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 ina 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 1:
- Kerala announces menstrual leave: Time to talk period
GS Paper 3:
- The nuts and bolts of a Union Budget
- Light pollution: The dark sky is a natural resource, and too much light is polluting it
- Understanding Kerala’s man-elephant conflict
Content for Mains Enrichment (Ethics/Essay/ Governance)
- An episode on ‘Peace’
Facts for Prelims
- Buddhist monastery complex at Bharatpur
- Assam’s Charaideo Moidams: India’s latest nominee to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
- Andaman Islands after Param Vir Chakra recipients
- Switzerland is the first WTO member to formally accept the new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies
- Sebi launches information database on municipal bonds
- Immune imprinting
- Mahabali frog waiting for official recognition
- INS Vagir commissioned into the Indian Navy
GS Paper 1
Syllabus: Indian Society/ Women issues
Source: Indian Express
Context: Kerala government announced that it will grant menstrual leave for female students in all state universities under the Department of Higher Education as part of the government’s “commitment to realise a gender-just society”
- In accordance with the decision, a girl of age 18 years and above is eligible to avail of 60 days of menstrual leave in a year.
- With this, the attendance percentage of girl students is sealed at 73% as against the usual 75%.
Significance of the move:
- A move towards acknowledging and addressing the often-debilitating pain and discomfort that so many are often forced to work through
- It will help create workplaces and classrooms that are more inclusive and accommodating
- Create further discrimination: In a traditional society like India, where menstruation remains a taboo, it is possible that a special period leave could become another excuse for discrimination.
- g. In similarly traditional societies like South Korea and Japan (both allow Menstrual leave) but fewer women are availing of it, citing the social stigma against menstruation
- There is the risk of medicalising a normal biological process, which could further entrench existing biases against women
- Reluctance in hiring women: The possibility that the perceived financial and productivity cost of mandatory period leaves could make employers even more reluctant to hire women.
Previous efforts towards this direction:
The effort to introduce such policies in India is not new.
- 1992: Bihar government two days of menstrual leave a month
- 2017: Menstrual Benefits Bill 2017was introduced in Parliament to provide monthly two days of menstrual leave to both public and private employees during menstruation.
- 2020: Zomato introduced menstrual leaves for up to ten days a year for its women and transgender employees.
- Since then, similar policies are also followed by other private companies like Swiggy and Byju
- Japan was the first country to implement this policy in 1947. Across the globe, menstrual leave policies exist in countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Indonesia, Zambia, Sweden and Mexico. Spain tried recently to approve a new law to introduce paid ‘menstrual leave’.
Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and education, which can have a negative impact on a person’s health, education, and overall well-being. It can lead to health complications, the perpetuation of myths and taboos, absenteeism from school or work and can affect the education and economic opportunities of those who experience it.
Comment on the issue of mandatory menstrual leave and also analyse the design of a new framework for the same in our country. (15M)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Government Budgeting.
Source: Indian Express
Context: On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget for the next financial year (2023-24). Let’s understand the basics of the Union Budget and why it is very much important for Prelims and Mains.
- According to Article 112 of the Indian Constitution, the Union Budget for a year is referred to as the Annual Financial Statement (AFS).
- It is a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditures of the Government in a Financial Year.
- The Budget Division of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance is the nodal body responsible for preparing the Budget.
Any budget essentially provides some details.
- The total amount of money that the government will raise in the coming year; this is called the total receipts, Ways and means to raise the revenue.
- The total amount of money it will spend; is called the total expenditure.
- The total amount of money it will borrow from the market to plug the gap between what it spends and what it earns; this is referred to as the fiscal deficit.
- Details of the actual receipts and expenditure of the closing financial year and the reasons for any deficit or surplus in that year, and
- The economic and financial policy of the coming year, i.e., taxation proposals, prospects of revenue, spending programme and introduction of new schemes/projects.
Forces that shape a Budget
- Demand for a lower rate of taxation and/or a higher rate of exemptions. In other words, people and firms lobby to get their tax burden reduced.
- Demands from people/firms wanting higher or newer subsidies.
- Demands which are antagonistic to the first two categories. They demand that the government cuts down on its fiscal deficit (essentially the total amount of money the government borrows from the market in order to bridge the gap between its total expenditure and its total receipts).
In Parliament, the Budget goes through six stages:
- Presentation of Budget.
- General discussion.
- Scrutiny by Departmental Committees.
