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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

18 Apr, 2021

51 Min Read

National Climate Vulnerability Assessment Report

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Climate Change

National Climate Vulnerability Assessment Report

  • The report titled ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Adaptation Planning in India Using a Common Framework’, was released by DST, which identifies the most vulnerable states and districts in India with respect to current climate risk and key drivers of vulnerability.
  • A total of 94 representatives from 24 states and 2 Union Territories participated in the nationwide exercise jointly supported by the DST and the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation (SDC).
  • The National climate vulnerability assessment report has identified Jharkhand, Mizoram, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal as states highly vulnerable to climate change.
  • These states, mostly in the eastern part of the country, require prioritization of adaptation interventions, the report pointed out.

Significance of the report

  • The report has helped identify the most vulnerable states, districts & panchayats and will aid in prioritizing adaptation investment, and developing and implementing adaptation programs.
  • The assessments will contribute to the development of more targeted climate change projects and that will support the implementation and the potential revisions of the State Action Plans on Climate Change.
  • The assessments can further be used for India’s reporting on the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. And finally, these assessments will support India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • The assessment will help Policymakers in initiating appropriate climate actions.
  • It will also benefit climate-vulnerable communities across India through the development of better-designed climate change adaptation projects.
  • This vulnerability assessment is unique as we use a common framework across the states & union territories to make them comparable and also because of the active participation of state & union territory governments.

Critical Analysis

  • In a developing country such as India, vulnerability assessment is considered as an important exercise to develop suitable adaptation projects and programmes.
  • While climate vulnerability assessments for various states and districts already exist, the states and districts cannot be compared to each other as the framework used for assessments are different, thereby limiting decision-making capabilities at the policy and administrative levels. This necessitated an assessment using a Common Vulnerability Framework.
  • Keeping this requirement in mind, DST and SDC supported the development of a Common Framework for Vulnerability Assessment for the Himalayan region based on the definition provided in the latest 5th Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [AR5].
  • The Common Framework, along with a manual to apply the framework, was developed by IIT Mandi, IIT Guwahati, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
  • The framework was applied to the Indian Himalayan Region, involving all 12 States (including pre-divided J&K) through the capacity building process.
  • The outcome of the exercise undertaken was shared with the Himalayan States, has led to several positive developments in terms of some of these already prioritizing and implementing climate change adaptation actions based on these vulnerability assessments.
  • Based on the positive feedback received from the states and its usefulness to the Himalayan states for implementing climate change adaptation actions, it was decided to roll out the climate vulnerability assessment exercise for the entire country through capacity building of the States.
  • The task was assigned to the same team, which coordinated to carry out a series of training workshops for the state governments in India towards capacity building for vulnerability assessment.
  • DST has been implementing 2 national missions on climate change as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change. These are National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • As part of these missions, DST has been supporting the State Climate Change Cells in 25 States and Union Territories. Besides other tasks assigned to these State CC Cells, carrying out an assessment of vulnerability due to climate change at district and sub-district levels has been their primary responsibility, and the national level vulnerability assessment an extension of the same.

Conclusion

  • Assessing vulnerability was the first step toward assessing climate risk. There are two other components like Hazard and Exposure that need to be also assessed to arrive at overall climate risk.
  • DST would take up these assessments in the next phase along with sectoral vulnerability assessments and assessments at sub-district levels.

Source: PIB

Great Indian Bustard poaching

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Animals

Great Indian Bustard poaching

Great Indian Bustard and Conservation Efforts

  • It is one of the heaviest Flight birds. They have weak eyesight. Habitat is grassland (not covered under Forest Conservation Act, 1980).
  • It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent found in Central India, west India and eastern Pakistan.
  • Bustard species found in India: Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican and Bengal Florican; Houbara Bustard in Pakistan.
  • It is considered the flagship/ indicator grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology. No species can replace it.
  • It has an L-shaped habitat = Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
  • The largest population is in Rajasthan. It is also Rajasthan’s State Bird. There are 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP).
  • Other important Sites: Great Indian Bustard WS (Maharashtra), Naliya (Gujarat), Warora (Maharashtra) and Bellary (Karnataka); Rollapadu WS (Andhra Pradesh) and Karera Wildlife Sanctuary (MP); Lala Sanctuary in Kutch.

