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

[pib] National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Commission for Minorities

Why in the News?

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has advised State Governments/UTs to conduct “Sarv Dharma Meetings”.

Advisory on “Sarv Dharma Meetings”

  • NCM advised State Governments/UTs to conduct “Sarv Dharma Meetings”:
  1. At Sub-divisional level of States monthly.
  2. At District level half-yearly.
  • It is aimed at curbing attacks and hate crimes against minority communities to prevent communal disharmony.
  • NCM emphasized that hate crimes stem from mental weakness and anger, highlighting citizens’ rights to practice and preach their religion freely.

Responsibilities and Recommendations

  • Citizens and society urged to disown and condemn hate crimes.
  • Advocated for punitive actions by authorities against anti-social elements.
  • Proposed mechanisms involving civic society to deter anti-social and anti-national forces and prevent societal violence.

 

About National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

  • It is a statutory body formed on the basis of National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 and replaced an earlier body called Minorities Commission.
  • The Commission consists of a total of 7 persons to be nominated by the Central Government from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity.
  • It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice- Chairperson and 5 Members.
  • Each Member holds office for a period of 3 years from the date of assumption of office.

Functions of NCM:

  1. Evaluate minority development progress.
  2. Monitor constitutional and legal safeguards.
  3. Recommend effective safeguard implementation.
  4. Address complaints regarding deprivation of rights.
  5. Conduct studies on discrimination and recommend measures.
  6. Research socio-economic and educational development.
  7. Suggest measures to Central or State Governments.
  8. Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government.
  9. Address any matter referred by the Central Government.

Powers of NCM:

  1. Summon and enforce attendance of any person from India.
  2. Require discovery and production of documents.
  3. Receive evidence on affidavit.
  4. Requisition public records from courts or offices.
  5. Issue commissions for examining witnesses and documents.

Who are Minorities?

  • The Central has notified minority communities at the national level in consultation with various stakeholders under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Act, 1992.
  • The six communities notified as minority communities under Section 2(c) of the NCM Act are Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Parsis, and Jains.
    • Jains were notified as minority community in January 2014.
  • Notification of any community-specific to a State as a minority community within a State comes under the purview of the respective State.

Total Minority Population in India as per 2011 Census: 

19.3% of the total population (Muslims: 14.2%; Christians: 2.3%; Sikhs: 1.7%; Buddhists: 0.7%; Jains: 0.4%; Parsis: 0.006%)

Rights & Safeguards for Minorities:

Under Fundamental Rights (Part III of the Indian Constitution):

  1. Article 29(1): Right to conserve distinct language, script, or culture.
  2. Article 30(1): Right to establish and administer educational institutions.
  3. Article 30(2): Freedom from discrimination in receiving state aid.

Under Official Language (Part XVII of the Indian Constitution):

  1. Article 347: Rights for language spoken by any section of the population.
  2. Article 350A: Instruction in mother tongue.
  3. Article 350B: Special officer for linguistic minorities.

Sachar Committee Report (2006):

Constitution Date: 9 March 2005

Key Recommendations:

  • Create a National Data Bank (NDB) for socio-religious data.
  • Establish an Equal Opportunity Commission.
  • Provide incentives for a ‘diversity index.’
  • Ensure high-quality education for children aged 0-14.
  • Set up government schools in Muslim-concentrated areas.
  • Increase Muslim employment share in public-facing jobs.
  • Enact state laws for minority representation.
  • Support initiatives in Muslim-concentrated occupations.
  • Improve minority participation in commercial banks.
  • Focus on inclusive development while respecting diversity.

 

PYQ:

[2011] In India, if a religious sect/community is given the status of a national minority, what special advantages it is entitled to?

  1. It can establish and administer exclusive educational institutions.
  2. The President of India automatically nominates a representative of the community to Lok Sabha.
  3. It can derive benefits from the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

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

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

In an electric vehicle, what is Regenerative Braking?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Regenerative Braking and its Working

Why in the News?

The Regenerative Braking device market is set to witness immense growth during the period 2024-2031 due to rise in prominence of e-vehicles.

What is Regenerative Braking? 

Regenerative braking is a technology used in electric and hybrid vehicles to capture and reuse energy that would otherwise be lost during braking.

How Does It Work?

  1. Normal Braking: In a traditional vehicle, when you brake, the car’s kinetic energy (the energy it has while moving) is turned into heat and wasted.
  2. Regenerative Braking: 
  • In cars with regenerative braking, when you press the brake pedal, the electric motor runs in reverse.
  • This reverse action slows down the car, just like traditional brakes.
  • Instead of converting kinetic energy into heat, the motor converts it back into electrical energy.
  • This electrical energy is then stored in the vehicle’s battery for later use.
  1. Energy Conversion: This reversed motor converts the kinetic energy of the moving car into electrical energy.
  2. Energy Storage: The electrical energy produced is sent back to the car’s battery and stored for future use, such as powering the vehicle or running electrical systems.

Significance:

  • Energy Efficiency: Saves energy by reusing it, reducing the need for frequent battery recharges.
  • Extended Range: Helps electric and hybrid vehicles travel further on a single charge.
  • Less Wear and Tear: Reduces wear on traditional brake components, leading to lower maintenance costs.

Example: Imagine riding a bicycle down a hill. Normally, if you press the brakes, you slow down and the energy goes away as heat. But if you could somehow capture that energy and use it to help you pedal back up the hill, that would be similar to what regenerative braking does in a car.

 

How does a Motor become a Generator?

  • A motor consists of a rotor (which rotates) and a stator (which is stationary)
    • The stator contains magnets or electromagnets, while the rotor has current-carrying coils.
  • The Lorentz Force acts on the charged particles in the magnetic field, causing the rotor to spin.
  • In a generator, mechanical energy induces a current in the stator EVs can implement regenerative braking by switching the traction motor between these configurations.

Downsides of Regenerative Braking

  • Regenerative braking alone often cannot bring a vehicle to a complete stop and must be supplemented by conventional braking systems.
  • Regenerative brakes may not prevent vehicles from backsliding downhill.
  • The efficiency of energy recovery drops as the vehicle’s speed decreases, though regenerative brakes are beneficial in stop-start traffic.

