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[Mission 2024] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 12 August 2023

 

NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same

 

Answer the following questions in 150 words:


General Studies – 1


 

1. What are the various factors that affect the formation of Savanna type of climate? Examine the various threats to Savanna biomes.

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

Savanna regions have two distinct seasons – a wet season and a dry season. There is very little rain in the dry season. In the wet season vegetation grows, including lush green grasses and wooded areas. As you move further away from the equator and its heavy rainfall, the grassland becomes drier and drier – particularly in the dry season.

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Savanna biomes

Savannas – also known as tropical grasslands – are found to the north and south of tropical rainforest biomes. The largest expanses of savanna are in Africa, where much of the central part of the continent, for example Kenya and Tanzania, consists of tropical grassland. Savanna grasslands can also be found in Brazil in South America.

Various factors that affect the formation of Savanna type of climate

  • Savanna type of climate is located between 5°-20° latitudes on either side of the equator.
  • Thus, savanna climate is located between equatorial type of climate (Af) and semi-arid and subtropical humid climate.
  • In other words, this climate is located between equatorial low pressure belt or rain producing inter-tropical convergence and sub­tropical high pressure belt.
  • The regions of Savanna climate are affected by low and high pressure systems in a year.
  • Due to northward migration of the sun during summer solstice (21 June) the equatorial low pressure belt and doldrum are shifted northward and thus Savanna climate comes under the influence of Inter Tropical Convergence (ITC) which is associated with atmospheric disturbances (cyclones) which yield rains.
  • Due to southward migration of the sun during winter solstice (23 December) Savanna climatic zone comes under the influence of subtropical high pressure belt and thus anticyclonic conditions dominate the weather and bring dry condi­tions.
  • The descending stable winds under anticyclonic conditions cause dry conditions.
  • Besides, the coastal areas are affected by local winds and sea breezes.
  • Eastern coasts are influenced by trade winds. Strong and high velocity tropical cyclones dominate the weather conditions during warm season.
  • It is apparent that the Savanna type of climate is induced due to the introduc­tion of wet summer and dry winter seasons because of northward and southward migration of the sun respec­tively.
  • Since the Savanna climate is located between equatorial wet and tropical dry climates and hence there is gradual variation in weather conditions away from the equator as the aridity increases poleward.

Various threats to Savanna biomes

  • Anthropogenic activities
    • Unsustainable water usage and irrigation methods could potentially dry up life-giving rivers and water holes.
    • In regions where indigenous people regularly include bushmeat – wild meat – in their diet, ungulate populations have dropped at noticeable rates.
    • Some savanna wildlife is also hunted as trophies; black rhinoceroses, in particular, are hunted for their valuable horns.
    • Even some plant species are over-harvested due to their commercial value.
    • Carvings made from African Blackwood, a savanna tree, are often sold at tourists’ markets.
  • Agriculture, drought and Heavy Grazing
    • Agriculture is another environmental threat to the savanna. Large areas of land are being cleared to grow crops and farm livestock. The livestock competes with local animals for grazing and can decimate the natural ecosystem.
    • Prolonged, severe drought has a dangerous effect on a savanna ecosystem, with grazing patterns exacerbating this effect.
    • The combination of severe drought and grazing can change a grassland of primarily edible, perennial grasses to a savanna dominated by inedible grasses and plants.
  • Desertification
    • Tropical savannas often border on arid, desert regions, and the spread of desert-like conditions into dry grassland areas is called desertification.
    • This threat to a savanna ecosystem include effects caused by climate change, farming practices, overgrazing, aggressive agricultural irrigation, which lowers the level of the water table away from plant roots, deforestation and erosion.
    • Each year, over 46,000 square kilometers of African savanna becomes desert.
  • Carbon Emissions
    • A 2012 survey attributed large increases in woody plant mass to the “CO2 fertilization effect.” The authors posited that the increase in the rate of woody plant growth was caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    • A dramatic increase in the amount of trees and shrubs could threaten the entire savanna ecosystem, as these plants use more water than grasses.

Conclusion

While forests are undoubtedly great carbon sinks, grasslands are not all that far behind. Studies reveal that restoring grasslands is an immensely effective and economical way to combat climate change, as these landscapes store large amounts of carbon below ground. When a nuanced and informed understanding of the importance of grasslands filters into conservation and climate change policies, it will be win-win for pastoralists, grassland biodiversity, and the planet.

 

2. The continental shelf of the Indian Ocean holds significant economic potential due to the presence of various resources that can be exploited for both commercial and strategic purposes. Examine.

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

Continental shelf, a broad, relatively shallow submarine terrace of continental crust forming the edge of a continental landmass. The geology of continental shelves is often similar to that of the adjacent exposed portion of the continent, and most shelves have a gently rolling topography called ridge and swale. Continental shelves make up about 8 percent of the entire area covered by oceans.

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Economic significance of the resources in the continental shelf of the Indian Ocean

Biotic Resources: The Biotic Resources include fish, crustaceans’ molluscs, sea weeds and other edible form of marine life.

  • Marine Animals provide oil, fur, leather, cattle food etc.
  • Marine plants and animals are also used in curative medicine.
  • Seaweed derived from continental shelf are used in cooking and textiles.
  • Among all biotic resources Fish are more important for the people of Indian Ocean region because they are a rich source of proteins and account for more than 10% of the animal protein food. e.g. major varieties of fish include Tuna, Mackerel, Salman, Sardine, Prawn etc.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture industries are also a major source of exports. India’s maritime exports grew 55 times in volume between 1962 and 2012 and fisheries exports now account for Rs. 16,600 crore or about $2.5 billion.

