InstaLinks : help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically
Table of Contents:
GS Paper 2:
1. The problem of vacancies in the Indian Judiciary
GS Paper 3:
1. First urea and now DAP: High use of subsidised fertilisers raise crop yield fears
2. What is end-to-end encryption and why are tech companies focusing on it?
3. ‘Clean Ganga’ changes course to conservation, tourism, livelihood
GS Paper 4:
1. Ethical Values – Pranab Mukherjee
Content for Mains Enrichment
1. Kochi-Muziris Biennale
2. PT Usha: ‘Payyoli Express’
3. It’s time for Africa: Morocco football team breaks stereotypes
Facts for Prelims:
1. The story of Meitei script
2. India urged to adopt ASEAN consensus on Myanmar
3. NASA’s Artemis 1 Mission
4. CoP 15 Montreal: Abalone, dugong, pillar coral threatened with extinction
5. India’s Donkeys Disappearing
Note: We had already covered the article “ TH: India needs policies which focus on job-rich growth and equality to move forward” (see Link 1, Link 2) and other relevant articles in the previous days.
The problem of vacancies in the Indian Judiciary
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Indian Judiciary
Context: Parliamentary panel has asked the Executive and the Judiciary to come up with “out of box thinking” to deal with the “perennial problem” of vacancies in High Courts.
Vacancies in the Indian Judiciary at various levels
- Out of 1,100 judges in various high courts in the country, there are about 400 to 500 posts vacant all the time
- The lower judiciary presently has around 5,300 seats vacant – over 20% of its capacity
- These vacancies are important as around 1 crores of pending cases are before these courts
- While the Union Ministry of Law and Justice publishes a comprehensive dataset every month noting vacancies in the Supreme Court and High Courts, it has no similar mechanism for the lower courts
How many judges do we need?
The Law Commission of India (1987) noted the importance of manpower planning for the judiciary. The lack of an adequate number of judges means a greater workload per judge. Thus, it becomes essential to arrive at an optimal judge strength to deal with pending and new cases in courts.
Methods recommended for calculating the required number of judges for subordinate courts
|Method Of Calculation||Recommendation and its status|
|Judge-to-population ratio: optimum number of judges per million population||The Law Commission of India (1987) recommended increasing this ratio to 50 judges per million people. For 2020, the judge-to-population ratio was 21 judges per million population|
|Rate of disposal||The Law Commission of India (2014) proposed this method. It rejected the judge-to-population ratio method, observing that the filing of cases per capita varies substantially across geographic units depending on socioeconomic conditions.|
|Weighted case load method: calculating judge strength based on the disposal by judges, taking into account the nature and complexity of cases in local conditions||The National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMS) (2016) critiqued the rate of disposal method. It proposed, as an interim measure, the weighted caseload method, which addresses the existing backlog of cases as well as the new flow of cases every year in subordinate courts. In 2017, the Supreme Court accepted this model.|
|Time-based weighted caseload method: calculating the required judge strength taking into account the actual time spent by judges in different types of cases at varying stages based on an empirical study||Used widely in the United States, this was the long-term method recommended by the NCMS (2016) to assess the required judge strength for subordinate courts. It involves determining the total number of ‘judicial hours’ required for disposing of the caseload of each court. The Delhi High Court used this approach in a pilot project (January 2017- December 2018) to calculate the ideal judge strength for disposing of pending cases in certain courts in Delhi.|
Other reforms needed in Indian Judiciary
Increasing Vacancies in Courts
Q. Critically examine the Supreme Court’s judgement on the ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014’ with reference to the appointment of judges of higher judiciary in India. (UPSC – 2017)
First urea and now DAP: High use of subsidised fertilisers raise crop yield fears
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices
Direction: The article highlights the reasons behind high urea, and DAP consumption, its impact and how to minimise the excess consumption.
- According to data from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, the sale of urea and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) increased by 3.7% and 16.9%, respectively, from April-October 2022 over the previous year.
- This has come even as sales of other fertilisers including complexes containing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), K (potash) and sulphur (S), have fallen.
- Two ambitious schemes of the Government of India – Soil Health Card and mandatory neem-coating of urea, were supposed to promote the balanced use of fertilisers.
- However, the annual consumption of urea (30 to 35 mt in the last 5 years) and DAP have grown over the years.
