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Current Affairs for UPSC Civil Services Exam – May 21, 2024

{GS2 – IR – Issues} United Kingdom’s Graduate Route Visa (GRV) Scheme

  • Context (IE): The British PM is contemplating tweaking the United Kingdom’s Graduate Route visa (GRV) scheme with a view to curb the influx of international students to the country.
  • Currently, Indians constitute roughly 42% of GRV holders, again, the highest among all nationalities.
  • According to the UK Home Office, the number of student visas issued to Indians increased 54% between June 2022 and June 2023.

Graduate Route Visa (GRV) scheme

  • The GRV was introduced by the UK government in July 2021.
  • It permits individuals to remain in the UK for at least two years upon successful completion of a bachelor’s, post-graduate, or other eligible courses.
  • For those with PhDs or other doctoral qualifications, the GRV extends to a three-year stay.
  • A GRV applicant must be in the UK at the time of application and hold a Short-Term Study visa or a General Student Visa.
  • Additionally, the applicant’s education provider must notify the UK Home Office about the course’s successful completion.

Why do Indians seek GRVs?

  • Other visas: GRV provides a window for individuals to obtain other visas (such as a work visa) by finding a good sponsor or employer.
  • Allowing family: GRV allows families to accompany the GRV-holder if certain eligibility criteria are met.
  • Repayment of education cost: Students repay costly student loans by working in the UK after studies and making some money to lead a comfortable life.

Impact of possible GRV tweaks

  • Restricting GRVs could significantly reduce the number of international students seeking to study in the UK by creating uncertainty.
  • Restricting GRV only to the “best and brightest” will especially hinder the prospects of the ‘average’ student seeking to study in the UK.
  • Financial viability of British Universities: The fees paid by international students help universities cover the cost of teaching British students and conducting research.

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Federalism} State bifurcation *

  • Context (TH): The political class in Andhra Pradesh remains silent on choosing a new capital.
  • According to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, Hyderabad was to be the common capital for 10 years from June 2, 2014. It will cease to be the joint capital on June 2, 2024.
  • Initially, Amaravati was promoted as a “world-class futuristic and smart capital”. However, it was abandoned after the change in government.
  • The current ruling government has proposed three capitals for decentralised development. But no solid steps have been taken so far.
  • On June 2, 2014, Telangana was separated from the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Creation Of New States In India: Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 3 of the Constitution provides that a State has no say over the formation of new States beyond communicating its views to Parliament.
  • Article 3 assigns to Parliament the power to enact legislation for the formation of new States.
  • Parliament may create new States in a number of ways, namely by:
    • Separating territory from any State.
    • Uniting two or more States.
    • Uniting parts of States.
    • Uniting any territory to a part of any State.
  • Parliament’s power under Article 3 extends to increasing or diminishing the area of any State and altering the boundaries or name of any State.
  • Checks & Balances on parliament power
    • Firstly, a bill calling for the formation of new States may be introduced in either House of Parliament only on the president’s recommendation.
    • Secondly, such a bill must be referred by the President to the concerned State Legislature for expressing its views to Parliament if it contains provisions that affect the areas, boundaries or name of that State.
  • Parliament will not be bound by these views when enacting legislation to form new States.
  • States can be formed by the Parliament with a simple majority.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Issues} UK’s Contaminated blood scandal

  • Context (IE): Britain is expected to compensate thousands of people who were infected with HIV or hepatitis via contaminated blood.
  • The inquiry was launched in 2017. Almost 3,000 people were estimated to have died of complications.
  • The inquiry was expected to look into the cases of deadly diseases from transfusions of infected blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)

  • The NHS is an inclusive public health service under government administration.
  • It was established by the National Health Service Act of 1946 and subsequent legislation in 1948.
  • The entire population of the UK is covered, and health services are provided free of cost to the public.
  • It is the world’s fifth-largest employer and the largest non-military public organisation.

Contaminated blood scandal

  • During the 1970s and 1980s, people who had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia or needed transfusions after childbirth or surgery were given blood infected with the HIV virus & hepatitis.

