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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

28 Dec, 2023

47 Min Read

December rainfall in Tamil Nadu

GS-I : Indian Geography Indian Geography

Tamil Nadu has witnessed heavy rainfall in December 2023.

What is the rainfall pattern in Tamil Nadu?

  • Weather conditions – The state is vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, while coastal districts experience flooding, other areas experience severe droughts.
    • According to IMD, from the year 1951 to 2013, Tamil Nadu has received 47 normal, 8 excess, 6 deficient, and 2 scanty rainfall over a period of time.
  • Annual rainfallAbout 987mm with a range varying from 317.4 mm to 1890.5 mm over the 63 years period (1951-2013).
    • While Nilgiris receives the maximum average annual rainfall, Thoothukkudi and Karur receive the least.
  • Coefficient of variation in annual rainfall – It lies in the range of 0.21 to 0.37 (21 to 37%) across the districts of Tamil Nadu.

What is the rainfall scenario in December 2023?

  • Since October 1, Tamil Nadu has received 450mm of rainfall.
  • Surplus rainfall – Many coastal districts have already received their surplus rainfall.
    • The annual rainfall of Kanyakumari is 760mm, whereas the district has already recorded 1050.7mm during October 1 – December 20, 2023.
  • Deficient rainfall - During the ongoing season (till December 20), only 14 districts out of total 38 have deficient rainfall.
  • Exceptionally heavy rainfall – It occurred in 3 districts of southern Tamil Nadu during December 17–19.
    • IMD stated that these districts had received about 100 per cent or more surplus rain during these 3 days over the previous week (December 6 – 13, 2023).
  • 24-hour time span exceptional rainfall – It was reported by nearly 40 meteorological stations across Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Thirunelvali and Kanyakumari districts.
    • For example, in Kalyanapattinam, it was 950 mm in December 18th, which is close to the annual rainfall of Lucknow and Ambala (960 mm each) and more than the annual rainfall of Allahabad (918 mm).

What caused the record rainfall over southern TN?

  • Strong northeast monsoon – It remained vigorous over Tamil Nadu since mid-December, bringing in steady rain bands, especially over the south Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Kerala.
  • Movement of cyclonic circulation – It was developed in the southwest Bay of Bengal in December 16, located off the western Sri Lankan coast.
  • As this system moved westwards and reached southern Tamil Nadu, it gave impetus to the northeast monsoon winds, persisted over the southern Tamil Nadu region on December 18 and 19.
  • A heavy cloud convection was observed here, resulting in exceptionally heavy rainfall (more than 200mm in 24 hours) over Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu and Idukki district of Kerala.

Source:

BIMSTEC – South Asia

GS-II : International organisation BIMSTEC

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) was established in the 1997 Bangkok Declaration with a secretariat in Dhaka.
  • Its members lie in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • It mainly aims to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development; accelerate social progress; and promote collaboration on matters of common interest in the region.

BIMSTEC Member Countries

  • Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan (No Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  • The BIMSTEC countries are home to a population of around 1.5 billion, approximately 21% of global population, with a cumulative GDP of US$ 2.5 trillion. The annual GDP growth rate has averaged around 6 %.
  • The BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat Dhaka was opened in 2014 and India contributes 33% of its expenditure.
  • The current Secretary General of the BIMSTEC is Ambassador Mohammad Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh and the former Secretary General was Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka.
  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of the BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999).

Objective

  • Technical and economic cooperation among members.
  • Encouraging the spirit of equality and partnership.
  • Promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in the areas of common interests of the member countries
  • Accelerating support for each other in the fields of education, science, and technology, etc.
  • Act as a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries

Previous BIMSTEC Summit

  • 1st Summit (2004) – Bangkok (Thailand)
  • 2nd Summit (2008) – New Delhi (India)
  • 3rd Summit (2014) – Nay Pyi Daw (Myanmar)
  • 4th Summit (2018) – Kathmandu (Nepal)
  • 5th Summit (2022) – Colombo (Sri Lanka)

various BIMSTEC Centres?

