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 3:
1. Why the Indian rupee fell 10% against the US dollar in 2022?
2. Why has loan recovery via Lok Adalat jumped four-fold?
3. The danger of deep fakes
GS Paper 4:
1. Role of Religious Leaders in addressing contemporary issues
Content for Mains Enrichment (Ethics/Essay)
1. Mission Parivartan
Facts for Prelims
1. Kalasa-Banduri Canal Construction Project
2. Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement (MMPA)
3. Ethylene Glycol (Quality Control) Order, 2022
4. Satyendra Nath Bose
7. IISC-Bangalore develops ‘green’ tech to rid air filters of germs
8. India’s scientific developments in 2022 – A Recap
Why the Indian rupee fell 10% against the US dollar in 2022?
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Indian Economy and related issues
Direction: The article highlights the reasons behind the depreciation of the Indian Rupee and presents an outlook for 2023.
Context: The Indian rupee depreciated by around 10% against the US dollar in 2022.
Depreciation reduces the value of a country’s currency when compared with the currency of other countries (say $), measured by the exchange rate of the local currency (wrt $)
The performance of the Indian rupee in 2022:
Worst-performing Asian currency in 2022:
- It witnessed a fall of around 10% against the US dollar, falling to a lifetime low of 83.2 the dollar.
- Compared to the rupee, the Chinese Yuan, Philippine Peso and Indonesian Rupiah fell by around 9% and the South Korean Won and Malaysian Ringgit declined by nearly 7 and 6%, respectively.
Reason for this decline in India:
- The US Fed aggressively raised interest rates (by 425 basis points (bps) in 2022) in its fight against inflation, leading to a higher interest rate differential between the US and India
- As a result, investors pulled out money from the domestic market and started investing in the US market to take advantage of higher rates.
- For example, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) pulled out Rs 1.34 lakh crore from the Indian markets in 2022, putting pressure on the rupee.
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine accentuated the FPI withdrawals with the global economic slowdown making inflows tougher.
Steps taken to arrest this decline:
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) heavily intervened in the foreign exchange (forex) market to defend the rupee.
- As a result, the country’s forex reserves have fallen by $70 billion ($562.81 billion as of December 23, 2022) since the beginning of 2022.
- However, the central bank is now starting to again build up its reserves and that would act as a buffer in times of uncertainty.
The outlook on the rupee for 2023: India remains the fastest-growing economy and Indian Rupee will recover
Why is it essential to contain domestic inflation?
Q. How would the recent phenomena of protectionism and currency manipulations in world trade affect the macroeconomic stability of India? (UPSC 2018)
Prelims Links: (UPSC 2022)
With reference to the Indian economy, consider the following statements:
- An increase in Nominal Effective Exchange Rate (NEER) indicates the appreciation of the rupee.
- An increase in the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) indicates an improvement in trade competitiveness.
- An increasing trend in domestic inflation relative to inflation in other countries is likely to cause an increasing divergence between NEER and REER.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Explanation: An increase in the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) indicates a loss in trade competitiveness. An increase in the REER implies that exports become more expensive and imports become cheaper.
Why has loan recovery via Lok Adalat jumped four-fold?
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources
Direction: The article highlights why the number of stressed accounts reported to Lok Adalats by banks increased dramatically in 2021-22 and contains explanatory infographics on Lok Adalats and NPAs.
- In 2021-22, the number of non-performing assets (NPAs) referred by banks to various recovery channels, including Lok Adalat and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), increased fourfold over 2020-21.
- Among all channels, the number of stressed accounts reported to Lok Adalats by banks increased dramatically in 2021-22.
Bank’s Loan recovery mechanisms:
- Lok Adalat: Conducted by NALSA, the awards of Lok Adalat are final and binding on all parties
- IBC: Introduced in 2016 and amended in 2021, IBC provides a time-bound process of resolving the insolvency of corporate debtors (330 days)
- Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs): Along with Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunals (est. Under Recovery of debts and Bankruptcy Act, 1993) for expeditious adjudication and recovery of debts.
- Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of the Security Interest Act (SARFAESI Act 2002): Under this, banks can take control of securities pledged against the loan and manage or sell them to recover dues without any court intervention.
