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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – June 20, 2024

{GS1 – A&C – Sites} Nalanda University

  • Context (IE): Nalanda University was inaugurated in Rajgir near the ancient Nalanda monastery ruins.

‘Reviving’ Nalanda

  • Then President APJ Abdul Kalam was the first to officially propose ‘reviving’ Nalanda in 2006 as a Bodhgaya Nalanda Indo-Asian Institute of Learning.
  • It was endorsed at the 2007 East Asia Summit in Mandaue, the Philippines, and re-iterated at the 2009 East Asia Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand.
  • The university was established through a joint effort of 17 countries other than India: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Parliament’s Nalanda University Act 2010 accorded it “national importance” status and laid down rules regarding its governance.
  • It started functioning in 2014 from a makeshift location, and the construction work started in 2017.
  • Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen became the University’s first Chancellor, and then-President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Visitor.

Nalanda Mahavira

A large brick building with a pyramid
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Credits: Wikipedia

  • Mahavira, in Sanskrit/Pali, means ‘great monastery’. Nalanda Mahavira was active from the fifth to the thirteenth century CE.
  • According to the early 7th century Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang, the local tradition explains that the name Nalanda came from a nāga (serpent deity) whose name was Nalanda.
  • Experts also point to the abundance of nālas (lotus stalks) in the area and believe that Nalanda would then represent the giver of lotus stalks.
  • A seal discovered at the site identifies a monarch named Shakraditya as its founder, which is the other name for Kumaragupta I of the Gupta dynasty.
  • Post-Gupta period, Harsha (Siladitya) of the Kannuaj and Pala rulers were notable patrons.
  • All Buddhist schools, as well as other faiths, were taught in Nalanda.
  • Under Silabhadra, Nalanda also taught the Vedas, Hindu philosophy, logic, grammar and medicine.
  • Candidates of other faiths who succeeded in passing a strict oral examination were admitted.
  • A strict code of conduct, including daily meditation and study sessions, was mandatory for students.
  • It was destroyed in 1193 by Turkish ruler Qutbuddin Aibak’s general Bakhtiyar Khilji.
  • Scottish surveyor Francis Buchanan-Hamilton rediscovered it in 1812. In 1861, Sir Alexander Cunningham identified it as an ancient university.
  • It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

{GS1 – WH – Events} Juneteenth

  • Context (IE): Observed on June 19 every year, it marks a pivotal moment in American history.
  • Juneteenth, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

History of Juneteenth

  • In 1863, US President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the freedom of all enslaved people within the rebellious states.
  • However, this proclamation did not immediately free all enslaved individuals.
  • Many slave owners in Confederate territories — Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia — refused to comply.
  • Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and issued General Order No. 3, announcing the end of slavery in Texas and proclaiming that all enslaved people were free.
  • On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved African Americans in the Confederate states were freed.
  • In 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act made Juneteenth a federal holiday.
  • It became the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr Day was established in 1983.

{GS2 – MHA – Schemes} National Forensic Infrastructure Enhancement Scheme

  • Context (PIB): Union Cabinet approved the National Forensic Infrastructure Enhancement Scheme.
  • The National Forensic Infrastructure Enhancement Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme.
  • Financial outlay of the Scheme will be provisioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs from its own budget.
  • Objective: To meet the heightened demand for Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) in the country due to the coming force of the three criminal laws that mandate forensic investigation for offences involving punishment of 7 years or more.
  • Components under the Scheme:
    • Establishment of Campuses of the National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU) in the country.
    • Establishment of Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSLs) in the country.
    • Enhancement of existing infrastructure of the Delhi Campus of the NFSU.
  • The scheme underscores the importance of high-quality, trained forensic professionals in the timely and scientific examination of evidence for an efficient criminal justice process, leveraging technological advancements and evolving manifestations and methods of crime.
  • The establishment of additional off-campuses of NFSUs and new CFSLs aligns with the Government of India’s goal of securing a high conviction rate of more than 90%.

{GS2 – MoT – Schemes} GREAT Scheme

  • The grants have been approved under the NTTM’s Grant for Research and Entrepreneurship across Aspiring Innovators in Technical Textiles (GREAT) scheme.

