Monsoon Updates

Cloud Seeding

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cloud Seeding

Mains level: Drought mitigation in India

cloud seeding

Central Idea

  • Solapur, a city with limited rainfall due to its location on the leeward side of the Western Ghats, witnessed an 18% relative enhancement in rainfall through a cloud seeding experiment.

What is Cloud Seeding?

Explanation
Definition Weather modification technique to enhance precipitation.
Objective Increase rainfall or snowfall in areas facing water scarcity or drought.
Seeding Agents Silver iodide, calcium chloride, potassium iodide, sodium chloride, etc.
Suitable Clouds Typically convective clouds with moisture and vertical motion.
Methods of Dispersion Aircraft, rockets, ground-based generators, drones.
Environmental Impact Generally considered safe with minimal environmental impact.
Effectiveness Variable; depends on weather conditions and cloud characteristics.

About CAIPEEX Experiment

  • The initiative, known as the Cloud Aerosol Interaction and Precipitation Enhancement Experiment (CAIPEEX phase-4), sought to investigate the effectiveness of hygroscopic seeding in deep convective clouds.
  • Over two hours after cloud seeding, an additional 8.67mm of rainfall was recorded, resulting in 867 million litres of augmented water availability.

Importance of the Experiment

  • Growing NCD Burden: As India grapples with a rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), exacerbated by the consumption of pre-packaged foods, informed consumer choices and food safety become paramount.
  • Cloud Seeding Efficacy: The experiment underscores cloud seeding as an effective strategy for enhancing rainfall, particularly in regions with suitable conditions.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: The research evaluates the cost-effectiveness of cloud seeding, estimating the cost of producing water through cloud seeding at 18 paise per litre.

Key Findings and Methodology

  • Randomized Seeding Experiment: The study selected 276 convective clouds, with 150 subjected to seeding and 122 serving as the control group.
  • Criteria for Seeding: Clouds with characteristics such as significant liquid water content, vertical motion indicative of cloud growth, and depth exceeding one kilometre were targeted.
  • Seeding Agent: Calcium chloride flares were employed for cloud seeding, ensuring optimal dispersion and entry into growing clouds.
  • Rainfall Enhancement: Seeded clouds produced more rainfall than unseeded ones, resulting in an 18% relative enhancement.

Implications and Future Prospects

  • Water Management: While cloud seeding alone cannot alleviate droughts, it can contribute to an 18% increase in rainfall and partially address water requirements.
  • Cost Reduction: Utilizing indigenous seeding aircraft could reduce costs by over 50%, making cloud seeding more accessible.
  • High-Resolution Numerical Model: The study has developed a numerical model to help stakeholders identify target locations, suitable clouds for seeding, and effective strategies for enhancing rainfall.

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Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act: Balancing Privacy and Law Enforcement

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • In April 2022, the Indian Parliament passed the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act (CrPI).
  • It enabled law enforcement agencies to collect and analyze physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans of arrested individuals.

Why in the news now?

  • While the rules governing the Act were notified in September 2022, full implementation is pending as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the nodal agency, is still formulating guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • This legislation replaces the antiquated Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, which primarily focused on collecting fingerprints, footprints, and photographs of certain convicted and non-convicted individuals.

CrPI Act: Purpose of the Legislation

  • Modernization: The CrPI Act modernizes the process of capturing and recording biometric data and other measurements, supplanting outdated methods.
  • Data Utilization: The Act facilitates the use of advanced techniques for capturing and recording body measurements, providing law enforcement with more comprehensive data.

Role of the NCRB

  • Central Repository: The NCRB is tasked with storing, processing, sharing, disseminating, and destroying measurement records.
  • Common Database: Impressions collected at any police station will be stored in a central database accessible to authorized police and prison officials nationwide.
  • Technical Specifications: The NCRB will define equipment specifications for measurement collection, methods for handling and storing data compatible with the NCRB database, and the IT systems to be employed for measurements.
  • Authorized Personnel: The Act extends measurement collection authority to police and prison officials, individuals skilled in measurement collection, registered medical practitioners, and authorized personnel.
  • Data Retention: Records are to be retained for 75 years.

Implementation Status

  • Fingerprinting: Police have been trained to record fingerprints through the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS), which assigns a unique National Fingerprint Number (NFN) to suspects.
  • Challenges: The provision for iris scanners, DNA collection, and facial recognition systems has not been fully realized. NAFIS workstations are operational in many states, but challenges persist.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Privacy Concerns: During debates in Parliament, opposition members raised concerns about the violation of fundamental rights, including the right to privacy.
  • Data Protection: Questions have arisen about the safeguarding of DNA samples and facial recognition data.
  • Lack of Awareness: Many officers are unaware of the rules specifying that measurements of individuals detained or arrested under certain sections of the law should not be recorded.
  • Data Destruction: Individuals are responsible for requesting the destruction and disposal of their records from the central database if they have been falsely implicated or acquitted, which poses challenges.
  • Right to Be Forgotten: Advocacy groups have emphasized the need to consider the “Right to Be Forgotten” in data retention policies.
  • Training and Scope: Proper training and clear guidelines for DNA sample handling and storage are needed, and the scope of DNA collection in various types of crimes remains unclear.
  • Connectivity Issues: Smaller states face connectivity challenges, hindering the fulfilment of secured Internet lease line requirements for data protection.

Conclusion

  • The CrPI Act represents a significant step toward modernizing law enforcement data collection techniques.
  • However, concerns related to privacy, data protection, and training, along with connectivity issues, underscore the need for comprehensive guidelines and safeguards to balance the imperatives of law enforcement with individual rights and data security.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Why the Lewis Model has worked in China, not in India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lewis Model

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • In 1954, the renowned Saint Lucian economist, Sir William Arthur Lewis, presented a groundbreaking theory that suggested developing countries with a surplus labor force could achieve significant industrialization.
  • He envisioned a shift of labor from subsistence agriculture to the expanding manufacturing sector.
  • However, the Indian experience over the years has shown that this model has not unfolded exactly as Lewis had anticipated.

What is the Lewis Model?

  • Lewis’s Theory: Sir William Arthur Lewis’s influential essay, ‘Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labor,’ proposed that countries with surplus labor could industrialize by paying wages just high enough to attract workers away from family farms.
  • Key Assumptions: The model assumed that higher wages in the manufacturing sector would match the additional output produced, leading to the creation and expansion of industries without limits.
  • Bottlenecks: The primary constraints to this labor transfer were the availability of capital and natural resources, which these countries often lacked relative to their population.

India’s Deviation from the Model

  • Historical Perspective: In the early 1990s, agriculture employed about two-thirds of India’s workforce.
  • Limited Impact of Manufacturing: While the share of agriculture in employment declined to 48.9% by 2011-12, manufacturing’s share only marginally increased from 10.4% to 12.6% during the same period.
  • Recent Trends: The farm sector’s share increased temporarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching 46.5% in 2022-23.
  • Manufacturing’s Decline: Conversely, manufacturing’s share dropped to 11.4% in 2022-23.
  • Shift within Subsistence Sectors: Labor movement primarily occurs within subsistence sectors, such as low-paid services and construction, rather than towards manufacturing or high-productivity services.

lewis model

State-Level Variations

  • Gujarat’s Exception: Gujarat stands out with nearly 24% of its workforce employed in manufacturing, mirroring Lewis’s model.
  • Industry and Agriculture: Gujarat’s workforce in agriculture remains relatively high compared to other states.

China’s Model vs. India’s Reality

  • China’s Success: China leveraged surplus rural labor to become “the world’s factory” during the late 20th century.
  • India’s Challenges: India still has surplus labor working in subsistence sectors, but the path to conventional employment opportunities is narrowing.
  • Technological Disruption: Manufacturing is increasingly capital-intensive, incorporating labor-saving and labor-displacing technologies.
  • New Economic Development Model: NITI Aayog is exploring alternative avenues for job creation, emphasizing activities related to agriculture, such as aggregation, processing, transportation, and bio-based industries.
  • Bio-Based Opportunities: Crop residues, bio-fuels, bio-based products, and supply chain services offer potential employment options linked to agriculture.

