Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Decline in popularity of Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS); Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.

Why in the News?

  • Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) are mutual fund schemes that offer tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
    • Recently, ELSS has seen a decline in popularity, with more money being withdrawn from these schemes than invested.

What is Section 80C of the Income Tax Act?

  • Section 80C permits certain investments and expenses to be tax-exempted.
  • By well-planning the 80C investments that are spread diversely across various options like National Savings Certificate (NSC), Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP), Public Provident Fund (PPF), etc., an individual can claim deductions up to Rs 1,50,000.
  • By taking tax benefits under 80C, one can avail of a reduction in tax burden.

About Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS)

  • An ELSS fund or an equity-linked savings scheme is the only kind of mutual funds eligible for tax deductions under the provisions of Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • Investors can claim a tax rebate of up to Rs 1,50,000 and save up to Rs 46,800 a year in taxes by investing in ELSS mutual funds.
  • ELSS mutual funds’ asset allocation is mostly (65% of the portfolio) made towards equity and equity-linked securities such as listed shares.
  • They may have some exposure to fixed-income securities as well.
  • These funds come with a lock-in period of 3 years only, the shortest among all Section 80C investments.
  • Being market-linked, they are subject to market risk, but may offer potentially higher returns compared to traditional tax-saving instruments like National Savings Certificate (NSC) or Public Provident Fund (PPF).

Recent Trends in ELSS

  • In the past few months, more money has been taken out of ELSS than put in.
  • For example, last month ₹445 crore was withdrawn, while in April it was ₹144 crore.
  • In the last fiscal year, only ₹1,041 crore was invested in ELSS, compared to ₹7,744 crore the previous year.

Impact of the New Tax Regime

  • A new tax regime was introduced in 2020-21, which is now the default option.
  • The old tax regime offered various tax exemptions and deductions, helping to reduce income tax.
  • These benefits are not available under the new tax regime, making ELSS less attractive to investors.

PYQ:

[2021] Indian Government Bond Yields are influenced by which of the following?

  1. Actions of the United States Federal Reserve
  2. Actions of the Reserve Bank of India
  3. Inflation and short-term interest rates

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

What is OpenAI’s secret Project ‘Strawberry’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Project ‘Strawberry’; LLMs.

Why in the News?

  • US-based OpenAI emerged as a major player with its AI chatbot ChatGPT, capable of answering questions and processing images.
    • OpenAI is now reportedly developing a new AI model with improved reasoning capabilities, potentially changing the AI landscape.

What is Project Strawberry?

  • Nearly six months ago, OpenAI’s secretive Project Q* (Q-Star) gained attention for its innovative approach to AI training.
  • OpenAI is now working on a new reasoning technology under the code name “Strawberry” believed to be the new name for Project Q*.
  • Strawberry aims to enable AI models to plan ahead, autonomously search the internet, and conduct deep research.

What are Large Language Models (LLMs)?

  • LLMs are advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems designed to understand, generate, and process human language.
  • They are built using deep learning techniques, particularly neural networks, and are trained on vast amounts of text data.

Difference from Existing AI Models

  • Existing Large Language Models (LLMs) can summarize texts and compose prose but struggle with common sense problems and multi-step logic tasks.
  • Current LLMs cannot plan ahead effectively without external frameworks.
  • Strawberry models are expected to enhance AI reasoning, allowing for planning and complex problem-solving.
  • These models could enable AI to perform tasks that require a series of actions over an extended time, potentially revolutionizing AI’s capabilities.

Potential Applications of Strawberry Models

  • Advanced AI models could conduct experiments, analyze data, and suggest new hypotheses, leading to breakthroughs in sciences.
  • In medical research, AI could assist in drug discovery, genetics research, and personalized medicine analysis.
  • AI could solve complex mathematical problems, assist in engineering calculations, and participate in theoretical research.
  • AI could contribute to writing, creating art and music, generating videos, and designing video games.

Ethical Considerations  

  • Impact on Jobs: Improved AI capabilities may intensify concerns about job displacement and the ethical implications of AI reproducing human work.
  • Power Consumption and Ethics: The vast amounts of power required to run advanced AI models raise environmental and ethical questions.

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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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

845 Elephant Deaths recorded in Kerala in eight years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Elephant conservation in India

Why in the News?

  • Kerala’s forests have recorded 845 elephant deaths between 2015 and 2023.
    • Studies indicate an increasing trend in the death rate over time.

Habitat and Population Challenges

  • Elephants face increasing vulnerability due to shrinking habitats and rising fragmentation exacerbated by climate change.
  • Factors contributing to their susceptibility include:
  1. Declining population sizes
  2. Sensitivity to high temperatures
  3. Competition from invasive plant species disrupting food sources
  4. Heightened susceptibility to diseases

Elephant Mortality: Key Trends

  • Younger elephants, particularly those under 10 years of age, face the highest risk of mortality.
  • The mortality rate for calves is approximately 40%.
  • The increase in deaths among calves is primarily due to Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesviruses – Haemorrhagic Disease (EEHV-HD).

Influence of Herd Size on Survival:

  • A recent study in Sri Lanka highlights potential mitigating factors against the herpesvirus.
  • Calves in larger herds exhibit better survival rates due to shared immunity.
  • Exposure to various virus strains within larger herds helps calves develop antibodies, improving their chances of survival.

About Elephants in India

Details
Population Estimate
  • India hosts the largest population of wild Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), with around 29,964 individuals,
  • Approximately 60% of the global population (2017 census).
Leading States Karnataka holds the highest number of elephants, followed by Assam and Kerala.
Conservation Status
  • IUCN Red List:  Endangered.
  • CMS: Appendix I.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Listed under Schedule I,
  • CITES: Appendix I.
Conservation Initiatives
  • Project Elephant launched in 1992, covering 23 states across India.
  • India is home to more than 60% of all wild Asian elephants.
  • Contributed to the increase in wild elephant population from around 25,000 in 1992 to about 30,000 in 2021.
  • Establishment of Elephant Reserves. Total 33 in numbers covering approximately 80,777 Sq.km.

 

PYQ:

[2020] With reference to Indian elephants, consider the following statements:

  1. The leader of an elephant group is a female.
  2. The maximum gestation period can be 22 months.
  3. An elephant can normally go on calving till the age of 40 years only.
  4. Among the States in India, the highest elephant population is in Kerala.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 3 and 4 only

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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Cave on the Moon: What this discovery means for space exploration?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lunar Caves; Mare Tranquillitatis, LRO.

Why in the News?

  • Scientists have confirmed the presence of a cave on the Moon, near the site of the first lunar landing 55 years ago.
  • This discovery could provide astronauts with a potential habitat on the Moon in the future.

