9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 26th, 2023

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.
  1. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  2. 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.
    • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
    • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

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

Why do judges recuse themselves?

Source: The post is based on the article “Why do judges recuse themselves?” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Relevance: About Recusal of Judges

News: Supreme Court judge Justice M.R. Shah has recently refused to recuse himself from hearing a plea by former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.

Why do judges recuse?

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The practice of recusal originates from the basic concept of due process of law, that no one shall be a judge in his or her own case.

What is the procedure for recusal?

There are two kinds of recusals — 1) an automatic recusal where a judge himself withdraws from the case, 2) when a party raises a plea for recusal highlighting the possibility of bias of the judge in the case.

The decision to recuse rests solely on the conscience and discretion of the judge and no party can compel a judge to withdraw from a case. If a judge recuses himself, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to an alternate Bench.

Do judges have to record a reason for recusal?

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There are different views regarding the declaring the reason for recusal.

For instance, Justice Kurien Joseph in the NJAC judgment, believed that giving reasons for recusal is the constitutional duty of a judge while Justice Madan Lokur was of the opinion that citing reasons for recusal is unwarranted.

The Delhi High Court recently ruled that no litigant or third party has any right to intervene, comment or enquire regarding a judge’s recusal from a case.

What rules has the Supreme Court laid down for recusal?

In Ranjit Thakur versus Union of India (1987), the SC said that if a party has a reasonable belief that a judge may be biased in a case, the judge should consider recusing themselves to ensure impartiality and fairness in the judicial process.

In the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association versus the Union of India (2015), the court observed that where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry is needed as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias.

Further, Justice Arun Mishra in the Indore Development Authority versus Manoharlal and Ors (2019) held that a judge who has recused himself from hearing a case in the smaller bench is not disqualified from being a part of the larger bench for the same case.

Do foreign countries have laws related to recusal of judges?

US: The U.S. has a well-defined law on recusals. Such rules are also codified. In the US, there are three grounds for recusal — 1) financial or corporate interest, 2) a case in which the judge was a material witness or a lawyer, 3) and a relationship to a party.

UK: The ‘real danger’ test was adopted as the applicable standard for the recusal of judge. However, after its criticism, a new test was formulated, where the standard laid down was to look at the likelihood of bias from the perspective of a fair-minded and reasonable observer.

Note: The “real danger” test is a legal standard used to establish if a decision-maker has a high possibility of bias, requiring their recusal from a case in order to maintain the fairness and integrity of the proceedings.

A funding solution for developing nations’ climate challenge

Source- The post is based on the article “A funding solution for developing nations’ climate challenge” published in “The Indian Express” on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations. GS3- Environment

Relevance– Global cooperation for climate change

News– The G20 has set up a high-level committee to suggest reform of multilateral development banks (MDBs) so that they are fit for purpose in the contemporary global scenario

What are challenges associated with climate financing for developing countries?

Money estimates annually for greening in developing countries are in the range of $2-3 trillion. These are relatively manageable figures. Annual global savings, coming mostly in the developed world, is around $20 trillion. But, they are beyond the domestic capacities of developing countries.

For example, in India, solar and wind energy attracted investments worth $66 billion in the last eight years. But, this requirement will increase manifold.

India will require around $1.15 trillion in the next eight years to install 450 GW of renewables by 2030, for infrastructure of transmission and storage, Green Hydrogen push and increase the share of electric vehicles.

A total investment of $1.15 trillion is the estimated requirement, with the debt requirement being around $850 billion and equity roughly $300 billion.

The $850 billion debt requirement alone is more than a quarter of the total loans of all commercial banks in India. Moreover, these requirements will have to compete with other developmental and individual priorities.

Other domestic financing routes such as bonds, pension funds and insurance funds have limited prospects for clean-tech segments. They are concentrated in high-quality assets, that is, AA+ rated assets.

The gap of around 40-60% of the total debt requirement, can only be filled by foreign sources. But developed countries are reluctant to provide funding.

What are solutions for climate financing for the developing world?

Global MDBs can be particularly instrumental. They can provide interrupted flow of private capital in the developed world for green projects in developing countries.

This can be done by the creation of an International Foreign Exchange Agency linked to the WB. It will provide hedging support for foreign exchange borrowings by green projects in developing countries.

Large-scale pooling of projects and currencies coupled with reinsurance is an alternative to insurance. It can considerably lower the costs of foreign borrowed capital for green projects in the private sector in developing countries.

Residual risks could be covered by sovereign support from developed countries.

The idea of a foreign exchange agency is operational in a small manner between Europe and West Africa. But the requirement is for something on a truly large scale covering several currencies and reaching the largest populations in developing countries.

