9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 1st, 2022

Dear Friends,

We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC IAS Prelims 2022

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Explained: AFSPA and the Northeast

Source: This post is based on the following articles

– “Explained: AFSPA and the Northeast” published in The Indian Express on 1st Apr 22.

Helping Northeast” published in Times of India on 31st Mar 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – Internal Security

Relevance: Insurgency in Northeast and AFSPA

News: The Centre has decided to reduce the area under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland

The act has been withdrawn entirely from 23 districts in Assam; and partially from seven districts in Nagaland, six districts in Manipur, and one district in Assam.

Once the decision is notified in the gazette, AFSPA remains in force in parts of these three states as well as in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

What is the significance of the decision?

AFSPA, has been called draconian as it gives sweeping powers to the armed forces.

The move is expected to help demilitarise the region; it will lift restrictions of movements through check points and frisking of residents.

Why has AFSPA been withdrawn now?

Reduction in insurgency: The move is aided by the fact that around 7,000 militants in the Northeast have surrendered in recent years. Plus, agreements like the 2020 Bodo Accord and the 2021 Karbi-Anglong pact have politically addressed the root causes of regional insurgencies

The killing of 14 people by security forces in a botched anti-militancy operation in Nagaland’s Mon district in 2021, had further  intensified the demand for repeal of AFSPA throughout the Northeast

What are the previous attempts at repeal of AFSPA?

In 2004, the then central government set up a five-member committee under former Supreme Court Justice Jeevan Reddy. It submitted its report in 2005 recommending the repeal of AFSPA, calling it “highly undesirable”, and saying it had become a symbol of oppression.

Subsequently, the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), headed by Veeerapa Moily, endorsed these recommendations.

Why was AFSPA imposed in the NE?

When the Naga nationalist movement kicked off in the 1950s with the setting up of the Naga National Council (NNC)— the predecessor of the NSCN — Assam police forces allegedly used force to suppress the movement.

As an armed movement formed in Nagaland, AFSPA was passed in Parliament, and subsequently imposed on the entire state.

In Manipur, too, it was imposed in 1958 in the three Naga-dominated districts where the NNC was active. It was imposed in the 1960s in the Kuki-Zomi dominated Manipur district, which was under the influence of the Mizo insurgent movement.

As secessionist and nationalist movements started rising in other Northeastern states, AFSPA started being extended and imposed.

What has made AFSPA unpopular among the people?

In Nagaland, 60 years of living under the AFSPA regime has had psychological consequences, trauma and alienation of the people. The use of force and AFSPA furthered the feeling of alienation of the Naga people, solidifying Naga nationalism.

Various incidents of violence and extra-judicial killings have been recorded in the Northeastern states, as AFSPA gives sweeping powers to security forces.

In a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2012, the families of victims of extra-judicial killings alleged 1,528 fake encounters had taken place in the state from May 1979 to May 2012. The Supreme Court set up a commission to scrutinise six of these cases, and the commission found all six to be fake encounters.

What are the issues with the decision?

Application of AFSPA in Assam was far less heavy-handed compared to Manipur and Nagaland. Hence, removing the act from most of Assam was low-hanging fruit.

Whereas the relatively small areas being exempted in Manipur and Nagaland mean most of these two states remain in the shadow of the draconian law.

What is the way forward?

It is a step in the right direction. The Centre should continue on this track and work to repeal AFSPA across all of the Northeast, as this prone-to-abuse law that has its roots in the colonial era has no place in modern India.

An opportunity to repolish India-Nepal ties

Source: The post is based on an article “An opportunity to repolish India-Nepal ties” published in The Hindu on 1st April 22. 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations, Bilateral Relation 

Relevance: Indo-Nepal relations

News: The Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is on trip to India from April 1.

This visit holds significance since it is the first visit of Nepal’s PM to India since 2018, and is also the first bilateral visit of the new PM of Nepal.  

What are the issues with India-Nepal relations? 

India-Nepal bilateral relations reached a historic low when the Indian blockade was done in September 2015. 

After demonetisation, India refused to accept the demonetised rupee bills from the Nepal Rastra Bank.

Poor perception of India’s trust in Nepal. For example, the passengers boarding flights from Nepal to India are subjected to a pre-boarding security check. This happens despite 20 years of the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft. 

India has not welcomed the million-grant assistance proposed by Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government foreign aid agency and approved by the Nepali parliament. It may prevent improvement in the India-Nepal relationship and give a dent to the Indo-US relationship. 

Nepal is often blamed for playing geopolitical games between China and India due to its unique geographical location.  

China is actively engaged in Nepal. It has made inroads into the politics of Nepal. For example, it sponsored an anti-MCC campaign. 

Since July 2020, The Nepal Parliament has been dysfunctional due to development of the cracks within the former Communist alliance.  

What is the way forward?

