In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
Increased rain and reduced snowfall in the Himalayan region
Tag: GS-1 Geography
Recently a new study found that Increased rain and melting of snow and ice have made the mountain regions more dangerous.
- IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019) reported that snowfall had decreased in mountain regions, including the Himalayas, due to higher temperatures, particularly at lower elevations.
- Scientific studies have indicated shifts in precipitation patterns in the Himalayan region, with more instances of extreme precipitation occurring as rainfall rather than snowfall, even at higher altitudes.
Reason for Increased Rainfall and reduced snowfall in the Himalayan Region
- Changing Weather Patterns: Changes in the circulation of the atmosphere, including shifts in jet streams and other weather systems, can lead to modifications in the distribution of rainfall.
- Global Warming and Temperature Increase: As the planet experiences a rise in temperatures, the atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture expands, resulting in increased evaporation and subsequent changes in precipitation patterns.
- Elevated Freezing Altitudes: The altitude at which falling precipitation transitions from snow to rain, known as the freezing level or zero-degree isotherm, is influenced by rising temperatures linked to global warming. This has led to a shift towards more rain and less snowfall at higher elevations.
- Diminished Snowfall: The warming climate causes a larger portion of precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, further altering traditional snowfall amounts.
- Reinforcing Cycles: With reduced snow cover, the Earth’s surface becomes less reflective (albedo effect), which in turn amplifies warming by absorbing more sunlight. This contributes to the trend of changing precipitation from snow to rain.
- Atmospheric Changes Driven by Warming: These modifications in the atmosphere’s behavior can intensify storm activity, resulting in more intense rainfall events in regions where snowfall used to be predominant.
Impact of increased rain and reduced snowfall in the Himalayan region:
- Increasing disasters: Shifts from snowfall to rainfall at higher elevations, affect water availability and hazards. Example: More instances of heavy rainfall cause flash floods.
- Water Resource Changes: Altered snowmelt and rain patterns affect river flow, water availability, and ecosystem dynamics. Example: Changes in river flow and hydrological patterns.
- Increased Flood and Landslide Risk: Rainwater saturates the soil, leading to landslides, debris flows, and flash floods. Example: Uttarakhand’s 2013 flash floods due to excessive rainfall.
- Impact on Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Altered precipitation affects vegetation, wildlife, and fragile mountain ecosystems. Example: Changes in alpine flora and fauna due to shifting climate.
- Socioeconomic Consequences: Reduced snowfall impacts winter tourism, agriculture, and water-dependent livelihoods. Example: Ski resorts face challenges due to shorter snow seasons.
- Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs): Faster glacial melt leads to unstable glacial lakes and potential GLOFs, posing flood risks downstream. Example: Imja Lake in Nepal is at risk of GLOF due to glacial melt.
The CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service, and Term of Office) Bill, 2023
Tags: GS – 2: Indian Polity (Constitutional Bodies)
Why in News:
Recently, the Government has introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha aiming to alter the process of appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
Provisions for appointment of CEC and ECs:
- According to Article 324(2), the appointment of the CEC and other Election Commissioners shall be made by the President, subject to the provisions of any law made on that behalf by Parliament.
- Since no parliamentary law was enacted as prescribed by Article 324 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court (SC) in March 2023 ruled that CEC and ECs will be appointed by the President of India on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India until a law is enacted by Parliament on their appointments.
- Before the Supreme Court ruling of March 2023, the CEC and ECs were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the government.
Key features of the Bill:
- The Selection Committee will consist of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister as member.
- If the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha has not been recognised, the leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha will assume the role.
- It proposes the establishment of a Search Committee to prepare a panel of five persons for consideration for the positions of CEC and ECs. The Search Committee will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary and will also include two members not below the rank of Secretary who have knowledge and experience in matters related to elections.
- The proposed Bill repeals the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. The business of the Election Commission will be governed by the new Act once it is passed.
- The 1991 Act provides that the salary of the ECs will be equal to that of a Supreme Court judge. The Bill provides that salary, allowance, and service conditions of the CEC and other ECs will be the same as that of the Cabinet Secretary.
- The Bill maintains the provision that the business of the Election Commission should be transacted unanimously whenever possible. In case of a difference of opinion, the majority’s view will prevail.