- Voting on Demands for Grants.
- Passing an Appropriation Bill.
- Passing of Finance Bill.
- RK Shanmukham Chetty presented the 1st Union Budget of independent India on Nov 26, 1947.
- Till 2017 Rail Budget and Union Budget came separately (Done through Acworth Committee – 1924) but now both are merged together.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi are the only prime ministers to have presented a Budget.
- The date of the Union Budget presentation was changed in 2017 by then finance minister Arun Jaitley from ‘last working day of February’ to ‘February 1’.
- On 1st Feb 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first paperless budget. This was done due to the ongoing COVID- 19 pandemic in India.
Prelims Link: UPSC 2016
Mains Link: UPSC 2021
Distinguish between Capital Budget and Revenue Budget. Explain the components of both these Budgets.
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation
Direction: The article seeks to discuss light pollution, its causes, effects, and recommendations for reducing it.
- In 2022, the district administration of Ladakh in India created the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve (HDSR) which is the first International Dark Sky Reserve in India. The HDSR comprises six hamlets within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.
- The reserve thus had a responsibility to keep the skies dark, particularly for the astronomical observatories located in the area.
What is a Dark Sky Reserve?
- It refers to an area designated as free from light pollution. It’s a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment [IDA-International Dark-Sky Association].
- When SpaceX’s Starlink constellation of small satellites started to block ground-based telescopes’ views of the Earth, the notion that the sky is a natural resource that could be harmed, gained popularity.
- These incidents also highlighted the need for a global agreement to reduce light pollution.
- However, while authorities actively work to reduce light pollution around telescope sites, the night is actually getting brighter (skyglow) in almost all of the world, with significant ecological, health and cultural ramifications.
What exactly is light pollution and how bad is it?
- Light pollution is excessive, misdirected or obtrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light that obstructs starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects and wastes energy.
- Visible light emitted by many sources (except lasers) is divergent, so the light emitted could find its way into the sky.
- Almost all surfaces in cities also reflect light, meaning a portion of entirely down-cast light will be reflected upwards, contributing to nighttime light pollution.
- A recent study found that non-natural light had increased the brightness of the artificial glow of the night sky, or skyglow, by 9.2-10% every year between 2011 and 2022. Specifically, it had brightened annually by about 6.5% over Europe, 10.4% over North America, and 7.7% over the rest of the world.
What is the situation in India?
- A recent study reported that 19.5% of India’s population – the lowest among G20 countries – experiences a level of skyglow that keeps the Milky Way out of sight and makes it impossible for human eyes to adjust to the dark.
- The effects include stimulating the cone cells (which activate in a well-lit environment/during the day) in human eyes.
What are the consequences?
- Harms wildlife and disrupts ecosystems: Light pollution poses a serious threat in particular to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plant and animal physiology. For example,
- It can confuse the migratory patterns of animals.
- A 2020 study noted that skyglow interferes with multiple aspects of insect life and allows insect predators to hunt for longer.
- A 2019 study reported that clownfish eggs don’t hatch when exposed to artificial light at night, killing the offspring.
- At their meeting in Gandhinagar (2020), parties to the Convention on Migratory Species adopted guidelines to address this issue.
- Adverse effects on human health: It can disturb circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin, leading to sleep disorders and other health problems (increased risk of breast cancer).
- Energy wastage: lighting is responsible for at least one-fourth of all electricity consumption worldwide. Thus, energy wastage is also a waste in cost and carbon footprint.
Way ahead: Light pollution can be reduced easily by shielding lights properly, by
- Only using light when and where it is required,
- Only use the necessary amount,
- Using energy-efficient bulbs, and
- Using bulbs with the right spectral power distributions.
- International Best Practice: The “Outdoor Lighting Code” in the United Kingdom, aims to reduce light pollution by encouraging the use of lighting that is only as bright and as long as necessary for the task.
Conclusion: “The erasure of the night sky acts to erase Indigenous connection to the stars, acting as a form of ongoing cultural and ecological genocide.”
Components of light pollution include:
- Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
- Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
- Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed
- Clutter – bright, confusing, and excessive groupings of light sources
Prelims Links: (UPSC 2020)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Conservation, Environment
Direction: The article covers the issues of man-animal conflict and highlights the success story of Kerala in reducing incidents of such conflicts.
Context: The larger issue of man-animal conflict needs to be discussed as calls for the capture of an elephant that reacted to overexcited tourists in Munnar, Kerala, grow louder.
