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 2:
- Developing schools without barriers
GS Paper 3:
- Oxfam inequality report: Taxing the ‘obscenely’ wealthy may not be the right solution
- What ails the Ken-Betwa River link project?
- 5 billion people globally are exposed to toxic trans-fat linked to heart disease
Content for Mains Enrichment (Ethics/Essay/ Governance)
- Case Study: Cuban HealthCare
Facts for Prelims
- Architect BV Doshi (1927-2023) passes away
- Changes in criteria for WEF’s Gender Gap Reports
- NARCL acquires first stressed account from IDBI Bank-led lenders
- SEBI ban on Agri Commodity Trade
- Countries to sign up for India Stack’s digital public goods
- Norovirus cases detected in Kerala
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its Complications
- New NASA Nuclear Rocket Plan Aims to Get to Mars in Just 45 Days
- Ukraine War: CERN has shortened runs
- Madhya Pradesh’s newest Ramsar wetland covered in invasive water Hyacinth, threatening biodiversity
- Military Exercise
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Social empowerment
Source: The Hindu
Direction: Highlight issues and solutions that can be implemented to make schools inclusive for differently-abled children
Issues affecting children with disability/disabilities (CWD):
- ‘State of the Education Report for India 2019: Children with Disabilities’ by UNESCOmentioned that CWD comprises 1.7% of the total child population in India (Census 2011).
- Inaccessible school buses
- Inaccessible facilities in schools (drinking water facilities, canteens, and toilets)
- Inappropriate infrastructure in classrooms (uncomfortable seating, slippery flooring, and low illumination)
- Institutional: Lack of policy implementation by agencies
- Social: Misinformed attitudes and perceptions among parents, teachers, staff, and communities
- Communication barriers
- Economic burden and lack of opportunities
Solutions to deal with these issues:
- Policy level:
- Actualizing the zero-rejection policy in schools (e.g., as is done in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan)
- Infrastructure should include: Equitability, Usability, Durability, Affordability, Cultural adaptability, and Aesthetic appeal
- Institutional Level:
- Awareness and sensitization programmes for children, parents, and caregivers
- Training trainers for upskilling of school faculty and special educators
- Technical training for local government departments
- A co-learning platform for knowledge-sharing between all
- Civil Society and organizations:
- UN-Habitat India: ‘Leave No One Behind’ Project (main pillar of Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan))
- ICT Solutions to Support Universal Design for Learning
- Storybooks in local spoken and sign languages
Developing inclusive and accessible schools will help challenge perceptions about children with disabilities and actualise the zero-rejection policy in schools
The UN SDG 4 is to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Q. Unless there is educational inclusion of the disabled, the goal of inclusiveness and empowerment will remain elusive. Comment in light of recently released the draft of the national policy for persons with disabilities. (15M)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment
Direction: The article highlights that instead of excessively taxing the wealthy, the need of the hour is to raise the income of all to reduce income inequalities.
- Evidence of “excessive” wealth concentration and uneven income growth is mentioned in the recently released Oxfam “Survival of the Richest” report.
- The gap in income recovery between the top income categories and those at the bottom as a result of the economic crisis post-COVID-19 pandemic.
India-specific findings in the report:
- There are now 166 billionaires, up from 106 in 2020.
- The top (30%) earners hold the majority (90%) of the wealth. This contrasts with the global figure, where it is believed that the richest 1% have amassed about two-thirds of all new wealth.
Ramifications of the above findings:
- This can stir the debate for an equalising wealth tax (a progressive wealth tax where the tax rate increases as the wealth of an individual increase. The goal is to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality among citizens.)
- Oxfam argues that indirect taxes are regressive and suggests –
- A wealth tax – a tax on unrealised capital gains and higher taxes on corporates.
- Tax on incomes, capital gains and wealth are interrelated and the changes cannot be recommended in isolation.
Tax collection depends upon The mix of taxes that a country raises as a function of its institutional capacity, the structure of the tax base and the desire for simplification.
Case of India – The report raises two important points:
- The lower corporate tax rate in lieu of incentives and the introduction of GST – a costly experiment of tax policy in India.