Major Issues with the Bill:
- The committee consists of the Prime Minister, the nominated Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition. This potentially gives the Executive dominance in appointments, undermining the independence of the Election Commission.
- The Bill replaces the Chief Justice of India with a nominated Cabinet Minister in the appointment process. This reduces judicial representation in the committee and might affect impartiality.
- The Bill allows the Selection Committee to choose anyone from outside the shortlisted candidates, undermining the purpose of the shortlisting process.
- The proposed changes may have implications for the autonomy and functioning of the ECI.
Source: Indian Express
Drought Declaration Norms
Tags: GS – 3: Disaster management (Drought)
Why in News:
Recently, the Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah urges Centre to amend the Manual for Drought Management 2016 (updated in 2020) for drought declaration by States.
- Drought is defined as a deficiency in rainfall/precipitation over an extended period, causing adverse impacts on vegetation, animals, and people.
- There is no single, legally accepted definition of drought in India, with states having their own criteria.
- 74% of India’s districts are vulnerable to extreme drought situations.
Process of Drought Declaration in India:
- The State Governments have the authority to declare drought-affected regions.
- Step 1: It involves examining two mandatory indicators – Rainfall Deviation and Dry spell.
- Step 2: It involves evaluating four impact indicators: agriculture, vegetation indices (remote sensing), soil moisture, and hydrology. States may choose any three of the four impact indicators (one from each) to assess drought intensity and categorize it as severe or moderate.
- If all three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘severe’ category, it indicates severe drought. If two of the three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ category, it indicates moderate drought.
- After the previous triggers are set off, States conduct a sample survey on the ground to determine the final intensity of drought. Field verification findings determine if the drought is ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’.
- Once the intensity of the drought is determined, the state government issues a notification specifying the geographical extent of the drought-affected area. The notification is valid for six months unless de-notified earlier.
Shortcomings in the Drought Declaration process in India:
- The existing norms for drought declaration follow a uniform approach without considering the diverse challenges faced in different agro-climatic regions of the state.
- The current criteria do not account for local ecological factors, water availability, and agricultural practices, which vary across regions and impact drought severity.
- The manual’s focus on rainfall deficit recovery overlooks the impact of scanty rainfall during the initial sowing season, causing agricultural damage and triggering drought.
- The rigid definition of dry spells does not consider variations in soil type, crop variety, temperatures, and vegetative state that influence crop damage.
- Karnataka has proposed region-specific criteria that take into account local ecological factors, water availability, and agricultural practices for declaring drought.
- Redefining dry spells from the current three to four weeks to less than two weeks of consecutive dry spells.
- Factors such as soil type, crop variety, temperatures, and vegetative state must be considered, as even a two-week dry spell can lead to irreversible crop damage.
Source: Indian Express
SC guidelines for eliminating gender stereotypes
Tags: GS-II: Courts guidelines
Supreme Court releases landmark guidelines for eliminating Gender Stereotypes in Legal language and Judgments
About SC guidelines for eliminating gender stereotypes
- Supreme Court of India has recently released a new SC Handbook in an attempt to remove Gender Stereotypes from the Law.
- It is aimed at combating gender stereotypes in legal language besides promoting just and equitable society.
- Gender-unjust terms are prevalent in Indian courts which puts negative impact on judicial assessments, especially in sexual violence cases.
- Over the years, false assumptions based on clothing and sexual history has led to development of gender stereotypical language in judgments, orders, and court pleadings.
- The handbook has identified problematic phrases such as career woman, fallen woman, faithful wife, eve-teasing, hermaphrodite.
- It has suggested correct terms: woman, woman, wife, street sexual harassment, intersex
- Predetermined stereotypes conflict with duty to decide cases impartially and affects unbiased judicial decision-making.
- Assumptions about women’s character based on clothing and sexual history not only impacts on judicial assessment but also diminishes importance of consent in sexual relationships
- Language plays crucial role in conveying legal values and intentions as use of language reflects judge’s interpretation of the law and societal perception
- It has power to recognize or diminish human dignity for example of Code of Civil Procedure amendment from “pauper” to “indigent”.
