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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS – 12 February 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2

  1. Review of the working of Free Legal aid
  2. National Green Tribunal (NGT) and its functioning
  3. Evaluation of Smart Cities Mission: Parliamentary Committee

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Ajanta and Ellora Caves under Swadesh Darshan scheme
  2. Bharat Ratna
  3. Category 6 Hurricanes
  4. Pradhan Mantri Matsya Kisan Samridhi Sah-Yojana 
  5. SARATHI portal
  6. Nematodes
  7. ‘InfexnTM’
  8. Future Circular Collider
  9. Ultracold atoms
  10. The high-altitude pseudo satellite vehicle (HAPS)
  11. PACE satellite
  12. Trichoglossum syamviswanathii

 


 

Review of the working of Free Legal aid

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Indian Constitution

 

Source: Sansad

 Context: Department-related Parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice has reviewed legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

 

What is the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act of 1987?

It aims to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society, in line with Article 39A. It establishes the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) as the apex organization to frame and monitor legal aid policies. The Act also mandates the formation of various legal service committees at different levels, including the Supreme Court, high courts, and districts. Activities include legal aid, advice, alternative dispute resolution, and victim compensation schemes.

 

As per the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, the following categories of people are entitled to receive free legal aid:

  • A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe
  • A victim of trafficking in human beings or beggars as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution
  • A woman or a child
  • A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
  • A person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or An industrial workman; or In custody.
  • A person in receipt of annual income less than the amount mentioned in the following schedule (or any other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Government),

 

Role of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in rendering free legal aid in India:

  • Legal Aid Clinics: NALSA has established legal aid clinics at the grassroots level to provide free legal assistance to disadvantaged communities. These clinics offer legal advice, aid, and representation.
  • Mobile Legal Aid Units: NALSA operates Mobile Legal Aid Units in rural and remote areas to reach underserved populations. These units offer legal services, awareness programs, and legal literacy campaigns.
  • Para-Legal Volunteers: NALSA trains and deploys para-legal volunteers who assist individuals in understanding their rights, filling out legal forms, and accessing legal aid.
  • Special Initiatives: NALSA conducts special initiatives and camps for specific groups, such as prisoners, women in distress, and victims of natural disasters, to provide timely legal aid.
  • Public Interest Litigations (PILs): NALSA has been instrumental in filing PILs to address systemic issues and protect the rights of marginalized groups.
    • For example, NALSA played a significant role in the landmark judgment recognizing transgender rights in the case of NALSA vs. Union of India.
  • Awareness Programs: NALSA conducts awareness programs and legal literacy campaigns to educate people about their legal rights and the availability of free legal aid.
    • For legal awareness among prisoners Haq Hamara bhi to hai campaign was recently launched by NALSA.

 

Challenges faced by NALSA in providing free legal aid (as also identified by the Parliamentary Committee)

  • Limited adoption of Alternate Dispute Resolution: Former Chief Justice of India has noted that the Legal Services Authority is involved in resolving only 1% of the total litigation, indicating a low acceptance of alternate dispute resolution methods.
  • Funding: Static grants-in-aid to NALSA and decline in the allocated funds
  • Limitations of Lok Adalat: Limited power, lack of proper procedure, Inadequate infrastructure
  • Low awareness: A significant portion of the economically disadvantaged and less educated population remains unaware of their fundamental constitutional and legal rights.
  • Inadequate empowerment of Lok Adalats: Lok Adalats, while crucial for dispute resolution, lack specific powers to impose penalties on non-compliant parties.
    • Additionally, their authority is comparatively limited when compared to civil courts.
  • Underutilization of Para-legal volunteers: The underutilization of para-legal volunteers is partly due to inadequate training, capacity-building efforts, and a lack of effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
  • Limited engagement of Advocates and Lawyers: There is a general lack of enthusiasm among advocates and lawyers for pro-bono cases, which can hinder the provision of free legal aid to those in need.
    • only about 17% of the legal aid cases were handled by lawyers
    • There is reluctance of lawyers to provide pro bono services

 

Recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee: 

  1. Increase grant-in-aid to NALSA. Search for innovative funding mechanisms including CSR funds
  2. Extensive mass media campaign for legal education
  3. Monitor efficacy and accountability of lawyers providing free legal aid services
  4. Strengthen Lok Adalats and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms
  5. Capacity Building of Para-Legal Volunteers

  

Conclusion

NALSA plays a pivotal role in ensuring that free legal aid reaches those who need it the most in India, thus fulfilling the constitutional mandate of justice for all, irrespective of economic or other disabilities.

