June 2024
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Liquor Policy of States

How Dangerous is Methanol Poisoning?      

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Preventive measures to avoid consumption of Spurious liquor

Why in the news?

At least 38 people have died after consuming spurious liquor in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi district.

Key Points Related to the Kallakurichi District Incident in Tamil Nadu

  • Incident Overview: As of 9:30 p.m. on June 20, at least 38 people died after consuming spurious liquor in Kallakurichi district and 82 others were receiving treatment in hospitals. The tragedy follows a similar incident a year ago in Chengalpattu and Villupuram districts, which resulted in over 20 deaths.
  • Government Response: Chief Minister M.K. Stalin transferred the Collector and suspended the district superintendent of police. The State deployed 2,000 police personnel around the district. A one-man commission headed by former High Court judge B. Gokuldas was constituted to inquire into the tragedy.

How is Spurious Liquor Made and Why Does it Have Deadly Effects?

  • Composition: Spurious liquor often contains methanol in addition to ethanol. Methanol is sometimes added to increase the intoxicating effect and/or bulk volume of the homemade liquor.
  • Methanol’s Deadly Effects: Methanol is metabolized in the liver to formaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes. Formaldehyde is further metabolized to formic acid by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes. The accumulation of formic acid leads to metabolic acidosis and acidaemia, damaging various organs and leading to potential death.

Why is Methanol added to Liquor and How is it Processed by the Body if Ingested?

  • Reasons for Adding Methanol: To enhance the ‘kick’ or intoxicating effects of the liquor and increase the volume of the liquor cheaply.
  • Processing in the Body: ADH enzymes convert methanol to formaldehyde.ALDH enzymes then convert formaldehyde to formic acid. The build-up of formic acid causes metabolic acidosis, optic neuropathy, cerebral oedema, hemorrhage, and potential death.

Is Treatment Effective?

  • Timeliness is Crucial: Early intervention is essential for effective treatment of methanol poisoning. Prompt administration of antidotes and supportive therapies significantly improves the chances of recovery and reduces the risk of severe complications such as blindness or death.
  • Available Antidotes: Ethanol and Fomepizole are effective antidotes that inhibit the metabolism of methanol to toxic compounds. Ethanol competes with methanol for ADH enzymes, while fomepizole directly inhibits these enzymes, preventing the formation of harmful formaldehyde and formic acid.
  • Supportive Therapies: Hemodialysis can effectively remove methanol and its toxic metabolites from the bloodstream, while folinic acid helps break down formic acid. These treatments, when combined with antidotes, can mitigate the damage to vital organs and improve patient outcomes.

Way forward:

  • Strict Regulation and Monitoring: Enhance regulatory oversight of liquor production and distribution to ensure all alcoholic beverages meet safety standards. Regular inspections and stringent enforcement of licensing laws can prevent the production and sale of illicit alcohol.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Conduct widespread public education campaigns to inform the community about the dangers of consuming spurious liquor. Awareness programs can help people recognize the signs of adulterated alcohol and understand the severe health risks associated with its consumption.

Mains PYQ:

Q Effectiveness of the government system at various levels and people’s participation in the governance system are interdependent.” Discuss their relationship with each other in the context of India. (UPSC IAS/2016)

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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Why the Russia-North Korea pact is a big deal? 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bordering countries and water bodies near North Korea

Mains level: Strategic Implications of Pact

Why in the news?

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin concluded his recent visit to Pyongyang with a significant agreement: both Russia and North Korea pledged to provide swift military aid in the event of armed aggression against either nation.

Historical Context

  • Post-World War II Context: The Soviet Union aimed to establish a communist regime in Korea.USSR provided Significant military aid provided to North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, during the Korean War. Post-war support from the USSR and China included substantial military and other aid to North Korea.
  • 1961 Russo-North Korea Treaty: The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance included a mutual defence agreement.
  • Post-Soviet Union Period: Relations deteriorated after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, voiding the treaty.
  • Early 2000s Reconnection: Under Putin, Russia moved closer to North Korea despite not supporting its nuclear ambitions initially. Supported sanctions against North Korea aimed at curbing nuclear capabilities.
  • Post-2022 Dynamics: After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia faced international isolation. Russia and North Korea solidified their alliance against the Western liberal order.

What the Pact Says

  • Scope of Cooperation: Cooperation on a wide range of issues, including mutual military support and unspecified technological assistance.
  • Mutual Defense Provision: Under Article 4 of the Pact in case of armed invasion, the other side shall provide military and other assistance without delay, following Article 51 of the UN Charter and respective national laws.
  • Technological Assistance: Crucial for North Korea, which currently has nuclear weapons but lacks advanced missile guidance systems and other technologies for long-range nuclear weapons.

Strategic Implications 

  • Direct Threat to South Korea and Japan: Both countries perceive the pact as a security threat due to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and the added Russian security umbrella.
  • Potential Arms Race: Japan is revisiting its pacifist stance and enhancing military capabilities, while South Korea is considering new defence strategies, potentially including arms exports.
  • Strengthening of US Alliances: South Korea and Japan are likely to deepen their alliances with the United States in response to heightened regional security concerns.
  • NATO and Global Security: The pact raises alarms among NATO allies and other global stakeholders, prompting reassessments of security strategies and commitments.
  • Nuclear Proliferation Concerns: Increased collaboration between Russia and North Korea could lead to advancements in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, impacting global non-proliferation efforts.
  • Global Strategic Repercussions: The pact sets a precedent for authoritarian regimes aligning against Western liberal orders, influencing geopolitical strategies and alliances beyond Asia.

Way forward: 

  • Enhanced Diplomatic Engagement and Dialogue: Engage in robust diplomatic efforts to mitigate tensions and enhance transparency regarding the intentions behind the Russia-North Korea pact. Encourage multilateral dialogues involving key stakeholders such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, and other concerned parties to foster mutual understanding and reduce the likelihood of miscalculation.
  • Reinforcement of Regional Security Mechanisms: Strengthen existing regional security mechanisms, particularly alliances with the United States underpinned by treaties such as the Mutual Defense Treaty with Japan and the mutual defence commitments with South Korea.

Mains PYQ:

Q What is the significance of Indo-US defence deals over Indo-Russian defence deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Can GM Crops promise Food Security?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GM crop in India

Mains level: Are Non-GM Ecological Crops Also a Food Security Solution?

Why in the news?

A new “gene revolution” is being promoted as a solution to increasing global food demand and the impact of climate change on agriculture.

What does the World Economic Forum (WEF) say?

  • The WEF supports GM technology and believes it can help ensure food security for a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
  • Research into new strains of rice, maize, wheat, potato, and cassava can help these staples survive extreme weather and new climate-induced diseases.
  • Latest bioengineering technologies can help plants and soils capture and store atmospheric carbon, potentially reducing planet-heating carbon.
  • Projects are optimizing photosynthesis in crops like maize and rice to improve yields and reduce atmospheric carbon.

Industrial-Scale GMOs Perpetuate Climate Change

  • Critics argue that GM crops sustain an “agro-industrial system” responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Current food systems contribute to around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • GMOs often involve large-scale monocultures requiring significant amounts of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.
  • This system is criticized for being energy-intensive and unsustainable, benefiting large agro-industrial companies that dominate the seed, food, pesticide, and fertilizer markets.

What is the Present Scenario?