  • BIMSTEC Energy Centre (BEC) – It is to be housed in the premises of the Central Power Research Institute in Bengaluru, India.
  • It will also function as the Secretariat of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection Coordination Committee.
  • BIMSTEC Centre on Weather and Climate - It is located in the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) in Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory – In 2006, it was proposed for the establishment of BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Commission (BCIC) and the BIMTEC Cultural Industries Observatory (BCIO) in Bhutan.
  • BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility – The Memorandum of Association (MoA) on the establishment was signed in 2022 during the 5th BIMSTEC Summit but its entry into force is awaited.

What are the shortcomings?

  • It has decided not to go-ahead with the BIMSTEC Development Fund.
  • Negotiation of the BIMSTEC FTA is yet to be completed.
  • BIMSTEC grid connectivity and energy projects are yet to take off.
  • While the connectivity plan is ready, the real implementation is yet to start.
  • The postponement of the 6th Summit has slowed BIMSTEC integration.

What lies ahead?

  • 6th BIMSTEC summit under the chairmanship of Thailand will be held in 2024 with promising features like
    • Adoption of the BIMSTEC Rules of Procedure
    • Adoption of the BIMSTEC Maritime Cooperation Agreement (BMCA)
    • Launching of BIMSTEC Bangkok Vision 2030

Bangladesh is going to take over the chairmanship of BIMSTEC from Thailand once the 6th Summit is over.

  • Importance for India:
    • BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia but also encompasses the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
    • India sees BIMSTEC as a natural platform to prioritize its foreign policy objectives of "Neighborhood First" and "Act East."
      • The significance of BIMSTEC was highlighted when some of its member countries supported India's call for a boycott of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)summit in Islamabad, leading to its postponement.
      • India claimed victory in isolating Pakistan through this move.
  • Crucial Against Assertive China:
    • The Bay of Bengal is crucial for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.
      • As China has undertaken a massive drive to finance and build infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in almost all BIMSTEC countries, except Bhutan and India, BIMSTEC is a new battleground in the India-China battle for dominance.
    • BIMSTEC can allow India to push a constructive agenda to counter Chinese investments, and instead follow best practices for connectivity projects based on recognised international norms.
      • The Chinese projects are widely seen as violating these norms.
  • Preserve Peace and Freedom of Navigation:
    • The Bay of Bengal can be showcased as open and peaceful, contrasting it with China’s behavior in the South China Sea.
    • It can develop codes of conduct that preserve freedom of navigation and apply existing law of the seas regionally.
    • Moreover, BIMSTEC can stem the region’s creeping militarisation by instituting, for instance, a Bay of Bengal Zone of Peace that seeks to limit any bellicose behavior of extraregional power.

SAARC

BIMSTEC

1. A regional organisation looking into South Asia

2. Established in 1985 during the cold war era.

3. Member countries suffer for mistrust and suspicion.

4. Suffers from regional politics.

5. Asymmetric power balance.

6. Intra-regional trade only 5 percent.

1. Interregional organisation connecting South Asia and South East Asia.

2. Established in 1997 in the post-Cold War.

3. Members maintain reasonably friendly relations.

4. Core objective is the improvement of economic cooperation among countries.

5. Balancing of power with the presence of Thailand and India on the bloc.

6. Intra-regional trade has increased around 6 precent in a decade.

Source:

Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 (BNSS)

GS-II : Governance Governance

Under new law, doctors face two years of imprisonment for death due to negligence.

  • Section 106 (1) - Section 106 (1) of the BNS Bill, 2023 deals with causing death by negligence.
  • This makes a differentiation between a doctor and any other person causing death by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide.
  • The amended Section 106 (1) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill does not provide a blanket exemption to doctors in cases of death due to negligence.