Factor VIII

  • Factor VIII was considered to be a “wonder drug” for patients with classical haemophilia and Von Willebrand Syndrome, more efficient and convenient than earlier treatments.
  • Von Willebrand Syndrome is a bleeding disorder in which the patient’s blood cannot clot fully.
  • The NHS introduced this processed pharmaceutical product in the 1970s, created by pooling plasma from many donors. Even one infected donor could compromise the entire batch of the protein.
  • The product used by the NHS was imported from the United States, where a large volume of donated plasma at the time came from prisoners and users of intravenous drugs who were paid for their blood.


  • Inquiry estimated that more than 30,000 people were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or as haemophiliacs.
  • Several reports have stated that school children were subjected to medical trials using infected blood products, even without consent.
  • There is evidence that experts called on fellow doctors “to identify patients suitable for clinical trials” and, more specifically, “previously untreated patients”.
  • Evidence suggests that the British government chose to turn a blind eye to the situation, mainly due to financial considerations.

Warnings by international agencies

  • As early as 1953, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the hepatitis risks associated with the mass pooling of plasma products.
  • In 1974, the UN agency warned Britain not to import blood from countries with a high prevalence of hepatitis, such as the US.
  • Another warning of the risk of contracting HIV from blood products was issued in 1982.

{GS2 – Vulnerable Sections – Women} Scheme for Care and Support to Victims

  • Context (TH): There are many gaps in the Scheme for Care and Support to Victims of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • The Scheme was launched under Sections 4 & 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

Objective of the Scheme

  • To provide integrated support and assistance to minor pregnant girl child victims “under one roof” and facilitate immediate emergency and non-emergency access to services for long-term rehabilitation.

Features of the Scheme

  • The scheme is funded as a 100% centrally funded scheme under the Nirbhaya Fund and implemented by the States/UTs through the District Magistrate.
  • It was for only abandoned or orphaned pregnant girls; initially, the scheme has now been expanded to include all pregnant girl victims under the mentioned sections of the POCSO Act.
  • The scheme applies from the time the case is reported and continues until the girl child turns 18 years old.
  • After turning 18, further support may be provided under aftercare provisions until the age of 23.
  • Under PM-JAY, the girl child victim will be provided with health insurance coverage at Rs. 5 Lakhs per year.
  • The scheme offers free legal aid from DLSA advocates and assistance from the District Child Protection Officer if needed.
  • Every reported POCSO Act case of a pregnant girl under 18 will receive ₹6,000 initially and ₹4,000 monthly as per Mission Vatsalya until age 21, extendable to 23.

Issues and Concerns

  • Initially for abandoned or orphaned pregnant girls, the scheme now includes all pregnant girl victims under the POCSO Act.
    • However, despite some minor additions, the scheme has not been thoroughly revised to reflect this broader scope and any necessary changes have been overlooked.
  • The scheme is fraught with glaring oversights and inconsistencies with prevailing legislations, rules, orders and guidelines.
  • The scheme remains silent on whether the benefits will continue to be provided if the victim of a reported case opts for a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) or has a miscarriage.
  • The misleading nomenclature, either by oversight or deliberate, results in confusion (a constant feature that runs through the scheme).
  • India occupies a high position in the ranking of child marriages and teenage pregnancies; the burden on the exchequer, proposed by the scheme, is going to be multifold.
  • The law has not proven to be very effective, largely because many cases involving pregnant girls arise out of marriage and non-exploitative, explorative sexual activity among young people.
    • Current laws are not very effective, as shown by sociological, medical, and judicial data.
  • Victims under the POCSO Act, including those who are pregnant, do not automatically qualify as Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP).

