Prelims Monthly Current Affairs Magazine: June 2022

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Art And Culture

Festivals:

THANG-TA MARTIAL ART FORM

  • Context
    • A Kashmiri'sMaulvi's role helped kids take up the Thang Ta martial art form.Mohammad Iqbal, who is now a renowned Thang-Ta coach, has fielded a team from Jammu and Kashmir at the Khelo India Youth Games which are being held in Panchukla.
  • The art form
    • Thang-ta (Meiteilon; sword-spear) is the popular Manipuri name for a set of armed and unarmed fighting techniques developed by the Meitei people of the state of Manipur, India. The formal name for this martial system is Huyen Lallong (Meiteilon; art of warfare).
    • Anything from sword or spear can be used.
    • Other weapons used are shield and axe.
    • Used in three different ways
    • As absolutely ritual in nature
    • As spectacular performance
    • As actual Fighting technique

  • Other Martial Art Forms of India

    • Kalarippayattu (Kerala specially) & rest of south
      • Weapon based type
      • “Kalari” means arena. “Payattu” means combat/fighting.
      • Involves strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods, the footwork movement
      • Kerala’s “Kathakali” incorporates greatly of this in their routines
      • Considered older than Chinese martial arts
      • Associated Legend: This art form was taught to early masters of this by Parashurama (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) to protect the land he created
    • Malla-Yuddha (South India)
      • Combat-Wrestling type.
      • Unarmed type.
      • Four types:
        • Hanumanti – for technical superiority
        • Jambuvanti – focuses on locking and holding till opponent gives up
        • Jarasandhi – breaking limbs and joints
        • Bhimaseni – focuses on sheer strength
    • Silambam (Tamil Nadu)
      • Weapon based type
      • Variety of weapons used.
      • Majorly used “Silambam staff” as a weapon. (staff – a traditional pole weapon. It has many variants from just a stick to having knife at one end)
      • Foot movements plays a key role
      • Movements of animals like snake, tiger, elephant and eagle used
      • “Kuttu varisai” – a variant of silambam & uses no weapon
      • Associated Legend: this martial art was developed by Lord Muruga (son of Lord Shiva, other name – Kartekeya) & sage Agasthya Travelled from Tamil Nadu to Malaysia
    • Gatka (Punjab)
      • Weapon based
      • Used by Sikhs mainly
      • Gatka means – “One whose freedom belongs to race”
      • Stick, Sword, kirpan or kataar used as weapon
    • Musti Yuddha (Varanasi)
      • Unarmed type
      • Punches, kicks, knees and elbow strikes used
    • Lathi (Punjab & Bengal)
      • Weapon Based
      • Cane Sticks used.
      • Popular more in villages
    • Mardani Khel (Kolhapur, Maharashtra)
      • Weapon Based
      • Created by Marathas
      • Suitable for hilly regions
      • Uses sword mainly & needs rapid movements
    • Pari-Khanda (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha)
      • Weapon Based
      • Created by Rajputs
      • “Pari” means shield & “Khanda” means sword (according to Chhau rulers)
      • Gave birth to Chhau dance
    • Inbuan Wrestling (Mizoram)
      • Unarmed Type
      • Has strict rules prohibiting kicking, stepping out of the circle and bending of the knees.
      • Aim is to lift the opponent off his feet while strictly adhering to the rules
      • Catching hold of the belt worn by the wrestlers around the waist; it has to remain tight all through the game.
    • Kuttu Varisai (South India)
      • Unarmed Type
      • “Kuttu Varisai” means empty hand combat
      • used to improve footwork and athleticism through gymnastics, stretching, yoga and breathing exercises use of animal-based sets which includes tiger, snake, elephant, eagle and monkey.
    • Cheibi Gadga (Manipur)
      • Weapon Based
      • Uses sword & shield
      • Victory depends more on skill than on muscle power
    • Sarit-Sarak (Manipur)
      • Unarmed Type
      • Used to fight with armed or unarmed opponent
      • Perfect in its evasive and offensive action
    • Thoda (Himachal Pradesh)
      • Weapon Based
      • Originated from the times of Mahabharata
      • Generally based on archery skills
      • “Thoda” is the round piece of wood fixed to the head of the arrow
    • Mukna (Manipur)
      • Unarmed
      • Wrestling Type
      • Two men with their hands holding clothe bands on each other waists wrestle with one another and attempts to throw the other down, and the victor should always be on top of the one falling down
    • Lakna-Phanaba (Manipur)
      • Unarmed
      • Wrestling Type
         
    • Karra Samu (Andhra Pradesh)
      • Armed Type
      • Basically stick fighting
    • Kathi Samu (Andhra Pradesh)
      • Armed Type
      • Basically sword fighting

UNMESHA FESTIVAL

  • Context
    • The Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and Sahitya Akademi organised Unmesha, an International Literature Festival in Shimla from 16th to 18th June 2022 as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, with the support of Department of Art and Culture, Government of Himachal Pradesh.
  • About the festival
    • The festival was organised in the heritage buildings, the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex and the Town Hall, on the Ridge, Shimla.
    • Literature of any country represents and reflects culture of that country. Literary Festivals bring out these reflections and representations in all their colours. That is the reason why the Ministry of Culture and Sahitya Akademi have organized this Festival.
    • With over 425 writers, poets, translators, critics and distinguished personalities from various walks of life from 15 countries including India, representing over 60 languages and 64 events,UNMESHA – International Literature Festival is the largest literature festival in the country.
    • There  is  display of about 1000 books related to the Indian freedom movement and the publications of five Indian publishers  for sale.|
  • Sahitya Akademi
    • Sahitya Akademi, India's national academy of letters was established in 1954 by the Government of India.
    • Though it was set up by the Government, the Akademi functions as an autonomous organisation. It was registered as a society in January 1956, under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • As India's premier literary institution, the Akademi preserves and promotes literature contained in twenty-four Indian languages recognised by it through awards, fellowships, grants, publications, literary programmes, workshops and exhibitions.
    • The Akademi also undertakes literary exchange programmes with various countries across the globe to promote Indian literature beyond the shores of India.
    • The Sahitya Akademi award is the second-highest literary honour by the Government of India, after the Jnanpith award.

ASSAM'S BAIKHO FESTIVAL

  • Context
    • The Baikho festival is celebrated in the state of Assam, which is called as gateway to northeast India. It is celebrated by Rabha tribes of India.
  • About the festival
    • The festival of Baikho is annually celebrated to bring in an auspicious harvest season filled with abundant crops and good health.
    • It is a celebration of good harvest. It is an ancient tradition that is predominantly observed by the Rabha Tribe. But, in the recent years, one can see people from other communities harmonising in the celebrations as well.
    • This year, locals in Gamerimura village gathered to mark the usually colorful spring festival.
    • The festival is celebrated across the state annually.
    • One can witness vibrant and holy hues of rituals, customs, fun and frolic on this day.
    • During the festival, a series of rituals are carried out to ward off evil spirits, spark ample rains and bring good will to the community.
    • In the afternoon, locals dress in traditional attire and come together to dance to the beat of drums.
    • In the evening, a tall structure made from bundles of bamboo is set alight and once the sun sets, priests offer prayers to the harvest god, who they believe will bring a generous crop season.
  • Who are the Rabhas?
    • Rabhas are a Tibeto-Burman community who reside majorly in Lower Assam, Garo hills and West Bengal’s Dooar region. They are among the plains tribe in Assam. They are an agriculture based community who have distinctive culture and celebrations.

 

  • Other tribes of Assam
    • Chakma
    • Chutiya
    • Dimasa
    • Hajong
    • Garos
    • Khasis
    • Gangte
    • Karbi
    • Boro
    • Borokachari
    • Kachari
    • Sonwal
    • Miri
    • Rabha
    • Garo

Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:

PURI HERITAGE CORRIDOR PROJECT

  • Context
    • The ambitious Puri heritage corridor project of the BJD-led Odisha government has landed into a controversy. A recent affidavit filed by the Archaeological Survey of India in the Orissa High Court has further intensified the debate around the project.
  • What’s the Puri Heritage Corridor Project?
    • Conceived in 2016, the project aims to transform the holy town of Puri into an international place of heritage.
    • In February 2020, with an estimated cost of Rs 800 crore, the state Assembly passed a resolution to start the first phase of work.
    • Further, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) also approved the architectural design plan of the project at an estimated cost of Rs 3,200 crore.
    • Under the umbrella project falls the Shree Jagannatha Heritage Corridor (SJHC) or the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project, for the revamp of the area around the temple.
    • The project also includes the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) building redevelopment, a 600-capacity Srimandir reception centre, Puri Lake, Musa River revival plan, etc.
  • The controversy
    • The 12th-century Jagannath temple is a centrally protected monument, with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as its custodian.
    • The ASI has alleged that the project is violating the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act as the undergoing excavations and construction is happening around the prohibited zone.
    • As per reports, the National Monuments Authority (NMA), which comes under the Union Ministry of Culture, had granted a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the state government on 4 September 2021 for the construction of a cloakroom, a shelter pavilion, three toilets, an electrical room and a pavement within the prohibited 75-metre zone.
    • The NMA had then said that the construction activities for which the NOC was granted do not come under the definition of construction as per the AMASR Act.
    • However, the ASI took objection and stated that the work posed a threat to the structural safety of the structure.
    • As the excavation work began scooping up earth up to 20 feet around the temple, the ASI’s conservation assistance in February sent a letter to the state government asking it to stop work as it was in violation of the archaeological sites law.
    • The ASI also asked the state government to produce approvals to carry out the excavation work.
    • Soon after, a resident of Puri, identified as Dilip Baral, filed a PIL in the Orissa High Court in March, expressing concern that the excavation work near the temple would endanger the structure.
    • Based off his PIL, the high court asked the ASI as well as the state government agencies to conduct a joint inspection of the area and submit a report.
  • JAGANNATH TEMPLE
    • The Jagannath Temple is an important Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath, a form of Sri Krishna in Puri in the state of Odisha on the eastern coast of India.
    • The present temple was rebuilt from the 10th century onwards, on the site of an earlier temple, and begun by Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, the first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
    • This temple is called the “White Pagoda” and is a part of Char Dham pilgrimages (Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, Rameswaram).
    • In front of the entrance stands the Aruna stambha or sun pillar, which was originally at the Sun Temple in Konark.

  • Architecture of Jagannath Temple
    • With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India.
    • The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet and is surrounded by a high fortified wall.
    • This 20 feet high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri.
    • Another wall known as kurma bedha surrounds the main temple.
  • The temple has four distinct sectional structures, namely:
    • Deula, Vimana or Garba griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the triad deities are lodged on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls) in Rekha Deula style;
    • Mukhashala (Frontal porch);
    • Nata mandir/Natamandapa, which is also known as the Jagamohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), and
    • Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall)
  • Archaelogical Survey of India
    •  In 1861, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was founded, which serves as a subordinate office of the Ministry of Culture. ASI's principal responsibilities are the conservation, protection, and upkeep of Centrally protected monuments and sites. 
    • The Archaeological Survey of India, or ASI, is an affiliated agency of the Government of India's Ministry of Culture.
    • It is responsible for archaeological research and conservation, as well as the protection and preservation of historic monuments and archaeological sites around the country.
    • The laws of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act) of 1958 govern all archaeological activity in the nation.
    • The Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972 is also governed by it.
    • It was created in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham, a British Army engineer with a particular interest in Indian archaeology.
    • Alexander Cunnigham has been dubbed the “Father of Indian Archaeology.”
    • Archaeological activities began considerably earlier, in the 18th century, when Sir William Jones and a group of antiquarians founded the Asiatic Society in 1784.
    • Following independence, the AMASR Act of 1958 established ASI as a statutory entity.
    • The ASI headquarters is located in New Delhi and is led by a Director-General.
    • ASI protects and preserves over 3500 protected monuments and archaeological sites of national importance.
  • Archaeological Survey of India Activities
    • All the archaeological study and excavation operations in India are carried out and regulated by the ASI.
    • It also protects and maintains historical sites and monuments.
    • Protected monuments, archaeological sites, and national remnants are maintained, conserved, and preserved.
    • It works to keep monuments and antiquarian relics safe from chemical attacks.
    • It conducts monument architectural surveys.
    • It carries out epigraphical and numismatic research.
    • It establishes on-site museums.
    • It provides archaeological education.
    • It publishes archaeology-related stuff.
    • It also organizes archaeological digs outside of India.
    • Horticultural activities are carried out at and around archaeological sites.
    • It oversees the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, as well as the AMASR Act.

History

Famous Personalities:

THE SANT TUKARAM TEMPLE 

  • Context
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to inaugurate the Sant Tukaram Shila Mandir in the temple town of Dehu in the Pune district.

 

 

 

  • About Sant Tukaram
    • The Bhakti saint Sant Tukaram had sat on this piece of rock for 13 continuous days when challenged about the authenticity of the Abhyangs he had written
    • The saint had immersed his entire work in the Indrayani river; the work miraculously reappeared after 13 days, proving its authenticity.
    • The very rock where Sant Tukaram Maharaj sat for 13 days is pious and a place of pilgrimage for the Warkari sect
  • The Warkari sect
    • Sant Tukaram and his work are central to the Warkari sect spread across Maharashtra. His message about a casteless society and his denial of rituals led to a social movement.
    • Sant Tukaram is credited with starting the Wari pilgrimage.
    • The Wari sees lakhs of devotees congregating in the temple towns of Dehu and Alandi to accompany the padukas of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dyaneshwar respectively as they start for Pandharpur. Participants finish their sowing before they set off. The pilgrims reach Pandharpur on the day of Ekadashi with the Chief Minister performing the mahapuja.
    • The pilgrimage is being resumed after a gap of two years.

Geography

THERI DESERT

  • Context : 
    • There is a desert in Tamil Nadu and the dunes are red.
    • There are a couple of theories regarding the formation of these dunes, the most plausible being the role of southwest monsoonal winds
  • What is the Theri Desert
    • It is a small desert situated in the state of Tamil Nadu.
    • It consists of red sand dunes and is confined to Thoothukudi district.
    • The red dunes are called theri in Tamil.
    • They consist of sediments dating back to the Quaternary Period and are made of marine deposits.
    • They have very low water and nutrient retention capacity.
    • The dunes are susceptible to aerodynamic lift. This is the push that lets something move up. It is the force that is the opposite of weight.
    • The petrographical study (petrography is the study of composition and properties of rocks) and X-ray diffraction analysis (a method used to determine a material’s crystallographic structure) of the red sand dunes reveal the presence of heavy and light minerals.
  • Minerals composition include:
    • Ilmenite
    • Magnetite
    • Rutile
    • Garnet
    • Zircon
    • Diopside
    • Tourmaline
    • Hematite
    • Goethite
    • Kyanite
    • Quartz
    • Feldspar
    • Biotite
  • The reason why dunes are red coloured
    • The iron-rich heavy minerals like ilmenite, magnetite, garnet, hypersthene and rutile present in the soil had undergone leaching by surface water and were then oxidised because of the favourable semi-arid climatic conditions.
    • It was due to these processes that the dunes near Tiruchendur, a coastal town in Thoothukudi district are red-coloured. 

 

  • Spread of dunes
    • The dunes are spread over Kuthiraimozhi theri (2,387.12 hectares) and Sathankulam (899.08 ha) reserve forest of Tiruchendur taluk, which is located on the shoreline overlooking the Bay of Bengal in the south-eastern part of Tamil Nadu.
  • How did they form?
    • Theris appear as gentle, undulating terrain.
    • The lithology of the area shows that the area might have been a paleo (ancient) coast in the past. The presence of limestone in many places indicates marine transgression.
    • The present-day theris might have been formed by the confinement of beach sand locally, after the regression of the sea.
    • When high-velocity winds from the Western Ghats blew east, they induced migration of sand grains and accumulation of dunes.
    • Another view is that these are geological formations that appeared in a period of a few hundred years.
    • There is a lot of red sand spread over these theris. The red sand is brought from the surface of a broad belt of red loam in the plains of the Nanguneri region (about 57 kilometres from this area in Tirunelveli district) by southwest monsoon winds during May-September.
    • The southwest monsoon winds, after draining the moisture behind the Mahendragiri hill and the Aralvaimozhi gap of the Western Ghats (about 75 kilometres from this area), become dry and strike the plains in the foothills, where vegetation is sparse.
    • Deforestation and the absence of vegetative cover in the Aralvaimozhi gap and the Nanguneri plains are considered to be the major causes of wind erosion.
    • When the dry monsoon wind blows with high velocity, the red loam is churned and driven east in huge columns of red sand, till they are met by sea breeze near the coastal tract of Tiruchendur and get deposited there.
    • The fine materials with light weight are picked up, suspended in the air and carried away. While heavy or large grains are rolled along the ground, grains of intermediate size and weight are carried out at one time and rolled to another.
    • Severe gusts of wind are capable of picking up and carrying materials for short distances and larger materials can be consistently held in the air. Thus, some grains are carried and dropped innumerable times in the course of the history
    • These processes of erosion, transport and deposit of sediments that are caused by wind at or near the surface of the earth, are called Aeolian processes. They lead to continual sand redistribution.
    • The formation of a sand dune is a most characteristic and conspicuous process. When the high-velocity wind blowing sand above the ground meets any obstruction like a fence post, bush, shrub or any other vegetation, the force of the wind is checked and the sand is deposited on the leeward side of the obstruction.
    • The sand deposited thus also forms a further obstruction, causing more sand to be deposited and the process goes on. Thus, in the due course of time, a dune is formed. This is the way a number of sand dunes have been formed over a period of time in Tiruchendur. 
    • The forest department has taken efforts and covered major blocks with vegetation and the movement of sand has been arrested to a considerable extent.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

  • Context: June 21 is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere
  • What is Summer Solstice:
    • The longest day of 2021 for those living north of the Equator is June 21.
    • In technical terms, this day is referred to as the summer solstice, the longest day of the summer season.
    • It occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or more specifically right over 23.5 degree north latitude. 