- Meaning: The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Human-Wildlife Conflict & Coexistence Specialist Group defines human-wildlife conflict as struggles that emerge when the presence or behaviour of wildlife poses an actual or perceived, direct and recurring threat to human interests or needs, leading to disagreements between groups of people and negative impacts on people and/or wildlife. Human-wildlife conflicts can occur wherever wildlife and human populations overlap, so any factor that forces wildlife and people into closer contact makes conflicts more likely.
Reasons for the conflict:
- Growing human/animal populations overlap with established wildlife/human territory, creating a reduction of resources.
- Fragmentation of habitats and corridors due to legal and illegal changes in land use – clearances for mining or encroachment for agriculture.
- Agricultural Expansion and Changing cropping patterns that attract wild animals to farmlands.
- Habitat degradation due to the growth of invasive alien species, etc.
- Other Reasons: Infrastructure development, Climate Change, etc.
- A Future for All Report 2021 jointly published by WWF and UNEP suggests an approach of coexistence between humans and wildlife and the involvement of local communities, as it is not possible to wholly suppress human-wildlife conflict.
- Periodic awareness campaigns: To sensitize, guide and advise the general public on man-animal conflict, including dissemination of information through various forms of media.
- Skill-development programs: For people living in and around the forest would consequently reduce the combined pressures on agricultural land as well as forest land.
- National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-31: The issue of human-wildlife conflict has been included in the plan. It has underscored the need for a landscape-level approach, the acceptance of rights of use and entry (into forests), and an emphasis on people’s participation in conservation, promoting coexistence between wildlife and local communities through awareness and education programs, and identifying and declaring critical wildlife habitats and migration corridors and taking measures to protect them from human encroachment.
- A landscape-based approach is a method of conservation and management that focuses on preserving and managing entire ecosystems, rather than individual species or habitats. It takes into account the interconnectedness of different habitats, species, and ecosystem services within a given landscape.
- A landscape-based approach aims to:
- Maintain the ecological integrity and functional diversity of the landscape
- Promote the conservation of biodiversity, including endangered species and habitats
- Support the sustainable use of natural resources by local communities
- Address the root causes of conservation problems, such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.
The case of Kerala – A success story in managing man-animal conflict:
- Though seen a relative spike in recent years, the magnitude of human-elephant conflict in Kerala is relatively low when compared with its abundance of wild elephants.
- Of the estimated nationwide population of 30,000 wild elephants in 2017, Kerala had about 5,700 (19%). Between 2018-2021, elephants killed 2,036 people in India and Kerala accounted for only 81 (4%) of these deaths.
- Elephants are far-ranging animals.
- But in Kerala,
- The frontiers between the wilderness and civilisation have remained largely unaltered in recent years.
- Changes in agricultural practices in cropland. For example, coffee, pepper or tea plantations, in which jumbos have little interest.
- But in Kerala,
Conclusion: Proactive perception management, stricter enforcement by the states and a pragmatic policy for the problem will reduce the incidents of man-animal conflict. Healthy ecosystems and the vital services they provide to people depend on wildlife. Managing human-wildlife conflicts is therefore crucial to achieve the UN Vision for Biodiversity 2050 in which ‘humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected’.
Uttar Pradesh has declared man-animal conflict death as a state disaster.
Content for Mains Enrichment
An episode on ‘Peace’
Direction: This can be used to start an essay or Ethics answer – to describe the keyword Peace.
Once, a King offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the paintings and shortlisted two so that he could finally select one as the best painting. One picture showed a calm lake as a perfect mirror for the mountains all around it. Overhead was the blue sky with white clouds, beautifully reflected in the lake. Everyone thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture also had mountains, but those were rugged and bare. Above was a stormy sky from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain, a huge foaming waterfall releasing water with great force was also depicted. But behind the waterfall in a bush a bird had built a nest and was feeding her babies in perfect peace. Which painting do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? The King stated the reason, “Because peace does not mean the absence of noise, trouble, or disturbances. Peace means to be in the midst of all these and still remain calm in your heart.” You can use this illustration.
Facts for Prelims:
Buddhist monastery complex at Bharatpur
Source: The Hindu
Context: Recent excavations at Bharatpur in West Bengal’s Paschim Bardhaman district have revealed the presence of a Buddhist monastery.
