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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – June 11, 2024

{GS1 – IS – Issues} Identity Politics in India

  • Context (IE): There had been a renewed focus on identity politics by the main parties during the election campaign.

What is Identity Politics?

  • Identity politics refers to the tendency for individuals who share a specific racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity to create exclusive political coalitions in order to further their own interests independent of those of a broader political group.
  • Identity politics transcend all bounds of the political imaginary, challenging all ingrained preconceptions as well as the significance of race, caste, class, and sexual preferences.
  • The central idea behind identity politics is that people who share a common identity face similar experiences of discrimination & oppression, and thus need to band together to fight against those forces.

Identity Politics in India

  • In India, the notion of identity politics is rooted in the violent history of Partition and the demand for separate electorates for religious and caste identities.
  • Further, the State is seen as an active contributor to identity politics through the creation and maintenance of state structures that define and recognise people in terms of certain identities.

Drivers of identity politics in India

Language
  • After Independence in India, the political movements for the creation of new states developed on linguistic lines of identity. For e.g., the formation of Andhra state in 1953.
  • As language becomes an important premise on which group identities are organised, it establishes the conditions for defining the ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ and a continuous driver for ‘identity’ in India.
Caste
  • The origin of confrontational identity politics based on caste is said to have its origin on the issue of providing the oppressed caste groups with state support in the form of protective discrimination.
  • Caste based identity has been further reinforced by the emergence of political consciousness institutionalised by the caste-based political parties that profess to uphold and protect the interests of specific identities, including the castes.
    • For e.g. lower caste dominated Bahujan Samaj Party or Samajwadi Party.
  • It has resulted not only in the empowerment of newly emerging groups but also in increasing the intensity of confrontational politics, possibly leading to a growing crisis of governability.
Religion
  • India is a multi-religious country with a majority of Hindus (80%), followed by Muslims (14%), Christians (2 %), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), Jains (0.37%), and others (0.9%).
  • Indian history is replete with inter-religious conflicts due to the use of religion and its identity for partisan advantage, becoming a major challenge for India’s secular social fabric and democratic polity.
Gender
  • Gender in relation to identity politics connotes the struggle of identification for the presence and a demand for being respected and treated equally on par with other genders. For e.g. feminist movements and the gay liberation movements
  • These are intended to fight against the atrocities and towards the removal of certain social evils like child marriage, non-access to education, ill-treatment, etc., and to gain equal remuneration of work, social, economic and political rights as well.

Impact of Identity Politics

On Polity

  • Formation of coalition government based on identity and ideology (UPA, NDA).
  • Rise of dominant political parties. (BJP, Communist Parties etc.).
  • Rise of regional and state parties. (BSP, Shiv Sena etc.).
  • Impacts on neighbouring countries. (Impact of Tamil identity politics on India – Sri Lanka relations.)
  • Led to vote bank politics, where political parties focus mainly on the needs of particular social groups.

On Society

Positive
  • Increase in political awareness among marginalised and weaker sections of society.
  • Better representation to socially discriminated classes and minorities through legal measures such as reservation.
Negative
  • Sowed the seeds of hatred and enmity among different sections of society based on castes, religion, etc., resulting in clashes & riots disturbing the communal harmony and the secular nature of the nation.
  • Created limited or narrow-minded views of the citizens and political parties, which makes them intolerant towards other communities.
  • Responsible for divisive tendencies and fuelling separatist tendencies (Naga insurgency, Khalistan movement, Coorg demand for a separate state, etc.), posing threat to the unity & integrity of the nation.

{GS2 – IR – Foreign Policy} Neighbourhood First Policy

  • Context (IE | NDTV): The presence of leaders from South Asia & Indian Ocean at the swearing-in ceremony of India’s PM underlines Delhi’s continuing commitment to the “neighbourhood first” policy.

What is India’s Neighbourhood First Policy?