 

  • Why do we have summer solstice?
    • Since Earth rotates on its axis, the Northern Hemisphere gets more direct sunlight between March and September over the course of a day, which also means people living in the Northern Hemisphere experience summer during this time.
    • The rest of the year, the Southern Hemisphere gets more sunlight.
    • During the solstice, the Earth’s axis — around which the planet spins, completing one turn each day — is tilted in a way that the North Pole is tipped towards the sun and the South Pole is away from it.
    • Typically, this imaginary axis passes right through the middle of the Earth from top to bottom and is always tilted at 23.5 degree with respect to the sun. Therefore, the solstice, as NASA puts it, is that instant in time when the North Pole points more directly toward the sun than at any other time during the year. Solstice means “sun stands still” in Latin.
  • Characteristics of Summer Solstice
    • This day is characterised by a greater amount of energy received from the sun.
    • According to NASA, the amount of incoming energy the Earth received from the sun on this day is 30 per cent higher at the North Pole than at the Equator.
    • The maximum amount of sunlight received by the Northern Hemisphere during this time is usually on June 20, 21 or 22.
    • In contrast, the Southern Hemisphere receives most sunlight on December 21, 22 or 23 when the northern hemisphere has its longest nights– or the winter solstice.
  • How many hours of sunlight the northern hemisphere usually gets on Summer Solstice ?
    • The amount of light received by a specific area in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer solstice depends on the latitudinal location of the place.
    • The further north one moves from the equator, the more light one receives during the summer solstice.
    • At the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the solstice.
    • Summer solstice does not mean the earliest sunrise or latest sunset
    • Although June 21 will be the longest day of the year, it does not necessarily mean that it brings the earliest sunrise or latest sunset. It depends on the latitudinal location of the country.

ECO SENSITIVE ZONES

  • Context: The Supreme Court has ordered the establishment of 1-km Eco-Sensitive Zones around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

  • What are Eco-Sensitive Zones
    • As per the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are to be notified as eco-fragile zones or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ).
    • While the 10-km rule is implemented as a general principle, the extent of its application can vary. Areas beyond 10 km can also be notified by the Union government as ESZs, if they hold larger ecologically important “sensitive corridors.”
  • Significance of ESZs
    • According to the guidelines issued by the Environment Ministry, ESZs are created as “shock absorbers” for the protected areas, to minimize the negative impact on the “fragile ecosystems” by certain human activities taking place nearby.
    • Furthermore, these areas are meant to act as a transition zone from areas requiring higher protection to those requiring lesser protection.
    • The guidelines also state that the ESZs are not meant to hamper the daily activities of people living in the vicinity, but are meant to guard the protected areas and “refine the environment around them”.
  • Permitted and Prohibited Activities 
    • The guidelines list the activities prohibited in an ESZ, such as commercial mining, sawmills, commercial use of wood, etc., apart from regulated activities like the felling of trees.
    • Lastly, there are permitted activities like ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, and organic farming, among others.
  • Farmers protest in Kerela
    • Farmers in Kerala continue to protest across several high ranges of the state against the Supreme Court’s recent order to establish 1-km Eco-Sensitive Zones around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
  • Reasons of Protest
    • The widespread unrest, which has hit districts like Idukki, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Wayanad, is borne out of the fear of farmers losing their livelihood and has found support from the state government, opposition parties and the Catholic Church.
    • On June 18, almost two weeks after the court order, the Union government said that it will hold discussions with the Kerala government and file an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the matter.
  • What is the recent SC judgment that has caused an uproar in Kerala?
    • On June 3, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard a PIL which sought to protect forest lands in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu but was later expanded to cover the entire country.
    • In its judgment, the court while referring to the 2011 guidelines as “reasonable”, as reported by Live Law, directed all states to have a mandatory 1-km ESZ from the demarcated boundaries of every protected forest land, national park and wildlife sanctuary.
    • It also stated that no new permanent structure or mining will be permitted within the ESZ.
    • If the existing ESZ goes beyond the 1-km buffer zone or if any statutory instrument prescribes a higher limit, then such extended boundary shall prevail, the court, as per the Live Law report, said.
  • Why are people protesting against it?
    • Protests erupted across the high ranges of Kerala in response to the apex court’s directions. Due to the high density of human population near the notified protected areas, farmer’s groups and political parties have been demanding that all human settlements be exempt from the ESZ ruling.
    • Alex Ozhukayil, the chairman of the Kerala Independent Farmers’ Association (KIFA) claimed that the court’s decision would severely impact the livelihoods of farmers.
    • The Kerala state government had proposed that for some national parks, such as the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, the extent of the ESZ area should be reduced from the proposed uniform 1 km, to an ESZ ranging from zero to 1 km on the eastern and south-eastern side of the national park.
    • This was because the villagers occupying the densely populated settlements in these areas believed that the ESZ would restrict their agricultural and related activities.
  • Have similar protests taken place before in Kerala?
    • This is not the first time that Kerala has faced such protests. In 2013, hartals first erupted in Idukki and Wayanad after the Kasturirangan committee report recommended that 60,000 km of the Western Ghats, covering 12 of Kerala’s 14 districts, be notified as ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Similar protests had taken place in Karnataka as well.
    • In December 2021, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said he opposed the decision to declare the Western Ghats as an ecologically sensitive zone because it would “adversely affect the livelihood of the people in the region”.

CORAL REEFS

  • Context: Four new corals were recorded from Indian waters.
  • Findings
    • Scientists have recorded four species of azooxanthellate corals for the first time from Indian waters.
    • These new corals were found from the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • Azooxanthellate corals are a group of corals that do not contain zooxanthellae and derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of plankton.
    • These groups of corals are deep-sea representatives, with the majority of species reporting from between 200 m to 1000 m. Their occurrences are also reported from shallow coastal waters.
    • Zooxanthellate corals, meanwhile, are restricted to shallow waters.
    • Tamal Mondal, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) scientist behind these new records, said that all the four groups of corals are from the same family Flabellidae.
    • Truncatoflabellum crassum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), T. incrustatum (Cairns, 1989), T. aculeatum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), and T. irregulare (Semper, 1872) under the family Flabellidae were previously found from Japan to the Philippines and Australian waters while only T. crassum was reported within the range of Indo-West Pacific distribution including the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf.
  • Significance of findings
    • Azooxanthellate corals are a group of hard corals and the four new records are not only solitary but have a highly compressed skeletal structure.
    • The most studies of hard corals in India have been concentrated on reef-building corals while much is not known about non-reef-building corals. These new records enhance our knowledge about non-reef-building, solitary corals.
    • “Zoological Survey of India has given special emphasis on the exploration of the coastal and marine biodiversity of India in recent times and come out with several new discoveries and ecological findings with utmost importance ”
    • Dhriti Banerjee, director of ZSI, said that coral reefs are one of the most productive, sustainable and pristine ecosystems of the world’s oceans, especially in shallow coastal waters. “These habitats contribute several services associated with human needs and existence. Hard corals are the prime and intrinsic part of the coral reef ecosystem.”
  • CORALS DISTRIBUTION IN INDIA
    • There are about 570 species of hard corals found in India and almost 90% of them are found in the waters surrounding Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The pristine and oldest ecosystem of corals share less than 1% of the earth’s surface but they provide a home to nearly 25% of marine life.
    • Four species of azooxanthellate corals were recorded for the first time from the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • India with its coastline of 7,517 km and subtropical climatic conditions has coral reef areas along its coastline and islands.
    • All the three major reef types, atoll, fringing, and barrier, occur in India.
    • In India, Coral reefs are present in the areas of Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep Islands, and Malva.
    • The Gulf of Kutch in the northwest, which has some of the most northerly reefs in the world) and Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar in the southeast.
    • Coral patches are found in Ratnagiri, Malvan, and Redi, south of Bombay and at the Gaveshani Bank, west of Mangalore.
    • Corals along the shore are found at Quilon on the Kerala coast to Enayem in Tamilnadu.
    • Corals also occur on the east coast between Parangipettai (Porto Novo), south of Cuddalore, and Pondicherry.
    • Among island corals, in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Fringing and barrier) and Lakshadweep (Atolls) corals are found

BEDTI-VARADA PROJECT

  • Context: Recently, environmental groups in Karnataka have criticised the project to link the Bedti and Varada rivers in Karnataka, calling it ‘unscientific’ and a ‘waste of public money. 
  • What is Bedti-Varada project?
    • The project was envisaged in 1992 as one to supply drinking water by the then government.
    • The plan aims to link the Bedti, a river flowing west into the Arabian Sea, with the Varada, a tributary of the Tungabhadra river, which flows into the Krishna, which in turn flows into the Bay of Bengal.
    • The Bedti is known as Gangavali in the estuary region.
    • A massive dam will be erected at Hirevadatti in Gadag district under the project. A second dam will be built on the Pattanahalla river at Menasagoda in Sirsi, Uttara Kannada district.
    • Both dams will take water to the Varada via tunnels of length 6.3 kilometres and 2.2-km.
    • The water will reach at a place called Kengre. It will then go down a 6.88 km tunnel to Hakkalumane, where it will join the Varada.
    • The project thus envisages taking water from the water surplus Sirsi-Yellapura region of Uttara Kannada district to the arid Raichur, Gadag and Koppal districts.
    • A total of 302 million cubic metres of water from Pattanahalla and Shalmalahalla tributaries of the Bedti and Varada rivers, while 222 million cubic metres of water will be drawn from the barrage at Suremane built against the Bedti river.
  • Problem associated with the project
    • It is claimed that over 500 acres of forests will be lost. 
    • It is also claimed that both rivers do not have so much water to feed three districts for both domestic and farming purposes. 
    • It would need 61 megawatts of power to pull the water all the way to Gadag. It is difficult to redirect a westward-flowing river to flow eastward. In February, which is early summer, the Bedti and Varada rivers begin to dry up.
    • In addition, flora and fauna will also suffer due to this project. The Bedti valley has been designated as an active biodiversity zone by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN).
    • The area is home to 1,741 types of flowering plants as well as 420 species of birds and animals.
    • It would affect the nutrients that the river carries with it are responsible for sustaining fish stocks, especially in the Bedti’s estuary in Dedi. 

SNAKE ISLAND

  • Context: Ukraine has said it has caused “significant losses” to the Russian military in airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, in the Black Sea amidst the ongoing war
    .
  • Where is Snake island located
    • Snake Island, also known as Serpent Island or Zmiinyi Island , is an island belonging to Ukraine located in the Black Sea, near the Danube Delta, with an important role in delimiting Ukrainian territorial waters.
    • Snake Island is located 35 km from the coast, east of the mouth of the Danube River. The island's coordinates are 45°15′N 30°12′E. The island is X-shaped, 690 meters from S-W to N-E by 682 meters from N-W to S-E, covering an area of 0.205 km2 (0.079 sq mi).
    • The highest area is 41 metres (135 ft) above sea level. The island does not have a prominently featured mountain, but rather a low-slope hill.
  • Lithology of Snake Island
    • The bedrock of the island consists of Silurian and Devonian sedimentary rocks, primarily metamorphosed, highly cemented quartzite conglomerate-breccias, with subordinate conglomerate, sandstone and clay, which form cliffs surrounding the island up to 25 metres high.
    • The structural geology of the island is defined by a wavy monocline orientated to the northeast, with a small anticline in the eastern part of the island.
    • The island is crisscrossed by faults with both N-S and NE-SW orientations.
    • The nearest coastal location to the island is Kubanskyi Island on the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta, located 35 km (22 mi) away between the Bystroe Channel and Skhidnyi Channel. The closest Romanian coastal city, Sulina, is 45 km (28 mi) away. The closest Ukrainian city is Vylkove, 50 km (31 mi); however, there also is a port Ust-Dunaisk, 44 km (27 mi) away from the island.
  • Strategic island.
    • The island, which has been known since ancient times and is marked on the map by the tiny village of Bile that is located on it, belongs to Ukraine.
    • On February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion, two warships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Vasily Bykov and Moskva, attacked Snake Island, followed by Russian troops landing on it.
    • Ukraine has claimed to have launched several attacks on the Russian occupiers of Snake Island even before the latest ongoing operation.
    • Ukraine said it had sunk a Russian naval tug called Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering personnel and military supplies to the island. Earlier in April, it had sunk the Moskva, the 600-foot flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, which had attacked the island on day 1 of the war.
  • BLACK SEA
    • The Black Sea is located at the southeastern extremity of Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine to the north, Russia to the northeast, Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west.
    • The roughly oval-shaped Black Sea occupies a large basin strategically situated at the southeastern extremity of Europe but connected to the distant waters of the Atlantic Ocean by the Bosporus (which emerges from the sea’s southwestern corner), the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The Crimean Peninsula thrusts into the Black Sea from the north, and just to its east the narrow Kerch Strait links the sea to the smaller Sea of Azov.
    • The Black Sea coastline is otherwise fairly regular.
    • The maximum east-west extent of the sea is about 730 miles (1,175 km), and the shortest distance between the tip of Crimea and Cape Kerempe to the south is about 160 miles (260 km). The surface area, excluding the Sea of Marmara but including the Sea of Azov, is about 178,000 square miles (461,000 square km);
    • The Black Sea proper occupies about 163,000 square miles (422,000 square km). A maximum depth of more than 7,250 feet (2,210 metres) is reached in the south-central sector of the sea.

  • SALINITY
    • The Black Sea is a saltwater sea, but it is of lesser salinity than the oceans. The salinity of the Black Sea's surface waters averages between 17 and 18 parts per thousand, which is approximately half that of the oceans. A marked increase in salinity, up to 21 parts per thousand, occurs in the Black Sea at depths of roughly 160 to 500 feet (50 to 150 metres).

RESIDUAL FLOOD DAMAGE UNDER INTENSIVE ADAPTATION

  • Context
    • According to the study, Residual Flood Damage under Intensive Adaptation, the risk of river flooding is expected to increase with climate change and socioeconomic development, and therefore additional protection measures are required to reduce the potential for increased flood damage
  • What is Residual Flood Management Under Intensive Adaptation
    • RFD ‘refers to unavoidable increases in flood damage even under an adaptation strategy based on feasible adaptation costs’.
    • Adaptation strategy — in the context of floods — implies infrastructural measures that have been employed to mitigate the risks posed by floods.

  • Findings of the study
    • Assam will need 943 years of flood protection measures to prevent a crisis like the one it is witnessing if its pace of preparedness and climate adaptation doesn’t increase, according to a new study. 
    • The Indo-Gangetic Plain (excluding West Bengal and Assam) and Meghalaya are most susceptible to future floods in India and need to employ flood protection for the next 875-1,000 years.
    • The Indo-Gangetic Plain (including the Indus and Ganga basins) here includes the states and Union territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
    • The northeastern state has always been flood-prone.
    • In 2022, the flooding started as early as May, with 62 per cent above average rainfall from March-May —  a 10-year high.
    • Other flood-prone states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya will need 966, 935 & 996 years respectively.
    • Currently, 33 of Assam’s 35 districts have been affected due to flooding along the Brahmaputra basin, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority.
    • Over 4.2 million people have been affected by floods this year, while over 100,000 hectares of cropland have been damaged as of June 20.
    • In this context, mitigating future flood risks becomes important.
    • According to the study’s estimate, RFD in South Asia is estimated to be around $4 million (around Rs 31 crore) and adaptive costs around $3 million.
    • RFD (as a part of the gross domestic product) remained high in eastern China, northern parts of India and the central regions of the African continent, according to the analysis carried out by the researchers.
    • In India, riverine floods — considered one of the major natural disasters — have become synonymous with economic losses. The total flood-related losses in the country were estimated to be over Rs 37 lakh crores from 1953-2017, according to the Central Water Commission.
  • Central Water Commission
    • CWC is apex Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources.
    • It is presently functioning as an attached office of Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
    • It is charged with the general responsibilities of initiating and coordinating schemes of control, utilization and conservation of water resources throughout the country.
    • These schemes are meant for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
    • It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.
    • The work of the Commission is divided among 3 wings namely :
    • River Management Wing (RM),
    • Designs and Research Wing (D&R) and
    • Water Planning and Projects Wing (WP&P).
    • It monitors and prepares monthly reports on the state of glacial lakes and waterbodies measuring 10 hectares and above via satellite.

HIGH GRADE LITHIUM

  • Context– Recently,high-grade lithium was discovered in Nigeria.
  • Findings
    • The discovery does not equate to a commercial find. In fact, it should be taken only as a first step in the long journey to be established as a commercially viable deposit that can be mined and extracted.
    • In Nigeria, lithium minerals (spodumene and lepidolite) are known to be associated with cassiterite, columbite-tantalite (coltan) and others in the extensive belt of rare metal-bearing rock types called pegmatite.
    • The Geological Agency described the lithium as high grade because what’s been found has between 1-13 per cent oxide content. Normally exploration begins at levels as low as 0.4 percent.
  • Lithium and its importance-
    • Grade (in percent) is a measure of concentration of the lithium in the minerals and or rocks that contain it.
    • Therefore, the higher the grade the more the economic viability.
    • Lithium is a metallic mineral in very high demand by manufacturing industries.
    • In nature it tends to concentrate sufficiently in the two minerals, spodumene and lepidolite.
    • Otherwise it will occur dispersed in minerals but not sufficient enough to be of economic consideration.
    • They are usually found in specialised rocks called rare metal-bearing pegmatites and greisens.
    • Earlier the bulk of demand for lithium was split between ceramics and glasses (35 per cent) and greases, metallurgical powders, polymers, and other industrial uses (over 35 per cent). Less than 30 per cent was for batteries.
    • But by 2030, batteries are expected to account for 95 percent of demand.
    • Lithium-ion batteries are generally more expensive but have better performance and are becoming the preferred technology. 
      • The different types are:
        • Lithium-cobalt oxide battery– It is used in consumer electronics and is finding application in electric vehicles. It is relatively cheap.
        • Lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt is a newer, higher performing range of battery chemistry. It is mainly developed for the electronic vehicle market but is finding a wider use because of its increasing cost effectiveness.
        • Lithium iron phosphate, the safest technology with relatively high performance but relatively expensive. It is very popular in China but is likely to become overtaken by Lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt over the longer term; and
        • Lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide was developed to reduce cobalt consumption and is known as a solid performer and of reasonable cost.
    • Lithium-ion batteries are used in mobile phones, computers, electronics, energy storage systems and electric vehicles.
    • Lithium and most lithium minerals are mined along with other high-value metallic minerals such as tin, niobium-tantalum (columbite-tantalite) and uranium (in pyrochlore).
    • Greenbushes mine in Western Australia is the largest hard-rock lithium mine in the world. Tantalum is also mined there.
    • Due to the growing interest in clean energy, the demand for lithium has skyrocketed as most countries draw plans to phase out fossil fuel vehicles and switch to zero-emission electric vehicles.
  • Lithium Production
    • Lithium production globally grew from 28,100 metric tonnes in 2010 to 86,000 in 2019.
    • Three countries, Australia (40,000 tonnes), Chile (20,600 tonnes) and China (14,000 tonnes) mine about 86 per cent of the world’s lithium.
    • Others are Argentina, Brazil, Zimbabwe, USA and Portugal.
    • The largest importers of lithium are South Korea, China, Japan, US and Belgium.
    • Lithium price was average of $2,000 per metric tonne in 2002 rising to $18,000 in 2018.
    • The lithium supply chain involves converting lithium minerals to lithium concentrates and lithium hydroxides.
  • Lithium reserves in India
    • India currently imports lithium and the majority is routed through China.
    • The Geological Survey of India also works on the probable location of reserves in 6 states of Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Department of Atomic energy conducted surveys in Karnataka and Rajasthan.
    • In 2021, the Department of Atomic Energy discovered the country’s first lithium reserve of 1600 tonnes in Mandya, Karnataka.
    • It has an estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes.
    • In the 2022-23 Union Budget, the Finance minister announced a separate battery swapping policy alongside the government’s Faster Adoption of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme.

