INDIA’s GAGANYAAN MISSION

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: Prime Minister recently announced the names of four astronauts for India’s inaugural crewed space mission, Gaganyaan.

EXPLANATION:

  • This significant milestone aligns with India’s aspirations to explore human spaceflight.
  • All four, from the Indian Air Force, bring extensive test pilot experience and are currently undergoing training, emphasizing the meticulous preparation for the mission. Their training includes continuous sessions on subsystem simulators, contributing to the crew module design’s development.
  • The Gaganyaan mission comprises an unmanned test flight (Gaganyaan-1) and a subsequent manned mission, aiming to place a three-member crew into a low earth orbit.

Unmanned Test Flight – Gaganyaan-1:

  • It is a mission of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and aims to send humans into space on a Low Earth Orbit of 400 km for 3 days and bring them safely back to the Earth.
  • The initial phase involves Gaganyaan-1, an unmanned test flight scheduled for the end of 2024.
  • This mission aims to assess technology readiness, featuring a crew module without the Environment Control and Life Support System.
  • The focus is on testing safe re-entry and module orientation during splashdown in the sea.
  • Components – Crew module (CM) and the service module (SM), which together will form the orbital module.
    • Crew Module– It is the habitable space with Earth like environment in space for the crew and is designed for re-entry to ensure safety of the crew during descent till touchdown.
    • Service Module– It is an unpressurized structure that will be used for providing necessary support to CM while in orbit.

Launch Vehicle Preparation:

  • India’s LVM3 rocket, known for its reliability, is chosen for the Gaganyaan missions.
  • The rocket’s human rating is ensured through rigorous testing, with the cryogenic engine (CE20) passing final tests on February 14.
  • The Vikas engine and solid booster have also met mission requirements. This emphasizes the critical role of the launch vehicle in the success of the mission.

Crew Module and Escape System:

  • Development of life support systems and emergency escape provisions is integral to human spaceflight.
  • Gaganyaan-1 will involve an unpressurized crew module, while a subsequent unmanned flight will test a pressurized module with a complete life support system.
  • Experimentation with the Crew Escape System, including drogue chute deployment and module uprighting systems, ensures crew safety during emergencies and re-entry.

Ongoing Challenges and Future Steps:

  • ISRO acknowledges the uniqueness of the Gaganyaan mission, requiring continuous adjustments and learning.
  • The evolving nature of the project demands flexibility, with each test contributing to refining the mission’s components.
  • The completion of Gaganyaan-1 will set the stage for subsequent missions, including a manned three-day orbital flight.
  • These missions aim to deepen insights into space technology, enhance diagnostic methods, and contribute to personalized drug development.

Conclusion:

  • India’s Gaganyaan mission represents a monumental leap in space exploration, with meticulous planning, testing, and astronaut training shaping its trajectory. PM Modi’s announcement of astronauts underscores the nation’s commitment to advancing its space capabilities. As Gaganyaan progresses, it is poised to contribute significantly to scientific advancements and inspire the next generation of space enthusiasts.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-sci-tech/astronauts-gaganyaan-mission-status-9184079/




GOVERNMENT COMPLETES ‘10,000 GENOME’ PROJECT

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has officially announced the successful completion of the ‘10,000 Genome’ project, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at creating a comprehensive reference database of whole-genome sequences from India’s diverse population.

EXPLANATION:

  • This milestone is crucial for understanding genetic variations unique to India and holds the potential to customize drugs and therapies based on this genomic data.

Genome India Project:

  • It is a scientific initiative inspired by the Human Genome Project (HGP), an international effort that successfully decoded the entire human genome between 1990 and 2003.
  • The project was started in 2020, aiming to better understand the genetic variations and disease-causing mutations specific to the Indian population, which is one of the most genetically diverse in the world.
  • By sequencing and analyzing these genomes, researchers hope to gain insights into the underlying genetic causes of diseases and develop more effective personalized therapies.
  • The project involves the collaboration of 20 institutions across India and is being led by the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
  • The project involved around 20 institutions across India, with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, serving as lead institutions.
  • The primary goal was to establish a representative genomic database that reflects the genetic diversity of India’s 1.3 billion population, which comprises over 4,600 distinct population groups, many of which are endogamous.

Significance of Genetic Diversity:

  • India’s genetic diversity is a result of the numerous population groups and endogamous practices.
  • This diversity often leads to distinct genetic variations, and the project aims to identify unique genetic variants within these groups.
  • The prevalence of disease-causing mutations in specific endogamous groups highlights the need for a thorough understanding of these genetic variations.
  • The revolutionary nature of the initiative and the need for continued efforts to sample thousands more genomes to identify rare mutations have been emphasized.

Project Outcomes:

  • The ‘10,000 Genome’ project is expected to yield several outcomes, including
    • deeper understanding of India’s population diversity,
    • improved diagnostic and
    • medical counseling methods,
    • identification of genetic predispositions to diseases,
    • development of personalized drugs,
    • advancements in gene therapy, and
    • insights into individual susceptibility to infectious diseases.
  • Y. Narahari from IISc highlighted the establishment of a biobank containing 20,000 blood samples, from which the genomes were sequenced.
  • The biobank is located at the Centre for Brain Research, IISc. Data archiving is being carried out at the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC), emphasizing transparency, collaboration, and future research endeavors.

Conclusion:

  • The successful completion of the ‘10,000 Genome’ project marks a significant achievement in genomics, positioning India to leverage its unique genetic diversity for advancements in medical research, drug development, and personalized healthcare. The project’s commitment to transparency and collaboration, coupled with the establishment of a robust biobank, underscores its potential to drive future research initiatives in genomics and healthcare.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/10000-genome-project-completed-says-govt/article67892472.ece




JUSTICE A M KHANWILKAR APPOINTED AS LOKPAL CHAIRPERSON

TAG: GS 2: POLITY

THE CONTEXT: Former Supreme Court judge Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar has been appointed as the chairperson of Lokpal, as announced recently.

EXPLANATION:

  • The Lokpal, a crucial anti-corruption ombudsman institution, has been functioning without a regular chief since Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose completed his term on May 27, 2022.
  • President appointed Justice as the chairperson of Lokpal, in accordance with a communique issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
  • Additionally, the notification revealed the appointment of judicial members and non-judicial members.
  • The chairperson and members of the Lokpal are appointed by the President based on the recommendations of a Selection Committee.
  • The Prime Minister chairs this committee.
  • The Lokpal, as per its structure, can have a total of eight members, comprising four judicial and four non-judicial members.

Lokpal:

  • The Lokpal is the first institution of its kind in independent India,established under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 to inquire and investigate into allegations of corruption against public functionaries who fall within the scope and ambit of the above Act.
  • The Lokpal of India is committed to address concerns and aspirations of the citizens of India for clean governance.
  • It shall make all efforts within its jurisdiction to serve the public interest and shall endeavor to use the powers vested in it to eradicate corruption in public life.
  • India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
  • The commitment of the Government to provide clean and responsive governance is reflected in passing of the legislation and creation of the body of Lokpal, to contain and punish acts of corruption.

Key provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013:

  • Selection Committee: which includes the Prime Minister as Chairperson, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and one eminent jurist appointed by President.
  • Jurisdiction includes the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and group A, B, C, and D of government employees.
  • It is composed of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, with half of them being judicial members. 50% of members belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, and women.
  • It has the power of superintendence and directs any investigative agency, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, for cases referred to it by the Lokpal.

Conclusion:

  • Justice A M Khanwilkar’s appointment as the chairperson of Lokpal, along with the appointment of other members, signifies a significant step towards strengthening the anti-corruption framework in India. His extensive judicial experience and involvement in landmark cases add weight to his role in leading the Lokpal, contributing to the institution’s effective functioning in combating corruption.

SOURCE: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/exsc-judge-justice-a-m-khanwilkar-is-now-lokpal-chairperson-101709043679491.html




GENIE: GOOGLE DEEPMIND’s REVOLUTIONARY AI FOR VIRTUAL WORLD CREATION

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: In a groundbreaking development, Google DeepMind introduces Genie, an innovative AI model designed to generate interactive video games from text or image prompts, revolutionizing the landscape of virtual world creation.

EXPLANATION:

  • This experimental model holds the promise of allowing users, even those without prior game mechanics knowledge, to craft their own immersive and fantastical environments.

Genesis of Genie:

  • The Essence of Video Games:
    • The allure of video games lies in their ability to transport players into alternate realities.
    • Genie, developed by researchers at Google DeepMind, takes this concept a step further by empowering users to create their own fictional worlds.
  • Unique Proposition:
    • Genie stands out as a generative AI model that constructs interactive environments solely based on a single text or image prompt, eliminating the need for prior training in game mechanics.

Understanding Genie’s Architecture:

  • Foundation World Model:
    • Genie is characterized as a foundation world model, trained on unlabelled internet videos.
    • The model boasts 11 billion parameters and comprises a spatiotemporal video tokenizer, an autoregressive dynamics model, and a scalable latent action model.
  • Unsupervised Learning:
    • Genie’s unique feature lies in being the first generative interactive environment trained in an unsupervised manner from diverse internet videos, enabling it to generate playable worlds from synthetic images, photographs, and sketches.

Genie in Action:

  • Playable Environments:
    • Genie allows users, including children, to envision and immerse themselves in generated worlds akin to human-designed simulated environments, even without explicit training on game mechanics.
  • Prompting with Images:
    • The model can be prompted with a single image, be it real-world photographs or sketches, breathing life into still images and creating a dynamic, interactive virtual space.

Training and Scalability:

  • Versatile Training:
    • While the focus of Genie’s training involves 2D platformer games and robotics videos, its design ensures scalability to larger internet datasets, providing adaptability across diverse domains.
  • Internet Video Learning:
    • A standout feature is Genie’s ability to learn and replicate controls for in-game characters solely from internet videos, overcoming the absence of labels or specific information about actions in the video.

Significance and Implications:

  • Control Reproduction:
    • Genie’s capacity to reproduce controls exclusively from internet videos represents a significant breakthrough, as it infers latent actions consistent across various generated environments.
  • Creating Interactive Environments:
    • The most distinctive aspect of Genie is its capability to craft entire interactive environments from a single image or text prompt, unlocking new possibilities for virtual world creation.

Towards General AI Agents:

  • Leap towards General AI:
    • Genie’s ability to learn and develop new world models from diverse prompts signifies a significant stride towards the development of general AI agents.
    • These agents interact with environments independently, perceiving their surroundings through sensors.

Deepmind:

  • DeepMind is a division of Alphabet, Inc. responsible for developing general-purpose artificial intelligence (AGI) technology. That technology is also known as Google DeepMind.
  • DeepMind uses raw pixel data as input and learns from experience. The AI uses deep learning on a convolutional neural network, with a model-free reinforcement learning technique called Q-learning.
  • While the idea of general purpose AI is controversial, Google set out to establish and improve their AI property on a wide variety of grounds. DeepMind technology has been challenged to learn games on its own.
  • For example, when it was tasked to beat the library of Atari games, it learned to understand the games without changing the code. After a time, the AI could play the games better and with more efficiency than humans.

Conclusion:

  • Genie emerges as a game-changer in the realm of artificial intelligence, promising users the ability to shape their own virtual realities with minimal constraints. Its capacity to bridge the gap between imagination and creation, coupled with its unsupervised learning from internet videos, positions Genie as a revolutionary step towards achieving more advanced and generalized AI capabilities. The potential for users to create entirely imagined virtual worlds heralds a new era in interactive digital experiences.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-sci-tech/google-deepmind-genie-ai-9184347/




OBELISKS: A NEW FRONTIER IN THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: Recently, scientists at Stanford University have introduced a novel life form, ‘obelisks,’ discovered during the analysis of genetic material from bacteria in the human gut.

EXPLANATION:

  • The boundaries between the living and non-living realms have long been defined by viruses and viroids, challenging traditional notions of life.
  • This discovery further blurs the lines between the living and non-living, adding a new layer of complexity to our understanding of life.

Viruses, Viroids and obelisks:

  • Historical Context:
    • Since 1898, viruses have been the primary entities bridging the gap between living and non-living, characterized by host dependence and small genome sizes.
  • Viroids Emergence (1971):
    • Viroids, discovered by Theodor Diener, showcased a simpler form of life with naked RNA, lacking protein coats and lipid layers. Viroids presented an intriguing departure from traditional definitions of life.
  • Stanford’s Revelation:
    • Using next-generation sequencing (NGS), researchers at Stanford identified a new life form, ‘obelisks,’ in the genetic material of bacteria from the human gut.
  • NGS Technique:
    • The power of NGS is likened to assembling scattered pages in a library, allowing the reconstruction of genome sequences from bits and pieces obtained from different organisms.

Obelisks:

  • The Stanford team developed a software script to identify obelisks by looking for circular RNA genomes in bacterial RNA fragments.
  • Analysis of 5.4 million publicly available datasets revealed approximately 30,000 distinct obelisks in the human gut.
  • Further exploration found obelisks in oral bacteria on a global scale.
  • RNA Length and Coding:
    • Obelisk RNA, unlike viroids, is longer (around a thousand base pairs) and appears to code for two unique proteins, with no resemblance to known proteins from other life forms.
  • Comparative Analysis:
    • Despite circular RNA similarities with viroids, obelisks exhibit distinctive features, raising questions about their origin and function.