  • India’s Neighbourhood First Policy is unique in that it guides its approach towards the management of relations with countries in its immediate neighbourhood, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Objective: Enhancing physical, digital and people-to-people connectivity across the region, as well as augmenting trade and commerce.

Significance

  • Overcome low integration: Making unilateral concessions can help build trust and ‘dependency bonds’ to promote regional cooperation on emerging issues such as climate change, economic development, terrorism, etc.
  • Internal Security imperatives: Ensure a Coordinated Security approach to prevent internal and external non-state actors from destabilising the country and rapid resolution of boundary and water disputes. E.g., the Teesta water sharing agreement, Indus water treaty, etc.
  • Containment of increasing Chinese footprint in India’s neighbourhood: Improving relations with neighbours will counterbalance Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region and help India fulfil its goal of being a Net Security Provider in the region.
  • Leveraging soft power diplomacy: India’s deep cultural and historical connections with its neighbours strengthen people-to-people ties, solidifying India’s influence in the region through soft power diplomacy. For e.g. Buddhism as a tool to strengthen people-to-people ties in Southeast Asia.
  • Bridging development deficits: Actively engaging with neighbouring countries helps in the development of India’s northeastern states, thus narrowing development disparities in the region.
  • Support in multilateral forums: Working with neighbouring partners strengthens India’s leadership role in representing the interests of the Global South at international forums. This fosters better understanding and cooperation on global issues.

Challenges

  • Power asymmetry between India and its neighbouring nations: India’s engagement within the domestic political affairs of its neighbouring nations to safeguard its national interests portrays India as the hegemonic power in the region.
  • Identity crisis: India’s neighbours suffer from identity crisis vis-à-vis India as everything that they identify themselves with, for e.g. language, religion, customs, etc, traces its origin from Indian subcontinent and they find themselves under India’s looming shadow.
  • Delayed implementation of developmental projects due to logistical and bureaucratic challenges. For e.g. Kaladan multimodal project.
  • Geopolitical tensions: Issues like border disputes and political disagreements can complicate relationships.

Way forward

  • Proactive, fast-track diplomacy with neighbours & evolving a comprehensive Neighbourhood policy.
  • Following the doctrine of non-reciprocity as outlined in the Gujral Doctrine.
  • Desist from ‘big brotherly’ approach and remain detached from internal dynamics.
  • Expediting implementation of key projects, particularly development projects in hydropower and connectivity (Physical, Digital & People to people).
  • Development Diplomacy to project its ‘Soft Power’ in the region through Lines of Credit, grant assistance, humanitarian aid, educational scholarships and capacity-building programmes.

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Parliament} Powers of the Speaker

  • Context (IE): Once the Protem Speaker administers the oath to new members, the Lok Sabha proceeds to elect the Speaker (Article 93) as its Presiding Officer.
  • There are no specific qualifications required to become a Speaker, so any member can be considered.

Roles and Powers of the Speaker of Lok Sabha

Conducting the House

  • The Speaker controls and supervises House proceedings, deciding the agenda and modalities for conducting government business in consultation with the Leader of the House.
  • Grants permission for questions and discussions. Interprets and enforces the Rules of Procedure.

Questions and Records

  • Decides on the admissibility of questions raised by members.
  • Oversees the publication of House proceedings.
  • Can remove unparliamentary remarks (potentially shielding the government from criticism).

Voting

  • The Speaker can decide on voice votes or division votes (recording individual votes).
  • The Speaker has a casting vote (Article 100) in case of a tie (does not vote initially).

Disqualification of Members

  • Holds the power to disqualify MPs who defect from their party (Tenth Schedule of the IC).
  • In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that Assembly and Lok Sabha Speakers must decide disqualification pleas within three months, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Leader of the House

  • In the Lok Sabha, the ‘Leader of the House’ is the Prime Minister or a minister nominated by the PM.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the ‘Leader of the House’ is a minister and member of it nominated by the PM.
  • The office of the Leader of the House is not mentioned in the Constitution but is defined in the Rules of Procedure for the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Rule of Procedure

  • Article 118: Each House of Parliament may make rules for regulating, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, its procedure and the conduct of its business.