About the Cave on Mare Tranquillitatis

  • A study titled “Radar evidence of an accessible cave conduit on the Moon below the Mare Tranquillitatis pit” was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
  • The study established the presence of a moon cave at the Sea of Tranquillity, a large, dark, basaltic plain on the Moon’s surface.
  • The cave is located 400 kilometers from where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in 1969.
  • It is roughly 45 meters wide and up to 80 meters long, with an area equivalent to 14 tennis courts.

Research Method

  • Researchers analyzed photos taken in 2010 by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
  • They concluded that the pit was the entry point to a cave created by the collapse of a lava tube, a tunnel formed when molten lava flows beneath a field of cooled lava.

Back2Basics: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) 

  • NASA launched the LRO on June 18, 2009.
  • LRO’s primary mission is to map the Moon’s surface in high detail to identify safe landing sites and locate potential resources.
  • It is equipped with seven scientific instruments, including a camera, a laser altimeter, and a radiation detector.
  • LRO has provided critical data on lunar topography, temperature, and radiation levels, significantly enhancing our understanding of the Moon.

Characteristics of Lunar Caves

  • Craters are bowl-shaped and result from asteroid or comet strikes.
  • Pits, in contrast, appear as massive steep-walled depressions.
  • At least 200 such pits have been discovered, with 16 believed to have formed from collapsed lava tubes due to volcanic activity over a billion years ago.

Benefits for Human Exploration

  • The Moon is exposed to solar radiation 150 times stronger than Earth.
  • The lunar surface heats to about 127 degrees Celsius during the day and cools to around -173 degrees Celsius at night.
  • Caves, however, maintain stable average temperatures of around 17 degrees Celsius.
  • They could shield human explorers from radiation and micrometeorites, making them viable for future lunar bases or emergency shelters.

Challenges and Further Research

  • The depth of such caves could present challenges for accessibility.
  • There are risks of potential avalanches and cave-ins.

Need for Further Research

  • Further research is needed to understand and map the structural stability of the caves.
  • This could be done using ground-penetrating radar, robots, or cameras.
  • To become viable habitats, caves would need systems to monitor movement or seismic activity and safety zones for astronauts in case of a cave collapse.

PYQ:

[2008] Selene-1, the lunar orbiter mission belongs to which one of the following?

(a) China

(b) European Union

(c) Japan

(d) USA

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Could Pythons be a Protein alternative?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Python Farming

Why in the News?

  • In the farmlands of central Thailand, thousands of pythons are raised in a warehouse for their diamond-patterned skins, which are sold to high-end European fashion houses.
    • Some scientists and industry insiders believe the true value of these snakes lies in their meat.

Python Farming in Asia

  • Researchers estimate that China and Vietnam alone have at least 4,000 python farms, producing several million snakes primarily for the fashion industry.
  • A study published in Nature highlighted python farming as a flexible and efficient response to global food insecurity.

Benefits of Python Farming

  • Pythons can survive for months without food or water and maintain their condition.
  • They were fed waste chicken and wild-caught rodents, offering a more efficient feed-to-meat ratio than poultry, beef, and even crickets.
  • Female pythons can lay between 50 and 100 eggs annually, leading to rapid reproduction.

Advantages of Python Meat

  • Pythons offer a more efficient feed-to-meat ratio than poultry, beef, and even crickets.
  • They can survive without food and water for months without losing condition.
  • Python meat has a chicken-like texture and is low in saturated fats.
  • It could provide a sustainable protein source with a lower environmental impact compared to traditional meat.

Challenges and Market Acceptance

  • Despite the advantages, the market is limited for python meat.
  • Python farmers struggle to convince people to consume snake meat, resulting in most of it being discarded or sold to fish farms.

Environmental Impact of Traditional Meat

  • The UN’s IPCC notes that meat from grazing animals has the greatest environmental impact.
  • The climate impact of traditional meat is significant, with beef identified as having the greatest environmental impact.
  • The UN and climate activists advocate for a more plant-based diet, but the demand for meat is expected to increase by 14% by 2032.
  • Drought and extreme weather are making traditional farming difficult in many parts of the world, increasing the need for alternative protein sources.
  • The paradox of rising meat demand and environmental concerns has spurred interest in alternatives like edible insects and lab-grown meats.

Python Meat as an Alternative

  • Protein-energy malnutrition caused nearly 190,000 deaths globally in 2021, emphasizing the urgent need for protein sources in many parts of the world.
  • Python meat could help address this issue, offering a sustainable and efficient alternative.

 

PYQ:

[2018] How far do you agree with the view that the focus on lack of availability of food as the main cause of hunger takes the attention away from ineffective human development policies in India?

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How the Peace Deal in Colombia has affected its Cocaine Industry?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: FARC Peace Deal

Why in the News?

Colombia, the global center of the cocaine industry, is undergoing significant changes due to domestic and global forces.

Recent Changes: Disruption in Cocaine Trade

  • Colombia, the global center of the cocaine industry, is undergoing significant changes due to domestic and global forces.
  • Two years ago, drug traffickers who buy coca paste stopped showing up.
  • This sudden halt left the villagers without income, leading to food shortages and exodus in search of jobs.
  • The population of Cano Cabra shrunk from 200 to 40 people.
  • This pattern has repeated in communities across Colombia where coca is the only source of income.

About the FARC Peace Deal

  • It refers to the agreement reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end decades of conflict. It is a significant milestone in Colombia’s efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability.
  • FARC is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group founded in 1964 that waged an armed struggle against the Colombian government for over five decades.
  • The conflict resulted in over 220,000 deaths and the displacement of millions of people, making it one of the longest-running conflicts in Latin America.
  • A peace deal was signed on November 24, 2016, and subsequently ratified by the Colombian Congress.

How does the peace deal impact Columbia?

  • The FARC financed its war through cocaine, relying on farmers to provide coca leaves.
  • After the FARC left the cocaine industry, smaller criminal groups took over, adopting a new economic model.
  • These groups buy large quantities of coca from fewer farmers and limit operations to border regions for easier drug transport.
  • The shift in the drug trade has left the communities economically devastated.

Cocaine Production in Latin America:

  • Pablo Escobar the famous drug lord and the leader of the Medellín Cartel was a Colombian.
  • Ecuador has become a top cocaine exporter, and coca cultivation has increased in Peru and Central America.
  • These changes have pushed global cocaine production to record highs.
  • While cocaine consumption has reduced in the United States, it is growing in Europe and Latin America and emerging in Asia.

Implications on India:

  • Changes in the Colombian cocaine industry may alter global drug trafficking routes.
  • India, as part of the global drug trade network, could see changes in the routes used to smuggle cocaine into the country.
  • Increased cocaine production globally could lead to a higher availability of the drug in India.
  • This could result in an increase in drug trafficking activities within the country visible in increased seizures in major cities like Pune.
  • Higher availability of cocaine could lead to an increase in drug abuse cases in India.

