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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – June 02-03, 2024

Table of contents

{GS1 – A&C – Sites} Relation between Vedic people and Harappans

  • Contex (TH): Research is going on to establish a link between Vedic people and Harappan people.
  • Excavations at Rakhigarhi found evidence of ritual platforms and fire altars. Fire worship is also mentioned in Rigvedic texts.
  • Two sets of historians locate the origin of the Vedas in two different periods. One set dates it to between 1,500 BC and 2,000 BC, while another dates it farther back to 2,500 BC or 4,500 years ago.
  • This would coincide with the age of the genetic evidence from the erstwhile Harappan woman’s bone samples tested at the Rakhigarhi site.
  • The Saraswati River is recorded at least 71 times in the Rigvedic text. The majority of Harappan settlements were along its banks.

Saraswati

  • Currently, it is called the Ghagghar-Hakra river and flows only during the monsoon season.
  • Originates from Shivaliks & flows through Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan before entering Pakistan.
  • The Indian part of the river is named the Ghagghar, while the one in Pakistan is the Hakra.
  • Also, Rigvedic texts do not mention the use of iron, which makes them different from 2,400-year-old settlements near the Ganga Basin and the Deccan region.
  • A set of animal bones from the Surkotada region of Kutch, Gujarat, are debated to be either of a proper domesticated horse or of a wild ass.
  • Those who believe that the Harappans and Rigvedic people are the same cite that the animal bones are that of a horse, as horses are mentioned in Rigvedic texts.
  • However, those historians who date the Rigveda to after 2,000 BC believe that the animal bones were that of a wild ass as domesticated horses only came to India after 1,800 BC from central Asia.
  • Researchers had extracted DNA from the well-preserved petrous bone remains of a female skeleton (excavated from Rakhigarhi) dated to 4,600 years ago. The skeleton was not comparable to the Steppe or Iranian population, leading to the hypothesis that Harappans were indigenous.
  • NCERT recently made a major addition to the Class 12 History textbook, Themes in Indian History Part 1 in the chapter, ‘Bricks, Beads and Bones – The Harappan Civilisation’, based on DNA evidence from the 4,600-year old remains of a woman, indicating that the Harappans were an indigenous people.

Rakhigarhi

  • Location: Hisar, Haryana, near Ghaggar river, in the Ghaggar-Hakra river plain.
  • Dates back about 6500 BCE as part of the Indus Valley or Harappan Civilization.

Harappan Civilisation - PMF IAS

Credits: PLOS

{GS1 – Geo – EG – Mineral Resources} Coal Production in India

  • Context (TH): A recent report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project alleges that in 2014, the Adani Group falsely labelled low-grade Indonesian coal as high-quality and sold it at an inflated price to Tamil Nadu’s power generation company, TANGEDCO.

High-grade coal vs Low-grade coal

High-Grade Coal Low-Grade Coal
  • Coal with a higher Gross Calorific Value (GCV)
  • Coal with lower Gross Calorific Value (GCV)
  • Higher available carbon in a unit of coal
  • Lower available carbon in a unit of coal
  • Produces higher than 7,000 kcal/kg
  • Produces between 2,200-2,500 kcal/kg
  • It has a low moisture content
  • It has a high moisture content
  • Examples: Anthracite and Bituminous
  • Examples: Lignite and Peat
  • Clean coal refers to coal with increased carbon content and reduced ash content.
  • GCV refers to the total amount of heat released by combustion.

For more details: Visit – Coal in India, Types of Coal

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Union Government} Coalition Governments

  • Context (TH): While the INDIA alliance has yet to decide on its PM candidate, choosing a PM in coalition governments has been complex, and such leaders rarely complete a full term.

Appointment of Prime Minister in India

  • Article 75: The Prime Minister is appointed by the President.
  • If no party has a majority, he can invite the leader of the largest party or coalition to form the government.
  • The newly formed government must prove its majority in the Lok Sabha by winning a vote of confidence.
  • Coalition governments are formed through post-poll alliances and are based on a common minimum program agreed upon by the constituent parties.
  • There are no specific provisions in the Constitution for coalition governments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Coalition Government

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Representation of diverse interests
  • Consensus-based decision making
  • Better Centre-state relations
  • Checks and Balances
  • Innovative policy solutions
  • Better regional integration
  • Perceived instability
  • Difficulty in decision-making
  • Compromise on ideological positions
  • Policy Paralysis and Ineffective Governance
  • Increased Corruption
  • Short-term focus and dependence on alliance

{GS2 – Polity – Inter-State Disputes} Delhi’s Water Dispute

  • Context (IE): The Delhi government urgently approached the Supreme Court, seeking directions for Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to release additional water to the National Capital Territory.
  • The Delhi government mentioned that the plea is not about resolving inter-state water disputes but seeks temporary relief until the monsoon arrives.

