PMF IAS Current Affairs
PMF IAS Current Affairs

Current Affairs February 21, 2024: India displaying Lord Buddha relics in Thailand, Raisina Dialogue, Double Jeopardy: Pollinator-Plant Mismatch, Trade in donkey skin banned, Semiconductor Chip Manufacturing, Black holes

{GS1 – A&C – Religion} India displaying Lord Buddha relics in Thailand

  • Context (PIB): India will display four holy relics of Lord Buddha and relics of two disciples to Thailand.
  • The relics are believed to contain Gautam Buddha’s remains and hold immense spiritual significance.
  • This initiative is part of India’s efforts to develop and promote the Buddhist circuit and strengthen cultural ties with Thailand.
  • The ‘AA’ category denotes a special classification assigned to certain artefacts or relics based on their rarity and delicate nature.
  • This initiative is part of India’s efforts to develop and promote the Buddhist circuit and strengthen cultural ties with Thailand.
  • Portions of this sacred collection have been previously exhibited in countries such as Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

Buddha’s Life and Enlightenment

  • Lord Buddha, born as Siddhartha, renounced worldly pleasures at the age of 29 to seek salvation.
  • Under the Bodhi tree, he attained enlightenment and became known as Gautama Buddha.
  • For forty-five years, he travelled, taught his doctrine (Saddharma), and organised communities (Sangha).

Distribution of the Sacred Relics

  • When Buddha achieved Mahaparinirvana (passed away) at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, his body was cremated.
  • Brahmin priest Dhona of Kushinagar collected the holy relics from the funeral pyre.
  • These sacred relics were commemorated in eight different stupas.
  • Two additional stupas containing the relics and the embers were built over the urn.
  • These stupas, known as Saririka-stupas, are the earliest surviving Buddhist shrines.
  • Emperor Ashoka (circa 272–232 BCE), a devoted Buddhist, opened seven of the eight stupas.

What is the Buddhist Circuit?

  • It is a route that follows in the footsteps of the Buddha from Lumbini in Nepal, where he was born, through Bihar in India, where he attained enlightenment, to Sarnath and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh in India, where he gave his first teachings and died.
  • The Buddhist Circuit project was announced by the central government in 2016.
  • Under the Ministry of Tourism’s flagship Swadesh Darshan scheme, multiple projects have been undertaken in 21 states to make it India’s first trans-national tourist circuit.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme

  • Launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2014-15 to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country.
  • It is a 100% centrally funded scheme.
  • It has provisions for leveraging voluntary funding under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

{GS2 – IR – Events} Raisina Dialogue

  • Context (IE): PM inaugurated the 9th edition of the Raisina Dialogue.
  • The theme for the 2024 edition is “Chaturanga: Conflict, Contest, Cooperate, Create.”
  • Chief Guest- Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis
  • Decision-makers and thought leaders will engage in conversations across six thematic pillars:
    • Tech Frontiers: Regulations & Realities
    • Peace with the Planet: Invest & Innovate
    • War & Peace: Armouries & Asymmetries
    • Decolonising Multilateralism: Institutions & Inclusion
    • The Post 2030 Agenda: People & Progress
    • Defending Democracy: Society & Sovereignty

Raisina Dialogue

  • It is India’s premier conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, committed to addressing the most challenging global issues.
  • It is held annually since 2016 in New Delhi.
  • It is modelled on the lines of Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue and the Munich Security Conference.
  • It is structured as a multi-stakeholder, heads of state, cabinet ministers, and local government officials, who thought leaders from the private sector, media, and academia join.
  • It is organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs.

Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

  • The ORF is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that conducts policy research on good governance, foreign policy, and sustainable economic development for India.
  • Established in 1990.
  • ORF works on a wide range of topics, including climate, energy, cyber issues and media, economic development, and national security.

Shangri-La Dialogue

  • It is Asia’s premier defence and security summit.
  • It is attended by Defence Ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific countries.
  • An independent think-thank organises it, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
  • The summit is named after the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, where it has been held since 2002.