Challenges and Limitations:

  • The study faces challenges in attributing specific obelisks to their bacterial hosts due to analyzing RNA data collectively.
  • However, a link to Streptococcus sanguini was established through individual bacterial analysis.
  • Key questions arise about obelisks’ reproduction, transmission, potential pathogenicity, evolutionary history, and their role in human health and disease.
  • Proof of Concept: The connection of a specific obelisk to Streptococcus sanguini in laboratory-grown bacteria suggests a potential avenue for further exploration.

Viruses:

  • Viruses are microscopic organisms that can infect hosts, like humans, plants or animals. They’re a small piece of genetic information (DNA or RNA) inside of a protective shell (capsid). Some viruses also have an envelope. Viruses can’t reproduce without a host. Some common diseases caused by viruses include the flu, the common cold and COVID-19.

Viroids:

  • Viroids are non-coding circular RNA molecules with rod-like or branched structures.
  • They are often ribozymes, characterized by catalytic RNA. They can perform many basic functions of life and may have played a role in evolution since the beginning of life on Earth.
  • They can cleave, join, replicate, and undergo Darwinian evolution. Furthermore, ribozymes are the essential elements for protein synthesis of cellular organisms as parts of ribosomes.
  • Thus, they must have preceded DNA and proteins during evolution.

Conclusion:

  • The discovery of obelisks opens a new chapter in the exploration of life’s complexity, challenging preconceived notions and prompting further research. As scientists delve deeper into the mysteries of obelisks, a clearer understanding of their role in the intricate web of life may emerge, pushing the boundaries of our comprehension of living organisms. The distinction between the living and non-living at the far reaches of life continues to evolve, leaving the scientific community with a captivating and challenging frontier to explore.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/rna-obelisk-next-generation-sequencing/article67891037.ece




Day-602 | Daily MCQs | UPSC Prelims | HISTORY

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  1. Question 1 of 5
    1. Question

    1. Consider the following statements:
    Statement I: The Communal Award which allowed for the separate electorate to Depressed Classes was announced in Government of India Act, 1919.
    Statement II: Poona Pact laid down reserved seats for the Depressed Classes in the provincial legislatures for which elections would be through joint electorates.
    Which one of the following is correct in respect of the above statements?

    Correct

    Answer: D
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is incorrect: The Communal Award was created by the British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald on 16 August 1932. Also known as the MacDonald Award, it was announced after the Round Table Conference (1930–32) and extended the separate electorate to depressed Classes (now known as the Scheduled Caste) and other minorities. Gandhi was against this idea and he undertook a fast whilst in jail in Poona.
    Statement 2 is correct: Ambedkar and Gandhi made the Poona Pact which laid down reserved seats for the Depressed Classes in the provincial legislatures for which elections would be through joint electorates.
    Additional information:
    • The Poona Pact was an agreement between M K Gandhi and B R Ambedkar signed in the Yerwada Central Jail, Poona on September 24th, 1932 on behalf of the depressed class for the reservation of the electoral seats in the Legislature of the British Government.
    • Certain seats for the provincial legislatures would be reserved for the Depressed Classes. The number of seats was based on the total strength of the Provincial Councils. The number of seats reserved for the provinces was 30 for Madras, 8 for Punjab, 14 for Bombay with Sindh, 20 for the Central Provinces, 18 for Bihar and Orissa, 30 for Bengal, 7 for Assam and 20 for the United Provinces. So, in total there were 147 reserved seats.
    • For each of these seats, the members of the Depressed Classes who could vote would form an electoral college.
    • This Electoral College would elect a panel of four candidates who belong to the Depressed Classes. These candidates would be elected on the basis of a single vote. Four candidates getting the highest number of votes would be elected.
    • Then these four candidates would stand in the election for the assembly along with the general candidates where the general electorate would vote. The members of the Depressed Classes hence got a ‘double vote’ since they could vote under the general electorate also.
    • Even in the Central Legislature, the same principle of the joint electorate and reserved seats was to be followed.
    • In the Central Legislature, 19% of the seats would be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
    • This system would continue for ten years unless a mutual agreement consents to terminate it earlier.
    • Fair representation of the Depressed Classes would be ensured by all means.

    Incorrect

    Answer: D
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is incorrect: The Communal Award was created by the British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald on 16 August 1932. Also known as the MacDonald Award, it was announced after the Round Table Conference (1930–32) and extended the separate electorate to depressed Classes (now known as the Scheduled Caste) and other minorities. Gandhi was against this idea and he undertook a fast whilst in jail in Poona.
    Statement 2 is correct: Ambedkar and Gandhi made the Poona Pact which laid down reserved seats for the Depressed Classes in the provincial legislatures for which elections would be through joint electorates.
    Additional information:
    • The Poona Pact was an agreement between M K Gandhi and B R Ambedkar signed in the Yerwada Central Jail, Poona on September 24th, 1932 on behalf of the depressed class for the reservation of the electoral seats in the Legislature of the British Government.
    • Certain seats for the provincial legislatures would be reserved for the Depressed Classes. The number of seats was based on the total strength of the Provincial Councils. The number of seats reserved for the provinces was 30 for Madras, 8 for Punjab, 14 for Bombay with Sindh, 20 for the Central Provinces, 18 for Bihar and Orissa, 30 for Bengal, 7 for Assam and 20 for the United Provinces. So, in total there were 147 reserved seats.
    • For each of these seats, the members of the Depressed Classes who could vote would form an electoral college.
    • This Electoral College would elect a panel of four candidates who belong to the Depressed Classes. These candidates would be elected on the basis of a single vote. Four candidates getting the highest number of votes would be elected.
    • Then these four candidates would stand in the election for the assembly along with the general candidates where the general electorate would vote. The members of the Depressed Classes hence got a ‘double vote’ since they could vote under the general electorate also.
    • Even in the Central Legislature, the same principle of the joint electorate and reserved seats was to be followed.
    • In the Central Legislature, 19% of the seats would be reserved for the Depressed Classes.
    • This system would continue for ten years unless a mutual agreement consents to terminate it earlier.
    • Fair representation of the Depressed Classes would be ensured by all means.

  2. Question 2 of 5
    2. Question

    2. Which of the following is not one of the features of the Delhi Sultanate architecture?

    Correct

    Answer: D
    Explanation:
    Features of Delhi Sultanate:
    Features of the Delhi Sultanate architecture:
    1) Large courtyards and gardens for public gatherings
    2) Fusion of Hindu and Islamic styles like lotus and bell-shaped domes
    3) Use of red sandstone as a primary building material
    Additional information:
    • The Delhi Sultanate period is one of the most significant and interesting periods in the history of Indian architecture. This period saw a huge transformation in the architectural landscape of India, with many new monuments and buildings being constructed.
    • Delhi Sultanate Architecture refers to the architectural style which rose under the Delhi sultans. It started in the 13th and continued till the 16th century. It was marked by the synthesis of Indian and Islamic architectural elements. Persian and Central Asian styles have an impact on them.
    • Some other features of the Delhi Sultanate Architecture:
     Use of local materials such as sandstone and marble
     Construction of new cities, such as Jahanpanah and Firozabad
     Development of a unique Islamic style that blended elements from Persia and Central Asia with Indian influences.
     Arch and Dome’s construction was popular
     Pillars, Jalis, and Chhatris were used for decoration
     Minarets were used to call people to prayer
     Slab and Beam construction was used for roofs

    Incorrect

    Answer: D
    Explanation:
    Features of Delhi Sultanate:
    Features of the Delhi Sultanate architecture:
    1) Large courtyards and gardens for public gatherings
    2) Fusion of Hindu and Islamic styles like lotus and bell-shaped domes
    3) Use of red sandstone as a primary building material
    Additional information:
    • The Delhi Sultanate period is one of the most significant and interesting periods in the history of Indian architecture. This period saw a huge transformation in the architectural landscape of India, with many new monuments and buildings being constructed.
    • Delhi Sultanate Architecture refers to the architectural style which rose under the Delhi sultans. It started in the 13th and continued till the 16th century. It was marked by the synthesis of Indian and Islamic architectural elements. Persian and Central Asian styles have an impact on them.
    • Some other features of the Delhi Sultanate Architecture:
     Use of local materials such as sandstone and marble
     Construction of new cities, such as Jahanpanah and Firozabad
     Development of a unique Islamic style that blended elements from Persia and Central Asia with Indian influences.
     Arch and Dome’s construction was popular
     Pillars, Jalis, and Chhatris were used for decoration
     Minarets were used to call people to prayer
     Slab and Beam construction was used for roofs

  3. Question 3 of 5
    3. Question

    3. Consider the following statements:
    1. The Virupaksha temple at Hampi was built by Krishnadeva Raya under the Vijayanagara empire in 1509.
    2. The Vijaya Vittala temple having its 56 carved pillars emitting musical notes located at Madurai is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
    3. Angkor Vat temple located in Cambodia dedicated to Lord Shiva was built by Suryavarman II.
    How many of the statements given above are correct?

    Correct

    Answer: A
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is correct: The Virupaksha temple at Hampi was built by Krishnadeva Raya under Vijayanagara empire in 1509.
    Statement 2 is incorrect: The Vijaya Vittala temple having its 56 carved pillars emitting musical notes, is located at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. It is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
    Statement 3 is incorrect: Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in 1113-1150 by Suryavarman II. It was firstly a Hindu temple but later it went under Buddhist regime.
    Additional information:
    • Virupaksha Temple is located in Hampi in the Vijayanagara district of Karnataka, India. It is part of the Group of Monuments at Hampi, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to Sri Virupaksha.
    • The temple was built by Lakkan Dandesha, a nayaka (chieftain) under the ruler Deva Raya II also known as Prauda Deva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire.

    • The Vittala Temple or Vitthala Temple in Hampi is an ancient monument that is well-known for its exceptional architecture and unmatched craftsmanship.
    • It is considered to be one of the largest and the most famous structure in Hampi. The temple is located in the north eastern part of Hampi, near the banks of the Tungabhadra River. The renowned Vittala Temple dates back to the 15th century.
    • It was built during the reign of King Devaraya II (1422 – 1446 A.D.), one of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Several portions of the temple were expanded and enhanced during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya (1509 – 1529 A.D.), the most famous ruler of the Vijayanagara dynasty.

    • Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia, resides within the ancient Khmer capital city of Angkor.
    • The Guinness World Records considers it as the largest religious structure in the world.
    • Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire by King Suryavarman II during the 12th century.
    • It was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the century; as such, it is also described as a “Hindu-Buddhist” temple.

    Incorrect

    Answer: A
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is correct: The Virupaksha temple at Hampi was built by Krishnadeva Raya under Vijayanagara empire in 1509.
    Statement 2 is incorrect: The Vijaya Vittala temple having its 56 carved pillars emitting musical notes, is located at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. It is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
    Statement 3 is incorrect: Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in 1113-1150 by Suryavarman II. It was firstly a Hindu temple but later it went under Buddhist regime.
    Additional information:
    • Virupaksha Temple is located in Hampi in the Vijayanagara district of Karnataka, India. It is part of the Group of Monuments at Hampi, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to Sri Virupaksha.
    • The temple was built by Lakkan Dandesha, a nayaka (chieftain) under the ruler Deva Raya II also known as Prauda Deva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire.

    • The Vittala Temple or Vitthala Temple in Hampi is an ancient monument that is well-known for its exceptional architecture and unmatched craftsmanship.
    • It is considered to be one of the largest and the most famous structure in Hampi. The temple is located in the north eastern part of Hampi, near the banks of the Tungabhadra River. The renowned Vittala Temple dates back to the 15th century.
    • It was built during the reign of King Devaraya II (1422 – 1446 A.D.), one of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Several portions of the temple were expanded and enhanced during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya (1509 – 1529 A.D.), the most famous ruler of the Vijayanagara dynasty.

    • Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia, resides within the ancient Khmer capital city of Angkor.
    • The Guinness World Records considers it as the largest religious structure in the world.
    • Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire by King Suryavarman II during the 12th century.
    • It was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the century; as such, it is also described as a “Hindu-Buddhist” temple.

  4. Question 4 of 5
    4. Question

    4. Consider the following statements:
    1. Barabar caves were built during the Gupta period.
    2. Sanchi stupa does not have mural paintings.
    3. Ajanta caves were constructed by the kings of Chalukya dynasty.
    4. Pahari paintings belong to Mughal and post-Mughal periods.
    How many of the statements given above are correct?

    Correct

    Answer: B
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is incorrect: Barabar caves built during 3rd century BCE belonged to the period of Ashoka and his son Dasaratha.
    Statement 2 is correct: The Sanchi stupa does not have mural paintings.
    Statement 3 is incorrect: Ajanta caves were constructed by the Rashtrakutas and Satvahanas.
    Statement 4 is correct: Pahari paintings belong to Mughal and post-Mughal periods.
    Additional information:
    • The Barabar Hill Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, dating from the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), some with Ashokan inscriptions, located in the Makhdumpur region of Jehanabad district, Bihar, India, 24 km (15 mi) north of Gaya.
    • The caves were used by ascetics from the Ajivika sect, founded by Makkhali Gosala, a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and of Mahavira, the last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism.
    • The Ajivikas had many similarities with Buddhism as well as Jainism. Also present at the site are several rock-cut Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and inscriptions from later periods.