AEGEN SEA

  • Context:  Turkey and Greece at odds over islands in the Aegean Sea. Greece and Turkey have had long-standing rival claims over the Aegean territory, even finding themselves on the brink of war over the issue in the past .
  • Why is the Aegean Sea at the centre of Greco-Turkish ties?
    • The Aegean Sea, spanning over two lakh square kilometres, is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea.
    • It is located in the East Mediterranian Basin with the Greek peninsula to its west and Anatolia (consisting of the Asian side of Turkey) to its east. There are more than a thousand islands in the Aegean Sea, almost all Greek, and some within two kilometres of mainland Turkey or the Turkish west coast.
    • Greece and Turkey have been regional adversaries on a host of issues concerning the Aegean sea since the 1970s, both asserting rival claims over their borders in the Sea. They came to the brink of war in 1996 over a pair of uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, referred to as the Imia islets in Greece and as Kardak in Turkey.
    • A Turkish cargo ship had run aground in Imia in December 1995 and both countries rushed to salvage it.
    • Turkey rejected Greece’s help and its sovereignty over Imia. Shortly after, both countries moved their navies towards Imia, resulting in a standoff that spilled over into January of 1996.
    • The issue attracted international concern as both countries began to mobilise their forces for war, however, global intervention prevented further escalation.

 

  • What are the issues that have caused friction over the Aegean Sea?
    • Turkey and Greece have long sparred over the extent of their respective territorial waters in the Aegean, the determination of continental shelves, airspace, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), militarisation, and sovereignty of certain islets. 
  • Continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones
    • In geological terms, the continental shelf is defined as the seabed and subsoil that is the prolongation of a country’s landmass, extending beyond its territorial sea. 
    • The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a zone in which a country has special rights to exploration, use of natural resources, wind and hydro-power generation, and other economic activities like laying of pipelines, fishing and so on.
    • As per the UNCLOS, the continental shelf extends to 200 nautical miles from the country’s coastal baseline but is within its continental margin.
    • A country has sovereign rights over the natural resources in the water and the seabed and soil within its continental shelf. EEZs also extend to 200 nm from the coastline. 

Society

Health:

NANHI PARI INITIATIVE

  • Context
    • For newborn girls, Delhi's initiative to get all key certificates at hospital itself.
  • Aim
    • The programme aims to complete essential services such as provision of a birth certificate, Aadhaar card registration, and opening a bank account for girls delivered in government hospitals in the district before mother and baby are discharged.
    • The basic aim of most of these schemes is to protect the birth of the girl child, and to facilitate a safe and secure environment and education for her
    • Additionally, it also aims to get registration for schemes for girl children and mothers such as the Sukanya Samriddhi Account scheme, the Ladli scheme, and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana done at the hospital itself.
    • The idea is providing a one-stop solution so that parents won’t have to go from here to there, trying to avail of essential scheme.
    • Apart from ensuring that schemes reach target beneficiaries and protecting the interests of girl children, the programme also aims to promote institutional deliveries.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
    • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana  (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
    • Objectives
      • Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive s so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child.
      • The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW& LM).
    • Target beneficiaries
      • A Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, excluding PW&LM who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
      • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for first child in family.
      • The date and stage of pregnancy for a beneficiary would be counted with respect to her LMP date as mentioned in the MCP card.
      • Case of Miscarriage/Still Birth :
      • A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once.
      • In case of miscarriage/still birth, the beneficiary would be eligible to claim the remaining instalment(s) in event of any future pregnancy.
      • Thus, after receiving the 1st instalment, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage, she would only be eligible for receiving 2nd and 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionalities of the scheme. Similarly, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage or still birth after receiving 1 st and 2nd instalments, she would only be eligible for receiving 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionalities of the scheme.
      • Case of Infant Mortality: A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once. That is, in case of infant mortality, she will not be eligible for claiming benefits under the scheme, if she has already received all the instalments of the maternity benefit under PMMVY earlier.
      • Pregnant and Lactating AWWs/ AWHs/ ASHA may also avail the benefits under the PMMVY subject to fulfilment of scheme conditionalities.
    • Benefits under PMMVY
      • Cash incentive of Rs 5000 in three instalments i.e. first instalment of Rs 1000/ – on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) / approved Health facility as may be identified by the respective administering State / UT, second instalment of Rs 2000/ – after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC) and third instalment of Rs 2000/ – after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis – B, or its equivalent/ substitute.
      • The eligible beneficiaries would receive the incentive given under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for Institutional delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6000 / – .

MENTAL HEALTH

 

  • Context: 
    • WHO highlights urgent need to transform mental health and mental health care through World Mental Health Report
  • Highlights of the Report
    • Report urges mental health decision makers and advocates to step up commitment and action to change attitudes, actions and approaches to mental health, its determinants and mental health care.
    • In 2019, nearly a billion people – including 14% of the world’s adolescents – were living with a mental disorder.
    • Suicide accounted for more than 1 in 100 deaths and 58% of suicides occurred before age 50.
    • Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, causing one in six years lived with disability.
    • People with severe mental health conditions die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, mostly due to preventable physical diseases.
    • Childhood sexual abuse and bullying victimization are major causes of depression.
    • Social and economic inequalities, public health emergencies, war, and the climate crisis are among the global, structural threats to mental health.
    • Depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone.
  • What Is Mental Health?
    • Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.
    • It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
    • Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
      • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
      • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
      • Family history of mental health problems
  • Stigma Associated
    • Stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions are widespread in communities and care systems everywhere.
    • 20 countries still criminalize attempted suicide.
    • Across countries, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society who are at greatest risk of mental ill-health and who are also the least likely to receive adequate services.
  • Mental Healthcare scenario
    • Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, just a small fraction of people in need had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care.
    • For example, 71% of those with psychosis worldwide do not receive mental health services.
    • While 70% of people with psychosis are reported to be treated in high-income countries, only 12% of people with psychosis receive mental health care in low-income countries.
    • For depression, the gaps in service coverage are wide across all countries: even in high-income countries, only one third of people with depression receive formal mental health care and minimally-adequate treatment for depression is estimated to range from 23% in high-income countries to 3% in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
  • Challenges related to Mental Health
    • Lack of Resources – Very low proportion of mental health workforce(per 100,000 population).
      • psychiatrists (0.3)
      • nurses (0.12)
      • psychologists (0.07) and
      • social workers (0.07).
    • High Public Health Burden
    • Very Less Awareness – People tend to ignore the early symptoms.
    • Mental Health not given as much importnace as physical health.
    • Post treatment gap
    • Stigma Associated
  • Steps taken by government to bridge the gap

    • National Mental Health Program
      • Poor awareness about symptoms of mental illness, myths & stigma related to it, lack of knowledge on the treatment availability & potential benefits of seeking treatment are important causes for the high treatment gap. The Government of India has launched the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in 1982, with the following objectives:
        • To ensure the availability and accessibility of minimum mental healthcare for all in the foreseeable future, particularly to the most vulnerable and underprivileged sections of the population;
        • To encourage the application of mental health knowledge in general healthcare and in social development; and
        • To promote community participation in the mental health service development and to stimulate efforts towards self-help in the community.
        • The District Mental Health Program (DMHP) was launched under NMHP in the year 1996 (in IX Five Year Plan). The DMHP was based on ‘Bellary Model’ with the following components:
        • Early detection & treatment.
        • Training: imparting short term training to general physicians for diagnosis and treatment of common mental illnesses with limited number of drugs under guidance of specialist. The Health workers are being trained in identifying mentally ill persons.
        • IEC: Public awareness generation.
        • Monitoring: the purpose is for simple Record Keeping.
    • Kiran Helpline – In 2020, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment launched a 24/7 toll-free helpline ‘Kiran’ to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns.
    • Manodarpan: The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) launched it under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.
  • Way Forward
    • Drawing on the latest evidence available, showcasing examples of good practice, and voicing people’s lived experience, WHO’s comprehensive report highlights why and where change is most needed and how it can best be achieved.
    • It calls on all stakeholders to work together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental health, reshape the environments that influence mental health and strengthen the systems that care for people’s mental health.
    • All 194 WHO Member States have signed up to the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030, which commits them to global targets for transforming mental health. 

Society and Education:

QS WORLD RANKING

  • Context:41 Indian universities feature in the 2023 QS World Rankings list, none in top 150
  • Rankings
    • Institute of Science Bangalore, one of the eight Institutes of Eminence, has secured a spot at the 155th ranking, followed by IIT-Bombay and Delhi, at 172nd and 174th positions respectively.
    • Forty-one Indian universities, seven more than last year, have made it to the QS World University Rankings 2023, but none figures in the global top 150.
    • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore has grabbed the highest rank at 155, leaving behind the coveted IITs. Delhi University is the only non-professional institution in the academic hall of fame, ranked below 520.
    • The top-ranking IISc Bangalore – one of the eight public Institutes of Eminence (IoE) – which moved up 31 places since last year, secured the first spot among the Indian institutions, is followed by IIT-Bombay and Delhi, bagging the 172nd and 174th positions, respectively.
    • Apart from IISc at 155, IIT-Bombay (IIT-B) and IIT-Delhi (IIT-D), which have risen five and 11 places to rank 172 and 174 respectively, are the only other Indian institutes in the global league of top 200, in continuation of a trend since 2017.
    • The number of Indian institutes among the top 1,000 globally has risen to 27 from 22.
    • “Furthermore, IISc Bengaluru is the fastest rising South Asian university among the QS World University Rankings top-200,” said a QS statement.
    • No Indian university besides IISc Bangalore, IIT-B and IIT-D has made it to QS’ top 200 in the last four years. Apart from IISc, eight IITs – Delhi, Bombay, Madras (250), Kanpur (264), Kharagpur (270), Roorkee (369), Guwahati (384), and Indore (396) – are ranked among the top 500 globally.
  • Research
    • India has also come out strongly on the research front, with IISc emerging number one globally in the ‘citations per faculty’ (CpF) indicator, which higher education analyst Quacquarelli Symonds uses to evaluate the impact of research produced by universities.
    • According to the CpF indicator, when universities are adjusted for faculty size, IISc Bengaluru is the world’s top research university, achieving a perfect score of 100/100 for this metric.
    • IIT Guwahati (37th for CpF), IIT Roorkee (47th for CpF) and the new entry University of Madras (48th for CpF) are also global top-50 research institutions.
  • Global Scenario
    • The top three positions this year are bagged by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the eleventh consecutive year, while the University of Cambridge has risen to second place, and Stanford University remains in the third position.

GLOBAL TRENDS ON FORCED DISPLACEMENT IN 2021

  • Context: Nearly 5 million people in India internally displaced due to climate change, disasters in 2021: UN
  • Displacement due to Climate Change
    • The largest displacements in the context of disasters in 2021 occurred in China (6.0 million), the Philippines (5.7 million) and India (4.9 million).
    • Most disaster displacements during the year were temporary
    • Nearly five million people in India were internally displaced due to climate change and disasters in 2021, the United Nations has said in a report.
  • Other Reasons for Displacement
    • The annual Global Trends Report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) highlighted that globally 100 million people were forced to flee their homes last year due to
      • violence
      • human rights abuses
      • food insecurity
      • the climate crisis
      • war in Ukraine and other emergencies from Africa to Afghanistan.
      • According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), in 2021, there were 23.7 million new internal displacements globally due to disasters (these are in addition to those internally displaced due to conflict and violence). This represented a decrease of seven million, or 23 per cent, compared to the previous year.
      • The largest displacements in the context of disasters in 2021 occurred in China (6.0 million), the Philippines (5.7 million) and India (4.9 million). Most disaster displacements during the year were temporary.
  • Status of Migrants
    • The majority of the internally displaced persons returned to their home areas, but 5.9 million people worldwide remained displaced at the end of the year due to disasters.
    • The UN agency said that the number of people forced to flee their homes has increased every year over the past decade and stands at the highest level since records began, a trend that can be only reversed by a new, concerted push towards peacemaking.
    • By the end of 2021, those displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses stood at 89.3 million, up eight per cent on a year earlier and well over double the figure of 10 years ago.
    • While the latest global trends report reflects the period of January 2021 to December 2021, the UN agency said it is impossible to ignore the developments that have happened in early 2022, including the Russian war against Ukraine.
    • The report said that at the end of 2021, 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, including 27.1 million refugees, 21.3 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, 5.8 million Palestine refugees under United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) mandate, 53.2 million internally displaced people, 4.6 million asylum seekers and 4.4 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.
    • Asylum seekers submitted 1.4 million new claims. The United States of America was the world’s largest recipient of new individual applications (188,900), followed by Germany (148,200), Mexico (132,700), Costa Rica (108,500) and France (90,200).
    • By May 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide by persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.
  • Migrants Hardships
    • The UN agency said that food scarcity, inflation and the climate crisis are adding to people’s hardship. The number of refugees rose in 2021 to 27.1 million. Arrivals climbed in Uganda, Chad and Sudan among others, it added.
    • Most refugees were, once again, hosted by neighbouring countries with few resources. The number of asylum seekers reached 4.6 million, up 11 per cent.
    • Last year also saw the 15th straight annual rise in people displaced within their countries by conflict, to 53.2 million. The increase was driven by mounting violence or conflict in some places, for example Myanmar.
    • The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray and other regions has spurred the flight of millions within the country. Insurgencies in the Sahel drove fresh internal displacement, particularly in Burkina Faso and Chad.

PERFORMANCE GRADING INDEX FOR DISTRICTS

  • Context 
    • Education Ministry releases Performance Grading Index for Districts for school system for the sessions 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • About
    • Performance Grading Index for Districts (PGI-D) in the country assesses the performance of school education system at the district level by creating an index for comprehensive analysis.
    • The Indian Education System is one of the largest in the world with about 15 lakh schools, 97 lakh teachers, and nearly 26 crore students from varied socio-economic backgrounds.
    • DoSE&L had devised the Performance Grading Index (PGI) for States and released its report for the reference years 2017-18 to 2019-20.
    • Based on the success of the State PGI, an 83-indicator-based PGI for District (PGI-D) was designed to grade the performance of all the districts in school education.
  • Objectives
    • The PGI-D is expected to help the state education departments to identify gaps at the district level and improve their performance in a decentralized manner.
    • The indicator-wise PGI score shows the areas where a district needs to improve. The PGI-D will reflect the relative performance of all the districts in a uniform scale which encourages them to perform better.
  • Indicators 
    • The PGI-D structure comprises a total weightage of 600 points across 83 indicators, which are grouped under six categories– Outcomes, Effective Classroom Transaction, Infrastructure Facilities and Student’s Entitlements, School Safety and Child Protection, Digital Learning, and Governance Process.
    • These categories are further divided into 12 domains, viz.,
      • Learning Outcomes and Quality (LO),
      • Access Outcomes (AO),
      • Teacher Availability and Professional Development Outcomes (TAPDO),
      • Learning Management (LM),
      • Learning Enrichment Activities (LEA),
      • Infrastructure,
      • Facilities,
      • Student Entitlements (IF&SE),
      • School Safety and Child Protection (SS&CP),
      • Digital Learning (DL),
      • Funds convergence and utilization (FCV),
      • Enhancing CRCs Performance (CRCP),
      • Attendance Monitoring Systems (AMS) and School Leadership Development (SLD).
         
  • Grading
    • PGI-D has graded the districts into ten grades viz.
      • Highest achievable Grade is Daksh, which is for the districts scoring more than 90 per cent of the total points in that category or overall.
      • The lowest grade in PGI-D is called Akanshi-3 which is for scores upto 10 per cent of the total points.

ROAD SAFETY

  • Context
    • New research: Better road safety measures could save half a million lives annually worldwide
  • Findings
    • The benefits of more motorcyclists wearing helmets would be the biggest in China, where 13,703 lives could be saved every year, followed by Brazil (5,802 lives), and India (5,683 lives), says the study published in The Lancet.
    • An estimated 121,083 and 51,698 lives could be saved by passing and enforcing rules on wearing seat belts and motorcycle helmets respectively.
    • New global and country-level estimates suggest that routinely wearing helmets and seat belts, obeying speed limits, and avoiding driving drunk could save between 347,000 and 540,000 lives worldwide every year.
    • Analysis of data from 74 studies in 185 countries estimates that targeting four key risk factors for road injuries and deaths (speeding, drink driving, and non-use of crash helmets and seat belts) could prevent between 25% and 40% of all fatal road injuries worldwide every year.
    • Interventions to reduce speeding such as infrastructure changes and electronic speed control could save an estimated 347,258 lives globally each year, while measures to tackle drunk driving such as enhanced drink driving enforcement could save a further 16,304 lives, the study says.
    • An estimated 121,083 and 51,698 lives could be saved by passing and enforcing rules on wearing seat belts and motorcycle helmets respectively.
    • Improving seat belt use would have a particularly large effect on reducing road deaths in the United States (saving an estimated 14,121 lives every year) and China (13,228). Tackling speeding would be the single most effective measure to reduce road fatalities in most countries, preventing an estimated 88,374 deaths in China, 1,027 in Spain, and 815 in the United Kingdom.
  • Situation in India
    • Deaths on roads are a major problem in India.
    • Each year road accidents kill about 150,000 people and injure another 450,000 in the country.
    • The World Bank noted in a report this month that with only 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles, India accounts for almost 10 per cent of all crash related deaths.
    • Witnessing 53 road crashes every hour; road accidents are killing 1 person every 4 minutes.
    • The 2019 World Bank report, titled 'Guide for Road Safety Opportunities and Challenges: Low- and Middle-Income Countries Country Profiles', puts the road crash and serious injury cost estimate at 7.5 per cent of India's GDP or Rs 12.9 lakh crore for 2016.
  • Justice Radhakrishnan committee:
    • It has pointed out serious lapses in implementation of safety laws by States, which has led to increasing number of road fatalities.
    • It asked the State governments to formulate their respective State Road Safety policies besides setting up State Road Safety Councils.
    • States have to draw up a protocol to identify black spots on their roads and their removal.
    • The committee directed the States to strengthen enforcement on drunken driving, over speeding, red light jumping and helmet and seat belt laws.
    • Other directions include, tightening of road patrols on highways, establishment of road safety fund to which a portion of traffic fines collected would go to finance road safety expenses and remove encroachments on pedestrian paths, among others.
  • Steps taken by the government to prevent Road Accidents
    • Motor Vehicle Amendment Act that imposes stricter penalties of monetary fine and imprisonment on violation of traffic rules.
    • Education and Awareness
      • Observance of National Road Safety Month/week every year.
    • National Road Safety Policy
      • This Policy outlines various policy measures such as promoting awareness, establishing road safety information data base, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport, enforcement of safety laws etc.
    • Model Driving Training Institutes
      • Setting up of model driving training institutes in States.