PYQ:

[2018] India’s proximity to the two of the world’s biggest illicit opium-growing states has enhanced her internal security concerns. Explain the linkages between drug trafficking and other illicit activities such as gunrunning, money laundering and human trafficking. What counter-measures should be taken to prevent the same?

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Government Budgets

Union Govt. eases Procurement Rules for Scientific Research Goods

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: General Finance Rules (GFR)

Why in the News?

  • The Finance Ministry has announced new rules under the General Finance Rules (GFR) to give scientific Ministries more flexibility in importing and buying research equipment.
    • These changes address scientists’ concerns about strict rules have slowed down research.

Changes introduced in GFR

  • The limit for buying goods without needing a tender has been raised from ₹25,000 to ₹1,00,000.
  • For goods priced between ₹25,000 and ₹250,000, a committee of three members must check the market for the best value and quality.
  • This limit has been raised from ₹1,00,000 to ₹10,00,000.

Note: These changes only apply if the goods are NOT available on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM).

What are General Finance Rules (GFR)?

  • The General Finance Rules (GFR) are a set of rules issued by the Government of India to regulate financial matters in public administration.
  • They provide a framework for financial management, ensuring accountability, transparency, and efficiency in the use of public funds.
  • The GFR were first issued in 1947, post-independence.
  • The rules have been revised multiple times, with significant updates in 1963, 2005, and the latest in 2017.
  • The GFR applies to all central government departments, ministries, and organizations funded by the government.

Key Provisions:

  • General System of Financial Management: Guidelines on budgeting, accounting, and auditing.
  • Procurement of Goods and Services: Rules for procurement, emphasizing transparency and competition.
  • Contract Management: Procedures for awarding, managing, and terminating contracts.
  • Inventory Management: Guidelines for managing government inventories and assets.
  • Grants-in-Aid: Procedures for providing grants to institutions and individuals.

Major Highlights:

  • Emphasis on e-procurement to enhance transparency and efficiency.
  • Use of the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) for procurement of common use goods and services.
  • Requirement for performance security in government contracts to ensure compliance and reduce risk.
  • Strengthening of internal controls and audit mechanisms to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.

Back2Basics: Government e-Marketplace (GeM)  

  • The GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • It was launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It was developed by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (under MCI) with technical support from the National E-Governance Division (MEITy).

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Global Geological And Climatic Events

Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA); Molecular Clock Theory; Oparin-Haldane Hypothesis; Miller-Urey Experiment.

Why in the News?

  • The origin of life on Earth remains one of the world’s most enduring mysteries.
    • Numerous competing theories exist, but none have conclusive proof.
    • A significant concept in understanding the origin of life is the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA).

What is the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA)?

  • Researchers believe that all life forms— the Bacteria, the Archaea, and the Eukarya —originated from a single cell known as the last universal common ancestor (LUCA).
  • It is suggested to have been a “cellular organism that had a lipid bilayer and used DNA, RNA, and protein“.
  • There is a lack of clarity about direct fossil evidence of LUCA.
  • However, the shared features of modern genomes provide significant insights into this ancient ancestor.

LUCA and the Molecular Clock:  

  • The molecular clock theory was proposed by molecular biologist Emile Zuckerkandl and biochemist Linus Pauling in the 1960s and later refined by biologist Motoo Kimura.
  • The theory allows scientists to reconstruct the evolutionary timeline.
  • According to the theory, the rate at which mutations are added or removed from a population’s genome is proportional to the rate of acquiring new mutations, which is constant.
  • By calibrating the molecular clock with known events, such as the emergence of the first mammals or the age of certain fossils, researchers can estimate the time between evolutionary events.

Recent Research Findings on LUCA’s Age and Genome

  • Researchers at the University of Bristol and Exeter estimate that LUCA originated around 4.2 billion years ago, nearly 1 billion years earlier than previously thought. 
    • They obtained evidence from the 3.3 km deep Candelabra’ hydrothermal vent on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • LUCA had a small genome of about 2.5 million bases encoding 2,600 proteins, sufficient for survival in a unique niche.
  • Its metabolites may have created a secondary ecosystem for other microbes.
  • The presence of immunity genes in LUCA suggests it had to defend against viruses.

Evidence Verification using Miller-Urey Experiment

  • In 1952, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey conducted an experiment at the University of Chicago, simulating lightning strikes on a mixture of methane, ammonia, and water, which resulted in the formation of amino acids.
  • This demonstrated that complex organic compounds could arise from inorganic compounds under the right conditions.

Which is older: LUCA or fossils?

  • LUCA’s estimated origin at 4.2 billion years predates the earliest fossil records by almost 1 billion years.
  • Fossil records from the Pilbara Craton in Australia suggest life emerged around 3.4 billion years ago, but the study pushes this date back.

Alternative Theories: 

(1) Extraterrestrial Origin

  • Another prominent theory suggests that meteorites from space could have brought the building blocks of life to Earth.
  • This theory is supported by various discoveries.
  • In August 2019, French and Italian scientists reported finding 3.3 billion-year-old extraterrestrial organic material.
  • Japan’s Hayabusa 2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu detected more than 20 amino acids, further supporting the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin for the building blocks of life.

(2) Oparin-Haldane Hypothesis

  • In the 1920s, Alexander Oparin and J.B.S. Haldane independently proposed theories regarding the origin of life.
  • They suggested that life originated from a “primordial soup” in a prebiotic environment on the young Earth.
  • This concept is now known as the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis.

 

PYQ:

[2012] Which one of the following sets of elements was primarily responsible for the origin of life on the Earth?

(a) Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sodium

(b) Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen

(c) Oxygen, Calcium, Phosphorus

(d) Carbon, Hydrogen, Potassium

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Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

[pib] World Heritage Young Professionals Forum, 2024

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Heritage Young Professionals Forum

Why in the News?

  • India is hosting the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting for the first time in New Delhi.
    • Theme: “World Heritage in the 21st Century: Building Capacities and Exploring Opportunities for Youth.”

About the World Heritage Young Professional Forum

  • The World Heritage Young Professionals Forum is an initiative by UNESCO to engage young professionals in the field of heritage conservation.
  • The first World Heritage Young Professionals Forum was organized in 1995.
  • The primary aim is to engage young professionals in heritage conservation and management through capacity building, networking, and awareness-raising.

Back2Basics: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Description
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Landmarks or areas selected by UNESCO for their cultural, historical, scientific, or other significant value, legally protected by international treaties.
Importance World Heritage Sites represent collective and preservative interests of humanity, signifying remarkable accomplishments and intellectual history.
Selection Criteria Sites must be already-classified landmarks, unique and significant culturally or physically, such as ancient ruins, historical structures, cities, monuments, etc.
Conservation World Heritage Sites require practical conservation to protect them from risks like trespassing, uncontrolled access, or administrative negligence.
World Heritage Committee Selects and monitors World Heritage Sites, manages the World Heritage Fund, and provides financial assistance. Composed of 21 states parties elected for a four-year term.
Membership India is not a member of the World Heritage Committee.

