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:
- What California’s atmospheric rivers mean for drought, floods, fires
GS Paper 2:
- On the higher judiciary’s move on the death penalty
- India’s democratic values have eroded significantly
- The stage has been set for gender equity in Digital India
GS Paper 3:
- UN World Water Development Report 2023
- The road to ending tuberculosis
Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)
- Right to Health Bill (RTH): Rajasthan
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
- Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)
- Onions to be irradiated with gamma rays
- Asia’s largest 4-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope (LMT)
- ‘Ceramic Radome’ technology
- CBAM or Carbon Tax
- Green Tug Transition Programme (GTTP)
GS Paper 1
Source: Indian Express
Context: California has experienced an exceptionally wet winter with 11 atmospheric rivers battering the state and a twelfth such storm threatening to cause even more flooding, landslides and road closures.
- California has received 147% of average rainfall so far this season, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
About Atmospheric rivers:
- Atmospheric rivers are vast airborne currents of dense moisture carried aloft for hundreds of miles from the Ocean and funnelled over land to fall as bouts of heavy rain and snow.
California prone to drought:
- During any normal 20-year period of the 20th century, about 10 years were wet and 10 years were dry.
- But in the past 25 years, only nine years were wet and 16 were dry, meaning the state needs seven more wet years to recover. And climate change points to future years that are likely to get warmer, exacerbating the increasingly dry climate.
How does the rain affect wildfires?
- This winter’s bountiful rainfall has already triggered considerable growth in grasses and scrub that will dry out by summer, leaving a larger, thicker fuel bed for wildfires.
- The heavy rains can create dangers around burn scars from previous wildfires. The denuded land becomes susceptible to mudslides.
Impacts on regional climate and people:
- Heat balance: They transport huge amounts of water vapour from one place to another which is essential for the transfer of heat and equalizing heat across various latitudes.
- Climate change: They are being amplified by global warming as they are predicted to grow longer, wetter and wider in a warming climate.
- Pros: In dry conditions, atmospheric rivers can replenish water supplies and quench dangerous wildfires.
They can also deliver the usually needed rainfall to a region which is necessary for human life.
- Cons: In wet conditions, they can cause damaging floods and debris flow, wreaking havoc on local economies.
- Visibility is also diminished as these rivers increase haze-fog conditions which harm agriculture and transport.
GS Paper 2
Source: The Hindu
Context: The Supreme Court asked the Centre to provide data that may point to a more dignified, less painful and socially acceptable method of executing prisoners other than death by hanging.
- The Bench has sought fresh data to substantiate the argument that a more humane means of execution can be found.
- The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a legal sentence in some countries where a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime they have committed.
- Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead”.
Table: Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty
|Deterrent to crime||Violation of human rights|
|Provides justice for victims and families||Risk of executing innocent people|
|Appropriate punishment for heinous crimes||Irreversible|
|Reduces prison overcrowding and expenses||Discriminatory against marginalized communities|
|Closure for victims and families||The fallibility of the justice system|
|Vengeance for the victims and families||Potential for wrongful convictions and biases|
|Supported by a majority of the public||Can be expensive and time-consuming to execute|
Judgements related to death sentences:
- There are two leading judgments on the issue — Bachan Singh vs the State of Punjab (1980), which upheld the death penalty, but limited it to the ‘rarest of rare cases’, and
- Deena Dayal vs Union of India and Others (1983), upheld the method by ruling that hanging is “as painless as possible” and “causes no greater pain than any other known method”.
- The 35th Report of the Law Commission (1967) noted that electrocution, the use of a gas chamber and lethal injection were considered by some to be less painful.
Centre’s stand on death by hanging:
- In its 2018 affidavit, the government argued that death by hanging was the only “viable” option to execute a death warrant. However, the government also sought additional time to examine the methods followed in other countries.
What is the practice in other countries?
- According to Amnesty International, 55 countries around the world have the death sentence on the books.
- In the United States, an intravenous lethal injection is given in every state (27 states and American Samoa) that allows the death penalty. Electrocution is a secondary method in some states.
- Execution by firing squad is employed in China and Saudi Arabia uses beheading apart from other methods.
Mains Link: UPSC 2014
Instances of President’s delay in commuting death sentences have come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyse.
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Functioning of Indian Democracy
Context: The question of whether or not India’s democratic values have declined in recent years has been debated at the University of Cambridge.