COMMUNITY FOREST RESOURCE

  • Context
    • In a first, Chhattisgarh recognises CFR rights of village inside national park.The CFR rights of Gudiyapadar hamlet, which comprises of 403 hectares of forest area and consists of four reserved forest compartments inside the Kanger Ghati National Park, was recognised.
  • What is a community forest resource?
    • The community forest resource area is the common forest land that has been traditionally protected and conserved for sustainable use by a particular community. The community uses it to access resources available within the traditional and customary boundary of the village; and for seasonal use of landscape in case of pastoralist communities.
    • Each CFR area has a customary boundary with identifiable landmarks recognised by the community and its neighboring villages. It may include forest of any category – revenue forest, classified & unclassified forest, deemed forest, DLC land, reserve forest, protected forest, sanctuary and national parks etc.
  • What are Community Forest Resource rights?
    • The Community Forest Resource rights under Section 3(1)(i) of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (commonly referred to as the Forest Rights Act or the FRA) provide for recognition of the right to “protect, regenerate or conserve or manage” the community forest resource.
    • These rights allow the community to formulate rules for forest use by itself and others and thereby discharge its responsibilities under Section 5 of the FRA.
    • CFR rights, along with Community Rights (CRs) under Sections 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c), which include nistar rights and rights over non-timber forest products, ensure sustainable livelihoods of the community.
    • These rights give the authority to the Gram Sabha to adopt local traditional practices of forest conservation and management within the community forest resource boundary.
  • Why is the recognition of CFR rights important?
    • Aimed at undoing the “historic injustice” meted out to forest-dependent communities due to curtailment of their customary rights over forests, the FRA came into force in 2008.
    • It is important as it recognises the community’s right to use, manage and conserve forest resources, and to legally hold forest land that these communities have used for cultivation and residence.
    • It also underlines the integral role that forest dwellers play in sustainability of forests and in conservation of biodiversity.
    • It is of greater significance inside protected forests like national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as traditional dwellers then become a part of management of the protected forests using their traditional wisdom.
  • Scheduled Tribes And Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
    • The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural needs. T
    • he forest management policies, including the Acts, Rules and Forest Policies of Participatory Forest Management policies in both colonial and post-colonial India, did not, till the enactment of this Act, recognize the symbiotic relationship of the STs with the forests, reflected in their dependence on the forest as well as in their traditional wisdom regarding conservation of the forests.
    • The Act encompasses Rights of Self-cultivation and Habitation which are usually regarded as Individual rights; and Community Rights as Grazing, Fishing and access to Water bodies in forests, Habitat Rights for PVTGs, Traditional Seasonal Resource access of Nomadic and Pastoral community, access to biodiversity, community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge, recognition of traditional customary rights and right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource for sustainable use. It also provides rights to allocation of forest land for developmental purposes to fulfil basic infrastructural needs of the community.
    • In conjunction with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Settlement Act, 2013 FRA protects the tribal population from eviction without rehabilitation and settlement.
    • The Act further enjoins upon the Gram Sabha and rights holders the responsibility of conservation and protection of bio-diversity, wildlife, forests, adjoining catchment areas, water sources and other ecologically sensitive areas as well as to stop any destructive practices affecting these resources or cultural and natural heritage of the tribals.
    • The Gram Sabha is also a highly empowered body under the Act, enabling the tribal population to have a decisive say in the determination of local policies and schemes impacting them.
    • Thus, the Act empowers the forest dwellers to access and use the forest resources in the manner that they were traditionally accustomed, to protect, conserve and manage forests, protect forest dwellers from unlawful evictions and also provides for basic development facilities for the community of forest dwellers to access facilities of education, health, nutrition, infrastructure etc.
  • Objective:
    • To undo the historical injustice occurred to the forest dwelling communities
    • To ensure land tenure, livelihood and food security of the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers
    • To strengthen the conservation regime of the forests by including the responsibilities and authority on Forest Rights holders for sustainable use, conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecological balance.
  • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups
    • Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large and backwardness.
    • Along with these, some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • The need for identification
    • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
    • Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development. In this context, in 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and one Union Territory (UT), in the country (2011 census).

  • How they are identified
    • Government of India follows the following criteria for identifiaction of PVTGs.
      • Pre-agricultural level of technology
      • Low level of literacy
      • Economic backwardness
      • A declining or stagnant population.
      • Accordingly 75 PTVGs have been identified in the country. 
  • States in which PVTGs exist
    • Andhra Pradesh
    • Telangana
    • Bihar 
    • Jharkhand
    • Jharkhand
    • Gujarat
    • Karnataka
    • Kerala
    • Madhya Pradesh
    • Chhattisgarh
    • Maharashtra
    • Rajasthan
    • Tamil Nadu
    • Tripura
    • Uttar Pradesh 
    • Uttarakhand
    • West Bengal
    • Andaman & Nicobar Islands
  • The characteristics of PVTGs
    • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups.
    • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). PVTGs have some basic characteristics -they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.
  • Population
    • In India, tribal population makes up for 8.6% of the total population. Tribal people live in about 15% of the geographical area of the country. The places they live vary from plains,forests, hills, inaccessible areas etc. PVTGs are scattered in different geographical areas of the country. According to the 2001 census, the PVTGs population is approximately. 27,68,322. There are 12 PVTGs having a population above 50,000 and the remaining groups have a population of 1000 or less. The PVTG of Sahariyas has the highest population of 4,50,217, while the PVTGs of Sentinelets and Andamanese has a very small population of 39 and 43, respectively.
  • Social conditions and declining population
    • The cultural practices, systems, self governance and livelihood practices of PVTGs have a lot of variations, depending on the group and locality.
    • These tribal groups are widely different culturally.
    • The level of inequalities in social and economical conditions is very high amongst PVTGs. Their problems are also very different from group to group.
    • The growth of PVTGs' population is either stagnating or declining, compared to the general population growth, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the declining rate is very high.
    • There are five PVTGs in the Andaman islands such as Great Andamanese, Jarawas, Onges, Sentineles and Shom Pens.
    • In 1858, the Great Andamanese were estimated at nearly 3500,in 1901 their number declined to 625. According to the2001 Census, the Great Andamanese stood at just 43, Jarawas are 241, Onges are 96, Sentineles are 39 and Shom Pens are 398.
  • Livelihoods
    • PVTGs depend on various livelihoods such as food gathering,Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFP), hunting, livestock rearing, shifting cultivation and artisan works.
    • Most of their livelihoods depend on the forest.
    • The forest is their life and livelihood. They collect various NTFP items such as honey, gum, amla, bamboo, shrubs, fuel wood,dry leaves, nuts, sprouts, wax, medical plants,roots and tubes.
    • Most of the NTFP items they gather are for consumption and they sell the remaining to middle men.
    • But due to the shrinking forests, environmental changes and new forest conservation policies, their NTFP collection is getting hampered. Because of the lack of awareness about the value of NTFP produce, PVTGs have been exploited by the middle men.
  • Health conditions
    • Health is a prerequisite for human development and it is an essential component in well-being of humankind.Health problems of any community are influenced by different factors such as social, economical and political factors.
    • The health status of PVTGs is in an awful condition because of multiple factors like poverty,illiteracy, lack of safe drinking water, bad sanitary conditions, difficult terrain, malnutrition, poor maternal and child health services, unavailability of health and nutritional services, superstition and deforestation.
    • The diseases like anemia, upper respiratory problem, malaria; gastro-intestinal disorders like acute diarrhea,Intestinal protozoan; micro nutrient deficiency and skin infection diseases are common among PVTGs.
    • Many of these diseases can be prevented by providing nutrition food, timely medical facilities and health awareness. The condition of education is also very poor, with an average literacy rate of 10% to 44% in PVTGs.
  • Scheme for PVTGs
    • The Scheme for Development of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), came into effect from April 1, 2008.
    • The Scheme defines PVTGs as the most vulnerable among the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheme therefore seeks to prioritise their protection and development.
    • It identifies 75 PVTGs. The Scheme seeks to adopt a holistic approach to the socio-economic development of PVTGs and gives state governments flexibility in planning initiatives that are geared towards the specific socio-cultural imperatives of the specific groups at hand.
    • Activities supported under the scheme include housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, cattle development, construction of link roads, installation of non conventional sources of energy, social security, etc.
    • Funds are made available only for activities essential for the survival, protection and development of PVTGs and not already funded by any other Scheme of the central/state governments.
    • Each state and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ administration, is required to prepare a long term Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) plan, valid for a period of five years for each PVTG within its territory, outlining the initiatives it will undertake, financial planning for the same and the agencies charged with the responsibility of undertaking the same.
    • The CCD Plan is approved by an Expert Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The Scheme is then funded entirely by the Central government.

SRESHTA SCHEME

  • Context
    • Govt launches SRESHTA scheme for SC students to provide quality education and opportunities
  • Aims
    • To empower students from the SC community.
    • To ensure equity and equality as mentioned in Article 14.
    • Inclusive Development.
  • Provions of the scheme
    • Under the scheme, 177 private schools have been identified, and 1,300 seats in ninth grade and 1,700 seats in grade 11are reserved for these students.
    • The selected students would be offered choices of the schools through web-based counselling system
    • The selected students would be offered choices of the schools through web-based counselling system
    • Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Virendra Kumar has launched the Scheme for Residential Education for Students in High Schools in Targeted Areas (SRESHTA) which aims to provide quality education and opportunities to the poorest SC students, as per the constitutional mandate.
    • The scholarship amount for grade nine is Rs one lakh, grade 10 is Rs 1.10 lakh, grade 11 Rs 1.25 lakh and grade 12 is Rs 1.35 lakh per annum.
  • Beneficiaries
    • To qualify for the scheme, the parental income of the students shall not be more than Rs 2.5 lakh per year and the scholarship will cover school fee (including tuition fee) and hostel fee (including mess charges).

 

PRADHAN MANTRI AWAAS YOJANA-URBAN

  • Context:
    • The Centre has committed Rs 2.01 lakh crore for the PMAY-U, of which Rs 1.18 lakh crore has been released and Rs 1.10 lakh crore has been spent.
  • What is the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban?
    • The government had launched the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) on June 252015, to provide pucca houses to all eligible beneficiaries by 2022.
    • The PMAY-U is one of the two schemes envisioned under the PMAY-U. It is focused on the urban areas, while the other one—PMAY-G—is for rural areas.
    • The scheme has four verticals:
      • “In-situ” Slum Redevelopment (ISSR);
      • Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS);
      • Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP)
      • and Beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancements (BLC),
  • How many houses have been built?
    • As per information available on the PMAY-U, 1.21 crore houses have been sanctioned under the scheme till May 9 2022, of which 58.82 lakh houses have been completed/delivered.
    • A maximum number of 28.17 lakh houses have been built under the BLC vertical. The remaining 30.65 lakh houses have been built under the other three verticals—ISSR, CLSS and AHP.
  • What is the Beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancements (BLC)?
    • Under the BLC vertical, a beneficiary receives a financial assistance of Rs 2.5 lakh from the government to build his or her house.
    • The PMAY-U guidelines define a beneficiary family as a family comprising of “husband, wife and unmarried [sons and/ or unmarried daughters.]”
    • The beneficiary family should not own a pucca house (an all-weather dwelling unit) either in his/her name or in the name of any member of his/her family in any part of India.
    • Under the scheme guidelines, an adult earning member (irrespective of marital status) can be treated as a separate household. However, to avail the scheme, he or she should not own a pucca house (an all-weather dwelling unit) in his /her name in any part of India.
    • Under the PMAY-G, a beneficiary can avail the BLC component for the enhancement of his or her existing house. However, only persons with a pucca house having a built-up area of less than 21 sq.m are eligible to avail this facility.
  • What is geotagging and is it mandatory under the PMAY-U?
    • Geotagging is a process of adding geographical identification to various media like photography.
    • Under the PMAY-U guidelines, it is mandatory for the state government to ensure that all houses built under the scheme are geotagged to the Bhuvan HFA (housing for all) application, which has been developed by the government for the monitoring of the scheme.
  • What is Bhuvan HFA?
    • Bhuvan is an Indian Geo Platform developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). It is a web-based application which allows users to access various map related services. The application also provides facility of geotagging of images of houses built or being constructed under the PMAY-U.

FOOD SAFETY INDEX: HOW IT IS WORKED OUT, HOW THE STATES HAVE PERFORMED

  • Context
    • The SFSI is released annually for a financial year. For instance, the latest SFSI, released on World Food safety Day, June 7, is for the fiscal 2021-22. This is the fourth edition of the SFSI since its inception in 2018-19.
  • What is the SFSI?
    • Developed by the FSSAI, the index aims to measure the performance of states and Union Territories on selected “parameters” of food safety.
    • According to the FSSAI, the index is aimed at encouraging states and UTs to “improve their performance and work towards establishing a proper food safety ecosystem in their jurisdiction…”
  • Which are these food safety parameters?
    • The SFSI takes into account the performance of the states on five key parameters, each of which is assigned a different weightage in the assessment.
      • HUMAN RESOURCES & INSTITUTIONAL DATA: This carries a weightage of 20% and measures the “availability of human resources like number of Food Safety Officers, Designated Officers facility of adjudications and appellate tribunals, functioning of State/ District level Steering Committees, pendency of cases and their monitoring and participation in Central Advisory Committee meetings of the Food Authority”.
      • COMPLIANCE: This carries the highest weightage, 30%. “This is the most important parameter and measures overall coverage of food businesses in licensing & registration commensurate with size and population of the State/UTs, special drives and camps organized, yearly increase, promptness and effectiveness in issue of state licenses/ registrations,” the FSSAI says. “Promptness” in attending to consumer grievances, and availability of a help desk and web portals, too, come under this parameter.
      • FOOD TESTING—INFRASTRUCTURE AND SURVEILLANCE: Weighted at 20%, this measures the “availability of adequate testing infrastructure with trained manpower in the States/ UTs for testing food samples”. The FSSAI says, “The States/ UTs with NABL accredited labs and adequate manpower in the labs score more in this parameter.” It takes into account the “availability and effective utilization” of Mobile Food Testing Labs and registration and utilization of InFoLNet (Indian Food Laboratories Network).
      • TRAINING & CAPACITY BUILDING: This parameter carries the lowest weightage, at 10%. It measures states’ performance on training and capacity building of regulatory staff.
      • CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT: This carries a weightage of 20%. It evaluates the states and UTs on their performance on various consumer empowering initiatives of FSSAI, such as participation in Food Fortification, Eat Right Campus, BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God), Hygiene Rating of Restaurants, Clean Street Food Hubs, etc.
  • How is the states and UTs assessed?
    • The states and Union Territories are not assessed and ranked together.
    • They are segregated into three categories — large states, small states and UTs— and assessed separately within their respective categories, based on their performance on the selected food safety parameters.
    • The assessment and evaluation of each category are done by separate teams comprising of outside experts for food testing and food & nutrition professionals in addition to FSSAI officials
    • These expert teams examine details received from the states and UTs. They also interact with the states/UTs through video-conferencing for verification and confirmation of data.
  • How have the states and UTs performed this year?
    • In the category of the 20 large states, Tamil Nadu with an overall score of 82 out of 100 has performed the best and been ranked 1st on SFSI 2021-22, while Andhra Pradesh with an overall score of 26 has been ranked at the bottom —17th place (some states share a common rank).
    • Following Tamil Nadu in the rankings of the larger states are Gujarat (rank 2nd with a score 77.5), Maharashtra (3rd with 70), Himachal Pradesh (4th with 65.5) and West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh (sharing 5th with a score of 58.5).
    • Bihar (rank 16th, score 30), Telangana (rank 15th , score 34.5), Assam (rank 14th, score 35) and Chhattisgarh and Haryana (rank 13th, score 38) join Andhra Pradesh in the bottom 5 among the large states on the SFSI for the large states.
    • Among the remaining 8 large states, Kerala with a score of 57 has been ranked at 6th, Uttarakhand (score 55) at 7th, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (both 54.5) at 8th, Karnataka (score 52.5) at 9th, Rajasthan (score 50.5) at 10th, Punjab (score 45) at 11th and Jharkhand (41.5) at 12th.
    • Among the eight small states, Goa with a score of 56 has been ranked at the top, while Arunachal Pradesh (rank 8th and score 21) is at the bottom.
    • Among the eight Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir with a score of 68.5 has been ranked 1st and Lakshadweep (score 16) as the bottom. Delhi with a score of 66 has been ranked at 2nd place.

AGNEEPATH SCHEME 2022

  • Context :
    • The Union Cabinet took a historic decision approving an attractive recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces for which a scheme has been introduced with the name AGNEEPATH (AGNIPATH). The youth selected under the Agneepath scheme will be categorised as Agniveers. With the announcement of this Agnipath Scheme, a window of opportunity has been opened for the youths to serve their nation for a period of 4 years.
  • What is Agneepath Scheme?
    • Agneepath/ Agnipath Scheme is a recruitment process launched by the central government wherein selected candidates will be enrolled as Agniveers for four years period in Indian Armed Forces.
    • The Armed Forces will be recruiting 46,000 Agniveers this year through Agnipath/Agneepath scheme.
    • On completion of the four-year period, Aginveers will go to the society as a disciplined, dynamic, motivated, and skilled workforce for employment in other sectors to pursue their career in the job of their choice.
  • Revised Age Limit 
    • The upper age limit for Agniveers has been revised to 23 years. 
  • Broad Objectives

    • To enhance the youthful profile of the Armed Forces so that they are at their fighting best at all times with increased risk-taking ability.