Conclusion

  • India’s journey towards economic transformation has deviated from the classic Lewis model.
  • The changing nature of manufacturing and the need for a reimagined labour transition call for innovative approaches that recognize the country’s unique circumstances and opportunities in sectors beyond traditional agriculture.
  • NITI Aayog’s exploration of alternative development models signifies a shift toward addressing contemporary challenges and fostering sustainable economic growth.

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

How Natural Gas is central to ties between India and Qatar?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: LNG imports by India

Mains level: Read the attached story

qatar

India-Qatar Diplomatic Spat

  • The recent death sentences handed down to eight former Indian Navy personnel by a Qatari court pose a significant challenge to the traditionally amicable ties between New Delhi and Doha.
  • In international relations, trade dynamics often play a pivotal role, and in the case of India and Qatar, the balance of trade is heavily skewed in Qatar’s favor, primarily due to imports.

LNG Dependency and Diplomacy

  • Trade Imbalance: Qatar enjoys significant leverage in the bilateral relationship because the trade balance is weighted heavily in its favor, with imports from Qatar far exceeding India’s exports.
  • LNG Dominance: Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is at the heart of this trade relationship, accounting for nearly 50% of India’s imports by value from Qatar.
  • Energy Security: India’s import dependency on natural gas is around 50%, and with a national drive to increase natural gas consumption, LNG imports are expected to grow, even with potential increases in domestic production.

Need for India’s Energy Transition

  • Cleaner Alternative: Natural gas is viewed as a cleaner and more affordable alternative to conventional petroleum fuels, aligning with India’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and transition to cleaner energy sources.
  • Energy Security: Given India’s high import dependency on crude oil, natural gas is seen as a critical component of energy security.
  • Ambitious Targets: India aims to raise the share of natural gas in its primary energy mix to 15% by 2030, a goal likely to drive increased LNG imports in the years ahead.

Sensitivity of the Present Situation

  • Diplomatic Challenge: The case of the retired Navy personnel presents a sensitive challenge for Indian diplomacy, given India’s energy security concerns and ambitions.
  • Trade Dependency: India’s energy security relies on Qatar, making diplomatic relations delicate.

Trade Figures

  • Imports from Qatar: In FY2022-23, India’s total imports from Qatar were valued at $16.81 billion, with LNG accounting for $8.32 billion or 49.5%.
  • Exports to Qatar: In contrast, India’s exports to Qatar in the same period amounted to only $1.97 billion.
  • LNG Dependency: Of the 19.85 million tonnes of LNG imported by India in FY23, 10.74 million tonnes (54%) came from Qatar.

Global LNG Dynamics

  • Seller’s Market: The global LNG market has become a seller’s market following geopolitical disruptions, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Term Contracts vs. Spot Purchases: Term contracts offer more stability compared to spot purchases, particularly during supply gluts or shortages.
  • Qatar’s Position: Qatar, as the world’s largest LNG exporter, has gained significant leverage and stability in the LNG market.
  • Long-Term Contracts: LNG importers worldwide, including India, are seeking long-term contracts with major suppliers like Qatar to secure stable supplies.

Future Prospects for India

  • Long-Term Contracts: India is actively negotiating for long-term LNG contracts, and Petronet’s existing contract with Qatar is set to expire in 2028.
  • Buyer’s Market: Industry experts predict that the global LNG market may become a buyer’s market in the coming years due to new LNG export projects. Qatar remains a key player in this scenario.

Conclusion

  • Balancing India’s energy security needs with diplomatic challenges in the backdrop of trade dependency on Qatar, especially in LNG, is a complex task.
  • India’s pursuit of long-term LNG contracts reflects its determination to secure stable energy supplies while navigating international relations sensitively.
  • The evolving global LNG market dynamics will continue to influence India’s energy choices and diplomatic strategies.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

TN experience on Caste Survey

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Caste Surveys

Mains level: Read the attached story

tn caste

Debate: Caste-Based Surveys

  • The recent nationwide discussions on caste-based surveys and reservations have ignited debates regarding reservation limits.
  • While many call for a similar census across India, Tamil Nadu’s history offers insights into the complexities of caste-based reservations.
  • Despite previous efforts, the implementation of OBC (Other Backward Class) reservations remains a challenge in the state.

Genesis of Ramachandran Commission

  • Background: The First BC panel (1969-70), led by A.N. Sattanathan, suggested raising BC reservations, but the idea of a creamy layer hasn’t gained political backing.
  • Current Backdrop: In 1980, following electoral setbacks, the government in Tamil Nadu, led by M.G. Ramachandran, increased BC (Backward Class) reservations from 31% to 50%, totalling 68% with SC & ST reservations (later 69% with ST exclusive reservation).
  • Legal Challenge: The move faced legal challenges, prompting the state government to form a commission to review BC enumeration and classification.
  • Commission Formation: The Second BC Commission, chaired by J.A. Ambasankar, was established in late 1982 and submitted its report in February 1985.

Key Highlights of the Commission’s Work

  • Socio-Educational-cum-Economic Survey: The Commission conducted a comprehensive door-to-door enumeration of BCs in two stages during 1983-84. Unlike the previous panel, which relied on the 1921 Census, this survey was based on contemporary data.
  • Caste Classification: The Commission identified 298 BC communities within main groups such as BCs, Most BCs, Denotified Communities (DNCs), SCs, STs, and others. BCs constituted 67.15% of the state’s population.
  • Educational Survey: A sample survey of students in schools and colleges was conducted, along with an assessment of BC representation in public services.

Key Recommendations

  • Reservation Quantum Debate: Disagreements arose between Chairman Ambasankar and other members regarding the reservation percentage. While Ambasankar proposed reducing it to 32% to stay within the 50% limit, dissenting members argued for at least 50% due to the BC population’s size.
  • Reservation Coverage: Differences also emerged regarding the coverage of reservations. Ambasankar suggested separate lists of BCs for Article 15(4) and Article 16(4), while members favored a single list.

Government Response and Legal Safeguards

  • No Change in Reservation Quantum: The government retained the 50% BC reservation and did not accept Ambasankar’s recommendation to reduce it.
  • Ninth Schedule: To safeguard the 69% quota, Tamil Nadu enacted a law and placed it under the Ninth Schedule following the Supreme Court’s Mandal Commission case judgment in 1992.
  • Subsequent Changes: Over the years, separate quotas for Muslims and Christians were introduced within the BC reservation, but some were later withdrawn or challenged.
  • SC Verdict: In 2021, the Supreme Court struck down a law providing 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars within the MBC quota, citing non-contemporaneous data from the Ambasankar panel.

Conclusion

  • Tamil Nadu’s experience with caste-based reservations underscores the intricate challenges involved. While the state has maintained a high reservation percentage, debates over quantum and coverage persist.
  • The recent legal developments highlight the importance of contemporary data in determining and sustaining reservations, making it a complex and evolving issue.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India- Qatar Diplomatic Conundrum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-Qatar Relations

qatar

Central Idea

  • The recent verdict of the death penalty for eight Indian Navy officials in Qatar has sent shockwaves through diplomatic circles.
  • The Indian MEA expressed deep shock and initiated a quest for legal remedies.

What is the case about?

  • Arrest Details: The Indian Embassy learned about their arrests in mid-September the previous year.
  • Consular Access: The first consular access was granted on October 3, more than a month after their detention.
  • Solitary Confinement: While the specific charges were never disclosed publicly, the detainees’ confinement in solitary cells hinted at possible security-related offences.

qatar

India-Qatar Relations

  • Historical Relations: India and Qatar have maintained friendly relations for decades. PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Qatar in 2008 marked a significant turning point, followed by reciprocal visits from the Emir of Qatar and PM Narendra Modi.
  • Economic Ties: The bilateral trade between India and Qatar, valued at $15 billion, primarily involves LNG and LPG exports from Qatar to India.
  • Defence Cooperation: Defence cooperation is a key component of India-Qatar ties, with the India-Qatar Defence Cooperation Agreement serving as a pivotal milestone.