- The handbook addresses stereotypes about women’s emotional nature, decision-making and rejects notion that gender influences rational thought capacity
- Overall, The SC handbook seeks to eliminate gender stereotypes in legal languages besides aiming for language that aligns with constitutional ethos and promotes unbiased legal decision-making.
Source: The Hindu
Tourism’s Ecological Toll
Tags: GS-III: Environment
Heavy rains washes away a portion of the Shimla-Kalka heritage railway track on the outskirts of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
About Tourism’s Ecological Toll
- Himachal Pradesh’s resilience to recent rains and floods highlights its limited focus on ecological consequences of highways and infrastructure.
- Violent engineering for wider roads in recent years has led to constant landslides in mountain highways like the Kalka-Shimla route which are tourist spots.
- Heavy rains exacerbate landslides, causing distress and closure of major tourist destinations which are already facing continuous infrastructure challenges.
- Post-Covid travel surge amid climate challenges has led to increased instances of forest fires, high temperatures, floods, landslides affecting tourist experiences.
- Discourse between development centered around tourism and nature conservation puts uncertainty about climate change’s impact on businesses and industries.
- For example, Hospitality industry’s disregard for disappearing forests and waste disposal has put negative impact on rivers due to waste disposal practices.
- Rivers as natural drainage systems are impacted by landslides and debris from building highways and bridges which often overlooks ecological concerns.
- Tourists are perceived as seeking fun and luxury for which access provided even in traditionally challenging sites
- Underestimation of the ecological cost of unchecked tourism in fragile Himalayan ecosystem has led to several instances of tourists misunderstanding local events leading to Forest fires and disasters.
- There is need for developing liaison between tourism’s economic benefits and environmental impact assessment.
- Overall, balancing economic gains from tourism with ecological preservation crucial and for this there is need for reevaluating policy priorities and promoting responsible tourism practices.
Source: Indian Express
Tag: GS-3 Space Technology
ISRO is ready to launch its first solar mission Aditya-L1, after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-3. The satellite realized at the UR Rao Satellite Centre Bengaluru has arrived at SDSC-SHAR (spaceport) in Sriharikota.
About Aditya-L1 mission:
- Aditya-L1 is the first Indian space mission to observe the Sun and the solar corona. It will be launched by the PSLV-XL launch vehicle.
- The objective of the mission is to study solar upper atmospheric (chromosphere and corona) dynamics and understand the physics of the solar corona and its heating mechanism.
- The mission will be launched to the halo orbit around the L1 point (first Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system) which is 1.5 million km from the Earth. L1 orbit allows Aditya-L1 to continuously view the Sun without any occultation or eclipses.
- The spacecraft carries seven payloads of which the primary payload is the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph(VELC), to observe the photosphere, chromosphere and the outermost layers of the Sun (the corona) using electromagnetic and particle and magnetic field detectors.
Significance of Aditya-L1 mission:
- Understand the impact of space weather on earth: Evolution of every planet, including Earth is governed by its parent star. Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with on board electronics, cause power blackouts and other disturbances.
- Observe Earth directed solar storms: The mission helps to observe, track and predict the impacts of Earth-directed storms. Since every solar storm heading towards the Earth passes through L1, a satellite placed in the halo orbit around L1 helps observe the sun without any eclipses.
- Fillip to the Indian space industry as many of the instruments and their components for this mission are being manufactured for the first time in the country.
What is a Lagrange Point?
- Lagrangian points, also known as Lagrange points or liberation points, are specific locations in space where the gravitational forces of two large bodies, such as a planet and its moon or a planet and the Sun, produce enhanced regions of gravitational equilibrium.
- L1 refers to Lagrange Point 1, one of five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system, which is 1.5 million kilometres inside Earth’s orbit, between the Sun and the Earth.
- These can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position. The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Source: The Times of India
Tag: GS-3 Environmental Conservation
The amount of methane in Earth’s atmosphere has been rising for past few decades and, unlike the rise in carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane’s recent increase seems to be driven by biological emissions, not the burning of fossil fuels.
About Methane Emissions:
- Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with over 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) within the first two decades of its presence in the atmosphere. However, it has a shorter atmospheric lifespan than CO2.
- Methane was about 0.7 parts per million (ppm) of the air before humans began burning fossil fuels. Currently it is over 1.9 ppm and rising fast.