    • Sanchi Stupa is a Buddhist complex, famous for its Great Stupa, on a hilltop at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of the State of Madhya Pradesh, India.
    • It is located, about 23 kilometers from Raisen town, district headquarter and 46 kilometres north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh.
    • The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India, and an important monument of Indian Architecture.
    • It was originally commissioned by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.

    • The Ajanta Caves are 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the second century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad District of Maharashtra state in India. Ajanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • Universally regarded as masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, the caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.

    • The Pahari school developed and flourished during 17th-19th centuries stretching from Jammu to Garhwal, in the sub-Himalayan India, through Himachal Pradesh.
    • The central theme of Pahari painting is depiction of eternal love of Hindu deities Radha and Krishna.
    • A distinct lyricism, spontaneous rhythm, softness, minute intricate details of composition, and intense perception and portrayal of human emotions and physical features distinguish the Pahari miniatures from the other miniature schools like Deccan, Mughal and Rajasthani-Rajput.

    Incorrect

    Answer: B
    Explanation:
    Statement 1 is incorrect: Barabar caves built during 3rd century BCE belonged to the period of Ashoka and his son Dasaratha.
    Statement 2 is correct: The Sanchi stupa does not have mural paintings.
    Statement 3 is incorrect: Ajanta caves were constructed by the Rashtrakutas and Satvahanas.
    Statement 4 is correct: Pahari paintings belong to Mughal and post-Mughal periods.
    Additional information:
    • The Barabar Hill Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, dating from the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), some with Ashokan inscriptions, located in the Makhdumpur region of Jehanabad district, Bihar, India, 24 km (15 mi) north of Gaya.
    • The caves were used by ascetics from the Ajivika sect, founded by Makkhali Gosala, a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and of Mahavira, the last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism.
    • The Ajivikas had many similarities with Buddhism as well as Jainism. Also present at the site are several rock-cut Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and inscriptions from later periods.

    • Sanchi Stupa is a Buddhist complex, famous for its Great Stupa, on a hilltop at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of the State of Madhya Pradesh, India.
    • It is located, about 23 kilometers from Raisen town, district headquarter and 46 kilometres north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh.
    • The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India, and an important monument of Indian Architecture.
    • It was originally commissioned by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.

    • The Ajanta Caves are 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the second century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad District of Maharashtra state in India. Ajanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • Universally regarded as masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, the caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.

    • The Pahari school developed and flourished during 17th-19th centuries stretching from Jammu to Garhwal, in the sub-Himalayan India, through Himachal Pradesh.
    • The central theme of Pahari painting is depiction of eternal love of Hindu deities Radha and Krishna.
    • A distinct lyricism, spontaneous rhythm, softness, minute intricate details of composition, and intense perception and portrayal of human emotions and physical features distinguish the Pahari miniatures from the other miniature schools like Deccan, Mughal and Rajasthani-Rajput.

  5. Question 5 of 5
    5. Question

    5. Consider the following pairs:
    Literature Texts – Authors
    1. Rasaratna Samuccaya – Brahmagupta
    2. Brihat Samhita – Varahamihir
    3. Siddhanta Shiromani – Nagarjuna
    How many of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

    Correct

    Answer: A
    Explanation:
    Given below is the correctly matched pairs:
    Literature Texts – Authors
    1. Rasaratna Samuccaya – Vagbhaṭa
    2. Brihat Samhita – Varahamihir
    3. Siddhanta Shiromani – Bhaskara II
    Additional information:
    • Rasaratna Samuchaya: Rasaratna Samuccaya is an Indian Sanskrit treatise on alchemy. The text is dated between 13th to 16th century CE. The text contains detailed descriptions of various complex metallurgical processes, as well as descriptions of how to set up and equip a laboratory and other topics concerning Indian alchemy.
    • Brihat Samhita: Brihat-saṃhita is a 6th-century Sanskrit-language encyclopedia compiled by Varahamihira in present-day Ujjain, India. Besides the author’s area of expertise—astrology and astronomy—the work contains a wide variety of other topics. The contents of the text fall into two major categories: anga and upanga. The anga discusses divination based on planets, asterisms, and zodiac signs. The upanga discusses a wide variety of other topics, as listed above. Varahamihira does not discuss several traditional topics which he considers legendary and unscientific.
    • Siddhanta Shiromani: Siddhanta Shiromani is the major treatise of Indian mathematician Bhaskara II. He wrote the Siddhanta Shiromani in 1150 when he was 36 years old. The work is composed in Sanskrit Language in 1450 verses.
    1. Lilavati: It is the first volume of the Siddhanta Shiromani. It contains thirteen chapters, 278 verses, mainly arithmetic and measurement.
    2. Bijaganita: It is the second volume of Siddhanta Shiromani. It is divided into six parts, contains 213 verses, and is devoted to algebra.

    Incorrect

    Answer: A
    Explanation:
    Given below is the correctly matched pairs:
    Literature Texts – Authors
    1. Rasaratna Samuccaya – Vagbhaṭa
    2. Brihat Samhita – Varahamihir
    3. Siddhanta Shiromani – Bhaskara II
    Additional information:
    • Rasaratna Samuchaya: Rasaratna Samuccaya is an Indian Sanskrit treatise on alchemy. The text is dated between 13th to 16th century CE. The text contains detailed descriptions of various complex metallurgical processes, as well as descriptions of how to set up and equip a laboratory and other topics concerning Indian alchemy.
    • Brihat Samhita: Brihat-saṃhita is a 6th-century Sanskrit-language encyclopedia compiled by Varahamihira in present-day Ujjain, India. Besides the author’s area of expertise—astrology and astronomy—the work contains a wide variety of other topics. The contents of the text fall into two major categories: anga and upanga. The anga discusses divination based on planets, asterisms, and zodiac signs. The upanga discusses a wide variety of other topics, as listed above. Varahamihira does not discuss several traditional topics which he considers legendary and unscientific.
    • Siddhanta Shiromani: Siddhanta Shiromani is the major treatise of Indian mathematician Bhaskara II. He wrote the Siddhanta Shiromani in 1150 when he was 36 years old. The work is composed in Sanskrit Language in 1450 verses.
    1. Lilavati: It is the first volume of the Siddhanta Shiromani. It contains thirteen chapters, 278 verses, mainly arithmetic and measurement.
    2. Bijaganita: It is the second volume of Siddhanta Shiromani. It is divided into six parts, contains 213 verses, and is devoted to algebra.

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STRENGTH VS REASON: ON LEGISLATION AND RESERVATION TO CERTAIN SOCIAL GROUPS

THE CONTEXT: The Maharashtra Assembly has unanimously passed Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Bill, 2024. It aims to set aside 10% reservation for the Marathas under socially and educationally backward categories in jobs and education.

MORE ON THE NEWS:

  • The Bill was formulated based on a report of the Justice (retired) Sunil B Shukre-led Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).
  • However, at least two previous legislation extending quota to Marathas have failed legal challenge.

THE SHUKRE COMMISSION

  • The committee to determine the status of the Marathas was set up in December 2023 with Justice (retd) Sunil B Shukre of the Bombay High Court as chairperson.
  • The Shukre commission notes that the population of Marathas in the state is 28%, while 84% of them are not advanced, adding that such a large backward community cannot be added into the OBC bracket.
  • The Commission describes extreme poverty, decline in agricultural income, and partitions in land holdings as reasons for the current status of the Marathas.
  • The panel finds inadequate representation of the community in all sectors of public services, and says the Marathas have remained “completely out of the mainstream” due to their backwardness.
  • It calls for separate reservation to the Marathas to increase their representation in government jobs and developed sectors.

BACKGROUND OF THE MARATHA RESERVATION DEMAND:

  • 2017: A 11-member commission headed by Retired Justice N G Gaikwad recommended Marathas should be given reservation under Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
  • 2018: Maharashtra Assembly passed a Bill proposing 16% reservation for Maratha community. The Bombay High Court while upholding the reservation pointed out that instead of 16% it should be reduced to 12% in education and 13% in jobs.
  • 2020: The Supreme Court of India stayed its implementation and referred the case to the Chief Justice of India for a larger bench.
  • 2021: Supreme Court struck down the Maratha reservation in 2021 citing the 50% cap on total reservations it had set in 1992. The Maratha reservation of 12% and 13% (in education and jobs) had increased the overall reservation ceiling to 64% and 65%, respectively. The Bench unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd Constitution Amendment but differed on the question of whether it affected the power of states to identify SEBCs.

The Supreme Court highlighted that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law).

  • 2022: In November 2022, after the SC upheld the 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections, the state government said that until the issue of Maratha reservation is resolved, economically weaker members of the community can benefit from the EWS quota. The government had also said that a new dedicated panel will be formed for a detailed survey of the ‘backwardness’ of the community.

ISSUES:

  • Legislation passed in haste: The Opposition has targeted the Bill as government attempt to pass the legislation in a haste for electoral benefits.
  • Dubious bases: The Opposition has targeted the Bill that there were many errors in the draft of the Bill and that it was not clear about the basis of the decision “to give 10 percent reservation while showing 28% population for Marathas.
  • Community political dominance: One of the issues raised for the passing of Bill is political dominance of Maratha community. States have bowed down to popular demands for reservation to social groups which were not considered backward earlier.
  • Judicial scrutiny: Other previous pieces of legislation passed by the Maharashtra government to grant reservation to the Maratha community have been reversed or nullified by the higher judiciary. The top court had struck down the 2018 Act in May 2021 by citing the Indra Sawhney judgment (1992) that limited reservations to 50% and also held that only the Union government is empowered to identify socially and educationally backward classes to include them in the central list to avail reservations. Hence, this time as well the Bill is likely to face judicial scrutiny.
  • Dissent within the Maratha Community: Some activists and leaders within the Maratha community expressed dissatisfaction with the separate reservation, preferring inclusion within the OBC category.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Need for Comprehensive Approach: While reservation may address immediate concerns, it may not effectively address the root causes of Maratha’s backwardness. A holistic approach addressing issues like education, skill development, and infrastructure is essential for sustainable development.
  • Socio economic census: The issue of stratification with Maratha results from large differences in money and intellectual attainment within their community. It can be addressed by comprehensive socio-economic census alongside the delayed decennial Census. Such a census will establish the true nature of backwardness and discrimination across States and could even clarify a new means of providing affirmative action.
  • Withstand judicial scrutiny: Ensure that the Maratha Reservation Bill is legally sound and withstands judicial scrutiny by providing robust empirical data to justify the reservation beyond the 50% quota ceiling set by the Supreme Court.
  • Addressing root causes: Sustainable development initiatives addressing the root causes of backwardness should be prioritised over short-term considerations, aiming for inclusive growth and social justice for all communities.
  • Promoting social cohesion and inclusivity: Promote social cohesion and inclusivity by fostering understanding and support for affirmative action measures aimed at addressing historical injustices and promoting equity.

THE CONCLUSION:

Allocating quotas often result in more cases of discrimination and hard feelings towards other communities. However, the purpose of reservation is not to isolate a particular section but to make them part of mainstream society. Therefore, policy makers while dealing with sensitive matters like reservation policies must act wisely. The government should adopt integrated policies that combine reservation with targeted welfare programs to ensure holistic development for the community.

UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION

Q. Whether the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) can enforce the implementation of constitutional reservation for the Scheduled Castes in the religious minority institutions? Examine. (2018)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION

Q. Maratha reservation issue has been highly contentious and politically charged, with potential implications for Maharashtra’s social and political dynamics in the state. In this context, critically analyze the implications of recent legislation passed by the Maharashtra legislative assembly to grant reservation to Maratha community.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/strength-vs-reason-on-legislation-and-reservation-to-certain-social-groups/article67896349.ece




WHAT CONSUMPTION EXPENDITURE SURVEY LEAVES UNANSWERED

THE CONTEXT: The 2022-23 Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) is not comparable to previous surveys due to major methodology changes. With limited factsheet data released so far, it does not provide clear insights into changing consumption patterns or poverty trends. Complete findings are awaited to understand the current ground reality.