Data on democratic values in India: By the Sweden-based V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute –
- The deliberative democracy index: It measures whether political decisions are made through public reasoning or emotional appeals and coercion.
- The egalitarian democracy index: It examines equal access to rights and liberties.
- The electoral democracy index: It evaluates election cleanliness and lack of fraud.
- The liberal democracy index: It measures the protection of individual and minority rights against state tyranny.
- The participatory democracy index: It measures active citizen engagement in electoral and non-electoral political processes.
- The values of these indexes have been declining, and in 2022 they reached the levels last seen during the 1975 Emergency.
Some incidents depicting declining democratic values in India:
- The arrest of citizens for posting online content critical of the government.
- The shutdown of domestic access to the Internet.
- The government censored political information on the Internet.
- Allegations of the government using social media to disseminate misleading/false information to influence the population.
- Harassment of journalists.
Analysing Indian Democracy:
|● Indian political system – Parliamentary form of govt.
● Largest democracy – A government of the people, for the people, and by the people.
● Indirect, direct (participatory – Gram Sabha) democracy
● Free and fair elections.
● Independent judiciary – checks executive exigencies
● Upholding democratic values – fundamental beliefs and Constitutional principles – liberty, justice, voting, right to life and minority rights, inclusiveness and equality, etc.
|● Caste system – a hierarchical social structure
● Level of inequality – income, class structure, lack of sustained-inclusive economic development
● Degree of ethnic diversity – Nationalism and populism scapegoating religious minorities
● Overburdened legal system
● The criminalisation of politics.
|● India’s record as an electoral democracy is far better than its record as a liberal democracy.
● India’s democratic longevity depends on power elites (politicians).
● As long as Power remains diffused (not monopolized by one political party/office) democratic longevity can be ensured.
● For successful working of democracy, citizens’ participation is a must.
● The corrective measures to meet the challenges can be actualized only when citizens play a proactive role.
To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC 2017)
Prelims Links: UPSC 2021
GS Paper 3
Context: Recently, ‘United Nations World Water Development Report 2023: partnerships and cooperation for water’, was released. Also, UN 2023 Water Conference is currently being held in New York
Major findings of the report:
- Globally, two billion people do not have safe drinking water and 3.6 billion lack access to safely managed sanitation
- The global urban population facing water scarcity is projected to increase from one-third (2016) to nearly half of the global urban population in 2050, with India projected to be the most severely affected.
- 80% of people living under water stress lived in Asia; in particular, northeast China, as well as India and Pakistan.
- Smart management and conservation of the world’s water resources means bringing together governments, businesses, scientists, civil society and communities – including indigenous communities – to design and deliver concrete solutions.”
- Water-energy-food nexus is critical in a transboundary context E.g. transboundary water cooperation arrangement established by the Mahakali Treaty (Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project) between India and Nepal, which aims to achieve water and energy security for both parties.
- Partnerships that focus on knowledge co-creation instead of knowledge transfer aim to embrace the diversity of expertise and experience within a knowledge system.
- Water resources management practices should incorporate traditional elements: E.g. paar systems in western Rajasthan, India, and amunas in Peru
- Use of technology:g., Google began a flood forecasting initiative in 2018, with the goal of preventing catastrophic damage
Terms related to water:
|Water scarcity||Lack of sufficient available water resources to meet water usage demands within a region|
|Water stress||The difficulty of obtaining fresh water sources during a period of time may lead to further depletion and deterioration of available water|
|Water shortage/deficits||Shortages of water caused by climate change, pollution, increased human demand, and overuse of water|
|Water crisis||A situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand|
Other steps to conserve Water:
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 6 includes a specific goal on water and sanitation (Goal 6)
- UN-mandated Paris Agreement recognizes the interlinkages between water and climate change.
- Dublin Principles water was established as an “economic good”
About the Report:
The WWDR is published by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water and its production is coordinated by the UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme. It is an annual report released on Launched on World Water Day (22nd March) every year
About the UN 2023 Water Conference (New York from March 22-24, 2023)
It will be the second UN Conference dedicated to water after the one held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1977. UN has launched a global campaign called ‘Be the Change’ to mark World Water Day 2023.
We will cover its outcome once the conference gets over.
Jal Jeevan Mission
- The Jal Jeevan Mission aims to deliver safe and enough drinking water to all rural Indian households by 2024 through individual household tap connections.