Munich Security Conference

  • It is an annual conference on international security policy that has been held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany since 1963.
  • The conference is held annually in February.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Diseases} Effects of COVID-19 vaccination

  • Context (TH): A global study quantifies the rise in blood clots and heart inflammation following COVID-19 vaccination. The dataset, covering 99 million people, didn’t include Indian patients.
  • After mRNA and ChAdOX1 vaccinations, cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, myocarditis, pericarditis, and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) were at least 1.5 times higher than expected.
  • In India, most people received the ChAdOX1 or Covishield vaccines during the pandemic.
  • The assessment was conducted by the Global Covid Vaccine Safety Project, which collected electronic healthcare data on adverse events related to COVID-19.
  • This is in line with previous observations by the WHO and the European Medicines Agency.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves. While rarely fatal, it can cause muscular damage and mean prolonged treatment.
  • CVST refers to blood clots in the brain.
  • Myocarditis & pericarditis are inflammation of the heart tissue. All of these are severe conditions and potentially fatal.
  • As of December 6, 2022, a total of 92,003 Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) have been reported in India since the start of the COVID-19 vaccination. (The Union Health Ministry)

{GS3 – Envi – CC} Double Jeopardy: Pollinator-Plant Mismatch

  • Context (DTE): The intricate dance between pollinators and plants is under threat due to climate change.
  • This critical mismatch in their cycles and behaviours has far-reaching consequences for both species.

Fruit Production Decline

  • In regions like the Himalayas, rising temperatures have led to the early flowering of plants.
  • It coincides with low pollinator availability.
  • For instance, apple and almond production has suffered due to reduced pollination.
  • Orchard owners now import honeybees and diversify pollinators to ensure fruit yield quality.

Genetic Diversity at Risk

  • Cross-pollination, where plants mix genes, is essential for genetic diversity.
  • Disruptions in plant-pollinator interactions hinder this process.
  • Self-pollination can lead to inbreeding depression, making species more susceptible to diseases and reducing their ability to combat climate change.
  • Inbreeding depression refers to the reduced biological fitness that can result from inbreeding, which occurs when closely related individuals breed.

Changing Traits

  • A study found that the species Velleia paradoxa altered flower colour by increasing UV-absorbing pigments to adapt to high UV radiation.
  • This made the flowers less attractive to pollinators.

Carbon Dioxide Impact

  • Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels alter plant defence mechanisms and nutritional quality.
  • While plants produce more carbohydrates, the sugary food attracts herbivores like fruit flies and grasshoppers, discouraging other pollinators.

Invasive Species

  • Climate change facilitates the spread of invasive species, diverting pollinators from native plants.
  • This shift can create a feedback loop, leading to declines in both pollinator and plant populations.

What is Pollination?

  • Pollination refers to the transfer of pollen from the anther (the male part) of a flower to the stigma (the female part) of the same or another flower.
  • This process enables fertilisation and the production of seeds.
  • Without pollination, many plants would not be able to reproduce.

Types of Pollination

  • Self-pollination: pollen grains from the anther fall directly onto the stigma of the same flower.
  • Advantages:
  • Ensures that recessive characters are eliminated.
  • Wastage of pollen grains is minimal.
  • Maintains the purity of the genetic race.
  • No reliance on external factors (like wind or other agents).
  • Disadvantages:
  • Reduced genetic diversity due to lack of gene mixing.
  • Reduced vigour and vitality in offspring.
  • Lower immunity to diseases.
  • Cross-pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower (of the same species).
    • Types of Cross-Pollination:
    • Anemophily: Pollination by wind (common in grasses and some trees).
    • Zoophily: Pollination by animals, including insects (like bees, butterflies, and beetles), birds, and bats.
    • Anthropophily: Pollination by humans (rare but can happen unintentionally).
  • Advantages:
  • Increases genetic diversity.
  • Enhances vigour and adaptability.
  • Promotes disease resistance.
  • Open pollination: includes both self-pollination and cross-pollination.
    • Occurs when pollen is transferred naturally, without human intervention.
    • Open-pollinated plants contribute to biodiversity and adaptability.

Agents of Pollination

  • Animals: Insects (bees, butterflies, beetles), birds, bats, and even some mammals.
  • Wind: Wind-pollinated plants release lightweight pollen grains that are carried by air currents.
  • Water: Aquatic plants rely on water for pollination.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Trade in donkey skin banned

  • Context (DTE): A historic decision has been made by the African Union to ban the trade in donkey skin, recognising the socioeconomic importance of donkeys in Africa.
  • It was announced at the African Union summit in Ethiopia.
  • It prohibits the killing of donkeys for their skin across the continent.
  • The decision follows the Dar es Salaam declaration from the first AU-IBAR Pan-African Donkey Conference in December 2022.