Findings from the previous excavations (between 1972 and 1975)
- A large Buddhist stupa was found
- Black and red ware pottery from the Chalcolithic Age
- Five beautiful seated sculptures of the Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra — with all five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground — were found
About Buddhist stupa:
A Buddhist stupa is a commemorative monument usually housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha
About Bhumisparsh Mudra:
It symbolizes the Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree, when he summoned the earth goddess, Sthavara, to bear witness to his attainment of enlightenment.
About Chalcolithic Period:
The Chalcolithic or Copper Age is the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. It is taken to begin around the mid-5th millennium BC and ends with the beginning of the Bronze Age proper, in the late 4th to 3rd millennium BC, depending on the region
Assam’s Charaideo Moidams: India’s latest nominee to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
Source: Indian Express
Context: Central government has decided to put forth the name of Assam’s Charaideo moidams burial sites in addition to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites list for 2023-24.
- If selected it will be the only cultural heritage site in the North East to get the coveted status
What is Charaideo Moidams?
It is also known as the ‘Pyramids of Assam’ and was the original capital of the Ahom Kings. It contains sacred burial grounds of Ahom kings and queens and is also the place of the ancestral Gods of the Ahoms.
- Che-Rai-Doi: “Che” means city or town, “Rai” means “to shine” and “Doi” means hill. In short, Charaideo means, “a shining town situated on a hilltop.”
- A moidam is a tumulus – a mound of earth raised over a grave
- Built by: Chaolung Sukhapa (founder of the Ahom dynasty in about 1253 CE)
- Located at around 30 Km from the historical Sivasagar town in Assam at the foothills of Nagaland
- Features: It comprises a massive underground vault with one or more chambers having domical superstructure and covered by a heap of earthen mounds and externally it appears a hemispherical mound.
- 90 royal burials at Charaideo in total
About Ahom Kingdom:
It was established in 1228 in the Brahmaputra valley of Assam, the Ahom kingdom retained its sovereignty for 600 years. The Ahoms ruled the land till the province was annexed to British India in 1826 with the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo.
- The Ahom state depended upon forced labour (Called Paiks).
- Recently, Ahom general and folk hero Lachit Borphukan’s 400th birth anniversary was celebrated. Traditionally Ahoms are members of the Great Tai (Tai-Yai) group of people.
Andaman Islands after Param Vir Chakra recipients
Context: PM Modi named the 21 largest unnamed islands of Andaman & Nicobar Islands after India’s 21 Param Vir Chakra awardees.
- The ceremony was organised on the occasion of Parakram Diwas, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary
- Previously, Ross Island was renamed Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep by PM Modi during his visit to the Island in 2018
About Param Vir Chakra
The Param Vir Chakra is India’s highest military decoration, awarded for displaying distinguished acts of valour during wartime. Param Vir Chakra translates as the “Wheel of the Ultimate Brave”, and the award is granted for “most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy”. It was 1st awarded in 1947 and last awarded in 1999
About Subhas Chandra Bose:
- Birth: He was born on 23rd January 1897, in Cuttack
- He was highly influenced by Vivekananda’s teachingsand considered him his spiritual Guru.
- His political mentor was Chittaranjan Das.
- Freedom struggle
- Newspapers: Chittaranjan Das’s newspaper ‘Forward’ (as Editor) and his own newspaper, Swaraj.
- Slogans: ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Give me blood and I will give you freedom’, ‘Chalo Dilli’, ‘Itmad (Faith), Ittefaq (Unity) and Kurbani (Sacrifice)
- Bose was the first person to address Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of the Nation
- He opposed the Motilal Nehru Report (dominion status for India) and wanted complete independence.
- Became congress president at Haripura in 1938.
- He founded a new party, ‘the Forward Bloc’ (to consolidate the political left in Bengal)
- Indian National Army: He announced the formation of the Azad Hind Governmentand the Indian National Army on 21st October 1943.
- The INA was first formed under Mohan Singh and Japanese Major Iwaichi Fujiwara and comprised Indian prisoners of war of the British-Indian Army captured by Japan in the Malayan campaign and at Singapore.
- Other Honors in his name:
- Subhas Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar(disaster management)
- His birthday is celebrated as ‘Parakram Diwas’on 23rd January.
Switzerland is the first WTO member to formally accept the new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies
Context: Switzerland has become the first WTO member to formally submit its acceptance of the WTO’s new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, paving the way for the historic agreement for ocean sustainability to enter into force.