- This means, instead of providing a balanced mix of plant nutrients based on soil testing and crop requirements, Indian farmers are applying only urea and DAP – both containing 46% N and P, respectively.
Reasons behind increased consumption of urea and DAP:
- High subsidy on urea: The government has fixed the maximum retail price (MRP) of urea at Rs 5,628 per tonne, while the MRPs of other fertilisers are technically decontrolled.
- DAP – a cheaper substitute: Companies have been told not to charge more than Rs 27,000/tonne for DAP (Rs 29,000-31,000/ tonne for NPKS complexes), which has 46% P and 18% N.
- Thus, the choice of fertilisers is primarily a function of prices and not of NPKS complexes or other macro and micronutrients in the fertilisers.
The effects of overconsumption of urea and DAP:
- The current NPK ratio of 13:5:1, as against the ideal 4:2:1, would adversely affect crop yields
- It will adversely affect the health of plants and humans, due to the unavailability of a balanced nutrient mix.
- The government should replace subsidies on individual fertiliser products with a flat per-hectare cash transfer
- Every farmer can have an e-wallet account, which can be used only for the purchase of fertilisers.
- Maintaining a stock of decontrolled fertilisers to ensure no unexpected price increases.
Conclusion: Under-pricing of urea (a historical phenomenon) and DAP (recent) is a product of subsidy-induced market distortions. Thus, concerns over soil nutrient imbalances should take precedence over electoral politics.
Reforming the fertiliser sector
Q. How do subsidies affect the cropping pattern, crop diversity and economy of farmers? What is the significance of crop insurance, minimum support price and food processing for small and marginal farmers? (UPSC 2017)
Prelims Links: UPSC 2020
Q1. With reference to chemical fertilisers in India, consider the following statements:
- At present, the retail price of chemical fertilisers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.
- Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.
- Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertiliser, is a by-product of oil refineries.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a. 1 only
b. 2 and 3 only
c. 2 only
d. 1, 2 and 3
What is end-to-end encryption and why are tech companies focusing on it?
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Science and Technology – Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life
Direction: The article tries to explain the end-to-end encryption technology, its uses, the government’s concerns, and challenges.
- Apple announced that it will be increasing end-to-end encryption, enabling user data protection even in case data is breached in the cloud.
- Earlier, Elon Musk said that he wanted Twitter DMs to be encrypted.
About end-to-end encryption:
- It is a communication process that encrypts data being shared between two devices, preventing 3rd parties (cloud service providers, internet service providers (ISPs), and cybercriminals) from accessing data while it is being transferred.
- Its process uses an algorithm that transforms standard text into an unreadable format, which can only be unscrambled by those with the decryption keys.
- It has long been used to secure communications and can also be used to secure passwords, protect stored data and safeguard data on cloud storage.
- According to data breach research, the total number of data breaches more than tripled between 2013 and 2021, exposing data of 1.1 billion personal records.
- End-to-end encryption is a technology that secures users’ data from hacking, and snooping by government agencies, making it a popular feature among activists, journalists and political opponents.
Why are government agencies unhappy with it?
- They are deeply concerned with the threat that end-to-end encryption and user-only access pose.
- For example, US FBI insisted that end-to-end encryption hinders its ability to protect Americans from cyber-attacks, violence against children and terrorism.
- The technology does not protect metadata which includes information like when a file was created, the date when a message is sent and the endpoints between which data was shared.
- Conflict of interest between governments (national security) and tech companies (privacy of users). For example, in 2019, the U. S., the U. K., and Australia planned to pressurise Facebook to create a backdoor into its encrypted messaging apps.
Conclusion: While attempts by law enforcement to weaken encryption with backdoors could compromise the reliability of the internet, the end-to-end encryption to secure more user data seems to be getting stronger.
India joins UK-led fight against encrypted online messages
Q. What do you understand about encryption? Do you think governments should be given the authority to break into encryption and store the information? Comment. (250 Words)
Prelims Links: UPSC 2022
Q2. With reference to Web 3.0, consider the following statements:
- Web 3.0 technology enables people to control their own data.
- In the Web 3.0 world, there can be blockchain-based social networks.
