethon, son of the Sun God Helios.
- It takes 4 years to complete one round of the Sun.
- Gemini constellation is located northeast of the constellation Orion and between the Taurus and Cancer constellations.
Andromeda galaxy and Galactic Cannibalism
- Scientists discovered by studying a star cluster in Andromeda galaxy that Andromeda may be a cosmic cannibal.
- The Dulais Structure is a dark stream of stars (globular clusters) in Andromeda. (Dulai means Black stream in Welsh)
- The Dulais Structure is dark stream illuminated by star clusters that orbit unlike any other clusters in Andromeda.
- This means the star clusters are from the leftovers of a massive feeding event called galactic cannibalism.
- Galactic Cannibalism is a feeding event of galaxy in which larger galaxies consume smaller galaxies or globulars to grow.
- Andromeda Galaxy
- The Andromeda Galaxy also known as Messier 31, is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky.
- Andromeda is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth.
- It is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which also contains the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy, and other smaller galaxies.
First Global Water Survey Satellite
- Recently, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) -led international satellite, Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) was launched from Southern California by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
- The satellite will take the first global survey of Earth’s freshwater systems from space.
- What is Surface Water and Ocean Topography?
- SWOT is an advanced radar satellite that aims to provide scientists with a deeper understanding of the oceans and how climate change impacts them.
- The rocket's payload, the SWOT, incorporates advanced microwave radar technology to collect high-definition measurements of oceans, lakes, reservoirs and rivers over 90% of the globe.
- Using its radar, the satellite will be able to measure the water levels of ocean features ten times more accurately than is currently possible.
- It will also be able to measure over a million lakes and rivers on Earth.
- Through its observations, the satellite will also be able to improve the accuracy of flood forecasts and provide scientists with more precise monitoring of impending droughts, rising sea levels, and life on Earth.
- One major thrust of the mission is to explore how oceans absorb atmospheric heat and carbon dioxide in a process that naturally regulates global temperatures and has helped to minimize climate change.
- Oceans are estimated to have absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat trapped in Earth's atmosphere by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
- French-Canadian singer Celine Dion has opened up about being diagnosed with Stiff-Person Syndrome (SPS),
- About Stiff person syndrome
- It is a rare autoimmune neurological condition that affects the central nervous system and can cause rigidity throughout the body and painful muscle spasms.
- It was first coined in the 1920s (as “stiff man syndrome”) after doctors described patients falling over like “a wooden man.”
- It frequently affects women with a median onset of 35 to 40 years of age.
- Causes: the cause behind SPS is not fully understood yet, “there have been reports that spasms occur at any random time and can be triggered by loud noises, touch, and emotional distress
- Symptoms: Symptoms may include stiff muscles in the trunk (torso), arms, and legs; and greater sensitivity to noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms.
- Treatment: Several symptoms improve with oral diazepam (an anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant drug) or with drugs that alleviate muscle spasms, such as baclofen or gabapentin.
- Treatment involves the use of both symptomatic agents to enhance GABAergic influences and Immuno modulating treatment aimed at the autoimmune basis of the disease
- Corticosteroids are rarely used as Immuno modulating agents in Stiff Person Syndrome because of a high incidence of concurrent diabetes mellitus.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
- The soccer journalist Grant Wahl collapsed and died suddenly while covering the World Cup in Qatar.
- The autopsy found that Wahl had an “ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm.
- About Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
- An aneurysm is a localised weakening of the wall of a blood vessel, which causes the vessel to bulge in that area — as a result of which the vessel may widen to more than 50 percent of its usual diameter.
- Aneurysms are more commonly seen in arteries than in veins.
- The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body; it is also the body’s largest blood vessel.
- An aortic aneurysm is a weakening and bulging in a portion of the aorta; “thoracic” refers to that section of the blood vessel that passes through the chest.
- Degenerative disease that causes breakdown of the aortic wall tissue
- Genetic disorders
- Family history
- Vasculitis, or inflammation of the arteries
- Atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque on the walls of the artery.
- In rare cases, an infection can also trigger an aneurysm.
- Pain in the jaw, neck, chest, or upper back
- Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath (due to pressure on the trachea)
- Hoarseness (due to pressure on the vocal cords); and
- Trouble swallowing due to pressure on the oesophagus.