First, India can build trust in Nepal through a power trade agreement. The hydropower will remain the only source that can manage peak demand in India despite India’s focus on solar energy projects in India. 

Second, both countries should promote trade and transit arrangements through electronic platforms. It can provide many new opportunities for businesses on both sides of the border. 

Third, Nepal needs to work upon the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed between India and Nepal. Its implementation would attract more foreign investments from Indian investors.  

Fourth, New Nepali leadership can provide confidence to India that Nepal is interested to work with India.  

Cohesion and co-operation: On power imbalances in BIMSTEC

Source: The post is based on an article “Cohesion and co-operation: On power imbalances in BIMSTEC” published in The Hindu on 1st April 2022. 

Syllabus: GS2 – International Relations, Regional Grouping 

Relevance: BIMSTEC and regional cooperation

News: Recently, the fifth Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was held.

In the summit, BIMSTEC Charter, and Master Plan for Transport Connectivity were adopted among other things. 

What are the challenges facing the BIMSTEC 

The Rohingya crisis has weakened the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar. For example, Dhaka wants all the refugees to be repatriated to Myanmar and Myanmar is not responding positively.  

How is BIMSTEC important for India? 

India will be leading the ‘security pillar’ out of the seven designated pillars of the revived BIMSTEC. It will give a boost to regional aspirations of India, which were not fulfilled by the SAARC. The SAARC has been facing various roadblocks and has not met since November 2014.  

India does not have any sharp disagreements or hostilities with members of BIMSTEC unlike SAARC. The latter one is burdened by India-Pakistan hostilities. Thus, it would provide a co-operative environment for India. 

India has opted not to be part of China-led RCEP. Therefore, BIMSTEC, a regional grouping of countries which are in close proximity to India, may provide it with a lot of opportunities. 

Way Forward  

The sustained bilateral and group-level discussions are required to prevent problems like the Rohingya crisis to act as a roadblock in the functioning of the grouping and implementation of the decisions.  

India should ensure continued political engagement with Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This would ensure smooth bilateral and group-level working relationships. 

India should take a leadership role in the region. It can start with promoting cross-border connectivity; lowering barriers to the movement of people and goods; and promoting flow of investments. 

In order to boost intraregional trade and economic ties, a ‘coastal shipping ecosystem’ and an interconnected electricity grid is required.  In this context, India’s PM has also called for a BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement 

The BIMSTEC members should learn from the security- and trade-related issues which troubled SAARC and SAFTA 

Any data extraction law must pass a privacy test

Source: This post is created based on the article “Any data extraction law must pass a privacy test” Published on 1st April 2022 in Live Mint.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Important legislation

News: The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 has the objective of letting the authorities bio-tag law-breakers in their records for a watchful eye to be kept on them. The concern of citizens is the lack of a privacy framework that can restrict unauthorized use and the safety of data collected.

What are the provisions of the bill and related issues?

The bill proposed to enlarge the scope of what could be accessed under the Identification of Prisoners Act of 1920. It will be enlarged to include iris and retina scans, analysis of physical and biological samples, and ‘behavioural attributes’ such as a person’s signature. These will be retained by the National Crime Records Bureau for 75 years.

There, however, is lack of clarity on whom the bill will include. As far as bio samples are concerned the consent of arrested individual is mandatory, except when offence is a sexual offence or provides for a minimum punishment of 7 years. However, in practical application this right could get lost as awareness levels remain low and few can count on a pre-trial ‘right to remain silent’.

Way forward: DNA and biometric grabs are valuable crime-solving aids today. Still, this needs to be filtered by our basic right to privacy.

GS Paper 3

This is a criminal attack on privacy

Source: The post is based on an article “This is a criminal attack on privacy” published in The Hindu on 1st April 22. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Internal Security, GS II Important Provisions of the Constitution of India 

Relevance: Criminals Database, Right to privacy (Article 21) 

News: Recently, the Criminal procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 was introduced in the parliament by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs.

The Bill aims to replace the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 that has been in need of amendment for several decades. 

What has been proposed in the bill? 

The definition of measurements has been proposed to be broadened.

It would include new techniques like iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples etc.” in addition to behavioural measurement like signatures”

The definition has also allowed the police machinery to do analysis of the measurement. 

Data capture and ‘choice’: The proposed bill allows the police and prison officials to take measurements of all persons who are placed under arrest. It will include those who are arrested for petty crimes like a traffic violation, etc.  

However, at present, data is collected only of convicts or persons arrested for an offence which is punishable with a minimum of one year’s imprisonment. 

Storage of Data: It allows the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect data and maintain it as a digital record for a period of 75 years. It will be used for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offense”.  

What are the issues in the proposed bill? 

The Bill was neither put up for pre-legislative consultation. It was also not indicated in the legislative agenda in the Parliament session.  