Objectives of GREAT Scheme

  • Support young innovators/entrepreneurs in Technical Textiles to translate prototypes to technologies/products.
  • Support commercialisation of technologies developed by innovators/startups in Technical Textiles.
  • Bring forward a culture of rapid translation of ideas/prototypes to products through collaboration and association of different partners in the country.
  • Establishment of start-ups ecosystem in Technical Textiles.


  • Under the scheme, the government provides a maximum fund support of INR 50 lakhs per startup for a period of 18 months.
  • The Ministry of Textiles additionally provides 10% of the total grant-in-aid to incubators.
  • The startup is required to invest at least 10% of the total sanctioned amount in two equal instalments.

{GS3 – Envi – CC Impacts} Decreasing Sno Persistence in HKH region

  • Context (TH | HT): The Indus, Ganga & Brahmaputra basins experienced a below-average snow persistence, as per a new report of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

Findings of the report

  • The Ganga River basin reached a record low snow persistence at 17% below normal since 2003.
  • The Amu Darya river basin recorded the lowest snow persistence at 28.2% below normal.
  • In the Indus River basin, snow persistence fell 23.3% below normal, with some positive patterns on the southern sides, mostly in the lower altitudes.
  • Snow persistence in the Brahmaputra basin was 14.6% below normal in 2024.
  • The Helmand River basin shows the most dramatic fall, with snow persistence reaching 31.8 per cent below normal.
  • The persistence of snow in China’s Yellow River basin exceeded the normal value by 20.2%.

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Credit: TH

Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)

  • The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is the world’s most important ‘water tower’, being the source of ten of Asia’s largest rivers as well as the largest volume of ice and snow outside the Arctic and Antarctica.
  • It stretches 3,500 kilometres and spans eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Snow persistence

  • Snow persistence is the fraction of time snow is on the ground. When the snow melts, it provides water to people and ecosystems.
  • In the river basins of the HKH region, snowmelt is the biggest source of water in the streams. Overall, it contributes 23% of the runoff to the region’s 12 major river basins every year.
  • The contribution to water supply varies from river to river, representing 74% of the river flow to the Amu Darya, 77% of the Helmand’s flow, 40% of the Indus’ flow & 10.3% to the Ganga river basin.

Reasons for anomalies in snow persistence

  • Weak western disturbances. These are low-pressure systems that originate over the Mediterranean, Caspian, and Black Seas and bring rain and snow to the HKH region in winter.
  • The region where these storms originate experienced persistently high sea-surface temperatures. The disruption weakened and delayed the arrival of the western disturbance, resulting in reduced winter precipitation and snowfall in the HKH region.
  • In the Yellow River basin, the East Asian winter monsoon brings cold, dry air from Siberia and Mongolia. When this cold air mass interacts with moist air from other regions, particularly the Pacific Ocean, it can result in snowfall over the higher altitudes of the upper Yellow River basin.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Sustainable Development Report, 2024

  • Context (DTE): The Sustainable Development Report, 2024, was released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
  • The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was set up in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General.
  • SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • They work closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

Key Findings

  • None of the 17 SDGs will be achieved by 2030. On average, only 16% of SDG targets are progressing well.
  • The situation is concerning for zero hunger (SDG 2), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), life below water (SDG 14), life on land (SDG 15), & peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

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Credit: Democracy without Borders

  • Nordic countries continue to lead in SDG achievement, and BRICS countries show some progress; least developed nations are falling further behind.
  • The report introduced a new index of countries’ support for UN-based multilateralism (UN-Mi). It examined countries’ engagement with the UN system.
    • The index revealed a clear correlation between a country’s commitment to global cooperation and its progress on SDGs.
    • Barbados leads the list, while the United States ranks last. India stands at 139th place.


  • Need to reform the global financial architecture.
  • Significant investment in public goods that transcend national borders.
  • Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) to strengthen the representation of “We the Peoples” at the UN.
  • Institute global taxation, for example, on CO2 emissions, air and sea travel, financial transactions, and other international goods and ‘bads,’ in order to mobilise sufficient global resources to provide the necessary global public goods.”
  • Access to affordable long-term capital to invest in areas like education (SDG 4) for Low and middle-income countries.
  • Implement innovative solutions like the FABLE (Future of Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-use, and Energy) pathways: 1) reduce overconsumption and limit animal-based proteins; 2) invest in increasing productivity; and 3) create inclusive and transparent monitoring systems to stop deforestation.

