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:
- Maritime trade route between India and Europe
GS Paper 2:
- India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC)
GS Paper 3:
- India’s falling cotton production
Content for Mains Enrichment
- Promoting disability Rights and Promoting inclusivity
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
- Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (SSB) 2022
- Vidya Samiksha Kendras
- Goa Roadmap and ‘Travel for LiFE’ program
- Global regulation of cryptocurrencies
- Project Samudrayaan
- Genetic engineering to control Mosquitoes
- New Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for Environmental Issues
- United Nations Global Stocktake Report
- Moodbidri (Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka)
GS Paper 1
Syllabus: Ancient History
Context: The article is related to the recently launched India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC), from a historical point of view. Check the next article for IMEE-EC
What is the Red Sea Route?
The Red Sea route refers to an ancient maritime trade route that connected India with the Roman Empire through the Red Sea.
- This route facilitated the exchange of various goods, including luxuries like spices, ivory, pearls, gemstones, and pepper from India to the Roman Empire.
About the Red Sea Route:
|Indian Trade Contribution to the Roman Empire’s Income||Custom taxes from Red Sea trade may have covered one-third of Roman income|
|Trade Goods Exchanged||Luxuries, spices, ivory, pearls, precious gemstones, pepper, wild animals, and more|
|Importance of Indian Pepper||Pepper was India’s major export and was highly sought after in Rome|
|Importance of the route|
|Chinese silk reached Rome through India’s ports, emphasizing India’s historical importance|
|Recent excavations in places like Muziris and Berenike have contributed to understanding the trade|
|India’s centrality in trade and the spread of ideas during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE is recognized|
About Red Sea:
The Red Sea is an inlet of the Indian Ocean located between Africa and Asia. It is one of the most saline bodies of water globally. Bordering countries include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti. It connects to the Indian Ocean in the south through the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, it is bordered by the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez, leading to the Suez Canal. The Red Sea occupies a part of the Great Rift Valley, known as the Afro-Arabian Rift Valley.
Why is it called “Red Sea”?
The Red Sea is not red in appearance; it typically has blue-green water. One theory suggests that a cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium erythraeum, a red-colored algae, may occasionally turn the water reddish-brown during seasonal algal blooms. Another theory links the name to Asiatic languages that use colours to denote cardinal directions, with “red” possibly representing “south.”
GS2/ GS3 Paper
Syllabus: Multilateral Initiatives/ Impact of LPG
Context: On the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, an MoU was signed between India, the US, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, the UAE, France, Germany, and Italy to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC).
What is IMEC?
The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC) is an infrastructure development project that aims to create connectivity through rail and shipping networks, energy cables, and data links.
More about IMEC EC:
|India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEE-EC)|
|Participating Countries||India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Germany, Italy, USA, EU|
|Objectives||IMEC seeks to boost trade, clean energy, and economic growth while providing an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)|
|Part of||It is part of the Partnership for Rail and Shipping Corridors Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII) and focuses on enhancing global trade and cooperation through critical infrastructure development.|
|Corridor Components||Railway lines (make trade between India and Europe 40% faster).
|Electricity cable and a clean hydrogen pipeline to foster clean energy trade.|
|High-speed data cable to link innovative digital ecosystems in the world and create business opportunities|
|Corridor Segments||Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf, Northern Corridor connecting Arabian Gulf to Europe||
|Benefits for India||Enhancing food security, regional supply chains, trade accessibility, environmental considerations, economic cohesion, job creation, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.|
|Reliable cross-border ship-to-rail transit network connecting India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.|
|It offers India a crucial role in global commerce, digital communication, and energy networks vis-à-vis China’s BRI|
|Geographical Advantage: It firmly positions India along the trade route spanning South East Asia to the Gulf, West Asia, and Europe.|
What is the PGII initiative?
The PGII (Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment) initiative (announced in 2021 during the G7 summit in the UK) is a collaborative effort by G7 countries to fund infrastructure projects in developing nations.
- It serves as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and aims to mobilize funds for critical infrastructure development, focusing on transparency, sustainability, and gender equality.
- PGII emphasizes loans over charity, benefiting both lending and receiving countries.