 

PYQ:

[2014] Consider the following international agreements:

  1. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  2. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
  3. The World Heritage Convention

Which of the above has / have a bearing on the biodiversity?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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

Karnataka State Employment of Local Candidates in the Industries, Factories and Other Establishments Bill, 2024

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Quota for Locals; Constitutional provisions invoked.

Why in the News?

The Karnataka Cabinet has approved a bill mandating that industries, factories, and other establishments appoint local candidates in 50% of management positions and 75% in non-management positions.

  • The bill was cleared in a Cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister.

Key features of the Bill:

  • Definition of a Local Candidate:
    • Born in Karnataka
    • Domiciled in Karnataka for 15 years
    • Proficient in speaking, reading, and writing Kannada
    • Passed a required test by the nodal agency
  • Educational Requirements:
    • Must have a secondary school certificate with Kannada as a language, or
    • Pass a Kannada proficiency test specified by the nodal agency
  • Training and Relaxation Provisions:
    • Industries and establishments must train local candidates within three years if qualified locals are unavailable
    • Establishments can apply for relaxation if local candidates are insufficient
    • The government’s decision on relaxation applications is final
    • Local candidates must constitute at least 25% in management and 50% in non-management positions
    • Non-compliance penalties range from ₹10,000 to ₹25,000

Do you know?

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier quashed the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, which mandated 75% reservation for state domiciles in the private sector jobs.
  • This decision was made because the State had overstepped its legislative authority and imposed undue restrictions on private employers.

Background and Rationale:

  • Long-pending Demand:
    • The bill has been passed in response to longstanding demands for 100% job reservation for Kannadigas.
    • Earlier in July, Kannada organizations organized rallies in parts of the State, demanding immediate implementation of the Sarojini Mahishi Report.
  • Sarojini Mahishi Report:
    • The Sarojini Mahishi report, submitted in 1984 by Mahishi, former Union Minister and the first woman MP from Karnataka, included 58 recommendations.
    • The report recommended 100% reservation for locals in group C and D jobs in Central government departments and public sector undertakings (PSUs) in Karnataka.

Reservation for Locals in Jobs: Constitutionality Check 

Provision Potential Violation
Article 14 Guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. Reservation for locals could create unequal opportunities for non-locals, violating the principle of equality.
Article 15 Prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Reserving jobs for locals based on place of birth or domicile status may constitute discrimination against non-locals.
Article 16 Ensures equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. Though it allows reservation for backward classes, it does not explicitly extend this provision to private employment, making mandatory quotas for locals potentially unconstitutional.
Article 19 Guarantees the freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India. Imposing local reservations could restrict the free movement of people seeking employment opportunities across states, infringing upon their freedom of movement and residence.

 

PYQ:

[2017] One of the implications of equality in society is the absence of:

(a) Privileges

(b) Restraints

(c) Competition

(d) Ideology

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

India to host 2nd Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ICAO APAC

Why in the News?

  • India will host the second Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation on September 11 and 12.
    • The conference will be jointly organised by the Indian government and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) APAC.

About the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Details
Establishment and Background
  • Founded on December 7, 1944, by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation
  • Became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1947
  • HQ: Montreal, Canada
Objectives and Mission
  • Develop international standards and regulations for aviation safety, security, efficiency, and environmental protection
  • Promote safe and orderly growth of international air transport
Structure and Governance
  • Assembly: Meets every three years, includes all member states
  • Council: Governing body with 36 elected member states
  • Secretariat: Led by the Secretary General, manages daily operations
Membership
  • 193 member states as of 2024
  • Open to all states subscribing to Chicago Convention principles
  • India: Founding member, joined in 1944
Functions and Responsibilities
  • Establish international standards and recommended practices (SARPs)
  • Conduct audits and monitor SARPs compliance
  • Provide technical assistance and capacity-building
  • Facilitate aviation data and statistics collection
Key Areas of Focus
  • Safety: Enhance global aviation safety
  • Security: Strengthen aviation security measures
  • Efficiency: Promote efficient air navigation services
  • Environmental Protection: Address aviation’s environmental impact
Significant Programs and Initiatives
  • Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP): Monitors safety oversight capabilities
  • Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP): Evaluates aviation security measures
  • Next Generation Aviation Professionals (NGAP): Addresses anticipated aviation professionals shortage
  • No Country Left Behind (NCLB): Assists states in implementing ICAO standards and policies
Publications and Resources
  • Annexes to the Chicago Convention: SARPs across civil aviation domains
  • ICAO Journal: Quarterly publication
  • Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) and  Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP): Strategic documents for aviation safety and navigation improvements.
Regional Offices Seven offices in Bangkok, Cairo, Dakar, Lima, Mexico City, Nairobi, and Paris
Standards
  • Annex 1: Personnel Licensing
  • Annex 6: Operation of Aircraft
  • Annex 8: Airworthiness of Aircraft
  • Annex 17: Security
  • Annex 19: Safety Management
Global Impact
  • Harmonizes international aviation policies and procedures
  • Contributes to safe, secure, and sustainable growth of global air transport

About Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation

  • The conference aims to strengthen regional collaboration and develop a future-focused vision for the region, emphasizing innovation and safety.
  • The inaugural conference took place in February 2018 in Beijing.
  • 39 member states of the UN aviation safety body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), from the Asia Pacific region are expected to attend.
  • The conference focuses on making aviation travel sustainable, resilient, and adaptive to the changing needs of a globally interconnected community.
    • This region accounts for 33.41% of global flight departures, the highest of any region worldwide.
    • Passenger numbers are expected to increase from 4.5 billion this year to 11.5 billion by 2050.

PYQ:

[2014] International civil aviation laws provide all countries with complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above their territory. What do you understand by ‘airspace’ What are the implications of these laws on the space above this airspace? Discuss the challenges which this poses and suggest ways to contain the threat.

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Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Tirzepatide: the Weight-loss Drug nearing Approval in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CDSCO; Tirzepatide and its working.

Why in the News?

  • India’s apex drug regulator Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) gave preliminary approval to the drug Tirzepatide.
    • Tirzepatide is known to have assisted in weight control treatment among diabetic patients.

About Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO): 

  • CDSCO is India’s national regulatory body for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
  • It serves a similar function to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US or the European Medicines Agency of the European Union.
  • The Indian government has announced its plan to bring all medical devices, including implants and contraceptives under a review of the CDSCO.
  • Within the CDSCO, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) regulates pharmaceutical and medical devices and is positioned within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The DCGI is advised by the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) and the Drug Consultative Committee (DCC).