Challenges in the Relationship

  • Religious Controversy: In June 2022, a controversy involving derogatory remarks about the Prophet on a TV show led to tension between India and Qatar. Qatar demanded a public apology, which India addressed by swiftly sacking the individual responsible.
  • Recent shift-overs: The imprisonment of the eight ex-Navy personnel constitutes the second significant challenge. It took India by surprise in a country where a large Indian expatriate community resides, making India-Qatar relations a sensitive issue.

Why does Qatar matter to India?

  • Expatriate Community: Indians constitute the largest expatriate community in Qatar, with approximately 800,000 individuals working and living there.
  • Remittances: The flow of remittances from Qatar and the safety of Indian citizens make Qatar vital for India’s interests.
  • Energy Security: Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, making it critical for India’s energy security.
  • GCC Membership: Qatar’s membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is strategically significant for India, especially concerning issues like Kashmir.
  • UNSC Support: India’s bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council requires support from countries like Qatar.
  • Business Presence: Several Indian companies, including Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Wipro, MahindraTech, and Larsen & Toubro Limited, operate in Qatar.
  • Stability in the Gulf: The stability of the Gulf region is of paramount importance to India’s energy and maritime security.

Conclusion

  • The detention and sentencing of eight Indian nationals in Qatar have posed a complex diplomatic challenge for India.
  • Against the backdrop of India-Qatar relations, this incident underscores the importance of navigating cultural sensitivities and geopolitical dynamics to secure the release of these individuals.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Bhutan-China Border Talks and Indian Concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bhutan-China Border Talks

Mains level: Read the attached story

Bhutan-China Border Talks

Central Idea

  • In Beijing, the 25th round of Bhutan-China Border Talks culminated with the signing of a significant Cooperation Agreement.
  • This historic agreement reflects the progress made in their quest for border resolution, carrying forward the 3-Step Roadmap initiated in 2021.
  • Amid the backdrop of a seven-year gap in talks, these recent developments bear immense significance.

Bhutan-China Border Talks

  • Complex Border: Bhutan and the Tibetan Autonomous Region share an extensive contiguous border, spanning approximately 470 km. Prior to 2016, the two nations engaged in 24 rounds of talks to address border disputes.
  • Positive Momentum: Talks had been stalled due to the Doklam Standoff in 2017 and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. However, this interlude witnessed discussions at other levels, especially after China raised concerns about a border dispute to Bhutan’s east.
  • A Seven-Year Hiatus Ends: After a prolonged pause in boundary talks lasting seven years, the resumption of discussions signals substantial headway.

3-Step Roadmap

  • Initiating Border Delimitation: The 3-Step roadmap, established through an MoU in 2021 and facilitated by the Joint Technical Team (JTT), aims to delineate the Bhutanese and Chinese territories conclusively. Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, Bhutan and China seek to formalize their border.
  • Steps in the Roadmap:
    1. Agreement on the border “on the table.”
    2. On-ground inspections of the border.
    3. Formal demarcation of the boundary.

India’s Vigilance and Concerns

  • Strained Sino-Indian Relations: In the context of deteriorating relations between India and China since the 2020 Line of Actual Control standoff, any warming of ties between China and one of India’s closest neighbours raises concerns in New Delhi.
  • Doklam: A Critical Focus: India closely observes discussions related to Doklam, where China has proposed a “swap” of areas under Bhutanese control with territories in Jakarlung and Pasamlung, claimed by China. The Doklam trijunction is strategically significant as it is in close proximity to India’s Siliguri corridor, a vital land link connecting northeastern states to the rest of India.
  • China’s Strategic Moves: Since the Doklam standoff in 2017, China has bolstered its presence in the Doklam plateau, constructing underground facilities, new roads, and villages in disputed areas within Bhutan, undermining India’s strategic interests.
  • Diplomatic Tensions: India remains cautious about China’s insistence on establishing full diplomatic relations with Bhutan and opening an embassy in Thimphu. Given India’s challenges with Chinese projects and funding in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, China’s presence in Bhutan raises apprehensions.

Conclusion

  • The Bhutan-China boundary talks represent a significant stride towards resolving longstanding disputes.
  • However, Bhutan’s leadership has emphasized that decisions will be made with due consideration for India’s concerns, maintaining a delicate balance in this Himalayan diplomatic endeavour.

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Fertilizer Sector reforms – NBS, bio-fertilizers, Neem coating, etc.

Centre revises Fertilizer Subsidy  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fertilizer Subsidy

Mains level: Read the attached story

Fertilizer Subsidy  

Central Idea

  • The Union Cabinet has announced revisions to the per-kilogram subsidy rates for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur fertilizers under the nutrient-based regime, distinguishing between the October-March and April-September periods.

Subsidy Rate Changes

  • Nitrogen (N): The subsidy per kilogram for nitrogen has decreased by 38% between the first half of FY-24 and the October-March period.
  • Phosphorus (P): Phosphorus subsidy has been reduced by 49%.
  • Potassium (K): Subsidy for potassium has seen an 84% reduction.
  • Sulphur (S): Sulphur subsidy has been lowered by 32.5% during the same period.

Why discuss this?

  • Fertilizer subsidies have been an integral part of India’s agricultural landscape since the Green Revolution of the 1970s-80s.
  • This overview delves into the concept of fertilizer subsidies, their disbursement, and associated challenges.

Understanding Fertilizer Subsidy

  • Origins: Fertilizer subsidies emerged during the Green Revolution to boost agricultural productivity.
  • Subsidized Pricing: Fertilizer subsidy entails farmers purchasing fertilizers at prices below the Maximum Retail Price (MRP), often lower than market rates.
  • Determining Subsidy Rates: Subsidy rates are influenced by the average price of imported fertilizer over the preceding six months.

Recipient and Payment of Subsidy

  • Beneficiary: While fertilizer companies receive the subsidy, it ultimately benefits farmers who procure fertilizers at rates lower than market prices.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT): Since March 2018, the government introduced a DBT system, where subsidy payments to companies occur post-actual sales to farmers via retailers.
  • Retailer’s Role: Each of India’s 2.3 lakh retailers is equipped with a point-of-sale (PoS) machine linked to the Department of Fertilizers’ e-Urvarak DBT portal.
  • Neem-Coated Urea Illustration: Neem-coated urea serves as an example. The government fixes its MRP at Rs. 5,922.22 per tonne, while domestic production costs about Rs. 17,000 per tonne. The variance is covered by the central government through subsidy disbursement.

Non-Urea Fertilizers

  • Decontrolled Pricing: Non-urea fertilizers have pricing determined by companies rather than government intervention.
  • Two Categories: These non-urea fertilizers are categorized into DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) and MOP (Muriate of Phosphate).
  • Flat Subsidy: The government provides a uniform per-tonne subsidy to maintain soil nutrition levels and ensure the affordability of other fertilizers.

Challenges Associated with Fertilizer Subsidies

  • Low Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE): Indian soil exhibits low NUE, primarily found in Urea, leading to excessive use and groundwater pollution.
  • Groundwater Contamination: Excessive fertilizer application contributes to groundwater contamination.
  • Overuse: Urea applied to the soil results in losses as NH3 (Ammonia) and Nitrogen Oxides, surpassing WHO-prescribed limits, particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan.
  • Health Impacts: Nitrate-contaminated water poses health risks, including “blue baby syndrome” in humans.

Conclusion

  • Fertilizer subsidies are a crucial aspect of Indian agriculture, aiding farmers by reducing the cost of essential inputs.
  • However, challenges such as overuse, groundwater pollution, and health concerns warrant a comprehensive approach to ensure sustainable and responsible fertilizer usage in the country.

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Air Pollution

Why Mumbai is witnessing more poor air quality days

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Mumbai Air Pollution

mumbai

Central Idea

  • Mumbai, known for its coastal breeze and cleaner air, is grappling with an annual decline in air quality, resembling Delhi’s long-standing pollution woes.
  • The city’s coastal location, once considered a safeguard against air pollution, is no longer a reliable defense.