Other Ways to Recover Energy

  • The design of a regenerative brake depends on the form of energy conversion. EVs convert mechanical energy into electrical energy stored in batteries or supercapacitors.
  • Flywheels can store mechanical energy by increasing angular momentum, useful in applications like Formula One racing and satellite navigation.
  • Kinetic energy can also be used to compress air, which can be useful for starting internal combustion engines.
PYQ:

[2021] Magnetite particles, suspected to cause neurodegenerative problems, are generated as environmental pollutants from which of the following?​

1. Brakes of motor vehicles​

2. Engines of motor vehicles​

3. Microwave stoves within homes​

4. Power plants​

5. Telephone line​

Select the correct answer using the code given below.​

a)1, 2, 3 and 5 only​

b)1, 2 and 4 only​

c)3, 4 and 5 only​

d)1, 2, 3, 4 and 5​

 

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International Monetary Fund,World Bank,AIIB, ADB and India

State of Economic Emergency in Argentina

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IMF and its bailout packages.

Why in the News?

Argentina faces one of the world’s highest inflation rates and a decade-long economic stagnation.

  • The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) earlier decision to release $4.7 billion from a $57 billion bailout package to Argentina, despite missed targets, raised eyebrows.

IMF’s Controversial Decision:

  • The IMF dispersed $4.7 billion, including overdue and advanced payments, to bolster President Milei’s nascent government.
  • This move contradicted IMF guidelines requiring adherence to economic conditions, signaling geopolitical influence and strategic support.

Argentina’s Economic Struggles

  • Persistent fiscal deficits and chronic inflation have plagued Argentina, with historical inflation averaging 190% from 1944 to 2023.
  • The government defaulted on sovereign debt nine times, exacerbating economic instability.
    • Since 2009, fiscal deficits persisted, reaching 4.4% of GDP in 2023, fueled by overspending and reliance on the inflation tax.
  • Milei’s administration targets fiscal reform to eliminate large deficits, contrasting with past failed attempts like the Austral Plan.
    • Alfonsín launched the Austral Plan, an austerity program that implemented a new currency (the austral), wage and price controls, and currency devaluations.

IMF and its Bailout

  • The IMF is an international organization (190 member countries) that provides loans, technical assistance, and policy advice to member countries.
  • Established in 1944 to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange rate stability, balanced economic growth, and poverty reduction.
  • Hq: Washington, D.C.
  • An IMF bailout, or an IMF program, is a loan package provided to financially troubled countries.
    • Bailout programs have specific terms and conditions that borrowing countries must meet to access the funds.

Types of IMF Bailout Packages:

Description Duration Conditionality
Stand-by Arrangements Short-term lending programs for countries with temporary balance of payments problems. 1-2 years Specific macroeconomic policies for stabilization
Extended Fund Facility Medium-term lending programs to address balance of payments difficulties from structural weaknesses. Longer-term Extensive conditionality and significant reforms
Rapid Financing Instrument Loan program providing quick financing for countries with urgent balance of payments needs. Flexible Fewer conditions and shorter application process

 

 

PYQ:

[2016] With reference to the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), consider the following statements:

1. IMFC discusses matters of concern affecting the global economy and advises the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the direction of its work.

2. The World Bank participates as an observer in IMFC’s meetings.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2 

 

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

Scientists find proof that Pain-Sensing Cells are either Male or Female

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nociceptors, Sexual dimorphism in pain perception

Why in the News?

Recent research has uncovered significant differences in how male and female nociceptors (pain receptors) are activated, paving the way for more precise, sex-specific pain management therapies. 

About Pain and Differences in Perception:

  • The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”
  • Subjectivity: Pain perception is highly personal and varies among individuals.
  • Scientific Findings: Recent research by the University of Arizona Health Sciences demonstrated functional sexual dimorphism in nociceptors, the nerve cells responsible for perceiving pain

Why do we perceive Pain?

  • Role of Nociceptors: Nociceptors are nerve cells with bare endings found throughout the body. They detect extreme pressure, temperature, and chemical signals, converting them into electrical signals sent to the brain via the spinal cord.
  • Activation Mechanism: Nociceptors in both men and women produce similar pain perceptions but are activated differently. 
    • Normally, they respond to high-intensity stimuli, but their activation threshold can decrease under certain conditions, causing low-intensity stimuli to trigger pain.

Nociceptor Response Threshold

  • Gender Differences: Females generally have a lower nociceptor response threshold than males.
  • Peripheral Nociceptor Sensitisation: External factors can lower the pain threshold, causing nociceptors to react to stimuli they would normally ignore.

The Old Vs New Study

  • Previous research showed that the hormone prolactin increases pain responses in female rodents, while the neurotransmitter orexin B sensitized male rodents to pain.
  • According to the New study, the Prolactin hormone increased nociceptor activation in female mice, while orexin-B had a similar effect in male mice. These findings were consistent across monkeys and humans.
  • Nociceptors in males and females can be differentially sensitized, leading to varying pain thresholds.

Significance of this Pain Research

  • Sex-Specific Pain Treatment: Current pain management often overlooks the patient’s sex, despite differences in pain conditions between men and women.
    • Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and painful bladder syndrome are more common in women, while cluster headaches and gout are more frequent in men.

 

PYQ:

[2021] What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society?

 

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

Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DPTA, 1994; Definition of tree and tree felling.

Why in the News?

The Supreme Court and the Delhi government are at loggerheads due to alleged felling of trees in the Asola-Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994.

Forest Cover in Delhi: ISFR Report Findings

  • Largest Cover: According to the ‘India State of Forest Report 2021’ (ISFR) published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Delhi has the largest forest cover among seven major megacities, with 195 sq. km, followed by Mumbai (110.77 sq. km) and Bengaluru (89.02 sq. km).
    • Delhi’s forest cover constitutes 13.15% of its geographical area, while its tree cover spans 147 sq. km (9.91%).
  • Growth over Time: Despite extensive urban development, the city’s overall green cover (forest and tree cover) has increased from 151 sq. km (10.2%) in 2001 to 342 sq. km (23.6%) in 2021.

What is the case against the DDA?

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a contempt petition against DDA’s Vice Chairman for the felling of about 1,100 trees, in violation of the SC’s orders, for road expansion in the ridge area, which falls under the eco-sensitive zone around Asola-Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • On March 4, the DDA submitted an application to the SC seeking permission to cut trees for the construction of the Gaushala Road. The court directed the DDA to re-examine the proposal with the help of field experts.
  • An affidavit from the DDA’s Vice Chairman revealed that tree felling had already begun in February and continued for ten days. By February 26, all intended trees were cut down even before the application reached the SC. This material fact was not disclosed when the court heard the application on March 4.
  • The Bench reprimanded DDA for not providing records of the Delhi LG’s (Chairman of the DDA) February 3 visit to the site, which allegedly led to the tree felling order. The Delhi government was also reprimanded for usurping the Tree Officer’s authority in granting permission.
  • The apex court has halted the DDA’s work and directed a team from the FSI to assess the number of trees cut and the environmental damage.