Why cases referred to Lok Adalats increased dramatically?
- Banks send stressed accounts worth up to Rs.20 lakh to Lok Adalats, which are organised by banks in collaboration with the district legal service authority.
- The number of cases referred to Lok Adalats is high since the cost of recovery through this route is lower than through DRTs or SARFAESI.
- However, the rate of recovery through this route has been very low (2.3% in 2021-22 and 4% in 2020-21), as it is very difficult to recover loans from defaulters in the small-ticket loan segment.
Why NPAs are not just about bank governance
(UPSC CSE 2017)
Which of the following statements best describes the term ‘Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A)’, recently seen in the news?
- It is a procedure for considering the ecological costs of developmental schemes formulated by the Government.
- It is a scheme of RBI for reworking the financial structure of big corporate entities facing genuine difficulties.
- It is a disinvestment plan of the Government regarding Central Public Sector Undertakings.
- It is an important provision in The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code’ recently implemented by the Government.
The danger of deep fakes
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges
Direction: The article explains deepfakes, threats as a result of malicious deepfakes, steps taken by countries across the world and some solutions to curb them.
Context: The disinformation threat has a new tool in the form of deep fakes.
What are deepfakes?
- Deepfakes are digital media – video, audio, and images edited and manipulated using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to inflict harm on individuals and institutions.
- AI-Generated Synthetic media or deepfakes have clear benefits in certain areas, such as accessibility, education, film production, criminal forensics, and artistic expression.
- However, it can be exploited (hyper-realistic digital falsification) to damage the reputation, fabricate evidence, defraud the public, and undermine trust in democratic institutions with fewer resources (cloud computing, AI algorithms and abundant data).
- 96% of deepfakes are pornographic videos, reducing women to sexual objects and causing emotional distress.
- Deepfake can depict a person as indulging in antisocial behaviours and can create social discord, increase polarization, and can even influence the election outcome
- Deepfakes can accelerate the trust deficit in traditional media and could be used by nation-state actors to create chaos in the target country, undermining trust in institutions and
- Misuse by non-state actors (terrorist organisations), to stir anti-state sentiments among people.
- The threat of the liar’s dividend – an undesirable truth is dismissed as deepfake or fake news, giving more credibility to denials.
- Weaponisation of deepfakes, use of fake news and alternative-facts narrative to dismiss an actual piece of media and truth.
What countries are doing to combat deep fakes?
- China: A new policy that requires service providers and users to ensure that any doctored content using the technology is explicitly labelled and can be traced back to its source.
- The European Union: an updated Code of Practice, that requires tech companies including Google, Meta, and Twitter to take measures in countering deepfakes on their platforms.
- If found non-compliant, these companies can face fines of as much as 6% of their annual global turnover.
- The U.S: The bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to counter deepfake technology by conducting an annual study of deep fakes.
- In India, there are no legal rules against using deep fake technology. However, specific laws can be addressed for misusing the tech, which includes Copyright Violation, Defamation and cybercrimes.
Case of Canada:
- While Canada does not have any regulations to tackle deep fakes, it is undertaking some of the most cutting-edge AI research with a number of domestic and foreign actors.
- Also, Canada is a member and leader in many related multilateral initiatives (Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, Global Partnership on AI), which can be utilised to create deepfake policy in different areas.
- Media literacy for consumers is the most effective tool to combat disinformation and deep fakes.
- Meaningful regulations with a collaborative discussion with the technology industry, civil society and policymakers to disincentivise the creation and distribution of malicious deepfakes.
- Easy-to-use and accessible technology solutions to detect deepfakes, authenticate media, and amplify authoritative sources.
Conclusion: We must all take responsibility for being critical Internet media consumers, thinking and pausing before sharing on social media, and being part of the solution to this ‘infodemic.’
Q. Use of the internet and social media by non-state actors for subversive activities is a major security concern. How have these been misused in the recent past? Suggest effective guidelines to curb the above threat. (UPSC 2016)
Role of Religious Leaders in addressing contemporary issues
GS Paper 4
Syllabus: Ethics, Morals and Religion
Source: DTE, Indian Express
Direction: These examples can be written in GS4 answers – on how religious leaders have a huge impact on the lives of common people.