How will the G20 be helpful in climate financing?

The G20 committee should accord a high priority to climate financing. Unlike many other areas of divergence in the present geopolitics, climate change has multi-partisan consensus.

This must be leveraged at the MDBs with an agency or any other appropriate mechanism taking care of the currency risk. This is a relatively low-cost option for global well-being. It could be piloted during India’s G20 presidency.

An ordinance, its constitutionality, and scrutiny

Source- The post is based on the article “An ordinance, its constitutionality, and scrutiny” published in “The Hindu” on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues pertaining to federalism

Relevance– Constitutional issues related to NCT of Delhi

News- Recently, the President of India exercised legislative power to promulgate “The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023”. The ordinance negates a Constitution Bench judgement of the Supreme Court of India

What are points given by SC while interpreting Article 239AA(3)(a)?

The Legislative Assembly of the NCTD has jurisdiction over entries in List II and List III, except for expressly excluded entries of List II.

The executive power of NCTD is co-extensive with its legislative power. It shall extend to all matters with respect to which it has power to legislate. The Union of India has executive power only over three entries in List II. .

Consequently, executive power over “services” (entry 41) can be exercised exclusively by the Government of the NCTD.

What are the issues related to constitutionality of ordinance?

Ordinance has inserted entry 41 of List II into Article 239AA(3)(a). Therefore, it has expanded the scope of excepted matter from three  to four.

This needs for amending Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution. The power conferred on Parliament under Article is to make fresh laws and not to amend Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution.

Article 239AA(7)(a) confers power on Parliament  to make laws for giving effect to or supplementing the provisions contained in various clauses of Article 239AA. Such a power cannot be used to amend Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution.

As per Article 239AA(7)(b), Parliament’s law making under Article 239AA(7)(a) shall not be considered an amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, altering the scope of Article 239AA(3)(a) requires constitutional amendment under Article 368.

Consequently, the ordinance to expand the scope of excepted matters in Article 239AA(3)(a) is void. It amounts to a colourable exercise of power. Article 123 is no substitute for Article 368.

Besides, when the Supreme Court interprets the law, the same is binding on all courts and authorities in India in terms of Articles 141 and 144, respectively. Articles 141 and 144 cannot be negated by Article 123 without a constitutional amendment.

The aid and advice of the Union Council of Ministers to the President could not override Article 144. The basis of the Court judgement is Article 239AA(3)(a). To alter this basis, a constitutional amendment is necessary.

The maritime ‘Great Game’: Why Delhi needs to bolster the Andaman and Nicobar Command

Source- The post is based on the article “The maritime ‘Great Game’: Why Delhi needs to bolster the Andaman and Nicobar Command” published in the “The Indian Express” on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance- Maritime diplomacy

News– The article explains the importance of ANC Command for controlling aggressive behaviour of China

How is China increasing its maritime presence in the Indian ocean?

Since 2013, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea. It has created over 3,000-4,000 acres of new land atop reefs and rocks. Three such maritime outposts have been provided with runways and harbours as well as guided-missile batteries.

China’s island strategy has two objectives. It wants to develop a capability to monitor all traffic that moves under or above the sea. It is termed “maritime domain awareness”.

With surveillance facilities and fortifying them, a nation can project power over a huge oceanic expanse.

Why are Andaman and Nicobar commands strategically important?

The Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) group of 572 islands are important for India in projecting power, exert influence, or strike friendships in its eastern neighbourhood.

In 2001, India placed all Armed Forces located in the A&N Islands, including the Coast Guard, under the unitary command.

The objective of this unitary command was to ensure defence of the territory, waters, airspace and the exclusive economic zone of the islands. It was to safeguard the eastern areas of the Indian Ocean and establish an air defence identification zone over the islands.

By the turn of the century, all our South East Asian neighbours were becoming cautious of China. They expected that India would assert regional influence by positioning substantial forces with trans-national capabilities in the A&N.

ANC was also the “crucible” for testing the feasibility of “jointness” for armed forces. Gradually, the ANC became a well-oiled, efficient and functional joint command.

During the 2004 tsunami, the ANC provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the people of these islands.

How little attention has been given to ANC after its formation?

It was considered that any overt show of force by India in the Bay of Bengal would be considered by neighbours as “muscle-flexing”. Hence, it was undesirable.

The ANC model and framework has not been replicated anywhere else. The latest theatre command model under consideration recommends the abolition of ANC and its absorption by the Eastern Naval Command.