- It is the Ministry of Jal Shakti’s main programme
- It started in 2019
- Focus: Community-based approach to water, with comprehensive information, education, and communication as a fundamental component of the goal.
Works Under Jal Jeevan Mission
|Case Study||Key Issues||Solution||Implementation|
|Over-extraction of groundwater in Nuapada district in western Odisha||High concentrations of natural fluoride cause fluorosis and kidney failure; villagers spend 50-60% of their earnings on health-related issues||Switching source of drinking water from groundwater to surface water; formation of Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs)||Implementation of National Water Quality Sub-Mission; Larsen and Toubro managing water supply systems till 2025; VWSCs formed in all villages|
|Groundwater depletion in Dharwad district, Karnataka||Water scarcity due to overexploitation, population pressure, and discharge of effluents and agricultural chemicals; erratic rainfall and absence of perennial surface-water source||Reviving natural ponds for rainwater harvesting and subsurface recharge; formation of VWSCs||Revival of natural ponds identified in villages for JJM implementation in 2020; VWSCs looking after distribution network; periodic monitoring of supplied water quality in district laboratory|
|Water scarcity in Junagadh district, Gujarat||Dependence on streams and open wells; semi-arid climate||Combining surface water and groundwater sources for the conjunctive system; constructing borewells near water channels to recharge groundwater; block-level water treatment plant supplying treated water||Implementation by WASMO and GWSSB since 2002; VWSCs overseeing operation and maintenance of supply system; district-level laboratory monitoring water quality|
|Inadequate and contaminated water supply in Ladana village, Jaipur district||Relying on contaminated baori and seasonal streams; water scarcity during summers||Digging pond and open wells for water availability; constructing overhead tank for water storage; receiving water from Bisalpur dam||Digging of Ganga Sagar Talab and three open wells by Watershed and Soil Conservation Department in 2016; Public Health Engineering Department responsible for operation and maintenance; regular water quality testing|
|Inaccessible springs in North district, Sikkim||Difficulty in fetching water due to steep cliffs; dependence on springs||Installation of water collection structures and conveyance structures around identified springs; formation of VWSCs||Pilot implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission in 2019; 90% of households having functional tap connections; VWSCs looking after operation of installed pipelines and retrofitted works; technical support provided by Rural Development Department|
- Water warning: How ‘vanishing’ rainfall is threatening economic stability
- Growing water crisis and One water Approach (OWA)
How and to what extent would micro-irrigation help in solving India’s water crisis? (UPSC 2021)
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation
Context: Addressing India’s digital gender divide will enable the Indian economy to achieve more inclusive growth in the long term.
Data related to India’s digital gender divide:
- National Family Health Survey (2019-21): One in three women in India (33%) have ever used the internet, compared to more than half (57%) of men [Rural India – 49% vs 25%].
Gendered barriers that need to be addressed:
Lack of access: Low levels of infrastructure, coverage and smartphone penetration → gender inequality → low access to digital devices and services.
- Solution: Bridging the access gap (especially in rural areas) by
- Enabling smartphone and internet access through wider connectivity and penetration in rural areas,
- Providing affordable solutions and educating households on the benefits of digital access.
Digital illiteracy: Inequality in functional literacy → Overall 59% (66% in rural areas) of women between 15-49 years have not completed 10 or more years of schooling → often cannot make optimum use of smartphones.
- Solution: Digital education would help this large cohort leapfrog the traditional development gender divide.
Cyber safety and security: Women may be more vulnerable to online harassment, cyberbullying and cyberstalking → which in turn widens the digital divide.
Areas that can play a catalytic role in bridging the gender digital divide:
- Designing digital solutions to advance gender equity: The involvement of girls and women in co-creation will accelerate digital adoption and help reduce the digital gender divide.
- Digital literacy and capacity building: Early access to digital technology to absorb new knowledge and skills → essential for employability → higher earning, and economic opportunities.
- Responsible technology: Protecting user privacy and data must be a top priority → stakeholders in the technology industry and the government need to collaborate.
The Indian government’s Initiatives in this direction:
- PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan under the vision of Digital India. It specifically targets the rural population, with 60 million households covered.
- The National Digital Library for children and adolescents proposed in the UB for 2023-24 will ensure equitable access to quality education and improve digital literacy levels.
- The ‘Stay Safe Online’ campaign by MeitY, conceptualised as part of India’s G20 presidency, will prioritize awareness creation.