Air Quality Deterioration in Mumbai

  • Geographic Advantage Eroded: Mumbai’s coastal location was historically its shield against air pollution, with sea breezes dispersing particles.
  • Comparable Pollution Levels: Last year, Mumbai experienced an extended period of poor air quality, overlapping with Delhi’s notorious smog issue.

Meteorological Influence

  • Crucial Wind Patterns: Winds’ direction and strength play a pivotal role in shaping Mumbai’s air quality. Despite similar pollutant emissions to Delhi, the city’s coastal nature provides an advantage.
  • Sea-Land Wind Cycle: Typically, winds alternate between sea-to-land and land-to-sea movements every few days, aiding natural cleansing. Disruptions in this cycle can impact air quality.

Reasons for such poor air quality

  • La Nina’s Role: The recent dip in La Nina, characterized by ocean surface cooling and altered wind patterns, contributed to elevated particulate matter levels in Mumbai.
  • Prolonged Pollution: La Nina’s influence delayed the expected strong wind reversal from the sea, trapping pollutants in the lower atmosphere for extended periods.
  • Change in Weather Phenomenon: La Nina has given way to El Nino, albeit weaker. Its specific impact on Mumbai’s air quality remains uncertain.
  • Prevalent Construction Projects: The city is currently witnessing construction activities at a staggering 6,000 sites, posing a significant challenge to air quality.
  • Dust Displacement: Dust particles from roads and vehicles transporting construction debris add to Mumbai’s pollution burden.
  • Domestic Sources: Restaurants, dhabas, and eateries using unclean oils for cooking release ultrafine particles, oil droplets, and condensed organic compounds, along with harmful gases such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.

How local weather fuels it?

  • Calm Winds and Temperature Gradient: As the monsoon retreated, Mumbai experienced calmer winds. A substantial temperature difference between the city and nearby Sahyadri ranges led to winds carrying dust from construction sites in Navi Mumbai.
  • Local Weather Not Sole Culprit: Unfavorable local weather conditions are not solely responsible for Mumbai’s air quality decline.
  • Baseline Pollution High: Mumbai’s consistent and escalating pollutant emissions are exceeding its environmental capacity.
  • Economic Growth: Increased economic activity, higher vehicle numbers, extensive construction, and elevated consumption contribute to rising emissions.

Conclusion

  • Mumbai’s air quality predicament signals the urgency of addressing escalating pollution sources and fortifying mitigation measures.
  • While meteorological conditions play a role, the city’s growing economic activity and emissions are the driving forces behind its deteriorating air quality.
  • Relevant authorities must take proactive steps to combat this issue and ensure a healthier environment for its residents.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Dam Safety Act 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Dam Safety Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

hydel dam safety

Central Idea

  • India boasts nearly 6,000 large dams, but concerns loom over the safety of these structures, with approximately 80% of them being over 25 years old and posing safety risks.
  • With numerous large dams and hydropower projects, the Himalayas play a crucial role in meeting India’s energy needs.
  • However, the recent incident of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in North Sikkim has raised alarm bells about the safety of these structures.

Hydropower boom in the Himalayas

  • As of November 2022, the Himalayan states and Union territories, excluding West Bengal, had 81 large hydropower projects (above 25 MW) in operation, with 26 more under construction.
  • An additional 320 large projects are in the planning stages, according to the Central Electricity Authority under the Union Ministry of Power.

Discussion: Dam Safety in the Himalayas

  • Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: The Himalayas are highly susceptible to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and GLOFs due to their complex geological and topographical features. These hazards can jeopardize the integrity of dams and reservoirs.
  • High Population Density: The Himalayan region is densely populated, with communities residing downstream of dams and hydropower projects. A dam failure can have devastating consequences on human lives and property.
  • Ecological Sensitivity: The Himalayas are an ecologically fragile region with unique biodiversity. A dam failure can lead to environmental disasters, impacting delicate ecosystems.

Repercussions

  • Climate Change: The melting of glaciers due to global warming contributes to the formation of glacial lakes. As these lakes grow, the risk of GLOFs increases, putting downstream infrastructure at risk.
  • Snowball Effects: Landslide dams can lead to impounding of lakes, landslide-induced floods, secondary landslides, channel avulsion, and the formation of flood terraces downstream, impacting communities and infrastructure.
  • Delayed Impacts: Run-of-the-river projects, which often bypass large-scale displacement and forest diversion, have been promoted as environmentally friendly. However, their underground components can disturb geology and geohydrology, leading to indirect displacement and environmental impacts.
  • Aging Infrastructure: Many dams and hydropower projects in the Himalayas are aging, with approximately 80% of them over 25 years old. Proper maintenance and monitoring are essential to ensure their safety.

Dam Safety Act, 2021 and its Provisions

  • The DSA was introduced in response to dam failures caused by deficient surveillance and maintenance.
  • It establishes key responsibilities and requires the formation of national and state-level bodies for its implementation.
  • The Act outlines the following provisions:
  1. National Committee on Dam Safety: Responsible for overseeing dam safety policies and regulations.
  2. National Dam Safety Authority: Tasked with implementing and resolving state-level disputes.
  3. Chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC): Heads dam safety protocols at the national level.
  4. State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS) and State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO): To be established at the state level.

Challenges in DSA Implementation

  • Inadequate Risk Assessment: Experts argue that the DSA does not encourage risk-based decision-making and lacks transparency incentives.
  • Transparency Concerns: Dam safety should be a public function, with information readily accessible. However, transparency is impeded when government employees and project engineers dominate national and state bodies, potentially compromising objective decision-making.

Lessons Learned from Recent Incidents

  • Comprehensive Risk Assessment: Dam safety protocols must include comprehensive risk assessments that consider factors such as climate change, geological stability, and the potential for GLOFs. Periodic reviews yield updated inundation maps and rule curves for reservoir capacity.
  • Hazard Profiling Issues: Hazard risk is influenced by climate change, urbanization, and water usage patterns. Periodic reviews should yield updated inundation maps and rule curves for reservoir capacity. Unfortunately, these reviews are often overlooked or findings are not made publicly available.
  • Standardized Safety Evaluation: The DSA mandates comprehensive dam safety evaluations but lacks standardization in how failures are analyzed and reported.
  • Transparent Reporting: Transparency in dam safety is paramount. The DSA should be implemented rigorously, with an emphasis on transparent reporting of dam failures and safety assessments.
  • Community Involvement: Local communities should be actively engaged in dam safety measures. They can provide valuable insights into the environmental and social impacts of such projects.

Way Forward

  • Early Warning Systems: Establishing advanced early warning systems that can detect GLOFs and other potential hazards is crucial. These systems can save lives and minimize damage.
  • Regular Maintenance: Aging infrastructure must undergo regular maintenance and upgrades to ensure their continued safety and functionality.
  • International Collaboration: Given the transboundary nature of the Himalayan region, international collaboration on dam safety and disaster management is essential. Neighboring countries should work together to mitigate shared risks.

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Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Quantum Algorithms: The Power and Promise

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Quantum Algorithm

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Quantum computers are often heralded as the solution to complex problems that classical computers struggle with.
  • However, harnessing the full potential of quantum computing isn’t just about having the hardware; it requires the development of clever quantum algorithms.

Understanding Algorithms

  • An algorithm is a logical sequence of mathematical steps designed to solve a specific problem.
  • For example, adding three numbers involves two steps: adding the first two numbers and then adding the result to the third number.

Quantum Computing

  • Quantum computing is a cutting-edge field of computing that leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to perform certain types of calculations much faster than classical computers.
  • Instead of using traditional bits (0s and 1s), quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits, which can exist in a superposition of states. Here are some key aspects:
  1. Superposition: Qubits can represent multiple states simultaneously, enabling quantum computers to explore many solutions in parallel.
  2. Entanglement: Qubits can be entangled, allowing information to be processed in ways that classical computers cannot replicate efficiently.
  3. Quantum Gates: Quantum algorithms manipulate qubits using quantum gates, which can perform complex operations on qubits.
  4. Quantum Advantage: Quantum computers have the potential to solve certain problems exponentially faster than classical computers, such as factoring large numbers and simulating quantum systems.