- An aneurysm increases in size over time, and the wall of the blood vessel gets progressively weaker in that area.
- The vessel may ultimately burst or separate, triggering a bleeding rush that can be life-threatening, and potentially lethal.
- Diagnosis and treatment
- Treatment may include monitoring the size and rate of growth of the bulge through an MRI or CT, and managing risk factors such as quitting smoking, controlling blood sugar (for diabetics), losing weight (if overweight), and eating healthy.
- Surgical intervention may be needed if the aneurysm is large
- European researchers have raised concerns of yet another pandemic after resurrecting a 48,500-year-old ‘Zombie Virus’ from a frozen lake in Russia.
- The researchers warned that Climate change-induced thawing of the permanently frozen land (permafrost) in the Arctic could pose a new public health threat.
- What is a Zombie Virus?
- 13 new pathogens have been characterized, what are termed ‘Zombie Viruses’, which remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.
- The virus emerged due to the thawing of permafrost as the global temperature is rising.
- The new strain is one of 13 viruses, each of which possesses its own genome.
- The oldest, dubbed Pandoravirus yedoma after the mythological character Pandora, was 48,500 years old, a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state where it has the potential to infect other organisms.
- This has broken the previous record held by a 30,000-year-old virus discovered by the same team in Siberia in 2013.
- One-quarter of the Northern hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost.
- Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect.
- Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that remained dormant since prehistoric times.
- Potential Impact:
- All of the “zombie viruses” have the potential to be infectious and hence pose a “health danger” after researching the live cultures.
- It is believed that pandemics like Covid-19 will become more common in the future as melting permafrost releases long-dormant viruses like a microbial Captain America.
- Recently, OpenAI has introduced a new chatbot called ChatGPT, which is a ‘conversational’ AI and will answer queries just like a human would.
- What is ChatGPT?
- The ChatGPT can answer “follow-up questions”, and can also “admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”
- It is based on the company’s GPT 3.5 series of language learning models (LLM).
- GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 and this is a kind of computer language model that relies on deep learning techniques to produce human-like text based on inputs.
- The model is trained to predict what will come next, and that’s why one can technically have a ‘conversation’ with ChatGPT.
- The chatbot was also trained using Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).
- It can be used in real-world applications such as digital marketing, online content creation, answering customer service queries or as some users have found, even to help debug code.
- The bot can respond to a large range of questions while imitating human speaking styles.
- It is being seen as a replacement for the basic emails, party planning lists, CVs, and even college essays and homework.
- It can also be used to write code, as examples have shown.
- The chatbot displayed clear racial and sexist biases, which remains a problem with almost all AI models.
- The chatbot gives answers which are grammatically correct and read well– though some have pointed out that these lack context and substance, which is largely true.
- ChatGPT occasionally produces inaccurate information and that its knowledge is restricted to global events that occurred before 2021.
- What is a Chatbot?
- Chatbots, also called chatterbots, is a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) used in messaging apps.
- This tool helps add convenience for customers—they are automated programs that interact with customers like a human would and cost little to nothing to engage with.
- Key examples are chatbots used by businesses in Facebook Messenger, or as virtual assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa.
- Chatbots tend to operate in one of two ways—either via machine learning or with set guidelines.
- However, due to advancements in AI technology, chatbots using set guidelines are becoming a historical footnote.
- Chatbot with Set Guidelines:
- It can only respond to a set number of requests and vocabulary and is only as intelligent as its programming code.
- An example of a limited bot is an automated banking bot that asks the caller some questions to understand what the caller wants to do.
- Machine Learning Chatbot:
- A chatbot that functions through machine learning have an artificial neural network inspired by the neural nodes of the human brain.
- The bot is programmed to self-learn as it is introduced to new dialogues and words.
- In effect, as a chatbot receives new voice or textual dialogues, the number of inquiries that it can reply to and the accuracy of each response it gives increases.
- Meta (as Facebook's parent company is now known) has a machine learning chatbot that creates a platform for companies to interact with their consumers through the Messenger application.
- Chatbots are convenient for providing customer service and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- They also free up phone lines and are far less expensive over the long run than hiring people to perform support.
- Using AI and natural language processing, chatbots are becoming better at understanding what customers want and providing the help they need.