Way ahead: India is home to the largest number of women (~691 million) in the world → opportunities for women to contribute, participate and innovate in this ever-expanding and dynamic digital ethos.
- With its position at the G20’s helm and drive towards a trillion-dollar-plus digital economy, the country has its building blocks in place to be at the forefront of the next digital revolution.
- With the stage for a transformative and gender-equal digital revolution been set, India must take advantage of the mutually reinforcing forces of socioeconomic and digital empowerment.
GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Context: The existing target of ending tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 lacks implementation and clarity about definitions of “end”.
- In 1993, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared TB a global health emergency.
- Founded in 2001, the Stop TB Partnership (a UN-hosted organisation) takes bold and smart risks to serve the needs and amplify the voices of the people, communities, and countries affected by TB.
- The Stop TB board meets in Varanasi, India, and will coincide with World TB Day 2023 (March 24).
- The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (2002) began disbursing money directed towards the global TB epidemic in 2003.
Current obstacles in the global fight against TB:
- The response has been short on urgency and long on processes.
- For example, The Global Fund remains hostage to the zero-sum games imposed by donors and the champions of the three diseases.
Key areas that remain under-served:
- Development and wide use of an adult TB vaccine: The current vaccine is delivered at birth.
- Getting newer therapeutic agents for TB.
- Moving to an injection-free and shorter all-oral pills regimen for TB (the current standard is for at least six months) will improve compliance and reduce patient fatigue.
- The space of diagnostics. There are exciting developments for use of AI-assisted handheld radiology with 90-second reporting and 95% plus accuracy for diagnosing TB.
- This is a mature technology and should be rolled out universally immediately.
- The COVID-19 vaccine development process shows what can be done with the help of collective will and action.
- India convened the InDx diagnostics coalition in Bengaluru for COVID-19.
- TN-KET (Tamil Nadu Kasanoi Erappila Thittam/TB death-free project)
- Using social safety programmes to address the poverty drivers of the TB epidemic.
- Leveraging the mobile and computational data revolution to improve treatment outcomes.
- India’s leadership of the G20 and the focus on health could be catalytic, in the same manner, that the Japanese G7 presidency in 2001 was for the creation of the Global Fund.
- Providing historical symmetry, Japan leads the G7 in 2023, providing leaders of both nations and groupings to act synergistically towards ending TB.
Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)
Right to Health Bill (RTH): Rajasthan
The Rajasthan Assembly has passed the Right to Health Bill, making Rajasthan the first and only state in India to legislate the right to health.
The Bill provides for mandatory free-of-cost emergency treatment for every resident of the state at both government hospitals and private institutions. The Bill also mandates that hospitals provide treatment in emergency cases without waiting for medico-legal formalities and give medicines and transport facilities without charging money.
- RTH creates a legal obligation on states to ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality
- Right to life (Article 21) included RTH (SC Bandhua Mukti Morcha v Union of India & Ors)
Usage: The bill can be used to highlight the importance of prioritizing the public’s health and welfare, involving all stakeholders (inclusivity), and ensuring accountability and transparency in the healthcare system.
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: Scientists have confirmed the existence of a continent called Zealandia, which is approximately 1.89 million square miles in size and was once part of the ancient supercontinent called Gondwana.
- It is a long, narrow microcontinent that is mostly submerged in the South Pacific Ocean.
- Zealandia started to separate from Gondwana about 105 million years ago and gradually sank beneath the waves, with over 94% of the landmass remaining underwater.
- It is recognized as the world’s eighth continent
- The part of Zealandia which is above water forms the foundation of New Zealand’s north and south islandsas well as the island of New Caledonia.
- The existence of Zealandia was first recorded in 1642 by Dutch businessman and sailor Abel Tasman, who was on a mission to find the “great Southern Continent,” or Terra Australis.
Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)
Context: An Inter-Ministerial delegation from India led by the Department of Commerce participated in the second Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) negotiating round in Bali, Indonesia.
- It is a US-led initiativethat aims to strengthen economic partnerships among participating countries to enhance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Launched in 2021 with a dozen initial partners who together represent 40% of the world GDP.
The IPEF is not a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but allows members to negotiate the parts they want. The negotiations will be along four main “pillars”.
- Supply-chain resilience
- Clean energy, decarbonisation & infrastructure
- Taxation & anti-corruption
- Fair & resilient
Onions to be irradiated with gamma rays
Asia’s largest 4-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope (LMT)
Context: Ministry of science and technology inaugurated Asia’s largest 4-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope at Devasthal in Uttarakhand
- By: Aryabhatt Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES).