{GS3 – Envi – Degradation} Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cess

  • Context (TH): The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP) has proposed a Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cess for each household. Bengaluru generates about 5,000 tonnes of solid waste per day.
  • Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) levy user fees or SWM cess according to the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • According to these guidelines, ULBs must collect user fees/cess for SWM services provisions provided.
  • While there is no specified rate, ULBs typically charge about ₹30-50 per month as SWM cess, which is collected along with property tax.

Financial strain of solid waste management

  • ULBs typically deploy about 80% of their manpower and up to 50% of their annual budgets to provide SWM services to city residents.
  • Significant operational costs go towards salaries for waste collectors, drivers & processing plants.
  • Collection and transportation are resource—and labour-intensive and consume up to 85-90% of the SWM budget. Only about 10-15% is spent on processing and disposal of waste.

Operational and revenue challenges

  • Solid waste generated in Indian cities consists of about 55-60% wet biodegradable material and 40-45% non-biodegradable material.
  • Although 55% of the wet waste can be converted into organic compost or biogas, the yield is as low as 10-12%, making both composting and biogas generation from solid waste financially unviable.
  • Typically, operational revenue from waste processing facilities covers only about 35-40% of operational expenses, with the rest subsidised by the ULB.
  • Additionally, disposing of non-compostable and non-recyclable dry waste is expensive because the material needs to be shipped to cement factories or waste-to-energy projects.

Way forward

  • Segregation of waste at source: It can increase yields from composting operations by up to 20%.
  • Reducing single-use plastic: The increase in non-recyclable single-use plastics has posed significant challenges for ULBs.
  • Decentralised composting initiatives: Residents in urban areas often oppose large-scale composting facilities due to odour and leachate issues.
    • Cities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have successfully implemented Micro Composting Centers (MCCs) at the ward level, processing wet waste locally and reducing transportation costs.
  • Bulk waste generators to process their own waste: Large institutions with adequate space can set up in-house waste processing facilities.


{GS3 – Envi – Pollution} Global Decline in DDT and Other POPs

  • Context (DTE): A new study has revealed a decline in the levels of Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and 11 other Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in humans and the environment since 2004.

Key Findings

  • The study, conducted under the Global Monitoring Plan implemented by the UNEP and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), monitored 30 POPs listed under the Stockholm Convention.
  • The decline is attributed to stricter regulations implemented after the Stockholm Convention in 2004.
  • For example, DDT concentrations in human milk samples have dropped by over 70% globally since 2004 despite remaining the most prevalent POP in some regions.
  • Despite the decline of some POPs, others post concern. Dieldrin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), long-regulated chemicals, were detected at high levels in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
  • Alarmingly, chemical replacements for banned POPs, found to have similar properties, have been detected at high levels. The report highlights per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS, exceeding EU and US standards in human milk and drinking water on remote islands.

{GS3 – IE – Energy} Viability Gap Funding Scheme for Offshore Wind Energy

  • Context (PIB): The Union Cabinet has approved the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) scheme for offshore wind energy projects with a total outlay of Rs. 7453 crore.
  • It aims to implement the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, 2015, with the goal of exploiting India’s vast offshore wind energy potential within its exclusive economic zone.
  • The National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, 2015 aims to provide a framework for the development of offshore wind energy projects in India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial waters.

VGF for Offshore Wind Energy

  • Government VGF support will reduce the cost of power from offshore wind projects, making them more attractive for electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs) to purchase.
  • Private developers will be chosen through a transparent bidding process to establish the projects.
  • Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) will be responsible for constructing the power evacuation infrastructure, including offshore substations.
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
  • The construction and operation of offshore wind energy projects require specific port infrastructure to handle the storage and movement of heavy and large-dimension equipment. The Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways will support two ports to meet these requirements under the scheme.
  • The scheme involves the installation and commissioning of 1 GW of offshore wind energy projects (500 MW each off the coasts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu).
  • This scheme will initiate offshore wind energy development in India, creating an ecosystem to support 37 GW of offshore wind energy, with an investment of ~Rs. 4,50,000 crore.
  • The government has permitted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 100 per cent under the automatic route for renewable energy projects, including offshore wind energy projects.