Other initiatives under PGII announced previously are:
|Trans-African Corridor||It will connect the port of Lobito in Angola with Katanga province in Congo and the copper belt in Zambia|
|Clean Energy Projects in Indonesia||The PGII announced clean energy projects in Indonesia to support sustainable energy sources and infrastructure development.|
|Investments in India’s Health Infrastructure||The US government’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) pledged over $15 million to invest in India’s health infrastructure, including eye clinics and women’s hygiene products.|
|EU’s Global Gateway Program||The European Union (EU) committed to activating 300 billion USD in investments for critical connectivity projects, with a focus on Africa and various regions around the world.|
About the BRI project:
China began the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 under its President Xi Jinping. It aims to revive the ancient trade routes crossing to and from China–from Rome in Europe to East Asia. Under this, the Chinese government helped in providing loans for infrastructure projects to various countries, and in many cases, Chinese companies were awarded contracts for carrying out the work.
|Issues with BRI||Description|
|Unsustainable Debts||According to a 2019 World Bank report, among the 43 corridors, 12 could face a situation where debts were not sustainable|
|Environmental Concerns||BRI projects have raised concerns about environmental degradation and their impact on ecosystems.|
|Corruption||There have been allegations of corruption in some BRI projects, affecting their credibility.|
|Critics argue that the BRI lacks transparency in agreements and financing, making costs unclear.|
|Territorial Disputes||E.g., BRI included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connected Kashgar in China with the Gwadar port in Pakistan via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir|
|Varying Benefits||Different countries have varying opinions on the benefits of enhanced trade connectivity through BRI.|
|G7 Alternative||The G7’s PGII initiative aims to provide a more transparent and sustainable alternative to the BRI.|
The newly tri-nation partnership AUKUS is aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. Is it going to supersede the existing partnerships in the region? Discuss the strength and impact of AUKUS in the present scenario. (UPSC 2021)
China is using its economic relation and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia” In the light of this statement. Discuss its impact on India as her neighbour. (UPSC 2017)
GS Paper 3
Syllabus: Cropping Pattern/ Agriculture
Context: The article highlights the current issues with India’s cotton production.
Cotton is a versatile crop known for its white fluffy fibre, oil-rich seeds, and protein-rich seed cake. It has various uses, including textiles, cooking oil, and livestock feed.
Significance of Cotton in India:
- Triple Role: Cotton in India provides food, feed, and fibre, making it a crucial crop for agriculture and the textile sector.
- Cotton Components: After harvesting cotton (Kapas), the breakdown is approximately 36% fibre, 62% seeds, and 2% waste.
- Cottonseed is essential for vegetable oil and feed cake production.
- Market Contribution: Cottonseed oil is the third-largest domestically produced vegetable oil in India, following mustard and soyabean. It also ranks second in feed cake production, with soybeans leading.
- Textile Dominance: Cotton is the dominant fibre in India’s textile industry, accounting for about two-thirds of the total consumption.
The impact of Bt technology on cotton production in India:
- Introduction to Bt Technology (2002): India adopted genetically modified (GM) cotton hybrids embedded with genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium, which were toxic to certain pests.
- Significant Boost in Production and Yield: Between 2000-01 and 2013-14, Bt cotton led to a remarkable increase in cotton production, from 140 lakh to 398 lakh bales, and a doubling of lint yields per hectare from 278 kg to 566 kg.
- Lint is the fluffy, white fibre of cotton that is used for textiles and fabric production.
- Subsequent Yield Decline: However, post-2013-14, cotton production and yields started declining, reaching about 343 lakh bales and 447 kg/hectare by 2022-23.
Reasons for the decline of cotton Production in India:
|Reason||Impact on Cotton Production in India|
|Development of Pink Bollworm (PBW) Resistance to Bt Cotton||Initially, Bt cotton protected against pests like the American bollworm and pink bollworm. But by 2014, pink bollworms developed resistance to Bt proteins, causing widespread infestations and yield reductions.|
|Shift from Non-Bt Cotton Cultivation||Decreased diversity in cotton varieties increased the scale of infestation.|
|Pest Infestation Discouraging Farmers||Farmers in some states, like Punjab, avoid cotton cultivation.|
|Ineffectiveness of Traditional Insecticides||Conventional insecticides had limited efficacy against PBW larvae, affecting lint quality and yields.|
Solutions to control the Pink Bollworm (PBW):
- Mating Disruption as a Solution: “Mating disruption” uses synthetic versions of pheromones to confuse male PBW moths, preventing them from mating with females.