What are LMTs?
LMTs are stationary telescopes that image a strip of sky. It can capture all possible celestial objects — from stars, galaxies, supernovae explosions, and asteroids to space debris
Working of the telescope: ILMT employs a 4-metre-diameter rotating mirror made up of a thin layer of liquid mercury to collect and focus light.
- However, other liquids like low-melting alloys of gallium, are also used.
- The telescope is designed to survey the strip of the skypassing overhead each night.
- The data collected will be analyzed using AI/Machine learning to discover and discern variable and transient stellar sources.
- It is the first liquid mirror telescope designed exclusively for astronomical observations
- It has the largest aperture telescope available in India
- It is also the first optical survey telescope in India.
Difference between Conventional Telescopes and LMTs
|Conventional Telescopes||Liquid Mirror Telescopes|
|Steered to point towards the celestial source of interest for observations||Stationary telescopes that image a strip of the sky which is at the zenith at a given point in the night|
|Highly polished glass mirrors are used, either single or a combination of curved ones||Mirrors made up of reflective liquid, typically mercury, which forms a paraboloid-shaped reflecting surface|
|Observes specific stellar sources for fixed hours||Captures the sky’s images on all nights, between two successive twilights, for a set period, typically a few years|
‘Ceramic Radome’ technology
Context: Carborundum Universal Limited (CUMI), a private company has signed an agreement with DRDO for manufacturing ceramic radomes used in aerospace and missile systems.
What is a ceramic?
A ceramic is a non-metallic, inorganic solid material that is typically produced by heating natural clay or other minerals at high temperatures. E.g. Pottery, Tiles
- Properties: The majority of ceramics are excellent insulators and can withstand high temperatures.
What are radomes?
Radomes are structures or enclosures designed to protect an antenna and associated electronics from the surrounding environment and elements such as rain, UV light, etc.
What are Ceramic radomes?
Ceramic Radome Technology is the state-of-the-art technology for shielding Missiles across the world from getting overheated.
- Currently, ceramic radomes have been developed indigenously by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) which has developed India’s missile arsenal.
CBAM or Carbon Tax
Context: European Union is willing to collaborate with India in easing the administrative burden for businesses while enforcing its Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).
What is CBAM or Carbon Tax?
It is a tax that imposes importers and non-EU manufacturers to pay for the carbon emission linked to the goods they sell within EU limits.
- Under the political agreement, the CBAM will enter into force in its transitional phase as of 1 October 2023
Similar plans in the US:
- The Inflation Reduction Act will allow the US to join with or mirror the EU’s plan to impose a carbon fee on imports of high-emitting goods.
- It seeks to impose tariffs on imports with a high carbon footprint entering the 27-member bloc.
- Encourage cleaner industrial production in non-EU countries
Implication for India:
- Indian exports (India exports about $2 billion worth of products annually to the EU) could attract a 20-35% duty on key Indian shipments, potentially clouding free trade talks between the two sides
- Against the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.
India is considering imposing retaliatory tariffs on EU imports in response to CBAM, which India said is discriminatory towards developing nations.
Green Tug Transition Programme (GTTP)
Context: The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways in India has announced the launch of the Green Tug Transition Programme (GTTP) with the aim of making India a global hub for green shipbuilding by 2030.
Features: The programme will start with Green Hybrid Tugs, which will be powered by green hybrid propulsion systems, and will subsequently adopt non-fossil fuel solutions like Methanol, Ammonia, and Hydrogen.
What is Green Shipping?
Green shipping refers to the use of environment-friendly resources and energy to transport people and goods by ship
- Green ship technology adopts procedures to decrease emissions, consume less energy, and be more efficient.
What are Tugs?
Tugs are special boats that assist other vessels into and out of port. The primary purpose of these boats is to help move larger ships by towing, pushing, and guiding.
Context: ‘Androth’, the second of the 08 x Anti Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft (SWC) Project, being built by M/s GRSE (Kolkata) for the Indian Navy was recent.
First ship: INS Arnala
- Androth is also known as the most silent ship
- Name: INS Androth draws its name from the largest and longest island Androth Island, in the Lakshadweep archipelago (strategically important).
- Their primary role is to conduct anti-submarine operations in coastal waters, low-intensity maritime operations and mine-laying operations.
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