PM Modi’s Australia visit: Love in Sydney

Source: This post is created, based on the article “PM Modi’s Australia visit: Love in Sydney”, published in Indian Express on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

Context: Recently, Indian PM’s Australia visit concluded.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia in November 2014 – the first Indian PM to do so in nearly 30 years. Before that, Australia hadn’t been a main focus for India, especially during and after the Cold War. The disagreement over India’s nuclear test made the relations worse in the 90s.

Even though a meeting of the Quad (India, Australia, Japan, and the US) got cancelled, PM Modi still went to Sydney. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has visited India and will visit again for a G20 meeting.

Read moreTies that bind – The Modi visit to Australia adds to the bipartisan strength of growing bonds

What are the strengths of India Australia’s present relations?

First, for the first time since India became independent, it shares common interests with Australia in Asia and its surrounding waters.

Indians make up more than 3% of the Australia’s population and will soon reach one million. Indian PM Modi was heartfully welcomes by Indian diaspora there.

A new “Migration and Mobility” agreement will make it easier for people to move between the two countries.

Opening new consulates in Brisbane and Bengaluru will also strengthen the ties.

What are the issues between India and Australia?

Read here –  Ties that bind – The Modi visit to Australia adds to the bipartisan strength of growing bonds

GS Paper 3

A decade of reformist action has catalysed the emergence of India

Source: The post is based on the article “A decade of reformist action has catalysed the emergence of India” published in Mint on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy – Growth & Development

Relevance: measures taken to boost Indian Economy

News: The current PM is set to complete nine years. The article explains various measures taken by the current government to boost the economy of India.

What measures have been taken by the government?

First, the National Infrastructure Pipeline, the 33% capex hike in the current Budget and the Gati Shakti scheme are the important initiatives taken to strengthen infrastructure, boost market competitiveness and fortify growth. The asset monetization programme and NaBFID would greatly help to unlock capital for infrastructure financing.

Second, the government is promoting a manufacturing transformation through its Atmanirbhar Bharat plan of self-reliance and PLI scheme. Further, efforts in improving the ease of doing business and facilitating corporate exits, introduction of GST and reduction in corporate tax, with skill development, FDI reforms, etc. will make India a hub of manufacturing and exports.

Third, India has allowed FDI in many sectors such as retail, civil aviation, defence equipment, space, insurance, nuclear energy and others. This has made India a preferred FDI destination. 

India has also signed economic cooperation and trade agreements with countries such as the UAE and Australia, and negotiations are underway with the UK, EU and Canada, among others, to expand global ties.

Fourth, the government’s Start-Up India initiative has catalysed a startup culture and built a strong and inclusive ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the country. Today, India has the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem.

Fifth, the PM has aimed at digitizing India and fostering the emergence of a digitally empowered society and knowledge-based economy. This has been achieved through the Digital India initiative.

Sixth, sustainability and green growth has now become an important component of the government’s overall development plan. India is among the few countries that has set an ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.

India is also the third largest producer of renewable energy, with the potential to emerge as the global hub for green hydrogen.

Seventh, schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, Kisan Samman Nidhi, Ayushman Bharat Yojana, etc. are important initiatives taken to uplift the needy and promote social empowerment in the nation. The govt. was also appreciated for efforts in making Covid vaccines available even to the most vulnerable.

In addition to the above, the government has also brought in multi-dimensional reforms and taken many initiatives, in partnership with major stakeholders, in diverse areas to promote competitiveness, promote inclusion and enhance growth.

What more measures are required to improve India’s economy?

There are more actions required by India such as – a) prioritizing the infrastructure development along with the effort to improve ease of doing business, b) reduce the cost of doing business through factor market reforms, lower the costs of energy and capital and c) focus on improving health, education and skills, among others.

The current G20 presidency enables India to showcase its leadership in tackling various challenges and setting agenda globally.

Why banning new coal-run power plants is a good idea

Source- The post is based on the article “Why banning new coal-run power plants is a good idea” published in “The Times of India” on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Energy

Relevance- Thermal energy

News– The government is contemplating a ban on setting up new coal-based power stations. The plants which are already under construction will be allowed to continue.

Why is the move surprising?

The government has also said that in order to meet the power demand in 2029-30, an additional capacity of about 16,000 MW of coal-based capacity would be required. It is over and above the capacity of about 27,000 MW already under construction.

The need for additional capacity of 16,900 MW has been cited in the report of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) called Optimal Generation Capacity Mix. It  was released recently.

In fact, there are two versions of this report. The first was published in January 2020 and the second in April 2023.

Why does the government feel that the additional capacity of about 16,000 MW of coal-based capacity may not be required?

There are primarily two reasons.

The first reason is the demand for power in 2029-30 in the second report is based on the 20th Electric Power Survey (EPS) whereas the first report looked at the estimates of the 19th EPS. The demand for power in 2029-30 in the 20th EPS is somewhat more conservative.