The proposed Bill states that a person, “may not be obliged to allow taking of his biological samples”. It means it offers a choice to a person to refuse to give biological samples.

Firstly, this “choice” is limited to “biological samples”. It is not applicable to “iris and retina scan”.

Second, the person can exercise his choice only if a police officer confers such a choice to a person. It means, a police officer has discretion. It can lead to misuse of discretion. 

The proposed bill does not talk about the manner in which the records will be used for preventing crime. In fact, it means it may lead to surveillance. 

It may lead to the development of parallel databases of the “measurements” by the law enforcement agencies. For example, Rajasthan and Punjab State Police departments already have such databases. The proposed law has also not been linked to a centralised database called as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) which is operated by NCRB. 

Absence of a data protection law means the database will suffer from weak enforcement.

Once an innocent person or the masses who lack social and economic power in Indian society enter their “measurements” within the system, they will be subjected to it almost for their entire life. For example, Pardhi Adivasi community which was once designated as a criminal tribe has continued to face preventive surveillance and predictive policing based on caste-system for centuries.  

Way Forward 

The Supreme Court of India pronounced “Right to privacy is a fundamental right” in the Puttaswamy judgment 

Therefore, the legislature and the executive have the responsibility to protect the fundamental right to privacy.  

This protection is important to prove that India is a constitutional democracy, rather than a mere electoral democracy. 

Opening up procurement

Source: The post is based on an article “Opening up procurement” published in the Business Standard on 31st Mar 22. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy; Effects of Liberalization on Indian Economy and the External Sector 

Relevance: Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) 

News: Recently, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed between India and the United Arab Emirates last month.

Further, such a free trade agreement is also going to be signed between India and Australia.  

What are the provisions in the India-UAE trade deal?  

The deal provides for harmonisation in the regulatory system. It also attempts to address tariff-based trade issues. For example, pharmaceutical products from Indian companies that were subjected to high regulatory bars in the Western countries will to receive time-bound regulatory nods by the UAE authorities. 

Read more here

How is the deal advantageous for India? 

Allowing cross-country public procurement will lead to competitiveness within the economy and can reduce costs and increase efficiency in government functioning. It will benefit the exchequer and the end-user. 

It will provide incentives to Indian companies. They will be able to bid for projects in other jurisdictions. 

What are the challenges ahead? 

In the recent past, the government procurement policies focused on local sourcing for the government requirements.  

In addition to the protection given to micro, small, and medium enterprises, the government has also provided protection to the construction and infrastructure sector under the CEPA. This protection was not required in the infra sector. There is a requirement of foreign finance and expertise to supplement scarcity in this Indian sector.  

Way Forward 

The government must take forward partial opening up of public procurement in this agreement and extend it to other trade negotiations as well as to more sectors of the economy. 

There is a need for developing competitiveness in the construction and infrastructure sector. It will allow Indian companies to participate more effectively in a global public infrastructure market. 

Thinking hard on AI

Source: The post is based on an article “Thinking hard on AI” published in the Business Standard on 31st Mar 22. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology, Developments and their applications, and Robotics 

Relevance: Application of Artificial Intelligence in Military 

News: Recently, two Indian researchers wrote an unpublished paper “Artificial Intelligence and the armed forces: Legal and ethical concerns”.

This has led to the resurgence of a debate on Artificial Intelligence (AI) based arms and weapon system.  

In 1950, Alan Turing in a paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, considered the question: “Can machines think?”. Further, in 1956, it was John McCarthy who coined the term  artificial intelligence.
What is Artificial Intelligence? 

AI is a field of computer science. It allows computers and machines to perform intelligent tasks by mimicking human behaviour and actions. Further, AI can be of broadly classified into two types:  

(1) Narrow AI, which performs specific tasks like music, shopping recommendations, and medical diagnosis. For example, music-streaming services, speech recognition, and personal assistants such as Siri or Alexa comes under this, and  

(2) General AI: It is a system which functions with an intelligent behaviour at least as advanced as a person. It works across the full range of cognitive tasks. General AI is still a few decades away. 

What are the advantages of using AI in military operations? 

AI based arms and weapon systems can help to obtain tactical advantages in the military operation. Big data analytics can be used for this during a war. It will help humans to take decisions. 

Development of autonomous weapons systems. Such systems derive conclusions from gathered information and pre-programmed parameters and models. Thus, they independently select, engage and attack (i.e., use force against, neutralize, damage or destroy) targets without human intervention. 

Usage in the remote areas

Reduction of casualties among soldiers and non-combatants. For example, For India, AI-based weapons systems can help tackle our hostile neighbours and our peculiar problem of Naxalism. 

What are the recent developments in the area? 

At present, global powers like China, Russia, the US, and India are competing to develop AI-based weapons systems. For example, the US is developing intelligent weapons systems.  