Quantum vs. Classical Algorithms

  • Algorithm Complexity: The efficiency of an algorithm is determined by the number of steps it takes to solve a problem, particularly as the input size increases.
  • Quantum Advantage: Quantum algorithms, implemented using quantum gates, can potentially outperform classical algorithms by reducing the number of required steps.
  • Superposition in Quantum Bits (Qubits): Unlike classical bits, qubits can exist in states of both 0 and 1 simultaneously, allowing quantum algorithms to exploit superposition for speed-up.

Shor’s Algorithm: Factorization Made Efficient

  • Shor’s Breakthrough: Peter Shor’s quantum factorization algorithm significantly outperforms classical methods in identifying factors of large integers.
  • Efficiency Comparison: Shor’s algorithm operates with a polynomial increase in steps, while classical algorithms exhibit superpolynomial growth.
  • Cryptographic Implications: The efficiency of Shor’s algorithm raises concerns for classical cryptography, as it could potentially challenge the security of large integer-based encryption systems.

Grover’s Algorithm: Quantum Search Mastery

  • Quantum Search Algorithm: Lov Grover’s quantum search algorithm excels at identifying numerical patterns in extensive lists of data.
  • Classical vs. Quantum: Classical methods may require nearly half the number of steps as there are patterns, while Grover’s quantum algorithm drastically reduces the steps required.
  • Scalability: Grover’s algorithm showcases exponential speed-up, requiring only a fraction of additional steps for significantly larger datasets.

Deutsch-Jozsa Algorithm: Superposition’s Advantage

  • Problem Scenario: Deutsch-Jozsa tackles the identification of a relationship between two sets – one with two-digit binary numbers and another with binary associations.
  • Two Types of Relations: The algorithm distinguishes between constant and balanced relations.
  • Quantum Efficiency: In classical computing, this task may need up to three steps. Quantum computing, using superposition, achieves the same with just one computation, regardless of input size.

Expanding World of Quantum Algorithms

  • Diverse Applications: Quantum algorithms offer efficiency gains in optimization, drug design, pattern search, and more.
  • Promise of Quantum Computing: Once reliable, large-scale quantum devices become available, they will revolutionize problem-solving across various fields.
  • Interdisciplinary Nature: Quantum algorithm research spans computer science, mathematics, and physics, and it continues to evolve, providing ample opportunities for contributions.

Conclusion

  • Quantum algorithms represent the intelligent design that unlocks the immense potential of quantum computers.
  • As quantum technology advances and reliable devices emerge, these algorithms will play a pivotal role in tackling complex problems that have long eluded classical computing.
  • Quantum algorithm development remains an interdisciplinary frontier with abundant room for innovation and groundbreaking discoveries.

Back2Basics: Quantum Theory

Quantum theory, also known as quantum mechanics or quantum physics, is a fundamental branch of physics that describes the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scales, typically at the level of atoms and subatomic particles. It introduces the following key principles:

  • Wave-Particle Duality: Particles like electrons and photons exhibit both particle-like and wave-like properties, depending on how they are observed.
  • Superposition: Quantum particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously, known as superposition, until observed.
  • Entanglement: Particles can become entangled, where the state of one particle is dependent on the state of another, even when separated by large distances.
  • Quantization: Certain physical properties, such as energy levels in atoms, are quantized, meaning they can only take on specific discrete values.

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Make in India: Challenges & Prospects

No restriction on Laptop Imports: Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Laptop Imports Ban

Central Idea

  • In August, the centre announced its intention to subject laptops, tablets, computers, and related products to a licensing regime starting from November 1.
  • However, it has now clarified that India will not impose licensing requirements on laptop and computer imports but will instead monitor their inbound shipments.

Lapop Import Restrictions: A Backgrounder

  • Import Restrictions: In August, India imposed import restrictions on various IT hardware products to promote domestic manufacturing and reduce imports, particularly from countries like China.
  • Industry Concerns: The IT hardware industry expressed concerns following the initial licensing announcement.
  • Security and Domestic Manufacturing: The government cited security concerns and the desire to stimulate domestic manufacturing as the reasons for the licensing conditions.

Import Statistics

  • Import Values: India imports approximately $7-8 billion worth of IT hardware products annually.
  • Recent Trends: Import values for personal computers, including laptops, decreased from $7.37 billion in 2021-22 to $5.33 billion in 2022-23. Imports of certain data processing machines also saw a decline.
  • Production-Linked Incentive Scheme: In May, the government approved the Production Linked Incentive Scheme 2.0 for IT Hardware with a budgetary outlay of ₹17,000 crore. A similar scheme for IT hardware was approved in February 2021.

India’s Dependency on China

  • Critical Dependency: According to a report by the Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI), India has significant dependency on China for various products, including laptops and mobile phones.
  • Government Initiatives: To reduce this dependency, the government has introduced measures such as the production-linked incentive scheme and increased customs duties on electronic components.

Conclusion

  • India’s decision to shift from a licensing regime to monitoring for laptop and computer imports aims to balance its goals of reducing import dependency and promoting domestic manufacturing.
  • However, there is a need to ensure smoother transition for businesses and trade.

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Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Supreme Court’s divided on Abortion: A Complex Legal Dilemma

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MRTP Act

Mains level: Abortion vs. Mothers Bodily Rights

Central Idea

  • A Division Bench of two judges of the Supreme Court grappled with divergent views regarding the abortion of a 26-week pregnancy and the government’s stance to protect the “unborn child.”
  • The judges, unable to reach a consensus, opted to refer the case to the CJI to convene a three-judge Bench for further deliberation.

Woman’s Plight for Abortion

  • A mother of two with her youngest child just a one-year-old infant, she asserted her desire for a medically induced abortion due to her mental health condition and her inability to care for a third child.
  • Her lawyer stressed the court should prioritize the mother’s well-being.
  • He emphasized the threat to her privacy and dignity and her conscious decision to not proceed with the pregnancy.

Government’s Stance

  • Legal Argument: The Additional Solicitor General contended that the woman did not possess an “absolute right of autonomy” to exercise her reproductive rights in a manner that would compromise the rights of the unborn child.
  • MTP Act of 2021: Reference was made to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021, which extended the abortion deadline to 24 weeks in “exceptional circumstances,” primarily to save the mother’s life or in the case of fatal foetal deformity.

Legal Debate

  • Bodily Autonomy vs. Foetal Rights: The core of the debate centred on whether, once a viable baby exists, the woman’s right to bodily autonomy or integrity should yield to the Act, curbing her fundamental right to choose.
  • Court’s Earlier Decision: On October 9, the Bench had initially permitted the medical termination in line with the woman’s wishes, following a report from an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) medical board.

Government’s Reversal

  • Government’s Appeal: Subsequently, the Union government filed an application, citing an expert doctor’s opinion received on October 10, which advocated for giving the child a chance to survive.
  • State’s Responsibility: The argument was that a categorical medical opinion had emerged, offering hope for the child’s survival, and placing a responsibility on the state.

Judicial Opinions

  • Justice Kohli’s Stance: One judge aligned with the government’s position that the woman should not be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
  • Justice Nagarathna’s Dissent: In contrast, the other judge dissented, asserting that the woman’s decision should be respected, considering her socio-economic circumstances, mental health, and the young age of her second child.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court’s divided opinion on this intricate abortion case underscores the challenging balance between a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and the state’s interest in protecting the unborn.
  • As the case proceeds to a three-judge Bench, it raises broader questions about the legal and ethical complexities surrounding reproductive rights and foetal interests in India’s legal landscape.

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Tribes in News

Scheduled Areas in India: A Constitutional Framework

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Scheduled Areas

Mains level: Not Much

Scheduled Area

Central Idea

  • India’s diverse landscape is home to 705 Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities, constituting 8.6% of the nation’s population.
  • These communities reside across 26 States and six Union Territories.
  • A crucial constitutional provision, Article 244, governs the administration of Scheduled and Tribal Areas, significantly impacting the lives of STs.