Law governing Tree Protection in Delhi:

Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994 provides legal protection to trees in the national capital against actions that could harm their growth or regeneration.

  • The Act defines a tree as “a woody plant that has branches supported by a trunk or a body of at least 5cm diameter and is at least 1 metre high from the ground”.
  • Section 2 (h) of the Act defines “to fell a tree” to include severing the trunk from the roots, uprooting, bulldozing, cutting, girdling, lopping, pollarding, applying arboricides, burning, or any other damaging method.
  • Under Section 8, no tree or forest produce can be removed on any land without prior permission from the ‘Tree Officer’, even on privately owned property. The ‘Tree Officer’ must respond within 60 days after inspection.
    • Violations of this Act may result in imprisonment for up to one year, a fine up to ₹1,000, or both.
  • The Act outlines a ‘Tree Authority’ responsible for conducting tree censuses, managing nurseries, and reviewing government and private construction proposals.
  • Delhi’s Tree Transplantation Policy, 2020 mandates that 80% of identified trees slated for felling must be transplanted. However, an affidavit submitted by the government to the Delhi High Court in 2022 disclosed that only 33.33% of transplanted trees had survived.

About Asola Bhatti WLS

Situated in the southern part of Delhi and extends into Faridabad and Gurugram districts of Haryana.

  • Occupies 32.71 sq. km on the Aravalli hill range’s Southern Delhi Ridge, bordering Delhi and Haryana.
  • Forms a part of Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve to the Delhi Ridge.
  • Classified under Northern Tropical Thorn Forests.
  • Plant Features plants with xerophytic characteristics like thorns, wax-coated and succulent leaves.
  • Characterized by the presence of the exotic Prosopis juliflora and the native Diospyros montana.
  • Home to species such as Golden Jackals, Striped-Hyenas, Indian Crested-Porcupines, Civets, Jungle Cats, various snakes, Monitor Lizards, and Mongoose.

 

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s directive to enhance Delhi’s green cover is a crucial step towards mitigating the impacts of extreme heat waves and improving the city’s air quality.

PYQ:

[2022] “The most significant achievement of modern law in India is the constitutionalization of environmental problems by the Supreme Court.” Discuss this statement with the help of relevant case laws. 

 

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Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Food Colorants and Chemical Additives Under Crackdown in Karnataka

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Permitted artificial colors; Rhodamine B.

Why in the News?

Karnataka’s Food Safety Department ordered action after 40 kebab samples showed unsafe artificial colours, extending the crackdown to Panipuri, Cotton candy, and Gobi Manchurian.

Artificial Colours in the Controversy 

  • Some artificial colours under scrutiny include:
  1. Sunset Yellow (Yellow 6, E110): Approved in the US but requires a warning label in the EU.
  2. Carmoisine (Red No. 10, E122): A deep red dye often used in food.
  3. Rhodamine B: A banned textile dye sometimes illegally used in food.
  • Different countries have varying regulations for these dyes. For example, tartrazine (E102 in the EU, Yellow 5 in the US) is permitted but only in limited quantities. 

 

Legal Action against FBOs

  • To take legal action, the department collects a survey sample from an FBO and, if found unsafe, collects four more legal samples for further testing at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI).
  • If CFTRI deems the samples unfit for consumption, the FBO is booked under the Food Safety Act and tried at a court of Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC). Penalties can include a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for 7 years.

Role of FSSAI in Food Safety and Colorants Regulation

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plays a crucial role in regulating and ensuring food safety across the country under the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006

Ingredients legally banned in India by the FSSAI and various states initiatives:

Parameters Details
Ingredients Banned in India
  • Rhodamine B: A textile dye sometimes illegally used as a food colorant.
  • Potassium Bromate: A flour treatment agent linked to cancer.
  • Oxytocin: A hormone used unethically in the dairy industry to increase milk production.
  • Calcium Carbide: Used for ripening fruits, which is hazardous to health.
  • Formalin: Used in fish preservation, which is carcinogenic.
  • Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): Used in soft drinks, which is linked to various health issues.
State Initiatives for Food Safety
  • Karnataka: Crackdown on use of unsafe food colorants in kebabs, pani puri, cotton candy, and gobi manchurian.
  • Maharashtra: Rigorous checks on milk adulteration and stringent actions against offenders.
  • Kerala: Implementation of ‘Safe Food’ campaign focusing on reducing pesticide use in vegetables.
  • Tamil Nadu: Regular inspections of street food vendors and training programs on food safety.
  • Delhi: Special drives to monitor and control the use of banned substances in sweets during festive seasons.

State Food Safety Index (SFSI) by FSSAI sheds light on the performance of Indian states in ensuring food safety.

 


PYQ:

[2021] Elaborate the policy taken by the Government of India to meet the challenges of the food processing sector.

[2018] Consider the following statements: 

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
  2. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is under the charge of Director General of Health Services in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) Cases in Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM); Naegleria fowleri.

Why in the News?

There have been four cases, including three deaths, of the rare, but fatal brain-eating primary amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) in Kerala in the last two months.

What is Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM)?

  • PAM is a rare brain infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba found in warm freshwater and soil worldwide.
    • An amoeba is a type of cell or unicellular organism with the ability to alter its shape, primarily by extending and retracting pseudopods.
    • Higher temperatures of up to 115°F (46°C) are conducive to its growth and it can survive for short periods in warm environments.
  • The amoeba enters the body through the nose, typically during activities like swimming, and travels to the brain, causing severe damage.
  • PAM is also non-communicable.
  • Symptoms: Headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and coma.
    • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people with PAM die within 1 to 18 days after symptoms begin. It usually leads to coma and death after 5 days.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Currently, there are no established effective treatments for PAM.
  • Diagnosis involves PCR tests of cerebrospinal fluid, though detection can be challenging due to the rarity of PAM.
  • Treatment follows CDC guidelines, including miltefosine, Azithromycin, and Amphotericin B, with miltefosine recently procured by the State Health Department from Germany.
    • Medical interventions typically involve a combination of drugs, including amphotericin B, azithromycin, fluconazole, rifampin, miltefosine, and dexamethasone.

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

News in Frames: Chandravalli Caves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Chandravalli Caves

Why in the News?

Observations made by previous historians who had found painted pottery and coins from the Shatavahana empire and the pre-historic period were once again in the news.