In the case of India, an AI task force (AITF) was set up in 2017.

It was supposed to “explore possibilities to leverage AI for development across various fields”.

Further, In 2018, Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) set up a task force to study the use and feasibility of AI in India’s military.   

Israel developed the Harpy drone. It is an autonomous weapon. It flies to a particular area to hunt for specific targets. It then destroys the target using a high-explosive warhead nicknamed “Fire and Forget”. 

What are the issues in AI based weapon systems? 

There is no formal definition, given that the word “intelligence” is, in itself, difficult to define. 

Threats due to “Lethal Automated Weapons Systems” (LAWS): Also known as “Killer robots”, they are designed not to require any human involvement once activated. They would effectively take the decision to kill or engage targets. Such systems could pose significant threats, legal and ethical challenges. 

The autonomous weapon systems can be used by countries for warmongering. They can be used to cause civilian and collateral damage. 

Way Forward 

“Intelligence” should be clearly defined before attempting its regulation.  

Various researchers warned about the dangers of an AI arms race. They called for a “ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control”. It was advocated in the “International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI)” which was held in 2015.

India advocates, (1) AI based weapons systems should meet the standards of international humanitarian law, (2) there should be systemic controls on the use of AI based weapon systems, in international armed conflict. It will prevent widening of the technology gap between countries, and (3) AI-weapon use should also be insulated from the influence of public conscience. 

A country should avoid deployment of the Lethal Autonomous Weapon System, (LAWS) to curtail a plethora of legal and ethical issues. 

How to survive and grow in a warming world

Source: This post is created based on the article “A How to survive and grow in a warming world” Published on 1st April 2022 in Indian Express.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment: Climate Change

News: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest report on climate impacts. It highlights the need for adaptation.

What does the report state regarding adaptation?

It suggests that adaptation to climate impacts in the near to medium term can help communities and ecosystems become resilient against the threats from current and future levels of warming. Ecosystem-based adaptation, for instance, is recommended for taking care of communities and social well-being, while restoring forests, lands and marine ecosystems.

The adaptation will be different for different places. Also cost-effective adaptation depends on international cooperation, inclusive technology, financial flows, knowledge sharing and capacity building, policy development and on-ground implementation.

What are the gaps in IPCC literature?

The IPCC has been consistently drawing attention to the lack of adequate science from and on developing countries. These countries have in turn been asking for the inclusion of what is broadly termed as “grey literature” or non-peer-reviewed literature in the IPCC process.

Such “grey” resources are very often supported by respected donor organizations and governments and can be valuable sources of information in contexts where the resources for research and publishing are limited.

What are the steps required for Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development, inclusive of climate resilience, calls for an ensemble approach. This should provide appropriate emphasis on tackling climate change impacts and development needs in a world with growing challenges.

For instance, developing countries may have to work harder now to achieve their projected pre-Covid levels of achievement. The pathway should include immediate, near and medium-term outcomes.

Way forward: Pursuing the report’s call for climate-resilient development pathways requires follow-up action. As the pandemic has already highlighted the need for balance in nature-people relationships.

Is the fuel pricing policy problematic?

Source: This post is created based on the article “Is the fuel pricing policy problematic?” Published on 1st April 2022 in The Hindu.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy

News: India officially has a deregulated pricing regime for fuel prices. However, there has been a practice to put prices on hold during election campaigns. Experts have raised concerns with this fuel pricing policy.

How has India’s fuel pricing regime evolved in recent years?

The dismantling of oil prices started gradually in 1997, according to the recommendations made by the Nirmal Singh Committee. From 75% in the first year to 100% by April 2002.

From 2004, oil prices started moving up. Hence, the government restored the cost-plus pricing system to protect the consumers. The government did not pass the entire price burden to consumers.

It subsidized prices for transport fuels, LPG, and kerosene through mechanisms to provide for oil marketing companies. Till 2009-10, the government issued oil bonds, but it provided cash subsidies thereafter till 2014-15.

The oil prices came down again in 2015, hence, the NDA government started implementing market price mechanism, without any burden on the consumers.  

The current high prices are due to two factors. First is the high level of excise and VAT. Second is external factors such as depreciation of rupee and Russia-Ukraine war.

There is a stop-and-start approach to price changes despite  a free pricing regime. As soon as the elections in critical States are announced, fuel prices are frozen despite global price trends.

This policy is definitely a red flag because investors closely study governments’ behavioural responses to various kinds of shocks that emanate from the world economy. Investors also look at the prospect of Indian economy and capacity utilization.

How does the deregulation affect the economy?

There are political and economic reasons for the government to deviate from the stated policy either temporarily or in a regular way.

The Indian economy is vulnerable to global crude price pressures. If these prices are passed fully to customers and industries, they will have major economic effects. High retail inflation now will lead to subdued economic recovery, especially after COVID-19.

