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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – May 14, 2024

{GS1 – A&C – Literature} Tevaram and Divya Prabandam *

  • Context (TH): The Madras HC said that the Tevaram scripture of Saivism and the Nalayira Divya Prabandam of Vaishnavism are vital for the sustenance of the country’s culture and tradition.
  • The observations were made while the HC was disposing of a plea to issue a direction to the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department to permit volunteers to clean (Uzhavarapani) temple premises.

HC’s Observations

  • The classification of six cults, known as Shanmata, holds a profound historical significance.
  • These cults, which continue to shape the religious landscape of Hinduism, comprise:
    1. Saivam (Lord Shiva),
    2. Vaishnavam (Lord Vishnu),
    3. Shaaktham (Goddess Sakthi),
    4. Gaanaapathyam (Lord Ganesha),
    5. Kaumaram (Lord Skanda or Kumara), and
    6. Souryam (Sun as God).
  • Hinduism is made up of diverse cults, all united by a polytheistic concept.
    • Ancient scripts reveal Buddhism and Jainism as offshoots of Hinduism, sharing several standard histories and legendary stories.
  • Shanmata, meaning “Six Sects” in Sanskrit, is a system of worship believed in the Smarta tradition to have been founded by the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara.
  • The polytheistic concept imbibes the democratic and secular principles as they are called today.
  • The temples were predominantly Saivite or Vaishnavite.
  • The Nayanars and Alvars belonged to different sects, but there was no discrimination in their devotion to God. Therefore, it was essential to protect all of these temples in the State.
  • Polytheism is the belief or doctrine that there are multiple gods or deities.
  • The judges said and held that experienced volunteers could be permitted to do Uzhavarapani since such practice had been in vogue for centuries together.
  • The limited temple staff can’t keep the premises clean, but volunteers aren’t allowed to repair or conduct activities involving the sanctum sanctorum or any deities, idols, paintings, or murals.
  • The rules of the HR & CE Department shall be strictly followed.

Saivite Temples

  • Among the Saivite temples, the Paadal Petra Sthalams and Vaippu Sthalams were necessary.
The Paadal Petra Sthalams
  • These, also known as Tevara Sthalam, are a group of 276 temples revered in the verses of Shaiva Nayanars from the 6th to the 9th century CE.
  • 217 of 276 of these are in Tamil Nadu. These are amongst the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu.
  • These were visited by Saints Thirugnana Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar between the 7th and 9th Centuries.
    • These three Tamil poets are known as Shaiva Kuruvars and are considered the primary three among the sixty-three Nayanars.
Vaippu Sthalams
  • There are 249 Vaippu Sthalams, 189 of which are in Tamil Nadu.
  • Vaippu Sthalam are temples that were mentioned casually in the songs of the text.
  • The three saints mentioned above could not see these temples but were referred to in their hymns.
  • There is a claim that one such Vaippu Sthalams is in the Gulf countries.
  • Saivites consider a visit to these Sthalams not only sacred but also a duty.
The Tevaram
  • Tevaram literally means “garland of divine songs” and refers to the collection of verses sung in praise of Shiva, the supreme god of the Shaivite sect of Hinduism,
  • These were sung by three Tamil poets known as Shaiva Kuruvars: Sambandar, Appar, and Sundarar.
  • The Tevaram denotes the first seven volumes of the Tirumurai, the twelve-volume collection of Śaiva devotional poetry.
  • Saint Manickavasagar was not considered a Nayannar because he was believed to have become one with Lord Shiva.

Uzhavarapani

  • The process of cleaning with the use of Uzhavaram (a small spade) is known as Uzhavarapani.
  • Saint Appar always carried a Uzhavaram (spade) to clean the temple premises by removing the weeds.
  • He considered the process of cleaning the temples to be cleaning one’s soul and, thereby, the best way to reach Lord Shiva’s lotus feet.
Vaishnavite Temples
  • The temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu were classified as Divya Desams and considered sacred.
  • These temples are named in the works of 12 Alvars (Vaishnavite saints) in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam (4,000 holy hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu).
  • There were a total of 108 Divya Desams, and 84 of them were in Tamil Nadu.
Divya Prabandam
  • The Naalayira Divya Prabandham is a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses composed by the 12 Alvars.
  • It was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th–10th centuries.
  • The Divya Prabandham involves adoring the deities of 108 temples (Divya desams) situated in different parts of the country and employing every form of poetics and prosody available in Tamil.