A registered medical practitioner is person who possesses any medical qualification recognised under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 and whose name has been entered in the National Medical Register or a State Medical Register under that Act.

  • Currently, under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the punishment for causing death by negligence is two years imprisonment and fine or both.
  • The BNSS increases the punishment for such acts to five years, however, specifies that doctors will still get the lower punishment of two years jail time if convicted.
  • Section 106 (2) - It prescribes a more stringent punishment, a jail term of 10 years and a fine, for somebody who causes death of any person by rash and negligent driving of vehicle not amounting to culpable homicide.
  • Section 106 (2) is also applicable to persons who escapes without reporting it to a police officer or a Magistrate soon after the incident.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill will replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC); the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill will be in place of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill will replace the Indian Evidence Act (IEA).

Source:

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

GS-II : Governance Governance

  • Competition Commission of India has selected Ansuman Pattnaik as the new head of its investigation’s unit recently.
  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a statutory body within the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
  • It was established in 2003, but became fully functional in 2009.

The CCI aims to establish a competitive environment in the Indian economy by engaging with all stakeholders, the government, and international jurisdiction.

Source:

Year End Review 2023-Ministry of Commerce and Industry

GS-III : Economic Issues India's Trade Policy

About the Ministry

  • Union Minister- Shri Piyush Goyal
  • It is responsible for administering two departments namely
    • Department of Commerce
    • Department of Industry and Internal Trade
  • Autonomous Bodies-
    • The Marine Products Export Development Authority
    • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority
  • Export Inspection Council
  • Indian Institute of Foreign Trade
  • Indian Institute of Packaging
  • Commodity Boards

Commodity Boards under Ministry of Commerce

Headquarters

Coffee Board

Bangalore

Rubber Board

Kottayam, Kerala

Tea Board

Kolkata, West Bengal

Tobacco Board

Guntur, Andhra Pradesh

Spices Board

Cochin, Kerala

The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA)-

  • Statutory body- Under MPEDA Act 1972.
  • Role- It is entrusted with the primary task of promotion of export of marine products.
  • Headquarters- Cochin, Kerala.

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)-

  • Statutory body - Under APEDA Act 1985.
  • Role – Responsible for export promotion and development of scheduled products like honey, meat, dairy products etc.,
  • Headquarters- New Delhi.

Export Inspection Council (EIC)

  • It is the official export –certification body of India which ensures quality and safety of products exported from India.
  • It is set up under Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963 to ensure sound development of export trade of India through quality control and inspection and matters connected therewith.
  • Headquarters- New Delhi
  • Role- To ensure that products notified under the Act are meeting the requirements of the importing countries in respect of their quality and safety.
  • It is the only organization in India having global acceptance.

Key Initiatives/Achievements of the Ministry

Export Performance

  • Despite global headwinds, both merchandise and services exports have robust performance.
  • India’s overall export (Merchandise plus Services) stood at USD 499.46 billion during April-November 2023 as compared to USD 506.52 billion during April-November 2022.

Foreign Trade Policy, 2023

  • It was launched with the aim of India’s exports to 2 trillion dollars by 2030.
  • Four Pillars
  1. Incentive to Remission
  2. Export promotion through collaboration
  3. Ease of doing business, reduction in transaction cost and e-initiatives
  4. Emerging Areas
  • It encourages recognition of new towns through Towns of Export Excellence Scheme and exporters through Status Holder Scheme.

Districts as Export Hubs Scheme

  • Aim- To convert each district of the country into an export hub.
  • One District One Product Scheme has been merged with this scheme; it is a part of new Foreign Trade Policy.
  • It will increase production, grow exports, generate economic activity and achieve the goal of AtmaNirbhar Bharat, Vocal for local and Make in India.