    • To imbibe the Armed Forces ethos, courage, commitment, and teamwork in the youth.

    • To provide abilities and qualities such as discipline, motivation, dynamism, and work skills so that youth remains as an asset.

    • To provide an opportunity to the youth who may be keen to serve the Nation in uniform for a short period of time.

    • To attract youth talent among the society to effectively exploit, adapt, and use emerging modern technologies with enhanced technical thresholds of intake while leveraging Technical institutions of the country. 

  • Reservation
    •  The government has announced a 10% reservation for ‘Agniveers’ in central police forces & Assam Rifles with upper age relaxation. Defence Ministry also came up with a 10% quota which will cover the Coast Guard, defence civilian posts and 16 defence PSUs, which include major ones like Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, as well as four shipyards and 41 ordnance factories.

Polity

Executive:

Election of President

  • Context: The tenure of the current President of India is set to end in July 2022. Thus, the Election Commission has notified the election of India’s 15th President.
  • How is the President elected?
    • The Indian President is elected through an electoral college system, wherein the votes are cast by MPs and MLAs.
    • The elections are conducted and overseen by the Election Commission (EC) of India.
    • The electoral college of the presidential election consists of:
      1. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
      2. Legislative Assemblies of the states
      3. Legislative Assemblies of the Union Territories of Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir  and Puducherry
    • The nominated members of both the houses and state legislatures are not allowed to vote in the presidential election.
  • Value of Vote of MP and MLA in President Election in India:
    • The value of the vote of each MP and MLA differs in accordance with the number of members in their legislative body. Further, each elector casts a different number of votes.
    • The general principle is that the total number of votes cast by Members of parliament equals the total number of votes cast by State Legislators. Also, legislators from larger states cast more votes than those from smaller states.
  • Eligibility to hold the office of President of India:
    1. He should be an Indian CitizenHis age should be a minimum of 35 years.
    2. He should qualify the conditions to be elected as a member of the Lok Sabha.
    3. He should not hold any office of profit under the central government, state government, or any public authority.
  • Related Constitutional Articles:
    • Article 54: Election of President.
    • Article 55: Manner of election of President.
    • Article 56: Term of office of President.
    • Article 57: Eligibility for re-election.
    • Article 58: Qualifications for election as President.

Inter-State Council

  • Context: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister wrote to Prime Minister, asking that at least three meetings of the Inter-State Council should be held every year to “strengthen the spirit of cooperative federalism”.
  • About Inter-State Council:
    • It is a mechanism that was constituted “to support Centre-State and Inter-State coordination and cooperation in India”.
    • The Inter-State Council was established under Article 263 of the Constitution, which states that the President may constitute such a body if a need is felt for it.
    • The Council is basically meant to serve as a forum for discussions among various governments.
    • In 1988, the Sarkaria Commission suggested the Council should exist as a permanent body, and in 1990 it came into existence through a Presidential Order.
  • Functions:
    • The main functions of the Council are inquiring into and advising on disputes between states, investigating and discussing subjects in which two states or states and the Union have a common interest, and making recommendations for the better coordination of policy and action.
  • Composition:
    • The Prime Minister is the chairman of the Council.
    • Members include the Chief Ministers of all states and UTs with legislative assemblies and Administrators of other UTs.
    • Six Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Centre’s Council of Ministers, nominated by the Prime Minister, are also its members.

Zonal Councils

 

  • Context: Minister of Home Affairs chaired the 25th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Diu.
  • About Zonal Councils:
    • The zonal council is a statutory body established under the State Reorganization Act of 1956.
    • It is an organ of deliberation and advice.
    • The purpose of creating zonal councils is to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.
  • Composition:
    • 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.
  • How many zonal councils are there?
    • The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 created five zonal councils: Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern.
    • 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.

Agnipath Scheme

  • Context: Agneepath scheme is a step taken by the Government of India as a new process of recruitment for the Indian Armed Forces i.e., the Indian Army, the Indian Navy as well as Air Force.
  • About Scheme:
    • Agnipath Scheme is a recruitment process launched by the central government wherein selected candidates will be enrolled as Agniveers for four years period in Indian Armed Forces.
    • The Armed Forces will be recruiting 46,000 Agniveers this year through the Agnipath scheme.
    • On completion of the four-year period, Aginveers will go to the society as a disciplined, dynamic, motivated, and skilled workforce for employment in other sectors to pursue their career in the job of their choice.
    •  

  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • It is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
    • Aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply.
  • Benefits for Agniveers:
    • Upon the completion of the 4-years of service, a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of Rs 11.71 lakhs will be paid to the Agniveers that will include their accrued interest thereon.
    • They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
    • In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
    • The government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses.

Legislature:

How Rajya Sabha MPs elected?

  • Context: Recently, elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats across 15 states are slated to be held on June 10.
  • What is Rajya Sabha:
    • The Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of Parliament is modeled after the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. The Rajya Sabha currently has 245 members, including 233 elected members and 12 nominated.
    • As per the constitutional limit, the Upper House strength cannot exceed 250.
    • While 233 members are elected from states and Union Territories (UTs), President of India nominates the remaining 12 from from the fields of art, literature, science and social services.
    • As per the constitution, since the Rajya Sabha is the Council of States, the allocation of seats for Rajya Sabha is made on the basis of the population of each state.
  • How are Rajya Sabha members elected?
    • Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected through single transferable vote via open ballot. Members of a state’s Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections in what is called proportional representation with the single transferable vote (STV) system. Each MLA’s vote is counted only once.
    • The tenure of a Rajya Sabha member is six years.  One-third members retire every second year and are replaced by newly chosen members.
    • Each member serves for a term of six years. In case of death, disqualification or resignation, bypolls are held.
  • Important points for prelims:
    • The  ‘none of the above’  i.e. NOTA is not applicable to this election. Earlier in 2014, The ECI gave Rajya Sabha members the option to press the NOTA button in the Upper House polls. However, in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the provision, holding that the ‘none of the above’.
    • Cross-voting does not attract disqualification under the Anti Defection Law or 10th Schedule.

Speaker’s powers in a rebellion

 

  • Context: While granting interim relief to rebel MLAs of the Shiv Sena on Monday, the Supreme Court made a crucial but unusual judicial intervention that raises questions on the powers of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • What is the Tenth Schedule?
    • The 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution (the anti-defection law) is designed to prevent political defections prompted by the lure of office or material benefits or other like considerations.
    • The Anti-defection law was passed by Parliament in 1985 and reinforced in 2002.
    • The 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution popularly referred to as the ‘Anti-Defection Law’ was inserted by the 52nd Amendment (1985) to the Constitution.
  • The Tenth Schedule includes the following provisions with regard to the disqualification of MPs and MLAs on the grounds of defection:
    • Grounds for disqualification:
      1. If an elected member gives up his membership of a political party voluntarily.
      2. If he votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party. 
      3. If any member who is independently elected joins any party.
      4. If any nominated member joins any political party after the end of 6 months.
  • Who has the power to disqualify legislators under the Tenth Schedule?
    • The decision on disqualification questions on the ground of defection is referred to the Speaker or the Chairman of the House, and his/her decision is final.
    • All proceedings in relation to disqualification under this Schedule are considered to be proceedings in Parliament or the Legislature of a state as is the case.
  • Supreme Court on Speakers’ Powers to disqualify legislators:
    • Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu in 1992: In this, the Supreme Court upheld the power vested in the Speaker and said that only the final order of the Speaker will be subject to judicial review. Basically, courts have refrained from interfering with the process itself.
    • However, the ruling in the Nabam Rebia v Bemang Felix case has shifted the balance on the powers of the Speaker.
    • Nabam Rebia v Bemang Felix case in 2016: The Supreme Court held that it is “constitutionally impermissible” for a speaker to proceed with disqualification proceedings if a no-confidence motion against him is pending.
    • This is to ensure that the Speaker who disqualifies legislators must enjoy the confidence of the Assembly.
    • Hence, this ruling gave a window to defecting legislators to stall or circumvent the Tenth Schedule by seeking removal of the Speaker when disqualification proceedings are anticipated — effectively tying the hands of the Speaker.

International Relations

Geopolitical Events:

Rebooting of India – Bangladesh Rail Link

  • Context: Two years after they were stopped due to the Covid-19 outbreak, passenger train services between India and Bangladesh resumed recently.
  • Recently launched passenger trains include:
    1. Bandhan Express: It was resumed by rebooting a long-forgotten rail link between Kolkata and the industrial hub of Khulna, the third-largest city of Bangladesh. In 1965, this route was served by the Barisal Express which was stopped due to the India-Pakistan war.
    2. Maitree Express: It runs between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment.
    3. Mitali Express: It will connect New Jalpaiguri in North Bengal with Dhaka. This train was announced by PM during his visit to Dhaka in March 2021.

  • Also some fright trains are launched. These are:
    1. Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link: In August 2021, India and Bangladesh inaugurated a railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh. This rail link was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri. However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links.
  • Significance:
    • This will not only boost people to people contact, but will also increase trade between two countries.

India officially engaging with the Taliban

  • Context: New Delhi sent a delegation to Kabul, the first time it has engaged officially with the Taliban regime.
  • Why is the meeting significant for India?
    • The meeting is significant because of the recognition of new reality in Afghanistan.
    • India had previously established contacts with the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar.
    • India has vital interests in Afghanistan. Over the 20 years, it has made investments worth billions of dollars which it would want to be protected.
    • Last time during the Taliban, India saw a rise in violent incidents in Kashmir as well as the hijacking of an Indian plane to Kandahar. India wants to avoid the same this time.
    • Engagement with the Taliban is a strategic necessity. An isolated Taliban might become drive them to become just a Pakistani satellite which would not be in India’s interests.

India and Vietnam Mutual Logistics Agreement

  • Context: India and Vietnam signed a Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030, “which will significantly enhance the scope and scale of existing defence cooperation”.
  • Significance:
    • India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030 will significantly enhance the scope and scale of existing defence cooperation.
    • Logistics Agreement: signing of India and Vietnam Mutual Logistics Agreement is a major step towards simplifying procedures for mutually beneficial logistic support.
      • India and Vietnam Mutual Logistics Agreement is the first such major agreement which Vietnam has signed with any country.
    • Defence Line of Credit: Both countries also agreed for early finalisation of $US 500 million Defence Line of Credit extended to Vietnam.
    • Building Defence Capabilities: India announced gifting two simulators and monetary grant towards setting up of Language and IT Lab at Air Force Officers Training School for capacity building of Vietnamese armed forces.
  • India-Vietnam Relations
    • India and Vietnam are marking 50 years of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations.
    • India Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: India and Vietnam share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership since 2016 and defence cooperation is a key pillar of this partnership.
    • India’s Act East Policy: Vietnam is an important partner in India’s Act East policy.

West Seti Power Project

  • Context: India will be taking over an ambitious hydropower project in Nepal — West Seti — nearly four years after China withdrew from it, ending a six-year engagement between 2012 and 2018.
  • About West Seti Power Project:
    • It is a 750-MW Hydropower Project that would be built on Nepal’s Seti river.
    • It is in Nepal’s Far-Western Development Region (FWDR), proposed by West Seti Hydro Limited (WSH), is a storage scheme designed to generate and export large quantities of electrical energy to India.  
    • The Project will generate electrical energy throughout the year, storing excess wet season river flows in the reservoir, and using this water to generate energy during peak demand periods in the dry season.

 

  • India-Nepal power relations-
    • Nepal is rich in power sources with around 6,000 rivers and an estimated potential for 83,000 MW. India has formally approached Nepal on many occasions, seeking preferential rights over Nepali waters.
    • An ambitious Mahakali treaty was signed back in 1996, to produce 6,480 MW, but India has still not been able to come out with the Detailed project Report.
    • The Upper Karnali project, for which the multinational GMR signed the contract, has not made any headway for years.  
    • India has been successful in executing the 900-MW Arun-3 project in eastern Nepal’s Sankhuwa Sabha, which is being executed by India’s Sutlej Vidhyut Nigam under a BOOT scheme, and whose foundation was laid in 2018 and which is set for completion by 2023.
    • The company executing Arun-3 is also being awarded the 695-MW Arun-4 project, followed by the decision to award West Seti to NHPC.
    • Estimated to cost Nepali Rs 104 billion (Indian Rs 6,500 crore), the project is envisaged to provide Nepal 31.9% electricity free.
    • Nepal has a massive power shortfall as it generates only around 900 MW against an installed capacity of nearly 2,000  MW.
    • Although it is currently selling 364 MW of power to India, it has over the years imported from India.

Organizations And Conventions:

48th G7 Summit

Context: Recently, at the 48th G7 Summit, the Indian Prime Minister invited the G7 Nations to tap into the huge market for clean energy technologies emerging in the country.

  • About G7:
    • Germany holds the presidency of the G7 in 2022.
    • The German Presidency has invited Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to the G7 Summit.
    • The Group of Seven that was formed in 1975 in the backdrop of the 1973 energy crisis has remained unaltered in terms of membership composition till date. It was in 1998 that Russia entered the grouping as an additional member but could stay only till 2014 when it was excluded from the membership due to its annexation of Crimea.
    • Members: UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.
    • As of 2022, G7 countries make up 10% of the world’s population, 31% of global GDP, and 21% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Summit website. China and India, the two most populous countries with among the largest GDP figures in the world, are not part of the grouping.
  • Outcomes of the summit:
    • PGII: G7 announced the collective mobilization of 600 billion dollars by 2027 under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to deliver “game-changing” and “transparent” infrastructure projects to developing and middle-income countries.
    • LiFE Campaign: Indian Prime Minister highlighted Global Initiative for LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) campaign. The goal of this campaign is to encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle.

I2U2 Initiative

Context: The first I2U2 (India-Israel-UAE-USA) Leaders’ Virtual Summit is going to will take place in July 2022.

  • What does I2U2 stand for?
    • I2U2 stands for India, Israel, the UAE, and the US, and was also referred to as the ‘West Asian Quad’ by Ahmed Albanna, Ambassador of the UAE to India.
    • Back in October 2021, a meeting of the foreign ministers of the four countries had taken place when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was visiting Israel. At that time, the grouping was called the ‘International Forum for Economic Cooperation.
  • What is the aim of I2U2 grouping?
    • Its stated aim is to discuss “common areas of mutual interest, to strengthen the economic partnership in trade and investment in our respective regions and beyond”.
    • Six areas of cooperation have been identified by the countries mutually, and the aim is to encourage joint investments in water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security.
    • With the help of “private sector capital and expertise”, the countries will look to modernise infrastructure, explore low carbon development avenues for industries, improve public health, and promote the development of critical emerging and green technologies.

Australia India Water Security Initiative (AIWASI)

Context: Recently, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Australia for Technical Cooperation for Australia-India Water Security Initiative (AIWASI) has been signed in the area of urban water security.

What is AIWASI?

  • The AIWASI scheme is an India-specific component of the South Asia Water Security Initiative (SAWASI) program that focuses on improving access to safe water and sanitation in urban areas in the South Asia region.
  • SAWASI program is being supported by Australia with a commitment of 20 million Australian Dollars.
  • SAWASI aims at strengthening South Asian city-level water governance by
    • supporting governments to provide urban water services and
    • improving water security for disadvantaged communities in India and Pakistan.

 

Economy

Banking And Finance:

Terms related to the Indian Economy

Greedflation

  • Context: Economists and politicians in the USA are debating whether monopolistic companies are fueling inflation.
  • What is Greedflation:
    • It is based on the idea that big companies have seized on inflation to jack up prices more than necessary. It's a term for the art of corporate price gouging.
    • Price gouging refers to when retailers and others take advantage of spikes in demand by charging exorbitant prices for necessities, often after a natural disaster or another state of emergency.
    • It is being argued that price gouging by dominant companies is squeezing consumers' purchasing power and supercharging inflation. This hypothesis is known as greedflation.
  • Significance: This led Experts in economics ponder three questions:
    1. Are companies charging more than necessary to cover their rising costs?
    2. If so, is that enough to meaningfully accelerate inflation?
    3. And is all this happening because large companies have market power
      they didn’t decades ago

Stagflation

  • Context: India is expected to witness slowing growth and faces an upside risk to the fiscal deficit owing to the recent excise duty cuts on fuel, but it has a low risk of stagflation owing to prudent stabilisation policies, the Department of Economic Affairs said in its Monthly Economic Review for May 2022.
  • What is Stagflation?
    • Stagflation is a term that defines a situation characterized by a simultaneous increase in prices (inflation) and stagnation of economic growth.
    •  Stagflation can also be defined as a period of inflation combined with a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP).
    • The situation may comprise of following elements-
      1. the growth rate of the economy slows down
      2. the level of unemployment remains steadily high
      3. yet the inflation or price level remains high at the same time.
    • The term Stagflation was coined by Iain Macleod, a Conservative Party MP in the United Kingdom, in November 1965. It was the time when many developed economies experienced rapid inflation and high unemployment as a result of an oil shock.

Gig Economy

  • Context: Recently, NITI Aayog released a report 'India's Booming Gig and Platform Economy'.
  • ‘India's Booming Gig and Platform Economy’
    • The report is a first-of-its-kind study that presents comprehensive perspectives and recommendations on the gig–platform economy in India.
    • The report provides a scientific methodological approach to estimate the current size and job-generation potential of the sector.
    • It highlights the opportunities and challenges of this emerging sector and presents global best practices on initiatives for social security and delineates strategies for skill development and job creation for different categories of workers in the sector.
  • What is the gig economy?
    • The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform.
    • The gig economy can benefit workers, businesses, and consumers by making work more adaptable to the needs of the moment and the demand for flexible lifestyles.
    • At the same time, the gig economy can have downsides due to the erosion of traditional economic relationships between workers, businesses, and clients.