- Causes of Methane emissions:
- Roughly three-fifths of emissions come from fossil fuel use, farming, landfills and waste. The remainder is from natural sources, especially vegetation rotting in tropical and northern wetlands.
- Emissions from huge cattle lots in tropical Africa, India and Brazil may also be rising.
- Rotting waste in landfills near megacities like Delhi are important sources too.
- Climate change is increasing rainfall, which has made wetlands wetter and bigger while rising temperatures have boosted plant growth, providing more decomposing matter and so more methane.
- Climate termination refers to periods of significant and often rapid climate change that mark the transition between glacial (cold) and interglacial (warmer) periods in Earth’s history.
- In the past few million years, Earth’s climate has flipped repeatedly between long, cold glacial periods, and shorter warm interglacial period.
- With the end of each ice age, Earth’s surface warmed by as much as several degrees centigrade over a few millennia and also characterised by sharply rising methane concentrations. Thus methane is both a driver and a messenger of climate change.
- Termination level transitions refers to rapid changes in Earth’s climate which marks the end of a glacial period and the onset of a warmer interglacial period. Full terminations take several thousands of years to complete
Evidences of Climate Shift:
- Slowing down of Atlantic ocean currents
- Expansion of tropical weather regions
- Faster warming of the far north and south poles.
- Ocean heat is breaking records and extreme weather is becoming routine.
Plugging leaks in the oil and gas industry, covering landfills with soil, reducing crop-waste burning, etc. could control the hasty rise of methane concentration.
Source: Down To Earth
PM e-Bus Sewa scheme
Tags: GS – 2 Government Policies & Interventions, GS – 3 Infrastructure, Growth & Development
Why in news?
Recently, The Indian Cabinet has approved the “PM-eBus Sewa” scheme, aiming to bolster city bus operations by introducing 10,000 Electric Buses through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
- The scheme aims to introduce 10,000 electric buses (e-buses) in city bus services across India and enhance urban infrastructure for green mobility.
- The scheme will be implemented in two segments:
- Segment A: Augmenting City Bus Services (169 cities):
- In 169 cities (selected through challenge mode for cities with a population of 3-40 lakhs), 10,000 e-buses will be deployed through a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
- For cities with less than 5 lakh population: 50 e-buses
- For cities with 20-40 lakh population: 150 e-buses
- Segment B: Green Urban Mobility Initiatives (181 cities):
- In 181 cities, infrastructure will be upgraded to support green urban mobility initiatives.
- Behind-the-meter power infrastructure like substations will be created.
- The scheme will support bus operations for a duration of 10 years.
- Financial Allocation: Central government will provide ₹20,000 crore in subsidies.
- States or cities will be responsible for running the e-bus services and making payments to the bus operators.
- Significance: The scheme aims to generate 45,000 to 55,000 jobs and reduce noise, air pollution, and carbon emissions.
Source: The Hindu
Global Initiative on Digital Health
Tags: GS – 2 Government Policies & Interventions
Why in news?
India and the World Health Organization (WHO) are set to launch the Global Initiative on Digital Health during the ongoing G-20 summit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
- The initiative is aimed at data convergence, interface of health platforms and investments in the digital health space around the globe.
- The summit also focuses on establishing an interim Medical Countermeasure (MCM) network to respond effectively to health emergencies.
- It has been envisaged to have a convergent approach that breaks the silos and ensures that existing and ongoing digital health efforts can be made accessible under one umbrella.
- It will include an investment tracker, an ask tracker (to understand who needs what kind of products and services) and a library of existing digital health platforms.
- It will aid in universal health convergence and improve healthcare service delivery. The initiative has also found funding from global partners.
- More Information: The summit additionally seeks to launch a Climate and Health Initiative in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank, along with a patient and healthcare workforce mobility portal.
Source: The Hindu
India’s first drone common testing centre
Tags: GS – 3 Science & Technology, Defence
Why in news?
India’s first Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drone) Common Testing Centre under Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS) will be established in Tamil Nadu.
- The initiative is led by the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) as part of the Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor (TNDIC), aimed at nurturing the aerospace and defence industry ecosystem.
- It will be established under Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS).