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme

  • Launch year- 2017-18
  • Objective- To enhance export competitiveness by bridging gaps in export infrastructure, creating focused export infrastructure, first mile and last mile connectivity for export-oriented projects and addressing quality and certification measures.
  • It will provide financial assistance to Central/State Government owned agencies for setting up or up-grading export infrastructure in States/UTs.

Market Access Initiatives Scheme

  • It is an Export Promotion Scheme envisaged to act as a catalyst to promote India’s export on a sustained basis.
  • It provides financial assistance for export promotion and the scheme is formulated on focus product-focus country approach to evolve specific market and specific product through market studies/survey.

Interest Equalization Scheme

  • Launch year- 2015
  • It is a rebate of interest provided on pre and post shipment export credit like packing credit.
  • The Scheme is recently extended up to March 2024.

Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products Scheme

  • Launch year- 2021
  • It is a tax refund scheme for exporters that replaced the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS).
  • It would not be available in respect of duties and taxes already exempted, credited or remitted.

Government e-Marketplace

  • It is a 100% government owned National Public Procurement Portal for procurement of goods and services required by Central and State Government organizations.
  • GeM endeavours to make public procurement process transparent, efficient and inclusive.
  • Startup Runaway 2.0- It is an opportunity for Start-ups to showcase their innovative products and services to Government buyers and engage in public procurement.
  • MSME SC/ST entrepreneurs on GeM- GeM is collaborating with various stakeholders from MSME ecosystem with special focus on entrepreneurs from the Scheduled Caste/ Schedule Tribes.
    • Mandatory procurement - 25% from MSMEs
    • Sub target procurement - 4% goods and services from MSME entrepreneurs within SC/ST communities
  • Womaniya - It seeks to showcase products made by women entrepreneurs and women self-help groups; it promotes women entrepreneurship by aligning them with opportunities to sell their products at GeM portal.
  • SARAS Collection- It is a store front in GeM for marketing of Self-help group (SHG) products.

Common Digital Platform for Certificate of Origin

  • It has been launched to facilitate trade and increase Free Trade Agreement utilization by exporters.
  • It is designed to facilitate exporters through a secure, electronic, paperless procedures.

G20

  • Under India’s Presidency, the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial reached a ground breaking consensus.
  • Jaipur Call for Action- It was issued for enhancing access to information for MSMEs.
  • G20 Generic Mapping Framework for Global Value Chains (GVCs)- It contained key building blocks of data, analysis, and representation of GVC data.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

  • It was launched jointly by the USA and other partner countries of the Indo-Pacific region in 2022 at Tokyo, Japan.
  • It has 14 partner countries including India.
  • It seeks to strengthen economic partnership amongst participating countries with the objective of enhancing resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

IPEF Supply Chain Resilience Agreement - During the 3rd IPEF Ministerial meeting, 2023 held in San Francisco, California, the first-of-its-kind IPEF Supply Chain Resilience Agreement was signed.

  • The Agreement is expected to make IPEF supply chains more resilient, robust, and well-integrated, and contribute towards economic development and progress of the region as a whole.

Bharat Mandapam

  • International Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) complex was inaugurated at New Delhi.
  • It will help showcase and promote India as a global business destination
  • Prime Minister of India urged the nation to move ahead with the principle of ‘Think Big, Dream Big, Act Big’.

Vanijya Bhawan

  • It is the new premises of Ministry of Commerce and Industry located in New Delhi.
  • It is designed as a smart building which incorporates the principles of sustainable architecture with a special focus on energy saving.

NIRYAT Portal

  • National Import-Export Record for Yearly Analysis of Trade is launched in 2022.
  • It is developed as a one stop platform for stakeholders to get all necessary information related to India’s foreign trade.

Invest India

  • It is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India and acts as the first point of reference for investors.
  • It acts as a facilitation arm for the Government of India for two of its key initiatives “Make in India” and “Start-up”.