About Chandravalli Caves (also known as Ankali Math)

    • Chandravalli, a cave temple near Chitradurga, is also a pre-historic site.
    • Observations at the Site:
      • Previous excavations were carried out by Mortimer Wheeler under the guidance of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1947.
      • The cave features multiple chambers including a puja place with a shivlinga, a drawing room, a bedroom, and a water outlet connected to an internal tank.
      • The caves are accessible only through a narrow entrance, with interiors visible only with the help of a powerful torch hence they are also called as “Dark Caves”.
        • Presently, Excavations have revealed artifacts such as coins, painted bowls, and earthen pots from various dynasties such as the Hoysala, the Satavahana, and the Vijayanagara.
        • Excavation reports show that human habitation existed here even during the Iron Age.
  • Historical Aspect: 
    • They were named after a saint from Ankalagi in Belagavi district who is believed to have settled here.
    • The cave also contains a rock inscription of Mayurasharma, the founder of the Kadamba dynasty, dating back to AD 450.

About Kadamba dynasty

  • The Kadambas of Goa were vassals of the Chalukya dynasty of Kalyana. In recognition of his assistance in defeating the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyan emperor Tailapa II appointed Kadamba Shasthadeva as the provincial governor (Mahamandaleshwara) of Goa.
  • In 960 AD, Shasthadeva captured the city of Chandavara from the Shilaharas and later seized control of the port of Gopakapattana, which is present-day Goa.
  • Talara Nevayya’s son Gundayya may have fought alongside Shasthadeva in the conquest of the port but died in the battle after successfully capturing it.
  • Coins from Indian kings like Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, Krishnadevaraya, various Satavahana kings, and Viraraya of the Hoysala kingdom have been discovered.
  • Among the foreign coins found are denarii of Roman ruler Augustus Caesar and a coin of Chinese Han dynasty Emperor Wu Ti.
  • Geographical Aspects:
    • The area is semi-arid with scrub vegetation and a stream running through it.
    • These caves are surrounded by three hills: Chitradurga, Kirabanakallu, and Jolagudda.

PYQ:

[2021] Which one of the following statements is correct?

(a) Ajanta Caves lie in the gorge of Waghora river.

(b) Sanchi Stupa lies in the gorge of Chambal river.

(c) Pandu-lena Cave Shrines lie in the gorge of Narmada river.

(d) Amaravati Stupa lies in the gorge of Godavari river.

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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Surge in Silver Imports from UAE through Gift City

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Silver Imports in India, GIFT City

Why in the News?

  • India’s majority of silver imports are now handled by few private players from Dubai through the India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX), Gift City.
    • This trend, aimed at reducing import duties by the traders, poses potential long-term revenue losses for India.

India’s Silver Imports

  • India imported a record 4,172 metric tons of silver in the first four months of 2024, far exceeding the total of 3,625 tons imported in all of 2023.
    • In February 2024 alone, India imported a record 2,295 metric tons of silver, up from 637 tons in January. This represents a 260% increase.
  • The surge in imports has been driven by increasing demand from the Solar panel industry as well as a rise in Speculative Investment, with investors betting on silver outperforming gold.
  • Nearly half of India’s silver imports in 2024 so far have come from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to a lower import duty under the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
    • India generally imposes a 15% import duty on silver.
    • However, because of the CEPA signed between India and the UAE in 2022, allows private traders to import silver through the India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX) paying 9% duty, and an extra 3% in value-added tax.
  • The government is now concerned about the 647-fold spike in silver imports from the UAE and plans to discuss the issue with Abu Dhabi.
    • The Gift City exchange, while clearing imports from Dubai since December 2023, is under scrutiny for potential violations of these rules compared to imports from other ports.

About India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX)

  • Bullion refers to physical gold and silver of high purity that is often kept in the form of bars, ingots, or coins.
  • The IIBX was announced during the 2020 budget speech by the Finance Minister.
  • It is set up at the International Financial Services Center (IFSC) located in GIFT City, Gandhinagar.
  • It is India’s first bullion exchange, launched on 29 July 2022 in Gujarat.
  • It is the 3rd exchange of its kind in the globe.

Regulations and Setup:

  • The International Financial Services Centres Authority (Bullion Exchange) Regulations, 2020, were notified in December 2020 specifically for the trading of precious metals, including gold and silver.
  • These regulations encompass the operations of the bullion exchange, Clearing Corporation, depository, and vaults associated with IIBX.

Operational Framework

  • Previously, India had liberalized gold imports through nominated banks and agencies in the 1990s.
    • With IIBX, eligible qualified jewellers in India can directly import gold.
  • Jewellers need to become trading partners or clients of an existing trading member to participate in the exchange.

Comparison with Previous Practices

  • Previously, bullion in India was imported under a consignment model by nominated banks and agencies approved by the RBI, which added handling fees and premiums.
  • The introduction of IIBX aims to streamline the supply chain by allowing direct imports through the exchange, potentially reducing costs for traders and consumers alike.

Recommendations for Addressing Challenges

  • Renegotiation of CEPA Terms: The Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) advocates for revising CEPA terms to curb duty arbitrage and enforce stricter checks on value addition claims by Gift City exchange.
  • Enhanced Regulatory Oversight: GTRI proposes limiting silver imports to RBI/DGFT-nominated agencies to mitigate risks associated with mis-declared imports and ensure compliance with CEPA conditions.
  • Investigation and Oversight: There is a call for a thorough investigation into relationships between export and import firms to identify and mitigate conflicts of interest or familial ties that could influence import practices.

PYQ:

[2016] What is/are the purpose/purposes of Government’s ‘Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme’ and ‘Gold Monetization Scheme’?

  1. To bring the idle gold lying with Indian households into the economy.
  2. To promote FDI in the gold and jewellery sector.
  3. To reduce India’s dependence on gold imports.

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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Indian Army Updates

DRDO unveils Indigenous Light Tank Zorawar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: General Zorawar; LT Zorawar

Why in the News? 

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and private company Larsen & Toubro (L&T) unveiled the prototype of the Zorawar light tank.

Note: 

  • India primarily has T-90S Bhishma and T-72 Ajeya produced under license from Russia.
  • The Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) program aims to develop and induct next-generation Indigenous main battle tanks to replace the ageing T-72 fleet starting from 2030 onwards

What is Zorawar Tank?