- Acceptance of 2/3rd of WTO members is needed for the agreement to come into effect
- The Agreement was adopted at WTO’s conference in Geneva (2022)
- It is the 1st WTO agreement (for the environment) and the 2nd agreement reached at WTO since its inception.
What will Fisheries subsidies do?
- It will prohibit subsidies from being provided for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishing in high seas and overfished stocks.
- Transition Period Allowance: Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been allowed a transition period of two yearsfrom the date of entry into force of this Agreement.
- Fund for developing and least-developed countries: For technical assistance and capacity building
- Exempted Areas:
- No prohibition if the WTO Member is not carrying out IUU.
- No prohibition on providing subsidies if subsidies are implemented to rebuild the stock to a biologically sustainable level.
By the principle of ‘Common but differentiated responsibilities’ developed countries (who have provided huge subsidies in the past) should take more responsibilities.
- India is the third-largest fish-producing country in the world
- India aims to achieve a target of producing 22 million metric tonnes of fish by 2024-25.
Benefits: It will check large-scale IUU fishing which deprives coastal countries like India of fisheries resources, thereby significantly impacting the livelihoods of our fishing communities.
Indian government initiatives:
Five major Fishing Harbours (Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, Petuaghat) developed; Seaweed Park (Tamil Nadu); Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana; Palk Bay Scheme; Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021.
Sebi launches information database on municipal bonds
Context: Markets regulator Sebi has launched an information database on municipal bonds.
Objective: Raise awareness of people; Efforts to develop the bond markets and make the process easy and streamlined.
What is an information database?
The information database contains a wide range of information in the form of statistics and regulations, circulars, guidance notes and Frequently Asked Questions issued by Sebi in respect of municipal debt securities.
What are Municipal Bonds?
Municipal bonds (or “munis” for short) are debt securities issued by states, cities, counties and other governmental entities to fund day-to-day obligations and to finance capital projects such as building schools, highways or sewer systems.
Bengaluru floated the 1st Municipal bond in 1997
Source: Indian Express
Context: Immune imprinting in the bodies, might be making new boosters far less effective than expected.
- Two papers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), pointed out that bivalent boosters — made to counter both the Omicron strains and the original Covid-19 strain — don’t generate significantly greater antibody responses than an additional dose of the original mRNA vaccines.
What is immune imprinting?
- Immune imprinting is a tendency of the body to repeat its immune response based on the first variant it encountered — through infection or vaccination — when it comes across a newer or slightly different variant of the same pathogen.
- Imprinting acts as a database for the immune system, helping it put up a better response to repeat infections.
- After the body is exposed to a virus for the first time, it produces memory B cells that circulate in the bloodstream and quickly produce antibodies whenever the same strain of the virus infects again.
- The problem occurs when a similar, not identical, variant of the virus is encountered by the body. In such cases, the immune system, rather than generating new B cells, activates memory B cells, which produce cross-reactive antibodies that bind to features found in both the old and new strains. These cross-reactive antibodies offer some protection but are not as effective as the ones produced by B cells when the body first encountered the original virus.
How to circumvent immune imprinting?
- Nasal vaccines might be better at preventing infections than injected ones: since mucous membranes would create stronger protection, despite carrying some imprint of the past.
- Spacing out coronavirus vaccine shots on an annual basis.
Mahabali frog waiting for official recognition
Source: The Hindu
Context: Mahabali Frog, which buries itself all through the year and surfaces only one day to lay eggs, is waiting to be elevated as the State Frog of Kerala
INS Vagir commissioned into the Indian Navy
Source: Indian Express
Context: The Indian Navy commissioned the fifth diesel-electric Kalvari-class submarine Vagir. It is among the six submarines being built by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), Mumbai, in collaboration with the French M/s Naval Group under Project 75.
Specifications of Vagir:
- The latest submarine gets its name from the erstwhile Vagir, a submarine which served the Navy between 1973 and 2001.
- The construction of the new Vagir began in 2009 also known as Sand Shark.
- Vagir represents stealth and fearlessness, as it comes with features like an advanced acoustic absorption technique.
- Kalvari-class submarines include other vessels such as the INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi, INS Karanj, INS Vela and INS Vagsheer.
- The design is based on the Scorpene class of submarines designed and developed by the French Naval Group formerly DCNS and the Spanish state-owned entity Navantia.
- They have Diesel Electric transmission systems.
- These are attack submarines or ‘hunter-killer’ types i.e., they are designed to target and sink adversary naval vessels.
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