Constitutional Framework for STs

  • Fifth Schedule (Article 244(1)): This provision applies the Fifth Schedule’s provisions to Scheduled Areas in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • Sixth Schedule (Article 244(2)): In the mentioned states, the Sixth Schedule governs the administration of Scheduled and Tribal Areas.

Geographical Scope of Scheduled Areas

  • Coverage: Scheduled Areas span 11.3% of India’s land area, designated in 10 States: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh. Kerala has proposed additional areas for notification, pending government approval.
  • Exclusions: Despite demands from Adivasi organizations, numerous villages in Scheduled Areas and other regions with ST populations have been excluded from Article 244’s purview. Consequently, 59% of India’s STs lack the rights conferred by Scheduled Areas-related laws.

Historical Recommendations

  • Bhuria Committee (1995): This committee recommended extending panchayat raj to Scheduled Areas, including the villages, a suggestion yet to be implemented.
  • Denotification Debate: Some argue for the denotification of parts of Scheduled Areas where non-tribal individuals have increased, citing the absence of viable ST-majority administrative units.

Governance of Scheduled Areas

  • Notification: The President of India designates Scheduled Areas.
  • Tribal Advisory Council: States with Scheduled Areas must establish a Tribal Advisory Council with up to 20 ST members to advise the Governor on ST welfare matters.
  • Governor’s Role: The Governor reports annually to the President regarding Scheduled Areas’ administration. They can also repeal or amend laws applicable to the Scheduled Area, regulate tribal land transfer, and control money-lending activities.
  • Underutilized Provisions: These extensive powers granted to Governors and the President have remained largely inactive, with notable exceptions in Maharashtra from 2014 to 2020.

Defining a Scheduled Area

  • Exclusive Presidential Power: The Fifth Schedule exclusively grants the President the authority to declare Scheduled Areas.
  • Empirical Basis: A 2006 Supreme Court ruling upheld the executive function of identifying Scheduled Areas and stated that it lacks the expertise to scrutinize this process.
  • Criteria: Neither the Constitution nor any law specifies criteria for identifying Scheduled Areas. However, based on the Dhebar Commission Report (1961), key considerations include tribal population predominance, area compactness, administrative viability, and economic backwardness relative to neighboring regions.

Settlement of Ambiguity

  • PESA Act (1996): The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, empowered gram sabhas within Scheduled Areas, reinvigorating the intent of the Constitution and the Constituent Assembly. This law enabled direct democracy and recognized the gram sabhas as primary authorities.
  • Village Definition: PESA defines a village as a habitation or group of habitations managed by a community according to traditions and customs. This definition extended beyond Scheduled Areas to forest fringes and villages.
  • Unresolved Issues: Gram sabhas have yet to demarcate traditional boundaries on revenue lands. FRA 2006 requires the demarcation of “community forest resource” areas within traditional boundaries.

Conclusion

  • Understanding and expanding Scheduled Areas in India necessitates the notification of all habitations or groups of habitations with ST majorities outside existing Scheduled Areas.
  • Furthermore, geographical boundaries should encompass “community forest resource” areas where applicable and extend to customary boundaries within revenue lands.
  • These steps are essential for ensuring equitable governance and preserving the rights and welfare of India’s Scheduled Tribes.

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Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Ageing World: Addressing Mental Health Challenges in the Elderly

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNFPA report on Ageing

Mains level: Elderly woes in India

Elderly

Central Idea

  • The world’s elderly population is larger than ever before, with 1.1 billion people aged 60 and above in 2022, constituting 13.9% of the population (UNFPA report).
  • By 2050, this number is projected to rise to 2.1 billion, accounting for 22% of the global population.

Why discuss this?

  • India’s Scenario: India is no exception to this trend, with 149 million older adults (10.5%) in 2022, expected to increase to 347 million (20.8%) by 2050.
  • Longevity: People are living longer lives than ever before, underscoring the need to understand healthy ageing and address mental health issues in the elderly.

Misconceptions about Ageing and Mental Health

  • Ageing as a Process: Ageing is a natural physiological process encompassing physical, social, and psychological dimensions. However, misconceptions and fears about ageing, particularly mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and dementia, persist.
  • Heterogeneity: The ageing process varies among individuals, influenced by factors such as genetics, lifestyle, environment, and diseases. Not all older adults experience the same physical or mental changes.

Social Challenges Faced by the Elderly

  • Social Isolation and Dependency: Many elderly individuals grapple with increased dependency, social isolation, poverty, ageism, and feelings of pessimism and nihilism.
  • Abuse and Neglect: Elderly individuals are vulnerable to emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse, often perpetrated by family members.
  • Inaccessible Infrastructure: India’s towns and cities often lack elder-friendly infrastructure, including ramps, handrails, pavements, and adequate public transport, making healthcare access a challenge.
  • Lack of Purpose: Many elderly men, especially after retirement, may feel unproductive and lost. Developing diverse interests earlier in life can mitigate the sense of purposelessness in retirement, reducing the risk of depression.

Psychological Aspects of Ageing

  • Psychological Growth: As individuals age, they are expected to gain wisdom and a broader understanding of life’s challenges through personal or vicarious experiences.
  • Erik Erikson’s Theory: Erik Erikson proposed ‘Ego integrity versus Despair’ as the final psychosocial development stage in human life. It emphasizes viewing one’s life accomplishments positively to avoid despair.
  • Indian Cultural Emphasis: Indian culture underscores the importance of accepting the limitations that come with old age and renouncing responsibilities without suffering.

Mental Health Challenges

  • Prevalence: Approximately 15% of elders in India (22 million individuals) experience serious mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, dementia, and substance use disorders.
  • Treatment Gap: A significant treatment gap of 90% exists, largely due to a lack of awareness among the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Stigmatization: Stigma associated with both ageing and mental illness often leads to reluctance to admit mental health issues and seek treatment.
  • Poverty and Access: Many elderly individuals lack access to mental healthcare services due to poverty and limited availability of interventions, particularly in rural areas.

Case Study: SCARF Partnership

  • Community Initiatives: The Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF) has partnered with the Azim Premji Foundation to raise awareness about elder mental health in rural areas of Tamil Nadu, benefiting over 350 villages.
  • Indian Tradition of Joint Families: While joint families are becoming rarer, they offer advantages in terms of multi-generational interactions and support for elders.

Preserving Cultural Traditions

  • Importance of Festivals and Rituals: Cultural traditions, including festivals and rituals, encourage socialization and cognitive engagement among elders.
  • Risk of Tradition Loss: Neglecting these traditions risks losing their potential protective effects on elderly mental health.

Way forward

  • Individual Planning: Planning for old age with financial savings and lifestyle adjustments is crucial.
  • Educational Initiatives: Introducing the concept of healthy ageing in school curricula can promote awareness.
  • Community Services: Accessible mental health services for elders should be available at the community level.
  • Role of Retirement Homes: Retirement homes and elder care facilities, while providing care and reducing social isolation, need to address mental health issues urgently.
  • Collective Responsibility: Caring for the elderly is a collective responsibility that requires the concerted efforts of individuals, families, civic society, private organizations, NGOs, and the government.

Conclusion

  • The ageing world presents both opportunities and challenges, with a growing elderly population that demands a holistic approach to mental health care, community support, and cultural preservation.
  • Addressing the mental health needs of the elderly is not only a matter of compassion but also a responsibility that encompasses various stakeholders and sectors of society.

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The Crisis In The Middle East

India’s Evolving Relations with Israel and Palestine

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Israel-Palestine Conflict

Mains level: Read the attached story

israel

Central Idea

  • The recent attack by Hamas (Arab sponsored Jihadist outfit) on Israel has prompted PM Modi to express solidarity with Israel, highlighting the complex nature of India’s relations with both Israel and Palestine.
  • Over the past seven decades, India’s stance on these nations has undergone significant shifts, reflecting its evolving foreign policy priorities and diplomatic considerations.