  • The Zorawar Tank was developed jointly by the DRDO and Larsen & Toubro (L&T).
  • It is an indigenous light tank designed specifically for operations in high-altitude regions like Ladakh and Sikkim.
  • It has been developed under ‘Project Zorawar’, named after General Zorawar Singh of Jammu.
  • Its prototype was unveiled in July 2023, with internal testing completed at L&T’s facility in Gujarat.
  • It has been scheduled for extensive trials in various conditions, including summer, winter, and high-altitude environments, with plans for induction by August 2025.

Who was General Zorawar Singh (1784–1841)?

  • Zorawar Singh Chandel was a military general of the Dogra Rajput ruler, Gulab Singh of Jammu.
  • He served as the governor (wazir-e-wazarat) of Kishtwar and extended the territories of the kingdom by conquering Ladakh and Baltistan.
  • He also boldly attempted the conquest of Western Tibet (Ngari Khorsum) but was killed in battle of To-yo during the Dogra-Tibetan war.
  • About his legacy of conquests in the Himalayas including Ladakh, Tibet, Baltistan and Skardu as General and Wazir, Zorowar Singh has been referred to as the “Napoleon of India“, and “Conqueror of Ladakh“.

Operational Capabilities:

  • Designed to operate effectively in extreme weather conditions and at high altitudes (above 15,000 feet) with minimal logistic support.
  • Intended for use in challenging terrains where heavier tanks like T-72 and T-90 face limitations.
  • Includes thermal sights, night-fighting capabilities, and features to reduce visual, sound, heat, and electromagnetic signatures.

Technical Specifications:

  • Weight: Approximately 25 tons, allowing for air transportation.
  • Armament: Equipped with a 105mm turret from John Cockerill.
  • Firepower: Capable of firing advanced smart munitions and anti-tank guided missiles.
  • Mobility: Agile and manoeuvrable on steep slopes and riverine regions, designed to be amphibious.

Engine and Power:

  • Initially planned with a German engine, but due to delays, currently powered by a Cummins engine assembled in India.
  • DRDO is concurrently working on developing a new power pack and a 1400 HP engine to enhance performance.

Various Indigenous Tanks in the Indian Army

Features
Vijayanta (1965)
  • First indigenous main battle tank of the Indian Army
  • Based on a licensed design of the Vickers Mk.1 tank
  • Equipped with a 105mm rifled gun
  • Top speed of 52 km/h and range of 201 km
  • Crew of 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
  • Upgrades included an improved fire control system, armour, and engine
Arjun (2004)
  • India’s first fully Indigenous main battle tank developed by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment
  • Equipped with a 120mm rifled gun and has top speed of 67 km/h and range of 483 km
  • Crew of 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
  • Features advanced fire control system, composite armor, and NBC protection
  • Arjun Mk-1A variant with improved capabilities entered service in 2022

 

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Four-year UG programmes formally launched in Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Four-year undergraduate program

Why in the News?

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the curriculum of Four-Year Undergraduate Programmes (FYUP) in the state, stressing that it is in line with changes in the Global Education System where the focus is equally on imparting knowledge as well as the transfer of skills and vocational training.

About Four-Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP):

Parameters Details
Key features 
  • Students can choose their major and minor subjects freely, for example science students can pursue humanities courses.
  • Provision for students to complete the degree in 2.5 years if they secure the required credits.
  • Offers 16 FYUP honors programs with research across science, arts, commerce and business streams at the University of Kerala.
FYUP curriculum
  • It is designed to provide students with knowledge, intellectual abilities, multidisciplinary perspectives, flexible skills, social commitment and research aptitude to make them responsible citizens and offer multiple opportunities in research and employment
  • Includes online courses, skill development, internships and research projects.
Eligibility criteria
  • Students need a CGPA of 7.5 or above to advance to the 4th year and get an honors degree with research.
  •  Admission based on 12th marks for now, entrance exam planned from next year.

Administrative and Technological Upgrades required:

  • Regulatory Revisions: Plans for a comprehensive revision of University Acts and Regulations to streamline academic processes and enhance efficiency.
  • K-REAP Initiative: Introduction of Kerala Resources for Education Administration and Planning (K-REAP), a governance software to centralize institutional activities.

Issues with FYUP Program

  • Implementation Challenges: The introduction of the FYUP faced logistical and administrative hurdles, impacting its rollout across Kerala’s higher educational institutions.
  • Curriculum Adaptation: Critics argue that the FYUP’s curriculum overhaul lacks sufficient alignment with industry needs and fails to adequately prepare students for real-world challenges.
  • Student Adaptation: Some students and educators have expressed concerns about the abrupt shift in academic structure and its impact on learning outcomes and student performance.
  • Evaluation Methods: There is ongoing debate over the effectiveness of the FYUP’s assessment methods, with some stakeholders questioning its ability to accurately gauge student knowledge and skills.
  • Policy Revisions: Continuous revisions and adjustments to the FYUP’s policies and regulations are needed to address evolving educational needs and feedback from various stakeholders.

New Education Policy (NEP), 2020:

  • The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 introduced by the Government of India aims to transform the educational landscape of the country.
  • One of the key changes in the NEP is the restructuring of the duration and framework of undergraduate programs.
  • The NEP 2020 introduces a four-year undergraduate program as a standard duration for bachelor’s degrees, replacing the traditional three-year format.
  • Students can exit the program at different stages with a qualification. For example:
    • After 1 Year: Certificate
    • After 2 Years: Diploma
    • After 3 Years: Bachelor’s Degree
    • After 4 Years: Bachelor’s Degree with Research

 

PYQ:

[2015] The quality of higher education in India requires major improvement to make it internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help improve the quality of technical and higher education in the country. Discuss.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women get only 7% MSME credit: RBI ED  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Data related to Financial Inclusion

Mains level: Barriers to Financial Inclusion

Why in the News?

  • The RBI has highlighted that low labour force participation among women is a significant barrier to financial inclusion and broader economic growth.
    • It pointed out that only 7% of the outstanding loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are to women-led businesses.

Barriers to Financial Inclusion

  • Economic Participation: RBI emphasized that greater participation of women in economic activities is essential for financial inclusion and economic growth.
  • Participation Disparity: Official data shows female labor force participation at 32.8% in FY22, compared to over 77% for men.
  • Credit Disparity: Women-led businesses constitute nearly a fifth of MSMEs, yet they receive only 7% of the outstanding credit to this sector, highlighting a significant disparity.

Efforts and Challenges in Financial Inclusion

  • Successes: RBI expressed satisfaction with access to financial services, citing the success of the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) scheme and social security transfers.
  • Addressing Demand-side Issues: While supply-side challenges have been addressed, demand-side issues still need attention.
  • Structural Barriers: Structural issues such as low levels of capital, labour participation, societal norms restricting women from inheriting property, and limited access to education and training impede women’s financial inclusion.