Why did Delhi move to SC?

  • Himachal Pradesh has agreed to share surplus water with Delhi, but it must be transported through the Wazirabad barrage, requiring Haryana’s cooperation, which has not yet been provided.
  • With the Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi barrages at optimum levels, the Delhi government is urging Haryana to release the surplus water to meet the needs of residents, the workforce, and migrants.
  • Access to water is a basic human right as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Factors Contributed to the Water Shortage in Delhi

  • Heatwaves have significantly increased water demand along with the growing population.
  • The city relies on a few primary sources, such as the Yamuna River and the Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi barrages, which are already operating at optimum levels, leading to frequent supply cuts.
  • The lack of cooperation from Haryana has exacerbated the water crisis.

{GS3 – Envi – CC} Severe Temperature Rise in India **

  • Context (IE | TH): The North, Central, & NE India are experiencing record-breaking high temperatures.
  • Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 52.9°C, the highest on record in the capital. However, the IMD suggested this might be due to a sensor error or local factors, as it was an outlier.

Factors Behind the Severe Temperature Rise

Rise of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

  • The rise in temperatures is primarily due to increased emission of heat-trapping GHGs from human activities like burning fossil fuels, leading to global warming.
  • Since the Industrial Revolution, these emissions have made the Earth at least 1.1°C warmer than the 1850-1900 average.
  • The Indian subcontinent has seen a 0.7°C rise in annual mean temperatures since 1900.
Greenhouse Gas Sources (% contribution to Global Warming) Average Lifetime in the Atmosphere Possible Added Heat Over a 100-Year Period
Carbon Dioxide
  • Human sources (100%): Mostly the burning of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation/land-use change, and wildfires/biomass (plant material) burning
  • Natural sources (0%)
Hundreds to thousands of years (about 25% lasts effectively forever) CO2 is used as the reference point for other GHGs, so its possible added warming (or global warming potential, GWP) is 1.
Methane
  • Human sources (60%): Leaks from fossil fuel production and transportation, landfills, livestock digestion and manure, rice farming, natural gas, wildfires/biomass burning
  • Natural sources (40%)
About a decade 1 metric ton can trap about 30 times the heat of 1 metric ton of CO2.
Nitrous Oxide
  • Human sources (40%): Production and use of organic and commercial fertiliser, burning of fossil fuels and vegetation
  • Natural sources (60%)
About 110 years 1 metric ton can trap about 273 times the heat of 1 metric ton of CO2.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, namely CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113)
  • Human sources (100%): Refrigerants; solvents (a substance that dissolves others); spray-can propellants
  • Natural sources (0%)
52 to 93 years 1 metric ton can trap thousands to tens of thousands of times the heat of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide

El Niño

  • El Niño, an abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, also contributed to the record-breaking temperatures.
  • El Niño weakens the Walker Circulation, which disrupts the flow of moist air from the Indian Ocean towards the Indian subcontinent. This diminishes Indian Monsson and creates drier conditions.
  • El Niño also creates high-pressure areas over the Indian subcontinent, suppressing cloud formation and precipitation, contributing to the current heatwave in north and central India.
  • Walker Circulation involves air rising over the Maritime Continent in the tropical western Pacific, travelling eastward high in the atmosphere, and sinking over the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Loss of Tree Cover

  • The vast expanses of open areas with very little or no trees increase the impact of direct sunlight.
  • India has lost 2.33 million hectares of tree cover from 2001 to 2023, which is equivalent to a 6% decrease in tree cover since 2000 and 1.20 billion tonnes of CO₂e emissions.

Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect

  • The UHI effect causes urban areas to be warmer than their surroundings because materials like concrete and asphalt absorb and retain more heat than natural landscapes. Densely packed buildings also reduce airflow, preventing cooling.
  • The UHI effect contributes to global warming by increasing demand for energy, which leads to a higher production of GHGs.
  • Urbanisation alone has led to a 60% enhancement in warming in Indian cities.
  • The UHI effect can also impact climate factors other than heat, like rainfall, pollution, etc.