- Products like PBKnot and SPLAT were approved for this purpose.
Government initiatives for the Cotton sector in India:
- Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS)
- Market Access Initiative (MAI) Scheme
- SAMARTH (Scheme for Capacity Building in the Textile Sector)
- Mega Investment Textiles Parks (MITRA)
- Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemeto promote the production of MMF Apparel, MMF Fabrics and Products of Technical Textiles
India is one of the largest consumers and producers of cotton and jute in the world. 95% of the world’s hand-woven fabric comes from India.
It is the 2nd largest employment provider after agriculture. India is 2nd largest manufacturer of PPE and producer of polyester, silk and fibre in the world.
Analyse the factors for the highly decentralised cotton textile industry in India. (UPSC 2013)
Content for Mains Enrichment
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) in India has introduced five transformative initiatives aimed at reshaping the disability rights landscape and promoting inclusivity.
|MOU with the Council of Architecture||For inclusion of universal accessibility courses in Bachelor of Architecture programs and develop certified courses for accessibility audits.|
|Releasing of Anonymous Data of UDID||Release of anonymous data via the UDID portal for research, enabling data-driven decision-making in the disability sector.|
|PM Daksh Portal||Introduction of the PM Daksh Portal, a digital platform offering registration, skill training options, job listings, and streamlined administrative processes for persons with disabilities.|
|Courts on Disability Rights||Compilation of significant disability rights judgments from India’s Supreme Court and High Courts into a booklet for reference.|
|Online Case Monitoring Portal by CCPD||Adoption of a paperless and efficient online case monitoring portal by the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities for handling grievances.|
Usage: These examples can be used in Questions related to disability, inclusivity, disability rights, and leveraging technology to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities in India.
Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Context: Twelve male scientists were awarded India’s top Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (SSB) for Science and Technology in 2022. The awards were announced at the inaugural session of the CSIR-NIScPR’s One Week One Lab Programme.
- However, no female scientists have been chosen for this year
- The awards were last announced in 2021
About the award and CSIR:
|Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Prize||Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) annual Prize for Science and Technology, established in 1957. Named after Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, the founder-director of CSIR. Since its inception, only 19 women scientists have been the recipients of the SSB award|
|About CSIR||Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was established by the Government of India in 1942 (HQ: New Delhi) as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India and also among the world’s largest publicly funded R&D organisations|
|Comprises 37 national laboratories, 39 outreach centers, 3 Innovation Complexes, and 5 units.|
|The Ministry of Science and Technology operates autonomously under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.|
|Scope||Encompasses various fields including physics, genomics, nanotechnology, mining, aeronautics, and more; Conduct scientific and industrial/applied research of national importance|
|Structure||President: Prime Minister of India (Ex-officio); Vice President: Union Minister of Science and Technology (Ex-officio)|
|Initiatives||Addressing COVID-19 through technology verticals including diagnostics, drug repurposing, and more.|
|Developing indigenous technologies like Head-Up-Display for aircraft, solar trees for clean power, and lithium-ion battery fabrication.|
|Agriculture initiatives such as Bacterial Blight blight-resistant rice, white-fly resistant cotton variety, and more.|
|Healthcare projects like Genomics and other omics technologies for medical decision support and Ksheer-scanner for milk adulteration detection.|
|Food and nutrition efforts including Double-Fortified Salt to address anemia.|
Context: The Ministry of Education is urging states to establish Vidya Samiksha Kendras (VSKs), which are data repositories under the National Digital Education Architecture.
- These centres will collect data from various educational schemes run by the Ministry of Education, including mid-day meal programs, teacher training, textbook content, school attendance, students’ learning outcomes, and performance grading.
Currently, a central VSK centre is managed by Ernst and Young, and it operates on open-source C-Qube software. Data is manually input and accessible in downloadable Excel format, but the plan is to shift to automatic data integration using Application Programming Interface (API) integration. This aligns with the National Education Policy of 2020, aiming to make data open source.