  • Over half of harvested cropland in the US uses genetically modified seeds.
  • Despite the proliferation of GM crops, food insecurity remains widespread, with 250 million people in nearly 60 countries experiencing crisis-level food insecurity.
  • Successful campaigns, like in the Philippines, have led to production moratoriums on certain GM crops due to health and ecological concerns.

Are Non-GM Ecological Crops Also a Food Security Solution?

  • Resistance to GMOs persists, with scepticism about their safety and ecological impact.
  • Non-GM ecological approaches face challenges due to limited research support, as most funding comes from large agri-biotech companies.
  • Ecological, non-GM crops aim to produce toxic-free food and nurture biodiverse ecosystems that can resist and mitigate climate change.
  • There is ongoing development of ecological, non-GM seed, food, and nutrition systems to address food security in a warming world.

Way forward:

  • Enhanced Regulatory Oversight and Support for Ecological Practices: Strengthen regulations to ensure the safe development, testing, and deployment of GM crops while supporting research and development of non-GM ecological farming practices.
  • Public Awareness and Inclusive Research Funding: Launch comprehensive public education campaigns to inform communities about the benefits and risks of GM and non-GM crops, promoting informed decision-making.

Note:  India has approved the commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton. No GM food crop has been approved for commercial cultivation in the country.

Mains PYQ:

Q What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification? (UPSC IAS/2021)

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Judicial Reforms

What is ‘Blood Money’ in Islamic Law?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Principle of Diyya; Reparative Justice

Why in the News?

  • The Indian Government has approved the transfer of the sum of $40,000 for preliminary discussions regarding the release of Nimisha Priya from a Yemeni prison.
    • Currently, Priya’s mother is in Yemen, trying to waive her death penalty by paying “blood money” to the murdered man’s family.

Nimisha Priya’s Case Details

  • Priya, a nurse, moved to Yemen in 2008 and married Tomy Thomas in 2011 before returning to Yemen.
  • She faced abuse and exploitation by Talal Abdo Mahdi, leading to the tragic events resulting in Mahdi’s death and Priya’s arrest.
  • The $40,000 payment aims to initiate negotiations for Priya’s release.
  • To waive the death penalty, Priya’s family may need to raise $300,000-$400,000.
  • The ‘Save Nimisha Priya International Action Council’ is fundraising to meet this requirement.

What is Blood Money?

  • According to Islamic law, victims of crimes have a say in how criminals are to be punished.
  • In the case of murder, this principle applies to the families of victims.
  • Although murder is punished via the death penalty, the victim’s family (specifically, heirs) may choose to “forgive” the murderer in exchange for monetary compensation.
  • This is the principle of Diyya, or, as it is commonly referred to “blood money”.
  • It can be traced to the Holy Quran.
  • Applicability:
    • Blood money is applicable in cases of unintentional homicide (Qatl Khata) or accidental death, as well as in cases of bodily injury or harm caused by negligence or unintentional actions.

Practical Implications of Blood Money

  • Scholars believe that the idea behind this is to encourage the virtue of forgiveness, while also providing reparative justice to the victims’ family.
  • The scriptures do not set any specific amount as compensation.
  • The sum is generally arrived at via negotiation between the murderer’s family/representatives and the victim’s family.
  • Some Islamic countries, however, have set minimum compensation amounts.

Significance of Blood Money

  • Forgiveness from the victim’s family is highly encouraged and considered virtuous in Islam.
  • Blood money aims to prevent cycles of vengeance or retaliation (Qisas) that could lead to further social harm or conflict.
  • It promotes reconciliation and mutual understanding.

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Tourism Sector

In news: PARIVESH Portal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PARIVESH Portal

Why in the News?

  • Kerala is set to construct a ropeway in Sabarimala by compensating the Forests department with alternative land at Chinnakkanal in Idukki.
  • The 2.7-kilometre-long ropeway aims to transport goods from the Pampa base station to the Sabarimala Sannidhanam.
    • Once the land is transferred for compensatory afforestation, an application will be submitted in the PARIVESH portal for clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

What is PARIVESH Portal?

  • PARIVESH, which stands for Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive Virtuous & Environmental Single-window Hub.
  • It is an online portal developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change.
  • It is designed to streamline and expedite the process of obtaining clearances related to environment, forests, wildlife, and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) from central, state, and district-level authorities.
  • Purpose and Scope:
    • PARIVESH is intended to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the clearance processes for environment, forests, wildlife, and CRZ.
    • It aims to reduce the turnaround time for obtaining clearances and improve responsiveness through workflow automation and real-time information availability.
  • Functionality:
    • It serves as a role-based, web-based workflow application where user agencies can submit proposals online for clearances.
    • It operates on a Web Architecture using IIS as an Application Server, .NET framework, and SQL Server as a database server.

Benefits to Users:

  • Allows for online submission and monitoring of compliance reports, including geo-tagged images of sites through a Mobile App, enhancing compliance monitoring.
  • Integrates Geographic Information System (GIS) interface for Appraisal Committees to analyze proposals efficiently.
  • Accessible 24×7 from any PC with internet connectivity, ensuring continuous availability for users across different locations and time zones.

PYQ:

[2019] Consider the following statements:

The Environment Protection Act, 1986 empowers the Government of India to

  1. State the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental protection, and the procedure and manner in which it is sought.
  2. Lay down the standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

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10th International Yoga Day

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: International Yoga Day

Why in the News?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the celebrations of the 10th International Day of Yoga at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar.

About International Day of Yoga

  • The International Day of Yoga is observed annually on June 21 worldwide since 2014 to celebrate the practice of Yoga, which originated in ancient India.
  • Yoga is renowned for its physical and mental health benefits, promoting well-being globally.
  • PM Modi proposed the idea of a Yoga Day during his UN address in September 2014.
  • In December 2014, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN introduced the draft resolution in the UN General Assembly.
  • It was adopted with support from 177 countries without a vote.
  • The first International Day of Yoga was successfully celebrated on June 21, 2015, in cities around the world, including New York, Paris, Beijing, and New Delhi.

Why 21st June was chosen for this day?

  • The date of June 21 was chosen because it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, symbolizing spiritual significance across various cultures.
  • In Hindu mythology, this day marks the transition to Dakshinayana and is associated with the first yogi, Shiva, who began teaching Yoga to humanity.

Back2Basics: Yoga

  • Yoga originated in ancient India and has its roots in Indian philosophy, spirituality, and culture.
  • The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to join” or “to unite.” It signifies the union of mind, body, and spirit.
  • Historical References:
    • Yoga-like practices were mentioned in the Rig-Veda, an ancient Hindu text dating back to approximately 1500 BCE.
    • References to yoga can also be found in the Upanishads, which are philosophical texts from around 800 to 400 BCE.
  • Contributions of Sage Patanjali:
    • Patanjali is considered the father of classical yoga.
    • He compiled the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text that provides a systematic and philosophical framework for the practice of yoga.
    • The Yoga Sutras were written around the 2nd century BCE.

Eight Limbs of Yoga:

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outline the eight limbs or stages of yoga, known as Ashtanga Yoga. These limbs include:

  1. Ethical principles (yamas),
  2. Positive duties or observances (niyamas)
  3. Physical postures (asanas),
  4. Breath control (pranayama),
  5. Sense withdrawal (pratyahara),
  6. Concentration (dharana),
  7. Meditation (dhyana), and
  8. Self-realization (samadhi).