 

Insta Links:

  

Mains Links:

Who is entitled to receive free legal aid? Assess the role of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in rendering free legal aid in India. (UPSC 2023)

National Green Tribunal (NGT) and its functioning

GS2/GS3 Paper 

 Syllabus: Governance/ Statutory and non-statutory bodies

 

Source: TOI

 Context: The Supreme Court has criticized the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for frequently issuing ex parte orders without hearing affected parties and imposing substantial damages amounting to crores of rupees.

 

What are Ex-Parte orders?

They are those that can be granted without waiting for a response from other sides. Issues with ex parte orders include lack of fairness, potential for incorrect decisions due to one-sided information, and undermining procedural integrity.

 

Recommendation of SC:

  1. Review of orders: The Supreme Court set aside one such ex parte order and instructed NGT to reevaluate such cases by issuing notices to all relevant parties, hearing their arguments, and then making appropriate decisions.
  2. Maintain procedural integrity and balanced decision-making in environmental safeguarding
  3. There is a need for NGT to ensure fair hearings and due process to maintain its credibility as a guardian of environmental protection.
  4. Imposition of huge sums for damages proved to be counterproductive in safeguarding the environment.

 

Background of NGT

Taking into account the increasing number of environmental cases across the country the Government of India enacted the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act in 2010 for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources.

  

Objectives of the National Green Tribunal:

  • To provide effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment.
    • Giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and other related matters.

 

Powers of the National Green Tribunal:

  • Adjudication: The NGT has the authority to hear and decide cases related to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources, and enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment.
  • Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction: It possesses both civil and criminal jurisdiction, allowing it to hear cases related to environmental violations and offences.
  • Applicability of Laws: NGT has jurisdiction over all civil cases under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act 1977, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, Forest Conservation Act 1980, Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and Biological Diversity Act 2002.
  • Penalties for Non-compliance: The NGT Act outlines penalties, including imprisonment up to three years, fines up to ten crore rupees, or both, based on the violation’s nature and seriousness.
  • Suo Motu Powers: The NGT has “unique” forum status, granting it the authority to take up environmental issues nationwide without awaiting specific case filings.
  • Review of Government Decisions: The NGT can review and challenge decisions, acts, or omissions of the government or any public authority that have caused environmental harm.
  • Adherence to Principles of Natural Justice: Although the NGT is not constrained by the procedural rules of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, it follows the principles of natural justice, ensuring fairness and due process in its proceedings and rulings.
  • Composition: Headed by a Chairperson who sits in the Principal Bench, and at least 10 but not more than 20 judicial members, and at least 10 but not more than 20 expert members. They shall hold office for a term of 5 yearsand are not eligible for reappointment.

 

Performance of the National Green Tribunal: 