Context: Pope Benedict XVI also famously called “The Green Pope”, who was the leader of the world’s Catholics for almost eight years, died recently.
Pope Benedict XVI’s view on Environment conservation:
- Benedict XVI helped to author several books that share his views on the real meaning of progress and development, and what that means for our planet of limited resources.
- Benedict turned heads when he chose electric vehicles for use within the grounds of the Vaticanand his summer home of Castel Gandolfo, as well as for the Vatican’s police force.
- In 2011, Benedict urged Italian students “to become guardians of nature and follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology,”
Child abuse scandals
- Benedict was active in initiating the process to discipline and defrock predator priests.
- He ordered an inquiry into child abuse and kept “penance Fridays” where he would talk with abuse survivors.
Good Examples of Religious leaders from India and around:
- Dalai Lama advocates compassion for animals and frequently urges people to try vegetarianismor at least reduce their consumption of meat.
- Before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, he urged national leaders to put aside domestic concerns and take collective action against climate change
- At the Culture of Compassion event, the Dalai Lama said – Warm-heartedness is a key factor for healthy individuals, healthy families and healthy communities.
- The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2006. Time magazine named the Dalai Lama one of the “Children of Mahatma Gandhi” and Gandhi’s spiritual heir to nonviolence.
- Quote: “Ecology should be part of our daily life”.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (spiritual leader):
- Ravi Shankar is involved in interfaith dialogue and currently sits on the Board of World Religious Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute. Through interfaith summits in 2008 and 2010, he has been engaging faith-based leaders for collective action against HIV.
- He started a prison programme to rehabilitate prison inmates and help them reintegrate into society.
- He advocates for protecting the environment against climate change, leading many initiatives like Project Green Hands (PGH), Rally for Rivers, Cauvery Calling, and the Journey to Save Soil.
Dawoodi Bohra (Shia Sect of Islam):
- The Bohras actively participate in environmental activism and consider it their religious duty. Nazafat (which means ‘cleanliness’) is an integral component of the Islamic faith, the Bohras engage in clean-up drives, tree planting, and other such initiatives wherever they reside.
- The bohra community launched Project Rise, a philanthropy focused on the marginalized and the poor. Their first initiative, undertaken in collaboration with Action Against Hunger, sought to address malnutrition among those living in Palghar and Govandi districts.
Ethics for Spiritual Leaders:
- Knowledge of Self
- Acting with genuineness
- Understanding Others
- Winning the trust of everyone
- Practising Spiritualism with the whole heart.
Q. Ethics derived from religious texts are of no use to civil servants in a secular state.” Do you agree? Comment.
Content for Mains Enrichment (Ethics/Essay):
Direction: The example can be used to show changes in society but also deep-seated mentality remains an obstacle to women’s empowerment.
It is a joint venture of the Delhi government and automaker Ashok Leyland to induct women drivers into Delhi Transport Cooperation and cluster buses for promoting women’s safety in public transport. Under this programme, the women drivers underwent a comprehensive training programme where they were also taught how to repair a bus in case it breaks down.
However, they face various issues in doing their jobs:
- Bus driving and transport sector is seen as a male-dominated field and women are often not accepted
- Lack of respect for women drivers
- Heated arguments by male passengers often while being drunk
- Taunts by men peers: E.g. “If you don’t know how to drive, why did you even become a driver?”
Direction: The example can be used for inclusive, sustainable and gendered tourism
Aymanam is a model Responsible Tourism (RT) village in Kottayam (Kerela), where about 80% of the work – including accommodation, food and community tours, is being managed by women
- It is a part of the Kerala government’s initiative to create a women-friendly tourism network in the State.
- It will redress the gender balance in the tourism sector by showcasing women’s talent.
- Turn the village into a hub of women-friendly destinations
- It will give women an equal voice in the tourism
- Help empower women at the grassroots level by highlighting what they do and sell.
Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, and take action to make tourism more sustainable.