Mandate and Responsibilities:

  • Drug Approval: CDSCO is responsible for the approval of new drugs and clinical trials.
  • Standards Enforcement: Ensures standards of drugs and medical devices through various acts such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • Import and Export: Regulates the import and export of drugs and medical devices in India.
  • Licensing Authority: Issues licenses for the manufacture, sale, and distribution of drugs in India.
  • Surveillance: Conducts drug quality surveillance and monitors adverse drug reactions.

 

Diabetes Drug for Weight Loss

  • In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug called Ozempic for managing type 2 diabetes.
  • The active ingredient, semaglutide, was later noted for causing weight loss, which led to its off-label use for treating obesity.
  • This usage became popular on social media, influencing further developments.

What is Tirzepatide?

  • Tirzepatide is the main component of Eli Lilly’s drugs, Mounjaro and Zepbound.
  • It’s important to note here that Mounjaro is the brand name for diabetes, while Zepbound is for weight loss.

How does it work?

There is a dual action involving two hormones:

(1) Regulation of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1): 

  • GLP-1 is a hormone that regulates appetite and calorie intake through effects on the brain and digestive tract.
  • Both semaglutide and tirzepatide function as polypeptides that enhance the body’s levels of GLP-1.
  • The higher levels of GLP-1 trigger satiety, the feeling of fullness, reducing the desire to eat.

(2) Regulation of Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP):

  • Unlike semaglutide, tripeptide also increases levels of GIP, the other hormone involved.

Promising Global Trials

  • Global clinical trials for tirzepatide (Zepbound) have shown significant results, with the highest dosage leading to an average weight loss of 20.9% over 72 weeks.
  • The approval in India is due on further post-marketing surveillance (Phase IV trials) to monitor the drug’s side effects and its effectiveness across India’s diverse population.

Long-term side effects:

  • Cardiovascular risks like increased heart rate and potential blood pressure elevation.
  • Gastrointestinal effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and constipation. Endocrine concerns involve thyroid C-cell tumours in MEN syndrome patients.
  • Other issues include kidney problems, eye complications, mental health impacts, and long-term risks like pancreatic enzyme elevation and gallbladder problems.

Why under-consideration in India?

  • India has the world’s second-highest number of people with type 2 diabetes and high obesity rates.
  • A study in Lancet in 2023 estimated that 101 million people in India — 11.4 per cent of the country’s population — are living with diabetes.
  • As per the World Obesity Federation Atlas, around 11 per cent of Indian adults will be obese by 2034.

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

Uniform IGST Rate of 5% on Aircraft and Aircraft Engine Parts

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IGST; MRO industry of India.

Why in the News?

The government has implemented a uniform Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) rate of 5% on all aircraft and aircraft engine parts.

Background: 

  • Prior to the implementation of GST in 2017, the taxation of aircraft and aircraft parts was complex, with different central and state taxes being levied.
  • Under the pre-GST regime, aircraft parts attracted a range of taxes, including excise duty, VAT, and additional customs duties, leading to a cascading effect and higher costs for the aviation industry.

IGST Harmonization for MRO Boost:

  • This move is aimed at boosting Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) activities in India.
  • Previously, GST rates on aircraft components varied between 5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%, causing several issues.

MRO Industry in India

  • The Indian MRO industry is projected to become a $4 billion industry by 2030.
  • Currently, India represents only 1% of the global MRO market, which is worth US$45 billion.
  • The industry is divided into airframe maintenance, engine maintenance (50-55% of work value), components maintenance, and line maintenance (weekly checks).
  • Commercial airlines spend 13-15% of their revenues on maintenance, primarily outsourcing heavy maintenance.

What is Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST)?

  • The IGST is a component of the GST system in India.
  • It is levied by the central government on:
  1. Inter-state /UT supply of goods and services;
  2. Imports of goods and services;
  3. Supply of goods and services to/by SEZ units;
  4. Deemed exports (certain transactions where goods supplied do not leave the country but are treated as exports under GST law).
  • IGST is calculated by adding the applicable Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) rates.
  • One thing to remember in IGST is that the importing state gets the accrued benefit of taxes.

Rationale for the Uniform 5% IGST Rate

  • Simplification of Tax Structure: A uniform 5% IGST rate on aircraft and engine parts simplifies tax compliance and eliminates classification complexities.
  • Cost Efficiency: A lower IGST rate reduces overall tax burden on aviation industry, enhancing affordability of aircraft acquisition and maintenance.
  • Global Alignment: Aligns India’s tax policy with global standards, fostering competitiveness and attractiveness for international aviation investments.
  • Promotion of Aviation Services: Encourages aircraft leasing and MRO activities, supporting India’s aspiration to become a hub for these services.

PYQ:

[2017] What is/are the most likely advantages of implementing ‘Goods and Services Tax (GST)’?

  1.  It will replace multiple taxes collected by multiple authorities and will thus create a single market in India.
  2. It will drastically reduce the ‘Current Account Deficit’ of India and will enable it to increase its foreign exchange reserves.
  3. It will enormously increase the growth and size of economy of India and will enable it to overtake China in the near future.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Innovation Ecosystem in India

ICAR launches ‘One scientist, One product’ Scheme 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ICAR; One scientist, One product’ Scheme.

Why in the News?

  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is set to launch its ‘One Scientist-One Product’ program. This initiative aims to enhance research in agriculture and animal husbandry.

About the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

  • ICAR is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • ICAR was formerly known as the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research.
  • It was established in 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 on the basis of the report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture.

Functions of ICAR:

  • Its primary mandate is to coordinate agricultural education and research in India and provide leadership in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.

Structure and Organization:

  • ICAR operates under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  • It consists of a network of research institutes, national bureaus, project directorates, and agricultural universities across the country.
  • The council is governed by a Governing Body and an Executive Committee, which oversee its functioning and activities.
  • ICAR confers prestigious awards, such as: the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award, the Borlaug Award, and the Hari Om Ashram Trust Award, to recognize excellence in agricultural research and education.

Significant feats achieved by ICAR:

  • Bio-fortified Coverage: In 2023-24, approximately 16 million hectares are cultivated with bio-fortified crop varieties.
  • Crops Mentioned: This includes wheat, rice, pearl millet, lentil, and mustard.
  • Climate Resilience: The deployment of climate-resilient technologies has boosted production, even in abnormal years.
  • Variety Release: From 2014-15 to 2023-24, ICAR has released 2,593 high-yielding varieties, including 2,177 climate-resilient and 150 bio-fortified varieties.

What is the “One Scientist One Product” Scheme?

  • The “One Scientist One Product” initiative is a strategic research plan launched by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
  • It aims to enhance agricultural productivity by assigning specific research targets to individual scientists within the organization in the next 5 years.