- Web 3.0 is operated by users collectively rather than by a corporation
Which of the following given above is correct?
a. 1 and 2 only
b. 2 and 3 only
c. 1 and 3 only
d. 1, 2 and 3
‘Clean Ganga’ changes course to conservation, tourism, livelihood
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Environment and Conservation
Direction: The article covers the flagship Namami Gange program and the new focus areas of the program.
Context: The Union government’s flagship Namami Gange program, which was designed to enhance cleanliness levels in the Ganga River, has now geared to shift its focus to conservation, tourism and economic livelihoods.
About Namami Gange Programme:
- It is an Integrated Conservation Mission approved as a ‘Flagship Programme’ of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, in 2014, with a budget outlay of Rs.20,000 crore.
- Its mandate is to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of the National River Ganga.
- It is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organisations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- Its implementation has been divided into Entry-Level Activities (for immediate visible impact), Medium-Term Activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame) and Long-Term Activities (to be implemented within 10 years).
Key achievements under the Namami Gange Programme: Since 2014, close to ₹30,000 crores has been sanctioned for various projects, including building and improving sewers and river rejuvenation activities.
New focus areas to include:
- The Tourism Ministry is developing tourism circuits and planning exhibitions and fairs in 75 towns along the main stem of the river.
- The Agriculture Ministry is taking steps to build organic farming and natural farming corridors.
- The Urban Affairs Ministry is mapping drains and solid waste management along the river.
- The Environment Ministry is scaling up afforestation and scaling up conservation efforts to protect the Gangetic River dolphin
- Arth Ganga or harnessing economic potential from the Ganga and nearby communities
- The Power Ministry is working to reuse treated wastewater for thermal power
- The Rural Development Ministry is looking to rejuvenate small rivers and protect traditional water bodies.
- In States, the focus would be expeditiously completing projects.
- Every Ganga district is expected to develop health cards for wetlands and adopt policies for the reuse of treated water and other by-products.
Q. The ‘Namami Gange’ programme’s holistic approach brings together public policy, technology intervention and community participation. Elaborate. (250 words)
Q3. Consider the following statements about Namami Gange Programme:
- It is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as a ‘Flagship Programme’ in 2014.
- It is being operated under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of the National Ganga Council and it is headed by Prime Minister.
Which of the given above statements is/are correct?
a. 1 and 2
b. 2 and 3
c. 1 and 3
d. 1, 2 and 3
Ethical Values – Pranab Mukherjee
GS Paper 4
Syllabus: Contributions of Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India and the World
Context: The President of India, Smt Droupadi Murmu, paid floral tributes to Shri Pranab Mukherjee, former President of India, on his Birth Anniversary.
About Pranab Mukherjee:
- He initiated his parliamentary journey through the Rajya Sabha in 1969.
- He became India’s youngest finance minister of India in 1982 at the age of 47. From 2004, he went on to head three crucial ministries—external affairs, defence, and finance—and became the first occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to have this distinction.
- He will also go down in the history as the only non-prime minister who was the leader of the Lok Sabha for eight years.
- Known for his political acumen and ability to form consensus across party lines, Mukherjee was heading 24 of 39 GOMs (groups of ministers) when he became president in 2012.
Ethical values that can be learned from Pranab Mukherjee:
At the Individual level:
- Tolerance for pluralism, compassion for all, and love for the motherland are core civilizational values of India where hundreds of languages and all major religions live under one system.
- He made it easier for common people to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
At the societal level:
- After the infamous Nirbhaya rape case, he cautioned society to reset its “moral compass”.
- He also termed universities as “bastions of free thinking” and “reasoned debate” in the backdrop of the media onslaught on JNU and DU students. It was never allowed to be centralized and there has existed a “Guru Shishya Parampara” or student-teacher tradition.
- In contrast to the eye for eye and tooth for tooth approach, Indian civilization gave humanity the message of ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ (May happiness be to all).
- Media Ethics: Expressing concern over “aberrations” like ‘paid news’ which have crept into the media, he said: “Sensationalism should never become a substitute for objective assessment and truthful reporting. Gossip and speculation should not replace facts. Every effort should be made to ensure that political or commercial interests are not passed off as legitimate and independent opinion.”
- Against ordinance: He cautioned the government against using the ordinance route to bring in a law, saying it should be used only in a compelling situation and not taken recourse to in monetary matters.