Schools and Styles: There are various schools and styles of yoga, each with its own approach and emphasis. Some popular styles include Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini, and Yin yoga.

 

PYQ:

[2014] Which one of the following pairs does not form part of the six systems of Indian Philosophy?

(a) Mimamsa and Vedanta

(b) Nyaya and Vaisheshika

(c) Lokayata and Kapalika

(d) Sankhya and Yoga

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Striped Caecilian: Limbless Amphibian spotted in Kaziranga’s fauna

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Striped Caecilian, Herpetofauna

Why in the News?

  • A limbless amphibian, the striped caecilian (Ichthyophis spp), has been newly identified within the 1,307.49 sq. km Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
    • Assam’s wildlife officials reported its discovery during a herpetofauna survey.

Back2Basics: Herpetofauna

  • Herpetofauna refers to a group of reptiles and amphibians collectively.
  • The term combines “herpeto-” from the Greek “herpeton,” meaning “creeping animal,” and “fauna,” referring to the animal species found in a particular region or time.
  • Herpetofauna play essential roles in ecosystems:
    • They act as both predators and prey, help regulate insect populations, and serve as indicators of environmental health.
    • They serve as environmental indicators and play significant roles in pest control.

About Striped Caecilian

  • The Striped Caecilian (Ichthyophis spp.) is a type of limbless amphibian belonging to the family Ichthyophiidae.
  • Caecilians are often mistaken for snakes or worms due to their elongated, cylindrical bodies and lack of limbs.
  • They are primarily found in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
  • They usually live underground or in moist soil habitats.

Key features of the Striped Caecilian include:

  1. They have smooth, cylindrical bodies with a ringed or striped pattern, hence the name “striped.”
  2. Caecilians are predominantly fossorial (burrowing), spending most of their lives underground or in leaf litter. This behaviour makes them elusive and difficult to study.
  3. They are carnivorous, feeding on small invertebrates found in soil and leaf litter.
  4. Their eyesight is generally poor, and they rely on chemoreception (sensing chemicals in the environment) to locate prey.
  5. Caecilians are known for their unique reproductive strategies, which can involve live births or laying eggs. Some species exhibit parental care, with adults guarding eggs or young offspring.

Significance: Kaziranga’s Biodiversity

  • Kaziranga National Park’s diverse ecosystem, encompassing flood plains, wetlands, grasslands, and hill tracts, provides an ideal habitat for herpetofauna.
  • The park hosts 24 amphibian species, 74 reptile species, and 21 of India’s 29 species of tortoises and freshwater turtles.

About Kaziranga National Park

Details
Location Assam, India
Geographical Features Situated between Brahmaputra River and Karbi (Mikir) Hills
Significance Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot
Rivers Diphlu River runs through the park
Highways National Highway 37 passes through the park
Legal Status
  • Designated as a National Park in 1974.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site (1985).
  • Important Bird Area by Birdlife International
Key Conservation Achievements
  • Houses around 2/3rd of the world’s Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros.
  • Declared a Tiger Reserve due to high tiger density
‘Big Five’ species Great Indian One-Horned Rhino, Asian Elephant, Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Water Buffalo, Swamp Deer
Aquatic Species Gangetic River Dolphin
Vegetation Wet Alluvial Grasslands, Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, Semi-Evergreen

Forests

 

PYQ:

[2024] The organisms “Cicada, Froghopper and Pond skater are:

(a) Birds

(b) Fish

(c) Insects

(d) Reptiles

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Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Proposed Amendments to Insolvency Resolution Process by IBBI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IBBI, IBC

Why in the News?

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has proposed amendments to the Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Process regulations to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and increase transparency.
    • This aims to align with the Companies (Registered Valuers and Valuation) Rules and streamline the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP).

Do You Know?

Since its enactment, the IBBI has achieved notable successes in resolving insolvency cases and recovering debts:

  • Debt Resolution: The IBC has successfully resolved Rs. 3.16 lakh crore of debt across 808 cases within seven years (as per CRISIL).
  • Higher Recovery Rates: Creditors have realized an average of 32% of admitted claims and 169% of the liquidation value through IBC proceedings, demonstrating higher recovery rates compared to previous mechanisms.
  • Behavioural Change: Companies have been proactively involved in the settlement of debts amounting to over Rs. 9 lakh crore before cases enter formal insolvency processes.

Proposed amendments by IBBI

  • Simplified Valuation: Instead of separate reports for different types of assets, there will be one comprehensive valuation report covering the entire company. This helps in keeping valuation consistent and clear.
  • Single Valuer for Small Companies: For smaller companies with assets up to ₹1,000 crore and MSMEs, only one valuer will be appointed to determine the company’s value unless there’s a good reason for more than one.
  • Option for Two Valuers: If needed, the creditors’ committee can choose to have two valuers to deal with complex cases, but they have to explain why.
  • Faster Appointment of Representatives: Representatives appointed to represent creditors can start participating in meetings as soon as their application is submitted, to avoid delays.
  • Guarantees in Resolution Plans: If a resolution plan suggests releasing guarantees, it won’t stop creditors from going after guarantors or using the guarantees according to their agreements.

About Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI)

Details
Establishment Established on 1st October 2016 under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016.

  • Objective: To promote a creditor-driven insolvency resolution process and enhance India’s credit culture and business environment.
Responsibility Responsible for implementing and enforcing the IBC,

IBC consolidated laws related to insolvency resolution for individuals, partnership firms, and corporate entities.

Functions
  • Regulates insolvency professionals and processes.
  • Oversees insolvency professional agencies, entities, and information utilities.
  • Enforces rules for corporate and individual insolvency resolution, liquidation, and bankruptcy.
  • Sets eligibility criteria and curriculum for insolvency professionals.
  • Collects and maintains records on insolvency cases and disseminates related information.
Composition Total 10 members

  • Chairperson appointed by the Central Government.
  • Three members from central government officers (Ministries of Finance, Corporate Affairs, Law).
  • One member nominated by RBI (Reserve Bank of India).
  • Five other members nominated by the Central Government, including at least three full-time members.

The term is 5 years or until age 65, with reappointment possible.

Adjudicating Authorities under the IBC:

Under the IBC, two primary adjudicating authorities handle insolvency cases based on the nature of the entity:

  • National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT): NCLT adjudicates insolvency cases involving corporate entities and other limited liability entities.
  • Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT): DRT has jurisdiction over insolvency cases concerning individuals and partnership firms, excluding Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs).

Recent Amendments to the IBC:

  • Approval for segregated sale of assets or resolution plans.
  • Increase in the number of NCLT benches to 16 for faster adjudication.
  • Extension of timelines for filing claims to accommodate procedural complexities.
  • Sector-specific amendments tailored to address unique challenges in various industries.
  • Modifications in procedural forms such as Form G2 to enhance clarity and efficiency in insolvency proceedings.

PYQ:

[2017] Which of the following statements best describes the term ‘Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A)’, recently seen in the news?

(a) It is a procedure for considering the ecological costs of developmental schemes formulated by the Government.

(b) It is a scheme of RBI for reworking the financial structure of big corporate entities facing genuine difficulties.

(c) It is a disinvestment plan of the Government regarding Central Public Sector Undertakings.

(d) It is an important provision in ‘The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code’ recently implemented by the Government.

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Sri Lanka’s Constitution – Strides in the Right Direction

A story of displacement to one of empowerment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Issues related to Sri Lankan Tamils

Why in the news?