Key Objectives of the Scheme:

  • Target-Oriented Research: Each scientist is given a specific target to develop a product. For example- seed variety, technology, research paper, or a conceptual model.
  • Avoiding Duplication: The initiative ensures that efforts are not duplicated by carefully mapping and assigning unique research targets to each scientist.
  • Regular Monitoring: Progress will be monitored every three months at the official level and twice a year by the researchers themselves.

Implementation Details:

  • All 5,521 scientists of ICAR have been registered under this scheme.
  • At the beginning of each year, scientists must identify and inform about the product they aim to develop.
  • While the focus is on individual contributions, there will be instances where a product will be developed by a group of scientists.

Long-Term Goals:

  • Product Development: The initiative is part of a broader plan to release 100 new seed varieties across various crops within the government’s 100-day plan.
  • Climate-Resilient Crops: A significant target is to increase the area under climate-resilient paddy seeds to 25% of the total kharif acreage, up from the current 15%.

Announcement of New Crop Varieties

  • Event Details: ICAR will announce the release of 323 new crop varieties during a function in Delhi. The new releases include cereals, oilseeds, forage crops, and sugarcane.
  • Variety Breakdown: Among these, there are 289 climate-resilient varieties and 27 bio-fortified varieties.
  • Upcoming Initiatives: ICAR aims to develop 100 new seed varieties and 100 farm technologies within 100 days as part of a national 100-day action plan.

Progress in Bio-fortification and Climate Resilience

  • ICAR reports significant progress in the adoption of bio-fortified crop varieties, with a total area of 16 million hectares under these varieties.
  • The organization emphasizes the success of its climate-resilient technologies, noting enhanced production even during years with abnormal weather conditions.

PYQ:

[2018] With reference to the Genetically Modified mustard (GM mustard) developed in India, consider the following statements:

  1. GM mustard has the genes of a soil bacterium that give the plant the property of pest-resistance to a wide variety of pests.
  2. GM mustard has the genes that allow the plant cross-pollination and hybridization.
  3. GM mustard has been developed jointly by the IARI and Punjab Agricultural University.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Appointment of the new Additional National Security Advisor (ANSA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Additional National Security Advisor (ANSA)

Why in the News?

  • A new Additional National Security Advisor (ANSA) was appointed on July 1, 2024, marking the first time this position has been filled. The ANSA will assist the National Security Advisor (NSA) in managing the country’s national security affairs.

Recent Controversies about the NSA’s Role

  • Recent controversies involving R&AW and the Agniveer initiative have brought the NSA’s role back into focus.
  • Questions remain about the ideal background for the NSA and the prioritization of experience in internal versus external security.

National Security Advisor (NSA):

  • The NSA is the senior official on the National Security Council of India.
  • The post was created on 19 November 1998 by the Government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • He/ She is also the chief adviser to the Prime Minister of India on national security policy and international affairs.
  • Ajit Doval is the current NSA, and has the same rank as a Union Cabinet Minister.
  • The NSA receives all intelligence (RAW, IB, NTRO, MI, DIA, NIA) reports and co-ordinates them to present before the Prime Minister.
  • The NSA serves at the discretion of the Prime Minister of India.

About the National Security Council of India:

  • NSC is an executive government agency tasked with advising the Prime Minister’s Office on matters of national security and strategic interest.
  • The 3 tier structure of the NSC comprises:
  1. Strategic Policy Group (SPG),
  2. National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and
  3. National Security Council Secretariat.
  • All aspects of national security are deliberated upon by the National Security Council (NSC), the apex body
  • Members: Ministers of Home Affairs, Defence, External Affairs, Finance and Deputy Chairman of the NITI Aayog.
  • The NSA is its Secretary.

Changes in the National Security Architecture

Previous Structure New Structure
Additional National Security Advisor (ANSA) The position was consistently vacant New ANSA appointed for the first time
NSA’s Role NSA had a more operational role NSA’s role is now more advisory, focusing on strategic policy and advisory outfits
Reporting Structure CDS, service chiefs, and Union secretaries reported to NSA and their respective ministers CDS, service chiefs, and Union secretaries continue to report to NSA and their ministers; however, ANSA now acts as a gatekeeper
Size of NSA’s Organization Smaller organization with no ANSA Larger organization with an ANSA and three deputy NSAs
Daily Security Briefings Directly by NSA Unclear if briefings will be by NSA, ANSA, or both
Communication Chain Direct communication between mid-level unit heads and NSA ANSA acts as an intermediary between mid-level unit heads and NSA, adding a bureaucratic layer
Ministerial Reporting NSA interacted with Union ministers and Prime Minister Ministerial bosses also interact directly with respective secretaries, causing potential turf issues
Speculations and Future Roles Speculations about the continuity and succession of the current NSA Ongoing speculations about the future role and potential succession by the newly appointed ANSA
Internal Security Management NSA handled internal security along with other duties ANSA now specifically responsible for internal security management and threat analysis
Overall Security Strategy NSA managed both strategic advisory and operational aspects Separation of strategic advisory role (NSA) and operational internal security role (ANSA)

Issues with the re-structuring:

  • Bureaucratic Layering: The introduction of the ANSA adds an additional bureaucratic layer, potentially slowing down decision-making.
  • Turf Issues: Potential conflicts between the NSA and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, especially regarding convening meetings.
  • Lack of clarity in Roles: Uncertainty about whether the NSA or ANSA will conduct daily security briefings, leading to possible communication confusion.
  • Ministerial Reporting Dynamics: Challenges for ministers in managing secretaries’ dual reporting lines to both the NSA and their respective ministers.
  • Operational Efficiency: The NSA’s shift to a more advisory role might affect the operational efficiency in handling immediate security threats.

Future of the NSA

  • There is speculation about the future of the incumbent NSA, Ajit Doval, and whether his elevation is a precursor to retirement.
  • Questions arise about whether ANSA Rajinder Khanna will succeed Doval or if an outsider will be appointed.

PYQ:

[2021] Analyse the multidimensional challenges posed by external state and non-state actors, to the internal security of India. Also discuss measures required to be taken to combat these threats.

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

100 years of Electroencephalography (EEG)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: EEG and its working

Why in the News?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first human electroencephalography (EEG) by German physiologist Hans Berger.

Historical Development of EEG

  • The development of EEG started with Richard Caton in 1875, who first noticed electrical signals in the brains of animals.
  • His work was expanded by Adolf Beck and later by Vladimir Pravdich-Neminsky, who recorded the first EEG of a dog.
  • Hans Berger was the first to record these signals from a human brain in 1924.

What is EEG?