  1. Strengthening Enforcement of Forest Laws: The NGT has been a staunch advocate for strict enforcement of forest laws, particularly the Forest (Conservation) Act, of 1980.
    1. Example: In 2018, the NGT ordered the closure of 248 illegal mining operations in the Western Ghats, highlighting the Tribunal’s commitment to enforcing environmental regulations.
    2. Example: In 2015, the NGT cancelled the diversion of over 20,000 hectares of forest land in Chhattisgarh for a mining project, citing irregularities in the clearance process and the potential harm to wildlife habitat.
  2. Promoting Sustainable Forest Management: The Tribunal has advocated for afforestation programs, conservation of biodiversity, and ecological restoration of degraded forest areas.
    1. Example: The NGT has directed the Forest Department of Uttarakhand to implement a comprehensive afforestation program, aiming to restore 100,000 hectares of degraded forest land.
  3. Protecting Wildlife Habitats: The NGT has recognized the importance of protecting wildlife habitats to safeguard endangered species and maintain ecological balance.
    1. Example: In 2019, the NGT directed the Karnataka government to relocate a proposed highway project to avoid disrupting a critical wildlife corridor in the Western Ghats.
  4. Enhancing Public Participation: The Tribunal has encouraged individuals and communities to voice their concerns and participate in environmental impact assessments. This has increased transparency and accountability in forest management practices.
    1. Example: In 2020, the NGT held a public hearing to gather feedback from local communities on a proposed hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh.
  5. Promoting Environmental Justice: The NGT has addressed issues of environmental injustice, ensuring that forest conservation efforts do not disproportionately impact marginalized
    1. Example: The 2021 NGT order on the rights of Banni pastoralists in the pristine Banni grasslands.
  6. Speedy Disposal: In several instances, it has succeeded in delivering relatively quick judgments, ensuring that environmental concerns are addressed promptly.
    1. g. from July 2018 to July 2023, the NGT received 15,132 new cases and disposed of 16,042 cases
  7. Public Interest Litigation: The NGT allows for public interest litigation (PIL), enabling concerned citizens and environmental activists to raise crucial issues related to the environment.

 

Challenges before the National Green Tribunal:

  • Staffing and Infrastructure Issues: The NGT has faced challenges related to staffing and infrastructure. Resignations by key members due to inadequate facilities prompted Supreme Court intervention in 2012, urging the Ministry of Environment to provide essential resources.
  • Inadequate Member Appointments: Despite the NGT Act mandating a minimum of ten judicial and ten expert members, it has consistently operated with fewer members.
  • Zonal Benches Shutdown: Due to the shortage of members, all four zonal benches have been non-operational for over a year. Video-conference hearings have become the norm, causing inconvenience and financial burden for lawyers and clients alike.
  • Delays and Cancellations: Video conference hearings often face delays and last-minute cancellations, leading to inefficiencies.
  • Lack of Diverse Expertise: The NGT lacks a diverse pool of expert members to address complex environmental issues comprehensively.
    • g. majority from forest and administrative services.
  • Appeals and Enforcement Challenges: NGT decisions face Supreme Court challenges with hefty penalties. Weak enforcement of orders, including Ganga and Delhi pollution cases.

 

Way forward:

  • Jurisdiction Reforms: The quintessential legislations, the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006, have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction. These laws need to be brought under the NGT
  • Institutional capacity: To effectively handle the growing volume of environmental cases, the NGT’s benches should be expanded to include additional judges and newer locations, and provide needed staff and infrastructure.
  • Data-driven decision-making: Embracing data analytics and GIS-based tools can provide valuable insights for informed forest management decisions.
  • Community engagement initiatives: Engaging communities in forest conservation activities, such as tree planting campaigns, biodiversity surveys, and environmental education programs, can strengthen local ownership and participation in forest management.
  • Alignment with Global Conservation Goals: The NGT’s influence should align national forest conservation policies with global goals such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals, fostering international collaboration.
  • NGT must put internal checks and balances for efficient and transparent delivery of justice.

 

Conclusion:

As we navigate the complex challenges of environmental preservation, a strengthened and empowered NGT is essential. By implementing the suggested measures, India can ensure that the NGT continues to play a pivotal role in safeguarding its rich biodiversity and promoting sustainable forest management practices, fulfilling the goals under the Indian Forest Act of 1927, SDGs (Goal 13, 14, 15, 16), and directive principles (Art 48A).

 

Insta Links

 NGT is not a case of extra delegation of powers: SC:

  

Prelims Links:

How is the National Green Tribunal (NGT) different from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)? (UPSC 2018)

  1. The NGT has been established by an Act whereas the CPCB has been created by an executive order of the Government.
  2. The NGT provides environmental justice and helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts whereas the CPCB promotes cleanliness of streams and wells, and aims to improve the quality of air in the country.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Answer: B

Evaluation of Smart Cities Mission: Parliamentary Committee

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Governance

 

Source: TH

 Context: A parliamentary committee underscores the importance of launching the next phase of the Smart Cities Mission, focusing on tier-2 cities near state capitals.