About Israel-Palestine Conflict

  • Historical Background: The land of contention was under the Ottoman Empire and later the British Empire.
  • Anti-Semitism as Official Policy: Several Islamic countries, including the Arab world, Turkiye and Pakistan, have officially expressed hatred against Jews citing reference to religious scriptures.
  • Denial of Access: Jews, as a micro-minority of the world, have been denied access to their historic homeland.
  • Arab Resistance: Arabs resisted, claiming the land as their own, known as Palestine at the time.
  • Balfour Declaration: In 1917, the United Kingdom expressed support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • Violent Resistance: Arab resistance to the declaration led to violence and further tensions.

India’s quest for Balancing Relations

India’s Post-Independence Stance

  • Nehru and Gandhi’s Stand: Post-independence, India was staunchly pro-Palestine as Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi opposed religious exclusivity and supported the Palestinian cause.
  • UN Votes: India voted against the partition of Palestine and Israel’s admission to the UN but recognized Israel in 1950 after Turkey and Iran did so.

Era of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi

  • Support for Palestine: During Indira Gandhi’s rule, India continued its support for the Palestinian struggle, elevating the PLO to the sole legitimate representative of Palestine.
  • Solidarity and Diplomacy: Strong ties were forged with Yasser Arafat, and India hosted the NAM summit in 1983, emphasizing solidarity with Palestine.

Changing Dynamics

  • Critics and Shifts: Critics within India raised concerns about its pro-Arab stance, given Arab countries’ neutrality during India’s wars with China and Pakistan.
  • Indian-Israeli Relations: India recognized Israel in 1992, establishing full diplomatic relations after the end of the Cold War and BJP’s rise to power.
  • Kargil Conflict: During the Kargil conflict in 1999, Israel provided crucial military support, strengthening bilateral ties.

Recent Developments

  • PM Modi’s Approach: Prime Minister Modi’s approach has balanced India’s ties with Israel and Palestine. He visited Israel in 2017, signaling a shift in focus.
  • De-hyphenation: Modi achieved a de-hyphenation of the relationship by separately visiting Palestine in 2018.
  • Wider Regional Engagement: India has deepened ties with Israel and West Asian nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and Iran over the past decade.

Current Dilemma

  • Diplomatic Tight Spot: Recent hostilities in the region have placed India in a diplomatic dilemma. The conflict tests India’s relations with Israel and Palestine against the backdrop of the Abraham Accords and shifting Middle East dynamics.
  • Dividends at Stake: India had hoped to benefit from the newfound peace in the region, given its significant diaspora, connectivity, and energy imports from West Asia.

Conclusion

  • India’s relationship with Israel and Palestine has evolved significantly since independence, influenced by domestic politics, global shifts, and regional considerations.
  • While India continues to support the Palestinian cause, it has also strengthened its strategic ties with Israel.
  • The recent escalation in hostilities in the region poses challenges for India’s diplomatic balancing act and its aspirations in the Middle East.

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Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

When can a Bill be designated as a ‘Money Bill’: SC to hear challenge

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Money Bill

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • CJI announced that a seven-judge bench will be established to address a series of petitions challenging the government’s use of the money bill route to pass significant legislations.
  • This move aims to provide clarity on the interpretation and application of money bills under Article 110 of the Constitution and their validity.

Understanding the Money Bill Issue

  • The PMLA Challenge: CJI Chandrachud’s statement came during the hearing of challenges against amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
  • Previous Judgment: In July 2022, a three-judge bench upheld the PMLA and the extensive powers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED). However, the validity of amendments to the PMLA passed as money bills remained open for review by a larger Constitution bench.
  • Finance Acts’ Impact: Key amendments to the PMLA were introduced through Finance Acts passed in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019, which are presented as money bills during the budget sessions under Article 110 of the Constitution.

Challenges beyond PMLA

[A] Aadhaar Controversy:

  • The issue of whether a bill qualifies as a money bill under Article 110 was first raised during the Aadhaar case.
  • In a 4:1 majority ruling in 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the Aadhaar Act as a valid money bill.
  • Notably, Justice Chandrachud dissented, criticizing the government’s passage of the Aadhaar Act as a money bill, labelling it a “fraud on the Constitution.”

[B] Tribunal Reform:

  • In the case of Roger Matthew vs. Union of India (2019), the Supreme Court addressed challenges related to changes in the service conditions of tribunal members, introduced as a money bill in the Finance Act of 2017.
  • While declaring the law unconstitutional for interfering with judicial independence, the court referred the money bill aspect to a larger constitution bench, expressing doubts about the correctness of its 2018 verdict upholding the Aadhaar Act.

Understanding a Money Bill

  • Article 110(1): A bill is considered a money bill if it exclusively pertains to matters specified in Article 110(1)(a) to (g), such as taxation, government borrowing, and appropriation of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Lok Sabha Exclusive: Money bills can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and do not require Rajya Sabha’s consent.
  • Role of Speaker: According to Article 110(3), the Speaker of the Lok Sabha has the final say in determining whether a bill is a money bill. However, the court in the Aadhaar case emphasized that the Speaker’s decision is subject to judicial scrutiny.

Conclusion

  • The formation of a seven-judge bench signifies a significant step towards resolving controversies surrounding money bills and their passage, ensuring a clearer understanding of their application under the Constitution.
  • This move underscores the importance of judicial review in upholding the constitutional principles of parliamentary proceedings and ensuring transparency and accountability in legislative processes involving money bills.

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Liquor Policy of States

Explained: Delhi Excise Policy Scam

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Delhi Excise Policy Scam

Delhi Excise Policy Scam

Central Idea

  • A Delhi court has remanded a member of Rajya Sabha in Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody in the Delhi Excise Policy Scam.
  • This has created a big furore among people over the alleged involvement of a hardliner political party which was established solely to fight political corruption.

About Delhi Excise Policy Scam

  • Background: Both individuals face corruption allegations related to the formulation and implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, which came into effect but was later scrapped.
  • Procedural Lapses: The allegations stemmed from a report submitted by Delhi Chief Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor in July 2022. The report pointed to procedural lapses in the policy’s formulation.
  • Financial Losses: The report claimed that “arbitrary and unilateral decisions” led to estimated “financial losses to the exchequer.”
  • Alleged Irregularities: It alleged that leaders received “kickbacks” from businesses for preferential treatment, such as discounts, license fee waivers, and relief due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These funds were purportedly used for electoral influence.

Involvement of the Enforcement Directorate (ED)

  • ED’s Role: Following the CBI’s FIR, the ED asserted that the alleged proceeds of crime required investigation to establish the modus operandi.
  • Investigation Details: The ED alleged that the “scam” involved irregularities in the wholesale liquor business, margin-fixing, and receiving kickbacks. It claimed that the policy was designed with “deliberate loopholes” to benefit key figures.
  • Financial Transactions: The ED also alleged that individuals, acting as intermediaries, received substantial sums from a group, allowing them access to various businesses.

Differences in the Delhi Excise Policy

  • Policy Goals: The Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 aimed to exit the state from the liquor business, eliminate black marketing, increase revenue, enhance consumer experiences, and ensure equitable distribution of liquor vends.
  • Private Operation: Under the policy, Delhi was divided into zones, each with liquor vends operated by private licensees. Licensees had the freedom to offer discounts and set prices.

Issues and Reversals

  • Deviation from Procedures: A report in July 2022 highlighted deviations from established procedures in the policy formulation.
  • Market Distortions: The report pointed out that discounts offered by liquor retailers were causing market distortions.
  • Policy Reversals: It noted policy reversals, leading to questions about the justification for such changes.
  • Blanket Relaxations: The report flagged blanket relaxations granted for default in license fee payments.

ED Chargesheets and Allegations

  • Campaign Funding: The ED has alleged financial improprieties related to campaign funding.
  • Conduit for Financial Transactions: Individuals are alleged to have acted as intermediaries in financial transactions.
  • Involvement of Key Figures: The ED has claimed the involvement of certain individuals in meetings and interactions related to the case.