  • EEG stands for electroencephalography. “Electro” means electricity, “encephalo” refers to the brain, and “graphy” means recording.
  • It tracks the electrical activity in the brain that happens when neurons, the brain’s cells, move tiny charged particles. 
  • This helps doctors tell if the brain is working normally or not.
  • Doctors use EEG to diagnose epilepsy, check how deep a person is under anesthesia, study sleep patterns, and even confirm if a person has passed away.

Understanding Volume Conduction

  • Volume conduction explains how the brain’s electrical signals move through different layers like skin and bone to reach the electrodes on the scalp.
  • The signals that electrodes pick up need to be cleaned up from any distortions caused by these layers or other noises before doctors can read them accurately.

How does an EEG Test Works?

  • Neurons interact with their surroundings and sometimes push ions around.
  • This movement creates waves of electrical activity.
  • Electrodes on the head detect these waves and measure how strong they are, which is then recorded as an EEG.
  • Setting up an EEG involves putting gel on the head and placing electrodes accurately, which can be affected by things like having thick hair.

What EEG Can and Can’t Show?

  • Strengths: EEG is very good at catching fast changes in the brain’s electrical activity, which is helpful for immediate observations.
  • Limitations: It mainly detects signals from the surface of the brain and is better at picking up signals from certain types of cell parts than others.
    • Pinpointing exactly where the brain an activity started can be difficult.

Cost and Accessibility

  • EEG is simple and affordable compared to other methods like MRI.
  • It’s portable, doesn’t use large equipment, and is safe.

PYQ:

[2015] With reference to ‘Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology’, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. It is a contactless communication technology that uses electromagnetic radio fields.

2. NFC is designed for use by devices which can be at a distance of even a metre from each other.

3. NFC can use encryption when sending sensitive information.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Ratna Bhandar of Puri Jagannath Temple, opened after 46 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ratna Bhandar of Puri Jagannath Temple; Architectural features.

Why in the News?

After 46 years, the sacred treasury of Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri, known as Ratna Bhandar, was reopened amid years of legal battles, controversies, and debates.

About the Ratna Bhandar

  • The Ratna Bhandar stores the gold and jewels offered by devotees to the deities Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra.
  • It is located adjacent to the prayer hall on the north side of the temple.
  • It consists of two sections: the ‘Bhitar Bhandar’ (Inner Treasury) and the ‘Bahar Bhandar’ (Outer Treasury), with the last inventory in 1978 noting significant amounts of gold and silver items in both chambers.
  • Legend says, Odisha’s King Anangabhima Dev (1211 to 1238) donated 2.5 lakh madhas of gold to prepare jewellery for the almighty.
  • The Odisha government passed the Jagannath Temple Act, 1952 to have a greater role in the temple’s management, which included maintaining an inventory of the offerings in the Puri collectorate’s Record Room.

Recent Developments:

  • The safety of the Ratna Bhandar is managed by the Temple’s Committee, chaired by the titular ‘King of Puri’ and includes IAS officers and other state-appointed members.
  • Originally, keys to the Ratna Bhandar were held by the Puri royal family, temple committee, and collectorate, with significant changes in ownership and access protocols over the years due to legal rulings.
  • The recent reopening involved breaking the locks of the inner chamber as they could not be opened traditionally, following strict procedures.

About Jagannath Puri Temple

  • The Jagannath Temple is an important Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Jagannath, a form of Sri Krishna in Puri in Odisha.
  • The present temple was rebuilt from the 10th century onwards, on the site of an earlier temple, and begun by Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, the first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
  • The Puri temple is famous for its annual Ratha Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three principal deities are pulled on huge and elaborately decorated temple cars.

Its Architecture:

  • With its sculptural richness and fluidity of the Oriya style of temple architecture, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of India.
  • The huge temple complex covers an area of over 400,000 square feet and is surrounded by a high fortified wall.
  • This 20 feet high wall is known as Meghanada Pacheri.
  • Another wall known as kurma bedha surrounds the main temple.

The temple has four distinct sectional structures, namely:

  1. Deula, Vimana or Garba griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the triad deities are lodged on the ratnavedi (Throne of Pearls). In Rekha Deula style;
  2. Mukhashala (Frontal porch);
  3. Nata mandir/Natamandapa, which is also known as the Jagamohan (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), and
  4. Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall)

 

PYQ:

[2012] The Nagara, the Dravida and the Vesara are the:

(a) Three main racial groups of the Indian subcontinent

(b) Three main linguistic divisions into which the languages of India can be classified

(c) Three main styles of Indian temple architecture

(d) Three main musical Gharanas prevalent in India

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Temples in News: Mahabodhi Temple, Puri Jagannath Temple

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bodh Gaya; Places associated with Buddha; Jagannath Puri Temple

Description

Mahabodhi Temple Complex

Mahabodhi Temple Tourism (Bodh Gaya) (2024) - A Complete Travel Guide

  • Location: Bodh Gaya, Bihar
  • Significance: Marks the location where Buddha attained enlightenment.
  • UNESCO Status: World Heritage Site since 2002.
  • Historical Importance: One of the four holy sites related to Buddha’s life (Enlightenment).
  • Original Construction: Built by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka around 260 BCE.
  • Reconstruction: Reconstructed in brick during the late Gupta period (5th or 6th centuries).
  • Archaeological Finds: Indicates a site of veneration since the Mauryan period; Vajrasana (Diamond Throne) dated to the third century BCE.
  • Main Temple Structure: Dates from the 6th century CE, incorporates parts from 2nd or 3rd century CE.
  • Architectural Features: Two large shikhara towers, the largest over 55 meters high; influenced Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist architecture globally.
  • Materials: Made mostly of brick covered with stucco.
  • Bodhi Tree: A direct descendant of the original tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.
  • Traditional Accounts: Describes 7 weeks Buddha spent meditating after enlightenment at various spots within the complex.
  • Decline and Revival: Declined after the Huna and early Islamic invasions; revived under the Pala Empire (8th-12th century); declined again after 12th century CE invasions by Turk armies.