- The goal is to analyse data from various sources for correlations and insights. For example, attendance patterns can be correlated with student drop-out rates or linked to the effectiveness of mid-day meal programs.
- VSKs are also intended to map school locations and population data to assess the Gross Access Ratio, aiding in the planning of new schools, industry clusters, skilling requirements, and higher education institutions based on demand and future scenarios.
This initiative aims to improve educational data analytics and enhance decision-making in the education sector.
Context: During the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Delhi, the leaders endorsed the “Goa Roadmap” and the “Travel for Life” program, both aimed at boosting the tourism sector.
|Goa Roadmap||Aligned with India’s G20 Presidency theme – Emphasizes the pivotal role of tourism in sustainable socio-economic development and environmental stewardship – Focuses on five priorities: Green Tourism, Digitalization, Skills, Tourism MSMEs (Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises), and Destination Management|
|G20 Tourism and SDG Dashboard||Launched by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) – Serves as a global repository showcasing best practices and case studies on sustainable tourism from G20 nations|
|Tourism for Tomorrow Competition||To be launched by the Ministry of Tourism – A national competition aimed at identifying and recognizing best practices aligned with the priorities of the Goa Roadmap|
|Travel for LiFE Program||Inspired by the concept of “Lifestyle for Environment” (LiFE) promoted by India’s Prime Minister – Encourages tourists and tourist businesses to take simple actions benefiting the environment and climate – Promotes responsible and sustainable tourism – Recognizes both tourists and tourism businesses for their sustainable practices|
Context: The article highlights the differences in cryptocurrency regulations worldwide.
What is cryptocurrency and how it is different from Central bank currencies?
Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual form of currency that uses cryptography for security. It operates on decentralized technology called blockchain, which records all transactions transparently.
Unlike central bank currencies (fiat currencies), cryptocurrencies are not issued or regulated by a central authority like a government or central bank. They are decentralized, borderless, and typically have limited supply, making them immune to government manipulation and often subject to price volatility.
The current regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in India:
- In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) banned Indian banks from engaging in cryptocurrency transactions.
- In 2020, the Supreme Court of India overturned the RBI’s ban on cryptocurrency transactions.
- In the 2022-23 Union budget, India proposed a 30% tax on income generated from digital asset transfers and a 1% Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) on cryptocurrency
The major view of the IMF and the Financial Stability Board (FSB) paper on cryptocurrencies:
- Difficulty in Banning Cryptocurrencies: Banning cryptocurrencies may not be an effective option as it could lead to activities shifting to more crypto-friendly jurisdictions and push transactions outside a country’s oversight, raising financial risks.
- Regulation Over Ban: The paper suggests that supervising licensed crypto-asset issuers and service providers can help fill information gaps and facilitate the monitoring of cross-border crypto activities.
- Anti-money Laundering Standards: It recommends implementing the Financial Action Task Force’s standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing related to cryptocurrencies.
The G20 Leaders Declaration endorsed the FSB’s recommendations and welcomed the paper’s roadmap for a coordinated and comprehensive policy and regulatory framework.
The Financial Stability Board (founded in 2009; HQ: Basel, Switzerland) is an international body that monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system. It was established after the G20 London summit (2009) as a successor to the Financial Stability Forum.
Context: Indian scientists are gearing up for an ambitious project called Samudrayaan, which involves sending three people 6,000 meters underwater in a domestically developed submersible named Matsya 6000.
- This mission aims to explore the ocean depths of precious metals and minerals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese.
About Matsya 6000:
Matsya 6000 has been in development for nearly two years and will undergo its first sea trials in the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast in early 2024. The submersible’s design has been reviewed carefully, taking into account materials, testing, certification, redundancy, and standard operating procedures.
The submersible’s design includes a 2.1-meter diameter sphere made of 80mm-thick titanium alloy, capable of withstanding the immense pressure at 6,000 meters depth, which is 600 times greater than sea level pressure. The vehicle is designed to operate continuously for 12 to 16 hours, with a 96-hour oxygen supply.
About Mission Samudrayaan:
- The Samudrayaan mission is part of the Deep Ocean Mission, and sea trials at a depth of 500 meters are planned for the first quarter of 2024. The mission’s full realization is expected by 2026.