Facts for Prelims
Kalasa-Banduri Canal Construction Project
Source: The Hindu
Context: Recently centre has given approval for the implementation of this project by the Karnataka government. The project will divert water from two tributaries of the Mahadayi River (Mandovi River)- Kalasa and Banduri to the Malaprabha river.
- The project aims to improve the drinking water supply to four drought-hit districts in Karnataka— Belagavi, Bagalkot, Dharwad and Gadag. However, the Goa government has been opposing the project.
About Mahadayi River:
The Mahadayi/Mandovi River is described as the lifeline of the Indian state of Goa. The Mandovi and the Zuari are the two primary rivers in the state of Goa. Mandovi joins with the Zuari at a common creek at Cabo Aguada, forming the Mormugao harbour.
Mandovi river originates from a cluster of 30 springs at Bhimgad in the Western Ghats in the Belagavi district of Karnataka. The river also houses the island of Chorao (Goa) where the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located. Dudhsagar falls ( in Goa) lies on this river.
About Malaprabha River:
The Malaprabha River is a tributary of the Krishna River and flows through the state of Karnataka in India. It rises in the Western Ghats at an elevation of 792.4 m in the state’s Belgaum district. The river joins the Krishna River at Kudalasangama in the Bagalkot district
Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement (MMPA)
Context: India will sign a Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement (MMPA) with Austria during the Indian External Affairs Minister’s visit to Vienna.
- This is the first trip to Austria by an Indian Foreign Minister in 27 years.
- Austria was confronted with a sharp increase in illegal migration last year, including over 15,000 illegal migrants from India with practically no chance of asylum.
- While India has been keen to finalise agreements with European countries to –
- Resolve issues over the long-pending India-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement.
- Facilitate Indian professionals working in these countries.
- Curb illegal immigration from India.
The MMPA will regulate:
- Illegal migration, as it enables the swift return of illegal migrants.
- Multiple entry visas for professionals and student exchange programmes, which will be reviewed regularly by a Joint Working Group (JWG).
Ethylene Glycol (Quality Control) Order, 2022
Context: The Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers issued a gazette notification titled Ethylene Glycol (Quality Control) Order, 2022
- Recently, Uzbekistan alleged 18 child deaths in Samarkand from the consumption of medicinal syrup manufactured by an Indian drugmaker (Marion Biotech’s cough syrup Dok 1 Max). The syrup is manufactured containing ethylene glycol
- Previously, In October, four sub-standard India-made products typically used to treat cough symptoms had caused the deaths of 66 children in Gambia (Africa)
Under ‘Conformity to standards and compulsory use of the standard mark’, the order stated:
- Certification and enforcement authority: In respect of specific goods or articles, the Bureau of Indian Standards shall be the certifying and enforcing authority.
- Penalty for contravention: Any person who contravenes the provisions of this Order shall be punishable under the provisions of the said Act.
About Ethylene glycol:
Ethylene glycol is a useful industrial compound found in many consumer products. Examples include antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluids, some stamp pad inks, ballpoint pens, solvents, paints, plastics, films, and cosmetics. It can also be a pharmaceutical vehicle.
Why is ethylene glycol toxic to humans?
Ethylene glycol’s toxicity mainly results from the accumulation of its toxic metabolites. Ethylene glycol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that produces acute effects similar to those of ethanol. (more in the Infographic above)
How can Cough syrups kill children?
If glycerine, a key ingredient in cough syrup, is replaced with toxic industrial solvents diethylene glycol (DEG) or Ethylene Glycol (EG), the cough syrups become toxic.
How can they end up in cough syrup?
DEG and EG are cheap, so they are sometimes used illegally, as a substitute solvents. If consumed in high doses, they can cause kidney failure
Satyendra Nath Bose
Context: The 129th birth anniversary of Satyendra Nath Bose – a Mathematician and physicist from India best known for his work with Albert Einstein to develop what we now know as the Bose-Einstein statistics, was celebrated on January 1.
His legacy and stellar achievements:
- Satyendra Nath Bose (1 January 1894 – 4 February 1974) was a Bengali mathematician and physicist specialising in theoretical physics.