Mineral Resources:

  • The mineral resources derived from the continental shelf of Indian Ocean include both metallic and non-metallic resources either in the dissolved form or as suspensions. The dissolved salts include common salt. e.g. Sodium Chloride, Salts of Magnesium and Bromine
  • Minerals derived from the shelves include Petroleum gas, Magnesium, Sulphur, Iron, Gold, Silver, Polymetallic nodules of copper zinc etc. These are valuable for the industrial usage.
  • Oil and Natural Gas are the important of all the mineral resources. They constitute up to 90% of the value of mineral derived from the sea. e.g. Bombay High.
  • Placer Deposits: Vitally important, thorium resources in placer sands of Malabar coast are a promise to Nuclear Energy security.

Energy Resources:

  • Tidal Waves: Tides during rise and fall, release a lot of energy by striking against the shore. This action of tidal waves can be used to operate a turbine and produce electricity. e.g. Tidal Wave plant has been established at Durgaduani in Sunderban of West Bengal.
  • Energy from temperature difference in Surface and Sub-surface water: In tropical oceans like Indian Ocean, the surface temperature is about 25°C to 30°C while the sub-temperature is 5°C. This vertical difference of temperature is enough to generate electricity. e.g. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant at the coast of Tamil Nadu
  • Geothermal Energy: This means tapping heat from the fracture zones and active volcanoes on Continental Shelves.

Tourism:

  • Coral atolls in Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands attract many tourists from India as well as abroad. This helps the livelihood of many islanders.

Conclusion

The Continental Shelf of the Indian Ocean is economically very significant for people. Indian Ocean is an “ocean of economic opportunities” for India. The security threats posed by State and non-state actors are impeding the progress. The Government initiatives like SAGAR, IORA, Sagarmala etc. should ensure that the fruits of Blue Economy is well reaped.

Value addition

Factors that make continental shelves one of the highly productive ecosystems:

 

  • The continental shelf is geologically defined as the submerged prolongation of the land mass of the coastal State, consisting of the seabed and subsoil of the shelf, slope, and rise. It does not include the deep ocean floor.
  • Despite their small size in both areal extent and volume, the waters over continental shelves are usually rich in nutrients, which in turn make them among the most biologically productive areas of the oceans.
  • Water depth over the continental shelves averages about 60 meters (200 feet). Sunlight penetrates the shallow waters, and many kinds of organisms flourish—from microscopic shrimp to giant seaweed called kelp. Ocean currents and runoff from rivers bring nutrients to organisms that live on continental shelves.
  • Plants and algae make continental shelves rich feeding grounds for sea creatures. 
  • Accordingly, about 90% of the world’s fisheries production is harvested over the continental shelves.
  • One of the reasons for this higher productivity is the increased nutrient loads via runoff from the continental landmasses (mostly by rivers), however many shelf areas receive significant nutrients from upwelling of deeper ocean waters.
  • Continental shelf waters also tend to have food chains with fewer trophic levels, and on average support larger fish.

 


General Studies – 2


 

3. The relationship between laws for criminal contempt of the court and the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution is a complex and debated issue. Comment your opinion on the issue.

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

Last week, political commentator and publisher Badri Seshadri was arrested from his home in Chennai in the early hours of Saturday. The reason for the police from Perambalur district to travel nearly 300 km to make this speedy arrest was comments made by Seshadri during an interview on a YouTube channel criticising the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India on the Manipur issue.

He was booked for promoting enmity, wanton provocation with intent to cause a riot, etc., based on the complaint of a local lawyer. Needless to say, the state’s action came in for criticism from a wide section of society, especially from writers and journalists of all political leanings.

In this background, it is necessary to revisit criminal contempt, and role of judiciary and executive that implement the law.

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Criminal contempt: A special law is asynchronous with freedom of speech

  • The objective for contempt is stated to be to safeguard the interests of the public, if the authority of the Court is denigrated and public confidence in the administration of justice is weakened or eroded.
  • But the definition of criminal contempt in India is extremely wide, and can be easily invoked.
  • Suo motu powers of the Court to initiate such proceedings only serve to complicate matters. And truth and good faith were not recognised as valid defences until 2006, when the Contempt of Courts Act was amended.
  • Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer famously termed the law of contempt as having a vague and wandering jurisdiction, with uncertain boundaries; contempt law, regardless of public good, may unwittingly trample upon civil liberties. It is for us to determine what is the extent of such trampling we are willing to bear.
  • On the face of it, a law for criminal contempt is completely asynchronous with our democratic system which recognises freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right.
  • This holds true even for the executive to use laws such as UAPA and the NSA to clamp down on dissent.
  • Recently in Uttar Pradesh, government publicly announced that those creating fear or spoiling the atmosphere by posting false grievances will be punished under National Security Act goes against the ethos of the Constitution.
  • Given the propensity of such leaders to treat the voicing of grievances by citizens as a personal affront to their administrative capabilities, the Court’s warning that any attempt to stifle the people’s voices would attract action for contempt of court is quite timely and necessary.