Donkey Skin Trade

  • Donkey skin is used to make the traditional Chinese medicine ejiao (a gelatine manufactured by boiling donkey skin).
  • It is in constant demand, fuelling a global trade that is vicious, unsustainable and opportunistic.
  • In five years between 2016 and 2021, ejiao production is estimated to have increased by 160 per cent.
  • The ejiao industry now requires a minimum of 5.9 million donkey skin annually to keep up with the latest Chinese demand, the organisation noted.
  • The demand for donkey skin reduced the donkey population in China from 11 million in 1992 to just under two million.
  • So, the demand for ejiao is met primarily by imported skin sourced from South America and Africa.
  • Africa is particularly affected by this, as it is home to over two-thirds of the 53 million donkeys estimated to exist worldwide.
  • Brazil is also likely to impose a ban on the illegal donkey skin trade. This may disrupt the supply chain and the ejiao industry in China.


  • Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones with water.
  • It is usually obtained from cows or pigs.
  • It is used in,
    • Shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics.
    • As a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (such as Jell-O).
    • In candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, and yoghurts.
    • On photographic film.
    • In vitamins as a coating and as capsules,
    • It is sometimes used to assist in clearing wines.
  • Gelatin is not vegan. However, there is a product called agar-agar that is sometimes marketed as gelatin, but it is vegan. It is derived from a type of seaweed.

{GS3 – Envi – Pollution} Micro and nano-plastics in bottled water

  • Context (TH): A recent study has found that a litre of bottled water may contain over one lakh particles of micro– and nano-plastics. Of these particles, 90% are identified as nano-plastics.
  • Nano plastics are hard to analyse because of their tiny size, making it challenging for diagnostic techniques.
  • The researchers used a specialised hyperspectral stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) imaging platform in their experiment.
  • SRS microscopy uses the Raman effect, a.k.a. Raman scattering.
  • This platform captured various images of an object’s molecules at different wavelengths, offering a detailed picture for understanding its composition.
  • Along with SRS imaging, an automated algorithm devised by the team was used to identify plastics.
  • The algorithm extracted detailed information, i.e. at the single-particle level, about the chemical makeup from the data produced by the SRS platform.
  • Plastics in bottled water are of the following types: polyamide 66, polypropylene (PP), polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
  • Micro means one-millionth.
  • Nano means one-billionth.

Raman scattering

  • Raman scattering is named after Indian physicist C. V. Raman, who discovered it in 1928.
  • For his observation of this effect, Raman was awarded the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • Raman scattering has given rise to several critical technologies, and foremost among these is Raman spectroscopy.
  • When light is irradiated on molecules, the light is scattered by molecules.
  • Most scattered light has the same frequency as incident light, but some fraction of light has different frequencies due to the interaction between the oscillation of light and molecular vibration.
  • Rayleigh scattering
    • Most light passing through a transparent substance undergoes Rayleigh scattering.
    • This is an elastic effect, which means that the light does not gain or lose energy during the scattering. Therefore, it stays at the same wavelength.
  • Raman scattering
    • It is different in that it is inelastic. The light loses or gains energy during the scattering process and, therefore, increases or decreases in wavelength respectively.
    • Raman scattered light contains various information on molecules in a substance.

A diagram of light by molecules
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Why is the sky blue & Sun is Yellow?

  • The wavelength of light influences the amount of scattering.
  • Shorter wavelength violet and blue light are Rayleigh scattered more than the longer wavelengths (yellow and especially red light)
  • As a result, we see blue light coming from all parts of the sky. Additionally, the scattering of blue light from the Sun’s direct path contributes to the Sun appearing yellow.
  • Which parts of the visible spectrum enter our eyes determines which colours we perceive.

{GS3 – IE – Industry} Semiconductor Chip Manufacturing

  • Context (IE): Minister of State for Electronics and IT recently confirmed that the Tata Group and Israeli chip company Tower Semiconductor have applied to set up foundries in the country.
  • If the proposals are cleared by the government’s India Semiconductor Mission (ISM), it could pave the way for the country to have a fabrication plant after decades of failed attempts.

Steps taken to attract chipmakers

  • Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme: In 2021, India announced its roughly $10 billion PLI scheme to encourage semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country.
    • As part of its $10 billion incentive scheme, the country is offering a substantial 50% capital expenditure subsidy at the central level.
  • Design-Linked Initiative (DLI) scheme to drive global and domestic investment related to design software, IP rights, etc., was announced.
  • India’s chip incentive scheme encompasses three main aspects of the ecosystem.
    • Firstly, it includes full-blown foundries capable of manufacturing chips.
    • Additionally, it covers packaging plants known as ATMP facilities.
    • Lastly, it supports assembly and testing projects referred to as OSAT plants.
  • Moreover, state governments are adding extra incentives to make the offer even more attractive.

