Table of Contents
1. DEEP OCEAN MISSION (DOM)
TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: India’s ambitious “Deep Ocean Mission” (DOM) is a program aimed at exploring and harnessing the depths of the ocean.
- The mission has been approved by the Union Cabinet and has several pillars:
- Development of Technologies for Deep-Sea Mining:
- It involves the creation of technologies for deep-sea mining and a crewed submersible capable of reaching a depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean.
- The submersible will be equipped with scientific sensors, tools, and a system for mining polymetallic nodules.
- Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services:
- It focuses on understanding and projecting future climate changes through ocean observations and models.
- Technological Innovations for Deep-Sea Biodiversity:
- The mission aims to develop technologies for exploring and conserving deep-sea biodiversity.
- Deep-Ocean Survey and Exploration:
- The objective here is to identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulfides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
- Harnessing Energy and Freshwater from the Ocean:
- This pillar aims to utilize the ocean as a source of energy and freshwater.
- Establishing an Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology:
- It seeks to create a hub for ocean biology research and blue biotechnology development.
INSIGHTS INTO THE PROGRESS OF THE DOM:
- The development of technologies for deep-sea mining and a crewed submersible, named Matsya6000, is led by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
- Matsya6000 is designed to reach a depth of 6,000 meters and has been through the initial design phase.
- Testing and experimentation will be conducted at a depth of 500 meters within a year, with the goal of realizing its full 6,000-meter capability within two to three years.
- The Ministry is also working on an integrated system to mine polymetallic nodules.
- The decision to target a depth of 6,000 meters is strategic, as it allows India to cater to both its Exclusive Economic Zone and the central Indian Ocean where valuable resources like polymetallic nodules are found.
CHALLENGES OF DEEP-OCEAN EXPLORATION:
- Deep-ocean exploration presents unique challenges due to high pressure, soft and muddy ocean bed surfaces, and the need to extract materials.
- Operating under high pressure requires specialized equipment.
- Visibility and communication are also significant hurdles in the deep oceans.
- Matsya6000 is India’s deep-ocean submersible designed for exploration.
- It accommodates three crew members and is constructed from durable materials to withstand high pressures.
- It has an array of scientific tools, cameras, lights, and communication systems.
- Matsya6000 combines features of remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous remote vehicles (AUVs) and is designed to operate untethered.
2. FISCAL DEFICIT
TAG: GS 3: ECONOMY
THE CONTEXT: The fiscal deficit of the central government in the first half of the 2023-24 financial year has risen to the 39.3% of the annual budget.
- Fiscal deficit of 2023-24 financial year is slightly higher than the 37.3% fiscal budget recorded in the same period in the previous year.
- In actual terms, the fiscal deficit at the end of September 2023 stood at ₹7.02 lakh crore. This indicates the budgetary gap between government spending and income during this period.
- The government had initially projected to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2023-24 financial year.
- In the previous financial year (2022-23), the fiscal deficit was 6.4% of the GDP, slightly lower than the initial estimate of 6.71%.
- Tax revenue reached ₹11.60 lakh crore, which is 49.8% of the annual target.
- The central government’s total expenditure for the first half of the 2023-24 financial year was ₹21.19 lakh crore, which is 47.1% of the budget estimate for the year.
- This expenditure figure is marginally higher than the corresponding period in the previous year.
- It is the gap between the government’s expenditure requirements and its receipts.
- This equals the money the government needs to borrow during the year.
- A surplus arises if receipts are more than expenditure.
- Fiscal Deficit = Total expenditure – (Revenue receipts + Non-debt creating capital receipts).
- It indicates the total borrowing requirements of the government from all sources.
- Gross fiscal deficit = Net borrowing at home + Borrowing from RBI + Borrowing from abroad
- The gross fiscal deficit is a key variable in judging the financial health of the public sector and the stability of the economy.
- The government’s ability to achieve the projected fiscal deficit target for the year will depend on various economic factors, including revenue collection and expenditure control in the coming months.
- Fiscal deficits are important indicators of a government’s financial health and its ability to manage its budget effectively.
3. BRAZZAVILLE SUMMIT OF THE THREE BASINS
TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
THE CONTEXT: Brazzaville Summit of the Three Basins took place in the Republic of Congo, bringing together delegates from countries in the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo-Mekong-Southeast Asia basins.
- The summit concluded with a declaration by the Heads of State and Government of States.
- It focused on biodiversity, tropical forests, and climate change.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DECLARATION:
- The declaration emphasizes the importance of the three ecosystems of biodiversity and tropical forests, which provide essential ecosystem services for humankind and sustainable development in the regions they cover.
- It acknowledges the significance of protecting tropical forests, which occupy one-third of the world’s land surface.
The seven-point declaration urged nations to:
- Recognise the value of enhanced cooperation between the three basins.
- Recognise that sovereign management of biodiversity, forests and associated resources of the three basins is essential.
- Develop solutions together.
- Pool and capitalise on existing knowledge, experience, resources and achievements.
- Involve all states and national authorities, including indigenous peoples, youth, women, civil society, academia and the private sector.
- Encourage financial mobilisation and the development of traditional and innovative financing mechanisms.
- Establish a sustainable system of remuneration for the ecosystem services provided by the three basins.
Climate Change and Financial Commitments:
- The declaration also addresses climate change and calls for the creation of a fund to address loss and damage due to climate change.