Way forward

  • As Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, remarked, any clampdown on information is contrary to basic precepts.
  • He underscored the significance and necessity for the free flow of information during a grave crisis by recalling the role it played in containing a famine in 1970.
  • The Court was apparently drawing inspiration from the theory, articulated by economist Amartya Sen, that the fundamental attributes of democracy — such as a free press and the need to face the people at elections and respond to political criticism — help prevent famines.

Conclusion

Besides needing to revisit the need for a law on criminal contempt, even the test for contempt needs to be evaluated. If such a test ought to exist at all, it should be whether the contemptuous remarks in question actually obstruct the Court from functioning. It should not be allowed to be used as a means to prevent any and all criticism of an institution.

 


General Studies – 3


 

4. Superconductivity has the potential to revolutionize multiple areas of science and technology by offering unprecedented levels of efficiency, accuracy, and performance. Discuss.

Reference: The HinduInsights on India

Introduction

Superconductivity is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance. While resistance is a property that restricts the flow of electricity, superconductivity allows unhindered flow Materials are said to be exhibiting superconductivity when they exhibit the following two characteristics after being cooled below their critical temperature: zero electrical resistance and expulsion of magnetic fields (Meissner effect). All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a “coherent” manner. Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances. IISc researchers have reported superconductivity at room temperature. Their finding, now under review, will be a breakthrough if verified.

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Background

In last week of July, researchers in South Korea said they had discovered that a material called LK-99 is a room-temperature superconductor. Scientists have been looking for such materials for several decades now for their ability to transport heavy currents without any loss – a property that could revolutionise a variety of industrial and medical applications.

Applications

  • SQUIDs (Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices)can be used to take magnetic cardiograms based on magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in the heart.
  • These are used in the memory components of computersand fast digital circuits (including those based on Josephson junctions and rapid single flux quantum technology).
  • Transportation: powerful superconducting electromagnets used in maglev trains, magnetic confinement fusion reactors (e.g. tokamaks), and magnets used in particle accelerators
  • Transforming the Electricity Grid: Superconductor technology provides loss-less wires and cables and improves the reliability and efficiency of the power grid. It saves power and with it the financial savings and the environmental benefits also accrue
  • Medical diagnosis:One of the first large-scale applications of superconductivity is in medical diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses powerful superconducting magnets to produce large and uniform magnetic fields inside the patient’s body.
  • Superconductors are also being employed forundersea communication, submarine detection and geophysical prospecting
  • high sensitivity particle detectors, including the transition edge sensor, the superconducting bolometer, the superconducting tunnel junction detector, the kinetic inductance detector, and the superconducting nanowire single-photon detector
  • rail gun and coilgun magnets
  • electric motors and generators

Conclusion

Technical barriers have till now hindered the large scale usage of superconductivity phenomenon. With the new discovery, the true potential of super-conductivity can be reached out for socio-economic development of the country.

 

5. Coral reefs are highly sensitive ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their dependence on specific environmental conditions. Analyse.

Reference: Down to Earth

Introduction

A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups. Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny  water.

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Coral Reefs: Rainforests of the ocean

They occupy less than 0.1% of the world’s ocean area, yet they provide a home for at least 25% of all marine species. And the variety of species living on coral reefs is greater than almost anywhere else in the world. Scientists estimate that more than one million species of plants and animals are associated with coral reef ecosystems.

Coral reefs in India:

  • Palk Bay
  • The Gulf of Mannar
  • Andaman and Nicobar Group of Islands
  • The Gulf of Kutch
  • The Lakshadweep Islands

 

Threats faced and deleterious effect

  • Climate Change: This is believed to be the greatest threat to reefs, according to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report. When severe weather events(eg. Heat waves) increase in frequency, this causes rise in both sea temperatures and sea levels. Corals cannot survive if the water temperature is too high. Sea temperature between 73 and 84 degrees Farenheit to sustain growth.
  • Coral Bleaching: Between 2016 and 2017, half the corals at the Great Barrier Reef were killed by two ocean heat waves.Almost three- quarters of the world’s coral reefs were affected by those heat waves and experts say warmer oceans mean, die-offs will become much more common.
  • Pollution:Urban and industrial waste, sewage, agrochemicals, and oil pollution are poisoning reefs. These toxins are dumped directly into the ocean or carried by river systems from sources upstream. Some pollutants, such as sewage and runoff from farming, increase the level of nitrogen in seawater, causing an overgrowth of algae, which ‘smothers’ reefs by cutting off their sunlight. In recent times, Plastic Pollution has posed a major threat.
  • Destructive fishing practices: These include cyanide fishing, blast or dynamite fishing, bottom trawling, and muro-ami (banging on the reef with sticks). Bottom-trawling is one of the greatest threats to cold-water coral reefs.
  • Coral mining: Live coral is removed from reefs for use as bricks, road-fill, or cement for new buildings. Corals are also sold as souvenirs to tourists and to exporters who don’t know or don’t care about the longer term damage done, and harvested for the live rock trade.
  • Sedimentation:Erosion caused by construction (both along coasts and inland), mining, logging, and farming is leading to increased sediment in rivers. This ends up in the ocean, where it can ‘smother’ corals by depriving them of the light needed to survive. The destruction of mangrove forests, which normally trap large amounts of sediment, is exacerbating the problem.
  • Disease Outbreaks : Coral reefs are susceptible to disease outbreaks caused by stress, which include the presence of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Other types of stress include physical and chemical changes, such as ultra-violet radiation, changes in water temperatures or pollutants.
  • Human Intervention:The trawling machinery, the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are localized threats to coral ecosystems. Rock coral on seamounts across the ocean are under fire from bottom trawling. Reportedly up to 50% of the catch is rock coral, and the practice transforms coral structures to rubble. With it taking years to regrow, these coral communities are disappearing faster than they can sustain themselves.
  • Other Factors: The ocean’s role as a carbon dioxide sink, atmospheric changes, ultraviolet light, ocean acidification, viruses, impacts of dust storms carrying agents to far-flung reefs, pollutants, algal blooms and others. Reefs are threatened well beyond coastal areas. Coral reefs with one type of zooxanthellae are more prone to bleaching than are reefs with another, more hardy species.