- Companies also like chatbots because they can collect data about customer queries, response times, satisfaction, and so on.
- Even with natural language processing, they may not fully comprehend a customer's input and may provide incoherent answers.
- Many chatbots are also limited in the scope of queries that they are able to respond to.
- Chatbots can be expensive to implement and maintain, especially if they must be customized and updated often.
- The challenges of AI metamorphosing into sentient are far in the future; however, unethical AI perpetuating historical bias and echoing hate speech are the real dangers to watch for.
- The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s cyberspace watchdog, is rolling out new regulations to restrict the use of deep synthesis technology and curb disinformation.
- The policy requires deep synthesis service providers and users to ensure that any doctored content using the technology is explicitly labelled and can be traced back to its source.
- What is Deep Synthesis?
- Deep synthesis is defined as the use of technologies, including deep learning and augmented reality, to generate text, images, audio and video to create virtual scenes.
- One of the most notorious applications of the technology is deepfakes, where synthetic media is used to swap the face or voice of one person for another.
- Deepfakes are getting harder to detect with the advancement of technology.
- What is Deepfake Technology?
- Deepfake technology is a method for manipulating videos, images, audios utilizing powerful computers and deep learning.
- It is used to generate fake news and commit financial fraud among other wrong doings.
- It overlays a digital composite over an already-existing video, picture, or audio; cybercriminals use Artificial Intelligence technology.
- Origin of the Word:
- The term deepfake originated in 2017, when an anonymous Reddit user called himself “Deepfakes.”
- This user manipulated Google’s open-source, deep-learning technology to create and post pornographic videos.
- Deepfake technology is now being used for nefarious purposes like scams and hoaxes, celebrity pornography, election manipulation, social engineering, automated disinformation attacks, identity theft and financial fraud etc.
- Deepfake technology has been used to impersonate notable personalities like former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, etc.
- What are other Countries doing to Combat Deepfakes?
- European Union:
- The European Union has an updated Code of Practice to stop the spread of disinformation through deepfakes.
- The revised Code requires tech companies including Google, Meta, and Twitter to take measures in countering deepfakes and fake accounts on their platforms.
- They have six months to implement their measures once they have signed up to the Code.
- If found non-compliant, these companies can face fines as much as 6% of their annual global turnover, according to the updated Code.
- Introduced in 2018, the Code of Practice on Disinformation brought together for the first-time worldwide industry players to commit to counter disinformation.
- United States:
- The U.S. introduced the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to counter deepfake technology.
- The measure directs the DHS to conduct an annual study of deepfakes assess the technology used, track its uses by foreign and domestic entities, and come up with available countermeasures to tackle the same.
- California and Texas have passed laws that criminalize the publishing and distributing of deepfake videos that intend to influence the outcome of an election. The law in Virginia imposes criminal penalties on the distribution of nonconsensual deepfake pornography.
- In India, however, there are no legal rules against using deepfake technology.
- However, specific laws can be addressed for misusing the tech, which include Copyright Violation, Defamation and cyber felonies.
- Way forward
- As media consumers, we must be able to decipher, understand, translate, and use the information we encounter.
- The best method to deal with this problem is with technical solutions supported by artificial intelligence that can recognize and block deep fakes.
- Prior to resolving the issues associated with deep fakes, media literacy has to be improved.
- There is also a need for easy-to-use and accessible technology solutions to detect deep fakes, authenticate media, and amplify authoritative sources.
- On the part of society, to counter the menace of deep fakes, there is a need to take the responsibility to be a critical consumer of media on the Internet, think and pause before sharing on social media, and be part of the solution.
- Recently, Natovenator polydontus was seen in the news.
- About Natovenator polydontus:
- It is part of the dinosaur group called theropods – sharing traits including bipedalism – best known for large meat-eaters including Tyrannosaurus, Tarbosaurus, and Giganotosaurus.
- It lived about 72 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period and was built like a diving bird with a streamlined body while possessing a goose-like elongated neck and a long flattened snout with a mouth bearing more than 100 small teeth.
- Characteristics: It measured about 18 inches (45 cm) long, with a skull about 3 inches (7 cm) long.
- Its front limbs appeared somewhat flattened, perhaps as an adaptation for paddling and swimming.