- The corporate tax cuts brought the statutory tax rate down from 30 to 25.17%, leading to a revenue loss of Rs 1.03 lakh crore.
- The GST and its disproportionate impact on the lowest earners.
- Oxfam uses NSS 2011-12 to establish that the bottom 50% pays six times more indirect tax as compared to the top 10%.
- The current income tax system exempts incomes up to Rs 5 lakh from tax and the GST rate structure places a higher burden on luxuries.
Issues with the Oxfam report’s calculation:
- Although the report carries the right message about rising inequalities and the need for tax reform, it gets lost in assumptions.
- For example, India will gain 10% more in taxes than it currently collects indirect taxes from the introduction of the wealth tax.
- A wealth tax has historically been utilised by nations, including India, but the revenues were dismal, making it an expensive tax to operate.
- Hence, a compartmentalised approach to tax policy that links several taxes that are levied against the same base is meaningless.
Way ahead: Taxes do not always solve problems, and it is important to consider the impact of other macroeconomic measures like low-interest rates and regulatory actions.
Conclusion: Rather than depending on a tax that depends heavily on volatile asset values, the same goal can be achieved with a gradual increase in wealth and income of all. This will reduce inequalities without penalising the corporates.
The Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality. For India, it was 35.7 in 2019(World Bank Data)
Q. “Investment in infrastructure is essential for more rapid and inclusive economic growth.” Discuss in light of India’s experience. (UPSC 2021)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Issues related to the development
Direction: The article highlights the issues related to the Ken-Betwa Link Project.
Context: The Steering Committee of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP), chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Jal Shakti, held its third meeting in New Delhi.
What is the KBLP?
- It is a “flagship” project that is critical for the water security and socio-economic development of the Bundelkhand region (of MP and UP).
- The project costs Rs 44,605 crore in 2021 to water the Bundelkhand region.
- The link will be in the form of a canal (flow through Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh and Jhansi districts) that will be fed by the new Daudhan Dam on the Ken, to be built within Panna Tiger Reserve.
- The dam will generate 103 MW of hydroelectric power and is expected to irrigate 6.3 lakh hectares of land every year.
- Hydrological and ecological concerns: The ‘surplus and deficit’ model has little basis in science (as these could be seasonal phenomena too) and it may endanger the water security of the Panna district (Ken – a non-perennial river).
- The project has not yet received a complete forest clearance.
- The NGT is currently hearing a challenge to the project’s environmental approval.
- The legal problems:
- Approval by the National Board for Wildlife violates Section 35(6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 – improvement and better management of wildlife.
- According to the SC, the creation of a high reservoir dam on the Ken River in the Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve for the KBLP is ultra vires to the WPA 1972.
- The destructive impact of the proposed dam on the flow of water into and outside of the Ken Gharial Sanctuary (downstream of the Panna national park) is evident.
- Impact on Panna’s tigers and other wildlife:
- The deep gorges of Panna will be drowned if the new dam is built.
- By 2009, there were no tigers in the Panna Tiger Reserve, necessitating an incredible effort that lasted almost a decade to reintroduce them.
- The key wildlife species that will be affected include endangered vultures, mahseer fish, and the critically endangered Gangetic gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in the Ken Gharial Sanctuary.
- The government is developing a larger ‘Panna Tiger Landscape’, which should be created in any case for Panna’s tigers.
- An “independent” hydrological investigation of the Ken.
- Restoring Bunderlkhand’s erstwhile Chandel-period lakes and ponds.
- The developmental project should not destroy the ecology of fragile ecosystems and important tiger habitats in the country.
- The approach should be eco-centric and not anthropocentric.
Conclusion: Due diligence and expert scrutiny during the project-approval stage are cornerstones of sound environmental governance.
Q. Not many years ago, river linking was a concept but it is becoming a reality in the country. Discuss the advantages of river linking and its possible impact on the environment. (UPSC 2017)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Issues related to health.
Context: Five billion people globally are exposed to harmful trans-fat, increasing their heart disease and death risk, according to a new report “Countdown to 2023” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The report monitors global progress towards the 2023 target for the global elimination of industrially produced Trans-Fatty Acids (TFA).