 

About SCM:

The SCM (Smart Cities mission) was launched in 2015, with the expressed objective of promoting cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to their citizens. A clean and sustainable environment and the application of ‘smart’ solutions were the promises made.

 

The six fundamental principles on which the concept of Smart Cities is based are:

 

 

Objectives of SCM:

The Smart Cities Mission aims to enhance urban life by focusing on core infrastructure, sustainability, and smart solutions. It seeks to create replicable models for compact, inclusive development, acting as a beacon for other cities to follow. The mission sets examples for both local and national replication, catalyzing the development of smart cities across regions in India.

City-wise Progress Report as of December 2023:

  1. Madurai: Completed 100% of projects.
  2. 56 cities: Completed over 80% of work.
  3. Lagging behind: 14 cities at 50% progress or below.
  4. Lagging cities primarily from the northeast, Union Territories, and hilly areas. Examples include Gangtok, Atal Nagar, Shillong, Silvassa, Itanagar, Puducherry, Saharanpur, and Port Blair with completion percentages ranging from 16% to 39%.

  

Achievements of SCM:

  1. Digital Transformation: Implementation of smart technologies for efficient governance and service delivery, such as Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) in all 100 Smart Cities.
  2. Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Over 70% of projects align with UN SDGs, particularly SDG11 (inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities).
  3. Infrastructure Development: Improvement of urban mobility through metro lines, BRTS, and pedestrian-friendly pathways.

 

Smart Cities Mission Success Stories:

  1. Ahmedabad: Sensor-based water network monitoring increased supply by 50 MLD.
  2. Indore: Gravity-based network prevented 205 MLD of untreated sewage from entering water bodies.
  3. Visakhapatnam: Mudasarlova Reservoir Floating Solar Plant generated 3,613 MWh annually, preventing over 3,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

 

Issues with the SCM:

  1. Behind deadlines: As per the recent mission director’s statement, the SCM has completed only about 66% of the projects. Protests and criticisms have been laid against many SCM projects like Warangal and Ludhiana SCMs.
  2. Challenges in Project Management and Implementation: Frequent changes and dropping of projects, insufficient financial progress, and varying physical progress among cities.
  3. Lack of integrated monitoring mechanism and cross-city learning. Insufficient emphasis on core infrastructure projects like social infrastructure and smart energy.
  4. Governance and Capacity Issues: Frequent transfer of Smart City CEOs, undefined governance structure, and monitoring capacity.
  5. Mission Deadline Extension: The current phase was originally set to conclude by June 2023, but was extended until June 2024 to complete pending projects.
  6. Funding Challenges:
  7. Less funds received: Some regions, including Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Puducherry, and Port Blair, received less than 50% of pledged central funds. Only 28 cities received 100% of their share from states/ULBs, with funds released below 60% in 14 cities.
  8. Fund utilization: The SCM has been taking in more funds against the current progress and has utilized 90% of the funds (while completing only 66% of the projects)
  9. Failure in Fundraising Mechanisms: Only 6% of projects are funded through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), with about 50 cities unable to generate any funding through this avenue.
  10. Ineffective Advisory Forum Meetings: State-level advisory forum meetings are irregular, with an average of 1-8 meetings in the first five years. Some cities, like Amravati and Imphal, had no meetings.
  11. Absence of Master Plans: Master plans, crucial for urban development, are absent in 65% of recognized urban entities, according to a report by NITI Ayog.
  12. Low capacity of local bodies: The functionaries at local bodies are of inadequate strength and lack the skills to implement the scheme
  13. Scarcity of land within the central part of cities and other prime locations where the scheme is to come up

 

Recommendations of the parliamentary committee:

  1. Union ministry to lead the master plan for Greenfield development.
  2. Implement fixed tenure for CEOs of Smart Cities’ Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
  3. Conduct third-party assessments of Smart Cities Mission (SCM) projects.
  4. Launch Phase II of SCM covering more cities, utilizing SPVs’ experience.
  5. Focus more on Pan City projects, emphasizing technology-driven solutions for holistic development.
  6. There is a need to protect digital infrastructure from misuse and cyber-attacks, ensuring privacy rights.
  7. Leverage the expertise gained by Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and expand the role of Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) in providing various city services.
  8. International Collaboration: E.g., India is supporting the Gelephu Smart City Project in Bhutan, while also seeking lessons from Singapore Smart City.