Over 45% of Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu’s rehabilitation camps were born in India, per a recent interim report by a State government panel.

Causes of Tamilian Displacement

  • Ethnocentric Violence: The primary cause of displacement was the ethnocentric violence in Sri Lanka, particularly against the Tamil population. The violence led to significant loss of life and property, forcing Tamils to flee for their safety.
  • Proximity and Linguistic Commonality: Many Tamils chose India, particularly Tamil Nadu, due to its geographical proximity and the shared Tamil language, making it a more accessible and familiar refuge.

Government Initiatives

  • Provision of Basic Amenities: Refugees receive free housing, electricity, water, and monthly food rations. Additionally, they get a monthly cash dole.
  • Educational Support: Access to government schools is provided, along with a monthly stipend of ₹1,000 for those pursuing higher education. One-time educational support includes ₹12,000 for arts and science students and ₹50,000 for engineering students.
  • Welfare Schemes: Refugees are eligible for various welfare schemes available to the people of Tamil Nadu, including the women’s rights scheme providing ₹1,000 per month.
  • New Housing: Recently, the Government of Tamil Nadu has constructed new homes for about 5,000 Sri Lankan Tamils.
  • Renaming Camps: In an effort to destigmatise, the refugee camps were renamed as Sri Lankan Tamil Rehabilitation Camps in a government order dated October 28, 2021.

Bringing Back Dignity

  • Educational Achievements: The welfare schemes have led to 100% school enrollment and over 4,500 graduates from the camps.
  • Breaking Caste Barriers: As refugees, Sri Lankan Tamils are categorized under the Refugee category, which has helped in break free from caste barriers.
  • Government Recognition: The renaming of refugee camps to Sri Lankan Tamil Rehabilitation Camps is a step towards restoring the dignity of the displaced population.
  • Advocacy and Support: Continuous advocacy by organizations like OfERR, support from donors, and political parties have facilitated the patronage extended by the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Government of India.
  • Potential for Future Contribution: The transformation of refugees into resource persons capable of contributing to nation-building when they return to Sri Lanka.

Current Challenges

  • Legal Limitations: Indian laws currently do not permit local integration by granting citizenship to Sri Lankan refugees.
  • Economic and Health Crises: The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis in Sri Lanka have slowed down the process of refugees returning to their homeland.
  • Uncertain Future: Despite the improvements in their living conditions and dignity, Sri Lankan Tamils in India continue to live with uncertainty about their long-term future.

Way forward:

  • Amend Legal Frameworks: Advocate for amendments in Indian laws to allow for local integration and citizenship for long-term refugees, providing them with a secure legal status and equal rights.
  • Strengthen Economic Opportunities: Develop targeted economic empowerment programs, including vocational training and employment initiatives, to enhance self-sufficiency and reduce dependency on state support, ensuring a sustainable livelihood for the refugees.

Mains PYQ: 

Q ‘India is an age-old friend of Sri Lanka.’ Discuss India’s role in the recent crisis in Sri Lanka in the light of the preceding statement. (UPSC IAS/2022)

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Rohingya Conflict

Invisible suffering of Rohingya refugees

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Rohingya and Tibetan issue

Why in the news?

International attention is urgently needed to address the worsening mental health crisis among Rohingya refugees in India.

About Rohingya Sufferings

  • Trauma and Mental Health: Rohingya refugees in Delhi experience severe trauma, including anxiety, dissociative episodes, and depression, often due to past experiences in Myanmar and ongoing re-traumatization from living conditions and violence in India.
  • Living Conditions: Rohingya refugees live in shanty-like huts prone to accidental and intentionally set fires, leading to constant fear and re-traumatization.
  • Discrimination and Legal Status: Officially labelled as “illegal immigrants,” Rohingya refugees face severe discrimination in India. They are denied full access to education, healthcare, legal services, and formal employment opportunities.
  • Detention and Deportation: Fear of arbitrary detention and deportation is widespread, despite many having UNHCR refugee cards. At least 500 Rohingya, including women and children, are detained in centres across India without criminal charges, some for decades.
  • Civil Society and Funding: Civil society organizations working with Rohingya refugees face funding challenges due to cancelled FCRA licenses. Many support programs have shut down or reduced operations, leaving few UNHCR-supported organizations to cautiously continue their work.

About unsolved Tibetan issue

The Tibetan issue in India is a complex and contentious topic with historical, cultural, and political implications.

Historical Background

  • Pre-20th Century: Tibet recognized itself as an autonomous nation under Chinese protection, while China claimed formal incorporation into its borders during the Yuan Dynasty.
  • 20th Century: The relationship between Tibet and China became increasingly strained, culminating in the 1950 Chinese invasion of Tibet and the subsequent annexation of the region.

Ongoing Challenges

  • Tibetan Independence Movement: The Tibetan independence movement continues to push for greater autonomy and recognition of Tibet as a sovereign nation.
  • Chinese Censorship and Suppression: The Chinese government maintains strict control over information and suppresses any dissent or opposition to its rule in Tibet.

 Current Situation

  • Declining Refugee Numbers: Over the last seven years, the Tibetan refugee community in India has dropped by 44 percent, from around 150,000 in 2011 to 85,000, according to Indian government data.
  • Economic Uncertainty: Many Tibetans face economic uncertainty due to limited job opportunities and restrictions on property ownership and bank credit.
  • Lack of Recognition: Tibetans are not officially recognized as refugees in India, instead being designated as “foreigners” under Indian law.
  • No National Refugee Law: India has no national refugee law, and its policies are not in accordance with international standards.

Way forward: 

  • Implement National Refugee Law: Advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive national refugee law in India that aligns with international standards, ensuring legal recognition, protection, and access to basic rights and services for all refugees, including Rohingya and Tibetans.
  • Enhance Mental Health Support: Develop and fund specialized mental health programs for refugees, focusing on trauma-informed care. This includes training local healthcare providers, increasing access to mental health services, and creating safe spaces for refugees to receive consistent psychological support.

Mains PYQ:

Q Refugees should not be turned back to the country where they would face persecution or human right violation”. Examine the statement with reference to the ethical dimension being violated by the nation claiming to be democratic with an open society. (UPSC IAS/2021)

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Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What are the findings of the 2024 Hindu Kush Himalayas snow update? | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Data related to Low snow persistence

Mains level: Role of climate change in low levels of snowmelt this year

Why in the news?

In 2024, the Hindu Kush Himalaya snow update from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) reported that the Ganga River basin, India’s largest, experienced its lowest recorded snow persistence.

What does the report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development highlight?

  • Record Low Snow Persistence: The Ganga River basin, along with the Brahmaputra and Indus basins, reached record low snow persistence in 2024.
  • Significant Declines: The Ganga basin recorded its lowest snow persistence in 22 years, 17% below the long-term historical average. The Brahmaputra basin was 14.6% below normal, and the Indus basin fell 23.3% below normal.
  • Broader Impacts: Similar low snow persistence was recorded in the Amu Darya and Helmand river basins, significantly below normal levels.

How important is snow persistence?

  • Water Supply: Snow persistence, the fraction of time snow is on the ground, is crucial as its melt provides significant water to streams and ecosystems.
  • Runoff Contribution: Snowmelt contributes 23% of the runoff to the HKH region’s 12 major river basins, supporting nearly one-fourth of the world’s population.
  • Regional Significance: The HKH mountains, known as the “water towers of Asia,” are vital for 10 major river systems, including the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Indus, which are essential freshwater sources for millions.