Make in India

  • It is an initiative under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan launched in 2014.
  • Role- To promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and skill development in India's manufacturing, infrastructure, and service sectors.
  • Pillars- New processes, new infrastructure, new sectors, and new mind set.
  • It was one of the first 'Vocal for Local' initiatives that exposed India's manufacturing domain to the world.

Start-up India

  • It was launched in 2016 with the objective of supporting entrepreneurs, building up a robust start-up ecosystem and transforming India into a country of job creators instead of job seekers.

Fund of Funds

  • It was launched to encourage investments in the startups.
  • It does not directly invest in startups, instead provides capital to SEBI-registered Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs), known as daughter funds, who in turn invest money in growing Indian startups through equity and equity-linked instruments.
  • Mandate- Small Industrial Development Bank of India.

Startup India Seed Fund Scheme

  • Aim- To provide financial assistance to startups for proof of concept, prototype development, product trials, market entry and commercialization.
  • It envisages building a robust Start-up ecosystem in the country for nurturing innovation and providing opportunities to budding entrepreneurs.

Credit Guarantee Scheme for Startups (CGSS)-

  • It has been operationalized in 2023 which provides credit guarantees to loans extended by Scheduled Commercial Banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) registered Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs).
  • Aim- Providing credit guarantee up to a speci?ed limit against loans extended by Member Institutions (MIs) to ?nance eligible borrowers viz. entities recognised as ‘startups’ by DPIIT PM Gati Shakti (Logistics Division).

Geographical Indications Registry

  • It is a statutory organization setup for the administration of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999.
  • Geographical indication is a type of intellectual property right that is basically used for product protection with regards to its geographical origin.

National Single Window System

  • It was launched in 2021 to provide “end to end” facilitation and support to investors.
  • It is a one-stop shop for investor related approvals and services in the country,

PM Gati Shakti (Logistics Division)

  • PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan (NMP)- It was launched on 2021 for providing multimodal connectivity infrastructure to various economic zones.
  • National Logistics Policy, 2022- It complements the PM Gati Shakti NMP, it lays down an overarching interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral, multi-modal jurisdictional and comprehensive policy framework for the Logistics Sector.
  • Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) - It was launched in 2022 designed and developed by National Industrial Corridor Corporation, under the guidance of NITI Aayog.
  • Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS)- The report was launched in 2022, it is an indigenous logistics performance index developed on the lines of World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index.

Bilateral Co-operation

India-US

  • India – United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) - It launched a new working group on Resilient Trade to deepen bilateral dialogue on a range of issues that can enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the trade relationship.
  • Semiconductor Supply Chains - A MoU on Semiconductor Supply Chain and Innovation Partnership was signed between India and US to facilitate supply chain resiliency.
  • Innovation Handshake- It is a joint initiative between India and US to enhance innovative ecosystems through the framework of India-US Commercial Dialogue.

India-UAE

  • Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) - It is the free trade agreement between India and UAE that was signed in 2022
  • It covers the trade in services and investment, and other areas of economic partnership.
  • India became the first country with which the UAE has signed a CEPA.
  • UAE-India CEPA Council (UICC) - India & UAE agreed to set-up a UAE-India CEPA Council (UICC) as a B2B collaboration mechanism, with a focus on MSMEs and start-ups, for building greater economic linkages and optimizing CEPA benefits.

India - Australia

  • Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) -India and Australia have signed the historic Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (Ind-Aus ECTA) in 2022.
  • It is the 1st free trade agreement signed by India with a developed country in a decade and 1st time that India has taken binding most-favoured-nations (MFN) commitments even though it is only in select services.
  • It is estimated to double trade between the two nations and generate one million jobs.

Other Quick events

  • Global Millets (Shree Anna) Conference - It was held in New Delhi to stimulate the exports of millets from India and provide market linkage to the producers.
  • Spices Board - It organized the World Spice Congress at Navi Mumbai in 2023.
  • National Turmeric Board - The government notified the constitution of National Turmeric Board in 2023.
  • It will focus on the development and growth of turmeric and turmeric products in the country.