{GS1 – A&C – Literature} UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register

  • Context (PIB): Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra, and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana enter ‘UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register.
  • The decision was taken at the 10th General Meeting of the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP), which was convened on May 7-8 in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar.
  • The MoW (Memory of the World) Program was launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1992.
  • MOWCAP was set up in 1998 during its First MOWCAP General Meeting.
  • MOWCAP embraces the Asia Pacific region of 43 countries – one of five UNESCO regions across the globe.
  • MOWCAP maintains an Asia/Pacific Regional Register of the MoW documentary heritage, a listing of the documentary heritage of influence in the Asia/Pacific region.
  • MOWCAP is the authority that approves inscriptions on the Asia/Pacific MoW Register. It assesses nominations from members through its Asia/Pacific Register Subcommittee.
  • Normally, inscriptions on the Asia/Pacific Register are made every two years.

Objectives of MOWCAP

  • To promote, facilitate and monitor the MoW Program within the region, and to represent the region at the international level.
  • It supports and facilitates nominations and encourages adequate representation of the region’s documentary heritage in the International MOW Register.
  • It supports and complements the work of the National MoW Committees.

Other listings from India in MOW Register

  • The I.A.S. Tamil Medical Manuscript Collection (1997)
  • Archives of the Dutch East India Company (2003)
  • Saiva Manuscript in Pondicherry (2005)
  • Rigveda (2007)
  • laghukālacakratantrarājatikā (Vimalaprabhā) (2011)
  • Tarikh-E-Khandan-E-Timuriyah (2011)
  • Shāntinātha Charitra (2013)
  • Gilgit Manuscript (2017)
  • Maitreyayvarakarana (2017)

Ramcharitmanas

  • Authored by 16th century Indian poet Goswami Tulsidas, ‘Ramcharitmanas’ is an epic poem that narrates the life of Lord Rama.
  • It is based on the Sanskrit epic Ramayana and is written in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi.
    • The choice to write in Awadhi reflects the Bhakti movement’s emphasis on devotion and the effort to make religious texts accessible to a wider audience.
  • The poem is divided into seven chapters, or Kandas, that tell the story of Lord Ram from his birth to becoming the King of Ayodhya.
  • The poem is also called Tulsikrit Ramayan (literally, The Ramayan composed by Tulsi or, loosely, The Ramayan of Tulsidas).

Panchatantra

  • The Panchatantra is a collection of folktales and fables that were believed to have been originally written in Sanskrit by Vishnu Sharma more than 2500 years ago.
  • It is a book of Niti, the wise conduct of life, written in the form of a chain of simple stories. Each story has a moral and philosophical theme, aiming to guide the reader in attaining success in life by understanding human nature.

{GS2 – MoHFW– Initiatives} Know Your Doctor

  • Context (LM): The Centre is issuing Digital Doctor certificates to verified healthcare professionals as part of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. The certification is part of a new initiative called Know Your Doctor.
  • The certificates include a QR code to help patients verify the credentials of doctors.
  • The certification is issued only after verifying the profile information by state governmentappointed verifiers or state medical councils.
  • Verified doctors are required to display these certificates at their clinics.
  • Need: The initiative aims to tackle the problem of quackery. It is estimated that about one million unqualified medical practitioners, or quacks, are practising medicine in India.

Healthcare Professional Registry (HPR)

  • It is a dedicated repository of medical professionals.
  • Need: It will help the government analyse the number of healthcare workers in the country.
    • Identifying doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals during COVID-19 was challenging.
  • Significance: The HPR will aid in policy-making by providing dynamic data for analysis, including trends and forecasting for healthcare workforce needs.
  • The HPR is being expanded to include dentists, National Medical Commission members, allied healthcare professionals, and pharmacists.
  • Other registries under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission:
    • Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) for beneficiaries.
    • Healthcare Facility Registry (HFR) for authorised healthcare facilities.

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Parliament} Resignation of MLAs *

  • Context (IE): The HP HC delivered a split decision on whether it can direct the Speaker of the Himachal Pradesh (HP) Assembly to accept resignation letters from MLAs within a specified time frame.
  • In the split verdict, one upheld the Speaker’s decision without interference, while another granted the Speaker a two-week period to address the resignation.
  • The case pertains to the cross-voting in the February Rajya Sabha elections for the single vacant seat in the Congress-ruled HP.
  • The three independent MLAs, upon submitting resignations to the Speaker, joined the BJP.
    • The Speaker, rather than accepting the resignations, issued show-cause notices, directing them to prove the voluntariness of their resignations.

Article 190(3)(b) of the IC

  • A seat will become vacant if an MLA submits their resignation to the Speaker and it is accepted.
  • It also allows the Speaker to conduct an inquiry and refuse to accept a resignation unless they are satisfied that it is “voluntary or genuine”.