Way Forward

  • Adolescents (13-18 years) naturally explore sexual feelings and need support. The government should proactively provide sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services.
  • The scheme must clarify if entitlements for girls in institutional care also apply to those in non-institutional care, such as living with family.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} Australia bans live sheep exports

  • Context (DTE): Australia plans to ban live sheep exports by sea starting May 1, 2028.
  • The prohibition will not apply to other livestock export industries, such as live cattle exports, nor will it apply to live sheep exports by air.
  • Animal rights groups have for years pushed to end those shipments from Australia, where public outcry in 2018 over the death of 2,400 sheep from heat stress prompted calls for stricter welfare standards.
  • Australia is not the first country to ban live exports. New Zealand and the UK banned live animal exports last year, and the European Union is also considering banning live exports.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation} State Biodiversity Conservation Award *

  • Context (TH): Rajahmundry Central Prison received the Biodiversity Conservation Award from the Andhra Pradesh State Biodiversity Board.
  • The award recognises the prison’s eco-friendly practices on its campus, such as groundwater conservation, natural farming methods, and the production of various crafts using natural resources.

State Biodiversity Board (SBB)

  • The SBBs are established by the State Governments in accordance with Section 22 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. SBBs have been established in all states.
  • There are no SBBs constituted for Union territories. The National Biodiversity Authority exercises the powers and performs the functions of an SBB for the UTs.

Structure & composition of State Biodiversity Boards

  • It consists of the following members:
    • A Chairperson.
    • Maximum of five ex officio members to represent the departments of the State Government.
    • Maximum of five experts in matters relating to the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.
  • All the members of the SBB are appointed by the respective State Governments.

Functions of SBBs

  • Advising the State Governments on the following: Biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of components, and equitable sharing of benefits.
  • Regulate approvals for commercial use and bio-utilisation of biological resources by Indians.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Copernicus EMS Rapid Response Service

  • Context (TH): As part of a multi-agency effort to locate a helicopter carrying Iranian President that crashed in East Azerbaijan province, European Union activated its emergency satellite mapping service.

Death of Iran President - PMF IAS

Credit: TH

Europe’s Copernicus Programme

  • Launched in 1998 and previously known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Programme (GMES), Copernicus is the earth observation component of the European Union’s space programme.
  • The programme is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, the 15th-century Polish scientist who first proposed a heliocentric universe model.
  • The programme uses global data from satellites, and ground-based, airborne, and sea-borne measurement systems to address issues related to climate change, disaster management, agriculture, etc.

The Copernicus system - PMF IAS

Credit: TH

  • The space segment uses a group of satellites called the Sentinels and the Contributing Missions. It is complemented by a ground segment that includes in-situ sensors that provide access to the Sentinels and Contributing Missions data.
  • The programme is implemented by EU member states with the support of the European Space Agency for the space component and the European Environment Agency (EEA) for the in-situ component.
  • Data from the Copernicus programme is freely available and accessible to all.

Rapid response mapping service

  • The rapid response mapping technology is a critical component of the Emergency Management Service (EMS) within the Copernicus programme.
  • Active since 2012, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) works on two models — on-demand mapping and early warning and monitoring — to issue warnings, risk assessments and information on the impact of disasters worldwide, before, during, or after a crisis.
  • While on-demand mapping offers detailed information for specific emergencies, early warning provides critical geospatial data through monitoring and forecasts for floods, droughts, and forest fires.

How does rapid mapping work?

  • The Copernicus EMS on-demand rapid mapping provides geospatial information within a few hours or days of a request to support efforts in the immediate aftermath of an emergency or a disaster anywhere in the world.
  • It acquires, processes, and analyses satellite images, geospatial data, and relevant social media in rapid mode to provide information.
  • The service offers four “products” — one pre-event reference and three post-event (first estimate, delineation, grading).
    1. “First Estimate Product” offers a fast but rough assessment of the most affected area using the earliest post-event image.
    2. “Delineation” assesses the extent of the impacted area and an update on the situation if requested. The information is derived from images taken soon after the emergency.
    3. “Grading” provides a detailed damage assessment, its spatial distribution and extent.
  • Each comprises delivery packages, including maps and a vector package of spatial data.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Loss of Water on Venus

  • Context (TH): A recent study in ‘Nature’ could help plug the gap between the amount of water scientists expected Venus to have lost in the last 4.5 billion years and the satellite observations.
  • More than four billion years ago, Venus had enough water to cover its surface with an ocean 3 km deep. Today, the planet only has enough for this ocean to be 3 cm deep.