Ratna Bhandar of Jagannath Puri Temple

  • Location: Puri, Odisha
  • Significance: Important Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Jagannath, a form of Sri Krishna
  • History: Rebuilt from the 10th century onwards, begun by Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, first king of the Eastern Ganga dynasty
  • Annual Event: Famous for its annual Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) where three principal deities are pulled on huge, elaborately decorated temple cars
  • Architecture: Oriya style of temple architecture; complex covers over 400,000 square feet, surrounded by a high fortified wall (Meghanada Pacheri); main structures include Deula (Sanctum sanctorum), Mukhashala (Frontal porch), Nata mandir/Natamandapa (Audience Hall/Dancing Hall), Bhoga Mandapa (Offerings Hall)

Ratna Bhandar:

  • Context: The sacred treasury of Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri, known as Ratna Bhandar, was reopened after 46 years amid legal battles and controversies
  • Contents: Stores gold and jewels offered by devotees to the deities Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra
  • Location: Adjacent to the prayer hall on the north side of the temple.
  • Sections: Consists of two sections: the ‘Bhitar Bhandar’ (Inner Treasury) and the ‘Bahar Bhandar’ (Outer Treasury)
  • Historical Significance: Legend says Odisha’s King Anangabhima Dev (1211 to 1238) donated 2.5 lakh madhas of gold to prepare jewelry for the deities
  • Management: Safety managed by the Temple’s Committee chaired by the titular ‘King of Puri’; keys held by the Puri royal family, temple committee, and collectorate with changes over the years
  • Recent Developments: Reopened by breaking the locks of the inner chamber due to inability to open traditionally, following strict procedures

 

 

Also in news: World Heritage Young Professional Forum

  • India is hosting the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting for the first time in New Delhi.
    • Theme: “World Heritage in the 21st Century: Building Capacities and Exploring Opportunities for Youth.”
  • The World Heritage Young Professionals Forum is an initiative by UNESCO to engage young professionals in the field of heritage conservation.
  • The first World Heritage Young Professionals Forum was organized in 1995.
  • The primary aim is to engage young professionals in heritage conservation and management through capacity building, networking, and awareness-raising.

PYQ:

[2012] The Nagara, the Dravida and the Vesara are the:

(a) Three main racial groups of the Indian subcontinent

(b) Three main linguistic divisions into which the languages of India can be classified

(c) Three main styles of Indian temple architecture

(d) Three main musical Gharanas prevalent in India

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Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

India-based Neutrino Observatory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India-based Neutrino Observatory; Neutrino

Why in the News?

  • Takaaki Kajita, a Nobel laureate has supported India’s pursuit of a neutrino lab.
    • Despite numerous obstacles, Kajita believes that the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project, which would rank as one of the largest basic science projects in the country, is still worth pursuing.

Who is Takaaki Kajita?

  • Takaaki Kajita is a Japanese physicist who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the oscillations of neutrinos from one flavour to another, which proved that those subatomic particles have mass.
  • He shared the prize with Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald.16 May 2024

About India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO):

Details
Location INO Peak near Theni, Tamil Nadu, India
Objective Study atmospheric neutrinos and provide precise measurements of neutrino mixing parameters
Project Scope One of the largest experimental particle physics projects in India
Initial Completion Date Originally planned for 2015
Key Equipment
  • Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) Detector, designed to probe Earth matter effects on neutrino propagation and determine neutrino oscillation parameters.
  • 50,000 tonnes, the world’s largest magnet, four times larger than CERN’s CMS detector magnet
Research Goals
  • Neutrino Oscillation Parameters: Unambiguous and precise determination using atmospheric neutrinos.
  • Matter Effects: Study through electric charge identification to determine the sign of mass differences.
  • CP Violation: Investigate charge-conjugation and parity violations in the leptonic sector.
  • CPT Violation: Possible studies of charge-conjugation, parity, and time-reversal violations.
  • Kolar Events: Study possible identification of very-high-energy neutrinos and multi-muon events in Kolar Gold Fields.
Historical Discussions Initial discussions in 1989, formal collaboration in 2001, and MoU signed in 2002
Current Status Construction stalled as of July 2021 due to local opposition and environmental concerns; ongoing legal and governmental deliberations

 

What is Neutrinos?

Neutrinos, often referred to as “ghost particles,” are subatomic particles with nearly zero mass and no electric charge.

Other issues in space:

Last week, ISRO Chairman S Somanath expressed the possibility of engaging with the asteroid Apophis during its close approach to Earth at a distance of 32,000 km in 2029.

What is Apophis?

  • Apophis is classified as a near-Earth asteroid (NEA), specifically a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its size and proximity to Earth’s orbit.
  • Apophis is approximately 335 meters (1,100 feet) in diameter, making it one of the larger near-Earth asteroids.
  • Discovered in 2004, Apophis initially posed a 2.7% chance of colliding with Earth, raising alarms due to its size (about 450 m wide).
  • Subsequent observations ruled out immediate collision risks in 2029, 2036, and 2068, but it will pass close to Earth in 2029 at 32,000 km.

 

PYQ:

[2010] India-based Neutrino Observatory is included by the planning commission as a mega-science project under the 11th Five-year plan. In this context, consider the following statements:

  1. Neutrinos are chargeless elementary particles that travel close to the speed of light.
  2. Neutrinos are created in nuclear reactions of beta decay.
  3. Neutrinos have a negligible, but non-zero mass.
  4. Trillions of Neutrinos pass through the human body every second.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 1, 2 and 3 only

(c) 2, 3 and 4

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

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Tribes in News

Asur Tribes to get Forest Land Rights

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Asur Tribes

Why in the News?

The Gumla district administration in Jharkhand has announced that the Asur community, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) residing in the Netarhat plateau region of Gumla, will soon benefit from the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.

About Asur Community

  • The Asur tribe primarily resides in the districts of Gumla, Lohardaga, Palamu, and Latehar in Jharkhand, India.
  • They speak Asuri, a Munda language belonging to the Austroasiatic language family.
  • Traditionally, the Asur were skilled iron-smelters, practicing metallurgy using indigenous techniques.
  • Over time, many have shifted to agriculture, although some are still involved in mining work.
  • The Asur community has a traditional council (jati panch) to settle disputes.
  • They maintain kinship ties with neighboring tribes like Kharwar and Munda.

Social Structure of Asur Community:

  • They live in forest-surrounded clearings called pats, with houses made of mud walls, wooden poles, and roofs covered with paddy straw.
  • Asurs follow a religion that combines animism, animatism, naturalism, and ancestral worship.
  • Their chief deity is Singbonga, and they celebrate festivals like Sarhul and Karma.
  • Marriage is significant, following rules of monogamy with exceptions for barrenness or widowhood.
  • Widow remarriage is allowed, and marriages occur within the tribe (endogamy).

Back2Basics: Forest Rights Act, 2006

Details
Purpose Recognizes and vests forest rights in Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD).
Eligibility Individuals or communities residing in forest land for at least 3 generations (75 years) prior to December 13, 2005.
Rights Recognized
  • Title Rights: Ownership up to 4 hectares for cultivation.
  • Use Rights: Includes Minor Forest Produce and grazing areas.
  • Relief and Development Rights: Rehabilitation and basic amenities in case of eviction.
  • Forest Management Rights: Conservation and sustainable use of community forest resources.
Authority Gram Sabha initiates the process of determining Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR).
Conservation Balances forest conservation with livelihood and food security of FDST and OTFD.

 

PYQ:

[2021] At the national level, which ministry is the nodal agency to ensure effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006?

(a) Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

(b) Ministry of Panchayati Raj

(c) Ministry of Rural Development

(d) Ministry of Tribal Affairs

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