Impacts of Severe Temperatures

  • Increase in drought conditions: High temperatures increase evaporation rates, which, coupled with reduced precipitation, can exacerbate drought conditions. E.g. in North India.
  • Rainfall-related disasters: With every 1°C rise in average temperature, the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture. This intensifies storms by increasing precipitation intensity, duration and frequency, which ultimately can cause severe flooding. E.g., in NE India.
  • Deaths due to sunstrokes: Heatstroke or sunstroke is the most severe form of hyperthermia (heat-related illness). Heatstroke can lead to brain damage, organ failure or death.

Step Taken: Heat Action Plan (HAP)

  • HAPs usually include a combination of measures such as using forecasts and early warnings, public education campaigns on heatwave risks, building heat shelters and cooling centres, and providing clean water to prevent dehydration.
  • Delhi has a HAP in place for 2024-2025.

{GS3 – Envi – Pollution} Water Contamination

  • Context (DTE): Around 75% of sewage treatment plants managed by the Delhi Jal Board fail to treat faecal coliforms (FC) effectively, thus hindering the reuse of treated water.
  • High doses of UV or chlorination are applied to remove FC effectively. However, high chlorine doses can lead to the formation of carcinogenic compounds, while excessive UV dosage increases capital costs and reduces efficiency.

Coliform Bacteria

  • Coliform bacteria are organisms present in the environment (e.g., soil or vegetation) and in the faeces of all warm-blooded animals and humans.
  • They typically do not cause illness, but their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing pathogens might be present.

Faecal Coliforms (FC)

  • Faecal coliform bacteria are a sub-group of total coliform bacteria. They appear in great quantities in the intestines and faeces of people and animals.
  • The presence of faecal coliform in a drinking water sample often indicates recent faecal contamination.
  • The permissible limit for FC is 2,500 MPN (most probable number) /100 ml, while the desirable level is 500 MPN/100 ml.
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • E. coli is a sub-group of the faecal coliform group.
  • These bacteria benefit their hosts by producing Vitamin K2 and preventing pathogenic bacteria from colonising the intestine, forming a symbiotic relationship.
  • However, if these bacteria penetrate the kidney or other parts of the body, they can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis, hemorrhagic colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
  • Warm-blooded animals are animals that maintain a stable body temperature by regulating metabolic processes.
  • Vitamin K2 is crucial for blood clotting, bone health and heart health.

{GS3 – IE – Industry} Reverse Flipping of Startups

  • Context (TOI): The Indian startups are returning to India from overseas locations.
  • India has the 3rd largest startup ecosystem in the world, next to USA and China.

Reverse-Flipping

  • Reverse-flipping refers to the process of shifting a company’s domicile back to its home country from an overseas location to reposition itself for growth and success in its domestic market. E.g. PhonePe, Groww and Pine Labs have reverse-flipped to India.

Factors influencing Reverse Flipping

  • Stock Market Valuations: India’s attractive stock market valuations make it an appealing destination for launching IPOs compared to the US primary market.
  • Regulations in India, such as launching IPOs, data localisation requirements, and the easy securing of licenses, make it more favourable for startups to operate from within the country.
  • Indian startups capitalise on untapped local demand in tech and internet sectors, engaging with domestic consumers and investors, etc.
  • Indian-based startups benefit from accessing local investors and securing intellectual property rights by shifting operations back to India, which is crucial for investor confidence and business sustainability.
  • Unicorn is a startup company with a value of over $1 billion.
  • Decacorns are startups that have a valuation of over $10 billion.

{GS3 – IE – Inflation} RBI to keep the Repo Rate Unchanged

  • Context (IE): The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is expected to maintain the repo rate at 6.5% (eighth consecutive time) and keep the ‘withdrawal of accommodation‘ stance unchanged.

What can be the factors?

  • Persistent food inflation (supply-side disruptions), especially with ongoing heat wave conditions.
  • Limited government spending during elections led to liquidity deficit and liquidity pressure.
  • Uncertainty in the global economy, particularly the Federal Reserve’s policy outlook.
  • The RBI is expected to maintain tight liquidity in the coming months to keep pressure on short-term yields, which may support the rupee.

For more details: Visit >Monetary Policy Committee

  • Context (TH): India experienced a contraction in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows by approximately 3.5% in 2023-24 amid global economic uncertainties.
  • Singapore (overtook Mauritius) emerged as the largest source of FDI for India during this period.
  • Singapore and Mauritius account for ~50% of FDI inflows in India.
  • Foreign investments are crucial for India’s infrastructure development and economic growth. They help improve the balance of payments and strengthen the rupee.

How did Singapore emerge as the top FDI source for India?

