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19 Jul, 2022

56 Min Read

Karakoram Anomaly

GS-I : Physical Geography Environment geography

Karakoram Anomaly

What is Karakoram Anomaly?

The 'Karakoram Anomaly' is termed as the stability or anomalous growth of glaciers in the central Karakoram, in contrast to the retreat of glaciers in other nearby mountainous ranges of the Himalayas and other mountainous ranges of the world.

The reason behind the anomaly:

  • The revival of western disturbance (WD) has been instrumental in triggering and sustaining the Karakoram Anomaly as per scientists.
  • WDs are the primary feeder of snowfall for the region during winters and the study suggests they constitute about around 65% of the total seasonal snowfall volume and about 53% of the total seasonal precipitation, easily making them the most important source of moisture.
  • The precipitation intensity of WDs impacting Karakoram has increased by around 10% in the last two decades, which only enhances their role in sustaining the regional anomaly.
  • It has been revealed that the contribution of WDs in terms of snowfall volume over the core glacier regions of Karakoram has increased by about 27% in recent decades, while the precipitation received from non-WD sources has significantly decreased by around 17%.
  • The anomaly provides a very bleak but nonetheless a ray of hope. After recognizing the importance of WDs in controlling the anomaly, their future behavior might very well decide the fate of Himalayan glaciers as well.

About Karakoram Ranges

  • Karakoram Ranges are a great mountain system extending some 300 miles (500 km) from the easternmost extension of Afghanistan in a southeasterly direction along the watershed between Central and South Asia.
  • They are the greatest concentration of high mountains in the world and the longest glaciers outside the poles such as the Siachen Glacier, Biafo Glacier, Hispar Glacier, Batura Glacier, etc.
  • The Karakorams are part of a complex of mountain ranges at the center of Asia, including the Hindukush to the west, the Pamirs to the northwest, the Kunlun Mountains to the northeast, and the Himalayas to the southeast.
  • The borders of India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, all converge within the Karakoram system, giving this remote region great geopolitical significance.
  • It begins in Wakhan Corridor (Afghanistan) in the west, encompasses the majority of Gilgit-Baltistan (controlled by Pakistan), and extends into Ladakh (controlled by India) and Aksai Chin (controlled by China).
  • Its highest peak (and the world’s second highest peak), K2, is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. The other peak includes Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak, etc.

Topography of Karakoram

  • The topography is characterized by craggy peaks and steep slopes. The southern slopes are long and steep, the northern slopes steep and short.
  • Cliffs and taluses (great accumulations of large fallen rocks) occupy a vast area.
  • In the intermontane valleys, rocky inclines occur widely. Transverse valleys usually have the appearance of narrow, deep, steep ravines.


  • Structurally, the Karakorams originated from folding in the Cenozoic Era (i.e., during the past 65 million years).
  • Granites, gneisses, crystallized schists, and phyllites dominate the geologic composition.
  • To the south and north, the central rock core of the Karakorams is edged by a region of limestones and micaceous slates of the Paleozoic and (partly) Mesozoic eras (i.e., about 245 to 540 million years old).
  • To the south, the sedimentary rock is sometimes cut by intrusions of granite.

Plant and animal life

  • The Karakorams have upper and lower tree lines, the upper delimited by cold and the lower by aridity; within these lines is found only degraded, sparse tree cover. Flora includes willow, poplar, oleander and junipers, and sea buckthorn on high altitudes.
  • Fauna includes Marco Polo sheep, or argali, Ladakh Urials, Siberian Ibex, and Markhor (hangul). Endangered animals like snow leopard, brown bear, and lynx are also found.


  • Subsistence agriculture and livestock raising dominate the local economy. Crops are limited to wheat, barley, sweet and bitter buckwheat, corn (maize), potatoes, and pulses. Tree crops, especially apricots and walnuts, were once an important local food source

Melting of the Himalayan Glacier

The Himalayan mountains are the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. Spanning about 2000km and with t00 billion tonnes of ice, the Himalayan glaciers supply and support 800 million people with river water for irrigation, drinking, and hydropower.