Conservation Efforts

  • Protection under Schedule 1 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; Appendix I of CITES; CMS/ Bonn Convention & Critically Endangered under IUCN.
  • Rajasthan State has started Project Godawan for its conservation at Desert National Park in Jaisalmer.
  • It is 1 of the species under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat's Species Recovery Programme. The important objective of this programme is to build up the captive population of GIB and to release the chicks in the wild for increasing the population.
  • The decline in the Population of the Great Indian Bustard
  • MoEF initiated a project of 34 crores for the conservation and protection of GIB. Only 130 individuals are left.

Reason for decline:

  • Hunting, poaching, habitat erosion, 'greening' projects that transform arid grasslands to wooded areas, change of land use from grassland to farmland, fast-moving vehicles and free-ranging dogs in villages.
  • In recent times, death due to collision with wind turbines and power transmission lines has emerged as a major factor.
  • Grassland is not covered under Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

What is the news?

  • The Supreme Court on Monday intervened on behalf of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards over the birds falling dead after colliding with power lines running through their dwindling natural habitats in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde will examine on a priority basis whether overhead power cables can be replaced with underground ones to save one of the heaviest flying birds on the planet.
  • Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Power Ministry, however, submitted that only low voltage lines can go underground but not the high voltage ones.
  • The court found further that an alternative mechanism — to install flight bird diverters — to guide the birds away from the power lines would be expensive.
  • The court discovered that the diverters, with their recurring costs, would end up costing more than installing and maintaining underground lines. But the court suggested treading the middle path.
  • “Wherever there are high voltage power lines, they can use flight bird diverters even if the recurring costs are high. Wherever there are overhead low voltage lines, these lines can be placed underground,” Chief Justice Bobde remarked.
  • Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for some power companies, objected to the court passing any sort of blanket ban which would affect over 50 lakh jobs.
  • Mr Singhvi said the greater threat to the birds was from their diminishing habitat, flattened for agriculture.

Recent News: Great Indian Bustard poaching

  • The recent shooting of two Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert, with the poachers brazenly getting themselves photographed with the carcasses of birds in their hands and guns on their shoulders, has left wildlife activists in Rajasthan shocked and outraged.
  • The GIB, which is the State bird of Rajasthan, is considered India’s most critically endangered bird.
  • A group of hunters, allegedly led by a retired Major of the Pakistan Army, shot down two GIBs in a protected area of southern Punjab’s Cholistan game reserve in Pakistan earlier this month.
  • Retired Major Tanveer Hussain Shah, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan district, and his accomplices, also attacked wildlife officials of that country when they tried to stop the group from hunting GIBs and chinkara deer.
  • The grassland habitat with grass cover in the Cholistan desert, where the GIBs were foraging, is similar to the habitat in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP), where the GIB’s last remnant wild population is found.
  • The DNP, situated near the towns of Jaisalmer and Barmer, forms a part of the mighty Thar desert.
  • The GIB’s population of fewer than 100 in Rajasthan accounts for 95% of its total world population.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a global authority on species survival, which categorised the GIBs as “endangered” in 1994, was forced to upgrade the species to the status of “critically endangered” in 2011 because of continued threats faced in the survival of these large birds.
  • Wildlife authorities in Rajasthan had permitted captive breeding of GIB, protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, in the DNP through a project executed by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India in 2019 after a prolonged debate.
  • Sixteen chicks of GIB are in hands now being reared in DNP by a team supported by the Houbara Breeding Centre of UAE.
  • As Rajasthan shares the international border with Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces, it is suspected that Indian-bred GIBs will fly across to Pakistan’s desert and will be easy prey for the gun-toting poachers there.

For more information about Great Indian Bustard: click here

Source: TH

Buddhist Remains found in Jharkhand

GS-I : Art and Culture Buddhism

Buddhist Remains found in Jharkhand

Earlier this year, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) discovered Buddhist Remains from Hazaribagh on the eastern side of Jharkhand’s Sitagarha hills.