  • Singapore attracts investors aiming to invest in Asia due to its status as a global financial hub.
  • India’s recent regulatory amendments, like the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) Regulations 2014 by SEBI, have created new opportunities for Singapore-based investors.
  • The India-Mauritius tax treaty amendment shifted investor preference towards Singapore, supported by its competitive domestic tax regime and efficient regulatory set-up.
  • The India-Mauritius Tax Treaty Amendment 2016 introduced a source-based taxation regime for capital gains, eliminating the significant tax advantage Mauritius previously offered.
  • There is a decline in overall FDI inflows by about 1% in 2023-24, with a 3.49% dip in equity inflows.
  • The U.S. (3rd largest investor – ~10%), Netherlands, and Japan remain significant investors.
  • FDI contracted in key sectors like services, computer software and hardware, trading, telecommunication, automobile, pharma, and chemicals. Construction, development, and power registered growth.
  • The top five states with the highest FDI equity inflow (2023-24) are Maharashtra (30%), Karnataka (22%), Gujarat (17%), Delhi (13%), and Tamil Nadu (5%).

Foreign Direct Investment

  • In FDI, the foreign company or investor is directly involved with day-to-day operations and takes ownership in another country, thus bringing knowledge, skills, and technology.
  • It is a non-debt monetary source.
  • FDI Routes: Government Route – for investment in sectors requiring prior approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB); Automatic Route – No need for government approval.
  • Types of FDI:
    • Horizontal FDI: Expansion of similar business operations in a foreign country to expand market reach, reduce transportation costs, and gain access to local markets.
    • Vertical FDI: Investment in various stages of production (backward or forward in the supply chain) to control the supply chain, reduce production costs, and secure inputs or market channels.
    • Conglomerate FDI: Diversification into completely different industries in a foreign market.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Chang’e 6 Mission

  • Context (TH): China’s Chang’e 6 mission’s spacecraft successfully landed in a huge crater known as the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon (the side that does not face the earth).

Chang’e Moon Exploration Programme

  • China’s lunar programme Chang’e (named after a Chinese moon goddess) has been launching lunar missions comprising orbiters, landers, rovers, and sample-return spacecraft since 2007.
  • While Chang’e 1 and 2 launched lunar orbiters, Chang’e 3 launched the Yutu rover, which conducted a series of experiments on the lunar surface.
  • The Chang’e 4 mission launched the Yutu-2 rover, which became the first rover to successfully soft-land on the moon’s far side. It landed in the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitkin Basin. The orbiter of Chang’s 4 was Queqiao.
  • Chang’e 5 mission’s lander landed on Mons Rumker, a vast volcanic plain and collected regolith (the layer of soil composed of loose rocks, dust, and other debris that covers the moon’s surface).
  • Chang’e 6 was a backup to Chang’e 5, and it will be followed by Chang’e 7 and 8 in 2026 and 2027.
  • Soft landing: Landings where the spacecraft is mostly undamaged and can lift off again if desired.
  • Rovers are wheeled payloads attached to the lander spacecraft that can detach and move independently on the moon’s surface. They collect close-quarters data and overcome the limitations of stationary landers. For e.g., Pragyaan Rover in the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Earliest-known Galaxy & James Webb Space Telescope

  • Context (IE): James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has spotted the earliest-known galaxy named JADES-GS-z14-0.

JADES-GS-z14-0: Earliest-known Galaxy

  • The galaxy was discovered under the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) program.
  • It was formed during the cosmic dawn. It existed about 290 million years after the Big Bang event that initiated the universe roughly 13.8 billion years ago.
  • This galaxy measures about 1,700-light years across. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, which is 9.5 trillion km.
  • Cosmic dawn is the time, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies burst into existence.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

  • NASA has collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to launch JWST in 2021.
  • JWST is the largest and most powerful infrared telescope ever launched into space.
  • It is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (which orbits the Earth at an altitude of 535 km).
  • JWST is not in orbit around the Earth. It actually orbits the Sun, 1.5 million kilometres away from the Earth at what is called the second Lagrange point (L2).
  • Objective: It will peer back over 13.5 billion years to examine every phase of cosmic history, from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own solar system.
Aspect JSWT Hubble Telescope
Vision JSWT can see first-formed galaxies and exoplanets as well as new-born galaxies Hubble can see only the smallest and the newest of all galaxies
Orbits Orbits the Sun Orbits the Earth
Wavelength Infrared radiations Ultraviolet and visible radiations

Lagrange Point

  • A Lagrange point is a point in space where the gravitational forces of two large bodies (such as the Sun and the Earth) balance the centrifugal force experienced by a smaller object (such as a satellite), allowing it to remain ‘fixed’ in relation to the larger bodies.
  • For any combination of two orbital bodies, there are 5 Lagrange points (L1 to L5), all in the orbital plane of the two bodies.