THE ISSUES:

  • Rural-Urban Inequality: Some HCES data indicate a fall in rural-urban inequality, with the urban average monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) being 72 percent more than the rural areas in 2022-23 compared to 84 percent in 2011-12. Nevertheless, this neglects rural-urban price differentials, and historical evidence shows that the rural-urban gap is a highly variable empirical phenomenon.
  • Changes in Consumption Patterns: The share of food expenditure has significantly decreased, with cereals’ share per average MPCE falling substantially in rural and urban areas. This comes with rising trends in the proportion of processed items, beverages, and other non-food products such as medical charges, conveyance, the cost of living, consumer services, and durable commodities.
  • Imputed Values for Social Welfare Items: The HCES now provides imputed values for items received or consumed free of cost under the social welfare programs. Nevertheless, the imputed values are only verifiable once unit-level price and quantity data become available.
  • Changes in Survey Design: The HCES design evolved significantly, bringing in three separate surveys for different groups of goods and several household visits and improving data collection methodologies, ensuring comparability with previous rounds and higher estimates because of these changes.
  • Inter-Caste Differences: The HCES data indicates that the midpoint of MPCE for the inter-caste gap has mostly stayed the same in the rural sector. The ratio of the average rural SC MPCE to higher-caste MPCE about others remained constant at 0.7. Nevertheless, urban statistics indicate reduced inter-group MPCE gaps among SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Developing Concordance Tables: Concordance tables can be developed whenever there are changes in item coverage between the two surveys, i.e., 2011-12 and 2022-23, that map items from the 2011-12 survey to those in the 2022-23 survey, and this will help to make better comparison over time. This involves thoroughly documenting changes in the item definition and categories. For instance, the United Nations Statistics Division provides guidelines for linking household survey data over time, even when methodologies change.
  • Transparent Reporting of Imputation Methods: The survey should provide detailed documentation on the methods used for imputing values for items received free of cost through social welfare programs. This includes the assumptions made, the source of unit-level price and quantity data, and the imputation process.
  • Longitudinal Panel Surveys: To capture changes in consumption patterns over time with minimal modifications in survey instruments, India may think of creating a longitudinal panel survey of households. This approach makes it possible to follow the same households for long periods, enabling the researchers to learn about the changes in consumption, income, and poverty.
  • Addressing Rural-Urban and Intra-Household Inequality: Further analysis of the HCES data should focus on understanding the drivers of rural-urban inequality and intra-household consumption differences. This may involve more detailed surveys or qualitative studies that explore the underlying factors contributing to observed disparities.
  • Engaging with Global Best Practices: Active interaction with international bodies such as the International Statistical Institute, ISI, or the International Household Survey Network, IHSN, allows drawing attention to the best survey re-designers practices and the measures improving data comparability. The lessons from the experience of the countries that have successfully handled the changes in the household surveys, for instance, the Netherlands or Sweden, can be instrumental.
  • Utilizing Technology and Big Data: Leveraging big data sources and advanced analytical techniques, including machine learning and AI, can augment traditional survey methods for a nuanced understanding of consumption patterns. For instance, transaction data from digital financial services can provide real-time insights into consumption behaviors. The World Bank’s LSMS+ initiative explores integrating big data with traditional surveys to enhance data quality and timeliness.

THE CONCLUSION:

While the methodological upgrades in the HCES signify progress toward capturing nuanced consumption data, they also underscore the necessity for comparability with historical data. Adopting concordance measures, transparency, and international best practices is essential to navigate these challenges. Doing so will ensure the survey’s ongoing relevance and utility in shaping effective policy and understanding economic dynamics.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1 Explain the difference between the computing methodology of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) before the year 2015 and after 2015. (2021)

Q.2 What is the meaning of the term tax-expenditure? Taking the housing sector as an example, discuss how it influences the government’s budgetary policies. (2013)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1 Examine the challenges posed by the methodological changes in the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) of 2022-23 for long-term trend analysis in India. Discuss the potential solutions to address these challenges and ensure the utility of such surveys for policy formulation and socio-economic analysis. Illustrate your answer with examples.

SOURCE:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/on-surrogacy-indian-law-goes-a-step-further-but-not-far-enough-9187014/




BURDEN OF POWER: ON INDIA’S ASTRONAUTS AND THE INDIAN SPACE POLICY

THE CONTEXT: The first mission flight, Gaganyaan, an unmanned test flight to check technology readiness, is expected by the end of 2024. The announcement was made at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thumba, Kerala after the ISRO had successfully tested the human readiness of the cryogenic engine that will be used on the Gaganyaan mission vehicles. This marks an important milestone in India’s space program.

MORE ON THE NEWS:

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)has signalled that, it expects to conduct two test flights of the human-rated Launch Vehicle Mark-3 rocket in 2024 and 2025 and the crewed launch in 2025.
  • ISRO centres and their collaborators in industry and academia have worked to bring the mission’s various components together while also negotiating delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ISRO’s commercial commitments. Now, with the astronauts’ names in the open, India is truly in the last mile.
  • Prime Minister announced four astronauts for Gaganyaan, India’s first crewed space mission. All four Indian Air Force officers have had extensive experience as test pilots and are currently in training for the mission.
  • PM bestowed them with the prestigious astronaut wings, described them as “four forces” who represent the aspirations and optimism of 1.4 billion Indians.

GAGANYAAN MISSION:

  • TheGaganyaan mission marks India’s ambitious endeavour to send humans into space. The Union Cabinet approved Gaganyaan in 2018 at a cost of ₹10,000 crore.
  • It consists of an Orbital Module (OM) comprising a Crew Module (CM) and a Service Module (SM), the mission prioritizes human safety through state-of-the-art avionics systems and innovative engineering solutions.
  • The CM, designed for human habitation in space, ensures a secure environment for astronauts during the mission, while the SM supports the CM’s functioning.

INDIAN SPACE POLICY 2023

  • The Government of India unleashed reforms in space domain in 2020, opening the doors for enhanced participation of Non-Governmental Entities (NGEs) in carrying out end-to-end activities in the space domain and with an aim to provide them a level playing field.
  • The Indian Space Policy 2023 approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on April 6,2023 has thus been formulated as an overarching, composite and dynamic framework to implement the reform vision approved by the government.

Vision

The Indian space policy vision is to:

  • enable, encourage and develop a flourishing commercial presence in space
  • use space as a driver of technology development and derived benefits in allied areas
  • pursue international relations
  • create an ecosystem for effective implementation of space applications among all stakeholders
  • nation’s socio-economic development and security
  • protection of environment and lives
  • pursuing peaceful exploration of outer space
  • stimulation of public awareness and scientific quest.

 Strategy of Indian space policy, 2023:

  • Government seeks to pursue a holistic approach by encouraging and promoting greater private sector participation in the entire value chain of the Space Economy, including in the creation of space and ground-based assets.

Towards this end, the Government shall focus on:

  1. Encouraging advanced Research & Development in space sector to sustain and augment the space program.
  2. Providing public goods and services using space technology for national priorities.
  • Creating a stable and predictable regulatory framework to provide a level playing field to Non-Government Entities in the Space sector through IN-SPACe.
  1. Promoting space-related education and innovation, including support to space-sector start-ups.
  2. Using space as a driver for overall technology development, nurture scientific temperament in the society, and increase awareness on space activities.

ISSUES FACED IN SPACE SECTOR:

  • Technical Challenges: Despite significant strides made by the private sector inIndia’s space domain, there remains a substantial journey ahead, posing a formidable challenge in developing cutting-edge technology for space missions demands that require substantial investment.
  • Financial Constraints: Balancing the costs of space exploration with other national priorities, such as healthcare and education, poses financial challenges. Also, maintaining sustained investment in space initiatives requires careful planning and support from the government.
  • International Competition: India faces competition with established space powers like the US, Russia, and China, who have made significant strides in space exploration. Striking a balance between collaborating with international space agencies and competingon the global stage is crucial.
  • Environmental Impact: Theenvironmental impact of space launches and operations needs to be managed responsibly as increased space activities contribute to space debris, which poses risks to both operational satellites and future space missions.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Skill Development: Investing in space-related skill development programscan create a workforce with the knowledge and expertise needed for innovative space projects. Establishment of Space Technology Incubation Centers is a good step in this direction.
  • Government-Industry Collaboration:Collaborative efforts between government agencies and private enterprises can leverage the strengths of both sectors to advance space exploration and technology.
  • Promote Indigenous Technologies: Encouraging the development of homegrown technologies ensures self-reliance and reduces dependence on external sources for space hardware.
  • Research and development: Indian Space Policy 2023 requires ISRO to “carry out applied research and development of newer systems so as to maintain India’s edge in human spaceflight and to develop a long-term roadmap for sustained human presence in space.
  • Immune from political interference: For technological, research, and commercial missions ISRO has received sufficient support from the Centre. It would be naive to believe an undertaking of this scale can be completely free of political capture, but Gaganyaan cannot be altogether politically motivated either and should be immune from politics.
  • Not focus on superpower status: Other countries, including China, may be technologically ahead, but India must keep the focus on scientific exploration and expanding human horizons, and not on achieving some ‘space superpower’ status. There should be a culture of space exploration that is truly democratic, rather than being motivated seemingly by geopolitical aspirations.

THE CONCLUSION:

Upcoming space missions such as Gaganyaan hold the potential to reshape our understanding of the space and enhance technological capabilities and solidify India’s position as a prominent player in the realm of space exploration. In this context, India should invest in space-related skill development programs to create a workforce with the knowledge and expertise for more innovative space projects.

UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS

Q.1  What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme? (2019)

Q.2  Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology helped India in its socio-economic development? (2016)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION

Q.1 As India is undoubtedly on a trajectory to become influential player in the global space community, scientific exploration not superpower status should drive India’s space programme. Comment.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/burden-of-power-indias-astronauts-and-the-indian-space-policy/article67892163.ece




THE CURRENT GLOBAL ORDER — A FRAYING AROUND MANY EDGES

THE CONTEXT: At the opening of the 55th regular session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary General remarked that the ‘lack of unity’ amongst UNSC members had perhaps undermined its authority. This indicates towards the troubled state of the world order which is in need of structural  reforms.

THE ISSUES:

  • Outdated Power Structures: Power structures are locked in the past, such as the permanent veto power of the first victors of World War II in the UNSC and the governance structures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Hence, they are seen as out of touch with the current global realities.
  • Challenges of Decolonization and Global Governance: The order of post-World War II was primarily established by colonial powers, and despite the decolonization process, the institutions they created still reflect an imbalance in power. The problems developing countries and former colonies encounter are highlighted in influencing these institutions because of the veto power and voting rights structures.
  • Rise of Alternative Institutions and Movements: The development of alternative groups and organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and others is an embodiment of the disapproval of the current global governance structure and attempts by these alternatives to gain and exert functional influence or to offer workable substitutes due to their limitations or the diversity and complexity of their membership.
  • Global Crises Exposing Systemic Weaknesses: Recent global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and several conflicts, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Gaza conflict, have revealed and magnified the flaws in the UN-led system to support cooperation globally, observe human rights, and manage conflicts well.
  • Questioning the Legitimacy and Effectiveness of the UN: The growing tendency by more powerful states to circumvent the UN or doubt its authority and functionality, especially when backing certain states or causes (i.e., in this case, Israel) becomes paramount over the principles the UN was created to uphold, such as human rights and the genocide convention.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Reforming the UNSC: There is a need to reform the UNSC to reflect the newer global power dynamics. This can be done by increasing the members to have new permanent and non-permanent members from regions that have been left out, restructuring the veto powers and bringing mechanisms that enhance a greater level of unity and constructive dialogue among the members.
  • Revise Voting Rights and Governance Structures: Concerning institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, adjusting voting rights and governance structures by accounting for the current economic situation and the member states’ contributions would increase legitimacy and effectiveness. This may involve the re-alignment of votes within the UN to enhance the power of the emerging economies and the development of leadership poles that are democratically selected rather than the traditional geopolitical allocations.
  • Strengthen Multilateralism: Stronger multilateral relations and commitments among nations are required to solve global challenges more effectively. It also implies revitalizing the existing international treaties and conventions and creating new treaties to address modern problems like cyber security, climate change, and global health security.
  • Enhance Global Governance Frameworks: Form and operationalize models enabling the UN to function in a handshake with various ad hoc international groupings (the G-20, EU, ASEAN, etc.) and regional organizations. That would also further facilitate the possibility of a concerted approach towards global challenges where regional institutions’ actions would fit in and complement the more universal global objectives.
  • Empower Civil Society and Non-State Actors: Enabling civil society organizations and other non-state actors to become more active and influential in the decision-making processes at the UN and other international organizations would promote a broader range of views and expertise. It could also embrace establishing formal mechanisms for participation, consultation, and influence that reflect the diversity and multi-dimensionality of global stakeholders.

THE CONCLUSION:

Based on the absolute authority of powerful forces, the current global system is ineffective in dealing with global crises. We need to demand action plans for a fair redistribution of resources and focus on creating a harmonious society. Together, we can achieve peacekeeping and a better world for all.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1) The World Bank and the IMF, collectively known as the Bretton Woods Institutions, are the two inter-governmental pillars supporting the world’s economic and financial order structure. The World Bank and the IMF exhibit many common characteristics, but their roles, functions, and mandates are distinctly different. Elucidate. (2013)

Q.2) What are the critical areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of the ‘Trade War’, especially considering India’s interests? (2018)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1) Discuss the challenges and inadequacies faced by the United Nations in the current global order. Evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of potential reforms to strengthen global governance in the 21st century.

SOURCE:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-current-global-order-a-fraying-around-many-edges/article67892912.ece




HUNGARY’S RATIFICATION OF SWEDEN’S NATO BID: A PIVOTAL MOMENT IN EUROPEAN SECURITY

TAG: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

THE CONTEXT: Hungary’s parliamentary ratification of Sweden’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bid marks a historic milestone in European security dynamics, ending over a year of delays that garnered international attention.