What did the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) discover?

ASI discovered the remains of a Buddhist monastery along with some Shaivite remains which include:

  • Four Statues of Taras, the “saviouresses” of the Thunderbolt Vehicle, displaying the Varada mudra(gesture of hand showing dispensing of boons).
  • Six statues of the Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra (gesture of hand showing five fingers of right hand towards the earth symbolising the Buddha’s enlightenment).
  • Remnants of a statue of the Shaivite goddess Maheswari, with a coiled crown and chakra, appear to suggest a degree of cultural assimilation at the site.

Earlier Discoveries at this Site:

  • A painted grey ware (PGW) pottery, a votive stupa, a black basalt apsara torso, and an “eight-petalled astadala lotus” inscribed on the stone were discovered.
  • It was estimated that these antiquities of Buddhism were from the period of the Palas (8th to 12th centuries AD) and the Sena (11th-12th centuries).

Significance of these discoveries:

  • These findings are significant since the monastery is on the old route to Varanasi, 10 km from Sarnath where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
  • Further, the presence of statues of the deity Tara shows the possible proliferation of the Vajrayana form of Buddhism in this region.
    • Vajrayana is a form of Tantric Buddhism which flourished in India from the 6th to 11th century.

Source: TH

Eatsmart Cities Challenge and Transport 4 All Challenge by Govt

GS-II : Governance Policies and Programmes

Eatsmart Cities Challenge and Transport 4 All Challenge by Govt

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has recently launched the EatSmart Cities Challenge and Transport 4 All Challenge.

About EatSmart Cities Challenge:

  • EatSmart Cities Challenge is organized by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The challenge is organised in association with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It aims to motivate Smart Cities to develop a plan that supports a healthy, safe and sustainable food environment.
    • This plan would receive support from institutional, physical, social, and economic infrastructure.
    • Along with that the application of ‘smart’ solutions to combat food-related issues.
  • Key Features of the Challenge:
    • As part of the Challenge, a competition will organize among cities to recognize their efforts.
    • This includes efforts in adopting and scaling up various initiatives under Eat Right India.
    • This will create an environment of the right food practices and habits. It also strengthens the food safety, and regulatory environment and builds awareness among the consumers.
  • Eligibility: The challenge is open to all Smart Cities, capital cities of States /UTs, and cities with a population of more than 5 lakh.
  • Selection: At the end of the first phase of the challenge, 11 cities will be selected. After that, these cities will go for deeper engagement for an extended period to implement their vision.

About Transport 4 All (T4All) Challenge:

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched Transport 4 All challenge. The ministry is collaborating with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy(ITDP), a Non-governmental organization.
  • Aim: To develop digital solutions that will make public transport safe, affordable, comfortable, and reliable for all.
  • Key Features:
    • At the core of the challenge are citizens. They will not only define the problems and create solutions. But also help start-ups and cities to refine the solutions to meet their needs.
    • The first edition of the T4All Challenge focuses on digital innovation. Thus, cities and start-ups will receive guidance to develop and test various solutions, learn from them and scale them. All this will build people’s trust in public transport and enhance their mobility.
    • Further, the solutions will make public transport—formal as well as informal— safe, convenient, and affordable for all.
  • Eligibility: All the Smart Cities Mission cities, capitals of states and union territories (UTs), and all cities with a population of over 5 lakhs—are eligible for the Challenge.

Source: PIB

India on US’s Currency Watch list

GS-II : International Relations U.S.A

India on US’s Currency Watch list

The US treasury places India along with 10 other countries on its currency watch list.

What is Currency Manipulator:

  • Current Manipulators are countries engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • The practice would mean that the country in question is artificially lowering the value of its currency. By that, it aims to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country. Thus, more exports will result in a reduction in trade deficits.

Criteria: the US places a country on Currency Watch List if it is meeting any two of the below three criteria. This includes:

  • A “significant” bilateral trade surplus with the US — at least USD 20 billion over a 12-month period.
  • A current account surplus is equivalent to at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) over a 12-month period.
  • “Persistent”, one-sided intervention — when net purchases of foreign currency total at least 2% of the country’s GDP over a 12-month period. Further, it is conducted repeatedly, in at least six out of 12 months.