Evidence of Glacial melt

  • Various studies conducted by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology found that many Uttarakhand glaciers like Dokriani Glacier in the Bhagirathi basin retreated by 15-20 meters annually since 1995 whereas Charoban Glacier in the Mandakini basin retreated 9-11 meters per year during 2003-2007.
  • Numerous small glaciers in the Sutlej basin are also indicating significant loss, creating a scarcity of water in summers.

Importance of the Himalayan region

As per the Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment Report, the melting of Himalayan glaciers which are also referred to as the Third pole could impact the Asian countries and would be a threat to 1.9 billion people as:

  • As the Himalayans are spread over 8 countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
  • Origin of 10 major river basins of the world namely Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Amr Darya, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween, Tarirn, Yangtze, and yellow river.
  • The Himalayan region is home to four global biodiversity hotspots, and several important bird areas and provides ecosystem services in the form of carbon sink, habitat, food, water, and energy supply.
  • Ice protects the earth and oceans by reflecting excess heat back into space and the melting of the Himalayan glacier is a serious matter of concern.

Reasons for the melting of Himalayan glaciers:

The growing impact of anthropogenic developments leads to global warming and climate change.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions due to rapid industrialization and urbanization, burning of fossil fuels, and mining activities like mining of sulphide ores in Pithoragarh, and large-scale mining by China, are all factors that increase the Himalayan melt.
  • Increasing infrastructural developments in the form of rail, road bridges, large hydropower projects, hotels, restaurants, etc
  • Development of trade routes. The recent CPEC corridor could also have a significant impact on the ecology of the Himalayas.
  • Rising population and increasing human footprints in the form of travel and tourism are exceedingly far beyond the ecological threshold.
  • Report by the World Bank also alarmed about the rising emission of black carbon on the Himalayan glacier leading to reduce in albedo.
  • Encroachment in the form of agriculture, food processing, and plantation leading to widespread deforestation in the Himalayan region and increasing global warming.

Impacts Of Himalayan Melting

  • Threat to Water Security and food security- Large perennial rivers originating in the Himalayas are the life of people providing water for drinking, carrying out agricultural activities, and other socio-economic activities. It will directly impact the downstream water budget.
  • Energy crises- The Himalayan rivers have major hydropower potential and are a source of electricity in the Himalayan States.
  • Ground Water Depletion- Himalayan glaciers and rivers are also important for the recharge of groundwater aquifers.
  • Ramification for Global Climate – the region is a heat sink in the winter and even a carbon sink, melting of glaciers would also trigger global warming.
  • Glacial lake outbursts flood: Faster glacial melting has increased the threat of glacial lake outburst floods like the Kedarnath flood in 2013 due to the bursting of the Chorabari glacier which flooded the Dhauli Ganga, creating huge havoc in the region.
  • Changing microclimatic conditions: the incidents of flash floods and cloud bursts have also increased in the mountain region and occasional flash floods downstream.
  • Ecological Impact: Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by the Himalayan mountains.

Indian Government Initiative: Department of Science and Technology (DST) has supported various R&D projects for studying the Himalayan Glacier under:

  • National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem: it aims to evolve a suitable management and policy and time-bound action plan to sustain the ecological resilience and ecosystem services in the Himalayas.
  • National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change: seeks to build a vibrant and dynamic knowledge system that would inform and support national action for ecological conservation in India including the Himalayan ecosystem.
  • Secure Himalayan Project- A six-year project, launched by Union Government to conserve locally and globally significant biodiversity, land, and forest resources in the Himalayan ecosystem spread over Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.

To ensure water supply, energy production, ecosystem integrity, agricultural and forestry production, disaster preparedness, and ecotourism, the conservation of Himalayan mountains is important. It is the responsibility of the world countries, civil societies, and the Himalayan Nations to protect and conserve this ancient cultural heritage.