Theories behind loss of water on Venus

  1. Hellish atmosphere — a result of its carbon dioxide-rich composition, which causes a strong greenhouse effect. The planet’s surface is hotter than water’s boiling point, simmering at 450 degrees C. So water can only exist as vapour in Venus’ atmosphere.
  2. Planet’s proximity to the Sun. The Sun’s heat and ultraviolet radiation combined to shred water molecules into their constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms in Venus’s ionosphere — the upper region of the atmosphere, where charged atoms, molecules, and their electrons zoom around at high speeds.
  • The two theories broadly blame thermal and non-thermal processes for the water loss.
    • Thermal process: It refers to hydrodynamic escape. As the Sun heated Venus’s outer atmosphere, it expanded, allowing hydrogen gas to leak into space. This escape lasted until the outer atmosphere sufficiently cooled, by about 2.5 billion years ago.
    • Non-thermal process: It is caused by hydrogen atoms escaping Venus to space. Due to this, water levels drop because the oxygen atoms left behind have fewer hydrogen atoms with which to form water.

Findings of the new study

  • The new study revealed that formyl cation (HCO+) dissociative recombination reaction (DR) could have doubled the rate at which Venus lost water by hydrogen escape.
    • The HCO+ DR occurs in bulk at an altitude of about 125 km, above the clouds made of sulphuric acid.
  • This means that Venus’s Ocean, if any, could have lasted longer than expected — because the faster rate of hydrogen escape means the planet could have lost more water in the same amount of time.
  • However, HCO+ still hasn’t been confirmed in Venus’ atmosphere. But scientists say it should be there. Future spacecraft with new instruments will be needed to find it.
  • HCO+ is created when a carbon monoxide molecule (CO) loses an electron while absorbing a hydrogen atom.
  • DR is the reverse reaction. HCO+ absorbs an electron and breaks up into CO and a hydrogen atom. These energetic hydrogen atoms then escape into space.

{GS3 – S&T – Space} Plunging Regions *

  • Context (TOI): An international team led by Oxford University Physics researchers has provided proof of a key prediction from Einstein’s theory of gravity.
  • The study used X-ray data from NASA’s NuSTAR and NICER space telescopes.
  • The study offers the first observational proof that plunging regions around black holes exist.
  • These regions exert some of the strongest gravitational forces in the galaxy.

About plunging regions

  • Einstein’s theory states particles near a black hole cannot follow circular orbits. Instead, matter falls straight in at the speed of light. This area is called the plunging region.
  • Reason: The massive force of the space-time tear’s gravity makes the particle leave its circular orbit.
  • Einstein predicted this plunge, but it had never been demonstrated before.
  • NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) studies the universe in high-energy X-rays to better understand the dynamics of black holes, exploding stars, and extremely active galaxies.
  • NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) studies neutron stars, black holes, and other phenomena from the International Space Station.
  • Neutron stars are formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses.

To know more, visit Black holes.

{GS3 – S&T – Tech} Google’s Project Astra *

  • Context (IE): Google’s Project Astra and OpenAI‘s new model GPT-4o may change virtual assistance.

About Project Astra

  • It is a real-time, multimodal AI assistant. It is the brainchild of Google DeepMind.
  • It can see the world, remember object locations, and verify computer code via the phone’s camera.
  • In the 2013 hit’ Her, ‘ Theodore Twombly falls in love with Samantha, a lifelike digital assistant.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s voice gave the assistant a sense of humour, intelligence, and empathy that made her seem human to Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix).
  • Recently, OpenAI showcased new advancements with GPT-4o. Later, Google showed the progress it had made on its virtual assistant. This signals that AI-based assistants are no longer just science fiction. These AI assistants could help in real-life scenarios. Examples include giving hair-combing suggestions from pictures and showing empathy.