Need of the hour

  • Limiting global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, provides the only chance for the survival of coral reefs globally.
  • If the agreement is fully implemented, we will likely see a decrease in atmospheric carbon concentrations. This will improve conditions for the survival of reefs, and enable other measures to rescue reefs to be successful.
  • Other measures alone, such as addressing local pollution and destructive fishing practices, cannot save coral reefs without stabilised greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reinforcing commitments to the Paris Agreement must be mirrored in all other global agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • SDG 13, for instance, calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. There also needs to be a transformation of mainstream economic systems and a move towards circular economic practices.
  • These are highlighted in SDG 8 (inclusive and sustainable economic growth) and SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns).
  • Economic systems need to rapidly move to the low greenhouse gas emission scenario to enable global temperature decrease.
  • A move away from current economic thinking should include the benefits provided by coral reefs, which are currently not taken into account in mainstream business and finance.
  • Therefore, sustaining and restoring coral reefs should be treated as an asset, and long-term investments should be made for their preservation.
  • Investments should also include support for research at the frontiers of biology, such as genetic selection of heat-resistant corals that can withstand rising global temperatures.

Conclusion

Monitoring, research, and restoration all are essential to safeguard coral reefs. However, to ultimately protect coral reefs, legal mechanisms are necessary. Legal mechanism involves the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs). Because MPAs have the added force of law behind them, a protected marine enclosure—such as a coral reef system—may stand a better chance for survival.

 

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words(15 marks each):


General Studies – 1


 

6. The Indian monsoon is crucial to the country’s well-being, impacting agriculture, economy, water resources, and livelihoods. Variations in the monsoon are influenced by a multitude of factors, both regional and global, making its prediction and management a challenging endeavour. Analyse.

Reference:  Insights on India

Introduction

Monsoons are seasonal winds which reverse their direction with the change of season. The monsoon is a double system of seasonal winds. They flow from sea to land during the summer and from land to sea during winter. Monsoons are peculiar to Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia, parts of Central Western Africa etc. Indian Monsoons are Convection cells on a very large scale. They are periodic or secondary winds which seasonal reversal in wind direction.

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Seasonal variation in the India monsoons

 

Significance of Monsoon on Indian economy: 

  • The monsoon is important for India’s farm-dependent $2 trillion economy.
  • It is a crucial source of water supply necessary for agriculture, industry and households in the country.
  • India gets around 70 percent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon season.
  • This affects the yield of some key kharif crops like rice, pulses and oilseeds such as soybeans.
  • Around 50% of India’s total food output comes in the form of Kharif crops.
  • India is primarily an agrarian economy—agriculture contributes 16% of India’s GDP.
  • It is also crucial for rabi crops as monsoon has an impact on the ground water and also reservoirs which are critical for rabi crops irrigation.
  • Bumper farm output keeps food prices under control and keep inflation in check.
  • This boosts demand for consumer goods as well as income of rural people.
  • All of this leads to a stronger economic outlook that in turn help lift equities, especially of companies selling goods in rural areas.
  • Monsoon rains also replenish reservoirs and groundwater that helps in improving irrigation and also boosts hydropower production.
  • Good Monsoon can reduce demand for subsidized diesel used for pumping water for irrigation.
  • Good monsoon also checks government spending.
  • Industries use raw materials like cotton, sugarcane, vegetable oils and natural rubber. The prices of these raw material fall in times of good monsoons.
  • The loan portfolio of banks rises and banks net interest margins also rise.
  • Easy interest rates prevail in the economy and bank stocks rise in value.
  • A good monsoon will mean more farm related employment leading to a higher cash flow into the economy, all with a positive impact on the overall GDP.

Effects of poor monsoon on Indian economy:

  • A poor monsoon season can have a rippling effect on India’s economy and overall GDP growth of India.
  • A delayed monsoon can lead to supply issues and even accelerate food inflation.
  • Higher food inflation translates into higher interest rates, which in turn raises the borrowing cost across the country and impacts profitability.
  • Below normal monsoon can also lead to drought-like situation, thereby affecting the rural household incomes.
  • Other sectors affected by the health of the rural economy are banking, NBFCs and microfinance institutions.
  • Droughts result in NPAs, as farmers are unable to repay loans.
  • Groundwater levels will continue to fall dangerously.
  • This affects the farm sector which employs over half of the total population of India.
  • Crop failure and/or deficient rainfall is one big reason for mass farmer suicides across the country.
  • A poor monsoon weakens demand for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products, tractors, two-wheelers and rural housing.
  • It forces the government to spend on the import of food as well as take measures like farm loan waivers. These widen fiscal deficit.
  • This not only results in banks facing losses, it also disturbs the credit discipline of borrowers.
  • The impact even ripples overseas, as commodity markets are starved of Indian sugar and rice.
  • States like Kerala, Karnataka, MP and Maharashtra -could face challenges from a deficit monsoon, as they have poor irrigation availability.