Stereotyping and Behavioral Issues

  • Higher Risk Perception: Nigam noted that women borrowers often face stereotyping by financiers, being considered higher risks, leading to higher interest rates, greater insistence on collateral, or outright loan rejections.
  • Behavioural Challenges: He also mentioned behavioural issues among women borrowers, such as being more risk-averse, less confident in negotiating loan terms, and less likely to apply for new loans due to fear of rejection.

Policy Moves: Priority Sector Lending and Financial Literacy Initiatives

  • Priority Sector Lending (PSL): The PSL mandate has become a viable business model for banks and micro-lenders, but demand-side constraints persist.
  • RBI Initiatives: To address these challenges, the RBI has initiated financial inclusion efforts, including opening 2,400 financial literacy centres at the block level in partnership with nonprofits and requiring lead banks to have a literacy centre in each district.

Government Schemes:

Stand Up India Scheme Mudra Yojana Scheme Annapurna Scheme
Launched April 2016 April 2015 (under PMMY)
Objective To promote entrepreneurship among women and SC/ST To provide financial support to non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises To support women entrepreneurs in the food catering business
Eligibility Women entrepreneurs and SC/ST entrepreneurs above 18 years of age All non-farm enterprises, including women-owned businesses Women entrepreneurs planning to start or expand their food catering business
Loan Amount INR 10 lakh to INR 1 crore Up to INR 10 lakh, categorized into three types:            

  1. Shishu: Up to INR 50,000           
  2. Kishor: INR 50,001 to INR 5 lakh            
  3. Tarun: INR 5,00,001 to INR 10 lakh
Up to INR 50,000
Purpose For setting up a greenfield enterprise in manufacturing, services, or trading sectors For business activities in manufacturing, processing, trading, or service sectors For starting or expanding the food catering business
Repayment Period Up to 7 years with a maximum moratorium period of 18 months 36 months, including a grace period of 1 month
  • About SEHER Program (In News)
    • The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) and TransUnion CIBIL have launched SEHER, a pioneering credit education program aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in India.
    • SEHER aims to facilitate their access to financial tools crucial for business growth and employment creation.

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[pib] SEHER Program to Empower Women Entrepreneurs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About SEHER Program

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) and TransUnion CIBIL have launched SEHER, a pioneering credit education program aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in India.

About Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)

  • WEP, incubated at NITI Aayog in 2018; aims to create an enabling ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in India through a public-private partnership.
  • WEP’s Financing Women Collaborative (FWC) initiative accelerates access to finance for women entrepreneurs, addressing key barriers such as information asymmetry.

About SEHER Program

  • SEHER aims to provide comprehensive financial literacy content and essential business skills to women entrepreneurs.
  • It will facilitate their access to financial tools crucial for business growth and employment creation.
  • The program includes personalized resources on financial literacy, emphasizing the importance of building a strong credit history and CIBIL score.

Need for such a program

  • India has 63 million MSMEs, with 20.5% being women-owned, employing 27 million people.
  • Accelerating women’s entrepreneurship could create over 30 million new women-owned enterprises and 150 to 170 million jobs.
PYQ:

[2019] “Empowering women is the key to control population growth”. Discuss. 

 

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Leang Karampuang Cave is the World’s Oldest Cave Art  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About Leang Karampuang Cave

Mains level: Key features of the Cave Paintings

Why in the News?

  • A cave painting discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Karampuang on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, dates back at least 51,200 years.
    • The painting features a scene with three part-human, part-animal figures interacting with a wild pig, depicted in red pigment.
Study Details:

  • Published in the journal Nature, the study titled ‘Narrative cave art in Indonesia by 51,200 years ago’ used a new dating technique to determine the age of the artwork.
  • The study involved 23 researchers from Griffith University, Southern Cross University, and the Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency.

Use of Uranium-based Dating:

  • A new dating technique utilizes uranium series (U-series) analysis on calcite deposits above cave art.
  • The laser-based analysis measures uranium-thorium ratios to accurately date paintings, highlighting significant age revisions for cave art in Sulawesi.

About Leang Karampuang Cave

  • Leang Karampuang Cave is situated in the Maros-Pangkep karst region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • The cave is renowned for its ancient rock art and archaeological findings, providing insights into early human civilization in the region.
  • It features some of the oldest known hand stencils and paintings of animals, believed to be created by early humans. 

Key features of the Cave Paintings:

  • A painted scene depicting humans interacting with a pig on the cave wall.
  • The artwork features a pig standing upright alongside three smaller human-like figures, all painted in a single shade of dark red pigment.
  • This painting predates the cave art found in El Castillo, Spain, dating back around 40,800 years ago, marking it as older than European cave paintings.

Significance of the Painting

  • According to researchers, the figures in the painting depict dynamic action, suggesting a narrative or story being told.
    • The discovery pushes back the origin of figurative art among Homo sapiens, indicating a rich history of storytelling through visual art in early human societies.
  • While Neanderthals began cave markings earlier, around 75,000 years ago, these were primarily non-figurative.
  • The Sulawesi cave art suggests an advanced cultural and artistic development among early humans, predating similar European art by millennia.
Contemporary Period in the Indian Subcontinent:

  • Homo sapiens had already migrated to various parts of the Indian subcontinent by this time. 
  • Evidence suggests human habitation in India dates back to at least 70,000 years ago, with notable archaeological sites like Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh showing signs of early human activity and rock art.

 

PYQ:

[2017] The painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani is one of the most famous and oft-illustrated paintings at

(a) Ajanta

(b) Badami

(c) Bagh

(d) Ellora 

 

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Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

What is Aphelion?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: What is Aphelion?

Mains level: Does aphelion affect temperatures on Earth?

Why in the News?

Early on July 5, the Earth reached aphelion, its farthest distance from the sun in our year-long journey around our nearest star.

What is Aphelion? 

  • Aphelion is a term used in astronomy to denote the point in the orbit of a planet or celestial body where it is farthest from the Sun. 
  • The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle but rather an ellipse, with the Sun situated at one of the two foci of the ellipse. 
  • Aphelion marks the moment when Earth is at its maximum distance from the Sun along this elliptical path.
  • The concept of aphelion was crucial in Johannes Kepler‘s formulation of his laws of planetary motion during the 17th century.

How far is the Earth from the Sun at aphelion? 