Source:

Watsonx.ai

GS-III : S&T Artificial Intelligence

At the recent COP28, NASA and IBM announced that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool called watsonx.ai would be available on the open-source AI platform Hugging Space.

  • Watsonx.ai is built on a foundation model; it is trained on a broad set of uncategorized data allowing the model to apply information about one situation to another.
  • The platform has a set of AI assistants to help one scale and accelerate the impact of artificial intelligence through trusted data across his/her business.
  • In the case of watsonx.ai, NASA provides the datasets and IBM created the foundation model to interpret them.
  • Watsonx.ai will help users monitor the Earth from space, measuring environmental changes that have already happened while also making predictions about the future.
  • The model is also designed to be extremely simple to use.
  • A user would merely need to select a location and a date, and the model will highlight changes in floodwater, reforestation efforts and other relevant factors.

In India, AI-equipped peanut farmers have already witnessed a 30 per cent increase in yield.

  • watsonx.data - It is a fit-for-purpose data store optimized for governed data and AI workloads.
  • watsonx.governance - It is an end-to-end toolkit encompassing both data and AI governance.

Source:

Flying Squirrel

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Animals

Missing for 42 years, flying squirrel resurfaces in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • Flying Squirrel are one of the 50 species of gliding squirrels.
  • Habitat - Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are the flying squirrel species found in North America.
  • The third type, Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) is found in the temperate and tropical forests of India and other parts of Asia.
  • It is a nocturnal species, meaning they are active at night.
  • They have a special membrane between their front and back legs that allows them to glide through the air between trees.
  • The Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) was last described in 1981 based on a single individual found in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Diet - Flying squirrels are omnivores.

Source:

Pappathi Chola

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Biodiversity & Environment

There is an urgent need to protect Pappathi Chola, a biodiversity hotspot.

  • Pappathi Chola, known for its high butterfly population, derived its name from the Tamil word Pappathi meaning butterflies.
  • While Pappathi means butterfly, Chola means shola land.
  • Many butterflies reach the area during their migratory course from the rain shadow forests of Tamil Nadu back to the higher elevations of Munnar.
  • Pappathi Chola is also regarded as a hub of balsams (Impatiens balsamina) and rare varieties of orchids.
  • It is located right in the middle of the Chathurangappara hills and Mathikettan shola and last year; the region witnessed the blooming of Neelakurinji.
  • The Pappathi Chola area is covered with eucalyptus trees.

Biodiversity Hotspots

  • Biodiversity hotspots are regions that are exceptionally rich in biodiversity and contain numerous endemic species.
  • According to Conservation International, a region must fulfill the following two criteria to qualify as a hotspot:
    1. The region should have at least 1500 species of vascular plants i.e., it should have a high degree of endemism.
    2. It must contain 30% (or less) of its original habitat, i.e. it must be threatened.
  • Following the criteria must for an area to be declared as Biodiversity Hotspot, there are major four biodiversity hotspots in India:
    1. The Himalayas
    2. Indo-Burma Region
    3. The Western Ghats
    4. Sundaland
  • The Western Ghats, located along the western coast, and the Eastern Himalayas are two prominent biodiversity hotspots in India.
  • The Western Ghats are known for their diverse habitats and endemic species of plants, birds, and amphibians.
  • The Eastern Himalayas, spanning across northeastern states, harbor a wide range of flora and fauna in alpine meadows, subtropical forests, and montane rainforests.

Impatiens balsamina

  • It is commonly known as balsam, is a species of plant native to India and Myanmar.
  • Different parts of the plant are used as traditional remedies for disease and skin afflictions.
  • Juice from the leaves is used to treat warts and snakebite, and the flower is applied to burns.
  • This species has been used as indigenous traditional medicine in Asia for rheumatism, fractures, and other ailments.