The 19th EPS had projected a peak demand of 340 GW in 2029-30 whereas the figure indicated in the 20th EPS is 334 GW. Similarly, the energy demand for the 19th and 20th EPS are 2,400 BUs and 2,313 BUs, respectively.

Historically, CEA’s power demand projections are known to be exaggerated. The government feels the actual demand in 2029-30 could be even lower than the projections in the 20th EPS.

The changing shape of the load curve is the second reason. Traditionally, in India, there have been two peaks in a day. The evening peak is usually higher than the morning though there are seasonal variations.

The evening peak occurs at around 7 pm. We had to rely on coal-based capacity for meeting it as economically viable storage options were limited.

However, the evening peak is actually occurring at about 4 pm in the last two to three years. This peak can be met through solar power. Hence, it can lower the need for coal-based capacity.

Why in the second version of the CEA report, the required capacity for coal-based stations in 2029-30 has come down?

This decrease is because of a major change in policy relating to the retirement of units after they complete 25 years.

This version mentions that about 2,121 MW of coal-based capacity would be retired by 2030 whereas the earlier version of this report stated that about 25,000 MW of coal-based capacity would be retired by 2030.

The government probably feels it would be a good idea to carry on with old plants even after they have completed 25 years of operation.

The station heat rate of well-maintained plants does not get adversely affected with age. The transmission links are already there and the coal linkages are maintained.

PM Modi’s Australia visit: Love in Sydney

Source: This post is created, based on the article “PM Modi’s Australia visit: Love in Sydney”, published in Indian Express on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3 – Mobilisation of resources

Context: India’s medium-term growth outlook looks weak due to declining real investment into India.

Recently Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor said the growth rate for 2022-23 might be more than the expected 7%.

However, the medium-term outlook of India’s growth is not very encouraging due to the level of investment coming into India. The RBI in its latest monthly bulletin has reported that gross FDI in 2022-23 declined by 16.3 per cent year-on-year to $71 billion.

FDI at net level declined by over 27 per cent to $28 billion, driven by lower gross inflows and a rise in repatriation.

Manufacturing, computer services, and communication services witnessed the steepest decline.

In terms of investment sources, the decline was led by the US, Switzerland, and Mauritius.

However, one positive trend in investment is that India was the second-largest recipient of FDI in semiconductors, after the US.

What are the reasons behind declining investment?

Big companies won’t be willing to expand due to Slow or below-trend global growth.

The hardening of global financial conditions.

The start-ups are finding it difficult to raise funds.

The inflation rate in advanced economies, particularly the US, is still higher than the target.

Large corporations leaving China, are not making India their destination.

What are the challenges of declining FDI?

Foreign multinationals bring technology, which increases overall efficiency in the economy. It will have effects on economic growth and jobs.

FDI is by definition for the long run, it provides stability to external accounts.

What steps can India take?

India has ample foreign exchange reserves; therefore, it won’t be a high risk for India.

Policymakers should focus on increasing the ease of doing business in India.

Government should review the trade policy, to see if it is obstructing the FDI into India.

Why Tesla makes in China, not in India

Source: This post is created, based on the articles:

“Why Tesla makes in China, not in India”, published in Business Standard on 26th May 2023.

“Don’t Just Musk Up”, published in The Times of India on 26th May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3 – Industrial Policies in  India

Context: While China’s local Electric Vehicles manufacturers are doing well, India’s indigenous companies are still struggling to scale up EV development in India.

Chinese carmaker BYD is giving tough competition to tesla in the field of Electric Vehicles manufacturing.

An article from South China Morning Post highlighted how BYD sold 1.86 million electric and hybrid cars in 2022, which is 42% more than Tesla.

A report by JD Power puts Tesla as only the 10th most desirable electric vehicle brand in China, behind natives such as BYD, Xpeng, Nio, and Li Auto.

What is status of EV manufacturing in India?

India has two main homegrown car manufacturers: Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra.

Tata Motors is the leader in electric cars, but their numbers are small compared to BYD. Mahindra had an early start in electric cars but hasn’t made much headway. Other companies like Maruti Suzuki have shown interest in hybrid vehicles and are planning to launch electric vehicles in the future.

Why is Tesla no manufacturing in India?

Due to the slow progress of local manufacturers, it seems not to be threatened due to loss of EV market in India.

The earlier plans of tesla to bring Model 3 to India could not be completed due to some issues:

First, it wanted India to reduce their import duties on the EVs. Which was not accepted by the government.

Secondly, the government wanted Tesla to manufacture in India, instead of China.

Although Tesla has shown interest to set up in India, but it is not going to be very soon.

What are the challenges faced by India in EV production?