Way forward:

  • Monsoon does play a big role in India. It has social, political, as well as economic implications.
  • Thus monsoon doesn’t only affect the crops but all the industries in the country.
  • The monsoon-dependent Indian economy needs climate-sensitive budgeting.
  • The excessive dependence on monsoon may be mitigated by the construction of modern irrigation canals, afforestation, and diversification of Indian industries.
  • Farmers, especially smallholder farmers, need advance warning of emergent weather conditions at a local level.
  • Develop climate-smart agriculture practices.
  • Build adaptive capacities to climate variability and strengthen the sustainability of farming systems.
  • Preventive measures for drought that include growing of pulses and oilseeds instead of rice.
  • Mobile telecommunication systems are increasingly cost-effective and an efficient way of delivering weather-based agro-advisories to farmers at a large scale.

 


General Studies – 2


 


7. Addressing the digital divide, promoting digital literacy, ensuring data privacy, and fostering innovation are among the key areas that require attention to ensure a more inclusive, secure, and technologically advanced future for India. Analyse.

Reference: Live Mint

Introduction

The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not. Promoting digital literacy is essential to empower individuals with the skills needed to navigate the digital landscape. Digital literacy encompasses not only the ability to use digital tools but also critical thinking, evaluating online information, and understanding online safety.

With the increasing digitization of personal and sensitive information, data privacy has become a paramount concern. Robust data protection regulations and practices are necessary to ensure that individuals’ personal data is collected, stored, and used responsibly. Strengthening data privacy laws and enforcement mechanisms is essential to build trust in digital services and prevent misuse of personal information.

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Background: Digital Penetration in India

  • Increasing internet penetration, widely affordable connectivity and monthly Unified Payments Interface (UPI) payments headed above 10 billion (and worth over ₹15 trillion) are examples of the strides we have taken.
  • The promise of basic digital enablers can also count on policy support in the form of data-security once privacy rules come to forge fairer—if not freer—online markets, a balance of scales best struck before forces of demand and supply get free play.
  • We also have an e-com-aligned export policy.
  • Cheap data tariffs led a surge from 462 million in 2018 to 759 million users in 2022, a majority of our population, going by data from a report by Kantar and Internet and Mobile Association of India. This number is projected to rise to 900 million by 2025.

Context for India

  • Digital Divide: The digital divide takes form in rich-poor, male-female, urban-rural etc segments of the population.
  • The gap needs to be narrowed down, then only the benefits of digitization would be utilized equally.
  • There are many roadblocks in the way of its successful implementation like digital illiteracy, poor infrastructure, low internet speed, lack of coordination among various departments, issues pertaining to taxation These challenges need to be addressed in order to realize the full potential of this programme.
  • Slow adoption of new technologies. For example, Banking sector most vulnerable to cloning of magnetic strip debit/credit cards.
  • Piracy: Rampant use of unlicensed and pirated software that are easy targets for malware. E.g.: Saposhi attack leading to Denial of Service.
  • Import dependence: Majority of electronic devices from cellphones to equipments used in power sector, defense and other critical infrastructure puts India into a vulnerable situation.
  • Lack of uniform security protocol and standards used across various electronic devices.
  • Security Issues: There is a cybersecurity challenge in ensuring end-to-end protection of data throughout the whole ecosystem.
  • While channels and databases used by the Government for transmission and storage are usually secure, other players in the ecosystem may not possess the requisite expertise or security to prevent and respond to breaches.
  • The alleged breach of the Aadhar database is a case in point.

 

 

Measures needed for India

  • Inclusion: Addressing the digital divide and promoting digital literacy can ensure that all segments of society, including marginalized communities, have access to and can benefit from digital technologies. This inclusion can lead to greater social and economic equity.
  • Security: Focusing on data privacy is essential to protect individuals’ rights and prevent cyber threats. Strong data privacy measures can build trust in digital services, encouraging more people to embrace technology without fear of their personal information being misused.
  • Innovation and Competitiveness: By fostering innovation, India can create a conducive environment for startups, research institutions, and technology companies to thrive. This, in turn, can drive economic growth, create high-value jobs, and enhance the country’s global competitiveness.
  • Empowerment: Empowering citizens with digital literacy skills enables them to make informed decisions, engage in online civic activities, and access government services efficiently. This empowerment can lead to active participation in governance and democracy.
  • Sustainable Development: Leveraging technology for sustainable development, such as using digital solutions for agriculture, healthcare, and education, can address critical challenges and improve the overall quality of life.

Conclusion

Overall, India’s progress in developing its Digital Public Infrastructure has laid a strong foundation for a digital economy. However, to realize the vision of inclusive and sustainable growth, continuous efforts are needed to address challenges related to data privacy, security, and digital literacy. Additionally, adapting to emerging technologies and fostering innovation will be crucial for India to maintain its momentum towards becoming a digital-first nation.

 

8. Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) has played a crucial part in providing a safety net for healthcare expenses and promoting financial inclusivity. However, it also highlights challenges such as uneven access to healthcare services, gaps in quality assurance, and limitations in addressing non-communicable diseases. Critically examine.

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

The Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission touted as “India’s largest scheme to scale-up health infrastructure” was launched by Prime Minister recently. It is aimed at ensuring a robust public health infrastructure in both urban and rural areas, capable of responding to public health emergencies or disease outbreak.