Significance of Chip Manufacturing

  • Aids the government’s vision to develop a domestic electronics supply chain and eventually reduce imports from foreign countries, especially China.
  • It contributes to job creation within India, fostering economic growth.
  • India can gain a strategic position in global technology geopolitics, challenging the dominance of China and the United States in this crucial sector.

Earlier fab proposals

  • A joint venture between Foxconn (manufacturer of iPhones) and Vedanta to set up a $19.5 billion chip plant came to an abrupt halt last year.
  • Tower had earlier applied to the scheme to set up a $3 billion plant in Karnataka in partnership with international consortium ISMC. The plan, however, got stuck due to the company’s then impending merger with Intel.
  • There was a third fab proposal by Singapore-based IGSS Venture, but it was not found up to the mark by the advisory committee of the government.

Proposals on the table

  • Investments in ATMP facilities: US-based Micron Technology has cleared its proposal to set up a $2.75 billion ATMP plant, with the facility coming up in Gujarat.
  • Investments in foundries: The Tata Group and Tower Semiconductor have proposed a total investment of about $22 billion.
  • Investments in OSAT: CG Power and Industrial Solutions has entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with Renesas Electronics America and Thailand-based Stars Microelectronics. Kaynes Technology has also sent a proposal.

To know more about India’s semiconductor industry in detail, visit > What is ailing India’s Semiconductor Industry?

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Black holes

  • Context (DTE): A recent paper in Nature Astronomy reveals the discovery of a black hole named J0529-4351. This black hole is said to be the brightest object currently known in the universe.
  • It is 500 trillion times brighter than the Sun. To release such an immense amount of energy, the black hole must consume approximately the equivalent of a Sun’s worth of material every day.
  • It is also 15 to 20 billion times the mass of our Sun.

About Black holes

  • Black holes are extremely dense, with such strong gravitational attraction that not even light can escape.
  • Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of black holes in 1916 with his general theory of relativity.
  • In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration released the first image ever recorded of a black hole.
  • Black holes do not die, but they are theoretically predicted to evaporate over extremely long-time scales, eventually slowly.
  • Hawking predicted that black holes could also radiate away energy and shrink very slowly.
  • Black holes grow by the accretion of matter nearby their immense gravity pulls in that.
  • Black holes are not wormholes. Wormholes can be thought of as tunnels that connect two separate points in space and time.
  • Black holes have three layers. The outer and inner event horizon, and the singularity.
  • The event horizon of a black hole is the boundary around the mouth of the black hole, past which light cannot escape.
  • The inner region of a black hole, where the object’s mass lies, is known as its singularity. The single point in space-time where the mass of the black hole is concentrated.
  • Astronomers have identified about one million rapidly growing supermassive black holes in the universe.
  • They have masses equivalent to millions or billions of Suns.
  • They achieve rapid growth by pulling stars and gas clouds from stable orbits into an orbiting material ring known as an accretion disc.
  • Despite being more than 12 billion light years away, the intense glow makes the black hole’s feeding activity visible from Earth.
  • In 2015, astronomers using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from merging stellar black holes.
  • Sagitarrius A* is the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
  • The first black hole ever discovered was Cygnus X-1, located within the Milky Way.
  • The closest black hole to Earth is dubbed The Unicorn and is situated approximately 1,500 light-years away.
  • Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Earth. It consists of 3 stars (Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, Proxima Centauri). Proxima Centauri is the nearest of the three to Earth

Types of Black holes

  • So far, astronomers have identified three types of black holes.
    • Stellar black holes: When a star uses up all its fuel, it may collapse. Smaller stars (about three times the sun’s mass) turn into neutron stars or white dwarfs. But larger stars, when they collapse, keep compressing and form stellar black holes.
    • Supermassive black holes: may be the result of hundreds or thousands of tiny black holes that merge. Large gas clouds could also be responsible, collapsing together and rapidly accreting mass. They could also arise from large clusters of dark matter.
    • Intermediate black holes form when stars in a cluster collide in a chain reaction.
  • Dark matter is completely invisible. It emits no light or energy and thus cannot be detected by conventional sensors and detectors.

How are Space probes for distant objects possible?