Current Account Deficit

  • Context: India’s Current Account Deficit (CAD) increased to $23 billion (2.7 per cent of GDP) in the third quarter (Q3) of 2021-22 from $9.9 billion (1.3 per cent of GDP) in Q2 of 2021-22 and $2.2 billion (0.3 per cent of GDP) in Q3 of 2020-21.
  • What is the CAD?
    • The current account measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country. The country runs into a deficit if the value of goods and services we import exceeds the value of those we export.
    • The current account includes net income, including interest and dividends, and transfers, like foreign aid.
    • It represents a country’s foreign transactions and, like the capital account, is a component of a country’s Balance of Payments (BOP).
    • It is measured as a percentage of GDP. The formulae for calculating CAD is:
      • Current Account = Trade gap + Net current transfers + Net income abroad
                Trade gap = Exports – Imports
  • Twin Deficits
    • Current Account Deficit and Fiscal Deficit (also known as “budget deficit” is a situation when a nation's expenditure exceeds its revenues) are together known as twin deficits and both often reinforce each other, i.e., a high fiscal deficit leads to higher CAD and vice versa.

Infrastructure:

Mega 5G Spectrum Auction

  • Context: The government has invited applications from potential bidders for spectrum auctions planned next month, taking the first step towards rolling out 5G services in the country.
  • What is spectrum?
    • Devices such as cellphones and wireline telephones require signals to connect from one end to another. These signals are carried on airwaves, which must be sent at designated frequencies to avoid any kind of interference. Bands of such frequencies are called spectrums.
    • Now, these spectrums are owned by Union Government. The process of renting out these auctions is called a spectrum auction.
  • Which spectrum bands will be auctioned?
    • A total 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum with a validity period of 20 years will be put on auction from July 26.
    • The auction will be held for spectrum in the frequencies of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz, 3,300 MHz and 26 GHz bands.
    • A total 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum with a validity period of 20 years will be put on auction from July 26. The auction will be held for spectrum in the frequencies of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz, 3,300 MHz and 26 GHz bands.

World Competitiveness Index

  • Context: In the recently released, World Competitiveness Index 2022, India has seen the sharpest growth among the Asian economies, with a six-position jump from 43rd to 37th rank.
  • About World Competitiveness Index:
    • It is published by Institute for Management Development (IMD) since 1989.
    • It ranks 63 economies across the world and assesses the extent to which a country promotes the prosperity of its people by measuring economic well-being via hard data and survey responses from executives.
    • The following four factors are taken into consideration:
      1. Economic performance
      2. Government efficiency
      3. Business efficiency
      4. Infrastructure
    • India has witnessed the sharpest rise among the Asian economies, with a six-position jump from 43rd to 37th rank on, largely due to gains in economic performance.
    • Globally, Denmark has topped the index followed by Switzerland and Singapore.

Environment

Species in news:

Chelonoidis Phantasticus

  • Context:
    • A Giant Tortoise named Chelonoidis Phantasticus once believed to be extinct has been recently discovered in 2019.
  • About:
    • Chelonoidis Phantasticus is a Giant Tortoise. It is commonly called Fernandina Island, Galápagos Giant Tortoise.
    • It has been named Fernanda after the Fernandina Island where it was discovered.
    • IUCN status: Critically endangered & possibly extinct.
    • The species was so far known only from a single individual, collected in 1906. It has now been recently discovered again in 2019.
    • These tortoises can’t swim from one island to another. But they can be carried from one Galápagos island to another during major storms. There are also historical records of seafarers moving the tortoises between islands.

Glischropus meghalayanus

  • Context:
    • Scientists have discovered a new species of bamboo-dwelling bat named Glischropus meghalayanus in Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya.
  • About:
    • Bamboo-dwelling bats are a particular kind of bats living in the internodes of bamboos with specialized morphological characteristics that help them to adapt to the life inside a bamboo.
  • Glischropus Meghalayanus:
    • It is a bamboo-dwelling thick-thumbed bat species found near the forested patch of Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • The species is small in size and has a dark brown colour with a sulphur yellow belly.
    • Significance: This discovery is the first report of a thick-thumbed bat not only from India but also from South Asia.
    • Note: Thick-thumbed bats of the genus Glischropus are currently composed of four recognized species from Southeast Asia, two of which were described in recent times.

Platygomphus Benritarum

  • Context:
    • Recently, a new species of dragonfly ‘Platygomphus benritarum’ discovered in Assam has been named after two women for their pioneering work in the northeast.
    • It has been named after Monisha Behal, a founder member of Northeast Network (NEN) and Rita Banerji, founder of Green Hub.
  • What are the Key Points?
    • The species, a single male, was found by two researchers in June 2020 near the banks of the Brahmaputra in Assam.
    • The male observed appeared to have freshly emerged judging by its shiny wings and abdomen.
    • It has turquoise blue eyes and a dark brown face covered with hair on the sides, and was found resting on a large tree around 5-6 metres from the banks of Brahmaputra.
    • The habitat along the banks is dominated by grasses, sparse trees, paddy fields and marshlands, along with some forest patches and tree plantations.
    • Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata of insects.
    • The order Odonata (“toothed ones”) includes some of the most ancient and beautiful insects that ever roamed Earth, as well as some of the largest flying invertebrates ever to have lived.
    • Odonata consists of three groups: Anisoptera (which includes dragonflies), Zygoptera (which includes damselflies), and Anisozygoptera (a relict group represented by only two living species).
  • What are Dragonflies?
    • About:
      • It is an aerial predator insect most commonly found near freshwater habitats throughout most of the world.
      • Their distinctive colors make them look beautiful. This makes them valuable subjects for research on insect behavior, both for ecology and art.
    • Habitat:
      • Most species of dragonflies live in the tropics and particularly in the rainforests.
    • Significance:
      • Dragonflies act as important bio-indicators of the ecological health of an area. As they feed on mosquitoes and other insects that are vectors to life-threatening diseases like Malaria and Dengue.
    • Threats:
      • The rapid destruction of their habitat poses a direct threat to their survival making their conservation urgent.

Ribbon Weed

  • Context:
    • The world’s largest plant ribbon weed has recently been discovered off the West Coast of Australia.
  • About Ribbon weed(Posidonia australis)
    • It has been discovered in Shark Bay by a group of researchers from Flinders University and The University of Western Australia.
    • They found that the plant is 4,500 years old and is sterile.
    • It has double the number of chromosomes as other similar plants.
    • It has managed to survive the volatile atmosphere of the shallow Shark Bay and a part of the reason may be that it is a polyploid – instead of taking half-half genome from both parents, it took 100 percent, something not unheard of in plants. 
    • Polyploid plants often reside in places with extreme environmental conditions, are often sterile, but can continue to grow if left undisturbed, and this giant seagrass has done just that

Size and its comparison 

  • The ribbon weed covers an area of 20,000 hectares. 
  • The second largest plant is the clonal colony of a quaking Aspen tree in Utah, which covers 43.6 hectares.
  • The largest tree in India, the Great Banyan in Howrah’s Botanical Garden, covers 1.41 hectares.
  • In India, seagrass is found in many coastal areas, most notably in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.

Environment:

Four new wetlands were added to the Ramsar list

Context:

  • The Ramsar Secretariat has designated four new wetlands in India as Ramsar areas.

How are wetlands defined?

  • A wetland is a unique environment that is inundated by water on a regular or seasonal basis, and where oxygen-free processes predominate.
  • The peculiar flora of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil, is the major component that separates wetlands from other land formations or water bodies.

Why are wetlands important?

  • Food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood reduction, erosion management, and climate regulation are all key resources and ecological services provided by wetlands.
  • They are, in reality, a significant source of water, and our primary source of freshwater comes from a variety of wetlands that absorb rainfall and recharge groundwater.
  • They provide a variety of societal benefits, including food and habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species;
  • They help in improving water quality; flood storage; shoreline erosion control; economically beneficial natural products for human use; and
  • They also give recreational, educational, and research opportunities.

Which new sites are added to the Ramsar List?

  • Gujarat's Thol and Wadhwana, and
  • Haryana's Sultanpur and Bhindawas
  • This brings the total number of Ramsar sites in India to 46, with a total surface area of 1,083,322 hectares.

Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary

  • The largest wetland in Haryana, Bhindawas WLS, is a man-made freshwater wetland.
  • Throughout the year, around 250 bird species use the sanctuary as a resting and roosting spot.
  • The endangered Egyptian Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Pallas's Fish Eagle, and Black-bellied Tern are among the more than 10 internationally threatened species that call the location home.

Sultanpur National Park

  • More than 220 species of resident, winter migratory, and local migratory waterbirds are supported at important stages of their life cycles in Haryana's Sultanpur NP.
  • The highly endangered sociable lapwing, as well as the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Pallas's Fish Eagle, and Black-bellied Tern, are among the more than ten species on the list.

Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Thol Lake WLS in Gujarat is located on the Central Asian Flyway and is home to around 320 bird species.
  • More than 30 threatened waterbird species live in the wetlands, including the highly endangered White-rumped Vulture and Sociable Lapwing, as well as the vulnerable Sarus Crane, Common Pochard, and Lesser White-fronted Goose.

Wadhvana Wetland

  • The Wadhvana Wetland in Gujarat is internationally significant for its birdlife because it serves as a wintering ground for migrating waterbirds, including more than 80 species that migrate via the Central Asian Flyway.
  • They contain endangered Pallas's fish-eagles, vulnerable Common Pochards, and near-threatened Dalmatian Pelicans, Grey-headed Fish-eagles, and Ferruginous Ducks.

The RAMSAR CONVENTION

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (also known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement that promotes wetlands protection and smart use.
  • It is the only international pact that focuses solely on a single ecosystem.
  • The convention was adopted at Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 and went into effect in 1975.
  • Wetlands, once thought to be a wasteland or a breeding ground for disease, now provide fresh water and food, as well as acting as nature's shock absorber.
  • Wetlands, which are essential for biodiversity, are fast vanishing, with latest estimates indicating that 64% or more of the world's wetlands have perished since 1900.
  • Wetland loss and degradation are thought to be caused by major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals, and infrastructure development.

State of Environment Report 2022: Rivers facing heavy pollution: CSE

  • Context:
    • The State of Environment Report 2022 has been released.
  • What is the State of Environment Report 2022?
    • Released by: Center for Science and Environment (CSE). 
    • Purpose: The report is an annual compendium of environment-development data and is derived from public sources.
  • What are the key findings of the report?
    • Heavy Pollution in Rivers: Three out of every four river monitoring stations in India posted alarming levels of heavy toxic metals such as lead, iron, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium and copper. 
    • Poor Wastewater Treatment: Of the 588 water quality stations monitored for pollution, total coliform and biochemical oxygen demand were high in 239 and 88 stations respectively across 21 States. This is an indicator of poor wastewater treatment from industry, agriculture and domestic households.
    • Note: As per Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB), India dumps 72% of its sewage waste without treatment. Ten States do not treat their sewage at all.
    • Coastal Erosion:
      • Over a third of India’s coastline that is spread across 6,907 km saw some degree of erosion between 1990 and 2018. West Bengal is the worst hit with over 60% of its shoreline under erosion. The reasons for coastal erosion include an increase in the frequency of cyclones and sea-level rise and anthropogenic activities such as the construction of harbours, beach mining and building of dams.
    • Total Forest Cover:
      • India’s total forest cover has registered a little over a 0.5% increase between 2017 and 2021. But most of the increase has taken place in the open forest category which includes commercial plantations. 
      • This has happened at the cost of moderately dense forest which is normally the area closest to human habitations. At the same time, very dense forests, which absorb maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere occupy just 3% of total forest cover.

Puneet Sagar Abhiyan

Context:

  • The National Cadet Corps (NCC) has launched ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’.
  • Nearly 74,000 cadets from 10 States and 4 Union Territories have participated in the campaign.

About:

  • NCC has launched the Puneet Sagar Abhiyan to;
  • Clean Sea Shores/Beaches and other water bodies including rivers & lakes.
  • Clean plastic and other waste.
  • Increase awareness about the importance of keeping the beaches and river fronts clean.
  • The main purpose of the Abhiyan is to enlighten residents and sensitize them about the values of ‘Swachh Bharat’.

National Cadet Corps (NCC):

  • NCC is the youth wing of the Indian Armed Forces.
  • Its headquarter is in New Delhi.
  • NCC is open to school and college students on a voluntary basis.
  • It is a Tri-Services Organization, incorporating the Army, the Navy and the Air Wing, engaged in developing the youth of the country into disciplined and patriotic citizens.
  • The students are given basic military training.
  • They have no liability to join active military service once they complete their course.
  • The symbol of the NCC consists of 3 colours; Red, Dark Blue and Light Blue.
  • These colours represent the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force respectively.

PM launches global initiative ‘Lifestyle for the Environment- LiFE Movement

  • Context:
    • The Prime Minister has launched a global initiative ‘Lifestyle for the Environment – LiFE Movement’.
  • What is Lifestyle for the Environment – LiFE Movement?
    • The idea of LiFE was introduced by the Prime Minister during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in 2021.
  • Aim: To promote an environment-conscious lifestyle that focuses on ‘mindful and deliberate utilization’ instead of ‘mindless and destructive consumption’.
  • Vision: To live a lifestyle that is in tune with our planet and does not harm it and those who live such a lifestyle are called Pro-Planet People.
  • As part of the launch of LiFE movement, ‘LiFE Global Call for Papers’ has been released. This paper invites ideas and suggestions from academics, universities & research institutions etc to influence and persuade individuals, communities and organizations across the world to adopt an environment-conscious lifestyle.
  • Source: The post is based on the article “PM launches global initiative ‘Lifestyle for the Environment- LiFE Movement’” published in AIR on 5th June 2022.

Kerala to have its own regional red list of birds

  • Context:
    • Kerala will soon have its own red list of birds. The Kerala Bird Monitoring Collective led by Kerala Agricultural University and the Bird Count India will conduct the regional red list assessment.
  • About:
    • Kerala will be the first State to have a region-specific red list of birds.
    • Assessment will be done on the basis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.
  • The IUCN guidelines for preparing the red list have five main criteria:
    • The population size reduction measured over 10 years or three generations is one of the major guidelines.
    • The geographic range on the basis of the extent of occurrence or area of occupancy is another.
    • Small population size and decline;
    • Very small or restricted population; and
    • Quantitative analysis indicating the probability of extinction in the wild is the other criterion.
  • Limitations for the global assessment:
    • Global assessment is a process prepared in a global context. A species seen common at the global level may be a threatened species at the regional level.
  • Kerala and IUCN list:
    • According to the global IUCN red list, Kerala has 64 threatened species of birds.
    • In that, Red-headed vulture and White-rumped vulture are critically endangered.
    • Steppe Eagle, Banasura Chilappan and Nilgirl Chilappan are endangered and 11 species are vulnerable.

Pollution:

Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (BNCAP)

  • Context:
    • The government is planning a new car assessment programme (NCAP) in India, to be called the Bharat NCAP or BNCAP.
  • What is Bharat NCAP?
    • Bharat NCAP is a new car safety assessment programme which proposes a mechanism of awarding ‘Star Ratings’ to automobiles based on their performance in crash tests.
    • BNCAP standard is aligned with global benchmarks and it is beyond minimum regulatory requirements.
    • The proposed Bharat NCAP assessment will allocate Star Ratings from 1 to 5 stars.
    • The testing of vehicles for this programme will be carried out at testing agencies, with the necessary infrastructure.
  • Its implementation:
    • BNCAP will be rolled out from April 1, 2023.
    • It will apply to type-approved motor vehicles of category M1 with gross vehicle weight less than 3.5 tonnes, manufactured or imported into the country.
    • M1 category motor vehicles are used for the carriage of passengers, comprising eight seats, in addition to driver’s seat.
  • Significance of Bharat NCAP
    • BNCAP rating will provide consumers with an indication of the level of protection offered to occupants by evaluating the vehicle in the areas of:
      • Adult occupant protection
      • Child occupant protection
      • Safety assist technologies
    • It will serve as a consumer-centric platform, allowing customers to opt for safer cars based on their Star-Ratings.
    • It will also promote healthy competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India to manufacture safer vehicles.
    • It will ensure structural and passenger safety in cars, along with increasing the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.
    • It will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar.

Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has directed that every protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuary across the country should have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of a minimum one km starting from their demarcated boundaries.

What’s the issue?

  • The judgment came on a petition instituted for the protection of forest lands in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.
  • Subsequently, the scope of that writ petition was enlarged by the court so as to protect such natural resources throughout the country.

Directions by the Court:

  • In case any national park or protected forest already has a buffer zone extending beyond one km, that would prevail.
  • In case the question of the extent of the buffer zone was pending a statutory decision, then the court’s direction to maintain the one-km safety zone would be applicable until a final decision is arrived at under the law.
  • Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted.
  • The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Home Secretaries of States is responsible for the judgment's compliance.

About ESZs:

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.

Significance of ESZ:

  • The purpose of declaring ESZs around national parks, forests and sanctuaries are to create some kind of a “shock absorber” for the protected areas.
  • These zones would act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to those involving lesser protection.

Need of the hour:

  • The nation’s natural resources have been for years ravaged by mining and other activities.
  • Hence, the government should not confine its role to that of a “facilitator” of economic activities for the “immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the State”.
  • It has to act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to natural resources so that sustainable development could be achieved in the long term.

 

Science And Technology

Space:

Killer Asteroids 

Context:

  • A former NASA astronaut has developed a tool that could help us find killer asteroids. 

The tool developed to detect killer asteroids:

  • The tool developed doesn't rely on a new telescope or even new observations. Instead, it looked at older images stored in the digital archives at the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory(NOIRLAB). 
  • Then, the researchers let the algorithm get to work searching 412,000 different images. The goal was to separate out possible killer asteroids from over 68 billion dots of cosmic light showcased in the images.
  • In essence, the researchers developed a way to discover what has already been seen but not noticed.
  • Killer asteroids, simply mean that they are asteroids capable of killing thousands, if not millions, were they to impact the Earth. It does not necessarily mean that they are on a collision course for Earth.

China’s Tiangong Space Station

Context:

  • Recently, China’s strategically significant space station project entered the final phase as three astronauts entered the orbiting module of the Tiangong Space Station.
  • They were launched into the designated orbit by the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft.
  • Shenzhou-1 to 4 space flights were unmanned spaceflight missions.
  • Shenzhou-5 to 14 spaceflights are manned spaceflight missions.
  • A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting crew members, designed to remain in space for an extended period of time and for other spacecraft to dock.

About:

  • The Tiangong space station is a Chinese space station being built in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 kilometres above the earth.
  • It is part of China's Manned Space Program and is the country's first long-term space station.
  • China is going to operationalize its new Tiangong multi-module space station for at least ten years.
  • China launched an unmanned module named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens” for its permanent space station in 2021 that it plans to complete by the end of 2022.
  • The Tianhe core module is the first module to launch the Tiangong space station module.