Healthcare provisions in India is grossly inadequate and access to healthcare is highly inequitable. Lack of efficient public healthcare and burden of out-of-pocket health expenditures reduces people’s capacity or disables them from investing in the human capital of their children.

In India, a large portion of the population is below the poverty line, therefore, they do not have easy access to primary health and education. There is growing inequality across social groups and income groups which translates itself into poor socio-economic mobility.

 

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PM-JAY: Features and Significance

  • PM-JAY is the world’s largest health insurance/ assurance scheme fully financed by the government.
    • Launched in February 2018, it offers a sum insured of Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary care (which doesn’t involve a super specialist) as well as tertiary care (which involves a super specialist).
    • Under PMJAY, cashless and paperless access to services are provided to the beneficiaries at the point of service, that is, hospital.
    • Health Benefit Packages covers surgery, medical and day care treatments, cost of medicines and diagnostics.
    • Packaged rates (Rates that include everything so that each product or service is not charged for separately).
    • These are flexible but the hospitals can’t charge the beneficiary more once fixed.
  • Beneficiaries: It is an entitlement-based scheme that targets the beneficiaries as identified by latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
  • Once identified by the database, the beneficiary is considered insured and can walk into any empaneled hospital.
  • Funding: The funding for the scheme is shared – 60:40 for all states and UTs with their own legislature, 90:10 in Northeast states and Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand and 100% Central funding for UTs without legislature.
  • Nodal Agency: The National Health Authority (NHA) has been constituted as an autonomous entity under the Society Registration Act, 1860 for effective implementation of PM-JAY in alliance with state governments.
    • The State Health Agency (SHA) is the apex body of the State Government responsible for the implementation of AB PM-JAY in the State.
  • Beneficial for Poor: In around the first 200 days of implementation, PM-JAY has benefitted more than 20.8 lakh poor and deprived people who received free treatment worth more than Rs. 5,000 crores.
  • During Covid-19: A key design feature of PM-JAY from the beginning of the scheme is portability, which helps to ensure that a PM-JAY-eligible migrant worker can access the scheme’s services in any empanelled hospital across the country, irrespective of their state of residence.

 

Challenges in healthcare

  • Finance: At about 1.3% of the national income, India’s public healthcare spending between 2008 and 2015, has virtually remained stagnant. This is way less than the global average of 6 per cent. It is a herculean task to implement a scheme that could potentially cost Rs 5 lakh per person and benefit 53.7 crore out of India’s 121 crore citizenry, or roughly about 44% of the country’s population. Over 70 per cent of the total healthcare expenditure is accounted for by the private sector.
  • Crumbling public health infrastructure: Given the country’s crumbling public healthcare infrastructure, most patients are forced to go to private clinics and hospitals. There is a shortage of PHCs (22%) and sub-health centres (20%), while only 7% sub-health centres and 12% primary health centres meet Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms.
  • High Out of Pocket Expenditure: Reports suggest that 70% of the medical spending is from the patient’s pockets leading to huge burden and pushing many into poverty. Most consumers complain of rising costs. Hundred days into the PMJAY, it remains to be seen if private hospitals provide knee replacement at Rs 80,000 (current charges Rs 3.5 lakh) bypass surgery at Rs 1.7 lakh (against Rs 4 lakh).
  • Insurance: India has one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Government contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 percent, as opposed to 83.5 percent in the UK. The high out-of-pocket expenses in India stem from the fact that 76 percent of Indians do not have health insurance.
  • Doctor-Density Ratio: The WHO reports the doctor-density ratio in India at 8 per 10,000 people as against one doctor for a population of 1,000. To achieve such access, merely increasing the number of primary and secondary healthcare centres is not enough.
  • Shortage of Medical Personnel: Data by IndiaSpend show that there is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff at all levels of care: 10,907 auxiliary nurse midwives and 3,673 doctors are needed at sub-health and primary health centres, while for community health centres the figure is 18,422 specialists.
  • Rural-urban disparity: The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-center, primary health centre (PHC) and CHC. PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors, with the shortage up by 200 per cent over the last 10 years to 27,421. Private hospitals don’t have adequate presence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and there is a trend towards super specialisation in Tier-1 cities.
  • Social Inequality: The growth of health facilities has been highly imbalanced in India. Rural, hilly and remote areas of the country are under served while in urban areas and cities, health facility is well developed. The SC/ST and the poor people are far away from modern health service.
  • Poor healthcare ranking: India ranks as low as 145th among 195 countries in healthcare quality and accessibility, behind even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • Commercial motive: lack of transparency and unethical practices in the private sector.
  • Lack of level playing field between the public and private hospitals: This has been a major concern as public hospitals would continue receiving budgetary support. This would dissuade the private players from actively participating in the scheme.
  • Scheme flaws: The overall situation with the National Health Mission, India’s flagship programme in primary health care, continues to be dismal. The NHM’s share in the health budget fell from 73% in 2006 to 50% in 2019 in the absence of uniform and substantial increases in health spending by States.

Conclusion

Making good use of technology and innovation can further reduce the overall cost of healthcare. AI-powered mobile applications can provide high-quality, low-cost, patient-centric, smart wellness solutions. The scalable and inter-operable IT platform for the Ayushman Bharat is a positive step in this direction.


General Studies – 2


 


9. Given the significance of semiconductors, India’s strategic interests align with developing a strong domestic semiconductor industry. India should have a comprehensive strategy to address its semiconductor needs, promote innovation, and strengthen national security. Discuss.