- Good Governance: According to him two basic elements of good governance are ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’
He defined transparency as:
- The availability of information to the general public and clarity about the functioning of governmental institutions.
- Transparency enhances predictability as it helps government organizations to function more objectively.
- It also enables and encourages the common man to effectively participate in the governance process.
Q. Identify ten essential values that are needed to be an effective public servant. Describe the /ways and means to prevent non-ethical behaviour in public servants. (UPSC 2021)
Content for Mains Enrichment
Context: The fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale opens on December 12 (founded in 2011), it will have on display the works of over 90 artists from across the globe in varied media.
About the Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Spread across multiple venues in Kochi, it is a four-month-long celebration of art and is expected to attract tourists from the world over. It is scheduled to see several discussions, performances and film screenings
What are art biennales?
- An international large-scale showcase of art that takes place every two years at a particular site, biennales are usually non-commercial enterprises– unlike art fairs – that centre around a curatorial theme. E.g. the Venice Biennale in Europe.
- In 2009, a global Biennale Foundation was established. It lists a directory of over 200 biennales that are held at present.
The significance of art biennales:
- Validation and recognition of an artist’s work
- Biennale participation can open opportunities for future museum exhibitions, gallery representation and acquisitions.
- Biennales, often named after the host city, become a reason for local pride, promoting cultural tourism and generating revenue through visitors.
- Creates a new language of cosmopolitanism and modernity rooted in Old traditions: E.g. Kochi is among the few cities in India where pre-colonial traditions of cultural pluralism continue to flourish.
PT Usha: ‘Payyoli Express’
Context: P.T. Usha becomes the first woman chief of the Indian Olympic Association
Values from her life:
- Dedication and hard work in sports: Overall, Usha won 23 medals in the Asian track and field events in the 1980s and remained active as a coach post-retirement. She is also known as the “Queen of track and field”
- Breaking a glass ceiling: 58-year-old P T Usha gained immense popularity back in the 1980s at a time when not many women came forward in the world of sports. She found herself a place in one of the first batches of sport-oriented schools the Kerala government had set up at that time.
- Overcoming defeat: Los Angeles Olympics of 1984: She qualified for the 400m hurdles final and missed out on the bronze medal by just one-hundredth of a second. Despite her defeat, this game made her a household name in India
- The return: PT Usha is perhaps the first Indian sports icon who returned to track and field after taking a hiatus from the sport following her marriage in 1991. She has been conferred with the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award
- Leadership: She has now become the first Olympian and the first international medallist to head the IOA in its 95-year-old history
- Through her academy, Usha School of Athletics located at Kinalur, Kerala, she continues to train athletes
It’s time for Africa: Morocco football team breaks stereotypes
In this World Cup, more than 50 Africa-origin players are representing 11 non-African teams. Mass migration from Africa to Europe has played a big role in refreshingly inclusive teams like France carrying home the Cup.
Stereotypes about African Players:
African players are generalized as having the physical strength and the stamina to outlast their opponents but lack the tactical nous, mental strength and discipline required to win big games; they have skills but lack strategy.
Morocco has shattered these stereotypes:
- Morocco has become the 1st African nation in the semifinal of the Football World Cup
- It is the first Arab nation to enter the last four
- It is the first team with an Arab coach, Walid Regragui, at the helm to reach this far
- Morocco has beaten the title contenders Belgium, Spain and Portugal, and held fellow semifinalists, Croatia.
Pele’s prophecy regarding an African side becoming champion may become a reality soon.
Facts for Prelims
The story of Meitei script
Source: Indian Express
Context: Newspapers in Manipur will be replacing the Bengali script with the Meitei script by 15th Jan 2023.
About the Script:
- Patronised by Meitei rulers fell into disuse after the advent of Hinduism and eventually disappeared, as Bengali script became popular.
- The earliest epigraphic record of the script is a stone inscription from Khoibu village which was erected on the orders of Meidingu Kiyamba (1467-1508).
- A movement to revive the Meitei Mayek started in the the1930s and gathered strength in the 1950s.
- The Manipur Official Language Act, 1979, was enacted with the definition of Manipuri language as “Meiteilon written in Bengali script and spoken by the majority of Manipuri population”.