Recent changes to FAME-II are expected to increase a customer’s acquisition cost.

Batteries, which account for about 40% of an EV’s total value, are predominantly produced in China.

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese companies control the processing of materials in the battery supply chain.

What can be the course of action for India?

India needs to look beyond Production-Linked Incentives (PLIs). For instance, the US recently introduced substantial subsidies to stimulate the EV supply chain.

India’s potential lithium reserves can give it advantage in becoming a battery manufacturer, but it requires policy changes.

Economics that looks at the lower half of the pyramid

Source: The post is based on the article “Economics that looks at the lower half of the pyramid” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

Syllabus: GS3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Relevance: About economic inequalities and economic policies.

News: Recently, the Global Solutions Summit was conducted in Berlin.

What are the key takeaways of the Global Solutions Summit?

The Global Solutions Summit is an international conference aimed at addressing key policy challenges facing the G20 and G7 and other global governance fora. The theme of this year’s summit was “Realigning Societies: Towards a sustainable, inclusive, and common future”.

The think tanks of the G-20 and other countries at the summit called attention to global problems of climate change, increasing economic inequalities within and among countries, and the effects of the financial and trade sanctions imposed by the most powerful nation, which affects the other 85% most of all.

What are the implications of economic inequalities?

Divisions among the economic “haves” and “have nots” are changing the political dynamics around the world. For instance, the economic disparity forces both the left and right of the political spectrum and has gained strength in all countries.

The G7 countries represent only 15% of the world’s citizens. But they autocratically and undemocratically force other governments representing 85% of the people to turn into a democracy.

How does free market capitalism change socialist economies over time?

After the global depression, economies were reformed towards “socialism” in the last century. They aim to rebalance incomes and wealth.  For example, Many European countries adopted a socialist model while maintaining their cultural traditions. Similarly, the U.S. introduced social security, increased taxes to raise resources for the government, and introduced laws enabling labour unions within enterprises.

The economic ideology of free markets in the 1980s struck at the base of socialist economies. Free market capitalism is founded on the principle of liberty in the economy, with rights for everyone to use their properties as they will. Free market economy models do not have much place for “socialist” values of equality and fraternity. 

Further, the objectives of reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on countries whenever they needed economic assistance required the undoing of socialist reforms made earlier.

How does private sector involvement limit government spending?

Ronald Reagan once said the “government is not the solution…, it is the problem.” He followed a policy which required governments to reduce their budgets and taxes to make more room for capital markets. “Subsidies” for the poor became bad, while “incentives” for investors were good.

The private sector is not expected to subsidise the cost of its services. Therefore, economic reforms favouring the private sector have increased economic precarity even in rich countries.

With the spread of financial capitalisation, an elite class of global citizens and multinationals emerged. They are residents in many countries but they avoided paying taxes in any. Thereby reducing government spending.

What should be done?

The model of economic growth that has guided national and international policies since the 1990s will not create healthy democracies.

-Economics needs urgent reform to progress towards universal social, and ecological well-being.

-Instead of focusing on the ease of doing business and the reduction of risks of financial investors, the Ease of living of the poorest citizens and the reduction of economic disparity must be the principal measures of good governance.

-Indian economists must rethink the economic policies and concentrate on the requirements of the lower 50% of the people in the pyramid, and not trust wealth to trickle down on its own.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

The tragedy of the axolotl mutant and its mystery gene

Source: The post is based on the article “The tragedy of the axolotl mutant and its mystery gene” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

What is the News?

The Axolotl, a species of salamander(lizard-like amphibians) possesses an extraordinary ability to regenerate lost body parts. The elusive o (for “ova deficient” gene) plays a pivotal role in the axolotl’s regenerative process.

This inspired researchers to look behind its unique regenerative power.

What is Axolotl?

Source: The Hindu

These are amphibians that spend their whole lives underwater. They exist in the wild in only one place—Lake Xochimilco near Mexico City.

Note: Lake Xochimilco is an ancient endorheic lake. It is a network of artificial channels, small lakes, and temporary wetlands that help supply water to nearby Mexico City’s 18 million residents. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

IUCN Status: critically endangered.

Food: They feast on mollusks, worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and some fish.

Threat: Even though they are amphibians, axolotls remain aquatic throughout their lives but they are now almost extinct in the wild. Their populations have declined considerably due to a) habitat loss due to Mexico City’s continued urbanisation, b) water pollution, and c) invasive fish species such as carp and tilapia, which compete with axolotls for food and prey upon them.

Unique capability: Axolotls, like humans, contain two copies of every gene – one inherited from the father and the other from the mother.