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Emblica Chakrabarti

  • Context (TH): A new plant species, Emblica Chakrabarti, was discovered in the Ernakulam district.
  • It was found in Adichilthotti within the Edamalayar forest range of Kerala.
  • It belongs to the gooseberry (Phyllanthaceae) family.
  • Emblica plants usually grow as shrubs in tropical rainforests. It grows to about 2 meters in height.
  • Flowering and fruiting occur from December to June.

`Emblica Chakrabarti - PMF IAS

Credit: The Hindu

{Prelims – Envi – Species} Manipuri Pony (Meitei Sagol) *

  • Context (DTE): The Government of Manipur is collaborating with various organisations to save the declining population of Manipuri Pony (Meitei Sagol).

Factors for decline

  • Shrinkage of wetlands due to urbanisation and encroachment.
  • Lack of polo grounds in rural Manipur.
  • Restriction of pony use except for polo.
  • Uncontrolled diseases.
  • Exodus of ponies to neighbouring states and countries.

About Manipuri Pony (Meitei Sagol)

`Meitei Mongol - PMF IAS

Credit: E-pao

  • It is one of seven recognised horse and pony breeds in India, along with the Marwari Horse, Kathiawari Horse, Zanskari Pony, Spiti Pony, Bhutia Pony, and Kachhi-Sindhi Horse.
  • The Manipur government declared it as an Endangered Breed in 2013.
  • Characteristics: Small breed (11 to 13 Hands). Known for stamina, agility, intelligence, speed, manoeuvrability, and adaptability to harsh climatic conditions.
  • Historical significance: Used in sports like polo and horseraces & traditional events like Lai haraoba, utilised as mounts by the cavalry of the Manipur Kingdom.
  • Modern polo is derived from the traditional Sagol Kangjei sport of Manipur.
  • Lai Haraoba is celebrated to honour the local traditional deities and ancestors in Manipur.

{Prelims – In News} Giant Viruses | Yellowstone National Park

  • Context (WION): Scientists have discovered giant viruses, dating 1.5 billion years old, in hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.
  • The term “giant” refers to their exceptionally large genomes compared to more common viruses.
  • They do not pose any risk to humans.
  • They provide valuable insights into a period when single-cell organisms started to emerge on Earth.
  • They help scientists understand the conditions & processes that influenced the early development of life.

Yellowstone National Park

  • Established in 1872 and located primarily in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park was America’s first national park. It sits on top of a dormant volcano.
  • It spans an area of over 9,000 sq. km comprising lakes, canyons, rivers, iconic geothermal features such as the Old Faithful geyser, and mountain ranges.
  • Approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features are at Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park - PMF IAS

Credit: National Geographic

{Prelims – Places in News} Kharkiv *

Kharkiv - PMF IAS

Credits: Council on Foreign Relations

  • Russia, however, continued to shell the Kharkiv region, destroying critical infrastructure like thermal power plants and educational institutions since 2022.
  • Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine after the capital, Kyiv, population-wise.
  • It is a major industrial town in the country and is home to multiple institutes of higher education.

{Prelims – S&T – Space} Sub-orbital flight

  • Context (IE): India-born aviator Gopi Thotakura was among the six space tourists on Blue Origin’s Sub-orbital flight.
  • Suborbital flights involve reaching altitudes just below the threshold of space, typically around 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, and reentering the atmosphere shortly after.
  • It will not complete one orbital revolution, will not become an artificial satellite nor will it reach escape velocity.

Suborbital Flight - PMF IAS

Credit: Lets Talk Science

  • Space travel begins at about 100 km altitude from Earth, after crossing the Karman line, which is generally considered to be the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
  • Anything flying below this altitude is called an aircraft, while those crossing this line are classified as spacecraft.

Karman Line - PMF IAS

Credit: News18

Learn in detail about Space Tourism.

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