- By an Amendment Act of 2021, the definition of “Manipuri language” in the Official Language Act was modified as “Meiteilon in Meetei Mayek and spoken by the majority of the Manipur population”
India urged to adopt ASEAN consensus on Myanmar
Source: The Hindu
Context: Indonesian Foreign Minister urged the Indian counterpart to adopt the ASEAN policy on Myanmar.
ASEAN’s 5- point consensus on Myanmar:
- Calls for an immediate end to violence in the country.
- Dialogue among all parties
- The appointment of a special envoy
- Humanitarian Assistance by ASEAN.
- Special Envoy’s visit to Myanmar to meet with all parties.
Insta Links: ASEAN
NASA’s Artemis 1 Mission
Source: Indian Express
Context: NASA’s Orion capsule splashed down back to Earth on Sunday, December 11. This event marked the end of the inaugural Artemis 1 lunar mission exactly 50 years after Apollo’s final moon landing.
About Artemis 1:
- An experimental mission, to check if the capsule can be trusted to ferry humans to the moon and back in future missions.
- It is the first in a series of missions planned to take humans back to the Moon.
- Explore the possibilities of an extended stay there
- To investigate the potential to use the Moon as a launch pad for deep space explorations.
Insta Links: Artemis Mission
CoP 15 Montreal: Abalone, dugong, pillar coral threatened with extinction
Source: Down to Earth
Context: A list of threatened species is released which shows what overconsumption and unsustainable harvesting can do to plants and animals around.
India’s Donkeys Disappearing
Source: Down to Earth
Context: A fall in demand as a beast of burden, and illegal meat and skin trade have caused a critical decline in donkey numbers.
- Finds use in places untouched by mechanisation, like brick kilns, where its small size helps it move quickly through narrow entrances.
- Used to carry goods across rough terrain
- Serve as a draught animal in farms.
- Donkey milk is more nutritious than bovine milk as it has a less fat content.
- IUCN: Near Threatened
Threat to donkeys:
- Donkeys are not part of the income-generating milk, meat and fibre production systems in livestock farming.
- Illegal export to China: In traditional Chinese medicine, boiling donkey skin produces gelatin called ejiao, which can be consumed or mixed with cosmetic products to treat conditions such as insomnia, dry cough and poor blood circulation.
|Breed||Native region; characteristics||Use|
|Kachchhi||Kutch region of Gujarat; grey, white, brown or black in colour||For weed removal in farms and as
pack animal during pastoralist migration. It can carry 80-100 kg and pull
200-300 kg on carts.
|Halari||Saurashtra region of Gujarat; white in colour, docile temperament||As a pack animal during pastoralist migration and pull carts. It can walk around 30-40 km in a day|
|Sindhi||Barmer and Jaisalmer districts of Rajasthan; brown in colour||As pack animal to transport water, soil, earthenware, construction material, and fodder and to pull carts and for ploughing by small and marginal farmers. They can carry 1,000-1,500 kg.|
|Spiti||Cold desert areas of Himachal Pradesh; dark brown, brown or black in colour||For immediate transport of highly perishable cash crops and fruits, food grains and other items to far-flung areas; to fetch wood, logs and other minor forest produce; and to bring dung or manure from pastures to villages or fields.|
|Source: Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources|
Solution 1: B
Ammonia is obtained using Haber’s process (wherein Nitrogen and hydrogen are mixed in the ratio of 1:3, this Hydrogen is provided by breaking methane (CH4) from natural gas).
As far as market-linking of urea prices is concerned, the MRP of urea is statutorily fixed by the Government. Whereas, MRP of Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) Fertilisers the manufacturers/ marketers are allowed to fix the MRP at reasonable rates as per market dynamics.
The sulphur is obtained as a by-product from oil refineries. Most of the sulphur is converted to sulphuric acid (H2SO4) which is used in the manufacture of phosphatic fertiliser
Solution 2: D
WEB 3.0 is the decentralised form of the internet run on blockchain technology. In this, users can own stakes in platforms and applications which are now controlled by big Tech companies.
Solution 3: A
About Namami Gange Programme: It is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as a ‘Flagship Programme’ in 2014 and being operated under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- The program is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organisations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- NMCG is the implementation wing of the National Ganga Council (set in 2016; which replaced the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NRGBA).
- National Ganga Council (NGC) was Created in October 2016 under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016. It is headed by the Prime Minister.
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