Impact: The designation of a country as a currency manipulator does not immediately attract any penalties. However, it lowers the confidence in a country in the global financial markets.

Why was India included in the Currency watch list?

  • India has met two of the three criteria — the trade surplus criterion and the “persistent, one-sided intervention” criterion.
  • Further, the other 10 countries on the list with India are China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Mexico. All of these, except Ireland and Mexico were on the December 2020 list.

Source: TH

Sun's Atmosphere, ARIES Facility and Aditya-L1

GS-I : Physical Geography Universe and Solar System

ARIES Facility will host the support center for Aditya-L1

Sun’s Atmosphere

  • The atmosphere of the sun is composed of several layers, mainly the photosphere, the chromosphere and the corona.
  • It's in these outer layers that the sun's energy, which has bubbled up from the sun's interior layers, is detected as sunlight.

Photosphere

  • The lowest layer of the sun's atmosphere is the photosphere. It is about 300 miles (500 km) thick. This layer is where the sun's energy is released as light.
  • Because of the distance from the sun to Earth, light reaches our planet in about eight minutes.
  • The photosphere is marked by bright, bubbling granules of plasma and darker, cooler sunspots, which emerge when the sun's magnetic field breaks through the surface.
  • Sunspots appear to move across the sun's disk. Observing this motion led astronomers to realize that the sun rotates on its axis.
  • Since the sun is a ball of gas with no solid form, different regions rotate at different rates. The sun's equatorial regions rotate in about 24 days, while the polar regions take more than 30 days to make a complete rotation.
  • The photosphere is also the source of solar flares:
  1. Solar flares are the tongues of fire that extend hundreds of thousands of miles above the sun's surface.
  2. Solar flares produce bursts of X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic radiation and radio waves.

Chromosphere

  • The next layer is the chromosphere. The chromosphere emits a reddish glow as super-heated hydrogen burns off.
  • But the red rim can only be seen during a total solar eclipse.
  • At other times, light from the chromosphere is usually too weak to be seen against the brighter photosphere.
  • The chromosphere may play a role in conducting heat from the interior of the sun to its outermost layer, the corona.

Corona

  • The third layer of the sun's atmosphere is the corona.
  • It can only be seen during a total solar eclipse as well.
  • It appears as white streamers or plumes of ionized gas that flow outward into space.
  • Temperatures in the sun's corona can get as high as 3.5 million degrees Fahrenheit (2 million degrees Celsius).
  • As the gases cool, they become the solar wind.
  • The Corona is up to 300 times hotter than the photosphere despite being farther from the solar core. This has remained a long-term mystery which is solved just recently.

Mystery of Sun’s Atmosphere solved

  • Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru was also a part of the team.
  • At the core, the temperature of sun is ~ 15 million °C. At the surface layer or Photosphere it is just 5700°C.
  • Still further outwards, at the Corona, the temperature is ~1 million °C (But doesn’t decrease).
  • This is because of geyser like jets known as Solar Spicules that emanate from the interface (hairlike projections) of Corona and Photosphere.
  • The team used 1.6 meter Goode Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the World’s largest solar telescope with the NIRIS instrument.
  • They took many high spatial resolution images of the same region of Sun within a short time known as High cadence.

Nanoflares

  • Recent research suggests that tiny explosions known as nanoflares may help push the temperature up by providing sporadic bursts reaching up to 18 million F (10 million C).
  • The explosions are called nanoflares because they have one-billionth the energy of a regular flare.
  • Despite being tiny by solar standards, each packs the wallop of a 10-megaton hydrogen bomb. Millions of them are going off every second across the sun, and collectively they heat the corona.
  • Giant super-tornados may also play a role in heating the sun's outer layer. These solar twisters are a combination of hot flowing gas and tangled magnetic field lines, ultimately driven by nuclear reactions in the solar core.
  • Based on the detected events, we estimate that at least 11,000 swirls are present on the sun at all times.