- As part of the implementation of the TNDIC, the government is about to create an enabling ecosystem including Common Testing Centres for the Aerospace and Defence Industry.
- Location – The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Common Testing Centre would be established at the SIPCOT Industrial Park, Vallam Vadagal near Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.
- It will enable the State to be a significant contributor to the self-reliance of the country in the aerospace & defence sector.
- More Information:
- An integrated facility for testing for UAS (Drone) is available only with DRDO at Chitradurga, Karnataka.
|Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS)|
|Aim – To boost domestic defence & aerospace manufacturing. Launch – May 2020. Ministry – Ministry of Defence (MoD). Duration – 5 years. It envisages setting up of 6-8 greenfield defence testing infrastructure facilities that are required for defence and aerospace related production. Funding Pattern – 75% Government funding in the form of ‘Grant-in-Aid’ + 25% to be borne by the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) constituents.|
Source: The Hindu
STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission
Tags: GS –3 Space Technology
Why in news?
Nasa’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO-A) spacecraft made its first Earth flyby nearly 17 years after its launch.
- The pair of STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft were launched on October 25, 2006, from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
- STEREO-A (A stands for Ahead), along with its twin STEREO-B (B stands for Behind), was launched to study the Sun’s Behavior by charting Earth-like orbits around it.
- Their primary goal was to provide a stereoscopic view of the Sun, enabling researchers to study it from multiple perspectives.
- In 2011, another significant milestone was achieved as both STEREO-A and -B reached a remarkable 180-degree separation in their orbits, which gave us the full sphere image of the Sun.
Significance of STEREO-A:
- STEREO-A’s recent approach to Earth offers a unique opportunity for scientific observations. By combining its views with other spacecraft, including the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), STEREO-A will provide 3D views of the Sun.
- This stereoscopic vision allows scientists to gain depth perception and explore features like active regions and coronal loops in unprecedented detail.
- STEREO-A’s passage through Earth’s vicinity also allows for an in-depth study of solar eruptions, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which can impact Earth’s technology.
- This approach provides multipoint measurements to understand the evolution of CMEs’ magnetic fields.
‘Microplastics’ in the human Heart
Tags: GS – 3 Health
Why in news?
Recent research from China’s Beijing Anzhen Hospital, published by the American Chemical Society, has discovered microplastics in the human heart for the first time.
- The researchers found numerous individual microplastic pieces in most tissue samples, and plastic particles were also present in all blood samples.
- The study also identified specific types of plastics, such as polyethylene terephthalate (used in clothing and food containers) and polyvinyl chloride (common in window frames and pipes), in the samples.
- Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment.
- They are a result of the fragmentation and degradation of larger plastic items, as well as the direct release of tiny plastic particles, often intentionally added to consumer products like cosmetics and cleaning agents.
- Microplastics, which are less than 5 millimetres in size, can enter the human body through various openings and have been linked to health issues like obesity, diabetes, and chronic liver disease due to their impact on the gastrointestinal tract.
- The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic.
- There are two categories of microplastics:
- Primary microplastics: They are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets.
- Secondary microplastics: They are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles.
Source: Hindustan Times
Sulina Channel (Danube River)
Tags: GS – 1 Geography
Why in news?
The Sulina Channel holds immense importance for Ukraine’s grain trade as an alternative passage after Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal.
- This deal was used to provide safe passage for cargo ships carrying grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
- Sulina Channel is a 63 km long distributary of the Danube. It lies completely within the borders of Romania.
- Of the three major channels of the Danube River, the Sulina Channel is the only one deep and wide enough for freight transport.
- It is a sort of a riverine ‘expressway’, crucial for transport of goods from inland to the Black Sea.
- It plays a crucial role in this new trade route, connecting major Ukrainian ports to the Black Sea within Romania’s borders.
- Danube is the second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia.
- It flows through much of Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea.
- Near Romania, the river begins to spread out into its delta which has three major channels – Chilia, Sulina and St George.
- It passes through or forms the border of ten countries, making it one of the most international rivers in the world.
- The countries it flows through include: Germany; Austria; Slovakia; Hungary; Croatia; Serbia; Bulgaria; Romania; Moldova; Ukraine.
Source: Indian Express
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