 

Conclusion

The foremost idea of smartness in smart cities should be to make cities resource-neutral or resource-positive. This means that the city should collect and process all the aftermaths of consumption within the city or consume resources within its ability to replace or regenerate. This needs attention across all micro sectors to bring forth a holistic change and ‘smartness’ to cities.

 

Insta Links:

 

Mains Links:

With a brief background of the quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and strategy of the ‘Smart City Programme.’ ( UPSC 2016)

Ajanta and Ellora Caves under Swadesh Darshan scheme

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TOI

 Context: The Ministry of Tourism has included the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora Caves in its Swadesh Darshan Scheme II, aimed at developing sustainable tourism destinations in India

 

 Ajanta CavesEllora Caves
LocationAjanta is a series of rock-cut caves in the Sahyadri ranges (Western Ghats) on Waghora river near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.It is located nearly 100 Kms away from Ajanta caves in the Sahyadri range of Maharashtra.
Number of CavesThere are a total of 29 caves (all Buddhist) of which 25 were used as Viharas or residential caves while 4 were used as Chaitya or prayer halls.It is a group of 34 caves – 17 Brahmanical, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain.
Time of DevelopmentThe caves were developed in the period between 200 B.C. to 650 A.D. The Ajanta caves were inscribed by the Buddhist monks, under the patronage of the Vakataka kings – Harishena being a prominent one. Reference of the Ajanta caves can be found in the travel accounts of Chinese Buddhist travellers Fa Hien and Hieun Tsang.These set of caves were developed during the period between the 5th and 11th centuries A.D. by various guilds from Vidarbha, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
Prominent featuresPainting: The figures in these caves were done using fresco painting. The outlines of the paintings were done in red colour. One of the striking features is the absence of blue colour in the paintings. The paintings are generally themed around Buddhism – the life of Buddha and Jataka stories.Remarkable Cave Temple: The most remarkable of the cave temples is Kailasa (Kailasanatha; cave 16), named for the mountain in the Kailasa Range of the Himalayas where the Hindu god Shiva resides.
UNESCO SiteThe caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.The Ellora complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

 

The Swadesh Darshan Scheme, launched in 2015, is a centrally funded initiative to enhance tourism infrastructure across the country, with 15 themes for developing theme-based tourist circuits.

Bharat Ratna

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, will be awarded to former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Choudhary Charan Singh, along with Green Revolution pioneer M.S. Swaminathan, making this year’s list the longest-ever announced in a single year.

  • The Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award, conferred by the President of India in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.
  • Established in 1954, the Bharat Ratna is awarded to individuals regardless of occupation, race, or religion. Recipients of this prestigious award receive a certificate signed by the President and a peepal leaf-shaped medallion.

  

Contributions:

 

 

 

MS Swaminathan

PV Narasimha Rao

Chaudhary Charan Singh

Known as the ‘Father of the Green Revolution.’Almost quit politics before becoming Prime Minister in 1991.Prominent political figure in Uttar Pradesh.
Played a significant role in revolutionizing farming in the 1960s and 1970s.Emerged as Congress President after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.Advocated for peasant rights and rural issues.
Inspired by the Bengal famine and Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement.Preferred choice due to experience and support from key figures.Instrumental in implementing legislation for zamindari abolition and land ceiling.
Dedicated career to agricultural research, serving in various institutions globally.Elected Congress President in May 1991.Became UP’s first non-Congress Chief Minister in 1967.
Developed high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat essential for India’s staple foods.Became Prime Minister in June 1991 after the party’s electoral success.Entered national politics, serving as Deputy Prime Minister under Morarji Desai.
Collaborated with Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in developing semi-dwarf wheat varieties.His candidacy was supported by key figures like President R Venkataraman.Short-lived tenure as Prime Minister in 1979, lasting only 23 days.
RECOGNIZED GLOBALLY, INCLUDING BEING THE FIRST WORLD FOOD PRIZE LAUREATE IN 1987.Hailed as a champion of the peasantry and is credited with creating a new political class encompassing farming communities.
Recommended fair minimum support prices for crops, ensuring farmers’ welfare.HIS POLITICAL INFLUENCE AND LEGACY CONTINUE THROUGH HIS FAMILY, PARTICULARLY HIS SON AJIT SINGH AND GRANDSON JAYANT CHAUDHARY.