How much of a role does climate change play in river basins receiving low levels of snowmelt this year?

  • Weak Western Disturbances: Lower persistence in 2024 was primarily due to weak Western disturbances, which are low-pressure systems bringing rain and snow to the HKH region.
  • Global Warming Effects: Climate change and global warming destabilize weather patterns, exacerbating prolonged La Niña–El Niño conditions, and influencing the arrival and intensity of western disturbances.
  • High Sea-Surface Temperatures: Persistently high sea-surface temperatures in the regions where western disturbances originate disrupt their formation, leading to reduced snowfall.
  •  Changed the weather system: The pattern of high temperatures and altered weather systems explains both the record low snow persistence in 2024 and similar historical records.

Way forward:

  • Integrated Water Management: Develop comprehensive water management plans that incorporate predictions of reduced snowmelt. This includes optimising reservoir operations, prioritising water allocation, and implementing efficient irrigation practices to mitigate water scarcity risks.
  • Transboundary Collaboration: Foster regional cooperation among countries sharing river basins affected by declining snow persistence. Develop joint strategies for sustainable water management, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation. This includes sharing hydrological data, coordinating emergency responses, and implementing mutual benefit agreements.
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Strengthen efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at local, national, and international levels. Promote renewable energy sources and sustainable practices to curb global warming, thereby stabilising weather patterns crucial for snowfall.

Mains PYQ:

Q Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (15) (UPSC IAS/2017)

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LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

Thailand to become third Asian country to legalize Same-sex Marriage  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Legalisation of same-sex marriage in Asian countries

Why in the News?

On Tuesday, June 18, the Marriage Equality Bill was approved by the Thai Senate, the upper house of Thailand’s National Assembly, with overwhelming support.

What does the Bill entail? 

  • Gender-Neutral Language: The bill replaces gender-specific terms such as “husbands” and “wives” in Thai marriage laws with gender-neutral terms like “spouse” and “person”. This change allows any two individuals, regardless of their gender, to marry each other.
  • Equal Rights: Same-sex couples will have the same rights as heterosexual couples in various legal and practical aspects, including:
    • Adoption rights: Same-sex couples can adopt children.
    • Inheritance rights: They are entitled to inherit property from their spouses.
    • Tax benefits: They will receive similar tax benefits as heterosexual married couples.
    • Legal decision-making: They can make legal decisions on behalf of their spouses, such as consenting to medical treatment.
  • Recognition and Protection: The bill ensures that same-sex marriages are legally recognised and protected, providing stability and legal security to LGBTQ+ couples in Thailand.
  • Public Support: The bill’s passage reflects growing societal acceptance and support for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand. Public opinion has been largely positive, with significant cross-party support in the Thai Senate and lower house of the National Assembly.

What about other Asian countries?

  • Criminalization: Many Asian countries, beyond those mentioned (Thailand, Taiwan, Nepal), still criminalize same-sex sexual activity. This includes countries like Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, where laws derived from colonial-era penal codes often penalize homosexuality with imprisonment or fines.
  • Lack of Legal Recognition: Most Asian nations do not legally recognize same-sex marriages or partnerships.
    • Even in countries where same-sex relations are not explicitly criminalized, there is often no legal framework for marriage or civil unions for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Legal Battles: In countries like India, legal battles continue as activists seek to overturn discriminatory laws and secure legal recognition for same-sex relationships, including marriage.
  • International Pressure: International human rights organizations and diplomatic efforts sometimes exert pressure on Asian governments to improve LGBTQ+ rights. However, progress is often slow and faces strong domestic resistance.

Note: Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 countries (not including Thailand) globally, according to LGBTQ+ rights advocacy Human Rights Campaign.

Way forward: 

  • Legal Challenges and Reform: Support ongoing legal challenges in courts across Asia to overturn discriminatory laws and promote legal recognition of same-sex relationships. This includes advocating for legislative reforms that protect LGBTQ+ rights, including the recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions.
  • International Pressure and Diplomacy: Encourage international human rights bodies, governments, and diplomatic missions to engage with Asian countries diplomatically, urging them to uphold international human rights standards, including LGBTQ+ rights.

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

PM inaugurates Nalanda University  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nalanda Mahavihara, University

Why in the News?

The Prime Minister has inaugurated the new campus of Nalanda University, an international institution located near the ancient ruins of Nalanda in Rajgir, Bihar.

Revival of Nalanda University

  • The idea to revive Nalanda University was proposed by former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006, leading to the passing of the Nalanda University Bill in 2010.
  • The university’s revival was operationally launched in 2014 from a temporary location.
  • Former president Pranab Mukherjee laid the foundation stone for the permanent campus in 2016, with construction starting in 2017 and culminating in today’s inauguration.
  • The Parliament established the university following decisions from the second East Asia Summit (EAS) in 2007 and the fourth EAS in 2009.

International Collaboration and Courses

  • Nalanda University has participation from 17 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, and others, which have signed MoUs to support the university.
  • It offers 137 scholarships to international students, sponsored by the ASEAN-India Fund, BIMSTEC, and Bhutan’s Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The university provides postgraduate and doctoral research courses, as well as short-term certificate courses.

Historical Background

  • Nalanda University was established in the 5th century CE in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) and was the world’s first residential university.
  • Establishment and Patronage:
    • The Gupta dynasty, under Emperor Kumaragupta I, established Nalanda University in 427 AD, promoting it as a premier center for Buddhist scholarship.
    • It received substantial endowments from monarchs like King Harsha and rulers of the Pala Empire, enhancing its stature and influence across Asia.
  • Countries: It attracted scholars from China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.
  • Subjects taught included medicine, Ayurveda, Buddhism, mathematics, grammar, astronomy, and Indian philosophy.
  • The university thrived under the patronage of the Pala dynasty during the 8th and 9th centuries CE and made significant contributions to mathematics and astronomy.
  • Aryabhatta, a pioneer of Indian mathematics and the inventor of zero, was one of the esteemed educators at Nalanda.

Admission and Academic Rigor

  • Admission to Nalanda was highly competitive, akin to today’s top institutions like IIT, IIM, or Ivy League schools.
  • Students underwent rigorous interviews and were mentored by scholars and Buddhist masters like Dharmapala and Silabhadra.
  • The university’s library, known as ‘Dharma Gunj’ or the ‘Mountain of Truth,’ contained 9 million handwritten palm-leaf manuscripts, making it the richest repository of Buddhist knowledge.

Destruction and Rediscovery

  • In the 1190s, Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turko-Afghan military general, destroyed Nalanda University by arson, which burned for three months and destroyed invaluable Buddhist manuscripts.
  • Some surviving manuscripts are preserved in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Yarlung Museum in Tibet.
  • The university was rediscovered in 1812 by Scottish surveyor Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and officially identified in 1861 by Sir Alexander Cunningham.

Scholarly Influence

  • Nalanda’s intellectual legacy includes contributions from scholars like Nagarjuna, known for his foundational work in the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism, and his disciple Aryadeva.
  • Dharmapala’s commentaries further enriched Buddhist philosophy.
  • These scholars’ insights into metaphysics and epistemology extended Nalanda’s influence, shaping religious and philosophical thought across Asia and inspiring subsequent generations of thinkers.