  • At aphelion, which occurs around July 4th– 5th each year, the Earth is approximately 152.1 million kilometers (about 94.5 million miles) away from the Sun. 
  • This distance is about 3.3% greater than its average distance from the Sun, known as its semi-major axis, which is about 147.1 million kilometers.

Does aphelion affect temperatures on Earth? 

  • Aphelion has a slight effect on temperatures on Earth, but its impact is minimal compared to other factors such as axial tilt and atmospheric circulation patterns. 
  • Despite being farther from the Sun during aphelion, the Earth’s tilt towards the Sun during the northern hemisphere’s summer results in warmer temperatures for that region. 
  • This phenomenon is primarily responsible for the seasons on Earth.

What would happen if there were no aphelion? 

  • If Earth’s orbit were perfectly circular, without aphelion or perihelion (the closest point to the Sun), the distance between Earth and the Sun would remain constant throughout the year. 
  • This scenario would result in less variation in seasonal temperatures between the northern and southern hemispheres. 
  • The distinct seasons that we experience today, which are essential for ecological diversity and agricultural cycles, would be significantly altered.
PYQ:

[2013] Variations in the length of daytime and night time from season to season are due to-

(a) The earth’s rotation on its axis

(b) The earth’s revolution round the sun in an elliptical manner

(c) Latitudinal position of the place

(d) Revolution of the earth on a tilted axis

 

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Reviving Gharials in Kaziranga

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gharial and its conservation, Kaziranga NP

Why in the News?

In Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, a lone female gharial has emerged as a significant presence, marking a potential revival for the species in the Brahmaputra River.

About Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve:

  • Located in the state of Assam, Kaziranga is renowned for its biodiversity and conservation efforts.
  • Established in 1905 as a reserve forest and declared a national park in 1974.
  • Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 for its unique natural environment and successful conservation of the Great One-Horned Rhinoceros.
  • Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world.
  • It hosts two-thirds of the world’s Great One-Horned Rhinoceros population, a significant conservation success story.
  • The park spans approximately 430 square kilometers (166 square miles) of grasslands, wetlands, and forests.

One-Horned Rhinoceros:

  • OneHorned Rhinos: IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable; CITES: Appendix I ; WPA, 1972: Schedule I.
  • Mainly found in Assam, West Bengal.
  • Assam hosts about 2,640 rhinos across Pobitora WLS, Rajiv Gandhi Orang NP, Kaziranga NP, and Manas NP.

About Gharial

  • The Gharial is a fish-eating crocodile native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • They are a crucial indicator of clean river water.
  • It is also found in the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Odisha.
  • Gharials are ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List of Species.
  • The species is also listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • National Chambal Sanctuary along the river Chambal in Madhya Pradesh is the biggest protected area of the species.

Recent findings of Gharial in Kaziranga

  • Gharials, distinguished by their long, narrow snouts, were believed to have disappeared from the Brahmaputra by the 1950s.
  • The female gharial, initially spotted in 2021, has grown to nearly adult size, providing hope for their reintroduction into the ecosystem.

PYQ:

[2013] Consider the following fauna of India :

1. Gharial

2. Leatherback turtle

3. Swamp deer

Which of the above is/are endangered?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) None

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Niranjan Panel set up to study Pollution Level in Cauvery

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cauvery River and its Catchment, Cauvery Dispute

Why in the News?

The Karnataka government has formed an expert committee, headed by Niranjan, Chief Environment Officer of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, to study the pollution level in the Cauvery.

About Niranjan Panel

  • The panel will review and submit a report within 10 days to ascertain whether the Cauvery River water is polluted due to the inflow of sewage water, solid waste, industrial waste, and other types of pollutants.
  • The Cauvery water has lost its natural quality due to the pollutants and the health of citizens and aquatic animals are being adversely affected.

About Cauvery River

  • The Cauvery River, also spelled as ‘Kaveri’ and known as ‘Ponni’ in Tamil, originates from Talakaveri in the Brahmagiri range located in Karnataka’s Kodagu district.
  • It spans approximately 800 km, traversing through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, until it eventually reaches the Bay of Bengal.
  • The river’s catchment area covers regions in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
  • Key tributaries that join the Cauvery include Harangi, Hemavati, Kabini, Suvarnavathi, and Bhavani.
  • It remains perennial due to its dual reliance on both advancing and retreating monsoons for rainfall.
  • Protected areas in its basin: Cauvery WLS,  Biligirirangan Hills WLS,  Pushpagiri WLS,  Muthathi WLS,  Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary,  Bhimeshwari WLS, Nagarhole NP; Bandipur NP.

Challenges associated with the Cauvery River:

  • Direct discharge of untreated sewage and domestic waste from towns and cities along the Cauvery contaminates the water, leading to high bacterial loads and nutrient pollution.
  • Industries along the Cauvery, including textiles, dyeing, pharmaceuticals, and others, discharge effluents directly into the river.
  • Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used in agricultural fields adjacent to the river are washed into the Cauvery during rain and irrigation.
  • Unregulated sand mining and dredging activities disrupt riverbeds and banks, altering natural flow patterns and habitat structures.
  • Introduction of non-native species like tilapia and African catfish, initially for aquaculture, has led to their proliferation in the Cauvery.

Cauvery Water Dispute:

  • Since 1892, tensions existed between British-ruled Madras and Mysore
  • 1924 Agreement aimed to resolve but set the stage for future conflicts. Post-Independence, dam constructions sparked TN appeal
  • Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was established
  • Interim orders by the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) in 1998
  • CWDT’s 2013 award allocated water quantities among states
  • Monthly and annual water shares by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu
  • Normal Year, Karnataka must give 177.25 TMC to Tamil Nadu
  • Challenges arise during monsoons due to varying rainfall
  • Article 262 empowers Parliament for inter-state river disputes. The Seventh Schedule defines legislative authority over water resources
  • 2018: Cauvery was termed a “national asset” by SC with river water equality upheld
  • The Cauvery Management Board (CMB) was established by the Court for implementation
  • CWMA and CWRC were established for water regulation and data collection.

 

PYQ:

[2020] Which of the following Protected Areas are located in the Cauvery basin?

  1. Nagarhole National Park
  2. Papikonda National Park
  3. Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve
  4. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

EAM Jaishankar attends SCO Summit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SCO and its expansion

Why in the News?