 

Category 6 Hurricanes

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Context: TH

 Context: Some experts are proposing the creation of a new hurricane category, Category 6, to account for increasingly intense tropical storms driven by climate change.

  • Currently, the Saffir-Simpson scale, with five categories, tops out at Category 5, but storms with winds exceeding 192 mph would qualify for the new category.

 

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS) is a tool that helps emergency officials determine the wind hazards of an approaching hurricane. The scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.

 

The scale’s categories are:

  • Category 1: A minimal hurricane
  • Categories 3 to 5:Major hurricanes, which are considered to have the potential for significant loss of life and damage
  • Category 5:A worst-case scenario

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Kisan Samridhi Sah-Yojana

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: The Indian Cabinet has approved the “Pradhan Mantri Matsya Kisan Samridhi Sah-Yojana (PM-MKSSY),” a central sector sub-scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada aimed at formalizing the fisheries sector and supporting micro and small enterprises within it.

  

Key Highlights of the scheme:

FeatureDetails
InvestmentOver Rs 6,000 crore investment over the next four years (2023-24 to 2026-27) across all States and Union Territories.
National Fisheries Digital PlatformCreation of a platform to provide work-based identities to 40 lakh small and micro-enterprises.
Extension of FIDFExtension of Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) for another three years until 2025-26.
Bilateral MoUsApproval for the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) to sign three Bilateral MoUs with financial regulatory bodies in Mauritius, Kuwait, and Bangladesh.
FundingFunding from public finance, including external financing from the World Bank and AFD, as well as private sector leverage.
Targeted StakeholdersTargets various stakeholders in the fisheries value chain, including fishers, fish farmers, fish workers, fish vendors, and micro and small enterprises.

SARATHI portal

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Business Line

 Context: The Indian government has launched the SARATHI portal to assist insurance companies in reaching out to farmers and rural populations with tailored insurance products, including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

  • The SARATHI portal, or Sandbox for Agriculture, Rural Security, Technology, and Insurance, aims to simplify the insurance process for farmers by providing a digitized insurance journey.
  • It offers a single-window platform for viewing, purchasing, and availing insurance products, with digital payment options and streamlined premium collection.
  • The platform will introduce a range of insurance products gradually, starting with personal accident and hospital cash policies, followed by health, shop, home, tractor, two-wheeler, livestock, and non-PMFBY insurance products.

The Krishi Rakshak Portal and Helpline will act as a facilitator between insured farmers, insurance companies, bankers, Common Service Centres (CSCs), and state governments, enabling farmers to register complaints for redressal.

Nematodes

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Phys.Org

 Context: Researchers have identified a new species of nematode, called Steinernema adamsi, that could be used to control crop pests in warm, humid regions.

  • These nematodes belong to the Steinernema family, known for their use in agriculture to combat insect parasites without pesticides.
  • The nematodes are efficient insect killers, with the ability to rapidly multiply in the soil after infecting their hosts.

Named after American biologist Byron Adams, this new species has been described as nearly invisible to the naked eye and just under 1 millimetre long

 

About Nematodes:

Nematodes are microscopic, roundworms that are one of the most common life forms on Earth. They are also known as roundworms or eelworms and are part of the phylum Nematoda.

Nematodes are found on every continent, including deserts, swamps, oceans, the tropics, and Antarctica. Most species are free-living and feed on microorganisms, but many are parasitic. Parasitic worms can cause soil-transmitted helminthiases. 