Foreign Travellers Account of Nalanda University 

Visit Period Key Details
Xuanzang 7th century CE
  • Described Nalanda as vast with lecture halls and residential quarters.
  • Noted a large library with thousands of manuscripts.
  • Mentioned numerous teachers and students engaged in debates.
  • Provided detailed records of Nalanda’s organization and academic activities.
I-Tsing 7th century CE
  • Spent several years studying at Nalanda.
  • Emphasized rigorous academic environment.
  • Noted diverse student population from Asia.
  • Contributed to understanding Nalanda’s curriculum and scholarly environment.
Al-Biruni 11th century CE
  • Wrote about Nalanda’s reputation as a premier center of learning in India.
  • Highlighted its attraction for scholars across Asia.
  • Introduced Nalanda’s achievements to the medieval Islamic world.

 

PYQ:

[2020] Pala period is the most significant phase in the history of Buddhism in India. Enumerate.

[2018] Assess the importance of the accounts of the Chinese and Arab travellers in the reconstruction of the history of India.

[2014] Taxila university was one of the oldest universities of the world with which were associated a number of renowned learned personalities of different disciplines. Its strategic location caused its fame to flourish, but unlike Nalanda, it is not considered as a university in the modern sense. Discuss.

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

CRISPR Cas9 Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/india-getting-close-to-developing-gene-therapy-for-sickle-cell-disease-say-officials/article68308487.ece 

Why in the News?

  • India is close to developing a gene therapy using CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing tool for sickle cell disease (SCD).
    • SCD is a genetic blood disorder prevalent among the Scheduled Tribes.

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

  • Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited blood disorders caused by a genetic mutation in the hemoglobin-β gene located on chromosome 11.
  • This mutation results in defective hemoglobin, which forms rod-like structures after releasing oxygen.
  • As a result, red blood cells become rigid and assume a sickle shape.
  • The disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, meaning both parents must carry the abnormal gene for a child to inherit it.
  • Symptoms may not manifest immediately in newborns but can include extreme tiredness, fussiness, swollen hands and feet, and jaundice.
  • Implications:
      • The mis-shapen RBCs can block small blood vessels, leading to impaired blood flow and causing chronic anaemia.
      • Individuals with SCD often experience acute pain episodes, severe bacterial infections, and tissue damage due to inadequate blood supply.
  • Treatment:
    • Presently treatment includes medications for pain relief, regular blood transfusions to replace damaged red blood cells.
    • In rare cases, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, which carries significant risks, is recommended.

Eliminating Sickle Cell Disease: Global and National Context

  • This progress follows the approval of CRISPR-Cas9 technology by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a cell-based gene therapy to treat sickle cell disease in December 2023.
  • One of the main challenges for India is to develop a cost-effective therapy, as part of its mission to eradicate sickle cell disease by 2047, launched by Prime Minister in July 2023.
  • The mission aims to conduct over 7 crore screenings among vulnerable tribal populations across 17 States and Union Territories, with three crore screenings completed so far.

Back2Basics: CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing

  • CRISPR-Cas9 stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
  • It is a technology that allows geneticists and researchers to edit parts of the genome by altering sections of the DNA sequence.
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna’s work on CRISPR-Cas9 as a ‘molecular scissor’ earned them the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
  • The system consists of two key components:
  1. Cas9: This is the enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors. It is responsible for cutting the DNA strand at a specific location, allowing for the removal, addition, or alteration of DNA at that site.
  2. Guide RNA (gRNA): This is a piece of RNA that is designed to find and bind to a specific sequence of DNA that matches its code. The gRNA guides the Cas9 enzyme to the exact spot in the genome where an edit is desired.
  • Mechanism:
    • The process begins with the design of a gRNA that matches the DNA sequence where an edit is needed.
    • Once inside the cell, the Cas9 enzyme and the gRNA form a complex that can identify and bind to the target DNA sequence.
    • The Cas9 then cuts the DNA at this location.
    • After the DNA is cut, the cell’s natural repair mechanisms can be harnessed to add or remove genetic material, or to make specific changes to the DNA.

 

PYQ:

[2023] Consider the following statements in the context interventions being undertaken under Anaemin Mukt Bharat Strategy :

  1. It provides prophylactic calcium supplementation for pre-school children, adolescents and pregnant women.
  2. It runs a campaign for delayed cord clamping at the time of child-birth.
  3. It provides for periodic deworming to children and adolescents.
  4. It addresses non-nutritional causes of anaemia in endemic pockets with special focus on malaria, hemoglobinopathies and fluorosis.

How many of the statements given above are correct?

(a) Only one
(b) Only two
(c) Only three
(d) All four

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Human Rights Issues

NHRC Notice to Centre on Worker Rights Violation in Haryana

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NHRC, Various labour reform initiatives

Why in the News?

  • The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) issued notice to the Centre over reports from a Amazon company’s warehouse in Haryana’s Manesar.
    • Employees were allegedly forced to pledge not to take toilet or water breaks until unloading six trucks post 30-minute tea break.

NHRC’s Observations and Actions

  • NHRC views this as a serious human rights violation, potentially breaching labour laws and Ministry guidelines.
  • Notice was issued to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour and Employment for a detailed report within a week.

About National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Details
Establishment
  • A Statutory Body;
  • Established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
Functions
  • Inquire into any violation of human rights
  • Recommend immediate interim relief to victims or their families
  • Intervene in court proceedings involving human rights violations
  • Review constitutional and legal safeguards for human rights
  • Study international instruments on human rights
  • Promote human rights literacy
  • Support the efforts of NGOs working in the field of human rights
Powers
  • Regulate its own procedure
  • Possess all the powers of a civil court
  • Proceedings have a judicial character
Chairperson
  • Must be a former Justice of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Appointed by the President of India
Members Four full-time members;

  • Chairperson: former Supreme Court Justice or Chief Justice;
  • Other Member: former Judge of the Supreme Court;
  • Other Member: former Chief Justice of a High Court;
  • Three Members: with knowledge or experience in human rights, including at least one woman –

Seven ex-officio members:  Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women , National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

Appointment
  • Appointed by the President, based on a committee recommendation including the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Home Minister, Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and others
  • Consultation with the Chief Justice of India for judicial appointments
Removal
  • Removal by order of the President of India
  • Consultation with the Supreme Court before removal
Terms of Office
  • Hold office for a term of three years or until the age of 70
  • Ineligibility for further government employment after office
  • Eligible for reappointment
Salaries Determined by the Central government
Reporting
  • Submits annual or special reports to the Central government and the concerned State government
  • Reports laid before the respective legislatures, along with a memorandum of action taken on the recommendations and reasons for non-acceptance of any recommendations
Limitations
  • The commission is not empowered to inquire into any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the act constituting the violation of human rights is alleged to have been committed
  • Functions are recommendatory in nature, with no power to punish or award relief to violators
  • Limited role concerning armed forces violations

Government Initiatives for Worker Welfare in India:

Description
Constitutional Framework Labour falls under the Concurrent List, allowing both Central and State governments to enact laws.

Articles 14, 16, and 39(c) ensure equality and welfare principles.