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar addressed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on behalf of Prime Minister Modi.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

Details
Introduction
  • Established in 2001 by China and Russia, the SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organization.
  • It spans about 80% of Eurasia and encompasses 40% of the world’s population, with a GDP of around 20% of global GDP as of 2021.
Origins
  • Successor to the Shanghai Five, formed in 1996 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.
  • It evolved into the SCO in 2001 with the inclusion of Uzbekistan.
Expansion
  • India and Pakistan joined in June 2017, followed by Iran in July 2023, and Belarus in July 2024.
  • Several other countries participate as observers and dialogue partners.
Governance
  • Governed by the Heads of State Council (HSC), the supreme decision-making body that meets annually.
  • Includes the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) as a key component for security coordination.
Key Structures
  • Heads of State Council: Supreme decision-making body.
  • Heads of Government Council: Discusses multilateral cooperation and approves budgets.
  • Council of Foreign Ministers: Regular meetings on international affairs.
  • Council of National Coordinators: Coordinates multilateral efforts.
Secretariat
  • Headquartered in Beijing, China, the Secretariat executes organizational decisions, drafts documents, and promotes SCO activities.
  • Secretary-General serves a 3-year term.
RATS Executive Committee
  • Based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, RATS fosters cooperation against terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
  • The director serves a three-year term overseeing these efforts.
Official Languages Chinese and Russian are the SCO’s official languages.
Key Agreements
  • Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions (1996)
  • Treaty on Reduction of Military Forces in Border Regions (1997)
  • Declaration on a “multipolar world” (1997)
Major Activities
  • Annual summits and meetings across member states;
  • Initiatives in transportation, energy, and telecommunications;
  • Regular gatherings of security, defence, economic, and cultural officials.
International Relations Established partnerships with various global bodies including the UN, ASEAN, CIS, CSTO, ECO, and CICA, reflecting its broad engagement in regional and international affairs.

Strategic Significance of SCO for India

  • Open-door for bilateral: Membership facilitates India’s engagement with Central Asian nations and major regional powers like China and Russia on shared security challenges.
  • China-Russia Dynamics: SCO serves as a platform for China and Russia to assert influence and counter Western dominance in international forums.
  • Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Dispute: India’s stance against endorsing BRI projects through SCO reflects its concerns over sovereignty, particularly regarding CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

About Kazakhstan

  • Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country and the ninth-largest country by land area, spanning an area of 2.7 million square kilometres.
  • It borders Russia to the north and west, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the southwest

 

PYQ:

[2022] Consider the following:

  1. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
  2. Missile Technology Control Regime
  3. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

India is a member of which of the above?

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

[2021] Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. What importance does it hold for India?

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Afforestation in Delhi Ridge

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delhi Ridge, Aravalli

Why in the News?

The Delhi High Court is set to physically inspect the Central and Southern parts of Delhi Ridge to assess the extent of afforestation and cutting of trees in the area.

Deforestation in Delhi Ridge:

Over 308 hectares of the ecologically sensitive Delhi Ridge area has been encroached and another 183 hectares “diverted” for “non-forestry purposes”. ( Data by Central Empowered Committee (CEC) report to the Supreme Court, 2023.)

About Delhi Ridge

  • Delhi Ridge is located in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, extending as a northern extension of the ancient Aravalli Range.
    • Composed primarily of quartzite rocks, it spans approximately 35 kilometres from Tughlaqabad in the southeast to Wazirabad in the north along the Yamuna River.
  • Ecological Significance:
    • It acts as the “green lungs” of Delhi, providing crucial ecological services such as carbon sequestration and habitat for wildlife.
    • It protects Delhi from the hot desert winds originating from Rajasthan to the west.
    • It supports diverse flora and fauna, making Delhi one of the world’s most bird-rich capital cities.
    • Efforts are ongoing to maintain biodiversity through biodiversity parks and wildlife sanctuaries like the Northern Ridge Biodiversity Park and Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.

Geographical Features

  • The ridge is believed to be over 1.5 billion years old, making it an ancient geological formation compared to the Himalayas (50 million years old).
  • It functions as a watershed, dividing the Indus Plain to the west from the Gangetic Plain to the east within the Indo-Gangetic Plain.

Administrative Divisions:

  • Divided into four main zones: Northern, Central, South-Central, and Southern Ridge.
  • Each zone has distinct characteristics and faces varying degrees of urban encroachment and conservation efforts.

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

Issues with ‘mandir’ tag for Ayushman Health and Wellness Centres

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ayushman Arogya Mandirs, AB-NHPM

Why in the News?

Following Mizoram and Nagaland, Meghalaya has also refused to rename its health and wellness centres as Ayushman Arogya Mandirs as per the Centre’s directive.

Context: Demographic composition of NE and its implications on policy decisions 

  • Christian Majority: About 75% of Meghalaya’s population practices Christianity, similar to the demographics of Mizoram (90%) and Nagaland (90%).
  • State Asserts Autonomy: Meghalaya’s Health Minister emphasized that health being a State subject grants them the right to decide independently of the Centre’s advisory.

About Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs)

  • AB-HWCs were launched to move away from selective health care to a more comprehensive range of services spanning preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care for all ages.
  • There are 1.6 lakh such centres across India under this initiative.
  • The National Health Policy of 2017 envisioned these centres as the foundation of India’s health system.
  • The Union Health Ministry renamed AB-HWCs as Ayushman Arogya Mandirs (AAM) with the tagline ‘Arogyam Parmam Dhanam’.
  • States and Union Territories were urged to complete the rebranding by the end of 2023.

Back2Basics: Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)

Details
Details
  • World’s largest fully government-funded health insurance scheme.
  • Launched in 2018.
  • Provides Rs 5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary care.
Health Benefit Package
  • Covers the cost of surgery, medical and daycare treatments, medications, and diagnostics.
  • 3 days of pre-hospitalisation and 15 days of post-hospitalisation, including diagnostic care and expenses on medicines.
  • No restriction on family size, age or gender.
  • All pre-existing conditions are covered from day one.
Beneficiaries
  • An entitlement-based scheme targeting beneficiaries identified by the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
  • Flexibility for States/UTs to use non-SECC data with a similar socio-economic profile to identify remaining SECC families.
Financing
  • Jointly funded scheme: 60:40 between Centre and legislature for all States and UTs.
  • 90:10 for North-Eastern States, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
  • 100% central funding for Union Territories without legislature.
Nucleus Agency
  • The National Health Authority (NHA) is an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, responsible for the effective implementation of PM-JAY.
  • State Health Agency (SHA) is the apex body of the State Government responsible for implementing AB-PMJAY in the State.

 

PYQ:

[2022] With reference to Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, consider the following statements:

  1. Private and public hospitals must adopt it.
  2. As it aims to achieve universal health coverage, every citizen of India should be part of it ultimately.
  3. It has seamless portability across the country.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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