Viability Gap Funding (VGF) Scheme

  • The Viability Gap Funding (VGF) Scheme aims to support infrastructure projects that are economically justified but slightly lack financial viability. This support is available only for projects where private sector sponsors are chosen through competitive bidding.
  • The total VGF provided under the scheme is capped at 20% of the total project cost, with the possibility of additional government grants up to another 20%.

Offshore Wind Energy

  • Offshore wind energy (renewable energy source) refers to the generation of electricity from wind turbines installed in bodies of water, typically in the ocean or sea, away from the shoreline.
  • The electricity generated by offshore wind turbines is transmitted to the shore through submarine cables, which are buried in the seafloor to protect them from anchors, trawling, and other potential hazards.
  • Advantages: Higher adequacy and reliability, Lower storage requirement, Higher employment potential.
  • Commissioning 1 GW of offshore wind projects will generate 3.72 billion units of renewable electricity annually, reducing CO2 emissions by 2.98 million tons per year for 25 years.

Illustration of an offshore wind site.


Offshore Wind Energy in India

  • Presently, there is no offshore wind power capacity under commissioning in the country.
  • The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) in Chennai will be the nodal agency for resource assessment, surveys, and studies in the EEZ, demarcating blocks, and facilitating developers for wind farms.
  • Eight zones off Gujarat and Tamil Nadu coasts were identified as high-potential regions for offshore wind energy through LiDAR-based wind resources and bathymetry assessment.

{GS3 – IE – Taxes} Angel Tax

  • Context (IE): Amid declining startup funding and job losses, Indian Inc. has urged the removal of the expanded Angel Tax from the Finance Bill 2023.

Angel tax

  • Angel tax is an income tax (30.6%) levied on unlisted companies that issue shares to investors at a price exceeding the fair market value.
  • The tax was introduced in 2012 to curb money laundering through inflated valuations of startup shares.
  • The Finance Act 2023 amended Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income-tax Act, extending the Angel Tax to non-resident investors from April 2024.

Concerns raised by the Industry

  • The industry argues that Angel Tax hinders startups’ growth and job creation, as taxes levied on the difference between the issue price and FMV have hurt funding for startups.
  • Investors often fund startups based on their future potential, not just current valuation, and Angel Tax penalises this practice. Recent data shows a decline in startup funding and job losses linked to Angel Tax.
  • CII recommended eliminating Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income-tax Act to boost capital formation.

Recent Developments

  • The government has partially addressed industry concerns by:
    • Exempting DPIIT-recognised startups from Angel Tax.
    • Excluding investors from 21 countries (US, UK, etc.) from Angel Tax on non-resident investments.
  • However, key investment source countries like Singapore, Netherlands, and Mauritius are still not exempt.

For more Details: visit > Angel Tax

{GS3 – Infra – Ports} Vadhavan Port

  • Context (IE) | (PIB): The Union Cabinet has approved the development of a Rs 76,200-crore all-weather greenfield deep draft major port at Vadhavan in Maharashtra.
  • The project will be constructed by Vadhavan Port Project Limited (VPPL), a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) and Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB).
  • The port, projected to be among the world’s top 10, will create 1.2 million jobs.
  • It will feature nine 1,000-meter container terminals, four multipurpose berths (including a coastal berth), four liquid cargo berths, a Ro-Ro berth, and a Coast Guard berth.
  • The port’s capacities will aid EXIM trade flow through IMEEC (India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor) and INSTC (International North South Transportation Corridor).
  • The Cabinet approved road connectivity between the port and national highways by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and rail linkage to the existing network and upcoming Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor by the Ministry of Railways.
  • It is in alignment with the objectives of the PM Gati Shakti program to enhance economic activity and generate direct and indirect employment opportunities.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Sun Halo

  • Context (IT): A rare celestial event, “double sun halo“, was recently observed in the skies over Ladakh.
  • Sun halos are common in parts of India, but a double halo is rare, especially in regions like Ladakh.
  • A sun halo, also called a ’22-degree halo,‘ is an optical phenomenon caused by sunlight refracting through millions of hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.