Judicial Interpretation under Randhir Singh vs Union of India (1982) Upholds ‘Equal pay for Equal work’ through constitutional articles, promoting fairness in employment.
Legislative Framework Introduction of 4 labour codes:

  • Code of Wages, 2019: Standardizes wage payments across sectors.
  • Industrial Relations Code, 2020: Consolidates laws related to industrial disputes and trade unions.
  • Social Security Code, 2020: Expands social security benefits coverage for workers.
  • Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020:  Ensures safety and welfare standards in workplaces.
“Shramev Jayate” Initiative Launched in 2014 to maximize benefits for workers through enhanced welfare initiatives.
Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017 Increases paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, supporting maternal health and childcare.

PYQ:

[2015] “Success of ‘Make in India’ programme depends on the success of ‘Skill India’ programme and radical labour reforms.” Discuss with logical arguments.

[2011] Consider the following:

  1. Right to education.
  2. Right to equal access to public service.
  3. Right to food.

Which of the above is/are Human Right/Rights under “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

In news: Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, One-horned Rhino

Why in the News?

The monsoon has brought a measure of relief to animals especially the one-horned rhinoceros in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary dealing with extreme heat.

About Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary 

  • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary boasts the highest density of one-horned rhinos globally, second only to Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
  • Often dubbed as ‘Mini Kaziranga,’ Pobitora shares a similar landscape and vegetation to its renowned counterpart.
  • The sanctuary shelters various endangered species, including one-horned rhinoceros, leopards, leopard cats, fishing cats, jungle cats, feral buffaloes, wild pigs, and Chinese pangolins.
  • Approximately 72% of Pobitora’s area comprises a wet savannah dominated by Arundo donax and Saccharum grasses, while the rest is covered by water bodies.

About One-Horned Rhino:

  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable.
  • Habitat– Rhinos are mainly found in Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Assam has an estimated 2,640 rhinos in four protected areas, i.e. Pobitora Wildlife Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, and Manas National Park.

Note: About 2,400 of them are in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR).

 

PYQ:

[2019] Consider the following statements:

  1. The Asian lion is naturally found in India only
  2. Double-humped camel is naturally found in India only
  3. One-horned rhinoceros is naturally found in India only

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Coal and Mining Sector

Critical Minerals under iCET

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Critical Minerals, iCET

Why in the News?

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are crucial to modern-day technologies and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are mostly used in making electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers, batteries, electric vehicles, and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Many of these are required to meet the manufacturing needs of green technologies, high-tech equipment, aviation, and national defence.

List of critical minerals includes:

The centre has released a list of 30 critical minerals for India in 2023:

  1. Identified Minerals: Antimony, Beryllium, Bismuth, Cobalt, Copper, Gallium, Germanium, Graphite, Hafnium, Indium, Lithium, Molybdenum, Niobium, Nickel, Platinum Group elements (PGE), Phosphorous, Potash, Rare Earth Elements (REE), Rhenium, Silicon, Strontium, Tantalum, Tellurium, Tin, Titanium, Tungsten, Vanadium, Zirconium, Selenium and Cadmium.
  2. Fertilizer Minerals: Two minerals critical for fertilizer production, phosphorous and potash, are also included in the above list.

Critical Mineral Blocks in India

  • Distribution: There are 20 blocks spread across eight states, including Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Types of Licenses: Four blocks are for a Mining License (ML), allowing immediate mining post-clearance. The remaining 16 blocks are for a Composite License (CL), permitting further exploration before potentially converting to an ML.
  • Approvals Required: Licensees must obtain various approvals, including forest clearance and environmental clearance.
  • Forest Land: Approximately 17% of the total concession area, or 1,234 hectares, is forest land.

India’s Critical Mineral Imports

  • Lithium Imports: In FY23, India imported 2,145 tonnes of lithium carbonate and lithium oxide, costing Rs 732 crore.
  • Nickel and Copper Imports: The country imported 32,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel and 1.2 million tonnes of copper ore, costing Rs 6,549 crore and Rs 27,374 crore, respectively.
  • Import Dependence: India relies entirely on imports for lithium and nickel, and 93% for copper.

Country-wise dependence:

  1. China: India heavily relies on China for the import of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite.
  2. Australia: India is actively engaged with Australia for acquiring mineral assets, particularly lithium and cobalt, to secure its supply chain for critical minerals.
  3. Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile: India is engaging with these countries, known for their reserves of battery metals like lithium and cobalt, to diversify its sources for critical minerals.

India’s Strategic Mineral Initiatives

  • Amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 support expanded exploration.
  • Establishment of Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) with equity from National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd, and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd for global mineral asset acquisition.

International Collaborations and Partnerships

  • India joined the U.S.-led mineral security partnership to secure critical mineral supply chains.
  • Creation of an India-U.S. advanced materials research forum to foster collaboration in universities, laboratories, and private sectors.
  • Bilateral technology collaboration on neodymium-iron-boron and studies on minerals like lithium, titanium, gallium, and vanadium.

Back2Basics: Indo-US Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (iCET)

Details
Initiation Announced in May 2022, officially launched in January 2023
Management Overseen by the National Security Councils of India and the US
Objectives Enhance bilateral cooperation in critical and emerging technologies
Focus Areas of the Initiative
  1. AI Research Agency Partnership
  2. Defense Industrial and Technological Cooperation
  3. Innovation Ecosystems
  4. Semiconductor Ecosystem Development
  5. Cooperation on Human Spaceflight
  6. Advancement in 5G and 6G Technologies
Key Achievements
  • Quantum Coordination Mechanism
  • Public-private dialogues on telecommunications and AI
  • MoU on semiconductor supply chain
  • Defense industrial cooperation roadmap
Upcoming Initiatives
  • Finalization of major jet engine deal
  • Launch of India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X)
  • Strategic Trade Dialogue establishment

 

PYQ:

[2019] With reference to the management of minor minerals in India, consider the following statements:

  1. Sand is a ‘minor mineral’ according to the prevailing law in the country.
  2. State governments have the power to grant mining leases of minor minerals, but the powers regarding the formation of rules related to the grant of minor minerals lie with the Central Government.
  3. State Governments have the power to frame rules to prevent illegal mining of minor minerals.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

How will AlphaFold 3 change life sciences research?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AlphaFold 3 System

Why in the News?

AlphaFold 3, and AI System introduced in a May 2024 Nature paper, extends capabilities to predict protein-protein interactions, DNA, RNA structures, and their interactions.

Importance of Proteins

  • Proteins are crucial molecules regulating nearly every biological function.
  • They are composed of amino acids, which determine their structure and function.
  • Understanding protein folding is essential for comprehending cellular and organismal functions.

The Protein-Folding Problem

  • The process of protein folding is complex and not fully understood, known as the protein-folding problem.
  • It is vital for deciphering how cells, organisms, and life itself operate.
  • Frank Uhlmann emphasizes the significance of understanding protein structure for molecular biology.

What is AlphaFold?

  • Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold debuted in 2020, employs AI and machine learning to predict protein structures.
  • AlphaFold 2, released in 2021, significantly improved accuracy in protein structure prediction.
  • Derek Lowe acknowledges AlphaFold’s achievement in predicting structures effectively, although the deeper biological principles remain less explored.
  • AlphaFold 3’s Advancements:
    • It democratizes research by offering accessible structure prediction tools, even for non-experts.

Technology behind AlphaFold 3

  • Unlike its predecessors, AlphaFold 3 utilizes a diffusion model akin to image-generating software.
  • This approach involves training on noisy data and de-noising to predict accurate protein structures.
  • Working:
    • Given an input list of molecules, AlphaFold 3 generates their joint 3D structure, revealing how they all fit together.
    • It models large biomolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA, as well as small molecules, also known as ligands — a category encompassing many drugs.