China Manned Space Programme:

  • The Chinese government decided to launch a human space programme using a “three-step” method in 1992 which is known as the China Manned Space Program.
  • The 1st step: To launch manned spaceships to master basic human space technologies.
  • The 2nd step: To launch Space Labs to make technological breakthroughs in R&D and accommodation of long-term man-tended utilization on a modest scale
  • The 3rd step: To construct China’s Space Station to accommodate long-term man-tended utilization on a large scale
  • It is managed by the China Manned Space Agency.

Importance of this Launch for China:

  • China is only the third country in history to have put both astronauts into space and to build a space station, after Russia and the US.
  • The China Space Station (CSS) is also expected to be a competitor to the International Space Stations.
  • The International Space Station (ISS) Is a collaborative project of several countries.
  • The ISS is the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history and the largest structure humans have ever put into space.

India's Space Station Programmes:

About:

  • India is planning to launch its own space station by 2030, joining the league of US, Russia, and China to an elite space club.
  • The Indian space station will be much smaller (mass of 20 tonnes) than the International Space Station and will be used for carrying out microgravity experiments (not for space tourism).
  • The preliminary plan for the space station is to accommodate astronauts for up to 20 days in space, and the project will be an extension of the Gaganyaan mission.
  • It will orbit Earth at an altitude of around 400 km.
  • ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is working on a space docking experiment (Spandex), a technology that is crucial for making the space station functional.
  • Space docking is a technology that allows transferring humans from one spacecraft to another.

Significance:

  • Space stations are essential for collecting meaningful scientific data, especially for biological experiments.
  • Provide platforms for a greater number and length of scientific studies than available on other space vehicles. (as Gaganyaan will take humans and experiments in microgravity for a few days only).
  • Space stations are used to study the effects of long-term space flight on the human body.

Health:

Monoclonal antibody dostarlimab

Context:

  • Recently, 12 patients in the United States were completely cured of rectal cancer without requiring any surgery or chemotherapy. The trial used a monoclonal antibody called dostarlimab every three weeks for six months for the treatment

Dostarlimab:

  • Dostarlimab is a type of monoclonal antibody. It blocks proteins called checkpoints which are made up of immune system cells such as T cells, and some cancer cells.
  • Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules. They serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance, modify or mimic the immune system’s attack on unwanted cells.
  • Each monoclonal antibody is designed in a way that it binds to only one antigen.
  • These checkpoints help keep immune responses from acting too strong and may prevent T cells from killing cancer cells. When these checkpoints are blocked, T cells are free to kill cancer cells more efficiently.
  • Examples of checkpoint proteins found on T cells or cancer cells include PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4, and B7-1.

Can Dostarlimab work against all cancers?

  • According to experts, drugs like dostarlimab can be used only in patients with the genetic property of mismatch repair(MMR) deficiency.

Mismatch Repair Deficiency:

  • ‘Mismatch repair deficient’ cancer is most common among colorectal, gastrointestinal, and endometrial cancers. Patients suffering from this condition lack the genes to correct typos in the DNA that occur naturally while cells make copies.

Future of the treatment in India:

 

  • Cost is believed to be a major hurdle.
  • For instance, an immunotherapy treatment can cost around Rs 4 lakh per month, with patients needing the treatment for six months to a year.
  • Hence, that’s why experts have said that precision medicine such as immunotherapy drugs for particular types of cancers is still at a nascent stage in India. It would take at least ten years for it to become commonplace.

Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Context:

  • the Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR) released guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of type-1 diabetes.

Significance of the move:

  • India is considered the diabetes capital of the world, and the pandemic disproportionately affected those living with the disease.
  • Type 1 or childhood diabetes, however, is less talked about, although it can turn fatal without proper insulin therapy.
  • Type 1 diabetes is rarer than type 2. Only 2% of all hospital cases of diabetes in the country are type 1.

Diabetes:

  • Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
  • Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream.
  • When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin.

Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas completely stops producing insulin.
  • Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling the level of glucose in the blood by increasing or decreasing absorption to the liver, fat, and other cells of the body.
  • This is unlike type 2 diabetes — which accounts for over 90% of all diabetes cases in the country — where the body’s insulin production either goes down or the cells become resistant to the insulin.

How lethal diabetes is?

  • Type 1 diabetes is predominantly diagnosed in children and adolescents.
  • Although the prevalence is less, it is much more severe than type 2.
  • Unlike type 2 diabetes where the body produces some insulin and which can be managed using various pills, if a person with type 1 diabetes stops taking their insulin, they die within weeks.

How rare is it?

  • There are over 10 lakh children and adolescents living with type 1 diabetes in the world, with India accounting for the highest number.
  • Of the 2.5 lakh people living with type 1 diabetes in India, 90,000 to 1 lakh are under the age of 14 years.
  • For context, the total number of people in India living with diabetes was 7.7 crore in 2019.
  • Among individuals who develop diabetes under the age of 25 years, 25.3% have type 2.

Who is at risk of type 1 diabetes?

  • The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it is thought to be an auto-immune condition where the body’s immune system destroys the islets cells on the pancreas that produce insulin.
  • Genetic factors play a role in determining whether a person will get type-1 diabetes.
  • The risk of the disease in a child is 3% when the mother has it, 5% when the father has it, and 8% when a sibling has it.
  • The presence of certain genes is also strongly associated with the disease.

Monkeypox

Context:

  • Given the increasing reports of cases of monkeypox in non-endemic countries, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday while issuing ‘Guidelines on Management of Monkeypox Disease’.
  • Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’

About:

  • Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae.
  • It is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.
  • With the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the subsequent cessation of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox has emerged as the most important orthopoxvirus for public health.
  • It primarily occurs in central and west Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. Animal hosts include a range of rodents and non-human primates.
  • Animal-to-human (zoonotic) transmission can occur from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals.
  • Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.
  • Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur. The case-fatality ratio has been around 3–6% in recent times.

Transmission:

  • Primary infection is through direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of an infected animal. Eating inadequately cooked meat of infected animals is also a risk factor.
  • Human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with infected respiratory tract secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or objects recently contaminated by patient fluids or lesion materials.
  • Transmission can also occur by inoculation or via the placenta (congenital monkeypox).

Vulnerability:

  • It spreads rapidly and can cause one out of ten deaths if infected.

Treatment and Vaccine:

  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Monkeypox infection. In the past, the anti-smallpox vaccine was shown to be 85% effective in preventing Monkeypox.
  • But the world was declared free of smallpox in 1980 so the vaccine isn't widely available anymore.
  • Currently, there is no global system in place to manage the spread of Monkeypox, with each country struggling to contain any outbreak whenever it occurs.

Way Forward:

  • Improved surveillance and response, raise awareness of the disease and avoid contact with wild animals, especially monkeys.
  • Any animals that might have come into contact with an infected animal should be quarantined, handled with standard precautions and observed for monkeypox symptoms for 30 days.
  • It is important to refocus attention on other diseases. There is a drop in the number of reported cases of endemic diseases as people are not seeking care in health facilities, owing to Covid-19.

New Technology:

GEMCOVAC-19

Context:

  • Recently, the country’s first homegrown INDIA’S mRNA Covid-19 vaccine,
  • GEMCOVAC-19, developed at Pune’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, has got ‘restricts emergency use’ approval for the 18-and-above age group.

Working on mRNA vaccines:

  • Most traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactivated virus in the body to generate an immune response.
  • An mRNA vaccine instructs the body itself to create a part of the virus.
  • Genetically engineered mRNA instructs cells to make the spike protein found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.
  • The Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech and Modern both use mRNA(messenger RNA)to deliver a message to the immune system.
  • The expectation is that the immune system will mount a response against the spike protein, and that,
  • if and when an actual infection happens, the immune cells will recognize the spike protein and act against it.

Significance of the breakthrough:

  • One of the advantages of an mRNA vaccine is that it requires a smaller dose than a traditional vaccine, given that the required amount of antigen will be created in the body itself.
  • Unlike in the West, where the vaccine has to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, the vaccine in India can be stored at 2-8°C.
  • mRNA is fragile and breaks down easily, which is why vaccines based on this platform need to be stored at extremely low temperatures stop prevent a breakdown.
  • GEMCOVAC-19 can now be stored at the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator.

Lyophilisation:

  • The vaccine is stored in powder form. The conversion from liquid to powder form takes place by a process called lyophilization or freeze drying, which involves freezing the product and subjecting it to a vacuum to remove the water (converted from its ice state to water vapour state by a process called sublimation)
  • This is a challenging task as under normal atmospheric pressure ice transforms into liquid water before going to the gaseous state
  • To achieve the conversion of ice to water vapour so that it can be removed, the surrounding pressure and temperature have to be tweaked and then kept stable in a manner that the characteristics of the vaccine are the same as before lyophilization.

Miscellaneous

Astra Mk-1 Missile

Context:

  • Recently, the Ministry of Defence signed a contract with the Hyderabad-based public-sector Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) for the supply of the Astra Mark-1.
  • The contract was signed at a cost of Rs 2,971 crore, for deployment on fighter jets of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

Astra Missile and its Variants:

  • The Astra project was officially launched in the early 2000s with defined parameters and proposed future variants.
  • Around 2017, the development phase of the Mk-1 version was complete.
  • Several successful tests have been conducted since 2017 from Sukhoi-30 MKIs.

Key Highlights of the Astra Mk-1 Missile:

About:

  • The Astra Mk-1 is a Beyond Visual Range (BVR), Air-to-Air Missile (AAM).
  • BVM missiles are capable of engaging beyond the range of 20 nautical miles or 37 kilometres.
  • AAMs are fired from an airborne asset to destroy an airborne target.

Range:

  • The range for Astra Mk-1 is around 110 km.
  • The Mk-2 with a range over 150 km is under development and the Mk-3 version with a longer range is being envisaged.
  • One more version of Astra, with a range smaller than Mk-1, is also under development.

Designed and Developed by:

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

Strategic Significance:

Reduce Dependency on Foreign Sources:

  • The missile has been designed based on requirements specified by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for BVR as well as close-combat engagement, reducing the dependency on foreign sources.
  • AAMs with BVR capability provide large stand-off ranges to own fighter aircraft which can neutralise adversary airborne assets without exposing themselves to adversary air defence measures.
  • Stand-off range means the missile is launched at a distance sufficient to allow the attacking side to evade defensive fire from the target.

Technologically and Economically Superior:

  • Astra is technologically and economically superior to many such imported missile systems.
  • The missile can travel at speeds more than four times that of sound and can reach a maximum altitude of 20 km, making it extremely flexible for air combat.

Can be Integrated with other Fighter Aircraft:

  • The missile is fully integrated on the Sukhoi 30 MKI I and will be integrated with other fighter aircraft in a phased manner, including the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
  • It will integrate the missile on the MiG-29K fighter aircraft which are deployed on the Navy’s aircraft carriers, thus adding to the lethality of India’s Aircraft carriers.

New VPN Rules

Context:

  • Recently, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issued norms under which VPN providers have to record the personal information of their customers, including the purpose of using the service, for five years.
  • CERT-In is an organisation of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology with the objective of securing Indian cyberspace.

VPN:

About:

  • VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network” and describes the opportunity to establish a protected network connection when using public networks.
  • VPNs encrypt internet traffic and disguise the user’s online identity. This makes it more difficult for third parties to track activities online and steal data. The encryption takes place in real-time.

Functioning:

  • A VPN hides the user’s IP address by letting the network redirect it through a specially configured remote server run by a VPN host.
  • This means that if a user is surfing online with a VPN, the VPN server becomes the source of data.
  • Internet Service Provider (ISP) and other third parties cannot see which websites the user visits or data sent and received online.

Benefits:

Secures encryption:

  • A VPN connection disguises data traffic online and protects it from external access.
  • Unencrypted data can be viewed by anyone who has network access. With a VPN, the government, hackers and cyber criminals can’t decipher this data.

Access to regional content:

  • Regional web content is not always accessible from everywhere. Services and websites often contain content that can only be accessed from certain parts of the world. Standard connections use local servers in the country to determine your location.
  • With VPN location spoofing, one can switch a server to another country and effectively change location.

Secure data transfer:

  • VPN services connect to private servers and use encryption methods to reduce the risk of data leakage providing secured passage for data.

Limitations:

  • Reduced Internet Speed: Since VPNs require your traffic to be routed via a VPN server, it could take longer to reach your destination website.
  • Not Anti-Virus Software: VPNs do not function like comprehensive anti-virus software. While they protect one’s IP and encrypt one’s internet history, a VPN connection does not protect one’s computer from outside intrusion.
  • Once the malware has found its way to a device, it can steal or damage the data, whether VPN is in service or not.

Regulation:

  • Currently, a handful of governments either regulate or outright ban VPNs.
  • These include China, Belarus, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, and the UAE. Many other countries have internet censorship laws, which make using a VPN risky. 

New Rules related to VPN:

  • The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued new norms for VPN companies to record the personal information of their users including names, email IDs, phone numbers and IP addresses for a period of five years.
  • They also have to record usage patterns, the purpose of hiring services and various other information.
  • Apart from VPN companies, data centers, and virtual service network providers, cloud service providers have also been asked to record and maintain similar data.
  • Entities are also required to report cybersecurity incidents to CERT-In within six hours of becoming or being made aware of them.
  • These rules will “enhance the overall cyber security posture and ensure safe & trusted internet in the country”.
  • It noted that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which serves as a safeguard against cyber-attacks, has identified “gaps” in the way it analyses online threats due to which it has issued new norms for reporting cyber incidents.
  • In 2021, a Parliamentary Standing Committee, in a report to the Rajya Sabha, wanted the Ministry to block VPNs with assistance from internet service providers.

Related Issues:

  • Customers will have to go through a stringent KYC process while signing up to use a VPN and will have to state the purpose of using the services.
  • With the new rules, the government will basically have access to the personal information of the customers which makes the use of a VPN redundant.
  • Many VPN providers are mulling the implications of the new rules and some have even threatened to pull back their service from the country.
  • In response to CERT-In rules, Nord VPN, one of the world’s largest VPN providers, has said it is moving its servers out of the country. Two other firms, Express VPN and Surfshark, said they will shut down their physical servers in India and cater to users in India through virtual servers located in Singapore and UK.

Future of drone delivery

Context:

  • A hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing drone with a payload capacity of 3 kg, a range of 100 km and a top speed of 120 kph.
  • The VTOL drone has the capability to take off and land vertically like a helicopter from a small area of 5mx5m

DELIVERY & PURPOSE: 

  • The drone flight delivered a parcel in the Kutch region of Gujarat, travelling a distance of 46 km in less than 30 minutes. 
  • The drone delivery was among the longest single delivery flights made by a drone in the country. It travelled when the wind speed was up to 30 kph.
  • Bengaluru-based logistics and delivery platform Swiggy last month began deployment of drones on a trial basis to make deliveries from its grocery service Instamart. For these trials, which are being conducted in two phases, the company has roped in four ‘drone-as-a-service’ operators, of which TechEagle is one.
  • Several other drone operators have partnered with state governments and other authorities to conduct trials of vaccines and healthcare supplies deliveries through drones. Logistics services company Delhivery in December announced the acquisition of California-based Transition Robotics, which develops drone platforms.
  • Globally, internet giant Alphabet’s drone delivery unit Wing recently delivered its first consignment in a major US metropolitan area by supplying boxes of medicines from Walgreens in Dallas, Texas.

Corvette

Context:

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has given the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for several capital acquisition projects of the Indian defence forces.
  •  This includes the procurement of next-generation Corvettes for the Indian Navy at an approximate cost of Rs 36,000 crore.
  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) is the highest decision-making body in the Defence Ministry for deciding on new policies and capital acquisitions for the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Indian Coast Guard.

About:

  • It is the smallest class of naval ships and it falls below the warship class of a frigate.
  • These are highly agile ships and are categorised as missile boats, anti-submarine ships, coastal patrol crafts and fast attack naval vessels. 

Origin :

  • The word corvette itself is derived from French and Dutch origin. 
  • Corvettes date back to the 18th and the 19th century when they were extensively used in the naval warfare duels that were fought on high seas.
  • However, these were powered by sails and masts and disappeared for a while when steam-powered naval ships made their appearance. 
  • During World War II, the term Corvette was used to describe vessels which had anti-submarine roles assigned to them. 
  • Modern Corvettes can go up to 2,000 tons in displacement which helps in keeping them agile.

Corvettes are the Indian Navy:

  • The Indian Navy at present has the Kamorta Class Corvettes, which are also known as Project 28. 
  • These ships have an anti-submarine role and are manufactured at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Kolkata. 
  • The four Kamorta Class Corvettes that the Indian Navy possesses are named INS Kamorta, INS Kadmatt, INS Kiltan and INS Kavaratti. The first of these was commissioned in 2014 and the last one in 2020.
  • These next-generation Corvettes will be constructed based on a new in-house design of the Indian Navy using the latest technology of ship buildings and would contribute to further the government’s initiative of Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR).
  • The in-service Kamorta Class Corvettes also have a high degree of indigenous equipment being used on the platform. 

Capabilities:

  • The next-generation Corvettes will be manufactured for various roles like surveillance missions, escort operations, deterrence, surface action group operations, search and attack and coastal defence. 
  • These roles will be in addition to the anti-submarine roles being already performed by the existing Corvettes in the Navy.

BrahMos, 21 and developing

Context:

  • On June 12, 2001, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was first tested from a land-based launcher in Chandipur.

About:

  • Since the early 1980s, the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme conceived and led by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam started developing a range of missiles including Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag with a wide spectrum of capabilities and ranges.
  • But in the 1990s, India’s strategic leadership felt the need for cruise missiles. To make cruise missiles, India signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement with Russia.
  • This led to the formation of BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between DRDO and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), the Indian side holding 50.5% and the Russians 49.5%.

About Brahmos Missile:

  • BrahMos is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine. Its first stage brings the missile to supersonic speed and then gets separated. The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to three times the speed of sound in the cruise phase. 
  • Types of Brahmos Missiles: There are Land Based, Ship Based, Air based and Submarine based Brahmos Missiles Systems.

Significance of Brahmos Missile:

  • Cruise missiles such as BrahMos called “standoff range weapons”, are fired from a range far enough to allow the attacker to evade defensive counter-fire. 
  • The BrahMos has three times the speed, 2.5 times flight range and higher range compared to subsonic cruise missiles. 
  • Moreover, with missiles made available for export, the platform is also seen as a key asset in defense diplomacy.