- The streamlining of its body is shown by ribs that point toward the tail, as in diving birds, an arrangement that reduces drag in the water and allows efficient swimming.
- “Natovenator – which means ‘swimming thief’ – is an amazing little animal for several reasons.
- It is small and delicate. It looked more like a lizard or mammal skeleton than a dinosaur.
- It is very specialized for living in an environment not typical for an animal related to Velociraptor and its other relatives.
- It was adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle in a freshwater ecosystem, perhaps floating on rivers and lakes, paddling with its front limbs, and using its flexible neck to catch fish and insects or diving underwater to capture its prey
- it was a cousin of the speedy little predator Velociraptor.
- A close relative of Natovenator named Halszkaraptor, described in 2017, lived a similar lifestyle at roughly the same time in the same region.
- Both had a very bird-like appearance and were closely related to the bird lineage.
- Its well-preserved remains – a skeleton about 70% complete – were unearthed in the Gobi Desert, which over the decades has been a treasure trove for dinosaur fossils.
Strep A bacterial infection
- The number of Strep A infection cases has increased recently in the UK, especially after COVID-19 restrictions are no longer mandatory.
- What is Strep A?
- Strep A, also known as Group A Streptococcus, is a bacterium found in the throat and on the skin.
- It can cause many different infections, ranging from mild to serious. Some of these diseases include Strep throat, Scarlet fever, Impetigo, Necrotizing fasciitis, Cellulitis etc.
- These are communicable and can spread through coughs, sneezes and close contact.
- These infections usually tend to be fairly harmless but in very rare circumstances when the bacterium produces a toxin it can gain access to the bloodstream and cause really serious illness.
- Antibiotics are usually effective at treating Strep A or iGAS infections. Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent them.
- Recently, Merriam-Webster, America's oldest dictionary publisher, has chosen “Gaslighting” as its Word of the Year.
- Searches on its website for the word have spiked by 1,740% in 2022, according to the company.
- What is Gaslighting?
- Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gaslighting as “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time, that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, the uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”
- Gaslighting involves an imbalance of power between the abuser and the person they’re gaslighting.
- Abusers often exploit stereotypes or vulnerabilities related to gender, sexuality, race, nationality and/or class.
- The emergence of the Word:
- The term “Gaslighting” comes from the title of the 1938 play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton, and the movie is based on that play, the plot of which involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane.
- Impact on Mental Health:
- Gaslighting is meant to provoke uncertainty and self-doubt, which is often harmful to a victim’s mental health.
- A victim of gaslighting may experience Anxiety, Depression, Disorientation, and Lowered self-esteem.
- What are Some Common Signs of Gaslighting?
- The “Twilight Zone” Effect:
- Victims of gaslighting often report feeling like a situation is surreal, it’s happening on a different plane from the rest of their life.
- Being told that the victim is exaggerating.
- Feeling confused and powerless after leaving an interaction.
- Many gaslighters make efforts to isolate victims from friends, family and other support networks.
- Tone Policing:
- A gaslighter may criticize the tone of voice if the person challenges them on something. This is a tactic used to flip the script and make them feel that they are the ones to blame, rather than the abuser.
- A Cycle of Warm-Cold Behavior:
- To throw a victim off balance, a gaslighter may alternate between verbal abuse and praise, often even in the same conversation.
- The “Twilight Zone” Effect:
- What is the Significance of Gaslighting in Modern Times?
- Gaslighting of Misinformation:
- In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for Modern Times.
- Gaslighting and Gender:
- Gaslighting in Medicine:
- Some women are gaslighted by their doctors, who may use the stereotype that women are irrational and convince a female patient that nothing is actually wrong with her.
- Public or Collective Gaslighting:
- Many women experience the effects of public gaslighting, also called collective gaslighting, when statements by a public figure or an ordinary person that are widely shared on social media can lead women as a collective to second-guess themselves.
- Gaslighting of Transgender People:
- A gaslighter may try to convince a transgender person that they have a mental health disorder.
- Gaslighting in the Legal System:
- The legal system becomes a critical site of gaslighting when abusers gain control of the narrative and ‘flip’ stories, drawing on stereotypes about women as irrational and aggressive.