Terminologies:

  • Coronal holes are areas where the Sun's corona is colder, hence darker, and has lower-density plasma than average because there is lower energy and gas levels. Coronal holes are part of the Sun's corona and are constantly changing and reshaping because the corona is not uniform.
  • Prominences are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the solar corona. While the corona consists of extremely hot ionized gases, known as plasma, which do not emit much visible light, prominences contain much cooler plasma, similar in composition to that of the chromosphere.
  • A solar flare is a sudden flash of increased brightness on the Sun, usually observed near its surface and in close proximity to a sunspot group. Powerful flares are often, but not always, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection.
  • A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. The plasma is released into the solar wind, and can be observed in coronagraph imagery.
  • Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun's photosphere that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas. They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection. Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity.

What is Aditya-L1?

  • The Indian programme to study the Sun and the region between the Sun and the Earth from space – Aditya-L1 – is due to be launched next year.
  • It will carry seven payloads which have been developed by various institutions across the country.
  • Once the mission is launched, there will be a need for a ground support centre to monitor and coordinate the work on its various payloads.
  • This role will be played by the ARIES facility (short for Aryabhata Research Institute for observational Sciences) which is situated near Nainital.
  • In January 2021, an agreement was signed to this effect based on the proposal submitted by the ARIES team, led by Dipankar Banerjee, Director of ARIES, who is a solar physicist and co-chair of the science working group of the Aditya-L1 mission.
  • With about four to five personnel, this centre will come up at Haldawani, where ARIES is setting up a data centre also.

Guest users

  • Researchers who may not even be associated with core Aditya-L1 team will be able to book a specific payload to conduct observations for a particular time.
  • Any PhD student or postdoctoral fellow in a research institution can submit observing proposals through the online proposal submission system.
  • “The main aim of this centre is to let every researcher in India perform analysis over scientific data obtained from Aditya-L1. The total number of guest users will be from a few tens to a few hundreds,” says Prof. Banerjee.
  • A time allocation committee comprising senior and expert scientists will evaluate proposals based on their merit and feasibility to decide the priority. “We are open to users outside India by giving hand-outs of data analysis during international meetings and online training in the later phase of the mission,” he adds.

Studying lower corona

  • The Aditya-L1 Support Centre (ASC) will provide training through regular workshops for the guest users.
  • Apart from this, it will provide ready-to-use Python and Java apps for the satellite data and demos and handouts to facilitate the guest users.
  • An ARIES team has recently developed an algorithm to study the accelerating solar eruptions in the lower corona called CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (in short, CIISCO), where CME stands for coronal mass ejection. Prof. Banerjee explains how this will be put to use: “The centre will also provide source code for advanced data analysis. For example, it will provide the source code for CIISCO that we have developed in ARIES to detect accelerating CMEs in the solar atmosphere.”
  • The group has also developed several advanced image processing algorithms to detect fine-scale structures in the solar atmosphere.
  • Such techniques are important to capture dynamics at different spatial and temporal scales. Prof. Banerjee gives an example of this: “While ISRO will provide raw and calibrated spectra of the solar atmosphere, at ASC we will further process the spectra to derive meaningful quantities such as intensity, Doppler velocities and line widths and provide these quantities to the scientific community.”
  • The facility will store co-aligned data from other observatories. That is, data taken at other wavelengths of observation than by Aditya-L1 and aligned in time and space so that they complement Aditya-L1 observations.

Significance of ARIES Facility

  • The centre will host a compendium of the location and duration of different features on the solar surface such as coronal holes, prominences, flares, CMEs and sunspots.
  • “We will employ automated methods to detect these features,” he says. Continuous monitoring of the location and duration of these features will help in monitoring the Earth directed CMEs and thereby, the space weather.
  • “Also, it will help us to understand the long-term evolution of these features and underlying physical mechanisms responsible for this,” says Prof. Banerjee.
  • “This centre will expand the visibility of Aditya-L1 beyond India at the international level.
  • Also, it will expand its reach within India. It will allow every interested individual to be able to perform scientific analysis of the data,” he adds.

Source: TH

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