- It urges developed countries to meet their commitments, including providing $200 billion per year by 2030 for biodiversity and $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries.
- These financial commitments are set out in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
Disappointment with the Outcome:
- The civil society is disappointed, as the summit did not result in the formation of an Alliance of the three basins.
- Such an alliance would have served as a platform for joint initiatives and knowledge-sharing between the countries in these regions.
Importance of Protected Areas:
- The declaration acknowledges the significance of protected areas within these basins, which are home to a substantial portion of global biodiversity and forest cover.
- A report by the Forest Declaration Assessment, indicates that 4.1 million hectares of tropical forest were lost to deforestation in 2022.
- It points out that the majority of global deforestation (96%) occurs in tropical regions, underscoring the ongoing challenges in forest conservation and sustainable management.
4. MELTING OF THE WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET
TAG: GS 1: GEOGRAPHY
THE CONTEXT: Recently, a new study revealed that the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now unavoidable.
MELTING OF THE WEST ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET:
- The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is inevitable due to warming waters around it.
- This melting is happening at an alarming rate and will continue, even if global carbon emissions are significantly reduced.
- The West Antarctic ice sheet’s complete loss could raise global mean sea levels by 5.3 meters (17.4 feet).
- The study considers various climate scenarios, including the best-case scenario of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- However, even in this scenario, the West Antarctic ice sheet will continue to melt at an accelerated pace, with water warming three times faster than in the 20th century.
An illustration of most of Earth’s ice features, including the ice sheet.
CONSEQUENCES OF ICE SHEET MELTING:
- The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet has serious implications for coastal regions around the world, including India.
- A sea-level rise of this magnitude could be devastating for millions of people living in vulnerable coastal cities.
- It can lead to increased risks of flooding, erosion, and displacement.
WHAT IS AN ICE SHEET?
- Ice sheets are the massive masses of glacial ice that cover more than 50,000 square kilometers of land.
- The two major ice sheets in the world today are the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctica ice sheet.
Antarctica ice mass variation since 2002
- Ice Sheet Impact on Sea Level:
- When ice sheets lose mass, they contribute to a rise in global mean sea level.
- Conversely, when they gain mass, they contribute to a fall in global mean sea level.
- This provides context for understanding the significance of the West Antarctic ice sheet’s melting.
- How Ice Sheets Melt?
- In the case of the West Antarctic ice sheet, warm ocean waters melt the ice shelves, which are the edges of the ice sheet floating on the ocean.
- This can lead to the destabilization of land-based glaciers behind them, causing them to flow faster and discharge more ice into the ocean.
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION:
- Despite the bleak findings, the study emphasizes that the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is just one contributor to sea-level rise and one impact of climate change.
- We have reached the point where some impacts of climate change can no longer be avoided, and substantial ice loss in West Antarctica is probably one of them.
- There are many other impacts which we can still avoid or limit: like the loss of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, or the severity of heatwaves, droughts, and extreme rainfall.
- It underscores the importance of continued efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
5. WRIT PETITION AGAINST GOVERNOR
TAG: GS 2: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
THE CONTEXT: The Tamil Nadu government has moved a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Governor R.N. Ravi.
- The petition alleges that the Governor’s actions, particularly the delay in clearing crucial bills and government orders, are creating a “constitutional deadlock”.
- Governor’s actions are disrupting the day-to-day governance of the state.
- The writ petition filed in the Supreme Court seeks to address the perceived delays and inactions by the Governor.
- The government requests the court to declare these actions as unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, and malafide exercise of power.
- The Tamil Nadu government sees a growing conflict between the elected government and the Governor, leading to an impasse.
- The government contends that the Governor’s inactions have created a situation where he is positioned as a political rival to the elected government.
- Specific Issues Raised:
- These issues include the delay in granting approval for prosecutions and investigations into corruption cases involving public servants.
- The delayed approval of bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
- The Tamil Nadu government is asking the Supreme Court to set a specific deadline or “outer time limit” within which the Governor should consider pending bills and government orders.
ALLEGATIONS OF POLITICALLY MOTIVATED CONDUCT:
- The petition accuses the Governor of engaging in “politically motivated conduct” by denying sanctions for investigations into corruption cases despite evidence.
- It cites instances where the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court have approved inquiries that the Governor allegedly obstructed.
- A delegation of elected representatives, led by the State Law Minister, met with the President to seek her intervention in directing the Governor to act in accordance with the Constitution.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS RELATED TO THE GOVERNOR
- Article 153 says that there shall be a Governor for each State. One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
- A Governor is appointed by the President and is a nominee of the Central Government.
- It is stated that the Governor has a dual role.
- He is the constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers (CoM).
- He functions as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government.
- Articles 157 and 158 specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor. A governor must:
- Be a citizen of India.
- Be at least 35 years of age.
- Not be a member of the either house of the parliament or house of the state legislature.
- Not hold any office of profit.
- Governor has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, etc. (Article 161).
- There is a CoM with the CM at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except some conditions for discretion. (Article 163).
- The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and other Ministers (Article 164).
- Governor assents, withholds assent, or reserves the bill for the consideration of the President passed by the Legislative Assembly (Article 200).
- Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances (Article 213).
- Governor’s role:
- The Governor holds a constitutional position and is expected to perform specific functions, including granting assent to bills passed by the state legislature and ensuring the proper functioning of state administration.
- The Governor’s actions are perceived as a hindrance to these responsibilities.