Pro tem Speaker

  • The pro tem Speaker is a temporary Speaker appointed by the President to preside over the first meeting of a newly constituted Lok Sabha after general elections.
  • Has all the powers of the Speaker under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in LS.
  • Pro tem Speaker administers the oath to the newly elected members of the Lok Sabha.
  • The office of the pro tem Speaker terminates when the new Speaker is elected.

{GS2 – Polity – IC} Special Package for Andhra Pradesh

  • Context (TH): The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, does not mention granting Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh. The demand for it resurfaced following the 2024 elections.
  • Andhra Pradesh does not meet the criteria for SCS as defined, and the Finance Commission has revoked it. However, the Centre provided AP with a special package (SP), which the state has accepted.
  • SCS for AP may not be entirely dismissed. The Union Government can reconsider and refer the matter to the 16th Finance Commission and the NITI Aayog for review, potentially reinstating the arrangement.

Special Package in Lieu of Special Category Status

  • It is aimed at compensating AP for the additional Central share (received between 2015-16 and 2019-20) if the funding of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) was shared in a 90:10 ratio.
  • The assistance was provided by way of repayment of loans and interest for Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) signed and disbursed by the State during the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period.
  • The SP included the acknowledgement of the Polavaram irrigation project as a national project with complete funding by the Union Government, along with tax benefits and additional aid.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Conservation of seals at Alaska

  • Context (DTE): Scientists and Indigenous leaders team up to conserve seals at Yakutat, Alaska.

Ancestral balance between people and nature

  • Migrating clans of the Eyak, Ahtna and Tlingit tribes settled the Yakutat fjord as the glacier retreated.
  • Clan leaders managed the hunt to avoid premature harvesting, overhunting or waste.
  • Tlingit residents continue this way of life in modern form, harvesting more than 100 different fish, birds, sea mammals, land game and plants for subsistence use.
  • Harbour seals are the most important; their rich meat and blubber are prepared using traditional recipes and eaten at everyday meals and memorial potlatch feasts.

Reasons for decline

Commercial hunting

  • The US purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 disrupted traditional sealing at Yakutat.
  • Yakutat was a principal hunting ground for the new industry from about 1870 to 1915.
  • Commercial hunting overtaxed seals’ capacity to reproduce, and the population crashed in the 1920s.
  • In the 1960s, the rise in prices for skins led to hunting exceeding the sustainable yield.
  • The seal population declined by 80 per cent—90 per cent.
  • Commercial sealing ended in 1972 with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, yet seals never recovered.

Climatic factors

  • Ocean warming, driven by global climate change and an unfavourable cycle of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, has reduced the number of fish that are important in seals’ diets.

Conservation efforts

  • Natives have changed their diet & reduced hunting, allowing the seals to raise their pups undisturbed.
  • The community cooperates with the authorities to monitor and co-manage the herd, contributing their indigenous expertise.
  • They have also been active in efforts to protect the seal rookery from disturbance by cruise ships.
  • The Yakutat people are recommitting to ancestral principles of responsible care and spiritual regard for seals, seeking to ensure the species’ survival.

Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina)

  • These are “true seals” of the Phocidae family, also sometimes called “common” or “hairseals.
  • They are covered with short, stiff, bristle-like hair. Colouration varies, but two basic patterns occur: light grey sides and belly with dark blotches or spots or a dark background with light rings.
  • Only a small hole on either side of their heads, with no ear flaps, distinguishes them from sea lions.
  • Harbour seals have a metabolic rate higher than land mammals of similar size, allowing them to generate a greater amount of body heat.
  • They are good swimmers. However, on land, they move awkwardly by undulating in a caterpillar-like motion because their pelvic bones are fused.
  • They can remain submerged for over 20 minutes. Oxygen-conserving adaptations that allow such dives include high blood volume, reduced peripheral circulation, reduced heart rate, and high levels of myoglobin (the oxygen-binding protein in muscle).
  • Harbour seals periodically emerge from the water to rest, give birth, and nurse their pups. In winter, they spend up to 80% of their time in the water.
  • Young pups are able to swim almost immediately after birth. Mature females mate shortly after weaning their pups. The embryo’s development is suspended for about 11 weeks, a trait called embryonic diapause (i.e., delayed implantation).
  • Diet: Fishes, octopus, and squid.
  • Behaviour: Usually solitary in water, but haul out in groups of a few to thousands.
  • Range: The North Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Alaska’s coast extends from Dixon Entrance north to Kuskokwim Bay and west throughout the Aleutian Islands.
  • IUCN status: LC.

    Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) - PMF IAS

    Credits: Alskasealife

{GS3 – S&T – Defence} India’s Quest for a Third Aircraft Carrier

  • Context (TH): Recent reports indicate the Indian Navy’s long-standing demand for a third aircraft carrier, designated Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-2 (IAC-2), is progressing.

Arguments for a Third Carrier

  • IAC-2 would complement INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, ensuring one carrier for each seaboard and a reserve, aligning with the Navy’s need for a two-pronged presence.
  • Building IAC-2 would preserve Cochin Shipyard Limited’s (CSL) carrier-building skills, preventing obsolescence similar to the ‘lost decade’ in Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilder’s (MDL) submarine construction.

Arguments Against a Third Carrier

  • The $5-6 billion cost for IAC-2 is considered high.
  • The advancements in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) technology could make carriers vulnerable.
  • The Navy lacks crucial submarines, corvettes, destroyers, and frigates. Building an aircraft carrier could divert resources from acquiring these essential assets.
  • The A2/AD is a multi-layered defensive strategy to deter enemy carrier operations.

Alternative Strategies

  • A “sea denial” strategy focused on deploying submarines could be a more cost-effective approach.
  • Upgrading existing fighter jets and equipping them with enhanced maritime strike capabilities could be a more secure and economical alternative to an aircraft carrier.
  • A2/AD Archipelago: Upgrading the military capabilities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to create an A2/AD zone is proposed as a cheaper and unsinkable alternative to a carrier.
  • Sea denial refers to preventing or restricting the enemy’s military and commercial use of the sea, either partially or entirely. It is an anti-access strategy leveraging cheaper asymmetric capabilities.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Giant outburst of a distant X-ray binary

  • Context (Phys): Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) onboard the International Space Station observed a giant outburst at a distant X-ray binary known as EXO 2030+375.

X-ray binary

  • X-ray binaries are a class of binary stars that are luminous in X-rays.
  • These X-rays are produced by matter falling from one component (donor, usually main sequence star) to the other component (accretor, either a neutron star or black hole).
  • Based on the mass of the companion star, astronomers divide them into low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) and high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs).
  • Be/X-ray binaries (Be/XRBs) are the largest subgroup of HMXBs. These systems consist of Be stars and, usually, neutron stars, including pulsars.
  • Observations have found that most of these systems showcase weak, persistent X-ray emissions that are interrupted by outbursts lasting several weeks.

Binary star

  • It is a system of two gravitationally bound stars orbiting a common centre of mass (barycenter).
  • Stars in a binary system do not necessarily have the same mass, size or brightness.
  • The larger star of a binary couple is called the primary star, while the smaller one is known as the secondary star or the companion star.
  • It is estimated that around 85% of stars exist in binary star systems or three or more stars.