Future Developments in Brahmos Missiles:

  • Versions currently being tested include ranges up to 350 km, as compared to the original’s 290 km. 
  • Versions with even higher ranges up to 800 km, and with hypersonic speed are said to be on cards. Efforts are also on to reduce the size and signature of existing versions and augment its capabilities further.

Hermit, the Pegasus-like spyware

Context:

  • Hermit is the latest sophisticated spyware in the news, and it is believed to have targeted iPhones and Android devices in Italy and Kazakhstan.

About:

  • Hermit is spyware developed by the Italian commercial spyware vendor RCS Lab.
  • The spyware is distributed by text message which looks like coming from a legitimate source. The malware can impersonate other apps that are developed by telecom companies and manufacturers which tricks the victim to download the malware.

How does it affect devices:

  • Hermit can infect both Android and iOS devices. It is similar to the Pegasus spyware by NSO Group
  • Once installed on a device, it can record audio on the device, carry out unauthorized calls and many unauthorized activities. 
  • It can also steal data from the target’s calendar and address book apps, as well as take pictures with their phone’s camera. It also has the capability to root an Android device.

Thailand Makes Marijuana Legal

Context:

  • Recently, Thailand has legalized cultivating and possessing Marijuana but recreational use (Such as smoking) is still banned, even though advocates say the easing effectively decriminalises Marijuana.
  • The nation is the first to advance such a move in South-East Asia, a region known for its stringent drug laws.
  • Thailand, with its year-round tropical climate, has long had a history with Cannabis which many locals commonly used in traditional medicines.

Key Highlights:

  • The goal is to get a head start on its neighbours in winning a large slice of the lucrative market for health treatments using cannabis derivatives, in particular the milder compound CBD (Cannabidiol). But there is another motive, for reducing overcrowding in some of the world's most overcrowded jails.
  • This means, in theory, that with the cultivation of the plant in any quantities now completely legalised, the police are now unlikely to arrest people just for possession of marijuana.
  • The government is hoping that developing a local cannabis trade will boost agriculture and tourism.
  • It is an opportunity for people and the state to earn income from marijuana and hemp.

Marijuana:

About:

  • Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical, recreational & religious purposes.
  • Cannabis can be used for smoking, vaporization, within food, or as an extract.
  • It creates mental and physical effects, such as a “high” or “stoned” feeling, a general change in perception, and an increase in appetite.
  • Short-term side effects may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.
  • Long-term side effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability and behavioural problems in children whose mothers’ used cannabis during pregnancy.

Regulation in India:

  • Cannabis was regulated by the state excise departments and legally sold till 1985.
  • In 1985 The Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances (NDPS) Act has been enacted a central level commercial cultivation of cannabis by production, possession, sale/purchase, transportation, interstate import/export or any other forms is punishable. The Act has been amended three times – in 1988, 2001, and most recently in 2014.
  • While CBD oil manufacturing is licenced under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 can be legally used and sold. Some Indian websites do sell. But to purchase it one needs a prescription and many even facilitate it.
  • Similarly, Bhang, ganja and charas are enlisted in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 for use in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.

Places in News

 

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

 Türkiye

 

  • Context:
    • Turkey will now be known as Türkiye at the United Nations after the intergovernmental body agreed to a formal request for the name change from Ankara.
  • About:
    • Domestically, citizens refer to the land as Turkiye, but its anglicised version ‘Turkey’ was adopted internationally following the country’s independence in 1923.
    • Apparently, the country’s government was not pleased with the Google search results that came up for the word ‘Turkey’. Some of these results included the large bird that is served for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in North America.
    • The government has also had objections to Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of the term “turkey”; “something that fails badly” or “a stupid or silly person”.
    • There are other countries that have changed their names either to drop colonial legacies or rebrand, as is the case with Turkey. Some examples include:
      • The Netherlands, which was changed from Holland;
      • Macedonia, which changed its name to North Macedonia due to political disputes with Greece;
      • Iran, which changed its name from Persia in 1935;
      • Siam, which changed its name to Thailand; and
      • Rhodesia, which changed to Zimbabwe to drop its colonial legacy.

Yankti Kuti valley

  • Context:
    • Multiple events of glacial advances have been witnessed from the Yankti Kuti valley situated in the extreme eastern part of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand, for 52 thousand years (MIS 3) synchronises with climate variability, according to a new study.
  • About:
    • Located in Uttarakhand.
    • It is the last valley before the border with Tibet.
    • It runs along an NW to SE axis, formed by the river Kuti Yankti, which is one of the headwaters of the Kali River that forms the boundary between India and Nepal in this region.
    • This valley is mainly dominated by Byansis, one of the four Bhotiya communities of Kumaon, with the others being Johar, Darmiya and Chaudansi.

 

Sievierodonetsk

  • Context:
    • The Battle of Sievierodonetsk is an ongoing military engagement during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, as part of the Battle of Donbas of the Eastern Ukraine offensive.
  • About:
    • Administratively, Sievierodonetsk falls under Ukraine’s Luhansk oblast. Sievierodonetsk is one of the largest cities in the Donbas region.
    • It is located nearly 140 km south of the Russian border.
    • It is located near the left bank of the Siverskyi Donets River and has a population of over a lakh.
    • Sievierodonetsk is a big industrial hub known for chemical works and machine-building factories.
    • If the city of Sievierodonetsk falls, then it will allow Russia to control the entire Luhansk region.
    • Many fear that the city could become the next Mariupol, the southern port city that was heavily destroyed before it fell into Russian hands.

Aegean Sea

  • Context:
    • Turkish President warned Greece – which has been building a military presence in violation of treaties that guarantee the unarmed status of the Aegean islands – to demilitarise islands in the Aegean Sea.
  • About:
    • The ancient name of the Aegean Sea, Archipelago, was later applied to the islands it contains and is now used to refer to any island group.
    • The Aegean Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, is located between the Greek peninsula on the west and Asia Minor on the east.
    • It is located between the southern Balkan and the Anatolian peninsulas, between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey, respectively.
    • It is connected through the straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus to the Black Sea.
    • It also has a good connection to the Ionian Sea to the west, through the strait lying between the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece and Crete.
    • The island of Crete can be taken as marking its boundary to the south.

Vale do Javari

  • Context:
    • British journalists went missing from Vale do Javari in Brazil.
  • About:
    • Vale do Javari in the western section of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.
    • It is named after the Javari River, which forms the country’s border with Peru.
    • The region is home to the greatest concentration of isolated tribal groups in the Amazon and the world.
    • The area is home to 14 indigenous tribes with nearly 6,000 inhabitants, who are known to reject contact with the outside world.
    • The communities living in the Vale do Javari have been granted exclusive territorial rights in Brazil’s 1988 constitution and then in 2001 under the demarcation of indigenous territory.
    • Vale do Javari forms part of an international cocaine trafficking route, with gold being exchanged for drugs and arms, consequently making it a hotspot for violent crimes.

Isle of Wight

  • Context:
    • Palaeontologists have found the skeletal remains of Europe's largest meat-eating dinosaur on the Isle of Wight.
  • About:
    • Isle of Wight is a county and the largest and second-most populous island of England. It is part of the historic county of Hampshire.
    • The island lies off the south coast of England in the English Channel.
    • It is separated from the mainland by a deep strait known as The Solent.
    • The administrative centre of the unitary authority of the Isle of Wight is Newport.
    • The backbone of the island is formed by a chalk ridge that extends across the entire breadth of the island, from Culver Cliff in the east to the Needles in the west.
    • It is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Annapurna mountain range

  • Context:
    • Skalzang Rigzin, the first Indian Mountaineer to climb Mount Annapurna's peak without supplemental Oxygen, received a warm welcome in Leh.
  • About:
    • Annapurna is a mountain situated in the Annapurna mountain range of Gandaki Province, north-central Nepal.
    • It is the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 metres above sea level.
    • Mt Annapurna is one of the most difficult among the 8000 meters height peaks in the world and is also known as the Killer Mountain due to its fatality to summit rate.

Zmiinyi Island

  • Context:
    • Ukraine has caused “significant losses” to the Russian military in airstrikes on the Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea.
  • About Zmiinyi Island:
    • Located in the Black Sea, Zmiinyi Island is also known as Snake Island or the Serpent Island.
    • It is a small piece of rock less than 700 metres from end to end.
    • It belongs to Ukraine.
    • The island has been known since ancient times and is marked on the map by the village of Bile that is located on it.
    • Snake Island lies close to the mouth of the River Danube, which delineates Romania's border with Ukraine.
    • It is also roughly to the southwest of the port city of Odessa.

Colombia

  • Context:
    • Ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro was elected the first ever left-wing president of Colombia, after beating millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernandez in a tense run-off election.
  • About:
    • Colombia is a country in South America bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north, Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Ecuador and Peru to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and Panama to the northwest.
    • It is the only country in South America with coastlines and islands along both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
    • Its capital is Bogotá. Colombia is one of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries.

 

Index in News

 

National/International Index

Performance Grading Index for Districts (PGI-D)

 

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSE&L), and the Ministry of Education (MoE) released the Centre’s first-ever Performance Grading Index for Districts (PGI-D) for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
    • In June 2021, the Union Education Minister has approved the release of the Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20 for States and Union Territories.
  • What is the Index All About?
    • About:
      • PGI-D assesses the performance of the school education system at the district level by creating an index for comprehensive analysis.
      • The PGI-D assessed district-level performance in school education based on the data collected from various sources, including Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE +), National Achievement Survey (NAS), 2017 and data provided by respective districts.
    • Methodology:
      • Structure: The PGI-D structure comprises a total weightage of 600 points across 83 indicators, which are grouped under six categories:
      • Outcomes, Effective Classroom Transaction, Infrastructure Facilities & Student’s Entitlements, School Safety & Child Protection, Digital Learning and Governance Process.
      • Two categories — digital learning and effective classroom transaction have been added in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, these categories were not part of the state-level PGI.
      • These categories are further divided into 12 domains.
      • Assessment Grades: The PGI-D grades the districts into 10 grades. The highest achievable grade is ‘Daksh’, which is for districts scoring more than 90% of the total points in that category or overall.
      • It is followed by ‘Utkarsh’ (81% to 90%), ‘Ati Uttam’ (71% to 80%), ‘Uttam’ (61% to 70%), ‘Prachesta-1’ (51% to 60%) and ‘Prachesta-2’ (41% to 50%).
      • The lowest grade in PGI-D is ‘Akanshi-3’ which is for scores up to 10% of the total points.
      • None of the districts figured in the highest ‘Daksh’ grade in both these years.

Global Liveability Index: EIU

  • Context:
    • Auckland (New Zealand) has topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index of 140 cities around the world.
  • About Global Liveability Index:
    • The index takes into account more than 30 qualitative and quantitative factors spanning five broad categories: stability (25%), healthcare (20%), culture and environment (25%), education (10%), and infrastructure (20%).
    • Due to the pandemic, the EIU added new indicators such as stress on health-care resources as well as restrictions around local sporting events, theatres, music concerts, restaurants and schools.
    • Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable.
  • General Scenario:
    • Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic caused liveability to decline – as cities experienced lockdowns and significant strains on their healthcare system. This led to an unprecedented level of change in the rankings, with many of the cities that were previously ranked as the most liveable tumbling.
    • Austria's Vienna, number one in both 2018 and 2019, has completely dropped out of the top 10 after being heavily affected by Covid-19, and now ranks 12.
    • Auckland rose to the top of the ranking owing to its successful approach to containing the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed its society to remain open and the city to score strongly on a number of metrics including education, culture and environment.
    • Damascus remains the world's least liveable city, as the effects of the civil war in Syria continue to take their toll.
    • Most of the previous ten least liveable cities remain in the bottom ten this year, including Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Karachi (Pakistan) in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.
    • However, there is a strong contingent of cities in the APAC region at the top of the rankings, with Osaka, Adelaide, Tokyo and Wellington rounding out the top five.
    • Apart from cities in New Zealand, Australia and Japan, other cities in the Asia-Pacific region such as Taipei (Taiwan) (33rd) and Singapore (34th) have also performed well.
  • Top 3 Liveable Cities:
    • Auckland (New Zealand), Osaka (Japan), Adelaide (Australia).
  • Bottom 3 Liveable Cities:
    • Damascus (Syria), Lagos (Nigeria), and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea).

 

Schemes in News

 

Scheme Concerned Ministry Features

 Mukhyamantri Matrushakti Yojana

 Government Of Gujarat  

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Prime Minister of India launched schemes for maternal nutrition in Gujarat.
  • About: 
    • It will cover 7 lakh women and is the Gujarat government’s first scheme aimed at dealing with a dietary deficiency within the first 1,000 days of the conception of a child (from pregnancy to 2 years).
    • Under it, pregnant and lactating mothers will be given 2 kg of chickpeas, 1 kg of tur dal and 1 kg of edible oil free of cost every month from Anganwadi centres in Gujarat. 
    • The entire scheme will be electronically monitored. Packets will have barcodes which will be scanned and the scheme is OTP based. 
    • This means the beneficiary will receive OTPs confirming that they have received these packages so that we know that the intended beneficiary is actually receiving the ration.
  • Poshan Sudha Yojana:
    • Under it, hot cooked meals will be provided to tribal women once a day at Anganwadi centres. 
    • Under this scheme, pregnant women and lactating mothers registered at Anganwadi are provided with a full nutritious meal. 
    • In addition, iron and calcium tablets, as well as education on health and nutrition, are also offered.
    • The pilot has been carried out in 10 districts in the state and is now being extended to all 14 tribal-dominated districts.
  • Aims:
    • Their objective is to reduce the number of newborns who are underweight at birth as well as to improve infant mortality and maternal mortality rates.

SHRESHTA Scheme


Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
  • Context:
    • Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment launched the scheme ‘SHRESHTA.’ This scheme is known as Scheme for residential education for students in High school in Targeted Areas.
    • The scheme ‘SHRESHTA’ was created with the goal of providing quality education and opportunity to students of the SC Category.
  • What is the scheme ‘SHRESHTA’?
    • About:
      • Its basic motive is to uplift the socio-economic status of the Scheduled Castes peoples by providing high-quality education to their children in the best private residential schools in the country.
      • Admission will be provided in Class 9 and Class 11 of CBSE-affiliated private schools.
    • Objective:
      • To make easy delivery of the Governmental initiatives and schemes.
      • To create a conducive atmosphere for the ‘Scheduled Castes' socioeconomic advancement and overall growth.
      • Collaborating with volunteer groups to bridge the gap in service-deprived Scheduled Castes (SCs) dominating regions in the education sector.
      • To enable bright Scheduled Caste (SC) students with a high-quality education so that they can pursue future opportunities.
  • Eligibility:
    • The students, belonging to Scheduled Castes, studying in class 8th and 10th in the current academic year (2021-22) are eligible for availing the benefits of the scheme.
    • Students from the SC community who come from a marginalized income group with an annual income of up to Rs.2.5 lakh are eligible.
    • The selection will be done through a transparent mechanism which is known as National Entrance Test for SHRESHTA (NETS).
    • It will be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admission in classes 9th and 11th.
  • Beneficiaries:
    • The government has targeted that every year around 3000 students belonging to SC category will be admitted to Class 9 and Class 11 under this system.
    • The Ministry will cover the whole cost of their school fees and accommodation fees till they have completed their academics in class 12th.

Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana


Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
  • Context:
    • The Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) is a rural development program in India launched by the central government in the fiscal year 2009–10 for the development of villages with more than 50% of the population belonging to the scheduled castes through the convergence of central and state schemes and the allocation of financial funding on a per village basis.
  • Features of Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana:
    • The Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) aims to integrate the development of selected villages with more than 50% Scheduled Caste (SC) population by implementing existing schemes of the Central and State Governments in a convergent manner and utilizing gap-filling funds provided by Central Assistance.
    • The scheme was launched on a pilot basis in 2009-10 for the integrated development of 1000 villages in five states: Himachal Pradesh (Northern Region), Bihar (Eastern Region), Rajasthan (Western Region), Tamil Nadu (Southern Region), and Assam (North-Eastern Region).
    • It was expanded in 2015 to include another 1500 villages in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.
    • Construction of village roads, community halls/meeting places, community toilets, drainage works, installation of hand pumps, solar-powered street lights, drinking water scheme, and programs are undertaken under PMAGY in the identified States.
    • Advisory Committees would be established at the Central and State levels to provide overall guidance and monitoring of the Scheme. The Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment would chair the Central Advisory Committee.

Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII)


U.S. along with G7 allies
  • Context:
    • Recently, at the 48th G-7 Summit, the U.S. along with G7 allies unveiled the ambitious Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).
  • What is the Background?
    • The U.S. along with its allies had announced the launch of the Build Back Better World (B3W) in 2021 with the aim of narrowing the 40 trillion dollar infrastructure gap in the developing world.
    • Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment is therefore a relaunch of the B3W plan.
    • The PGII is being seen as the G7’s counter to China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build connectivity, infrastructure, and trade projects in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
  • What is Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment?
  • About:
    • PGII is a “values-driven, high-impact, and transparent infrastructure partnership to meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low and middle-income countries.
    • And support the United States and its allies economic and national security interests.
    • Under the PGII, G7 will mobilize 600 billion dollars by 2027 to deliver “game-changing” and “transparent” infrastructure projects to developing and middle-income countries.
    • U.S. President announced the country’s pledge to channel 200 billion USD in grants, public financing, and private capital over the next five years for the PGII.
    • The European Commission President declared Europe’s pledge of mobilizing 300 billion euros for the partnership over the same period.
  • Pillars of PGII:
    • First: the G7 grouping aims to tackle the climate crisis and ensure global energy security through clean energy supply chains.
    • Second: The projects will focus on bolstering digital Information and Communications technology (ICT) networks facilitating technologies such as 5G and 6G internet connectivity and cybersecurity.
    • Fibre-optic cable project to link Europe and Latin America.
    • Third: The projects aim to advance gender equality and equity.
    • Gender Equality: It requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards.
    • Gender Equity: It recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
    • Fourth: The project stresses upgrading global health infrastructure.
    • The U.S International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), along with the G7 nations and the EU are disbursing a 3.3 million USD technical assistance grant to build a vaccine facility in Senegal.
    • The European Commission’s Global Gateway initiative is also undertaking projects supporting the PGII such as mRNA vaccine plants in Latin America.

 

 



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