- TFAs are unsaturated fatty acids that are of two types –
- Naturally occurring trans-fat occurs in some dairy and meat products.
- Industrially produced trans-fat adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more soli It is found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads.
Key Findings from the report:
- Trans fat intake is accountable for up to 500,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease annually.
- Nine countries — Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea — of the 16 nations with the highest estimated percentage of coronary heart disease fatalities attributed to trans-fat consumption do not currently have best-practices strategy.
- Two best-practices policy options:
- Mandatory national limit of two grams of industrially produced trans-fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods;
- Mandatory national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods.
Harmful effects of TFA:
- TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats – they raise total cholesterol levels, and reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect one against heart disease.
- It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, and certain types of cancersand can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet-to-be-born baby.
Steps taken to regulate TFA:
- FSSAI launched a “Trans Fat-Free” logo for voluntary labelling to promote TFA-free products in shops for preparations containing TFA not exceeding 0.2 per 100 g/ml.
- Campaign “Heart Attack Rewind” to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fat in the food supply by the year 2022.
- FSSAI limits the content to not more than 2% by mass of total oils and fats from January 2022.
- Swasth Bharat Yatra, an initiative started under the “Eat Right” campaign is a Pan-India cyclothon to engage citizens on issues of food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.
- TFA REPLACE strategy by WHO.
Q. What are Trans Fats? Discuss their impact on health and, measures taken by the government to decrease the consumption of trans fats. (250 words)
Content for Mains Enrichment
Case Study: Cuban HealthCare
Context: Recently, Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara’s daughter Aleida visited India.
- Life expectancy in Cuba is higher than that of the US (72.5 vs. 71.9) (India’s 70.19)
- Cuba has eliminated polio, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and diphtheria
- Malnutrition incidence among (1-15 years old) is 0..7% compared with 5% in the US
- Impressively high ranking on major health indicators, despite economic handicaps
How has Cuba developed one of the best healthcare systems?
- Government-Run Healthcare:
- The Cuban government operates a national health system
- The Cuban government has assumed fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens.
- There are no private hospitals or clinics as all health services are government-run.
- It regards accessibility to healthcare as a fundamental right of its citizens.
- Preventive Healthcare:
- Cuba’s health policy emphasizes prevention, primary care, services in the community, and the active participation of citizens.
- It offers the simplest check-up to the most complex surgery, free of charge
- India’s Connection:
- PM Modi’s ‘One Earth-One Health’ proposal is inspired by the global health philosophy of the late Cuban leader Castro.
- Cuba sends surplus physicians (“Army of white coats”) and health professionals abroad annually (including India): “Cuban doctors are always the first to arrive and the last to leave.”
Quote on Healthcare: Dr Martin Luther King once remarked, “Of the forms of injustice, inequality in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Facts for Prelims:
Architect BV Doshi (1927-2023) passes away
Context: Renowned architect of post-Independent India, Balkrishna Doshi died on January 24 at his residence in Ahmedabad
- To the evolution of architecture:
- Founder of Ahmedabad’s School of Architecture
- Having worked under Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he is a pioneer of modernist architecture in India
- He established Indian architecture on the global platform through his humanist approach to design
- Infrastructure projects: Designer of IIM Bangalore, IIM Udaipur, NIFT Delhi, Amdavad ni Gufa, CEPT University, NIFT Delhi and the Aranya Low-Cost Housing development in Indore which was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
- 2018: He became the first Indian architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is considered one of the most prestigious prizes in architecture.
- 2020: Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.
- Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Gold Medal for 2022
Ethical lessons from his life:
- Humanity: BV Doshi gave Indian architecture a human face.
- Compassion: Designing houses for poor
About Pritzker Architecture Prize (regarded Nobel Prize for Architecture)
The Pritzker Architecture Prize (est. 1979) is an international architecture award presented annually “to honour a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment.
Changes in criteria for WEF’s Gender Gap Reports
Source: Indian Express
Context: The World Economic Forum (WEF) will take into account the participation of women at the panchayat level to rank countries in its future Global Gender Gap reports.