Source: PIB


GS-II : International organisation SCO


Iran and Belarus could soon become the newest member of the China and Russia-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the upcoming Samarkand summit to be held in September 2022. Also, Varanasi has been selected as the SCO region's first "Tourism and Cultural Capital" for 2022- 2023.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)?

  • Founded in the year 2001, it was built on the “Shanghai Five”, the grouping which consisted of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
  • They came together in the post-Soviet era in 1996, to work on regional security, reduction of border troops, and terrorism.
  • In 2001, the Shanghai five inducted Uzbekistan into its fold and named it the SCO, outlining its principle in a charter that promoted what was called the “Shanghai spirit of cooperation”.
  • The charter adopted in St.Petersburg in 2002, enlisted its main goals as strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states, promoting their effectiveness in politics, trade, economy, research, technology, and culture.
  • India acquired the observer status in the grouping in 2005 and was admitted as a full member in 2017 along with Pakistan.


  • Strengthening the mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states.
  • Enhancing the tie in education, energy, transport, tourism, and environmental protection.
  • To maintain and ensure peace, security, and stability in the region.
  • Establishment of the democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.


China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan.


  • The SCO Secretariat has two permanent bodies that include, the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the executive committee of the Regional anti-terrorist structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
  • The Regional anti-terrorist structure was established to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the nations.
  • The grouping consists of the Head of State Council (HSC), the Head of the Government Council (HGC), and the Foreign Ministers Council.
  • The HSC is the supreme decision-making body of the organization. It meets annually to adopt decisions and guidance on all important matters relevant to the organization.

How is this relevant to India?

  • The SCO host has encouraged members to use the platform to discuss differences with other members on the sideline of the summit.
  • Beyond this, India’s principal benefit from joining the SCO will be geopolitical. It will help bring India closer to China by supporting the only multilateral security entity outside the United Nations that China has created, is a part of, and doesn’t refuse India's entry into.
  • New Delhi has a clear three-pronged policy approach that is to deepen ties with Russia; monitor and counter the influence of China and Pakistan and expand cooperation with Central Asia Regions.
  • India has proposed setting up a special working group on innovation and start-ups. Also, traditional medicine is of considerable interest to the region. As a leader in the field, India is ready to collaborate with interested parties.
  • India can get access to energy-rich Central Asian countries. These countries also support India’s permanent membership in United Nations.
  • Through RATS India can get access to intelligence information on terrorism and extremism.
  • India can build connectivity to Afghanistan through Central Asia bypassing Pakistan.
  • India has built its first air base outside India at Farkhor in Tajikistan which shows India’s rising interest in the strategic Central Asian Countries.

India is rising its presence in the region but still, its investment is far less compared to China. Poor connectivity of India with these regions also gives an edge to China which has built rail and road access to these regions. To counter China’s dominance in this region India needs to strengthen its diplomatic ties with greater connectivity prospects.

Source: PIB


GS-II : Indian Polity Institutions and Bodies for vulnerable


Every person in India can be a minority in one state or the other, the minority status of religious and linguist communities is state-dependent outlined by the Supreme Court.

  • The court also indicated that a religious or linguistic community that is a minority in a particular state can inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run its own educational institution under Article 29 and Article 30 of the Indian constitution.
  • The Union government informed the Supreme Court (SC) that state governments can now grant minority status to any religious or linguistic community, including Hindus.
    The expression “minorities” appears in some Articles of the Constitution and has not been defined properly anywhere in the constitution.
  • As per the 2011 census, Hindus have become a minority in Lakshadweep (2.5%), Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), J&K (28.44%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (31.39%), and even in Punjab (38.40%).
  • A petition filed by the petitioner state that Hindus are in a ‘minority’ in six states and three Union Territories of India but were allegedly not able to avail themselves of the benefits of schemes meant for minorities

Various judgments of the Supreme Court

  • TMA Pai Case: In the TMA Pai case the SC had said that for Article 30 which deals with the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered state-wise.
  • Bal Patil Case: In 2005, the SC in its judgment in ‘Bal Patil’ referred to the TMA Pai ruling. The legal position clarifies that henceforth the unit for determining the status of both linguistic and religious minorities would be the ‘state’.
  • Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes (NCMEI) Act 2004 confers power to the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India which goes contrary to the various judgments of the court.