Hence, India is not able to manage a meaningful de-administered price over a long period of time and makes short-term compromises again and again.

In the short term , the quick solution could be a reduction in excise duties or taxes, which will have a fiscal cost. The government has had healthy tax revenues this year. Hence, the tax buoyancy can provide legroom to the government to absorb a reduction on excise duty on petroleum products.

Fiscal dilemma faced by the government

The tax-to-GDP ratio particularly of the Central Government has not touched the old peak after GST reforms, personal income tax reforms, corporate tax reforms. Therefore the capacity of government becomes limited.

Oil bonds are an inefficient intervention as they only tend to postpone the problem. From 2002 onwards, India’s strategy for dealing with global crude price rise vulnerability has been myopic. The governments tend to develop short-term measures when there is a sharp rise. There is a need to develop long-term measures given the import dependency on crude is 85%.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Explained: What were the Bamiyan Buddhas, and why did the Taliban destroy them?

Source: This post is based on an article “Explained: What were the Bamiyan Buddhas, and why did the Taliban destroy them?” published in Indian Express on 1st April 2022.

What is the News?

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has said it would protect the ancient Buddha statues in Mes Aynak. This is the site of a copper mine where the Taliban are hoping for Chinese investment.

This Taliban’s position is in marked contrast to the time they ruled Afghanistan earlier. Earlier, they brought down the Bamiyan Buddhas statues using artillery, explosives, and rockets.

What are Bamiyan Buddhas?

The Bamiyan Buddha Statues were situated in the Hindu Kush mountains, in the central highlands of Afghanistan

They were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.

They are said to date back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.

They were called Salsal and Shamama by locals. Salsal means “the light shines through the universe”; Shamama is “Queen Mother”.

What had happened to the Bamiyan Statues?

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas statues. Following the fall, UNESCO included the remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003, with subsequent efforts made to restore and reconstruct them.

What is the significance of Bamiyan?

Bamiyan is situated in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan.

The valley, which is set along the line of the Bamiyan River, was once integral to the early days of the Silk Roads, providing passage for not just merchants but also culture, religion and language.

When the Kushana Empire spread, Bamiyan became a major trade, cultural and religious centre. 

As China, India and Rome sought passage through Bamiyan, the Kushans were able to develop a syncretic culture.

Moreover, during the rapid spread of Buddhism between the 1st to 5th centuries AD, Bamiyan’s landscape reflected the faith, especially its monastic qualities.

Union Minister says about 33.6% of the coastline is under varying degree of erosion

Source: This post is based on the articleUnion Minister says about 33.6% of the coastline is under varying degree of erosion published in PIB on 31st March 2022.

What is the News?

The government has informed Rajya Sabha that about 33.6% of the Indian Coastline is under varying degrees of erosion.

What is Coastal Erosion?

Coastal erosion is the loss or displacement of land or the long-term removal of sediment and rocks along the coastline due to the action of waves, currents, tides, wind-driven water, waterborne ice, or other impacts of storms.

India’s Coastal Erosion

National Center for Coastal Research (NCCR), an attached office of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has been monitoring coastline erosion since 1990 using remote sensing data and GIS mapping techniques.

On analysis of the total 6,632 km long Indian coastline of the mainland from 1990 to 2018, NCCR has found that about 33.6% of the coastline is under varying degrees of erosion.

Reasons: Increase in frequency of cyclones and sea-level rise and anthropogenic activities such as the construction of harbours, beach mining and building of dams.

What are the measures taken by the Government of India against Coastal Erosion?

Maps for identifying areas vulnerable to coastal erosion: Government has prepared 526 maps for the entire Indian coast for identifying areas vulnerable to coastal erosion on a 1:25000 scale along with 66 district maps, and 10 state/UTs maps. 

A Report on ‘National Assessment of Shoreline Changes along Indian Coast’: It was released in 2018 and shared with various Central and state government agencies and stakeholders for implementing shoreline protection measures.

Coastal Mitigation Measures: The Ministry of Earth Sciences(MoES) had successfully demonstrated innovative coastal erosion mitigation measures at two pilot locations:

– Puducherry Beach Restoration Project: The Submerged Reef has been implemented by MoES and beach nourishment is implemented by Govt of Puducherry. This helped in the restoration of a 1.5 km long city beach after 30 years and helped to improve tourism and fishing activities in addition to protection of the coast during extreme cyclonic events.

– Kadalur Periya Kuppam, Tamil Nadu: An Offshore submerged dyke was implemented. This helped in the protection of three fishing Villages during extreme cyclonic events and restored the lost beach that is being used for the landing of fishing boats and other fishing activities.


Source: This post is based on the article20TH EDITION OF INDIA FRANCE NAVAL EXERCISE VARUNA – 2022published in PIB on 31st March 2022.