- This will improve India’s position at the global level (currently India ranks 135 Out Of 146 in the 2022 Gender Gap report)
- Previously, India had reiterated the “flaws” in the ranking system.
The Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions:
- Economic Participation and Opportunity
- Educational Attainment
- Health and Survival
- Political Empowerment
About Global Gender Gap Index:
It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing Gender gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
The World Economic Forum is an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab.
NARCL acquires first stressed account from IDBI Bank-led lenders
Source: Indian Express
Context: The National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL) has acquired its first stressed asset — Jaypee Infratech — from lenders led by IDBI Bank.
- NARCL will acquire assets on a 15:85 ratio of cash and security receipts (SRs).
- SRs, which are issued in favour of the transferring lenders, are secured by a government guarantee for their face value.
- NARCL/ bad bank Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) is a specialized financial institution that buys Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) from banks and financial institutions so that they can clean up their balance sheets.
- This helps banks to concentrate on normal banking activities.
- The asset reconstruction companies or ARCs are registered under the RBI.
- It was announced in the Budget for 2021-22.
- The plan is to create a bad bank to house bad loans of ₹500 crores and above.
SEBI ban on Agri Commodity Trade
ontext: The farmer’s union, Shetkari Sanghatana, launched a protest over the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) decision to keep the trading of derivatives in seven agricultural commodities suspended.
- In 2021, the capital markets regulator suspended futures trading in seven commodities, viz., wheat, paddy (non-basmati), moong, chana, etc., on the exchanges, in an effort to reduce food inflation.
- The ban was intended to stop speculative trade in these commodities.
How does the derivatives trade in commodities work?
- Agricultural commodities like cotton, paddy, soybean, soya oil, mustard seed, etc., are traded on the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) and the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX).
- Derivatives are short-term financial contracts that are bought and sold in the market.
- Profits are made by predicting price movements of the asset that underlies the contract.
- The derivatives trade can be in futures and options. In a futures contract, a supplier pledges to sell a certain quantity at a fixed price at a future date.
- Also, farmers can put fixed amounts of their produce, which fits the quality standards of the exchange, to be sold at a fixed price – almost like price insurance.
- Both contracts can be terminated by either the producer or the trader by paying a margin price to the exchange.
Countries to sign up for India Stack’s digital public goods
Context: As many as seven countries will sign up with India to use India Stack’s digital public goods
- Also, soon, non-resident Indians will also be able to use UPI in Singapore, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the UK.
- The government will not charge any fee for offering the technology platform
Technology on offer by the Indian government:
- Digi Locker is a secure cloud-based platform for the storage, sharing and verification of documents and certificates.
- Modular Open-Source Identity Platform (MOSIP): developed by the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore
- Instant real-time payments system Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
- Covid vaccination platform CoWIN and Health Stack.
What are Digital Public Goods?
Digital public goods are public goods in the form of software, data sets, AI models, standards or content that are generally free works and contribute to economic digital development.
E.g., Aadhaar, UPI or Free and open-source software (FOSS) are an example of digital public good
Benefits: Adoption of India technology stack like unique identifier technology, digital payments and Co-Win will help foreign countries save billions, boost educational access and expedite their digitization process
- It is expected to help Indian startups and system integrators in engaging with foreign countries
What is India Tech Stack?
India Stack comprises open-source software application programming interfaces (APIs) of government-backed services. The open-source model has a plethora of computer languages, architecture, libraries, and user interfaces.
Norovirus cases detected in Kerala
Source: Indian Express
Context: The Kerala Health Department confirmed two cases of the gastrointestinal infection norovirus.
- Symptoms: Stomach and intestinal inflammation, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps.
- Mode of Transmission – highly contagious, contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, through the air by tiny droplets when an infected person vomits.
- The virus: Capable of surviving low temperatures, common during the winter and in colder countries, hence referred to as “winter vomiting disease”.
- The severity of infection: Estimated to kill 200,000 persons globally every year, with most deaths occurring among those below the age of five years and those over the age of 65 years.