‘InfexnTM’

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Hindustan Times

 Context: Kerala is preparing to introduce ‘infexnTM’, India’s first genomics-based test for diagnosing infectious diseases, through a collaboration between IIT-Bombay-based HaystackAnalytics and NIMS Medicity.

  • ‘InfexnTM’ is designed to detect bacterial and fungal infections, as well as antimicrobial resistance genes, and can be performed within hospital settings.

This test represents a significant breakthrough in medical diagnostics and promises to deliver precise results within 24 hours by utilizing genome sequencing technology.

 

Future Circular Collider

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Scientists at CERN are advancing plans for a multibillion-euro project to construct a larger and more potent particle collider called the Future Circular Collider.

  • Estimated to cost around 16 billion euros, the collider aims to commence operations by 2040

 

 The Future Circular Collider (FCC) is a particle accelerator that is being designed to host the next generation of particle colliders. The FCC is expected to be completed in 2035 and will have a significantly higher energy than previous colliders. 

 The FCC is an international design study that aims to create a hadron collider with a centre-of-mass energy of around 100 TeV. The collider will be built in a new tunnel that is 80–100 km long.

The FCC is intended to extend the research currently being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC is located near Geneva, Switzerland, and has been operational since 2010.

Ultracold atoms

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Researchers at the Raman Research Institute (RRI) have developed a new image-correction technique to enhance the study of cold atoms, particularly those at absolute zero temperatures.

  • This technique eliminates 50% of unwanted interference fringes in images, crucial for understanding the quantum mechanics properties of cold atoms.
  • Traditional imaging techniques suffer from interference fringes, reducing result quality and accuracy in parameters like atom number and temperature.
  • The new algorithm, detailed in a recent paper in Applied Optics, significantly reduces interference fringes and improves temperature uncertainty in cold Rubidium atoms by 50%.

This technique holds promise for the widespread application of absorption imaging in the study of ultracold atoms

 

 In condensed matter physics, an ultracold atom is an atom with a temperature close to absolute zero. At these temperatures, an atom’s quantum-mechanical properties become important.

 

Ultracold gases are ensembles of atoms held at a temperature close to absolute zero. Such systems enable the creation of exotic phenomena such as Bose–Einstein condensation

The field of quantum gases or ultracold atoms is the fastest expanding and most interdisciplinary field in physics today. The experimental branch of this field uses the techniques of atomic, molecular, and optical physics to study many-body systems consisting of extremely cold-trapped atoms.

The high-altitude pseudo satellite vehicle (HAPS)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE 

Context: The National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru has successfully conducted the first test of a solar-powered “pseudo satellite” called HAPS (High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite), a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

  • HAPS can fly at altitudes of 18-20 km, remain airborne for months or even years, and offer surveillance capabilities similar to satellites but at a lower cost.
  • HAPS development addresses the need for continuous surveillance of border areas, inspired by events like the Doklam standoff in 2017.
  • HAPS has potential applications in disaster response and providing mobile communication networks in remote areas.

Other countries like China, South Korea, and the UK are also developing similar technology.

 

PACE satellite

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) satellite was successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit.

  • PACE aims to study how climate change impacts ocean phytoplankton blooms, which are crucial for the marine food web.
  • Additionally, it will investigate the influence of airborne particles on cloud formation and the Earth’s temperature regulation.

 

Trichoglossum syamviswanathii

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Scientists have discovered a new fungus species named Trichoglossum syamviswanathii in Kerala.

  • This species, belonging to the family Geoglossaceae, was found in the Bambusetum of the KFRI Field Research Centre in Thrissur.
  • It’s named after Syam Viswanath, a former director of KFRI. The discovery highlights the rich fungal diversity in the Western Ghats.
  • Trichoglossum species are globally distributed and play a role in decomposing organic matter, aiding nutrient recycling in forest ecosystems.

The discovery was made by researchers from KFRI, the Botanical Survey of India, and the University of Hyderabad, and the findings were published in the journal Persoonia – Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of Fungi.

 

 

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