Conclusion

  • The scam has led to arrests and legal proceedings involving corruption allegations and procedural lapses.
  • Allegations of financial improprieties and irregularities in the policy’s implementation have created a complex legal landscape.
  • The involvement of the Enforcement Directorate adds to the intricacies of the case, while ongoing investigations seek to establish the veracity of the allegations.

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Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

Go First crisis: What is Cape Town Convention?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cape Town Convention

Mains level: Aviation Sector Crisis

Cape Town Convention

Central Idea

  • The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) issued a notification exempting aircraft-related transactions from certain sections of the IBC, aligning Indian regulations with the Cape Town Convention (CTC).
  • The notification eliminates the automatic moratorium on aircraft, engines, airframes, and helicopters, allowing lessors to repossess planes during airline insolvency.

Understanding the Go First Crisis

  • Bankruptcy: Go First, a prominent budget airline in India, filed for bankruptcy, becoming the second Indian airline to do so in recent years, following Jet Airways’ bankruptcy in 2019.
  • Debt and Lessors: Go First faced substantial debt, including over ₹2,600 crore owed to various aircraft lessors.
  • Engine Supplier Blame: The airline attributed its crisis to engine supplier Pratt & Whitney, claiming that faulty engines led to flight disruptions and significant financial losses.

Dispute between Indian Airlines and Aircraft Lessors

  • Dependency on Foreign Lessors: Indian airlines heavily rely on foreign lessors to finance aircraft acquisitions, with approximately 80% of India’s 800 commercial aircraft under lease.
  • Legal Barriers: Legal proceedings in Indian courts have prevented lessors from repossessing Go First’s aircraft, potentially intensifying disputes between lessors and Indian airlines.
  • Higher Risk Premiums: Experts anticipate that lessors may charge higher risk premiums to mitigate future turbulence with Indian airlines, leading to increased business costs and potentially higher airfares for passengers.

About Cape Town Convention (CTC)

Establishment 2001, Entered into force on March 1, 2006.
Purpose Facilitates aircraft financing and leasing, establishing global standards and legal framework.
Global Registry International registry for aircraft and equipment ownership interests, enhancing transparency.
Leasing CTC simplifies aircraft leasing operations by allowing quick deregistration and repossession.
Priority Rules Determines the priority of interests in aircraft, crucial in cases of default or insolvency.
Default Remedies Outlines procedures and remedies in case of default, including repossession rights.
Coverage Encompasses aircraft and aircraft equipment (engines, avionics), offering comprehensive legal guidelines.

 

CTC and India

  • India is a signatory to the CTC since 2018.
  • Despite being a party to the CTC, Indian laws have often prevailed over CTC provisions in cases of conflict, impacting lessors’ rights.

Government’s Vision for Aircraft Leasing in India

  • Hub for Aircraft Leasing: The Indian government aims to establish the country as a hub for aircraft leasing, attracting global lessors.
  • Alignment with International Norms: To achieve this vision, alignment with international aviation conventions like the CTC is crucial.

Lessors’ Current Challenges

  • Prospective Impact: The MCA notification is effective prospectively and may not immediately assist Go First’s lessors in repossessing aircraft.
  • Sub-Judice Matters: The matter of repossession is currently under judicial consideration.
  • Previous Attempts: Lessors had applied to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to repossess planes from Go First before the NCLT’s admission of insolvency.
  • Pending Legislation: The government had planned legislation to prioritize CTC provisions over conflicting Indian laws, but it has not been tabled in Parliament.

Need for CTC Legislation in India

  • Current Status: India is a CTC signatory but lacks the necessary legal protection, resulting in conflicts between existing laws and CTC norms.
  • Fueling Aviation Growth: Legalizing CTC provisions is essential to support the aviation market’s growth and facilitate smoother aircraft leasing operations.
  • Impact on Passengers: Without proper legislation, higher premiums by lessors could lead to increased airline costs, ultimately affecting passengers through higher ticket prices.

Conclusion

  • The urgent enactment of the Cape Town Convention (CTC) Bill in India is crucial to harmonize legal provisions, protect lessors’ rights, and ensure the sustainable growth of the aviation industry without burdening passengers with escalated airfares.

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Uterus Transplants: Procedure, Challenges, and Future Prospects

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Uterus Transplants

Mains level: Read the attached story

Uterus

Central Idea

  • In the UK, doctors at the Churchill Hospital Oxford conducted the nation’s first uterus transplant.
  • The procedure involved removing a uterus from a 40-year-old woman and transplanting it into her 34-year-old sister, who faced reproductive challenges due to a rare medical condition.

Why discuss this?

  • While the transplanted womb is functional, its success can only be confirmed by a live birth in the future.

Understanding Uterus Transplants

  • Not Life-Saving: Unlike heart or liver transplants, uterus transplants are not life-saving procedures. Instead, they are akin to limb or skin transplants, significantly enhancing individuals’ quality of life.
  • Addressing Uterine Infertility: Uterus transplants offer hope to women facing uterine factor infertility, enabling them to fulfill their reproductive aspirations.

Pioneering Success in Sweden

  • Historical Context: In 2014, Sweden achieved a milestone by witnessing the first live birth following a uterus transplant. This success paved the way for addressing uterine factor infertility.
  • Affordability Challenge: Efforts are ongoing to make uterus transplants more accessible, especially in countries like the UK, where the National Health Service estimates the procedure’s cost at GBP 25,000 (Rs 25.26 lakh).

Uterus Transplants in India

  • Indian Achievement: India joined the ranks of countries with successful uterus transplants, alongside Turkey, Sweden, and the United States. The country celebrated its first uterine transplant baby’s birth on October 18, 2018, approximately 17 months after the recipient underwent the procedure.
  • Affordable Option: The cost of uterine transplant surgery in India currently ranges from Rs 15-17 lakh, making it a more cost-effective choice for many.

Step-by-Step Procedure

  • Recipient Evaluation: Before transplantation, recipients undergo thorough evaluations to assess their physical and mental health.
  • Donor Assessment: Whether the donor is living or deceased, their uterus undergoes viability checks before qualifying for donation. Live donors also undergo comprehensive gynecological examinations, including imaging scans and cancer screenings.
  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Uterus transplants do not connect the uterus to the fallopian tubes, necessitating IVF to create embryos. These embryos are then cryopreserved until the transplanted uterus is ready for implantation.
  • Harvesting and Transplantation: The donor’s uterus is carefully removed, with the procedure becoming less invasive due to advancements in robot-assisted laparoscopy. The uterine vasculature and other critical connections are meticulously re-established during transplantation.

Pregnancy after Transplant

  • The success of the transplant is assessed through three stages: the first three months focus on graft viability, followed by six months to one year for monitoring uterine function.
  • Only after this period can the recipient attempt conception.

Issues with such transplants

  • Challenges and Risks: Pregnancy after a uterine transplant entails a higher risk of rejection, spontaneous abortion, intrauterine complications, low birth weight, and premature birth. Close monitoring and follow-ups are essential.
  • Immunosuppressant Use: Recipients must take immune-suppressing drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted uterus. These drugs are selected to ensure they do not harm foetal development but can cause side effects such as kidney toxicity, bone marrow issues, and an increased risk of diabetes and cancer.
  • Long-Term Follow-Ups: Post-uterus removal, recipients are advised to undergo regular follow-ups for at least a decade to monitor potential long-term effects of immunosuppressant drugs.

Exploring Artificial Uteri

  • Future Possibilities: Successful uterus transplants have opened doors to exploring artificial uteri. These bioengineered organs, grown from stem cells on 3D scaffolds, could eliminate the need for live donors and ethical concerns. However, research is still in its early stages, and it may take about a decade before artificial uteri becomes efficient and safe for human use.
  • Inclusivity Considerations: Artificial uteri could benefit not only women but also members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, certain complications, such as hormone-related considerations for trans-women recipients, remain to be addressed.

Conclusion

  • Uterus transplants represent a remarkable medical advancement offering hope and possibilities for individuals facing uterine factor infertility.
  • While challenges persist, ongoing research and technological progress continue to expand the horizons of reproductive medicine.

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