- He is best known for his work on quantum mechanics in the early 1920s, in developing the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose condensate.
- A Fellow of the Royal Society, he was awarded India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan (in 1954) by the Government of India.
- The class of particles that obey Bose statistics, bosons, was named after Bose by Paul Dirac.
Source: The Hindu
Context: Made out of gelatin, a gelbot is a significant advance in the world of ‘soft robotics,’ or robots that are fashioned out of organic and non-metallic materials.
About the Gelbots:
- A 3D-printed device
- Move without requiring an extra power source.
- Feels like a Fruit gum rather than hard metallic surfaces of robots.
- Extremely promising materials for soft robotics.
- They rely on the principle that gels that swell or shrink in response to temperature can be used to create smart structures.
- Cheap and easy to mass produce
- To deliver targeted medicines.
- Deployed as marine robots, patrolling and monitoring the ocean’s surface.
- Minimally invasive technology for biomedical diagnosis and treatment.
Fig: Inchworm-inspired gelbots move without batteries
Source: The Hindu
Context: WALLABY, or the Widefield ASKAP L-band Legacy All-sky Blind survey, is a radio telescope in Western Australia that is helping astronomers build a three-dimensional map of the night sky, mapping galaxies as far as a billion light years away.
Radio astronomy involves tracking the signals from radio waves and helps detect and trace stellar objects that cannot be traced by light.
What will it do?
- Provide pictures of where galaxies are actually located in relation to one another in three-dimensional space.
- It will be able to tell apart galaxies that appear clustered together but are actually millions of light years apart.
IISC-Bangalore develops ‘green’ tech to rid air filters of germs
Source: The Hindu
Context: A research team at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has developed a germ-destroying air filter that can inactivate germs using ingredients like polyphenols and polycationic polymers commonly found in green tea.
Why the need?
With prolonged use, air filters become a breeding ground for captured germs. The growth of these germs clogs the pores of the filter, reducing their life.
- The air-filtering technique was granted a patent in 2022.
- It is found to be 24% effective against SARS-CoV-2 (delta variant).
- The technology was transferred to AIRTH, a start-up that is replacing the existing germ-growing air filters.
- Can play a crucial role in the fight against air pollution and mitigate the spread of air-borne pathogens such as several coronaviruses.
India’s scientific developments in 2022 – A Recap
Source: The Hindu
Context: 2022 has been marvellous in India’s scientific arena. Various new developments were witnessed.
Direction: Details of this have already been covered previously in our articles
|India’s first privately-built rocket
|Vikram-S, by Skyroot Aerospace|
|ISRO’s foray into the commercial market
|Commercial launch service market by launching 36 OneWeb Satellites on the LVM3 rocket
These Low Earth Orbit satellites along with others in the same fleet will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity worldwide.
|Chandrayaan-2 assesses sodium content on Moon’s surface
|Findings of sodium distribution on the moon would help us understand the connection between the moon’s surface and its exosphere.|
|First nasal Covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech
|Named iNCOVACC, the vaccine is a replication-deficient recombinant adenovirus vectored vaccine with a pre-fusion stabilised spike protein.|
|Indian researchers develop an artificial photosynthetic system to capture solar energy
|Scientists used an atom-precise nano-cluster which resulted in 93% energy transfer from the light spectrum. This harvested energy from sunlight could generate current with better yields than previous technology.|
|New species of trees, corals, spiders and honeybees discovered||Corals: Four new species of azooxanthellate corals have been discovered for the first time in Indian waters near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Tree: Scientists have discovered a new species of an evergreen tree of the genus Miliusa. The finding is unique because thus far, only two mature trees have been found in its native environment, underlining the need for conservation
Honey Bee: Named Apis karinjodian or the Indian black honeybee, the discovery come 200 years after the last species was discovered in the Western Ghats.
|Unique dinosaur egg poses new questions for evolution||A team of University of Delhi researchers discovered a remarkable set of fossilized dinosaur eggs, with one egg nesting within the other. While eggs-within-eggs are an unusual phenomenon, they are so far known to occur solely in birds and have never been seen in reptiles.|
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