EXPLANATION:

  • We will explore the geopolitical context, the significance of Hungary’s approval, and the broader implications for NATO, Sweden, and the European security landscape.

Geopolitical Context

  • The backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 triggered a significant shift in the geopolitical landscape.
  • Sweden and Finland, traditionally non-aligned, sought NATO membership as a response to heightened regional security concerns.
  • The urgency to join the alliance reflected the evolving threat perceptions in Northern Europe.

Delays and Diplomatic Strains

  • While Finland swiftly became the 31st NATO member in April 2023, Sweden faced prolonged delays, primarily due to Hungary’s reluctance.
  • The diplomatic tensions and delays strained relations between NATO partners and left Ukraine in a precarious position amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Hungary’s Strategic Move

  • Hungary’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid is portrayed as a strategic move with multifaceted objectives.
  • Prime Minister of Hungary emphasis on strengthening military cooperation with Sweden suggests a nuanced approach to regional security dynamics. The acquisition of Swedish-made fighter jets further underscores Hungary’s commitment to enhancing its defense capabilities.

Diplomatic Maneuvering and Concessions

  • The diplomatic maneuvering between Hungarian Prime Minister of Hungary and his Swedish counterpart played a crucial role in securing Hungary’s approval.
  • Accusations of Sweden vilifying Hungary and the subsequent agreement on mutual intentions highlight the complexities of NATO accession and the importance of bilateral relations in such processes.

Domestic Politics and International Image

  • Analysts view Hungary’s delayed approval as a domestic political strategy, emphasizing Hungary president’s intent to showcase Hungary as a formidable player while maintaining popularity domestically.
  • The confrontational stance may not have yielded tangible concessions, but it could have bolstered his image within Hungary, where anti-European sentiments are carefully navigated.

Broader Implications for NATO

  • Hungary’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid signifies a unified front within the alliance, reinforcing the collective commitment to regional security.
  • The resolution of delays enhances NATO’s cohesion and demonstrates its adaptability amid evolving geopolitical challenges.
  • The accession of Sweden further expands NATO’s reach and influence in Northern Europe.

(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) NATO:

  • Formed in 1949 with the signing of the Washington Treaty, NATO is a security alliance of 30 countries from North America and Europe.
  • NATO’s fundamental goal is to safeguard the Allies’ freedom and security by political and military means.
  • NATO remains the principal security instrument of the transatlantic community and expression of its common democratic values.
  • Article 4 of the treaty ensures consultations among Allies on security matters of common interest, which have expanded from a narrowly defined Soviet threat to the critical mission in Afghanistan, as well as peacekeeping in Kosovo and new threats to security, such as cyber attacks, and global threats such as terrorism and piracy that affect the Alliance and its global network of partners.
  • Article 5 of the Washington Treaty — that an attack against one Ally is an attack against all — is at the core of the Alliance, a promise of collective defense.
  • It also conducts extensive training exercises and offers security support to partners around the globe, including the European Union in particular, but also the United Nations and the African Union.

Conclusion: Strengthening European Security

  • Hungary’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid is a pivotal moment in shaping the security landscape of Northern Europe. The collaborative efforts, diplomatic negotiations, and strategic considerations underscore the evolving dynamics within NATO and the imperative of collective security in the face of geopolitical uncertainties. As Sweden inches closer to formal NATO membership, the alliance solidifies its role as a key player in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

SOURCE: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/last-holdout-hungary-ratifies-swedens-nato-bid/articleshow/108020443.cms?from=mdr




PLIGHT OF OLIVE RIDLEY SEA TURTLES: UNRAVELING THE CAUSES AND NEGLIGENCE ON ODISHA’s COAST

TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: The alarming phenomenon of mass deaths among Olive Ridley sea turtles along the Odisha coast has raised concerns about the non-compliance with a crucial two-decade-old order issued by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by the Supreme Court.

EXPLANATION:

  • We will delve into the primary causes behind the distressing turtle deaths and shed light on the environmental and regulatory factors contributing to this crisis.

CEC’s Directive and State Compliance

  • A pivotal report has been submitted by CEC in 2004 following an SC order, with the aim of safeguarding Olive Ridley sea turtles.
  • The directive mandated a fishing ban within a 20-kilometer radius from the high tide line at specific mass nesting sites.
  • However, the state government’s partial implementation of the fishing ban, particularly in Rushikulya and Devi, points towards non-compliance.
  • The failure to enforce the fishing ban within the specified radius has allowed the use of prohibited fishing nets, posing a grave threat to Olive Ridley sea turtles.
  • Approximately 200,000 turtle deaths since 2000 underscore the severity of the issue.
  • The impact on the adult population and recruitment of smaller size classes could lead to a decline in the overall turtle population.
  • The CEC report identifies multiple sources of pollution, including the discharge of toxic pesticides and sediments from paddy fields, pollutants from a fertiliser factory in Paradip, and pollution from vessels near the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.
  • The Paradip port, labeled as one of the most polluted, raises concerns about the untreated waste from nearby factories and its detrimental effects on the marine ecosystem.

Odisha’s Fishing Industry and TED Non-compliance

  • The fishing industry, comprising 21,000 vessels, including 2,000 trawlers, is under scrutiny for its non-compliance with Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs).
  • While TEDs significantly reduce turtle capture, none of the trawlers along the Odisha coast are utilizing these devices.
  • The Fisheries Department’s failure to withhold license renewals for non-compliant trawlers exacerbates the issue.

Human Activities and Cargo Ship Risks

  • The extensive human population along the coastline, heavily reliant on marine resources, contributes to ecological stress on marine flora and fauna.
  • Large cargo ships’ proximity to turtle rookeries raises concerns about potential collisions and turtle fatalities.
  • The Paradip Trawler Owners Association’s resistance to using TEDs for fear of reduced catches further exacerbates the challenges.

Government Initiatives and Patrolling

  • The Odisha Forest Department, in collaboration with the fisheries department, marine police, and coast guard, has initiated patrolling exercises to safeguard Olive Ridley sea turtles.
  • However, the inefficiency of patrolling and the non-operational status of high-speed boats acquired for this purpose indicate gaps in the execution of conservation efforts.

Olive Ridley turtles:

  • The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
  • They are found to be inhabiting the warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
  • They are carnivores and feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs, and a variety of fish and their eggs.
  • The males and females grow to the same size.
  • These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  • The coast of Orissa in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.
  • The species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
  • They lie in Scheduled 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • They are in Appendix I of the CITES.

Central Empowered Committee (CEC):

  • The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) is a committee established in India to address environmental and conservation-related issues.
  • It was created by the Supreme Court of India to ensure compliance with its orders and directives concerning environmental conservation.
  • The CEC was initially set up in 2002 and reconstituted in 2008 to enhance its effectiveness in safeguarding the environment.
  • The jurisdiction of the committee extends to the whole of India.
  • The CEC is typically composed of a group of experts and officials with expertise in various aspects of environmental conservation.
  • This includes retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, retired Forest Service officers, legal experts, and environmentalists. The committee is usually chaired by a senior retired IAS officer.

Conclusion: Urgent Need for Action

  • The plight of Olive Ridley sea turtles on Odisha’s coast demands immediate attention and comprehensive action. The non-compliance with long-standing directives, coupled with pollution and inadequate conservation measures, poses a severe threat to these endangered species. A holistic approach, incorporating stringent enforcement of regulations, technological interventions like TEDs, and sustained awareness campaigns, is imperative to mitigate the crisis and ensure the survival of Olive Ridley sea turtles.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/why-are-olive-ridley-sea-turtles-dying-in-large-numbers-on-odisha-s-coast–94656




BITCOIN HALVING: IMPACT AND SIGNIFICANCE FOR CRYPTO ENTHUSIASTS

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: As the cryptocurrency community eagerly anticipates the upcoming Bitcoin Halving scheduled for April, it is crucial to understand the intricacies of this quadrennial event and its implications for investors.

EXPLANATION:

  • Much like the Olympics for the sporting world, the Bitcoin Halving holds a special place in the crypto calendar, affecting miners, traders, and the overall cryptocurrency market.
  • The Bitcoin Halving involves a 50% reduction in the reward granted to miners for successfully processing cryptocurrency transactions.
  • Miners, utilizing advanced computer equipment for ‘Proof of Work,’ play a pivotal role in expanding Bitcoin’s blockchain.
  • The reduction in rewards, occurring approximately every four years, impacts the dynamics of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

An Analogy: Grocery Store Cashiers and Gold Coins

  • A helpful analogy compares Bitcoin mining to a contest among grocery store cashiers.
  • The analogy illustrates the diminishing reward (gold coins) for miners over time.
  • This reduction raises questions about the worthiness of the effort invested, mirroring the sentiments of Bitcoin miners facing a reduced reward post-halving.

Bitcoin Mining and Scarcity

  • Bitcoin mining contributes to the circulation of BTC, while the Halving event reduces the rate of coin release, enhancing the asset’s scarcity.
  • This scarcity factor is often linked to an increase in Bitcoin prices, drawing parallels with precious metals like gold. With over 19 million BTC already mined, the Halving slows down the process, potentially influencing market dynamics.

Bitcoin Prices and Market Dynamics

  • The Halving’s impact on Bitcoin prices is a topic of considerable interest. The reduction in mining rewards from 50 BTC in 2009 to 3.125 BTC post-halving in 2020 reflects a shift in the landscape.
  • However, the actual value of the reward depends on Bitcoin prices in the market.
  • The current price of 1 BTC, around $49,528, underscores the significant potential value of the mining reward.

Global Reach of Bitcoin Miners

  • Bitcoin miners, both corporate and independent, span the globe, seeking optimal conditions such as cheap electricity.
  • The decentralization of mining operations, prompted by government crackdowns in China, showcases the industry’s resilience and adaptability.

Investor Perspectives and Responses

  • The impact of the Bitcoin Halving varies for different investors. Corporate miners, heavily invested in equipment and electricity, may intensify efforts to capitalize on the higher pre-halving rewards.
  • New traders might remain indifferent, while experienced ones could strategically adjust their Bitcoin investments, either anticipating a price surge or preparing for a potential crash.

The Unpredictable Nature of Bitcoin

  • Despite attempts to predict Bitcoin’s trajectory based on historical halving cycles, the reality remains unpredictable.
  • Numerous factors, including regulatory changes, global events, and investor sentiments, contribute to Bitcoin’s price fluctuations.
  • While halving is a notable event, investors are advised to rely on thorough research and personal judgment.

Bitcoin:

  • Bitcoin (BTC) is a cryptocurrency, a virtual currency designed to act as money and a form of payment outside the control of any one person, group, or entity, thus removing the need for third-party involvement in financial transactions.
    • Cryptocurrency, sometimes called crypto-currency or crypto, is any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions.
    • Cryptocurrencies don’t have central issuing or regulating authority, instead using a decentralized system to record transactions and issue new units.
  • It is rewarded to blockchain miners for verifying transactions and can be purchased on several exchanges.
  • Bitcoin was introduced to the public in 2009 by an anonymous developer or group of developers using the name Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • It has since become the most well-known cryptocurrency in the world. Its popularity has inspired the development of many other cryptocurrencies.

Conclusion

  • The Bitcoin Halving is a significant event in the cryptocurrency world, influencing mining rewards, market dynamics, and investor strategies. As the crypto community gears up for the upcoming halving, the long-term impact on Bitcoin prices and market behavior remains uncertain. Navigating through the unpredictable nature of Bitcoin, investors are encouraged to stay informed, conduct thorough research, and make decisions aligned with their individual perspectives and goals.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/what-is-bitcoin-halving-and-what-it-means-to-the-crypto-community-explainer/article67881278.ece




ERICSSON’S MASSIVE MIMO DEPLOYMENT: A GAME-CHANGER FOR AIRTEL’S 5G EXPANSION

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: In a groundbreaking move, Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications giant, has successfully deployed 100,000 ‘Massive MIMO 5G radios’ for Bharti Airtel across 12 circles in India.

EXPLANATION:

  • This marks a significant step towards enhancing Airtel’s 5G capabilities and expanding its network infrastructure.
  • ‘Massive MIMO’ (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology is at the forefront of advanced radio technologies, revolutionizing data capacity in narrowband networks without the need for additional spectrum.
    • Massive MIMO is a key enabler for the New Radio (NR) technology used in 5G networks.
    • It significantly enhances both network capacity and coverage.
    • Here are some of its benefits:
      • Spectral Efficiency: It allows more data to be transmitted simultaneously, improving overall efficiency.
      • Higher Throughput: Massive MIMO enables faster data rates for users.
      • Lower Interference: It minimizes interference between devices.
      • Extended Range: It can cover larger areas effectively.
    • Ericsson’s deployment of these cutting-edge radios aims to boost Airtel’s network capacity and deliver an enhanced 5G experience to its customers.
    • The deployment by Ericsson goes beyond Massive MIMO radios, encompassing energy-efficient Radio System products and solutions for the 5G Radio Access Network.
    • Additionally, Ericsson provides MINI-LINK (microwave) mobile transport portfolios, offering a holistic approach to optimizing Airtel’s network infrastructure.