- Vaccines: Not Available
- Prevention method: Practice good hygiene.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its Complications
Context: The Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics (IJBB), the monthly journal from CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research (NIScPR), has brought out a special issue on the theme, “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and its Complications”.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a multifactorial endocrine disorder, which is characterized by chronic anovulation.
- Irregular periods, hirsutism, and weight gain are the common symptoms of PCOS.
- It is the pre-eminent cause of infertility, with a worldwide range of 6-26%, and in India, it is 3.7-22.5%.
- Risk factors: genetics, neuroendocrine system, sedentary lifestyle, diet, and obesity.
- Combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, regular exercise, and a healthy diet can help regulate hormones and reduce symptoms.
- Medications such as birth control pills, metformin, and clomiphene can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce androgen levels, and improve ovulation.
New NASA Nuclear Rocket Plan Aims to Get to Mars in Just 45 Days
Context: NASA is developing bimodal nuclear propulsion – a two-part system consisting of Nuclear Thermal and Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NTP and NEP element; therefore ‘bimodal’) – that could enable transits to Mars in just 45 days
- The bimodal nuclear propulsion system uses a “wave rotor topping cycle“
Advantages over conventional chemical propulsion: fuel efficiency, a higher specific impulse (Isp) rating and unlimited energy density (virtually).
- Indian Space Research Organization started with the three-phase development of a 100-Watt Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG)
- RTGs were first used in space during the Cold War in 1961 for the US’s Transit-4A Mission.
Ukraine War: CERN has shortened runs
Context: In the wake of the energy crisis fueled by the Russia-Ukraine war, the Geneva-based particle physics laboratory CERN, known for discovering the ‘god particle’ in 2012, has reduced its energy intake.
- The laboratory has shortened the running period of its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) by a month
What is LHC?
The Large Hadron Collider is a giant, complex machine built to study particles that are the smallest known building blocks of all things.
- Structure: LHC is a 27-km-long track-loop buried 100m underground on the Swiss-French border.
- Operation: In its operational state, it fires two beams of protons almost at the speed of light in opposite directions inside a ring of superconducting electromagnets.
- ‘God Particle’ discovery: In scientists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson or the ‘God Particle’ during the LHC’s first run.
- This led to Peter Higgs and his collaborator François Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013.
- The Higgs boson is the fundamental particle associated with the Higgs field, a field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.
- ‘New Physics’ beyond Standard Model: After the discovery of the Higgs boson, scientists have started using the data collected as a tool to look beyond the Standard Model, which is currently the best theory of the most elementary building blocks of the universe and their interactions.
Madhya Pradesh’s newest Ramsar wetland covered in invasive water Hyacinth, threatening biodiversity
- An artificial lake in MP’s Shivpuri district – Sankhya Sagar, has virtually disappeared under a thick layer of an invasive aquatic plant (hyacinth), threatening the biodiversity of the water body.
- Sankhya Sagar – a Ramsar site (declared in 2022), is a wetland site designated internationally important by UNESCO.
About the lake and the invasive species:
- The lake spreads across 248 hectares (612.82 acres) and helps maintain the ecological balance of the Madhav National Park.
- The lake is home to marsh crocodiles aka ‘Mugger’ (Crocodylus palustris), which is a Schedule I reptilian species protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Water hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes) is an invasive plant species (macrophytes) native to South Africa.
- Although the plant has some uses (acts as a water purifier by removing heavy metals), it poses a threat to aquatic biodiversity when it covers the entire surface of a water body.
Ramsar convention/The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance:
- It is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
- It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar (on the Caspian Sea), where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. It came into force in 1975.
- India has 75 sites (as of August 2022) recognised under the convention.
- Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
- It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
Source: PIB News
- AMPHEX (Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh): It is a biennial tri-services amphibious exercise, focused on the joint training of elements of all three services in various facets of amphibious operations to enhance interoperability and synergy.
- TROPEX-23: It is a biennial (every two years) Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX), aimed at “validating and refining” the Navy’s concept of “operations” as well as to test overall combat capabilities
- Tarkash 2023: It is a counter Terrorism Exercise between India’s National Security Guard and US Special Operations Forces
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