Union government’s Stand

The Centre has pointed out that Maharashtra notified Jews as a minority community in 2016 and similarly Karnataka notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujarati as minority languages.

  • Parliament and State legislatures have concurrent powers to enact laws to provide for the protection of minorities and their interests.
  • Matters such as declaring the followers of Judaism, Bahaism, and Hinduism who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the said state and laying down guideline(s) for t identification of minority at the state level may be considered by the concerned state governments.

Who are the minorities notified by the Government of India?

  • Currently, only those communities which are notified under section 2(c) of the NCM (National Commission Of Minority) Act, 1992, by the central government are considered a minority in India.
  • In 1992, with the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, the MC (Minority Commission) became the statutory body and was renamed the NCM (National Commission of Minority).
  • In 1993, the first Statutory National Commission was set up and five religious communities viz. The Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minority communities in India.
  • In 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.

What are the Constitutional Provisions for the Minority?

Article 29:

Article 29 states that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script, or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.

It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities.

However, the SC held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as the use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.

Article 30:

All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).

Article 350-B:

The 7th Constitutional Amendment Act 1956 inserted this article which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India. It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

Source: The Hindu


GS-II : Governance Health


According to reports, eleven districts of Bengal have reported at least 65 cases of black fever or kala-azar in the last couple of weeks.

About Kala-azar

  • It is a slow progressing indigenous disease that is caused by a protozoan parasite of the genus Leishmania.
  • Kala-azar or leishmaniases is one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases which is endemic in 76 countries, with approximately 200 million people at risk of infection.


There are 3 major forms of leishmaniasisvisceral (also known as kala-azar, which is the most serious form of the disease), cutaneous (the most common where the skin is affected), and mucocutaneous.


  • Leishmania parasites are transmitted through the bites of infected female phlebotomine sandflies, which mainly feed on blood to produce the eggs.
  • Some 70 animal species, including humans, have been found as natural reservoir hosts of Leishmania parasites.


  • The disease affects some of the poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system, and an increased burden on financial resources.
  • Leishmaniasis is also linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, the building of dams, irrigation schemes, and even urbanization.

Prevention and control:

Prevention and control of leishmaniasis require a combination of intervention strategies.

  • It is a treatable and even curable disease, “which requires an immunocompetent system because medicines will not get rid of the parasite from the body, thus the risk of relapse if immunosuppression occurs.
  • Effective disease surveillance is important to promptly monitor and act during epidemics and situations with high case fatality rates under treatment.

Source: The Hindu


GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government Schemes & Programmes


Economist and Nobel laureate Michael R Kremer has said that for a diverse populous country like India Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) must be carried out at multiple sites for better analysis of schemes and to see differences across the various states.

RCT was heavily discussed after Kremer and fellow economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo won the 2019 Nobel Prize winner in the area of Economics. They had made use of RCT for their research on poverty.


It is an experimental form of impact evaluation in which the population receiving the program is chosen at random from the eligible population, and a control group is also chosen at random from the same eligible population.

  • It tests the extent to which specific, planned impacts are being achieved or how many targets have been achieved.
  • It involves dividing a population into various smaller groups, in order to comparatively see the outcomes of an external stimulus.
  • For example, if the aim of a study is to understand whether a free grains distribution scheme has helped in improving the nutrition levels among people living in a district, researchers will first create two groups within the population, and then put people into those groups randomly.
  • One group (called the control group) does not receive the grains or the external stimulus, while the other group (treatment group) does. After some period of time, details of how both the groups are doing would be collected.