- It’s worth noting that only a few countries, including the US, Russia, Japan, France, and China, have developed manned submersibles.
- In addition to searching for valuable minerals like nickel, cobalt, and manganese, Matsya 6000 will investigate the chemosynthetic biodiversity in hydrothermal vents and low-temperature methane seeps in the ocean.
Context: Genetic engineering is being used to upgrade mosquito control efforts due to the ongoing threat of mosquito-borne diseases.
- Recent advancements in genome sequencing technology have provided researchers with access to mosquito genomes, particularly Anopheles stephensi, a major malaria vector mosquito.
- Genetic manipulation, including gene-drive technology, is employed to control mosquito populations by interfering with their reproduction.
Gene-drive technology, originally conceived by Austin Burt in 2003, alters mosquito DNA to reduce their reproductive capabilities or make them sterile, preventing the transmission of diseases like malaria. Some approaches involve enhancing genes in mosquitoes to produce antimicrobial substances, disrupting disease transmission.
Genetically modified mosquitoes, such as OX5034, have been released in certain areas to reduce mosquito populations, showing promising results in decreasing disease incidence. However, these technologies come with potential risks, such as ecological disruptions and unintended consequences in the ecosystem.
Source: The New Indian Express
Context: The Union Environment Ministry has established a new Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to replace an ad hoc expert panel with the same name that has been assisting the Supreme Court on forest and environmental issues since 2002.
- This move has raised concerns about the committee’s independence under government control.
Under the new structure, the CEC will consist of a chairperson, a member secretary, and three expert members, all appointed by the Union government. The chairperson must have at least 25 years of experience in environmental, forestry, or wildlife fields or substantial administrative expertise in government, serving a maximum term of three years.
Need for restructuring:
- The restructuring of the CEC comes following the passage of the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which some critics believe weakens existing safeguards in Indian forest law, potentially facilitating construction projects in ecologically sensitive regions.
- This change in the committee’s composition has raised questions about its ability to function independently and issue impartial judgments, given that its members will now all be civil servants appointed by the government.
Context: The United Nations’ Global Stocktake report was released just ahead of the G-20 meeting.
About the report:
The United Nations’ Global Stocktake report serves as a blueprint for discussions during the Conference of Parties and aims to assess countries’ progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions since 2015.
Key takeaways from the report:
|Paris Agreement’s Impact:||The Paris Agreement has encouraged widespread climate action worldwide.|
|Temperature Projection Improvement||Global temperature rise is now expected to be between 2.4-2.6°C, a significant improvement from the earlier projection of 3.7-4.8°C in 2010.|
|Emission Rate Exceeds Limits||Despite some progress, global emissions are to exceed the limits set in the Paris Agreement|
|Ambitious Action Needed||Achieving net-zero CO2 emissions requires an 84% reduction in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 2019 levels by 2050|
|Deficits in Climate Action||There are shortfalls in various aspects of climate action, including mitigation, adaptation, and finance, indicating the need for more comprehensive efforts.|
|Key recommendations of the Report|
|On Mitigation||Inclusive and equitable system transformation for transitioning from fossil fuel-based energy systems to renewable energy sources like solar and wind|
|Adaptation||Integrate climate change risks into all aspects of planning and implementation. Ensure transparent reporting on adaptation efforts.
|Finance Flows||Enhance access to climate finance in developing countries.
About the Paris Agreement:
It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change that was adopted by 196 countries. Its primary goal is to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It includes a mechanism known as the Global Stocktake (GST), which aims to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years.
In recent archaeological explorations near Moodbidri, Dakshina Kannada, unique terracotta figurines were discovered (related to the Megalithic Dolmen site). These figurines provide valuable insights into the study of the Bhoota cult or Daiva Aradhane. They are datable to the period of 800-700 B.C. The discovery includes various figurines, such as cow bovines, a mother goddess, peacocks, a horse, and more.
Mudbidri is a town and taluk in Dakshina Kannada district. It lies 34 km northeast of the district headquarters, Mangalore, in Karnataka. Because of the widely grown bamboo in ancient days, this place was named Moodabidri.
What is a megalithic dolmen?
It is a type of ancient burial structure consisting of large stone slabs. These stones are arranged to create a chamber or tomb, often with a capstone on top.
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