Rule 287 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in HP LA

  • If the letter of resignation is personally handed over to the Speaker and the members, inform the Speaker that the resignation was voluntary and genuine,
    1. The Speaker “may accept the resignation immediately.”
    2. However, if the Speaker is not satisfied that the resignation is voluntary/genuine, she may refuse it.

Anti Defection Law

  • According to the Anti-Defection law, if an independently elected member joins a political party, it constitutes defection and may result in the loss of their membership.

Judiciary on resignation of MLAs

Pratap Gouda Patil v. State of Karnataka (2019)

  • SC explicitly refused to give a time frame for the Speaker to deal with the resignations of 15 members of the Karnataka Assembly.

Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya (2007)

  • The SC disqualified 13 BSP MLAs due to the UP Assembly Speaker’s failure to decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable time frame (over three years).

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Mammoth: The direct carbon capture plant

  • Context (TH): Swiss company Climeworks has announced the start of operations of Mammoth, the world’s largest direct air capture and storage facility to date, situated on a dormant volcano in Iceland.

ICELAND MAP - PMF IAS

  • It is the second commercial direct air capture plant opened by Swiss company Climeworks in the country and is 10 times bigger than its predecessor, Orca.
  • It intends to suck 36,000 tonnes of CO2 from the air annually to bury underground.

Learn about Direct Air Capture with Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS).

{GS3 – Envi – Degradation} World Wildlife Crime Report 2024

  • The 2024 report is the third edition, with earlier editions published in 2016 and 2020.

Findings of the report

  • The report noted that wildlife trafficking persists worldwide despite two decades of concerted action at international and national levels.
  • Action against illegal wildlife trade increased from 2017 onwards, hitting its peak during the pandemic period between 2020 and 2021.
  • Items demanded in illegal wildlife trade: Coral pieces, Rhino horn, pangolin scales, elephant ivory.
  • Animal species most affected by the global illegal animal trade: Rhino, pangolin, eels, crocodilians, parrots, turtles and tortoises, snakes, seahorses, etc.
  • Plant species most affected: Cedars, Orchids, Rosewood, etc.
  • Impact of wildlife trafficking: Species overexploitation, dispersal of invasive species, financial implications of enforcement, loss of government revenues, etc.
  • Recommendations: International Cooperation, addressing corruption, addressing organized crime and increased investment to enhance data and analytical capabilities.

{GS3 – IE – Energy} Many States fail to meet Solar RPO Targets **

  • Context (DTE): An analysis based on publicly available data shows that nearly 25 out of 30 states have fallen short of meeting their annual solar Renewable purchase obligations (RPO) targets.

Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) & Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)

  • RPO requires obligated entities such as DISCOMS to purchase a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy (RE) sources.
  • RPOs are mandated by the Electricity Act (2003).
  • However, RE resources potential is not evenly spread across the country. Moreover, obligated entities also face difficulty in procuring power from RE sources due to their variable nature.
  • It is here that the concept of renewable energy certificates (RECs) assumes significance.

Renewable energy certificates (RECs)

  • They are ‘green tradeable certificates’ that represent the environmental attributes of power generated from RE but not the actual power itself.
  • RECs allow the obligated entities to meet their RPO without actual procurement of RE-generated power.
  • They can be purchased on national energy exchanges, such as the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and the Power Exchange of India Limited (PXIL).

RPO Targets

  • It increased over time, reaching around 23% in 2023 from 2.75% in 2016.
  • In 2023, the Union Ministry of Power revised its RPO targets. It aims for 39% by 2028.
  • State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) determine annual RPO targets.

Poor performance of states in meeting RPO targets

  • Only five states consistently met their solar RPOs: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Eastern states have consistently performed below 40% since 2014.
  • Northern states like Rajasthan, despite having high installed solar capacity, have not met targets from 2014 to 2019.
  • Also, reports from the Standing Committee on Energy of the 17th Lok Sabha in 2021 and the Comptroller & Auditor General in 2015 highlighted state DISCOMS’ poor performance in meeting RPO targets and SERCs’ non-enforcement of penalties.

Reasons for Poor Performance

  • Inadequate solar power generation. The 20th Electric Power Survey of India by the Central Electricity Authority also highlighted generation deficits.
    • Meeting RPO obligations is strongly linked to solar resource potential.
  • Reluctance of utilities to purchase RECs for compensation.
  • Unrealistic targets or insufficient capacity addition.
  • Many DISCOMS are tied to legacy Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for thermal power, limiting their ability to procure solar power.