Applications of AlphaFold 3

  • AlphaFold 3 excels in predicting protein structures and interactions, aiding drug discovery efforts.
  • DeepMind’s spin-off, Isomorphic Labs, utilizes AlphaFold 3 for drug candidate identification.

Challenges

  • The model’s code restriction has sparked criticism among researchers for hindering scientific collaboration and transparency.
  • DeepMind initially withheld AlphaFold 3’s full code, prompting calls for open access from the scientific community.
  • Responding to backlash, DeepMind plans to release the complete code within six months.

PYQ:

[2020] With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following?

  1. Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units
  2. Create meaningful short stories and songs
  3. Disease diagnosis
  4. Text-to-Speech Conversion
  5. Wireless transmission of electrical energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

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Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

The high cost of a Global Economic Decoupling

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Long-term Effects of tariffs

Why in the News?

The announcement by United States President Joe Biden in May to impose a new set of tariffs on various Chinese imports has reignited concerns about a new phase of economic decoupling globally.

  • According to the World Economic Forum, Economic Decoupling is a policy change that raises barriers to trade in goods and services where firms respond to these changes. If policy decoupling occurs despite the efforts of economic agents, the global economy is negatively affected.

Latest Tariff on Chinese Electric Vehicles (EV) by USA:

  • Reason for Tariff: The U.S. imports few EVs from China, and the decision to impose high tariffs on them reinforces President Biden’s pro-union stance and support for the United Auto Workers (UAW) efforts to increase domestic EV manufacturing.
  • Tariff Increase: The tariffs on Chinese EVs have been quadrupled from 25%.
  • Pre-emptive Measure: This tariff acts as a pre-emptive measure to protect the American auto industry from the fast-growing Chinese car and battery industry. The tariff aims to support traditional domestic automakers and the American auto union against competition from China.

Significant Observations of these decisions made by the USA on Global Geo-politics:

  • Firstly, the latest tariffs imposed by the USA which include steep increases for several other products, ranging from semiconductors to needles and syringes are the final nail in the coffin of US-China trade cooperation. The US and China are now in a full-blown economic war which will have far-reaching geopolitical consequences.
  • Secondly, the tariffs signal defeat. Biden and his political party feel obliged to join the anti-China, anti-trade fervor that has emerged as one of the very few unifying issues in a polarized country. Moreover, the tariffs, combined with US complaints that China is producing too much and putting pressure on the global economic system, speak to a deep-seated anxiety about America’s international competitiveness.

Long-term Effects

  • Protectionism: Continued tariffs may lead to a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat measures, exacerbating protectionism worldwide.
  • Global Green Transition: New import restrictions on Chinese clean energy products could delay global green transition targets and the expansion of renewables.
  • Economic Impact on Multinationals: Western multinationals dependent on China’s consumer market may see a dip in earnings due to China’s slowing growth and rising household debts.
  • Impact on Resource-rich Countries: Countries like Australia and Brazil, heavily reliant on exports to China, may face economic challenges due to a slowing Chinese economy and falling commodity prices.
  • Supply Chain Risks: The European Union’s de-risking strategy might lead to China tightening its control over critical raw mineral supply chains, complicating the global value chain of rare earths.
  • Southeast Asia’s Challenges: Despite potential benefits from shifting production and investment from China, Southeast Asia remains highly dependent on Chinese technology and investment.
  • India’s Manufacturing Struggles: India’s prospects of benefiting from decoupling dynamics are uncertain due to competition from neighboring countries and deep economic ties with China.

Potential Crisis

  • Psychological Impact on Investors: The cycle of escalation in tariffs and decoupling creates significant psychological effects on global investors.
  • Distance from WTO: The U.S. strategy involves deliberate distancing from the World Trade Organization (WTO), evidenced by blocking the appointment of judges to the WTO Appellate Body.
  • Geopolitical Rivalry: The intensifying geopolitical rivalry and fragmentation of the global economy pose a high risk to the liberal international order.
  • Risk to Global Stability: The ongoing decoupling strategy is likely to benefit neither the U.S., China, nor the rest of the world, leading to potential global instability.

Conclusion: The new tariffs and decoupling strategies, while aiming to protect domestic interests, risk escalating global protectionism and instability, highlighting the need for balanced, multilateral trade policies.

Mains PYQ:

Q What are the key areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of ‘Trade War’, especially keeping in mind the interest of India? (15M) (UPSC IAS/2018)

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Time for a Census, come what may

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Impact of delayed 2021 Census

Why in the news?

Why has the 2021 Census been delayed for so long? One plausible explanation is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is postponing the Census to expedite the “delimitation” process in preparation for the 2029 Lok Sabha elections.

The 84th Amendment of the Constitution

  • Delimitation Based on Census: The 84th Amendment specifies that the next delimitation exercise must be based on the first census conducted after 2026.
  • Timing for Delimitation: If the next census occurs before 2026, delimitation would be delayed until after the subsequent census in the 2030s.
  • Impact on State Representation: Delimitation aims to adjust the shares of different states in Lok Sabha seats to match their population shares, and ensure similar population sizes across constituencies.
  • Shift in Seat Balance: The upcoming delimitation is expected to favour northern states with faster population growth since 1973, potentially at the expense of southern states.

About the 106th Amendment

  • Women’s Reservation: Passed in September 2023, this amendment provides for one-third reservation of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  • Implementation: The reservation is to come into effect “after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken for this purpose after the relevant figures for the first census taken after [2023] have been published.”
  • Separate Delimitation for Women: The phrase “for this purpose” suggests that women’s reservation could be implemented through its own delimitation exercise, separate from the broader delimitation mandated by the 84th Amendment.
  • Interpretation: This allows for the possibility of initiating women’s reservation based on an early census, without waiting for the larger delimitation exercise.

Overall Implications

Impact on the Southern States:

  • Seat Redistribution: Delimitation is expected to shift more Lok Sabha seats to northern states with higher population growth, potentially reducing the representation of southern states.
  • Political Backlash: Southern states may react negatively to losing representation, which could lead to increased regional tensions and opposition to the BJP in these areas.

Women’s Reservation:

  • Implementation Delay: Postponing the census could delay the implementation of the 106th amendment, which mandates one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
  • Separate Delimitation: There is a possibility of initiating women’s reservation through a separate delimitation exercise, independent of the broader delimitation mandated by the 84th Amendment.

Welfare and Entitlements:

  • Updated Data Needs: Census data are crucial for implementing welfare schemes and ensuring that resources are allocated based on the most recent population figures.
  • Impact on Beneficiaries: Delaying the census deprives millions of people of updated entitlements, such as food rations under the National Food Security Act, affecting their access to essential services.

Way forward: 

  • Timely Census Completion: Ensure the 2021 Census is conducted promptly to provide accurate data for welfare schemes and fair resource allocation, benefiting millions of citizens who rely on updated population figures for essential services.
  • Separate Delimitation for Women’s Reservation: Implement women’s reservation through a separate delimitation exercise as allowed by the 106th Amendment, enabling the reservation to take effect without waiting for the broader delimitation mandated by the 84th Amendment.

Mains PYQ:

Q Empowering women is the key to controlling the population growth.” Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2019)

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