What is the News?

The 20th edition of the Bilateral Naval Exercise between Indian and French Navies – ‘VARUNA’ is being conducted in the Arabian Sea.

What is Exercise Varuna?

Type: Bilateral Naval Exercise 

Countries Involved: India and France.

Started in: 1993.

The exercise was named ‘VARUNA’ in 2001.

Aim: To develop interoperability between the two navies. Further, it aims to foster mutual cooperation by learning from each other’s best practices to conduct joint operations.

What are the other exercises between India and France?

Exercise Garuda: It is a bilateral exercise between the Indian and French Air Force. The first edition of the exercise was held in 2003.

Exercise SHAKTI: It is a biennial military exercise conducted between India and France. It was first conducted in the year 2011.

Exercise La Pérouse: It is a multilateral maritime exercise led by the French Navy. The Indian Navy participated in this exercise for the first time in 2021.

Annual Dolphin Census: Dip in Chilika lake’s dolphin population

Source: This post is based on an article “Dip in Chilika lake’s dolphin population” published in The Hindu on 1st April 2022.

What is the News?

The Odisha Government has conducted the Annual Dolphin Census recently.

The Census was carried out in Chilika lake, Rajnagar Mangrove wildlife division , Baleswar wildlife division, Bhadrak wildlife division, Puri wildlife division and Berhampur forest division. 

What are the key findings from the Annual Dolphin Census?

The Dolphin population recorded along Odisha’s coast and in its water bodies has increased overall. It has gone up from 544 in 2021 to 726 in 2022.

A total of six species of dolphins — Irrawaddy, bottlenose, humpback, striped, finless and Spinner dolphins have been found in this census.

The increase in the dolphin population in Odisha is largely due to high sightings in the Mangrove Wildlife Division of the Rajnagar jurisdiction, where 540 dolphins were found in 2022 compared with 342 in 2021.

However, the Chilika lake which is a major tourist attraction for its Irrawaddy dolphins saw the number of Irrawaddy Dolphins drop sharply from 162 in 2021 to 151 in 2022.

In the remaining four Wildlife Divisions — Puri, Berhampur, Bhadrak and Balasore — dolphin sightings were negligible.


Striped Dolphin: It ​​is an extensively studied dolphin, found in temperate and tropical waters of all the world’s oceans. IUCN Status: Least Concern.

Striped Dolphin: It is a small dolphin found in offshore tropical waters around the world. It is famous for its acrobatic displays, in which it rotates around its longitudinal axis as it leaps through the air. IUCN Status: Least Concern.

Pluto: ‘Recent’ volcanism raises puzzle — how can such a cold body power eruptions?

Source: This post is based on an article “Pluto: ‘Recent’ volcanism raises puzzle — how can such a cold body power eruptions?” published in Down To Earth on 1st April 2022.

What is the News?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s(NASA) New Horizons probe has reported new findings of Pluto.

The probe reported that icy lava flows have recently (no more than a billion years ago) covered substantial tracts of its surface. The findings drew particular attention to a mountainous feature named Wright Mons.

What is Wright Mons?

Wright Mons is a mountainous feature found on Pluto. It was informally named by the New Horizons team in honour of the Wright brothers.

It is about 150 km across its base and has a central depression (a hole) 40-50 km wide, with a floor at least as low as the surrounding terrain.

Scientists claim that Wright Mons is a volcano and cite the lack of impact craters as evidence that it is not likely to be older than 1-2 billion years.

The volume of Wright Mons exceeds 20 thousand cubic kilometres. Although considerably less than the volume of Mars’s biggest volcanoes, this is similar to the total volume of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, and much greater than the volume of its above sea-level portion.

The slopes of Wright Mons and much of its surroundings are seen to be crowded with hummocks (humps or ridges in an ice field).

These hummocks were likely created by some sort of ice volcanism, known by the technical term “cryovolcanism” – erupting icy water rather than molten rock.

Explained: Why India’s pact with Sri Lanka on a maritime rescue center is significant

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Why India’s pact with Sri Lanka on a maritime rescue center is significant” published in Indian Express on 1st April 2022.

What is the News?

India and Sri Lanka have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Indian public sector Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) to set up a state of the art Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Colombo. 

What is the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre(MRCC)?

MRCCs are part of an international network under the UN’s International Maritime Organization. MRCCs monitor the sea lanes with the objective of swift response to emergencies such as vessels in distress, rescue and evacuation of people, and prevention of and containing environmental disasters such as oil spills.

Each country is responsible for its own Search and Rescue Region. The work of MRCCs is coordinated by the Navy or Coast Guard in each country.

In India, the Coast Guard is the coordinating agency. In Sri Lanka, it is the Navy.

How is India helping Sri Lanka in its MRCC?