Concerns or Impacts

  • Poor performance may discourage private capital investments, as investors prefer states with better RPO compliance, leading to high capital risk and reduced investment in RE resources.
  • It could hinder the gradual transition to RE-based power procurement, impeding decarbonisation efforts.
  • Hinders cheaper solar power procurement. Solar power tariffs have significantly dropped since 2015, making them competitive with conventional thermal power.

{GS3 – IE – Securities} Gold Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) *

  • Context (ET): Gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) witnessed a net withdrawal of ₹396 crore in April.
  • This marks the first withdrawal since March 2023, driven by profit booking.
  • While gold has performed well over the last year in rupee terms, it lags behind equities in terms of returns.

Gold ETFs

  • It is traded on the stock exchange like any other stock.
  • They are managed by asset management companies.
  • The value of ETF units is determined by the current market price of physical gold.
  • Each unit of a Gold ETF corresponds to one gram of gold.
  • They are subjected to Capital Gains Tax when it is redeemed.
  • Advantages:
    • It eliminates the need to purchase and safeguard physical gold bullion.
    • They are exceptionally liquid financial instruments.
  • Low-cost ratio: Numerous expenses associated with acquiring and maintaining physical gold, including making charges, wealth tax, and VAT. In contrast, gold ETFs often have a cost ratio as low as one per cent and brokerage fees of 0.5 per cent or less.

Learn in detail about Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).

{GS3 – S&T – BioTech} Xenotransplantation

  • Context (IE): The first recipient of a modified pig kidney transplant passed away around two months after the surgery was carried out. 
  • Xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation or infusion into a human recipient of either:
    1. Live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or
    2. Human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs.
  • Benefits: It could help provide an alternative supply of organs to those with life-threatening diseases.
  • Concerns: Potential cross-species transmission of undetected or unidentified animal infectious agents to patients that could, in turn, be transmitted to the general public, immune rejection, uncertain efficacy/viability.

Why are pigs often used for xenotransplantation?

  • The pig’s anatomical and physiological parameters are similar to that of humans, and the breeding of pigs in farms is widespread and cost-effective.
  • Also, many varieties of pig breeds are farmed, which provides an opportunity for the size of the harvested organs to be matched with the specific needs of the human recipient.

xenotransplantation - PMF IAS

Credit: BBC

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Exoplanet *

  • Context (HT): A new exoplanet with intense volcanic activity similar to Jupiter’s moon Io was found.
  • The discovery was made in a star system called HD 104067, about 66 light years away from the Sun.
  • The new planet, TOI-6713.01, was detected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

Exoplanet

  • An exoplanet is any planet beyond our solar system.
  • Most orbit other stars, but free-floating exoplanets (rogue planets) are unattached to any star.
  • Proxima Centauri b is Earth’s closest known exoplanet.

Moons of Jupiter

  • Jupiter has 95 moons that have been officially recognised by the International Astronomical Union.
    • Saturn has 146 moons.
  • Galilean moons are the four largest moons of Jupiter: Ganymede > Callisto > Io > Europa.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  • It is NASA’s mission to discover exoplanets, including those that could support life.
  • It will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.
    • Transiting exoplanets: Exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.
  • It was launched on April 18, 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Semal Trees (Bombax ceiba L.)

  • Context (TH): Semal trees are disappearing from south Rajasthan, launching a cascade of adverse consequences for forests and people in the area.

SEMAL TREES - PMF IAS

Credit: Nature Nursery

  • Semal, also called kapuk or silk cotton tree, flowers spectacularly in spring and is native to India.
  • It is known for its distinctive, spiky red flowers and its fluffy seed pods, which contain a cotton-like substance that was once used for stuffing pillows and mattresses.

Significance

  • The tree’s bark, leaves, and seeds are utilised in traditional medicine to cure various ailments, including fever, diarrhoea and skin conditions.
  • The wood is used for construction, furniture-making, and other woodworking applications. The debarked stem or branch of a semal tree is used as the bonfire’s main pillar.
  • It generates a rich biomass every season and has been used to reclaim wastelands.

{Prelims – S&T – Defence} Exercise SHAKTI

  • Context (TOI | PIB): The 7th edition of the India-France Joint Military Exercise SHAKTI began at Umroi, Meghalaya.
  • It is held every two years, alternating between India and France.
  • The last edition took place in France in November 2021.
  • Aim: To enhance joint military capability in semi-urban and mountainous terrain.
  • Objectives include improving physical fitness, refining tactical drills, and sharing best practices.
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