Implications for Airtel’s Network

  • Airtel’s Chief Technology Officer emphasizes the positive impact of the Massive MIMO deployment, stating that over 65 million Airtel customers are already experiencing high-speed unlimited 5G data without incurring additional costs.
  • This development positions Airtel as a frontrunner in providing advanced 5G services to its widespread user base.

Airtel’s 5G Plus Service Expansion

  • The deployment aligns with Airtel’s commitment to extending its 5G Plus service across the entire country.
  • The service is already available in districts nationwide, with plans to cover the entire country by March 2024.
  • This ambitious timeline underscores Airtel’s determination to establish itself as a comprehensive 5G service provider.

Collaboration and Technological Advancements

  • In October 2023, Airtel and Ericsson collaborated to successfully test Ericsson’s pre-commercial Reduced Capability (RedCap) software on Airtel’s 5G network.
  • This collaboration involved Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and was a crucial step in validating RedCap in the Indian context.
  • Such collaborations showcase the commitment of telecom giants to push the boundaries of technology and introduce innovations to their networks.

Conclusion

  • Ericsson’s deployment of Massive MIMO 5G radios for Airtel signifies a major milestone in the evolution of India’s telecommunications infrastructure. As Airtel continues its ambitious journey towards nationwide 5G coverage, the collaboration with Ericsson exemplifies the industry’s commitment to harnessing cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of consumers. The successful deployment positions Airtel as a frontrunner in the race to establish a robust and expansive 5G network in the country.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/business/ericsson-deploys-massive-mimo-5g-radios-for-airtel-across-12-telecom-circles/article67889244.ece/amp/




ADVANCEMENTS IN ROOM-TEMPERATURE QUANTUM COMPUTING: HARNESSING THE POWER OF ‘COLOUR MOLECULES’

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: Researchers are actively exploring alternatives for room-temperature quantum computing, and a recent collaborative study in Japan presents a promising breakthrough involving metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and ‘colour molecules’ known as chromophores.

EXPLANATION:

  • Quantum computing has emerged as a revolutionary field, promising unparalleled computational power.
  • However, the majority of quantum systems require extremely low temperatures to maintain their quantum states, making them costly and complex.
  • Traditional quantum systems, such as superconducting junctions, trapped ions, and quantum dots, operate at very low temperatures or in high vacuum conditions.
  • The need for these extreme environments increases the complexity and cost of quantum computers, limiting their commercial viability.

The Role of Qubits in Quantum Computing

  • Qubits, the fundamental units of quantum information, exhibit unique properties like superposition, allowing them to exist in multiple states simultaneously.
  • However, maintaining superposed states, crucial for quantum information processing, becomes challenging due to interactions with external systems, leading to decoherence.

Requirements for Quantum Devices

  • Building a quantum device requires a collection of identical qubits that can be operated controllably.
  • Achieving identical qubits poses challenges due to manufacturing imperfections, and controllability involves addressing individual qubits and enabling qubit-qubit interactions.

Breakthrough: Room-Temperature Qubits in Metal-Organic Frameworks

  • The recent study in Japan introduces a novel approach by utilizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for room-temperature qubits.
  • In this system, zirconium acts as the metal component, and an organic molecule with the chromophore pentacene bridges the metal atoms.
  • Chromophores are organic molecules responsible for absorbing specific colors of light.

Understanding Chromophores and Singlet Fission

  • Chromophores, often referred to as ‘colour molecules,’ absorb light and move to higher energy levels.
  • The study focuses on singlet fission, a process where an excited chromophore in a singlet state transfers energy to another chromophore, causing it to enter a triplet state.
  • This phenomenon is crucial for the creation of qubits in the MOF system.

Mechanism in Metal-Organic Frameworks

  • The MOF networks, resembling sponges in their porosity, enable chromophores to rotate slightly.
  • This rotation alters the interaction strength between adjacent chromophores, facilitating singlet fission.
  • The interaction between chromophores results in a long-lived superposition of triplet states, even at room temperature, a notable achievement compared to other qubit systems requiring extremely low temperatures.

Implications and Future Directions

  • While the study successfully demonstrates the generation of room-temperature qubits, challenges remain in achieving quantum gate operations, assembling multiple qubits, and ensuring controllability.
  • Nevertheless, this breakthrough opens avenues for further exploration by research groups and holds promise for more economically viable quantum computing technologies.

Quantum Computing:

  • Quantum computing is a multidisciplinary field comprising aspects of computer science, physics, and mathematics that utilizes quantum mechanics to solve complex problems faster than on classical computers.
  • The field of quantum computing includes hardware research and application development.
  • Quantum computers are able to solve certain types of problems faster than classical computers by taking advantage of quantum mechanical effects, such as superposition and quantum interference.
  • Some applications where quantum computers can provide such a speed boost include machine learning (ML), optimization, and simulation of physical systems.

Conclusion

  • The quest for room-temperature quantum computing takes a significant stride with the utilization of metal-organic frameworks and chromophores. This innovative approach not only addresses cost concerns associated with quantum technologies but also invites extensive research to unlock the full potential of room-temperature qubits.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/room-temperature-qubits-chromophores/article67887637.ece/amp/




INAUGURATION OF SUDARSHAN SETU: INDIA’S LONGEST CABLE-STAYED BRIDGE

TAG: GS 3: ECONOMY

THE CONTEXT: On February 25, Prime Minister inaugurated the Sudarshan Setu, colloquially known as the Signature Bridge, marking a significant milestone in Gujarat’s infrastructure development.

EXPLANATION:

  • The bridge, serving as a sea link, connects the mainland Gujarat to Bet Dwarka island, presenting a key advancement in the region’s connectivity.

Key Features of Sudarshan Setu

  • Length: The Sudarshan Setu spans a total length of 4,772 meters, making it Gujarat’s longest cable-stayed bridge.
  • Cable-Stayed Section: Featuring a 900-meter-long cable-stayed section, the bridge showcases cutting-edge engineering.
  • Four-Lane Structure: Built at a cost of Rs 978 crore, the four-lane bridge aims to enhance transportation efficiency.
  • Funding: The Union government provided the financial backing for this ambitious project.

Connecting Bet Dwarka to Mainland Gujarat

  • Geographic Significance
    • Location: Sudarshan Setu links the Okha town in Devbhumi Dwarka district to Bet Dwarka, an island situated 3 km off Okha.
    • Geographical Area: Bet Dwarka, the second-largest island off the Gujarat coast after Diu, spans 36 sq km.
    • Transportation: The bridge eliminates the reliance on ferry services, providing all-weather road connectivity between Bet Dwarka and mainland Gujarat.

Religious Tourism Hub

  • Cultural and Economic Impact
    • Shree Dwarkadhish Mukhya Mandir: Bet Dwarka hosts the prominent Shree Dwarkadhish Mukhya Mandir, a revered shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna.
    • Tourism Attractions: The island is home to various Hindu temples, a gurudwara, and mosques, making it a pilgrimage destination.
    • Economic Activities: Fishing, tourism, and some agricultural pursuits constitute the primary sources of livelihood on the island.

Unique Design and Features

  • Architectural Elements
    • Pier Support: The bridge is supported by 32 piers, facilitating seven cable-stayed spans of 900 meters each.
    • Navigation Section: The structure includes a navigation section allowing the movement of fishing boats to and from the Dalda Bandar harbor.
    • Aesthetic Touch: Pillars adorned with verses from the Bhagavad Gita and images of Krishna add a cultural and aesthetic dimension.
    • Sustainability: Solar panels form the roof of walkways, showcasing a commitment to sustainable energy.

Contractor Controversy

  • Construction Details
    • Contractor: The bridge was constructed by S P Singla Constructions Private Limited, based in Panchkula.
    • Controversy: The contractor was under scrutiny due to its involvement in the collapse of the Aguwani-Sultanganj Ganga bridge in Bihar. Despite concerns, the Signature Bridge was completed.

Demolitions and Concerns

  • Social and Economic Ramifications
    • Structural Demolitions: In October 2022, over 100 structures, including homes and religious sites, were demolished on the shoreline of Bet Dwarka for perceived national security threats.
    • Impact on Livelihood: Concerns were raised about the impact on ferry boat operators, with predictions of reduced passenger traffic affecting their livelihoods.

Future Developments

  • Mitigating Economic Impact
    • Fare Regulation: The Gujarat Maritime Board regulates ferry boat fares, and discussions indicate a possible fare increase to Rs 50 to offset the impact on boat operators.
    • Diversification: Boat operators exploring alternatives, such as converting boats for dolphin viewing, showcase adaptive strategies in the face of changing circumstances.

Conclusion

  • The inauguration of Sudarshan Setu not only marks a significant engineering achievement but also underscores the socio-economic impact on the region. As Gujarat’s longest cable-stayed bridge, it symbolizes progress, connectivity, and cultural significance, paving the way for future developments in the state’s infrastructure landscape. The challenges and controversies surrounding its construction highlight the complexities involved in such transformative projects.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/narendra-modi-inaugurate-gujarat-sudarshan-setu-signature-bridge-9179281/




LARGE LANGUAGE MODELS (LLMS) IN AI CHATBOTS: BACKBONE OF CONVERSATIONAL AI

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: The advent of conversational AI, exemplified by OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other AI chatbots like Gemini, has marked a paradigm shift in human-computer interactions.

EXPLANATION:

  • At the heart of these innovations lies the Large Language Model (LLM), a crucial element enabling machines to learn, think, and engage in conversations.
  • We will delve into the intricacies of LLMs, exploring their features, types, working mechanisms, applications, and advantages.

Defining Large Language Models (LLMs)

  • Key Characteristics
    • LLMs, according to Google, are expansive general-purpose language models that undergo pre-training and subsequent fine-tuning for specific tasks.
    • They excel in solving diverse language-related problems, from text classification and question answering to document summarization.
    • The term “large” refers to both the extensive training data and the parameter count, with parameters embodying the acquired knowledge during training.
  • Features of LLMs
    • Enormous Size: Refers to both the extensive training data and parameter count.
    • General Purpose: LLMs are designed to address general language problems, transcending specific tasks and resource constraints.

Types of LLMs

  • Based on Architecture
    • LLMs can be categorized into three types:
      • Autoregressive: Exemplified by GPT-3, these models predict the next word in a sequence based on previous words.
      • Transformer-based: Models like Gemini (formerly Bard) utilize a specific neural network architecture known as transformers for language processing.
      • Encoder-Decoder: These models encode input text into a representation and then decode it into another language or format.
    • Based on Training Data
      • LLMs can be classified into three types:
        • Pretrained and Fine-tuned: Tailored for specific purposes using relatively small field datasets.
        • Multilingual: Capable of understanding and generating text in multiple languages.
        • Domain-specific: Trained on data related to specific domains such as legal, finance, or healthcare.

Working Mechanism of LLMs

  • At the core of LLMs is “deep learning,” involving the training of artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain.
  • LLMs learn to predict the probability of a word or sequence of words given the preceding words in a sentence.
  • This is achieved by analyzing patterns and relationships within the training dataset.
  • The learning process is analogous to how a baby learns language—by exposure and understanding without explicit instructions.

Applications of LLMs

  • LLMs showcase a wide array of applications across domains:
    • Text Generation: Creating human-like content, including stories, articles, poetry, and songs.
    • Conversational AI: Engaging in conversations, providing information, answering questions, and maintaining context.
    • Language Understanding Tasks: Proficiency in sentiment analysis, language translation, and summarization of dense texts.
    • Content Creation and Personalization: Aiding in marketing strategies, offering personalized product recommendations, and tailoring content to specific target audiences.

Advantages of LLMs

  • Versatility
    • LLMs stand out for their versatility, as a single model can be applied to a variety of tasks.
    • Their ability to generalize patterns learned from large datasets enables them to tackle different problems.
  • Performance Improvement
    • The continuous infusion of data and parameters into LLMs leads to a continuous improvement in performance.
    • Their adaptability and learning capabilities contribute to their sustained evolution.

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, LLMs serve as the backbone of AI chatbots, empowering them to understand, generate, and converse in human-like language. Their versatility, coupled with continuous improvement capabilities, positions LLMs as pivotal components in the ongoing evolution of artificial intelligence. As these models continue to develop, their impact on diverse domains and applications is set to expand, making them a key area to watch in the dynamic field of AI.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-sci-tech/what-is-an-llm-the-backbone-of-ai-chatbots-like-chatgpt-gemini-9180776/




IGNCA’S LANGUAGE ATLAS: MAPPING INDIA’S LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

TAG: GS 1: ART AND CULTURE

THE CONTEXT: The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), an autonomous body under the Union Culture Ministry, is set to embark on a comprehensive linguistic survey across India.