  • It helps to focus more on day-to-day answers to problems of poverty, deprivation, and problems in the delivery of basic amenities.


  • Critics said that randomization does not equalize two groups, and warned against over-reliance on RCTs to frame the policies.
  • There may be more women in one group, or one group may have more people having some kind of distinctiveness that affects the result. As a result, the outcomes may not give a correct picture, and the very use of a scientific experiment tool in social sciences was questioned.
  • RCT has also been criticized for reducing the study of poverty to small interventions which are unconnected to the lived experiences of the poor.

Source: The Indian Express


GS-III : Economic Issues Rupee Depreciating


Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has undertaken measures to increase forex inflows, amid the depreciation of the Indian rupee.

Why has the RBI taken Measures to Boost the Forex reserve?

  • Indian Rupee has depreciated 4.1 % to 79.30 against the US dollar in the current financial year (FY 2022-23) amid ongoing geopolitical tension.
  • Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) have moved out Rs 2.32 lakh crore in six months from the Indian market.
  • India's forex reserves, over the last 9 months, have declined by USD 50 billion to USD 593.3 billion.

What is a Forex Reserve?

Foreign exchange reserves are assets held on reserve by the Central Bank (RBI) in foreign currencies, which includes bonds, treasury bills, and other government securities.

Most foreign exchange reserves are held in US dollars. Other components of foreign exchange reserve includes:

  • Foreign Currency Assets
  • Gold reserves
  • Special Drawing Rights
  • Reserve Tranche Position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

What are the Measures to boost foreign reserves?

  • FPI Investment in Debt: Foreign Portfolio Investors can invest in government securities and corporate bonds. It can boost debt portfolio inflows by expanding the basket of securities available to FPIs.

FPI is the route for foreign investment in India. It includes investments in shares of listed Indian companies, Non-Convertible Debentures, units of domestic Mutual Fund, Government Securities, Security Receipts, etc.

  • Higher Returns: The RBI has allowed banks to give higher returns on foreign currency deposits on which they will not have to maintain any reserves. Interest rates should not be higher than those offered by the banks on comparable domestic rupee term deposits.
  • Relaxation Under ECBs: Rules governing External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) for corporates have been relaxed, with the automatic route being doubled to USD 1.5 billion and the cap on borrowing costs raised by 1% point.
  • ECBs are loans in India made by non-resident lenders in foreign currency to Indian borrowers. It is used to facilitate access to foreign money by Indian corporations and public sector undertakings.

  • Export Taxes: The Union government has also increased export taxes on oil and petroleum products and increased import duty on gold, to control the widening Current Account Deficit.

What are ECBs taken by Indian companies?

  • ECBs are commercial loans that eligible resident entities can raise from outside India, that is from a recognized non-resident entity.
  • ECBs can be buyer’s credit, supplier’s credit, foreign currency convertible bonds, foreign currency exchangeable bonds, and loans.
  • ECBs can be raised via the automatic route where cases are examined by the Authorized Category Dealer, or from the approval route where borrowers are mandated to forward their request to RBI through their authorized dealers.
  • Borrowers must follow all the norms on minimum maturity period, maximum all-in-cost ceiling, end-uses, etc.

Why do Indian firms go for ECBs?

  • Low cost: ECBs give companies the benefit of borrowing abroad at lower interest rates.
  • Long-term repayment: They are also an avenue to borrow a large volume of funds for a relatively long period of time.
  • Surpassing exchange fluctuation: borrowing in foreign currencies enables companies to pay for their machinery import etc., thereby nullifying the impact of the varying exchange rates.
  • Long-term profitability: ECBs can help diversify the investor base and funds are available at a lower cost, helping to improve the profitability of companies.
  • Better credit ratings -ECB interest rates are also a function of their ratings in the international market.

Source: The Hindu

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