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

Semiconductor chips are the basic building blocks that serve as the heart and brain of all modern electronics and information and communications technology products. These chips are now an integral part of contemporary automobiles, household gadgets and essential medical devices such as ECG machines.

Semiconductor shortage is turning into an acute issue. Due to it, the growth prospects of the auto industry are once again in jeopardy. This issue also offers immense opportunity for India to foray in to Integrated Circuits and Chip design.

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Strengths of semiconductor industry of India

  • India’s biggest advantage in the Plus 1 space is its end-to-end design and manufacturing capabilities.
  • Vietnam is known for strong midstream activities, and local companies focus mainly on assembly.
  • Upstream activities, involving design and production, are mostly done overseas.
  • India has a highly talented young engineering force.
  • Not only is India considered to be the most digitally dexterous country in the world due to the largest Gen Z workforce, we have a huge domestic market.
  • And we are closer to Africa, the Middle East and European markets.

Challenges

  • For one, the level of fiscal support currently envisioned is minuscule when one considers the scale of investments typically required to set up manufacturing capacities in the various sub sectors of the semiconductor industry.
  • A semiconductor fabrication facility, or fab, can cost multiples of a billion dollars to set up even on a relatively small scale and lagging by a generation or two behind the latest in technology.
  • Even granting that India’s Production Linked Incentive scheme intends to give only 50% of the cost of setting up at least two greenfield semiconductor fabs by way of fiscal support, not much of the current scheme outlay of approximately $10 billion is likely to be left to support other elements including display fabs, packaging and testing facilities, and chip design centres.
  • Chip fabs are also very thirsty units requiring millions of litres of clean water and extremely stable power supply.
  • India has a decent chip design talent but it never built up chip fab capacity. The ISRO and the DRDO have their respective fab foundries but they are primarily for their own requirements and also not as sophisticated as the latest in the world.
  • It may be best if the new mission focuses fiscal support, for now, on other parts of the chip-making chain including design, where surely India already has considerable talent and experience.

Way Forward

  • Given the long gestation periods and rapid technology changes, India must out-strategize on design and functionality as the end product will be out only after three-four years from the moment work begins, by which point the prevailing chip shortage would have been resolved, while technology would have advanced further.
  • Apart from incentivising more FDI in electronics to deepen our supply chains through incentive schemes, we need to focus on encouraging Indian manufacturers and start-ups to enter and master complex R&D and manufacturing verticals.
  • We can then ensure that valuable Intellectual Property is created and owned by Indian companies.
  • The semiconductor industry is changing fast as new-age technologies require innovation at the design, material, and process levels.
  • Indian engineers have contributed immensely to this area in multinational companies. We must encourage them to set up their design start-ups with handsome government grants and tax incentives.
  • Premier research institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science should also be asked to work aggressively on R&D in chip designing and manufacturing.
  • Further, the government must focus on emerging technologies like LiDAR and Phased Array in which incumbents do not have a disproportionate advantage and the entry barrier is low.
  • By working aggressively in new cutting-edge technologies, India can ensure that it becomes Aatmanirbhar.
  • India needs to push for a Quad Supply Chain Resilience Fund to immunise the supply chain from geopolitical and geographic risks
  • India and Taiwan have started negotiations for a free-trade agreement and setting up a semiconductor manufacturing hub in an Indian city, signalling their resolve to further expand the two-way economic engagement.

Conclusion

The program will usher in a new era in electronics manufacturing by providing a globally competitive incentive package to companies in semiconductors and display manufacturing as well as design. The program will promote higher domestic value addition in electronics manufacturing and will contribute significantly to achieving a USD 1 Trillion digital economy and a USD 5 Trillion GDP by 2025. This shall pave the way for India’s technological leadership in these areas of strategic importance and economic self-reliance.

Value addition

Government initiatives in this regard

The Union Cabinet’s decision to set aside ₹76,000 crore for supporting the development of a ‘semiconductors and display manufacturing ecosystem’ is a belated but welcome acknowledgment of the strategic significance of integrated circuits, or chips, to a modern economy.

  • India Semiconductor Mission:
    • In order to drive the long-term strategies for developing a sustainable semiconductors and display ecosystem, aspecialised and independent India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) will be set up.
    • ISM will beled by global experts in the semiconductor and display industry. It will act as the nodal agency for efficient and smooth implementation of the schemes on Semiconductors and Display ecosystem.
  • Production Linked Incentives:
    • Incentive support to the tune of Rs.55,392 crore (7.5 billion USD) has been approved under PLIfor Largest Scale Electronics Manufacturing, PLI for IT Hardware, SPECS Scheme and Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme.
    • In addition, PLI incentives to the quantum of Rs.98,000 crore (USD 13 billion) is approved for alliedsectors comprising ACC battery, auto components, telecom & networking products, solar PV modules and white goods.
  • Semiconductor Fabs and Display Fabs:
    • It would provide fiscal support of up to 50% of the project costfor setting up semiconductor and display fabrication units.
    • The Union government will work with the States to set up high-tech clusters with the required infrastructuresuch as land and semiconductor-grade water.
  • Semi-conductor Laboratory (SCL):
    • MeitY will take requisite steps for modernization and commercialization of Semi-conductor Laboratory (SCL).
    • MeitY will explore the possibility for the Joint Venture of SCL with a commercial fab partnerto modernise the brownfield fab facility.
  • Compound Semiconductors:
    • It will support fiscal support of 30% of capital expenditure to approved units.
    • At Least 15 such unitsof Compound Semiconductors and Semiconductor Packaging are expected to be established with Government support under this scheme.
  • Semiconductor Design Companies:
    • TheDesign Linked Incentive (DLI) Scheme shall extend product design linked incentive of up to 50% of eligible expenditure and product deployment linked incentive of 6% – 4% on net sales for five years.
    • Support will be provided to 100 domestic companiesof semiconductor design for Integrated Circuits (ICs), Chipsets, System on Chips (SoCs), Systems & IP Cores and semiconductor linked design.