EXPLANATION:

  • The primary objective is to create a ‘Language Atlas’ that will shed light on the extensive linguistic diversity existing in the country.
  • As India emphasizes education in mother tongues, particularly at the primary level, the actual number of “active” languages in the country remains a pivotal question.
  • The linguistic survey proposed by IGNCA aims to fill this knowledge gap by providing a detailed account of languages spoken and their distribution across states and regions.
  • India officially recognizes 22 languages, as outlined in Schedule 8 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Census data indicates that 97% of the population speaks one of these officially recognized languages.
  • However, an additional 99 non-scheduled languages, identified by around 37.8 million people as their mother tongue, are not included in the official count due to the exclusion of languages with fewer than 10,000 speakers since 1971.
  • The decision to exclude languages with fewer than 10,000 speakers has left the native languages of 1.2 million people unaccounted for, with many of these languages being spoken by tribal communities.
  • The linguistic survey seeks to address this gap in data, providing a more inclusive representation of India’s linguistic landscape.

Urgent Need for a Comprehensive Linguistic Survey

  • The last comprehensive linguistic survey was conducted during the 1961 Census, which recorded a staggering 1,554 languages spoken in India.
  • The proposed Language Atlas aims to replicate such exhaustive data collection, offering a comprehensive view of the linguistic tapestry of the nation.

Database for Future Policy Decisions

  • Experts highlight the significance of the linguistic survey as a potential database for future policy decisions.
  • The detailed insights into language distribution and the number of speakers can inform educational, cultural, and social policies catering to the diverse linguistic needs of the population.
  • The Detailed Project Report (DPR) outlines the involvement of various ministries, including Culture, Education, Tribal Affairs, Home, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Development of North East Region, as key stakeholders in the survey.
  • Collaborators include the Central Institute of Indian Languages, National Museum, Centres for Endangered Languages, and Linguistic Departments of universities.

Survey Methodology and Phases

  • The survey proposes a phased approach, starting with State-wise data collection followed by region-wise analysis.
  • Additionally, there is an emphasis on digital archiving of audio recordings for all languages, including those that are endangered or extinct.
  • This approach ensures a holistic and technologically advanced documentation of linguistic diversity.

Beyond Communication: Preserving Wisdom and Culture

  • It underscores the broader importance of languages beyond communication, emphasizing their role in preserving local wisdom, knowledge, stories, and culture.
  • Indigenous medicinal practices, for example, often rely on local languages to pass down traditional knowledge, highlighting the cultural richness intertwined with linguistic diversity.

Historical Context: The Linguistic Survey of India (LSI)

  • The initiative by IGNCA draws parallels with the historical context of linguistic surveys, notably the Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) conducted by Sir George Abraham Grierson in 1928.
  • The evolving Indian map post-Independence necessitates a contemporary survey that aligns with the current state boundaries and linguistic dynamics.

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) :

  • The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) was established in 1987
  • It is established as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, as a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts.
  • The IGNCA has a trust (i.e. Board of Trustees), which meets regularly to give general direction about the Centre’s work.
  • The Executive Committee, drawn from among the Trustees, functions under a Chairman.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ignca-proposes-survey-on-the-languages-of-india/article67882244.ece/amp/




ANCIENT CHROMOSOMAL DISORDERS UNEARTHED: DOWN SYNDROME AND EDWARDS SYNDROME

TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE CONTEXT: Researchers have recently reported groundbreaking findings in the realm of ancient genetics, discovering chromosomal disorders in prehistoric skeletal remains dating back approximately 5,500 years.

EXPLANATION:

  • Notably, this includes instances of both Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome, shedding light on the prevalence and recognition of these conditions in ancient societies.
  • A team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology conducted a meticulous analysis, screening nearly 10,000 genomes from ancient human skeletal remains across Ireland, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, and Finland.
  • The researchers identified six cases of Down syndrome and a remarkable first-ever instance of Edwards syndrome from historic or prehistoric remains.

Trisomy and its Impact

  • Trisomies are characterized by the presence of three copies of a chromosome instead of the typical two.
  • It result in conditions like Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18).
  • The difficulty in identifying genetic disorders in ancient individuals without modern DNA analysis techniques has limited our understanding of how ancient societies dealt with such conditions.
  • The discovered cases span various time periods and regions, with two cases dating back to the Bronze Age (approximately 2,700 BCE) and one from the Neolithic period (around 3,500 BCE).
  • The temporal and geographic diversity of these cases provides valuable insights into the prevalence of trisomies across different ancient societies.

Concentration of Cases in Early Iron Age Spain

  • Intriguingly, the study reveals a concentration of trisomy cases in early Iron Age Spain (800-400 BCE), suggesting a potentially higher frequency of burials for trisomy carriers in this particular society.
  • This insight prompts further questions about the societal responses and perceptions surrounding individuals with chromosomal disorders during that era.

Ritualistic Treatment of Afflicted Individuals

  • The researchers note that, regardless of the specific temporal or geographic context, all individuals with trisomies appear to have been cared for after death through various rituals.
  • This indicates a recognition of these individuals as integral members of their communities.
  • In some instances, individuals received exceptional burials or were accompanied by elaborate grave goods, underscoring the societal acknowledgment of their uniqueness.

Community Recognition and Care

  • The inclusion of bronze rings, Mediterranean seashells, and even animal remains in the burials signifies a level of care and recognition extended to those with chromosomal disorders.
  • These findings offer a unique perspective on how ancient communities perceived and integrated individuals with such conditions, emphasizing a sense of communal inclusivity.
  • This groundbreaking research not only expands our understanding of the prevalence of chromosomal disorders in ancient populations but also provides valuable insights into how these societies responded to and recognized individuals with such conditions.
  • The care and ritualistic treatment observed in the burials challenge assumptions about societal attitudes towards diversity and disability in the distant past.

Down Syndrome:

  • Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body.
  • They determine how a baby’s body forms and functions as it grows during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.’
  • Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.

Edwards’ syndrome (trisomy 18):

  • Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a rare but serious condition.
  • Edwards’ syndrome affects how long a baby may survive. Sadly, most babies with Edwards’ syndrome will die before or shortly after being born.
  • A small number (about 13 in 100) babies born alive with Edwards’ syndrome will live past their 1st birthday.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/down-syndrome-edwards-syndrome-found-in-ancient-individuals/article67878795.ece




ALL INDIA HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION EXPENDITURE SURVEY

TAG: GS 3: ECONOMY

THE CONTEXT: The Indian government has, after an 11-year hiatus, disclosed the findings of the All-India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey conducted between August 2022 and July 2023.

EXPLANATION:

  • This survey typically conducted every five years by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • It is designed to collect information on the consumption spending patterns of households across the country, both urban and rural.
  • The data gathered in this exercise reveals the average expenditure on goods (food and non-food) and services.
  • It helps generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) as well as the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.
  • It plays a crucial role in assessing key economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Consumer Price Inflation (CPI), and poverty levels.
  • The last survey in 2017-18 faced delays in release, attributed to “data quality” issues.
  • The current disclosure marks the first comprehensive data release since then, providing insights into consumption patterns.

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE) Trends

  • Urban and Rural Disparities:
    • Urban households witnessed a 33.5% rise in MPCE since 2011-12, reaching ₹3,510.
    • Rural India experienced a 40.42% increase, reaching ₹2,008 over the same period.
  • Spending Composition Shift:
    • Notably, spending on food decreased:
      • Rural households: from 52.9% in 2011-12 to 46.4%.
      • Urban households: from 42.6% to 39.2%.
    • This shift may impact the calculation of retail inflation.
  • The MPCE figures exclude imputed values of items received through social welfare schemes like PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.
  • When these are considered, the average MPCE at 2011-12 prices rises, excluding free education and healthcare sops.

Bottom 5% and Top 5% Population Analysis

  • Income Disparities:
    • Bottom 5% in rural areas have an average MPCE of ₹1,373, while in urban areas, it is ₹2,001.
    • Top 5% in rural and urban areas have significantly higher MPCE, at ₹10,501 and ₹20,824, respectively.

Regional Disparities in MPCE

  • Sikkim stands out with the highest MPCE in both rural (₹7,731) and urban (₹12,105) areas.
  • Chhattisgarh reports the lowest MPCE, with ₹2,466 for rural households and ₹4,483 for urban households.

Methodology and Data Collection

  • The survey involved 2,61,746 households, with 1,55,014 in rural areas, covering all States and Union Territories.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation released a factsheet summarizing the survey, promising a detailed report later.

National Statistical Office (NSO):

  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) is a ministry of Government of Indiaconcerned with coverage and quality aspects of statistics released. The surveys conducted by the Ministry are based on scientific sampling methods.
  • The Ministry has two wings, one relating to Statistics and the other Programme Implementation. The Statistics Wing called the National Statistical Office (NSO) consists of the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the Computer center and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
  • On 23rd May 2019, the government merged the NSSO with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to form the National Statistical Office (NSO).

Conclusion and Implications

  • The disclosed data will be instrumental in revising economic indicators like GDP, CPI, and poverty levels. The shift in spending patterns, particularly the decrease in food spending, has potential implications for inflation calculations. The socio-economic disparities highlighted in income distribution underscore the need for targeted policy interventions in specific regions.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/after-11-years-household-consumption-expenditure-survey-findings-released/article67882939.ece




GOVERNMENT’S NEW GRAIN STORAGE PLAN: MORE IN STORE

THE CONTEXT: Recently, Prime Minister launched the world’s largest grain storage plan in the cooperative sector. The pilot project is being carried out in 11 states by primary agricultural credit societies where the government is looking to “set up a storage infrastructure of 700 lakh metric tons’’.

MORE ON THE NEWS:

  • The foundation stone for additional 500 PACS for construction of godowns and other agri infrastructure has also been laid.
  • A project for computersation in 18,000 PACS across the country, aligning farming with cutting edge technology and shifting to fully digital payments has also been launched.

LARGEST GRAIN STORAGE PLAN:

  • The pilot project is being undertaken in 11 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) in 11 states. Ministry of Cooperation will implement the project.
  • The scheme aims to create storage capacity for storing 100 per cent of India’s grain production to strengthen food security, reduce wastage, and empower farmers.
  • It aims to seamlessly integrate PACS godowns with the food grain supply chain, with a collaborative effort of NABARD and spearheaded by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).
  • 700 lakh tonne storage capacity will be created in the next five years, with an investment of ₹1.25 lakh crore.  In India, storage capacity with regards to food grain production is only 47%, whereas in the USA it is 161%, Brazil 149%, Canada 130% and China 107%.
  • The Plan aims for creation of various agri infrastructure at Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) level, including warehouses, custom hiring center, processing units, Fair Price Shops, etc. by leveraging the ‘whole-of-Government’ approach.
  • The initiative is being implemented through the convergence of various existing schemes like the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF), Agriculture Marketing Infrastructure (AMI), etc. to enable PACS participating in the project to avail subsidies and interest subvention benefits for undertaking infrastructure development.
  • This ambitious project aims to converge eight ongoing schemes of three ministries to address the shortage of agricultural storage infrastructure in India.
  • Ministry of Cooperation has constituted Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) with Hon’ble Home and Cooperation Minister as its chairman and Hon’ble Ministers and Secretaries of Ministries concerned as its members for smooth and effective implementation of the Plan.
  • The Ministry of Cooperation has also constituted National Level Coordination Committee (NLCC) under the chairmanship of Secretary (Ministry of Cooperation) to steer the overall implementation of the Plan and reviewing the progress of implementation, etc.

BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT:

  • Addressing Infrastructure Shortage:The plan aims to establish godowns at the level of PACS to alleviate the shortage of agricultural storage infrastructure in the country.
  • Diversification of PACS Activities:PACS will be empowered to undertake various activities, including functioning as procurement centres for state agencies or the Food Corporation of India (FCI), serving as fair price shops, and setting up custom hiring centres and common processing units. This diversification will enhance the incomes of farmer members.
  • Reduction of Food Grain Wastage:By creating decentralised storage capacity at the local level, the plan aims to reduce grain wastage, contributing to improved food security.
  • Preventing Distress Sale:The plan provides farmers with various options, preventing distress sale of crops and enabling them to realise better prices for their produce.
  • Cost Reduction:The establishment of storage facilities at the PACS level will significantly reduce transportation costs of food grains to procurement centres and fair price shops.

WHAT IS Primary Agricultural Credit Societies(PACS)?

  • Primary Agricultural Credit Societies are the grass root level arms of the short-term co-operative credit structure.
  • PACS deals directly with the rural (agricultural) borrowers, give those loans and collect repayments of loans given and also undertake distribution and marketing functions.
  • They occupy a predominant position in the co-operative credit structure and form its base.
  • It serves as the final link between the ultimate borrowers on the one hand and the higher financing agencies, namely the Scheduled Commercial Banks, and the RBI/NABARD on the other hand.

Organisational Structure of PACS

  • General Body of PACS: Exercise the control over board as well as management.
  • Management Committee: Elected by the general body to perform the work as prescribed by the society’s rules, acts, and by-laws.
  • Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Secretary: Work for the benefit of the members by performing their roles and duties as assigned to them.
  • Office Staff: Responsible for performing day to day work.