Source:

JN.1 variant COVID

GS-III : S&T Health

India recently reported a case of JN.1 from Kerala, as part of routine surveillance and genome sequencing by INSACOG.

INSACOG is an Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, a network of genomic laboratories.

  • JN.1 - It is a descendant of the Pirola variant (BA.2.86), which itself stems from the Omicron sub-variant.
  • It carries mutations in the spike protein that may increase its infectivity and ability to evade immune responses.

The lineages are assigned by an international network called PANGO. The Pango nomenclature is being used to track the transmission and spread of SARS-CoV-2, including variants of concern.

  • Continued growth of JN.1 - It is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems.
  • Symptoms - Like other variants, it causes fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, cough, fatigue etc.

The B.1.1.529 lineage (Omicron) was the last lineage designated as a Variant of Concern (VOC) by World Health Organisation (WHO).

  • Treatment - According to Union Health Ministry, the existing line of treatment for Covid-19 is expected to be effective against this variant as well.
  • Doctors advise targeted vaccination for individuals who may have a compromised immunity system and the elderly, if required.

Source:

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (Ions) – 2023

GS-III : Internal security Internal security

The 8th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Conclave of Chiefs (CoC) was conducted by Royal Thai Navy at Bangkok, Thailand.

  • The inaugural edition of IONS was held in Feb 2008 at New Delhi, with the Indian Navy as the Chair for two years.
  • IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states (states with coast) of the Indian Ocean Region.
  • IONS provides an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.

As a first, Flag designed by India was selected as the IONS Flag.

  • The members have been geographically grouped into the following four sub-regions:
  • South Asian Littorals - Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom (British Indian Ocean Territory).
  • South East Asian and Australian Littorals - Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
  • East African Littorals - France (Reunion), Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania.
  • West Asian Littorals - Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
  • India also took over as the co-Chair of IONS Working Groups on Maritime Security.
  • Republic of Korea Navy was welcomed by the Conclave as the latest ‘Observer’, raising the collective strength of IONS to 34 (25 Members & 09 Observers).

India is also scheduled to take over as the Chair of IONS (2025-27) during 9th CoC planned to be conducted in India in end 2025.

Source:

Airgun Surrender Abhiyan

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Conservation

Recently, Airgun Surrender Abhiyan was selected as a model wildlife conservation programme by UNESCO.

  • An initiative to get local residents involved in environmental management and wildlife protection.
  • Launched in – 2021.
  • Launched by – Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Aim – To discourage hunting and raise awareness about the detrimental effects of wildlife killing.
  • To encourage the voluntary surrender of airguns and licensed guns to check their use in hunting birds and other wildlife.
  • Collaborations - With local communities, administrative departments, NGOs, and community-based organisations.

Lumdung was declared as 1st Airgun free village of Arunachal Pradesh, where 46 air guns were surrendered.

  • Activities – Awareness campaign to maintain the tradition of hunting in the old style without guns and educating about the role of birds and animals in pollination and in creating forests.

In Arunachal Pradesh, hunting is a tradition for many among the 140 tribes and sub-tribes across the 83,743 sq. km with about 80% forest cover.

  • Increased push for poultry, piggery and other farm initiatives to provide alternative to bush meat.
  • People’s participation – People began organising airgun surrender ceremonies locally.
    • In Pasighat area of Arunachal, some villagers shunned airguns after realising pests had taken over their paddy fields because the birds, their nemesis, had been hunted out.
  • Recognition – ‘Conservation Award’ at the 6th North East Green Summit of Forest Ministers of North East held in Assam in 2021.
  • Outcome – A total of 2,467 airguns, 9 double-barrel shotguns and 0.22 rifles, and 13 power chainsaws have been surrendered.

Source:

Winter Solstice

GS-I : Physical Geography Weathering and Erosion

  • The Winter Solstice is a phenomenon when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted furthest away from the sun, resulting in the longest night and the shortest day of the year.