- Gaslighting and Race:
- The political, social, economic and cultural process that perpetuates and normalizes a white supremacist reality through pathologizing those who resist is the prime example of Gaslighting and Race.
- Gaslighting in the Workplace:
- If a person in a position of power causes one to question themselves in a way that is negatively affecting their career or confidence in their abilities, they may be experiencing gaslighting.
- Gaslighting in Politics:
- In modern times, it’s not uncommon for a politician or political entity to use gaslighting as a tactic to divert public discourse and use manipulation to garner support for or against a certain viewpoint.
- ‘Goblin Mode’ is Oxford’s Word of the Year for 2022.
- About Goblin Mode
- It is a “slang term”.
- Meaning: “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.
- Usage: often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’
- The first Oxford word of the year to be chosen by public vote.
- Oxford’s Word of the Year 2022
- It is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months.
- Decided every year
- Reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and has lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.
- Second place: Metaverse
- Third place: #IStandWith
- Recently, Uttarakhand planned genetic enhancement of its indigenous Badri cow.
- This includes Sex-sorted semen and embryo transfer technology to improve the production of cattle as part of the ten-year State plan.
- About Badri cow:
- Badri/Pahari desi cow is a native cow species of Uttarakhand.
- Badri cow is the first registered cattle breed of Uttarakhand which has been certified by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR).
- It grazes on the medicinal herbs of the Himalayas.
- It is far away from toxic pollution, polythene, and other harmful things that cows in the plains eat.
- Its milk has rich medicinal content and high organic value.
- Issue related to the breed
- Its milk production capacity is quite less as it gives one to three liters of milk per day.
- Measures were taken by the Government
- The state will promote Badri ghee.
- Marketing of gaumutra ark (distilled cow urine)and cow dung.
- Panchgavya (the five products of the cow, including milk, curd, ghee, dung, and urine).
- New methods to be implemented:
- Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET): a conventional embryo flush which is the most common procedure used in advanced cattle breeding.
- Ovum pickup in vitro fertilisation (IVF): It will be used to increase the yield per animal.
- Introducing Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).
- Some Indigenous cattle breeds in India
- Alambadi, Amritmahal, Gir, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal, Bargur, Hallikar, Kangayam, Pulikulam
- Recently, a Kerala-based organisation, Thanal launched the Ikki Jathre or the Festival of Rice in tribal parlance whereby 300 climate-resilient varieties of traditional rice were planted at Panavally, Wayanad.
- Thanal initiated the Rice Diversity Block (RDB) at Panavally under the Save Our Rice campaign in 2009, with a collection of 30 varieties of rice which now expanded to 300.
- What is Ikki Jathre?
- The initiative aims to sensitise people to the significance of conserving traditional crops that have the ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions.
- The festival also sets the stage for knowledge sharing and co-creation of knowledge between tribal farmers and experts.
- For the RDB, most of the varieties were collected from Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
- Also, there are three traditional rice varieties from Vietnam and Thailand.
- What is the Save Our Rice Campaign?
- Save our rice campaign is a people’s movement to protect the diverse rice cultures, and knowledge, and ensure food sovereignty.
- In India, it started in 2004 and empowers communities to build sustainable food security and livelihood.
- Establishing community RDBs and seed banks, conserving and promoting indigenous varieties of paddy seeds.
- Creating awareness about the value of rice diversity among urban consumers.
- Facilitating the adoption of agroecological farming in rice ecosystems, and encouraging farmers, states and local governments to adopt indigenous seeds.
- Enabling active discussions in the media about indigenous seeds and agro-ecological farming.
- What are the Key Facts About Rice?
- Rice is a staple food for most of the population in India.
- It is a Kharif crop which requires high temperature, (above 25°C) and high humidity with annual rainfall above 100 cm.
- In areas with less rainfall, it is grown with the help of irrigation.
- In southern states and West Bengal, the climatic conditions allow the cultivation of two or three crops of rice in an agricultural year.
- In West Bengal farmers grow three crops of rice called ‘aus’, ‘aman’ and ‘boro’.
- About one-fourth of the total cropped area in India is under rice cultivation.
- Leading Producer States: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
- High Yielding States: Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Kerala.
- India is the second-largest producer of rice after China.