Double Sun Halo

  • A double sun halo is a variation of the more common 22-degree halo, where two concentric rings of light appear around the sun.
  • In a double sun halo, two halos are visible – an inner halo with a radius of approximately 22 degrees and an outer halo with a radius of around 46 degrees from the sun’s centre.
  • It is a rare optical phenomenon caused by the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals in cirrus clouds.
  • These hexagonal ice crystals act as natural prisms, refracting and reflecting the sunlight at specific angles. The precise alignment of the ice crystals, with their flat faces parallel to the ground, is rare, making the double sun halo an uncommon sight.


  • Astronomers and atmospheric scientists study halos to understand:
    • Atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, and ice crystal distribution)
    • Properties of ice crystals causing the refraction
    • Improve weather forecasting models
    • Enhance understanding of atmospheric optics (light scattering and refraction phenomena)
  • Rare celestial events like this can attract tourists and nature enthusiasts, especially in places like Ladakh.

Sun Halo

Credits: India Today

{Prelims – Awards} Blue Planet Prize

  • Context (DTE): Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is one of the two recipients of the 2024 Blue Planet Prize. Prof. Robert Costanza is the other winner.

About the prize

  • An annual award by Japan’s Asahi Glass Foundation includes an award of $500,000.
  • It is awarded to individuals and organisations working for environmental conservation.
  • In 1992, the year of the Earth Summit, the Asahi Glass Foundation established the Blue Planet Prize.


  • IPBES is an intergovernmental body established in Panama City in 2012 by 94 Governments.
  • It is not a United Nations body. IPBES Secretariat: Bonn, Germany.
  • Aims to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
  • IPBES currently has more than 145 Member States. Various NGOs and civil society groupings also participate in the formal IPBES process as observers.
  • In the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, invasive alien species were identified as one of the main direct drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} New Species of Snake Eel Discovered in Odisha

  • Context (DH): The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have identified a new species of snake eel in Odisha.
  • The new species has been named ‘Ophichthus Suryai’ to honour Surya Kumar Mohanty, former joint director of the state fishery department.
  • The new species can be distinguished from its closely related congeners by having the dorsal fin origin (DFO) just above or slightly anterior to the gill opening.
  • It also has a unique vertebral count and teeth patterns on both jaws (maxilla and mandible).

Zoological Survey Of India Discovers New Eel Species Off Odisha Coast -  odishabytes

Credits: Odishabytes

Snake Eels

  • Snake eels belong to the fish family Ophichthidae.
  • They have an elongated, snake-like body with no pectoral and pelvic fins.
  • Their dorsal fin runs along the back, beginning just behind the head and continuing to the tail.
  • Snake eels are found in tropical and subtropical marine environments.
  • Many species live in shallow coastal waters, coral reefs, and estuaries.
  • There are over 200 species of snake eels. E.g. Shortfin snake eel (Ophichthus brevis), Longfin snake eel (Ophichthus cruentifer), Indian Ocean snake eel (Ophichthus rugosus), etc.
  • Snake eels are nocturnal predators that feed on crustaceans and small fish.

A white and black spotted eel
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Credits: Seaparadise

Zoological Survey of India

  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is a premier Indian organisation in zoological research and studies.
  • It is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • Established in 1916; Headquarter: Kolkata.
  • The objectives of the ZSI are to promote survey, exploration and research leading to the advancement of our knowledge on various aspects of animal life.
  • ZSI’s main focus areas are faunal exploration, taxonomic studies, status surveys of endangered species, environmental impact assessment, conservation, and training.
  • It has 16 regional centres located across different geographic regions of the country.

{Prelims – In News} Application of AlphaFold 3 in life sciences

  • Context (TH): The 3D structure of a protein-RNA ion was predicted by AlphaFold 3.
  • Protein-folding problem: The folding process followed by a protein to go from its straight form to its final form remains unanswered.
  • Knowing the evolution of protein shape is important for understanding the workings of cells & organisms.
  • AlphaFold uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict protein structures from an amino acid sequence accurately.
  • AlphaFold 3 uses a diffusion model, which is also used by image-generating software. The model works by first training on protein structures, adding noise to the data, and then trying to de-noise it.
  • This way, the model becomes able to work its way back from a noisy structure to a real protein structure.
  • AlphaFold 3 can predict protein-protein interactions, the structures of other molecules like DNA and RNA, and proteins’ interactions with all these other compounds.
  • It can potentially be used to find drug candidates that can bind to proteins and help cure diseases.
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