Axolotls have the ability to regenerate lost body parts and have a rare trait of neoteny, which means they retain larval features throughout life. These interested cancer researchers for their unique resistance to developing cancerous tissues.

Minister of Rural Development launches SAMARTH campaign to promote digital transactions at Gram Panchayat Level

Source: The post is based on the article “Minister of Rural Development launches SAMARTH campaign to promote digital transactions at Gram Panchayat Level” published in the PIB on 25th May 2023

What is the News?

Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj launched the SAMARTH campaign.

What is the SAMARTH campaign?

It is a campaign to Promote Digital Transactions in 50000 Gram Panchayats‘.


-To increase the adoption of digital payment methods, particularly among women, in 50,000 Gram Panchayats across the country.

-To empower rural communities by enabling them to participate in the digital economy and access the benefits of digital transactions.

It is part of the larger Amrit Mahotsav celebrations and is being implemented under the AzadiKaAmritMahotsav.

Indian scientists develop model cosmic dust particles to mimic the unusual polarisation of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov

Source: The post is based on the article “Indian scientists develop model cosmic dust particles to mimic the unusual polarisation of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov” published in the PIB on 25th May 2023

What is the News?

To replicate the unusual polarisation properties of the first observed interstellar comet (not gravitationally bound to a star), 2I/Borisov, Indian scientists created a cosmic dust model.

What are the various types of comets in the solar system?

Solar System comets are categorised into two polarimetric classes. Such as low and high-polarisation comets depending on the different dust-to-gas ratios observed in the comet.

A third class of comets are also there which have polarisation higher than that of high polarisation comets. This was observed only in case of one Solar System comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp). Such a steep polarimetric slope is believed to occur due to the presence of small pristine cosmic dust.

About 2I/Borisov

2I/Borisov was the first interstellar comet to be observed and studied by mankind. It exhibited an unusually steeper slope which was observed only in case of one Solar System comet, C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp).

About the cosmic dust model developed

To explain the polarimetric observations of comets, it is important to develop realistic computer-modeled dust structures and computationally simulate the scattering of light by such modelled structures. Recently, Indian scientists for the first time developed a visually realistic cosmic dust model using a set of numerical algorithms/software called REST (Rough Ellipsoid Structure Tools).

The model results also indicate the observed dust-to-gas ratio is directly proportional to the porous-to-compact ratio of the modelled dust structures.

Applications: The model can reproduce experimental as well as observational data of light scattered by dust. By studying the way light scatters off these cosmic particles, scientists can better understand how comets behave.

What are Cosmic dust particles?

These are tiny solid particles that exist in outer space. They are composed of various materials, including minerals, metals, ice, and organic compounds. These dust particles are composed of amorphous silicate (Forsterite) and amorphous carbon.  Their size range from nanometers to micrometres.

They contribute to the formation of stars and planetary systems by providing material for accretion. They also scatter and absorb light, affecting the radiation properties of celestial objects. Additionally, these particles serve as building blocks for the formation of larger objects, such as asteroids, comets, and planets.

China constructing model villages opposite the LAC

Source: The post is based on the article “‘China constructing model villages opposite the LAC’” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

What is the News?

According to official sources, China is continuing to expand the network of model villages, or Xiaokang (moderately prosperous) villages, opposite the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Middle and Eastern sectors.

Note: The 3,488 km long LAC is divided into the Western (Ladakh), Middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) and Eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) sectors.

About the model villages opposite to LAC

Since the beginning of the stand­off with China in eastern Ladakh in 2020, there has been a build-up of forces by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and transgressions in other areas along the LAC.

As reported earlier, numerous Xiaokang villages are under construction all along the LAC, including at the Chumbi Valley facing the strategically crucial Siliguri corridor.

New posts are coming up six or seven km from the LAC in the Middle Sector, and, in some areas, the frequency of patrolling has gone up significantly. For example, the PLA Army patrols have been observed every 15 days or so as against once in a season earlier.

In some areas, the Chinese are building villages at a rapid pace, sometimes 300 to 400 houses within 90 to 100 days. A military complex is under construction in a place.

In Arunachal Pradesh, opposite the Kameng area, two villages have come up in Cuna country consisting of 41 dwelling units and there are about 200 inhabitants from the Menba ethnic community.

China’s application of UAVs: PLA has deployed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or helicopter drone in the Middle sector. In 2020, China’s first UAV meant for high-­altitude areas made its maiden flight and might be deployed along the country’s borders with India.

China also has AR­500C unmanned plateau helicopter. It is meant for surveillance and can take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres, and has a ceiling of 6,700 metres. It has an endurance of five hours and a maximum take­off weight of 500 kg.