It occurs annually on December 21 or 22. It marks the 1st day of winter.

Source:

Caspian Sea

GS-I : Physical Geography World Geography

  • The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, located between Asia and Europe, and is shared by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
  • The Caspian Sea is a landlocked sea and is also known as the Mazandaran Sea.
  • It lies to the east of the Caucasus Mountains and to the west of the vast steppe of Central Asia.

Baku is the largest port on the Caspian Sea and the largest capital city on the southern shore of the Absheron peninsula.

Source:

Volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea

GS-I : Physical Geography Volcanic Activity

  • India recently sent relief material worth $1 million for the people affected by a volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea.
  • A major volcanic eruption of Mount Ulawun in Papua New Guinea resulted in widespread damage and destruction in the island nation.

Papua New Guinea sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquake and volcanic activities occur.

Source:

Sumatran 0rangutans (Pongo abelii)

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Animals

  • 3 trafficked Sumatran orangutans were sent back from Thailand to Indonesia recently as part of a joint effort between the countries to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
  • The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is a species of orangutan that lives in the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
  • They are the largest non-human primates in Asia and the largest arboreal primates.
  • Conservation Status
    • IUCN - Critically Endangered

CITES - Appendix I

Source:

SVEEP

GS-II : Governance Electoral reforms

  • Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) is a program by the Election Commission of India.

It aims to educate voters, spread awareness, and promote voter literacy since 2009.

Source:

Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Animals

  • Eurasian otter discovered for the 1st time in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala recently.

  • It is a semiaquatic carnivorous mammal that is native to Eurasia.
  • They are shy and nocturnal and found near small streams in the interior forests and distributed through Europe, Asia, and Africa.
  • Conservation Status
    • IUCN - Near Threatened.
    • CITES - Appendix I.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 - Schedule II

Source:

Huntington’s disease

GS-III : S&T Health

  • Huntington's disease (HD) is a rare, inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
  • It's also known as Huntington's chorea. HD attacks areas of the brain that help to control voluntary movement, as well as other areas.
  • Symptoms usually start between the ages of 30 and 50.

No cure exists, but drugs, physiotherapy and speech therapy can help manage some symptoms.

Source:

Nandankanan Zoological Park (NZP)

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Conservation

  • Nandankanan Zoological Park (NZP) is a zoo and botanical garden established in 1960 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
  • Nandankanan is India's first zoo to join the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in 2009.
  • Nandankanan is the first zoo in the World to breed White tiger and Melanistic tiger.

Nandankanan is the only conservation breeding centre of Indian Pangolins in the world.

Source:

Louis Pasteur

GS-III : S&T Health

  • Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist who is known for his discoveries in vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization.
  • He is considered one of the first scientists to discover the role of microorganisms in disease and how vaccines can prevent sickness.

He developed the vaccine against Rabies.a

Source:

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Animals

  • The aardvark is a burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa.
  • The name aardvark comes from Afrikaans and means "earth pig" that hunts termites and ants at night.
  • Aardvarks are found in sub-Saharan Africa, except for Namibia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Madagascar.
  • Conservation Status

IUCN - Least Concern.

Source:

Talabira power project

GS-III : Economic Issues Growth, Development and Employment

  • The NLC Talabira Thermal Power Project is a 2,400 MW coal-based thermal power plant in Odisha.
  • The project is a Non-National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) Central PSU Electricity Generation project.
  • It will be an ultra-super critical thermal plant.

The 2,400 MW is to be shared by Tamil Nadu 1,500 MW, Puducherry 100 MW, Karnataka 400 MW and Odisha 400 MW.

Source:

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG)

GS-III : S&T Health

  • Established by - Ministry of Health and Department of Biotechnology, Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • Aim – To assess SARS-CoV-2 Variants in India.

To generate Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) data of the virus which can be correlated with clinical epidemiological data for advanced preparedness for public health interventions.

Source:

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