 

10. The increasing frequency of forest fires across the world can be attributed to a combination of natural and human factors, with climate change playing a significant role in it. Examine.

Reference: Down to Earth

Introduction

Forest fires are considered as one of the most widespread hazards in a forested landscape. They have a serious threat to forest and its flora and fauna. Forest fires essentially are ‘quasi-natural’, which means that they are not entirely caused by natural reasons (like volcanoes, earthquakes and tropical storms), but are caused by human activities as well. In India’s case, a combination of hot weather, oxygen and dry vegetation is a potent recipe for forest fires.

A forest department probe into the bushfires that impacted an area of about 4 sq km in Goa in the first half of March is learnt to have concluded that the fires were largely triggered by natural causes, confirming the central government’s submission to Parliament last month that a “prolonged dry spell, unprecedented high temperatures, and low humidity” caused “sporadic” fire incidents in the state.

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Reasons for Increasing frequency of forest fires

  • Forest fires can be caused by a number of natural causes, but officials say many major fires in India are triggered mainly by human activities.
  • Natural: Such as lightning, high atmospheric temperatures, and dryness (low humidity) offer favourable circumstances.
  • Man-made: When a source of fire like naked flame, cigarette, or bidi comes into contact with inflammable material.
  • Emerging studies link climate change to rising instances of fires globally, especially the massive fires of the Amazon forests in Brazil and in Australia in the last two years.
  • Fires of longer duration, increasing intensity, higher frequency and highly inflammable nature are all being linked to climate change.
  • In India, forest fires are most commonly reported during March and April, when the ground has large quantities of dry wood, logs, dead leaves, stumps, dry grass and weeds that can make forests easily go up in flames if there is a trigger.
  • Under natural circumstances, extreme heat and dryness, friction created by rubbing of branches with each other also have been known to initiate fire.
  • In Uttarakhand, the lack of soil moisture too is being seen as a key factor.
  • In two consecutive monsoon seasons (2019 and 2020), rainfall has been deficient by 18% and 20% of the seasonal average, respectively.

the role of climate change in exacerbating the forest fire risk

  • Climate change has been a key factor in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires.
  • Research shows that changes in climate create warmer, drier conditions.
  • Climate change induced increasing global temperature and variability in rainfall results in more dried vegetation, which works as fuel for the fire.
  • Thus climate change, in addition to human population pressure is one of the main causes of the increased number of forest fires and their increased intensities.
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial period, the Earth’s temperature has increased by almost 20C.
  • This increasing heat is contributing to two main components for forest fire, i.e. heat and the availability of fuel in the form of dry vegetation.
  • Increased drought, and a longer fire season are boosting these increases in wildfire risk.

Measures to control forest fires

  • Forest fire line:Successive Five-Year Plans have provided funds for forests fighting. During the British period, fire was prevented in the summer through removal of forest litter all along the forest boundary. This was called “Forest Fire Line”.
    • This line used to prevent fire breaking into the forest from one compartment to another.
    • The collected litter was burnt in isolation.
  • Firebreaks: Generally, the fire spreads only if there is continuous supply of fuel (Dry vegetation) along its path. The best way to control a forest fire is therefore, to prevent it from spreading, which can be done by creating firebreaksin the shape of small clearings of ditches in the forests.
  • Forest Survey of India monitors forest fire events through satellites on two platforms– MODIS and SNPP-VIIRS, both in collaboration with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
    • While the SNPP-VIIRS identifies, alerts and tracks fire incidents on real time data at 375X375 sq meter pixel, the older version MODIS detects it in the range of 1kmX1km.
    • Forest fire suppression relies very heavily on “dry” firefighting techniques because of poor water availability.
  • Integrated forest protection: The main objective is to control forest fires and strengthen the forest protection. The works like Fireline clearing,assistance to Joint Forest Managemencommittees, creating water bodies, purchase of vehicles and communication equipment, purchase of firefighting tools, etc., needs to be undertaken.
  • Prevention of human-caused firesthrough education and environmental modification. It will include silvicultural activities, engineering works, people participation, and education and enforcement. It is proposed that more emphasis be given to people participation through Joint Forest Fire Management for fire prevention.
  • Prompt detectionof fires through a well-coordinated network of observation points, efficient ground patrolling, and communication networks. Remote sensing technology is to be given due importance in fire detection. For successful fire management and administration, a National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) and Fire Forecasting System are to be developed in the country.
  • Introducing a forest fuel modification system at strategic points.
  • National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF): It was launched in 2018 to minimize forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivizing them to work with the State Forest Departments.

Conclusion

It is important to prevent the lungs of the nation from ravages of fire. With climate change and global warming on the rise, India must prevent human-made disaster to ensure our carbon sinks are protected.


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