About India’s approach to LAC

India has almost reached parity in terms of roads and other infrastructure in the Middle Sector. There has also been major induction of new technology by the Indian Army along the LAC to augment surveillance and capacity.

The Indian Army has signed a series of agreements for high-technology equipment, which is currently in the process of being inducted in the forward areas.

New autonomous vehicles will soon replace animal transport for transporting rations and utilities to soldiers in forward locations and snow scooters, laser dazzlers and new-generation sniper rifles have also been inducted.

Read more: Vibrant Village Programme: A step towards securing Himalayan borders

New committee to keep watch on cheetah project

Source: The post is based on the article “New committee to keep watch on cheetah project” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

What is the News?

Following the death of three cheetah cubs, the Centre appointed a new steering committee to oversee the implementation of Project Cheetah.

About Cheetah Reintroduction Project and Kuno National Park

Read here: Cheetah Reintroduction Project and Kuno National Park

About the progress of the Cheetah Reintroduction Project so far

Read here: Cheetah Reintroduction Project: progress so far – Explained, pointwise

About the Cheetah Project Steering Committee

Mandate: a) To monitor the progress of the cheetah reintroduction programme and advise the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the National Tiger Conservation Authority; b) To decide on opening up the cheetah habitat for eco-tourism and, c) Suggest regulations and ways to involve the local community in the project activities.

Members and head: The 11-member Cheetah Project Steering Committee comprises national and international experts. Several of international experts have been involved in the cheetah translocation project from Namibia and South Africa.

It will be led by Rajesh Gopal, secretary-general, Global Tiger Forum and closely associated with Project Tiger.

Duration: The committee will be in force for two years and will convene at least one meeting every month, besides conducting field visits to Kuno National Park.

Amid reports of shortage, FSSAI to hold surveillance on milk and milk products

Source: The post is based on the article “Amid reports of shortage, FSSAI to hold surveillance on milk and milk products” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

What is the News?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will conduct nationwide surveillance to curb adulteration of milk and milk products, in both organised and unorganised sectors in all the districts of the States and Union Territories.

What is the need for FSSAI surveillance in the Dairy sector?

India is facing a milk shortage with cooperatives reporting only a 1-2% increase in production this year and organised and unorganised sector pointing to registering stagnation. This is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and fodder inflation at 30%.

Further, milk plays an indispensable role in food culture either as a fresh fluid or as processed dairy products.

Must read: Warning sign – Spread of lumpy skin disease must be contained

How FSSAI surveillance in the Dairy sector will operate?

Milk or milk products would be tested for compliance with quality and safety.

The FSSAI operation would identify hotspots for adulteration in milk and its products and devise corrective actions/strategies and suggest a way forward.

How FSSAI surveillance in the Dairy sector operated last year?

“In 2022, the FSSAI conducted a milk survey in selected 12 States (10 States where the lumpy skin disease was prevalent). FSSAI monitored the administration of antibiotics/veterinary drugs in affected animals and sprayed insecticides in the sheds.

Later, the presence of antibiotics, pesticide residues and heavy metals were assessed in the samples collected. The survey revealed that the milk sold in the selected 12 States is largely safe for consumption.

All­-in-­one policy plan to spread insurance in India

Source: The post is based on the article “All­-in-­one policy plan to spread insurance in India” published in The Hindu on 26th May 2023

What is the News?

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is devising an affordable product covering health, life, property, and accident risks to give citizens protection, and expedite claim settlements by linking death registries onto one industry platform.

What is the need for an all­-in-­one insurance policy plan?

a) India is a country which has poor insurance penetration, b) A legislative amendment demanded attracting more investments through differentiated licences for niche players similar to the banking sector, and c) IRDA is striving to create a “UPI­-like moment” in insurance through a plan worked out with general and life insurance firms that is termed as “Bima Trinity”.

About the all­-in-­one insurance policy

All-­in-one insurance policy
Source: The Hindu


-To give citizens protection against multiple risks, and expedite claim settlements by linking death registries onto a common industry platform.

-To make insurance “available, affordable and accessible” to all citizens with a “gram panchayat­ to district­ to State ­level” approach.

The Bima Trinity of the policy:

A new Bima Sugam platform will integrate insurers and distributors onto one platform to make it a onestop shop for customers. At a later stage customers can pursue service requests and settlement of claims through the same portal.

Bima Vistar: IRDA is simultaneously developing a possible lynchpin product named Bima Vistar. This will be a bundled risk cover for life, health, property and casualties or accidents, with defined benefits for each risk that can be paid out faster than usual without the need for surveyors.

Many States digitising their birth and death registries. The IRDA aims to provide benefits faster (settle claims as fast as six to eight hours or a day at the most) by integrating those registries. This will be a game changer.