    X-ray binary - PMF IAS

    (Mira and its nearby companion)

    Credits: Space.com

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Przewalski horses (Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii)

  • Context (TH): Przewalski horses are being reintroduced to the Kazakh steppe.
  • The Kazakh steppe is the native habitat of this endangered species. Przewalski horses are commonly referred to as one of the world’s last breeds of wild horses.
  • Appearance: Stockily built with large heads, shorter legs and smaller size than the domestic horses.
  • They are genetically different from modern domestic horses. Przewalski has 33 chromosome pairs, compared to 32 for the domestic horse.
  • Behaviour: Horses maintain visual contact with their family and herd at all times and communicate using multiple methods, including vocalisations, scent marking, and a wide range of visual and tactile signals.
  • Gestation Period: 11–12 months. They reach sexual maturity at two years of age.
  • The horses are capable of resisting harsh winters like the ones in Kazakhstan, where temperatures can drop below minus 30 degrees C, and food runs scarce.
  • Distribution: Mainly in China and Mongolia, but also in France and Russia.
  • Przewalski horses flourished even in the Chornobyl exclusion zone between Belarus and Ukraine.
  • It is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky.
  • Once extinct in the wild, it has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia in the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, and in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
  • IUCN status: EN.

    A donkey standing in a field
Description automatically generated

    Credits: Wikipedia

{Prelims – Sci – Physics} Heat: An Ever-Present Force

  • Context (TH): Heat has been present since the birth of the universe and will persist until its death.
  • The Industrial Revolution, fueled by steam-powered engines, exemplifies its transformative power.

Heat – Basics

  • At the microscopic level, temperature is the average kinetic energy of an object’s constituent particles.
  • Heat flows from hotter to colder objects until they reach equilibrium.
  • It is a form of energy studied through thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. It can be transferred within a medium and used for various applications.

Heat, Work, and Entropy

  • Heat and work have the same physical dimensions, but not all heat can be converted into useful work.
  • Entropy represents the disorderliness in a system, preventing heat from contributing to useful work.
  • Adiabatic processes involve work without heat exchange and are reversible.

Applications of Heat

Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs)

  • ICEs convert heat to mechanical work, exemplifying the practical application of the theoretical Carnot cycle (a theoretical model for maximum efficiency in converting heat to work).
  • Cycle involves 4 steps: isothermal expansion & compression, and isentropic expansion & compression.
  • Each step manipulates the temperature and pressure of a gas to extract work.

Thermal Power Plants

  • Thermal Power plants utilise the Rankine cycle, which also operates in four steps: isentropic compression, heat addition, isentropic expansion, and heat removal.
  • Heat from sources like coal is used to generate steam, which drives turbines to produce power.
  • In Isentropic Expansion gas or vapour expands adiabatically (no heat transfer to or from the surroundings) and reversibly. In Isentropic Compression, gas or vapour is compressed adiabatically.
  • During both the process, the entropy of the system remains constant, hence the term “isentropic.

Other Applications

  • Metallurgy and Materials Science: Heat treatments are crucial for shaping and strengthening materials.
  • Mining and Refineries: Heat is used in various processes for extracting and refining resources.
  • Chemical Reactions: Many chemical reactions require specific heat conditions to proceed.
  • Meteorology: Heat transfer in the atmosphere drives weather patterns.
  • Transportation: Heat engines power vehicles like cars and aeroplanes.
  • HVAC Systems: Heat is used to heat buildings and cool them through refrigeration or ACs.

Heat and Climate Change

  • The global response to climate change involves two main strategies: mitigation and adaptation.
  • Mitigation involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat and contribute to global warming.
  • Researchers are developing new ways to produce heat energy without fossil fuel combustion or reducing emissions from existing technologies.
  • Adaptation involves preparing for the consequences of rising temperatures, such as heat waves. This includes improving public health measures and infrastructure to cope with extreme heat.

Role of Heat in Geography

  • Heat drives climate and weather patterns, causing temperature, air pressure, and density differences that lead to atmospheric circulation and weather events like winds, clouds, and precipitation.
  • Heat is essential for the hydrological cycle through evaporation.
  • Heat influences rock weathering, with high temperatures causing mechanical breakdown and accelerating chemical weathering processes, thereby influencing landform development.
  • The Earth’s internal heat also drives the evolution of landforms through glacier melting, tectonic plate movement, and volcanic activity.
  • Heat determines plant and animal distribution, influencing species survival and ecosystem diversity.
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