Bengaluru-based BEL will be enhancing Sri Lanka’s MRCC by setting up advanced software systems that will increase Sri Lanka’s capacities in its Search and Rescue operations.

The enhanced MRCC will work out of the Sri Lankan Navy headquarters at Colombo, with a sub-centre at Hambantota.

Note: In Hambantota, Chinese state-owned company runs a deep water port that was controversially leased to it by Sri Lanka in 2016.

What is the significance of the MRCC agreement between India and Sri Lanka?

1) Enhances cooperation on maritime security between the two countries in a part of the Indian Ocean region where the India-China rivalry has taken centre stage over the last decade.

2) The agreement appears to be part of India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) initiative in the Indian Ocean,

Note: India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Maldives are part of the Colombo Security Conclave.

Government’s emphasis on promoting sunflower area and production in the country

Source: This post is based the article Government’s emphasis on promoting sunflower area and production in the countrypublished in PIB on 31st March 2022.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is focused on promoting the area and production of Sunflower in the country.

About Sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is an important oilseed crop in India, popularly known as “Surajmukhi.” It is known as a sunflower as it follows the sun by day, always turning towards its direct rays. 

Sunflower is a major source of vegetable oil in the world. It is used for a variety of cooking purposes. Sunflower seed contains about 48 – 53% edible oil. 

Largest  Producer of Sunflower in the World: Ukraine is the largest producer of sunflower. (Ukraine and Russia together account for about 60% of the global sunflower oil production and exports). 

The Sunflower Production States in India: In India, Sunflower is grown mainly in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana. 

India’s Sunflower Oil Imports Dependence

Sunflower oil accounts for 10-12%  of India’s total 220-230 lakh tonnes of annual domestic demand for cooking oils.

As much as 90% of India’s sunflower oil requirement comes from Ukraine (70%) and Russia (20%).

However, supply disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict would result in a supply shortfall of at least 4-6 lakh tonnes of crude sunflower oil for India next fiscal and impact the production of domestic edible oil processors.

Supreme Court strikes down Tamil Nadu’s 10.5% Vanniyar quota

Source: This post is based on the article Supreme Court strikes down Tamil Nadu’s 10.5% Vanniyar quotapublished in The Hindu on 1st April 2022.

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has struck down the 10.5% reservation provided to Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community(MBC) in Tamil Nadu, in government jobs and admission to educational institutions.


The Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a Special Reservation Act of 2021 that divided the existing 20% quota for the ‘Most Backward Classes/Denotified Communities’ category into three parts. 

Among them, the largest share of 10.5% was specified as exclusive to the Vanniyar community and its various sub-castes. 

This act was challenged before the Madras High Court. The court declared that the Act was unconstitutional because of a lack of quantifiable data to measure the “extreme backwardness” of the Vanniyars. This High Court verdict was then challenged before the Supreme Court.

What has the Supreme Court said?

The Supreme Court upheld the Madras High Court verdict.

The court said that: 

1) The caste alone cannot be the exclusive basis to grant quota within a reserved category, 2) The allotment of 10.5% reservation to a single community from total MBC quota of 20% in the State leaving only 9.5% to other communities in the MBC category was without “substantial basis”. It violates the fundamental rights of equality, non-discrimination and equal opportunity of other MBCs.

3) ​​There was no assessment or analysis done prior to the 2021 Act to back the claim that the Vanniyars were relatively more backward than the other MBCs.

4) The court further found that the 2021 Act was only ancillary legislation to the 1994 Act and was not in conflict with the latter. (Ancillary legislation means legislation that is supportive of principal legislation).

Note: Reservation in Tamil Nadu comprises 69% under a 1994 Act protected under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. Of the 69%, backward classes, including Christians and Muslims, get 30%; MBCs get 20%;  Scheduled Castes 18%; and Scheduled Tribes 1%.

Indian scientists propose multi-sectoral strategies for the prevention and control of pollen allergy

Source: This post is based on the articleIndian scientists propose multi-sectoral strategies for the prevention and control of pollen allergy published in PIB on 31st March 2022.

What is the News?

Indian scientists have recommended several measures for the prevention and control of pollen allergy.

What are Pollens?

Pollen grains are male biological entities produced by higher plant cells that are essential for sexual reproduction. 

Pollen themselves are immobile and dispersion is aided by agents such as water, insects, birds and wind. Hence, they are considered as aero planktons (floating in the air) surrounding human beings. 

Read more: Air pollutants & meteorological variables influence pollen concentration: study

Pollen Allergy

Pollen Allergy is considered a major public health problem that causes morbidity and subsequently affects a patient’s quality of life. 

Pollen due to their large size cannot enter the thoracic regions of the respiratory tract but can affect the nasopharyngeal mucous membrane. 

At the same time, the submicronic-pollen particles can act as respirable particles reaching deeper into the upper airways leading to exacerbation of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other allergic reactions

In India, about 20-30% of the population suffers from allergic rhinitis/hay fever and approximately 15% develop asthma.