Bima Vaahaks(carriers): It is a women-­centric workforce in each Gram Sabha that will meet the women heads of each household to convince them about a composite insurance product like Bima Vistar.

Banks can possibly be given an auto ­debit authority for the premium payments.

Other features:

-To meet the target of providing insurance cover for all by 2047, the IRDA is also looking to form State-level insurance committees similar to the ones prevalent in the banking sector. IRDA will also include State governments to formulate district-­level plans.

What are the expected benefits of the all­-in-­one insurance policy plan?

Households across the country could be able to get a) an affordable single policy that covers health, life, property and accident, b) get their claims settled within hours, and c) secure value-­added services at the time of buying a policy.

The plan could double the number of jobs in the insurance sector to 1.2 crore.

Read more: Explained: How ‘Use and File’ system will bring new health insurance products faster

What are the amendments proposed by IRDA to insurance laws?

The current insurance laws do not permit the addition of value-­added services along with an insurance policy. For example, the insurance company cannot add an annual yoga membership or a nursing service for the parents of an insurer living 1,000 km away along with the policy.

So, the IRDA has proposed amendments to the insurance laws that the government should allow differentiated capital requirements for niche insurers so as to attract more investments and permit players to add value-­added services to the policies they sell.

Methanol poisoning deaths due to Spurious alcohol in India- Explained Pointwise

The Issue of Methanol poisoning deaths due to Spurious alcohol in India has generated fresh concerns, after the recent hooch tragedies claimed the lives of 22 people in the Villupuram and Chengalpattu districts of Chennai. The methanol poisoning deaths due to spurious alcohol have been a significant concern in India. The need is strict vigilance… Continue reading Methanol poisoning deaths due to Spurious alcohol in India- Explained Pointwise

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New Amphibian Species Discovered in Kaziranga National Park

Source– This post on New Amphibian Species Discovered in Kaziranga National Park has been created based on the article “Limbless amphibian found in Kaziranga for first time”  published in “The Hindu” on 21 June 2024. Why in the news? Recently, a Limbless amphibian was found in Kaziranga for the first time. About New Amphibian Species… Continue reading New Amphibian Species Discovered in Kaziranga National Park

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‘School in a Box’ Initiative

Source– This post on ‘School in a Box’ Initiative has been created based on the article “Flood-affected children to soon get ‘school in a box’” published in “The Hindu” on 21 June 2024. Why in the news?’ Flood-affected children in Assam will receive a ‘school in a box‘ in model relief camps across the state.… Continue reading ‘School in a Box’ Initiative

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IIIT-Delhi’s project wins joint 2nd prize in global competition

Source– This post on IIIT-Delhi’s project wins joint 2nd prize in global competition has been created based on the article “IIIT-Delhi’s project wins joint 2nd prize in global competition” published in “The Hindu” on 20th June 2024. Why in the news? A project by the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIIT-Delhi) has won the… Continue reading IIIT-Delhi’s project wins joint 2nd prize in global competition

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World Refugee Day 2024

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5G Intelligent Village Initiative

Source– This post on 5G Intelligent Village Initiative has been created based on the article “DoT announces two significant calls for proposals aimed at catalyzing innovation and technological advancement in telecommunications sector”  published in “PIB” on 17 June 2024. Why in the news? The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced two innovative proposals-5G Intelligent Village… Continue reading 5G Intelligent Village Initiative

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Delos Island

Source– This post on Delos Island has been created based on the article “Ancient Greek sanctuary slowly sinks into the Aegean Sea” published in “The Hindu” on 13 June 2024. Why in the news? An expert has warned that the remarkable ancient site on the small Greek island of Delos is “at risk of vanishing”… Continue reading Delos Island

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Travel Authority T/A 912 Form

Source– This post on Travel Authority T/A 912 has been created based on the article “After train crash, Eastern Railway prohibits issuance of TA-912 for loco pilots” published in “The Hindu” on 20 June 2024. Why in the news? Recently, a goods train collided with the Kanchanjunga Express after being authorized by the station master… Continue reading Travel Authority T/A 912 Form

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Announcement: Entrance Test-3 for AWFG 2024 (English & Hindi Medium) – Registration Open Now!

Dear Friends, We are pleased to announce that the Entrance Test-3 for AWFG 2024 has been scheduled. This will be held in both Medium English & Hindi. If you missed the 1st  & 2nd entrance exam, this is your opportunity to participate. Please find the details below: Entrance Test-3 for AWFG 2024 (English & Hindi… Continue reading Announcement: Entrance Test-3 for AWFG 2024 (English & Hindi Medium) – Registration Open Now!


UPSC Mains Answer Writing 21st June 2024 I Mains Marathon

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