Bihar Hooch Tragedy
- Recently, the Bihar government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe deaths due to the consumption of spurious liquor in the Saran district which took 82 lives as of now.
- More about the news
- State Subject: Although the prohibition of alcohol use is encouraged in the constitution of India (Article 47, DPSP), alcohol policy is a state subject.
- States are having full control of alcohol-related legislation, excise rates and the production, distribution and sale of alcohol.
- The sale and consumption of alcohol were banned in Bihar in 2016.
- Bihar continues to witness liquor sales on the black market and deaths owing to the consumption of locally made spurious liquor.
- History of Hooch tragedies
- Increasing trend: The number of hooch-related deaths has been on a rise in the country.
- 3 people on average die every single day due to spurious liquor poisoning in the country.
- Top states: Recently, the Lok Sabha released a detailed report of the top 5 states that reported the greatest number of deaths due to the consumption of illegal and spurious liquor in the year 2016 to 2020 with Bihar and Chhattisgarh topping the list.
- Data: According to the data, over 6,000 deaths were reported between 2016 and 2020 due to the consumption of spurious liquor with the lowest number of deaths in 2020 at 947.
- What is spurious liquor?
- Spurious liquor means liquor which has been adulterated with an object to bring intoxication and is harmful to consumers.
- It is cheap and is mostly used by the lower strata of our society.
- It contains a higher percentage of methyl alcohol which is poisonous.
- Consumption of such liquor may cause blindness, other serious health problems and even death.
- Sometimes even other chemicals are mixed with the ethyl alcohol so that the consumer gets a feeling of intoxication.
- Even these are highly poisonous and can cause severe damage to the body and even death can occur.
- Why do people fall prey to such liquor?
- Demand-supply relation: It is a result of a simple demand vs supply problem, and the cost adds to the complication.
- Liquor ban: Several instances of hooch tragedies can mostly be traced back to incidents that occur in states where liquor is banned.
- Cheap alternative: People tend to look for a cheap alternative out of desperation.
- They are also easy targets for bootleggers trying to make quick money by selling cheap, low-quality liquor that they sell in a bid to make good profits.
- Arguments in favour of Liquor ban
- Not a loss of revenue: it is possible to have a robust economy even without selling liquor. If the government ensures that there are zero tax evasions, black money stashed abroad is brought back to the country and corruption is controlled in the government.
- DPSP: the state government has a responsibility to safeguard public health. The Directive Principles of State Policy clearly say that the State is responsible for raising the level of nutrition, the standard of living and public health.
- Injurious to Health: It is known to everyone that liquor is injurious to health and no doctor has ever suggested that liquor will improve a person’s health. It causes damage not only to the liver but also hampers the functioning of the entire body.
- Affects poor people: In poor households where a person is addicted to alcohol, a major share of the household income which should have been spent for the betterment of the standard of life goes into liquor.
- Social Issues: Liquor is also the reason behind perpetuating domestic violence, hampering family bonds, couples getting divorced and children getting neglected.
- Addiction and rise in crimes: With the easy availability of liquor youngsters are getting addicted. As far as crimes are concerned, it appears that a large percentage of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.
- Crime rate: If the government prohibits liquor it will also result in a decline in the crime rate.
- Arguments against Liquor ban
- Revenue for the Government: The government argues that the sale of liquor provides it with good revenue in terms of excise duty and that the money is required to develop the economy.
- The Legal Angle: A rise in crime due to withdrawal symptoms and an inability to find and consume alcohol would be a major problem.
- Rise in violent crime: This is indicative because if someone wants to consume alcohol under prohibition, then they will have to employ illegal methods. This is the fear that is there behind prohibiting alcohol.
- Right to Liquor: The arguments that support the contention that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution include the right to consume and trade liquor mainly pertain to Articles 21 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
- Way Forward
- Not a fundamental Right: Presently, no Indian citizen has the fundamental right to consume and trade liquor. Respective state governments have a monopoly over the liquor market in India.
- Awareness: Experts continue to advocate awareness and not a prohibition to be the way to go especially in states where the law already prohibits the use of it.
- Inelastic behaviour: Experts continue to argue that alcohol consumption is inelastic, and this is true for states that don’t have a ban on liquor and yet see a huge spike in deaths due to spurious liquor consumption.
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