What are the factors responsible for the increase in pollen allergens in the atmosphere? 

There are many factors responsible for the increase of pollen allergens in the atmosphere such as:

Climate change and increase in global surface temperature in the atmosphere have a significant impact on plant life-cycle events (photosynthesis and plant growth) and their physiological parameters (such as pollen production, morphology and pollen season)

– Magnitude and concentration of pollen is the change in meteorological conditions and geographic distribution and 

Rapid unplanned urbanization with high vehicular emissions was reported to be linked with rising incidences of pollen-induced respiratory allergies.

What are the measures to be taken to minimize pollen-related allergic diseases?

Indian Scientists have suggested measures like 1) developing pollen forecast systems, 2) training health care professionals, 3) personal measures like following pollen forecasts, use of face masks, spectacles, and air filters, regularly taking prescribed medications, limiting outdoor exposure, and 4) avoiding gardening or grass-cutting during peak pollen seasons.

They have also highlighted the need for dissemination of proper knowledge regarding pollen allergy, allergen avoidance, their symptoms, and management to better address the ailment

Mains Answer Writing

Revision of NCERT Textbooks

Source-This post on Revision of NCERT Textbooks has been created based on the article “NCERT textbooks need to keep pace with changing times” published in “The Indian Express” on 22 June 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-2– Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. Context– The article emphasizes the… Continue reading Revision of NCERT Textbooks

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Vadhavan Port Project

Source-This post on Vadhavan Port Project has been created based on the article “MEGA PORT OF CALL” published in “Business Standard” on 22 June 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper-3- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc. Context– The Vadhavan port project, recently approved by the Union Cabinet, marks a significant development for India’s maritime infrastructure. Located… Continue reading Vadhavan Port Project

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Changing Demand for Cereals in India

Source-This post on Changing Demand for Cereals in India has been created based on the article “How demand for cereals in India is changing” published in “The Indian Express” on 22 June 2024. UPSC Syllabus–GS Paper-3- Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices; Public Distribution System – Objectives, Functioning, Limitations,… Continue reading Changing Demand for Cereals in India

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Reservation Judgements: An overemphasis on merit

Source-This post on Reservation Judgements: An overemphasis on merit has been created based on the article “Faizan Mustafa writes on Patna High Court reservation ruling: An overemphasis on merit Constitutional Provisions and Judicial Interpretation” published in “The Indian Express” on 22 June 2024. UPSC Syllabus-GS Paper 2- Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions… Continue reading Reservation Judgements: An overemphasis on merit

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National Testing Agency (NTA)- Functioning and Challenges- Explained Pointwise

The National Testing Agency (NTA) has been caught in the middle of the storm of the NEET controversy. With the recent cancellation of the UGC-NET examination, the reputation of National Testing Agency has further been tarnished. The complaints of paper leaks, deviations of procedure, irregularities in the examinations has further creaked the reputation of the agency.… Continue reading National Testing Agency (NTA)- Functioning and Challenges- Explained Pointwise

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Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill 2024

Source– This post on Capsaicin has been created based on the article “Why chilis burn. And why humans still love them” published in “Indian Express” on 21 June 2024. Why in the news? The Union government notified the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024. It has come into effect from 21 June 2024.… Continue reading Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill 2024

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Sleeping Sickness

Source– This post on Sleeping Sickness has been created based on the article “Chad eliminates sleeping sickness as a public health problem” published in “Down to Earth” on 20 June 2024. Why in the news? Chad became the first country to eliminate a neglected tropical disease (NTD) this year and the 51st globally. The disease eliminated… Continue reading Sleeping Sickness

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Verification of EVM Burnt Memory

Source– This post on Verification of EVM Burnt Memory has been created based on the article “11 candidates apply to verify EVM burnt memory: what is this process?” published in “Indian Express” on 21 June 2024. Why in the news? For the first time, 11 candidates from the 2024 Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections have… Continue reading Verification of EVM Burnt Memory

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Claude 3.5 Sonnet 

Source– This post on Claude 3.5 Sonnet has been created based on the article “What is Claude 3.5 Sonnet and how is it better than GPT-4o, Gemini-1.5 Pro?” published in “Indian Express” on 21 June 2024. Why in the news?’ Anthropic has introduced Claude 3.5 Sonnet which is its latest AI model. This is the… Continue reading Claude 3.5 Sonnet 

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Use of balloons and drones for 5G connectivity

Source– This post on Use of balloons and drones for 5G connectivity has been created based on the article “Govt conducts successful trial of 5G connectivity by balloons; drones next” published in “Business Standard” on 22 June 2024. Why in the news?’ The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) plans to conduct trials in the coming months… Continue reading Use of balloons and drones for 5G connectivity

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