GOVERNMENT EMPHASIS ON COOPERATIVES

  • A separate Cooperation Ministry has been set up by the government as cooperatives have a great role in strengthening agriculture.
  • The Ministry of Cooperation has developed the grain storage plan to leverage the strength of cooperatives and transform them into successful business enterprises,aligning with the vision of Sahakar-se-Samriddhi” (Cooperation for Prosperity). The vision of Sahakar se Samriddhi is to rejuvenate the cooperative sector and empower small and marginal farmers.
  • The government seems to be increasingly emphasising the role of cooperatives in agricultural marketing and storage, as opposed to government-owned entities such as Food Corporation of India and Central Warehousing Corporation.
  • The government had even reduced minimum alternate tax on cooperative societies – bringing it at par with the corporate sector and raised the slab for tax to be deducted at source to income above Rs 3 crore.
  • The government believe that the success achieved by Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Amul) in augmenting income of farmers in their home state can be replicated across the country.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Strengthen transportation networks: There is need to improve transportation infrastructure, including roads, rail networks, and logistics systems, will enable efficient movement of food from farms to storage facilities and distribution centers. This will reduce delays, minimize spoilage, and ensure timely delivery of food to the market.
  • Encourage private sector participation: The involvement of the private sector in food storage infrastructure development and management can bring in expertise, technology, and investments. Public-private partnerships can help bridge the gap between demand and supply of storage facilities.
  • Facilitate access to finance: Providing financial support, subsidies, and credit facilities to farmers, small-scale food businesses, and storage facility operators can help them invest in modern storage technologies and facilities. This will enable them to store food properly and efficiently.
  • Promote research and innovation: Continued research and innovation in food storage technologies, packaging materials, and preservation methods is the need of hour. This can lead to the development of cost-effective and sustainable solutions tailored to Indian conditions.

THE CONCLUSION:

By strengthening Cooperatives, governments and stakeholders aim to improve the overall state of agriculture, uplift rural communities, and promote inclusive economic growth. These efforts can contribute to poverty reduction, food security, and sustainable development in agrarian economies.

UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS

Q.1 In the villages itself no form of credit organisation will be suitable except the cooperative society.” – All India Rural Credit Survey. Discuss this statement in the background of agricultural finance in India. What constraints and challenges do financial institutions supplying agricultural finance face? How can technology be used to better reach and serve rural clients? (2014)

Q.2 Examine the concept of cooperative farming, in light of problem of land fragmentation, in promoting the socio-economic welfare of farmers. (2019)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTIONS

Q.1 Recently, Prime Minister launched the world’s largest grain storage plan in the cooperative sector. Highlight the key rationale behind the initiative and its significance in boosting agriculture economy.

Q.2 Critically assess whether cooperative can take over the role of government bodies to contribute towards promoting food security and for improvement of rural livelihoods.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/express-view-on-governments-new-grain-storage-plan-more-in-store-9182666/




EVERYTHING IN THE GARDEN OF ELECTIONS IS NOT LOVELY

THE CONTEXT: The Supreme Court’s 2024 verdict on the Chandigarh Mayor’s election highlights India’s defense of electoral integrity against polarization, emphasizing the balance between legal frameworks, political practices, and societal fabric in the world’s largest democracy.

THE ISSUES:

  • Subversion of Electoral Process: The Returning Officer’s unprecedented move to ignore the ballot papers and the constitutional procedure, as evidenced by the dumping of the votes in the Chandigarh Mayor’s elections, signifies serious attempts to transgress the democratic character of the electoral process. The various breaches in ethics that arise from the case in this crack additionally connote a conflict of credibility of democratic governance. In the elections concerning this case, the results can become a subject for manipulation and change.
  • Judicial Defense of Electoral Integrity: The Supreme Court’s participation reiterates the institutions’ role as the last voice of justice on aspects that conflict with the principles of election transparency. Still, the case implied that many courts, especially the lower ones, failed to acknowledge and implement such measures aimed at discouraging the votes candling and ensuring that the decisions taken at the top would be respected and enforced. Therefore, the Supreme Court felt the judiciary needed to take severe measures and protect democratic principles.
  • Legal and Constitutional Safeguards Under Threat: The legality of elections and adherence to constitutional grounds are essential for ensuring fair and just democratic elections. However, the institutions responsible for upholding these principles are often overlooked. Neglecting these crucial institutions could lead to long-lasting barriers against interference and deception in elections, potentially resulting in the decline of the electoral system and the future of democracy.
  • Misuse of Religion in Elections: Political preaching within religion or using religious symbols to influence electoral decisions can lead to unfortunate outcomes. However, the Supreme Court has recognized that allowing religious figures to create enthusiasm and then benefit from it during elections is detrimental to secularism in Indian democracy. The court has directed concerned authorities to ensure the maintenance of secularism by recognizing the non-alignment of politics with religion.
  • Uncertain Future for Electoral Democracy: These issues raise profound questions about the nature of India’s electoral democracy and whether it is the best option for the nation. Many people recognize a problem with the electorate’s behavior, and some see the current system as an obstacle to progress. Additionally, the political culture in India may promote religious tolerance, but it also appears to discriminate against certain ethnic and cultural groups, which undermines the integrity of public institutions.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Strengthening Electoral Integrity: Ensure swift and decisive judicial action against electoral malpractices. The Supreme Court’s rapid intervention in electoral bond issues and other election-related cases demonstrates the judiciary’s role in safeguarding democracy. The Law Commission of India, in its 255th report, suggested electoral reforms, including measures to address criminalization in politics, which indirectly contributes to ensuring judicial oversight.
  • Legislative Measures Against Misuse of Religion in Elections: Laws like Section 123(3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, should be strictly enforced to prevent appealing to voters based on religion. The ECI monitors election campaigns to check for violations of the Model Code of Conduct, including misuse of religion for political gains. In “Abhiram Singh vs C.D. Commachen (2017)“, a more expansive interpretation was given to Section 123(3), emphasizing the non-permissibility of any appeal in the name of religion.
  • Promoting Secular and Pluralistic Values: Promote secularism and pluralism through educational and social campaigns, emphasizing the importance of unity in diversity. Education is crucial in fostering mutual respect and understanding in diverse societies. Celebrating India’s cultural diversity can help bridge communal divides.
  • Political Will and Leadership: Leaders and parties must maintain the integrity of the electoral process and uphold the secular fabric. Ethical leadership is crucial to combat corruption and shape political discourse, as highlighted by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission’s report on “Ethics in Governance.”
  • Civil Society and Media Engagement: Encourage active participation and oversight by civil society organizations and vigilant media to hold electoral processes and political discourse to higher standards of transparency and integrity. The role of civil organizations in voter education and monitoring electoral practices has been pivotal in numerous democracies worldwide.

THE CONCLUSION:

This case highlights the critical importance of having judicial oversight and robust legal and institutional mechanisms to protect democratic processes. It emphasizes the need for well-informed citizens and resilient institutions to address the democratic challenges faced by India effectively. It is crucial to ensure the preservation and advancement of constitutional values.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1 There is a dire need for electoral reforms in India, discuss various challenges related to elections in India and suggest some measures to resolve them. (2023)

Q.2 The role played by the Election Commission of India has bestowed a very high level of confidence in the minds of Indian citizens in ensuring the purity of the elected legislative bodies in the country. Critically examine. (2021)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1 How can the judiciary contribute to maintaining the integrity of electoral processes in the face of political and religious polarization? What steps can be taken to improve the electoral system and protect democratic values in India?

SOURCE:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/everything-in-the-garden-of-elections-is-not-lovely/article67889113.ece




CONSUMPTION EXPENDITURE SURVEY IS NECESSARY TO FILL DATA VACUUM IN INDIA

THE CONTEXT: The government recently released the broad findings of the All-India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey carried out between August 2022 and July 2023. These surveys inform about changes in household consumption expenditure patterns and also form the basis of poverty and inequality estimation.

HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION EXPENDITURE SURVEY (HCES)

  • The National Sample Survey Office conducts large-scale surveys on household consumption expenditure in the country, typically once every five years.
  • This survey provides detailed information on how households allocate their financial resources across various categories such as food, housing, education, healthcare, and transportation.
  • It is a critical statistical tool used by governments, policy analysts, and researchers to collect data on the spending habits of households within a country.
  • It is used for understanding economic behaviour, assessing living standards, and formulating policies aimed at economic development and poverty alleviation.

Methodology

  • It adopts a stratified multistage sampling design to ensure representativeness across urban and rural areas.
  • The survey covers a wide range of expenditure items, from necessities like food, clothing, and housing to discretionary spending on education, healthcare, and entertainment.
  • Households are usually selected through a random sampling method, and data are collected through personal interviews and expenditure diaries.

OBJECTIVES OF HCES

  • Measuring Living Standards: It helps in assessing the living standards and quality of life of the population by examining how households spend their income.
  • Policy Development: It helps government to design and implement effective social, economic, and fiscal policies for various social welfare programs.
  • Economic Analysis: It aims to analyze consumption patterns, which are key indicators of economic stability, growth, and the distribution of wealth within a society.
  • Poverty and Inequality Assessment: It provides essential data for measuring poverty levels, identifying vulnerable groups, and understanding income inequality.
  • Inflation and Cost of Living: It calculates inflation rates and cost of living indexes to help central banks and governments in monetary policy formulation.

OUTCOMES OF THE SURVEY:

  • Rise in household expenditure: There is a rise in household expenditure. In rural areas, household consumption expenditure has risen from Rs 1,430 in 2011-12 to Rs 3,773 in 2022-23, and in urban areas from Rs 2,630 to Rs 6,459. At 2011-12 prices, this translates to an increase of 3.1 per cent per year in rural areas, and 2.7 per cent in urban areas.
  • Fall in expenditure on food: As household incomes have continued to grow, expenditure on food has continued to fall. In rural areas, the share of food in the spending basket has declined from 52.9 per cent in 2011-12 to 46.4 per cent in 2022-23, while in urban areas it has fallen from 42.6 per cent to 39.2 per cent.
  • Greater allocation for share on nutritional foods: Households are now allocating a greater share for nutritional items such as eggs, fish and meat, milk and fruits, as well as on beverages, refreshments and processed foods. Milk and milk products are now the second highest item in the consumption basket.
  • Rise in discretionary spending: A greater share of spending is also now being directed towards education, health and conveyance and on consumer durables and services. As household incomes rise and expenditure on essential items falls, discretionary spending will rise further.
  • Less income disparity: The factsheet estimates that monthly per-capita consumption expenditure rose 164% in rural India compared to 146% in urban India. This narrowed the gap in per-capita spending between rural and urban India by nearly 13% over 11 years. The survey shows that the spending gap between rural and urban India has narrowed, there remains a wide intra-state and inter-state disparity in spending.
  • Huge disparity in top and bottom layer: There is also a huge disparity between the spending of the bottom and top layer of the society. As, there is a noted wide gap in the spending of the top 5% compared to the next 5%. This difference was 58% and 68% in rural and urban areas, respectively.

CHALLENGES RELATED TO HCES

  • Underreporting: There is an issue of inaccurate reporting of consumption which often leads to underestimation or recall bias.
  • Sample Representativeness: It is a difficult task to make sure the sample fairly represents the diverse population of India with a range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Temporal and Regional Variability: There are more difficulties in capturing the seasonal variations in spending and the regional differences.

SIGNIFICANCE OF HCES

Despite challenges, the HCES remains a vital tool for economic and social planning in India. Its data are extensively used for:

  • Policy Making: It helps in taking informed decisions in policy making regarding subsidies, social welfare schemes, and taxation policies.
  • Academic Research: It serves as a primary source for studies on consumption patterns, poverty, and socio-economic status.
  • International Comparisons: It facilitates comparisons with other countries on economic welfare and living standards.
  • Understanding poverty and inequality: With the release of the detailed survey data, it will now be possible to arrive at an understanding of the trends in poverty and inequality in India over the past decade.
  • Updating consumer price index: This survey data will also help in updating the consumer price index, which is a valuable input for monetary policy.
  • Filling the data vacuum: The release of this survey also marks an important step towards filling the data vacuum in the country. The government should take this forward, initiate the much-delayed census exercise and take steps to strengthen the country’s statistical system.

THE CONCLUSION:

The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) in India is a critical source of data that provides insights into the spending patterns of Indian households. It plays a pivotal role in understanding the socio-economic fabric of the country, guiding policy formulation, and assessing the impact of economic reforms on different segments of the population. Despite the challenges associated with data collection and interpretation, the HCES is instrumental in guiding the nation’s socio-economic policies and addressing the needs of its citizens. As India continues to evolve, the significance of accurate, transparent, and comprehensive consumption data cannot be overstated for shaping a more inclusive and equitable society.

UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS

Q.1 Among several factors for India’s potential growth, the savings rate is the most effective one. Do you agree? What are the other factors available for growth potential? (2017)

Q.2 Do you agree with the view that steady GDP growth and low inflation have left the Indian economy in good shape? Give reasons in support of your arguments. (2019)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTIONS

Q.1 The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey plays significant role not only about changes in household consumption expenditure patterns but also form the basis of poverty and inequality estimation. Comment.

Q.2 What is Household Consumption Expenditure Survey and how is it calculated? Discuss its role in measuring retail inflation and for deriving other macroeconomic indicators.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/express-view-consumption-expenditure-survey-is-necessary-to-fill-data-vacuum-in-india-9180686/