  • Space probes use slingshot manoeuvres to get a boost from planets to access hard-to-reach parts of the Solar System.
  • The slingshot manoeuvre, also known as a gravity assist, is a space exploration technique that uses the gravitational force of a planet or other celestial body to alter and boost the speed and trajectory of a spacecraft.
  • It can add or subtract momentum to increase or decrease the energy of a spacecraft’s orbit.
  • Imagine a spacecraft approaching a planet. It utilises the planet’s gravity to gain speed and change its direction, similar to a slingshot effect.
  • This technique helps spacecraft conserve fuel and reach their destinations more efficiently.
  • Several robotic spacecraft have used the gravity assist technique to achieve their targets. For example,
    • Voyager 2 flew by Jupiter for reconnaissance and a trajectory boost to Saturn.
    • Galileo took one boost from Venus and two from Earth while orbiting the Sun en route to its destination, Jupiter.

What are accretion disks?

  • An accretion disk is a flattened, circular, or elliptical structure that is formed when material falls towards a strong gravitational force, such as a star or a black hole.
  • Accretion discs are gateways to a place where nothing returns, and they are not friendly to life.
  • They’re like giant storm cells with clouds that glow at extremely high temperatures, reaching tens of thousands of degrees Celsius.
  • Accretion disks are found surrounding a variety of celestial bodies.
  • The biggest accretion disks, on the scale of the Solar System, are found surrounding the centres of active galaxies.
  • The X-rays released from accretion disks can be observed and used to locate black holes.

How are black holes formed?

  • Black holes are expected to form via two distinct channels.
    • According to the first pathway, they form when massive stars die.
    • Stars whose birth masses are above roughly 8 to 10 times the mass of our sun, when they exhaust all their fuel (hydrogen), explode and die, leaving behind a black hole.
  • Another way that black holes form is from the direct collapse of gas.
    • This results in more massive black holes with a mass ranging from 1000 times the mass of the sun or even up to 100,000 times the mass of the sun.

To know how black holes form (Infographic), you can visit > Stellar Evolution.

{Prelims – In News} Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Day

  • Context (PIB): PM greeted on Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Day.
  • Arunachal Pradesh, meaning “Land of the Rising Sun”.
  • During the British era, Arunachal Pradesh was known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA).
  • It was part of Assam until 1972 when it became an Indian Union territory.
  • In 1987, Arunachal Pradesh achieved full statehood within India.
  • The Tibet Autonomous Region of China borders it to the north.
  • The Lesser Himalayas and the Great Himalayas dominate its northern border.

{Prelims – In News} Statehood Day of Mizoram

  • Context (PIB): PM extended his wishes to the people of Mizoram on Statehood Day.
  • The formalisation of Mizoram State took place on 20th February 1987 after the 53rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, 1986.
  • The Mizo Hills area was initially part of the Lushai Hills district within Assam during independence.
  • In 1954, it was renamed the Mizo Hills District of Assam.
  • Mizoram was granted the status of a Union Territory in 1972 after an accord with the moderates of the Mizo National Front (MNF).
  • The Union Territory of Mizoram attained full statehood in 1986 after signing the Mizoram Peace Accord with the Central government.
  • The Mizoram Peace Accord is a peace agreement signed between the Government of India and the MNF to put an end to the decades-long insurgency and unrest in Mizoram.

{Prelims – PIN} Shashi Tharoor

  • Context (TH | Mint): Shashi Tharoor, a prolific author and a diplomat-turned-politician, has been conferred France’s highest civilian honour, the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur”.
  • French Senate President presented the award to Tharoor, recognising his efforts in deepening Indo-French ties and commitment to international peace and cooperation.
  • The accolade was announced in August 2022.

Legion of Honour

  • It is the highest French decoration given to the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity.
  • It was established by former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
  • The Legion of Honour is divided into 5 degrees (lower to higher) – Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-Croix (Grand Cross).

A red and white flag with black text
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  • Although membership to the Legion of Honour is restricted to French nationals, foreign nationals who serve France or uphold its ideals may also be given a distinction of the Legion.

Indians who have received Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur

  • Durga Charan Rakshit was the first Indian to receive the honour in 1896 for his humanitarian work.
  • Mohamed Haniff – the Deputy Mayor of Pondicherry in French India – got it in 1937.
  • Elattuvalapil Sreedharan received the honour in 2005.
  • Cedric Prakash, Anjali Gopalan, Shah Rukh Khan, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Soumitra Chatterjee, Nadir Godrej, Manish Arora, Azim Premji are other recipients.
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