Lagrange points - PMF IAS

Source: NASA

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Paraparatrechina neela

  • Context (TH): Researchers have discovered a new ant species from Siang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.

    Paraparatrechina neela - PMF IAS

    Credits: The Hindu

  • The discovery marks the first addition to the Paraparatrechina genus from the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is a small ant with a total length of less than 2mm. The head is subtriangular with large eyes and has a triangular mouthpart (mandible) featuring five teeth.
  • Its body is metallic blue, except for the antennae, mandibles, and legs. Thus, the name “neela”.
  • As part of the “Abhor expedition, researchers documented the natural history and geography of the Siang Valley. The Abor Expedition was a punitive expedition against the Abors in Assam on the North-Eastern Frontier of India from 1911 to 1912.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) bird

  • Context (NIE): A migratory bird, the Eurasian whimbrel, was photographed in Chhattisgarh.
  • It has travelled to Central India via the Pakistan Flyway.
  • Chhattisgarh’s wetlands serve as the stopover for these birds to feed themselves and take a rest.
  • It is the first time in India such a GPS-tagged bird has been spotted and photographed.

About Numenius phaeopus

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) bird - PMF IAS

Credits: Wikipedia

  • It is a fairly large wader, though mid-sized, as a member of the curlew genus.
  • It is mainly greyish brown, with a white back and rump and a long curved beak with a kink.
  • The usual call is a rippling whistle, prolonged into a trill for the song.
  • Distribution and migration: It is a migratory bird wintering on coasts in Africa, and South Asia into Australasia (Australia, New Zealand and surrounding islands).
  • Diet: Small invertebrates, butterflies and berries. Conservation status: IUCN: LC CMS: Appx. II.

{Prelims – Sci – Bio} World’s Largest Genome

  • Context (TH): Tmesipteris oblanceolate, a fork fern species from New Caledonia, boasts the world’s largest genome.
  • It is a small plant (10-15 cm in height), and its leaf-like structures are not leaves but flattened stems.
  • Its genome size is 7% larger than the Japanese flowering plant Paris japonica (the previous record-holder), about 25% larger than Africa’s marbled lungfish (the biggest-known animal genome) and 50 times the size of the human genome.
  • Its genome is larger than that of a blue whale (the Earth’s largest animal), an African elephant (the largest land animal), and the giant redwood (the tallest plant).
  • A genome is the complete set of genetic material (DNA) in an organism.

Importance of Genome

  • Instructions for life: The genome contains all the information required for the growth, development, and functioning of an organism.
  • Medical applications: It helps in disease diagnosis by identifying genetic mutations and variations. It helps in tailoring personalised medicine and gene therapy.
  • Evolutionary biology: Genome analysis helps trace the evolutionary history, relationships between different species and genetic variation within populations to understand adaptation and natural selection.
  • Biotechnology: It helps develop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that improve crop yield, disease resistance, and nutritional value.
  • Public health: It helps in conducting epidemiology, which is required for developing effective treatment.
  • Epidemiology is the study of the determinants, occurrence, and distribution of health and disease in a defined population.

Reasons a Longer Genome Might Not Be Beneficial

  • Higher mutation rates: Longer genomes are more prone to mutations.
  • Higher energy and resource demands: Larger genomes require more resources and time for DNA replication, repair, and transcription (a process a cell uses to make the proteins an organism needs to function). This may slow down the organism’s growth and adaptability, making it ecologically restricted.
  • Non-coding DNA proportion: A significant portion of many larger genomes consists of non-coding DNA, which does not directly contribute to protein production. Much of non-coding DNA may be non-functional or “junk” DNA, adding bulk without benefit.

{Prelims – Science – Bio – Disease} Mitral Valve Disease

  • Context (TH): For the first in the Indian subcontinent, a dog undergoes non-invasive heart surgery (Transcatheter Edge-to-Edge Repair (TEER) procedure) at Delhi Vet Hospital to treat mitral valve disease.
  • Mitral valve disease is the most common heart condition in dogs globally (80%), including India.
  • The condition is caused by degenerative changes in mitral valve leaflets, leading to blood backflow in the heart’s left upper chamber and eventually congestive heart failure due to fluid accumulation in the lungs as the disease advances.
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